By Sasha - 16 May 2012

10 Dating Misogyny Warning Signs

I’m a single guy who uses OkCupid to meet people, occasionally to hilarious effect. I also have a lot of women friends who date online and run in to guys who are pretty horrible. It also turns out that not everyone, male or female, is super skilled at spotting misogyny warning signs. That got me thinking ,which now got you this post.

A lot of these might seem really obvious, but in my experience these red flags are sometimes missed because when we’re looking for romance or sex online we’re often trying to see the best in people because we know that expressing yourself through a profile can be hard. It’s also true that many of these don’t necessarily mean the guy is a creep, but it’s a good idea to proceed with caution when things like this crop up.

Let the screen shot parade begin! (more…)

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By Tesla's Butler - 14 May 2012

Compassionate Skepticism

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret today:  science isn’t cheap.  There’s a lot of fundraising that goes on to support the research which leads to the treatments that make life on planet earth longer and better.  Unfortunately not everything gets the financial backing that it deserves.

What causes do and don’t get funded?  Well, it isn’t always as impartial as you’d hope.  Helping men past their prime get it up obviously isn’t a very pressing concern, but the prevalence of 80 year olds with limp dicks and disposable income prompted the creation of Viagra over treatments for say… for Sickle Cell Anemia, which is actually life threatening (unlike erectile dysfunction) but tends to effect minority populations disproportionately.

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By Sasha - 11 May 2012

We Need to Talk: Role Models

On Wednesday I wrote about a man who was influential in my evolution from stupid and entitled to less stupid and less entitled. Often when I am together with pro-equality, feminist, or social justice peeps we talk about how often we’re disappointed by the prominent men in our communities. Lets be positive for a change.

Who are your progressive male role models? Who has inspired you to be a better person? What particular lessons have you taken from them?

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By Sasha - 09 May 2012

Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys made me a better person.

I’m writing this after having learned of the unfortunate and tragically young death of Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys. He died on Friday, May 4, 2012 — only 47 years old — from causes related to the cancer he was diagnosed with in 2009. Though only 11 years older than I am, he was one of the men who helped me become a feminist, a progressive, and less horrible over all.

There was a time in my early adulthood when I rode around in my friends car listening to two tapes we had. The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill and NWA’s Niggaz4Life. Both albums were, at the very least, problematic in their lyrics about women and sexual minorities. As a dumb, straight, white guy I didn’t really notice it, and if anyone pointed it out I could (and would) dismiss it by saying “It’s just a joke” or “Come on, lighten up” or by talking about free speech. I still meet countless men and boys who have that same attitude.

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By Windows - 07 May 2012

The Rampant Sexism within the USMA Corps of Cadets

It is often that I doubt whether or not I truly wish to spend four years of my life here at West Point. The reasons are varied, but the one constant motivator that I have to stay is so that I can be part of the solution to all the issues that I see here. Sasha has been kind enough to give me an avenue to speak out.

Some of you may have seen or at least heard about the recent CNN prime time special, Betrayal of Trust?, about the recent rape scandal in the US Military Academy. The specifics of the allegations set forth by these two former cadets and the current lawsuit will not be the main topic of this article. What concerns me is the Corps’ reaction to the whole situation. I can count the number of people I’ve talked to who aren’t victim-blaming on one hand. One of them isn’t a cadet.

This is what I hear:

“She should have known better.”

Should she have? How? This argument is based off her plebe (freshman) status at the time. The alleged rapist was a firstie (senior). The idea is that because the firstie male was asking her to his room to drink, she should automatically assume that he intends to get her in bed, and that her foot inside the door implies consent to sex.

First, this is insulting to men everywhere; as if we are incapable of anything but lust. Second, why is it her responsibility to divine his intent? She’s suddenly supposed to be able to read minds? Is it her job to never ever enter a man’s room without planning to get naked? Or should she actively mistrust every male — 85% of the students at the Academy?

“I knew her/was in her company; the alleged rapist is my buddy.”

This is brought into the discussion as if it somehow makes their opinions all the more valid. Unless they were in the room at the time, they have no more inside information on the situation than say, the old lady who lives down the street from me.

“She’s a slut!”

A woman’s ability to enjoy sex does not make her less believable when accusing someone of rape, nor does it make her a “slut.” I don’t care if she’d slept with thirty upperclassmen before this one incident. The bottom line is that she did not want to sleep with this one and he forced himself on her.

What really gets me about the people here is that a large portion of the arguments against the victim I hear aren’t even to say that she wasn’t raped. They are trying to say that it is somehow her fault. The rape culture here at West Point and in the military is not being addressed properly. Sure we have SHARP training (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention), but this does little to change the perspective of the ranks. Even if the various PowerPoint slides, lectures, and video presentations adequately addressed the issue, it would do little as SHARP training is viewed as just another mandatory duty to get out of the way. It is taken seriously by very few, and those who do see it as they should are not the ones who need the training.

I think the Army is starting to move in the right direction with how it treats these cases but it still has yet to address the issue. We need to concentrate more on keeping those 19,000 cases from happening in the first place, and that starts at the level of junior leaders. Until the culture here at the academies is changed, all we are doing is pumping more of these people into the ranks of our officers.

These issues are not exclusive to the academies or even the military, but as members of the armed forces we claim a moral ground above and beyond what the normal citizenry claims. It’s about time we started acting like it.

– Windows.

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By Sasha - 04 May 2012

We Need to Talk: When do we speak up?

Not too long ago I tweeted a link to this video, because I liked it.

Then someone replied that they’d like to see the video about things men actually say to men who say shit to women on the street. They had a real point. There’s a lot of silence from men and women both in response to street harassment. There’s a lot of silence about inappropriate behavior in public in general.

When you have seen street harassment or inappropriate behavior directed at women or minorities, have you said something? Tell us what you said. Have you ever been silent even though you disapproved? Why do we so often hold our tongues in public? How can we change things so that we speak out againts offensive and bullying behavior?

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By Anthroslug - 02 May 2012

Conscience Meets Reality, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Other People’s Sex Lives

[This article was originally posted on March 16, 2012]

So, the Blunt Amendment (full text here) was voted down two weeks ago.  The Blunt Amendment, for those not in the know, would have altered the requirements placed on employers that provide health insurance to their employees so that they would not be required to have insurance coverage that provided services that the employer or the insurance company finds morally objectionable.  As spelled out in the amendment itself:

FOR HEALTH PLANS.—A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because— (i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or (ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.

Now, the sponsors and supporters of this amendment claim that this wasn’t about contraception coverage.  However, the entire mess was spurred by the president requiring contraception to be covered by all employee-offered insurance plans, a rule with which the Catholic Church (which objects to contraception due to some rather dubious readings of the Bible) did not want to comply.  The discussion on the floor kept delving into discussions of contraceptive coverage while the representatives kept insisting that this isn’t what it was actually about.  The amendment got the support of evangelical churches that have for the last few years been opposed to contraceptives because…well, on some ill-defined alleged principle that seems to shift with the days.  So, um, yeah, this was about contraceptives.  This time around, but it is part of a larger issue, which I will get to shortly.

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By Tesla's Butler - 30 Apr 2012

3 Simple Steps to a More Inclusive Skeptical Community

1)  Make Skeptical Events Across the Country Less Alcohol Centric

Imagine you’re a 20 year old who is passionately invested in skepticism.  You really want to meet others who feel the same way you do and have enlightening conversations with them!  You go online and do a quick look-up of skeptical events held in your area.  “Oh hey, Skeptics in the Pub!” you exclaim to yourself.  Then it hits you: in the pub… You’re not 21.  “Well fuuuck.”

Young people aren’t the only ones pushed to the side here either.  Some people don’t feel comfortable in bars.  There are a multitude of potential reasons for wanting to avoid this kind of environment.  Whether you’re a woman who doesn’t like being harassed by drunk men or a recovering alcoholic, you should be able to find a skeptical event to attend that doesn’t involve alcohol.

I also wonder if men wouldn’t behave better towards female attendees as a whole if alcohol wasn’t a central component of many skeptical meetups.  Obviously drunkenness doesn’t excuse poor behavior even if it contributes to it, but it’s a thought none the less.

2)  More Anti-Harassment Policies

As More Than Men previously covered, The Amazing Meeting’s anti-harassment policy has resulted in some controversy.  A couple of people have even threatened to boycott the event.  It’s incredibly depressing that we’re part of a community where people think being told not to harass other people is somehow unreasonable and cause for threats of non-participation.  There’s a damn good way to change this though:  make anti-harassment policies universally prevalent in our movement.

We should double down rather than back away.  Getting this done would be as easy as passing around a petition and handing it off to the leaders of every skeptical organization out there big and small.  When this becomes the norm, we’ll be much healthier as a movement.  Men attending skeptical events aren’t being told not to express their interest in fellow attendees in a conscientious manner, all that’s being said by these policies is this:  creepiness can get right the fuck out.

3)  We Need More Prominent and Diverse Female Leaders

It’s great that a large number of high profile female skeptics are friends and co-activists like the folks at Skepchick, but there are plenty of great women out there doing their own thing who need recognition too.  Providing a vision of monolithic feminism, tight female activists, or anything else just makes it easier for the assholes to generalize and marginalize the role of women in Skepticism.

Have a woman blogger you know of who writes about scientific and skeptical concepts on her own?  Help promote her!  Pass around word of her involvement through social media.

There’s a danger to having all of the diversity in our movement clustered together in one place, we need more widespread variance.

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By Sasha - 26 Apr 2012

Why don’t we quit?

It’s often hard to keep promoting diversity in the world. The skeptic an atheist communities have a “big tent” that celebrates misogynists that deny the scientific facts of climate change and rewards misogynists that promote dangerous anti-vaccination nonsense but when we talk about how our movements can and should address and support issues unique to women, racial minorities, and the disabled, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans community we are told we’re reaching too far and are out of line. Unless of course foreign brown people are using their religions to hurt those groups.

In writing for this blog (and even before) I’ve seen my opinions dismissed by people who assumed I was a woman, then ignored when they realized I’m a man. I’ve gotten threats of rape from horrible people with poor reading comprehension. I’ve been the subject of elaborate conspiracy theories. I’ve gotten many kind words of support, but always from people who already agreed with me. I’ve gotten some great guest posts submitted, which I love and appreciate, but in nowhere near the numbers I had hoped for.

Between the abuse and the relative apathy and the feeling like the only people who listen already agreed or now hate me, I often find myself asking “Why the hell do I do this? Is this how I want to spend my free time?” I basically quit in my mind every 10 days or so. But I won’t let myself quit for good. I don’t want to surrender something that I think is important and valuable to people who are despicable and hateful.

I keep myself going in the hopes that, if nothing else, I can add a voice of support for the people who are the real targets of this campaign of bullying. If I can, some day, change one mind that would just be the cherry on top.

Anyway, just some thoughts and – more than anything – a reminder to myself why I do this even though some times, like now, I kind of want to just read a book and play with my cat.

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By Sasha - 20 Apr 2012

We Need to Talk: What do you get out of events?

After I leave work this evening I’m headed to Berkeley for SkeptiCal 2012. If you’re in northern California you should really consider joining us. You can watch me drink whiskey in person!

This has got me thinking about skeptic and atheist conferences. What are they for? I’m going to let you in on a secret: When I go to conferences and cons (even science fiction and gaming cons) I almost never go to any programming. I usually average about two hours of official content in a weekend. I go to these things for the community. I go to talk and drink and socialize with people who share my beliefs and values.

What do you attend skeptic and atheist events for? Do you go for the community or do you go for the content?

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