Saturday Storytime: Catcall

All I can really say about this story from Delilah S. Dawson without spoiling it is, “Enjoy the punch in the gut.”

I was doing my homework at the dining room table last night, and my dad came in from cutting the grass. I knew he’d been drinking, because he was always drinking when he was in the yard. But he was drunker than usual, and I didn’t know that until his fist slammed into the table just a few inches away from my Calculus book.

“Why do you dress so weird?” he said in a haze of moldy wheat breath.

“Because I like it,” I answered. I moved the book over, sighed, and tapped my pencil against the table. “Do you mind?”

“Hell, yeah, I mind. You look like a lesbian. Short hair and baggy shirts and army boots. Is that what you are?”

I bit my lip and forgot everything I knew about numerals. My dad hadn’t talked to me much since I’d gone through puberty, and I’d just gotten accustomed to being ignored most of the time and staying out of his way when he noticed me. I wasn’t ready to have this conversation, but his other fist landed on the other side of my book, and I could feel his sweaty shirt against my back. My mom wouldn’t be home from work for another hour, and there was nowhere else to go, nowhere at all.

I took a deep breath.

“Yeah, maybe I am gay. Is that a problem for you?”

I didn’t know if it was a lie or a truth or a half–truth, but does it matter?

He shoved my face down into the math book, the paper cold against my cheek. “No, you’re not.”

I exhaled, my hands in fists. “Make up your mind, dad.”

He growled and pressed harder, and I closed my eyes and wished that he would quit, that he would just explode, that he would catch fire and scream and go away forever with his stupid face and bad breath and bigotry.

Something popped overhead.

“What the hell?” He released me and backed away, staring at the dining room chandelier. All four bulbs had exploded, and tiny bits of hot glass covered the table, my book, the arms of my sweatshirt. His bloodshot eyes jerked back and forth from me to the chandelier. His hands were covered in glass, red with tiny cuts and burns.

“Did you do that?”

I smiled, or maybe sneered. “Yeah, maybe I did. Is that a problem?”

“You didn’t. You can’t.”

I didn’t blink, didn’t waver.

“Make up your mind, dad,” I said.

Keep reading.

Democrats Can’t Win on the White Vote

Like most progressives, I’ve seen far too many people I otherwise respect talking about how terrible it was that Black Lives Matter protestors have interrupted Bernie Sanders campaign events. “Why make this harder for Bernie? Don’t they want a progressive elected?”

Dana did a good job rounding up perspectives from POC activists and cultural critics that folks should really go read on this. I mean, why ask, “Why?”, when people have been trying to tell you for days? There are plenty of answers if you really want to know.

I’m not in a position to add to any of that analysis, but I can give you some numbers to back up what they’re saying. [Read more…]

Readings in Sex and Gender

There have been plenty of people who appear to want education and/or debate on the topics of sex and gender recently. I’m not going to give you debate, in part because this isn’t my field. I don’t know enough to make any debate produce anything useful.

Education, however, I can help with. If you want to understand sex, gender, and how debates over both have been used against trans people, you’d do worse than to read these free, online resources. And even if you do want debate, you want to be debating from a place of education, right? [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Totally Secret Origin of Foxman: Excerpts from an EPIC Autobiography

My friend Kelly McCullough just launched his new book, School for Sidekicks, this week. (No, literally, he launched it.) It’s his first middle-grade book after a history of writing for adults, and it’s getting ridiculously good reviews. This story is set in the same universe, though the protagonist and the intended audience are both older.

The railway provided us with a little slice of urban wilderness mostly cut off from the city around it. We could sit on the brush-covered slopes out of sight of anyone official and do the sorts of things that teenage boys playing hooky have always done. There were bums around, sure, but we had something of a truce with the regulars. Besides, we were fifteen and sixteen—you know, invulnerable.

But tonight was different. Tonight we were going to test my rocket board. It was December fifteenth, around six p.m.—solidly dark and into rush hour. There’d been some real snow finally, which made the pavement into a death trap for a skateboard going a reasonable speed. Add in the rocket . . . yeah. Not going to happen. Not inside the warehouse either. I’d already had plenty of warning about the dangers of mixing rocket fuel and interior spaces.

That’s how I’d settled on the railway. Not only was it clear of snow, but it was a perfect straightaway. I’d had to rig up a custom wheel set and a magnetic lock, but now the only way off that rail involved me hitting the toe release. That meant I didn’t need to worry about turns or bumps or anything but staying on the board. Perfect!

Michael shook his head as I locked the board onto the rail. “I don’t know, Rand. Don’t you think this is kind of dangerous? Maybe an unmanned test first . . .”

“Don’t worry. I’ve already tested the thrust on the rocket seventeen ways from Sunday. It’ll barely get me up to fifteen miles an hour before it tops out. A bike goes way faster than that. If anything goes wrong I can jump clear easy. It’ll be fine.”

“What about the bridge?”

“That’s nearly a mile away. I don’t even have enough fuel to make it that far. I’m going to go half a mile on rocket assist, max. I’ll coast to a stop well short of the bridge. I’ve done all the math more times than I’d care to count.”

I was more nervous than that, but hell if I’d admit it to Michael. I did check the straps on my helmet and various pads one more time. I know I didn’t mention them in the script version of this scene, but that’s the movies, man. Safety gear isn’t cinematic. I stepped up onto the board.

“Wish me luck.”

“Good luck, crazy man!”

I poised the toe of my sneaker above the rocket engage, and . . .

The world vanished with an intense purple flash like the world’s biggest black-light strobe firing off. For one brief instant I could see Michael’s skeleton like a green framework within the translucent purple outline of his body—oddly, nothing else seemed to go translucent. But I barely registered that over a sensation that felt like someone pumping every cell in my body full of hydrogen and lighting it on fire.

KRAKOOOOM!

The sound of the Hero Bomb hit like summer lightning taking out the tree I was leaning on. If not for the sheltering banks of the railway, I think it might have knocked me off the board. Is it any wonder I accidentally stomped on the rocket ignition?

Keep reading.

What Is a Blogger to Do?

Okay. This can’t affect the outcome for the individual in question vis a vis the network anymore. Time for some answers. What do you do, as a network-entrenched blogger:

Street scene in black and white with yellow caution sign saying, "Quiet Zone".

“Quiet Zone” by CPG Grey, CC BY 2.0

When you see a colleague react to being told they’ve retweeted people who advocate for the exclusion of trans women from radical feminist spaces and women-oriented services (also known as TERFs) with blocking, hostility to being given this information publicly, and discussions on their Facebook page about how “TERF” is a term used by younger feminists to invalidate older feminists?

When you see them tell someone that some people would look at his gender nonconformity and tell him he is trans, however he identifies?

When you see them repeatedly deride feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions?

When you see them publish a post that ambiguously blames either a trans woman or the magazine telling her story for putting pressure on women to perform femininity, then have them argue to you specifically that trans women bear a responsibility not to do this?

When you see them link and quote from a post that says trans women aren’t women because they don’t have a common girlhood with cis women?

When you see them link to a trans person and say, “See? This is what I was saying. Why would you be upset with me”, when it wasn’t what they were saying at all?

When you see them flat-out deny that the people who call them trans-antagonistic or even a TERF in response to posts like those have any history to base this judgment on (despite having seen some of it yourself)? [Read more…]

“Center for Medical Progress”, Amanda Marcotte on Atheists Talk

This week, the Center for Medical Progress has released its fifth video claiming to show that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling aborted fetuses for medical research. This video, like each video before it, has been shown to be deceptively edited to hide Planned Parenthood’s actual practices–allowing abortion patients in a small number of states to donate tissue as a service to those patients. In response to the deceptive video, Senate Republicans attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and failed. In the meantime, the Center for Medical Progress is being investigated for illegal practices of their own.

This Sunday, Amanda Marcotte, writer and host of the RH Reality Cast, will return to Atheists Talk to fill us in on these videos and place them in the context of the current political assault on reproductive rights.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Abuse and Power in Activist Spaces

This is the most recent essay I delivered to my patrons. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about toxicity or abuse in activist cultures. The overwhelming majority of this talk has been crap scapegoating some of the most vulnerable people in activism. As it turns out, when the largest space is given to privileged voices talking about social justice activism, Sturgeon’s Law is an understatement.

Still, there are good, thoughtful people doing good, thoughtful work on the topic. A few pieces worth reading:

I would argue with some of those pieces here and there, but they’re all written by activists putting in work to think about and articulate what activist spaces need from and for their members. Beyond pieces like these, there is a small world of internet writers unpacking different social interactions and general approaches to social interaction that is worth checking in on if the topic interests you. I recommend Miri’s Brute Reason Tumblr and Kate Donovan’s Monday Miscellany posts as aggregators, though both contain plenty other interesting content as well.

Composite photo of a woman pictured twice, once in the background with tape on her mouth and once in the foreground holding out her arms to shield her silent self.

“Don’t Speak” by Kristin Schmit, CC BY 2.0

Quibbles aren’t what this post is about, however. This post is about making sure we don’t underestimate what it will take to deal with abuse in communities of activists who are themselves marginalized. This is about understanding the costs of viewing abusive behavior primarily as something to be excised. It’s about recognizing the skill required to navigate desperation and conflict. It’s also about recognizing the power that good communicators have within these communities even as they remain otherwise marginalized. [Read more…]

Farewell and Thank You to the Ada Initiative

Today, the Ada Initiative announced that it will be shutting down in October. It wasn’t a surprise to me. Having worked closely with Valerie in the past, I was told last week, but even before that, I knew it might be coming. The announced end of AdaCamp a month ago was only one hint.

Ada Initiative founders Val and Mary are working to make all their projects open source, and others have already expressed determination to keep those projects growing and changing to meet the needs of more women in open technology and culture. This is a very good thing indeed. In fact, it might turn the end of the Ada Initiative into exactly what we all need. [Read more…]

Mock the Movie: Farewell Edition

Roddy Piper had a knack for being appealing in some very terrible movies. Watch Hell Comes to Frogtown if you want to know what I’m talking about. (Don’t watch Hell Comes to Frogtown. Just don’t.) To commemorate his work on the occasion of his recent death, we’re going to watch one of those movies this Wednesday: Tough and Deadly. Then we’re going to mock the hell out of it, because that’s what we do.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Shape of My Name

Time travel stories are hard to do well. They’re even harder when they don’t hide where they’re going, when the map of time is laid out on the table so the story is all about the travel. This story by Nino Cipri manages that and more. Thank you to all the readers at Lady Business who recommended it.

I had two childhoods.

One happened between Dad’s ten-day hitches in the White County oil fields. That childhood smells like his tobacco, wool coats, wet grass. It sounds like the opening theme songs to all our favorite TV shows. It tastes like the peanut-butter sandwiches that you’d pack for us on our walks, which we’d eat down by the pond, the same one I can just barely see from my window here. In the summer, we’d sit at the edge of the water, dipping our toes into the mud. Sometimes, Dad told me stories, or asked me to fill him in on the episodes of Gunsmoke and Science Fiction Theatre he’d missed, and we’d chat while watching for birds. The herons have always been my favorite. They moved so slow, it always felt like a treat to spot one as it stepped cautiously through the shallow water. Sometimes, we’d catch sight of one flying overhead, its wide wings fighting against gravity.

And then there was the childhood with you, and with Dara, the childhood that happened when Dad was away. I remember the first morning I came downstairs and she was eating pancakes off of your fancy china, the plates that were decorated with delicate paintings of evening primrose.

“Hi there. I’m Dara,” she said.

When I looked at you, shy and unsure, you told me, “She’s a cousin. She’ll be dropping in when your father is working. Just to keep us company.”

Dara didn’t really look much like you, I thought; not the way that Dad’s cousins and uncles all resembled one another. But I could see a few similarities between the two of you; hazel eyes, long fingers, and something I didn’t have the words to describe for a long time: a certain discomfort, the sense that you held yourselves slightly apart from the rest of us. It had made you a figure of gossip in town, though I didn’t know that until high school, when the same was said of me.

“What should I call you?” Dara asked me.

You jumped in and told her to call me by my name, the one you’d chosen for me, after the week of indecision following my birth. How can I ever make you understand how much I disliked that name? It felt like it belonged to a sister whom I was constantly being compared to, whose legacy I could never fulfill or surpass or even forget. Dara must have caught the face that I made, because later, when you were out in the garden, she asked me, “Do you have another name? That you want me to call you instead?”

When I shrugged, she said, “It doesn’t have to be a forever name. Just one for the day. You can pick a new one tomorrow, if you like. You can introduce yourself differently every time you see me.”

And so every morning when I woke up and saw Dara sitting at the table, I gave her a different name: Doc, Buck, George, Charlie. Names that my heroes had, from television and comics and the matinees in town. They weren’t my name, but they were better than the one I had. I liked the way they sounded, the shape of them rolling around my mouth.

You just looked on, lips pursed in a frown, and told Dara you wished she’d quit indulging my silly little games.

Keep reading.