In Defense of Entangled Bank

By now I realize this issue has largely fallen to the wayside, as its various permutations invariably do seemingly momentarily after gaining any significant traction, despite the condemnation many so readily metered out. Regardless of its fall from the collective’s fickle favor though, the event and ensuing discussions nevertheless merit some examination.

Early Monday afternoon, various parties on Twitter began calling attention to a FAQ entry for the UK charity and conference event organizer Entangled Bank. It came to my attention via Matt Gemmel, who posted a screenshot of the page before Entangled Bank pulled it down:

“This is what the FAQ entry said before @entangledbank deleted it.”

The entry in question read as follows, emphasis mine:

“I am a fanatical, misdirected ‘feminist’. May I drone on about the lack of women in the line-up and despatch abusive, bigoted, mis-spelt, ungrammatical missives to the organizers and presenters?

“No. Please save your talents for Twitter and Facebook, that is what they are for.

We’re actually very disappointed that none of our female invitees accepted, but that is just how it was. As scientists we have no choice but to accept reality. Wanting something to be otherwise does not make it so.”

I retweeted Matt Gemmell’s tweet not because I agreed with him whatsoever, but because I found Entangled Bank’s entry an extremely accurate, if not the most accurate, characterization of the dumbed-down, omni-present, poorly-formed, mutated feminist vitriol every public-facing individual or company must operate in fear of these days.

Shortly thereafter, responding to another twitter user Mike Lee, Matt indirectly commented on the affair, saying:

“@bmf Cruel little boys have to be punished in order to learn. I hope some of the speakers cancel.”

For the life of me I cannot discern why Matt Gemmell and the multitude of other armchair activists jumped on Entangled Bank’s FAQ entry; they did everything humanly possible, and in the end, when none of the female presenters accepted the invitation to speak at the conference accepted, had to work with what they got. Short of putting signs up on the sidewalk looking for token women presenters, I cannot see any way Entangled Bank could have diversified its lineup. And at that point, does not such a course of action defeat the purpose? Or perhaps they took issue with Entangled Banks’ characterization of the self-proclaimed faux-feminists they knew would take issue with the unavoidable lack of women on the panels, to which I would say at least they learned to spell.

I found the whole affair quite puzzling; another example of the utterly ridiculous lengths individuals will go to in the tired name of protecting women’s rights. Unfortunately, it will not be the last case, nor even the most trivial. The tendency to blow such events massively out of proportion or fabricate offenses in completely innocuous places has infected the common narrative like a cancerous cell, spreading to touch almost every single conversation in varying degrees. Someday I hope to see this flamewar evolve into an intelligent conversation through which we as a community can make a measurable amount of progress. Unfortunately, I do not see that happening in the near future.