Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scott Adams is being interrogated from the wrong perspective!

Oh, it's been too long since I had a good fisk. And this one's a doozy, coming from the author of "Dilbert" of all people. It's actually two posts--one about why women suck and are beneath him, and one about waaah, people who disagree with him just don't understand his brilliance. He posted the first, deleted it when people called him out on it, and then when people called him out on that, he reposted it prefaced by the "dear negative reader" justifications.

...Does that make any sense? You can see the end result here. I'm going to fisk in chronological order.

The topic my readers most want me to address is something called men’s rights. [...] According to my readers, examples of unfair treatment of men include many elements of the legal system, the military draft in some cases, the lower life expectancies of men, the higher suicide rates for men, circumcision, and the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women.
I support men's rights. How could I not? But the thing currently called the "Men's Rights Movement" is a huge fucking mess. They have some legitimate grievances that are absolutely buried under a mountain of misogyny and anti-feminism. The movement as it currently stands is so focused on the idea that men's rights are obtained by fighting women's rights, and so crowded with members who haven't even gotten that far but just think of it as a new venue to talk about how bitches suck, that it's hard for me to take them seriously when they do have a point.

You may have noticed that when I talk about why feminism is necessary on this blog, I try very hard to blame "society" and "culture," and do not blame "men." This is because I realize that women are often participants in keeping women down, because I know that simply being born a man doesn't dictate who you'll be and how you'll treat women, and because the cooperation--not capitulation--of men is necessary to advance women's rights. Besides, a lot of the same forces that make life suck for women also make life suck for men, and we both stand to benefit from eliminating gender roles and discrimination. Also some of my best friends are men.

When the men's rights movement gets to this same place, to talking about how men can deal with society instead of how men can deal with women (and also when their commenters aren't 90% plain old-fashioned sexists who've found a home), then I can take them seriously.

Generally speaking, society discourages male behavior whereas female behavior is celebrated. Exceptions are the fields of sports, humor, and war. Men are allowed to do what they want in those areas.
I'm not sure what constitutes "male behavior," but if I turn off my brain and go with "you know, grunting and eating steak and punching things, c'mon you know what I mean," I think the list of exceptions is more like sports, humor, war, government, media, socialization, family, sex, and business.

Also fishing.

So actually kind of a lot.

Women will counter with their own list of wrongs, starting with the well-known statistic that women earn only 80 cents on the dollar, on average, compared to what men earn for the same jobs. My readers will argue that if any two groups of people act differently, on average, one group is likely to get better results. On average, men negotiate pay differently and approach risk differently than women.
This is sort of true. Now ask why this is true. It isn't because vaginas make you hate money. It's because women spend their entire lives being trained not to be a mean pushy bitch, and can't just turn that constantly reinforced meekness off at salary negotiation time, and if they do are frequently dismissed as mean pushy bitches. It doesn't help that these salary negotiations are frequently being done with men.

And it doesn't help that salary negotiation is a red herring anyway. The real thing women do that hurts their earnings is care for children. The jobs you can hold and the hours you can work with a one-year-old at home and a partner either absent or very busy with his Important Real Job are why women earn less. We don't need to "approach risk differently," we need to approach family differently.

Women will point out that few females are in top management jobs. Men will argue that if you ask a sample group of young men and young women if they would be willing to take the personal sacrifices needed to someday achieve such power, men are far more likely to say yes. In my personal non-scientific polling, men are about ten times more likely than women to trade family time for the highest level of career success.
That's because the personal sacrifice a man stereotypically makes is "I don't see my children enough, and my wife does almost all the raising." The personal sacrifice a woman's expected to make is "I can't have a family at all."

Also, even if a woman is willing to make the personal sacrifice, she'll have a hell of a time getting the top management headhunters to believe that. She'll also have a hell of a time dealing with the fact that she's less likely to have great business connections on account of how many of those are forged by Man Time Between Men, and the fact that inevitably she either presents as too feminine to get ahead or too manly for people to like.

Now I would like to speak directly to my male readers who feel unjustly treated by the widespread suppression of men’s rights: Get over it, you bunch of pussies.
I know he chose the word "pussy" to mean "weak and pathetic," but the fact that it means "weak and pathetic, like a vagina is, haw haw" kinda jumps out at me here. One of the most common insults on Men's Rights websites for a man who's seen as giving in to feminism is "mangina." The worst thing a man can be is a woman.

No one ever insults me by calling me a cock, a tomboy, or telling me I've got my boxers in a twist. I mean, not that I exactly want them to, but I'm just noticing.

The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.
I don't need to carefully deconstruct this, do I? It's... it's kinda out there. God damn.

I will say that Scott Adams always likes to fancy himself a master manipulator, someone who totally knows people and always thinks in terms of how people will take what he's saying and how his words are engineered not to express himself but to produce results. In that case, you'd think he'd have picked up that just maybe this wasn't the right metaphor to use.

I don’t like the fact that the legal system treats men more harshly than women. But part of being male is the automatic feeling of team. If someone on the team screws up, we all take the hit. Don’t kid yourself that men haven’t earned some harsh treatment from the legal system. On the plus side, if I’m trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. It’s a package deal. I like being on my team.
That "team" stuff is just fluff and bullshit. Tell me about the great "teams" formed between rich white men and poor men of color sometime--because if you're in the former group, very often the legal system is suddenly magically able to overlook your maleness. If you're in the latter group you're a whole lot likelier to take one for the team, rah rah rah. Go team.

Also, he's right about the burning cars, because it's fucking impossible for women--and I'm talking here about women who pass the physical qualifications with no modifications, women who can run and crawl with a charged hose and drag a 150-pound dummy solo--to get hired as firefighters. She just doesn't fit into the station culture, or she looks like she might not be strong enough regardless of her physical results, or she's great but I'm old frat buddies with that other applicant. (It's also yet another job that only lets you have children if you have a very accommodating partner at home.)

I've dragged a whole lot of people out of non-burning but quite smashed cars, though. And when you go from your burning car to the ER and the burn unit it'll be largely female nurses and aides caring for you. I think that gets us a spot on the goddamn team.

I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I’m not saying women are similar to either group. I’m saying that a man’s best strategy for dealing with each group is disturbingly similar. If he’s smart, he takes the path of least resistance most of the time, which involves considering the emotional realities of other people.
I'm not saying they're similar, just that you should treat them with the same detachment, condescension, and complete disregard of their words and actions. And understand that all their grievances are really just emotional lady things and they really just need a "yes, dear" and a hug! So that's comforting.

Also if you're such an expert at considering emotional realities you might have found an analogy that was a bit less emotionally provoking, eh?

A man only digs in for a good fight on the few issues that matter to him, and for which he has some chance of winning. This is a strategy that men are uniquely suited for because, on average, we genuinely don’t care about 90% of what is happening around us. I just did a little test to see if I knew what pajama bottoms I was wearing without looking. I failed.
I started this fisk by talking about how men and women aren't opposed to each other, but are actually facing some of the same enemies, and what a wonderful example. Women can't be reasoned with so their rights don't matter, but men are oblivious lumps so their rights don't matter. As so often happens, misogyny and misandry aren't opposites, they're friends!

That was the original post. Now the part where he gets, as they say in slightly sexually-troubling Internet parlance, butthurt.

This weekend the top twitter meme in the solar system, at least for a few hours, involved Feminist blogs calling me an ignorant, misogynist asshole. Meanwhile, over on the Men's Rights blogs, I'm being called a wussy, asshole, douche bag.
So he said things dismissive and insulting to both men and women, and both men and women took offense, and poor snookums had to deal with some nasty mean words. No part of this post is an apology, just a "clearly you didn't understand my genius, also you hurt my feewings."

I thought it would be funny to embrace the Men's Rights viewpoint in the beginning of the piece and get those guys all lathered up before dismissing their entire membership as a "bunch of pussies." To be fair, they have some gripes worthy of discussion, especially on legal issues. But I'm been experiencing a wicked case of "whiner fatigue." It feels as if everyone in the world is whining about one damn thing or another. In normal times, I can tune it out. But lately the backdrop has been world class problems on the order of financial meltdowns, tsunamis, nuclear radiation, and bloody revolutions. THOSE are problems. Your thing: Not so much.
Ah, the old "there are children starving in Africa, so who cares if your boss pinches your ass, you're lucky to have a job" argument. Good for shutting down any discussion about anything. Hey Scott Adams, why are you wasting time defending yourself on your blog when there are CHILDREN STARVING IN AFRICA?

Regular readers of my blog know that the goal of my writing is to be interesting and nothing else. I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion, largely because I don't believe humans can be influenced by exposure to better arguments, even if I had some. But I do think people benefit by exposure to ideas that are different from whatever they are hearing, even when the ideas are worse. That's my niche: something different.
Actually, "men should just man up and ignore women's stupid little complaints about their periods or whatever they're complaining about" isn't different at all. It's depressingly similar to shit I hear every day.

And enough with the "no, I wasn't saying the things I was saying, and you're a fool for thinking that." If you're in the habit of just saying words to make word-juice, and aren't actually advocating the things you're openly advocating, you need to hold up a little sign or something.

A few people appreciated the meta-joke of removing the post. If you didn't get it, read the deleted post, consider the feminist backlash, then think about the fact that I took down my post and ran away.
It's not a meta-joke, though. It's a meta-insult. The message of "ugh, women and their woman problems aren't even worth dealing with" is not something that gets better when it gets meta-er.

I also didn't predict that critics would reprint the post one component at a time so they could dissect it, which has the fascinating effect of changing the humorous tone to something hideous. Humor requires flow and timing. A frog isn't much of a frog after you dissect it.
Oh, I see. His brilliance is simply too holistic, too crystalline to be understandable when broken into mere sentences. Fisking isn't a way of addressing individual points in a way that's comprehensible and amusing for readers, it's tampering with his comic art.

I linked to the whole post at the top, though, so you can read it in the perfect intact state its creator intended. Tell me if you think it's funny. Like, even if you turn off the critical-thinking part of your brain and don't analyze it ideologically at all, just as a piece of writing, is it even funny? It really doesn't read as someone being amusing. It could really fool ya for someone saying what he thinks.

Next came the labeling. Once the piece had been reprinted on feminist blogs, the "with us or against us" instinct took over. I clearly wasn't supporting every element of the Feminist movement, and therefore I was presumed an enemy and labeled a misogynist. I was also labeled an asshole, which I have come to understand is a synonym for male.
Oh for fuck's sake. He compared us to children and people with mental retardation, and he thinks our problem with him is "gosh, you just don't like men"?

But perhaps I can summarize my viewpoint so you can understand why I'm such a misogynist asshole douche bag. Here's my view in brief:
You can't expect to have a rational discussion on any topic that has an emotional charge. Emotion pushes out reason. That is true for all humans, including children, men, women, and people in every range of mental ability. The path of least resistance is to walk away from that sort of fight. Men generally prefer the path of least resistance. The exception is when men irrationally debate with other men. That's a type of sport. No one expects opinions to be changed as a result.

Funny thing is, he's kind of got a point here. Changing people's minds on controversial topics is a hell of a thing. It does happen, but slowly, and generally not through direct argument. Debating, and particularly blog-debating, is the fine art of preaching to the choir.

Gosh, somehow I managed to say that without saying that women get less money because they deserve less and men should ignore their childish whining. Guess I'm just pithy.

To the best of my knowledge, no one who understood the original post and its context was offended by it. But to the women who were offended by their own or someone else's interpretation of what I wrote, I apologize.
"In conclusion, if you don't love me, you just don't understand me. But if you got angry because you didn't understand me, I'm very sorry that you got angry."

Scott Adams sure is a master manipulator of the human mind.


  1. That dude has either gotten more self-righteous and simultaneously gutless as he's gotten older, or it's just gotten so much easier to see because I'm older and his bullshit doesn't pass the smell test for me anymore.

    I'm kind of afraid to reread his earlier stuff and see, I used to really enjoy him.

  2. ....wow. What a victim.

    So he spouted off a bunch of sexist stereotypes and he's shocked that feminist blogs are calling him an asshole?

    I see.

  3. This was such a boy post, I can smell your testicles from–

    Oh, you *don't* want to be insulted like that. Nevermind.

  4. Dammit. I so hate it when someone I used to really, really like comes out as a clueless ass. I fondly remember laughing my head off all the way through "The Joy of Work." There's a wrinkled copy of some Dilbert compilation in my bathroom book basket right now. Totally, LabRat, now I'm wondering what post-feminism me would think.

    And total agreement re: MRAs. It is impossible to have a serious discussion about policy and culture with all that bullshit swarming around it. Debtor's prison for poverty-striken populations of men for child support debts is deeply problematic as a human rights issue. But I'm not talking about it with anyone too busy talking about money-grubbing-slut-bitches.

  5. I found some of the parts you didn't quote to be funny, if taken as tongue-in-cheek...

    "You might add to this list the entire area of manners. We take for granted that men should hold doors for women, and women should be served first in restaurants. Can you even imagine that situation in reverse?
    Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency."

    If spoken aloud with the right tone (i.e. OMG WOMEN HOLDING DOORS AND MEN IN COLLEGE??? NOOOOOO!!!), I'd probably laugh at that.

    The problem with trying to find it funny, though, is that his post doesn't come off as satire or even sarcastic, which I think (?) is what he thought he was doing.

  6. My favorite part was when he said, "I clearly wasn't supporting every element of the Feminist movement, and therefore I was presumed an enemy and labeled a misogynist." Dude, the point of your post wasn't to debate one little aspect of the feminist movement, or even a big and controversial aspect like abortion rights or equal pay (yeah, he addressed it in a really offensive way, but that wasn't the post's main thrust). The post was questioning the very tenets that form the basis of feminism in favor of those tenets that form the basis of misogyny (and misandry, too), so yeah, there's really no way you can call that nitpicking.

  7. 'He compared us to children and people with mental retardation, and he thinks our problem with him is "gosh, you just don't like men"?'

    Uhh... maybe you didn't mean that sentence quite the way it read to me, but I think it's important to clarify. The problem isn't that he compared women to children and people with mental retardation (all three of those groups are just as statistically likely to be completely awesome as any other group of human beings), the problem is that he suggested that membership in any of the three groups makes you sub-human in some way.

    Yeah, Adams' post was incredibly sexist, but it was also ableist, and a lot of responses to it that I've seen on the blogosphere seem to be ignoring that element completely.

  8. Minuteye - You have a point, actually. It is in fact worth teaching a kid why we eat different foods and not just candy, and if a developmentally delayed person punches you, maybe you don't punch back but you do in fact hold them to some consequences for that. Certainly neither group is best dealt with by simply ignoring everything they do that you don't like.

  9. Holly, you are brilliant.

    Minuteye, you hit the nail on the head with your comment.

    I would write a more detailed comment, but I have to go have my period and cry now.

  10. The etymology of "pussy", meaning weak, from our friends at wikipedia (yeah, not the be-all-end-all source, but this article at least has proper footnotes:

    The meaning "weak or cowardly person" has a separate etymology. Websters 1913 Revised Unabridged Dictionary lists this version of pussy as an alternate spelling of "pursy", an otherwise obsolete English word meaning "fat and short-breathed; fat, short, and thick; swelled with pampering ..."[1] The interpretation is often misconstrued, as it contains multiple meanings which some consider derogatory.[2] In fact, when pussy appears in the earlier 1828 edition of the dictionary, this definition is presented for the word, while the older pursy is simply offered as a "corrupt orthography".

    Pursy (pronounced with a short u, and with the r slurred or silent) was in turn derived from an Old French word variously spelled pourcif, poulsif, poussif, meaning "to push, thrust, or heave". In this sense, it is cognate with the modern French verb pousser, also meaning "to push".

    The word pussy can also be used in a derogatory sense to refer to a male who is not considered sufficiently masculine (see Gender role). When used in this sense, it carries the implication of being easily fatigued, weak or cowardly.

    Men dominated by women (particularly their partners or spouses and at one time referred to as 'Hen-pecked') can be referred to as pussy-whipped (or simply whipped in slightly more polite society or media).

    (original article linked above)

  11. Darren - I'm thinking Scott Adams, and most other people using "pussy" currently, are not students of etymology. It may not have come from the same root as pussy=vagina but by convergent evolution it's there now.

  12. Are you saying that - because "most people" aren't word-nerds, then they obviously must think that "pussy", when used to mean "weak", has something to do with female genitalia? I'll admit that (up until about an hour ago) I've never given any thought to *why* "pussy" means what it does, but my initial guess was that it had to do with felines. As far as wikipedia is concerned, my initial guess was wrong, but I don't think that I'm projecting unfairly by assuming (hoping?) that others think the same way. This does go against my cynical nature, though, to assume that people are anything but just dicks.

  13. I think "pussy" is frequently used in conjunction with implying a man is feminine, and more unambiguously feminizing insults like "mangina" and "bitch" and "little girl" and so forth. So yeah, I think the pussy=vagina connection hasn't slipped the minds of most people who use it as an insult.

  14. I don't see why it can't refer to both a vagina and a cat, considering that cats themselves are associated with women in American culture (and real men like dogs). Emotionally charged words like that work because their various definitions don't show up totally separately, the connotations are always relevant. As you can see, both of you (Darren and Holly) are treating it like a word with associations besides "weak person," you just don't agree on what.

    So yeah, I think it hasn't slipped anyone's mind, and saying you thought of a cat doesn't mean you're ever unaware of the other things it means. It's like a gender symbolism pun.

  15. I find it weird that the Men's Rights people hated him *too*. The original post sounded right up their alley.

  16. What are your thoughts on the use of the phrase "has balls" to mean confident?

  17. Not a fan. It's one of those things I'm not going to flip out over if someone casually uses the expression and means well, but I don't like it. "You're so awesome, it's almost like you're not a woman!" is one he'll of a backhanded compliment.

  18. IMHO, anyone who defends the insulting use of the word "pussy" by pointing to its long-outdated etymological roots and ignoring its obvious present-day sexist connotations is a douche, by which of course I am only referring to the German word for a nice refreshing shower.

  19. I grew up on Scott Adams and this just appalls me. I understand tongue-in-cheek cynic humor where the technical words mean something completely different when taken as a giant sarcastic whole. This? Missed that mark like whoa.

    I remember a conversation much like this in high school with an AP Art Student. He wanted attention, he did... something not particularly original, but very offensive. It was so 'original' I can't even remember what it was. There were bibles and abortions involved, but not for any moral or social reason, just that bibles and abortion make people angry. I remember sitting in art class listening to him decide to do this with that exact logic. 'It will make people angry and angry people will talk about me. Being controversial is cool.'

    Of course, once he actually started getting in TROUBLE when he tried to post his work in the halls - nothing overtly or intentionally offensive can be posted in the halls, etc etc, - he tried to argue the deep philosophical meanings and how he was 'misunderstood' and 'commenting on society'.

    Sadly, in his case, the ploy worked and he got his own art show at one of the local galleries.

    This is the same guy who said 'I want to draw lots of cute animals drinking and getting high and give it to kids.' Because he believed laws against advertising were bad? Because he didn't believe the government had a right to restrict a citizen's right to their own body? Nope. Because it would be funny to see their Moms' faces.

    How is making people angry 'funny', but dealing with the consequences 'unfair'?

  20. Picking a very minor side point out of the asshattery and very enjoyable takedown of said asshattery:

    "Also, he's right about the burning cars, because it's fucking impossible for women--and I'm talking here about women who pass the physical qualifications with no modifications, women who can run and crawl with a charged hose and drag a 150-pound dummy solo--to get hired as firefighters."

    Check it out:

    This is *not* to contradict you - in fact, the article makes the exact same points as you do about the field in general - but I've always loved this particular exception, and I thought it might bring a smile to your face.

    Also, they're only about 15 min west of me, so I may be biased.

  21. Evan: what is obvious to some may not be obvious to others. I think we're both assuming what others think based on what *we* think. I also don't believe I was defending the use of the word, just offering an alternate viewpoint (mine, as it happens), which of course makes me a douche.
    FYI, douche comes from the *French* for shower, so you were half-right...you may want to do a tiny bit more research before slinging your ad hominem attacks.
    That being said, I *am* a douche, mostly because I hate everyone fairly-equally...I prefer misanthropy (by way of cynicism) to misogyny, it's so much more efficient.

  22. I have one of Adams' books, and I remember when reading for the first time (about 15 years ago?) that the dude gave off a weird vibe. A lot of it was funny, but some of it, for a reason I couldn't put my finger on at the time, made me think he'd come across as a creep in person. So I walked away from "Dilbert Future" with the uneasy sense that I'd just read a sometimes-amusing book written by a person I wouldn't want to have to make small talk with.

    Not a creep as in just a jerk, but *that* guy, you know? I think you had a post about it once, Holly. Guys who think they're "nice guys," but they're actually incredibly creepy. Anyway, you identified what it was that was giving me the squiggles.

  23. I really love Dan Savage's take on pussy when he says that vaginas are strong, fit almost anything in them and come back asking for more, are resilient, functional...and ball sacks cry out in pain with a mere flick. Maybe we should call whiners ball sacks instead.

  24. What are your thoughts on the use of the phrase "has balls" to mean confident?

    When you think about it, that's just weird. "You're so confident, it's like you have some of your internal organs hanging off you in a bag, forcing you to live in constant fear of them being hit or injured!"

    I second EEE: words for strength and confidence should revolve around the vagina instead.

  25. You know, it's interesting, I took a second read of the original article, and he sets forth most of the same things this is fisking as the views of the MRM that he is mocking. So, I think there is a gap in the communications there. Whatever else, that should be noted.

    He starts with the fact that everyone, on all sides, is calling himself an idiot 6 ways, and doesn't argue with that, just accepts that.

    Then goes on to mock the MRM for a while. Then mocks the whole of the Male population some. And yes, the Female population some, and then is apparently surprised that people took offense. That, I don't get.

  26. I wasted most of my workday yesterday reading about this on Feministe blog, wherein Scott Adams contributed - greatly - to my entertainment.

    I will never look at another Dilbert comic strip the same. Adams is condescending and arrogant and guilty of what he seems to constantly accuse women of - letting his emotions overtake his reason.

    If you're bored, check it out for a laugh. I elected not to visit his blog at the time, but it appears that he used the comments section of Feministe to hone his defenses on his own blog. And clearly, it didn't work.

  27. LOVE this.

    Here's a great guide to anyone responding to blog posts like Scott's. Fromeh air force no less.


  28. This reminds me of a K$sha song my roommate loves, "Grow a Pear [sic]". The lyrics consist of K$sha explaining that she's leaving a guy because she "signed up for a man, but [the guy is] just a bitch", and she "just can't date a dude with a vag".

    Every single time she plays it, I remind her that I dated a man with a vag. She tells me to stop over-thinking things.
    We have this exchange a lot.

  29. I hate to say it, but we in the MRM don't really care whether you take us seriously or not.

  30. I got the Scott Adams is a jerk vibe from Dilbert cartoons pretty early on, and I never seem to like that type of humor that leaves people saying the comedian is a jerk but funny.

  31. Magdelyn - Well, of course not, I'm a woman.

  32. I've often wondered about the concept of a man "crying like a bitch." In most of the cases where anyone I know has referred to a woman as a bitch, he or she was referring to an aggressive, (pardon the pun) ball-busting woman who knew what she wanted and got it however she had to.

    Hmm...doesn't sound like the crying type to me.