« Brilliant | Main | End of the Road »

November 17, 2014

LEAVE MATT TAYLOR ALONE! CAN'T YOU SEE HE'S A *HUMAN*???

The Editorial Staff slipped from betwixt the Marital Sheets just as rosy-finger'd Dawn began painting the horizon with emasculating shades of pink and coral and [sob!] even canary yellow. As we snidely sipped our morning coffee, we sensed a ginormous disturbance in the Force.

It was as though a million manly voices had cried out in agony, and were suddenly silenced.

Somewhere, feminists were criticizing a man's shirt. On Twitter:

It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot. It was like a scene from Mao's cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.

Why was he forced into this humiliation? Because he was subjected to an unrelenting tweetstorm of abuse. He was bombarded across the internet with a hurtling dustcloud of hate...

Life contains a finite number of "where were you?" moments: where were you when they shot JFK and Martin Luther King? Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell, or the Twin Towers came crashing down?

Where were you when The Great Tweetstorm of 2014 touched ground, devastating everything in its path?

Is there anyone still brave enough to defend that most sacred of prerogatives: the right of a man to wear a shirt depicting highly sexualized and scantily clad women on television?

It is with a great degree of sadness that the Blog Princess thinks back to a bygone era when America was the undisputed Colossus on the global stage. In that golden age, men were men: bold, unashamed, proudly masculine. And everywhere, as far as the eye could see, were men sporting Hawaiian-style shirts full of semi-nekkid women.

It was a manly right of passage; something like a Bar Mitzvah. Turn 13, don an eye-popping shirt, and wear it to your first job interview. Think of the manly role models of ages past. John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart - who can think of these proud, male icons without also remembering the buxom, barely-clothed babes emblazoned on their shirts? When did men lose this proud tradition, this glorious blaze of self-expression so inextricably linked with manhood that - clearly - it must be defended at all costs, else this once-common tradition forever vanish from the earth?

And how better to highlight the overwrought, hysterical bleating of female tweeters (much less the utter intellectual bankruptcy of their arguments) than with the cool, bracing rhetoric of dispassionate reason? The searing logic and pinpoint accuracy, for instance, of this point are indisputable:

Better not to land a spaceship on a comet than let men wear sexist clothing.

naked-kim-kardashian-became-an-object-of-ridicule-in-the-network1.jpg I think we all understand that "but for" the absolute right to wear eye popping shirts on TV free from gender-oppressive Twitter commentary, mankind could never have placed a landing craft on a comet in outer space. The two phenomena are as inextricably linked as ... well, Soviet-style pogroms and disapproving Tweets! And who can object to calm, sensible, but above all rigorously non-shaming phrases like, "online feminist lynch mob", ""Mean girls" online mobbing", and "bullying"? Only the kind of person who doesn't want opposing voices to be heard at all. Free speech is only free when it is unopposed and uncriticized. Disapproval and disagreement are forms of silencing, meant to shut down opposing speech.

Or so we've been told :p

Who among us can contemplate such savagery without feeling the red mist of rage descend upon those harpies who "monstered" Dr. Taylor? After all, if an actress mostly known for making a sex tape and for appearing in public in various states of undress can strip off in an effete NY magazine without a single adverse comment or even a hint of ridicule on Twitter, then surely the absolute right of a scientist to appear on TV wearing a shirt full of scantily clad women with exaggerated... err... assets must be defended because.... EQUALITY!

After all, the two situations are exactly.the.same.in.every.respect.

The solution is obvious: the only way to fight outrage and hyperbole is with outrage and hyperbole. Clearly, whatever caused this heinous attempt to crush free speech - whether it be feminism or political correctness - must not go unchallenged, else we resign ourselves to living in a world where overwrought expressions of digital rage over completely trivial incidents become the accepted norm rather than the rare and disapproved-of exception.

And what a tragedy that would be.

Posted by Cassandra at November 17, 2014 07:20 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/5388

Comments

Oh how I like me a good tour de force to get my weak going. Sexist bouquets and gender-neutral kudos. Does tit-for-tat get any better than having a good cry and making a man feel your your pain - making a grown man cry. Hear ye, hear ye – let it be known henceforth the name of our Age – The Age Of Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth.

Posted by: George Pal at November 17, 2014 09:44 AM

Well, I dunno, what's sauce for the goose...

I admit, his shirt is rather tacky. Still, the whole row over the whole thing seems rather stupid to me, and yes, it is a childish impulse, but I'm rather leaning towards the idea of buying the shirt from his friend as well, even if it's a 6-month-or-however-long wait. Just to show 'em.

I suppose it would be better not to descend to the depths that the 'feminists' in this case have... except that it would be rather hard to do, since they appear to have dug themselves clear past Australia and into Alpha Centauri. But... consider the Gruber incident. Unless you make HUGE amounts of noise, the MSM damps the whole thing out. So maybe a serious amount of shrewish screaming is required to cut through the noise barrier they've erected.

Given the proclivities of most American men, though (heck, most men /period/), probably not necessary to do anything except sit back and pass the popcorn. Which is more or less what I'm doing... although with a slight bit of annoyance that more substantive issues are not being brought up.

Posted by: Gregory Kong at November 17, 2014 09:49 AM

Actually I rather liked the shirt. Wonder where I can get one like it? Oh, and I understand it was hand made for him by a --wait for it--female friend.

Besides, anybody who can remotely land a spacecraft on a comet ought to be able to wear any shirt he wants to.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at November 17, 2014 09:49 AM

I'm confused: what difference does it make who made the shirt?

Are you saying that society should apply one standard if a woman made the shirt, and another if a man made it? That doesn't make any sense to me.

Or are you arguing that society should have one set of rules for "most folks" and another for rocket scientists because they're special? What other professions should be treated differently?

FWIWI thought the tweets in question were beyond stupid, and I have no problem with anyone pointing out the many ways in which they didn't make much sense. The notion that women choose careers by carefully checking out whether anyone wears risqué shirts to work is particularly laughable.

At the same time, I would not want to work closely with someone wearing a shirt like that. It would make me uncomfortable, and I don't think I'm a prude. I wouldn't want to work in an office where female co-workers posted pictures of men in assless leather chaps, either. Not because I hate men or sex (or don't like subjecting men's buns to "the female gaze"), but simply because I'm old fashioned enough to think that sort of thing isn't appropriate in the workplace.

IOW, other people's sensibilities do matter in life. My parents don't like swearing. I try not to swear around them, and if I screw up, I do realize that I've been rude and needlessly offended them. Many religious folks don't like taking the Lord's name in vain. I try to remember that when I'm around them, and if I forget, I don't go on the offensive about it but rather realize that it's not really asking that much for people to regulate their behavior somewhat around others whose values may differ from theirs.

If that's "political correctness run amok", I think perhaps we could all use a bit more of it in daily life.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 10:12 AM

So maybe a serious amount of shrewish screaming is required to cut through the noise barrier they've erected.

Exactly. Just look how well that's worked out for me! :)

Posted by: Andrea Dworkin's Bratty Little Sister at November 17, 2014 10:18 AM

Does tit-for-tat get any better than having a good cry and making a man feel your your pain - making a grown man cry.

So George, I'm curious: do you wear shirts like that to work? If you were invited to take part in televised coverage of a major project you'd completed at work, would that be the shirt you chose?

I have criticized women many times over the years for wearing overtly sexual attire to work and then reacting like scalded cats when someone looks the 'wrong way' at them or comments upon their choice of attire.

Is the wearing of risqué shirts really a cultural practice you feel it's important to defend? Or is this a case of "I'd defend anything to strike back at a few Internet morons"?

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 10:27 AM

I'm confused: what difference does it make who made the shirt?

This much, I think:

The woman who made the shirt is herself an "alternative model" who goes to great lengths to look like one of those women on the shirt. She also makes and sells shirts like this.

So for her, this whole set of symbols is about empowerment. It's about being who she wants to be, and living her life on her own terms. She is not letting anyone tell her how to dress, or that she's 'too sexy,' but is doing her own thing as she pleases. A woman being free to do just that is supposed to be (or to have been) at the core of what feminism fights for in society.

So to this man, as her friend, adopting those colors is a way of embracing and celebrating his friend and her lifestyle choices. He's celebrating her and saying that he, too, thinks this is a fine way for a woman to be and to look if she wants.

Of course, the internet morons (as you put it) didn't know any of that context. They just saw some geeky old dude in a hideous shirt. But when you see this poor guy break down and cry in his apology -- the sort of thing I'd think discreditable in a man if he hadn't just landed a probe on a comet 300 million miles away -- I have to feel really bad for the guy. He thought he was helping a woman he liked embrace her life choices, and came under vicious attack for being an enemy of women getting to feel welcome in his world. That's just what he was trying not to be.

Poor guy, if you think about it that way.

Somebody should have told him to wear a suit on camera. But it's amazing to see the same group of people who yell so loudly about 'not slut-shaming' women for dressing provocatively yelling about how they feel objectified by the very image of women dressed provocatively. That doesn't make any sense at all. Nor does it say "equality" to tell men both that they must not police womens' appearance at all, and then police a man's viciously.

One begins to think there's not a coherent philosophy behind this approach.

Posted by: Grim at November 17, 2014 10:50 AM

1) This is why "professional attire" was invented and why NASA, IBM, etc. enforced that attire nearly as a uniform. Yes, it's boring. That's the point. Just because you can wear it out on bowling night with the guys doesn't mean you can wear it to work.

2) Getting into a lather over a shirt when we just landed a dishwasher on a freaking comet seems a might overwrought. It's like going to the grand canyon and losing it over a cigarette butt. Yeah, it shouldn't be there, but don't let it destroy the experience.

3) Within a movement that embraces "slutwalks" and college "sex weeks", getting into a lather over such comparably tame images seems hypocritical. "How dare you display images we think should be acceptable in public!!11Eleventy!"

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 17, 2014 10:50 AM

it's amazing to see the same group of people who yell so loudly about 'not slut-shaming' women for dressing provocatively yelling about how they feel objectified by the very image of women dressed provocatively. That doesn't make any sense at all. Nor does it say "equality" to tell men both that they must not police womens' appearance at all, and then police a man's viciously. One begins to think there's not a coherent philosophy behind this approach.

Two things:

1. I'm not sure the women who criticized this shirt champion the things you're implying.

2. But if they do, then that's precisely the correct response to their criticisms: live by your own rules and then we'll be more inclined to consider your position.

An argument that cut both ways :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 10:59 AM

Getting into a lather over a shirt when we just landed a dishwasher on a freaking comet seems a might overwrought. It's like going to the grand canyon and losing it over a cigarette butt. Yeah, it shouldn't be there, but don't let it destroy the experience.

I've seen the idea in that last sentence several places, and it puzzles me a bit. I agree that in the larger scheme of things, landing on a comet is a FAR bigger deal than some guy's sartorial choices. But I'm mystified as to how a few Tweets can "destroy the experience"? For whom?

I'm not nit-picking here - more trying to understand. Are the tweeting women being told how they should feel? That they shouldn't let the minor distress over the shirt overwhelm how they feel about landing on the comet? ("Hey, this isn't that big a deal - don't let it destroy the experience")

Or is it being suggested that the tweeting women are "destroying" the experience for others? If that's it, should those people take the same advice ("Hey, this isn't that big a deal - don't let it destroy the experience")?

3) Within a movement that embraces "slutwalks" and college "sex weeks", getting into a lather over such comparably tame images seems hypocritical. "How dare you display images we think should be acceptable in public!!11Eleventy!"

Again, I'm not sure the "movement" is all that monolithic :p I've heard feminists criticized for being sex-hating prudes and for the polar opposite of that position (the whole "sex is empowering" shtick). To be honest, I haven't followed this brouhaha all that closely because it didn't really interest me.

None of the "sides" seem particularly sympathetic to me. I feel sorry that this guy was so upset over disapproving tweets that he felt it necessary to apologize. I think the comparisons to Communist death camps are just plain silly, as is the suggestion that if people can't wear shirts like that, rocket science is dead. And finally, though women aren't so delicate that they can't work with men in naughty shirts, I also can't help wondering whether the right to make people uncomfortable, to proselytize/advocate for political beliefs or alternative lifestyles in the workplace is really a fundamental human right that must be defended?

I don't want people trying to convert me to their religion at work. I don't want to know ANYTHING about their sex lives or personal grooming habits or fetishes. In fact, at work I would really prefer to concentrate on... work. Not sex. Or politics. Or feminism. Or misandry.

I'd just like to get on with my to-do list, free of largely irrelevant distractions and drama.

Posted by: Cass at November 17, 2014 11:51 AM

Some of the outcry over the outrage about Mr. Taylor's shirt has been hijacked in service to various political and social agendas: anti-feminism, anti-political correctness, more women in STEM, the danger of letting women into teams like Mr. Taylor's (although I don't think Mr. Taylor's team is all men), anti-progressives, etc. At bedrock, however, I think the level of upset over the attacks (for lack of a better word) on Mr. Taylor's shirt (and Mr. Taylor himself) have to do with the pettiness, the self-centeredness, and the sheer cruelty of how those who hated Mr. Taylor's shirt expressed themselves. This is not how a decent person acts.

If I may use an analogy which likens the success of Mr. Taylor's project to his wedding day and translates it into Real World rather than online terms:

A decent person does not drive by a church; realize a wedding is going on; and lay in wait outside the church for the wedding party to exit the church in order to yell at the groom for having Playboy silhouette mud flaps and a barely-clothed hula dancer dashboard ornament.

That same decent person certainly does not call all his/her like-minded friends and invite them to join in doing the yelling. If this issue is truly important, the person spotting the mud flaps and hula dancer can leave a discreet note under the windshield or can figure out the name of the groom from the public wedding announcement and write him a letter or can go back later and ask the minister to pass along a message to the groom.

That same decent person would never celebrate having forced a groom to cry while on his honeymoon - or even celebrate having forced a groom to deal publicly with this kind of outcry when he should be on his honeymoon.

A decent person would also assume good faith and understand that different cultures have different customs. Mr. Taylor’s shirt does not show semi-naked women: it shows space chicks with ray guns. This is an iconic image from certain eras of science fiction and I, for one, find it amusing and appropriate wear for someone in Mr. Taylor’s line of work.

A decent person who was concerned about the shirt would say (privately) something like, “Your accomplishment is amazing and I get that your shirt pays homage to the kind of science fiction you’ve just made into science fact. But the images on it may be confusing or off-putting for young women who want to do what you do. Do you think you could find a shirt with space images where the women have more clothes on?” Or, better yet, send him such a shirt with the note.

Posted by: Elise at November 17, 2014 12:00 PM

But I'm mystified as to how a few Tweets can "destroy the experience"? For whom?

Well, to continue the metaphore, yes for the people complaining about the cigarette butt, for the person who dropped it, and for the people who are just trying to enjoy the scenery but for the anti-smoking zealot screaming in their ear.

Sure, she has a right to spout off. Sure, she has a right to focus on the trivial. Sure, no one can tell her how to enjoy something or even whether to enjoy it at all. Sure, everyone else can "tune her out". Yet, the park rangers would likely be asking the small group of anti-smoking zealots to leave, not the massive crowds minding their own business nor the few people who complained to the park rangers.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 17, 2014 12:26 PM

Cass,

I am, and I say this with all the humility I can muster, sartorially splendid. I would not wear such a shirt even to my weekly stag-rut meeting with the bros where we cut lose loose on women for the sheer release of pent up tension IYKWIMAITYD. Furthermore, it’s not my wont to go about defending or assaulting all that is risible – I am content just left to laugh at all such episodes - derisively - from whichever sex’s exposed nerves they emanate.

Posted by: George Pal at November 17, 2014 12:41 PM

Elise, everything in your comment makes sense to me.

I'm the last person on earth who will take exception to criticizing bad manners or personal nastiness. The only commentary I've seen on this (I loathe Twitter and would sooner step into an open sewer than pay attention to it) is the two tweets that were widely quoted (one, if I remember correctly, was something along the lines of "*This* why there aren't more women in STEM", the other was something like "I don't quite get the outrage but you don't wear shirts like that if you care about women in STEM").

Neither of those seem at all excessive to me - they're neither particularly vitriolic nor personally vicious. So there must be comments I am unaware of. I am perfectly willing to take your word for this, as I'm not going looking on Twitter :p

Twitter comments can be really brutal. It's really not a venue I would choose to pay attention to, personally. And I'm still pretty sure that twitter comments are nothing like Stalin's purges, nor did I feel a "red mist of rage" descend upon me when I heard about it.

Here's the thing about intentionally bucking social consensus - it tends to provoke strong reactions. There are dueling social consensuses here. One (which I have ridiculed many a time) is horrified by anything deemed to reek of sexism. The other (from what I can see) spends a lot of time mourning the death of traditional values and customs whilst doing pretty much everything possible to drive the last nail into their coffins.

I disagree with you about the shirt, but people differ in their tolerances. I swear at home (yes, even the "f-word" on occasion) but don't do so at work, or in public, or at meetings because I understand that my sensibilities on that matter are not widely shared. And I try to keep VC fairly clean for the same reason. I want people to feel comfortable here.

I've seen several pictures of the shirt, and there is no doubt in my mind that the gals on it were semi-naked. If I walked into any place of work dressed like the young lady on the right , I'm pretty sure that would arouse more than a few comments.

Your last paragraph is how it should have been handled. At the same time, when someone does something public, I always hear that they have chosen to put themselves out there and ought to be able to handle dissent or disapproval.

Grim has argued both here and at his place that the guy was defending the right of women to dress as they please. I would never dream of suggesting they can't, but they have no right to demand unconditional approval from me. And I'm not sure that's a right I think needs to be advocated for in the workplace or on TV, but the culture outvoted me many moons ago. It's not something I would personally be upset about. At the same time, I don't have a problem with other people saying it was inappropriate or might give young women the wrong idea. It gave me the wrong idea :p

As I pointed out over at Grim's, this guy could have been wearing a shirt that showed gay men in a similar state of [un]dress to advocate for the empowerment of gay men who like black leather.

I'm trying to imagine this level of outrage if anyone had dared to suggest that just possibly work wasn't the place to wear it.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 01:13 PM

I am, and I say this with all the humility I can muster, sartorially splendid.

OK, that made my day :)

Posted by: Cass at November 17, 2014 01:15 PM

What in God's name does someone with this man's accomplishments give a damn what a bunch of strangers on Twitter (or anywhere else) say about his shirt?

And if there is a need to respond, here's what I'd have to say:

"A few people seem to think that my choice of shirt says something and have presumed to say what that was. They think that it represents some kind of barrier to women joining STEM endeavors or careers. Since it's my shirt, I think I should have something to say.

Young women - do you spend a lot of time choosing and buying clothes? Do you spend time worrying about what to wear, about the details of how your clothing looks, what people will think of it and what people will think of you? Do you have to wonder about what your classmates or friends or acquaintances will say?

Then let me recommend that you pursue a career in a STEM field. Because in those fields you are judged by your ideas and your accomplishments. Obviously no one judges you buy what you wear!"

Posted by: RonF at November 17, 2014 02:05 PM

What in God's name does someone with this man's accomplishments give a damn what a bunch of strangers on Twitter (or anywhere else) say about his shirt?

That's what I was hoping someone could explain to me :p

I wouldn't have had any problem with him saying any of that (if that's what he believes), nor do I think my opinion should matter to him. It's a perfectly legitimate response. But in all fairness, I don't think the notion that people would take at least some care in how they present themselves to the world is risible or detestable.

I also don't have a problem with saying that there are things that are fine in one context, and inappropriate in another. Most adults instinctively don't do certain things around small children (surf porn, for instance, or watch really gory movies). Pretty much all of society is based on distinctions like that - they are heuristics that make it easier for people to get along with each other, and which recognize that people differ.

The world doesn't end if they are violated here and there, but a world in which we could never, ever say, "You know, this really isn't the time and place for X" would be pretty hard to live in, I think.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 02:32 PM

I don't even care what people in my own workplace wear (if I had a workplace any more), let alone what people in someone else's workplace do.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 17, 2014 02:37 PM

Grim has argued both here and at his place that the guy was defending the right of women to dress as they please.... As I pointed out over at Grim's, this guy could have been wearing a shirt that showed gay men in a similar state of [un]dress...

I've responded to your analogy -- which I don't think works -- at the Hall. If anyone is interested, I assume they know the way, so I won't repeat it here. :)

Elise, I think you are right. +1.

Posted by: Grim at November 17, 2014 02:47 PM

The world doesn't end if they are violated here and there, but a world in which we could never, ever say, "You know, this really isn't the time and place for X" would be pretty hard to live in, I think.

I agree with this too. Someone should have taken him aside before the cameras and said something to him. But we as a culture have seriously weakened our understanding of what the rules really are; I don't know that people have the confidence to do that anymore, just because of the undermining of the existing standards for dress that the last decades have seen.

Posted by: Grim at November 17, 2014 02:49 PM

Everyone just needs to keep their shirt on over this one.

Cue, the rotten fruit and vegetables. Someone had to get that one out of the way.

Posted by: Allen at November 17, 2014 03:36 PM

Everyone just needs to keep their shirt on over this one.

You guys are the best :)

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 03:41 PM

Someone should have taken him aside before the cameras and said something to him.

Hell, I'd cheer if the tweet was something along the lines of "Come on dude, at least dress like a professional". A white dress shirt and dark slacks aren't expensive.

But "Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me asshole" isn't a argument about proper workplace decorum.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 17, 2014 04:27 PM

But "Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me asshole" isn't a argument about proper workplace decorum.

I agree - that's just rude. And it explains the references to "destroying the experience".

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 04:32 PM

...and yet, I"m still not buying the comparisons to Stalin and Mao and Kim Il-Sung :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 04:33 PM

when someone does something public, I always hear that they have chosen to put themselves out there and ought to be able to handle dissent or disapproval.

As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Taylor is non-combatant in the outrage wars. He wore a shirt he liked made by a friend as a gift and the shirt was relevant to his accomplishment. Somewhere there must be a zone of privacy in our personal *and* professional lives. For his co-workers (including his reportedly female boss) to criticize his shirt is one thing; for total strangers who've never met him to use his shirt to push their own political/ideological agenda and/or to use his accomplishments to glorify themselves is quite another.

I have to admit that after starting to watch Mr. Taylor's tearful apology (which I could not get through) I found myself thinking about "Darkness At Noon"and about the scene in "Atlas Shrugged" where the radio talk show host thinks Dagney Taggert is just another poor schmuck who has been required to confess her misdeeds in public.

Taylor's apology looked like a show trial whether it was one or not: some guy who had no idea he was doing anything wrong is forced to recant on camera and cries while doing so. Do we know he was forced? No, but past history - like Brendan Eich - makes people twitchy about stuff like this.

Posted by: Elise at November 17, 2014 06:13 PM

He wore a shirt he liked made by a friend as a gift and the shirt was relevant to his accomplishment.

Have you looked at the shirt closely? It's scantily clad women with guns. I don't see anything having to do with space in it (in fact, there's quite a bit of water along with what looks like a boat, waves, and fluffy clouds in the background). More ocean than space.

How is any of that relevant to space or landing on a comet?

I'm willing to be educated here, but I'm hearing so many different versions that it's kind of hard to keep them straight. Grim says it's all about "rockabilly culture" and has more to do with Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis and celebrating music than sex. Oddly, I don't immediately think of women in pleather with guns when I think of Jerry Lee or Johnny Cash, but I'll let that one go for now :p

It seems to me that there are an awful lot of different narratives about this shirt.

You know what I think is really amusing? No one's outraged about all the guns.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 17, 2014 07:34 PM

Grim says it's all about "rockabilly culture"...

Well, the designer is all about rockabilly culture. I haven't looked at the shirt beyond the one image you posted of it. But Bettie Page is a huge rockabilly icon, and my sense is that this is inspired by her, as she was by 1930s/40s/50s sci-fi culture. I got to read a collection of original Buck Rogers cartoons not long ago, and it's interesting stuff. Is Wilma Deering a sex symbol? Sure. But she's also someone that the 1930s young men were conceiving as a Colonel in the military forces waging war against evil... at a time when women were barely serving in any military function at all.

Anyway, space chicks with guns is an organic part of the culture. It's as big a part as the drive-in sci-fi flicks that were so huge at the same time as Elvis and the young Johnny Cash.

It's a living sub-culture. One of my favorite bands is a working rockabilly band: the Reverend Horton Heat.

Posted by: Grim at November 17, 2014 09:22 PM

To whit, their album "Space Heater," featuring mock-up 1950s sci-fi themes and similar Bettie Page model menaced by the alien ships (actually 1950s space heaters).

So, I mean, are the pinups sexy? Sure. Is rockabilly about sex? Well, rock and roll is about sex, sometimes (or maybe even always, to some degree). But it's also about the music; and the sci-fi; and the muscle cars; and Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Betty Paige. Especially it's about the music.

Posted by: Grim at November 17, 2014 09:37 PM

Hi Cass,

I agree with you that the Cultural Revolution and Stalinist show trials analogies are somewhat overwrought, but on the other hand, the sight of an adult offering a tearful apology for what is, in essence, an ideological error does evoke those parallels, and I personally found it quite painful to watch. It's also pretty clear that the experience has been a major humiliation for Dr. Taylor (he was posting regularly and quite exuberantly on Twitter until Nov. 13 and then went entirely silent at that point).

These parallels are also reinforced when a science reporter for a major newspaper responds to the apology by saying that she hopes Dr. Taylor "will say more on the subject and show that he understands why the shirt wasn't okay." (In other words, demonstrate that he has assimilated the proper ideology.)

Anyhow, here is my take on the subject:

http://time.com/3589392/comet-shirt-storm/

Posted by: Cathy Young at November 17, 2014 10:15 PM

Oops, that didn't work as a link, so here it is again: How to turn a cool moment into a #ShirtStorm

Posted by: Cathy Young at November 17, 2014 10:17 PM

Also, what I think you're seeing is a pushback against the mass hypocrisy that has been demonstrated by 'feminists' and the double-standards they hold. On the one hand, you have Roman Polanski and everybody celebrating his works despite the fact that he is an ephebophile and quite arguably a rapist. On the other hand, you have this guy, who's done *real* things, and they're up in arms over his shirt.

I really don't think a lot of what you see in this spat is reasoned, rational thinking - from either side, it has to be said. *Some* of it from the socially conservative end might be considered; the rest of it is likely not.

Posted by: Gregory Kong at November 17, 2014 10:24 PM

Have you looked at the shirt closely? It's scantily clad women with guns. I don't see anything having to do with space in it (in fact, there's quite a bit of water along with what looks like a boat, waves, and fluffy clouds in the background). More ocean than space.

I see a space ship (which may be a boat) and what look to me like robots. The girders may be bridges or they may be space station struts. I guess we see what we expect to see and I read (probably at Hoyt) that the shirt showed ray guns. So I'll amend my original comments to simply refer to "a campy shirt made by a friend".

I don't think there's any meaning behind the shirt except, I suppose, in the sense that what people like and relate to has meaning to them. Ms. Prizeman says:

There is no ‘meaning’ behind the shirt. I just bought material and sewed it together.

Nothing sinister at all was meant behind it at any point. It was just a bold and individual fashion item.

I assumed she made it from that print because it seemed 50s-SF-ish and that Mr. Taylor was particularly pleased by it for that reason. Perhaps not. As for the meaning Mr. Taylor attached to the shirt, I tend to agree with The Anchoress (from the link in my earlier comment):

A comet scientist who has just helped to land a probe on to a comet is unlikely think think, “oh, I’m going to be interviewed, so I’d better take off this inappropriate-but-geeky shirt full of sexy-women-with-guns on it, which was designed by a female friend.”

I don't think either the person who made the shirt or the person who wore it thought of it as sending any kind of message of either inclusion or exclusion. I think they just thought it was a cool, campy (and possibly relevant) design.

Sometimes a shirt is just a shirt.

Posted by: Elise at November 17, 2014 11:57 PM

The shirt has scantily clad young ladies (less nudity than at the "slut walk" I've seen on TV) shooting ray guns at outer space alien monsters. I don't know who said this, but "the shirt shows what used to be science fiction is becoming reality." Landing on a comet!

For the rest, I quote myself elsewhere :) :


Oh good grief, we’re doomed. Long ago I worked STEM.


There were days when I knew as a part of my job I was going to make certain kinds of presentation, and I wore The Uniform: three piece Christian Dior suits, French cuffs and links, black belt, spit-polished black wingtips, was careful to match my metals, and tied my seven fold silk tie with a "double" Windsor.


Other days ... if you came to see me you got what I came to work to do that day. If I was going to be rolling around on the deck installing prototype hardware in a submarine mockup, you got jeans and a t-shirt. Unexpectedly called to give the former presentation, give me five minutes, I could shave, wash hands, and be in an old comfy blazer over a clean polo shirt, my hair a wet mess, and the same jeans and boots (or running shoes, depending.) My boss could do a fast change to a two piece suit, but he might have a short sleeve shirt and no tie. He'd wear The Uniform too, when it was expected and needed.


Our company lawyers and PR guys wore The Uniform every day. There's even a version of it for the golf course.


I mostly didn’t wear shirts like that to work because they might be damaged in the lab (grease, oil, tears, ....)


I see nothing wrong in his workplace dress. The fault is with those in management (and security) who let the camera crew loose to find and grill him without warning. It’s his job to pilot the space craft, their job to protect him from idiots.


I should add that when I was dressed up, the women I worked with (scientists, engineers, and secretaries) would whistle at me; I’d smile and blow kisses back. Decades ago, now; fun times. Not sure I’d enjoy today’s workplace.

Posted by: htom at November 18, 2014 12:08 AM

Ah, and looking for something else I found this:

Elly Prizeman tweet

Assuming Twitter time stamps are all reported in the same time zone, this tweet dropped almost exactly two hours before the Rose Eveleth tweet. The Elly Prizeman tweet is very sweet and given what would happen shortly afterward, very sad. (The story you can click through via the "Mirror.Co.UK" link provides a little context and a look at yet another Matt Taylor shirt. :+)

Posted by: Elise at November 18, 2014 12:08 AM

I feel the same way about the Elly Prizeman tweet, Elise. (Also, I see you're a fellow Jersey gal! Hi!)

Posted by: Cathy Young at November 18, 2014 03:44 AM

Wow - lots of interesting comments.

I've got a couple of early meetings this morning, so I can't respond to your specific comments right now. Thanks for the link to your article, Cathy! As always, I'm looking forward to reading it :)

To me, this whole thing (including Dr. Taylor changing his shirt and apologizing) is pretty much a tempest in a teapot.

If, as so many people have argued, the shirt itself is no big deal, then it's no big deal. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to say something is trivial, and then write long op-eds about the red mist of rage, Communists show trials and purges, etc. At this point, every bit of emotional overreaction displayed by the feminist tweeters has been matched by people responding to them.

This isn't the 2nd coming of Pol Pot or Chairman Mao. It just isn't. If we bow so easily to "tweetstorms" that we seriously compare critical tweets to genocidal mass murdering regimes, then we really are screwed as a society. We've lost our spines.

I'm sorry this guy cried on TV. But it's not the end of the world. I feel sorry for him personally, but my sense is that he enjoys attention-getting stunts and sees himself as a flamboyant character. In this case, it backfired.

It doesn't take much time (or forethought) to be prepared for the not exactly difficult to foresee possibility of media coverage after an historic event like this. For whatever reason (we really don't know why he changed), the guy changed his shirt and apologized.

But he could have refused to change the shirt and apologize too. Either way, the momentous question of his shirt is unlikely to dramatically shift the course of human history. If he was motivated by Tweets, perhaps he should not have been? If he was motivated by the belated gift of situational awareness and his apology was sincere, good on him.

I suspect that's what really happened, but I'll never know. One of his bosses could have told him to change for all we know. They wouldn't necessarily publicize that.

Either way, this story isn't a Major Battle In The Ongoing Fight Against Gender-Oppressive Tweets (and if it is, God help us because we've really lost our common sense). The amount of emotion on all sides surprises me. It's human and natural to feel bad when someone is humiliated, but it's not the end of the world (much less the end of Science). The classical novels Tex brought up the other day are chock-full of similar stories of people misjudging social situations, followed by the heaping of opprobrium and (surprise!) sometimes manly tears, apologies, and humiliation.

This is nothing new, and it's not as though both sides don't wage "tweet wars" intended to humiliate and mock their opponents. That's why I steadfastly refuse to read or pay much attention to Twitter. It's a vector for online Tourette's, and probably not a sound basis for making major decisions.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 08:27 AM

If, as so many people have argued, the shirt itself is no big deal, then it's no big deal.

The issue is that it's not about the shirt. Not anymore. It's the take no prisoners attitude in the culture war. As I said, I think he should not have worn a shirt like that to work. It's unprofessional. And I have no problem calling him out for that.

But that, apparently, isn't good enough. An example must be made of him (just as with Eich, photographers, bakers, and others) complete with a public confession of sins and pledge of fealty. It's not enough to win the culture war.

This post is about a different controversy, but has similar culture war roots.

The problem I have is that the blue alliance has been on a winning streak, and with recent Blue success in gay marriage, immigration of client populations, university-and-media roll-up, etc. I feel like the culture war is over and the victors are going around (metaphorically) humiliating and shooting survivors of the losing side, and conducting mop-up operations. [snip] [Robert Conquest] divides societies into two types: those that allow the vanquished their survival, their honor, and another bite at the apple, and those that seek to crush, in perpetuity, the temporary loser.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 18, 2014 10:01 AM

...it's not about the shirt. Not anymore. It's the take no prisoners attitude in the culture war.

OK, but can you see my point (I think you do - that's a rhetorical question) that overreacting emotionally does absolutely nothing to tamp down the "take no prisoners" attitude?

When you stoop to likening disapproving Tweets to genocidal dictatorships, you're doing exactly what feminists do when they liken the catch-all "sexual assault" (which can include minor things that are nothing like rape) to forcible rape: you're trivializing very real and horrific crimes (rape, genocide) AND you're intentionally ratcheting up the emotion and anger AND you're also undermining your own arguments.

*That's* the point I'm trying to make. If your moral compass is dictated by "What's the worst thing my opponent has done - now let me do it back to them twice as hard", then you're no longer the one in control. If you want to convince others that feminists are wildly exaggerating things, you don't do that by engaging in your own wild exaggerations (death camps, Communist show trials, people weeping before they're led off to be shot, fortheloveofMikeD).

I agree that these twits should be opposed, vigorously.

I just don't agree - and never will - that acting just like they do is in any way credibility enhancing. Emotionally satisfying? Sure.

Worthy of any kind of respect? No way.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 10:26 AM

One more thing. Just after the 2008 election when Obama won and people were (again) wildly exaggerating the impact of that election (ZOMG THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS DEAD!), I predicted that in time, these people would overreach and people would begin to catch on. IOW, give 'em enough rope, and they'll hang themselves.

The feminist brand isn't a popular one. Even liberals are disassociating themselves from the loonier excesses of feminism. The natural outcome of this brouhaha (left to itself) would have been that most people would roll their eyes and be reminded how very much they dislike these twits and just how loony they really are.

Just look at the DOE/campus rape thingy. Lately, women (many of them liberals) have been writing op-eds saying that we can't suspend the rule of law or traditional due process protections for young men. They clearly see the problem, and it bothers them, too.

Much of this is due to conservatives writing about the issue and refusing to let it die. And mostly, they have done so in a way that enhanced the credibility of the arguments, without nasty personal attacks (we don't need to call female college students sluts and whores) or wild exaggerations and hyperbole. Cathy's work on this topic has been exemplary and is exactly what is needed.

Reason works - sometimes we just need to allow time for society to shift gears.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 10:38 AM

"I agree with you that the Cultural Revolution and Stalinist show trials analogies are somewhat overwrought, but on the other hand, the sight of an adult offering a tearful apology for what is, in essence, an ideological error does evoke those parallels, and I personally found it quite painful to watch. It's also pretty clear that the experience has been a major humiliation for Dr. Taylor (he was posting regularly and quite exuberantly on Twitter until Nov. 13 and then went entirely silent at that point).

"These parallels are also reinforced when a science reporter for a major newspaper responds to the apology by saying that she hopes Dr. Taylor "will say more on the subject and show that he understands why the shirt wasn't okay." (In other words, demonstrate that he has assimilated the proper ideology.)"

I strongly second the above.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 18, 2014 11:15 AM

Dealing with other people has always been difficult and fraught with the chance of misunderstandings. That's why for most of human society, there have been rules that are enforced by society (generally, a minority of society).

Government has done nothing here. Private individuals (on Twitter!) have done what people have done in meatspace for ages: comment, agitate, disapprove, indicate support. If we become so delicate that the mere fact that someone on Twitter refuses to approve of us (or makes unreasonable demands), then once again I'm pretty sure we're screwed as a society.

He apologized, which was his decision to make. If he allowed himself to be coerced by... umm... tweets, then all I can say is "Gee, that was a decision". If he apologized because he belatedly realized that the "correct" interpretation of his shirt was far from obvious and he genuinely regretted having given offense, then I'll climb out on a limb and say that I think he's done the right thing.

If he apologized because he was intimidated (but secretly thinks he's done nothing wrong) then IMO he should have stood up for what he believes.

Either way, I have a problem with enlisting him into the gender wars without his consent. He should be able to do as he pleases, others should be able to comment and approve/disapprove as they please. I'm missing the part where I am supposed to get all worked up about this.

I'm really missing the point where this is "just like" large, government sponsored repression campaigns that killed literally millions of people.

This whole thing reminds me of that famous cartoon where the stick figure is banging his bloody head on the keyboard because something wrong happened on the Internet. Lots of things are "evocative" in the sense that to people who are feeling strong emotion, they seem "just like" other things.

Sorry, but to me those parallels aren't just "somewhat" overwrought. They're flat out overwrought. It's amazing to me how many folks excuse overwrought comparisons that trivialize truly horrific events when they're experiencing the same emotion, but condemn those same overwrought comparisons when they don't share the emotion.

To me, overwrought is overwrought, and it ought to be possible to objectively discern that unwanted advances aren't anything like forcible rape any more than public tears over disapproving tweets from individuals (last time I checked, "feminism" doesn't have its own Twitter account) is like genocidal government-sponsored mass murder.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 11:53 AM

I think what Tex and Cathy and others are objecting too is less the "government driven" aspect, and more the Red Guards aspect. These were chiefly radicalized students who sought to root out anyone with wrong views, and see that they were punished and forced to conform to the goals of the Cultural Revolution.

All analogies break down at some point; this one breaks down too. Government support for the radicals is much more limited, although they have gotten those campus-rape laws enacted in some places; but they are having a strong effect in trying to further the goal of ideological conformity to the cultural revolution being pushed on America.

Posted by: Grim at November 18, 2014 12:15 PM

This is nothing new, and it's not as though both sides don't wage "tweet wars" intended to humiliate and mock their opponents.

Dr. Taylor was not anyone's "opponent".

Posted by: Elise at November 18, 2014 12:48 PM

"Dr. Taylor was not anyone's 'opponent'".

The feminists think he is. From their viewpoint he is their opponent. And therein lies the problem.

Posted by: RonF at November 18, 2014 01:19 PM

Dr. Taylor was not anyone's "opponent".

In the culture wars, anyone with the wrong views is viewed as an ideological opponent. Anyone who does something that is viewed (by people who want the culture to move in a different direction) as being similar enough to what some movement is perceived to want becomes an opponent, even if they personally have done NOTHING to warrant such treatment.

And several of them have been disparaged on the Internet and in op-eds (which I'd worry about far more than Twitter). I have written about several cases of this in the past. I don't have time to find them now. And it's not just the Left that does it.

It's not right, whoever does it, and it doesn't justify saying things that simply aren't true, no matter how emotionally satisfying that may be.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 01:23 PM

I think we're arguing in circles, Cassandra. That was part of my point: Dr. Taylor is a non-combatant and the attacks on his shirt and on him amount to drive-by culture warfare. That's one part of why I find those attacks particularly distasteful.

Perhaps the correct analogy is not to "Darkness At Noon" or "Atlas Shrugged" but rather to "The Crucible".

(Who is the Cathy whose work you think so highly of?)

Posted by: Elise at November 18, 2014 02:10 PM

The question whether he works closely with any women is not an unknown.
Looks like at least half a dozen.
And they are armed.

Posted by: H1 at November 18, 2014 03:06 PM

Dr. Taylor's role was target of opportunity. This whole ... whatever is right out of the Alinsky playbook ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_for_Radicals#Themes )

Rules 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and especially 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

I've had too long to think about it, and my boss then would have never let me apologize in public anyway, he knew better. "I am so sorry that you are in pain; it must be horrible for you to have been brought up thinking that what people wear is more important than anything else they have done."

Posted by: htom at November 18, 2014 03:11 PM

Looks like at least half a dozen. And they are armed.

That was pretty funny :)

Thanks, I needed a good laugh!

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 03:31 PM

He made the fatal mistake of assuming he would be judged on his smarts and not his looks.
The shoe is officially on the other foot.
The professionally outraged continue to get their 15 seconds of fame, but not without blowback.
Maine's free range Ebola nurse is trying to call "hold" but that bike left the garage after the live interview.
I suspect Rose Eveleth will soon be joining her in the “that didn't go the way I planned” despair pit.
Even Time magazines unintentional social experiment beat a hasty retreat.
#shirtstorm indeed.

Posted by: H1 at November 18, 2014 04:25 PM

I realize he is married but this tweet kind of summarizes the whole thing. Yesterdays Allahpundit post.

Daniel Foster @DanFosterType
Internet Outrage Machine Makes Virgin Cry For Liking Boobs.
12:02 PM - 14 Nov 2014

Posted by: H1 at November 18, 2014 04:54 PM

And, there never was a man who could have benefited more from the Intermediate Level Education (ILE) media engagements and community activities module.

Posted by: H1 at November 18, 2014 05:29 PM

Elise, I was referring to Cathy Young. She wrote an article for Time on this topic. The link is somewhere further up in the comments. I often don't agree with Cathy completely, but I usually find her arguments to be well reasoned, well supported, and mostly fair to her opponents. In my view there is no higher praise than that for a writer.

When (as with the two linked articles in my post) a writer begins by either grossly distorting his opponents' actual position or using wild and emotionally freighted exaggerations, I instantly lose respect him or her. It's not as though I don't know how to manipulate people's emotions as a writer. It's not really very hard to do. But in general I'm suspicious of the tactic, especially when it is used to fan the flames of an already heated debate.

I'm frustrated that I don't seem to be able to make the narrow points I was trying to make. It feels to me (and I use that word deliberately: it's how I feel, but maybe I'm wrong) as though some of you are very frustrated that I don't want to pile onto the feminists and defend Taylor.

In my view, I condemned his critics in rather harsh language right in my post:

...how better to highlight the overwrought, hysterical bleating of female tweeters (much less the utter intellectual bankruptcy of their arguments)...

Which really is pretty harsh considering that the only two tweets I had heard before writing this post were rather weak tea. They weren't personally vicious at all, nor were they particularly mean spirited. I thought they were all kinds of stupid, but then I have written over and over about the vapidity of radical feminist cant. I didn't belabor the point for two reasons:

1. I didn't think anyone reading VC needed convincing.

2. I have a long track record of criticizing such "fragile snowflake" arguments, and didn't think I really needed to repeat things I've said repeatedly over the years.

I have already said that I trust you and YAG when you say there were worse examples. I don't need you to prove it to me, and I just don't have time to go looking for them. Your word is enough for me.

But in a way that really wouldn't change my position. I can't honestly say that I believe it's completely ridiculous to criticize him for wearing that shirt. I did take time to look at it closely, and it would creep me out to work with someone who honestly couldn't imagine why anyone would object to seeing half naked, overtly sexualized images of women at work.

I would be equally leery of ANY shirt with half naked, overtly sexual people on it. I don't care if they're male or female, whether the wearer is male or female, or who made the shirt. That's all irrelevant to me. Calling people names simply because their sensibilities don't align with your own makes no sense to me.

I didn't send my sons to school in their underwear because we live in a society where nudity has a strong sexual connotation to it. We teach children not to expose certain parts of their bodies in public because we know they're sexually suggestive. One can think we don't need to inject sexual content into the workplace without being a moral scold, a prude, or any of the grossly offensive names I've seen bandied about.

I don't show up for work in a pleather bikini for all sorts of reasons (not the least of which is self respect). I don't expect the men I work with to show up in assless chaps or leather thongs. And I'm not willing to pretend that there's absolutely no sexual message being sent by that shirt because I'd be lying if I said that. I literally cannot understand how anyone can look at that shirt and not think of sex (no, not country music, or female seamstresses, or comic books). When I see women with really large tits and skimpy clothing, I think primarily of sex.

And I'm not ashamed to say that doesn't belong in most workplaces, and I don't think I should be. If that makes me a prude or a scold or some other pejorative term that substitutes for reasoned argument, so be it.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 18, 2014 06:29 PM

Here's a good look at "THE SHIRT"
http://alohaland.com/whats-new/new-gunner-girls-sold-out

Which, going by the fact that it's sold out, is going to offend feminists all over the place. :-). I sure see a robot and some things that are obviously weapons, but don't look like any contemporary guns. It evokes 50's pulp fiction SF for me, and I'm old enough to actually remember the stuff.

That said, I would ask those commenting about "professional" attire which profession they're talking about? Sounds to me like the "lawyer" profession, or the "company executive" profession.
It certainly isn't the "techie" profession, defined as people with STEM degrees doing STEM things. I agree that someone with more PR sense should have told him that his shirt was a bit over the top, but that's what PR people are for. They failed, he didn't. It's pretty damned obvious that he thought it was cool.

The pushback is justified. When you play Harpie, don't be surprised to get a sword on the neck.

Posted by: bud at November 18, 2014 09:01 PM

As a STEM person, you wear The Uniform to get a usable place at the table with others wearing The Uniform. People on the board of directors and those who report to them, the lawyers and the division managers (who would be on the board in their next promotion; people who wore The Uniform every day.) It means you know how to belong to The Club even if you don't, and that you should be listened to when invited to speak by The Powers That Be.

This comes under the heading of "Know your audience." I did not wear The Uniform when I was giving a presentation to those who actually were doing the design work on computers or working in the fab labs -- my clothing was as carefully chosen, though. Their equal, on the way up.


Yes, you should not have to do that. "Should" doesn't close a deal, and those presentations are not to close, but to open, to get the PTB at whichever level to look at the idea. On the other foot, I know high executives who (like that TV show about bosses) who dress down and prowl about, asking questions. Exactly the same thing. People dressed up in The Uniform are usually cunning enough to be on their good behavior when so dressed; catch them in shirt sleeves when you're in shirt sleeves and they'll reveal their character rather than displaying their reputation.


Wearing The Uniform to a board presentation means the president listens, really listens with intent, to your first paragraph; not wearing it means he listens to your first sentence. Sad but true. (After the first paragraph he keeps checking in, but he's really thinking about the implications and costs of what you're saying and not saying.)

Posted by: htom at November 18, 2014 11:58 PM

I'm the Cathy Cass speaks highly of, Elise! I even gave you a shout-out as a fellow Jersey girl. :)

Cass, you make some excellent points. I mean, if I was speaking at a conference I wouldn't show up in the "bare-chested cowboys" version of this shirt (which can be found here). Unless I was trying to make a point. :-D But I'm in favor of leaving room for eccentricity. (See, for instance, the clip of Matt Taylor's female colleague waving and squealing in delight at the news that the landing had gone successfully; also not a way people act in the workplace on a regular basis.) Also, personally, I think the shirt is more cartoonish than sexual.

Leaving that aside, though, I think the problem people had was with the shirt being described as not just, say, tacky but "misogynist" and "sexist," and Taylor's overwrought apology made it a lot worse. But yes, hyperbole all around.

Posted by: Cathy Young at November 19, 2014 12:54 AM

Cathy:

I don't think the shirt is misogynist. To me, that classifies as hyperbole (though not on the scale of comparing tweets to Communist purges or show trials).

I can easily see why some women would think it's sexist though. I don't believe one can reasonably infer sexism from a liking for nekkid or semi-nekkid women. I'm pretty sure most men like looking at nekkid/semi-nekkid women. That proves nothing except that they're human. Wearing a shirt covered in semi-nekkid women to work, on the other hand, suggests a certain obliviousness that in my view borders on disrespect.

The sad truth is that there are *some* men who think women belong in the bedroom or the kitchen, and use sexual advances or sexual behavior to put women in their place. I have worked with men like that in the past, and had no trouble handling it. Men have been known to harass other men subtly, so this isn't necessarily rooted in sexism.

It has been literally decades since I have seen a man act this way, and IMO that's one of the very positive things about the changes in society partially brought about by feminism. I can't imagine a man saying the kinds of patronizing things that were fairly common in my youth. The vast majority of men these days treat women with respect, regardless of what they think privately or spout in comments sections. Over the years, many male commenters here have suggested that this is because men are afraid *not* to do so.

If that's true, that's a shame. But as I believe people ought to treat each other with respect "just because", I'm not going to weep over the loss of the feeling that it's safe and acceptable to say some of the things I had men say to me when I began working:

"I am not going to take orders from a woman"

(Me) Hmm, that's a problem since I'm your supervisor and it's my job to run this store. Part of that job entails me occasionally asking you to perform various jobs that need doing. How would you suggest we handle this problem?

or...

"Why aren't you at home taking care of your husband and child? I'll bet you're a real firecracker" (wink wink, nudge nudge)

or...

"You and your husband don't live together? (he was in college and I was helping support the family at the time) You DO realize he's probably cheating on you. If you're lonely, I'm available."

(Me) I'm happily married and I have no idea whether he is cheating or not. But in the unlikely event that you're correct, that wouldn't make it right for me to do so. Thanks, but no thanks.

I think sometimes we get so hell bent on smacking down obnoxious feminists that we lose sight of common sense. Most men, when they make advances to women, see themselves as the dominant person. During sex, most men take the lead. When you inject that kind of thinking into the workplace (especially between peers, or even worse if the woman is senior to the man), it's not surprising that that unconscious and natural attitude might come across as sexist. Men and women as sexual beings often act differently from the way they need to behave in the workplace.

Men have a strong natural instinct or preference to try to dominate both other men and women. I've pointed out to women before that men do this to each other: it's not always (or even often) sexism, but just a natural byproduct of male culture and biology. It's no use taking it personally. I know men who have a hard time deferring to *anyone* (male or female) -- every natural conflict turns into a pi$$ing contest that they just have to "win". I've also known women like this, but there seem to be fewer of them.

Life is so full of chances for misunderstanding between the sexes. There are angry feminists out there who seem resolved to blame all men/make every man pay for the bad behavior of just a few men. And now we have angry men out there who seem resolved to blame all women/make every woman pay for the bad behavior of angry feminists. I've lost count of the times I've read some form of, "You know, I used to give women the benefit of the doubt but feminists have changed all that. Take THAT, harpies."

I hate this attitude. It's poisonous. But angry people don't care who else they hurt while they're striking back at something they read somewhere that made them angry or some perceived slight that may not even have been intended as such. All that matters is striking back.

We're striking back at ourselves, though. Men and women are two halves of the same coin. We desperately need each other to develop into what we were meant to be: fully human beings who have minds, hearts, and yes, bodies.

And it breaks my heart.

Posted by: Cass at November 19, 2014 08:17 AM

So Cass, I sincerely hope that nothing I've "Said" pushed you towards stopping what has been a most informative and interesting blog. I wish you all the best, and hope you'll come back--or perhaps "see" you on other blogs in the future.

Be well.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at November 19, 2014 07:04 PM

Capt. Mongo:

I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression, but no one person caused this to happen, and I'm not angry at anyone.

When I started blogging back in February of 2004, I worried a lot about the instant nature of the Internet, about hasty judgments, about making mistakes. I'm a fairly quick thinker - in my day job I have to be, because I've got technical issues coming at me from all directions and have little time to absorb/evaluate information, formulate a plan, and fix the problem.

But my preferred decision making mode (for big decisions, anyway) is to slow down and give things time. I believe we need time to absorb information, distance ourselves a bit emotionally, and see problems in their full context. I've never liked writing about issues when they first arise because most of the information available turns out to be wrong or incomplete. I never see things as clearly at first as I do after I've had several days to evaluate things.

The Internet funnels and filters information and emotion in a way I find to be very misleading. It manufactures and amplifies outrage, too often at the expense of balance and perspective. It's a huge vector for emotion, especially when (and I certainly do this) people naturally gravitate to information sources that align with what they already think.

For years, I used to write posts before I read other blogs because I didn't want to be influenced too much by someone else's opinions or writing. So I stayed mostly with news accounts and read blog posts or op-eds only after figuring out what I thought about a story or topic. I had time to do research - to verify things for myself instead of blindly trusting news sources.

I still do that now, only I have far less time in the mornings before work to read and think and do independent research. And I've become more aware (and wary) of what I'd call themes or narratives over the last decade. Both the left and right create them and then shoehorn the facts to fit, because people have a natural tendency to place events into a larger framework or "story" that helps us make sense of things (sometimes at the expense of objectivity). I do this too - I've always been aware of it, but I am even more so after 10 years of writing about politics and current events.

Emotions are important and necessary, but very strong emotions (IMO) cloud judgment and damage objectivity. I'm not saying I'm either unemotional or objective: I'm human and flawed like everyone else on the planet. But the Internet feeds on strong emotion: we're constantly bombarded with viscerally upsetting images and videos and stories that are then filtered and selectively promoted (or ignored) by writers who have their own agendas to push.

I don't want to be one of those writers. I don't want to be in reaction mode all the time. I began writing for two reasons: to help me sort out what I think, and because my friends asked me to. But - and I know this will sound incredibly Pollyanna-ish and corny - I want to be a force for good, not stir up hate and discontent.

I'm better on defense than offense. And I don't want to be become what I don't respect. I felt that was starting to happen to me: through lack of time, through deep emotions of my own, and fear that the ideas and values I cherish are being systematically eroded.

I'm not unwilling to fight for what I believe in. I think I've done that for many years. Many times, I've come down on a different side of an issue than most right leaning folks. There's a big debate on the right, because we're out of power. Should we adopt Alinsky rules? Do whatever our opponents do, no matter how loudly we've complained about it in the past, only "twice as hard"? Does the end justify the means? Or do we fight according to our own rules?

I think by now pretty much everyone knows where I come down on this question, and I'm painfully aware there aren't many who agree with me. I've made my case to the best of my ability, but I think I've fallen short. And that's OK, too. Lord knows I'm not right about everything, or even most things.

So I think it's time for me to step back, find another way to fight back in a way I can live with. I've never been an angry or impatient person, but lately I find myself feeling both those emotions far too often. I don't ever want those feelings to bleed over into friendships I treasure, and which have been one of the highlights of a long and very happy life.

You guys have given me something priceless: interesting, lively minds, the gift of your humor and wit, a glimpse into experiences I don't share, but can now appreciate better thanks to your comments and arguments. The hardest thing about walking away from VC is the awful thought of losing contact with all of you.

I guess that's the positive side of the funneling effect of the Internet - it has brought me into contact with so many more interesting and wonderful people in a way real life seldom does.

That is what I will miss most.

Posted by: Cass at November 20, 2014 06:51 AM

I'm the Cathy Cass speaks highly of, Elise! I even gave you a shout-out as a fellow Jersey girl. :)

Thanks, Cathy - and for the shout-out. (Flower-F is my friend.) I liked your article very much.

Posted by: Elise at November 20, 2014 11:10 AM

Newly Listed:
Man Seeking Blog: Recently abandoned aging legal wiseacre seeks compassionate bounceback Blog for long-term relationship. Gender, race, age, religion, politics no barrier. Smokers ok. No Vegans. Familiarity with Bulwer-Lytton and Shakespeare a plus. Will explain Infield Fly Rule.
Call 1-800-SAVE SPD and leave directions to my new home.

Posted by: spd rdr at November 20, 2014 11:14 AM

I will miss you, Cass. :( I really enjoyed your calm, thoughtful, intelligent commentary. There will be a hole in my daily reading now, for sure.

Posted by: colagirl at November 20, 2014 01:27 PM

I know I haven't visiting here as much as I used to, but I'm going to miss coming here and reading what you (and the Villanry) have to say. I always knew I'd find thought-provoking/entertaining commentary...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 20, 2014 01:46 PM

C'mon, Cass! I know that putting up Blog that requires individual thought--that is something more than a regurgitation of what others have said is big work--I've had the same experience myself

BUT!

You don't like what the internet has become--if you don't like it, here is your opportunity to CHANGE it. It's YOUR site--you can make it anything you want. No need to let it degenerate into what you abhor about the rest of the internet--reinvent yourself!

While you may be depressed about what the internet has become--THIS site is a great example of what the internet SHOUld BE--social commentary without name-calling (though good-natured snarkery is ENCOURAGED).

Step back--think of alternatives (you're very good at that). Some posssible alternatives that may let you continue while lightening your load:
1. Become a Drudge-like collector of other news stories. Invite commentary by others--and add your own thoughts if you feel like it.
2. Since you are the Blog Princess--invite several of your selected serfs to throw content and commentary out in your stead.
3. If POLITICS is what is getting you down--restrict your observations to something non-polltical. Because politics touches everything these days, that is difficult. Writing about your own observations difficult--but it's what you do best. Let others do the political commentary.
4. Let others do the caption contests. They are fun--require some thought to "get it"--and let readers participate.

There are a lot of ways to create the kind of site YOU would like to see. You are certainly free to quit--to "ring the bell" whenever you feel like it--but you're better than that.

You've assembled a site that most of us consider one of the best of the net--losing it would cause the level of internet discourse to decline even further.

You don't owe US anything--rather, we owe YOU for creating this (mostly) civil and thought-provoking site. Please take the time to consider alternatives for a re-invented site that meets YOUR needs.

Consider putting up a thread for suggestions and commentary on a revamped site.

Posted by: Frequent flyer at November 20, 2014 02:39 PM

Well heck.
Every time I finally drop back in for a look see you go dark.
I am going to start taking it personally.
JK (in the parlance of them youngsters).

Posted by: H1 at November 20, 2014 02:40 PM

Cass,

Was so very happy to see you return not all that long ago, and equally sad to see you go away again! Nevertheless, I believe I understand, it seems that no matter how logical the approach and how open minded we try to be, we seem to be "tilting and windmills" and that, over time, is discouraging beyond words. How did Mr. Roberts say it "sailing from tedium to apathy and back again"!
Will miss you, will be waiting if you change your mind. Be well!

Posted by: Steve at November 20, 2014 03:30 PM

Not ignoring you guys -just a very busy day at work. I won't be back home until very late tonight, but will try to respond in the morning.

Posted by: Cass at November 20, 2014 05:20 PM

Party at Cass's place!

I'll miss you, Cass; your thinking and wit have brightened many days over the years. I hope you find a way back; I'll be happy to see you again.

Posted by: htom at November 20, 2014 05:38 PM

I hope that you take a sabbatical and find your feet again. I don't know how you produce so much quality blogging and hold down a demanding job anyway, and your absence is our loss.

We'll keep the light on for you.

Posted by: MathMom at November 20, 2014 09:18 PM

Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving together.

Posted by: Glenn555 at November 27, 2014 01:37 PM

Thanks, Glenn :)

Sorry I haven't been responding to your comments.

I know I owe several people emails too - I'll start catching up today.

Posted by: Cass at November 28, 2014 08:44 AM