Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What are the disadvantages of being male?

A few weeks ago, I made this point, which I want to get back to (isn't it great when you've been blogging long enough to quote yourself?):

Both genders face huge and distinct disadvantages. I'd be hard-pressed to say whether it's more unfortunate to be a man or a woman.

As a thought-experiment, you could imagine -- apologies to John Rawls and his veil of ignorance -- that you haven't been born yet and you get to choose which gender you want to live your life as. You get to be fully informed about what the world is like, but all you know about your future life is that you'll be a human being growing up in the United States. (Significantly, you don't know your race or sexual orientation.) Which gender would you choose to be? I think some people would choose to be a man, and others would choose to be a woman, and it's far from obvious what the wiser choice would be.
I want to focus on the male-disadvantages side of this question, which I find more interesting because it's not talked about as much.

I'm well aware that the person who suggests, at least in certain kinds of elite circles, that maybe there are some not-so-great things about being a man is likely not be heard. Civil discussion will end. You aren't allowed to talk about, or think about, the idea that while gender roles, norms, traditions, stereotypes, etc. have certainly been bad for women ... they might also be bad for men too.

It's odd: I would have thought that if that's true, then it would actually strengthen the case for feminism. If everyone is burdened by antiquated gender rules, isn't that twice as bad as if half the population were burdened?

But even if you honestly believed there were no disadvantages to being a man, what would be your motivation to silence those who suggest otherwise? Why wouldn't you want a completely free debate in which anyone is allowed to marshall whatever evidence they want and get a fair hearing? In a free debate, anyone who doesn't have the facts on their side will be revealed as wrong. You shouldn't need to decide in advance which are the correct views and which are the incorrect views and shout down anything that falls under the latter category.

It's hard for me to imagine a much clearer example of this phenomenon than a recent set of discussion threads on Metafilter. It's rare that you have such a clear-cut instance of taboo enforcement preserved for all to see, so I want to take a look at this. (I have first-hand experience with the same thing in the real world, but can't really blog about it.)

The other day, someone posted a question to AskMetafilter, essentially asking: What are the advantages of being a man? (For those who aren't familiar with it, Metafilter is a "community" website written by thousands of users; one section is called AskMetafilter, where people post questions on any topic for other users to answer. Anyone can read it, but you pay a nominal one-time fee to add content.)

So I decided to post the reverse: What are the disadvantages of being a man? Both questions immediately began drawing a variety of thoughtful answers.

Well, guess what happened. The website's moderators deleted my question, but allowed the first question to stay.

I asked them about this discrepancy and got conflicting answers from the three Metafilter moderators. One of them said the distinction was that the other person's question was inspired by a book and mine wasn't. Funny -- I wasn't aware that Metafilter had a rule that your question has to be inspired by a book. (There was only one passing reference to the book, and it didn't seem to have any effect on the question.) Another moderator said the difference was that I started out my question with a few suggested answers of my own. Well, even if you accept that that's a reason to delete a question, the other question did the same thing, so that can't explain it. The last moderator said there actually wasn't any difference between the two questions except that mine was asked after the first one; they would have deleted the other one if it had been reversed. Maybe an interesting theory (albeit inconsistent with what the other moderators said) ... but the site often allows two back-to-back related questions -- they never seemed to have a policy of rejecting these until I asked my question.

Bottom line: they couldn't offer any principled reason for allowing one question (What are some advantages of being a man?) while deleting mine (What are some disadvantages of being a man?).

Draw your own conclusion.

Of course, I wasn't happy with this. But there's nothing I can do, right? Well, all I can do is preserve some especially thoughtful answers my question received.

Just to be totally clear: none of this is an attempt to make some kind of "argument against feminism." It's just that no one, no matter what theories they subscribe to, has a legitimate reason to want to ignore a huge chunk of reality. If you're going to contemplate gender at all, you might as well take in all of it -- the good and bad of being a man or woman.

I'm not trying to cancel out feminism. I'm trying to add to it.

Anyway, I started my question by noting:
Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime, go to prison, be forced to fight for their country if there's a draft, be socially expected to hold down a steady job, lose their parental rights in the event of divorce, and die younger.
(Those all seem to be pretty clearly bad things about being a man, though some people contested this point.)

Here are some of the responses I got (each paragraph represents a different comment):
You will be seen as an aggressive person or a threat even when you aren't one.

You tend to be more and more frequently distracted by sexual cues and later at developing social poise. Females are generally better socialized than males - males tend to have a harder time in social situations.

It isn't safe for a man to be alone with unrelated children -- he could be accused of being a child molester. This is not a perception that exists for women.

You have external, sensitive genitalia and we have pointy shoes! ;P

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

As a young man in the US, you get to pay more for car insurance.

It's hard to talk to girls without people automatically assuming that I want to sleep with them.

Sex drive, often higher in men, can be a double edged sword (see, look, phallic symbolism already...) leading to distraction and frustration that otherwise may not be an issue.

Physical aggression, ranging from military service to playground tussels, is a much greater part of male life.

Many psychiatric organizations seem to think men, on the whole, cope with anger and sadness poorly compared to women. Women seem more likely to seek the support of others, men seem to end up loners more often.

I've heard it's often difficult for single men to adopt, compared to single women.

Acting outside gender roles can result in social fallout. A man becoming an interior decorator, poet, or actor would, in many social circles in the West, be considered a sissy, or have their sexuality questioned (by both sexes). Women transgressing similar norms may (as things improve) be thought empowered (female construction worker). This ties in to the emotional lives of men as well -- showing "weakness" in a healthy way is likely to cause a great deal of ridicule.

Being a gay man seems to carry more trouble than being a gay woman.

Many disorders seem to afflict men more often -- Autism and ADD come to mind. [As a New York Times article put it: "from the moment of conception on, men are less likely to survive than women. It's not just that men take on greater risks and pursue more hazardous vocations than women. There are poorly understood — and underappreciated — vulnerabilities inherent in men's genetic and hormonal makeup."]

Widespread expectations of a greater male role in sexual activity -- a responsibility for its success or failure.

Men (at least in most places in the US) often pay much much more than women to get into clubs and bars. It is very usual to go to bars where women often enter for free while guys have to pay, I have never seen the opposite. There are clubs where men need to, regardless of their willingness to pay, have at least one (usually good looking) woman with them to get in.

In traditional cultures, there can be a great deal of pressure on male children to succeed -- whether it be carrying on the family business, producing heirs, or avenging the family name.

There is a stigma attached to a male expressing emotions.
The thread was only around for about an hour, but all these answers were deleted from the site (preserved only if you saved the URL, but not generally accessible from the website). I'm sure there would have been more items added to the list if the thread had stayed up. (Feel free to post some in the comments.)

Someone else made a valiant attempt to keep the conversation going by starting a new thread:
I enjoy being a guy, but one thing I have philosophized about is the stunted intimacy. I don't mean sexual intimacy, which is just one subset intimacy, but rather the unguarded closeness and surrender and trust and sharing that any two people can experience, such as a mother and child. Men have much less of this, at least in western culture.

It is culturally acceptable and natural for them to display and indulge in a level of intimacy and affection with each other that is simply not in the realm of possibilities between men. Can you imagine two straight men, who are friends, sitting on a couch together with their arms around each other, looking into each other's eyes, maybe one comforting the other, hand softly on his neck, or crying or something? Unless you're 6 and the other guy is your dad, that isn't going to happen, the obvious exception excluded. I know that regional cultures can make this more or less of a possibility for women too, but I think you know what I'm saying. To think of two men doing that kicks up a visceral gender-role police enforcement squad in one's lizard brain. What? WHAT?! It's so deeply ingrained that it's alarming when the sediment is disturbed. Or think about walking arm in arm down the street. No way. Guys have made a lot of strides in shedding machismo, but not to that degree. ...

And the thing is, I think I can speak for men when I say we don't want those things. It's not like we secretly want them but cruel society won't let us have them -- it's that we simply weren't trained that way, or maybe it's a combination of biology and culture. Because of my socialization and the way gender roles are mapped out in our culture, I was essentially programmed that this was not an option any more than flying is, or that there could be some primary color other than the ones we know of. It isn't something you think about or regret, it simply doesn't exist. ...

So then isn't it a deficit for me as a man that I don't have the same level of opportunity for intimacy as a woman? Shouldn't that be recognized as a pretty awful missing piece in the human journey?
Unlike my question, the moderators did leave this thread on the site ... but they immediately closed it to further discussion.

None of this is meant to minimize the oppression of women. It's not about pushing women away and saying, "Please don't bother us with your petty complaints." It's about drawing men in by saying, "Look, gender disparities hurt everyone -- it's not just a woman thing."

I understand that the response might be: it all comes down to rape and domestic violence. There's nothing men have to deal with that's on that level.

Well, it's not quite that simple. Not all rape victims are women. They can be men or women. It's well-known that this often happens to men in prison. Of course, this is usually just laughed at (as is female-against-male domestic violence) because -- to add one more item to the list -- society is more concerned about "protecting" women than men (which follows logically from the belief that women are weak).

By definition, we can't know about all the unreported rapes. But which gender do you think would be more hesitant to report it out of shame or a need to always appear tough?

That said, of course I take rape very seriously and recognize that it disproportionately harms women. I'm not even contending that anything from the above list is as serious as rape. Even if you're absolutely convinced that rape and domestic violence trump anything on the list of disadvantages of being a man, that's no reason to ignore those disadvantages. So it shouldn't be taboo to say, "Hey, there are some disadvantages to being a man, such as X, Y, and Z." This should always just be part of the equation, part of the conversation.

My message to liberal women: if you really want feminism to be a powerful force for changing people's minds, you need a message that will resonate with both sexes. The idea that men simply have it easy, and that women bear all the great burdens, won't -- more to the point, shouldn't -- convince men. Oh, there will be men who'll go along with this for the sake of political correctness. But any man who has thought seriously about gender and being a man in modern society will not buy into this.

Looking over the above list, I still feel like there's one big disadvantage for men that all of this is missing, maybe the biggest burden of all. But that will have to wait for another blog post, as this one is already ridiculously long.

The world is complicated. This may not be fashionable to point out, but it's reality.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Mom! And Glenn! And Reddit user ejp1082. And Dean. And Conservative Grapevine. And Villainous Company. And Church of Rationality.

UPDATE: Metapost.


cortex said...

It's cortex, one of the mods from mefi. I realize you have comments set to moderated; I'd appreciate it if you'd not leave this one to languish.

This is a pretty frustrating read. You seem to have taken absolutely nothing from the Metatalk thread except your own pre-conceived convictions about why what happened happened -- convictions you apparently held when you started the thread. It's like you didn't even read it.

Specifically, for one, you roll this argument out again:

But even if you honestly believed there were no disadvantages to being a man, what would be your motivation to silence those who suggest otherwise?

The problem with this objection is that it the question being about the disadvantages of being a man per se had absolutely nothing to do with the reason it was deleted. I said as much in thread, specifically acknowledging that it was not the gender being asked about that drove the decision. You ignored it there, and you've ignored it here.

You've also ignored my request in the Metatalk thread to actually explain what you think our political motivations are and why we would be applying them to AskMe, despite your willingness to assert that that the deletion was politically motivated.

What's frustrating is that you're taking something worth being upset about (the laudable and worthwhile argument that there are areas of reverse descrimination in gender politics that shouldn't be ignored), but instead of approaching it fairly have elected to ignore or hand-wave away our responses to you and made an effort to demonize us -- all over what you refuse to understand is an askme policy decision that had not a thing to do with gender politics.

You have stuck to a stubborn claim that our answers contradict one another and thus can be dismissed as bullshit or spin, as if the various stated reasons couldn't (as is often the case when dealing with policy on the site) be parallel, contributing factors to the deletion. You bring the question to the table, you get answers, and then you ignore them or dismiss them because they aren't what you wanted to hear. It's an insulting, lousy way to conduct yourself.

If you insist on playing the righteous victim, wronged but never wrong, I doubt I can dissuade you, but it's an incredibly self-serving and unfair way to approach the situation, and I wish you'd take a damn breath and try approaching the situation objectively.

John Althouse Cohen said...

As you point out, I've set up all the comments sections on this blog so that I'm the gatekeeper. I'm tempted not to publish your comment, not just so that I could say, "Ha ha, now you know what it feels like," but also because I don't appreciate your tone. But here it is.

You've continually asked me to explain why I see things the way I do, and I tried to explain the whole thing in this blog post -- getting into the details a bit but not turning my post into a treatise on Metafilter moderation policies. At some point, you might just not be convinced by me, which is fine -- we can agree to disagree (though I'm not surprised that you, as one of the Metafilter moderators, would defend a comment deletion on Metafilter).

So I don't really have anything new to add, but again:

I think the motivation in deleting the question was to adhere to the prevailing notion that it's politically correct to talk about disadvantages faced by women but taboo to talk about those faced by men.

I'm not convinced by the idea that there were a bunch of little factors that added up to a strong reason for deleting my post, because I don't see a single reason.

The fact that the first question referenced a book had nothing to do with it.

The fact that I gave a few examples is hardly a basis for distinguishing between the two questions, since the other question did the same thing.

The fact that I admittedly posted the question influenced by another question is irrelevant. AskMetafilter has been one of the sites I check daily for years. I see questions all the time that start out by linking to another question and then segueing into: "This got me thinking..." I've never seen that mentioned as even a factor for deletion.

I think this other Metafilter user explained it pretty well:

Man, this is really bizzare, I'm surprised the mods (who have, in the past, seemed admirably unbiased) are letting just one of these threads stay. The questions are perfect opposites of one another:

1) What is the upside of being male I don't realize?
2) What's the downside of being male?

They're both extremely chatfiltery. If both had been removed, I wouldn't bat an eyelash. The fact that only one was removed indicates that it's the implied viewpoint of latter question that got it nixed. I answered the question, and spent some time thinking about it, because it really is difficult to answer. In comparison the disadvantages of non-straight-white-male-ness are clear. That doesn't make this question offensive or otherwise in violation of the the guidelines, except in the sense that it was chatfilter (but only to the degree that the first thread was).

I can't see any reason for this thread to be deleted except the fear that the discussion would turn un-PC (which, remarkably, it didn't seem to), and that doesn't seem in like with the kind of objectivity that drew me here in the first place.

So I guess that's why I'm disappointed, this doesn't seem like an objective decision. It's matt's site, he can do whatever he wants and I won't complain, it just seems inconsistent.

Trooper York said...

Dude you moderate the comments. So not cool. You should let people let their freak flag fly. Just a thought, of course it's your blog and you should do what you want. I don't presume to tell you how to run things. It's just that you lose a lot freshness and spontaneity when the contents have to be vetted by the central committee. Just sayn'

John Althouse Cohen said...

Trooper York:

I don't go along with the traditional view of comments sections as free-for-alls. I want this to be more like a letter-to-the-editor section of a newspaper or magazine. I don't see the need to allow 100% of people's comments just because this happens to appear on a computer screen rather than on dead trees. The First Amendment doesn't apply to me.

In the short time that this blog has been around, I've already had to delete numerous comments, so I'm glad I have it. People can disagree with me all they want -- I'd never censor people on that basis -- but I want to at least have some basic standards of quality, decorum, etc.

Oh, and, as you probably realize, the second comment you posted here is a case study in why I have this policy. :^)

cortex said...

You've continually asked me to explain why I see things the way I do, and I tried to explain the whole thing in this blog post -- getting into the details a bit but not turning my post into a treatise on Metafilter moderation policies.

But there's a couple problems here:

1. You haven't explained why you think that we, the three people moderating the site, are actually subject to the political motivations you're ascribing to us. I could just as soon declare that you're reacting the way you do because I'm half Jewish and you're motivated by anti-semetism—it'd be a bizarre and unfair accusation, though, and I'd expect you to want to know why the heck I would assume that.

2. The whole fundamental point is that, despite your unexplained assertions to the contrary, the whole thing is in fact about Metafilter moderation policies that are utterly orthogonal to the gender power dynamic issue. You're dismissing as meritless any and all comments from us, the folks who actually run the site and have dealt with tons of these situations, based on blanket assertions that what we say can't possibly be true because you (a) can vaguely recall counterexamples or (b) just don't buy it.

It's especially bizarre to me because you're not only asserting, again without any effort to back this up, that we're under some political pressure to cover this stuff up or whatever, but also ignoring my own statements agreeing with the very thesis that you seem to think we're trying to opress.

It's like you'd rather make a friend into an enemy than admit that your assessment of the deletion was flawed, which is just, I dunno. It's weird and it's frustrating to encounter.

Trooper York said...

No problemo, I knew that you would delete it. But as a much older guy with a little experience it the world and the internets, I want to give just a little bit of gratuitous unwanted advice for your blogging.

Loosen up a little. You get diamonds from friction, not pedantry. But hey, it's your pop stand, good luck

And always talk to the chick with the book. Smart women are hot. Just sayn’.

Now back to Sara Jessica Parker jokes.

TMink said...

Hey there, this is my first time here, and let me say what a thoughtful and well written article that was. Outstanding!

Dude, let me give you a bit of a warning. Liberals get very uncomfortable with off the plantation thinking. They tend to act out their discomfort but censoring and rejecting, both of which can be hurtful to thinking people. Notice Cortex's response. It is classic in that it lables you a whiner for having complaints and questions. Men are not permitted complaints about gender inequity in those circles. There are some thoughts that are too dangerous to have apparently.

See, you cannot ask the question you asked and remain one of the faithful. You will be branded as a heretic, as Cortex branded you. (Notice how he or she criticizes you without answering your question.) You cannot ask an honest question that challenges liberal dogma without repercussions. OK, I just checked out the "discusson" that cortex links to. Oh my goodness, that is so the stereotype of liberal "discussion" that it made me laugh out loud while also making me feel brilliant in what I had typed earlier. The assertions I made were all true, they had already happened, I just did not know it.

As an experiment, try posting a question about how having an abortion might psychologically harm the mother, or how the ability of embryos being able to be frozen then implanted and come to term impacts the abortion debate. Give it a try!

For a control, post a similar question at a conservative blog, something like "Conservatives value freedom, but not the freedom to choose an abortion, how come?" or something about affirmative action. Certainly you will get some grief for that as well, but I wonder what the ratio of grief to considerate answers will be. Don't you? Perhaps your post will not be treated as verbotten by the censor Nazis on a conservative web site.

My expectation is that the liberals blogs will brand you a trouble maker (you already have been) and your integrity assaulted (you will be labled a conservative shill,)or you will simply be called stupid.

These are the things I have seen other people and bloggers go through when they dare to think critically about liberal dogma. Oh, and your comments will blow up with vituperative and abusive remarks. Sorry.

You are a brave person, perhaps braver than you realized, and I wish you well on your journey. May it be a productive one.


LemmusLemmus said...


you have not disputed that the reasons described by John were the ones given by the moderators. All of those reasons are poor. (Because it didn't reference a book? LOL!)

I also agree that the tone of your comment would have been a good reason for not publishing it. He makes an effort to "demonize" you? Come on!

As for the actual topic at hand, an obvious difference is that many females can have casual sex pretty much whenever they want; males, maybe with very few exceptions, can't.

An interesting talk on male and female disadvantage

paul a'barge said...

Over at Althouse there has been a veritable plethora of explanations why today's feminism is a tired and worn totalitarian orthodoxy hijacked by petty creatures.

Take for example the female journalist whose response to Bill Clinton's sexual harassment in the workplace was to offer to fellate him.

Is someone out there keeping count of the number of these kinds of incidents where the defenders of the orthodoxy shamefully and without apology engage in brutality against speech that threatens their power?

Because at this point it's pretty clear that cogent arguments are not going to provide leverage against these monsters, and providing them with statistics is about all that is left short of passing laws that would allow us to put them in jail.

Neon said...

You're point is a rarely discussed one. There's nothing wrong with feminism but if raising one gender's status in society causes obvious harm to the other it's simply not worth it. I've been reading the "Beyond the Fall of Man" series about the sexism that is now pervasive in American society concerning men. You should check it out, spreading misandry is the first and it covers the terrible way in which men are portrayed on TV and in movies.

Rich Beckman said...

Judging from the guidelines as explained here:

The question isn't "Why did they delete Jac's post?" The question is why didn't they delete the first question (what are the advantages...)??

To me they both clearly violate the guidelines.

Trooper York said...

Trey and Paul are two of the more thoughtful commenters I know. If you want a lot more comments though, you should mention breasts. Blake did it on his blog and got an amazing increase in page views. Just sayn'

Anonymous said...

The comments by Cortex should be removed because he/she does not reference a book.

I am amazed that with both of Cotex's comments here that neither one of them "offer any principled reason for allowing one question while deleting the other".

I am convinced that Cortex is unaware of his/her own liberal bias on this matter.

Dewave said...

The responses given by the mods are pretty weak, and their obvious inanity, as well as how they are clearly not being applied to other threads, certainly makes one suspect the thread was removed because they disagreed with letting that topic be discussed.

Cortex's responses do absolutely nothing to allay that suspicion. Instead of providing a valid reason why one of a pair of identical threads was deleted and the other not, he insists that you PROVE it was politically motivated.

Cortex, it's not that we're ignoring your claim that the deletion wasn't politically motivated, we're denying its validity, given the lack of other plausible explanations.

So far, none of the other reasons submitted by mods have passed the laugh test. (Right, all questions that aren't based on a book get axed, sure)

[i]and then you ignore them or dismiss them because they aren't what you wanted to hear[/i]

Or maybe he's dismissing them because they don't hold water, and you're ignoring that because it's not what YOU want to hear. We could play this game all day.

Anonymous said...

>I don't go along with the traditional view of comments sections as free-for-alls. I want this to be more like a letter-to-the-editor section of a newspaper or magazine. I don't see the need to allow 100% of people's comments

On the other hand, that site YOU posted to is required to show all your posts, because if they don't, they're monster sexists

Good luck with that

cortex said...

you have not disputed that the reasons described by John were the ones given by the moderators. All of those reasons are poor. (Because it didn't reference a book? LOL!)

First of all, I don't have access to Jessamyn's correspondence with Jac, so I can't tell explicitly what the context of the book comment was. What I can say is that what does and doesn't fly in terms of Chatfilter on AskMe is and always has been hazy, contentious territory, as we try to keep that part of the site from being overwhelmed by excuses-to-chat type posts.

That the first question was not deleted wasn't by virtue of the fact that a book was mentioned, however. Jessamyn may have been arguing for the idea that the first question -- one we were on the fence about but ultimately let stand -- was built on a bit of context, at least: someone asking in the context of having read Peggy McIntosh's 'Invisible Backpack', in this case.

My initial comment in that Metatalk thread sums up the whole first-one-lives, second-one-dies thing. Objections that if one goes, both should go don't particularly bother me; in this case, we let one stand, but it is, again, something we were considering deleting and gave a pass to. No good deed, etc.

My comment there, and at least one other later in the thread, also explicitly acknowledges that if the gender dynamic being asked about was swapped while all else was equal, we'd have done the same thing: let the first one stand, and deleted the second. Jac seems completely unwilling to address that point other than to just deny it by virtue of the political motivations he's informing me that I'm working under, and which he's not backing up at all.

Matt's comment that Jaltcoh's question seemed chatty by the askme guidelines? Yup. I don't really see that being a point of confusion. Again, argue that the first should have been canned if you like, but that the first one didn't isn't some magical precedent that gives the second a free pass. This is an old, many-times-weathered issue with AskMe and Metafilter in general and, I imagine, any large community site that deals with user-supplied content.

Jac says that he has seen questions reacting to other questions let stand, and I am sure he has; I've been on the fence about more than one of those as a moderator, and some have been let to stand while others were deleted, based in part on the other merits of the followup question (is it chatty? is it well-presented? are these hours are days apart?). Again, you're welcome to disagree with that practice, but it, like the other factors mentioned above, has not a thing to do with gender politics.

To the general point of policy: I think it's probably going to be kind of nuts to discuss how things get done on Metafilter in an extra-Metafilter context like this; the site is not intended to be the end-all and be-all of blog-based discussion, and what does and doesn't work for managing a community of 30+ thousand users differs significantly from things like single-proprietor blogs or small group blogs. Folks who really want to get into what makes mefi work are welcome to head over to the site and dig through the Metatalk archives (warning: will require effort, not terribly soundbitable), but I doubt we'll have anything but a badly asymmetrical discussion about it here, in the end.

General point: I don't have a problem with people objecting to the deletion of their posts on Metafilter. They're in their rights as a member of the site, and wanting an explanation is understandable. A lot of what I do there is communicating with users about what's going on, why something did or didn't get deleted, etc. That's fine, it's my job, I enjoy it 99% of the time.

But asserting a bad-faith presumption about the motivations of others to justify your anger at having your post deleted, and further trumpeting those presumptions on your blog in the face of actual, straight-faced explanations of what's going on from the very people you're ascribing motivation to in the first place? I'm sorry, but that's crap. Again with the outlandish anti-semitism example: what, exactly, should prevent me from assuming you have some ill agenda here, other than common sense and common decency suggesting that it'd be weird to assume as much about you, Jac?

Jac has been a helpful guy on AskMe, he seems to be a smart and passionate person, and (for the nth time) I agree with the very idea he seems to think we're trying to suppress. Why that adds up to him insisting that we think X when we say we think Y, with the implication that we're a bunch of liars trying to advance an agenda, is beyond me.

Dewave said...

the whole thing is in fact about Metafilter moderation policies that are utterly orthogonal to the gender power dynamic issue.

I think you're still missing the point. It's no good talking about how neutral your official policies are when they are *applied* unfairly.

The entire point here is that in this case there appears to be double standard in your *implementation* of policies. Thus, the neutrality of your 'official policies' really isn't the issue.

What is at issue is the presumed political motivation for applying those policies to one thread, and not the other. They are similar enough that any policy that affects one should have affected the other.

To refute the political motivation claim, you'd have to show

1)A compelling policy reason why thread A should be deleted but not almost identical thread B
2) Show that this policy is a long standing one that is consistently used in all similar situations

If you can't do that, then basically the deletion was at the whim of a moderator.

8 said...

My goodness.

A tremendous, very well written, passionate post. I'm neither here nor there about metafilter, but I'm glad I was able to read it.


Dewave said...

My comment there, and at least one other later in the thread, also explicitly acknowledges that if the gender dynamic being asked about was swapped while all else was equal, we'd have done the same thing: let the first one stand, and deleted the second.

I'm surprised you think this line of reasoning should be given credence by anyone. Talk is cheap. Saying what you would have done in some hypothetical version of the past is even cheaper.

Moreover, people who are biased or bigoted a long long history of defending their unfair prejudice with that exact same phrase "Oh, not at all! I assure you," they'd say very solemnly and sanctimoniously, "I'm not prejudiced against (insert group of people) at all! If the positions are reversed I would have done the exact same thing".

Obviously this isn't to say that simply by saying that you are guilty of being biased, just that the defence is a common one and a meaningless one. Words that aren't actionable or verifiable have little meaning.

It'd be a bit like a man saying "What? Me? A misogynist? Definitely not! Why, if I had driven past a woman trapped inside a burning home this morning, I would have risked my life to save her!"

In short: saying what you would have done in some alternate reality is no defence of what you actually did in the real world.

Anonymous said...

We men are expected to be the sexual aggressors, while women are expected to be passive. It sounds like an advantage for us men, but it isn't. What it amounts to is that we have to beg for sex.

I've always hated this role, and initially I thought feminists would be my allies in eliminating it, but soon enough I saw that they had no interest in eliminating it, no matter what their rhetoric was.

To hell with the feminists.


Trooper York said...

Willard: YYou won't get any dancing here, it's illegal.
Ren: Jump back! We’re breaking all the rules!
(Footloose, 1984)

cortex said...

And, hell, I think I may have chucked out a long comment into the blogspot void. I'll see if it shows up and recap later if it doesn't. For now:

I'm surprised you think this line of reasoning should be given credence by anyone. Talk is cheap. Saying what you would have done in some hypothetical version of the past is even cheaper.

I'm surprised it's even necessary to present. What remains is that I do a job every day, as transparently as I can. The one time it bites Jac in the ass, though, is the time I get declared a bigot or at least servant to same because he can't or won't foster any less damning explanation -- even a more straightforward one along the lines of disagreeing about chatfilter and me-too question reasoning on the site.

Moderation history on metafilter is right there for consumption and analysis. Read through my comment history, and Matt's, and Jess's; look at what has been deleted over the years, and the discussions that have taken place in Metatalk; acquint yourselves with what we have actually said and done in the past. That is how you form a reasonable opinion about what we do and why we do it—not some insulting and self-serving supposition based on your own helplessly personalized interpretation of a single incident (or worse yet, sympathetic second-hand reaction to a bully-pulpit blog caricature of same).

Anonymous said...

There seems to be quite a conspiracy theory here. The mods disagree on the deletion reason -- not because they're different people, but because they're hiding something. The mods won't admit there's a gender bias, and say it's something else entirely -- not because it is something else entirely, but they're LYING to you.

You seem to be starting from the premise that since MeFi skews generally leftish, they automatically all think a certain way, and automatically all think the same thing about gender politics. This has colored your thinking regarding a post that got deleted.

MeFi posts get deleted. All the time. Posts by members who've been there five years, posts by members who've been there five weeks. Hell, I managed to get posts deleted from the gray, which doesn't happen often and only when you're a special kind of idiot. Getting too attached to your posts leads to thinking being colored as above.

Stuff happens. Some of it is arbritrary. Flag it and move on.

Anonymous said...

"... if the gender dynamic being asked about was swapped while all else was equal, we'd have done the same thing: let the first one stand, and deleted the second."

You are allowing your actions to speak for you Cortex. When you say you have no problem with his ideas, but only allow opposing viewpoints to be heard, it weakens your verbal argument, does it not? Your argument here seems to be you cannot be censoring pro-male discussion because you say so. Did you see any of the recent footage regarding Kentucky/West Virginia and their views on who should be the Democratic nominee? "I'm not racist, but I don't think a black person should be president."

Yes, we could take their word and trust that they are not racist, but their line of thinking is inarguably racist. Likewise, we could take you at your word when you say your actions were motivated by nothing but the community guidelines, but your actions tell a different story. When you have two equally rule-breaking threads, and decide to only enforce rules on the more taboo of the pair due to some arbitrary condition, it speaks to your actions quite clearly.

Trooper York said...

Mildred: What're you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?
(The Wild One, 1953)

cortex said...

When you have two equally rule-breaking threads, and decide to only enforce rules on the more taboo of the pair due to some arbitrary condition, it speaks to your actions quite clearly.

And when you have two threads that -- in your professional opinions as the three people who actually daily deal with enforcement of those rules and guidelines and precedents that actually exist on Metafilter -- are not, across several different vectors, actually "equally rule-breaking threads", then how you deal with the two threads may and likely will reasonably differ.

When the folks reading at home disagree with you about how different the threads actually are, they have a couple of options.

The civil option is to take a deep breathe and hunker down and make an effort to understand why you disagree about those decisions. Explain your priorities, why you think factor x should be given less weight or factor y more, why you think this is an exceptional case, etc.

That goes on daily in Metatalk, and over email, and in conversations on- and off-line all over the place. It works very well, even if folks ultimately end up having to agree to disagree.

The less civil option is to assume the worst, assert it, refuse to treat refutation with anything like the benefit of the doubt, and then to trumpet your assumptions for all the world to see, devoid of the context in which the whole thing occurred.

That happens less often, thankfully. I don't know why exactly it happened here, and it's kind of upsetting. More so that folks are so comfortable casually arguing for the bigotry of strangers.

Anonymous said...

To Jac: My comment wasn't posted yet; I respectfully ask that you let it through as I think I can contribute something here. Thanks.


I am a regular user of Metafilter who stumbled upon this thread from Reddit.

To refute the political motivation claim, you'd have to show

1)A compelling policy reason why thread A should be deleted but not almost identical thread B
2) Show that this policy is a long standing one that is consistently used in all similar situations

The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the case. It will be difficult to prove, however, because the mods have found that soft rules are more effective at maintaining a healthy community. There is no ironclad book of rules that are always followed; rather a set of guidelines which the moderators interpret and apply on a case-by-case basis. To understand the rationale behind this, please read point 7 in this article, Some Community Tips for 2007, written by Matt Haughey, Metafilter's founder and head moderator.

In any case, there is a compelling policy reason for leaving the first up and deleting the second, namely that experience has shown that the latter of two identical threads often does not sustain healthy discussion and instead often devolves into noise. As cortex stated in the metatalk thread, "The followup kind of wanders into a territory we try and avoid, where questions beget followup/mirror questions in kind of a me-too fashion, and the "okay here's the flip-side then" thing is more solidly into the realm of outright chatfilter (and sort of an analogue to double posts too) than the thing that narrowly got a pass in the first place."

There are many examples of this policy being applied in the past, though I am sorry but I don't have time to dig them up. There are also likely a few examples where a similar follow-up question was allowed to stand. It was a borderline case, and in such cases the mods have to make a judgement call.

Metafilter is a community-run site, and if you spend a lot of time there, you will soon realize that the quality of discussion there is abnormally high considering its large userbase. This is so precisely because the moderators (with the support of the user base, trust me) remove posts that are, in their experienced judgement, not going to end well.

To show you what I mean, I encourage you to browse the metafilter Deleted Thread blog, which gives a full listing of threads that have been deleted. You can browse this list and see if you detect any political bias.

For example, deleted threads about:

The pattern here is that these threads are rehashing old debates; they are contentious; they are likely to incite flame-wars; etc. etc.

I hope you will consider this as evidence that Metafilter's deletions in general, and this deletion in particular, are not politically motivated. I should say that as a longtime member of Metafilter, I am certain this is the case; I have the utmost confidence in the impartialness of the mods, and so does the vast majority of the Metafilter community.

-- PercussivePaul

LemmusLemmus said...

"That the first question was not deleted wasn't by virtue of the fact that a book was mentioned, however. Jessamyn may have been arguing for the idea that the first question -- one we were on the fence about but ultimately let stand -- was built on a bit of context, at least: someone asking in the context of having read Peggy McIntosh's 'Invisible Backpack', in this case."

So it was by virtue of a book being mentioned after all? I'm getting more and more confused here.

"My initial comment in that Metatalk thread sums up the whole first-one-lives, second-one-dies thing. Objections that if one goes, both should go don't particularly bother me"

I've read the comment. Can you link to the "first-one-lives, second-one-dies" policy you have at MetaFilter?

Peter said...

Very interesting, all this.

On the whole, I would say the moderation at Metafilter is alright. Occasionally though, just from my own perspective, I've found some of the moderating to be a little arbitrary and capricious. I think this fits in with that observation.

I have no concrete examples to back up this assertion. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

if you really want feminism to be a powerful force for changing people's minds, you need a message that will resonate with both sexes.

Well, the thing is, changing people's minds -- about what? IT is becoming increasingly apparent that all the liberal movements, from feminism to anti-racism, have all become inverted by the Left into working towards particular goals which contradict their alleged overall desire.

If that pattern is correct, what I would expect to see being put forward in terms of "changing people's minds" would not be equality of the sexes at all, but merely reversing the inequality that purportedly exists, so that men are the victims. The original, honorable old liberal principle of equality of the genders would be tossed aside.

Sure enough, that is exactly what we see.

jum1801 said...

I'm all for folks having a chance to express themselves (which, after all, was kinda the point of John's post), but I for one would not have been the least bit upset had the lead-off comment of "cortex", whom I assume from his self-description as a "mod at mefi" is a moderator at Metafilter, gone unpublished. It's just unpleasant to read a post from a pissed-off, self-righteous person bent on retribution for some perceived offense, because it is almost always out of proportion and inflammatory. But it was posted, and I suppose it's just as well, because it is quite revealing...even if unintentionally.

The red-hot post strikes me as smug, condescending, self-serving, intellectually dishonest, disproportionate and aggressive. Were I to be limited to one word to fully and accurately capture the tone of his comment, "shrill" might do nicely. (I was particularly impressed with the bit about how dare John not stand and deliver to cortex's demand to explicate his position on Metafilter's political leanings.)

And I would choose "unpersuasive", or perhaps "disingenuous", as to substance. Because missing from the huffy justifications about Metafilter's lack of political bias is any statement from cortex that the question should or will be addressed. There is no suggestion about how the question might be framed so that it might be addressed at Metafilter.

My conclusion? It's pretty clear the question isn't going to be addressed if cortex has a say about it. Although I too suspect a political bias might be the reason, I don't ignore the possibility it might be nothing more than a bad case of "moderatis magnus capet".

J.M. Phillippe said...

I think one of the greatest disadvantages of this particular man is to let the petty back and forth of why his post was deleted deter him from the greater idea originally presented.

To go back to that, as a feminist in the true sense of the word, and not a demonized, femi-nazi version, I am all for reexamining gender roles on both sides. But let's look at one of the most divisive issues--women can be raped and are more often the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence than men--this is true. As for male-on-male rape, if the prison statistics are to be believed, that still puts the threat in a very specific environment. At work the ladies room has a lock and key and the men's room doesn't. Why? To protect women, because even the public bathroom at work can be the setting for (and has been) female rape. That's why women have such a hard time having sympathy for male rape--male rape always seems to be circumstantial at best while female rape can take place anywhere and at any time (not saying male rape can't, but statistically a woman is more likely to be raped at almost any given location than a man is--outside of prison. And we'll not get into female-on-female sexual assault in prison either.)

The other side of that argument is that the same gender is responsible for rape of either men or women (outside of prison, there are very few cases of female-on-female rape). There is virtually no female-on-male rape, because by the virtue of biological design, it's incredibly difficult to do. Thus, men are victimizing both women and other men. Finally, there is a psychological part to that--why do men rape? If it's about sex, why do men who claim to be heterosexual rape other men while in prison? (And in the same way, why do women sexually assault other women in prison?)

I have never thought rape was about sex and have always theorized it was about power, and as such it becomes THE symbol for female dis-empowerment. In a society that pushes women to be hyper sexualized and to strive for physical perfection (according to a very strict and male-driven idea of sexualized beauty), and where money, job titles, domestic responsibilities are still not equal between the genders, it's easy to victimize women as the gender with the least power. So much so that we have to have locks on our bathroom doors because we would be unable to protect ourselves from random predators at work.

If the female issue is that we've been traditionally victimized and lacked power, the male issue is that they have been assumed to have that power and to be the predators women need to hide from. The assumption of male power (as narrowly defined in these "masculine" terms of detachment, ruthless ambition, and other extremes) hurts men as much as it hurts women.

Feminism is supposed to be about tearing down both gender constraints so that women would no longer be victims and men would no longer be presumed to be victimizers. True feminism is about tearing down the adversarial relationship of the sexes in order to create harmonious unions, if not as sexual/emotional partners, then as working partners in the quest to better the Earth.

Furthermore, true feminism never believes in a blind equality of the sexes that ignores biological differences, and how those biological differences manifest themselves. Instead, it should seek to help each gender overcome their own disadvantages while celebrating each others advantages, and learn to respect each other for those differences.

Maybe if we just dropped all the "isms" and just worked on trying to be the best people we can be while helping other people achieve their best....

But the point is you can't get caught up on the little stuff. When you look for people to be against you, you make enemies out of would-be friends. Instead of assuming the worst about why your post was deleted, it might have behooved you to question your own assumptions and aggressive attitude toward an authority figure and look for the most logical, benign explanation--unless you had strong evidence to the contrary. When we approach people with prejudice we're seldom disappointed in feeling biased against. Amazing how that works....

Anonymous said...

PerceptivePaul makes an excellent point about the whole "practices for having a better online community thing" -- but in the end, isn't that exactly the whole point of this blog post?

The point of this blog post is that you can discuss how women have it bad, and it's socially acceptable -- but you can't discuss how men have it bad because it's too divisive and potentially offensive to people who refuse to acknowledge that men might actually have some disadvantages without it devolving into a flamewar.

I, for one, think it's kind of stupid that the first thread stayed on AskMeFi and the second didn't. I do get the whole slippery slope, "me-too" argument on why the second was deleted. I just don't agree with it.

At the end of the day, this blog post basically explains (without all of the comment bickering with cortex) why his post was deleted: It had more potential to be a divisive topic that would take away from the community feel.

The problem? It shouldn't have more potential to be divisive and cause flamewars. Exactly the point made here.

Anonymous said...

I love you for writing this post. It was so thoughtful and thought provoking and perhaps you have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

You know I really think it is time for us in the west to re-frame a number of our social paradigms (which have never really worked) to make them more accurate and relevant to lived experience.

One day I asked my partner of 8 years who would he turn to for emotional support if something bad happened to me. The answer was no-one. I pretty much suspected that would be his answer but it made me so sad and afraid for him. It is so hard for me to accept that even though he has parents and a sister who are alive and lots of friends from childhood, college etc. who he is 'close to', he doesn't have emotional intimacy with anyone but me.

On the other hand, though my greatest emotional intimacy is with him I have a cadre of females with whom I enjoy a high decree of emotional intimacy.

Another point, while in Tunisia recently, I noticed a lot of men hugging and holding hands casually. I don't think they were gay, it just seems that the society does not frown on male heterosexual affection. Of course it does frown on homosexual affection and male-female public demonstrations of affection among other things.

cortex said...

It's just unpleasant to read a post from a pissed-off, self-righteous person bent on retribution for some perceived offense, because it is almost always out of proportion and inflammatory.

The tragic irony of heated discussions mediated in writing before an audience: this is more or less how Jac's performance in Metatalk and the subsequent caricature of the situation here reads from our side of the fence.

The difference is that I haven't drawn any ugly conclusions about Jac. I'm annoyed by his behavior; I think he was upset, and didn't and still hasn't give us the benefit of the doubt about the thing that's upset him, but that's a pretty normal human behavior when emotions fly.

Getting that in return would make this about as close to a perfect world as I'm prepared to hope for this afternoon.

k said...

I hope that the people who translate feminism into just being a movement to protect women are a very small group. I can only speak for myself when I say that my idea of feminism is that it gives attention to the ways that gender defines us and the ways that society forms that gender translation. A wise professor once talked about the Marlboro man and how that man had never learned to express or communicate or be intimate. It was an eye-opener for me, and I was ever so thankful for it. This was a great piece to read and remind me how fragile we all are, how kindly we should look on one another and how different the world could be with just a bit more attention to the how's and why's of our actions. Thanks for sharing.

mockmook said...

Is baldness the obvious disadvantage you were thinking of?

Anonymous said...

As someone who used to spend a lot of time on Metafilter I can say that I have seen a good number of examples of what I thought were inconsistent moderation. But I think that's partly due to the large amount of content that three people have to moderate. Picking a specific example and claiming its due to a particular bias is kinda far out there in my opinion.

And from my experience Cortex is definitely big on deleting things from AskMe due to it being chatfilter, including things that I think might have been interesting discussions. But as far as I can tell it's not motivated by some kind of bias, it's just his opinion of the way the site should be moderated.

Trooper York said...

I knew that Kotex was supposed to be absorbent but I never thought of it as a filter. You learn new stuff all the time on the internets.

Trooper York said...

Hey two blocked comments in one thread. Cool.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, and some interesting comments.

As someone that considers myself generally liberal (socially liberal, fiscally conservative, but support Obama), I am rather shocked at all the vitriol aimed at liberals and "the left" here.

First off, I think that "liberal", "conservative", "left", and "right" as so much of an over-broad stereotype that they are almost useless. And I think this is a perfect case in point.

What is there about wanting a more just society that you think would lead to liberals wishing to repress this discussion? I find this discussion thought-provoking. And these allegations of censorship frankly are somewhat surprising. I generally find that people of lots of different political stripes are willing to engage in a healthy discussion on a variety of issues. The only ones that really aren't are the religious Rush Limbaugh fans, who can't seem to discuss in any way other than Rush soundbites.

Note that I did not make a sweeping generalization, nor did I state that either conservatives or liberals are unwilling to discuss points.

Sure, there is a certain PC crowd out there, but I think there is as healthy a disdain for them in just about every circle.

I remember the Golden Rule of FidoNet: do not be excessively annoying, and do not be easily annoyed. Too bad so many people in society today fail both.

amba said...


There is a guy named Warren Farrell who has made an entire career of documenting the disadvantages of being a man. He's written quite a few books about it, over the past 30+ years. Yet apparently what he had to say has slipped through the cracks, to the extent that young men like you have to reinvent that wheel. Here's his website. I've communicated with him before, so I'm going to send him the link to your post.

vbspurs said...

John, your premise has all the makings of a serious book on the topic, not some jumped-up Dr. Phil exploration, and I wish you luck should you delve further into it.

Also hope you read some of my replies over at Althouse. Basically the gist of it was that having lived in many countries, I've noticed that men are ridiculed in the West for their beefs, though they are truly at a disadvantage in the modern world.

I cited two NYT's articles on female/male love in Saudi Arabia today, noting some of the pitfalls of being male in their society (precious few).

Disadvantages needn't be dramatic, you understand.

They are incremental in their irritating quality, but scratch the surface further, and it's about men needing to be unfeminine above all else.

Whereas we women in the West have relaxed rules about dressing (we can wear trousers, you cannot wear skirts without inciting ridicule), acting, speaking, men are still policed by other men to conform to standards of behaviour.

You can see this best in the attitude towards gay males by straight males -- implied weakness being the single-most damning factor in being a 21st century Western male, IMHO.

Anyway, as a signoff, don't let self-aggrandised mods keep you from exploring this topic, wherever you wish to take it. That attitude stinks, and they know it.

Good luck.


Anonymous said...

"...born in the US..."
STOP RIGHT THERE! to billions of ppl today, that's the deal maker right there...

claranet23 said...

I think the response may be that it puts men in the role of the victim which has been reserved by political correctness for other groups (like women and minorities) -- IOW this type of discussion or thinking may diffuse the political potency of the victim card (which is considered politically incorrect and subject to censorship).

Anonymous said...

Not familiar with mefi before this, and now I don't want to be. cortex hasn't offered a convincing excuse yet.

Of the two pending questions, the mods leave the trite, tired question that spoon feeds liberals willing to pat themselves on the back for being feminists. Your question was far more interesting and thought-provoking.

I don't need to speculate about the mods' motives, and Jac may have gone overboard there, but cortex's failure to clearly enunciate a cogent reason indicates (at the very least) that the more interesting topic was removed without rational thought. Instead, we get rationalization for what was pretty clearly a "kneejerk" decision.

Best solution I can see? For cortex to admit a lapse of judgment and apologize. That might arguably be enough to undermine Jac's claim of political motivation, so that Jac could then apologize. Until cortex admits a mistake, though, Jac's conclusion is still mighty persuasive in the absence of a more convincing reason.

Yes, I know this makes me sound like some kind of conservative reactionary, but I blame cortex for that. Truth is, I'll vote for Obama -- but only because a more liberal candidate did not get through the primaries, and none of the electable candidates were really committed to restoring the civil rights stolen by shrub & co. I've been calling myself a feminist since I learned the word at age 11, and that's not an easy label to wear as a boy.

It's also not easy to watch someone who "moderates" a "discussion forum" completely fail when it comes to justifying a questionable (at best) editorial decision. If that's the level of moderating, then the level of discussion actually permitted sounds way too lame and vanilla to hold my interest.

Kim said...

It is unfortunate that people are making judgements about Metafilter, Cortex, Jac, and the post, based on this interpretation. One really needs to look at the entire situation in context, with understanding of the written AND pragmatic rules of the culture of Metafilter, before one is able to make a fair and informed judgment. I promise that if you do this, you will arrive at a different conclusion than the one you currently have based on the presentations made here.

Graylocke said...

I'd like to point out something that came up as a topic in real life recently. (Without entering into a debate about specific website policies ;p)

Sorry for the length of the rant, but I thought you may like to read it even if you don't put it on your blog.

Rape comes in many forms even though the one focused on is the violent actions of a physically stronger person dominating a weaker one. Noone denies that on average, men are physically stronger than women. Noone will deny that human sexual organs are set up in a way that makes males the "aggressors". As jac points out, this is very serious and not at all funny. And while men can be the victims, it is often women who are the victims in this case and almost always men are the perpetrators of a violent and horrible crime. But this does ignore other forms of sexual abuse and yes, rape.

The quote that came up was found on a feminist website and amounted to:
Just because she has said yes doesn't mean that you haven't committed rape.

My male friend saw this and was immediately offended. I was also offended, but not for the same reason. It is a powerful statement that is true, but it can (and is) used as a form of sexism.

Men are expected to want sex. Quite often, they do. Nature demands that guys want to procreate and society plays to that as well. You are seen as less of a man if you haven't had sexual intercourse (and in extremes, not a man at all if you are homosexual).

In this way, the "good" straight men are entirely at the whim of women when it comes to sex. You must pander to whatever the requirements are in order for you to not to be labeled an evil rapist. A simple "yes" isn't enough, what if you made them say that? Again, it's a situation in which the prevention of one type of crime creates another.

Also, who would believe a man has been manipulated into sleeping with a woman? Especially since well... they "got some" so it doesn't matter to them, does it? Men aren't allowed to regret casual sex, it just happens. Obviously this happens with women as well, but in those cases her friends (and the law) will assert that it was the man's fault. In the reverse case, and I assure you that it happens all the time, no-one can cope with the idea that the man really didn't want to sleep with that woman.

Why? My guess is that it is because they did actually want sex, at least in that primal sense, but they didn't neccessarily want to sleep with the person they slept with, and this is a critical point that is overlooked.

Now don't get me wrong, I put a lot of blame for this situation on us... men. Men have been in control and we have built ourselves into the "boss" who can never be wrong, never show weakness, never have emotions. But women can and do play this urge, and lead men on, and then slap them when they go "too far". That line is much clearer to a woman than to a man.

Women are not stupid, they are not inferior and they don't deserve poor treatment based on purely on their gender. What that implies is that they have had the rules of The Game ingrained in them too... and have learned to play it just as hard as men do. What Nature has taken from women in physical prowess, is made up with in mental and emotional maturity.

And either can be used in a manipulative way, and both are very wrong.

summer anne burton said...

I have so many different ideas about the original topic posed that my brain doesn't really have room for the metafilter business. Sucks, though.

Anyway, yeah! Let's talk about this here instead!

To me it seems obvious that feminism should be about equality and that there are disadvantages on both sides. The first one that came to my mind for men is biological: not being able to give birth. Of course, like many of these disadvantages, there's a weird paradoxical flip side where childbirth can certainly be seen as being a disadvantage to being female. Particularly in the case of accidental or unwanted pregnancy, and cases where the male chooses to be less involved or completely absent -- a choice men can make that women usually can't. Which seems to tie into the disadvantage of maleness that you cited: 'more likely to lose their parental rights in the event of divorce'. True, but are 'parental rights' an objective positive? It seems to me that it's acceptable for men to view 'parental rights' as something they can choose or dismiss, whereas women who 'abandon' their children are often viewed as monsters.

This paradoxical quality seems to apply to most of the examples given, actually:

"Females are generally better socialized than males - males tend to have a harder time in social situations" = women have trouble finding opposite sex partners who are their social or emotional peers -- particularly during the adolescent / young adult years.

"You are likely to be socialized never to admit weakness, confusion or doubt, and struggle with loneliness because of it." = women are socialized to talk about these feelings constantly and may be more prone to giving in to them as a result, resulting in histrionics, dwelling, and self-pity.

I could go on, but you get the idea. My point is not to disagree with the disadvantages listed. I think they're all valid and true. What I'm getting at is: the good and bad things about being male are often intrinsically linked to the good and bad things about being a woman. It seems like it should be so simple: 1. life is hard for everyone, and a lot of the reasons it's hard are out of our individual control; 2. when we can, we should lessen the difficulties for each other and ourselves. One of the first steps in healing a lot of the disadvantages to being a man or a woman would be simply talking about it more openly.

As an example of how each gender's problems tie into each other and how that should relate to feminism: as we (society) make an effort to treat both genders equally when it came to parental rights and parental responsibilities, there is/will be a positive result for both genders. Men would be more likely to be given parental rights when they want them and women would be less likely to be left to bear sole responsibility for children.

One thing I'm kind of wondering about, though: there are obviously a lot of different ways to define feminism, but I typically think of feminism historically as dealing with systematic gender inequalities (as opposed to social ones). Feminism was born out of women fighting for Basic equal rights: the right to vote, the right to be paid the same amount for the same work, etc. Most of the disadvantages to being a man that we're discussing here are social and variable. Are there any disadvantages to being male that are intentional inequalities perpetuated by our government or schools? I'm not saying there aren't, but I'm personally at a loss.

Great, incredibly well-articulated post, by the way. <3

summer anne burton said...

Reading the original question over at metafilter, I noticed this:

"If you want to stay home with the kids while your spouse works, people might give you shit about it."

I think this is a great example of the fine line we have to tread, because I honestly think that in our current society, the statement above now applies to EITHER gender, as a direct consequence of the generally well-meaning feminist movement.

Anonymous said...

The Hobo said: "Maybe if we just dropped all the "isms" and just worked on trying to be the best people we can be while helping other people achieve their best..."

Couldn't agree more. Form a group, any group, and no matter how ostensibly noble the purpose of founding you have created a boundary - those within and those outside. The inevitable consequence of that is conflict.

Earliest organized feminism was not gender specific. Radical, anti-male feminists made it so. No wonder then that the products of radical feminism (divorce and child custody laws come to mind) are heavily biased against males.

JAC: Why all the apologetics in your piece? It reads as though you are trying to forestall any possible criticism of being "anti-feminism". So what if you are?

And finally (long comment), I think it would be useful to separate evolutionary and biological characteristics of male behavior from socially induced one. Take males being labeled "loners" for example, an obviously derogatory effort. There might be good and useful reasons for that which have been around for a couple hundred thousand years. For the last 50 or so, it has been criticized - largely, I believe, because the behavior is different from the modern accepted model of sociable [i.e. female] behavior (which has its own, different long history and reasons for being).

The basic, feminist-inspired argument is that if Little Johnny were more like Little Mary, the world would be a better place. Maybe, for everyone except Little Johnny. Maybe, if rather than imposing a trendy set of expectations on Little Johnny we instead encouraged him to develop naturally and healthily within only the broadest bounds necessary to maintain a viable society, we would all be better off.

Anonymous said...

Sharkbait: Not sure if you were responding to me, but I'm gonna respond to you.

I don't really need to know context, mefi's written rules, or the pragmatic rules. I've seen enough. Jac posed an interesting question, the mefi mods took it out, and the mefi mods cannot present a cogent reason for doing so. Jac and the rest of us are thus left to speculate about the nature of the real reason(s). That's enough to tell me I don't want to waste my time at mefi.

cortex said...

I don't really need to know context, mefi's written rules, or the pragmatic rules. I've seen enough. Jac posed an interesting question, the mefi mods took it out, and the mefi mods cannot present a cogent reason for doing so. Jac and the rest of us are thus left to speculate about the nature of the real reason(s). That's enough to tell me I don't want to waste my time at mefi.

But that's a heck of a privilege to give yourself.

A lot of folks clearly don't like the reasons Jac's question got deleted. That's fine. If you don't like the guidelines on Ask Mefi, it may not be for you, and so be it -- the site is not intended as an end-all, be-all home for discussion, and many things on the chatty ("let's talk about x") rather than the problem-solving ("how do I do y", "help me deal with z") spectrum do get deleted. Some stuff on the edge gets through -- it's human moderation and inherently fuzzy and case-by-case -- but the site is not intended as a place to just start discussions, even if the discussions could be very interesting.

Again, if you don't like the anti-chat guideline, that's cool. Not the place you're looking for. I ended up building an unofficial spinoff website a while back specifically to make a home for chatty questions, because despite their poor fit for AskMe as designed I actually like 'em too.

But that's got nothing to do with political motivation or gender bias.

Now, if someone's going to ask for a "cogent reason" for the deletion that happened, but then also (a) refuse to acknowledge the actual reasons given and (b) refuse also to make themselves sufficiently familiar with the site we work for and the work we do there that they'd be competent to judge the cogency of those reasons, I'm left feeling like I've walked into a kangaroo court.

It may be more satisfying to assume the worst and latch onto Jac's framing of the situation and assertions about our conspiratorial hidden motives, but it's also lazy. It's really pretty disappointing and borderline shocking to see people approaching this that way.

I can understand that you're friends and readers of Jac or of Ann or Glenn, and that your sympathies are going to lie with the guy you know rather than the folks running the site you don't know. You stand by your friends, you take their words for it. Very human.

But your friends can be wrong. They can be out of line, they can draw conclusions in a moment of anger and say lousy things because it feels good to have a bad guy to point at. And if we as moderators treated folks on mefi the way Jac has treated us here, the site would be a desert wasteland instead of a bustling community.

The benefit of the doubt, and the understanding that things that upset you may not always have a pat, morally rousing black-vs-white explanation, are vital and important things. That that's being ignored in the context of a post about the very idea that gendered advantages and disadvantages shouldn't be seen as a pat, black-and-white thing is, I dunno.

Anonymous said...


I'm not refusing to acknowledge the reasons given. I examined them all, and they all fail. They are not persuasive. They are not consistent with a a discussion forum that will instead allow the lame, vanilla question spurring Jac's more interesting question. Your points are vague and/or tautological.

If you'll read, you also see that I suggested Jac may have gone a bit overboard with his speculation about political motivations. I agree there could be other reasons, but you don't help your cause when you fail to provide any reasons that hold up to scrutiny.

So yes, the circumstantial evidence supports Jac's thesis, only because you have failed to refute it. Occam's razor cuts pretty sharp.

Can't call myself a friend of Jac. I wandered in here from Reddit. Never heard of Jac of mefi before last night. See, I made the mistake of thinking you might value an objective opinion.

Anonymous said...

All I know is, cortex posted an awful lot of words on this thread just to say "your post was deleted because I wanted it deleted; deal with it." There is no rational reason I can see (or cortex has given) as to why a question about the disadvantages of being a man should have been deleted while a question about the advantages of being a man was left standing. Therefore, one is left to assume it was deleted for an irrational, i.e. purely emotional, reason.

SGT Ted said...

cortex's wall of text reply is a lot of non-answering of the question, quite frankly. The idea that a reversal of the "mens advantages" question is out of bounds because someone who disagrees *might* start flaming is really pathetic.

cortex said...

Maddening. Our reasons, torn out of context and presented in caricature by an upset Jac, are declared bad because they're less compelling than some wholly presumed bias, regardless of (a) the lack of any reasoning for why that bias would exist and (b) the lack of any reason why we'd be motivated to conceal our reasons.

It's ungenerous to the point of beggaring belief.

All that aside, I'm glad to see Jac making a followup post on the bare issue itself sans direct callbacks to the Mefi aspect of the equation. I'd say as much on the new post, but I don't want to drag any of this over there by implication and I'm keeping name out of it. I think it's a shame that this post itself conflated the (how many times can I say this) good, worthy point of discussion with the really questionable framing of his run-in with Ask Metafilter policy (and Jac explicitly linked to this post in the Metatalk thread he started -- I didn't trip across this by accident, to be clear), and I'm glad he's carrying on the discussion without the explicit baggage.

But there are all kinds of interesting, valuable discussions that aren't necessarily a good fit as a question posted to Ask Metafilter. Occam's razor can be applied rather cleanly in the other direction:

If two posts are different in presentation and circumstance, and one is deleted and the other is not, and the reasons stated for the deletion address those differences, which is a simpler explanation?

1. The stated reasons for deletion are the actual reasons for deletion.

2. The stated reasons for deletion are an elaborate coverup for a pervasive, hidden political or discursive bias that no one can be bothered to produce any evidence for.

There's more than one way to slice this kind of thing. You're welcome to dislike our actual reasoning, but there's a big leap from "I don't agree with their moderation heurstics over there" to "the clearest explanation is crypto-bias plus a coverup."

stomper, apologies if you felt painted too strongly by the friends-of-Jac brush, but you did get your introduction (via reddit) to the issue via a very strongly charged headline leading to Jac's own one-sided post on the subject. You may not have been familiar with Jac or mefi before yesterday, but you got your introduction to both straight from Jac's mouth.

Notably, there's a thread early in the reddit discussion that manages to have a reasonable discussion of AskMe policy without needing to throw accusations of hidden political bias at us. It can be done, and it is done pretty much daily in Metatalk sans the emotion-driven assumptions of bad faith.

I don't want to keep going around and around here. Some folks have expressed a willingness to try and actually examine the deletion in the context of mefi policy and practice, and I appreciate that. Again, I'm glad Jac is carrying forward the actual gender-disadvantage discussion in another post, and I look forward to reading it. I expect, too, that at some point a better-fit-to-the-guidelines attempt at the question will find it's way on to AskMe; whether, when, and by whom, I don't know, but regardless of what a lot of folks seem to want to believe, the topic is perfectly fine.

cortex's wall of text reply is a lot of non-answering of the question, quite frankly. The idea that a reversal of the "mens advantages" question is out of bounds because someone who disagrees *might* start flaming is really pathetic.

This is pure strawman. No one on the mefi mod staff believes or has said any such thing. The question is not out of bounds; that Jac's attempt at it didn't fly is an incident in time, not a statement of policy. Read what I've actually written in that Metatalk thread and quit inventing my positions to suit your inclinations.

Anonymous said...

There plainly is some liberal, left-wing, feminist, call-it-what-you-will bias on metafilter, which shows itself in censorship. I once answered a question by a woman who was planning to have an abortion; I gently suggested that, from my own experience with friends who had had abortions, she might experience some regrets. Deleted.

Kim said...

The question was deleted because it bordered on being chatfilter. It got knocked over the edge by the fact that it immediately followed a previous question that was also bordering on chatfilter. This sort of thing happens all the time, and posts get deleted for this real all the time, and people argue about it on the gray of Metafilter all the time. But it's good that this happens all the time, because the members and especially the new users, need to be informed and reminded of how the site works. Not how it works according to the instructions-on-the-box, but how it works according to the social conventions and cultural rules of the people who helped make it what it is (the users, like cortex, Jaltcoh, and myself, (iamkimiam)). It's not your typical blog. And the rules are somewhat flexible, and the site is run by infallible humans who are deeply enmeshed in the process and function of the site. This is part of what makes Metafilter so successful.

100's of posts and 1000's of comments on the blue, green, and gray are made by Metafilter's 50,000+ user base every day, to be read and moderated by 3 people. Many comments and posts get deleted, daily. There is no political motivation. There is no conspiracy. You are not a unique snowflake, holmes.

The deletion reasons given in any particular thread are always brief, but usually the result of any disagreement about the deletion ends up in a particular part of the site (the gray) specifically designed to discuss things like fairness in deletions. You can check out the thread discussing the unfair deletion here:

I urge you to make your judgement based on those comments rather than the ones found here, because the commenters on MetaTalk are all Metafilter users and are familiar with the culture, the rules, and the situational CONTEXT IN WHICH THIS OCCURRED.

I am saddened by what I see here in the comments. Many people have made what I consider to be unfair judgements about Metafilter, cortex, and the decision made on the site. I felt the need to speak up because I love Metafilter for its lively and intelligent discussion, its open atmosphere, and its personable moderation—many of the things that are being railed against here.

John Althouse Cohen said...

cortex wrote: I'm glad to see Jac making a followup post on the bare issue itself sans direct callbacks to the Mefi aspect of the equation. I'd say as much on the new post, but I don't want to drag any of this over there by implication and I'm keeping name out of it. I think it's a shame that this post itself conflated the (how many times can I say this) good, worthy point of discussion with the really questionable framing of his run-in with Ask Metafilter policy (and Jac explicitly linked to this post in the Metatalk thread he started -- I didn't trip across this by accident, to be clear), and I'm glad he's carrying on the discussion without the explicit baggage.

You're right that I'm not particularly interested in dragging out the discussion of that Metafilter deletion any further. I was very interested in using the deletion as an illustration and starting point for a discussion of the broader gender issue. But between this blog post of over 2,000 words, this comments section with over 60 comments, the MetaTalk thread with over 350 comments, and the several other blogs that have linked here, I don't feel that there's any lack of discussion of this particular AskMetafilter deletion on the internet.

I don't think I was somehow out of bounds for doing a blog post about the rationale behind a deletion of a Metafilter post of mine. After all, cortex, you help operate a website, MetaTalk, that regularly features extended discussions of Metafilter deletions. (As you know, those discussions aren't always a model of civility and impartiality, to say the least.) It's only fair that someone whose post is deleted -- a fact that's publicly posted on the internet by you and the other moderators (e.g. there's a whole blog devoted to tracking Metafilter deletions and the stated reasons for those deletions) -- has the right to post about the deletion on their own blog and present the facts as they see them.

Anonymous said...

But cortex, the stated reasons for deletion don't make sense, unless mefi's goal is to water-down discussion and avoid controversy. Since that is antithetical to the concept of an interesting "discussion," I don't buy it.

Jac's interesting post addresses an unusual point of view, and you delete it because it is just the flipside of the dull, lame, PC post that inspired it? Just comparing the two posts, that seems unreasonable and counterproductive on its face, but I waited to see what you had to say. Jac made enough of a case to shift the burden of proof to mefi, but one side is NEVER the whole story.

I'm well aware that I entered this discussion on Jac's biased perspective. That's why I read your posts carefully. I wanted to understand where Jac was exaggerating or misinterpreting.

You haven't helped me to understand that, though. I'm still waiting for an explanation from you that makes more sense than construing the deletion as a kneejerk PC response.

I also don't buy the false dichotomy you propose. It's not a choice between believing you and being a whacko conspiracy theorist. You lose credibility with that argument.

cortex said...

It's only fair that someone whose post is deleted -- a fact that's publicly posted on the internet by you and the other moderators (e.g. there's a whole blog devoted to tracking Metafilter deletions and the stated reasons for those deletions) -- has the right to post about the deletion on their own blog and present the facts as they see them.

I've never said you didn't have the right. In fact, I said precisely the opposite yesterday in the Metatalk thread -- the thread to which you have returned to link your followup blog post, the one I've been trying to do the courtesy of not popping my head (even strictly positively) into; thread in which you are seemingly trying to re-up the mefi attention to your blog despite your statement just now that you're "not particularly interested in dragging out the discussion of that Metafilter deletion any further".

You have every right to make a post about it. It's a normal enough reaction, and it's your blog -- I'd never imagine otherwise.

I don't think that you were wise to conflate the deletion with your actual content re: gender disadvantages if what you wanted here was a discussion of the latter. Separate posts, one for the issue, the other for the deletion, would have kept those things partitioned and given readers interested in the core discussion a chance to jump right into it. Editorial opinion, not something I'm spending a whole lot of time worrying about, but there it is. You say that the deletion issue as framing for the discussion was attractive to you; I think it was a mistake. We may well just fundamentally disagree here.

But while you have every right to post about your experience with the askme deletion, that doesn't automatically render how you choose to discuss it as reasonable. I don't think you were being very reasonable or fair in how you chose to pursue it; your language in the post is presumptive to the point of being offensive, and seemed more like a continuation/restatement of your initial complaint in Metatalk five days ago than a considered reaction to the feedback you got there.

I think that sucks, to put it plainly. I don't think you're a bad person or a jerk for it, and I'm not presuming any unspoken motivations for it. That's just basic courtesy in an argument, though, and part of my frustration with how you've approached all this is that it does not appear to be something you're even willing to extend to us.

cortex said...

But cortex, the stated reasons for deletion don't make sense, unless mefi's goal is to water-down discussion and avoid controversy. Since that is antithetical to the concept of an interesting "discussion," I don't buy it.

stomper, I obviously can't force you to buy it. I think you're attempting to rhetorically shoehorn a very complicated site culture into a binary where either (1) interesting discussion are never deleted or (2) the goal of moderation is to suppress controversial or interesting discussions. It's a binary that doesn't work.

It may be that AskMe is not your cup of tea. You might legitimately find it too dull or constraining in it's general focus on problem-solving rather than free-form discussion. So be it, and fare thee well. But that's what AskMe is focused on. We've had plenty of very controversial, very challenging threads there that have gone undeleted -- the difference, however, is in form and presentation and a little bit of luck, not any kind of cultural or political bias underlying the moderation.

And that's one part of the site. Metafilter proper is not nearly so focused, and free-form discussion there is the standard operating procedure.

Metatalk, too, is very freeform, and the most rough-and-tumble part of the site as well as far as what flies. As Jac says, it's not the most civil part of the site, but that is in part because we very rarely put limits on what people can say there. Short of outrageous personal attacks or stalkerish behavior, people, Jac included, are pretty much allowed to speak their minds and let their jerk flags fly if they need to.

So, look: buy it or don't. I've heard "I don't believe your explanations" paired with "I don't need to learn anything about the site" in this discussion enough times to be exhausted by it at this point. I can't get away with that in my job as a mod over at mefi, and I've made a concerted effort in the last few days to try and understand who Jac is and where he's coming from in a mefi context and in general, so it's kind of absurd that I'm being told what's what by a few different folks who have not only not made a similar effort but more or less refused to on the grounds that it's not necessary. As I said before, that's a heck of a priviledge your'e granting yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Our reasons, torn out of context and presented in caricature by an upset Jac, are declared bad because they're less compelling than some wholly presumed bias"

Actually, they're declared bad because they are truly, awfully, pathetically bad reasons that don't hold up under a light. As others have said, if you'd deleted both that would have been understandable. Deleting one but not the other leands one to question your reasons for doing so. The reasons given have been wholly inadequate to explain your actions. The only reasonable way to fill the "explanation gap" is emotion.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that you don't have the better of the argument, here, jaltcoh, that your post should have been left up.

But attributing the deletion decision to bias is completely unfounded.

It's too bad to see people categorizing MeFi as biased based on the word of one guy who's mad that his post was deleted.

If you're unfamiliar with how moderation there works, they often delete links at AskMe (and even at the main site) when those posts are a response to a very recent post. Experience has shown that those posts don't go as well. Dozens of posts are deleted every day in an effort to maintain the quality of the content. You can quibble with the decisions, but there's just no valid reason to attribute ones you don't like to political bias.

There is, as cortex has stressed, an interesting discussion to be had here about disadvantages of being male. The "help help, I'm being oppressed!" conversation is considerably less interesting, and less rooted in reality. It brings to mind the conservative caricature of blacks/feminists who attribute everything bad that happens to them to racism/sexism.

Anonymous said...

Cortex, I'm not granting myself that privilege. You are.

Despite numerous opportunities, you have completely failed to provide anything that remotely resembles a reason to go to mefi and take a look. Vague references to mefi's context or goals simply don't offer any reason to believe that looking at mefi will enlighten me.

So here's yet anohter opportunity: please summarize or explain what I would find at mefi that would somehow make your explanations more persuasive. At this point, if I went to mefi, I wouldn't know what I was looking for. You have never explained this.

If your explanation is, "mefi is more of a how-to site, and Jac's question doesn't fit in" then save your breath. That explanation doesn't hold water, because the first question did not get deleted.

If you can offer some other idea about how looking at mefi would enlighten me, then I'm still waiting.

Anonymous said...


Jac's attribution is farfetched, but not completely unfounded. In fact, the longer cortex drags his feet about providing a genuine, persuasive reason OR admitting that the deletion was a mistake, then the more likely Jac's speculation appears.

cortex said...

If you can offer some other idea about how looking at mefi would enlighten me, then I'm still waiting.

You could do what most people do: go and spend some time there. Read a lot of threads. Watch, or even sign up and participate in, policy/community discussions in Metatalk. Answer some questions while you're at it, or post your own; keep up with the front page of the site for a while, to get a feel for how things proceed.

Why should you do that? Intellectual honesty. Curiousity. The scratching notion in the back of your mind that if you're willing to consider ugly implications about people or about a place, you're obliged to test those against a genuine exploration of the thing you're judging.

That may be too much work, or you may be too deadset against the idea of crediting me or the site with your attention after taking an inital dislike to my objections here. But there is no single magic spot on the site that will convince you, if that's what you're hoping for; it's a great big sprawling community with hundreds of different facets and years of history under it.

But if you say no, that's too much, I'm not going to do it, you can at least have the decency to acknowledge that assumptions you may have drawn about the place or about what we do there or why are, indeed, founded on ignorance of the context in which the things you are so willing to judge occur.

Jac's attribution is farfetched, but not completely unfounded.

Jac's attribution is farfetched. It's not unfounded insofar as I don't think anyone in this conversation disbelieves the idea that politically motivated control of discourse can and does happen in the world, and I can understand perfectly well how it could occur to someone to consider the idea.

At this point, it's not only farfetched but indeed unfounded, having been proposed and directly refuted by both the people to whom he's attributing the bias and a whole lot of other metafilter users who have actually been paying attention to Metatalk in far more detail than he apparently has.

That he started a metatalk thread stating his suspicions, rejected outright any refutation of same, stomped out of the thread, and then two or three days later posted a blog trumpeting without qualification his original assumptions as fact takes him well past the understandable first-blush of emotion into stubborn grudge territory.

In fact, the longer cortex drags his feet about providing a genuine, persuasive reason OR admitting that the deletion was a mistake, then the more likely Jac's speculation appears.

False dilemma. That you are unpersuaded by our reasons does not make our reasoning unfair or deceptive. I advise you not to join Metafilter if you dislike what you've seen of the moderation, but our business is keeping that site running, not altering our policies to please non-members taking drive-by potshots.

If you want to pretend we've not made (or you have simply managed still not to read) a number of comments addressing the pros and cons of the deletion decision and the context in which it was made, I cannot stop you. But I have not pretended that it was some black-and-white, brightline decision, and it'd be as disingenuous for me to offer some unqualified reversal as it is for you to suggest I've been declaring it as an open-and-shut bullseye.

I have been speaking honestly at length. It's damned discouraging to have that be dismissed as "foot-dragging" by people with no personal investment in the question of what Jaltcoh is asserting about me, my coworkers, and the site itself. If you have no interest in listening to what I have to say, you are welcome to ignore it -- there's a whole lot of Internet out there -- but don't on the one hand praise Jac for blogging truth to power and then try to cut down speech in here with lazy mockery or dismissal.

OBloodyHell said...

OK, this ties into multiple issues.

I haven't read all the comments, yet, but some of this idea has been discussed by Dr. Warren Farrell, in his book, The Myth of Male Power (he has other books on the issue of gender relations, including Why Men Earn More which also is relevant to the topic at hand).

In the book, he makes a lot of points, and I think they tie a lot into why it is that your question/issue with it being unacceptable to discuss male disadvantages:

[Feminism has] focused on the fact that women as a group earned less -- without focusing on any of the reasons why women earned less, [such as:] full-time working men work an average of 9 hours per week more than full-time working women; men are more willing to relocate to undesirable locations, to work the less desirable hours, and to work the more hazardous jobs.
Sexism, we have been told, made men powerful and women powerless. The reality is somewhat different. For centuries, neither sex had power. Both sexes had roles: She raised the children, He raised the crops/money. Neither sex had options, both sexes had obligations. If both sexes had traditional obligations, it is more accurate to call it sex roles than sexism.
Men's roles didn't serve thier interests any more than women's roles served women's interests. Instead, both roles served the interests of survival.

[The question men need to ask, is:] 'Is earning money that someone else spends really power?'
Today, when the successful single woman meets the successful single man, they appear to be equals. But should they marry and contemplate having children, she almost invariably considers three career options:
. 1) work full time
. 2) mother full time
. 3) some combination of 1 and 2
He, too, considers three options:
. 1) work full time
. 2) work full time
. 3) work full time
Enter the era of the multi-option woman and the no-option man.


I consider this one to be quite relevant:

The political genius of the feminist movement was its sense that it could appeal to all women only by emphasizing expansion of rights and opportunities and avoiding expansion of responsibilities. Had the National Organization for Women fought to register 18 year old girls for the draft, it might have lost members. Had feminism emphasized women's responsibilities for taking sexual initiatives, or paying for men's dinners, or choosing careers they liked less in order to support adult men better, its impact owuld have been more egalitarian but less politically successful.
Essentially, women's liberation and men's mid-life crises were the same search for personal fulfillment, common values, mutual respect, and love. But while women's liberation was thought of as promoting identity, men's mid-life crises were thought of as identity crises.
Women's liberation was called insight, self-discovery, and self-improvement, akin to maturity. Men's mid-life crises were discounted as irresponsibility, self-gratification, and selfishness, akin to immaturity. Women's crises got sympathy, men's crises got a bad rap.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that as early as 1960, never-married women over 45 earned more in the workplace than never-married men over 45.
What Feminism has contributed to women's options must be supported. But when Feminists suggest that God might be a She without [ever considering] that the Devil might also be female, they must be opposed.
While we acknowledged that glass ceilings that kept women out of the top, we [have] ignored the glass floors that kept [them out of the bottom]. Thus the 'Jobs Rated Almanac' reveals that the majority of the 25 worst jobs 'happen to be' male dominated.
The accumulated wars that formed the U.S. are another example that men are considered less important than property. Men died for property, while women lived on the property that served as their husband's graves.
Put another way, [empires] become [empires] through the deaths of men. Because men died, empires can be seen as a form of male subservience; because the intent was to protect men's families, empires can be seen as a male's contribution to survival. It is often said that women are a civilizing balance to the innately warlike male. It COULD be said that because men took care of the killing FOR women, men civilized WOMEN. When survival was the issue, men killed to protect the children that women bore; it was the male form of nurturing, their contribution to the civilizing balance. Whether killing in war or making a killing on Wall Street, men were protecting what women bore.

Anonymous said...


I'm saying no, I won't go look, because you still haven't identified anything I should look for.

I'm also unimpressed with your reading comprehension skills and/or your intellectual honesty. I never once praised Jac for "blogging truth to power." Rather, I have been critical of your inability to justify the decision Jac complains about.

I likewise never suggested that the decision was clearly an open-and-shut bullseye. Rather, I indicated that Jac made a prima facie case, and shifted the burden of proof to you. You have abjectly failed to meet that burden of proof.

If you want me to conclude Jac is wrong and you are right, then you need to provide something more than (1) vague references to the context of the site, and (2) a sweeping condemnation of my refusal to go read an indeterminate number of posts there until I can somehow find the argument that you are failing to make on your own behalf.

If you, a mefi mod, cannot clearly identify that argument, then how can I? It appears to me that you are unable to formulate an adequate response, and simply wish to divert me into an endless review of unspecified comments.

Since you are a mod for a discussion site, I assume you understand the rules of logical discourse. I must therefore conclude that you are unable or unwilling to make a substantive defense.

This objective observer is thus forced to conclude that Jac's prima facie case stands uncontroverted. I'm guessing you won't be happy about that.

OBloodyHell said...

I first noted this issue myself back in the mid-80s.

I was visiting a friend of mine in NYC, and his girlfriend at the time was an ardent feminist, writing regularly for feminist journals in the Tri-State area. Let's call her "G".

While there, they told of a story where they were at this party, and G was sitting next to this apparently boorish guy who was making comments she considered sexist and insulting. Finally, she apparently got sufficient pissed that she dumped a plate of spaghetti over his head. He subsequently apologized.

Now. I didn't argue with it at the time, but the problem that occurred to me was pretty straightforward -- G was openly hiding behind her femininity. The person who was owed an apoligy most wasn't the boorish sexist guy but the hypocritical feminist (mutual apologies aren't uncalled for).

Ask a simple question -- if I, a male, intentially dump something over another guy's head at a party - Do I do so while risking a fistfight or other physical altercation?

I think the answer is an inarguable yes. It's exceedingly bad form to be on either side of such, but it's certainly a possibility no matter where you are -- if you physically attack another guy, chances are, you can expect behavior in kind.

This actually holds you, a male, in check -- you learn to control those aggressive impulses, because you know they can lead to physical altercations - you can get hurt. So, insulted though you may be by someone's obnoxious comments, you tell them off, verbally -- you don't hit them.

G, however, was not thus encumbered. She knew she would not be touched in response to her assault. If, in fact, he had turned around and shoved her, knocking her down,
a) Her first response would have been "You can't hit me, I'm a woman!!!
b) Several other males in the viscinity would have immediately come to her defense.

Size doesn't really enter into it. Small guys either learn to fight or learn to back down. A small guy starting a fight and then whining about getting his butt kicked because "he was smaller" would just get derisively laughed at.

I don't say this because I want the power to strike a woman -- I really want to call attention to the highly assymetrical rules going on here.

They are wrong, sexist, and unnecessarily so. I don't have an issue, offhand, with the idea "Don't strike a woman". I just think that women need to give up the reverse in return -- "Don't strike a man". A woman who strikes a man because he annoys her should be just as ill-thought of as a man who strikes a woman for same. The social stigma should be mortifying.

I believe the rule should be, "don't take it to a level you aren't prepared to deal with it on". If a man should never strike a woman, it should be for sure that a woman should never strike a man. This means that a woman is generally constrained to keep it on a verbal level. Given that women do this far more than men, that should be a field they have an advantage on, anyway.

OBloodyHell said...

> You should check it out, spreading misandry is the first and it covers the terrible way in which men are portrayed on TV and in movies.

Suggestion for a research project:
Find out when "misandry" got added to the dictionaries.

I couldn't find it prior to about 1990. It certainly did not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, which DID have such words as "floccinaucinihilipilificator", and was supposed to contain every non-slang word in the English language.

I first noted this when I was looking for the gender-reverse for "misogyny", a commonly known word. It occurred to me that I didn't know what the word was for a "woman who hates men"... and, despite searching every "mis-" there wasn't anything there. "Misanthropy" was there, but that's hatred of all humanity, not just males. I finally figured out what it was by encountering a discussion about Polyandry-vs-Polygamy-vs-Polygyny. I knew the "missing word" was Misandry.

Apparently, others started noticing this, too, about the same time, as the word started popping up in various places, like an Asa Baber column in Playboy (yes, some men do read it).

But it seems interesting to me -- because we're verbal creatures. We mostly "think" by constructing conversations with ourselves. If we don't have a word for something, it means we really aren't thinking about it much.

One of the key features of Orwell's "Newspeak" is to reduce the number of words people have, so as to channel their thoughts away from "bad" ideas, like revolution, doubts about government truthfulness, etc.

So what does that say about a missing word?

"Things that make you go, 'hmmm'."

OBloodyHell said...

A final comment about feminism.

It didn't start in the 60s.

It's real start was back in the 30s, with the real push in the 40s, with "Rosie The Riveter".

I'd call attention to the female leads of two movies to contrast them:

That Way with Women (1947)
Mother Is a Freshman (1949)

(Note: If you note the similarities of the below to the review, it's not plagiarism, just re-use, since it's my review)

In TWWW, the female lead is spunky, self-assured, and fully capable... think Joan Crawford without the b**** attitude. Her clothing is loose and flowing, hair down and easy to care for, and her shoes are practical -- you could see her breaking into a run if the situation called for it.

In MIaF, however, we have a woman, played by Loretta Young, who is her polar opposite, and a precursor to 50s housewife "role model" -- helpless without a man, in tight skirts and high heels and with a Kim Novak type hairstyle that you would have to spend 3 days a week at the hairdressers to keep remotely decent looking.

Only two years apart, these films show the difference between the 40s woman and the 50s woman. The former is the feminist ideal -- capable, self-assured, and competent.

The latter is the feminist nightmare -- incompetent, helpless, and desperately in need of a big, strong, man to care for her.

But it's 1947, not 1967.

60s feminism was a backlash against the 50s devolutive depiction of women, not some new idea sprung from the heads of women magically raised to consciousness.

I thought that was an interesting observation about where Feminism really came from.

cortex said...

I likewise never suggested that the decision was clearly an open-and-shut bullseye. Rather, I indicated that Jac made a prima facie case, and shifted the burden of proof to you. You have abjectly failed to meet that burden of proof.

Stomper, you imply that Jac's case was, in fact, well-formed in any reasonable sense. You want proof that from me that we did not make the deletion under the influence of some political motivation or bias, but Jac has provided no evidence that it was made under such -- neither overtly in the discussion about the deletion nor systemically in site moderation in general in a way that would belie the lack of overt evidence.

What he has presented are not facts but assumptions -- and a conclusory argument is a far, far cry from something that would satisfactorily shift the burden of proof to the folks being targeted.

And so we go around in a circle again: you want an argument to prove that his conclusory feint is false, but what you are asking for is proof of a negative, or some silver bullet argument that will convince you when plain, moderate reason expressed honestly apparently will not do. That your dissatisfaction with our actual plain-faced reasoning is paired with your unwillingness to actually immerse yourself in the context from which it comes leaves me in a curious pickle, but okay:

Which part of the lack of systematic bias in mefi moderation should I point you to? You don't want a body of existing moderation decisions and discussions, despite that being precisely the context in which all this is properly house, so you must want something more specific.

How would you describe the hypothetical thing I would point you to to answer your request -- you don't have to believe such a thing in fact exists on mefi (and I gather you don't believe it does), but you must at least have a fairly clear idea of what it would be, that you are confident that it could exist in a concise form to be linked to.

It appears to me that you are unable to formulate an adequate response, and simply wish to divert me into an endless review of unspecified comments.

Is this your reaction in general to ideas or procedures that are new to you? Do you balk at other unfamiliar policies with this sort of response? God forbid you take it upon yourself to either read the literature -- which, in this case, is, yes, a good deal of history on Metatalk -- or acknowledge that your position is, however happy you may be with your conclusions, one of ignorance.

If you would in good faith like a somewhat filtered view of things, you can certainly start with this google search; I'm afraid it's not exactly a pamphlet, but it'd be a place to start. I am unconvinced at this point that effort spent trying to handcraft a reading list for you would bear much fruit, but maybe you can meet me halfway and at least dip your toes in as an incentive.

Mortimer Brezny said...

The problem I have with cortex's justifications here (aside from his continual attempts to tarnish Jac's credibility by describing him as angry or upset) is that he claims the deletion was a byproduct of a complex and partially random system that operates by multifactor tests that apply in different combinations depending on the precise factual scenarios that arise. That would be a fine argument if we were discussing that the geocentric view of the solar system is incorrect, but the more complex and counter-intuitive truth that the solar system is heliocentric underlies it all, or if we were discussing in terms of macroeconomic theory why the store ran out of bread just as we got on line.

But cortex himself deleted the thread.

This is not a situation in which we would be committing a cognitive error by attributing to an individual disposition a cause that arises from the circumstances itself, or broad, impersonal forces rather than a vivid explanation, such as God made the Earth for us, His children, so our planet must be at the center of all His creation or the store clerk who loathes me hid the last loaf of bread, because cortex purposely deleted the thread.

And cortex has no rational reasons for what he did, nor any plausible explanation for why he lacks rational reasons.

I recall once on wikipedia I altered the entry on misandry by removing material from a one-page literary review of a peer-reviewed scholarly book. The previous editor had treated the one-page book review as a thorough debunking of the discourse theory of misandry, citing to the peer-reviewed journal where the book review had been published as if the one-page book review was itself a peer-reviewed scholarly refutation. When I noted in the talk section that this was misleading, the previous editor noted that the misandry book we were discussing was not peer-reviewed, either. I then went to the website for the book and found the account of the galley process for the university press that published the book, proving that it was in fact a peer-reviewed book-length publication and therefore of greater weight than a one-page book review that did not clear such a rigorous process. This led not to an apology or an admission of error, but rather a deletion of the entire section on misandry. Why this editor disbelieved the discourse theory of misandry and sought to use low-value evidence to "debunk" sources that he either negligently or intentionally mischaracterized was unclear. But it would not have been unfair to infer bias.

The question is why cortex believes that inferring bias on his part here is unwarranted.

Unknown said...

Cortex didn't delete the post. A different moderator did. I think she chose to bow out of the conversation when it became fairly clear that reasonable discussion wasn't going to happen with Jac, here or on MetaFilter. He's clearly just looking for traffic to his blog, and scoring a cheap shot against Metafilter got him that.

Maybe if I break it down into smaller chunks, you can see what happened here, and why cortex is upset. Firstly, MetaFilter isn't a discussion site. It's mainly a link sharing site, and this particular sub-section of the site is just a place to get questions answered by the community. It's focus is only on getting questions answered, so they remove questions that seem to just be trying to get a discussion going. They call discussion generating questions "chatfilter". There are many subtle ways of judging what is chatfilter, and some of the red lights are things like saying "I'll go first", or heavy editorializing in the question. None of these are set in stone rules, just guidelines to try and sniff out the questions that don't work well for the site.

The first question was on the fence, and they considered deleting it. It was pretty chatty, but it looked like the asker was legitimately asking a question in good faith and looking for answers. And by the time they got to it, people had already been contributing and it seemed to be going okay, so they gave it a pass. They've admitted that was probably a mistake, but there would be no point in deleting it now.

When Jac's question came up, it looked like he was just trying to get a discussion going, and probably only posting to try and make some point, and the first question barely squeeked by anyway, so it was easier to call this one as chatfilter and do away with it.

The reason cortex keeps saying the only way to understand that this isn't about bias and to go back through the MetaTalk archives is because that's really the only way to get this context. He can't point to rulebook that says why it was deleted because it's more nuanced than that. It's a decision based on years of user feedback and moderator judgment on how to keep the pool clean in Ask MetaFilter. This is how we do things over there. For Jac and others to simply say there's no explanation for a discussion site to delete one of the questions and not the other except for a bias against the second question is unfair. They're not trying to squash the discussion of the topic. The site isn't even for discussion. If you took the time to understand how the site works, it would be pretty clear that there is no bias at play here, just our regular moderation procedures. The only way for cortex to defend against the accusation of bias is to say "Go look at our history". They don't exhibit the bias they been accused of in any of their previous deletions. There's no reason to believe that bias was to blame for this one.

Mortimer Brezny said...

"Cortex didn't delete the post. A different moderator did."

It should be rather obvious this is irrelevant to my point. The point is that an individual is directly responsible, so claiming that impersonal policies mechanically did all the work is dubious.

Anonymous said...

Cortex: now you are trying to change the question. That's called "intellectual dishonesty."

I'm not interested in deciding whether all mefi moderation is systematically biased. I'm only interested in Jac's post, and I'm not asking you to prove a negative.

If you say the specific decision to delete Jac's post was not biased, then you should be able to provide at least one non-biased reason for that specific deletion. A reason that makes sense, I mean.

Ad hominem attacks on me are a further sign of weakness. You imply that your failure of proof is somehow my fault, because I refuse to be diverted into an evaluation of the entire mefi site.

Just so we're clear, I will concede (or at least assume) that the mefi site is not generally biased. There. Now explain why I need to go look at mefi, and what I need to look for, that would be relevant to Jac's suggestion of bias as to his specific post.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Wow, what a wealth of thoughtful responses to the post. As I said in my follow-up post, I haven't had time to read every word of these comments yet, but I'll certainly be looking through them when I do a later post on this topic.

And wow, what a train wreck, with Metafilter's cortex posting at least 12 long comments in a desperate attempt to justify the thread deletion -- and that's not counting his comments over at the Althouse blog. Just to reiterate, no one from Metafilter has presented a single reason to delete my question but not delete the other question, and nothing they've said would lead me to change anything in this blog post. Thanks to the various commenters here who thoroughly refuted his arguments.

Cortex, you help run one of my favorite websites of all time. You probably have access to administrative records from Metafilter and can see that I check it every day. I've been reading Metafilter long enough to remember following the thread where people were responding to the Sept. 11 attacks. Your "matthewchen is spamming" song was one of the funniest things I've ever seen/heard on the internet. But I would stick to the concise, humorous posts over at Metafilter if I were you -- for someone who moderates a website full time, you have surprisingly little to say about moderating websites.

Ann Althouse said...

Wow, if I'd realized Cortex was the guy who wrote "Matthew Chen Is Spamming", I would have had a much more positive attitude toward him all along. Wow. Amazing. And I remember it from long ago. It's not just something I'm checking out today.

Anonymous said...

Just on the off-chance that my points might benefit from some context, anyone who cares should know that I am also a mod for a completely unrelated forum. There are enough of us that I haven't been too active lately (work has been very busy since February), but I started modding there at least 5 years ago.

I have deleted posts and I have edited out strong language (per our stated policy, in view of the number of kids who participate with the adults), but I have never done so without at least one clear, objective reason. I also hold the other mods to the same standard.

Sounds like mefi is a much larger operation, and therefore ought to be operated at least as professionally as our little hobby site. Particularly when people pay for the privilege at mefi (our site is free), then the mefi mods should be accountable to those people.

Kim said...

Yes Stomper, and when visiting those sites we should all be wearing the proper formal attire as well.

chuck b. said...

Just surfed in from the Dr. Helen link and found something here that I've been thinking about recently...

My job is lonely so I have the TV on to keep me company, and I've developed an unhealthy addiction to the Maury Show, which 90% of the time deals with DNA paternity test results.

Anyway, I guess being gay I haven't thought much about the whole male-female thing in a long time, but after several weeks of twice-daily viewings of Maury (yeah, it's unhealthy--but I can't help it), I have come to the conclusion that it's a real disadvantage for men that women control the decision whether or not to abort an unplanned pregnancy.

In college, or when I was just younger and more self-consciously liberal, I would have figured all the significant disadvantages attached to the woman, but that's not really true, is it? When two people are being promiscuous or careless or whatever, they do it together—-the two of them. Is it really fair that only one of them has the power to turn it in to a lifelong situation?

I know the abortion decision isn't easy for a woman, but clearly different women feel differently about it, and the decision to have an abortion does not leave a lifelong emotional mark on all women. But the decision to have the baby does, and it marks both of them, and she has the power to make that decision alone.

I would call this a disadvantage for him, but contra your logic, I would NOT exactly call it an advantage for her.

(Am I wrong?)

I searched the page for "pregnancy" and "abortion". Summer Anne is incorrect to say the man can choose to not be involved. He can choose to be "not involved" emotionally, but she can sue him for paternity and compel child support payments.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say that I had never been to Metafilter before I read this post (linked here from elsewhere - I don't know the author).

After reading all these comments, I can't believe people pay to post on that site. Granted, Cortex's responses have gotten more thoughtful and less self-righteous with every post on this thread, but DAMN, his first comment epitomizes the Internet Mod Napoleon Complex.

"You haven't learned your lesson," he says. "You're stubborn, you're playing the righteous victim...take a damn breath and try approaching the situation objectively."


Thank you, Cortex, for showing me where *not* to spend my money on the internet.

Steve Kahn said...

I saw your comment about "desperate for page views" at The New Republic, so I wondered if you were at least eager, but as you have 85 comments that I haven't read you seem to be doing fine.

Anyway as far as the "disadvantages" of being a male goes, I think the more serious question is: are there disadvantages to being a human being, as compared to (perhaps) a dolphin or an orca, for example?

Are you familiar with the writings of Ernst Becker? Author of the Denial of Death. and Escape from Evil? I take from his writing:

As the only animals capable of abstract thinking and conscious of our own mortality, we suffer in a unique manner compared to say starlings, rats, coyotes, crows, and other delightful bright creatures.

Anonymous said...

The best prison created, is where the prisoners guard themselves. This is not some macho comment...although I feel a tinge of irony of having to write that. I suppose that might be one of the problems being male. You have to immediately dull down a thought because people will immediately think you are taking the extreme view. Being a male means that you will pay for the sins of the father. Sure, previous generations have participated in some pretty heinous gear. It does seem as though all regards...requires a measure of payback, even though the ones that have been charged interest on the initial amount, never actually participated in said behaviour.

I suppose this is what makes the social pendulum swing. In a few years dudes will get so pissed off they will flex their muscle (figurative....there is that disclaimer again...) and some other poor person who never had a word in this debate will cop the thick end of the stick, and their fire will be infinitum. There is one bad thing about quote the Ben Folds Five Song, and that is you have been deemed to have had your turn on the social stage. Like every other situation ever, you will never realise you are in a hole until you have to look up to see the sky. Those slightly above you never complain about the view.

If I am truly the master of the universe, and I hold the future of my fellow beings in the palm of my hand, and I decide how the random chips fall. Is it possible....please, that I might be able to improve my life just once, as it seems to be just as full of bills, hassles, crazy women, and rejection as every other person I seem to speak to, regardless of their weight, age, colour, sex, creed etc????

Is it just possible that the world is kinda tough and shitty for most, except a few elite, and that the grass is just as brown and dead on my side of the fence as it is yours. I think that might be it. I just wish I could join in the complaining, because the last, great, free pleasure is having a well deserved whinge, but then again, does the colour of my skin, or what I have between my legs deny the compassion that I might be given otherwise?