Scott Adams Advocates Ignoring Petulant Women and Other Problems

Books GeekMom

I just got caught up on the recent controversial blog post made by “Dilbert” creator and geek icon Scott Adams and the resulting Internet fallout. For catching-up purposes of your own, here are some handy links:

In summary, Adams wrote a humor piece that purported to side with men’s rights activists, only to pull the rug out from under them by telling them to stop whining. Okay, fair enough, I suppose. It’s not the most original or interesting joke in the world, but hey, it’s a blog post, not a masterpiece.

I’m not going to dwell on the outrage brought on by the terminology Adams uses, which doesn’t exactly compare women to children and/or the mentally disabled — it just says that women should be dealt with like children and/or the mentally disabled. I do think his “What? You’re upset?” response is disingenuous when such language seems designed to cause a stir. After all, if I quoted some statistics about how much more likely men are to batter their wives than vice versa, and then said that men should be dealt with like rabid dogs, I imagine that would spark some controversy. (And for the record, I don’t think that — I’m just using an comparable outrageous example for illustrative purposes.)

But the most irritating part of the brouhaha, to me, is Adams’ “get over it” approach to the issues he’s discussing — issues that are important to both men and women. In his self-defense post, he states that he thinks readers “benefit by exposure to ideas that are different from whatever they are hearing” and that he was trying to “add diversity to your portfolio of thoughts.” But at the same time, he’s shutting down all discussion of the issues in question by telling men — and by extension, ostensibly women, too — to give up and shut down.

That seems to be the guiding principle of the post: If something seems unfair, or someone’s argument seems irrational, or someone has a very different viewpoint from you — just ignore it. Don’t bother trying to take the other person seriously and give respectful thought to his/her ideas, don’t spend any energy trying to find common ground, don’t attempt to expand your mind to see things from someone else’s perspective. Just blow it off, roll your eyes, and carry on with your day.

Humor piece or not, how is that helpful to anyone? In this time of intractable red-state/blue-state divisiveness and rampant anonymous Internet vitriol, why would you want to take the position that closing yourself to mind-broadening empathy is the correct answer? Especially when your stated purpose is to expand our minds?

Look, I get that not every battle is worth fighting. I’ve stopped trying to convince people that romance novels should not be blanket-condemned as trash with Fabio covers. Not worth it. I don’t argue with my mother about religion. Not worth it. I don’t even make book or movie recommendations to friends unless specifically asked to do so — there’s no point in becoming invested in whether or not someone else reads or watches something I like. It’s not worth it.

But men’s rights and women’s rights? Real concerns that touch almost every aspect of our lives? How is that not worth it?

And I don’t buy the argument that these issues are too sensitive to talk about rationally with the opposite sex. I have sympathy with a lot of men’s rights issues — I don’t think it’s fair that only men are subject to the draft, and I do think fathers face an unfair bias in custody battles, to name just two. And I’ve known plenty of men who are able to rationally discuss women’s rights issues with me and can accept, say, that the equal pay for equal work dilemma is not completely encapsulated by Adams’ reductive “men go for it more” argument.

But Adams seems to think this kind of dialogue can’t exist, and that’s frankly depressing.

Adams continues his dismissive attitude in his blog post responding to the furor. He wrote the original post because he “thought it would be funny.” People didn’t get it because they weren’t his “specific sort of audience.” There’s nothing to get upset about in what he wrote because he’s “not trying to change anyone’s opinion.” And — my favorite — if you got offended by the post, it’s because you didn’t get it. “No one who understood the original post and its context was offended by it.”

So, if you’re upset, it’s your comprehension/lack of context problem, not his. Don’t talk to him about it. He’ll be off rolling his eyes and ignoring you like the four-year-old you are.

I’ve always liked Scott Adams and “Dilbert.” I read The Dilbert Future years ago and enjoyed its thought-provoking ideas. None of my previous exposure to Adams’ work led me to think of him as this dismissive and arrogant. Because of that, I’ll try to keep my mind open and hope that this was a one-time stumble from a usually smart and entertaining guy.

Ellen Henderson is a novelist and web strategist. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and son.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekMom and GeekDad on Patreon!

29 thoughts on “Scott Adams Advocates Ignoring Petulant Women and Other Problems

    1. Ok, so important matters should be discussed. Sure. I’m with you on that one. I don’t mind talking things over myself, but there are points where you just have to realize, for your own sanity, that you just *aren’t* going to get the other person to see it your way.

      And honestly, up front, have YOU ever changed any viewpoint you’ve had at the end of a conversation about huge, important, mind blowing issues? Seriously, don’t lie. Everyone turns the corner on a position they own in their own good time. So yeah, “open dialogs” and “empathy” only go so far. After that, from a conversational standpoint, you have to give up, walk away, and let the person come to their own conclusions, and change if they want.
      One of your own commentors, early on in this thread, came right out and said,

      “I’m still stuck emotionally in “Men go for it more.” Having a hard time moving past that…”

      And that’s the whole damned point. That’s her view, and she can’t let go. No number of studies showing whatever will change her. Which was a LARGE portion of his whole article. Which is a huge point that hundreds of commentors all over the ‘Net are trying to make and failing miserably at-

      Everyone is different, and they only give up and change when it’s beneficial to them.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson put it much more eloquently than I ever could-

      “The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.”

      Swap out the gender if it pleases you to do so, as this is pretty universal.

      So where does that leave a long, drawn out, possibly loud argument/conversation about well, anything? Just about nowhere. So, discretion being the better part of valor, back down, back off, and simply accept other people are going to be truculent, unreasonable (in your view; no one sees themselves as unreasonable); which is all he was really saying. some fights just aren’t worth the energy. not fights OVER equality

      1. hit reply too soon.

        not arguments over equality; which would imply whether it should exist or not, and to what levels, but about equality, which would operate more toward the influencing of the views, not thefact of the matter.

  1. Yeah; he says that any clarification would sounds like backpeddling…but you know, it sure does sound like backpeddling. “OHHHHH I was KIDDING, GUYS!”

    1. I honestly don’t think he was backpedalling. I think he was being quite genuine with his response post… but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with him.

      I’m an avid debater – I often play Devil’s advocate, much to the frequent frustration of my friends and wonderful (and incredibly patient) wife. I consider myself pretty sensitive to women’s issues (as much as I can be without ever experiencing them first-hand, I think) and feel a number of Adams’ comments, in both the original and response posts, were insensitive to say the least, and even deliberately provocative rather than ignorant. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ill-advised. I do think there’s some merit to his (somewhat obfuscated) argument that some subjects are so emotional and loaded that it’s challenging to have a rational discussion about them… some people can get very defensive and get on a soapbox real quick when you touch a nerve. So while the “path of least resistance” as he so delicately puts it, may seem appealing to the intellectually lazy, it’s also the easy way out. I think we would all do well to try and empathize with others a little bit more. Diversify our intellectual portfolio, if you will.

      There are countless atrocities and tragedies unfolding around the world as we speak, but that doesn’t mean that the gender barrier isn’t a real issue. In a global context, I don’t think anyone would argue that women face bigger challenges than men, and perhaps that was another indirect point of Adams’ post. Maybe, on some level, something we can take from this whole discussion is that, particularly in North America, we have it way better than pretty much everyone else in the world. We should be thankful for what we have, and do what we can to make life better for those less fortunate. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what Adams is very clinically, if insensitvely, getting at.

      In the end, I didn’t find his post very funny, if it was intended as satire. I do like Dilbert though.

  2. I’m still stuck emotionally in “Men go for it more.” Having a hard time moving past that…

    Great post 🙂

    1. It may be true – perhaps, on the whole, men do go for it more… but if that’s the case, it’s probably because they are culturally conditioned to take more risks, and women are (perhaps – just tossing ideas around here) more fearful of being rejected should they ask for too much. Women are NOT on an equal footing than men in the workplace, and perhaps this is just another symptom of that… and not the cause, as the post suggests.

      Again, I think the post is deliberately provocative, for the most part. Let’s face it – this is probably the most publicity Adams’ blog has ever received.

      1. There have been several studies where the men and women have been given the same script about asking for a promotion to a study group and the group rated the man as “confident” and the women as too aggressive or pushy.

        So there’s a lot of cultural conditioning on that issue.

  3. “I’ve stopped trying to convince people that romance novels should not be blanket-condemned as trash with Fabio covers.” This is so true. After all sometimes the guy on the cover has short dark hair instead of long blond hair. (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

    Not to spark anything, but I actually think the “Men go for it more.” is partly true, but you have to change one word. It should read – “Jocks go for it more.” It’s just that currently there are more men jocks than women.

  4. Having been a regular reader of Adams’ blog for a while in the past, my take is that he never actually held any of the views in his post. So that to apologize is to imply that he was mistaken in his views.

    What he is perhaps failing to see is that his “joking” hurt the feelings of some of his fans. (I’m not sure that the people who weren’t fans to begin with could ever be satisfied anyway.)

    I’ve been told he admitted he went onto other sites and commented. I haven’t seen those admissions. He DID ask some of his fans to go on Salon.com and post links back to his reaction on his own blog. The comments that bear his signature on other blogs do not sound as clear as his normal style of writing. And since his ultimate goal is to get pageviews for his blog, I’m doubly suspicious of any comment on another blog that contains more than just a link.

    Just my two cents, as part of a family of Dilbert lovers…

  5. Keep in mind that I’m the guy who just lit up the Internet on the topics of Men’s Rights and Feminism. I stimulated the discussion more than anyone has in years.

    I blog to generate more discussion on topics, not less. And I often do that by taking the least popular side of an argument.

    That said, I think anyone would agree that when interest groups mix their important issues with their dubious issues and try to sell it as a package, they weaken their argument.

        1. I was referring to Adam’s initial post on his own blog as an example of his trolling us. This may or may not be SA here. I don’t care. The comment presented a useful opening to make the point. 😉

          1. I’m not attempting to speak for Mr. Adams, but he did state in one of his many blog posts regarding this brouhaha that in his opinion, the best way to get people to find good solutions to problems is to first present them with bad solutions.

            In a way, that seems to make sense to me. After all, it’s easier to look at an existing idea and fix what’s wrong with it than it is to start from scratch. If he’s being truthful that this was his goal, then he wasn’t trolling. He was honestly trying to stimulate debate. Admittedly, his flippant style certainly doesn’t lend itself to thoughtful debate, but I’ve read his blog for several years now, and I have to say I believe him when he says that’s his intent.

          2. I don’t think anyone interested in generating an actual discussion would start it off by essentially calling his opponents names, and then respond to his critics by questioning their literacy and intelligence. He is a troll. He is just in it for the attention, and we should stop feeding him.

    1. Be that as it may, I think the discussion generated from this was more “Is Scott Adams a jerk or not?” rather than any substantive discussion about an issue.

      1. I’m late to the discussion, as usual. Heh.

        “Is Scott Adams a jerk or not?” Yep, I’d say Corrina nailed it.

        I don’t expect social eloquence from Mr. Adams. I’ve been reading Dilbert for a while now, although I haven’t been following his blog. (Even so, I expect social eloquence from him all the less having read that blog post.)

        As Dilbert is humor about engineers and office politics (I’m oversimplifying, I’m sure), well… I could take the blog post and strip out “men” and “women” and rewrite it putting in “engineers” and “office politics”. I’m sure some would yelp to me quite loudly when I say I don’t generally get along with engineers and I’ve had just enough experience to say trying to change dynamics in the office is a bit futile. This is the analogy I use: me talking to some engineering types is like me as Dr. McCoy trying to persuade a bunch of Spocks.

        Ironically, you remember it was Dr. McCoy who complained the loudest. No matter. You see the train wreck, right? As big a train wreck as this blog post was. Either it’s entertaining or horrifying, but you can’t look away.

  6. @Mike – Har har har. 🙂 To your real point – I don’t discount the “men go for it more” (or “jocks go for it more” – nice update!) argument entirely, I just don’t think it’s the one and only answer to the dilemma.

    @Kathy, this is from Adams’ blog — “I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was enjoying all of the negative attention on Twitter and wondered how I could keep it going. So I left some comments on several Feminist blogs, mostly questioning the reading comprehension of people who believed I had insulted them.”

    So I do think he was leaving the comments. Not so sure about our commenter here, just based on the e-mail address. 🙂 But all are welcome to comment.

  7. I hate to be the one to give away the Great Secret of the Brotherhood of the Average Guy, but our primary method of dealing with women is, in fact, to “get over it”. Mr. Adams was breaking the first rule of “Get Over It Club”, namely that there is no “Get Over It” method.

    When we get in a disagreement with a woman about something and we think we’re right, our first mental calculation is “okay, I’m right and she’s wrong, but is this worth fighting about?” Ninety percent of the time the answer is no. Ask any married guy and (if he thinks it won’t start a fight) most of the time he’ll agree with that number.

    Also, to address something in your post: “But at the same time, he’s shutting down all discussion of the issues in question by telling men — and by extension, ostensibly women, too — to give up and shut down.” There’s no ‘by extension’ there, he’s straight-up telling men to give it a rest. He’s not talking to women at all.

  8. I would simply point out that Mr. Adams is, first and foremost, a humorist, and that his comic strip features characters who often speak or act offensively without being unbelievable. That he would write a blog post that is offensive without being unbelievable (or being “obvious” satire) doesn’t surprise me, and I’m prepared to take his word for it when he says that he was trying to be funny and maybe make people think. I personally like my humor to be a little offensive, and while I didn’t find this post to be particularly funny, I think humor that is intentionally or unintentionally offensive is a net positive.

  9. I appreciate all the thoughtful comments today.

    @TonyKP – I see what you’re saying, but why classify it as a man vs. women thing? Why do you make that calculation with women but not in your disagreements with men? Don’t we all do that kind of thing in our relationships? I know I do. See my remark above about not arguing with my mom about religion, and I also do the same with my dad when it comes to politics. There are certainly things we do as individuals that make our relationships run more smoothly, but I don’t understand breaking it down into men vs. women or generalizing that these individual concessions are universals.

    @Adrian – These are good points, and I agree with you that many, MANY times these kinds of conversations can go nowhere and leave everyone just as entrenched in their positions as before. Which is certainly frustrating and yes, for sanity-saving purposes, I think we all have to draw our individual lines as to when we will engage and when we can tell it’s going to be pointless. I just think drawing that line universally at “don’t talk to any women about any of this stuff” is a problem. I do think good conversations between people of opposing viewpoints can open the participants up to new ideas — even if the conversation doesn’t end with “Eureka, you’re right, I see the error of my ways” right at that moment. If both arguers can be civil and respectful (so it doesn’t end in a big blowup), both might walk away with some new perspectives, even just little seeds that might sprout later. I do think it’s worth it, in general, but of course as individuals we have to make specific calculations on the when and where.

    1. I classify it as a men-dealing-with-women (I don’t like the use of “vs.” here, since this is a conflict avoidance tactic) thing because that’s where I primarily use it. If I’m having a disagreement with another guy I’ll play it out because experience has taught me that it can be resolved that way without incurring an unduly high cost. Maybe we settle it, maybe there’s some strong words and we walk away, or maybe we even fight about it (rare these days now that I’m in my forties), but once it’s done it’s usually done.

      With the women I’ve had in my life there’s usually a point in any disagreement where a basic cost-benefit analysis comes into play simply because the costs are likely to be higher and longer lasting with a woman than they would be with a man. This may not be politically correct to say, but in my experience all those late-night comics are on to something – in general women *do* hold grudges for far longer than men do. In many cases an issue that I might argue out with a buddy I’ll drop like a hot potato with my wife or a female co-worker simply because it’s not worth the trouble even if I’m positive that I’m in the right.

      And I’m aware that I don’t speak for all men, but I think that there’s something to that “Brotherhood of the Average Guy” that I mentioned in my first post. That Geico commercial where Abraham Lincoln can’t tell a lie and has to tell Mary Todd that her dress makes her look a little fat? Us guys in the Brotherhood laugh at that because most of us can relate.

      1. I like how you phrased that carefully. 🙂

        I can see your point. Generally I’m not a fan of the “beaten-down man walking on eggshells around grudge-holding wife” kind of jokes (and I will NEVER FORGIVE comedians who make them!! j/k ). But if that’s something a lot of people relate to, well, you can’t argue with peoples’ actual experiences. I just hate to see it to become a knee-jerk reflexive response that gets endlessly perpetuated without any thought behind it. It sounds like you’ve put some thought into it, and I appreciate that.

        1. Like a lot of good humor, there’s a kernel of truth behind the hen-pecked-husband jokes. That’s what makes them funny.

  10. Yes. Why does Mr. Adams’s diatribe sound so familiar?

    OH yeah. I remember.

    I remember lots of bullies in the schoolyard yelling all kinds of taunts and insults and beating kids up. And then, when you called them on their behavior, they were all “Oh, you didn’t get my humor, it’s your fault, I was just kidding, ha ha ha”…. so, in that vein.

    Mr. Adams is acting like nothing more than a bully. A cyber-bully at that. an ignorant, desensitized bully. They come in all sizes, colors and genders.

    I don’t buy his “eye rolling, geesh, yer such an idiot if you don’t get my humor” for one minute.

    Scott — if it has to be explained or rationalized as “just kidding” then it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t even a useful rant.

    In this case, it’s just more insensitivity to real human issues that he apparently isn’t smart enough to understand.

    1. All due respect, I think using phrases like “isn’t smart enough to understand” is resorting to the same name-calling you’re accusing Mr. Adams of… and perhaps, inadvertently, supporting his point. Thoughts?

Comments are closed.