57Joined Sep 2021


Yeah, this is very fair and I agree that transparency is not always the right call. To clarify, I'll say that my stance here, medium confidence, is: (1) in instances which the victim/survivor has already made their accusations public,  or in instances where it's already necessarily something that isn't interpersonal [e.g. hotness ranking], the process of accountability or repair, or at least the fact that one exists, should be public; (2) it should be transparent what kind of process a victim can expect when harm happens.

There's some literature around procedural justice and trust that indicates that people feel better and trust the outcomes of a process more when it is transparent and invites engagement, regardless of whether the actual outcome favors them or not. 

I am glad to hear that there have been cases where women have felt safe reporting and action has been taken!

(edited to delete a para about CEA community health team's work that I realized was wrong, after seeing this page linked below)

A suggestion to people who are approaching this from a "was Kathy lying?" lens: I think it's also important to understand this post in the context of the broader movement around sexual assault and violence. The reason this kind of thing stings to a woman in the community is because it says "this is how this community will react if you speak up about harm; this is not a welcoming place for you if you are a survivor." It's not about whether Kathy, in particular, was falsely accusing others.

The way I read Maya's critique here is "there were major accusations of major harm done, and we collectively brushed it off instead of engaging with how this person felt harmed;" which is distinct from "she was right and the perpetrator should be punished". This is a call for the EA community to be more transparent and fair in how it deals with accusations of wrongdoing, not a callout post of anybody. 

Perhaps I would feel differently if I knew of examples of the EA community publicly holding men accountable for harm to women, but as it stands AFAIK we have a lot of examples like those Maya pointed out and not much transparent accountability for them. :/ Would be very happy to be corrected about that.

(Maya, I know it's probably really hard to see that the first reply on your post is an example of exactly the problem you're describing, so I just want to add in case you see this that I relate to a lot of what you've shared and you have an open offer to DM me if you need someone to hold space for your anger!)

thanks for pointing this out - I think this is a key point AND I think it is inflected by gender. My guess (not being an expert on autism, but being somewhat of an expert on gender) is that women who are autistic are more likely to learn, over time, how to display and react to emotion "like normal people", because women build social capital through relational and emotional actions. Personal experience (I am a woman, to a first degree approximation): as a child I did not  really understand emotion / generally felt aversive when other people expressed it.  Over time I learned how to feel / respond to others' emotions in a socially normative way, through observation and self-reflection and learning.

This is not to say that those of us in EA who are naturally different w.r.t. our emotional processing should feel bad/abnormal, but to say that EA would be a more welcoming community, especially to women, if people in EA learned how to process and respond to "normative" emotional expressions. Someone above said that EAs see debate as an expression of caring, and I (a) am the same way and (b) understand that most people are not! I've learned to ask "are you looking for discussion and finding solutions together, or are you not ready for that yet?" (Similarly, people with more normative emotional expression entering EA should learn to ask/adapt to the person they're talking to.) I've been in spaces that I think are very good at this and have a cultural norm of it.

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Thanks for writing this - this resonates a lot with my experience, as I was also exposed to and very put off from EA in college! But have eventually, slowly, made my way back here :)

I want to add that many of the "disconcerting" tactics community builders use are pretty well-established among community organizers (and larger student groups, like Greek life). So my sense is that the key problem lies in EA using well-proven community building tactics, but implementing them poorly. Having a scripted 1:1, a CRM, intro talks; making leadership asks of younger and newer members; measuring success by gaining new members; and trying our best to connect someone's interests to the values and goals of our community are all very standard practice in community organizing. (They're also very sales-y tactics, which is probably why they feel off-putting and slimy. I think most policy and entrepreneur types would be aware of this as long as they had some experience in the field, but perhaps students might not be.)

I'm not sure what exactly EA is doing wrong, or where the line between "wholesome supportive community" and "creepy cult" is, and I'd love to think about this more. My intuition is that EA student groups are fighting an uphill battle; the EA movement is somewhat unique in that it (1) already attracts a certain non-normative niche group of people; (2) asks people to change their careers without any clear offering in return (other than the resources available to help you... change your career); (3) espouses unusual beliefs. 

Most of the students I've talked to name the community as one of the main reasons they stay in EA, and I wonder if EA would be better off leaning into community-building messaging over cause-area and career messaging, at least on campus.

(Context: I'd consider myself new to the EA community, but I've been doing community building and community organizing for ~5 years, including, as a student, teaching student community organizing fellowships and running recruitment for a sorority. I'm also a recovering hyperrationalist of the sort that once would have found EA to be extremely appealing.)

I do community building with a (non-student, non-religious, non-EA) group that talks a lot about pretty sensitive topics, and we explicitly ask for permission to record things in the CRM. We don't ask "can we put you in our database?"; we phrase it as "hey, I'd love to connect you with XYZ folks in the chapter who have ABC in common with you, would you mind if I take some notes on what we talked about today, so I can share with them later?" But we take pretty seriously the importance of consent and privacy in the work that we're doing.

Also, as someone who was in charge of recruitment at a sorority in college where ~half the student body was Greek-affiliated... yeah, community builders should have CRMs. We just don't call them CRMs; we call them "Potential New Member Sheet" or something. 

It does feel a bit slimy, but I think this is pretty normal, and if done well, not likely to put off the folks we're worried about.

I think that's precisely what I'm saying - people have different preferences, but that doesn't negate the existence of broader dynamics of privilege, i.e. John's earlier comment, and doesn't negate that the facts of the matter are shaped by intersecting oppressions. 

Assuming that we take as true that systemic oppression is a real thing, the distinction is this: I don't consider myself to have a dating "advantage", but I do think that I have a larger dating pool than the average Asian man because of the ways in which Asian women sit at the intersection of racism and sexism. I'm sure plenty of 1950s housewives considered themselves to be advantaged personally, but that doesn't negate that they were structurally disempowered.

I am no philosopher, but I think it's a bit slippery-slope to go from "we disagree on whether larger dating pools have inherent goodness" to "everything is subjective"!

Ah, I apologize, I think I've phrased my first comment poorly. I believe that the difference in desirability is due to both fetishization of women and emasculation of men. My initial comment did not make that clear due to the word "mostly", which was the wrong word to use. I meant simply to highlight that desirability as an Asian woman is not without its downsides. 


It doesn't predict that being a member of two "oppressed" classes can result in an intersectional "privilege"... In any case, there are disadvantages associated with fetishization, but acknowledging this group's relative dating advantage as an advantage would break the model*.

I actually think that this is perfectly compatible with intersectional theory:

  1. There's a distinction between "privilege" as a class, and "advantage" in certain areas of life. Intersectionality claims that Asian men have gender privilege, as a class, over Asian women, and that Asian women exist at the intersection of oppressions in a way that Asian men do not. It doesn't claim that Asian men are advantaged in every area of life over Asian women, or that every single experience of Asian women is due to disadvantage. (edit: John's comment below explains this way better than I did)
  2. In fact, I think an analysis of how Western gender ideals hurt Asian men via emasculation and Asian women via fetishization is an intersectional analysis, i.e. Asian men and women have different experiences of racism due to the ways in which racism and sexism intersect. (And both are still racism, and bad.)
  3. Acknowledging that Asian women empirically have larger dating pools is just a statement about the world. Whether you consider this to be an "advantage" or not is really subjective, and not addressed by a theory of systemic oppression. I would personally rather have fewer dates than have to wade through fetishizing weebs, but that's obviously a subjective judgment that you disagree with.

I do share the hope that in popular discourse we start to see more understanding of the nuances of the theory, because it is absolutely more sophisticated in academia than it is on Twitter (or in my EA Forum comments!).

I've been thinking about the (perceived or actual) tension between intersectionality and effective giving for a while now and haven't had the words to think through it productively, so thank you for providing those words and sparking this discussion!

One thing I would add that is relevant to EAs thinking about this:

Being both a part of the wealthy global elite and people of colour, they feel a special obligation to help people within their own communities who are not blessed with the same advantages. Whether or not this feeling of obligation cashes out in concrete ethical positions, the emotional force of the obligation has a real effect on their donation decisions, and this tension makes them feel uncomfortable when discussing donations in EA spaces. 

I think there is an argument that helping people within our own communities can be more effective; i.e. that, given two otherwise equal interventions, one within a community and one outside it, an EA should choose the one within the community. This is because:

  1. There is greater potential to form a relationship that will lead to further giving and/or the improvement of the intervention.
  2. We know more about our communities and the problems they face than we do about communities not our own, especially when thinking about issue areas outside the typical EA global health interventions; therefore, we are likelier to make effective choices within our communities. For instance, I am likely to make better giving decisions about charities in Chicago, where I live, than charities in New York, where I do not live, because I know more people in Chicago who can point me in the right direction.
  3. The EA's choice can influence non-EAs to give more effectively. If I choose the most effective charity working in Chicago, I can influence the giving decisions of Chicagoans that, for "valid" ethical reasons or otherwise, restrict their giving to Chicago.

Obviously, this advantage isn't enough to justify funding an extremely ineffective, intra-community intervention over an extremely effective, outside intervention. I'm using Chicago here as an example of a community, and not making the argument that anyone should fund charities in Chicago. 

tl;dr it seems to me that preferring intra-community giving should be compatible with EA principles. Curious what other folks think about this; I'm not totally confident in it.

To weigh in here as someone who had to read some race studies literature in college: 

the idea that privileged white men find it easier to take a universalising, impartial approach to doing good seems intuitively plausible

I think that's probably true - the theory I've read is based on the idea that white straight men are positioned as the "norm" under racial/gender hierarchy in Western society. Everyone else is othered and seen in relation to that norm. Some oversimplified examples: 

  • "Unisex" sizing is actually men's sizing.
  • Fresh Off The Boat is marketed as an ethnic, Asian-American story. Friends is just a show about some people who are friends, and doesn't need to justify its existence by discussing experiences peculiar to the White community.
  • Car crash dummies are usually shaped to the average man, meaning that women are more likely to die in car crashes.
  • The whole concept of "ethnic food".

Given instances like this, it makes sense to me that white men find it easier to be impartial, and PoC are more likely to be aware of and care about issues special to us communities, because knowledge, culture, and norms seen as "impartial" often exclude us.

That being said, I don't know if PoC feel a stronger desire to donate to their communities than Boy Scouts. Personally, I think that's just a reason for EA to figure out ways to appeal to Boy Scouts, not to appeal less to PoC. 

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