A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man: I check Feministing, and even radfem blogs like “I Blame the Patriarchy.” And yes, I’ve read many studies and task force reports about gender bias, and about the “privilege” and “entitlement” of the nerdy males that’s keeping women away from science.
Alas, as much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my “male privilege”—my privilege!
As well it might—for in some sense, there was nothing “wrong” with me.
In a different social context—for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine.
You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault.That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience.But I hope you now understand why I might feel “only” 97% on board with the program of feminism. Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated.Trigger warning: social justice, condemnation of some feminism, tangential reference to eating disorder.Note that although our names are very similar, I am NOT the same person as Scott Aaronson and he did NOT write this article.(And after a decade of being coy about it, I suppose I’ve finally revealed the meaning of this blog’s title.) […] Now, the whole time I was struggling with this, I was also fighting a second battle: to maintain the liberal, enlightened, feminist ideals that I had held since childhood, against a powerful current pulling me away from them.I reminded myself, every day, that no, there’s no conspiracy to make the world a hell for shy male nerds.Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism. In my heart, there is a little counter that reads “XXX days without a ten-thousand word rant about feministm.” And I had just broken three digits when they had to go after Scott Aaronson.For those of you who don’t know, Scott Aaronson is one of the nicest, smartest, and most decent people there are.As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: “I was put off from suicide only by the desire to learn more mathematics.” At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him.