Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

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Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by The Atom Strikes! » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:39 pm

So, a few thoughts have been mulling around in my head since the appearance of the latest "women in quizbowl" thread. (Note: I intend this, emphatically, to NOT be another such thread).

I was unpleasantly surprised that several posters jumped very quickly to essentialist explanations for quizbowl's gender disparity-- totally neglecting the range of institutional and cultural factors within the community that could have an impact on whether or not people chose to participate.

The combination of total neglect of how our own behavior could impact the experience of others in the community and the tendency to draw conclusions about why women do or don't participate in quizbowl while neglecting to consider the expressed experiences of women who participate in or leave quizbowl is an ugly one that I think might speak to some problems that we, as a group, have.

So what I want to do here is start a discussion of whether we've done what we have to to make quizbowl a safe and comfortable space for everyone to participate in, and what things we could do within our own clubs and the community at large to make it better.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:41 pm

As a moderator, let me say that this thread lends itself very readily to mischief, so this better not turn into anything remotely like the last thread.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by fett0001 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:45 pm

I think that focusing solely on gender issues will turn this into a WIQ thread real fast.

At least here at tech, we do our best to follow our Principles of Community, but it's not always easy, presumably since a bunch of immature college kids are relaxing. So, I'd say a big step is to set general decorum standards for a club. We're in the process of updating our constitution from 1996, so hopefully we'll be able to figure out ways to do so.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:24 pm

Sexual harassment has no place in quiz bowl, and if people see it happening they should intervene to make sure it doesn't happen any more.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by minusfive » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:06 pm

I think this thread could be productive if we keep this at a high academic level. I've often wondered what a Feminist, Critical Race Studies, or even Conflict theorist would say about quizbowl packets. My reading of modern academic epistemology suggests that quizbowl would be critiqued as "gendered" (woman as "other answer", women rulers/writers etc. implicitly mentioned as groundbreaking and therefore implicitly made an exception) and "racialized." Certainly, the space for quizbowl writing allows for more than might be thought for editorializing, both in commentary and in selection. Of course, there is also the component (class) that sees a higher instance (I think the stats bear me out) of privileged people in University, and the costs associated with quizbowl (direct costs such as travel and entry, but also opportunity costs in devoting time to the activity and maintenance of institutional quizbowl) can perhaps encourage a certain socioecnomic group. As a final point (and not wanting to fall into the trap of "WIQ," even though I have never seen that thread), I can state that when I brought my girlfriend, brought up in China (certainly no academic slouch, with a B.Sc. and Masters), to a quizbowl event, she scored -5 all points all day and was extremely upset that she was so blind to what she perceived as "Western culture."

On the other hand, I've seen many strong women (whom I admire) excel at Quizbowl, so a pure gendered analysis may not be the sole reason for statistically low levels of women in quizbowl. I agree completely with Mr. Morlan that sexism and sexual harassment (whatever form they take) has no place in quizbowl.

As a forestalling, I might simply add that I expect someone to come along and refute (or at least attempt to) the claim that quizbowl is anything but down-the-middle, objective, empirical, and unbiased. I have certainly learned a substantial amount about disadvantaged groups characterized by gender, sexuality, and race as a result of my quizbowl experiences (the questions).

Hope I haven't strayed into WIQ,
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:04 pm

The only instance (that I can think of) of dumb sexist stuff that I personally have ever witnessed (secondhand) in quizbowl is this one time in high school when we fielded another team with a girl main scorer at a tournament at UGA. Apparently someone on a team that lost to them remarked that they "got raped by a girl." If I were moderating and that sort of thing ever came up in my room, I hope I'd be able to come up with some sort of appropriate mocking or berating response quickly enough.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Muriel Axon » Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:34 pm

Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant wrote:If I were moderating and that sort of thing ever came up in my room, I hope I'd be able to come up with some sort of appropriate mocking or berating response quickly enough.
As much as I support well-deserved mockery - and this kid certainly deserved it - I think he might get the point better if you say something like "That's not appropriate, we don't tolerate those kinds of remarks here." (More eloquently than me, of course.) If you respond mockingly, he might not understand that you're being serious.

Guys have a responsibility to correct this kind of nonsense, because it's easy for a sexist man to dismiss a woman's complaints as an overreaction, while if he also hears the same things from his own teammates, it's not as easy to ignore.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by marnold » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:12 pm

Come on, guys, haven't we all recognized that the definitive word here has definitely been said!?
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:35 pm

The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:As much as I support well-deserved mockery - and this kid certainly deserved it - I think he might get the point better if you say something like "That's not appropriate, we don't tolerate those kinds of remarks here." (More eloquently than me, of course.) If you respond mockingly, he might not understand that you're being serious.
At the college level, where seeing moderators as authority figures rather than peers is considered a relic of a CBI-infested past, I think you'd have much better luck with mocking.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Muriel Axon » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:45 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:At the college level, where seeing moderators as authority figures rather than peers is considered a relic of a CBI-infested past, I think you'd have much better luck with mocking.
Yeah, I would agree with that. One would hope college students would have more maturity than that, though...
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by mhayes » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:54 pm

minusfive wrote:My reading of modern academic epistemology suggests that quizbowl would be critiqued as "gendered" (woman as "other answer", women rulers/writers etc. implicitly mentioned as groundbreaking and therefore implicitly made an exception) and "racialized."
In recent years, I think quizbowl has done a fine job of acknowledging the contributions of people from diverse backgrounds while not falling into the trap of "token bowl". Organizations like CBI thrive on this, hence the existence of HCASC, whose only purpose is to keep alive the idea that students at HBCUs are too dumb for real quizbowl.

Speaking from a racial standpoint, quizbowl is clearly lacking in representation from historically disadvantaged minority groups. I have never witnessed nor been the target of any sort of racial discrimination in quizbowl, so I will (perhaps naively) assume that it rarely happens (excluding CBI's crusade to keep HBCUs away from real quizbowl). However, it has been pleasing to see a few historically black schools attend tournaments in the past few years, so overall, I think quiz bowl is heading in the right direction, but there is still much more to be done.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:45 am

I was hopeful Marnold would consider the definitive word on this to be my first post ever on hsqb. But, I endorse Yetman's post too.

Incidentally, as to Cheyne's initial warning siren, we don't have any quizbowl personalities capable of mischief anymore. Quizbowl these days is fresh out of antiheroes.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:27 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I was hopeful Marnold would consider the definitive word on this to be my first post ever on hsqb.
Um...
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:31 pm

Much more definite on gender issues is Marnold's first-ever post on HSQB
Marnold wrote: On behalf of the Chicago team, I'd like to apologize to Saran from Northwestern for YET AGAIN listing him as "Sarah" in the stats.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by grapesmoker » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:18 pm

Without descending into abstruse theory, I will suggest one thing everyone can do to make underrepresented (in quizbowl, and elsewhere) groups feel more welcome: if someone comes to you with a harassment complaint, take it seriously and address it. People are much more likely to want to be part of your organization or activity if they think their concerns are being taken into account and they are seen as equal participants.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by tracyclee » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:11 pm

This is going to sound so simple, but "just be nice" seems to be the ultimate answer. Don't be insensitive and don't other. You can't wait for someone to complain about unacceptable behavior to deal with the problem, because frankly, I'd wager that 9/10 people would leave your club before actually commenting on their discomfort. Although I don't want to turn this into a WIQ conversation either, since that's the area of this conversation I have the most experience with, I'll start with that as an example.

Over the past few years, I have tried so hard to recruit women into quiz bowl. Even now, I can't explain my failure. For first years, the obvious answer might be that they've found something else cooler to devote their time to. Fine, okay, but what about the people who stuck it around for months or years before deciding this wasn't their jam? The following can't be the end-all-be-all, but they're certainly things that happened. I would also like to note that these things did not all occur in the Chicago club.

1. One of my friends was once hit on by a teammate on an overnight trip. He spooned her into a wall. She quit.
2. One of my friends just stopped showing up because the dude in charge was unfriendly to her.
3. One of my friends found that she couldn't find it in herself to fight the awkwardness of an almost-exclusively all-male environment whose primary social interactions seemed to be peppered with jibes and insults.

I don't think people in quiz bowl are bad people, but it's possible we make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. We aren't creating safe environments. It might come down to the nature of our social interactions--the things we say offhandedly without considering if they might cause offense. I have found myself on the receiving end of comments I found less than savory by people who I know to be good people. I know when you comment on my sexuality you don't mean it maliciously or mean to objectify me, but it makes me feel out of place. And I've managed to suck it up, to say, "Hey that's not actually okay," but that seems rare. Nobody is going to go up to you and say, "Treat me better because if you don't, I'm not going to keep coming here."

Maybe this isn't a problem. Maybe quiz bowl already has all the people it needs, but the situations I've described are real. We make mistakes all the time on accident (I've certainly accidentally alienated people before, too) and with more vigilance, with a greater attention to just being hospitable, maybe these problems will subside and our community can grow. This is extremely basic, but it's possible that my friend in situation #2 wouldn't have quit her club if only people had smiled and waved to her on campus. It's not necessary to go out of your way. Just this little bit of friendliness is enough.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:28 pm

I'd suspect that, compared to the general population, quizbowl players are on average worse at figuring out how their actions are likely to emotionally impact others. Clearly, only somebody with severe autism would struggle with the idea that forcibly spooning somebody into a wall is likely to offend, but I can see many people in quizbowl not being able to figure out that they are coming off as mean or unlikeable. Many of these do not want to be mean or unlikeable, and would fix it if they got feedback.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:10 pm

This thread is interesting because just this summer, certain members of the atheist/skeptic/whateveryoucallit community expressed outrage (OUTRAGE) at the idea that having and enforcing harassment policies at conventions might be useful for creating a welcoming environment for everybody. So yeah, if we could avoid that and agree that dealing with bad behavior in whatever way's appropriate for the situation (from saying "don't do that" to kicking people out), that would be nice.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:57 pm

tracyclee wrote: I don't think people in quiz bowl are bad people, but it's possible we make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. We aren't creating safe environments. It might come down to the nature of our social interactions--the things we say offhandedly without considering if they might cause offense. I have found myself on the receiving end of comments I found less than savory by people who I know to be good people. I know when you comment on my sexuality you don't mean it maliciously or mean to objectify me, but it makes me feel out of place. And I've managed to suck it up, to say, "Hey that's not actually okay," but that seems rare. Nobody is going to go up to you and say, "Treat me better because if you don't, I'm not going to keep coming here."
I'm really glad Tracy posted in this thread, because it seems like the most useful thing I've heard in these threads. That is, it's useful to me as a (mostly) well-meaning recruiter/"authority" figure on my team - Sarah and others have made many useful posts in past incarnations of these things that have outstanding idiot-denigrating utility.

Tracy, I'd really like to hear some specific examples of what kind of more subtle comments/behaviors/etc. you've experienced in a negative way. It's easy enough to recognize obviously harassing stuff; my concern is that there are things we might not view as off-putting that are experienced in a much more negative way. If you don't feel comfortable using specific examples on the forum I'd still like to hear them, though I think everyone could benefit from the discussion.


Also, one thing to keep in mind here is that when we're talking about retention, there are many more important factors at work than gender. Being intimidated by the intensity/people/environment/competitiveness/etc. of quizbowl isn't remotely a secondary sex characteristic, and I think pointless bickering about that issue is part of why past threads have devolved. What we're talking about is creating healthy, sexual harassment-free environments here - much of that task isn't even directly related to quizbowl.


EDIT:
tracyclee wrote:1. One of my friends was once hit on by a teammate on an overnight trip. He spooned her into a wall. She quit.
I hope this didn't happen at Chicago and isn't representative of our problems with college quizbowl, but just in case I'm wrong. . . Listen, Everyone in Quizbowl: If you find out someone on your team did something like this, kick that person off. If you're not in a leadership position in your club and those who are won't listen to you, threaten to report them all to the university (and then do so, if necessary). This is not a quizbowl issue; groping someone into a corner as they attempt to flee from you is not "hitting on" them, it's sexual assault.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by tracyclee » Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:07 pm

It's great people can take this seriously. I don't want to be very specific about the things that have happened to me, because I'm still here and so obviously I wasn't offended enough to quit quiz bowl, but I can certainly imagine these things making other people uncomfortable. I've had my shirt looked down, been analogized to fictional characters (in romantic/sexual contexts), had parts of my body commented on, been told that I should/could use cleavage or sexual acts to recruit members, etc. These things sound obvious, except in several instances it took the people who did them a few minutes to figure out they'd done anything wrong. A few of these things were said to me by friends who didn't realize they were treading the line between funny and weird. Sometimes I had to point it out.

I want to point out that the spooning incident did not occur in the Chicago club, but in another notable club and by that club's "leader." In that case, there's no way a formal complaint is going to be made to the club leadership. That person is just going to quit.

This is not just about sex. The social atmosphere can be more accepting. People shouldn't feel judged or singled out and driven away because of that. It's inappropriate to publicly judge someone for his/her personal life. I might be a hypocrite for saying this but it is, for example, not acceptable to laugh at someone for needing to leave practice to study. You may not take that kid's 101 class seriously, but s/he does.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Cheynem » Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:20 pm

The things Tracy talks about are terrible, yet I can realize that stuff like that (unfortunately and it should seriously stop) probably goes on in a lot of programs, including my own.

Regarding her last point, I think that quizbowl team members, especially experienced ones, could probably stand to make practice/tournaments more welcoming in easing up on the circuit/insular talk (within reason). It's one thing to tell a humorous story or introduce a new player to someone (the latter is a good thing!), but making references to in-jokes or memes or people freshmen would have no idea whom they are is probably something that could be taken down a notch. Similarly, I think it's also important to remember that there are vastly different levels of skill. I remember at one practice very early in my career when experienced players were laughing about how easy a question was and I had no idea what it was about. Now that I'm more experienced, I probably do the same thing, and in each case, it probably can seem kind of perturbing to the new player, who feels like an idiot.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Kyle » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:13 am

I took up a new hobby this year. Every Sunday morning, I go on Twitter and try to find people who tweeted answers to sets that aren't clear. Then I tell the editors of those sets and try to get them to email these people's coaches and get them in trouble. The getting people in trouble part is what I like best. One of the things that I have learned from doing this is that coaches, teachers, and staffers are every bit as likely as their students to tweet answers to uncleared sets. The idea that people in positions of responsibility will be more responsible than their students goes out the window pretty quickly when we start talking about social media.

One of the things I have noticed is that people -- whether students, teachers, or staffers -- are generally using Twitter to make fun of the participants. This isn't exactly surprising to me (after all, derogatory tweets about my participation on University Challenge have been well documented on this site), but it is still upsetting to see it happen quite so much. In particular, the percentage of tweets about high school quizbowl which are commenting on the looks of the participants is way too high.

Today's tournaments have only just begun in the US, but here are some tweets we have already had:
People on Twitter so far today wrote:"And we're by far the best looking quiz bowl team. BY FAR."
"Dangit. I knew I shoulda worn my sweater-vest for quiz bowl. #justkidding #youalllooklikenerds"
"RT "I don't know if I've ever seen this much virginity in one place." Quiz Bowl Eh? Lmao"
"In case you were curious, Farwell has the most attractive quiz bowl team in the conference."
"I came here to answer quiz bowl questions and fuck bitches, and I'm all out of quiz bowl questions."
The worst of the tweets I have seen this year were from a moderator who was volunteering to help out at a high school tournament. He managed to tweet several answers to a current NAQT set in the context of making fun of his students for being stupid and not knowing the answers. Simultaneously, he maintained a running commentary making fun of those students for lacking the sexual prowess necessary to attract girlfriends. Keep in mind that many of these students were probably as young as 14 or 15.

I mention this all here because I think this thread has missed a couple of significant points.

First, let's not forget that making fun of a young boy for lacking sexual prowess is a form of sexual harassment.

Second, I suspect that sexual harassment in quizbowl happens much more at the high school level than it does at the college level, if only because there are so many more participants.

I think it's extremely important to bear in mind that you cannot rely on coaches, teachers, and staffers to police this kind of behavior because many of them simply are not doing so. If you are in a position of authority at a high school tournament and you see something inappropriate, you're going to have to say something (or have the tournament director say something) because, if you don't, nobody else will.
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Re: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Quizbowl

Post by Southern Double-collared Sunbirb » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:15 pm

Okay, there are a number of things that I wanted to mention a while back, but didn't get the time too.

1. Hostile environment much? Slurs+ sexualised language+ outright harassment makes quizbowl not a fun environment for women. It's up to us. here. everyone. to stop that. to loudly harangue/censure/otherwise make it clear that BIGOTRY IS NOT TOLERATED in quizbowl. I do it where I can. You should too.

2. You won't get everyone: societal prejudice and leaks in the pipeline make sure that women aren't seen as proper candidates for Brainy Stuff. But reach out to less-privileged groups especially. Also, ask women quizbowlers what the big problems are that you missed. And LISTEN. Tracy had very informative comments.

3. Harkening back to elevatorgate, make sure to codify what counts as harassment and what you will do about it. Make that clear to everybody. Take reports seriously. Enforce them. A template is available here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conf ... ent/Policy.

(also note: Autism does not mean being a harasser. This greatly offends me, as an autistic person. We already get blamed for being mass-murderers and horribly repulsive, thank you very much.)
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