If you had asked me a week ago what I thought of Ed Rybicki, my response would have been, “Le sigh.” Admittedly, I believe I used the word “dumbasses,” when describing two men apparently unable to successfully purchase underpants, but I also sort of felt bad for Ed Rybicki. You see, it was apparent to me at the time that Ed Rybicki had been thrown under the bus by Henry Gee. My read of the situation was that Ed Rybicki had written this bizarre piece of – well, whatever it was supposed to be – that he thought was funny. Henry Gee knew that it was offensive enough to rile up his female audience and pressed on with the hopes of stirring the pot. But, Henry Gee has always been the feminist antichrist in my book, without the will to acknowledge that there are other society-dependent biases beyond those he has experienced. Very simple. Ed Rybicki = Oblivious. Henry Gee = Antichrist. That’s a basic enough dichotomy to allow me to comfortably live my life.
And, we all have our biases. White Men. Brown Women. All of us. Everyone has a set of life experiences that influence how we regard the world around us. These life experiences may be modified by geography. Still, when standing in the midst of offended people, it is a mark of maturity to be able to take pause and reflect on whether one’s actions are the product of cultural construct. And, it is a mark of maturity to be able to appreciate that one’s actions may affect someone else in ways that were unanticipated. Sometimes a bunny is not just a bunny. The smart move when one’s bias is revealed is to step back, offer up an “I didn’t realize and I’m sorry” and then privately reflect on the origins of your personal shitstorm.
Or, you could do what Ed Rybicki is doing, which is about the single most awkward thing I have ever watched unfold. It’s like watching someone trying to put out a stick of dynamite by peeing on it.
Ed has a blog. And, on this blog Ed has written a non-pology explaining that his piece was just a story. A tale of “FICTION”. He writes…
They publish SCIENCE FICTION, which in recent months has dealt with, in the words of one their editors, “…petty thieves, terrorists, pedophiles, mass murderers, religious maniacs, lesbian robots, quantum-jumping time travelers and genocidal aliens”. So I was in good company – I thought.
…because writing about some ability that is allegedly inherent to women is apparently on par with writing about pedophiles, murderers, maniacs, and genocide…[insert longer awkward pause in which we all stare at each other until someone is uncomfortable]…? But, the beat goes on…
I was utterly dumbfounded: to read those highly charged comments and frequently vicious personal attacks on me, was to see a reflection of a person I certainly don’t know looking back at me – and one that is also utterly unrecognizable to anyone who knows me…
We get it, Ed. You’re not a bad person. You’re probably a hilarious dude to grab a pint with. But, let’s put on our big boy pants long enough to realize that someone can be a generally good person and still do something that ends completely cocked up (h/t @tideliar for what has become my favorite phrase in the universe).
I’ll admit at this point in the post I felt some pity for ole Ed Rybicki. He’s a clueless d00d, chilling in Cape Town, writing some little unfunny stories. He could use some pointers from our dear friend Physioprof, but perhaps he was salvageable.
Until that fucker pulled out his Bingo card and started playing full force…
Let me get this straight: pointing out IN A WORK OF FICTION that women have superhuman abilities, and that most men are bozos, perpetuates a bias that makes it hard for this person to do their job??
We ladiez are clearly oversensitive for thinking his silly little FICTION could ever affect us. The same way we are silly for thinking that hundreds of years of these silly little stories could contribute to a patriarchal society that dictates gender roles and does, indeed, make it hard for us to do our jobs. Get over it, girlz! Stop being so sensitive!!!!
In the comments section, in response to criticism from Michael Eisen, Ed says:
I AM reasonably elderly compared to many of the respondents (amazing number of PhD students out there who seem to have time to blog); I have read a LOT of SF, and I am into dark humour, satire, irony and sarcasm – and tried to share a little of what had been an interesting discussion between a few friends of like mind.
We are young, ladiez. And Ed’s sophisticated humor is lost on our unrefined palates. Except, that many of us are not so young and many of us are not students. We’re his colleagues. Michael Eisen is no student. Anne Jefferson, Kate Clancy, and Janet Stemwedel are not students. Our dear friend Drugmonkey is not a student. I’m not a student. But, Ed Rybicki’s story did not reinforce misogynist tropes. That dude’s Mark-Fucking-Twain, using sarcasm and irony to…well, I don’t know what. Except that it was apparently funny to his friends.
What’s amazing to me is that it was so offensive to so many folks. The response has been fairly equivocal from men and women on this one. And, while I would never suggest that the endorsement of men is required to validate our outrage, I will say that the fact that members of both genders found this story so blatantly offensive should be a huge signal.
But, remember, it’s just a story…
It does NOT reflect my personal views of women and gender.
Except, now Ed Rybicki does believe the shit he wrote. In his most recent blog post he cites REAL SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of womanspace. This is some high quality science…
Undergraduate students (N = 467, 298 females and 169 males) at two large Mid- Western American public universities and who were enrolled in introductory psychology classes participated in an institutionally approved on-line survey at their convenience.
That’s the evidence. 467,298 women and 169 men who self-selected themselves to respond to an 0nline survey. Boom goes the dynamite, indeed.
Ed, I write this last paragraph directly to you. Let this one go. Let this whole situation fade into the world of that which occupies the 47th page of some google search for “sexy housewife girls knickers.” Watching you continue on like this is even more uncomfortable than that time Michael Richards went on Letterman.
And, for every post you write, one or more people are going to write a post in response. That’s how the blogosphere rolls. And with each post someone new is going to walk away from this thinking you are a huge goatfucker. Because, for fuck’s sake, at this point that’s the only way I can see this going down. Your friends think you’re funny, but the rest of us are offended. Take some time, reflect, drink some more wine, and then, if you feel the need, comment later. Much later. Much, much later. Comment to your friends who think you’re hilarious, because the rest of us really, really don’t.
Or maybe to Henry Gee. That dude clearly thinks you’re a stitch.
UPDATE: According to Michael Eisen, in the bit about the study that I copied and pasted from Ed Rybicki’s blog, I have misinterpreted the sample size. He informs me that the sample size is “N=467, of whom 298 were women, 169 men.” Instead of “ (N = 467, 298 females and 169 males)”, the authors should have written, “ (N = 467; 298 females and 169 males)”. I suggest reading the rest of the article for other lessons in ridiculousness.