Re: META: Neanderthal Attitudes

Elizabeth Childs (
Sun, 5 Sep 1999 21:49:06 -0700

From: Kathryn Aegis <>


> I wish that people would explain their reasons for leaving a list TO the
> list, because then change might actually occur. But no, they vent to me
> and then leave. And make no mistake, this is still happening.

I was one of the people who vented to Kathryn about some of the recent comments about women. (I'm not leaving, though.) I tend to assume that no one is going to change, so
my recommendation would be that we write up or find an FAQ about how to use mail filters, covering all the major UNIX and Windows based mail readers, and auto-post it once a week. We should also consider posting a list of the meta tags once a week, with an encouragement to use them.

I think it's easy to get the impression when someone posts something offensive, and almost no one responds, that the whole list agrees with them. In fact, the rest of the list is either killfiling them or blowing past the posts to
talk about something more interesting.

My objections to the recent postings were twofold: One, women were being discussed very negatively as though they were not even present, and two, there was no scientific support for anything said. Saying "except a few women" doesn't make it less offensive.

I'm all for people bringing to light real evidence of gender differentiation, no matter how negative. For example, there's a fair amount of evidence that mathematical ability is, in fact, sex linked, and this probably accounts for the disproportionate number of men in mathematics and some of the hard sciences. But this statement is a conclusion derived from evidence, open to debate. "Women are irrational" is a slander, and the
arguments presented for it were along the lines of "I knew all these women, and they were irrational."

I also thought the sociobiology was getting a bit out of hand. The thread went from speculating about reproductive incentives (relevant and interesting) to assuming that those reproductive incentives are followed completely in the real world by all women (not supported by evidence).

I wouldn't say that there's a lot of sexism in particular on the Extropian list, compared to all of the other hostility on various subjects. I've also noticed: outright bashing of religious people, outright bashing of non-libertarians, outright bashing of libertarians, outright bashing of Americans, sly implications that blacks are inferior (as opposed to serious discussion of IQ scores), and ignorance about the third world to the point of offensiveness.

I wouldn't say that the Extropian list is a particularly rude place. Most of the people who post are thoughtful and considerate. But it's the nature of electronic communication. People get into terrible flame wars, challenge each other like alpha males, and say things they would never say face to face. I once introduced two friends without knowing that they had been brutally flaming each other on one of the usenet administration groups. In person, they got along fine.

Even the Tori Amos newsgroup gets into knock-down, drag out fights.

Until collaborative filtering is available, I think the best solution is killfiles, and help with killfiles for newbies.