Same Kind of Stupid as Me

Hey kids, what time is it? That’s right it’s kerfuffle time again!

In case you hadn’t heard Dilbert creator Scott Adams stuck his foot in it yesterday with this blog post about the issue of “men’s rights.” In his post he made the following basic points:

1. It’s possible to make the case that men are treated unfairly by some aspects of society.

2. This is a stupid thing to argue about, and if you make this your battle cry you’re wasting your time.

3. Being a man is pretty okay anyway, even if you accept that there are some injustices.

Sounds pretty harmless right? Except somewhere around the second point Adams said this:

The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.

Wowsers.

So why am I talking about this? Because I believe I am the perfect person to come to Adams defense here.

I can already see the steam shooting out of your ears. You’re wishing you could punch me out for being such a horrible misogynist. So before we go any further, let me make one thing crystal clear: I believe Scott Adams was incredibly stupid to say what he said in the way that he said it.

But.

I get why he said what he said. It is because he is stupid. I know this because I suffer from the same kind of unique stupidity. Scott Adams and I both have a disease I’d like to call specificitis.

People with specificitis believe that what has been said matters, and only what has been said. Let me give you an example from my life.

It really grinds my gears when a customer comes up to my counter and says, “Fishing license.” I want to ask them, “What about a fishing license? Are you asking for information about a fishing license? Do you want to buy a fishing license? Has some strange and bizzare sequence of events led you to believe that my name is Fishing License? Tell me what you want!”

This is, of course, stupid. It’s obvious that the customer standing at the counter next to the fishing license computer with their previous fishing license in their hand almost certainly wants to buy a replacement for said fishing license. They should not need to actually say the words, “I would like to purchase a new fishing license,” for me to understand what they want. The context is clear.

But context does not matter to people with specificitis. That’s why Scott Adams thought it was perfectly okay to hit the “publish” button for his blog. Because he actually didn’t say “women are like children and mentally handicapped people.” What he said was, fighting with women about men’s rights is as effective as fighting with a child about cereal or hitting back at a mentally handicapped adult. His point was, “You may be technically in the right, but no one cares.”

But it doesn’t matter as much what he said as how he said it. I don’t believe Scott Adams meant to compare women to children and the mentally handicapped. In fact he outright states this wasn’t his intention.

I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I’m not saying women are similar to either group.

Which, when you get right down to it, is like saying, “No offense, but you’re ugly.”

Because context matters. Proximity matters. And all anyone is ever going to remember about this post is the context.

Which is kind of a shame. Scott Adams could have easily made the same basic point without seeming so insensitive. The message, “Life isn’t fair, so get over it,” ain’t exactly new. And Adams raises the excellent point that some of the observed inequality between the sexes can be attributed to the psychological and differences between the average male and the average female.

He could have sparked an interesting discussion about gender inequality, but instead he made himself look like a misogynist. For the record, I don’t believe he is one.

I just think he’s stupid. The same kind of stupid as me.

Advertisements

30 responses to “Same Kind of Stupid as Me

  1. I am the same kind of stupid. I have never seen, except in factious stories, where a woman came out on the bad end of a divorce. They wanted 180% of my income for child support and alimony after a 22 month marriage with the creature that brought no assets to the marriage and 100% of the property and assets. Try getting visitation enforced. I spent 10% of my income for 11 more years on post divorce legal fees. Until I got custody when they were 12 and 14 because she was unfit. That’s what I told them. She was unfit but it took 12 years of child support to go up in smoke in the crack pipe and the homelessness of my children for them to believe me. Unfair? I’d say downright criminal gender injustice to divorced fathers.

  2. So, I heard all this uproar yesterday about his post… Didn’t read it myself, so I figured he was saying women deserve to earn less–wow. Clearly not remotely what he was saying.

    Are people just this reactionary and stupid? He’s -obviously- saying that women -continue- to be paid less because for society (and that’s the key point here) it’s easier than saying, “Well, okay, yeah, you gals should probably make the same as us.” He’s not saying that he -agrees- with that. You can tell that from the first excerpt, unless you fail to read between the lines.

    Eh. Or maybe I’m the one who’s stupid. I mean, to be fair, I am about as sympathetic as a cudgel.

  3. Your case is well-argued. Here’s mine. I really like Dilbert but I hate being paid less than people with different genitalia to mine. It doesn’t seem a relevant or fair criterion.

    Life is not fair, it’s true. But ‘getting over it’ is not the only option. Fighting for justice seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do with the time we are allotted on this planet. There are many causes worthy of time and attention. Women’s rights affect a minimum of just over half the global population, so anyone who helps women helps a lot of people.

    Scott Adams’ metaphors are tasteless in context which, given he is someone who makes his living communicating, is hard to excuse. I don’t want to shout at him though. I’ll save my powder for someone I have more chance of influencing.

    Cathy x

    • Did you read Adams post? Not just the offensive bits, but the part where he addresses that issue? I think you may find his opinion is surprisingly similar to yours.
      He’s only saying men should “get over it” when it comes to perceived inequalities.

      • Busted. No I didn’t. I just read the bit that you quoted. I suppose I just think that good people agree people are all morally equal. People who don’t think that are so far off my grid that they’re not very relevant, reducing the debate to ‘Women are equal,’ vs ‘No, they’re not’ which is really boring! Very interesting post. Thanks. Cathy x

      • Adams does touch on the issue of “equality”, though he doesn’t quite flesh that part of the post out well enough for my tastes. I think he’s trying making the point that men and women aren’t equal, but that that doesn’t mean either sex is superior. He’s saying both have strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other. Maybe.
        I think this touches on the larger problem with Adam’s post which is that it lacks focus. He wanders from one topic to another and finally leaves us with a vague sense of what he’s trying to say without actually saying much of anything. Again, this could have been a wonderful opportunity to create a real and meaningful discussion, but instead it was hamhandedly tossed out into the world without the cohesion it needed to make any kind of impact. Even without the offensive bits, the problem is that the post just isn’t all that good.

  4. No. I don’t buy it. If Adams didn’t mean to lump those groups together, then he shouldn’t have lumped those groups together. He’s obviously either in the group of “incredibly lazy” or like you said, “incredibly stupid,” or both.

    Now, mind you, I didn’t say he actually is incredibly lazy or incredibly stupid, I just said he’s “in the group.”

    Yeah, right.

  5. Just read this other gem from Adams’ deleted post: ” . . if I’m trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. That’s the team I want to be on.”

    Just wow. I take back what I wrote earlier. Adams is stupid.

    @Austin- Your quote, “Are people just this reactionary and stupid?”

    There’s no reading between the lines on this one. Adams is a lazy writer. I’m calling out stupidity when I see it. And if you feel comfortable with calling people who refuse to jump through mental hoops in order to sympathize with lazy writing “stupid,” I’m sure Adams would love to high-five you.

    • Is this just attention-seeking behaviour from Scott Adams? Here’s something it might be more worth attending to:
      http://www.womankind.org.uk/
      Cathy x

    • I think you’re reading this differently than I did. My interpretation of his “That’s the team I want to be on,” is basically that Adams is saying, “Hey being a dude is pretty cool.”
      I have no doubt that women would rightly respond with, “Hey, being a gal ain’t so bad either bub.”
      But Adams isn’t a woman. In the context of the whole post he’s saying, “So what if there are some things that aren’t “fair” about being a guy. It’s still a pretty good gig on the whole.”
      And yes, I totally agree with you on the lazy writing thing. Adams might have had an interesting point to make but he totally missed the boat with his post.
      A note to Douglas Adams from Mr. Strunk and Mr. White: “Be clear.”

    • I have to apologize for using the word “stupid.” That was a bit, ahem, reactionary of me. But I still don’t think that what Adams wrote was his opinion; he was stating an opinion of society. He’s largely calling out men who think their rights are suppressed by women’s rights. He says a few things that I’d call stupid, too, at least in the way he worded them. But I think the point of his post is valid.

      • Hey, everyone has their own definition of “stupid.” 🙂 No offense taken, no matter which definition you meant.

        I know Adams was at least attempting to be underhanded and clever, but as a writer, Adams has lost all credibility, IMO.

  6. ” . . if I’m trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. That’s the team I want to be on.”

    I interpreted that as Adams’ inability to grasp the concept of “Not all men are strong compared to women, and not all women are weak compared to men.”

    I hope he’s never trapped in a burning car, but if he is, I hope he’s not too much of a “team player” to be pulled out by a female firefighter or a female paramedic or a female good Samaritan.

  7. I think he’s doomed. He’s spent too much time in the cubicle …

  8. Hi folks. I may be “stupid” to chime in on this one, but here goes. The guys are interpreting what I see as a rant as Adams saying society classes women with children and the mentally handicapped. I interpret that statement as meaning society classes women with those who need the shepherding and care of adult males. The men are correct on that point.

    At law, women first had to prove they were not property, or, if you will, the equivalent of children, before they were allowed to have rights. Women were even legally classified as chattel back in the 1700s. (I’m hungry and my husband is waiting to go to breakfast or I’d give you that cite.) Even as late as the 1950s, court cases proclaimed such things as the only women allowed to work as barmaids were wives or daughters of the owners so that a man would be watching over them at all times. (That was state law in a midwestern state. Again, I’m hungry or I’d give you the cite.)

    The fact is that we didn’t all sing a Helen Reddy song and experience instant equality, and equality does not mean we are identical to men. It is a continuing process.

    As the mother of a teenage son, I do see ways in which girls are favored in school. Special clubs and scholarships based on race and gender seriously piss me off. Not sure what life skills “latina girls” need that everyone doesn’t need. Such nonsense promotes racism and mysogeny, and I do have sympathy for the guys on that count.

    As far as Adams’ post is concerned? Sounds like he was mad at someone, and his meaning is lost in the rant. Without you, Albert, and Austin to translate, I never would have heard that message, nor am I convinced that it is really what he was trying to say.

    Thank you for waking up my brain at this early hour. Off to breakfast.

  9. I do agree Albert it may be a little misjudgment on Scott’s part to have written it that way.

    Sadly so much of what any of us write online, whether blogging, emailing, tweeting, or on our Facebook wall can be taken in a different light than what we actually mean depending on the reader’s reality and state of mind at the time. Even what we write privately to personal family and friends, who know us better, can misinterpret what we have written. The words might be correct, but without the visual of the body language and the audio of voice inflection the reader can interpret the message incorrectly.

    I know there have been occasions when what I wrote a reader totally misunderstood my meaning and I would have to explain.

    Hopefully Scott was just tired when he wrote the post and hit publish before he thought more about it.

    It is not easy for any writer to accept criticism about what we have written. However, when done constructively it can be an easier pill to swallow and hopefully we learn from it.

    • Agreed. We see what we want to see. If we’re full of love and kindness, we’ll see only love and kindness. If we’re seeing hatred and anger, we’ll only see hatred and anger.

  10. I don’t honestly care that he lumped me in with a group of other people–possibly because I hold nothing against toddlers or mentally disabled people. If he said bigots or racists, I can see getting miffed for that proximity…

    As for the money issue. I can only state what I know about coworkers doing the exact same job as I over the years: In my industry, the men earn FAR MORE than 20% more than the women who do the exact same job.

    You don’t see me jumping up and down about that often because it’s what I’ve experience my whole life. Is it fair? No. Not much about my life has been fair.

  11. Let it blow over and ignore it. You’re increasing his daily views as we speak.

  12. Funny you have 27 comments and no likes!? Anyway, good post…I have a friend like you…makes me crazy sometimes. Specificitis. But I have learned to accept and indulge. From a man’s perspective I can see how they would treat all of those situations the same way. And I am not sure what salary he was commenting on, but women do still get paid less for equal work actually. However, if, that women’s lib had not misguided men and women, women would still be running the house hold business and men would get paid twice as much or inflation would have been less. Women should be at home balancing the budget, maintaing the A/P & A/R, managing the household inventories, co-ordinating schedules and making a safe, clean healthy place for everyone to live and grow. Then that comment would not even have toi be made.
    And as an adult living in this country all my life I see men treated unfairly many times b/c they insisted they “know” better. But underneath it all, they always look to a woman for the assurance that intuition and gut feeling match what the man has decided to do.
    My personal sex and race also work against me even as a woman, b/c unless I have children out of wedlock, I am expected to make my own way with no allowances or subsidies.
    It will be a wonderful time on Earth when every person is treated with the respect and kindness we all deserve.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      As to the salary thing, Adams theory is that some of the inequity is caused by the fact that women on average tend not to be willing to take the same kinds of risks as men, and that men are more willing to outright ask for a raise. On average.
      As for myself, all the women I work closely with make more than I do, and at least half of the upper management at my Walmart is female. Not that anecdotal evidence means much of anything, but hey…there it is.
      Overall I think the problem with the debate is that is suggests a kind of competition between men and women. I assumes that men are somehow “winning” because, on average, they make more money. Which is exactly the metric we’re told throughout our lives we shouldn’t measure success and happiness by.
      Men and women aren’t in a race. I’m not looking over at my female coworkers and resenting them because they’re women and they make more than me. I am an individual with my own goals and my own dreams, and making three dollars more an hour at Walmart is not one of those dreams.
      There’s a lot more I wish I could say about this, but I don’t have the time right now, and I’m not planning to turn this into a blog about gender issues. I wouldn’t mind doing a second post though, since it seems like everyone is enjoying this discussion. Or not.
      We’ll have to wait and see.

  13. And he keeps on digging . . buh-bye, Adams!: http://yhoo.it/fRltMn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s