By Timothy LeGower - 13 Sep 2012

Dragon*Con PSA

This is actually a PSA for guys in general, but it was heavily inspired by my reflections of Dragon*Con and things I observed there…thus the title. It’s also inspired by other stories I’ve heard and read recently, like this one.

I know the following is not meant for most of the people who read my blog (all 3 of you) or most people in general but I’ve recently observed this first hand and it made me angry, so I felt the need to write about it.

Now I’m not completely naïve as to what goes on in a man’s head, I mean I am still a straight man, so I do understand to a point.

I understand the urge to look at and admire girls, especially ones I find attractive or dressed in what I consider revealing or sexy clothing. I look, I admire, but I don’t stare and try not to make it obvious (I’m sure I fail on occasion).

I get that a lot of men don’t have women coming up to us constantly to tell us how attractive or sexy we are or that they want to have sex with us, so we think we’d be flattered if it did happen and therefore a woman should be flattered if we tell them something like that.

However, we are delusional when we think about how flattered we’d be if a woman approached us to tell us she found us attractive. Why? Because we are usually imagining a woman we find attractive. We don’t imagine being bombarded by women we find unattractive telling us how sexy we are. We don’t imagine a gay man approaching us to tell us how attractive we are. I don’t believe a lot of men would be flattered if a gay man approached them like that or if a woman they felt was unattractive approached them like that. This just doesn’t occur to them or maybe they are deluded into thinking everyone must find them attractive, I don’t know. If it’s the former reason, then think about what I just said. If it’s the latter, then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, guy, but not every woman finds you attractive. Deal with it.

Now maybe I have been hanging out with Noisyastronomer, the Skepchicks and my female friends too much, but I believe my mind has been opened and I feel more enlightened by my new knowledge and understanding. My god, I am not perfect and I can still be oblivious, and inappropriate, but I think I am better a person now. And I feel bad for the men I observe who just don’t get it and feel even worse for the women who have to put up with it.

Guys. If you attend a convention or happen to be in a hotel where one is going on, the girls dressed in costumes (whether they are scantily clad or not) are not encouraging you to hit on them, ask them out or be in appropriate. They are dressing as a character they like, identify with or whatever. The costume they are wearing happens to be what the character wears.

You can ask if they’d be willing to pose for a picture or ask to take a picture with them. Many of them are more than willing to show off the hard work they put into their costumes.  Some of these costumes are phenomenal pieces of work that took a lot of time, skill and money to assemble and they are proud of their work, as they should be. BUT you must remember: you are not the reason they are dressed in the costume. They are dressed in the costume for themselves, so it is their prerogative to say no. If you ask and they say no, that’s the answer. Don’t bitch, don’t whine and don’t insult them. Accept their decision and move on.

I witnessed two instances of men being creepy at Dragon*Con. One was an attendee of the event and one was someone who happened to be at the hotel for something else going on.

The one who was not a Dragon*Con attendee kept making comments about the women in tight fitting costumes or the women who were in scantily clad costumes. In fact, it made me a bit uncomfortable to be sitting next to him at the bar because he kept asking me about the girls and some were good friends of mine. In fact, this gentleman hit on at least one friend of mine and she had to just walk away. In fact, I had to get up and walk away from this guy. In hindsight, maybe I should have said something to him but he was drunk, slightly bigger than me (at least in better shape though that’s not difficult) and did not seem to be an educated and understanding fellow. So I just walked away and warned my friends about him.

The Dragon*Con attendee approached a friend of mine and told her that she was beautiful and her boyfriend or husband, if she had one, was a lucky guy.  I was working on something else but heard that clearly. I thought it was a bit weird to say out loud to someone you didn’t know, but figured that would be the end and he’d walk away and I went back to focusing on what I was doing. I caught bits and pieces of conversation (I say conversation but it was really just this guy still talking…so not really a conversation). I figured I must be missing something or not hearing correctly since I was occupied because there is no way that guy could STILL be going on and on to a stranger like this and there was no way that he just told her that he had been staring at her legs during the entire panel and couldn’t keep his eyes off of them. That’s not something people say to strangers, right? I must have heard it wrong. No, no I did not hear it wrong. That’s exactly what he said. Again, I wish I would have called to my friends and asked them to help me with something in order to save them or something, but my mind couldn’t process that this guy was still going on and staying these things. It baffled me.

Now to conclude and summarize all of this:

Men, women are human beings ( it’s really sad that I felt like that needed to be pointed out). They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not like objects or something you just want to date or have sex with.  So avoid the pervy pick-up lines, the flirting and the inappropriate comments, even if you are being joking or playful, the woman does not know you, she does not know you’re being playful or joking and it probably isn’t coming off that way.  So just don’t do it.  Try striking up a conversation about something that interests you or her. Talk for a while and get to know her.  But remember, she doesn’t owe you anything, so if she doesn’t want to talk, that’s her right and it should be respected. So just say “Ok” and walk away.

Guys, just please think. Treat women with dignity and respect.

In fact, just treat EVERYONE with dignity and respect.

To quote Wheaton’s Law, “Don’t be a dick.”

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By Sasha - 10 Sep 2012

Things I Have Learned: How to NOT recruit male allies

(This post is actually part of my homework in Women’s Studies this week. I hope I get a good grade.)

How to convince men to be allies to women is something I have been trying to master for more than a year now, most actively since I started my blogging project with the new year. It’s honestly not an easy task. The biggest response I get is a lot of apathy from other men, and then I get the occasional outright enmity from some die-hards I can only call misogynists.

As a man we have a lot invested in our oppressive society. Not only is our dominant position a comfortable one but our privilege makes it easier for us to present ourselves as “real men.”  One common model of present-day masculinity has been called Marketplace Man:  “Marketplace Man derived his identity entirely from his success in the capitalist marketplace, as he accumulated wealth, power, status.” (Kimmel, 75) When you explain privilege to a man who cares about his masculinity you are, in effect, emasculating him by the implication that he didn’t triumph over quite as much adversity as he maybe thought he did.

In January I wrote a critique of the popular blog “The Good Men Project” where I argued that the disturbing and increasing trend on that site of anti-feminist and outright misogynist articles was due to the sites basic premise of manliness or masculinity as something especially admirable. I suggested that we’d all be a lot better off if we didn’t keep comparing ourselves to the social yardstick of gender conformity.

I was surprised and pleased when TGMP asked to republish my piece on their own site. I agreed to it and suddenly found my inbox flooded with angry, hateful comments from dudes who took my suggestion that maybe masculinity wasn’t the best thing ever as a direct personal attack on them. The comments that made it through moderation were bad enough, but also saw the ones that didn’t get make the cut, which were far worse. One guy with poor reading comprehension assumed I was a woman (Because what man would say being a man isn’t the best thing ever?) and threatened me with rape if I didn’t shut up.

I haven’t shut up, but I did learn something very important. The first step to getting men to be allies to women is definitely not by critiquing masculinity. I suppose that, until I figure out the best thing to do, knowing what not to do is a good start.

Kimmel, Michael S. “Masculinity as Homophobia.” Gender Relations in Global Perspective. Ed. Nancy Cook. Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc, 2007. 73-82. Print.

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By Sasha - 07 Sep 2012

Haters gonna lose.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes caring publicly about equality and making a point of being visibly not-horrible can sometimes be exhausting and demoralizing. The relentless and obsessive attacks on people, especially women, who speak out against misogyny and hate really fuck with my head. I’ve struggled with depression my whole life and it’s pretty triggering for me. Many is the evening or weekend I spend holed-up at home because I’m just sick of the world and everyone in it. No wonder some of us need to quit.

Horrible, and I’m betting she’s a racist, too.

Last night, right after watching Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination for president I saw a tweet that was pretty vile. I took a screenshot and tweeted it with my usual sarcastic fatalism. You can see it to the right. But then I thought about it while talking to a friend.

You know what? Those people are losing. Not only is Obama president, but most people who see that recognize ir for the piece of vile garbage it is. There is still a shit-load of racism in this country, but we also have an African-America president who is running for his second term, and most of the racists who hate him feel the need to claim they’re not actually racists. (Though they are.)

Rick Santorum hates gay people. He compares their relationships to bestiality. He thinks they are harmful to children. He’s a disgusting homophobe. But you know what? He realizes he can’t admit his homophobia. He invented “gay friends” who support him.

And you see it amongst the misogynist skeptics and atheists who are relentlessly attacking and stalking any woman who questions the status quo on sex and gender in the community. These people play by the same woman-hater’s playbook used by the anti-suffragists, but they know one new thing for sure: they can never admit that they hate women. Pointing out what their words and actions show about their views on women is just about the worst thing you can do to them. Why? Because deep inside their cramped, paranoid little hearts they understand that sexism is wrong. Racism is wrong. Homophobia is wrong. They try to spin us pointing out the obvious as bigotry, but the world knows there a world of difference between intolerance and a stand against intolerance.

The tide was turned for us before now. The tide is with us. These people are losing as they scurry to hide their hearts from the world. That realization has me feeling more optimism than I have had in weeks.

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By Sasha - 05 Sep 2012

How to Suppress Women’s Writing

I’m borrowing my title from Joanna Russ’s 1982 skewering of the ways that women and minorities are prevented from having a written voice. In the book Russ examines 11 ways the writing of women is suppressed:

  1. Prohibitions
  2. Bad Faith
  3. Denial of Agency
  4. Pollution of Agency
  5. The Double Standard of Content
  6. False Categorizing
  7. Isolation
  8. Anomalousness
  9. Lack of Models
  10. Responses
  11. Aesthetics

I’d like to propose a 12th method for our new internet age: Call her names and relentlessly stalk her online until she can’t take it any more. Way to go, shitlord crusaders of our bold new age of global communication. You piled on Jen McCreight until she decided that she’d rather just have a nice life.

I am angry. I am furious. A movement I once felt proud to be a part of has been shown to harbor a loud faction that represents the worst of internet culture and human nature. There are people, people who not only claim to be a part of our community but are a part of our community who have dedicated themselves to threatening, insulting, bullying, tormenting, and intimidating women and minorities who have the audacity to challenge the status quo. It’s complete fucking bullshit and I’m sick of it.

Skepticism and atheism are all about challenging the status quo, but here are people who are not only uncomfortable when what is being challenged is their entitlement to a comfortably superior place in society, they dig in their heels. They abandon reason, they show themselves to be not lovers of reason and justice, but self-important pieces of shit who liked our movement because we allowed them to bully creationists, psychics, crop-circle believers, homeopaths, etc.

I’m through with coddling the worst in humanity just because they recognize that there is no god and that psychics are frauds. I’m sick of the apathy from those who disagree with what is being done by these weeping pustules in our name and don’t speak out against them. I’m disgusted with the leaders in our community who say we should just try and get along. I am thoroughly sick of us all.

The people who are piling on feminists and anti-racists in our movement are the same people who threw rocks at civil rights workers in the 1960s. These are the same people who beat up queer people in the 1980s. These are the people who have infected us. They haven’t just infected our movement they have infected us. In the same way that we, with justification, pillory moderate theists for harboring extremists in their ranks, we should be taken to task for harboring these disgusting wretches in ours.

Every moment, every day that these fucking vile and depraved people are not repudiated by every decent member of our community is a day that we should be ashamed of ourselves. I am watching us, and I hope the world is, too.

 

 

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By Sasha - 30 Aug 2012

What “Atheism Plus” means to me.

Everyone’s talking about Atheism Plus, new-new-atheism, social justice atheism, whatever you feel like calling it. I already shared the thoughts I had been having along those lines, and now I want to really get in to where I stand on things.

I support Atheism Plus, at least in so far as I support atheists caring about social justice and equality. If I could be said that I have any reservations or concerns about this new “movement” it is that apathy will eventually lead to it being a bunch of relatively privileged people paying lip service to social justice and equality, but not really doing much about it. I called for action and I aim to act.

I think the value of being atheist-identified while doing this work is purely a benefit for atheism. By going and doing things in the world, our good works show a secular face connected with acts that benefit more than ourselves. Secularists have a long history of being involved in social justice (abolition, suffrage, etc) and I would like to see that continue and expand. It’s important that we don’t do this stuff to make atheists look good. That’s just a side effect of being an atheist-identified group or individual doing this work. We need to be doing it because it’s an important issue for us.

We also need to not colonize others’ issues. We need to act as allies, not directors. Contact the organizations doing the work you care about, even if they are theistic, and ask how you can help. Use your skepticism to know what’s true, your humanity to know what’s right, and let people know you’re doing this without supernatural inducement. Do all that, but listen to the real expects on these issues. As a white man I wouldn’t lecture women or people of color about what their priorities should be. I won’t fumble my way in and just do what I think should be done. Learn the nuance of an issue and give support.

And please do the work. The best response to the haters and the trolls and the bullies is to make the world a better place. To live our principles and by doing so show them for liars when they say we’re seeking attention, that all we do is complain about them. I am asking myself questions about what social justice issues matter to me most. I am currently researching who is working on those issues.

I will be making a call once I have the issue and group that’s best for me and my principles and I will say “I’m an atheist, how can I help?”

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By Scott - 27 Aug 2012

You never get a second chance…

…to make a first impression.

Typically we find this “gem” of advice applying to an individual’s approach to an important meeting of some sort or even daily life. However, as a “First TAMmer”, I had the opportunity to do a little role reversal and get a true first impression from the active skeptic community at TAM2012.

I’ve been a skeptic for a long while, but never really considered seeking out or joining any skeptic community. It never even crossed my mind. However, I had found myself in a position to help out at the CosmoQuest booth this year, which allowed me to jump into the skeptic scene head first. I had heard many different things about the tumultuous situation happening online, but made a conscious choice to avoid reading it. I wanted to walk into this situation with as little personal bias as possible, and I’m really glad I did.

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By Tesla's Butler - 22 Aug 2012

The Trouble With Biotruth

For those who have been fortunate enough to escape biotruth logic, I’ll start by giving a brief summation of the kinds of arguments that fall into that abyss.  When it comes to discussions about gender, they take the following form explicitly, but there is always an implicit context to these arguments (which I will include in brackets as part of the quote):

“Men are x, women are y.  That’s just how humans are; it’s biology.  [And therefore the behavior you're complaining about is acceptable.]”

There is a problem with both the explicit and the implicit portions that come from completely different directions.  One is scientific, one is philosophical and logical, both render biotruth little more than a joke in rhetorical form — especially to skeptically minded audiences.

Starting with the explicit portion, “Men are x, women are y” is a scientific claim.  Biotruthers believe they understand the behavior that human beings are naturally programmed to exhibit.  The question that dispels their myth is a simple one:  “how do you know this?”

Human behavior IS influenced by hard-wired tendencies, but also by culture.  In order to get a reading of what human behavior is when the slate is clean, we’d have to actually observe humans in a culutural vaccuum.  Biotruthers most certainly have not done this (even when they attempt to do so in a rigorous way as many researchers have), as their observations are always made in the culture in which they live.  Their conclusions are based experiments that abjectly fail to control for all the variables and can therefore be dismissed immediately on scientific grounds.

The problem with the bracketed portion is much more damning however.  Even if we could ascertain what the natural tendencies of men and women are, that would tell us nothing about how men and women should behave.  Believing otherwise is a classic Is-Ought mistake; that is to say, nothing about how the world is tells us about how it should be in any rigorous sense.  You still need an external moral system for that.  Arguing that because women and men naturally behave a certain way they should continue to behave that way is as logical as arguing that because women and men naturally shit outside, bathrooms are immoral.

It saddens me that rationalists regularly employ these lines of reasoning, but we aren’t infallible.  This merely underlies the importance of self-criticism and keeping an open mind.  When we fail to be skeptical of ourselves, we fail to be skeptical.

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By Sasha - 20 Aug 2012

A call for revolutionary action.

For some, skeptical atheism took a turn for the revolutionary this weekend. There’s a mood in the air that had me write an earlier draft of this post. Then Jen McCreight beat me to it with her brilliant post calling for a new wave of atheism. Ophelia Benson, Jason Thibaeult, and Greta Christina soon blogged their support. Jen followed up with a crowd sourced name for this new wave and a report that grassroots support is, at the moment, growing. You can add my voice to that chorus.

Skepticism is, at it’s core, merely a way of knowing. A set of tools we use to cut away assumptions, misinformation, and myth to get as close as possible to objective truth. Skepticism and science are how we know that homeopathy doesn’t work. Atheism is a truth claim. For most atheist it’s merely a statement of what we believe is the most reasonable position to hold based on available evidence. Some atheists merely reject theism because it offends them for other reasons, but myself and most atheists I know arrived at our conclusions regarding god by using skepticism. For this reason the two are linked for many, many people.

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By Sasha - 17 Aug 2012

Hey White Guys

By Tesla's Butler - 15 Aug 2012

Patriarchs?

“Patriarchy” is a term that is often thrown around in feminist circles.  Loosely speaking, it symbolizes the claim that we live in a male dominated society that condescends, controls, and diminishes women.  This is a central tenet of feminism, but is a bit hard to swallow to the uninitiated because it makes it sound like there is some ominous, seemingly-conspiratorial group of men that sits in the upper echelons of society that enacts an anti-woman agenda.  And although there are powerful lawmakers with agendas that are largely in opposition to women’s interests, this claim isn’t really being made.  However, that doesn’t mean that the Patriarchs don’t/didn’t exist.  Lets peruse some quotations from a few of them.

Nietzsche, a philosopher of incredible influence:

“Woman’s love involves injustice and blindness against everything that she does not love… Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at best cows” – in Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“Woman! One-half of mankind is weak, typically sick, changeable, inconstant… she needs a religion of weakness that glorifies being weak, loving, and being humble as divine” – in The Will To Power

Aristotle, one of the first scientifically-minded polymaths in the history of the western tradition:

“Females are weaker and colder in nature, and we must look upon the female character as being a sort of natural deficiency” – in Generation of Animals

“Woman may be said to be an inferior man” – in Poetics

“Woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears, at the same time is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is, furthermore, more prone to despondency and less hopeful than the man, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of more retentive memory” – in History of Animals

Hegel, a historian and philosopher who laid the foundation for Marx and many others:

“Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production… Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions” – in Elements of the Philosophy of Right

Most of us acknowledge sexism’s presence in the religious sphere, but few people expect to find the same bullshit coming from secular philosophers and champions of science and truth.  In actuality I haven’t even scratched the surface:  Sigmund Freud, Emmanuel Kant, Alexander Pope; the list goes on and on of great, secular thinkers who have perpetuated inaccurate, belittling ideas about women.  Antiquated notions about women are part of our intellectual DNA from both secular and ascetic intellectuals.  This is Patriarchy.

If Aristotle can hold such disgusting views of women, is the idea that many people in the skeptic community hold regressive views to a lesser extent really that shocking?  Being a man of reason didn’t prevent any of these great thinkers from being wrong about women.  None of us should consider ourselves above historical geniuses, and somehow impervious to falling into similar traps.

And by the same token, when the argument is made that Women’s Rights isn’t a “rationalist topic” you have to ask yourself, well then why did Bertrand Russell (the genius behind the Principia Mathematica) champion itCarl Sagan was a feminist too.

Maybe you should rethink joining us?

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