the Anonymity Conundrum

Two recent internet interactions:

Anonymous Dude on Twitter:

Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist. -C. S. Lewis

My reply:

Funny, I don’t feel rage-filled. Maybe C.S. Lewis was projecting.

Facebook “friend”:

Don’t you think this might have something to do with women’s biology? It would seem that men will always have the luxury of being more relaxed about marriage and family regardless of socio-cultural stereotypes. We can make babies when we’re 90 years old; women can’t. If I had an internal clock telling me I have a 40 year window to make babies, I might be paying more attention to it at age 20 or 30 too. The article talks about barbies not encouraging girls to pursue math… maybe so, although its not like all popular boys’ toys are either. I played with legos and hot wheels, and ended up getting a law degree. And our society is as open to girls pursuing careers and education (in whatever field they desire) as ever–I believe females are the majority in undergraduate enrollment. But advanced degrees in science and careers in those field eat up some of those baby making years.

Just saying, biology may just be having its say here, regardless of any social goal we have of more women in the sciences.

If its any solace, any daughters of mine will have to play with the toys I want to play with. That means legos, electrosets, and ant farms.

My reply:


I know that (a) Anonymous can/will blithely dismiss me as a Random Weird Internet Chick and (b) my fb friend will listen to me (if briefly and will not be convinced). So why is it easier to waste my time and energy responding to Anonymous and not to Friend?

I’ve justified it to myself by telling myself that I often do challenge Friend and we have a relationship that allows for some back and forth and many debates. We agree on very few things but enjoy debating [most] topics—and find each other to be robust adversaries. But this seemed like such a fundamental world-view issue that I was incapable of tackling it. I know I’m not going to change his mind and I’m only going to get angry at my friend—and get him angry at me.

Meanwhile, it takes little time (and a little flippancy) to antagonize a random theocrat on twitter—someone who likely won’t reply and, if he does, his words won’t sting.

And I think that’s what it comes down to—as crazy as Friend is, he’s my friend, and I value that friendship. I don’t want to antagonize him but to honestly engage him; and I know that any response to him will be antagonizing (more because of my emotions on the subject than because of his thin skin). I don’t care about hurting the feelings of Anonymous—even though I’m less likely to.

This flies in the face of the oft-advanced “don’t let [racist/misogynist] [jokes/comments] go by without saying something”; it’s easier to say something in a context where your words mean little. But it’s more important to say something in a context where your words will have an effect.

Any input about what to say to Friend would be much appreciated.


  1. My humble suggestions:
    Anonymous –
    Tell him/her (briefly) what you told me when I asked the same question a different way in a post on my site long ago – that you were angry at God until you reached a point where your new world-view pervaded your thinking – and then you felt peace. C.S. Lewis is speaking from experience (and thus, projecting) – see Surprised by Joy.

    Friend –
    I’d have to see the article you were both looking at – what was the point? That the social upbringing of young women in our society prevents them from pursing advanced education and time-consuming careers? But what is the source of this norm?

    Is his point something like this: that this observed social norm has a root cause originating in an unconscious natural desire in women to not pursue a lifestyle detrimental to having a family rather than an overt moral reason?

    I would put the burden of proof on him. Has he talked to women who said this is the case? Have they told him it’s because of their “maternal instincts” that they pursued no more than an undergrad degree? I’m a scholar at heart – I don’t like saying anything about a people group I’m not a part of, and if I do, I have to prove it by quotations.

    The women I know that have chosen to not to pursue advanced degrees or any degree at all have done so for personal reasons – they wanted a family and felt the best way to have one was to not work at all. Others (like my wife) were taught by her parents that life was uncertain, so get a great education in whatever you love doing; maybe a family will come, maybe not, but at least you have a strong foundation to do what you love in life and to be financial stable.

    In my talking with the women in my life- it was not instincts that led these women to make their choices, but their upbringing, personal preferences, and moral beliefs.

    Ask him for proof of why he thinks it is a purely biological influence in our society – be kind to him in assuming he has proof. Ask him to explain what woman or women told this to him. If he tells you its just a hunch and he didn’t ask any – ask him to do more research. Encourage him to research what he believes.

    You win because you learn something more about your friend and his life; who cares about shoving you beliefs down his throat – he’s your friend and just talking with him is fun. (This is hard for me sometimes because I am selfish and want everyone to think like me and win debates)

    He wins because you are encouraging him to pursue truth as best as we humans know how. That only helps him in the long run in many areas of his life. You are also affirming his intelligence by giving him the benefit of the doubt that he has good intellectually honest reasons for believing what he does – something a friend should do – encourage.

  2. I think it might possibly that Anonymous Dude is more wrong than Facebook Friend.

    I usually can respond easier to people that I think are totally wrong, than that I think are subtly wrong.

  3. How I would reply to Facebook “friend” is something like this:

    Answering the question of why there are less women in STEM (science, technology, engineering math) jobs is complex. Men and women have both different biological constraints and different societal constraints. At least in western society, a sufficiently determined person can override both their biological predetermination’s and societies suggested gender path. This might not be easy.

    I don’t have access to the original article but based on it seems that the study seems to support more the view that the difference is more because of societal expectations. If it were strictly biological window to have kids (which would probably show up as personal reasons), we would expect that the romantic thoughts would cause some women to be less interested in all advanced study. If instead, it is that society considers some degrees less feminine, then the romantic thoughts would make some women to be less interested only in ‘non-feminine’ advanced study. Since that is what the paper by Lora Park found, it seems that these results are better explained by societal expectations, rather than a limited biological window.

  4. lama21

    well, i’m no smart man. only at times, angry at how hard this world has been.

    but it’s got it’s amazing things, too.

    my faithful wife, my kids, my grandkids. i almost screwed it all up once back in ’92. the boss hired a secretary – real pretty. she was really flirty. i almost fell for it. almost. we were even in the bathroom stall together.

    i couldnt go through with it. just couldn’t.

    everything my wife and i worked for (yes, i still get offers – women like tall, quiet, buff men like myself – but only my wife knows how fatbellied and uninteresing this old geyser is!). she also knows my arrogance.

    i came home and told her. she left me for a month. i couldn’t stand it. there were even days when i hated her for not paying enough attention to me and yelling at me so much in 92 – and right then and there, my boss hired the secretary.

    i really started rationalizing that the secretary being hired was a sign from GOd (that’s how ‘smart’ i was back in the day – whatta ‘loser’ i was, says my 13 year old grandson).

    but i still missed her.

    she came back. we spent the next 10 years working on it. ’cause i’m such a slow, proud bastard. we would not have had the twins if she didn’t come back.

    i think my wife is one of a kind.

    other women like her are one of a kind, too. NEVER let these go! there are too few of these in this old, busted up world that lies to you in th form of these female predators.

    a predator is a predator – male or female.
    the women (whores) like the secretary just told you about. there is no honor in them, no matter what. too many of these around, no matter how fancy, super smart, or high positioned they are in corporate America, international or academics.

    i am still so ashamed i nearly fucked it all up (pardon language). i even started blaming everyone for my mistakes.

    but in the end, God catches up. and he will make sure he chews our asses up, male or female.

    trust an old man.

    now, i have had buddies (some of them no longer around) that went and crossed the line – not just once, but many times.

    and they have nothing but pain in their lives. many of them divorced. Unhappily – no matter what they tell me.

    but some have their wives, still. and these bastards – only with their first wives from that old generation of mine – made it through. they worked it out. and they still work it out.

    i dont know if women are better than men. in my lifetime, women are better than men.

    excuse me – GOOD women are better than men. GOOD women never screw over other people (that secretary was not a good person – she never thought of my wife during that whole scenario).

    well, i’m not smart. i’m old fashion, still trying to figure out this old world. but my wife is my life, and she’s smarter than me, prettier than me, stronger than me, better than me.

    and if I don’t get down to dinner right now, she’s gonna yell louder than me.

    wow, john, these are great posts.

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