Caltech: Glimmer and Glomming

Susan Kitchens points out that the number of women in the freshmen class at Caltech has increased from 28.5 last year to 37 percent this year. That’s a significant rise, even though it doesn’t match other tech colleges (42 to 47 percent), or colleges in general (with 57 percent women).

Interesting how Caltech increased the enrollment of women:

Caltech officials said the school did not lower its admission standards, but did more actively and shrewdly recruit women this year.

For example, Caltech made its female applicants more aware that they could be physics majors but also study music and literature, said Rick Bischoff, director of undergraduate admissions.

“That’s not to say men are not interested in those issues,” but those seem to resonate more with women, Bischoff said.

In other words, Caltech made a specific decision to increase women’s participation, pursued such actively and was successful. In some circles hereabouts, the feelings seem to be that actively recruiting women as participants is equivalent to ‘lowering’ the overall quality of the participants.

Susan, and the article, both mention the concept of ‘glomming’, where groups of young men at Caltech will follow a young woman around, lie in wait for her, and sit staring at her.

Personally, everyone participating in this should be expelled from school. Such juvenile behavior belongs in Kindergarten, not college. Perhaps if these boys would be encouraged to take literature and music, they might act like well-rounded and healthy men.

The only issue I have with all of this is that I hope that bringing more women into Caltech isn’t seen as a way of making the educational experience better for the men–you know, more dates for the poor geeks. We do not exist to keep you guys from feeling lonely.

We don’t exist for you guys at all.

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37 Responses to Caltech: Glimmer and Glomming

  1. Shelley, I didn’t mention it in my post because I wanted to focus on the glom conversation from Saturday, but I think you’d be interested in the way Harvey Mudd DRASTICALLY increased their enrollment was to have the new female president hand write a letter to each woman accepted to Harvey Mudd in order to urge that person to enroll there.

  2. p.s. on the “oh, increased enrollment of girls is for the benefit of the guys’ social life” mem. Sigh. yeah, I noticed that too in the article and found it infuriating.

  3. It’s interesting the method they chose was to increase the amount of information about the school, rather than changing any particular policy.

  4. Seán says:

    Why bother enrolling more women? They’re inevitably clustered slightly above the average in results which is pointless in any quickly evolving field. Most of them will just give up and go off and become soccer moms, they might as well have trained in applied cosmetics.

    Stick to the facts, not your feelings

  5. Elaine says:

    I had no idea about glomming — and I grew up in shouting distance of Caltech. (Actually, in the 4th grade I took a class for kids there about seismology. Loved it.) I wish it was a huge surprise, but it’s not.

    I hope the increase in women gives them the confidence to confront it as what it is: criminal behavior. Somebody who follows me into the shower, without my express invitation, is a creepy icky stalker. Full stop. I don’t care if they’re the most brilliant person in America.

    (Sean: I’d like to find a nice way to say this, but I can’t: STFU.)

  6. Seán: You sir, are a troll, in every sense of the word. In fact, you sound like someone who gave up and became a used-car salesman. Hie thee hence, and begone.

  7. Ethan says:

    It’s interesting the method they chose was to increase the amount of information about the school, rather than changing any particular policy.

    Yeah, funny what treating people respectfully can accomplish, unlike this yutz I used to work with who thought that every person of color that entered the store was naturally going to want to buy/rent New Jack City. He didn’t last long.

    Just like it was a big store with lots of selection, so too with schools. Good for this one figuring out how to get people to buy what they’re selling, so to speak.

  8. Umm, maybe I shouldn’t get into this, but you folks are misreading the phenomena, I think because you’re being fed a rile-’em-up manipulation. I went to MIT, not Caltech, but I understand the dynamics. The “glomming” is NOT like a “posse”, but more like “harem” in reverse. Believe me, ordinarily the very last thing a guy in that situation wants to do is to *intentionally* annoy a potential girlfriend (sigh, this doesn’t mean that someone, somewhere might not be a creep, especially in a group – but that’s not general case given the lopsided male/female ratio). This is extremely pragmatic – there are then several other guys who will be very glad to see less competition (yes, this breaks down if the entire group is jerks, but again, that’s not the average case).

    I also suspect the practice is much reduced nowadays from earlier times, given the improving ratio (3-1 is a lots different from 10-1 or 20-1).

  9. Phil says:

    My Cambridge college started admitting women the year I went there; about a year later they declared one of the bathroom blocks women-only. There were mixed feelings about that (“it tells the Peeping Toms where to go”) but I think it was a good move. Having mixed-sex dormitories & bathrooms – for teenagers – strikes me as crazy.

    Seth, I find you less easy than usual to agree with on this one. The Ms article says:

    “The glommer might follow the woman to class, wait for her afterward, sit at her cafeteria table, or enter her dorm room and refuse to leave. … Glommers say all they want is for a woman to hook up with someone; once she has a boyfriend, they generally leave her alone.”

    [and refuse to leave?]

    You say:

    “[if one guy acts annoyingly] there are then several other guys who will be very glad to see less competition”

    The trouble with this – and with the ‘Glommers say…’ apologia – is that it’s all about the men: let the men compete over you, play by the men’s rules and you’ll be fine. What if the woman just wants to get on with her life – finish class, go to dorm, go to bathroom, wash face, check timetable, unpack bag, re-pack bag, go to library… – & not even think about whether she’s ‘hooked up’ or not? A bunch of guys following you around, even if they’re trying not to behave ‘annoyingly’, would really make that hard.

    I think Shelley’s last line –

    We don’t exist for you guys at all.

    can be read two ways, unfortunately.

  10. Phil, I do not take Ms. Magazine to be a reliable source in this matter – they’re obviously going for a line of damsels-in-distress-harassed-by-men. I could tell you a funny story of how MIT got misreported as a great party school by Playboy.

    And yes, I’m talking about the men. Because my point is that the story is hyped, not because colleges are full of sensitive new age guys, but because *self-interest* of the competitors makes sure ordinarily that nobody gets much out of line. That’s not a nice argument, but it’s no less true for being unfeminist.

    You’re working off a paraphrase where attention is being shifted away from the fact that it’s denying any anti-woman intent. It’s almost a rhetorical trap, where an accusation is made, the accused points out where the evidence disproves the accusation, then they get slammed because the reply was about the men’s thinking (which was the original charge!). There’s an enormous gulf between saying Caltech men are often clumsy at dating approaches and the male-female ratio means several men will try to date the same woman (yeah, well, that isn’t news), and retailing a story that conjures images of roving packs of women-haters. That’s not the reality.

    [Pre-emptive rebuttal: I didn't say a lot of unwanted attention isn't annoying. And in a perfect world, every man would be a suave expert in reading social signals. I said reverse-harem is a much more accurate description of the dynamics than posse.]

  11. Phil says:

    Seth – there are two things going on here. One is that I’m getting very different accounts of what actually physically happens – Susan’s informant said women are followed into the showers, Ms says women are followed into the dorm room, and you seem to be saying that even that is overstated. Can we get some agreement that if men are trailing women into the shower block – or if men are following women into dorm rooms and refusing to leave when asked – that behaviour’s unacceptable, whatever the motivation?

    The other thing is about interpreting what’s happening. Let’s say that what’s happening is that guys trail women in a group, or stare at women in a group. I can’t see how “reverse-harem” could be a better image than “posse”, seen from the woman’s position. Yes, a lot of unwanted attention is annoying – and most of the time, when people are just trying to get on with their lives, any attention is unwanted attention. What you’re describing is precisely “a lot of unwanted attention”, surely?

  12. Shelley says:

    Seth, a quick search on Caltech and glomming shows hundreds of entries, many by Caltech students and what they say on glomming makes it more than some guy sitting and making puppy dog eyes at a woman. It is stalking, it is violent, in the sense that it is oppressive and controlling.

    More than just being a description, it also sounds like it has become an organized group activity. This goes beyond sex and interest, and directly to an intent to isolate and exclude women.

    Women aren’t seen as ‘friends’, or fellow class mates, but either a thing of sex or desire, or some sub-species that doesn’t communicate or act the same as the males. Female students have become a recreational sport.

  13. Women aren’t seen as ‘friends’, or fellow class mates, but either a thing of sex or desire,

    Shelley, welcome to the dating/mating game. It’s a complicated world, and college guys may just want to get laid, viewing women exactly as “a thing of sex or desire”. An exercise in moralist sermonizing over this is just another version of what’s-the-matter-with-kids-today. But this is not an *intent* to isolate or exclude women, almost the reverse (I did NOT say it was well-executed, I am refuting the attack storyline, not insensitivity – that’s “moving the goalposts”)

    If there are N men for every woman, for high value of N, and in our culture, men have the overwhelming responsibility for initiating relationship overtures, then that means there’s going to be several overtures and almost certainly a lot of overlap of interested men per woman. That’s what we’re talking about at heart, and it’s pretty simple that way.

    Over many years, over many people, could someone find thugs who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer? Sure, but again, that’s not in the overall interest of the suitors.

    I keep pointing out that just because someone writes a damsels-in-distress article, doesn’t make it true. Have we all so quickly forgotten the biggest bogospheric example? And how uncritically it was echoed by the media from a very one-sided story? How some mean humor was blown-up into ohmigod-death-threats.

    There’s plenty of references to say that “glomming” is NOT the sort of thing portrayed in the above article:

    I like when guys “overprotect” me though… like, during CPW at MIT we met these senior guys and they walked us home at 4 in the morning (like, a mile through the city and across the river) because we were a group of 17 year old girls in Boston.

    So a lot of times it’s a good gesture, even if it can be a tad… demeaning.
    We have a name for overprotecting here. We call it glomming.
    Next, I feel as though I must deal with Ms. Richter’s claims about “the bizarre undergraduate phenomenon called glomming.” People make a big deal about glomming because it is an amusing manifestation of some Techers’ lack of normal social skills. It is, by absolutely no means, tantamount to rape. I find that comparison to be wildly overreacting to a fairly benign problem. Rape is a horrible crime which is capable of destroying the victim’s entire world. Glomming is the simple problem that some CalTech men think the way to get a girlfriend is to follow her around. Since these men have not had much experience in dating, they are not the most “with-it” guys. All it takes is simple assertiveness on the female’s part to end the problem. “I don’t like you like that, now please stop following me” is all that is necessary. And even if that doesn’t work, there are many ways to solve the problem, including peer counselors (known as UCCs), the Resident Associates of each house, the Honor Code committee, and, if worst comes to worst (which, I might add, it rarely if ever does) the administration and campus security. No woman feels “alone” simply because she turns down glommers.
    This harsh fact, combined with the male beaver’s aforementioned academic tenacity, leads to the phenomenon commonly known as “glomming,” which is only exacerbated by The Ratio. This problem is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for when a he-beaver sees a she-beaver in danger of being smothered by a dozen interested suitors, his natural protective response is to rush to the scene in order to scare the others off. It is trivial to prove that the number of glommers (which, by the way is not a real word) is unbounded in the limit as the number of coeds approaches zero.

  14. Seth Russell says:

    We don’t exist for you guys at all.

    Well actually, Shelley, you do … quite literally, you do … it is a fact of nature, whether you like it or not.

  15. Shelley says:

    Seth Russell, I do not exist on this world to be one person’s mother or another person’s mate. I can be mother, and I can be mate, but neither is the sole reason for my existence. Right now, I am not mother, and I have no mate. Does that mean, then, that I no longer fulfill a worthwhile role? That is what I mean when I say we don’t exist for you, though Phil’s interpretation is sadly also true.

    Seth, this isn’t Revenge of the Nerds, and I can’t see this as amusing behavior. If a young man approaches a young woman to ask her to date, that is normal behavior and should be treated as such. If he sits near her a few times in order to work up the nerve to ask her out, I would assume this is normal behavior, definitely not deserving of its own term.

    But glomming has been described as: jealous behavior that doesn’t allow ‘competitors’, stalking, invasion of privacy in dorm room and shower, formations of groups that follow young women around–why should women have to accept the consequences of some poor tech boy’s social inadequacies?

    The one xanga site you reference, where the person, caught up in his own wit, talks about how we women dress to be noticed but when we are, talk about objectification. Believe it or not, women don’t always dress nicely just to be noticed by men. Many times we do so because it makes us feel good–this is how society tells women to reward ourselves. But it really isn’t necessarily that much different than men driving around in hot cars.

    Given attention and being noticed is a far cry from being objectified. All you have to do is read Techcrunch or Endgadget whenever either site covers something associated with an attractive young woman. The conversation quickly becomes one not having to do with whatever product or company is being discussed, but how ‘hot’ the young woman is, or how ‘cute’. Yet I rarely hear such whenever a nice looking young man is associated with a product or company.

    If the young men look at the young women around them and only see an object to be used for sex then they have a fucking problem! If they see them as attractive, interesting, intelligent, and would like to spend time with them, then they see the young women as people, not just the potential for a sex act.

    How the hell are we women ever going to be treated as equals in these fields if we consider such behavior to be acceptable right at the very start, in college? What signal does that give to the young men to take into the world with them? That no matter what, we’re really not to be taken seriously? That we’re nothing more than potential sex mates in college, and ‘soccer moms’ int he future, as Sean seems to imply?

    My ‘sermonizing’ as you call it is my way of saying this is not acceptable behavior. Just because it happens does not make it valid.

  16. Phil says:

    If there are N men for every woman, for high value of N, and in our culture, men have the overwhelming responsibility for initiating relationship overtures, then that means there’s going to be several overtures and almost certainly a lot of overlap of interested men per woman. That’s what we’re talking about at heart, and it’s pretty simple that way.

    1. “At heart” maybe, but we’re still not getting to what actually happens. Do men follow women into the showers? (Ugh.) Do men follow women into dorm rooms and refuse to leave? Do men follow women around in groups? Or what?

    2. You know I mentioned my year at college was the first to have women students? The sex ratio for the first year was 10:1. No lurking, no following around, no ‘protective’ groups. Bring back the 80s (and I never thought I’d say that).

  17. Shelley, the fact that something is described in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true. Consider the sentence “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective”. Therefore, since blogging has been described that way, must it be true?

    The point I keep making is that the article is wrong, there is no organized intentional infliction of emotion distress. The word is for describing several men trying to ingratiate themselves with a women. There are plently of references for this much less frightening meaning (but it doesn’t make nearly as scary a story). They want a girlfriend, or at least a date, which is far different from intending harm.

    I can’t write a dissertation on gender studies in a comment box. But that’s a topic where you can’t just proclaim everyone should follow some sort of idealized model of what they want from a relationship and how they should think of the relevant sex – it doesn’t work, people are just too diverse for that to be reasonable.

  18. Seth Gordon says:

    FWIW, I attended MIT from 1986-1991. I’m not familiar with this usage of the word “glom” and I don’t think I engaged in the behavior (I’ve never been fond of male-pack-animal activities of any sort).

    I did get in trouble for my assumption that any woman who didn’t want me to make overtures to her would tell me to buzz off explicitly and therefore I didn’t have to make an effort to detect hints of interest or non-interest; this behavior got me rejected from a cooperative living group that was famous for not rejecting anyone who wanted to live there. And for the brief time I had a girlfriend who was a fellow undergraduate, I followed her like a puppy (which is probably one reason why the relationship was brief).

    So I can imagine a socially clueless Caltech freshman longing for his female classmate, striking up a conversation with her after class, walking with her all the way back to her dorm room while she is trying to drop hints that she’d really like to be left alone, and him not getting the hints. The guy in such a situation needs a smack from the clue-stick, but as Seth F. said, there’s no intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    Are there outright male chauvinist pigs at MIT who see all women primarily as sex objects? Of course! But from what I saw when I was there, the piggish students tended to hit on women from other schools (e.g., at fraternity parties).

  19. Seth Gordon says:

    Also: Elizabeth Salkind, who attended MIT’s Sloan School of Management, wrote her 1986 master’s thesis on peer sexual harassment at MIT. Unfortunately, Google knows not of its whereabouts.

  20. Kathy says:

    Seth: “How some mean humor was blown-up into ohmigod-death-threats.”

    You know this how?

    Someone determined enough to hack someone else and use their identity to write horrific, sexual stories, take the time and effort to create sexually, harassing images about women (not just me) and then place PHONE CALLS as that person… yet you know for a fact it’s just ‘mean humor’? You don’t know the facts, let alone the intention of everyone involved. (some, yes, but you don’t know everyone and everything that happened)

    For the future, I doubt it’s helpful to try to link every topic involving women, stalking, threats, misogyny, sexism, etc. to my situation. Shouldn’t you be making far more subtle distinctions around each of these scenarios without introducing a “let’s not forget about the KS debacle…” into every new remotely related topic? It’s polarizing and you know it. It seems like an attempt to shift, color, or stop whatever the new conversation is about.

    Perhaps there is a ‘meankids/unclebob’ law… any discussion deteriorates or ends the moment someone brings THAT up.

    I don’t want people (including me) to hijack this thread — but one of the ‘missions’ Chris Locke and I were–and still are–on is to try to stop people from exploiting what happened to further their own agenda/position. I especially don’t want to see it used as a cheap way to get women to STFU.

  21. Seth Russell says:

    Shelley, thanks for clarifying, i have no troubles with what you did mean. But notice that you needed to switch from the “We” of your ground breaking assertion, and speak with the “I” of yourself as a person. The difference between “We” and “I” is more than a semantic quibble when it comes to talking about our society. Women, just like men, have an obligation to the species … as such we are for each other. Your original assertion struck me as women denying that obligation in the dance that sustains our species. This meme of yours is quite startling … it grabs us by the balls … as such, I hope it does not become a slogan for a militant feminism.

  22. Ethan says:

    Women, just like men, have an obligation to the species … as such we are for each other.

    Hoo, boy. Talk about a whole lot to distill into a comments box.

    But the short version is, (besides soaking my monitor with beverage that was intended for my gullet) my wife and I are childless by choice. Are we letting our species down?

    Well, depending on which members you ask, yes, but shit happens.

    Also, the slogan for militant feminism, I suspect, is “U and UR hand tonight.” Certainly that’s how I read the final sentence of Shelley’s original post.

  23. j says:

    That infamous Ms. Magazine article came out while I was an undergrad at Caltech. It bears little relation to reality and was roundly mocked by both male and female undergrads. It’s written by a grad student who has little understanding of undergrad life.

    The biggest problem on campus isn’t sexual harassment, it’s plain social awkwardness at a level that most of you have no familiarity with. Don’t attribute to malice what’s actually incompetence — the appropriate response is quite different.

  24. Aruni says:

    Wow! This is sort of a crazy discussion of you ask me…especially since the bulk of these comments seem to come from men. People are social animals by nature but we do not exist only for one another — it really depends on your philosophy about life. IMHO we exist for the community of humans. I have friends who do not want children and feel that all the children of the world part of one big family even if they did not give birth to them.

    I think this boils down to women being percieved as objects. This is something we have tried to overcome for years. We are not objects to be owned, followed, and/or otherwise mistreated. Intellectually we are able to do the same as men while also being able to have babies and sustain them soley from the milk our body makes for the first several months of their lives. IMHO, the physical realm (i.e., men tend to be stronger) is where we are the most different.

    The good news is that at the Working Mother conference I attended recently, they emphasized that this century is finally the century for women…the world will now listen to us women and incorporate our ideas/thoughts into future plans. I can already feel it and see it as evidenced by the existance of blogs like Shelley’s. I hope at the end of this century (if we haven’t obliterated ourselves) we won’t be having glomming discussions like this one.

    I just put survey results online at done at the conference and it shows that most women still perceive their power as being in the Home. Personally, I think we need to work on shifting it so men feel as powerful at home and women feel as powerful in their professional life.

  25. Shelley says:

    From the Ms Magazine article, which a couple of you gentlemen have all stated is wrong on so many counts, we have:

    “A few years ago, a small group of undergraduate women created “The Girl’s Guide to Glomming,” a short book for first-year women on how to protect themselves. They got funding from the administration for it, but the school forced the authors to make the guide’s language gender-neutral and to change the title to “The Geek’s Guide to Glomming,” as though both women and men were doing it. Still, many upperclass students were vehemently opposed to the guide, saying that it would bring negative press to Caltech. At one point, the e-mail account the authors had established for the guide was hacked.”

    If this is a non-existent problem, a figment of one graduate student’s imagination, why the term? Why groups organized? Why does Caltech have an orientation skit warning new freshmen about this problem?

    From the Women in Technology site (WITI):

    “Caltech alum Dr. Misha Mahowald…made the WITI Hall of Fame for her development of the silicon retina and her continuing pathfinding work in neuroscience as a “neuromorphic engineer” at the new Zurich Institut Fur Neuroinformatik.

    Mahowald was a subject for the Discovering Women PBS documentary series about women in science. On the first two days she hosted viewings of her show and spoke with the audience afterwards. One question women were curious about was: why did she leave Caltech, and why did she come back? She told the audience about the Caltech tradition of “glomming,” about how she was threatened and verbally harassed because she wanted to spend less time with certain Caltech men than they wanted to spend with her. She returned to Caltech after her research mentor Dr. Carver Meade obtained funding so that she could afford to live off campus. She said Caltech undergraduate housing was like fraternity housing, and that more alternatives need to be provided for students who don’t like that type of social structure. ”

    Perhaps you all want to discredit Dr. Mahowald, but strikes me that people who work in neuroscience aren’t necessarily the flighty, imaginative types.

    Then there is the person that Susan talked about in the meeting that she attended, though I don’t know who this is. Is she, also, another ‘mistaken’ graduate student?

    Or is it that those who deny this is a problem are saying that you identify with the ‘male geeks’ in all of this, and based on your own personal and subjective experiences, ‘know’ that there was no ‘harm’ intended.

    But what if there was?

    You’re basically saying you all can identify with the men, so therefore the women are wrong — mistaken, exaggerating, misled by Ms. Magazine, by radical feminists… But not you and people like you.

    Did I misread that?

  26. Shelley says:

    I’m also going to say one other thing:

    I really love it when people grab a concept or topic and go wild in my comments. But I would really not like to bring in the recent events associated with weblogging and “KS”, because this is not the venue for that discussion. I respect your right to have this discussion, just not here, not now.

    The two situations really are very different.

    I say this with respect to all the people who brought this up in the comments.

  27. Shelley says:

    One last comment, Ethan and Seth, related to this secondary (but interesting thread): my statement had nothing to do with women and our part in procreation, or even our part in happy, fulfilling relationships. It had to do with exactly what I wrote: women are not ‘for’ men. We don’t exist as an adjunct to men, no more than men exist as an adjunct to women. This whole concept smacks of being meaningless until and unless one is ‘paired’ with someone of the opposite sex.

    A related item, not necessarily directed to anyone in this thread: why is that when a woman writes something assertively about gender, we’re immediately labeled as ‘radical feminists’, such being one short step to “man hater”?


  28. Aruni says:

    My guess is that society is still uncomfortable with statements/criticisms of what is still a male dominated society so they dismiss such statements as coming from a ‘man hater.’ I’ve also seen this more in the US than in other societies. In certain places in Europe and Canada the woman’s role is generally more interwoven into the fabric of the society.

    Sometimes men are labeled ‘sexist pigs’ if they comment on the looks of an attractive woman.

    Bottom line (I agree with Shelley) NO ONE (whether man, woman, or child) should be stalked/threatened as they have stated in this glomming article. Men are typicall physically stronger and thereby women/children often feel more afraid for their physical well being IMHO than if a group of women/children was behaving the same towards a man.

  29. Seth F:

    The point I keep making is that the article is wrong, there is no organized intentional infliction of emotion distress.

    Based on what personal knowledge about Caltech are you able to make that statement, Seth? (This is prolly not the sort of thing that comes out in Caltech-MIT pranks and pre-frosh week rivalries)

    j, thanks for showing up and sharing your experience. I, for one, am glad to get firsthand word from others; My knowledge of glomming comes from a population of of 1. Okay, two, my boyfriend is an alum, tho he attended many years ago, and his experience of glomming was that about 10 male members of his house got pissed off about glomming happening to a female member of their house; They went en masse to visit the clueless glommer (from a different house) and told the guy to stay the heck away from the woman, or else he’d be visited by even more guys with retribution in mind.

    As to the person I talked with on Saturday, she worked as a staff member on campus. The department/office she worked for, in my opinion, give her opportunity to hear about glomming as part of work duties.

  30. Let me outline the problem with the reasoning. It runs like this:

    Hype: “[Bad thing A], therefore, [Proposition B]”

    Objection: “[Proposition B] is false”.

    Hype: “Are you justifying [Bad thing A]? Do you deny [Bad thing A] happens? We know all about the denial of [Bad thing A]. [Horror story] [Horror story] [HORROR STORY]. Therefore, [Proposition B] is true.”

    I keep trying to show why this is false, using other examples, and running into the loop above.

    Aruni: If men are being accused, why can’t men respond?

    Shelly: OF COURSE I identify with the ‘male geeks’! Haven’t I made that clear from the start? But I’ve been repeatedly making a self-interest argument in addition to the male-testimony argument. And the subjective argument is more towards the fact that wanting a girlfriend, or even just to have sex (conceptually distinct), and being bad at social signals, is not the same as the sort of women-hating hostility being discussed. It’s sort of the inverse of “rape is a crime of violence, not sex” – being insensitive in seeking sex (common) is not being motivated to violence (rare).

    Susan: I gave cites in #13 above. Also see #8 “I went to MIT, not Caltech, but I understand the dynamics.” (as in, ratio of several men per woman).

  31. Phil says:

    I think this boils down to women being percieved as objects. This is something we have tried to overcome for years. We are not objects to be owned, followed, and/or otherwise mistreated.

    Yep. I get self-conscious myself, but as a man I’m hardly ever on display in the way that a lot of women have to be a lot of the time – particularly younger women. Whatever ‘glomming’ actually is (lurking? trailing? camping? staring?) it seems to start from that basic assumption, that women are there to be looked at and men are there to do the looking – any woman, any time, anywhere. That’s a reductive and ultimately coercive assumption, and acting on it is a really bad idea (see also Seth Gordon’s comment). And no, this doesn’t mean that the guys who go in for glomming do so because they’re abusive sexists; they may be smart, well-meaning and generally clueful in all other respects. The behaviour itself is still sexist and abusive. (Cf. “Racist language? Are you calling me a racist?”)

  32. Phil says:

    Hype: “[Bad thing A], therefore, [Proposition B]“

    Seth, I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. Could you populate those regular expressions with values relevant to the current discussion?

    wanting a girlfriend, or even just to have sex (conceptually distinct), and being bad at social signals, is not the same as the sort of women-hating hostility being discussed.

    Short answer: it’s not about men being evil, it’s about men acting evilly. Longer answer: see the comment I was typing around the same time you were typing yours. (Web 2.0 – letting more people talk past each other than ever before!)

    “I went to MIT, not Caltech, but I understand the dynamics.” (as in, ratio of several men per woman).

    I went to Jesus College Cambridge, which had a ratio of 10:1 in my first year, so I guess I understand that dynamic. (And yes, there was competition.) But I never saw anything resembling glomming, and I would have thought it was ridiculous.

  33. Phil, one of the threads in some feminist thought which I dislike, is the extensive identification of the sexual with the sexist, i.e. all that swirls around “objectification”. It is very easy to get on a moral high horse about right and proper thinking, and then denounce those of lower consciousness. But that doesn’t go anywhere except around and around itself.

    Anyway, what I meant about the pattern [Bad thing A] as bludgeon, see the middle of #13, and e.g. covers what you were saying in #11 (“Can we get some agreement that if men are trailing women into the shower block – or if men are following women into dorm rooms and refusing to leave when asked – that behaviour’s unacceptable, whatever the motivation? – I mean, what is anyone reasonably supposed to say in reply to that?)

  34. Phil says:

    what is anyone reasonably supposed to say in reply to that?

    Well, there’s always “Yes”. Or “Yes, but I know what’s going on and it’s not like that”. Or “Yes, but (although I don’t know exactly what’s happening) I’d be really surprised if it was that.” You seem to be engaged in a weird kind of reverse shroud-waving, where you scale down what other people are reporting to a level that’s acceptable to you, then object that not everyone is scaling it down the same way. Personally I still don’t know what glomming is, but even the mildest forms sound pretty ooky.

    It is very easy to get on a moral high horse about right and proper thinking

    Not my intention. All I’m saying is that we’ve all got to live together, and there are things – well-known, well-documented, really not surprising things – which some groups consistently do to other groups, without any malice necessarily being involved, which consistently make that harder.

    Not ‘right and proper’, just empathetic. Forbearing. Give a girl a break. Sure, don’t tie yourself in knots about it (oh my god I’m looking at her body!!!)… but do think how the person looking through those eyes might actually be feeling. Not that this needs saying to anyone here, obviously.

    I think what bugs me is that I feel you’re making apologies for insensitive cloddishness on the grounds that it isn’t any more than insensitive cloddishness, and besides, lots of young guys just are insensitive clods, hey, what are you going to do? Whereas I’m coming at it from the angle that cloddishness is a bad thing, and [semi-]organised and [quasi-]tolerated cloddishness is a really bad thing.

  35. Seth Russell says:

    Shelley, both of our views are valid. From the perspective of your personal life, you are not for anyone. A long time ago i went on a quest to figure out what i was for … and i ended up right where you are … i am for whatever i choose. But this is like one of those Gestalt illusions where a image can be now one thing, and then another thing. That other view, which you choose not to see, is more from the outside of your personal life … almost from a biologist perspective. From that view a flower is for a bee and a bee is for a flower … the one would not exist without the other. A man, as he is male, is for his woman, who, as she is female, is for her man. Seeing the situation from both perspectives at the same time is almost impossible, but it might be worth a try.

  36. Aruni says:

    Seth – men can certainly respond. I did not mean to imply you can’t but I think it’s always good to have both genders represented equally in a discussion like this.

    Phil – I don’t exactly understand what you mean when you say: “Yep. I get self-conscious myself, but as a man I’m hardly ever on display in the way that a lot of women have to be a lot of the time – particularly younger women.” Why do women (esp younger women) have to be on display? I don’t understand that. Are we on display simply by existing and walking across campus?

  37. Phil says:

    Why do women (esp younger women) have to be on display?

    Perhaps things are better than I thought. I was referring to a common perception by women that they’re judged on their looks & self-presentation, & (more importantly) that the judging goes on pretty much all the time. It was talked about a lot back when I discovered feminism. As a man I don’t have any direct experience of this, though, and it may be that things have changed for the better since that epoch.