Can women be skeptics?

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It’s hardly news that the skeptic community is dominated by men. Part of the reason is pure, old fashioned gender discrimination and harassment. Apparently some male skeptics feel threatened by women and want to frighten and harm them.

Then there’s basic sexism.

For example, the aptly name Anonymous Coward has this to say on a message board:

Let’s face it. Women are more illogical than men. They have a higher rate of belief in the paranormal after all. Maybe women are just too damned sensitive to discuss theories or ideas rationally without implanting their personal emotions into the foray… It could be that women handle discussion (“confrontation”) quite differently than men and take verbal confrontation more personally then us men do… Skeptics are largely drawn from the “hard sciences” or philosophical areas which are dominated by men, I Know this, but I have also noticed very very few female athiests both in my personal life and over the internet.. why do you think this is?

Offensive, right? Women are not less logical than men. Rationalism is not the province of men alone. Women are perfectly capable of succeeding in the hard sciences and do so every day.

And yet …

I’m beginning to wonder if there is a germ of truth to the claim that there are not more women in skepticism, because women are so anxious to avoid confrontation.

Consider the case of the purportedly skeptic website, Grounded Parents,an offshoot of Skepchick.

I wrote recently about the hatchet job published by Grounded Parents that Jamie Bernstein did on my analysis of the statistics from a paper recently published by MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America, the organization that represents homebirth midwives) in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Her take-down was sloppy and intellectually lazy, including as it did at least 8 separate errors of fact, of numbers or of math. Frankly, I felt Bernstein and Grounded Parents owed me an apology and well as owing their readers a correction of the many egregious errors.

Instead, Bernstein and Grounded Parents doubled down on their intellectual sloth and published yet another piece filled with egregious errors.

This time I’m not the only one complaining. Both math/statistics professor Brooke Orosz, PhD and ios9 blogger Esther Inglis-Arkell, who wrote about the MANA statistics, charged Bernstein with making claims that, in the words of Inglis-Arkell, are “disingenuous, if not outright false.”

Moreover, it is crystal clear to anyone who knows anything about the homebirth safety debate that Bernstein has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. Both she and Grounded Parents seemed to be entirely unaware that there are two kinds of midwives in the US, and that the MANA paper is concerned, not with real midwives, but with lay people who have awarded themselves as midwifery “credential.” Bernstein appeared to have no clue that 3 of the 6 authors of the MANA paper are homebirth midwives, and 5 of the 6 are affiliated with MANA itself. Bernstein and Grounded Parents demonstrate no recognition of the fact that American homebirth midwives are nothing like real midwives (certified nurse midwives, CNMs) or midwives in Europe, Canada and Australia.

Jamie Bernstein and Grounded Parents have violated one of the fundamental tenets of skepticism, rigorous scientific analysis.

But that’s not the big problem. Plenty of people, men and women simply aren’t that rigorous and don’t know enough science to accurately assess what they are writing about.

The larger problem is that Grounded Parents violates two other tenets that I think are basic to skeptical argument and related to each other. Grounded Parents, and Skepchick itself discourage free-wheeling debate by moderating and censoring comments that they don’t like. And they appear to place a premium on women being “nice” to each other.

I, and others, have found that our comments are moderated out of existence if the author and editor don’t like them.

According to the Skepchick comment policy:

We may ban you without warning or apology for the following reasons [including]:

not positively advancing the discussion [or]

derailing

This site is our house, and we reserve the right to kick out anyone who is making it an unpleasant place to hang out. Further, if you are particularly awful, we reserve the right to warn all of our blogger friends about you and make your email and IP public. In extreme cases, we will turn over all your information to the police.

No, this is not a violation of your freedom of speech. We are not the US government.

No, it’s not a violation of freedom of speech, but it is a violation of the principles of skepticism.

You cannot be a skeptic and censor debate. Yes, you can remove racism and other evidence of hatred or discrimination. Yes, you can remove comments that are not on point. But you can’t censor comments that you don’t like and still call yourself a skeptic.

Why is there censorship on Grounded Parents and Skepchick? Apparently, because they want us all to behave like ladies and be “nice” to one another.

Indeed, the author of a front page post on Skepchick today seems to express this view:

… [E]ach of us has in their power in every single moment, an opportunity to lead by positive example to make the world a better place each and everyday. A place where we can peacefully co-exist and grow without religion and without superstition as a driving force.

The skeptic and atheist communities have been riddled with negativity lately. But it is in our power to change that, starting today. If even half of the people who self-identify as skeptics or atheists made a promise to actively do better, we would, as a whole, become the leaders that the world needs…

Positive examples? Riddled with negativity? These are the words that women have always been told. Be nice! Don’t make others look bad! Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings! Act like a lady!

These are the words of people who value being “nice” above being correct. It’s downright embarrassing. No website can lay claim to the adjective “skeptic” if their prioritize harmony above intellectual rigor.

So can women be skeptics? Of course they can. They have the same ability to succeed in science as men, the same ability for rational thought as men, and the same inherent ability to give as good as they get in free-wheeling debate.

But when a website designed by and for skeptical women censors comments so that authors’ feelings won’t be hurt, and to erase “negativity,” they send a terrible message to women. That message?

It’s more important for women to be “nice” to each other than to be intellectually rigorous and vigorous in promoting rational thought.

Is it really surprising then that there aren’t more women in skepticism?

  • auntbea

    Bernstein is contacting David Gorski. To referee, I assume. I wonder what he is going to think about that.

    • Guesteleh

      Skepchicks is contacting a man to referee an argument on their blog for skeptical women? Really???

      • auntbea

        Well, they don’t get along with either Harriett Hall or Dr. Amy, so what high-profile female medical blogger is left?

        • Guesteleh

          What’s their beef with Harriet Hall?

          • auntbea
          • Guesteleh

            Christ on a cracker, they got a man (Steve Novella) to intervene in that ridiculousness as well.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Novella already weighed in I thought?

          • auntbea

            Novella already weighed in on the MANA study. He did not weigh in on whether Dr. Amy is meen or whether shark attacks are increasing.

          • Guesteleh

            I meant Novella got involved in the Harriet Hall kerfuffle at the request of the Skepchicks. Seriously embarrassing.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            I had no idea that another skeptic blogger had been misrepresented. Weren’t they embarrassed enough to make sure it didn’t happen again?

          • auntbea

            I don’t think they were embarrassed in the first place.

      • AlisonCummins

        I’m gonna tell my daaad!

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I’m a man, and I am going to weigh in right now:
        Read what Brooke wrote. She knows a lot more about stats than I do.

        That is my male opinion.

        Thank you.

      • KarenJJ

        Why do they need a “referee”? Why can’t they just look at their claim that relative risk is a misleading metric in discussing homebirth deaths relative to hospital deaths and then do some hard numbers on that? They don’t need referees in these sorts of arguments, they need evidence.

    • Young CC Prof

      Um. Why? I mean, his opinions are always cogent and well-expressed, but:

      a) Since when do we need a man refereeing arguments? Is this the freaking playground?

      b) Why do we even need a winner? It’s an intellectual debate, not a dance competition. It doesn’t get judged on points but in the minds of those it persuades, or fails to persuade.

      c) Not really his area of interest, as I understand it.

      • AlisonCummins

        I think because people there don’t have the background to know whether to be persuaded or not.

        There are lots of sciency statisticy words being thrown around but when two people are arguing in a “Doesn’t!” “Does too!” way about whether the Rule of Twenty 1) applies 2) makes any difference to the argument, bystanders have trouble figuring out who to believe.

        • auntbea

          That is why Dr. Amy has been pushing so hard to have the article retracted or corrected. Bystanders can’t be expected to parse the math, but the people writing the articles should be.

          • AlisonCummins

            Yep. If on a skeptical website there aren’t already people who can parse the math and you need to call in random outside personalities, you have a problem.

    • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

      Given the history between Orac and Dr Amy, I’m wondering if this is a calculated slight of sorts or an attempt to play them off against each other.
      Yes, I realise how unbelievably stupid and petty that sounds, but Bernstein continues to underwhelm at every step.

      • KarenJJ

        She does underwhelm, doesn’t she. But hopefully Orac doesn’t.

        • KarenJJ

          Underwhelmed again.

      • auntbea

        Oh, I assumed it was a threat on her part. But I was also assuming that Orac not be pleased to used in such a fashion. (Maybe he would? I don’t know the whole ins and outs of that.)

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    My latest comment on Grounded Parents:

    Melanie, you’ve been told a number of times by a number of people, including a math/statistics professor, that your idiosyncratic “interpretation” of the statistics of small numbers is flat out, embarrassingly WRONG. How long do you plan to continue making a fool of yourself?

    You and your compatriots have done incalculable damage to the reputation of both Grounded Parents and Skepchick. There doesn’t appear to be a single person among you who understands basic statistics. People wonder why women aren’t taken seriously in the skeptic community. Behavior such as this, evincing ignorance, pettiness and a total unwillingness to learn from your mistakes, is part of the reason why.

    • KarenJJ

      I wonder if Skepchick made inroads into the Skeptic community because they are so cluelessly and inoffensively “skeptic”. Their lack of curiousity of the issues astounds me. More interested in being snarky and smartasses then actually learning something and arguing their points (besides their defenses of “I haven’t read it”, “I couldn’t find it” and “I made a typo”).

      • auntbea

        If the skeptical community is as misogynistic as it is rumored to be, there isn’t going to be a way for really incisive female skeptics to be popular. Only the ones who support men’s positions with snark, but never actually challenge their conclusions.

      • KarenJJ

        Can lay-people be skeptics? It seems that much criticism of Dr Amy comes from lay people and from what I could tell on Grounded Parents, most of them are lay people and some aren’t actually parents. They are now getting defensive because they are seeing someone “attacking” their friend. To be able to question and argue effectively you need to know the material and need to be able to explain it.

        The most effective skeptics are those that can give the inside scoop and do the debunking because they know the information. To be honest the rest of us (myself included) risk being opinionated blowhards.

        So far Grounded Parents has done an article which accused Dr Amy of being misleading by using relative risk for small events, a follow up in which they accuse Dr Orosz of not using enough qualifiers and an inexplicable one on Skepchick trying to bolster the claim that relative risk is the wrong metric to use for rare events by using an analogy with shark attacks.

        In all of the posts, nobody from Grounded Parents has actually looked at their assumption that using relative risk was the wrong metric to start with and whether in fact using it is actually “misleading”. They just don’t know. They made an accusation without knowing if it was correct or not and are not looking further into their assumption.

        So it falls back to what is the point of being a ‘skeptic’ if you don’t know much about what you are talking about. You are having to rely on others for your information and that comes down to having faith in someone else.

    • Durango

      Wow, it made it through moderation. That’s something, I guess. But boy, they sure think you are mean and they keep admitting, when pressed, that the MANA data are not good, and yeah home birth is riskier, but, but…Amy is mean! I have completely lost any respect for that group of women.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        GP was stung by overwhelming criticism when it became apparent that they were censoring comments, so they put back the ones they censored and are now allowing others.

        They still don’t get it, though. They’re wrong and they are taking no step to learn from their mistakes.

  • LibrarianSarah

    You know the “absolute risk” of death from a vaccine preventable disease is pretty small in this country as well. And needles are super scary. Maybe the next article Skepchick runs about this issue can be about how “safe” it is to not get your shots.

    The sad thing is I was willing to let this go until I saw that bullshit shark attack article this morning.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Or maybe we should ignore disparities in maternal mortality. Women’s health groups point with alarm to the fact that maternal mortality rates are 3X higher for African American women than for white women. Maybe they are fear mongering since the absolute rate of maternal death is so low (measured per 100,000).

  • fiftyfifty1

    Elyse has closed comments on the 1st Bernstein piece:

    “I feel like this conversation has lived a tortured like and it is time to put it out of its misery. I am closing comments. You may continue discussing this on your own time in your own space.”

    It’s too HARD for poor Elyse to have comments that she has to think about encroach on her personal time and space.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Or maybe it’s too hard to admit that you were sloppy and wrong.

      • KarenJJ

        And choose to remain sloppy and wrong. Skeptic in name only. How can she not be bugged by the idea that there’s something interesting in this story, that there’s something more then the angle they took in that piece? Other people have come from a place of much more cognitive dissonance and much more personal investment into NCB and spent entire weekends reading and re-reading and trying to get their heads around the issues discussed here.

        • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

          Skeptic in name only.
          Exactly – it’s opportunistic self promotion disguised as altruism.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Rather than acknowledge their mistakes, the folks at Grounded Parents closed the comments. Who could have seen that coming?

    • http://whatifsandfears.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-business-of-being-misled.html Doula Dani

      They won’t post any of my replies anymore. So pathetic. An echo chamber under the guise of skepticism.

      Dr. Amy, Skepchick is on your blog roll….

  • Ashley
    • Maria

      Looks like someone wrote that after watching the Business of Being Born. I only skimmed, but many of the “procedures to reject” are no longer part of the standard of care anyway. It is outdated information that is being presented as current.

      My big issue with the article, though, is the blanket statement of saying “these are things you should not do during your pregnancy/delivery” without providing the very necessary caveats that sometimes your doctor will have very legitimate reasons to recommending one of these procedures and this article essentially sets up an adversarial environment between the patient and the doctor right from the get go. That and the whole “too many c-sections” thing.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
    • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

      OT:
      Have a look at the rbutr extension:
      http://blog.rbutr.com/getting-to-know-rbutr/
      It’s a good way to have opposing views made readily available to people without a lot of time to invest in an issue (such as journalists).

    • Jocelyn

      I read that article when I was pregnant with my last baby and before I’d discovered this site. It steered me a little bit into the woo. Luckily I also discovered this site during that pregnancy and it pushed me far, far out of the woo.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    I’m not going to sign up at GP. I don’t want to give them my email address. So I’m going to be the coward who only speaks in the echo chamber and post a criticism here.

    It seems like some of the posters, including Bernstein, think that “high risk” and “low risk” are absolute categories. They’re talking about, for example, it being unfair that Prof Orosz compared “low risk” pregnancies from the CDC to all pregnancies, including “high risk” in the MANA data. However, the pregnancies that were demonstrably high risk for home birth (breech, twin, etc) were NOT removed from the population in the CDC Wonder database that Orosz selected for comparison. Yes, the populations weren’t identical, but the patients in the CDC database were higher risk in every way, even though they were, relative to the general population of all women giving birth, lower than average risk (some prenatal care, birth weight at least 2500 grams.) Again, one would think that a group of skeptics would want to make sure that they had their terms well defined before making an argument, but apparently not…

    • KarenJJ

      They don’t understand that there are nuances in the data and interpretation of it and instead of trying to understand what these are they are ending the discussion with “it’s too hard”.

    • Ceridwen

      The idea that risk is divided into only two categories, “high” and “low” is quite pervasive. I had a huge argument with some otherwise very reasonable women about this issue. They were convinced that OBs only see two risk categories and treat women dichotomously according to these categories. I tried explaining that risk is a continuous variable with a large number of factors at play, which doctors are quite aware of and take into account when considering the best treatment plan for a particular patient. I pointed out that doctors may consider one woman higher risk than another even if both women would be classified into the “high risk” category. They acted like I was completely nuts.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Oh, look, Grounded Parents has suddenly seen fit to publish the comment that I wrote 3 days ago!

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    I am simply astounded at the math illiteracy of the folks at Grounded Parents. They really ought to stop talking about my analysis of the MANA stats, because every time they open their mouths, they make fools of themselves.

    The latest:

    Melanie Mallon a Skepchick editor/writer left this comment:

    “You think it’s okay for Dr. Tuteur to have compared low- and high-risk
    homebirths to low-risk hospital births, then presented her conclusions
    based on that comparison? How about her use of percentages with small
    numbers, a practice that is recommended against in epidemiology and
    public health and that has been written about as a problem in medical
    journals as well because it’s misleading.

    Or how about the blatantly misleading chart with two MANA comparison
    groups but only one hospital group, and the third bar actually including
    the second bar to inflate it?..

    This basically illustrates the many misleading tactics she’s used: http://skepchick.org/2014/03/bad-chart-thursday-shark-attack-risk-increases-1200-in-hawaii/

    Sigh. I don’t know why I keep trying to explain the basics to these folks, but I’ll give it one more try:

    Melanie’s piece on shark attacks begins with what it apparently meant to be an attack on me:

    “According to International Shark Attack File stats, between 2008 and 2013, shark attacks increased from 1 a year to 13 in Hawaii. I know, I know, that’s still a very small number, but that is a 1200% increase, which is MASSIVE!”

    Hawaii has about 8 million visitors per year and a population of 1.3 million. It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that there are at least 10,000,000 episodes of swimming each year (some people swim more than once).

    That means that the rate of shark attacks has gone from 0.1/million to 1.3/million. Although that is indeed an increase of 1200%, the original number is so low that the risk of getting attacked by a shark in Hawaii is still very, very small.

    Melanie, if you are reading this, I want you to concentrate very carefully on what I am about to say next and hopefully you will understand it:

    The numbers we are talking about when we talk about perinatal mortality are ONE THOUSAND TIMES HIGHER. You seem to think that a death rate of 0.4/1000 is a number that is so tiny that no one needs to consider it. There are 2 million term births in the US each year. A death rate of 0.4/1000 means 800 dead infants, hardly a trivial number.

    Your shark example is not as clever as you think. In fact it is not clever at all when you consider that perinatal deaths are 3 orders of magnitude larger.

    Now let’s move on to the issue of high risk and low risk births. Let’s do a thought experiment:

    Imagine that you are thinking of taking a helicopter tour of Hawaii. There are two different companies that you choose from and each takes 1,000 helicopter tours per year. You are worried about the risk of a helicopter crash so you ask the folks at Joe’s Helicopter Tours about their safety record. They assure you that they take every possible precaution and have an excellent record with a crash once every 2.5 years (0.4/1000).

    Next you go across the street to Steve’s Helicopter Tours and ask the same question. They tell you that they have 2 crashes every year. In other words, Joe crashes 1 time every 2.5 years, and Steve crashes 5 times every 2.5 years. That probably makes a big difference to you in determining which company to choose, doesn’t it? That’s because you really, really don’t want to be in a helicopter crash and even though both companies can assure that you will survive the vast majority of times, the difference is not trivial, right?

    Now imagine that when you tell Steve that you are going to go with his competitor because of the safety issue, Steve says: “Hey, that’s not fair.” Joe’s safety statistics look better only because he won’t fly during typhoons, tornadoes and lightning storms. Joe thinks those conditions aren’t safe; we think they are very safe. Nonetheless, it is not fair for you to include our crashes that occurred during typhoons, tornadoes and lightning storms. When you subtract them, we only 4 crashes and that’s the comparison that you should make.

    Do you think that in determining which company is safer, you should subtract the crashes that occur during typhoons, tornadoes and lightning storms? Probably not, since their willingness to take their helicopters up in unsafe conditions tells you that they are not safe pilots, right?

    The same thing goes for homebirths, Melanie. You don’t have to subtract the high risk conditions because the fact that they are willing to attend these homebirths is itself an indication that they are unsafe practitioners.

    Let’s summarize, Melanie:

    1. Your shark attack comparison is inane because the rate of perinatal deaths is one thousand times HIGHER than the rate of shark attack. The risk of death of a baby in childbirth is HIGH, not low.

    2. If a helicopter company has lots of crashes compared to its competitor because they fly in unsafe conditions while the competitor does not, you can’t subtract the crashes in bad weather and declare the helicopter company “safe.” The mere fact that they are flying in unsafe weather is an important indicator that they are not safe pilots. Similarly, it is quite appropriate to consider high risk homebirths when assessing the safety of American homebirth midwives (CPMs). The mere fact that they are attempting to deliver these patients at home is an important indicator that they are not safe practitioners.

    Do you understand now?

    • Stacy21629

      That last paragraph is so important – people think that the solution is just legislating away the ability to attend VBACs, breech, multiples, etc at home but it’s not. The very fact that these “midwives” are willing to attend blatantly high risk births at home just illustrates the degree of danger they are OK with.

      When I lived in a midwestern state a couple years ago I interviewed a CPM as a “just-in-case-I-get-pregnant”. I was just coming out of the woo. When she shrugged off the length of my first labor (my homebirth CNM said it was the longest she had ever attended that ended in a homebirth rather than a transfer) and said she attended twins and breechs at home I immediately wrote her off. If she’s OK with the risk of twins and breeches at home – what lengths of danger would she be willing to subject me and my baby, otherwise very “low risk” to at home?

      Yes, there need to be strict limits on who can give birth at home…but we’ve also got to completely get rid of the crazies (CPMs) too!

    • fiftyfifty1

      I’m glad you are addressing this. Her first comment that you quoted was originally in reply to me. I gave up on it because where do you start when people are so clearly out of their element with numbers?

      One idea that I think can’t get stressed enough is how modern medicine can turn a high risk birth into a low risk birth. As Dr. Orosz pointed out, the death rate at home breech birth (crashes while flying during a typhoon) is above 2%. But the hospital risk of breech is no higher than for that of vertex babies because of C-section (how about let’s wait for the storm to pass before we take the tour. I know it will mess up your vacation plans, but flying in a typhoon just isn’t worth it).
      Likewise with non-preemie twins and prior c-section.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Shit. I woke up a number of times last night wondering about those shark attacks. They’ve gone from 1 per year to 13 per year? I know, I know, that’s still a very small number, but that is a 1200% increase, which is MASSIVE!

      But seriously, what is going on there? Is it due to a single shark (or couple of sharks) that have developed bad habits? Does this have something to do with global climate change? Has there been a decrease in sharks’ normal prey animals? Have we been overdeveloping coastline? Certainly this can’t represent just an increase in swimmers, can it, with an increase in attacks of 1200%? I would also like to know if the attacks are clustered in location–certain beeches, certain depths of water, certain activities that the swimmers were doing? Just nibbles or fatal attacks? How much variation in attacks from year to year do we normally see? Obviously this change must be statistically significant or the scientists who track these things wouldn’t have reported on it, right? I would be interested in seeing the numbers, because you know an increase of 1200% is very large.

      • KarenJJ

        Not just the only one keeping up at night with this question. My relative’s neighbour is a crayfisherman off the coast of Western Australia and has noted the same thing and says the water temperature is up a couple of degrees where he’s fishing and thinks it is global warming that is bringing the sharks in the warmer waters and closer to shore. No idea if it’s true but it’s another anecdata :)

        • Anj Fabian

          Changes in ocean currents have been noted. The changes also mean the distribution of prey fish may have changed, so the sharks are now more common in areas where there are humans.

        • Jocelyn

          When I took marine biology at college my professor (who had been a marine biologist for many, many years) actually told us that cold water currents were related to more shark attacks. Although that may have just been with great whites, though.

          • KarenJJ

            I’d trust a marine biologist over a crayfisherman for data on shark attacks.

      • auntbea

        Based on something I saw recently, though I can’t remember where, global warming is doing something to seals, which sends the sharks after other seal – like objects. Like people.

      • http://kumquatwriter.wordpress.com/ Kumquatwriter

        I grew up on the central Oregon coast, where we have great whites. And surfers and seals. A guy I went to high school with and his buddy got bit on the beach in front of my parents house (I was away in college). Has there been an increase in surfers in shark – friendly waters?

    • Ennis Demeter

      That reminds me of a very dumb debate I had in college with a man who said women were worse drivers than men. I pointed out that women have fewer accidents and he said that’s just because men drive drunk more.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Insurance companies say that men are worse drivers. Insurance companies go broke if they don’t follow the data on who is more likely to make a claim. I’m confident that their data are correct.

        • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

          You’re both right to a point.
          Men disproportionately work in professions (tradesmen, travelling salesmen etc) which require more travel, while women are more likely to be saddled with family commitments restricting their travel.
          IIRC the accident rate evens out once this is corrected for.

          Insurance companies insure on a per driver basis rather than by distance, so it makes more sense for them to consider the uncorrected rates by gender.

          • KarenJJ

            I was wondering about that. Maybe men drive more?

  • MaineJen

    “These are the words of people who value being “nice” above being correct.” This is the heart of the matter. I consider myself a skeptic and a feminist (and an atheist! gasp), and I’m truly mystified (and generally disheartened) by the fact that so many people need to be tiptoed around. We MUST not hurt the tender feelings of those who believe in pseudoscience or Other Ways Of Knowing. We MUST not be meen and point out those nasty little facts that throw cold water on their dearly cherished beliefs. Preachers must be allowed to handle deadly snakes, parents must be allowed to treat their children with faith healing and rogue midwives must be allowed to continue practicing. They are outside the conventions of the law–even of common sense!– because they believe in something very earnestly…however ridiculous, unfounded or *dangerous* that belief might be. I just…don’t…understand it.

  • MLE
    • MLE

      It’s over in the first five minutes and Michelle Monaghan trots out all the typical complains about hospitals…she doesn’t want needles, didn’t want to be tied to a bed, wanted to move around, etc. Nothing you haven’t heard 100s of times before.

      • LibrarianSarah

        The thing is that there is this great thing that allows you to avoid all that and is even safer than hospital birth. It is called “not having kids.” You can also try fostering or adoption.

        Look I get it. I am terrified of needles. I don’t even like getting blood drawn. I had to be mildly sedated for just about every long term hospital stay I ever had. But I still get all my vaccines even my flu shot because I know I have a responsibility to keep my students and my community safe. If you make the choice to have kids, you have the responsibility to keep that kid safe. And the likelihood of your kid dieing or getting severely injured in a homebirth is far greater than me getting polio.

      • Stephanie

        The thing that gets me about the no needles, yada yada yada b.s. is that IMHO the actual birth part of having kids is a tiny fraction of the experience of being a parent/mother. I would go through the birth process (which was miserable and I did not like) every year if that was necessary to keep my kids.

    • Ennis Demeter

      Someone just cited the MANA study to show how “safe” homebirth is.

  • Ennis Demeter

    I am always struck by the premium on feelings in general in the whole debate on childbirth. Once I read an anti-hospital birth comment from a woman who had to have am emergency c-section and she was very traumatized by the whole thing. Her whole focus was on how the anesthesiologist was rude and didn’t answer her question while she was being rushed into surgery. It just seems so misdirected, like good old fashioned lashing out. But people quite seriously frame the whole debate on healthcare during pregnancy as who is the nicest and most supportive.

    • Marf

      Yup. Both of the surgeons who performed my c-sections had very offsetting, blunt demeanors. But that didn’t matter one iota when what I needed was a competent and experienced surgeon to get my babies out.

      • Marf

        I meant “off putting”, not “offsetting”.

    • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

      I think its totally valid. You are at the mercy of your care providers. If they behave rudely it can be extremely frightening, because you don’t know if they are indifferent to your safety or not or if they are just having a bad day or what. People with histories of being mistreated are more prone to hypervigilance in situations where they are subject to someone elses authority, and about 1/4 of women have some kind of abuse in their history. Interestingly, pregnancy seems to be a common time for abuse to start in relationships.

      • Marf

        What is “rude” is often up to interpretation. If we’re talking about a medical situation happening in the moment, there are all sorts of factors that come into play as to why hospital staff might come off as rude, when in reality they are simply behaving in a manner which they – based on their experience – think will result in the healthiest outcomes. If they are making quick decisions based on a complex amount of information that can’t be quickly conveyed to a layperson, they might be dismissive of questions because that have more important tasks to focus on in that moment to make sure the patient is safe. I think Ennis Demeter’s comment is about how too much emphasis is put on the value of bedside manner without realizing that oftentimes bedside manner must be sacrificed in order to meet more important goals.

        I’m not sure what you are suggesting in your final comment about pregnancy being a common time for abuse. First, you cite no source, which is annoying. If that’s true, it is interesting, but it would be nice to have somewhere to start looking to see how you arrived at that conclusion. If it is true, I’m not sure what it has to do with the rudeness of medical staff toward pregnant women. We’re not talking about actual abuse. We’re talking about perceived rudeness and how potential damaging it is. I would not be surprised if abuse in relationships starts with the birth of children, but if it does, I would guess it has everything to do with increased stress combined with sexist assumptions about gender roles. Not weather a woman feels she was treated rudely by hospital staff.

        • AlisonCummins

          It’s been commonly believed up to now that pregnancy is a particularly high-risk time for intimate partner violence, but these days the link appears less clear. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/violence/IntimatePartnerViolence/sld011.htm#12

          If a pregnant woman is being abused at home, then both empathic respect and [apparent] callous disregard by hospital staff will have particular meaning for her. It’s worth being aware of.

          • Marf

            I agree. However, the context in which supposedly “callous disregard” is expressed is important. If medical staff come off that way to women during routine prenatal care appointments, that is definitely a problem in that it puts unecessary stress on those women and could damage the trust that should exist between a woman and her care providers. If, however, we’re talking about a situation where quick decisions and calculations might need to be made (such as when she’s in labor) the chance of medical staff coming off as callous when in reality they are just trying to do their job as best they can given the circumstances is higher.

            Sometimes medical staff get a bit tough on a patient because based on their experience it is the most expedient way to make sure the patient won’t put off or refuse necessary care. Again, this isn’t about actual abuse – where the abuser’s intention is to belittle or harm the person they are abusing. If a woman doesn’t think her care providers have their priorities straight with regards to her health, she needs to find another care provider.

          • Ennis Demeter

            There was an episode of the show “Parenthood” in which one of the couples is trying to choose an oncologist or a surgeon for her breast cancer. They go to one place which is all flowers and hugs, and they go to another with a rude practitioner. They are almost about to choose the flowers and hugs person, but they have doubts and talk to another cancer patient, who tells them the rude guy is rude, but is fierce about his patients’ health. I really liked that, and it can be applied to many professions.

        • Guest

          Sometimes they are just rude and unprofessional. My sister has a BScN, and even though they call their patients “care partners” -which I greatly admire and their standard is to treat them that way, there are still rude nurses, lazy nurses and nurses with attitude!

          I have met way too many health care people with bad days. But I will take it over a goofy midwife on her best day.

  • Marf

    Damn, I never read Skepchick normally, but I just happened to see that article today, and I attempted to comment, and they wouldn’t post my comment, which pissed me off. And then I come here and see this post. Glad I’m not alone. I just posted this on my blog giving a poor evaluation of Skepchick’s Grounded Parents blog, which I was largely motivated to write because of the Jamie Bernstein articles: http://humanistmom.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-rocky-start-for-skepchicks-grounded.html

    • yugaya

      “Until today we had no official policy on privately contacting commenters,”

      Lol. Any web portal without policies regarding basic privacy and security issues like that in place and in signed written contracts/agreements with their staff before launching is exactly like a CPM midwife – only appear to know what they are doing.

    • anion

      I’m really surprised that a blog that high profile, which earns advertising revenue, refuses to pay its contributors even a percentage of revenue earned from adclicks on their individual posts or a small flat fee/stipend.

      Good for you for resigning. Since I started getting paid for writing fiction seven years ago, I’ve worked for free maybe four times, generally free gift stories for my readers or contributions to charity anthologies. When sites which want to be taken seriously refuse to acknowledge that content is valuable, and allow their contributors to basically support them by drawing readers which earn revenue, it displays a fundamental disrespect for the work that goes into producing content and those who do it.

      I was recently contacted and offered work contributing to a blog site. They gave me the payment rates upfront. It’s dependent on click-throughs and ads, but it still recognizes that my content is what allows the site to earn money.

    • KarenJJ

      That was interesting. I had a read around the Grounded Parents blog the other day and wasn’t a fan either. Which surprised me because I thought I’d find it a lot more interesting. In the end I believe that you are right, without expertise all they are doing is adding to the general hot air and noise surrounding parenting opinions. I also had an issue with the tone, which I find funny and ironic as a SOB reader.

  • hmm hmm

    I am genuinely curious about this “trigger warning” trend I’m noticing increasingly on chat forums and websites. Is this a new thing or have I just been missing it? Admittedly I don’t spend a lot of time in forums and hadn’t read Grounded Parents before this recent brouhaha.

    If it’s new, what has brought it about and is it really necessary? Seems hypersensitive to me–walking on eggshells etc.

    • MLE

      http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116842/trigger-warnings-have-spread-blogs-college-classes-thats-bad

      My main concern with the trigger warning is that it effectively shuts out from the discussion those who have first hand knowledge of the triggering topic, thereby leaving those with no experience to imagine what victims might be thinking and feeling. How can society’s problems be best addressed if those who have experienced them are encouraged to leave the discussion?

      • yugaya

        To me it is patronising and tells heaps of the communicator’s inability to keep in mind the needs of the audience, quite selfish too, like here ya go, I will put the label TRIGGER in the title instead of thinking through my message and the follow up discussion in terms of both content and format. You can almost always formulate any discussion or debate and oversee it so that people who are most probably going to react to it due to past trauma can take part, or exit reading/listening of their own accord before they get triggered into involuntary emotional response.

        In other words, it takes skill to communicate with an audience of many on trigger-happy subject without just throwing it out there and saying kids go into your room, this conversation is for adults only ( in case of ‘trigger’ label, safe only for those who are not going to react emotionally).

        • Anj Fabian

          It’s now part of netiquette to give readers some sort of warning when posting on certain topics so that anyone who wishes to avoid the topic can stop reading at the warning.

          I mentioned someone I knew had an experience with cancer and one of the responses I got was “Tell me more.” and another was “Don’t want to hear this, unfollowing now.”.

          In conventional writing, the title and introductory paragraph will tell the reader what they can expect to be discussed. On the internet, there are different conventions.

          Personally, I don’t shy away from many topics and I am perfectly happy to view images that others may find gruesome such as surgical procedures. I realize others may not share my attitude, so I warn them so they can skip a potentially unpleasant experience.

          Or prepare themselves. Either one.

          • MLE

            It’s true that there are different conventions, but I find that discussions on certain topics are clustered in predictable areas and they don’t just leap out at you while you’re browsing kid birthday party ideas on pinterest, for example. Isn’t that what the OT alert is for? I’ve been more affected by a song coming on the radio unexepctedly than anything I have read online because there are usually SOME context clues when I’m clicking around. Maybe I’m just enough of a “surface” user not to really know what’s out there in terms of potential unexpected encounters.

          • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

            If you aren’t sensitive to these things, why the hell would you notice them when doing normal browsing? You wouldn’t. Its the same way that guys say “I didn’t notice any sexism in my department” or white people say “But I didn’t notice any racism in that movie.” No shit! IT DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU.

        • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

          What is patronizing to me is the idea that knowing my own limits about what I can or cannot deal with makes me a weakling or pitiable. It means I worked very hard to understand my PTSD and learned how to manage it. Screw you for pretending like you know what you are talking about. Are allergy warnings patronizing? How about trying to prevent children from accessing pornography w/net nanny software? Oh yeah, its not, because in those cases exposing people to something harmful is a matter of self protection, not of being judged as weak or stupid for understanding your own limits. Are black people weak or stupid for maybe not wanting to be exposed to racism sometimes? Are loss moms weak for not wanting to be exposed to infant deaths sometimes? Of course not. I’m so glad you are in a place in your life where you haven’t had a hardship of such magnitude, but you should maybe use some empathy to imagine what it might be like to be less fortunate. What you don’t get is that sometimes, with certain exposures, I have to *be there again*. I have to re-experience the worst things in my life. But never mind that, because warning me beforehand is ‘patronizing’ to me. Pfft. I am too pissed to continue this conversation, there are other people who can explain this to you if you really are still having trouble.

          • yugaya

            I apologise for perhaps not being more specific – I was not talking about allergy warnings, prescribed website indicators of adult content or anything like that. If I were to have a blog or be a part of online community where I know there are mothers like yourself, and I wanted to write a blog or start a discussion about how baby Gavin Michael was killed, I would make sure that there was a personal, very long introduction with much reflecting and that it was very, very carefully worded. I would probably speak of the devastating effect that witnessing what happened to him and his parents has had one me, and I would probably ( if I knew you or someone like yourself who is a regular that I interacted online with before) communicate my intention to start a discussion on that subject to the people who I know may react to it before I posted it.

            What I was trying to say is that it is easier, as someone else pointed out already a part of netiquette, and generally accepted to just give a title like ‘Homebirth baby tragedy TRIGGER’ and just rant away what I have to say.

            Again, apologies if you took my comment above to mean that people should just post whatever they want without making sure that other people should just get over themselves and quit reading if they find something too much to handle – I did not mean that in any way.

            As for where I am in my life and what I know or do not know personally about triggers and PTSD, please do not assume any of that based on a few of my comments on the internet. I may know a lot more than you think, or I may know nothing, in any case, even from just reading this blog I know your story and a lot more stories of people who were brave to share them, and I would make sure that my corner of the internet was safe for you and them without using the word ‘trigger’ in title or content description of anything I posted.

          • AlisonCummins

            I’m sure your way is fine.
            What’s wrong with less nuanced writers saying “trigger” instead?

          • yugaya

            It’s just lazier in my opinion I guess. :)

          • Jessica S.

            I didn’t read the comment as saying the warning is patronizing thus people just need to deal. I read it as saying the author could take time to edited out unnecessary language, terms, stories, etc. that could harm readers so that it’s more accessable to all. I think the commenter was advocating that approach first as opposed to writing without any thought to others and then slapping a warning on it. If after editing it still needs a label, then that’s appropriate, but I’m pretty certain they were advocating sensitivity first and foremost, not saying people need to be less sensitive.

            Whether that was stated well, or was the intended meaning, I’m not sure.

          • thepragmatist

            The problem is that if you take out those things you would never be able to write about rape, incest, or other things that can cause PTSD. And also, people who are engaging in those communities may have other triggers, around mentions of even healthy family behaviours or sexuality. I also have participated in a pregnancy loss forum and many of those women had PTSD, and could not handle hearing normal things about babies. It’s not their fault and it’s just simply respectful to put a trigger warning so that OTHER people can benefit from the post. I don’t expect other people to limit themselves because of my PTSD. I do want to know the content of something before I expose myself. EG. When I used to watch movies, I would look up the movie first, because rape scenes in movies would leave me dysfunctional for days.

          • thepragmatist

            Yeah, that pisses me off. I forget the trigger warning because I am often engaged in pretty emotive writing, and I write in places where I think it’s expected. You remind me here to try harder, as I recall being at a place where watching parents with their kids used to trigger me, for goodness sake. And yes, people DO NOT understand that about triggers. I experience the worst triggers in hospital because there are power differences and people who do not manage them well, and it’s within that context that I am triggered these days– not much else can get me going. And what the person engaged in triggering me doesn’t understand is s/he is now secondary to my re-experiencing of the trauma, and that the re-experiencing can be so vivid as to superimpose itself on whatever is happening. I see, feel, smell and hear the traumatic experience. I live alone now, and so my life is very controlled for triggers– I do not find my relationship with my child triggering (anymore– I had to do some therapy to get here) but when I have a friend in the house or I am traveling, things can become difficult for me very quickly. And no, once a trigger is touched on, it’s much harder to put it away than anyone without PTSD could ever imagine.

      • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

        It only shuts out people who have first hand knowledge *IF THEY ARE UNCOMFORTABLE READING OR TALKING ABOUT IT* in which case they wouldn’t participate ANYWAY, they just managed to protect themselves. I can talk about rape and birth trauma because I’ve worked on it through therapy a lot. I do know that seeing commercials for ‘call the midwife’ and ‘the mindy project’ really screwed with me at first. I needed safety and help to get better, and now I can talk about those things. WHy is everyone so against a WARNING? It has no function except to warn people going in about the content of an article. Yeeesh.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          “Call the Midwife” has really devolved into pro-homebirth propaganda in the third season (I’m watching it on the UK schedule)

    • KarenJJ

      What struck me with the original Bernstein piece was the trigger warning about neonatal death at the top of the article and the line that went (paraphrasing here) ‘OMGZ 5.5 times increased rate of dead babies’.

      It certainly made the trigger warning look insincere when they are trivialising the main issue we have with out of hospital births.

      • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

        Thats the thing though- you don’t know if a mention is going to screw someone up bc the person who needs the trigger warning doesn’t exactly make the rules about what is profoundly upsetting or not. Trauma is a thing that happens to people, it isn’t something that they chose or can realistically control. PTSD is a condition that can be managed, not cured. The only thing you can do is learn your own limits and try to respect them.

    • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

      it just gives you a warning in case you don’t want to be exposed to something. Like lets pretend maybe you were raped a few months ago and don’t want to be surprised by a mention of rape because it just happens to fuck up your entire day and makes you unable to function normally. Maybe you get surprised by a rape joke an hour before you have to go to work and you can’t stop crying. etc etc. Putting a warning gives you the option to proceed or not. Its just common courtesy for people who are prehaps not as fortunate as you are.

    • Starling

      “Trigger” functions a lot like the NSFW warning or the spoiler alert. It doesn’t shut down conversation or exclude people from it. It allows them to decide whether they want to proceed, and if they’d like to pour themselves a stiff drink, first.

      A blog like this doesn’t need trigger warnings, because the content is pretty obvious. But it’s courteous to provide some notice if your lighthearted blog homage to the Princess Bride turns into a tale about how Prince Humperdinck looked exactly like your rapist and the movie was therefore a cathartic experience. If you cover a wide range of topics, it’s good to differentiate between your recipe posts, your mommy blog posts, and your discussion of female genital mutilation, you know? You don’t have to use TRIGGER; you could just warn your readers that you’re going to be talking about X before jumping right in with the graphic first-person account.

    • thepragmatist

      Trigger warnings came from sexual abuse usenet groups and listservs, even before forums. They are to prevent triggering PTSD (as mentioned below) and used wherever people are discussing highly personal, traumatizing experiences. They’re a courtesy. I forget them all the time. Ack.

  • Ducky

    I do think there is a strong component of gender socialization to women shying away from skepticism, though there probably is some physiological component as well. Some research shows that even accounting for gender socialization women do tend to be less risk-averse overall and more prone to superstition and religiosity than men, theoretically for evolutionary reasons. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201009/why-are-women-more-religious-men-ii

    That says nothing about the abilities of individual women or women in general, it’s just a comparative hypothesis. From my personal experience, I think the cultural components are by far the most important ones, especially regards speaking out against others.

    I think we do have to distinguish between respectful debate and argument, though. I agree with respectful debate, but Amy can be disrespectful and combative in her tone. So I can see people wanting to censor her from that perspective. But it’s often an excuse- one is much more tolerant of a disrespectful or disparaging tone that supports one’s preconceived ideas. And one is more likely, of course, to perceive a negative tone in a statement that threatens one’s identity or interests.

    • LibrarianSarah

      While Psychology Today can be an interesting magazine it is hardly a scholarly or reputable source. There is plenty of woo in their magazine and on their website (Darcia Narvaez anyone?). I would take anything written there with a pound of salt. Try to access the original studies that are mentioned and if no studies are mentioned, take it as one guys opinion.

      • PJ

        I totally agree. And–without having read the above article, admittedly–how on earth do you remove the element of gender socialisation from the equation? I’m sceptical.

        • LibrarianSarah

          Two words: Evolutionary Psychology

          • PJ

            I’m very sceptical about evolutionary psychology, at least as far as gender is concerned. A lot of its practitioners seems spectacularly blind to how their hypotheses about gender are shaped by their own very specific cultural beliefs.

          • LibrarianSarah

            I mirror your skepticism. Most of the practice looks like post hoc rationalizations to me.

      • itry2brational

        You are hardly a scholarly or reputable source. And we should take yours as just “one girl’s opinion”, also with pound of salt. Every source has its share of kooks and quacks but to say one apple spoils the bunch is not very rational.

  • MLE

    There is nothing wrong with being nice. The problem is when “being nice” means that you must agree wholeheartedly with whatever is said, or risk being labeled mean, or worse, unsupportive. To me, “being nice” means that someone will listen carefully to what I am saying, form cogent thoughts of their own, and then pay me the respect of sharing their opinion whether it is the same as mine or not.

    • yugaya

      Insisting on being ‘nice’ is like thinking happy thoughts only. You are missing potentially crucial information because you are limiting the points of view you will hear to those in agreement only.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Another problem with “being nice” is that it tends to ignore some severe passive-aggressive approaches. For example, in one of the old parenting forums, I got into a lot of trouble (imagine that) after the following conversion:

      Another poster: “I don’t want my son to wear pink, because I don’t want him to have problems with gender identity issues”
      Me: You are a homophobic asshole. If that is what you are teaching your kids, them away from mine.

      Now, was I nice? Not in the least. However, read what that other person said from the perspective of someone who has sons who do wear piink or is someone who is raising someone transgendered, and you know what? It’s pretty damn insulting. And when I pointed that out, the person got defended with the old, “Oh, he wasn’t talking about you.” BUT HE WAS. My sons wear pink, so he is making a direct statement about them.

      So you can claim that my kids are going to have gender identity problems, and everyone is happy. But if I call you out on it? I’m not nice.

      That’s why I don’t go for this “play nice” stuff – nice is in what you say, not just in how you say it.

      • thepragmatist

        I notice that there is a trend toward using “niceties” and “concern” like a weapon against those who hold a differing opinion. Women then bully the person into silence: it doesn’t matter how it is done, but the important aspect is that the dissenting view point is silenced anyway.

  • CanDoc

    “No website can lay claim to the adjective “skeptic” if their prioritize harmony above intellectual rigor”. Yes, this.

    • theNormalDistribution

      I thought it was a little disturbing that Surly Amy started off her post talking how the leaders of the skeptical movement “do not stand for [her] ethical principles.” Um. Yeah. I think you may be confused about what skepticism is.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Bernstein has just posted a number of comments on her pieces to clarify her position.

    • Deena Chamlee

      link please

    • Anj Fabian

      Perhaps she should write an entirely new piece incorporating the clarifications?

      How does this peer review thing work? I’ve never participated in it.

      • auntbea

        Peer review is supposed to work by catching all your errors BEFORE you publish.

        • Anj Fabian

          Thanks!

  • Moronicus_Litho

    Once upon a time I was a kid growing up on the Internet. I spent a significant amount of time trolling and believing truth could only be stated effectively as bluntness and that bluntness was a virtue. After years of this I eventually lost interest in forums and whatnot and got busy with other things. Over time I just kind of assumed, without really thinking about it, that my earlier behavior was due to the fact that I was a teenager. Then I went back to various comms, groups, and forums and found people of many ages engaging in this behavior. I realized bluntness was emotional expression and laziness and for some reason people think you can only be nice by lying (one wonders about offline interactions.)

    When I don’t engage in these things online, it’s only because it has grown old to me… not because I’m expressing some kind of womanly quality. Because seriously, between GP and SkepticalOB on this issue, it’s all just been grandstanding and chest thumping… between two groups on the same side.

    • fiftyfifty1

      You seriously feel that way, or are you trolling for a reaction?

      • Moronicus_Litho

        Can you be more specific?

    • Trixie

      Teach us, oh wise one, the ways of the internet.

      • Moronicus_Litho

        A bunch of women become get into a fight and become quite catty with each other on the blogs and in the comments. One writes that women are incapable of being mean and dealing with being mean to each other. Surely, there is a lesson in this story…

        • KarenJJ

          It’s a “cat fight”.. Really? That’s the best you can do about this discussion? It’s just all petty little wimminz stuff.

          • Moronicus_Litho

            “It’s all just petty little wimminz stuff” … isn’t that what this article is saying

        • Trixie

          You’re right, you’ve been around the internet for a while, because your trolling skillz are top-notch.

          • Moronicus_Litho

            +1

    • Jessica S.

      If you think there’s nothing more than grandstanding and chest thumping between the two sides, you clearly don’t understand what’s being debated. And your comment is so utterly pretentious, it’s sickening.

      • Moronicus_Litho

        Amy is pretentious, Jamie is pretentious, I’m pretentious… it is what it is.

  • Guest

    If that was true, there wouldn’t be a Joel Osteen, or Rob Bell, or the guy who made the video on youtube about the flaming toilet of death. All very touchy freely, emotive messages, and when anyone tried to confront them with facts or questions about their theology, they refuse to deal on an intellectual level, then more emotion! Men are just sooooo emotional!

    • KarenJJ

      “Leave Britney alone!”.

      • Jessica S.

        Omg – I totally forgot about that. Too funny!

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    The most horrible image of a satirical post by Dr. Tuteur in which she has a revelation and decides to be nice from now on (with sarcastic examples of her being “nice”) just suddenly appeared in my mind…and now I want, want WANT it to exist in real life.

    “I’ve turned over a new leaf. I will no longer be mean to poor oppressed midwives like Lisa Barrett. What’s a baby or five between friends? And Dr. Odent. What was I thinking criticizing him for abandoning his wife during labor? Clearly, he just wanted to give her the best experience possible and the silly girl didn’t understand…”

    Oops. Now I squicked myself.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      If she does it, she is going to have to be sure to label it as satire…

      • Durango

        And even then people will misread it and misquote it. Sigh.

  • fiftyfifty1

    To be fair, the biggest voice over at Grounded Parent criticizing tone seems to be a man, chrisbrecheen

    • Elizabeth A

      Well, he’s pissed because posters like Dr. Amy and her readership have poked holes in the beautiful story of his girlfriend’s attempted homebirth. See, Chris got over the midwives being quacks, but the rest of us are unshaken in our observation that those midwives were quacks.

      • yugaya

        There are a lot of problems with people bringing anecdotal knowledge into any debate as an argument pro or against something, especially if they are supposed to be skeptical because of all the arguments in the world people should firstly discard as totally biased and a highly subjective point of view any argument that is rooted in an opinion that was formed upon something they experienced. To use it to illustrate a point yes, to show how the subject relates to them yes, but to build a valid argumentation on it? That is a big no no in a good quality debate.

        It seems to me that in these online homebirth debates, unless you give evidence in the form of ‘I personally experienced this and that is why it is good/bad’ your opinion is somehow not taken into consideration. I also see that taken onto another level, where experiencing something somehow pseudo-qualifies you to do something completely different. Just think how many of the “midwives” will state their own homebirthing records as if it were job credentials.

        Does the fact that someone during their life at some point went to school and omg loved it qualifies them to be a teacher? You do your own taxes and call yourself a tax junkie and an online course later you are a Certified Professional Accountant? I do not think so, but apparently many people out there do.

        • Young CC Prof

          In the world of mathematical logic, one example of a phenomenon proves that it has happened at least once. One example of its failure proves that it does not always happen. It says nothing about the frequency of either occurrence. But somehow people trust those single examples far more than numbers…

          • yugaya

            The world of mathematical logic needs to educate itself more and just trust the numbers! :)))

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Men do often enforce the narrative that women are irrational and incapable of a skepticism. Chris is just doing his part for the boys.

  • Comrade X

    True story: I was 18 years old, and had just applied to study Philosophy & French at one of the colleges making up Oxford University. I was invited for interview. During my philosophy interview, I was challenged to give my views on the existence of objective morality. The interviewer/tutor was a woman, by the way. It was actually a subject I had thought and worried a lot about already, and I gave the best analysis of it that I had managed to formulate at that time in my life. The tutor responded by saying to me: “You don’t have a very feminine mind, do you?” Somewhat startled, I asked her what she meant. “Well, you seem to want to have good rational reasons for everything you believe.”

    This was a philosophy tutor. At Oxford.

    Women-as-irrational-wishful-thinking-woo-mistresses is a trope that is alive and well, I’m afraid.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      At least she noticed that you were exploring the issue rationally. Often men (or women) fail to so much as acknowledge that a woman is responding logically to a critique. On the last thread on breastfeeding a pediatrician posted a not particularly well thought out comment on why he thought the discordant sibs study was not adequate. Fiftyfifty wrote a detailed and logical response to his comment. His response to her? “Wow, you’re passionate!” No response to the argument, not so much as a “you suck at math and logic”. No acknowledgement of her making an argument at all. Just “you’re so cute when you’re angry.”

      • theNormalDistribution

        That was pretty facepalm-worthy.

    • Deena Chamlee

      LMAO

  • ngozi

    I get so tired of the “nice” thing. Even Jesus valued truth over nice-ness.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      This is why we can’t have nice things. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    • Josephine

      Maybe someone needs to start turning over some tables.

      • Trixie

        I’m going to go irrationally yell at a fig tree in a moment.

      • prolifefeminist

        some exam tables in CPM offices…(er, I mean in their spare bedrooms)

        • Mishimoo

          That’s a rather apt analogy – the moneychangers were taking advantage of people who were there to seek a spiritual experience, much like the CPMs and DEMs do.

      • ngozi

        And I hope they have a whip in hand like Jesus did!!

  • AlisonCummins

    From SBM: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/dr-tuteur-has-decided-to-leave-science-based-medicine/ “Amy strongly favored a more heavily moderated commenting system, and Steve and I were very reluctant to change our commenting policy.”

    *** *** ***

    Each blog is its own subculture with a small number of regular commenters. When a commenter or poster joins a new blog there is a culture shock when the regulars have long histories and unstated expectations. There can be a lot of angriness while the joiner either adapts or leaves. There are different legitimate ways to deal with this, some that prioritise inclusiveness and others that sacrifice weaklings.

    *** *** ***

    My favourite blogs are very focussed and fact-based, not necessarily skeptical, but with a strong reality check built in and a clear raison d’être. This blog has evolved over the years to develop its strong focus on homebirth midwifery and the CPM credential and that is where it shines. A shortcoming of this blog is precisely where it requires precisely the mindless joining and following implicitly criticized in this post. When a practice or belief is denounced as ridiculous with no explanation of why it’s ridiculous, laypeople are forced into an unsatisfactory position of either agreeing in order to be part of the community, or asking what is going on but not necessarily getting an answer. So even if hatting is good and cinnamon candy is useless or absence of amniotic fluid means the fetus is dying right now and not slowly, there’s a certain amount of completely non-fact-based, us-vs-them, you-agree-because-you’re-one-of-us groupthink happening.

    *** *** ***

    As far as gender differences go, many men simply appear to enjoy combat for its own sake. Skeptical discussion can be an outgrowth of this. Our own dear LMS1959 appears to be an angry, combative personality and describes discussion in terms of assault. (Thank you to whoever pointed out to me that his threat was likely just a metaphor for a reply.) Notable is that his threat of reprisals/reply was in response to a perceived threat of being “chastised” (as opposed to critiqued), projecting his perception of argument as combat. He lives in a world of enemies and is ready to fearlessly defend himself with displays of anger and authority. He doesn’t use the language of a delicate flower but he does fiercely object to being challenged and does his best to shut down debate. So I’m not sure that wanting to keep discussion within safe bounds is as much of a sex thing as it is a style thing.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      And yet this community is not heavily moderated, so it’s hardly likely I was demanding to heavily moderate SBM.

      • AlisonCummins

        You apparently believed at the time that the reason the commenters here challenge you less than the ones at SBM is that folks here are afraid of being moderated. Maybe only a little moderation is required to strike fear into the heart of a commenter, but it’s still more than the male-dominated SBM requires.

        • Comrade X

          You really think we’re all cowering in fear of being deleted and/or banned by the fearsome Dr T? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen Dr T tell someone off for their comment, except in the case of threats, racism or sexism.

          • AlisonCummins

            Exactly!

            ETA: I don’t think that but she appeared to at the time.

          • Anj Fabian

            The best communities I have seen are where there is precious little actual moderation. The community sets the tone, the community reacts to the usual trolls and that is usually sufficient.

            Self selection bias in action.

          • Zornorph

            When you call her ‘Dr. T’, it makes me think of Dr. Sues’ only live action movie, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. A boy’s surreal nightmare about an evil piano teacher (and with some serious gay subtext). One of my obscure favorites.

          • Young CC Prof

            Not to be confused with Mr. T. No one argues with Mr. T.

        • thepragmatist

          I don’t think anyone here is afraid of being moderated. And people here prove to me that a community of women can exist with little moderation. None, really. I’ve seen only one commenter banned here. Usually we enjoy the dissenting opinions because they are so ridiculous as to be amusing, and every so often someone comes in who actually is challenging and interesting. One of the things I like most here is that I am not moderated. Ever. And in return, I treat this space more respectfully.

          • AlisonCummins

            Yes, exactly.

    • theNormalDistribution

      You forgot Amy’s quote:

      The sticking point was the lack of a moderation policy. Every comment thread spun out of control because certain people (almost all of whom came from here) were free to post garbage that they could never get away with on this site.

      Interestingly, I rarely remove comments here (can’t remember the last time I did) and I almost never ban people, yet people are able to control their behavior because they know it could happen.

      • AlisonCummins

        So you vote for moderating not-nice people too? And that the only reason comment threads don’t spin out of control is fear of moderation?

        • theNormalDistribution

          No, I was just pointing out that by quoting SBM saying “Amy strongly favored a more heavily moderated commenting system” on its own makes it appear that Amy was looking for a level of moderation that is not really consistent with what she actually said. But of course, you left that part out.

          • AlisonCummins

            Oh, you mean you think I implied that this board is heavily moderated? Sorry, that’s not what I meant. I do not believe this board is heavily moderated.

          • theNormalDistribution

            No, I mean you implied that Amy wanted to heavily moderate on SBM.

          • AlisonCummins

            That’s not what they said. David Gorski is exceptionally light on the moderating, so when he referred to “more heavily moderated” his baseline is close to zero and “more” could be almost anything. I have no idea which comments Amy Tuteur, MD had in mind or whether her idea of appropriate moderation for SBM would be anything I consider heavy.

          • theNormalDistribution

            So what was your point?

          • AlisonCummins

            That it’s complicated?

          • RebeccainCanada

            As a lay person reading up your comment, that is exactly what I thought you were implying.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “So even if hatting is good and cinnamon candy is useless or absence of amniotic fluid means the fetus is dying right now and not slowly, there’s a certain amount of completely non-fact-based, us-vs-them, you-agree-because-you’re-one-of-us groupthink happening.”

      I’m confused here. Are you saying that when I agree with Dr. Tuteur’s medical opinions it is because of groupthink? How about instead it’s because of my medical training and experience?

      “When a practice or belief is denounced as ridiculous with no explanation of why it’s ridiculous, laypeople are forced into an unsatisfactory position of either agreeing in order to be part of the community, or asking what is going on but not necessarily getting an answer.”

      I explain medical reasoning very thoroughly and at the same time (I hope) at a very lay-friendly level each and every time I’m asked on this blog. So do pretty much all the physician regulars here. When something comes up that is indeed ridiculous in my opinion, should I not say it because there might be a lay person out there who doesn’t understand and is too afraid to ask in case they don’t get an answer back or something?

      Am I reading your comments totally wrong?

      • AlisonCummins

        “Are you saying that when I agree with Dr. Tuteur’s medical opinions it is because of groupthink?”

        No, I am saying that as a layperson I may be expected to accept various assertions without explanation because that’s what people-like-us think.

        Yes, you’re pretty good about explaining. Amy Tuter, MD is pretty hit-or-miss though, and when I asked about the amniotic fluid in the most recent disaster I got answers in the comments along the lines of “well duh, everyone knows amniotic fluid is important!” and a technical explanation of what it is, but no I didn’t get an explanation of how the baby was dying right now. So I believe it was an emergency —the baby died, after all — but I feel a little hypocritical being derisive about the terrible midwife who didn’t know something I don’t know either. I get it that it’s her job to know and not mine, but if I commented here “can you believe that idiot ruined a sale by nt filing the

      • AlisonCummins

        Are you saying that when I agree with Dr. Tuteur’s medical opinions it is because of groupthink?

        No, I am saying that as a layperson I may be expected to accept various assertions without explanation because that’s what people-like-us think.

        Yes, you’re very good about explaining. Amy Tuteur, MD is pretty hit-or-miss though, and when I asked about the amniotic fluid in the most recent disaster I got answers in the comments along the lines of “well duh, everyone knows amniotic fluid is important!” and a technical explanation of what amniotic fluid is, but no I didn’t get an explanation of how the baby was dying right this instant. So I do believe it was an emergency — the baby died, after all — but I feel a little hypocritical being derisive about the terrible midwife who didn’t know something I don’t know either. I get it that it’s her job to know and not mine, but if I commented here “Can you believe that idiot ruined a sale by not entering the NNX in IBIS?” you might all believe me on my say-so that this was gross incompetence but you’re not going to join me in a shamefest of my colleague — and if you did, it would be because you are unhealthily invested in me somehow.

        • fiftyfifty1

          ““Can you believe that idiot ruined a sale by not entering the NNX in IBIS?”

          I’m not sure about the specifics of the NNX and IBIS, but I can still tell the person is an idiot because they went to facebook and crowd sourced an opinion about whether or not they should enter the NNX in IBIS and then came back to me telling me it probably didn’t matter as long as consumed some Stevia. And I don’t think that means I am somehow unhealthily invested in the person who finally sits me down and says “It’s important to enter the NNX in IBIS. I can confirm that your suspicians are right, the sale really got screwed”.

          • AlisonCummins

            Yes, I get the bit about the crowdsourcing. As a layperson I get that. It isn’t technical.

            Still, there is a certain amount of fangirlism required to care about something being pronounced ridiculous if I don’t understand why it would be ridiculous. Yet there are regular posts asserting to laypeople that such-and-such is ridiculous with no explanation of why. Somebody believes it. Obviously they don’t think they’re being ridiculous. I’m not going to laugh if I don’t get the joke.

            Fine, these posts are not written to make me happy. I get that too. I can still say they are a weakness of the blog compared to the strength of the posts focussed on the CPM qualification. Nobody needs to be perfect all the time: I am hardly ever perfect.

          • anion

            While I agree that I would have liked a detailed explanation, I disagree that one was necessary. I think most of the laypeople who read here aren’t so much fangirling Dr. Amy as showing interest in a particular topic, and no one is stopping us from opening a new browser tab or turning to a book to learn for ourselves what the potential problems may be with no amniotic fluid/low fluid. As people who have an interest in the topic and demonstrate it by being here, there’s nothing wrong with anticipating that we have some knowledge, too. Really, all I *needed* to know to understand the seriousness of that situation was that no amniotic fluid = very abnormal. I don’t think I needed special knowledge to know that “try stevia!” was a ridiculous response. (Personally, I’d suspect no one posted exactly why there was no fluid because there could be more than one reason. It’s kind of like how we may not know exactly which strain of the cold virus we have, but the treatment is the same for all of them.)

            I blog about writing and publishing topics; I assume my audience has some basic knowledge of that. Sometimes I explain things in more detail and sometimes I take my readers’ knowledge as given. I blog about my own books, and when I do I assume those reading have at least some familiarity with my work–otherwise why are they reading my blog?

            I like that this isn’t a “Basic facts every day” type of blog. I like that it’s assumed that I’m intelligent enough to either understand the issue or look it up myself so I can. There have a few times been terms or abbreviations used here with which I’m not familiar, so I look them up. I like learning things. I worry a lot that my comments sound naive or stupid (heck, as a fairly new poster I worry a lot that everyone is just rolling their eyes at me and wishing I’d shut up–there is indeed, as previously mentioned, a lot of insecurity and anxiety in “joining” a new community, especially a serious one peopled with a lot of professionals) but I figure if something I say is really wrong, I’ll be corrected, and thus will learn the actual facts.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Personally, I’d suspect no one posted exactly why there was no fluid because there could be more than one reason.”

            Actually it’s more like this: there are 3 basic reasons there might be no fluid
            1. The woman has ruptured. (But she hadn’t)
            2. The baby has a bladder or kidney problem. (But the ultrasound showed he didn’t)
            3. SERIOUS compromise of the placenta and baby.

            #3 is all that is left over, so it’s an emergency. Well actually #2 would be an emergency too, and #1 would be not good if it was going on for a long time due to risk of infection. But anyway, you can narrow it to #3.

            This is basic knowledge that anyone who cares for pregnant women should have.

          • AlisonCummins

            Yes I look things up. But there’s a reason that correspondence courses aren’t considered appropriate for midwives.

            This isn’t about amniotic fluid in particular. Sometimes it’s about truly ridiculous things that some people think they have scientific support for. On the one hand you have people saying that hatting can cause PPH with a sciency-sounding explanation of how, and on the other you have Amy Tuteur, MD saying that if you believe those clowns you must be really gullible — but not even a sentence about what really causes PPH.

            Look, I get it that this blog is perfect in every way and has no weaknesses. If there are things that annoy me a little they reflect only my own stupidity. There is no ingroup or outgroup, everyone is perfectly rational at all times and if homebirth loss mothers are treated to the laugh-and-point treatment it’s their own damn fault for being ignorant and gullible. The social dynamics of this blog have absolutely nothing in common with the social dynamics of Skepchick, not even a little bit sometimes. Nothing has ever been overstated here to make a point and nuance reigns.

            Also, LMS1959’s rage when challenged here has absolutely nothing in common with comment deletions in other communities. There is no shared motivation and men are more suited to skepticism because they use anger instead of conciliation to resolve disputes.
            Is that better?

          • anion

            What…?

            Where in the world did I say “This blog is perfect, and all of the comments are always perfect, and nobody cares what you think?”

            I thought we were having a pleasant conversation, which began with me agreeing with you (as I did when you originally posted the comment about what the reasons for low fluid/where does the fluid come from) that more information would be nice, and I would like to have it. I just disagreed that it was necessary in order to follow the discussion, and added some thoughts based on how I run my own blog, which also sometimes involves specialized knowledge. And I mentioned how I personally feel about the tone and about “joining” a community.

            I certainly did not say a single word about men, or men being “better” skeptics, or anything of that nature, and I know pretty much nothing at all about the wider skeptic community because I don’t visit any of those blogs or sites; I’ve never even heard of most of them. Nor did I bring up LMS1959, though I am very sorry that you feel so tremendously abused and victimized by your interaction with him. I have been there, feeling attacked by someone, and it’s unpleasant regardless of what they meant or didn’t mean or whatever. Those feelings are hard to forget and move past.

            I’m really not sure why you took any of my comments as insults. But it’s clear to me that you did, and that you are feeling attacked again. I’m sorry for that. I do not try to be “nice” online but I do try to be kind, because I am a kind person and I generally see little point in cruelty. And I suspect that the kindest thing for me to do at this point is exit this particular discussion, because I am obviously not expressing myself in a way that does not feel or seem to you like a personal insult or attack.

            I sincerely hope you feel better.

          • AlisonCummins

            “While I agree that I would have liked a detailed explanation, I disagree that one was necessary.”

            It wasn’t necessary, but you would have liked one. I would have liked one too even though I didn’t spontaneously combust when I didn’t get one handed to me.

            One of the unintended[?] consequences of assuming that all laypeople have the background to figure out the truth for themselves and don’t need/ can’t profit from an illustration of how genuinely knowledgeable people understand a problem is that those laypeople who don’t, but who would like to be on the side of science, are left choosing between two different articles of faith. If this unintended[?] consequence is not a problem, cool. I personally am a little uncomfortable with it but that’s my outcome to own. But why shouldn’t I say that unintended[?] consequence exists, at least for me?

            I’m not here for fact-a-day explanations of obstetrics. But a single line explaining how a knowledgeable person thinks about things would improve the outraged/ laugh-and-point posts for me. It’s been made very clear that nobody cares about my experience, and why should they? Still, it is my experience.

          • An Actual Attorney

            I have to stick up for Allison here. There are some times I would like some more explanation of what’s really medically going on. It’s interesting and isn’t obvious to me.

  • theNormalDistribution

    I feel obligated to point out that the “Anonymous Coward” wasn’t really aptly named. I mean, I guess so, but it’s hardly unique. A lot of message boards log you as ‘anonymous coward’ rather than ‘guest’ to encourage (slash shame) users to create a profile and own their words.

  • Monica

    What drives me crazy about the whole thing with The Grounded Parent is they have been anything but nice. Basically calling people liars and saying they didn’t bother to read things when they themselves are the ones who have admitted to not reading. And publicizing people’s IP addresses absolutely crosses a line. Maybe it’s not illegal, but what do you gain by doing that? Must be their way of keeping people in line. Follow our rules or risk having us revealing your location and email address to the world so people can then harass you. Lacking ethics seems to be the name of the game over at The Grounded Parent.

    • yugaya

      Moderation should not be intrusive of threatening. If someone feels that they need to brag about it like The Grounded Parent website in that moderation disclaimer, they are being too authoritative for my taste.

      I read that part about IP address and email sharing as ‘mine is bigger than yours, so watch what and how you are saying because I can hurt you for realz’.

  • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

    OT – the mother in Ontario who I spoke of a couple weeks ago who wanted a MRCS had a normal delivery without physical complication the other day…

    • theNormalDistribution

      Oh man. I’m so sorry to hear that. Is she doing okay?

      • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

        Seems to be – but she’s 48 hours post-partum and I can understand that there might be a lot of pressure to be happy with a perfectly normal outcome regardless of what was wanted. She was able to access an epidural at least.

        • theNormalDistribution

          That’s good, I guess. I was really hoping things would work out for her. And it doesn’t bode well for me, either. Mrs. W, you’re going to have to give me the name of your OB!

          • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

            Normal, always happy to do what I can…all be it I wish there was more I could do.

    • Mer

      That’s awful, I hope she’s doing ok. I was really hoping that she’d be able to find the care she wanted.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        You know, I’m sorry she wasn’t able to get the MRCS she wanted and all, but I have a hard time finding “a normal delivery without physical complication” to be “awful”

        I’m glad to hear that her delivery occurred without physical complication, and take that to mean that she is healthy with a healthy baby.

        • theNormalDistribution

          You realize that you could say the same thing to a rape victim, right? Most rapes occur without physical complication too.

          • Dr Kitty

            And most normal vaginal births last longer and cause more physical pain and damage to the genitals than a rape.

            So there’s that.

        • Dr Kitty

          Ah no, it is awful.
          Hours of labour, followed by pushing a small human out of your vagina against your will…that is awful.

          The fact that you get a baby at the end is nice, but it isn’t an appropriate consolation prize.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            If she was insistent on a vaginal birth but had a c-section, would you say it was awful that she had to have a c-section, and that the healthy baby isn’t an appropriate consolation prize?

          • Comrade X

            Not a fair comparison. A woman with no immediate medical need for a C-section will never be coerced into having one anyway just because. If someone were forced into a C-section for no good reason, the world and its dog would be up in arms about it. But because this was “only” a forced vaginal birth, it’s apparently no big deal in comparison.

          • Dr Kitty

            If she was insistent on a vaginal birth, and FOR NO GOOD REASON she was forced into a CS without any opportunity to refuse it, then yes, I would say that.

            Emergency CS is done for safety and still requires maternal consent.

            Denying MRCS is nothing to do with safety and can be done completely against your will, without recourse.

            So yes, it is awful.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            There are medical reasons to prefer VB over c-section. The c-section is a tradeoff between reduction in infant risk vs increased risk of maternal morbidity. In the case where the risk to the infant is minimal, the tradeoffs are in favor of the vaginal birth. She asked to go against that.

            Yes, it does have to do with safety. Now, it was HER safety that she was up against, and for that reason, I would be supportive of it, but to claim that there is no medical basis for preferring a VB is not correct.

          • Comrade X

            Look, a woman was FORCED to undergo hours of trauma and pain and to have a large object rammed down through her vagina against her will, despite the availability of a safe and relatively easy alternative. HOW IS THAT COOL??

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Either that or she was going to have to be cut open and have the baby yanked out of her.

            Medically, there are tradeoffs to either approach.

            And I don’t think it’s cool, I’ve never said that. I absolutely agree that it was terrible that she was given the impression that she could have a MRCS and it was pulled out from under her.

            But she has a healthy baby and a delivery without physical complication. That’s not awful.

          • Dr Kitty

            No physical complication, as yet.
            Psychological complications that could have been avoided…yet to be determined.

            If she suffers PTSD or PPD exacerbated by her L&D experience and that impacts on her parenting, when a MRCS could have prevented that without significant risk to her or the baby…yes it is awful.

          • Mer

            The healthy baby isn’t awful, the way she was treated was awful. Bofa don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re a man and can’t truly understand what this experience might be like. You can certainly empathize, but you won’t ever be able to experience giving birth vaginally or surgically.

            I had a terrifying experience with my first child, nothing went wrong, normal delivery and healthy baby, but I was so traumatized that it took 11 years before I had my 2nd child. Had MRCS been available to me I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat, to help ME. I was so scared by the though of giving birth again that I was vulnerable to being taken in by the woo which offered to “empower” me through natural childbirth. Turns out the epidural that I thought I needed to avoid was the most blessed medical procedure ever for helping me with my “birth trauma”. (Scare quotes only for my experience, not to denigrate anyone else

          • AllieFoyle

            No, I don’t think he is capable of empathizing.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Hey Bofa,
            Remember that great exchange where you butted into a thread where women were discussing their pelvic floor damage to tell everyone how hot it was when your wife called you up and told you she was doing her Kegels? Well, since that reveals how interested you are in Kegels, I’m sure you’ll like to read the recent “big news” study by Hilde et al in Obstet Gynecol 2013; 122 (6): 1231-1238. They randomized women shortly after an uncomplicated first birth, including only women with minor or no tearing, to either no intervention or a intensive 16 week pelvic floor regimen supervised by a pelvic floor PT that included weekly classes and daily home exercises where adherence was strictly documented. The study failed to find a difference in urinary incontinence between the groups. Rates of urine control problems were 39-50% and of occult levator ani muscle defects detected by ultrasound 50-65%.

            Up until now, when women told us that Kegels didn’t help them it was assumed they either weren’t adherent or weren’t doing them correctly. But it turns out that maybe Kegels have been nothing more than a placebo effect all along, and the ones reporting that they didn’t help were actually more accurate in their perception than the ones reporting that they did.

            But hey, as long as your wife’s vag is tight, everything is good from where you sit, right?

          • Trixie

            This is really interesting. From my own experience, I sort of thought they were bullshit. But everyone kept telling me otherwise. When I got a hemorrhoid in pregnancy I was even sort of blamed for not kegeling enough.

          • AlisonCummins

            I did kegels for a while. Did nothing for stress incontinence but had, um… interesting intimate effects.

          • An Actual Attorney

            I’ve mentioned before I used to belly dance. I once took a workshop from a dancer who was also a PT (or something like that) for women with problems with their pelvic floor. It was an amazing afternoon of information about pelvic floor exercises and how the various muscles affect dance. Changed my dance life. And none of it was kegels.

            Yes, this is apropos of nothing, but there you have it.

          • thepragmatist

            HA! This is very interesting. I’m a dancer. Men comment on my physical difference from other women. I thought it was because I had a c-section, and I am sure that is part of it, but moreover I am pretty sure it’s from the strength needed to do things like stand on one leg with the other behind my head. These work all kinds of tiny muscles and of course, they connect in the pubis. I suffer dysfunction in that specific joint since pregnancy and when it is out it affects both my legs, and strangely, gives me spasms in my obliques. On the upside, after years of dance, I have extraordinary muscular control that translates easily to multiple orgasms, and pregnancy actually improved upon that. It’s certainly NOT from kegels. Kegels are fairly superficial and my P/T told me to stop doing them because mine were so strong they were actually pulling at other muscles and creating unnecessary tension: indeed, part of my P/T therapy was to stretch out the inner ligaments of my thighs (as they connect to that region as well) and to strengthen a core abdominal muscle, a very small one, BEHIND the larger and superficial transverse abs. Physical therapy had me completely release my transverse abs because, while I had rebuilt their strength post-partum through dance and exercise, they were over-compensating for both a back injury and the pubis dysfunction. So I had to make conscious effort to LET GO of both my kegel and transverse abs and it was tougher than I thought.

            Why do we feel the need to simplify these things for women, and why does alternative medicine hold this information? It IS evidence-based. My P/T was very knowledgeable about pregnancy and it’s consequences but she was only one of two P/Ts where I lived who did this work. I did a whole range of exercises to stabilize my pelvic floor after I had my son. And I did six months of physical therapy. Kegels are only working ONE muscle, and we should actually be encouraging women to seek much better physical therapy after they have their babies. It’s a tremendous over-simplification. Further to that, I notice that there is also a strong focus on ONLY the vaginal muscles, when my body changed in so many other ways too: eg. I gained four inches from the expansion of my RIBS and when my ribs shrank back to normal size, I had severe inflammation of the cartilage. Similarly, problems with wrists and hands seem to be common, and are referred to euphemistically and not generally taken seriously, despite the fact that at times they can be extremely disabling. There seems to be a perception that if it is caused by motherhood, it is less serious or something we should just get “used to”. Injury to the pelvic floor is often treated the same way. It was OTHER WOMEN who treated me the worst when it came to my pelvic injury post-partum, suggesting I needed to “toughen up”. We enforce this on one another.

            There are muscles in there I learned about through physical therapy that I did not even know existed and I was very aware of my body.

          • AllieFoyle

            It might be awful. You have no way of knowing.

          • theNormalDistribution

            There are medical reasons to prefer c-section over VB as well. You can’t just say there are reasons for one and therefore the other is not justified.

            Whether or not and how much c-sections increase maternal morbidity is pretty questionable, in my mind. Regardless, the morbidities are different and women have varying priorities. Women planning large families may want to avoid c-sections at all costs to reduce their risks in future pregnancies. Women planning small families may prioritise preservation of their pelvic floor. The point is, it is their decision to make.

            We accommodate risky labours for the mothers who want eight kids and yet we won’t accommodate a (very reasonable) mother’s wish not to labour at all. Don’t tell me it’s a safety issue.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            There are medical reasons to prefer c-section over VB as well.

            But read the rest of what I wrote.

            When the risk to the infant is already minimal, there is no benefit to the child in the c-section.

            If it were medically better to do a c-section than a vb in a low risk delivery, then we would be doing it. That’s what EBM would indicate.

            Whether or not and how much c-sections increase maternal morbidity is pretty questionable, in my mind.

            And when you are her health care provider, you can make that decision based on that.

          • theNormalDistribution

            No, you need to read what I said. You said to ignoring the baby, the “tradeoffs are in favor of vaginal birth”. Says you, not the woman who didn’t want a vaginal birth, and certainly not the evidence.

            If it were medically better to do a c-section than a vb in a low risk delivery, then we would be doing it. That’s what EBM would indicate.

            There is evidence that planned c-sections are safer than vaginal birth even for low risk deliveries. Of course that doesn’t mean we should run around cutting into every mother. It means there’s no medical reason to refuse one to a mother who wants it. Unfortunately it does seem to take time for “Evidence based medicine” to actually practice in accordance with the evidence. Probably because epidemiology is not clear cut.

          • Poogles

            “When the risk to the infant is already minimal, there is no benefit to the child in the c-section.”

            How so? Perhaps I’m just misunderstanding your point, but even if the risk to the baby is minimal before delivery, that does not in any way mean that there are NO risks to a vaginal delivery that could be avoided by a planned CS. Everything can look 100% peachy for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and then there’s an unexpected cord prolapse or an unexpected shoulder dystocia or cervical tearing – all of which can be completely avoided by a MRCS.

          • thepragmatist

            That’s right. Brain injury of my baby was one of the biggest reasons I wanted MRCS.

          • thepragmatist

            The risk to the child during vaginal delivery isn’t really minimal. The difference is statistically significant, especially when you are also considering injuries. So, wrong again, Bofa, and I also usually like your posts, but you’re missing the point entirely.

          • AllieFoyle

            >>>And when you are her health care provider, you can make that decision based on that.

            Many care providers do understand that the choice of delivery mode is complex and should be approached in an individualized way taking into account specific risk factors (including those less immediate and obvious, like mental health, incontinence, need for future surgery, sexuality) and, yes, patient preferences. I believe the majority of OBs surveyed (in the US, I believe) said that they would carry out MRCS, and many said they would prefer it themselves. Why should some women be allowed to access MRCS and others not?

          • theNormalDistribution

            No. Because the only reason unwanted c-sections happen is to ensure a healthy baby.

          • Dr Kitty

            It isn’t medically appropriate care if it ignores patient autonomy.

            It isn’t medically appropriate care if there is an alternative that is accepted as generally safe and will be psychologically much less damaging.

            Denying MRCS is not ethically defensible from an EBM standpoint.

            You can make financial or resource based arguments against MRCS, but not medical ones.

          • RebeccainCanada

            Even when you want a normal delivery, the pain is incredible, normal delivery is brutal, and it’s traumatic. You sit there afterwards without the elusive glow thinking “I can’t believe that just happened” that is because in Canada we have this thing where women are delayed epidurals then told they are already at 8cm and can’t have one. It’s great. I’d like these people arbitrarily denied pain meds for dental care.

            Bofa, I normally respect what you have to say but this comment disturbed me. You mean you actually think a woman should be forced to undergo normal birth because someone else made that choice for her. I thought doctors only do c-sections when there is life endangerment? So was her request for a c-section denied because it would endanger her or her baby?

          • BeatlesFan

            ” that is because in Canada we have this thing where women are delayed epidurals then told they are already at 8cm and can’t have one. It’s great.”

            When I showed up to the hospital at 8.5cm with my daughter, the CNM told me I didn’t have time for an epidural… then, before I could start to cry, she and the OB busted their asses to give me a bag of fluid and get the anesthesiologist to my room to give me a spinal nerve block. Are nerve blocks not an option in Canada, or are the providers there that strict about forcing women to birth totally med-free?

          • BeatlesFan

            Would I say it was awful that she had to have a c-section? No, because c-sections aren’t done arbitrarily- they are done either because they are medically indicated, or because the hospital isn’t staffed efficiently to attempt VBAC. The scenarios are different- one is a woman who wanted a vaginal birth having a c-section instead because either she or her baby were at risk, or in immediate danger. The other is woman who didn’t want a vaginal birth being forced to have one, because her care providers believe she’s qualified to be a parent yet not qualified to make her own decision about whether she wants surgery or not.

          • thepragmatist

            Correct. Saving your life or baby’s life during an emergency (which, by the way, is a complication of vaginal delivery) is not the same as denying an elective procedure purely due to the application of your own principles, and worse, lying about it. The lying about it is truly awful– why not come out and say it.

          • AlisonCummins

            If she were insistent that she wanted a VBAC and her healthcare providers were vague until 39 weeks and then all of a sudden announced that they weren’t set up for VBAC and the only possiblility that could be entertained was a scheduled c-section, then yeah, that’s awful too.

          • AllieFoyle

            What a privileged position you sit in to be able to make that statement. You got to have your children without having to go through childbirth, in any form. Nothing on your body was harmed or changed. Your intimate parts remained the same. You didn’t endure hours of pain, horror, or humiliation. You get to love and enjoy your children without having gone through any of it.

            Seriously consider how you would feel if having children involved a painful, humiliating, and damaging process that would leave you impotent and incontinent to some degree, and then, consider again how you would feel if there were a reasonable medical alternative that you were denied for no particular reason at all.

            “Medically appropriate care” can mean physical, sexual, and psychological trauma for many women.

        • Mer

          I think that being forced to go through a vaginal delivery that you did not want is pretty awful, since she was planning on a MRCS for most of her pregnancy. Vaginal delivery is painful, hard work and quite honestly I never want to go through it ever again, even with a guaranteed epidural at the beginning of labor. But mostly I feel that her bodily autonomy was not respected and that’s the part that is truly awful to me.

          • Bombshellrisa

            Not to mention she might not have wanted to go through the other stuff that doesn’t seem like a big deal but can just add to the situation: farting, pooping and peeing in front of strangers while you push, feeling out of control because labor is largely an out of your control situation and being afraid while you are pushing that you are going to tear and it will take a million stitches to put you back together.

        • Guestll

          I had a normal delivery without physical complication, and I can assure you, it was awful. I was healthy with a healthy baby. Still awful.

    • Young CC Prof

      And the forces of “delay, dither, deny” win.

    • Dr Kitty

      I’m so sorry, I hope at least she had excellent pain relief.
      The situation in Canada is pretty grim, with some serious non-evidence-based limitations of maternal choice.
      I know you’re doing what you can Mrs W, but it’s such a hard battle.

      • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

        She was able to get an epidural. I want to go a little hulk but the mom so far seems ok.

        • Bombshellrisa

          I don’t blame you. The mom might be in shock still from giving birth. She might need more support later as that wears off

    • Zornorph

      I am sorry that she was not able to give birth in the way she preferred. I do hope that she’s okay and I’m glad at least that there were no physical complications.

    • thepragmatist

      That’s grim, but not surprising. I’ve sent someone else your way. Hope you caught her.

      • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

        I’ll keep an eye on my email/blog.

  • fiftyfifty1

    “I, and others, have found that our comments are moderated out of existence if the author and editor don’t like them.”

    Hold it, are you (Dr. Amy) saying that Grounded Parents censored your comments?! Holy smoke!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Yes. That’s what happened, and I wasn’t the only one.

    • AlisonCummins

      You have three comments up on the second post. They suppressed your follow-ups?

    • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

      Happened to me!

  • Renee

    This is not about normal moderation, that keeps out trolls and creeps. It is about restricting the discussion to ONLY the comments that agree with your point. 2 different things entirely.

    They totally blew it with the MANA piece, especially the reaction to it. I am disappointed in a way I am not with other blogs. I expect better of so called skeptical women.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    It’s time someone referenced this: <a href="https://xkcd.com/385/"<XKCD.

    Bernstein’s follow up piece showed little understanding of either the math or the medicine involved. Grounded Parents has had some issues with its comment policy. Neither of these is evidence beyond anecdote that _women_ have problems with evidence or dealing with conflict, only that Bernstein and possibly GP do.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Drat! Close rhef fail and I can’t edit post. Sorry!

    • Young CC Prof

      There is an XKCD for everything.

  • Rochester mama

    OT http://community.babycenter.com/post/a48289918/alternate_vaginal_garlic_treatment_for_gbs
    Luckily people are telling her to get the antibiotics, but someone is saying Yale CNM told her to try garlic and retest to confirm it worked?

    • lizzo

      Ugh. That’s literally the thing that killed Wren Jones. GBS+ mother who treated with garlic on the advice of a midwife.

  • Beth Presswood

    Dr Amy,

    I lost respect for you when you conflated your issues with Jamie and Grounded Parents with Amy Davis Roth’s article. You twisted her words about being nice into something that they weren’t.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Really? What were they?

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Well, since it was located over there, I guess you couldn’t technically consider it tone trolling, although if she had said it here, that’s exactly what it would have been.

      • Beth Presswood

        You took words from a piece about doing charity and combating negative interactions in our community and placed it in a context it wasn’t meant to be in. As far as I know, she has nothing to do with the dispute between you and Jamie. She wasn’t talking about not pointing out factual errors, she was just talking about focusing on more positive things in our lives. It’s just completely out of left field to associate these posts.

        • attitude devant

          Context is all, Beth. Amy Davis Roth posts her piece today, when the last few days have been full of this issue, makes the impetus for her piece explicitly and intentionally vague, and then exhorts us to be nice. I interpreted her message the same way that Dr. Tuteur did. If both of us got it wrong, perhaps Ms. Davis Roth didn’t write a very good piece? She certainly failed to make her meaning clear.

          • Beth Presswood

            Skepchick is a big network. I guarantee that her life has not been “full” of this issue. Her piece is about charity work for goodness sake, not anything to do with this dispute. It’s quote-mining.

          • theNormalDistribution

            You haven’t addressed what attitude devant said at all.

          • attitude devant

            Hey, you write as the spokesperson for a community, reference recent events in a vague fashion and make an exhortation to fellow skeptics…..but a fellow skeptic shouldn’t think you were talking about a fracas within the community? Uh-huh.

          • Beth Presswood

            How do you know which community issue she was talking about? The sexism issues (that she’s talked about a lot), the recent atheism issue, or the issue about parenting (she isn’t a parent). Some of these are more likely than others if you know about her and her writing.

          • attitude devant

            Beth, you do realize your comments here are Q.E.D.?

          • Beth Presswood

            I don’t know what you mean.

          • anion

            What difference does it make what sparked her post? She’s saying “Let’s all be nice to each other.” Anyone who reads it has the right to blog about it, to agree or disagree, and to offer their own take. Can you honestly not see that we’re talking about a common theme here, and when discussing an overarching theme everything that falls under that theme is relevant?

            If I write a post about sexism in the blogging community, it doesn’t matter if Joe X’s post about how women ought to be forced to post bikini shots of themselves on their blogs was written in response to a personal argument he had with a female blogger. It’s still sexist, so it still falls under the umbrella of sexism.

            If we were to only respond to any and every blog post or article online by discussing the exact topic the writer wants us to discuss and not looking into it any deeper than that or connecting it to other, similar posts…well, we’ve just killed a lot of conversation, struck a blow against critical thinking, and stifled creativity and independent thought.

            People are free to comment on what the words of others mean to them, and make connections to other topics or subjects. That’s what the entire field of literary criticism is about. It’s where a whole bunch of our cultural progress comes from, ffs. I find your argument here genuinely scary in its attempts to stifle intellectual freedom and analysis.

          • Beth Presswood

            I’m going to stifle intellectual freedom and analysis by objecting to a false connection between 2 bloggers on a large network? Overdramatic.

          • anion

            Well, that’s fine. Dismiss me as “overdramatic” instead of thinking for two seconds about what my point is, and why I might find it troubling that someone who hangs out on skeptic sites has such a narrow viewpoint and doesn’t understand the concept of public commentary.

            No one is “connecting” Dr. Amy and the OP. Dr. Amy isn’t “connecting” herself with the OP. She’s commenting on something another blogger said and using it to illustrate a point and spark discussion, period. If I blog about something the President said, I’m not “connecting” myself to him.

          • Beth Presswood

            Amy’s post is about doing positive concrete goods in the community, like charity. It cannot be connected in any way to censoring in an attempt to be “nice.” It is completely unfair to even put it in this blog post.

          • anion

            It is also about speaking up and being supportive, not negative, and it’s posted on a site that deletes comments that disagree with them. And I really think you’re way overstating the place that quote has in Dr. Amy’s post. But this is obviously a drum you feel it’s very important to beat, so go ahead. I personally disagree.

          • Beth Presswood

            I do feel it’s important. I feel like one dispute is being used to smear everyone even remotely associated with the umbrella site.

          • theNormalDistribution

            Well, if that’s how you feel, maybe you need to re-read Dr. Amy’s post with a critical eye. What’s her thesis? I’ll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with the fact that Dr. Amy and Jaime Bernstein disagree about the MANA “study”.

          • Beth Presswood

            You’re making connections between different writers on different sites on an umbrella network. And the “vague” negativity remark is clear in the context of the problems Skepchick have had in the community.

        • GuestB

          “The skeptic and atheist communities have been riddled with negativity lately. But it is in our power to change that, starting today”
          Her article is not about charity. It is in response to the last few days.

          • Beth Presswood

            Do you even know anything about the negativity in the atheist community she has dealt with for years? Anti-feminists, recent disagreements with other feminists, etc…It just has nothing to do with Dr. Amy.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            I never thought it had anything to do with me personally. My point is that it’s the kind of thing you would never find on a skeptic website dominated by men.

          • Beth Presswood

            I don’t know if that’s true and it’s probably not a good thing if it is. I think sometimes people should step back from fighting and do tangible good, which is what I got from yhe piece.

          • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

            Phil Plait said something similar a few years back under the heading “Don’t be a dick”.
            It’s still pretty uncommon though.

          • GuestB

            And all of a sudden, having nothing to do with ecent events, she felt compelled to write this today. yeah, makes sense.

          • GuestB

            That would be “recent”

          • Beth Presswood

            There have been a lot of recent events in the skeptic/atheist community. But I don’t know why people are thinking these things are connected. It’s a misunderstanding of the Skepchick network m

          • yugaya

            That is background knowledge. It is rude to assume that someone who has just joined the conversation should be aware of it and know anything about the previous dynamics. You need to share any background information that is important before the conversation starts if you think that not knowing it might skew the way you are going to be perceived.

          • Young CC Prof

            The comment thread there is truly awesome. It went pointlessly vicious in like 3 posts.

            Clearly, the author’s plan to make the community more positive succeeded completely…

          • theNormalDistribution

            I like how one person commented with

            I’m new, so forgive my ignorance, but I’m not sure what your challenge is against? You only state that there is some “negativity” in the community, but give no examples. I’ve only been reading Friendly Atheist and your blog now mostly, and some Richard Carrier…so maybe I’m not getting exposed to the ‘negative’ part of the community you are concerned about. So far everyone has been very nice and usually rational, and even deal with religious trolls gently for the most part.

            and another commenter responded with

            You’re looking for examples of negativity in the community? Posts like YOURS are a good example!

            AMY: “Hey, everyone. Let’s actively try to be nice, so we don’t come across as negative!”
            YOU: “I’m skeptical, so I doubt and dismiss your experiences. Why should I be nice? It’s all so confusing!”

            Being positive and supportive isn’t a difficult concept. Instead of immediately challenging someone whose experiences are different than yours, LISTEN TO THEM. Instead of demanding someone dish because you want gossip, TRUST THEM ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS. Instead of starting a pedantic argument about what it means to be nice, JUST DON’T SAY ANYTHING.

            What the fuck?

        • LibrarianSarah

          I agree with Beth on this point. Amy Roth could have been inspired to write that article by some guy who cut her off in traffic for as much as we know. They are too many people involved in that site for and as far as I know Amy Roth does not have a dog in this fight.

          I think the parts about skepchick’s comment policy is messed up. I don’t think it is okay to post other peoples email addresses knowing that they will be harassed by your fans. I also don’t think it was okay to censor Dr. Amy or her fans. As skeptics we are supposed to be better than that.

        • Anj Fabian

          Kumbaya! Namaste! Peace!

          Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way – can we get back to some serious discussion?

    • Renee

      Of all the things to get upset about.

  • Dr Kitty

    In my experience when people go neg against women they choose to use gendered, sexualised insults.
    When people go neg against men they don’t.

    This holds true in every situation, even Skeptical online boards.
    Instead of seeing this as a problem with the Menz, this then turns into a problem with the women.

    That women can’t handle being called names
    That we just aren’t rigorous enough for the discourse etc etc.

    You know what, I don’t mind if someone shows me evidence of why I am wrong, even if they’re not that polite about it.
    I DO mind if someone calls me a stupid cunt or an ugly whore though, or makes references to my sexual availability.

    That is the problem with Skepticism on the internet, it I s, above all else, a boy’s club with little interest in changing.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      But the problem here is that the “girls” are perpetuating the mistaken belief that women are too fragile to have public disagreements.

      • Renee

        Yes, we must stop doing this!!!
        We are not fragile, and deleting comments that are simply in disagreement is doing exactly that.
        Sometimes we DO need called out.

      • Dr Kitty

        Which, I think, is a pushback against Skeptical spaces that were obviously unsafe for women.

        In trying to ensure that no-one had to deal with being repeatedly called a stupid slut, ANY dissent got shut down.

        The way I see it, the people who were so unpleasant that “safe spaces” had to be created to avoid them are almost as much to blame as the people who can’t tell the difference between ” forthright disagreement” and “threatening and offensive behaviour”.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Oh, screw you! :)

      (I am trying to assess my usage of that phrase to determine if it is sexist in application; then again, I am more likely to use the gender-neutral FO so I’m having a problem coming up with examples; I’m sure there are some)

      • thepragmatist

        LOL Well, I guess, Bofa, it IS sexist, in the sense that I imagine it originated as an insult between men to suggest that the one (aggressor) will penetrate and have sexual concourse with the recipient (would be the female). Indeed, most profanity is gendered if you really think about it.

        ETA: my grammar on the other hand is all mine. Genderless. hahaha

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    And what’s up with “trigger warnings” on skeptical websites? It presumes that women are too fragile to deal with unpleasant facts. Those trigger warnings are both inappropriate and insulting and teach women, particularly young women, that they are weak, not strong.

    • auntbea

      TOTALLY disagree. If you have been subject to abuse or rape or trauma and are otherwise frequenting a site that doesn’t normally talk about those things, especially if you are visiting those sites BECAUSE they don’t normally talk about it, it can be particularly surprising and upsetting. Maybe some people don’t need it, but I don’t see how it does any harm to warn people what’s coming: informed consent at all that.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        No one expects the New York Times to have trigger warnings, why should any other serious publication have them?

        • Comrade X

          I have no problem with websites, articles, or tv shows giving out a warning at the start if there is going to be vivid portrayal or explicit discussion of genuinely distressing topics which are likely to affect people suffering from PTSD. I would expect there to be some sort of warning before a TV show that was going to show uncensored footage from the liberation of Auschwitz, for example.

          Trigger Warning: Shit You May Not 100% Agree With Or Find Nice, however, is just a total perversion of this concept.

          • Deena Chamlee

            Amy trust me on this one…someone who knows about PTSD warnings are quite appropriate and sensitive to readers. Being sensitive isnt the same as being weak.

          • yugaya

            I agree, but you can be sensitive to the potential issues of your audience without the trigger label. You can always ease into subject and then warn people not to continue reading from page two or something. You can link the more difficult content externally. You can word things differently. You can focus the discussion on things that will keep the subject more abstract and less likely to trigger people.

            I just hate the whole childspeak feeling all those abbreviations, labels and hugs on target audience women web forums give me.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            People do misunderstand the “trigger warning” concept and on a forum I read, where someone thought it was meant to denote potential controversial topics.

        • Trixie

          Television shows will sometimes have warnings that images they are about to show could be disturbing, which is appropriate especially since small children could be watching. But as far as the written word, I say, if you don’t like it, stop reading.

          • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

            Thanks trixie, I will just stay off the internet forever because someone finds it difficult to write “trigger warning: rape” before their post. That’s totally fair because I otherwise get all the support in the world for having lived through violence. OH WAIT, NO I DON’T. I get subjected to rape jokes and apologia when I just try to live my life (watching tv, overhearing conversations, news reports, etc). Is it really that damn hard to write a sentence to give me some warning so maybe, I can avoid dealing with it temporarily sometimes?

          • Trixie

            You hear lots of rape jokes on news reports?

          • Young CC Prof

            Jokes, no. Reports of rape charges (or arrests) than tend to involve more victim-blaming and accuser-doubting than most other crimes? Sometimes.

          • Guestll

            At the risk of getting very personal here, my father committed suicide when I was a teenager. He hanged himself (he was an alcoholic who suffered from serious depression) and I found him in our garage.

            I have issues with suicide, I’d rather not hear suicide jokes, or suicide stories, or read about a suicide in a place where I didn’t see it coming, but I don’t expect the rest of the world to understand. It’s nice if and when they do. But the rest of the world doesn’t exist to cater to my sensitivities and it’s not something I expect.

        • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

          uh, the news has warnings about graphic footage all the time. You’re really taking a crap on rape victims right now and its pretty deplorable. If something isn’t triggering to you then you can ignore the warning and read it. If you have PTSD and have your day ruined by exposure to graphic stories about your trauma you can’t un-see what you saw. Its only fair, I don’t really care if its annoying to people without those issues.

          • Comrade X

            Agreed, ShameOn, but the problem is that given that there are 7 billion of us on this rock, all with different life experiences, it turns out almost ANYTHING could be triggering. So we have to apply some common sense, as well as sensitivity. I lost my father to depression and drug addiction, I locked myself in the bathroom for over an hour after watching “Leon” and cried until I was sick. I still can’t listen to “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, which was his favourite band. I don’t expect radio stations or cinemas to anticipate this, though, and provide personalized warnings that the song they’re about to play or the movie they’re about to show could upset me greatly. Obviously graphic depictions of violence and torture should carry a heads-up, but we can’t expect all communication in the entire world to be constantly self-censored and second-guessed in case someone, somewhere, might be upset by it.

          • KarenJJ

            I wish they’d put a trigger warning at the beginning of “Finding Nemo”. That was one depressing fish movie. I walked out of the cinema ashen and teary… I don’t think I ever recovered from the first 5 minutes.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Here’s the thing that is extra ridiculous: often the trigger warning is alerting the reader about something that is readily apparent from the title and the first paragraph. Take the Bernstein piece where they included a Neonatal Death trigger warning on an article about the safety of homebirth. Pathetic. So it’s not just that we are too delicate to face the real world, it’s also that we are too stupid to read a headline.

        • Renee

          We do not expect those places to have them not because we do not think they are needed, but because we know they will not do it.

          I see no problem w content warnings. There are somethings I just do not need to see. It is not because I am weak.

        • Lumen

          I’ve been thinking about this and I think that part of the issue is that the “trigger warning” is a special name for what would otherwise just be called “a content warning”. Television shows warn of violent content with a list of what type of violent content all the time, but they do not call it a “trigger warning” or any other special name. The implication is that this is a warning for all people who might find this content problematic (for any reason).

          The Trigger Warning seems to have arose as a phrase from feminist websites and as such is (whether intended or not) specific to women. It’s also kind of obscure to people who aren’t already familiar with the concept what exactly it is, which is a little ironic given it’s intent.

          I’m unconvinced that you couldn’t just leave off the word “trigger” and still accomplish the same goals without sending the message that women need their own special warning.

        • Monica

          A well worded title on an article should be all that’s needed for a warning of what’s ahead, there’s no need to add the words trigger in print. And part of the problem with these trigger warnings is they are so overused. Trigger warning for talking about Dr. Amy. Trigger warning because there might be mention of a baby that died. If you can’t read an article that discusses these topics, then I hope you aren’t watching TV.

      • theNormalDistribution

        I can sort of see the value, or at least, the good intentions of “trigger warnings”, because yes, it can be disturbing and upsetting to be reminded of past trauma. But I have to agree with Amy about the message they send, that women are weak and need to be protected. Especially when I only see them online spaces that are directed at and frequented by women.

        A reaction to graphic discussion has nothing to do with the discussion and everything to do with whatever trauma the individual reacting has experienced. Obviously some people can have severe cases of PTSD, but in general, we can and should be having those discussions. In the media, in extreme cases there is always a warning about disturbing footage, etc. But they don’t assume that anyone is too delicate to hear the word ‘rape’ let alone read subtle allusions to what may or may not have been undesired physical contact. And yet, I’ve seen trigger warnings for that. It’s offensive and patronizing.

    • Trixie

      I totally get triggered about my birth experiences in which my babies were hatted without my written consent. I find it disrespectful for people to discuss hats, babies wearing hats, midwives knitting hats, or nurses holding hats on internet forums that I frequent. I find it especially triggering for me when websites discuss evidence in favor of putting hats on babies, so I demand that the moderators delete those comments.

      • Zornorph

        I would assume your favorite 80′s band was Men Without Hats, then?

        • Mishimoo

          From the sounds of things, it’s definitely not Devo.

        • anion

          Because your friends all hat
          and since they all hat
          well they’re
          no friends of mine

        • Trixie

          GAH I’m flagging this comment for its mention of the H word

          • Zornorph

            When my son was born, one of the first things the nurse did (after washing off the birthy smells) was to put a HAT on him. A lovely baby-blue (aahhgg, gender stereotype) knitted HAT on him. It covered his whole little head, even coming down over the tops of his little ears. I kept this HAT on him nearly all day in the hospital and even took photographs of him to document this HAT he was wearing. When I snuggled him against my chest, there was no scalp to skin contact, because he was wearing a HAT. I have saved the HAT. I bring it out to frighten unsuspecting people with it.

    • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

      Because its useful. Its the same reason there are food allergy warnings on groceries and ratings on movies. It doesn’t call the person with an allergy or the 5 year old who can’t handle an r-rated movie ‘weak’, does it? Are combat veterans with PTSD weak if they don’t want to watch a war movie? Nope! It just gives people a choice about being exposed to a certain topic or not, and I for one find that extremely useful. People who have survived certain things (like rape) do not enjoy being randomly bombarded by talk about it because it seriously screws them up. This goes for other issues like racism and eating disorders as well. If you don’t have trigger warnings then it means that the spaces are going to exclude people who have these issues, which is not fair. I believe that a lack of sensitivity to topics such as rape is a main reason why skepticism was such a boys club in the first place.

      • Zornorph

        But why wouldn’t guys need trigger warnings about things that upset them, too?

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          Exactly!

        • Nashira

          Some men DO. How much time do you spend in communities for folks who self-harm? Trigger warnings – specific ones, about methodology or images or whatever – are really common there, so that people can moderate what they expose themselves to. It’s not just women who hurt themselves, for fuck’s sake, and I can assure you that my gender has fuck-all to do with why I self-harm.

          It’s also not about preventing feeling “upset”. It’s about preventing needless exposure to something that will make you *sick*. If I’m in a situation that’s making me want to self-harm, the worst thing I can do is go read someone’s story of the last time they hurt themself. A trigger warning means I don’t tip myself over the edge, while permitting me to access a community that can help me get through my bad time.

          • Young CC Prof

            So I guess what we’re getting at is that trigger warnings are necessary for a space explicitly designed to protect mental health, and people NEED mental health, but maybe not so appropriate in a debate space? (Although warnings about NSFW images are always welcome…)

      • fiftyfifty1

        One of the exercises that therapists spend a lot of time on during eating disorder treatment is learning how to deal with situations/words/images that might be challenging to people in recovery. Because heck, even the very act of getting eating disorders treatment will be “triggering” because there’s always somebody who is skinnier than you at the therapy center and if there’s not, there is going to be eventually as you regain. Likewise with bulimia and binge eating disorder: favorite binge foods are not going to magically disappear from your environment just because dealing with them is hard for you.

        Treating a person like they are a grown up who really CAN face what are extremely difficult environmental cues while at the same time continue to care for themselves, is a vital skill. You can’t have true recovery without it. Because it’s always going to happen: you turn the corner at the grocery store and there’s somebody with a BMI of 15. Or there’s the ice cream isle. And there’s the laxative isle. It’s gonna happen.

        • theNormalDistribution

          I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here.

        • thepragmatist

          The issue is not “treating someone like they are grown up” (oh, how I hope I am misreading you, here, Dr. K because I like you), but in respecting their illness. EG. My Dad is a diabetic. I don’t send him Christmas cookies– I send him photographs, special ones that only go to him– instead. I have PTSD and all I want is for so very simple triggers to be avoided when getting medical care. I am not trying to be a special snowflake. When a man has me disrobe, regardless of context, when I feel that difference between me being near naked and the other being clothed, and when I realized that I am in a small room with that person, it affects me. I will give two examples of how this can be dealt with:

          I had a physician in emergency responding to vomiting and suspected bleeding from NSAID overuse. I knew what was wrong with me as it had happened every time I’d taken NSAID. He insisted on immediate disrobing in an aggressive way. He was very tall, and over twice my size. He towered over me. He told me if I did not take off my clothes immediately and put on the robe we could not continue. Any attempts by myself or the nurse to suggest that he could listen to my stomach and palpate me without forcing a full disrobing was met with further anger until he left the room. He refused to write anything to control my vomiting even though the nurse, who was compassionate, wanted to give me something. Eventually, due to the specific circumstances (he then demanded a rectal exam) I ended up in a psychiatric crisis, under a sink, needing Ativan. We never did find out if I was bleeding.

          An alternative to that would’ve been to allow me to keep my clothes on and do the exam. To draw blood and take a look at my blood work first. Is it different? Yes. Would it have brought us to a better conclusion? Undoubtedly. And perhaps, given more than two minutes to digest the idea of a rectal exam by a huge man who was already frustrated and yelling, I would’ve received medical care.

          In contrast, I had a physician recently trigger me during a routine physical exam. He requested I wear a robe, because he was examining all the joints on my body. I knew that this would happen and I was prepared. When he moved behind me, and triggered me, I lost the ability to speak. He SAT DOWN in his chair, next to the bed, and said, “Ok, something is wrong. I’ll stop. We can skip this part of the exam and I will come back to it. Let’s get a nurse and get you comfortable again.” It was a tremendous difference. By the end of the exam, I was able to complete the entire exam, and the nurse’s presence, instead of adversarial to the doctor, was in a supportive role. They both acknowledge that “this must be hard for you, to be touched.” I was not just an impediment. I successfully completed not just the exam, but I managed to return home and NOT have flashbacks for days.

          I am not sure why it is so difficult to work with a patient like me. I am articulate, as are many people like me. The attitude that we can just grow up and get over it is so much in the past. You cannot force a person to go through random desensitization without anticipating a crisis. So you can either work with the triggers, address the desensitization in a supportive way (this is what my OB does and I work with her– watching what she is doing, and keeping a conversation going) or you can completely avoid the trigger (my OB has given me routine care under conscious sedation to this end and saved me quite a bit of harm). When I run into a physician who thinks that I can overcome the trigger in that specific interaction, it never goes well for either of us. I’ve done a lot of therapy and work hard, so the triggers that are remaining are now very deep ones.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “My Dad is a diabetic. I don’t send him Christmas cookies– ”

            Tell me, does your dad get upset if he goes to a Christmas party and other people are eating cookies? Does he get upset when there isn’t a cookie trigger warning on the invitation?

          • Guestll

            You hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Does he know ahead of time there are going to be cookies? Would he be upset if you invited him over and then had a spread of cookies for you but not him? Does he have any psychiatric disorders or PTSD associated with cookies, such that an unanticipated morsel will give him flashbacks and nightmares for days?

            If you want the input of people who have survived some pretty horrific things, you take the five freaking seconds to label your potentially disturbing stuff with trigger warnings. You make your space a space where people can choose if they can handle it today, instead of throwing it out there with no warnings and maybe making a pretty crappy day into a really terrible one. It’s really not too much to ask. It’s not about too-thin skin, unless you think only “weak” people get PTSD. It’s about basic respect for all people, men and women, who still have psychic scars.

          • AlisonCummins

            That’s exactly the point. Their experiences are different.

    • Zornorph

      You should have had a trigger warning on this post. Reading the word ‘trigger’ gives me bad Roy Rogers flashbacks.

    • LibrarianSarah

      Trigger warnings are useful to prevent PTSD or RTS flashbacks but are sometimes overused IMO.

    • Renee

      Why assume trigger or content warnings are directed at, or solely for, women? These content warnings are the “explicit lyrics” warning for blogs. Women are simply the first ones to recognize that this can be helpful, act on it, and utilize it widely.

      Movie ratings, explicit lyric stickers, and other ways we preview content for certain things (violence, curse words, rape scenes, nudity, sexuality, etc) are the same thing. They had to start somewhere!

      Just because women use this more often does not make it gendered.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        Trigger warnings are completely gendered. They are written by women for other women. There may be some that are not gendered, but I haven’t come across them yet.

        • LibrarianSarah

          I see them a lot in the autism community. For instance, TPGA often post’s trigger warnings for mentions of parents killing their kids, mentions of abusive “therapies” etc.

        • Mishimoo

          This isn’t in the public sphere, so it probably doesn’t count – I tend to trigger warn in written conversations with my dad because he has PTSD and I live a few hundred km away from him, so I can’t go over and check to make sure he’s still alive if something triggers him.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “These content warnings are the “explicit lyrics” warning for blogs.”

        Explicit lyrics warning labels. Sheesh, what an incredibly stupid idea. I’ve thought so ever since they were Tipper Gore’s pet issue and she freaked out about Darling Nikki-a song which features a women who likes sex for its own sake who gets treated *respectfully* by the man who has sex with her. Where he expresses feelings of emotional vulnerability. Where he doesn’t kill her or rape her or write her phone number on the walls of a bathroom stall so she will be harassed. I swear that song was more helpful to me than anything else during my formative years in developing a healthy attitude toward sexuality.

  • Deena Chamlee

    Harmony is not synonomous with skeptical analysis. Men and Women are not that different really in my opinion when WALLS aren’t up.

  • antigone23

    I am a woman, a feminist, and a skeptic. But I have to admit that it’s women who are more susceptible to homebirth woo. I have met several women who wanted a homebirth but did not have one because their husbands were against it, and the compromise was a hospital birth with a CNM. One of them is my neighbor who says she has had pregnancy induced hypertension and excessive bleeding after who last birth and STILL says the only thing keeping her from having a homebirth for her next child is her husband. WTF?

  • Zornorph

    Mulder was the believer and Scully was the skeptic.

    • Rochester mama

      But Scully was Catholic

      • Comrade X

        …and red-haired…..and cool under pressure…..and highly intelligent…..and so so gorgeous……

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      OTOH, given how often Mulder was demonstrably right, one could argue that Scully had shaded over into denialism.

      • Zornorph

        The truth is out there.

      • Comrade X

        Dr Kitty – my Other Half has argued that “The X-Files” is sexist for that very reason – the female protagonist consistently refuses to acknowledge the repeated empirical evidence in front of her very eyes, and instead irrationally clings to conventional dogma. I totally get his point, but I can’t quite get fully behind the Scully-bashing, because she was my first real female crush. :)

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          If it helps any, Scully seems to me to be an example of the “the scientist who can’t believe supernatural thing X is happening and keeps yelling, ‘no! this is scientifically impossible!’ as the zombies attack or angels appear in the sky or whatever” trope and the scientist in that trope is typically male.

  • Lumen

    I’ve been following the moderation wars on my various websites for a while now, and I do think that some of this is the inevitable growing pains of internet culture. The debate about how to moderate comments, or whether or not all websites even should have comments is something we’re still trying to figure out. There are some websites that have little to gain from comments directly beneath the articles, and I’m generally in the camp that “censorship” is an overly misapplied word on the internet, given you can link directly to any content you wish to critique and discuss it on a multitude of platforms.

    That said I agree with the point Dr. Tuteur made in this post that Grounded Parents and Skepchick need to decide what the purpose of their website (and organization) is and stick to it. If they want to be a skeptical platform that welcomes debate then their moderation policy needs to reflect that. Moderating against rape threats is one thing, but the moderation policy needs to be explicit so that those wielding the Mallet of Loving Correction (credit: scalzi) are being held to a standard that they cannot abuse when things heat up. Moderating strongly worded dissent on a skeptical website undercuts the very purpose of the organization. In that kind of situation you are turning your comments section into a tool where you give a false image of the support for your stance. It becomes a kind of lie by omission. Better they have no comments at all than to do that.

  • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

    To be fair this policy is probably partially informed by the torrent of rape and death threats skepchick has received from men’s rights activists. I would also imagine that it makes the group very tightly knit and supportive. I don’t think they are applying their policy reasonably in this case, but I certainly understand where they are coming from. My comments started not being posted pretty quickly there, even though I tried to only point out that their analysis was really short sighted. You can’t say “home birth is slightly less safe” without adding “and if things end up not safe your care provider is basically unaccountable, you have a much better chance of suing your provider or preventing them from practicing if they are an MD or a CNM”. No one wanted to hear that, even though it is vital to the conversation. Safety is one piece of talking about home birth, but accountability is one that people seem to gloss over.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I think they can tell the difference between rape threats and disagreement.

    • Renee

      I am sure that the original intent was to stop the MRA and their continuous rape and death threats. They are truly awful, and every women skeptic that attempt to be in the public, skeptic/atheist sphere, will get these threats. Often daily.

      Too bad they took this in the wrong direction, and started applying it to rational discussions, and allies, just because it is not what they want to hear. I could not be more disappointed in this entire debacle.

    • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

      torrent of rape and death threats skepchick has received from men’s rights activists.

      This is not true as you well know, and you’re doing a disservice to us by buying into their melodrama.

      Yes, there have been a small number of threats made but they were small in number and obviously trolls.
      A semi-literate comment on a Youtube video is not a credible threat, and I strongly doubt they were ever genuinely interpreted by their recipients as such.

      Secondly, the threats themselves were not made by MRAs.
      You seem to be mislabelling all the random misogynistic comments you encounter as MRA, and they are not the same thing.
      Like a lot of people I find most MRAs to be pretentious tedious self absorbed twits, but they tend to be effete pseudo-intellectuals rather than abusive frat boys.

      You seem to keep bringing up MRA on this forum, no matter how tenuous the connection to the topic at hand – can I ask why this is?
      TBH, I’m getting a little sick of hearing about it. It’s one of those hackneyed topics people can hate on with relative impunity under the guise of being original and intellectually courageous.

  • Isilzha

    Are others still getting the black abyss of doom about halfway through the comments?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I don’t know how to fix it. I can remove the black but then the columns are out of alignment.

      • Renee

        If there is anywhere to post the link to the “fix it” for this problem, you ought to add it. It won’t fix it for everyone, but it will be a start.

      • theNormalDistribution

        A while back MikoT posted an extension for chrome to fix the layout. It works great for me:

        https://userscripts.org/scripts/show/178535

    • areawomanpdx

      I just always end up using my mouse to highlight the comments on the blac background. It turns the font white and it’s much easier to read.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I used to be able to highlight all the comments, which turned the text white with a blue background, but if I clicked on the side, it got rid of the blue but left the text white. That was awesome. It only worked on my office computer, but it doesn’t anymore. I still select all the text, though

    • Elaine

      A few posts ago someone commented to click “collapse” in the upper right hand corner on threads you’ve already read. If you collapse them all it makes more space and usually you get through a lot more of them before the black shows up.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    If women are too sensitive but men are strong and able to take internet abuse, why does every discussion of FGM turn into a discussion about male circumcision and how we’re ignoring the menz? There’s a double standard going even in how we view what is and is not oversensitivity.

    • Renee

      The menz* just cannot tolerate any discussion, or any media, that does not star them, or otherwise revolve around them in some way.

      I do understand why this is. Their entire lives, men have been the primary/most important, character**. All media** is based on the male POV. They are center of every story, even ones with female “leads” (i.e.: group of women that spend their time looking for men, etc)**. The few exceptions tend to reinforce the gender divide, and are created in a way to discourage a male audience (i.e.: using “female” colors, and traditionally “female” story lines).

      When women dare to attempt to rectify this, by making media with (non-pornofied***) women, with female characters that are not focused on men in some way, menz cannot stand it. Pointing out that everything is skewed to the male POV will get you death threats (see: Anita Sarkeesian). Any discussion of this (even in mostly female spaces) will have loads of menz in the comments bashing the author.

      I want to avoid inevitable derails…..
      *- “Menz”- THIS WORD DOES NOT MEAN ALL MALES.
      It is a snarky term used to describe a subset of males that share similar, negative, even hateful, views about females (even subconsciously). Menz may be MRAs, but most are not.

      **- Most literate people understand that the common usage of generalizations, like “all” includes the fact that there are (often few) exceptions. It shouldn’t need explained ad nauseam.

      ***- “Pornofied” is a term that describes a woman who’s image resembles the idealized pornographic depictions of female sex workers. This is not a derogatory term towards women. It is similar to “Sexualized”, which is used for less dramatic cases, to replace other words like “Slutty”. (i.e.: Those skirts really sexualize little girls”, instead of “Those are slutty skirts, for little girls!”

      -Blamer Renee
      /Rant off

      • Comrade X

        Renee – are you, by any chance, a fan of a certain Maiden Aunt on the interwebz? :)

  • Steph

    Why are you assuming that all skeptical women are represented by one blog or one or more writers on that blog? It seems as though you are making a broad generalization or in this case, a generalization about broads. A blog creating a comment policy that protects its writers is not in any way related to the skepticism of those individual writers. It’s not a hive mind.

    • thepragmatist

      How much time have you spent on blogs associated with child birth, birth politics, or women’s health issues? This isn’t an unusual policy. It’s not like it’s the first time Dr. Amy’s been erased. If it’s not an issue, why is it repetitive? It IS repetitive. I’ve seen it again and again.

      • Young CC Prof

        How many times have we been deleted from one or another MDC thread? (Especially on the “I’m endangering my children, support only” communities) Or during the Midwifery Today Facebook incident?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Deleting people simply because they disagree is not about protecting anyone. It’s about saving face and ensuring harmony.

    • http://safermidwiferyutah.wordpress.com/ Safer Midwifery Utah

      skepchick is the biggest one and is very influential. They need to understand that they are making women look like shit when they do this to dissenters.

    • LibrarianSarah

      I’m pretty sure a woman that runs a blog that is entitled “The Skeptical OB” considers herself a skeptical woman.

    • Renee

      Most literate people understand that the common usage of broad generalizations, like “all” includes the fact that there are (often few) exceptions. It shouldn’t need explained ad nauseam.

      The blogs mentioned are the only well known, highly visible, blogs meant for female skeptics. I think that it is very representative, if not of all female skeptics, but of those in the media currently.

      (I am not calling you illiterate, it is just a good word for this description. I am sorry if this was offensive. And no, I am not being overly nice, I am being polite and sating my original intent)

  • stenvenywrites

    One of the words that I find to be the most badly abused on the internet is ‘safety’. Not physical safety — which is what this and some of the other science-based medicine sites are about — but the more nebulous concept of emotional safety, as in this site is intended to be a “safe place for women” (I’ve never seen one for men; they may exist, but I have not seen them) and we will delete or ban anyone or anything that stresses the poor vulnerable dears out in any way. Criticism, argument, or unpopular facts are put in the same category as rape threats, sandwich jokes, spam, and nasty cracks about how all of them must be on their periods (news flash, trolls: you’re jerks much more often than anyone could possibly menstruate and still be alive.) I sometimes wonder how so many of the participants managed to get through life with such fragile souls that even a hint of disagreement can make them feel violated, or have they all been so traumatized by prior experiences that they can no longer distinguish between a personal attack and a rhetorical challenge?

    • thepragmatist

      AMEN! I often feel like yelling, “Get a thicker skin? Are you kidding me?”

      I mod a sex abuse survivor board. Ok, that IS a place where emotional safety is really, really important. I get it. Those women DO need to know there is emotional and at times, physical, safety. But topical boards? You can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. You don’t want me to criticize you for posting why you should “Always Say No To Inductions” or whatever other crap you’re spewing, then DO NOT POST IT, because I will take it apart. I have to, because someone is going to read that and be harmed because of the information you are disseminating.

      There is great freedom in freedom of speech and not belabour a very old point, but with freedom comes responsibility to your readership.

      • Lumen

        But they are “entitled to their opinions” you should just “agree to disagree” and stop “attacking” them.

        Men do it too though. I’ve encountered plenty of guys who act this way, on and off the internet. My personal experience is more that women who *don’t* operate this way are called out as “difficult” “B’” and “C”s where as men are just individuals. If they are non-confrontational then they are “really nice guys” or “laid back” and if they are confrontational then they “know what they want” or have “strong opinions” or are “smart”.

    • Renee

      The idea of “safe space” is both misunderstood, and misused. It is not about weak people, or overly emotional ones, at all!

      “Safe Spaces” were originally created for specific groups of people belonging to non-dominant, or minority, groups (i.e.: abuse victims, women, African Americans, etc). This allowed them a place to openly discuss, and talk freely about their experiences, without constant intrusions from the dominant group. (Don’t get hung up on my use of dominant, I just cannot come up with a better one right now.) In these groups support does NOT mean “whatever OP wants to hear.”

      That problem can be eliminated from the conversation/event from the get go, and this makes for a freer space overall. LOTS of self censorship goes on in open spaces, for a myriad of reasons, most of which have to do with avoiding attacks from those very people! Example: Its near impossible to have any meaningful discussion about feminism in an open space!

      Then there are people that took that valuable concept and made it something negatively restrictive. These are groups where NO dissent is allowed, support only. And support is defined as “telling thee OP whatever they want to do/did is FINE”. This is like MDC. When you start censoring the opinions of those who are part of the group, who are supposed to be in a safe place, you have serious issues. This is deadly for safety issues.

    • NoUseForANym

      Well this thought ties very well to a piece I recently read about how the Internet has convinced everyone their an expert on everything. It made the point that any disagreement or dissent is taken as a personal attack and I find that very true.

    • NoUseForANym
  • Dr Kitty

    “Maybe women are just too damned sensitive to discuss theories or ideas rationally without implanting their personal emotions into the foray”

    Maybe men are just too damn insensitive to consider how real life application of abstract philosophical theories may negatively impact others.
    Maybe Skeptical women are sick of people talking about things that are nice as IDEAS and CONCEPTS, but have no grounding in real lived experiences. Maybe Skeptical women are sick of being told that they aren’t being “rational” when they point out that things which are nice in theory won’t work in practice because people don’t work like machines.

    Just a thought.

    • Isilzha

      I’m an atheist, a woman and hate the imperative to be “nice”.

      • Anj Fabian

        I self censor a lot on the internet. Most of the time it is keeping the tone on the neutral side for the sake of getting a message across.

        • Young CC Prof

          Indeed. Especially in neutral or hostile territory, you need to carefully choose your words if you hope to actually change minds and behaviors rather than just winning some intellectual debate. (And yes, I just described a piece of the Internet as hostile territory.)

    • Elizabeth A

      “Maybe women are just too damned sensitive to discuss theories or ideas
      rationally without implanting their personal emotions into the foray”

      Or maybe women are more likely to have responsibilities that lead them to need to rely on others, and therefore, to greater recognition of the need to be cautious of others’ feelings. On the one hand, this leads us to the social trap of niceness. On the other, niceness does have a function, and perhaps we should consider it more as a tool (which would also enable us to shut it off when it’s not effective).

      I have a vague recollection of a Slate article or something (sorry, brief googling is not turning it up) that pointed out that women are both less likely to identify as atheists and more likely to be involved in caring for people besides themselves, particularly children and the elderly. Many women see church as both religion and resource, and will fake the one if they foresee a need for the other.

      I am also female and atheist, and not fond of being artificially nice. It is fairly cheap for me to be an atheist, because I live in a major metropolitan area in the liberal Northeast. A few years ago, my husband and I weighed our intellectual preferences and our carefully negotiated cultural compromises against free babysitting on Sunday morning. Our children are being raised Unitarian.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        Skepticism is perfectly compatible with recognizing that others have feelings and with respecting those feelings. It seems to me that being nice and being ladylike are two different things. Being nice is something we do to others, being ladylike is a method of enforcing conformity and squelching dissent.

        • Renee

          Couldn’t agree more.

          • Comrade X

            I think I’ve said it before, but fuck it, I’ll say it again. It’s much more important to worry about being good than it is to worry about being nice. Treat other people in a morally decent manner. That is NOT the same as being constantly careful to only say things they’ll like hearing.

  • http://Www.awaitingjuno.blogspot.com/ Mrs. W

    I think it’s a socialization problem, not a sex problem – and as such women are more than capable of engaging in debate, hard science and skepticism. However, given how we’re socialized – many men are socialized to criticize women for engaging in this way and many women are socialized to be above all else “nice”. The other part of the problem, is that few are familiar with the general rules of civilized debate and discourse and confuse what is fair play and what is unfair.

  • thepragmatist

    LOVE THIS! It is so very true.

  • Renee

    Here I am- a female atheist, you coward. I am also a female skeptic, and will give any man a run for their money in any debate.
    You wanna know why you don’t see me all over the web? It sure as hell isn’t because I cannot handle confrontation.
    1) I have a full, and awesome, LIFE. I have responsibilities: kids, a husband, hobbies, social justice work and volunteering. Neither me, nor my husband, have time to screw around on sites talking about atheism.

    2) When I did have the time, I found out pretty quickly how nasty to women male atheists are. They act so enlightened about religious misogyny, but have the very same attitudes, just based in a different source! Why would I want to participate in any blog or forum where women are bashed, disregard, or sexually harassed? I have limited time, this is NOT how I will spend it.

    3) #2 is why most of us also do not go to conferences- we simply do not care about organized atheism enough to put up with the sexual harassment. The harassment that you all deny happens, the harassment that you all fight to make rules against, the harassment that we get vicious lies spread about us on line, some even go so far as to contact or jobs, harass our families, send us rape and death threats. WOW, how welcoming!

    4) Women like me prefer to do things in real life. Instead of wasting time fighting online about things that really do not make any difference, most of us spend our time actually helping people. We volunteer to work with women coming out of abusive cults, we run and participate in groups that provide services to homeless without the religious requirement, we do animal welfare, we work at camps for kids and offer non religious homeschool materials, we meet with other women to spread skepticism in our communities, and on and on and on.

    We are out there, we just do NOT need MEN in order to make a difference. We say, “fine, we will take our ball and go home”, it is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you all are useless and we do not need you. We could do MUCH more if we were united, but until you all quit with the hate, we cannot be bothered with you.

    If you want to get rid of women, you are doing a bang up job!

    • thepragmatist

      I’m not an atheist, so I’m missing all the fun. I’ve only watched from the sidelines through some of the bloggers on the roll here. I agree though. If I am going to make a sweeping stereotype as LMS suggested down thread that I would (ha!), I would say women bring their skepticism to a personal level, peer to peer, and perhaps do not need a wider audience but direct action and peer support. And I did that in our community until I was isolated and taken down by a large group of anti-science, anti-vax, anti-medicine women in what was sheer bullying. So threatening I was, and my small group of peers, that the very forum we posted on was completely deleted and a new one was created so that those who wanted to post their factually incorrect and at times harmful information could lure in unsuspecting (and usually young) women without any of us being able to say a word. And so they do. And that was WHILE towing the NCB line, at least, somewhat. Not radically enough.

      I’ve never really hung out with men, online, except in the pro-vax community, where women are represented, and in some topical forums where I’m not sure anyone realized I was a woman. ;)

  • Mariana Baca

    Eh. A lot of men who are “skeptics” are not skeptic at all, but following some other type of nuttery in the name of “skepticism”.

    • Young CC Prof

      As in “skepticism” about basic well-documented points of recent history?

      • thepragmatist

        Let’s not confuse skepticism with denialism.

  • LMS1953

    I really don’t see the point of this epistle. It seems to invite stereotypical thinking – which can have its occasional benefits, but it usually met with howls of angst and bitter claims of being offended. After a while the thread gets tangled in a web of cognitive dissonance.

    • thepragmatist

      You’re male, though, right? I am not sure, but I think you’ve identified as male, so excuse me if I am wrong. I have definitely seen this again and again: the insistence on being NICE over being correct. Ignoring data so as to not offend. Being told to take down “long-winded science-driven posts” as to not offend anyone. Being moderated simply for holding onto an opposing view point rooted in actual fact, and then having conversations with moderators where they admit I am right, but that they just do not want others to feel uncomfortable. Other than Dr. A’s, there is only one other place online I can go to have raucous debate without censorship– that is, where women congregate. And frankly, the issues that compel me, birth politics and the politics of women’s health, are not addressed frequently by the skeptic community. I read skeptic blogs and I enjoy them, but I post here, because this is what I am passionate about. I like that Dr. A runs an open forum for women. In fact, if you tried posting on any of those sites, you would’ve been gone long ago, as would I. This IS an important post and something women need to examine, along with passive aggressive/relational aggression/bullying so common amongst women online.

      I mean: look at the above threat from this supposed “skeptic” forum: we will publish your email and IP? What are they, a bunch of antivax loons? We would not expect that from anyone engaging in REAL debate. Ever. Threats. Nice. Really opens the door to engaging debate.

      • Young CC Prof

        The question is how you are using that weapon. If you’re using it on people who disagree, even rudely, then you fail at being a debate forum. If you only use it on people who, say, make graphic threats of violence or rape, especially against columnists who write under their real names, that’s pretty reasonable.

        • thepragmatist

          Except, why is it stated? It’s superfluous. It’s not used that way: we can see it all over the place. It might start from that point, but it’s not even necessary to say that “we will delete trolls who threaten to kill and rape us, and if necessary report them to the police.” This is self-evident, or one would hope. I ran/run a small and at times very divided message board, and we had to be VERY careful in the way we worded our moderating policy. I was admin and did lots of soul searching every time I cleaned up a thread. I did not use my admin powers to stifle debate and that particular forum at its height was a great place to debate: all women, and all professional women at that. Very compelling debates on all subjects and we moderated carefully because it was important that the rules were never subjective. “Thread derailment” and “we will only allow what we like here” are too subjective of a standard, and something I see all over the place.

          If there was a personal THREAT against a member, we went IRL to the appropriate people, and that only happened when we had issues with child endangerment or we had abusive exes. And no, we didn’t publicly release anything because we were too busy deal with the actual problem.

        • LibrarianSarah

          I disagree. I do not think it is reasonable to invade someone else’s privacy even in the case of threats of violence and rape. The only people who need to see those people’s IP and email addresses are the police. Sometimes it sucks being the better person but the alternative sucks more.

    • Renee

      OF COURSE YOU DON’T

  • Lindsay Beyerstein

    Grounded Parents fucked up badly with the Jamie Bernstein pieces.

    That said, Skepchick’s banning policy is based on the fact that they have a an ongoing problem with hostile trolls. These are not vigorous debaters, these are people who get off on making graphic rape and death threats. Just recently, Skepchick and a couple other atheist/feminist blogs were taken down briefly by a DDOS attack by trolls who think they’re entitled to literally censor others by breaking their websites.

    • Shang Tsung

      Yeah I mostly agree with this piece, but online commentary should be monitored and especially bad spam should be culled when it offers nothing but disruption.

      I remember reading a piece on skepchic a few years ago and some spammer had filled the comment section with over 100 comments depicting how he wanted to remove parts of Rebecca Watson’s body and violate them. That certainly crosses a line.

      But yes, removing a sharply worded disagreement, especially when Dr. Tuteur has the facts on her side, is a dangerous abrogation of that censorship privilege that I feel does sometimes need practiced.

      • Lindsay Beyerstein

        I’m not surprised that the moderation on the Jamie Bernstein posts is terrible, given the editorial stance that Grounded Parents has taken so far.

  • DaisyGrrl

    I am skeptical about that hat with that dress (in the stock photo).

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      “Do you like my hat?”
      “Yes, I like that party hat!”

      - Go, Dog, Go!

      • anion

        I LOVED that book! Ha, thank you for reminding me why that hat looked so familiar!

        • Amy M

          No, I do not like your hat.
          Good-bye!

          • anion

            Every time our kids climb onto the bed with my husband and me, I think of the picture with all the dogs in the huge bed in the moonlit room.

          • Medwife

            All asleep, except for that one poor insomniac dog staring at the ceiling. That’s me!

          • auntbea

            I always thought was so mean. Just don’t offer your opinion, you asshole.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Hey, she asked! He is just being honest.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    I disagree with you a bit on this one. I can see the two rules set up by Grounded Parents for banning as at least in principle reasonable.

    Derailing: If a poster always brings the discussion around to their particular obsession without addressing the actual point of the post, that can be tiring and unproductive. If one poster turns every discussion into a discussion of (say) the merits of libertarianism, no matter whether the post is about home birth or the existence of god(s) or the merits of universal health care, I can see banning that poster and don’t think it would violate the basic principles of skepticism to do so.

    Positively advancing the discussion is a trickier one. It could be a useful parameter. For example, suppose you had a “hyper-skeptical” person who continually demanded perfect “proof” of everything and refused to discuss the merits of a position until it was absolutely “proven” to his/her satisfaction, i.e. saying that you can’t draw any conclusions on home versus hospital birth because there are no randomized controlled trials comparing the two. Banning such a person might be reasonable because s/he is not and never will contribute to the discussion until s/he drops the skeptical to the point of denial position. OTOH, failing to “positively advance the discussion” is a criterion very open to abuse, especially without any definite parameters for what it means.

    So I’m less concerned about the parameters that they set than how they enforce them, i.e. what constitutes “failure to advance the discussion positively” or even derailing. If they’re using these parameters as excuses to delete opposition, that is certainly a failure of skeptical thought. Or any kind of analytic or political thought, really.

    My final point of disagreement is concerning whether women are more apt to demand that people be “nice” or not. Women are more socialized to avoid conflict and to be “nice” and are often severely punished when they fail to follow that directive. (Consider how many people say things like, “Yeah, home birth is a bit wooish, but Dr. Amy is just so [abrasive, rude, humorless, etc...in short, mean].” Do male skeptics get that sort of thing? I’ve never seen anyone call, for example, PZ Myers “mean” and expect it to be taken seriously.) However, I see plenty of women performing rigorous skeptical analysis online in direct defiance of that social requirement. (See, for example, this blog.) And I see plenty of men deep into woo. Again, several of the people most strongly defending Bernstein’s original piece were men. So I see no reason to despair of women in the skeptical movement except insofar as I despair a little of people in the skeptical movement.

    Other than that, I’m nodding like a sock puppet.

    • thepragmatist

      I think that Dr. Amy is speaking directly to women who USE the term skeptic but aren’t really skeptical, because they misuse moderating rules ALL THE TIME to stifle debate in a way that is not intellectually honest. I see it all the time, so it resonates with me. I’ve spent the better part of 15 years arguing with people online. I think it is actually a reasonable question to ask for a randomized controlled trial on a subject before drawing a conclusion, no? In fact, that would forward the conversation, and we have great studies now, large studies, on homebirth. But you look at what women are being offered as “science” and “evidence-based” blogs and they really are mouth-pieces for NCB. At least in my experience. It’s a blind spot.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        I think it is actually a reasonable question to ask for a randomized
        controlled trial on a subject before drawing a conclusion, no?

        It depends on the context. A RCT of home versus hospital birth is never going to happen for a couple of reasons. One, there simply aren’t enough people willing to be randomized. To whom is either acceptable? Two, there is a great deal of evidence that home birth is dangerous. It’s not level I RCT evidence, but it’s consistent and convincing to the point that I wouldn’t consider a RCT of home versus hospital birth ethical: there’s too much evidence that the home birth side would be a danger.

        Also, it may be reasonable to ask for a RCT, but it’s not reasonable to say that if there is no RCT NO inference can be drawn, no matter how strong the epidemiologic, non-randomized, and even case report data is, which is what the typical “hyper-skeptic” does. Saying, “The evidence against the safety of home birth has to be examined carefully because, in the absence of RCT, the risk of bias is high” is reasonable. The statement, “There is no RCT of home versus hospital birth, therefore we can know nothing about the safety of home vs hospital birth” is not.

      • anion

        A large cooking website I frequent did a test (they cooked a lot of hamburgers) and concluded–based on internal temperature and visual cross-sections–that flipping hamburgers frequently (as opposed to the “only flip once” method) makes for more even cooking while still allowing for a nice sear.

        A guy showed up in the comments to argue that their test was invalid because they failed to calculate the “drop,” i.e. how far and how hard the burger landed when flipped, because the act of the burger “falling” onto the hot surface would cause the burger’s weight to press down on that surface, thus unfairly speeding cooking/providing extra heat penetration. A truly fair test would calculate the burger’s weight along with the velocity and the height of the “drop” in order to remove that unfair advantage. He was very, very insistent, and was utterly disgusted with the lackadaisical attitude toward the scientific method shown by the author of the piece. It turned into quite a lengthy derail.

        This was, again, a test about *hamburgers.*

        That’s the sort of thing I think of when I think of the Uber-Skeptic: someone so focused on proof and detail that they fail to see the big picture, or who demand that the unquantifiable be quantified and calculated to a hair or else it’s “not really proof.” People like that aren’t interested in discussing results; they’re interested in making everyone think they’re very smart and so, so much more scientific or skeptical than everyone else.

  • http://kumquatwriter.wordpress.com/ Kumquatwriter

    Spot on!