Motherfucking Indiana

Seriously, we’re just on a roll, aren’t we? First no gay marriage, then ridiculous abortion restrictions…and now one of our Representatives, Mike Pence, is out to remove all government funding for Planned Parenthood. And it passed in the House.

I know this happened a couple of days ago, but I’ve been in conference la la land, so you get my rage a little delayed.

Feministe summarizes perfectly why we should care:

By law, federal funds haven’t paid for abortions since the 1970s, so the House hasn’t voted to cut abortion funding. They’re cutting funding for the entire Title X program — funding for contraception, cancer screening, STI tests, sex education, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, and pregnancy screening and counseling. Title X is the only federal program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and preventive health services, particularly low-income families. Last year, 5 million people benefited from the services funded by Title X.

Planned Parenthood is the target of this legislation, and American women the primary victims. This isn’t about abortion — it’s about cutting access to health care for women. One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood’s services. The vast majority of care — more than 90% — offered at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventative. Every year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer — screenings which save lives. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses give more than 830,000 breast exams — exams which save lives. Every year, nearly 2.5 million patients receive contraception from Planned Parenthood — a service which prevents enormous numbers of unintended pregnancies and, by extension, an enormous number of abortions. Every year, Planned Parenthood administers nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV — tests and treatments which save lives, extend lives, preserve fertility, and maintain reproductive health.

Fuck. Republicans. And Indiana, for spawning this filth. I am more and more ashamed to be associated with this state.

If you want to show your support for this amazing organization, you can sign Planned Parenthood’s open letter to Congress here.

Hello, California!

After quite the initial adventure getting to the airport (fuck you, Seattle public transportation), I am now safely in Thousand Oaks, California. No, this isn’t just some random vacation funded by my ample graduate student budget – though it will be a lot of fun. I’m here for the Secular Student Alliance’s Southern California regional leadership summit.

I’m really looking forward to meeting all of the students and hearing the other speakers – Michael Shermer, Bobbie Kirkhart, Dan Barker, Sikivu Hutchinson, Darrel Ray, and many more! I’m also giving a talk, but since I was just looking for lolcat photos to add to my slides, I’m not sure I’m going to be as classy as everyone else.

And now that I’ve filled myself with fish tacos, I’m going to take a nap. I only got 2 hours of sleep last night, and I need my energy for all the godless debauchery that will occur over the next couple of days.

Goddamnit Indiana

This is not a good week for my old state. First, we’re even closer to having an amendment to the Indiana constitution banning gay marriage. Because you know, a law isn’t good enough when you’re homophobic.

Now? New abortion restrictions have just won committee approval.

HB1210, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, was originally drafted as a measure forcing abortion doctors to tell their patients that “the fetus may feel pain” and forcing patients to view an ultrasound picture unless they said in writing that they did not want to.

An amendment by Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, added many more provisions, including one forcing the health department to produce materials saying abortion can increase the risk of breast cancer, another saying patients must be told about opportunities for child care and child support payments and a provision saying abortions could not be performed after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life. The amendment was approved 8-5.

[...]Messmer’s amendment says a relative of the woman, a county attorney or the attorney general could file an injunction against a doctor who performs or attempts to perform an abortion after 20 weeks.

“If you have an abortion provider providing post-20 week abortions across the state, it may take the attorney general,” Messmer said. His measure also includes a provision saying that life begins when an egg is fertilized.

What. The. Fuck. I wish I was surprised, but frankly I’m not. At least there are some sane voices in Indiana:

Lawson and other Democrats said the supporters’ testimony was based on faulty medical information. Planned Parenthood representatives said abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer and that scientists and doctors have found fetuses cannot feel pain until well after 20 weeks.

A representative of the Jewish Community Relations Council testified that Jews do not believe life begins at fertilization — they believe it begins at birth — so codifying Messmer’s definition would write religion into state law.

Opponents questioned whether the purpose of the law was really to make women more informed or more safe.

“I’ve heard it before,” Lawson said. “They’re not going to change my mind. They’re bullies.”

Props to Lawson (who’s a representative from my home town’s congressional district) for calling out these people for who they truly are, Planned Parenthood for actually using science in their arguments, and the Jewish Community Relations Council for supporting the separation of church and state. Some people in Indiana get it. Unfortunately it’s not the majority.

Off my ASS for the SSA – FINAL RESULTS!

Starting weight: 186.4 lbs
Last week’s weight: 174.8 lbs
Current weight: 173.8 lbs
Weight loss this week: 1 lb

Total weight lost: 12.6 lbs!

Wooooo! I can’t believe what mild exercise, eating healthier, and eating less (no, you don’t need three pieces of cake, Jen) can do. I know BMI isn’t a perfect measurement, but as an estimate, today is the first day in years I’ve actually not been considered overweight for my height and age – just hit a BMI of 24.9! Most importantly, I feel better and I fit better in my clothes.

Though enough of all this subjective personal emotions crap – if you’re like me, you want DATA!
(click here for larger version)

As you can see, I’ve marked some interesting events that affected my weight. I also should have marked all the events that I thought would affect my weight, but didn’t – two other birthday parties, happy hour every Friday, the Superbowl, Indian food. I guess it just goes to show that an occasional beer or cheat meal won’t completely derail you from your goals.

I also added a trend line because I’m a nerd. For all the fluctuations weight loss entails, I was impressed by the relatively high R squared value. And the equation ends up working out to losing about 1.45 lbs per week. See, I was on a healthy pace!

As for the competition between me and JT… well, he’s actually been pretty sick for the last couple of weeks, so he’s pulled out of the official competition. Doesn’t want me to have to pay up because he’s losing weight from illness. So… I guess by my personal standards, I win for reaching my goal? I guess we’ll just have to buy each other drinks at this weekend’s conference.

And as for the competition between me and Phil…well, I defeated him by a good three pounds ;) Sorry Phil – I know your wife was on Team Jen and potentially sabotaging you with her cooking, but you still have to pay up!

To everyone who’s put up with reading these blog posts, or pledged to donate to the SSA for every pound I lost, thank you! I’m not done yet – I’d like to get close to my high school weight by the AHA conference in April – but I won’t bother you guys with weekly updates.

Thanks again! I’m going to celebrate by falling off the wagon at the SSA SoCal conference this weekend, haha.

Clarifying the Pears

Jen’s Note: I posted Sharon and Lyz’s original article not only because I personally trust them as individuals, but because they are professional atheist organizers with tons of experience in dealing with groups and inclusivity. After watching the video from the panel and hearing the audio of Sean’s talk, I find no evidence that they purposefully misrepresented content. I do, however, feel that there was a bit of communication failure between most of the parties involved, which is why I wanted to post their clarification here.

The following is a guest post by Lyz Liddell and Sharon Moss. These are the views of individuals and do not represent the views of the Secular Student Alliance or the Humanist Community of Central Ohio.

Hoo. Boy.

Well, when we first wrote the article “When Gender Goes Pear-Shaped,” we hoped it would get at least a little attention. But we weren’t expecting the crazy amount of attention, comments, and – unfortunately – misunderstandings that came out of it.

So we wanted to clear up a few things about our intentions and our goals in writing the article.

Our intention in writing this article was to shed light on an issue our entire movement struggles with. With the number of blogs, panels, questions, and articles out there discussing how to make our movement more welcoming to women, we clearly have some serious room for improvement. The good news is that it seems basically everyone in our movement is on board with the idea of welcoming women. The trickier issue is dealing with those unconscious behaviors that can still make women feel uncomfortable – even though they are not intended to do so. It’s a conversation that we need to have and keep having. That’s what we – organizers with years of experience working with grassroots groups – were trying to address in our post.

We did NOT mean to make it sound as though any one person, organization, event or organizer was at fault or the focus of this article. Here’s where our intentions were blocked by our inexperience in blogging – despite our best intentions, it did come across as though we were attacking the SERAM, American Atheists, the organizers, Sean Faircloth, and others. That was *never* our intent, and we want to apologize for not making that clear. We still think that the SERAM was a great event – in fact, we want to see more events like it! (Sold out, 200 attendees from all over, over a third women and almost half at their first event – awesome!) Likewise, American Atheists not only has a history and continuing practice of women in leadership positions, it is doing great work to improve our movement’s diversity (have doubts? check out the speaker lineup for their national convention!), focusing on its niche as an activist organization, and providing support for local groups. While the issue we’re discussing affects the entire freethought movement, we don’t want anyone to come away thinking of AA, SERAM or Sean Faircloth as the bad guys.

There have been some accusations that we misrepresented what happened at the Sunday morning panel (read: that we were lying). The video of the talk was posted here. We encourage people to watch that video. It demonstrates both that the panel wasn’t a terrible sexist monster, but also clearly shows the parts of the panel that concerned us – most notably, the handling of the audience member’s question and its aftermath. We realize that our article made it sound like Sharon was the only person to follow the young woman – she wasn’t the only one, but she was the first (and she couldn’t very well see that others behind her also moved to help). The point we wanted to make was that she wasn’t an event organizer but still wanted to help; not that the event organizers didn’t help or didn’t want to. (Unfortunately, the video of Sean Faircloth’s talk is not up yet, but the SERAM organizers are planning to make it available soon.)

There also seems to be some confusion about our views on the Million Dollar Challenge (MDC) and the “female” v. “woman” language question. None of us were arguing against the point the MDC illustrates; it’s perfectly true that in our society, women tend to be the gatekeepers of sexual activity. Our concerns were with the manner in which it was presented: encouraging the men in the room to look around at the women in the room and identify specific women they were sexually attracted to, then proceeding with the hypothetical challenge. Likewise, neither of us have a problem with the use of either “female” or “woman” when discussing gender issues. Our concern was with the way the woman asking the question was treated at the event. We are trying to make the point that if you’re making fellow supporters of our movement that uncomfortable, then you’re doing something wrong.

One last misunderstanding has come to our attention. There were several instances where we alluded to problems in the general movement that were taken as though they had happened at the SERAM. We didn’t mean to imply that the audience at the SERAM was continuously staring at our chests; that didn’t happen at this event. BUT, there have been numerous other events where it has happened and continues to happen, and we wanted to raise the issue. We also didn’t intend to imply that there were instances of racism or anti-parentism at the SERAM. In our years of leading freethought groups, we have seen both of these behaviors at other events at different times, and mentioned them since they tie into the issue of making our movement more comfortable to newcomers. Again, our blogging inexperience interfered with the points we were trying to make.

You might be asking why we chose to focus on the SERAM so specifically if it wasn’t itself the problem. Well, we chose to focus on these instances, at this event, for two reasons. First, they were recent and relevant – they were specific examples of specific behaviors that we have observed, time after time, that can and often do make women uncomfortable. Second, because we had to focus on something. If we had just posted an article about how “sometimes there’s some stuff that makes women feel uncomfortable in our movement,” our post would have been ignored, or readers would have demanded to see the evidence. So we provided recent, relevant, specific examples that illustrated our main point: that we should work to make women in our movement feel more comfortable. If nothing else, we have succeeded in making enough noise that lots of people are talking about the issue – and that is our goal.

There will be no apology for making it clear that women often feel uncomfortable in our movement. If you are a woman in this movement and you find yourself comfortable, that’s great! But just because you are comfortable doesn’t mean that everyone is – and since our movement is growing SO rapidly, we need to pay attention to those who might not be as outgoing or outspoken – whether they be women, people of any age, less-educated people, racial minorities, LGBTQs, etc. These people are on our side, and we should make our movement a safe landing place for them.

For all the bad feelings that have come up out of this article, we want to emphasize that there has been some very constructive communication to go along with it. In particular, we have had great conversations with the SERAM event coordinators Scott Savage and Christie Swords; David Silverman of American Atheists; and Sean Faircloth at the Secular Coalition for America. Furthermore, we have received several messages from local group leaders telling us how glad they were that the issue was raised, or that they’re planning to use our tips for improvement with their own groups. (Those tips are toward the bottom of the original article, if you only read the first part, the comments, a summary, etc.) We have also been thanked by lots of women (and men, too) who have felt uncomfortable in our movement but were too afraid to raise their voices.

It’s been a rough ride. We’re doing the best we can to make our movement a bigger, better, stronger one. We hope you’ll forgive us our miscommunication and keep working with us to build a world where freethinkers of all types and kinds can flourish!

Even subconsciously skeptic

Last night I had a dream that I was hanging out with a group of friends, when God suddenly appeared to me in the form of a five story tall marble statue of an old bearded man, adorned with gold and jewels and bathed in warm light.

“Is this enough proof for you, Jen?” he asked, both confident and a tad bit annoyed.

“Come on,” I replied, “how do I know this isn’t just a hallucination? If you’re going to go to the effort to give me proof, at least give it under controlled laboratory conditions.”

Move over lucid dreaming. I sleep debate religious apologetics.

Though to assure you I’m not completely devoid of creativity thanks to atheism, my following dream involved traveling back in time to the Lost City of Atlantis, where they bred Pokemon-like creatures and were totally nonplussed by our arrival since they apparently get time travelers all the time.

My brain is weird.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here’s a photo of me and my date:We met at the Seattle Atheists’ Darwin Day celebration! Once I laid eyes on him, I knew I had to make him mine. Thankfully he only cost a dollar.

Don’t judge.

Anyway, the event was really fun. About 150 people showed up to partake in the cake, games, and other various festivities. I ended up randomly being on the panel because they were one person short and needed an evolutionary biologist who has opinions about the “evolution wars.” I may have an opinion or ten million in that area. It was fun.

But if you’ll excuse me, I have some noodly appendages to go spend quality time with.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here’s a photo of me and my date:We met at the Seattle Atheists’ Darwin Day celebration! Once I laid eyes on him, I knew I had to make him mine. Thankfully he only cost a dollar.

Don’t judge.

Anyway, the event was really fun. About 150 people showed up to partake in the cake, games, and other various festivities. I ended up randomly being on the panel because they were one person short and needed an evolutionary biologist who has opinions about the “evolution wars.” I may have an opinion or ten million in that area. It was fun.

But if you’ll excuse me, I have some noodly appendages to go spend quality time with.

“What exactly is Christian about being gay?”

The Creation Museum recently hosted a “Date Night” for FamilyLife’s conference in Cincinnati, OH. While usually I’d consider animatronic dinosaurs the true pinnacle of romance, the whole Biblical literalism thing sort of ruins the mood for me. But one journalist decided to check it out with friends, and posted about his experience on reddit:

I write for an alt-weekly, and in the interest of journalistic science went to northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum for their couples’ Date Night, which basically consisted of a talk by museum founder Ken Ham, a buffet dinner, a musical performance by a country music guitarist and truckloads of cognitive dissonance.

Our party consisted of myself, my girlfriend Shanna and our friend Brandon, who was to be accompanied by our friend Joe, who was himself running late. As a coterie of security guards checked the three of us in, they wanted to know where Brandon’s date what kind of car she would be driving so they could keep a look out for her.

“Uh,” I said, “his partner’s name is Joe.” (I don’t know why I said it that way, it just came out. Joe and Brandon are heterosexual)

Needless to say, the security guard reacted with shock.

“Joe?” he said. “This is a Christian environment, and we can’t allow them to attend. It will disrupt the evening for everyone.”

When pressed, the guard reiterated that you can’t be a Christian if you’re gay.

“Can you tell me what exactly is Christian about being gay?” the officer rhetorically asked. Nothing, obviously.

Now, this is an anonymous post on reddit, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. Hopefully the author will link to his official write up for his job when it’s published. EDIT: His article can be found here. But it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard this sort of sentiment coming from some Christians. You can’t be Christian if you’re gay, and your disgusting gayness is going to ruin the night for all these nice, godly people.

I don’t know if the guards were from the Creation Museum or Family Life. The Creation Museum’s website states “Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are not affiliated with FamilyLife.” Until we know, this isn’t exactly great PR for them when they’re trying to get tax payer money to fund their new theme park, Ark Encounter.

I’m sure the Creation Museum will release a statement right away saying that all homosexuals are welcome to their museum and apologize for the situation.

"What exactly is Christian about being gay?"

The Creation Museum recently hosted a “Date Night” for FamilyLife’s conference in Cincinnati, OH. While usually I’d consider animatronic dinosaurs the true pinnacle of romance, the whole Biblical literalism thing sort of ruins the mood for me. But one journalist decided to check it out with friends, and posted about his experience on reddit:

I write for an alt-weekly, and in the interest of journalistic science went to northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum for their couples’ Date Night, which basically consisted of a talk by museum founder Ken Ham, a buffet dinner, a musical performance by a country music guitarist and truckloads of cognitive dissonance.

Our party consisted of myself, my girlfriend Shanna and our friend Brandon, who was to be accompanied by our friend Joe, who was himself running late. As a coterie of security guards checked the three of us in, they wanted to know where Brandon’s date what kind of car she would be driving so they could keep a look out for her.

“Uh,” I said, “his partner’s name is Joe.” (I don’t know why I said it that way, it just came out. Joe and Brandon are heterosexual)

Needless to say, the security guard reacted with shock.

“Joe?” he said. “This is a Christian environment, and we can’t allow them to attend. It will disrupt the evening for everyone.”

When pressed, the guard reiterated that you can’t be a Christian if you’re gay.

“Can you tell me what exactly is Christian about being gay?” the officer rhetorically asked. Nothing, obviously.

Now, this is an anonymous post on reddit, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. Hopefully the author will link to his official write up for his job when it’s published. EDIT: His article can be found here. But it’s certainly not the first time we’ve heard this sort of sentiment coming from some Christians. You can’t be Christian if you’re gay, and your disgusting gayness is going to ruin the night for all these nice, godly people.

I don’t know if the guards were from the Creation Museum or Family Life. The Creation Museum’s website states “Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are not affiliated with FamilyLife.” Until we know, this isn’t exactly great PR for them when they’re trying to get tax payer money to fund their new theme park, Ark Encounter.

I’m sure the Creation Museum will release a statement right away saying that all homosexuals are welcome to their museum and apologize for the situation.