greensword: (dress to impress)
[personal profile] greensword
Going into the office today I walked right into the middle of an uncritical wankfest about how chicks dig bad guys because they're all insecure and they don't know what's good for them. Set my teeth immediately on edge but I didn't want to butt into anyone's personal life so I left it well alone. Then someone brought up some evo psych study that supposedly proves that this behavior would have been adaptive back in the day, and I could not keep quiet.

This is what I said, in a slightly more polite way:

1) We have no reason to believe that this phenomenon even exists. The only time I ever hear about it is from whiny-ass Nice Guys who can't deal with the fact that no one wants to date them and have to pretend like it's a problem with the women. (They never seem to get that this sort of condescension and entitlement might in fact be what's driving women away!) Yes, some women like guys who treat them badly. Some men like women who treat them badly. While we're at it, some women like women who treat them badly, some men like men who treat them badly, and some genderqueer folks like all sorts of people who treat them badly. Sensing a pattern here? The only reason there's a cultural narrative around irresistible bad boys is bias in who gets to tell their stories. I know plenty of girls who've pined after guys in terrible relationships. The difference is they generally don't feel the need to make it about all-men-ever and even if they did, they don't have the platform from which to speak about it.

2) Real "bad guys" - i.e. abusers and manipulators - do exist. And women do keep going back to them. Why? Because they are scared and feeling powerless and our society does very little to offer them support or condemn their abusers. How *dare* people even come *close* to implying that this is somehow a problem with women? God, look at that logic. Men wouldn't be bad guys if women didn't secretly like it? Men wouldn't be abusers if women didn't want them to be? Sickening.

3) And don't you pretend to hide behind the mantle of science here. I do find value in evolutionary psychology but the field has a disturbing tendency towards just-so stories. And unfortunately the field is really conservative - they start from "this is how the world is" and work backwards to figure out why that would be. Problem is that like most people their privileged, narrow worldview doesn't actually represent how the world is. Really, sometimes it seems like the main purpose of evo psych is to justify sexism.

Just goes to show what sort of biased, lazy thinking goes on even in the most prestigious places among people nominally devoted to finding truth. Well done, Harvard.

Date: 2009-03-26 10:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*claps* way to go shauna!!

Date: 2009-03-26 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
well done. well done.

Between your harvard experience and Kale's Yale experience, it makes Pitt look like a bastion of liberalism. They just hate Jews there.

Date: 2009-03-26 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
To be fair, this was just two people from my lab, and neither are particularly representative... I think I would be more upset if it was one of the people I really respect here. As it is it just made me roll my eyes.

Date: 2009-03-27 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Story of my life, man.

Date: 2009-03-26 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
well done. many of the "nice men" I have met have never actually been nice - actually quite passive aggressive. and many of the "bad guys" aren't MEAN, they're just - confident. that's why people like bad boys, not because they are actually BAD but because they HAVE A SELF CONFIDENCE. this is of course talking about "bad boys" and the non-abusive type. you know, Mr. Darcy wasn't a NICE GUY, and the NICE GUY in such stories usually ends up being a major dick anyway. at least in my experience. also, there is a big difference between "nice" people, and "kind" people - I would much rather be with a kind man that will argue with me and treat me as a person, than a "nice" one who brings me flowers and expects me to agree with everything they say.


pardon the rant. I just dealt with an over-apathetic "nice guy" at work. so it has been on my mind.

Date: 2009-03-27 01:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i think the terms "nice guy" and "bad guy" are far too general. they can mean anything to anyone...
but i suppose that's just semantics.

Date: 2009-03-27 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's not like being "nice" and being confident are in any way exclusive - if anything, I think it takes more self-confidence to be kind to others, to go out on a limb for others, and to treat everyone with respect. To use your P&P example, the reason why Darcy comes off as a "bad guy" at the beginning is because he feels so insecure and socially awkward, especially around Elizabet, and so he hides that by being an ass. It's only once he gets over that, that his niceness is really made apparent - and it's only then that he gets the girl!
Edited Date: 2009-03-27 04:06 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-31 06:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
but of course - but I guess I never thought darcy was NICE. he was kind, and generous, but nice? I would never put him in the nice category. I just never liked the word itself.

but then something can be send for the "nice" guys then - sometimes they are being nice and in fact are not kind, or generous at all. and actually use that niceness to their own advantage, or feel they deserve something in return for being so "nice" when sometimes - if you are truly a kind spirit, you won't expect anything in return for being so nice.

it is a mixed bag indeed.

Date: 2009-03-31 06:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
send? said.

Date: 2009-03-26 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Love this post.

Real lesson, it seems to me, is that people who are super smart in one arena (physics, biology, whatever subfield of neuroscience research these two happened to be in) can still not know what they're talking about in another. A duality which doesn't make them any worse at what they do (or any smarter in casual conversation).

Date: 2009-03-27 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think a lot of it comes from movies/tv shows that portray that whole idea/ideal, but I don't know how many times I've actually seen that in real life. I can't even think of one example off the top of my head.

ETA: To clarify, I'm referring to the idea that women love "bad" guys.
Edited Date: 2009-03-27 12:53 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-27 01:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OMG. Welcome to my world. Are you sure you didn't copy and paste this entry from my journal last year?
A couple of weeks ago I had to hear a conversation about how a prof got "bitch slapped" by the NIH during grant application season.
Sexism is alive and well in our field, and greater representation of women won't end it until all the dinosaurs retire and make some room in the upper ranks. Yay!

Date: 2009-03-27 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

We need to try doing radical psych/neuro stuff again.

A couple of weeks ago I had to hear a conversation about how a prof got "bitch slapped" by the NIH during grant application season.

Please tell me the prof was male.
Edited Date: 2009-03-27 04:07 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-27 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yes he was and yes we do.

Date: 2009-03-27 08:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yes he was

I guess that is marginally better than if the prof was a woman.

yes we do.

Do you want to give the blog another shot? Or do you have other ideas?
Edited Date: 2009-03-27 08:30 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-27 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My favorite parts are when people argue evopsych and pretend the brain isnt a plastic instrument:
"Women get all these happiness hormones that go off when they see a baby!"
"Could this be because they are trained to want that?"
"ummmmm hormones. bio. science. cant argue with me i win."


Date: 2009-03-27 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes. This. The human brain can learn to write papers on water quality in post-Soviet states, or play ping-pong, while having completely missed learning to track game or build a fire and other useful survival skills. BUT when it comes to sex and babies, everything just happens to be inborn, and moreover sounds exactly like we evolved to survive in the hostile environment of, um, the 1950s in the US!

I think not.

Date: 2009-03-27 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I love that. It's as if they've never heard of a genotype vs a phenotype - as if they hadn't been reading the news recently that genes themselves are influenced by environment and nurture!

Date: 2009-03-27 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Word. Although I did once believe that guys were for some reason inherently predisposed to liking conventionally attractive, stupid girls. It took me a while to figure out that the girls at my high school had an unusual amount of money to spend on becoming conventionally attractive, and an unusual amount of encouragement (even in a sexist society) to pretend to be stupid, and that it was no wonder the guys grew up accepting this as normal. And also, that no matter how desperate I am, I really don't want to be in a relationship with someone who is just not interested in me.

And don't you pretend to hide behind the mantle of science here.
Has little to do with the overarching rant, but for, perhaps, the theme of "Nice is different from Good," but somehow this phrase merged in my mind with "Chekov's gun" and with this sketch I have pinned to the wall, to inspire me to not slack off, of Ed beating up an MiB guy and pointing a gun at the viewer. So I had this fantastic mental image of Ed shooting hideous Famous Scientists collector's plates off a tacky mantle (of SCIENCE) while Nice Guys ducked and covered. I just thought you might enjoy that.

Date: 2009-03-27 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I did once believe that guys were for some reason inherently predisposed to liking conventionally attractive, stupid girls

Except what's conventionally attractive changes from culture to culture. I used to look at Greek statues or centuries-old paintings and think, "Why wasn't I born in that time?" Except then they would just make me have babies all the time, so I'm glad I wasn't.

Date: 2009-03-27 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hah. I used to wish I looked like Greek statues or centuries-old paintings. I don't think my body type was ever actually The Right One to have by any culture's beauty standards, although I think if I had matched the older ones I would have been more satisfied with my lot in life in high school. But I also might not have Gotten It until later -- that it doesn't really matter, because I own my body and there are better things to do with it than sit around bemoaning the fact that I was born into the wrong beauty standards.

Date: 2009-03-27 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe not in western cultures, but there is a lot of variety in the world. Now that I think about it, I'd love to read a book on the topic. Either way, you're spot on that it doesn't matter.

Date: 2009-03-27 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, I know. I've read about the fattening rooms and Americans being bizarrely fixated on certain parts of the female anatomy, but no culture I've seen prefers rectangular, flat-chested fat girls. And on a more Western note, it completely screws up those "suited for x body type" things on plus size stores, too, because rectangular = TOTALLY LOTS OF BOOBS, apparently, and pear-shaped means my shoulders don't fit anything and are too big. Clearly I should just cut off my shoulder blades or stuff my bra with pink balloons, right?

I think I'm just going to learn to sew or something. I have the right to wear clothes, damnit.

Date: 2009-03-27 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
it completely screws up those "suited for x body type" things on plus size stores, too

I wonder how these companies manage to stay in business when they're marketing to their own narrow fantasies and not to the actual needs of actual women. You'd think it would be profitable to make clothes that more people could buy.

I have the right to wear clothes, damnit.

It's like the third ammendment or something.

Date: 2009-03-27 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See, that's what I wonder about most clothing companies, but I think a lot of the plus size stores that do this probably get it right for most women who are within their (admittedly narrow) size ranges? Just not me. And it's great that at least they recognize that "plus size" isn't actually a shape, and different shapes need different cuts. (Seriously, don't even get me started. Getting sized for my graduation gown was oh so fun, because rather than asking for my shirt size or any measurements that actually make sense, they wanted to know my weight.)

It's like the third ammendment or something.
No, but I think the second amendment is something about like, not having to wear long sleeves all the time, right? I forget.

Date: 2009-03-27 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It just seems like everything is getting more and more personalized these days, so why the cookie-cutter clothing?

No, but I think the second amendment is something about like, not having to wear long sleeves all the time, right? I forget.

Yeah, you're right. The third is about wearing white after labor day. (And the fourth is about slankets!)

Date: 2009-03-27 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I guess that's a point, I just wouldn't know where to begin and the last thing I want is to make clothes shopping even more complicated. ...Okay, it could stand to be a little more complicated, because right now my options are "it makes me look like a guy," "it makes my mother shriek about how fat/slutty (apparently these are the same thing) I look in it," or "HAHAHA FATTY, YOU DON'T GET NICE CLOTHES."

What's a slanket? I never took an actual civics course, my girly brains were too preoccupied with APUSH and AP Chem.

Date: 2009-03-27 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm. Have you ever looked at [ profile] fatshionista or similar online sites? I mean, it took me years to go from wearing jeans and baggy sweaters all the time to dressing the way I do now (not to imply at all that it was something I needed to do or should have done, just what I did) and there's no way I could've suddenly started rocking some of the outfits that those girls rock. But probably there are girls out there who look like you and who were born with a clothes-crazy gene and why kill yourself trying to figure it out for yourself, when you could just ask their advice?

Or you could just wear these all the time:

Date: 2009-03-27 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have, actually. They're where I find links to plus-size internet stores. (All of which are slutty and disgustingly fat-looking, according to my mom. I don't know. She told me that "people like us don't look good in pretty things," and keeps trying to get me to wear pantsuits to things like dance parties. I am really looking forward to moving out, because when I argue with her about anything involving clothing, she pulls out her art degree.)

Yes! That's the solution! I should wear horrible wigs and manic expressions all the time! Oh, thank you!

...or, wait. Did you mean the technicolor polarfleece cultist robes? I dunno about that.

Date: 2009-03-27 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh man, don't even get me started on all the problems with most evo-psych. It's poor evolutionary science - as you said, lots of just-so stories told to justify simple sexist nonsense - and poor sociology/anthropology. It's very rare that these people bother to explore social factors, and when they do it is usually just to dismiss them, because that would make it WAY more complicated than just "women evolved to be just like June Cleaver."

I mean no offense at all to you or most psychology people, but I must say that I was entirely appalled when I took an intro psych course and the book gave an overview of most theories of behavior. They were all just completely insane when logically explored. I think (and hope) that the book probably failed to explain that most psychologists draw their ideas about certain behaviors from a number of different hypotheses. It seems hard to believe that so many people, who are allegedly scientists, would subscribe whole-heartedly to any of the listed hypotheses (sorry, can't remember what most of them were, only that they all sucked).

When you get right down to it, evo-psych suffers from much the same problem that other theories behavior do: we really have no idea of where our behaviors come from right now, because there is just a mind-boggling array of confounding factors. It seems like most evo-psych papers just try to cram some observations into an "evolutionary" framework that sounds good to the writer, and that a lot of other studies work the same way. It's HARD to study the brain, I get that - but come on, guys. Doing things like measuring how regularly some guys get laid, and then calling that "reproductive success*" is just mind-blowingly fucking stupid. To then extrapolate that and say that because some guys you measured had sex more often if they were spending more money that women evolved to be gold-digging bitches strains credulity just a little bit.

* I could get laid daily for years**, but as long as I practiced effective condom use, my reproductive success would be zero. In fact, biological fitness is not even just the number of offspring you have - it's the number of offspring that themselves reproduce.

** In fact, I could not, but for the sake of argument...

Date: 2009-03-27 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sometimes I wonder if this type of lazy thinking makes it's way into the harder sciences and it's just more apparent in psychology when someone's bullshitting, or if I picked a different field it would do a better job of weeding this stuff out.

Date: 2009-03-27 04:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it's more that girls do like nice guys, it's just that niceness won't compensate for other deficits. So women want an attractive, intelligent, confident mate, and if he happens to be nice too, that's excellent. But it seems that they'd rather have someone that's attractive, intelligent, and confident than someone who's attractive, intelligent, and nice, or various other combinations.

Date: 2009-03-27 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eh, I'd take nice over confident (although see my above comment that nice people are more likely to be confident than mean people). Everyone's different. I am wary of any sentence that contains the phrase "girls are X" or "girls do X" or "girls like X".


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