By Sasha - 29 Mar 2012

Trans people need rights, not objectification.

Yesterday Jason Thibeault, no stranger to these parts, wrote a great summary of the recent fight to get trans rights legislation passed in Canada. Basically, no one at all is taking the bill seriously. What’s interesting is that while the petition to get the MPs and media to take notice is languishing in obscurity there is another petition protesting a trans woman being kicked out of a beauty pageant. The petition to get trans people the rights they deserve and need is being mostly ignored while the petition to protest a cis-normative appearing trans woman being excluded from a venue for objectifying women is crazy popular, guys. The takeaway: Society wants to masturbate to trans people but not allow them any basic rights or dignity.

I’m appalled, and you should be too. Go read Jason’s piece, then go and sign the petition. (You do not have to be a Canadian to sign it. I checked.)

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By Sasha - 28 Mar 2012

Google Qs: Sluts & Whores Edition

Blogs get a lot of searches in the form of questions. Occasionally I will be answering those questions. Sometimes I’ll answer a themed group, sometimes it will be a miscellaneous collection.

Even your grandma got called a slut.

How do I know if I am a slut?

The cynical answer is “Someone will tell you.” The truth is that “slut” is, as our friend Matt Gubser has pointed out, a stupid insult. Calling a woman a slut or a whore is simply a way of policing and controlling her sexual freedom. Society has a complex about female sexual expression and in the mainstream women are either prudes (not sexual enough) or sluts (too sexual, or sexual in “inappropriate” ways). Being called a slut or a whore simply means someone has noticed that you have a sexual life and wants to make you feel shitty about it, wants to distract from your actual accomplishments or points (see Limbaugh v. Fluke), or wants to convince people that you’re not worthy of associating with. Those people are wrong and are failures at being good people.


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By Sasha - 27 Mar 2012

David Inwood: Gawking at Women

There seem to be a lot of men that enjoy gawking at hot chicks on the street. No matter how old the man is, whether he is married or single, he sees no problem with checking out all the women in sight. We are men after all, and we find women attractive, and have an urge to look at them. So, why not? It’s a powerful urge anyway. It’s almost impossible to resist. So why feel guilty about doing something that is fun, harmless, and that we can’t even help anyway?

I personally believe there is good reason to feel guilty about it. I would like to start with the belief that staring at women is something that can’t be helped. I think that men who make this claim aren’t trying very hard to resist. Some men make it sound like resisting would require clenching his head with both hands, gritting his teeth, trembling through his entire body, and devoting 100% of his willpower to resisting the overwhelming magical spell that women cast on them. I don’t believe it is anywhere near this hard.


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By Sasha - 26 Mar 2012

Anti-choice, anti-woman, and anti-honesty atheists.

Sunday at the American Atheists’ National Convention those of us paying attention heard of a new group: Secular ProLife, who tag themselves as “Pro-life for a reason.” They may be religious people in secularists’ clothing, trying to tap in to what they see as an anti-woman market for their ideas in the secular community. They may also be genuinely secular people who want to share their message with their fellow atheists. In either case I’m disgusted, angry, and disappointed. What I am not is shocked or surprised. There are many examples of anti-abortion atheists, and how many are surprised that the late Christopher Hitchens wasn’t entirely on board with a woman’s right to choose? The fact is that there are anti-abortionists in our ranks and they have been for some time.

In her 2010 interview with Robert Price on Point of Inquiry, Jen Roth of All Our Lives (another secular anti-abortion group) said that the hardest pro-choice argument for her to refute was one of consent. That is, even if you argue that a fetus is a person a woman has control of her body and should be allowed to withdraw or dent consent for her body to carry it to term. In her own words she said this was similar to a potential organ donors not being forced to donate an organ in order to save a dying person’s life.

Looking over the PDF brochure from Secular ProLife I see a whole bunch of specious arguments. They point out that since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 “over 300 women have died from legal abortion.”  According to the anti-abortion Pro-Life  Action League there have been 50 million abortions performed since 1973. This number is backed up by the Guttmacher Institute, which is pro-choice. In 2007 the maternal death rate in the US was 12.7 per 100,000more than twenty-one times the death rate from complications of abortion.

Secular ProLife tries to cherry pick and correlate maternal death rates in various countries with their governmental policies on abortion. Their intent is obviously to suggest there is some link, where legal access to abortion somehow makes mothers die in childbirth. It’s a ridiculous, nonsensical claim and they have to obscure some rather telling facts to make even that weak case. For example, according to the pamphlet, Mauritius is pro-life and has a maternal death rate that is “the lowest in Africa,” while Ethiopia is “pro-choice” and has a maternal death rate “48 times that of Mauritius.” Want to know what they left out? The fact that the per capita GDP of Mauritius is $13,670 vs. Ethiopia’s of $365. I’ll let you figure out which is more likely responsible for any difference in mortality rates: money available to spend on health care or a magically life-preserving effect that is only activated when you outlaw abortion.

Here’s the deal. They are stuck using bullshit arguments because they can’t answer the single most compelling argument: Women are autonomous human beings and need to have that bodily autonomy defended. They need to lie because they know that saying “women can’t have control of their bodies” is not something any decent human being will stand for.

– Sasha Pixlee

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By Sasha - 20 Mar 2012

We Need to Talk: Straw feminists and feminazis

I’ll give Rush Limbaugh one thing, he’s good at meme-generation. Though he says his friend at the Cato institute coined the word, “feminazi” sure has caught on over the last 20 years. “Feminazi” is, of course a ridiculous auto-Godwinning slur to throw around but it represents something much more widespread: the fact that the straw feminist is what so many people see as the “real” feminist.

It’s an old joke that anything someone says that follows ” I’m not a racist, but…” is always going to be horribly racist. How often do you hear people, especially women say “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then say something that is, frankly, feminist? When did being a feminist become the moral equivalent, in some people’s minds, of racism and homophobia? What’s next? “I don’t hate feminists, some of my best friends are feminists.”

Why have anti-feminist forces been so successful in the last few decades at demonizing the movement for female equality? Should feminists copy liberals and come up with or re-purpose another word? In a world where feminism is “the f-word”, what is the value in labeling ourselves as feminists?


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By Sasha - 12 Mar 2012

Busy, busy.

Sasha here. Of course. I’m going to be awfully busy for the next week because in addition to running MTM I work full time and am also recently returned to college. This week school is monopolizing my reading and writing time and I haven’t had a lot of guest submissions or anyone interested in being a staff writer. So, unless I get more time or we get some new submissions I expect this place to be quiet until next week. Sorry about that, but it is what it is.

To tide you over today I’ll direct you to the excellent new Black Skeptics post about the AA ads I said that I, as a white dude, wasn’t really qualified to address.

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By Sasha - 09 Mar 2012

We Need to Talk: Ridiculing the Trolls

Ouch. Yesterday Crommunist, who I admire and like, referred to my post about International Men’s Day as an example of “woefully ignorant, knee-jerk reactions to misogyny”. I’m not gonna argue with him, but instead see if we can talk about things. [Crommunist has clarified. He was referring to the “Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day” question – not my post in reply – as woefully ignorant and kneejerk. We are, and always have been, all good.]

I often (okay, almost always) take a comedic/mocking tone when addressing sexists. Crommunist says he doesn’t because he is sympathetic to the casually/ignorantly sexist guy. He says he held some of those beliefs back in the day and so he understands they are likely not bad guys at the core and can learn better. I think he’s right. Many men hold sexist views because they haven’t examined their privilege or really challenged those views. I was one of them for many years. I also believe that discussions of racism, sexist, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism are all part of the skeptical umbrella. I have been told by some (skeptically) famous people that they have no place in “scientific skepticism” despite the obvious fact that pseudoscience is used to support all of them. Someone is in denial and it’s not me or Crommunist.

I can certainly see the point that sarcasm, mockery, and cutting remarks don’t really encourage fence-sitters to come over to our side. I can also see, however, the argument that mocking ridiculous or offensive positions can make it more socially unacceptable to hold those positions. Despite how much more work there is to be done in regards to gay rights, note that Rick Santorum and Kirk Cameron both cl;aim to have supportive gay friends. We’ve made homophobia unfashionable enough that even the homophobic deny their homophobia. I know that that culture of disdain for homophobia actually helped me question my hold-over beliefs from my religious upbringing.

I think there’s also the fact that going toe-to-toe with the horrendously vile people who are driving the sexism in our communities (and the world) is disheartening. I know I’m not the only one engaged in this work who weekly, sometimes even daily contemplates just flipping over the table and walking away from the fight to save our mental health. Cutting humor can help cope with that creeping despair and make what we do a little more bearable.

So, let’s talk: Is sarcasm and furious rhetoric hurting or helping us win the hearts and minds of the good-but-clueless?

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By Sasha - 08 Mar 2012

“I’m not a sexist, but why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?”

I'm not the only one thinking of goatse, right?

Today is International Women’s Day, which is awesome. If you don’t know much about the history of the day, I encourage you to look in to it. Pretty awesome stuff. But today I’m addressing the inevitable “What about the men??” cries that we always hear. Last month we heard people (like we do every year) ask why there’s no White History Month. (There are 11 of them.) Today some casually sexist curious people are wondering why isn’t there an International Men’s Day. Well, the short answer is that there is one.

I’m going to draw some conclusions from the relative histories of these two observances.

  1. The fact that International Women’s Day began 90 years before International Men’s Day suggests that people in the world thought it was more important.
  2. The fact that IWD began when women weren’t even able to vote in much of the world suggests that it was not a gynocratic plot to promote misandry.
  3. The fact that  the men who bitch about IMD not existing haven’t even bothered to do the quick google search I did suggests that they don’t really care about men having a day, they just like shitting on women.
  4. The fact that the men who do know about IMD mostly seem use it to have mustache competitions and complain about IWD suggests that men might not even really need a special day after all.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if men’s rights and recognition of men’s unique struggles and contributions to the world are so very important to you it might be best if you actually did something about it. You know, be a woman about it for a change and actually fight for your rights and honor — don’t just whine on the internet.

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By Sasha - 06 Mar 2012

Morgan Landis: Looking past appearance.

[Today’s guest post is from a teacher who would like us to examine our assumptions about people based on appearance.]

Today I read an article about a 13-year-old student who said that the white teachers were not letting the minorities succeed. The student said the teacher just gave hand-outs that half of the students could not read. Later in the article it says that if there were more black teachers that the white teachers couldn’t hold the minorities back.

While I agree that history shows that those in charge like to stay in charge, and will do almost anything to stay there (i.e. Gaddafi, Mubarak, Kim Jong-il), it does not suggest this teacher is doing that. It just means that teacher is not a good one. The student assumes that if someone looks like a minority, then they are more likely to be like them and/or help them.


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By Sasha - 05 Mar 2012

Who gets to decide what’s racist?

On Friday there was a bit of a kerfuffle about a new billboard from American Atheists, Inc.  The billboard is a response to Pennsylvania’s stupid new “Year of the Bible” as designated by the state legislature. I think most atheists, non-believers, and secularists see the problem with the government decreeing any year a year for Biblical thinking and study – that pesky 1st Amendment we all love. The problem many people had is the imagery and message used in the ad. It struck many of us as racist at worse or insensitive at best. Here it is: (more…)

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