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Update: Newest material is at the end. Updated 6/22/11

My recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes caused quite a stir on the Internet. One of my harshest critics, feminist website Jezebel.com, accepted my offer to be interviewed about whatever it is that they find so objectionable about me. Jezebel's Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Coen, asked writer Irin Carmon to represent the common viewpoint at Jezebel.

Let's start with some background on the participants to give you some perspective on the bias that each brings to the table. I've been a long-time financial supporter of women's causes, particularly in the abuse realm. I have a long history of promoting and mentoring women in my own businesses.  And I'm pro-choice.

My mother was a strong woman who raised three kids, worked most of her life, taught me to play baseball, and was the first member of the family to get a motorcycle license. She kept a loaded rifle in the kitchen and often used it to gun down rabbits and other assailants to her vegetable garden.  And she didn't take shit from anyone.

My first career, in banking, came to an end when my boss told me there was no potential for a white male to get a promotion until the company did a lot of catching up in the diversity department. My second career, at the phone company, ended the same way, although I stayed around while I worked on my cartooning career on the side.

Irin Carmon has been a staff writer for Jezebel for about two years, during which time she has been covering politics, reproductive rights and health, sexual assault, workplace discrimination, and more. Irin is a 28-year old woman who reminds me that she does not deign to speak for all women.

We begin...

Scott:  Irin, your editor volunteered you to discuss your objections to my recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes. What in particular did you find objectionable?

Irin: Even seen as hyperbole or intentionally incendiary rhetoric, the piece does a disservice to men above all, and to women too. You start out by referring to men in the public eye who are "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world," and suggest that this happened because "society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable." Leaving aside for a minute the implied equivalence of that laundry list (breaking your marriage vows versus raping someone), this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism. By that reading, the presumed majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires to violate someone else, which I'd wager isn't true to the lived experience of most non-raping men. What you deem the "natural instincts of women" isn't defined, but I'm going to assume you mean stereotypes about nurturing and nesting. In fact, history, recent and otherwise, is full of examples of women who were treated as "shameful and criminal" for following their own natural instincts for how to live their lives, whether it was whom to sleep with and when and how often, what jobs women "should" do, how many children to have and when, etc. etc. Until very recently, those strictures were on the books and enforced by men, full stop. Men and women are both better off that all that's no longer official, at least in this country. 

You write, "Society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness." In fact, what's evolved is that women are now politically and, to a greater extent, socially recognized as full human beings. In contexts where women were seen as men's property, rape, or any non-sanctioned sex was (or is) punished as such, and often the women were punished too. We now have a legal and social model that formally recognizes women as people. That changed because some men and women didn't see the world as, in your words, "a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa," and who saw the harm and dehumanization implicit in that model. Incidentally, though women were historically told they are too volatile or emotional to run the world's affairs, you suggest it's men who are unable to cope. 

You cite Hugh Hefner as an example of a man who has "lost," or implicitly, been societally shamed. ("Society didn't offer him a round hole for his round peg.") But by every possible measure, Hefner's no victim. He is a very rich man. He has a robust sex life with women who look like the ideal upon which he made his fortune. He's an icon. I'd say society has offered him quite the round hole. It's hard to think of a woman who has experienced anything comparable, but then, I don't agree this is a zero sum game. 

My question to you: What do you get out of posting these incendiary commentaries on gender? And why accuse others of misrepresentation when they've mostly stuck to directly quoting you?

Scott: Phew! Wordy.

As for your question, I write what I think will be interesting and thought-provoking. I stake out positions that I haven't seen - whether I believe everything I write or not - because unique viewpoints interest me most. My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that. When my writing is taken out of context, the way Jezebel and others did, it sometimes looks like a crazy rant and it pisses people off. That's more of a bonus than a main goal.

I don't understand most of what you wrote in response to my question. Can you try it again without the history lessons? I agree that women had it worse in the past. My offending blog post was about today and the future.

I think we can skip the question of whether I offended men, since that is not what is bothering Jezebel or Salon, just to name two. And most men correctly interpreted the post as saying that male sexual urges manifest differently in different men. The men who complained imagined I was saying all men are repressed rapists. That's a simple case of bad reading comprehension, or maybe it is because the post was carved up by bottom-feeding websites until the meaning was distorted to fit an agenda. At Huffington Post, where the average reading comprehension is high, you can see that most commenters can't understand how anyone would be offended by the post.

You say that the natural instincts of women can lead them to shameful and criminal behavior. I have a higher opinion of women than you do, in the sense that I think men are genetically more prone to bad behavior. If your point is that women suck just as much as men, I'll take your word for it. But you'll need to explain why our jails have so many more men than women.

I'm still confused why my blog is more offensive than what you just wrote. Can you try again, in simpler terms, and without the history lesson, to explain your objection to my post?

Irin: Not sure what's left to say if all you can say about my good-faith critique of your piece boils down to TL;DR. (Sorry, "Phew, wordy.") Surely a "certified genius" such as yourself knows how to read English when strung together in three paragraphs.

But I'll boil it down anyway. Feminism is not about women being better than men. It's about creating a world where gender and sexuality don't stand in the way of each of us pursuing our individual rights, including to autonomy over our own bodies, whether that means who we have sex with, how many children we have, if at all, or what jobs we have. This might be a "history lesson," but for thousands of years, that hasn't been the case. Men ran things for most of that time, and by and large they still do; feminists and allies happen to believe that full participation will be better for everyone. Unfortunately, the transition is still incomplete, including on your blog, but we'll keep at it nonetheless.  

Scott:
If that's your point, we're in full agreement. I'll leave it to my readers to decide if the bottom line is you're unwilling or unable to defend what another writer on Jezebel has written on this topic. You simply explained some history and made some generic points about equality.

My readers should know that I requested this interview with Lane Moore, the Jezebel.com writer who characterized my opinion, with manufactured quotes, as "All men are rapists." That is the ridiculous view I was expecting your employer to defend. I assume that in preparation for this interview you reread my blog and realized there is no defense for Jezebel's position, and so you smartly retreated into history lessons and generic statements about the goodness of equality.

To be fair, you were assigned this interview by your boss. It's clear to me that you're too smart, and probably too ethical, to defend Jezebel.com's grotesque interpretation of my writing.

So we'll end here, and I'll take this up with Salon's writer, MaryElizabeth Williams, assuming her offer still stands. Stay tuned.

[Update: Jezebel.com is linking to this post. That's why the voting changed direction so abruptly.]
 
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-35 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Ok, let's start off with the basics.
Irin does do defend the Jezebian act of quoting you out of context. She cannot defend it based on anything you have said.
The other basic fact is that you are trying to argue with a woman regarding facts, which as most men will attest to, is nearly impossible because they only care about the argument, not the resolution. In each response, Irin tried to change the origin of the starting assumption about why she (on behalf of everyone) was offended. I've observed this routinely between couples when they argue. He'll do something (drunkenly piss of the deck), then she'll find a reason to be angry and yell something at him ("That's disgusting! You'll kill the grass!"). Then he'll refute what she said by taking it right back to fact as the situation happened ("A little bit of urine won't kill the grass"). This won't quell her anger because he proved her assumption wrong, she'll just deny that she was originally angry about that one aspect, but take up another aspect ("I don't care about the grass! I'm angry that someone might have seen you!"). And so on ("No one saw me. We are at our cabin in the woods.") then ("I don't care about someone seeing you, I said that it's gross that you might have got some on the deck!!"). This continuous changing of the target assumption ensures that the argument never gets resolved, because she keeps giving herself reasons to be angry despite all facts to the contrary.
And this is exactly where you find yourself now. Nevermind that the statement was a general observation about men, (so Feminists should just STFU, like men have been told for years on all topics Feminist), but now they are just arguing for the sake of staying angry.

Also, to anyone who says that humans have evolved, keep dreaming.
The only thing that has evolved is society. Humans have not. The contiuous cycle of breakdown and rebuilding of civilizations is evidence for that 100%.
If you were to take a male human that has had only the barest amounts of socialization in his life and put him in the room with a pretty girl, I'd give you 10 to 1 odds that he would try to rape the girl. If history proves anything, it is that even the most evolved of civilizations are capable of the most horrific acts.
 
 
+47 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Scott, I hate to say it, but you're really coming off as a d*#k here. I'm a long time reader and I appreciate that you pick controversial topics to make people think, but you don't seem to handle criticism well. You seem to just keep provoking (but maybe that's the point - make people angry to drive more traffic and earn more in ad revenue). For what it's worth, I wasn't offended by your post, but it did make me think you must lead a pretty sad life if you fit the description that you ascribe to most men. For your sake, I hope that was just some hyperbole to stir up controversy.

Please go back to posting interesting thought provoking ideas. Otherwise, you're just a latter-day Jerry Springer.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Oh Jezebel. Such an angry woman. Or, in the case of this site, such a collection of angry women. (and I don't mean Irin Carmon, I mean everyone giving thumbs-down to even the most even-handed, articulate comments here.)

Scott, count me among those who would like to see this interview prolonged a bit. Irin did ask a few questions you didn't answer. I, too, wonder in what way you think Hugh Hefner got a raw deal. Come on. If Hefner got a raw deal, can you name anyone at all who you think got a square deal then? Or is your point that even someone like Hefner, who's about the closest thing to someone who got everything he ever wanted, still has some unfulfilled desires? I think we can all agree that nobody gets EVERYTHING he/she wants, but that's the human condition. It's confusing to see it implied that this has to do with Hefner being a man in a society in which male urges are discouraged. And yes, you did imply that, even though you're likely to say it's my poor reading comprehension that makes me hallucinate that you implied any link between Hefner's unhappiness and a society that frowns upon what his desires are as a man.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
RMan, when somebody throws out some food for thought, they have to back it up with scientific evidence lest you call them a nut? Even when they are not claiming it to be fact? Really?

You have a low bar on crazy, my friend.

How about this standard for crazy:

Somebody comes to a cartoonist's blog where said cartoonist writes all kinds of points of views, often ones that are contrary to his own, on any subject that interests him, whether he know much about it or not, and then said person gets offended when one view is different to his or her own.

Lucky for you, I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: crazy and boring. At least you're not boring.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Ok since it was so hard for you guys to comprehend Irin's response let me rehash the argument so that those of a lower "reading comprehension level" can understand.

There were two main issues with the Pegs and Holes blog post:

1. The issue of natural instincts-
You say that the natural instincts (raping, tweeting, and cheating I'm guessing) of males are deemed filthy and undesirable. It is tricky to talk about the natural instincts of humans. Besides ensuring survival, reflexes (like the knee jerk reaction), and a sexual drive that offers the opportunity to continue the species, what can you say are our natural instincts? Most people who don't subscribe to the pseudo-science and pseudo-philosophies of biological determinism and evolutionary psychology would say that culture and socialization play a much bigger role in behavior than whatever "natural instincts" play (but nothing is 100 %). Therefore, rape, tweeting, and cheating are most likely products of an environment that encourages men to be violent (in the case of rape). Or, if you're just talking about a sexual instinct, it is more likely that men in our culture tend to be more sexual than women because we live in a society that celebrates men having sex with multiple partners while condemning women who do the same thing. I'm going to skip tweeting and cheating since equal amounts of women cheat, and I think only narcissists tweet.

2. The pegs and holes analogy.
You claim that men are square pegs that cannot fit into society's round holes (female holes that is). Or it was round pegs and square holes. Either way, this may be what you PERCEIVE, but when you actually look at the facts your argument does not hold up. Sure everyone has advantages and disadvantages. In some cases women do have the upper hand to men. But in every society and throughout most of history (and the present) society has been made by men, made for men, and made to keep men in power. If you want to dispute this ask yourself this: Which sex holds the vast majority of wealth in the world? Which sex holds the vast majority of land? Which sex comprises most of the world's leaders, government officials, and CEOs? Which sex controls most of the media? Which sex is not discriminated against in the workplace, in religion, or in school? These questions can go on and on, but I will stop with the fear of becoming too "wordy." Moreover, looking at society as the social construct that it is, if so many men are in power how can you possibly believe that they would value feminine traits (or instincts) over their own masculine traits. They don't. Face it: you may feel disadvantaged at times for being a male, but you are not oppressed by a matriarchy.




 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Dear Mr Adams,

I had the pleasure of interviewing you a few years ago for a local magazine based in Dublin, California--by far, my favorite interview. You were very open and I loved hearing your thoughts on the creative process. So...when I saw the headline in Jezebel I was majorly bummed out. But then I read the article(s), and no offense to Jezebel (one of my favorite sites besides Gawker) but the article(s) deeming your character were truly ridiculous. It's sad that we live in a culture where intellectual discourse takes a back seat. I don't have to tell you your words were taken out of context because that's obvious. But as a fellow writer, I feel for what you are going through--it's so much easier to judge then take creative risks. I hope these silly articles don't stop you from doing that.
Sincerely,
Victoria Tishman Kamerzell
(former chair of the feminist club at Mount Holyoke college)
 
 
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Quote [Part of good reading comprehension is understanding that the generalization "men have nuts" can be false for Lance Armstrong (he has only one) while not making the generalization useless. -- Scott] EndQuote

Nice. However proving nearly all men have nuts is easily proven. However when one dreams up a an overly general theory about the instincts of men and states it without any conditions or scientific proof behind it is a nut job.
 
 
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I think what is going on in general is that men need to figure out things for themselves.

I know that when I was going to University and volunteered for the Womens Centre (this was a space where women supported each other and exchanged ideas and a whole lot more) men would ask me where is the men's centre? Well, women made the women's centre and so then who should make the men's centre? I don't say this in a condescending way but as an actual, serious question.

I've actual found an internet site that kind of looks into what I'm talking about:

http://goodmenproject.com/

This is a website where men talk about what's going on. Maybe why they feel like there are round pegs and square holes (and I'm using Scott's analogy in general, not specifically in the context he did.) The first article I ever read was from a man who talked about how to look at women. He talked about how he was shamed a young kid when he got caught looking down a friend's shirt. He then went on to talk about how he later learned about how women can feel uncomfortable about being looked at (leered at?) by men and so negotiating a natural appreciation he felt for women. It was a great way to actually look at this issue in a thoughtful and respectful way.

I think everyone is better off when we focus on looking at what we're feeling and why we're feeling it. Self awareness doesn't hurt anyone. Another thing that is just as important is learning how to care about and respect each other.
 
 
-31 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Keep up the fight Scott. This is most amusing. Can't believe that anyone took up your offer. Judging by the number of negative votes, there appears to be an army of zealous non-thinkers posting, i.e., people who take a position and refuse to look at evidence/reality. You have pointed this out many times in your past posts; there is no possibility of changing minds like these. I am sure that we all suffer from this phenomenon but this seems extreme from a readership that is meant to be progressive. I would expect this from some right wing religious group not from Jesebel's readership.
 
 
-25 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I thouroughly enjoyed the divide&conquer efficiency with which Scott picked apart Irins scattershot arguments.

All thats left is Scotts original question, still unanswered.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Scott,

I wouldn't mind seeing this continue with one more post from Irin.

See still seems upset by your post, but has, as you correctly pointed out, backed off of the ridiculous statements on Jezebel.com. If she is still offended, it is for another reason than the delusional misquotation "all men are rapists."

I would like to know, seeing as she has read your post, what offends her about it. She has explained it slightly, but not much. She took offense on behalf of men, but I don't think most men were offended by that post (at least I wasn't) and she seems to have been offended by the idea that we men have to restrain some of our worst urges somewhat if society is to progress.

Specifically, she calls this a zero-sum game. Of course, it's not necessarily a zero-sum game in the usual sense, since a small amount of restraint on the part of men might (and does) create great benefits for society as a whole.

If this is all that offends her, could she elaborate on what in there is so offensive?

Is it that you imply that men have to restrain more base urges than women in modern society in order to not go to jail?

If there is something else (such as your choice of analogy for the topic), could she bring it into clear light?

If the Salon writer is still willing to do the interview, why not run both in parallel blog posts? That way we dedicated readers can double our odds of having one ending up being enlightening (or, failing that, humourous).
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
An articulate rebuttal with valid points that nobody has yet denied. Including Scott. I think for myself, defining Low Reading Comprehension describes someone who is not familiar with the author, the style, or article's goal (raising a topic for discussion) reacting to a statement (agreeing or disagreeing). Low Reading Comprehension does not mean somebody is not intelligent, but it does suggest that they did not possess sufficient knowledge to adequately interpret the author's meaning.

This whole issue is a matter of context and humor driven filters on a topic that is already a hot-button issue. Rape is a word that causes two mental reactions; "Rape? Yes please!" or "Rape? You deserve to go to hell." There is nobody who says, "Rape? Eh. I could take it or leave it." It is socially safer, and rewarded, to use a negative blanket response when it's brought up. Exploring its origins, causes, and definition of victims is not safe, especially in a public forum.
 
 
-36 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
i checked out the site jezebel, and unsurprisingly found that an editors job is to basically take a quote, ad, court case and the like out of context to make it somehow offensive to women (among the usual celebrity gossip).
pitiful argument on both sides, may i add.
 
 
+82 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
What did I find objectionable?

This sentence ... "The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable."

My instincts are eating, sleeping, desiring a secure environment, and getting laid. I have no desire to steal, rape, or deceive to fulfill those instincts. So being a man and none of my basic instincts are shameful or criminal that is a false blanket statement. The statement may be true for some men but it is not worded that way. If that statement was supposed to be sarcasm you need to work on your humor writing skills and stop complaining about reading comprehension skills of others (ok that was sarcasm). If not sarcasm then it is something else and probably dark/disturbing...

Also thinking Hef is generally unhappy is a poor argument, that was a stream of tortured logic I didn't need to read.

[Part of good reading comprehension is understanding that the generalization "men have nuts" can be false for Lance Armstrong (he has only one) while not making the generalization useless. -- Scott]
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Eh, prehaps it's just me, but this was disappointing... I sort of expected more...
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Not sure I agree with the writer's take on what feminism is in practical terms. I think what she said is the stuff they sell people to make it sound agreeable, but I'm not sure that's what it really is, ie it's what the marketing dept. puts out and is not necessarily the truth. In fact her position as a writer for a feminist journal pretty much means she is in the marketing dept. spewing out whatever her bosses/philosophy tell her to in a way that the intended audience enjoys.


Fledder, what the writer did was instead of asking a simple question got on a high horse and went on an attack in part by stating a lot of useless junk that has no bearing on the discussion. I think what Scott did (since he's got a high reading comprehension I imagine) was to call out her bluff and get to the heart of the matter. That's why he played dumb. Plus part of me is wondering if he did it in that particular manner because he guessed she assumes all men are dumb pigs and to play on that notion. I think that we should assume he answered his questions with the intentions of making it a blog post in his usual style.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Here's my interpretation (or hallucination) of your original blog post:

You think that men and women both have natural urges. Some of these urges can be destructive. Being unable to act on these urges can lead to unhappiness. Maybe one day we'll have drugs that will reduce the destructive urges.

Some people interpreted your blog like this:

All men are natural rapists and should be allowed to rape anyone they want. This will make them happier.

Personally I think one of the most significant problems in the world is violence. Maybe there will come a day when people with violent tendencies will be required to take medication to reduce their violent urges. This might be a good think.

For the moment, there is a drug which reduces violent urges. It's called marijuana. Unfortunately the more violent people in the world refuse to self-medicate.

[Reading comprehension: A+ -- Scott]
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
I think I understand the problem here, and yes, it does seem to basically be poor reading comprehension, combined with people who cannot help but overlay their political/social views on the reality of the universe.

Scott is using the word "rape" to mean "have sex with another person against their will". However, while seeming to superficially agreeing with that definition, Irin is subtly shifting the meaning of the word, to turn the act of rape into what is almost a political statement when she speaks of "innate desires to violate someone else". Actually, now that I think about it, it is almost impossible within the language of our culture to speak of rape in any other way without conscious effort. I suspect that last requirement is what trips up most people.

Irin is also guilty of association; when Scott says one thing, she immediately assumes that he is also going to say a whole bunch of other things as well. Again, this is poor thinking, though as a heuristic it probably works well enough most of the time. Still, you would think that if you are going to lambaste someone as thorough as she and others are doing to Scott, they would bother to get their facts straight first.

Finally, good Lord, can you cut out the obfusticating language? No one is (or should be) impressed by your vocabulary or labyrinthian sentence construction. Even if they were, it doesn't make your arguments any more persuasive.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Nature or Nurture, Free Will or Determinism, Damaged brain or Healthy, these are all interesting questions on their own, but the fact remains that bad thoughts and actions exist.

Over and over again, commenters and critics have fallen for the naturalist fallacy.. I think that is the heart of the LRC problem.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Did she really type all that with a straight face (no offensive sexual preference reference intended) as part of an interview?

ROFLMAO
 
 
 
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