I Apologize for my ‘Sexy Scientists’ Post

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 22, 2010 in Ethics

(series index)

When I posted my list of Sexy Scientists (with photos, of course!) last week, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I’d made many such lists in the past, without much hubbub. I intended the list as lighthearted fun, a welcome relief from the more technical stuff often posted here, and a compliment to several lovely ladies for their beauty and their scientific status.

Over 1500 comments later across a dozen different blogs, it’s safe to say my post sparked more controversy than I had anticipated. Much of the response was juvenile name-calling:

Some fuck-up skepticatheist or whatthefuckever published a blog post last week entitled “15 Sexy Scientists (with pics, of course)”, in which he embedded photos he found on the Web of female scientists that he apparently considers “sexy”. There has been a fuckton of discussion of this on various blogs – including that of the skeezbag motherfucker himself – about the significance of this blog post… The fucking skeevd00d’s post is leering.

Others, including one of the Sexy Scientists, Abbie Smith, came to my defense:

…flirting at [academic] conferences is just silly fun, like some blogger’s list of ‘SEXAH SCIENTISTS!’

Others had some problems with the list, but didn’t think it was a big deal, including another listed Sexy Scientist, Sheril Kirshenbaum:

I honestly don’t think any real harm has been done to me personally. And it’s worth pointing out that in 2005 when Chris [Mooney] was named one of Wired Magazine’s “Sexiest Geeks,” no one complained… That said, I would like to see Luke, and others, think more carefully about the ripple effects of such posts.

[Also,] we need to find more ways to acknowledge women who speak up, take a nontraditional path, defy expectations, and contribute to society in and out of science. And there are better ways to do so than commentary on our physical assets. But I also want to emphasize that I appreciate the way Luke is taking the time to explore a topic that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

The folks at Fark said some amazing things that, alas, did not seem to divert any criticism away from me:

Apparently [being one of Luke's critics at his site] involves filling your vagina up with lots of sand.

There was also lots of “Seriously people? What’s the big deal?” But most of it was highly critical, and deliberately misrepresented my positions in order to demonize me. But hey, it’s the internet. Gotta have a thick skin out here.

My Journey

My first reaction was surprise. The response to my earlier Sexy Atheists list had been mostly positive, even from women, who mostly just said they wished they had made the list. But now I was being attacked as a sexist, misogynistic, male chauvinist pig! My reaction was something like this:

I know women are oppressed, and of course I support equal opportunity and respect for women. But I’m not a Neanderthal just because I think women are sexy! Don’t bundle me in with real misogynists just because I compliment a few women on their looks and their science!

But my harshest critics would not have it. I was clearly a despicable person who put these pictures up so I could masturbate to them and encourage others to do the same.

Part of the problem was that despite my “joke entry” of P.Z. Myers at #15, people missed my lighthearted intentions and took “sexy” to be a more aggressive word than it is to me. The women I know (in person) take “sexy” as a compliment, but many women take it as harassment, or as insulting and demeaning. Probably, it was my first mistake to forget that many women see things that way, as Nichole pointed out:

Luke, because you are often the farthest thing from ignorant in so many areas, I think folks are understandably shocked when you expose an area of ignorance regarding something most would consider to be so obvious.

As the criticism kept flowing in, I thought, “Huh. Maybe I really am just totally wrong on this one.” In fact, I made a list of reasons I might be wrong, given here.

But I don’t come to moral conclusions by asking my intuitions or looking at other people’s emotional reactions. That way lies religion, fascism, tribalism, and every other blinded ideology. No, when it comes to something as important as morality, I want arguments and evidence.

So I spent most of my time asking people to clarify exactly what they thought was wrong with my Sexy Scientists post. Many people, when asked to provide an argument, said something like “If you can’t just see what’s wrong with your post, then you really are one fucked-up douchebag.”

Many people kept saying something like: “Geez, man. Can’t you see how many people you’ve offended, and how many people are telling you you’re wrong? Isn’t that enough to give it up and just apologize?” But that’s not how I do morality. I don’t do morality by feelings or majority vote. Morality is too important for that. The morality of emotion and majority is the morality of Hitler, religion, and five thousand years of slavery.

But luckily, a few people did try to clarify what the problem was. Perhaps the problem was that my post objectified women. Or perhaps the problem was that I did not ask for permission, or that the “compliment” was unwanted. These and other objections were neatly summarized in an epic comment by Cerberus at Pharyngula.

Ironically, many people said I was dogmatically immune to argument. I had spent dozens of hours responding directly to the arguments given and asking for clarification, while those who said I was immune to argument ignored the arguments altogether, and sometimes even explicitly admitted they didn’t care about my arguments.

I examined one potential reason for the wrongness of my Sexy Scientists post – the objectification of women – by reading some of the latest feminist philosophical literature on the topic. In the end, I had to reject this possibility.

But the “harm to women” argument was explored with the most depth and precision in a post by Alonzo Fyfe, and it was his argument that finally made it clear to me what was wrong with my Sexy Scientists post.

That was a big relief. Now I can just apologize and get this all over with.

My Apology

Many people offended by my Sexy Scientists post probably don’t read my blog anymore. And now, by disagreeing with those who came to my defense and said there was nothing wrong with my post, I’ll probably alienate even more readers.

Well that’s just too bad, because I do think it was morally wrong of me to publish that list.

What was wrong with my Sexy Scientists list?

To really explain what was wrong with my list, I would have to explain the meta-ethical theory of moral realism that I find most plausible, and explain how this conclusion in applied ethics follows from it. But for this post, let me try to explain the wrongness of my action in universal terms.1

My Sexy Scientists post was wrong because it harmed women and contributed to a culture of harming women.

It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that someone prone to sexual harassment or violence would see their photo, click the link, and find their home or work address. It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that men would see them, first and foremost, as sexy girls, and not take their other qualities or contributions seriously. Neither of these is a plausible threat faced by men who are listed as “sexy.”

So, I apologize to the women on my list. I’m sorry for entering you in a beauty contest without your permission, and for increasing your chances of facing sexual stereotyping and harassment. I apologize even if you don’t accept my apology because you think I did nothing wrong. Some of you don’t mind what was intended as lighthearted fun, and some of you like the compliment, but I could have handled this better.

There’s a reason you can’t put up a photo-poster of ‘sexiest women in this office’ in your workplace. It would increase the chances that those women would be seen as sex objects, not taken seriously, and sexually harassed. And this would be true even if some of them took it as a compliment. The same goes for the internet, where luckily the listed women are not usually in physical proximity to the readers, but they can still be harassed, and there are a lot more eyeballs on the images.

And these negative effects are not limited to the women on the list. My post contributed to a culture of harming women by reinforcing stereotypes in a way I should have easily predicted even if it was not my intent. Men – forever the physically dominant sex and portrayed as the ambitious, interesting, change-making heroes of almost every story ever told – do not risk harassment2 from being seen as sexy. They do not risk having their skills and potential ignored because they are seen as “sexy.” They do not risk violence from libidinous women. But women do face all these risks, and a post like mine makes these risks worse.

So, to women everywhere, I say: I’m sorry for making your life a tiny bit harder, a tiny bit more frustrating, and a tiny bit more dangerous. I’m sorry for reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to see women as sexual playthings, even though that wasn’t my intent at all. I apologize even if you don’t accept my apology because you think I did nothing wrong. Even if I didn’t offend you or hurt your feelings, I made the world a little bit worse for you and your entire sex, and I’m sorry.

Moreover, the Sexy Scientist post was published by someone who cares deeply about living a moral life, and writes about ethics constantly. I implicitly told everyone: “I care about living a morally good life, and I’ve thought about ethics long and hard, and I think this kind of thing is okay.”

This is the most personally shameful part of the whole ordeal. I care a great deal about morality, and study it many hours each week. And yet when I came up with the idea of posting a list of Sexy Scientists, I didn’t care enough about its potential harm to look into it, not even a little. I basically told myself, “Meh. It’s no big deal. What could be the harm?” It is this kind of moral negligence that people have reason to condemn.

Thanks

A big thanks to those who shared their perspective in a constructive way, and to those who engaged the arguments.

Also, a big thanks to those critics who noticed that I was taking the arguments seriously, and that I was open to changing my mind. Kind words like these ‘The Crocoduck Hunter’ were a ray of light in a week when it felt as though the entire skeptical blogosphere was firing vitriol my way:

Holy hell, Luke. Reading this post, and the comment thread over [at] Pharyngula, and man have I gained a ton of respect for you.

I’m also glad to see those commenters give you some real hard arguments of the kind some of us were unable to come up with on Friday.

[Quoting me (Luke) at Pharyngula]: “No, my response is definitely more along the lines of “Maybe I [was wrong].’ Especially as this epic debate continues and people keep hinting toward arguments in favor of their position, and I keep coming up with none in favor of my own original position.”

You win the fucking internet.

Finally, my thanks to those women who shared their stories of harassment, which helped me to see what it can be like from their perspective.

Conclusions

It’s been quite a journey for me, and I hope some of my readers have benefited from it.

Now, I have a serious question for those who supported me originally, and defended my Sexy Scientists post. Do you still think it was morally acceptable? If so, what are your reasons? Where have I gone wrong?

I will not attack you like I was attacked. But I would like to consider your arguments. I have been wrong before. Quite recently, even.

What do you think?

(Note: I don’t generally moderate comments, but on this page abusive comments will be deleted. Let’s have a civilized discussion, for once, shall we?)

  1. Thus, I believe the analysis here to be incorrect, but at least it is an approximation of the problem, given in plain talk without the need to explain the entirety of desirism, the moral theory I find most plausible. []
  2. They might risk approaches, but men would almost never experience this as harassment, because they have little to fear from a woman who shows sexual interest in them. []

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{ 171 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh July 22, 2010 at 9:32 am

Thank you.

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mkandefer July 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

I suppose I was of the position that this was harmless fun initially, but then after you engaged in the commentary reasons seemed to rear their head from among the vitriol that were intuitively convincing. I still see the problem as mostly concerning the attitudes of males engaging in sexualism, and not your own. However, I can see how your post might contribute to it. Hopefully this post, and Fyfe’s can be linked if the topic should ever come up again, and I will do so now on another atheist’s blog that posted a similar list. :)

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En Passant July 22, 2010 at 9:44 am

Apology accepted, Luke. :) To be frank, I think this post gets to the root of the moral issue far more clearly and accurately than Alonzo Fyfe’s earlier post. He claimed it was wrong to post a list of sexy secretaries because they could be violently attacked by someone in that office. That’s internally logically consistent, but it’s also completely silly. That is totally NOT what is wrong with lists of sexy ladies.

It’s wrong for exactly the reasons you stated: it “contributed to a culture of harming women by reinforcing stereotypes.” That’s exactly it. And I am so pleased to see you articulate it so astutely.

Thanks for engaging everyone on the entire internet in such an important debate.

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Vince Y. July 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

Luke,

While it may have been draining, thanks for turning this index of posts into a profitable and civil discussion (or at least trying to get others to do so).

The topic at hand is a complex one and you have navigated it well. Furthermore, you gave us some good resources and questions to ask in dealing with this topic.

Thanks again, and thanks for being a good model of charitable debating on the internet.

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Ex Hypothesi July 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

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Jon July 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

We can still call you the sexiest atheist blogger though, right? ;)

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Lora July 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

Meh, I don’t think that an apology was warranted, but hopefully it gets some people off your back…as a woman I thought it was cool and harmless. I think it’s funny that posting pictures of women turned out to be way more controversial than most of your atheist posts.

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Sal Bro July 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

Thanks, Luke.

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Rick B July 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

Luke,

Way to stick with it and grind through this issue. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to listen and really sift through the arguments, anecdotes, emotional responses and name-calling. That’s the kind of measured critical thought I’ve come to expect from you, and you’ve come through once again.

I’ll pass on a caveat I’ve learned: just because I came to understand this point of view and am convinced that seemingly harmless actions are actually sexist, does not mean I’m not sexist. It just gives me an edge on identifying issues in the future. And hopefully before I put [sexist] thoughts into action.

+10^6 internets!

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Transplanted Lawyer July 22, 2010 at 10:14 am

Both intent and effect count for something when making a moral evaluation, and Luke’s intent was not malicious even if his effect was harmful. The initial post was, on balance, a bad idea, not a good thing to have done, and Luke has apologized for that — in a remarkably mature and thoughtful way. Now, it’s time to move on.

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piero July 22, 2010 at 10:14 am

Luke:

I’m afraid I disagree with Alonzo.

What are the chances that your post increased the risk of suffering sexual violence for the scientists involved? What are the chances that men prone to stalk or rape women read your blog? What are the chances any of those men would choose his next victim from the list you provided? I mean, come on… That would be a first: “Serial rapist chooses his victims based on an optimal mix of IQ, academic output and looks”. Seriously?

Concerning the other objection, that of contributing to a culture of harming women, it’s just question-begging. Why is calling a woman “sexy” contributing to a culture of harming women? Back to square one.

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piero July 22, 2010 at 10:15 am

Loved the doggie, by the way.

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Kip July 22, 2010 at 10:20 am

Luke: At least one good thing came out of this: next time someone asks you for an example of how Desirism has changed your opinion on a moral issue… you can now just point them to this! :-)

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mkandefer July 22, 2010 at 10:22 am

Piero, I think much of what is to blame is that those who have the attitude/desire that women can be treated differently because of their sex are to carry most of the blame. It is possible, but we have no idea how probable it is, that Luke’s post may have contributed to fostering said attitude.

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Kip July 22, 2010 at 10:25 am

I came to understand this point of view and am convinced that seemingly harmless actions are actually sexist, does not mean I’m not sexist.

He wasn’t being sexist, though. Part of the problem with this whole ordeal was that the people condemning Luke’s actions weren’t clear on what he was doing wrong. Hopefully Fyfe’s post clarified this, though.

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ERV July 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

Luke–

When I found out I was on the list, I laughed.

I had friends from middle school, high school, college, and current classmates email me about it, and we all laughed.

I told my lab about it, and they all laughed, HARD… :-/ LOL!

So thank you for the laughs, and thank you for this apology, though I was hoping more for an apology for the AWFUL pic of me you posted. My awesome boobs are all over the internet and you posted a pic of me in a goddamn SWEATER.

LOL!!!

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Burk July 22, 2010 at 10:28 am

Well done.

I think it is now time to put up that sexy male scientists post, and not with jokey schlubs like PZM, either. Perhaps starting with Brian Greene & Neil Tyson?

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Haukur July 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

Kudos on that Luke! It’s been interesting to watch you work your way here.

That said, I’d like to see you tackle the positive arguments that have been offered in favor of your original post. The major ones seem to be:

A: It counteracts the stereotype that women scientists are unattractive.
B: It contributes to a culture that is more fun and less prudish.

Are those ideas bogus? Or do they just weigh less than the negative issues?

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MKandefer July 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

Luke,

Are you some how financially supported by traffic to your site? I wondering where this narrative is coming from that the only reason you’re doing this is to get more traffic to your log.

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Hambydammit July 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

Ok… a couple of thoughts, if not conclusions.

Objectification is not morally objectionable in and of itself. Waiters, professional athletes, singers, movie stars, janitors, and bus drivers are all objectified constantly. And it’s better that way. If we had to have a ten minute discussion with everybody at Walmart for fear of offending them by omission, nothing would ever get done in the world. Objectification is a way of categorizing people and creating shortcuts of social obligation.

So, when an argument says that “X is wrong because it objectifies women,” that’s simply not a good argument.

For the argument from objectification to be valid, the objectification has to lead to real, tangible harm. That is, the women being objectified need to have had a reasonable expectation of being treated as a “whole person.” In the case of celebrities, it’s kind of a no-brainer. (I did celebrity sexy atheists a while back.) Celebrities give up real legal rights by virtue of being celebrities. They implicitly give permission to objectify them.

Does the objectification of celebrities contribute directly to the treatment of women in the workplace as less than “whole persons?” I’m not convinced. I don’t honestly care much for a philosophical discussion of it, either. I want to see the quantitative research. I’ve looked, and I simply can’t find a straight line between the two.

Having said that, I’m not about to deny that women are looked at as sex objects. Of course they are. It’s biological. But I’m just not sure I can justify the giant leap from a blog with sexy atheists to harming all of womankind. That seems… grandiose. And sweeping. And general.

And usually, science doesn’t work like that.

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Hambydammit July 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

MK, in his “about” page, Luke says he doesn’t receive income from the blog.

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ECSchmidt July 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

I am one of those who still thinks that what you did was morally acceptable.

I generally think posts like your list are kind of dumb and signal a certain frattiness that I can’t relate to. Your taste in women is pretty mainstream too, which probably ended up being a distraction for many people. (For what it’s worth, anecdotal evidence suggests to me that many women really overestimate the homogeneity of male taste.)

Those superficial differences in style and taste aside, I defend the initial posting. Demonstrating that women in general or specific women were harmed by your post (taking offense and becoming more fearful of rape without good reason are not real examples of harm, in my book) wouldn’t necessarily be enough reason to call the post sexist or immoral. Yes, you are contributing to a culture that values and celebrates female physical beauty (above all other attributes? Who knows?), but not every aspect of that culture negatively impacts women to the same degree, and some aspects might not impact women negatively at all. Why is it that this one “culture” (or aspect of it) is presented as monolithic and obviously nothing-but-negative, while every other culture is too complex for simple value judgments to be useful? I believe that the actual harm that could potentially result from your post is negligible. Your repeated requests for a plausible logical line from your list to actual harm was never answered convincingly, in my opinion.

All that said, I think you handled everything exactly right. You were humble and openminded and eager to learn. If certain readers can’t respect that, and will only read people who agree with them on everything (or even just their own pet concerns), then fuck ‘em. On a more personal level, I seem to be moving toward a more and more radical honesty in my own life, which has been nothing but positive for me. Yes, it means some people will be turned off by frankness (usually about personal/emotional/sexual/political things; I still have good reasons for not telling my fat friends that they’re fat), but laying out doubts and changes of heart for all to see – and comment on – makes changing one’s mind more likely and much less intimidating the next time around.

I’d much rather live in a place where mistakes and disagreements are tolerated and discussed than one in which people are expected to know the proper opinions to hold and are advised to err on the side of caution if they don’t. The original post meant nothing to me positively or negatively, but I’m glad that you didn’t refrain from posting it because of a vague sense that it might not be well-received. If you had done that, you would still only have that vague sense, instead of the more developed view you have now.

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jd July 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

Hi Luke. I’ve been following your blog for some time now (since my own deconversion) and I’ve enjoyed and benefited greatly from your posts and podcasts. I don’t typically comment on blog posts because I’m a grad student and strapped for time–I can’t resist a robust debate but can’t really afford to get drawn into one!

In any case, I feel compelled to comment on this post and the controversy as a whole. To wit, I’m very impressed with your willingness to examine the issues and change your mind. Your apology has redeemed my esteem for your integrity. I thought the initial post was puerile–more fit for Maxim than a philosophy and ethics blog. Although some of the dissent was equally puerile, most of it seemed warranted to me. Most of my own thoughts on the matter have been better said by others, but I just wanted to express my admiration for your thorough examination of the issue and your thoughtful and sincere apology. As you acknowledge, there is quite a lot at stake for professional women in any field who labor under the threat of harassment, abuse and disregard because of our sometimes seemingly benign cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality. While none of us engaged in intellectual work is obliged to go out and change the culture as activists, as you rightly point out, we can all refrain from contributing to its more damaging aspects.

I do have one question: do you intend to include more feminist perspectives on issues of philosophy of religion? There are several feminist scholars making very valuable contributions to the debate (I would nominate Karmen MacKendrick for an interview, if she’s willing), and I think their perspectives would provide necessary balance in what seems to be a mostly male-dominated conversation.

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The Crocoduck Hunter July 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’m just not sure I can justify the giant leap from a blog with sexy atheists to harming all of womankind. That seems… grandiose. And sweeping. And general.

That’s how culture works, though. I think Luke summarized it pretty well:

My post contributed to a culture of harming women by reinforcing stereotypes in a way I should have easily predicted even if it was not my intent. Men – forever the physically dominant sex and portrayed as the ambitious, interesting, change-making heroes of almost every story ever told – do not risk harassment from being seen as sexy. They do not risk having their skills and potential ignored because they are seen as “sexy.” They do not risk violence from libidinous women. But women do face all these risks, and a post like mine makes these risks worse. (emphasis mine)

You also said,

Having said that, I’m not about to deny that women are looked at as sex objects. Of course they are. It’s biological.

And therefore we shouldn’t do anything about it, amirite?

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Lorkas July 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

I wondering where this narrative is coming from that the only reason you’re doing this is to get more traffic to your log.

Do you see any ads? Hits count for nothing monetarily if there’s no ad for any product on the page.

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other eric July 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

one good to come of this highly entertaining minor drama was some excellent discussions on the subjects of sexism and objectification between me and my girlfriend.
so thanks for that, luke!

…and now back to arguing about whether or not omni-potent sky daddies birthed existence from their essential and necessary awesomeness… which is totally not some sort of weird dude thing…

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Terry July 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Goodonya. I know the argument isn’t necessarily “settled” yet, so I hope the discussion continues – perhaps with a little less heat now.

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Eric July 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I have no issue with your very well thought out conclusions here. Although, your list and things like it receive a disproportionate amount of scorn in my view. What should we say about women who bait men’s sexual instincts with provocative dress, makeup, hairstyles, and high heels etc…? Are they equally responsible for reinforcing stereotypes that cause harm to women, or are they victims themselves? How much responsibility do other women share in this? If the idea is that you should be more culturally aware of how these things cause harm and refrain from doing them, why shouldn’t they? For the record, I’m not specifically referring to any of the women on your list.

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MKandefer July 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Lokras,

I was being a bit rhetorical, and commenting that no matter how Luke approaches this some people will never accept Luke since they’ve already constructed a narrative that they refuse to falsify.

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RA July 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Oh man. I’m sorry to see you apologize. Are you going to apologize for the sexy atheists too?

This is all just too politically correct for me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving credit to pretty girls for being pretty. It’s done all the time. Girls don’t like Brad Pitt for his acting ability. They don’t like the good-looking athletes because of their athletic ability.

The women were not objectified and I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of them were flattered.

I say as a 20-something you have the right to a light-hearted post on your own blog and if people don’t like, they can just get over it.

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The Crocoduck Hunter July 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Eric,

The term you’re looking for is internalized sexism.

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Razm July 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Luke, this has been one epic exploration and my opinion on the matter in fact has changed from seeing nothing wrong to mostly agreeing with you upon reading.

Mad props.

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Kaelik July 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Luke,

I had not previously commented on this issue, but I generally keep track of the issue, and have strong opinions on the way sexism/women’s issues are currently handled.

I’ll be taking the side of someone who found your action morally acceptable.

1) You say that your action was contributed to a culture of harm to women, and that unlike men, they may have their skills and potential ignored because they are sexy.

But how true is this? Perhaps such a post may contribute some small amount to such a culture. But that needs to be weighed against several other things:

a) How much does it contribute to a culture of female empowerment in being sexy?
b) How much does it contribute to female empowerment about intelligence?
c) How much does it contribute to female empowerment by respecting the value of women’s sexiness, and thus opposing the sort of sexism that requires women to burka up to not tempt men?
d) How much does declaring this not morally acceptable contribute to a culture of censorship, a culture that treats women like fragile weak flowers needing protection, and a culture that in general keeps women separate and protected to make up for their “inherent” objectification?
e) How much does calling this nearly harmless action contribute to a culture of calling all nearly harmless actions morally unacceptable, and thus willing to abridge freedom far more readily in the next instance?

I think the answer is that the negative effects of this post are so minor as to be trite, as you contribute practically nothing to a culture of violence against women, but a lot to a culture of protecting the gentle women flowers from the mean man rage. While violence against women is worse than protecting the flowers philosophy, the degree of the latter may make it more important in this case.

2) Really Luke? “Men – forever the physically dominant sex and portrayed as the ambitious, interesting, change-making heroes of almost every story ever told – do not risk harassment2 from being seen as sexy. They do not risk having their skills and potential ignored because they are seen as “sexy.” They do not risk violence from libidinous women. But women do face all these risks, and a post like mine makes these risks worse.”

So it’s impossible for there to be violent libidinous women? Or it’s impossible for them to do anything to a big strong man because they are delicate flowers?

It’s impossible for men to have their skills ignored in favor of their appearance? Really? Or is it just that you think it contributes less to that outcome than comparable actions about women?

Do men not have to suffer against the violence of some gay men? Sure it is going to be less common. But as soon as you admit that it is okay to contribute to a culture of violence against men because the negative effect is less than the positive effects of expressing yourself, or of empowering people, you have to turn around and admit that we need to consider whether your post actually really did contribute enough to harming women to make that more important than all the positive effects it might have.

There is a reason Fyfe choose to reference data on things we don’t know about. Because the degree of possible harm matters.

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En Passant July 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Wow. Eric said, “What should we say about women who bait men’s sexual instincts with provocative dress, makeup, hairstyles, and high heels etc…?”

That sounds awfully like “She was askin’ for it.”

So, if you were wondering, here is what we should say to that:

Women ought to have the choice to wear whatever and act however they see appropriate. THAT’S how a feminist society works. In a progressive, equal community, a women can CHOOSE to wear sneakers or high heels. She can choose to post images of herself portrayed as a sexual object, if she wants. The problem, as with any other prejudice stemming from an imbalance of power, is when the historically privileged group starts making those choices for them.

People got upset when Luke took women’s professional photos and made them sexualized and/or trivialized their professional achievements. Nobody (well, almost nobody) got upset when Luke put pictures of sexy atheist porn stars et al. on the same blog. That’s not a coincidence! The women on the atheist list (and a few of the scientists as well) made the choice for themselves to pose in sexy images — and that’s NOT A CRIME. In fact, it’s worth celebrating!

If I want to wear an (appropriate) pretty dress to work, I’ll damn well do so. And that is not wrong. What IS wrong is to assume that I “should” always wear pretty dresses, or assume I wore a pretty dress for the enjoyment of the males in the office, or expect different work results from me because I am wearing a pretty dress.

THAT would be sexist. Being sexy isn’t.

Sorry. Not trying to reignite the debate or anything, but comments like that make me nuts.

– EP

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NineInchNall July 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Luke,

I’m going to agree with you that the possible reinforcement of negative stereotypes about women is the deleterious effect of your Sexy Science Sisters post. Negative stereotypes are pernicious, and they do in fact cause harm.

On the other hand, I’m going to have to agree with Kaelik, too. As a utilitarian, I would be forced to weigh the positive potentialities that he mentions, as well as more venal benefits like “some will enjoy seeing pretty faces,” against the negative. Obviously these would have to be weighted based on severity and probability.

I’d also like some sort of coherent, cogent argument that showing pictures of sexy scientists actually *does* reinforce negative stereotypes of women. So far the most I’ve seen is people simply asserting that it does.

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Eric July 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

En Passant:

“That sounds awfully like “She was askin’ for it.””

I anticipated this response. No, I didn’t say that AT ALL. Please stick to what I said. One needs to be more culturally aware of how one reinforces harmful stereotypes, that’s Luke’s conclusion. Shouldn’t this apply to other women also? It’s a valid question.

Maybe you should take a look at The Crocoduck Hunter’s link, I have been perusing it and find it worthwhile. I’m not sure what I think of “internalized sexism” yet but, it applies to some of the things you’re saying.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

ERV,

I also apologize for not posting a pic of your awesome boobs.

:)

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm

MKandefer,

As you may have noticed, there is no advertising on this site. My bandwidth costs are barely covered by Amazon affiliate links.

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al friedlander July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I’m surprised of myself to hold opinions over this issue; but hey, can’t deny it.

“But luckily, a few people did try to clarify what the problem was. Perhaps the problem was that my post objectified…”

And thank goodness for these reasonable people (you know who you are). For me, it was like a breath of fresh air from all the sea of unnecessary/unjustified moral high-horsing.

“What should we say about women who bait men’s sexual instincts with provocative dress, makeup, hairstyles, and high heels etc…?”

Once again, I find myself agreeing with Eric. Although I do appreciate the link to internalized-sexism (it’s pretty valid, actually), there’s still the issue of women…kind of, getting free-rides with this. Be called ‘sexy’ and you’re objectified. Act ‘sexy’ to get what you man, and you’re all good. Women use their sexuality all the time to get things they want, and they’re completely off the hook if they’re discreet about it.

What strikes me as most important are Luke’s intentions. When someone irritates me, the first thing I think is what the person meant. Grouping Luke with -actual- sexists (I’m talking about the commenters would spout nothing but vitriol, not the productive/kinder individuals) is counterproductive towards getting -anything- done, since he’s not the ‘real enemy’. Those people just like to hear themselves talk…

I’m not picking an argument; just giving my opinion on the matter

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Gil S. July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I think most people overreacted here for the wrong reasons and neglected to treat YOU with respect. I never detected ANY malicious intent, as you did not do anything immoral even if we follow your reasons for apologizing. Well, perhaps it would be under your moral theory but I think intentions matter when evaluating whether someone has acted immorally or not. Okay, so what, you might’ve been ignorant to something people consider “obvious” but not everyone is aware of it. Unless of course this is all some clever PR attempt at hiding your “true” motives but I have no reason to assume that.

The problem is, it seems like people DID assume that. They treated you with no freakin respect, the very same thing that they accused you of doing to women. You were reduced to a male stereotype of objectifying and willingly wishing to cause women harm. You’ve heard the saying “all men are the same!” but that’s insulting to males. We have our own manner of dignity that we wish to preserve, even though we may sometimes fail. People need to calm down and the ones who insulted you should apologize.

Ultimately I am not saying that the people who criticized you had no warrant for doing so. However, the manner in which they did criticized you was not respectful in any sense of the term. Sure, that post might harm women or at least give that impression but that does not equate to intention. I think you deserve respect for this bold more here, even if I don’t agree that you need to apologize for doing “evil”. At best you merely had a wrong perspective of the issue.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Razm,

Fascinating. Thanks for commenting.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Hey everyone: Please remember, abusive posts on this thread will be deleted. I’ve deleted one already.

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Yet Another Eric July 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Luke, I just read through many of the comments on that Pharyngula post, and I’m stunned. You were polite, reasonable, sincere, clear and determined to focus on clarifying the arguments, while so many of the Pharyngula regulars were — well, nothing like you. I think that thread demonstrates that there’s quite a divide between those who, like you, are trained to think philosophically, and those who are not. In short, those who aren’t trained to think philosophically become quickly annoyed with the philosopher’s emphasis on clarity and argumentation! Given that many of the Pharyngula regulars claim to be scientists, the obvious disdain they displayed for philosophical reasoning as such was a bit unnerving, and even surprising (at least to me).

What do you think? Did you too get the sense that many of them just can’t stand philosophical reasoning itself?

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JS Allen July 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Nice! But this proves that desirism doesn’t work, since the mocking and insults should’ve done the trick, and you instead relied on reason :-)

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Yet Another Eric,

Thanks.

I’m not sure it has anything to do with philosophical reasoning in particular. I think it has to do with the fact that, as the last 30 years of research in moral psychology shows, moral judgments are primarily emotional reactions (almost always, anyway). We know our emotional reaction, and we are quick to bring every argument we can think of to back up our emotional reaction, and dismiss every argument against it by psychologizing our opponents – whether they come with philosophical reasoning or something else.

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End of Daze July 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

It was in poor taste only because you posted pictures of women without their permission and referred to them as sexy which they might have thought was a little creepy. For that I think an apology is due. But that was just thoughtlessness by a young man that loves looking at good-looking girls and considers all such posts a celebration.

I wouldn’t want my picture posted on the internet for any reason without my permission. Unless I was going to be objectified by women in which case I would be all for it. But that’s just me.

The whole culture of harming women thing is a little much.

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NineInchNall July 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Yet Another Eric,

I’d agree with your comments about people’s not being accustomed to the analytic philosopher’s often “pedantic” manner. This is especially true in ideological discussions (morality, politics, etc.).

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Gabriel July 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I really don’t know how to quote here, so I’ll use marks.

“Once again, I find myself agreeing with Eric. Although I do appreciate the link to internalized-sexism (it’s pretty valid, actually), there’s still the issue of women…kind of, getting free-rides with this. Be called ’sexy’ and you’re objectified. Act ’sexy’ to get what you man, and you’re all good. Women use their sexuality all the time to get things they want, and they’re completely off the hook if they’re discreet about it. ”

A women wearing high heels, a tight, low cut shirt, and makeup in order to get men is calling attention to herself. In other words, if she is “acting sexy to get a man,” she is objectifying herself, and she has only herself to blame. However, in this case, Luke was the one doing the objectifying. Women don’t get free rides. They face the same consequences if they are objectifying themselves, or being objectified, yet if they are objectifying themselves, then more often or not, they want those consequences. Luke was right to apologize for being the one to do the objectification.

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Yet Another Eric July 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

“We know our emotional reaction, and we are quick to bring every argument we can think of to back up our emotional reaction, and dismiss every argument against it by psychologizing our opponents – whether they come with philosophical reasoning or something else.”

Luke, I agree that this sort of explanation accounts for much of the reaction to your comments on that thread. I suppose I still think that a certain disdain and impatience with the nature (and glacial pace!) of most philosophical reasoning is also a factor because I noticed that they treated you the same way they treat most philosophically minded theists who comment there.

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En Passant July 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Comment
Eric–
I think I see your point, but I disagree. While a major goal of feminism is to overcome the prejudices and gender roles that have been assigned to women, I would still argue that women who dress sexily, use their sexuality, or are naturally feminine are not by default hurting feminism or being sexist. If all women pursued the opposite path from the societal expectation, that would not be an equal or empowered community. It would still place pressure on women to fulfill certain roles based specifically on their gender; those roles would just be different than they are now. I mean, a world in which women were ostracized for wearing makeup or taking time off work to raise children is not a better or more equal world.

To truly move our culture beyond sexism, both men and women will have to appreciate women as autonomous, decision-making people. Honestly, I think Luke might be LESS sexist than most, precisely because he did fail to consider the negative implications of his post. He didn’t think those women needed to be treated any differently than philosophers who play tennis! And maybe someday that will be true. I think the only reason the post was a mistake was because it was insensitive to whether the women wanted to be portrayed fulfilling that “complimentary” stereotype. And as we’ve seen, some women are fine with it and others aren’t.

I did read the link on internalized sexism, and I thought it was interesting but I am skeptical of its relevance to this situation. When I read it, I was really picturing something more like Quiverfull, the women’s antifeminist movement. Those women are so entrenched in the ideology of what women are “supposed” to be they actively oppose women who don’t fit that mold. 

However, being female and feminine or sexy does not mean one is antifeminist or has internalized sexist attitudes. Just like we can’t generalize atheists by any quality aside from a lack of theistic belief, we cannot generalize women by anything beside their second X chromosome. Some women like to wear jewelry, some women like to wear jeans and t-shirts; some women really will fit the “expected” mold just by virtue of their natural appearances and personalities and some won’t. All I’m saying is a truly feminist society will respect and appreciate that diversity.      

–EP

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En Passant July 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Wow, I typed all that on my iPhone so I guess I didn’t realize how long it was. Sorry about that epic tome, haha.

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ConsiderAtheism July 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm

It’s hard to believe come light hearted fun could spark such controversy…

I still personally think you did nothing wrong, however. But this is entirely subjective.

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Thrasymachus July 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Luke:

Glad to hear you changed you mind.

Enjoy life,

Thrasymachus.

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mattr July 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

absolutely no time to read all these posts, sorry, but one thing that sort of bothers me about all this is how basically trivial it is. i mean, your moral angst and your “journey” through the gauntlet of offended liberal pc-ness (as i see it, and from the left of liberal, btw) and so forth… well to be honest, my reaction its: yawn. no offense, but: get on with the business at hand. i’m not so sure about “contributing to a culture of objectiication” or whatever. context matters; the context here is clearly one far, far removed from locker-room pin-up misogyny. maybe you should just provide equal space for a woman to post her own list; or a gay man, or…

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Chris July 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

No one is ever to find members of the opposite sex attractive- or at least, if they do, they are to keep their mouths shut at all times about it. Otherwise, what they say will be demeaning and sexist.

So I guess the post explaining, in vivid detail, why nothing was wrong with the list was just a complete waste of my time? At least, it certainly was one of yours. Why did you even let it be put up if you weren’t going to at least comment on it when you utterly negate its conclusion?

Shouldn’t anyone with a pretense to philosophical rigor refute counter-arguments? When can we expect your post refuting “Morality and Sexy Scientists” to go along with your apology? Or should we just take your apology as insincere?

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Ralph July 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Even though you have already capitulated, I’m sorry Luke, but I don’t agree that you have anything to apologize for. Practically every post anyone makes can be said to create a culture that is inimical to the interest of anyone taking a contrary position. All it takes is for those taking the contrary position to claim the status of victimhood. i.e. a post about atheist achievers can be said to create a culture of prejudice against theistic underachievers. If we apply the same standard to your apology post, we can even say that by making this apology, you engender a culture where offenderatis dictate the content of discourse thereby suppressing ideas.

I agree with Fyfe in that this should be treated as an empirical question. And I believe your “sexy atheist” post and your subsequent comments (prior to the apology) made it very clear that NO appreciable harm could have come from your them either directly or in creating a culture of harm.

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al friedlander July 22, 2010 at 2:57 pm

“A women wearing high heels, a tight, low cut shirt, and makeup in order to get men is calling attention to herself. In other words, if she is “acting sexy to get a man,” she is objectifying herself, and she has only herself to blame. However, in this case, Luke was the one doing the objectifying…”

You make good points with regards to my incorrect usage of the term ‘objectification’. Still, correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t a few of the scientists in the pictures wearing clothing in the way that you described? In other words, weren’t those women then objectifying themselves?

I’m just not all that convinced that Luke deserved to be reprimanded (and so fiercely too!)

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Derrida July 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Luke, I’ve just read through this whole debacle, and I’m glad to find that not only have you changed your mind on the basis of reasoned arguments, but you’ve clarified the wrongness of the list in ways I hadn’t considered.

I’m sure that this apology will make people who hold sexist views think twice, and undo any damage that the list might have caused in the way of encouraging sexism.

Your apology is making the world better.

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Kokoba July 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thanks, bud. I appreciate it. :)

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I hope so, Derrida.

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Isabel July 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Impressive apology, but I was disappointed that you did not apologize for using the photographers work without permission or attribution. A link does not equal attribution, although it may also be required.

I am serious about starting a blog where I steal others writing without permission or attribution.

It may be the only way to get the point across.

Photography is hard work! And the equipment is expensive, something writers don’t have to deal with.

Other than that, good job.

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Jeff H July 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Well, this just proves how much of a pansy wuss you are Luke, caving into popular demand.

Just kidding. I think it’s a rare sight to see anyone apologize on the Internet. It shows respect and integrity, for sure. I’ve always been impressed by your genuine desire to seek truth through rational argumentation, cutting past “party lines” and political correctness. Whether or not you came to the right conclusion here, I think it’s good that you did your best to think through the issue critically.

I guess it’s just one more thing to put on your list of things you’ve changed your mind about. That’s a plus, right?

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ERV July 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The pic he used of me was a screen-shot of a talk I volunteered to do with Ed Yong at BloggingHeadsTV. There is no photographer involved, unless you mean the autofocus on my iMac.

I donated my time to BloggingHeadsTV, I donate the screencap to Luke.

But I would have sent him a better pic if he asked :P

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Alex July 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Hmm, would this whole debacle be a debacle if the post was called “Really smart scientist I’ve seen on the internet” with still the same pictures? Or if the pictures were boring, yet they were called sexy? Or if their names were redacted?

Good follow-through, Luke, but I agree that there is a little bit of hysteria attached to the whole thing. And I think that as societies evolve, so does the number of males who think “sexy” in similar terms as you first did. I suspect this whole thing is rooted in how different people see that word used.

I’m typing this on a very sexy laptop, by the way, so if SKYNET is reading this, I didn’t *really* mean to objectify certain computers, and certainly not with (much) sexual intent. Ahem.

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Zuska July 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm

“My Sexy Scientists post was wrong because it harmed women and contributed to a culture of harming women.

It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that someone prone to sexual harassment or violence would see their photo, click the link, and find their home or work address. It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that men would see them, first and foremost, as sexy girls, and not take their other qualities or contributions seriously. Neither of these is a plausible threat faced by men who are listed as “sexy.” ”

That quote there, Luke, would be a nice illustration of objectification. So, yeah, your Sexy Scientists post did contribute to objectification of women.

I’m impressed that you were able to read and digest all the relevant literature on feminist philosophy in just a few days. Amazing. You must be one helluva speed reader.

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V July 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Hi Luke,

I am a longtime lurker on this blog. When the list was first posted I found it in bad taste but the responses from pzmyers’ blog made me livid. The people there weren’t interested in truth – they just wanted blood. The overwhelming majority do not believe in intellectual integrity, they just picked a side. And I’m now convinced that atheists aren’t my fellow travelers. It’s all about the temperament of the person – whether they have the instinct for truth – whether curiosity is their guiding principle.

And this is why a church for the atheist will become just as tyrannical as a church for an imaginary being.

It is my worry that in your need to put this problem to rest you may have rushed your thinking. Hopefully, you will go over this problem again without the pressure of the internet calling for your head.

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cl July 22, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Luke,

I had a feeling you would get some heat for that post, considering the very real overlap between the “atheist intellectual” and “PC” crowds. Though I won’t comment on the moral issues, I have to admit the post struck me as out-of-place or even as kitsche when I originally saw it. I get the whole “sense of humor” thing and believe me, I’ve got one, but I don’t know. I just didn’t [and don't] see the point.

JS Allen,

Nice! But this proves that desirism doesn’t work…

Was that still being debated?

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Isabel July 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

“I donated my time to BloggingHeadsTV, I donate the screencap to Luke.”

Okay, one down, 14 to go.

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j_silent July 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Luke, I’m glad you have seen you have been able to come around. And kudos for coming clean. But, your apology is laced with a very skewed and uncharitable view of the folks of the reaction to your initial post and “journey”.

For example, you cited Abbie Smith as an example of the folks coming to your defence – although most of your defenders were male. You cited CPP as an example of the childish name calling you received, except CPP is a character – a pose. CPP swears a blue streak about everything from the Red Sox, to grant applications, to Dick Cheney.

This is endemic of the way you characterized many of the critical comments you received. For example, in the Pharyngula post you characterized the aftermath of your list as: “I get hit with a tsunami of criticism, most of it incoherent babbling…”. Similarly, your first reaction to Cerberus’ epic post was pretty shameful, jumping in right away to dismiss some of her arguments without even thinking them through properly, after she spent hours politely trying to enlighten you.

I also note that the reasons you now acknowledge for why your actions were wrong, were pointed out pretty quickly. E.g., this comment from Crocoduck Hunter in the Round 1 thread:

“The reason this matters is that these kinds of things contribute to a culture that treats women as sex objects in a way that you will never experience. No matter what your intentions are, that’s what happens, and that’s what it means to have male privilege. And that’s why people will criticize you and call you “sexist.” I really think your intentions are good, I just wish, as someone who really respects you and has learned a lot from your writings, that you would try to have a little more sensitivity in these areas, and really try to understand the feminists criticizing you.”

A number of women told you about their experiences that buttressed this claim, but to you apparently, that was just part of the “incoherent babbling”. If you had tried to listen and think a little more, instead of interrogating all of the posters, you might have figured things out sooner.

Also, this is pretty basic stuff. Most teenage guys (or at least the ones I knew) figure out that having pin-ups of bikini babes in their living room isn’t cool. The fact that this sort of thing continued to elude you (and some of the other d00ds that post here) was bizarre. Not only that but you just had to mansplain to the wimmenz why what you did really might not be sexist. Guys have very little scope to dispute women who find them sexist given the extent of unconscious, internalized prejudice we all have (which you claimed to acknowledge) and our inability to have their experiences. Just like white people have little scope to dispute what black people find racist. I recommend this piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates. And, you wanted them to take time to educate you, rather than for you to take a time out from the attention and do a little reading/thinking.

Other comments like this one, along with many others, and fact that this has all been framed as “your journey”, plus the above make you come off as a narcissistic ass. I’m not the first to make this observation. However, I don’t think you’re a jerk. I do think you mean well despite the narcissism. The lack of self-awareness and general immaturity when it comes to women merely suggests the emotional maturity of a teenager.

It’s good that you’ve been able to figure a few basic things out as a result of this process. Frankly, given the childish antics I’m surprised. But, it’s also obvious that you still have a lot of growing up to do. Best of luck with that.

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oarobin July 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Luke, while i thought you should apologize for poorly communicating your intention of a positive,lighthearted, funny blog to an audience who could reasonable infer a vulgar, tacky attempt to harm the women in the post, the emotions and arguments that your original post and your apology generate leads me to think that there several issues that need further examination ala Kaelik above.

what harm does your apology do to women, like ERV, who seems to relish the sexy scientist role and may want to project the message that one can both be sexy and taken serious?

what message is your apology sending to sexist men? that our culture, whatever their pretensions,
know that sexy women cannot be taken seriously?

how much more harm did your blog re-posting the photos of already public women with the title sexy (inviting men to leer,objectify,sexualize these women) cause? by how much did it rise the threat level to these women? can it be estimate with some metric e.g. color coding ala terrorism, percentages, point system etc?

do all list photos of women with the label sexy contribute to the general sexist attitude towards women? if no what about a sexist subculture that distinguishes one list of women from another and if yes should we advocate removal of all such lists.

does you think that there is a subculture among men who are eager to sexual violate women on the least or no excuse and our strategy is to not provoke these men into action while we pursue better strategies (any idea what those are) to correct the situation? in short how are we to solve the sexism problem if not by directly challenging the attitudes and behavior itself?

which leads to other questions of how are sexist attitudes form and what can influence them.

what this episodes highlights are there are issues here that need serious argumentation and empirical evidence to get to the root of and that are not serve well by anecdotes and feelings.

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j_silent July 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Ack, sorry about the bad links. I am pretty inept when it comes to HTML (obs). Clicking on the blue “this” seems to work though.

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Ralph July 22, 2010 at 6:10 pm

lukeprog: “There’s a reason you can’t put up a photo-poster of ’sexiest women in this office’ in your workplace. It would increase the chances that those women would be seen as sex objects, not taken seriously, and sexually harassed. And this would be true even if some of them took it as a compliment. The same goes for the internet, where luckily the listed women are not usually in physical proximity to the readers, but they can still be harassed, and there are a lot more eyeballs on the images.”

Context matters. In the workplace, the chances that those women would be taken less seriously by being included in a ‘sexiest’ list is pretty high. Your post published in the internet is context-less in that no rational person would think less seriously about these women because of it. I’m sorry, but I really lost some of my respect for you, for caving in to this stupid PC nonsense. BTW, your apology serves as a boon to creating a culture of violence against people who do not want to apologize for stating their innocuous subjective evaluations. See how stupid that reads.

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Lee A.P. July 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm

I myself will not stop until I have masturbated to each and every scientist on that list. Including PZ.

I am half way through.

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DK July 22, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I notice you’ve taken down the sexy atheists list despite the relative lack of complaints. I’m curious whether you make any distinction between that and your far more controversial list of sexy scientists?

To me the sexy atheists list was acceptable, issues of objectification or not, because of the original purpose of the photographs. They were all professional publicity photos, and in pretty much every one they were clearly designed to present a sexy image. To me that makes their inclusion on such a list more legitimate; there’s a degree of tacit consent been given for that kind of public use.

For the same reason, I don’t think you’d have been out of line if you’d just posted the photos of Serena Kamber as an example of a sexy scientist. After all, she chose to work as a model, posing for men’s magazines and tabloid newspapers, and has defended her modelling against the accusation that it’s degrading to women. She’s consented to be portrayed as a sexy woman as well as a scientist.

That isn’t true for most of the other women on the sexy scientists list, who placed images of themselves online for very different reasons; images which you took without permission and used out of context.

To me that’s the issue: the lack of any kind of consent for you to use those images for a purpose for which they were never intended.

It’s like the difference between paying someone a welcome compliment and catcalling them in the street.

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Chris July 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Hey Luke, I technically approve of your apology, but I’m gonna keep my moral superiority because you’re immature, or something.

Nah, that’s obviously bullshit. I am glad you apologized though, so you can move on.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Alex,

Great comment!

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Zuska,

Huh? I’ve read very little feminist philosophy. I can name, like, 6 feminist philosophers without looking them up.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

V,

All decisions are tentative. I certainly plan to develop and mature my thinking on these issues as time goes by. Who knows? Maybe the evidence will lead me to flip back the other way.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 7:29 pm

BTW, everyone: I appreciate the arguments you raise, but it will take me a long time to consider them on this blog. Right now, I’m rather exhausted in thinking about the issue, and need a break. I suspect my readers need a break, too, as it’s been a week straight of almost nothing but feminism topics.

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lukeprog July 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm

j_silent,

One thing for now. I did not dismiss Cerberus’ arguments. What I did was begin to illustrate why they are more complex, and rely on more assumptions, than some people were noticing. In the end, you’ll notice that my reasons for apologizing were very similar to the ones given in Cerberus’ posts. I even honored Cerberus by mentioning the post and linking to it in my apology!

Also: childish antics? Please read my posts and compare them to those of my critics. My critics constantly misrepresented my actual positions and resorted to name-calling and vague hand-waving. I engaged arguments directly, apologized when I misrepresented people accidentally, and don’t recall name-calling anybody.

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DAM10N July 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Is it not harmful to imply that a morally significant fraction of male readers of Luke’s blog are “prone to sexual harassment or violence” and might seek to stalk the women depicted in the post? No doubt there are individual psychotics who DO act in this way, but I’ve seen no attempt to estimate what of Luke’s readership is sociopathic in this particular manner. Without an empirical assessment of this risk, we are left to go off of an unfounded *stereotype* of the male as ravenous sexual predator. Being sexist against men is harmful too, IMO, though in subtler ways than those mentioned above.

Maybe I missed the part wherein Luke or Alonzo ran the numbers on male readership of philosophy blogs and what fraction of those are sexual predators. If so, I apologize. If not, this looks like unfounded gender-based stereotyping to me.

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DAM10N July 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Also, does it not seem a bit odd to peremptorily apologize for increasing the *risk* that other immoral people might do immoral things?

Ought Trey and Matt apologize for putting Comedy Central at risk from Islamic bombers? Should people who criticize the president be blamed for violent attacks against him?Should women apologize for dressing in a sexy manner (e.g. anything from not wearing hijab to posting boobies on blogs) if it provokes immoral people to commit sexual harassment or sexual assault?

In all such cases it seems to me the blame lies wholly with the immoral agent, rather than the other party who was guilty of nothing more than expressing themselves without encouraging the immoral behavior in question.

There might be an argument that Luke was somehow implicitly encouraging sexual harassment or assault, but it relies solely on an incredibly sexist view of men, which I’ve yet to see substantiated here.

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Mark July 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Hi Luke. I really do admire your candor, humility and caution in the face of vitriol. My esteem for you has been raised, for whatever that’s worth.

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Adito July 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm

You were not wrong to post your list of sexy scientists. I’ll go over your reasons for thinking it was and detail why exactly I think you’re wrong. I skipped over the rest of the comments so I’m sorry if some of this has been said already.

“It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that someone prone to sexual harassment or violence would see their photo, click the link, and find their home or work address.”

You do not have to assume this is true. A sexy scientist is a fairly specific target that anyone inclined to find would do so with or without your list. A predator does not give up because they google “sexy scientist” and then fail to find one within the first two results. Even if you assume that it is true then you still have not solved the real problem of a predator existing that preys on women. If we follow your logic then we face problems like it being a bad idea for women to have facebook pages, upload photos of a vacation or even walk around their block. Each of these puts them in danger but it’s completely unreasonable for society to expect them to be totally sheltered just because terrible people exist. What you did was admire beauty from a collection of photos that was already available on the internet. It’s the monsters among us that need to be dealt with, not those who are capable of admiring beauty.

“It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that men would see them, first and foremost, as sexy girls, and not take their other qualities or contributions seriously. Neither of these is a plausible threat faced by men who are listed as “sexy.” “

This is a fact of the male psych and not something you can simply solve. Men will always look at women with lust and always see a beautiful woman as a beautiful woman. I don’t think the solution to the problem of overlooked qualifications lies in avoiding the subject of beauty but in qualifying it. As you say, this is not a problem faced by men because our society understands all the roles men play. Why not attempt to change society so it understands the roles women can play instead of attacking a basic biological imperative?

“There’s a reason you can’t put up a photo-poster of ’sexiest women in this office’ in your workplace. It would increase the chances that those women would be seen as sex objects, not taken seriously, and sexually harassed. And this would be true even if some of them took it as a compliment. The same goes for the internet, where luckily the listed women are not usually in physical proximity to the readers, but they can still be harassed, and there are a lot more eyeballs on the images.”

First of all I’m not sure you’d get away with making a poster about the males in the office either. In any case, I think I’ve already answered this objection with my response to your second argument. To sum it up again, this is a problem with how beauty is qualified in society and the way we categorize the roles women can play.

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j_silent July 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Lukeprog,

You’ll note that my comment re: Cerberus concerned your “first reaction”. It, for example, included the following gem @302:

“Regarding One: Objectification. Your point is that it’s wrong to treat women as sex objects first, and women second. But I did no such thing, for the same reason that a list of philosophers who play tennis well does not ‘treat them as tennis objects first.’”

The rest of the comment did not aspire to much greater heights. This did not endear you – excerpt from Cerberus @318:

“You seem to be running away from what you did. And seeking to justify it first and grow as a person second.

I do not appreciate it.

Just as I do not appreciate wasting long hours of my life trying to aid your education as a person and have you piss on it so blatantly. I really wanted to write a blogpost tonight, instead I have been overly kind and devoted my time here instead helping you.”

Kudos on finally coming around (sincerely), but my point on your first reaction was that it was one example of broader problems. All those people peeved at you is a reaction to more than just the initial post, but your subsequent behaviour. And I’m sure Cerberus was so “honored” at being “mentioned” by you that she fainted.

Re: “Also: childish antics? Please read my posts and compare them to those of my critics.”

This is just the tu quoque fallacy.

But beyond that, I did read through most of the comments on these threads, including the Pharyngula thread. (What can I say, I have a sick fascination with train wrecks.) Yes you were subject to vitriol, on the internet no less. You also received many, many, remarkably patient comments from people taking the time to educate you on where you went astray. Your response, is to characterize the broader discussion as mostly “incoherent babble” and that “deliberately misrepresented my positions”. Nice.

Plus, your “apology” reeks of the victim card and includes some gratuitous quotes about how awesome you are.

Anyway, real life calls. I have no doubt you and the d00ds will manage to bang out another 10,000 words in the next day or two on whether you’re sexist or not but I’m out. I didn’t read your blog before and only got sucked in after reading one of the various exasperated posts linking here. I’m big on the atheism/scepticism thing but this obviously isn’t the place for me, fascination with train wrecks notwithstanding. Venting is fun and there is an infinitesimal chance rattling your cage a bit might prompt a little more introspection on your part, but meh, keep digging. Not much skin off my nose if you continue to be a joke. I see from a CPP comment that you’re also into the “Art of Seduction” which raises things to an additional level of hilarity…

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V July 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Lol, j_silent, empty thoughts and passive aggression gets you nowhere dumpling. Toodles!

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rob89ert July 23, 2010 at 1:40 am

@lukeprog, to try resurrect your image after this P.R disaster. try a new list “sexiest women in politics”, “sexiest female immigrant”, “sexiest lawyer” and “sexiest Christian evangelist”. I’m 100% sure this will solve your image problem. P.s lol

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Mazen Abdallah July 23, 2010 at 2:18 am

You were saying look, here’s a bunch of scientists who also happen to be sexy people. It’s sort of like, here are some women i admire both mentally, and who i wouldn’t mind taking the man-meat to once or twice. Now the main issue here is ‘Why do you admire them physically, they didn’t work on that’ but that’s taking an overly antagonistic view of sexual attraction. Simply put, you think she’s cute, it’s a pretty basic human response. You’re not belittling someone by saying ‘I find you attractive’. There’s labels like ‘shallow’ and ‘sexist’ that get thrown around but you honestly, you find them attractive so what’s the big deal? A good follow-up to weasel out would have been to claim you were listing these girls in the same sense that you list athletes with no legs. People who became successful despite a serious handicap . In the case of Western society, beauty, because it can get to your head

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raichel July 23, 2010 at 2:21 am

i agree with j_silent. i’ve been following this blog for several months now and i am generally very impressed with luke. i appreciate the apology and the well laid out reasons why he now realises he was wrong. however lately, even before the sexy scientists post, i get a whiff of arrogance. not surprising considering his age and the heaps of praise he receives.
anyway i think j_silent makes several good observations and is very fair. there is no harm in being called out. we should all be slow to jump to a defensive position when receiving criticism. humility is rare and hard to come by.

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ManaCostly July 23, 2010 at 2:27 am

“But my harshest critics would not have it. I was clearly a despicable person who put these pictures up so I could masturbate to them and encourage others to do the same.”

Mastrubation is not evil, or sinfull or even bad. You have fallen into religious outings you avoid so gracefully a few paragraphs below.

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Kaelik July 23, 2010 at 4:58 am

@Mazen Abdallah

They didn’t work on that? Really, they put no effort at all in to being sexy? They don’t pick out clothes that make them look good? They don’t exercise and eat a specific way to try to maintain a certain appearance? They don’t wear makeup, get haircuts, and otherwise but work into looking good?

That would make them very different from most of the people on the planet, who actively do specific things to look better than they would without doing those things.

Being beautiful isn’t a serious handicap. It’s a quality.

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Chris July 23, 2010 at 5:11 am

j_silent is morally superior and very mature. Maybe someday you can be this way too, Luke, you unserious immature joke kid.

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PhysioProf July 23, 2010 at 6:45 am

You’re pathetic.

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TV's Mr. Neil July 23, 2010 at 7:09 am

Luke,

You let people back you into a defensive corner from the very start, and you let yourself continue to be a target until you finally caved.

Thank you for justifying militant feminism and making it so that non-sexist men everywhere have to continue to apologize for actual cases of misogyny. Thanks a lot!

I love being characterized as a monster over nothing.

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Erika July 23, 2010 at 7:35 am

Thanks Luke for the apology and, even more, the explanation of why you changed your mind.

Somewhat orthogonally, I want to comment on what some people seem to be taking as the idea that we should never do anything which might cause risk or insult to others. Instead, we should step delicately and avoid all insult.

I take as a given that Luke did not mean to cause harm and hoped that perhaps he would even do some good. I also take as a given that sometimes causing harm is justifiable. I will not try to justify when, why, or how much harm is justifiable.

Every action has some intended amount of harm that it will cause and some related amount of tolerance for a difference in the actual harm from the expected harm. This is usually a vague and squishy calculation.

In this case, Luke’s intended harm was somewhere between small negative amount (i.e., benefit) and 0. Luke learned in this case that the amount of potential harm was possibly positive. Once convinced of this, he decided that this fell outside of the tolerance for error that he intended this action to have.

Now, in the case of something like depicting Mohammed, the intent was to do harm (e.g., cause insult and possible threats of violence). As I said before, I will not try to argue whether or not this is justified but just assume that it is.

In this case, causing harm that is inline with the intent of the original action. What amount of harm is acceptable depends on the intent and tolerances of the person causing the harm. For example, threats of violence may be considered acceptable. Maybe for some people, actual violence would be acceptable. However, learning that this action somehow strengthened the cause of those who threatened violence (e.g., finding that the action had consequences outside of the intended tolerance range in the negative/beneficial direction) may cause the person taking the action to reconsider their action.

In both cases, it comes down to intent and tolerance for error. Without justifying what intents and tolerances are proper (which is what much of the discussion here is, quite fairly, about), it seems clear that it is unfair to treat Luke’s list of sexy atheists as interchangeable with actions like drawing Muhammad or criticizing the president.

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Chris Hallquist July 23, 2010 at 8:03 am

Luke,

I’d be curious to see a follow-up post from you on sexual harassment, because I’m having a hard time following the role it’s playing in your post.

The worry that you might have accidentally set a stalker on one of the women in your post, I understand. It’s one of those low-risk, high-harm things that are always hard to know what to do about.

But it’s not even clear what you have in mind when you talk about sexual harassment. Actual sexual harassment policies can be extremely broad. On the one end, some of them mention rape, which I’d worry risks trivializing rape. On the other end, some of them amount to bans on even mentioning sex at the water cooler.

Obviously, sexual harassment policies can be important to make sure bosses don’t pressure employees for sex, but I suspect that much of the reasons policies developed the way they did is that most women find unwanted sexual attention really, really unpleasant. I’m all for avoiding unpleasantness, but on this side of the issue, there often seems to be a lack of perspective. It’s a finite evil, and it’s not clear how we could eliminate it without eliminating wanted sexual attention (though again, obviously, particularly clueless repeated advances can require someone to take action).

The other thing that bothers me about the post is the “it’s wrong because someone might misinterpret it” reasoning. This, too, is a finite evil that would be hard to eliminate entirely. It would apply to a great deal of what any writer writes. The fact that lots of women didn’t mind your post suggests it isn’t a particularly large problem in this case.

Finally, Mr. Neil, above, kinda comes off as a dick, but I think he has a point. If you’re worried about unintended consequences, why not worry about encouraging people who are far too eager to demonize others?

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Robert Gressis July 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

Hi Luke,

First, I want to preface what I’m saying by telling you that I’m not offended. You’ve had to deal with quite a lot of that, frankly, and I’m guessing your stores of sensitivity to it are somewhat depleted. Also, I don’t want you to change anything you believe because you’ve offended me; I know lots of the things I believe are ones that probably offend people, but if I change my mind just because I offend them, then that will encourage the development of vice in me–intellectual cowardice, in this case. Finally, I’m not sure that any of the criticisms below have punch to them; I’m just genuinely curious about your answers. To be honest, the only reason I’m appending this long editor’s note is the context recent events have created.

You wrote, “But I don’t come to moral conclusions by asking my intuitions or looking at other people’s emotional reactions. That way lies religion, fascism, tribalism, and every other blinded ideology. No, when it comes to something as important as morality, I want arguments and evidence.”

Similarly, you write, “The morality of emotion and majority is the morality of Hitler, religion, and five thousand years of slavery.”

I think “religion” is pretty broad. On the other hand, “fascism”, “Hitler”, and “five thousand years of slavery” are pretty narrow (I’ll grant that “tribalism” and “blinded ideology” are pretty broad). I should think the comparison to religion would be government, not the very worst form of government ever invented, arguably the worst person of all time, and one of the worst practices of all time. There are, after all, lots of religions, from non-supernaturalistic ones like Confucianism to ones like Christianity. Even Christianity has non-supernaturalistic versions. Maybe the non-supernaturalistic ones are also non-blinded?

Also, I take it that you think the morality of emotion is similar to the morality of most philosophers (this was the impression I got in your interview with Jesse Prinz)? Obviously, you’re not saying that most ethicists are as bad as Hitler, just that we share a certain character trait with Hitler, one that led him to do the worst things of all time. Personally, I think comparing most ethicists with Hitler has a conversational implicature you might not intend. But maybe you do intend it.

Anyway, you wrote, “when it comes to something as important as morality, I want arguments and evidence.”

One of the confusions I’m suffering when you talk about intuitions, for example, is what an intuition is. So, without giving necessary and sufficient conditions for an intuition (that’s a very tall order), could you tell me whether you consider the following propositions to be intuitions of yours?

–All things being equal, you should not try to maximize suffering and minimize happiness.
–All things being equal, suffering is bad and happiness is good.
–All things being equal, desires have some moral weight.
–When in the business of theory-construction, you should try to come up with a theory that is free of contradictions.
–Solipsism is false.
–The future will resemble the past.
–The world is more than five minutes old.

If the propositions above are not intuitions for you, then what are they? Are they premises for which you have arguments and evidence? That would surprise me, but maybe you do. Regardless, I’m finding it hard to figure out how you can do philosophy without recourse to intuitions.

Going on in what is already a very long post, I have some questions about your actual reasoning for apologizing. You wrote that your “Sexy Scientists post was wrong because it harmed women and contributed to a culture of harming women.” One way your post harmed women is that it “increas[ed] the chances that men would see them, first and foremost, as sexy girls, and not take their other qualities or contributions seriously.”

Doesn’t this argument have far-reaching consequences? For instance, assuming you look at pornography, doesn’t your viewing of pornography increase the chance that you will see women in general as first and foremost sexy girls without attending to their other traits? Maybe you won’t (but how do you know?), but do you think it’s empirically likely that at least some men who view pornography will start to view women, at least, women they find attractive, first and foremost as sexy girls without attending to their other traits? And if so, isn’t this a reason why men should refrain from watching pornography? Indeed, isn’t it a reason why men and women should refrain from making pornography?

Finally (and I’ll wrap things up here) doesn’t any woman’s intentionally dressing sexy contribute to a culture of men looking down and an harming women?

Sorry for the long post!

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Robert Gressis July 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

Oops. I didn’t see Luke’s post calling for respite. No need to respond to my post Luke. Maybe I’ll bring up the points some other time, in a more compressed form.

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lukeprog July 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm

PhysioProf,

I told you abusive posts would be deleted. If you have something useful or constructive to say, you are welcome to do so.

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Michael Over Here July 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I second j_silent’s observation that your apology starts out mischaracterizing many of your critics and selectively engrandizing those who supported your post.

You’ve made little or no mention of those who pointed out that collecting images of anontmous strangers, male or female, is pretty morally questionable and probably why many people labeled the post ‘creepy’. You also point out that your friends don’t mind being called ‘sexy’ but that clearly ignores that you have an intimate relationship with them that you don’t have with many of the women in the original post. Finally quoting without attribution is plagiarism and posting photos without permission or antribution is copyright violation. You even linked the photos directly from the original sites which is effectively stealing bandwidth. Lots to think over.

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Michael Over Here July 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Sorry for the typos, the comment field behaves a little weird on an iPhone.

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Ralph July 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I don’t think Luke mischaracterized many of his critics. Many of his critics on this particular issue are PC monsters and knee-jerk liberals who don’t bother to think things through. So long as a particular post is even remotely relatable to sexism, racism, etc., I expect most of his critics to write the same kind of screed that they have written. The fact of the matter is, not one of his critics have been able to demonstrate through argument that his post harms anyone or that it is unethical in any way beyond the typical epithet hurling , i.e. sexist, creepy etc. And Michael Over Here, please tell me how collecting images of strangers in itself is morally questionable. My encyclopaedia has lots of images of strangers – some even showing genitals – are the publishers of encyclopedia morally questionable? What utter PC nonsense!!!

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hambydammit July 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Wow… this would be a lot easier if I could hit reply.

I don’t suggest that we shouldn’t change anything about the culture of sexualizing women. That’s absurd. What I’m saying is that it is a leap to suggest that *any* sexualization contributes to an overall negative effect on women. This kind of thinking creates a huge gap, where men can either be non-sexual (and de-masculinized, which is no better than hypersexualizing women) or hypersexual.

The truth is that there’s middle ground. Women are and always will be viewed as sexual objects by men. Women wouldn’t be happy if they weren’t, since they generally would like to have mates and babies. Some public display and acceptance of sexualization is healthy and normal. (It’s also absolutely ubiquitous in human history.)

So no, I’m not going to accept this kind of all-or-nothing thinking that if I say that women are and always will be sexualized, I’m automatically contributing to a societally negative, overarching patriarchy.

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MKandefer July 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

“You even linked the photos directly from the original sites which is effectively stealing bandwidth. Lots to think over. ”
*facepalm*

Holy hell. Do yourself a favor a read the history behind the world wide web. IT was designed for easy sharing of information and media, and developed what we now know as the hyperlink. Linking is not morally abusive.

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PhysioProf July 23, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I told you abusive posts would be deleted. If you have something useful or constructive to say, you are welcome to do so.

What I said was fucking true. You deleted it because you are afraid of facing the truth. You’re a pathetic sniveling child, and you would do yourself a favor to remove yourself from public until you grow the fuck up.

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piero July 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Hey, PhysioProf:

Anger management problems? Tell me all about it, my child! Need someone to talk to in a safe, non-judgemental environment? You’ve come to the right place! Did your mother just catch you abusing yourself? No problem! I’ll fix that trauma for you in no time at all!

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Joe Fatzen July 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm

My awesome boobs are all over the internet and you posted a pic of me in a goddamn SWEATER.

Also now your abs. Do not forget those!

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Michael Over Here July 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Hyperlinking is different from direct linking an image from another sight so that it’s hosted there and being delivered on your own page.

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Justfinethanks July 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Also now your abs. Do not forget those!

It really is a shame, because Abbie is no stranger to the gym.

Even this picture would be a major improvement over the one that Luke had on the original post.

Rawr.

Disclaimer: ABBIE SMITH IS VALUABLE AS A HUMAN BEING FOR REASONS BEYOND HER ATTRACTIVENESS. THESE VALUABLE QUALITIES MAY INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO: HER SCIENCE ADVOCACY, HER WIT, AND HER VALUABLE RESEARCH. MY POST IN NO WAY CONDONES ANY DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX NOR DOES IT CONDONE HARMFUL STEREOTYPES IMPOSED UPON WOMEN. JUSTFINETHANKS STRONGLY CONDEMNS ALL FORMS OF SEXISM. ANYONE WHO HARMS WOMEN IN ANY WAY BASED UPON THE CONTENT OF THIS POST DOES SO WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT OF JUSTFINETHANKS.

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lukeprog July 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm

See, this whole ‘scandal’ could have been avoided if I’d just had a freakin’ disclaimer!!!!!

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MKandefer July 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

The principle is the same, sharing of media. It’s the purpose of the web. If individuals didn’t want their media to consume their bandwidth when accessed, why create a public accessible web server and place that media on it? Is embedding youtube videos also stealing?

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scramton July 24, 2010 at 11:12 am

Dude, you only took this down because you were afraid of an internet sexual harassment suit.

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ERV July 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

The listees might backtrace Luke and report him to the cyber police.

*snortgigglesnort*

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TV's Mr. Neil July 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Come on, guys. Some of you are just plain being dumb.

MKandefer, in the case of hot-linking images, they actually have a valid point.

“If individuals didn’t want their media to consume their bandwidth when accessed, why create a public accessible web server and place that media on it?”

Because they intend it to be seen on their website.

This is a different issue from simply sharing media. This is using a resource that someone else is paying for. If you’re going to use someone else’s pictures, at least have the courtesy to use Photobucket.

“Is embedding youtube videos also stealing?”

YouTube has given expressed permission for people to do that, and they even facilitate the means to do so. That’s a lot different than hot-linking to any random website you want.

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MKandefer July 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

TV’s Mr Neil,

Calling me “dumb” is not necessary, if you think I’m ignorant of some use of media in this case, say “I think you might not realize the implications of this form of linking.”

My point is the spirit of the web is sharing. The exchange of documents and media through hyperlinks. It seems in error to call this stealing, and seems to align itself with the intended functionality of the web. Attribution of source I can see, not stifling the exchange of media, which is a principle the web was founded upon. For more read Tim Burners Lee’s biography.

“Because they intend it to be seen on their website.”

Then Google’s image search is also in violation of this. Have you written Google to inform them?

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MKandefer July 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm

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Alek July 24, 2010 at 6:48 pm

“” MKandefer

Also, where were you when PZ linked to this:”"”

How dare you point out hypocrisy mk!?! Don’t you know that only male sexuality is bad? Don’t you know that its only evil when men find women cute? Women can make all the cute-guy lists they want… Its a special privilege you get for 4 quadrillion years of oppression.

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Joe Fatzen July 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm

The listees might backtrace Luke and report him to the cyber police.

*snortgigglesnort*

The consequences will never be the same!

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MKandefer July 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Alex,

IT isn’t about sexualizing males vs. females. It’s that inline linking of images happens all the frackin’ time, and images are often used on the web out of their original context (e.g., Google’s image search). The individuals showing such disdain towards Luke have chosen a narrative that Luke is a bad person, and they will see it this way no matter what he does. He apologized, gave his reasons for doing so, but this is not enough. Now he must identify ALL reasons for why what he did was wrong, including, using inline media… which people do all the time and in greater quantity (e.g., Google’s image search). These people really don’t care about inline linking to media, all they care about is attacking Luke at any angle they can think of.

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alek July 25, 2010 at 7:11 am

I know MK, I was being sarcastic! Lol.

Point is, its funny how this freaking “atheist community” is becoming worse than the freaking catholic church. It does more sexual shaming and denial of evolution.

It uses good/evil models. It declares “sins” against say “women” etc. Since when did the atheist community turn into the “worship of the goddess” community?

It disallows debates, uses emotions instead of arguments, and it uses shaming and other similar religious-like arguments.

Whenever I see a woman, I notice her looks first. I’m not going to apologize for my evolutionary development. No more than I expect a woman to apologize for grading men on social status first.

If I wanted to suppress my sexuality built over millions of years of evolution, I would have joined a religion!

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spzeidler July 26, 2010 at 4:19 am

Lots of people here assert that women will always be seen as sexual objects.

Maybe I’m using a different definition of object than you do, but have you considered the possibility of seeing them as sexual actors (whom you would like to act together with you, if you find them appealing) instead of a piece of furniture that has no volition nor shows any independent activity of its own?
It sounds as if all you require of your sexual partner is that they hold still and not disintegrate while you seek your sexual gratification using their body.

Lots of the (English, US) language used to voice “appreciation” of female attractiveness (“I’d hit _it_”. “I’d do _that_”.) would be entirely appropriate when used to describe a blow-up doll, but not when applied to a human being. Another noteworthy language quirk is that sex is something that is done to, inflicted on, the woman (or the weaker partner), not something two (or more, whatever) partners do together for mutual enjoyment. I suggest that an expectation that your partner will have no enjoyment of sex, and thus a lack of any attempt to satisfy their desires, will make pretty sure that they will not particularly enjoy sex with you, and will consider in the stage previous your voicing of interest of doing stuff -to- them (and not with them) as a threat.

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Ryan July 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

Your capitulation to the moral blackmail of these thought fascists shocks and offends me. As a soon to be male scientist, I know that you have in some small way made my future (albeit still very exciting) world a bit duller, dimmer, more repressed and Victorian, and colder. You have also discouraged young women all over the world who (like myself) care about their appearance from entering scientific careers. You have made it even more unattractive to the women I will meet in non working and non academic environments for me to be interested in science, and you are part of the reason that nobody can talk about science on a first date, especially if they are a scientist. Honestly, how can I describe how irritated this makes me? This is the kind of thing my conservative friends bust on me about, but I tell them, “come on man, liberals aren’t really that crazy! There are so many right wing Junior-Anti-Sex-League conservatives out there, a few feminist critiques of our culture is nothing if not healthy.” Way to prove me wrong. I suggest you re-post all of the non-offended scientists’ pictures, let your apology to the rest stand, and don’t be so craven in the future.

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Isabel July 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm

“If I wanted to suppress my sexuality”

Really? How on earth is this suppressing your sexuality? You have a sexual “need” to publicly rate women you mean…If you cannot post pics with links to work and personal contact info of non-consenting strangers on the internet, you will not be able to be attracted to women and express your sexuality?

“Some public display and acceptance of sexualization is healthy and normal. (It’s also absolutely ubiquitous in human history.)”

Who is arguing with this? For example, if Abby wants to show off her “awesome boobs” 24/7 I doubt she will get any complaints. That is not what is being discussed. This is fucking surreal.

A lot of weird comments here still. I think this subject needs more exploring Luke! I want to understand more about the male need to rate women publicly on sex appeal using their professional work photos, and how complaining about this forces men to suppress their sexuality and deny their evolution.

I am fascinated by the idea that if a women does not automatically consent to having her photo and personal info posted on a random horny dude’s website for the purpose of being rated on her sex appeal, she is ACTIVELY suppressing male sexuality! Even the suggestion that consent should have been obtained is unforgivably suppressive. Unfuckingbelievable! I always thought men were incredibly needy, but it’s apparently worse than I thought.

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Isabel July 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

“images are often used on the web out of their original context (e.g., Google’s image search)”

They’re called thumbnails and they are allowed.

Do you agree that text can be used out of its original context without attribution as well? After all, it’s equally available.

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Reckless Process July 27, 2010 at 3:53 am

Apparently there are a bunch of fatties who hate themselves and their sex and men. God forbid anyone should find any women to be attractive or lovely.

Really, why do women wear make-up? Just so men can masturbate to them when they leave the room?

Really the complainers must be a bunch of fatties who cannot stand to have women recognized for living responsibly and eating right and being active to remain slender and beautiful. And the fatties are probably sitting on their duffs not making anything of themselves. They clearly hate to see another woman who is both successful and beautiful. But they really hate seeing her be recognized for making those good choices.

Around these hate filled loners it is not allowed to notice a woman is beautiful or to compliment her on her good looks. According to these hatefilled women it is not politically correct to complement women. If you dare to notice that some women have better habits for living a healthy life then clearly you are about to go masturbate some where. That implication is pretty insulting to me, as a man.

The hate filled women who made this poor guy take down his post are intolerant and clearly hate themselves and men. And they are probably stupid in that they make bad dietary choices and do not exercise. They hate that other hard working women can be successful and be pretty.

I expect all the hate filled women to put on sack cloth while you sit on your duff and watch ‘the view’ while you stuff your face and gripe about how awful it is that they tend to choose pretty women for all the commercials because you know men will be masturbating when they see those lemon pledge commercials.

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Thag jones July 27, 2010 at 5:55 am

Women are oppressed? Well, maybe in Iran, but not in North America. Please don’t pander to morons. Men find nice looking women sexy – OUTRAGEOUS!!

As if women don’t drool over men too – just look at the embarrassing phenomenon that is the Twilight saga, although “men” might be the wrong term in that context. Imagine the outrage if middle aged men were going that silly over some young women. Oh, wait….

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Doug Stephens July 27, 2010 at 6:37 am

I would have respected you more if you had NOT apologized. Stand by your words, man.

Not that you have to be stubborn and refuse to rethink what you think, but don’t let people tell you what to think.

Um, that means me too, I think.

Oh, and to me a man, you NEVER delete posts from the past. That is like trying to deny history.

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spzeidler July 27, 2010 at 7:21 am

@Reckless Process: hellooo, troll

Some of the women who made the list spoke up against being included on it, because it bordered on sexual harassment to be included on a public list without being asked first (and having the no respected without fuss).

The prettier a woman, the more tweebs will proposition her, they don’t need even more men they wouldn’t dream of having sex with if they were (singly) the last male human on earth expressing their interest. It gets old -real- fast having to say no to nearly every male around at least once, never mind the ones who are hard of hearing (or understanding) who prove to be mini-stalkers and need the “no” driven in with a sledgehammer.

Your theory that ‘other unattractive women’ are trying to get rid of the ‘attractive women’ is obviously wrong. The attractive women trying to avoid having to do with persons like you is much nearer to what’s happening.

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spzeidler July 27, 2010 at 7:26 am

@Doug Stephens: so if e.g. you erroneously accused someone of a heinous crime you’d propose to never remove that accusation? I think even in the USA, the law would disagree.

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Isabel July 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

“Men find nice looking women sexy – ”

I can’t believe how needy some males are. Who cares who you are attracted to? That is not being in any way debated here (and I love the suggestion by the asshole above that eating right and exercising will make any woman conventionally beautiful-hahaha). Why don’t you read the post and comments before sharing your summary about what went on? The male ego is certainly a thing of wonder:)

I am still interested to know why having a publicly shared list is so important to you guys? It is so important, apparently, that not having this ability denies you the full expression of your evolutionarily determined sexuality! Publicly objectifying, sharing images of and rating women (something your ancestors would not have any ability to do by the way) is actually being equated here with being attracted to women! These are not the same thing at all. So, what gives?

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bonzi July 27, 2010 at 9:27 am

First, the illustration on this page is absolutely hilarious.

Some of comments are patently absurd, like those that once their picture was posted on an atheism blog, these women will all of a sudden be stalked by hordes of sexual maniacs. After all, the author did not follow these scientists and took their picture clandestinely – he reused publicly accessible pictures from the web, many probably put there by the scientists themselves.

Some commenters admitted that putting someone on the list was meant simply as a compliment, but that the compliment was perhaps not wanted. What does that mean, that we are only allowed to compliment people who are fishing for that!?

Let’s look at the meaning of adjective “sexy” as scientists, at its evolutionary roots. It does not mean “I have dream about this chick pole dancing”, but “I admire this woman’s genetic qualities”. In other words, this is a intelligent, self-assured, independent woman, successful in her chosen field, and yes, quite easy on the eye. That is, “I would like my daughter to be like her” (note, I did not say “look like her”). Is there any better compliment?

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spzeidler July 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

@bonzi Is there a better compliment? yes, respecting a person as a person instead of as a nice-looking slab of meat that has no opinions that matter about how people abuse the information they put online.

If you want to put their likeness in a published list and they are not a celebrity, and it’s not exactly about their job (ie “top ten marine biologists” is something other than “top ten
marine biologists that surf”), -ask- if they want to appear on the list. In civilized countries, that also happens to be law, as well as the right for a person to control where likenesses of themselves get used.

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Thag jones July 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Isabel, what are you talking about? Firstly, I’m not a man. Secondly, I think it’s a ridiculous thing to apologize for. If you don’t like these lists, don’t read them. People magazine has been doing this sort of thing for years so have you written to them to express your disgust at the “male ego”? Yeah some men are needy, but what does publishing a list of people one finds sexy have to do with that? As far as I can tell, as with the majority of these kinds of lists, it was meant as a bit of light hearted fun. Lighten up!

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bonzi July 27, 2010 at 9:41 pm

@ spzeidler:
“instead of as a nice-looking slab of meat”

Have you actually read my post? It’s not that long….

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spzeidler July 27, 2010 at 10:19 pm

@bonzi: yes, I have read your post, but “this is a intelligent, self-assured, independent woman, successful in her chosen field” did not go into the making of the list we’re discussing here at all, to the extent that some of the women who were listed on it are only students of their field. “Looks sexy and has expressed an interest in science” is a lot nearer to what the criteria for this list were, “self-assured and independent” also did not go into it since obviously the pictures were all that was used for selection. How is that not “pretty slab of meat”?

You assert that they should be flattered. I assert that if you -publish- lists of people who are not “in the public interest” themselves you should show some respect and ask the “honored” if they want to be on that list, because they may have an opinion about what flatters them that differs from yours.
The point remains that using the likeness of a person, even when it was published in some other context, without their express consent, is not legal in a lot of countries. Otherwise no advertising company would pay their models, they’d just use pictures they found on the web (sometimes they do that anyway, like they did with a picture of a friends little son, and subsequently have a judge explain copyright law and privacy law to them).

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bonzi July 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm

@spzeidler: Obviously, your definition of “sexy” and mine differ – to you a woman *looks* sexy, to me she *is* sexy – good looks are just one, not most important factor. (OK, I will grant you that I don’t have any evidence that the author of the list used my criteria and not yours.)

Still, I think it is sad that we live in a society where smiling to a woman in an elevator is to invite a sexual harassment suit.

Regarding the legality of using a photo from the web (as opposed to linking to the site containing it), you are probably right.

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Isabel July 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

“don’t read them. People magazine has been doing this sort of thing for years so have you written to them to express your disgust at the “male ego”?”

Calm down, your imagination is running away with you. I was referring to the fact that someone above felt confident authoritatively summarizing the events without having read the posts or comments (which was obvious from his summation).

“Yeah some men are needy, but what does publishing a list of people one finds sexy have to do with that? ”

Why do you need to publish a list, to share how you have rated women? YOU say it was light hearted fun, so why did someone else suggest it was vital to males expressing their sexuality? Why act like your entire world has been challenged when people object?

“As far as I can tell, as with the majority of these kinds of lists, it was meant as a bit of light hearted fun. Lighten up! ”

You need to lighten up, and realize flirting may be done respectfully.

And after you calm down, maybe you can think about the fact that making a list rating professional women on their looks without informing them and publishing it, IS NOT THE SAME THING AS FLIRTING.

It is a series of deliberate acts done when there were probably not even any women in the room. It was not personally directed at a woman who was in a position to flirt back. It was done by a lone male, and then shared with other males (mainly). It was not “flirting!” Jeez.

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WayWest July 28, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Luke, I think you tried hard to find something “wrong” with posting the pics and came up with nonsense. I’m a huge fan of this blog and of thoughtful debate and discussion. You were the victim of ideological bullying.

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ERV July 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm

spzeidler: How is that not “pretty slab of meat”?
*amused*

Do you really think I am close enough to modern standards of sexy/beautiful females to garner a place on a ‘Top Sexy _____’ list? Judged strictly on ‘meat’ standards?

I assumed I made the original list because of MAJOR bonus points from smarts/personality– but you think I should have made the list strictly on my meat-merits.

Thats more flattering than being on the original list! Thank you!

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al friedlander July 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

““As far as I can tell, as with the majority of these kinds of lists, it was meant as a bit of light hearted fun. Lighten up! ”

You need to lighten up, and realize flirting may be done respectfully. ”

Go outside; leave your musty room. Smell the roses. Lay in the sunflowers. Go on a date. Hug your loved ones. Get some sun! Get a breath of fresh air.

~
*snrk*

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Albert July 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I honestly don’t think you have anything to apologize for. The reason all this stupid rumble is because the society we live in is hypocritical, opportunist, narrow minded and ignorant.

At a daily basis, we “zap” through hundreds and hundreds of skin on almost every channel on tv. Why don’t we see all these so called intelligent and deliberative persons that condemn you with such fury, doing the same allegations against almost every tv network in the world?

I bet that the hordes of politically correct people that bash you for this article (That at the most should be considered shallow) don’t even think that the female submissive role that Henry Miller or Anais Nin depict in their steamy stories should be considered “sexist” or offensive. I bet they, as most ignorant snobs, consider those pages full of hardcore; art, whilst being offended by such a lighthearted post like yours.

COME ON! The world has far more important issues to be offended by. All those petty trolls should just take an sterilization drug and do a good to the rest of the world. These hypocrites feel so attacked by your post because they felt sexual arousal by it and probably fantasized and masturbated pathetically with the photos.

Any person with an IQ superior to a Collie shouldn’t see any harm or naughtiness whatsoever in a bunch of photos.

Try changing the post’s title to “15 female scientists to follow on twitter” and I bet nobody had ever made such a scandal.

Don’t buy the sexist trap my dear friend. I Don’t see where a post listing sexy men can be inoffensive and a list of sexy women can on the other hand be dangerous.

Isn’t that kind of reasoning what precisely leads to Machismo? That’s not equity. That presumption leads to perpetuating gender differences and is far more dangerous. Why can a list of good looking scientists do any harm? Would the list be as perverted if was made with female firefighters, athletes or politicians?

This is just another proof of why humanity, at its highest point of scientific and technical evolution, is living one of its worst social crisis. Just because it’s now easier than ever to be a Jerk.

(I love the literature of Henry Miller and Anais Nin by the way)

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spzeidler July 31, 2010 at 3:48 am

@Albert so you’re saying that while there are people getting murdered, discussing mere injury due to reckless driving is inappropriate?

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spzeidler July 31, 2010 at 3:50 am

@ERV underestimating their good looks is common for women :-P

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Astraea July 31, 2010 at 10:33 am

I was very insulted by your post and I was insulted by your sexiest atheist list too. It is sexist to assume your readers are straight males, the same way it would be racist to believe all your readers are white, or heterosexist to believe all your readers are straight. It is misogynistic to claim a right to judge women’s bodies as if it were public domain. I think you have found a way to alienate most of your female (as well as male) readers. I will no longer be subscribing to Common Sense Atheism, because I believe atheists and freethinkers should be more enlightened about many issues affecting many individuals today established and normalized by organized religion and the culture it has created (such as sexism and heterosexism). Thank you for formally issuing an apology, but, at least to me, you have lost all credibility to provide content that is created for readers of all backgrounds, genders, and beliefs.

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piero July 31, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Astraea:

I don’t think Luke was assuming his readers were straight males (though I would think so; at least regular commenters seem to be). As a straight male, Luke published a list of female scientists he thought were attractive; he could have done a list of male scientists he thought were attractive, I suppose, but that’s a job a heterosexual woman (or a homosexual man) is better qualified to do.

And no, I don’t think Luke has alienated most of his readers. Unless you want to claim that you represent “most of his readers”.

Finally, content in this blog is usually gender-neutral. I don’t think you can claim there is a specifically female take on theodicy, the singularity, desirism, etc. You can go away if you wish, of course, but be advised that it’s your loss.

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Albert July 31, 2010 at 7:52 pm

@spzeidler I can’t really see the real point of your superficial delusion. Your analogy just misses the point entirely and is like a very long curve ball missing the target.

Read my comment again and give it another shot ok?

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Albert July 31, 2010 at 8:07 pm

@Astraea

If Luke did make the assumption that the majority of his readers were straight males, it would have been reasonable to do it since most of the comments give that impression. Nevertheless, he did not make that assumption. (I really don’t see where he claims that)…

“Symmetry” is just one element given by evolution as an aid to find a healthy sexual partner. It is honest, natural and normal to find somebody attractive. Don’t you? I personally think many women in the world are attractive, from my girlfriend, to my neighbor, to Nicole Kidman. And that doesn’t make me a monster or a sexist. I bet you find some humans attractive don’t you? Are you a pervert?

I have a big trouble imaging it right now, but I assure you that EVEN YOU are attractive to someone. After all there are over six billion persons on earth.

So grow up and bite me. Next time you comment, speak for yourself, and don’t be a witch and write as if you are lifting the torch of all women of the world. You are nobody’s spokesperson.

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spzeidler July 31, 2010 at 10:09 pm

@Astraea please examine why the original post was so upsetting and “obviously wrong” to you. I think you will find that in an ideal world (of peace on earth and no-one taking advantage of anyone else), it would just have been one persons harmless subjective list of people he thinks are pleasant to look at, not much more harmful than an also subjective list of “books I had great fun reading” or “my favorite singer-songwriters”.

The wrongness comes from context. Allowing for “honest mistake due to different context” and for people not knowing everything you know, and not sharing your perspective, is quite useful if everybody involved is willing to explain their perspective and consider the other perspective once they get it.

The probability of the author of this blog being a physical danger to you ought to be minute indeed, so you can afford to let him learn (have learned, by now) from it.

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spzeidler July 31, 2010 at 10:48 pm

@Albert oh well, let’s consider some of your paragraphs:

“I honestly don’t think you have anything to apologize for. The reason all this stupid rumble is because the society we live in is hypocritical, opportunist, narrow minded and ignorant.”

It’s also a society where doing harm to women is considered being “manly”. Where sexually tinted insult of women (even rather crass insult) is considered normal, and where men tell women who complain that they should feel flattered that someone bothered to threaten them sexually, because (some) men obviously can’t even grasp the idea that a woman would rather go without sex than get raped.

That results in a) a siege mentality among women (“all men are rapists” – according to polls done among male US college students, only one in six men is a rapist) and b) “not going to take even a little of this crap any more” (hence the beating up of the sexy scientist list, which was well intentioned but didn’t consider all possible interpretations)

“COME ON! The world has far more important issues to be offended by.” – see the comment about not thinking about reckless driving while there was murder.

“These hypocrites feel so attacked by your post because they felt sexual arousal by it and probably fantasized and masturbated pathetically with the photos.” – I’m not into women, thanks.

“Any person with an IQ superior to a Collie shouldn’t see any harm or naughtiness whatsoever in a bunch of photos.” – any person with more memory than a house plant might remember that pictures, and the context they are shown in, have power indeed. Remember the photo of the little girl running from the napalmed village?

“Try changing the post’s title to “15 female scientists to follow on twitter” and I bet nobody had ever made such a scandal.” – exactly, because the entire problem is sexual(ized) violence against women that is considered normal and forgettable by men and an outrage by the women who get to suffer it.

“Don’t buy the sexist trap my dear friend. I Don’t see where a post listing sexy men can be inoffensive and a list of sexy women can on the other hand be dangerous.” – how likely are you to get raped in your life if you don’t go to jail? 1:1000? less so if you’re not on the scrawny side. For a woman, it’s 1:5 in most of the western world. I think you should allow that that constitutes a little difference, yes?

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spzeidler August 1, 2010 at 6:12 am

correcting the numbers:
according to this:
http://www.crisisconnectioninc.org/pdf/undetected_rapist.pdf
the one in six for men self-reporting as rapists is on the upper end of the findings, lowest is one in twenty.

The link above and Wikipedia have the incidence rate for women being raped in their lifetime between 1:5 and 1:20 depending on where they live (Britain is lots safer than the US, f.e.)

The statistics for men are probably worse than 1:1000, with the majority of cases being child abuse, but I didn’t find good numbers.

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Keith August 5, 2010 at 4:56 am

You could do a list of beautiful/classy woman scientists. I didn’t read all the posts so somebody might have already said this.

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Mo August 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

I am not completely convinced that the “Sexy Scientists” list was morally wrong. It does contribute to ancient stereotypes about woman’s role in society, but I can’t help but think that that type of reasoning is a form of moral relativism dependent on sex or gender. There would not be such an upheaval if a woman were to post a list of sexy men who are scientists. It would not potentially compromise their professional reputations. If morals are based on principal and not on consequence then I don’t think what you did is wrong. Does it depend on which moral lens you look through?

And even if what you did isn’t morally wrong, I do think it was juvenile and distasteful. But it’s hard to philosophically justify an opinion of taste, which might be why so many commenters threw insults at you without actually backing anything up.

That being said, I respect the way you handled this issue.

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Amnesia August 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Apology accepted. There may be hope for you yet.

I am slightly bothered by your tendency to dismiss emotional arguments, but that might just be my initial perception. I’ll just have to read further into the blog.

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beboppinbossrockinross September 6, 2010 at 7:52 am

I got here because of the Sexy Atheists list and have read a bunch [though not all] of this. What I’m missing is revelation of the fact that most of the Atheist women pictured make their livelihood from their images being posted, displayed, ogled, in every venue possible. It’s called marketing! Point is, the pictures were THEIR choice, not Luke’s. The scientists might be another story. The attitude that women should not be displayed in light-hearted lists like this one leads down the slope to putting burkas on all of them for their own protection. If they don’t want the risk/reward, they can cover up in public all day long. We’re talking about how women have attracted us shallow, superficial, visually oriented men for thousands of years! It’s just on electronic means rather than in person. There’s always a risk for women, and it’s up to society to teach men that no means no, and women are individuals. Just because you get to see their beauty, does not mean you deserve to possess or dominate it, but she may choose to share it with you if the stars align…

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T September 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

You are a pussy for apologizing.

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Zeb September 26, 2010 at 5:26 am

“You are a pussy for apologizing.”

Do you mean Luke is amazingly strong and flexible? Because that’s what pussies are.

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DN November 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

Give me a break. Hurt women? Created a climate that helped to hurt women?

You’re an idiot. You didn’t hurt anyone. You listed who you thought was sexy, nothing wrong with that. And nothing that’s going to stop me from doing the same will occur.

It’s sad that a wet noodle like you got twisted into apologizing for NO GOOD REASON.

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Ricardo November 12, 2010 at 7:58 am

haha, can u send me the list, at least? haha

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Outrage November 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

You censored yourself because the internet yelled at you? For shame. Now I will join those above me, by yelling at you for taking down the list. FOR SHAME! The internet knows no calm. There is only discourse and controversy. I demand you repost the list. FOR SHAME!!!

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Rcreative1 November 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I haven’t read the whole debate, so perhaps my two questions have already been addressed, but I wonder what the reaction would have been if your list had been:

1) Scientists who have presented themselves to the public in a sexy manner.
2) Scientists who have given their approval to be included on a list of “sexy scientists.”

It seems likely that either list would have been populated mostly or entirely by women, but I suspect that the majority of the arguments against your original list would have been ineffective.

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cc March 25, 2011 at 3:48 pm

WTF ?

Quite possibly some of the biggest crybaby crap I have read on the net.

You shouldn’t have caved in and taken it down imho, post what you want and if people don’t like then don’t have read it.

Grow up people, its called humor, you don’t have to like it, and then theres that little thing we call freedom of speech which includes ones opinion or sense of humor etc etc.

You whiners can shove you politically correct views where the sun doesn’t shine.
Words cant hurt unless you give them the means to do so. That said this is just another Blog on the Internet not congress so man up and grow some nuts.

Flame away Crybabies

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Brian May 30, 2011 at 5:34 am

First, let me say I was really looking forward to reading your post, and finding it deleted was a bit deflating. Let me clarify.

I am used to lists of sexy women in media; they’re usually something like “12 sexy actresses” and by that they mean 12 blonde girls who are really thin and feminine. Or “8 hottest lesbian scenes” and by lesbians they mean straight blonde girls who are really thin and feminine. It’s maddening, and I don’t mean just for women who are told there’s one way to look attractive, but maddening for me as a man, being told this is what proper masculinity means I should think is attractive.

I don’t like it. I want to see more lists of girls that are attractive for something other that their physical conformity to cultural norms. And I want to see OTHER MEN asking for that, too. Other men saying that, first, there other ways to be physically attractive than to look like Barbie, and second, that there are things other than your physical appearance that factor into attraction. And I’m not satisfied by men saying this like a scientist would, like “we’ve done studies and we know that’s true for some members of the population,” but I want to hear other men saying personally, they only date girls who have brains.

It’s affirming. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one who thinks the whole business of what our gender roles are, and especially of conformity to them, is arbitrary and stupid. And that reinforcing these roles can be harmful. And rejecting them can be liberating.

But do I go online today to find out Maxim magazine took down a list of sexy girls, for being too reinforcing of gender stereotypes? Of course not. There are plenty of skeevy lists out there, but it wasn’t Maxim, or Playboy, or even Cracked Online that took down their list–it was the one list that I thought might be the ANTIDOTE to all those lists that was taken down. Because the author was convinced of the harm in his list–and evidently didn’t weigh it against the good.

I want to take a moment to respond to something that seemed to me to be central to your apology:

“It harmed each woman on the list by increasing the chances that someone prone to sexual harassment or violence would see their photo, click the link, and find their home or work address. ”

Do we have the statistics on how many women post their pictures online, followed by being sexually harassed or assaulted based on it? And out of that presumably small number, wouldn’t we expect websites with major traffic (Fark, eBaums World) to account for almost all of those cases, compared to a trivial number (if any) for posts on well-designed but (comparatively speaking) insignificantly small sites? Like this one?

I’m looking for the nicest way I know while still being clear, of saying that not reposting pictures of girls found online on this site because you fear they will be assaulted–well, without answering the above questions, it’s unfounded.

I don’t think there was anything substantial to these criticisms of your post. I want to go back to what was so very timely about it.

There is an idea in our culture that intellectuals, especially female intellectuals, are social outcasts, not normally attractive, physically or at all. There’s a broader current that intellect is not “sexy”. Your post was the sort of thing that not only helps elevate male sexuality above the myth of the purely physical, by showing an example of a male who prefers smart girls, but also could comforts girls who worry that they’re always “the smart girl”, and guys don’t find smart girls attractive. We absolutely do, and not “in spite of” their intelligence, but because of it. And I want that viewpoint represented out here on the ‘net.

Sadly, it seems the sentiment behind “15 sexy scientists” can cause a backlash which can sink the post in disgrace, where such a backlash doesn’t exist for Playboy’s latest “top 10 bangable idiots”. I want to create a world opposite this, where promoting intelligence as attractive to men (and men as attracted to intelligence) is considered a step forward, away from our terribly misplaced gender norms.

Don’t let this whole mess dissuade you from saying smart is sexy. If there is a next time, please consider the feelings of guys like me (and girls like the ones I date): We think that smart is sexy, and we appreciate the backup. You say in your apology, “I made the world a little bit worse for you and your entire sex”, but you changed your worldview under pressure and took down a basically trivial but also simple, candid and non-gender-normative article, I argue you’re making things a little bit harder for people of BOTH sexes.

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bobgreg June 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

80% of modern feminist arguments are hollow tripe in my experience. I wonder how many people would complain if you put up a list of top 15 sexy (male) scientists. I’d bet it would fall around 1% of what it was.

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DavidByron October 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I find this post sexist, anti-male and offensive.

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afims October 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Just posting quickly and out of irritation. Yes there might be a bit of bias and sexism in the sciences. And? As a fairly good looking *woman physics major*, I really don’t mind posts like what your title suggests (no I didn’t get to see the article). Do you know why? Posts like that encourage the idea that sexy and serious scientist can go together. If women start seeing that *as women* they can succeed in science, then the number of women (and hot women) will hopefully increase and some of the residual sexism will go away. Girls and women, for the most part, want to act like girls and women.

However, I hope that most women with excessive amounts of drama will stay far, far away from me and physics. Drama disrupts work and is unpleasant.

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Jake November 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

What a load of SHITE!!!
You morons are arguing about a stupid point. Every fooking human is a fooking sex object! Men or women!
Why are women so sensitive to this? Women are always effing going on about this and that and moaning in and out of bed!
95% of whores, escorts, porn actresses are from Eastern Europe so what does that tell you? Oops, they are NOT sex objects. WTF, they split their legs and cheeks, they take 2 wads… one on the face and another wad of cash and go home with a smile.

Half the world are being murdered for oil and you are all deaf, dumb and blind. Get up and worry about the real issues!

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R January 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

A woman can be, among many other things, sexy and a scientist. I’d like to see about 15 or so of them that are both, just for an instant, then get back to work please.

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Bro Blogsley January 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Luke this is really pretty gay of you.

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Ukky January 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm

And these negative effects are not limited to the women on the list. My post contributed to a culture of harming women by reinforcing stereotypes in a way I should have easily predicted even if it was not my intent. Men – forever the physically dominant sex and portrayed as the ambitious, interesting, change-making heroes of almost every story ever told – do not risk harassment2 from being seen as sexy. They do not risk having their skills and potential ignored because they are seen as “sexy.” They do not risk violence from libidinous women. But women do face all these risks, and a post like mine makes these risks worse.

Actually, thank you for saying this. I’m a girl (and a sexy and smart one at that, thank you very much, lol) and I have a GOOD friend who is a scientist.

My good friend is also very pretty in many people’s opinions. And because there is this concept that pretty=stupid, she has tried to hide her beauty as much as possible. She even talks about hacking off her breasts! This worries me.

I was hoping to find some pretty scientists to show her, and instead I find out that you got attacked for posting them. That’s really sad. I feel bad that you had to go through that. Women need to know it’s okay to be pretty, because for a long time, feminists seemed to think that being pretty was a sin. The only way to get back to a place where it’s okay to be female *AND* a valued human being is to accept who we are.

Anyway, I think you noted some possible bad outcomes, but we can’t all be controlled by “what ifs” or we’ll turn into a society of fear. I am sexy. And I also wear steel-toed boots with my sexy clothes. And I look men in the eye and speak my mind, and I also lift weights. If we’re going to be strong as women, we have to go all the way. Otherwise we *will* be reinforcing stereotypes. We have to face the world without fear, bravely.

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Ukky January 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Crap, I was trying to quote this person:

“Just posting quickly and out of irritation. Yes there might be a bit of bias and sexism in the sciences. And? As a fairly good looking *woman physics major*, I really don’t mind posts like what your title suggests (no I didn’t get to see the article). Do you know why? Posts like that encourage the idea that sexy and serious scientist can go together. If women start seeing that *as women* they can succeed in science, then the number of women (and hot women) will hopefully increase and some of the residual sexism will go away. Girls and women, for the most part, want to act like girls and women. ”

She’s right. We need to stop telling pretty girls “you’re too pretty to be a scientist, only ugly girls are smart”. So anyway, yeah. No more barbie-dolls saying “math is hard!”

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bnz February 1, 2012 at 1:48 am

I was hoping to find some pretty scientists to show her, and instead I find out that you got attacked for posting them. That’s really sad.I feel bad that you had to go through that.Women need to know it’s okay to be pretty, because for a long time, feminists seemed to think that being pretty was a sin.The only way to get back to a place where it’s okay to be female *AND* a valued human being is to accept who we are.

Anyway, I think you noted some possible bad outcomes, but we can’t all be controlled by “what ifs” or we’ll turn into a society of fear.I am sexy.And I also wear steel-toed boots with my sexy clothes.And I look men in the eye and speak my mind, and I also lift weights.If we’re going to be strong as women, we have to go all the way.Otherwise we *will* be reinforcing stereotypes.We have to face the world without fear, bravely.

Very well said, Ukky. There are men who feel intimidated by intelligent women, and doubly so by beautiful intelligent women (because they can’t be dismissed as “nerds”, a label they also use to dismiss other men, more capable than them). Why should we cater to those people’s neuroses?

Feminists do women huge disservice by equating “sexiness” with being submissive, or accepting stereotypes and rules of patriarchal society. I wonder is there somewhere deep a touch of envy? Women (and men, of course) should be free to adopt and project whatever image and lifestyle they choose, regardless of their profession.

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