How should men approach and participate in feminism?

Question from a reader:

“I recently had a rather disastrous experience where I attempted to engage a group of feminists in an amicable discussion, where I tried to present a male perspective on the issues they were raising, in the hopes that they would either point out where I was mistaken, or take the perspective I presented into consideration. I was rather violently accused of attempting to tell women how to be feminists, and that I was a horrible sexist monster.

Maybe my approach was not proper, or maybe they were simply jerks. But even going in I understood that this was a sensitive issue and tried to brooch it carefully. I would really appreciate it if you, a person I’ve come to look up to, and a feminist, would make a post about how a man should go about participating in the discussion, or if we should even try.”

First, a disclaimer: I am but one feminist, and a “new one” at that. Not all feminists may agree with me, but this disclaimer fits perfectly with the advice I’m about to give:

Listen.

This may seem like obvious advice, but a lot of men fail at it. They may think they’re listening, but in reality they’re not. Hearing sound and not interrupting women is a good first step, but is still a lot different from actively trying to understand what they’re saying.

Now, I’m not trying to point the blame finger at men. Plenty of men are good feminists, and plenty more genuinely try to understand. It’s just human nature to go into these sorts of situations on the defensive. I know when I’m called out for saying something sexist or racist, my first instinct is to defend myself. But more often than not, when I step back and calmly think about the situation for a while, I realize I was in the wrong.

And that’s hard to admit. When we see ourselves doing something that doesn’t fit in with our perception of ourselves, we generate cognitive dissonance. “I’m not sexist, so of course I didn’t say something sexist!” And that’s an uncomfortable feeling. But if men want to participate in feminism, that’s something you’ll have to get used to in the beginning. You’ll be amazed how many little sexist things you unconsciously have picked up from society, and it can be rough getting over that at first.

Now, to listen, you have to have someone to listen to. I sprinkle my blog with feminist issues, but like I said, I’m no expert. My blog is probably “Feminism Lite” for you guys – a good start, but just the appetizer. My advice is to lurk around feminist blogs.

This is exactly what I did when I first started getting into feminism. Most importantly, don’t stop reading a blog just because they write one post you disagree with. Or many posts you disagree with. The first time you hear an argument, you may be too defensive to be able to honestly assess it. Sometimes I had to hear an idea many times from multiple angles from multiple people applied to multiple situations before I really understood the logic.

And a key word here is lurk. Assume that while you are still a feminism n00b, you are going to say some pretty n00bly things that you will later be embarrassed by. In a perfect world feminists would swoop down, coddle you, and inform you about all things feminist. In the real world, it gets real fucking annoying after a while. Imagine how you feel when some theist rehashes the same ol’ creationist argument that has already been debunked a thousand times. You get pretty annoyed, right? And most people will attack and tease them, rather than reply thoughtfully.

The same thing is true of a lot of feminists. We get tired of hearing the same old bullshit from the patriarchy, so some of us are on short fuses. So read a lot, and comment rarely at first. Increase your comments as you increase your understanding. If you do comment and think you’re about to say something stupid, you probably are. And if you still feel compelled to post that, add disclaimers and actually try to be nice about it. Misguided But Nice Dude will be better received than Pompous Jackass.

Here are some blogs dealing with feminism I enjoy, with asterisk indicating ones that also frequently talk about science or atheism. I still don’t agree with everything they say, but again, it’s a learning experience, and not just about mindlessly agreeing with everyone:

Evil Slutopia
The Fat One in the Middle *
Female Science Professor *
Feministe
Feminisnt (NSFW)
Geek Feminism Blog *
Greta Christina’s Blog *
Pandagon *
Violet Blue (NSFW)
Womanist Musings

And since this is all about listening… Ladies, what advice would you give men on how to approach and participate in feminism? Specific tips? Blogs to recommend?

This is post 28 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Secularism and LGBT issues Know no Borders

This is a guest post by Mike Brownstein, political science graduate student and blogger at Politics and Pucks.

At the SSA conference last week, Greta Christina said one thing that has been on my mind all week. She said that the secular movement is the first political movement where she has been a part of where she felt that people had her back on LGBT issues. As an ally I take this as a great compliment. One thing that atheists and LGBTQ individuals share it is a sense of pride about their causes and communities. In many cities around the world, LGBTQ communities share this pride with parades and a variety of other events. In some places it is very warmly received. For example, the Stanley Cup made a visit to the Chicago parade. However, in some places LGBTQ events are met with stark religious opposition. One of these places is in Israel.

The pride parade in Jerusalem is one that continues to be starkly opposed. In years’ past, the parade has seen its members severely insulted, and murder is not uncommon. Most of this opposition comes from the very religious nature of the city. This year, deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus suggested the city run a “donkey parade” alongside the pride parade as a counter-protest. Pindrus claimed he wanted to show the “bestial nature of the pride march”. Luckily, the municipality was not in favor of sponsoring this. Although this idea was shot down, counter-protest occurred. Organized protests had posters that claimed that homosexuality is a voluntary disease, “sick perverts, leave Jerusalem”, and even a parade of puppet donkeys. Having been to Israel, this doesn’t surprise me. It is one of those major cities (similar to Cincinnati, OH), that has a conservative mind set. It should be expected for the religious symbolism, but at the same time, hate like this is unacceptable.

If there’s something to take from this, it is that LGBT as well as church-and-state issues exist globally. Israel, like the United States, has problems with ignorance on issues of LGBT and religion. Although America’s problems with religion are different, the similarity with Israel is sometimes sickening. The religious institutions there are very entwined with the government too. Even in another highly democratic country exist the same religious conflicts.

Something else that we should take into consideration, is that the LGBT community is our ally and vice versa. After hearing Greta Christina’s speech I’m even more convinced that our groups should be supporting one another. For one, there is considerable overlap between the communities. Not to mention the Purdue Society of Non-Theists are a part of the Queer Student Union. We should be using that to our mutual benefit, because we are fighting the same people about similar issues. As an ally, I’m proud to be a part of the secular movement, and happy that my LGBT peers feel safe that people like us exist!

This is post 26 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Sassy Gay Friend helps Eve

Why has no one introduced me to these videos yet? I’m convinced it’s some sort of conspiracy. There’s no other explanation why an enormous fag hag like myself hadn’t seen them yet.

I picked the one with Eve since I figured you would appreciate it, but they’re all hilarious. Check out the Sassy Gay Friend with Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and The Giving Tree.

This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Pole dancing classes offered to girls 9 and up

This story has officially broken the Feminist Analyzer in my brain (no, it doesn’t come standard – you have to get in installed and make sure to keep it updated). A fitness center in Canada is offering pole dancing class for girls ages 9 and up, and even younger for private lessons.

I’m mentally flip flopping between both sides. My thought process is going something like:

Aaaugghhh who would let little girls pole dance?!”
“What’s the problem? It’s good physical exercise!”
“What’s the problem?! Pole dancing is associated with a sexual and oft-exploited activity, and minors shouldn’t be doing it.”
“They don’t think of it as sexual – it’s just like playing on a playground. You only think it’s bad because society has conditioned you to think that way!”
“I mean, why should we be honing the pole dancing skills of little girls? Isn’t that just going to encourage them to do something they’re good at when they’re older?”
“Nothing is wrong with pole dancing if an adult chooses to do so of their own free will.”
“But why not spend that money signing them up for a sport? Or some geeky science thing? Increase those skills!”
“Listing other choices is irrelevant.”
“But pole dancing is inherently erotic. Even if the children think about it innocently, the reaction from others will negatively effect them.”

Maybe I would be able to think about this more if I hadn’t been blogging for nearly 12 hours straight. Gah, I give up. What do you think? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

This is post 24 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

New art contest: Celestial soul portraits

My sister-in-law Erin has linked me to what must be the most fabulous thing to ever grace the internet: Celestial Soul Portraits! An artist will do a “magical” portrait of you by taking “normal” photos that represent “the real you,” getting “your unique essence,” and “transforming” it into a Celestial Soul Portrait (his use of quotes, not mine). …For a small price of $150. But don’t let that bother you, look how fabulous they are!

and
I’m dying. They’re so horrible they’re awesome. It’s like Lisa Frank got high on shrooms and discovered Photoshop. I love it.

Your challenge: Make me your own Celestial Soul Portrait! Do a self portrait, do one of a celebrity, do one of me – I don’t care. The most creative/lol-tastic/well-done one will win a doodle from me.

The only rule is that you should link to both the before and after photo for the full effect. Oh, and from what I’ve seen so far, I think “your unique essence” has to somehow include rainbows. Use caution when “transforming” flamboyant gays – their portraits may result in blindness and/or diabetes.

This is post 23 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Results from my modern art contest

A little while ago I challenged you guys to write the best summary you could of the painting I did at age 2 that would make it worthy of an art museum.Here are my favorites!

Most creative interpretation: Chabneruk

“Genius rarely shows itself in a pure, elementary form. But the early work of Jennifer McCreight demonstrate the instinctive, pure emotion of an artist yet unaffected by trivialities like form or training. Her famous ‘watercolor hanging in my bathroom that I did at age 3′ – the title underlining the naive importance of the work – has fascinated generations of young atheists-to-be, symbolizing the struggle to overcome ancient systems of belief. The central piece, washy in its definition, is mostly though to represent the respective deity. The red center symbolizes the conflicts every religion brings with itself, gradually weakening towards the green rim – a sign of the positive possibilities religion might bring. This contrast of a strong, violent center towards the soothing outher ring has also been a topic in Dan Brown’s new bestseller “Watercolour”, where protagonist Robert Langdon deciphers McCreights secret code. The points that move towards the edge of the painting represent the people that left their religion and their way to freedom – leaving the frame of the painting. McCreights work is currently exhibited in the Center of Modern Atheistic Art in New Town.”

Most lol-worthy: Annie

A consideration of Jen McCreight’s watercolor, “I named my cervix Rob Bior.” McCreight’s early work denounces toddler conventionality by breaking the color spectrum at the third level. The metamorphic deprecation of “Roy G. Biv” to “Rob Bior” boldly illustrates this artist’s youthful abandonment of the unwritten “Preschool Principle”. McCreight’s obsession with her own cervix haunted her work well into her preteens. Other examples of this fixation include “My cervix is like a camera lens”, a bold multi media exhibit, and “My cervix hates you!!!!”, which is an exemplary example of the modern use of charcoal on dry dog food. The original of this replica is housed in the lavatory of the McCreight family estate.

Best inspiration for a new piece of art: Matt

Here we have a watercolor ripe with political satire from Jennifer McCreight in her typical avant garde Post-Toddlerist style. As one can plainly see, the picture conveys the anger the artist feels from her frustrations with potty training and being denied by her mother the fundamental right to eat dirt. Bold in her defiance of typical artistic norms, she uses amorphous concave shapes as a method to display her imagery breaking with strict adherence to geometric and mathematical principles popularized by M.C. Escher. One may be familiar with Jennifer’s more recent artwork such as her recreation of Georges Seurat’s, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte” by means of vajazzling Martha Stewart.

And the winner is… Stephen!

The “painting” “entitled” “the watercolor hanging in my bathroom that I did at age 3″ stands in purported postironic metacontext as a subliminal representation of Neo-Foucauldian sexuality contrasted with the hegemony of the religiopatriarchal discourses that typify the extradominant, self-perpetuatory narrative of spiritual immortality. Introspective re(cap)itualtion of the painting’s historiography demands that we make a choice: either accept the privilege of a Pre-Raphaelite objectification of the biological as “G/god-deposed” interrelative to the broader Leftist mythological discourse, or reject hypertrivial assertions of hierarchical dominance /en rejoivivant/, which typifies and creates a counterpublic expression of modern /Dasein/, as counterrevealed in analysis by Heidegger. Of course we must not and cannot unprejudicially disregard the Derridian supplementarity called by the work within it’s own subtextual, self-referentiality. The drawing (re)presents the “cell” as deemed by imperialist Western “biological” standards and recuses itself of those standards by both reifying itself as its own creation, but by suggesting its status as part of a larger social organism, recreating and allegorizing the struggle of the global proletariat against multicultural capitalism, contra Lacan Overall the work succeeds in drawing together and unifying diverse /narratif(ve)s dehors l’hors-texte/ and challenges our assumptions about the state of our privileged day-to-day lives.

Congratulations, Stephen! You’ve won a doodle from me. Comment here with your request.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

This is post 22 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Dealing with death

From formspring.me: How do you personally come to terms with “having to close the book before it reaches the climax”?

For anyone who’s confused, that’s a line I use in a post earlier today for describing death.

And to be honest, I don’t have a very satisfying answer. I just kind of… don’t think about it.

That doesn’t seem like a good method, but it’s the best one I have. Obsessing over death can be paralyzing, and I used to fret about it way too much when I was younger. But one of my mantra’s in life is “Don’t worry about anything that may happen that you have absolutely no control over,” and I’ve learned to apply that to the issue of death as well.

Since I’ve done that, I’ve been significantly happier. It just does not help to stress about the inevitable. I will die. You will die. We can take actions to increase the probability of that happening when we’re much older, but we can’t achieve immortality (at least not yet). Wasting the precious time we do have on our planet worrying about the inevitable seems like a shame to me.

People often give atheists a hard time, saying that our outlook on life is bleak because we think this way. They say even if we enjoy life and aren’t all committing mass suicide, the lack of an afterlife is just too dreary for them to ever be an atheist. There may be many good arguments against religion, but that comfort alone is enough for them to believe.

To an extent, I think they’re right. Certain ideas about the afterlife are very heartwarming. Like I said before, I’d much prefer reincarnation over ceasing to exist. Even heaven would be nice. That’s an area I think atheists really need to work on if we’re to deal with our growing numbers, and keep them growing. We need psychologists, philosophers, poets, artists – whoever – to come up with equally comforting but true messages about atheism.

But to be honest, I was much more depressed, worried, and stressed about death when I was an agnostic and deist. Basing my philosophy on unknowns just led to constant pondering – no, obsessing about death. I’m not saying all agnostics and deists are this way, but it just did not work for me. “Nothing happens when you die” was a much more comforting message to me than “You have no idea what happens when you die, so constantly freak out about which outcome is actually right.”

Thinking about death still makes me a bit melancholy. I’ve been lucky to not lose anyone extremely close to me yet, and I do worry about how I’ll handle it when it happens. The Flaming Lips have a line that goes, “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” It still gets to me whenever I hear that song because, well, it’s not exactly a cheery thought. But then I think of some of the religious people (granted, a minority) who are actually happy when people die. Who rejoice when their love ones pass away because they think they’re actually in a better place. Who can’t wait for death themselves. I rather know the truth and appreciate the true loss and sadness of a friend dying. To deny that, to me, is more terrifying than death.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Just in case you haven’t rage punched your screen yet today

here you go. Transcript:

“When I decided to homeschool my six year old son, I told him we were going to do “Dinosaur Week”. Which turned into “Dinosaur Month”… at the least! We watched “Walking With Dinosaurs” and a lot of other documentaries. He’s a pretty smart kid, too, so even he ended up saying “Ok. Scientists say that God isn’t real. They say earth is a kajillion years old. They say that people and dinosaurs weren’t alive at the same time and that a lot of dinosaurs could have died from a big flood, but that The Flood didn’t happen. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!”. He gets really upset about people not believing in God – as in he doesn’t want them to go to hell and he can’t believe people can ignore God all around us. Every time we watch one of those dinosaur things, he gives a big, overly-dramatic sigh whenever they start talking about “millions of years” or evolution.

One that really cracked him up was where they theorize about reptiles evolving into humanoid creatures. Good grief! And they teach most of this stuff as FACT in schools!!!! I can’t believe it. Neither can a six year old. So WHY is it so accepted?!!?

I teach him what makes SENSE. NOT what science textbooks say. I also teach my kids to question what they are taught – especially what they learn in school. It’s really not fun at all having a bunch of junior scientists in the house when 99% of science seems to be atheistic.”

*brain explodes*

Yes, because if something doesn’t make sense to a 6 year old, it’s obviously wrong. That’s also how we’ve disproved gravity and economic policy and algebra. Ironclad logic.

…I …I’m not even going to bother refuting everything Random Internet Creationist Parent has to say. It’s really not going to accomplish anything other than make me weep for humanity. Seriously, it kills me that little kids are being brainwashed like this. Is he one day going to wise up, and then have to deal with the crushing social stigma of leaving your family’s religion? Will he become trapped in this mindless acceptance of unthinking religious dogma and never have the skills to do anything more than flip burgers? Or even more terrifying, will he go on to be your child’s biology teacher?

Auuugghhabbbbllllhhh. Should have saved this post for night so I could relabel it as a scary ghost story.

And yes, it was painful for me to type those periods outside of the quotes.

This is post 20 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Welcome to Atheistopia!

Loving County, Texas is the only county in the US that does not have a single religious group:…What? That’s because the whole county only has a population of 67? Oh, well then. They have plenty of space if we all move there, then! Just think, a place for all the ostracized atheists in the US. Need to run away from fanatically religious parents? Sick of being the town atheist? Have I got the place for you!…What? It looks like this? Oh, well then… It looks so, uh, quaint. The kind of place you’ll learn to love, especially if hordes of atheists take it over. I mean, just imagine how awesome it would be to never have to worry about accidentally offending religious people, or creationism being taught in schools, or religious laws being passed. If we bought enough land we could take over the local government!

…What? Libertarians already tried to do that and failed? Oh, well then… …poop.

Libertarians, always dashing my dreams.

(Via r/atheism)

This is post 19 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.