Texas: Not ready for a progressive woman Governor

During the election coverage and Republican acceptance speeches there was a real element of attributing the takeover of Congress to President Obama even though he wasn’t on the ballot. There are already congressmen who pledge to prosecute him for abusing executive orders even though he issued less of these than George W. Bush. As a black president, he is a very easy scapegoat for Republicans to bash. In fact, a third of Louisiana Republicans, blame him for the government response to Katrina, even though G.W. Bush was president at the time. Why don’t they blame Bush? He is given no credit for gains in employment and the economy, scapegoated for things he didn’t do. America doesn’t appear to be ready for a black president.

For the same reasons, I don’t believe that Texas is ready for a progressive woman to be Governor. Her opponent Greg Abbott ran a campaign of publicly shaming her for attending Harvard and allowing her then husband to be the primary caregiver of her children after he filed for divorce.

No one would ever have thought to criticize a man’s private career and family decisions on their way to success  in this way. There is a well established history of men’s political careers surviving adultery allegations and worse.  Newt Gingrich’s wife put him through college, and he left her for his mistress when she had cancer.  He had no significant political fallout from this. The shaming of Davis for her private career decisions that men commonly make worked well here in Texas. Despite Davis being well known for heroically filibustering draconian abortion over-regulation, Abbott got the majority of the women’s vote.

Had Davis gotten more progressive turnout and won; she would have then been faced with an obstructionist legislature. Much like Obama’s problems with Republicans in Congress refusing to work with him. It is remarkably easier to punch down on minorities from established positions in the dominant white male hierarchy. Unfortunately, it wins points and plays on deeply rooted biases like with Republicans wanting to believe that Obama was responsible for Katrina.

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, ""It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming"

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, “”It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming”

Aron and I were there for Davis’s concession speech, and I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my cheeks as she urged us to support Abbott. After everything he did to her in the campaign, and everything he has already done and will do to hurt Texas. Even though I knew going in that most likely she would lose, there is a knot in my stomach that I don’t want to digest. Four more years of regressive policies punching down on women and minorities with heavy handed immigration and abortion laws. And a majority of the people here in Texas will say Amen! to that.

Is Texas doomed to another theocratic governor?

“Texas has been red since dinosaurs roamed the state 6,000 years ago. At least that is what the Texas history books say.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been filming from Austin, TX. this week.  After, a clip of the stupid ass things that our elected officials do and say, Stewart made the humorous observation that Texas would vote for a drunk guy in a bar hitting on a lesbian.

Texas is saying goodbye to Rick Perry, whose “austerity” measures included cutting 5 billion dollars from the state’s education budget. The cuts resulted in 25,000 teachers and also tax payers losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Perry and the GOP including Governor hopeful Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor hopeful Dan Patrick, funneled 200 million dollars taxpayer money into the Texas Enterprise Fund.

The fund is being audited, and is widely being called a slush fund. Four companies were given 42 million dollars without even submitting an application. Abbott is our current attorney general, and he issued rulings that suppressed this information from the public. He also received 1.4 million dollars in quid pro quo campaign contributions from these companies.

Stewart was joking about what a lot of Texans will elect here, but it is funny because it isn’t that far off the mark.  Abbott is leading so far in the early voting polls in double digits.  Wendy Davis is the best thing for Texas right now. She filibustered twice to try to stop draconian educations cuts and abortion over-regulation. But even people like some of the very teachers, who lost their jobs, won’t take a minute to think about it. There are teachers right now in this state, who will still vote red regardless, sitting in overcrowded classrooms trying to teach a tenth of the America’s often poorest students.

It’s not an exaggeration, or Abbott wouldn’t be leading after messing this state over for his own gain. A Davis campaigner came to our door, and told us that people are telling them, “I vote life.” When the GOP is not lining their pockets with tax payer money here, they are spending millions of dollars for extra sessions to pass draconian abortion restrictions that have reduced the state’s abortion clinics from 43 to 8. They have already demonstrated how little they care about educating the children that are already born.

In reality why should they? An uniformed populace keeps electing them, because they think stopping poor women from choosing when or if they will be a parent is what their God wants. Realistically, many Christian women with the means will continue to get abortions.

The beauty of it for the GOP here is that it is self serving because rich Christian values voters are their greatest campaign contributors. They don’t have to fix the real problems this state has, like repeat teen pregnancy, unprepared college students, the shrinking middle class, the loss of living wage revenue generating jobs, storage of hazardous materials, the burgeoning prison population, etc. The solution has always been to refer people to God rather than actually do something about the problems here.

Top all that off with immigration issues exacerbated by a humanitarian crisis caused by the drug war that has been raging in Mexico that has already claimed thousands of lives. Civilians are being beheaded, tortured, raped, and terrorized by drug cartels and members of their own government. Will there be a war on terror there? No. The victims there are frankly not white enough. The United States is the largest consumer of drugs from Mexico. Here on the Texas border our response has been to be Mexico’s largest gun suppliers.

 According to the US Government Accountability Office, 87% of firearms seized by Mexico over the previous five years were traced to the US. Texas was the single largest source. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, told Congress last month that of 94,000 weapons captured from drug traffickers by the Mexican authorities, over 64,000 originated in the US.

So not only do we help make a humanitarian crises, by being the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we also supply the guns to Mexico and we still think Iraq is our greatest foreign policy problem. On the borders of Texas, California, and Arizona; people have fought to keep immigrant children from getting asylum from the problem we are complicit in creating in Mexico and Central America.

Another recipient of our education  system here, or another Republican constituent.

Another recipient of our education system here, or another Republican constituent.

The problems here in Texas, and the problems we are causing our neighbors are not getting better touting Republican values and pandering to Christians on the taxpayer’s dime in lieu of actual solutions like a sane decriminalized drug policy. Yet we stand here in Texas ready to elect a successor to Perry, who has already shown that he will make things worse. Both GOP candidates are avid creationists.

There is a small hope for the Texas and the rest of the nation. Texas is rapidly browning. It is an irreversible trend that started in 2005 when Texas became one of five majority minority states. Unfortunately, minority voters are disadvantaged in this state by gerrymandering, and SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act which gave the justice department oversight in how districts are drawn. So we do have Texas carved up like a Christmas turkey with as much advantages as can be given to creating Republican districts.

Imagine this for a brief shining moment. All of Texas’s electoral votes going to a blue presidential candidate. The GOP would have to actually stop their pandering and fear mongering and actually do something to maintain their standing, or never have a Republican president ever again. A side note for the secular community, diversity is critical to ensuring a secular government. We don’t want to trade one theocracy for another by not making inroads into minority communities.

But how about the hope for Wendy Davis for governor on November 4th? It is probably no coincidence that hope was included by the Greeks in Pandora’s box.  It can be the cruelest emotion.  For reasons l already outlined and Stewart joked about, many Texans vote with their gut rather than their brains. The GOP cultivates that here with their insistence on Christian values that are often immoral like forced pregnancy.

However, most religious minorities still vote blue, and they are catching up. The problem with this is they have a more difficult time voting both because of restrictive Republican backed voting laws, and financial reasons like not having a car or not being to get off work to vote. There has been increased minority early voting. This shows that despite obstacles that if there is something to vote for they will turn out.

Davis can still win, but it will require turnout from dissatisfied GOP and Independent women and teachers. The greatest factor will be how apathetic the progressive voters are here.  Aron and I often encounter resistance to voting even by secularists here. The response sometimes range from…

  • I don’t vote. The lesser of 2 evils is often invoked.

This shows they haven’t put much thought into who is running this cycle even after many years of Rick Perry. The best thing to remind people here, who don’t go beyond disgust at politics,  is that if you vote the most reasonable candidate that the votes for unreasonable candidates like Abbott will dry up. This has happened in the past when staunch segregationists jumped party lines when they saw the writing on the wall. Better yet, it would make more progressive parties like the Green Party viable, because voters would migrate to the Democratic Party. This would open up more room for a more Progressive party than the Democrats.

  • Texas should secede! That is the smug liberal or inhumane libertarian hipsters in the larger communities response. It is also the response of people who haven’t done the glaringly obvious math.

Even if they could set aside the millions of human beings that are under the thumb of regressive policies here. They would be okay with having a jingoistic country on their border that would then have almost half of America’s oil reserves. A better dystopian idea would be to set aside a state like maybe Kansas (just joking Kansas) with fewer natural resources, and ship every morally undeveloped, empathy impaired, and therefore stunted human being there. We would ship all the progressives out. Then the citizens of that country could do as they please. They could run freely with scissors till their hearts content, not give a damn about anyone, poke each other’s eyes out, pray to god to make them richer and destroy their enemies… Imagine the possibilities, but we don’t have to unfortunately because we have Texas politics. More or less.

People need to vote. There are other states where the tea party has done a better job of organizing than progressives. That is the one thing they have going for them they don’t sit on their asses hoping for a more god soaked government. They are slowly and maniacally making that a reality all over the country. Progressives take note and provided you don’t have a condition that disenfranchises you like a disability, vote Nov 4th. Even if I wake up to another Tea Party Governor, (Ye non-existent gods noooo!!!!!!) at least I can say I am not part of the problem.

Secular Pro-Life Same Old Scare Tactics

If I were to tell you that a purportedly secular anti-abortion group was engaging in the very same fear mongering and harassment of abortion providers that the largely Christian dominated pro-life groups do; would you be surprised? The True Pooka’s final report on Secular Pro-Life’s tactics is posted.

In addition to the other tactics Pooka documented, the group is promoting a campaign against abortion providers in the guise of concern for the safety of women. According to Pooka, in addition to making stuff up about the safety of abortion to women…

The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).

I know there are people reading this who are not at all surprised by the sliminess. I hope that they haven’t also grown, so calloused by this group and other anti-abortion groups’ relentless assault on the right to choose whether a person gives birth, that these tactics are working.

However, I don’t think this group’s presence at atheist conferences, a group that misrepresents both science and the truth, can be totally explained by its relentless tactics wearing people down.

How did it get past the smell detector?

The group’s members have the appearance of fresh faced kids. Ex-Christians like myself or people with well meaning anti-abortion friends may be mistaking what they are doing with the mistakes we made as Christians. In my Christian past, I have actually given diapers and my daughter’s bassinet to a Christian pregnancy counseling center in hopes of helping women, who wanted to give birth and keep the child.

Looking back on it now, I was misguided. These groups main function is to guilt women with ultrasounds of their fetuses. I remember the tour, and the center’s pride that they had received an ultrasound.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Secular Pro-Life website directs people with crisis pregnancies to Christian counseling centers? This is the picture posted on their resources page…

The group’s defines its secular mission thusly…

Secularism. SPL seeks to increase the inclusiveness of the overall pro-life movement by creating space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secularists.

I don’t think directing the atheists, agnostics, etc. to a Christian pregnancy center agrees with their purported mission to create a safe space for them. Particularly if they survived spiritual abuse.

This group is not simply misguided. A former member of theirs glibly showed all of us including children in the audience a video of abortions during a debate with Matt Dillahunty. She most definitely had the fresh faced, well meaning look down, even when she showed us the video without batting an eye. She also argued that abortion should be criminalized and prosecuted as murder. Matt’s recent debate with an SPL member showed the same callous lack of regard for women. The Christian debater argued that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to abort a pregnancy that would cripple her.

I don’t ever remember being that inhumane and judgmental at the height of my Christian years, and there is difference between some misguided person that you know or the pro-lifer you may have been and SPL.

As of this moment,  Pooka and I plan on seeing them at The American Atheists Convention in Salt Lake City this weekend. We hope the information we provided helps people to make informed decisions. I can’t help picturing a Reed Warbler unwittingly nurturing an imposter Cuckoo chick.

 

What really matters…The So-Called Secular Arguments Against Choice

It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve AhlquistOphelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo.  Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.

Sure Shannon.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.

I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.

Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.

There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.

So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.

In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.

That poster could just as easily be posted because the Bible tells me so...

That poster could just as easily be captioned because the Bible tells me so…

I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.

I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.

In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.

And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.

This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week.  How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.

Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.

I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.

Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.

[notice] If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.[/notice]

 

 

Breaking Love and Reproductive Rights Out of the Christian Frame

I have been pleasantly surprised that the youtube comments on my speech on The Heart of Humanism at The Southern California Secular Humanism Conference are mainly addressing the topic.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

Especially because I addressed how secularists need to examine where their beliefs about love in particular may be influenced by Christian culture such as ideas about purity. I used a rather pointed example by looking at the Secular Pro-Life Movement. Their stance is not categorically different from Cathy Ruse of The Family Research Council’s advice on making secular anti-choice arguments. Ruse’s Christian influence is clearly seen in her advocacy for state’s rights on marriage equality as discussed in my speech and her advocacy against buying Girl Scout cookies on the basis of their support of Planned Parenthood. Cuz unplanned parenthood is so much better, right?

One commenter though accepted the challenge to produce a secular anti-choice argument.

My concern isn’t from a Christian purity standpoint, it’s an issue of the meaning of human rights. We used to believe that people of different skin colors didn’t deserve legal protection because the ‘rights’ of rich white people were more important. I worry that abortion is not dissimilar.
It is a bit incoherent.  I also asked the humanists there what they thought of the anti-feminist canard
“I am not a feminist; I am a humanist.” We were short on time, but a few people afterwards said that the word feminist is like identifying as an atheist; it has taken on very negative associations over time.  I wish I had thought to record some responses afterwards.
Anyways, I hoped in this speech to help people see that sometimes the culture we are raised in can still affect how we see the world and prevent us from being better humanists. Just like I would like to help re-appropriate the word atheist from atheist bashers; I would like to help re-appropriate the word feminism from feminist bashers.
More important than the words themselves are the ideas that left unquestioned get in the way of progressing to a better society than the overtly Christian one we now live in today.

 

 

 

 

Ani DiFranco and white feminist gate-keeping to the point of absurdity.

Of course many white feminists get that advocating for gender equality is valueless if you don’t include equality for people of color too. Supporting women of color is a no brainer. Then there are a few with blind spots, who ostensibly get this idea, but then in practice fail to question their own internalized racist ideas.

This is Ani DiFranco, singer, poet, equal rights activist, and to some feminist icon in words on economic and gender equality…

If you’re not angry
you’re just stupid
or you don’t care
how else can you react
when you know
something’s so unfair
the men of the hour
can kill half the world in war
make them slaves to a super power
and let them die poor

Here she is using slavery as a metaphor for fascist, capitalist, patriarchal oppression by imperialists. Yet here she is in deed...

 

June 25 – 29
Nottoway Plantation – White Castle, LA
http://www.righteousretreat.com/An Invitation from Ani…LOVERS OF SONGWRITING, POETRY & PERFORMANCE!Allow me to invite you down to Louisiana to learn and play with me and some of my friends,
exploring these and a few more of our favorite things!We will be shacked up at the historic Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, LA, for 3 days and 4 nights exchanging ideas, making music, and otherwise getting suntans in the light of each other’s company. During the day, myself, Toshi Reagon, Buddy Wakefield, Hamell on Trial and others will lead workshops and lessons that focus on developing one’s singular creativity. In the evenings we will perform for each other and enjoy great food in a captivating setting.

Why doesn’t she get that the Nottoway Plantation is the largest former plantation in the South?

Nottingham Plantation

From the Plantation’s website slavery apologetics…”It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.”

Mark Faulk points on his blog what the problem is..

 Here’s the problem: Nottoway Plantation is the largest plantation mansion in the South, literally built by slaves who had to carry the huge logs over (as Nottoway’s own website puts it) “miles of plantation ground to the construction site”. The owner, John Hampden Randolph, built his fortune on the backs of slaves. He even signed over 46 slaves as collateral to build his 53,000 square foot dream house.

To date there has been no official response by DiFranco to answer the criticism about the appropriateness of the venue or to cancel this event. People make mistakes, and sure this one is a huge oversight in the most charitable light. But when people call it to your attention that you’re holding your folk songwriting event in a symbol of oppressive capitalism such that 46 human beings were used as capital to build it -just maybe you should reconsider. And too, going with what should be becoming more painstakingly obvious upon further reflection -the place is also an oppressive patriarchal monument.

More importantly, DiFranco and other non-black feminists can’t feel the injustice done here as keenly as black feminists do, but they can do the work required to empathize. I am not black and I haven’t really experienced the racism directed at black people in America. Even though my son is black, I can only listen and empathize. If you inadvertently step on someone’s toes; apologize and listen so you can make things right. Admittedly the price tag of this event is prohibitive to most people of any color, but who wouldn’t want to be welcoming to all women?

Although there are people calling DiFranco out as racist for this event, what it looks more like to me is a disconnect between words and deeds in regards to racial equality. Where the absurdity of this venue would have been immediately obvious to a black feminist; these things can be overlooked by some white feminists because institutionalized racism doesn’t target them. Indeed popular fiction like Gone with the Wind  glamorizes the Old South for young girls. The appeal of this plantation is that of a whitewashed bygone era of Southern gentility.

In absence of DiFranco’s answer to criticism there is a comment war going on between DiFranco’s defenders of her choice of venue and rational people on her facebook, who don’t get why people don’t get this.  The defenses range from minimization and telling black women what they should feel about this to outright absurd, racist gate-keeping as documented by For Harriet  . Get your oven mitts ready to facepalm…

righteousretreat Mandi

 

The post as is, is patronizing and has a badly, misunderstood idea of what it means to “reclaim” something. What if a man told her to attend an event at a “historic” and “captivating” remodeled Magdalene laundry owned by Hobby Lobby because the baby stealing era is over and “reclaim” it and give a symbol of brutal, dehumanizing oppression a “new meaning ? She could rightly tell them where they could go!

The post was bad enough, but in an absurd effort that would be funny if she wasn’t serious she posted this…

Mandi as LaQueeta 1

This post doesn’t resemble the speech pattern of any black feminist that anyone knows. The name LaQueeta Jones on top of this may be a clue that she doesn’t know any real, black people apart from hackneyed stereotypes. She goes on embarrassing herself, and illustrating the need for some whites to get out more especially if they are toting equality until someone busts her.

Mandi as LaQueeta 2mandi as LaQueeta3

 

Who are these people? Seriously. Who gets this personally invested in defending reprehensible, regressive ideologies? It would be funny if these types of ideas don’t pop up in every earnest discussion about racial injustice. When you find yourself telling people that they should just adopt the right attitude about the racist things that happen to them -just stop.  Even less obvious racist crap like this, like Di Franco’s decision of an exclusionary venue for songwriting about gender and economic equality have the net effect of marginalizing people of color’s voices.  Equal means everyone should ideally have an equal place at the table. Do the work and put more thought into it DiFranco.

However, as frustrating as the whole thing is, you can take heart in the fact that most of the posts are calling for Di Franco to do something about this on the event page. They are posting this same statement to her facebook.

“I stand in solidarity with the Black women calling Ani Difranco out for this decision to hold the Righteous Retreat at the site of a former plantation.”

And now there is a petition to sign.

[notice]About 15 min ago, DiFranco replied to the criticism on her facebook. You can view it in its entirety here. I’m still weighing her words, before I decide. I am glad though that she canceled the event and gave it more thought. [/notice]

Reaching the choir

Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold.  Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal.  Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.

Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.

Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…

table-gender-by-tradition

table-ethnicity-by-tradition

Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.

One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.

table-income-by-tradition

Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.

It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.

Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.

My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.

Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like  FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.

One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.

It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.

Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.

[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates.  You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]

[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]

Asian Cultural Sensitivity 101: Why is Katy Perry’s “Geisha” performance considered racist?

I know no one asked me to weigh in on this, but what the heck. I am the resident East Eurasian here. Seriously though my social media is awash in East Asian outrage and also cultural insensitivity over Perry’s performance yesterday at the AMAs dressed in modified,sexy geisha apparel.

perry geisha

It is a Kimono mixed with a Chinese Cheongsam, so manages to neatly appropriate 2 different cultures.

There are a number of comments on the story that ask why is this performance racist and/or offensive?

Like these:

Oh I see, she shouldn’t sexualize geishas who were “Just entertainers”? Wrong. Geishas hairstyles were designed to sexually entice and attract men to spend time with them, who do these twits think WOMEN were entertaining in Japan during this era? Other women?? They were appealing and “forbidden fruit”. Not to mention that a young geishas virginity was sold to the highest bidder in a tradition called “mizuage”. Nope. No sexuality there.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnCLgIh4

They should just stop and not try to explain someone else’s culture to them when they barely understand it themselves. At least this person has been to Japan, but they still don’t get it…

I agree. I have been to Japan, and I thought it was beautiful. I think a lot of western people don’t get the folklore, and mysticism, and traditions that Japanese hold dear. Most of them don’t even know about the many festivals in Japan , like “The Cherry Blossom”, or Tsukimi.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEEOptU

At least this person claims to have a Japanese step-mom, so they must get it right?

I agree. Being offended by everything and making uninformed, false accusations about people is classless and a waist of time. I find it ironic that this is considered “racist”. My stepmother is Japanese and she’s laughing as she reads the posts that call Perry out for racism. “I thought it was beautiful and artistic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s cultural take on things.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEkifH3

Nope. It’s the old “I have a/an (insert ethnic relationship here)”, so therefore it can’t be racist as if you can adopt authority by proxy.

Hannah at afternoonsnoozebutton has already done a pretty good job of breaking down what people found offensive about the performance. If you are really interested in why people find it offensive, read her thorough explanation there. Here are her 5 key points that she nailed…

1. Katy Perry’s “geisha” performance tonight was culturally appropriative.

2. There is a long history of mistreatment and ill-will towards Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

3. Western culture “otherizes” Asians by assigning all Asians certain characteristics.

4. Asian women in particular are fetishized. This sexualization of Asian women causes increased sexual violence against Asian-American women.

5. Racism against Asians is often swept under the rug because of the model minority myth, and that won’t change until we start to address racist acts head-on.

Point 4 is particularly powerful as she supports here…

This fetishization has been empirically proven to hurt Asian women. 41-61% of Asian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the highest rate for any ethnic group. Between 5,000-8,000 Asian women are trafficked into the US each year for sex slavery, also the largest amount for any ethnic group.

This is one more perspective on it from Jeff Yang on The Wall Street Journal Blog

The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, “unconditional” worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.

So basically Perry’s performance appropriates Japanese culture in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The Asian submissive, hypersexual stereotype is particularly damaging to Asian women. I’ve been involved with people, who I didn’t understand at the time had no interest in me other than an Asian fetish. No interest at all in my intellect or talents. No human woman neatly fits into a stereotype, and this stereotype is demeaning and dehumanizing.

What bothers me is how unquestioned these stereotypes are and how uncritically they are accepted. Otherwise enlightened friends post stories like this one about Korean beauty contestants that supposedly had plastic surgery and looked freakishly alike from Jezebel to social media. To date there is no retraction that the photos were photoshopped to intensify the similarity. The stereotype that Asians are weird in this case obsessed with looking white is uncritically accepted.

And if you think the stereotypes of Asian women are bad, Asian men are stereotyped as sexually unattractive, dorks in American culture. Despite kick ass examples of Asian male masculinity like Bruce Lee, the stereotype of the Asian male as a lesser male persists.

Bruce Lee JudgingThe stereotype such as perpetuated in movies like Sixteen Candles have been so damaging that Asian men are thought of as undateable by women of other ethnicities. long duck dong

 

Asian men’s supposed lack of virility is still comedy fodder today. In this Guardian article which manages to combine all three negative stereotypes: Asians are weird, Asian men as unattractive dorks, and includes a former Asian prostitute as sex expert to boot. The story is about how the Japanese are having less sex based on falling marriage rates, which is a trend here too as Salon points out.

In fact this story became comedy fodder for Bill Maher, he facetiously used the story to propose posters to encourage the Japanese to have sex. Among the punchlines were the same old tired tropes like… “He’s Japanese it’s not like it’s gonna hurt.” In the same breath he bemoans progressive causes like overpopulation, yet there is the same old stab at Asian males’ dignity, that has gone on ever since American colonialism. Many in his audience don’t take a minute while they’re laughing at the expense of the Japanese to question the stereotypes.

The more things change the more things stay the same. I grew up not feeling proud of my Asian heritage. Years of having my hair pulled as a kid, being mistaken for the Japanese exchange student, having people ask where I am from and the doubtful looks when I say I am American add up. I am raising my daughter to be proud of her Asian ancestry. She even wants to start a Japanese appreciation club at her school. Japanese culture is becoming more acknowledged and popular here.

But there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation and reinforcing stereotypes. The comments on this story have been more offensive than the performance itself. They reveal how little these commenters actually question how the media portrays East Asians in this case. For all the declaring about wanting to know why people find this offensive; the comments show and unwillingness to listen to the reason why. Most offensive is in place of listening these commenters seek to tell East Asians in this case what their experiences are and how they should feel about them.  As for Ms. Perry herself if you are still wondering if she has some of the same unquestioned cultural insensitivity there is this quote about how she feels about the Japanese…

 “I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,”

I hope that this helps people to understand why Asians are tired of being portrayed in American media in the same predictable and stereotypical ways.

 

[important]Much of the ideas in this article were discussed first in The Secular Asian Community facebook discussion group. If you are looking for secular Asian support or to support secular Asians, they are a great group. We are putting something together for the next FtBCon, so watch out for that. [/important]

The Trouble with Religious Bullies

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Sometimes it must be hard for religious bullies to punch down as hard as they would like to on despised minorities like nonbelievers and LGBT especially when they’re asked to stop.  It seems no matter how politely you phrase it; the mere act of the mildest resistance to their authority is met with denials, outright fabrications, back peddling, character assassination, and even counter-accusations rather than a decent apology and an attempt to make amends.

I won’t go into the shenanigans Aron and I have been faced with pleading with the Rowlett City to stop using public meetings to promote Jesus in this post. That is a separate post related to the same sort of trouble with Christian privilege as this one. They don’t get that their religion doesn’t give them special authority, and sacred immunity to criticism. It is because of these conflicts with the religious majority that I am posting in solidarity with Amanda Brown and her father Roger Gorley.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

She writes here about her father’s run in with hospital authorities and his partner’s family for simply wanting to hold his gay partner’s hand. The family had no authority to ask him to leave as he has power of attorney. Gorley should have the same rights as heterosexual domestic partner to care for an ailing spouse. The reality of the situation is that that only works when people respect those rights. He was eventually handcuffed and dragged out of the hospital by the police.

You may have already heard of Amanda Brown from her work on We Are Atheism. A project that encourages nonbelievers to come out. She also helps organize Reason Fest every year in Lawrence Kansas.  Reason Fest is going on this weekend if you can make it. I’d like to say a brief thank you to Camp Quest for providing children’s activities. It helps my family make this trip more doable. Kudos to the people that sponsor Camp Quest.

Many of us are already aware of this story through social media or blogs. In this digital age, the hospital’s inappropriate actions in interfering in a patient’s legal wishes brought them unwanted attention. Did they own up for their discriminatory actions and apologize?  Heck No.

Instead they blamed the victim whilst claiming their own fairness, which is not demonstrated by their actions.

Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care.  The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”

 

Amanda has already made a good defense of her father on her blog detailing what has been going on. I can’t imagine my reaction after caring for Aron for years being forced to leave his side against his wishes. It wouldn’t happen, because we are a heterosexual married couple with a marriage that is recognized by the state. Despite the assurances, legal partnerships do not get the same respect as a legal marriage.

I’ll be seeing Amanda this weekend, and will podcast from Reason Fest with Youtube Atheist Shayrah Akers formerly of Dogma Debate.  We are hoping to connect with her to help her spread the word of this injustice. She is raising money to help with her father’s legal fees. Hopefully, she can find some time while she is helping Reason Fest run smoothly. We Are Atheism is also promoting Atheists Giving Aid‘s efforts to do something to help the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. At this time they are 4 dollars shy of 12,000 dollars.

This will be our first podcast of “The Nones“. We are shooting for Sundays at 12:00 PM. Our goal is to talk about issues that concern the 25 percent of us that are nonreligious. Right now, the nonreligious are practically ignored despite our numbers in this country. We are also hoping the show coming from the point of view of women will add more diversity to our community’s discourse.

 

 

Michael Nugent on choosing not to make a jerk of yourself.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Nugent suggests 8 choices that he thinks may help move the secular community beyond the rifts that have developed. I blame Rebecca Watson! You know she will inevitably be blamed anyways, so now that that is out of the way. (joking, of course)  I do attempt to do everything he has listed when I discuss controversial topics anyways.  It is important to me to try to not come off like a jerk.  I realize there are personalities especially online that that is their shtick   It is also important to realize that sometimes outrage and anger are appropriate responses to communication that is based on hate like racism, sexism, homophobia, class-ism, bigotry, etc. Outrage and anger at hate shouldn’t be confused with being a jerk.

Right now, for example I am outraged at the Vatican’s choice of yet another homophobic, sexist bigot, who got where he is by collaborating with the then brutal, fascist government in Argentina. How can it be any different when the Pope made a misogynist comment than when some in our community make hateful comments towards women?

He was named after Pope Francis for his purported championing of the poor agonist the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

He was named after St. Francis for his purported championing of the poor against the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

 

I can say with blunt honesty that this man is evil, and it isn’t the same as “insulting or mocking someone who disagrees with us.” The outrage in the case of the Pope is deserved.  Nor would I phrase it charitably as our President has in light of the amount of injustice the Vatican metes out worldwide.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” Obama said in a statement from the White House. “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God.”

 

There is no charitable way to interpret Obama’s endorsement of Pope Francis I. He is either gullible in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Vatican has become rich off the poor and most vulnerable among us, and lacks the compassion to stop demonizing condom use in AIDS wracked countries; or he is dishonestly pandering to the religious.  The official Catholic stance forbidding contraception contributes to the cycle of poverty especially in third world countries.

In some ways, suggesting a charitable in lieu of an accurate interpretation of a comment like Obama’s has the effect of shushing well earned criticism. It is the difference between being a jerk and being justifiably angry.

Nugent’s suggestions are already being used in the comments to point out the mote in someone else’s eye rather than removing the log in their own eye first.  I remember as a Christian the weird glee, that some would take in judging fellow Christians’ “fruits”, while being blind to their own glaring character flaws.  Someone rightfully pointed out that his suggestion can only be self-adopted; the only person anyone can realistically control is themselves.

Here are Nugent’s suggestions, which again I think for the most part commendable, and I have no problem adopting as I have already chosen to use them before.

The first five choices are general

1. We can choose to robustly debate our disagreements about ideas, while not personally insulting or mocking people who disagree with us.

2. We can choose to want to de-escalate, rather than escalate, the hostility and hurt that has been one outcome of how we have addressed some disagreements.

3. We can choose to accept that, just as we know that others are mistaken about our motivations, we may also be mistaken about their motivations.

4. We can choose to charitably interpret ambiguous statements, or ask the person to clarify them, rather than unilaterally attacking the worst interpretation.

5. We can choose to give people the space to reconsider previously stated beliefs, and to either clarify or easily disown off-the-cuff statements.

The next three choices relate to specific issues

6. We can choose to actively tackle the problems of sexism and harassment in our communities, regardless of the scale of those problems.

7. We can choose to robustly debate disagreements about aspects of feminism, without labeling people based on our interpretation of their motivation.

8. We can choose to unilaterally retract any statements that we personally have made that, in retrospect, we now believe were wrong or unhelpful.