Welcome to Blag Hag’s new home!

Just like I recently moved to a new part of Seattle and gained a roommate, my blog has moved to a new part of the internet and gained quite a number of awesome roommates. Hopefully PZ does his dishes and the walls aren’t too thin (hear that, Greta?).

To old readers – welcome to our new home! And to new readers, howdy! I dabble in a little bit of everything – atheism, skepticism, feminism, biology, sex, academia, and general geekery. Please make yourself comfortable. Unless you’re an evangelical Christian or a men’s right activist, in which case, prepare to become very uncomfortable.

I know a lot of my readers had questions about the move, so let me use this introductory filler post to address those:

Q: What attracts you to Freethought Blogs?

  1. Being part of an awesome community of bloggers and readers. I’m surprised something like Freethought Blogs hadn’t happened sooner.
  2. Increased visibility and traffic. Another perk of being nestled in with awesome bloggers.
  3. …Money. You’ve probably noticed that unlike my old blog, FtB has ads. I do put a large amount of time into the blog, and it’s nice to be compensated a little. I won’t be buying sports cars or swimming in pools of money ala Scrouge McDuck, but it’s a nice little bonus to my grad student salary.

Q: Is all the old content going to be migrated?

Theoretically. All of the old posts are here, as are most of the comments, but not all. Jason from Lousy Canuck has been my nerdy knight in shining armor and is trying to figure it out for me. Everything should be functional in the next day or so.

EDIT: Jason is amazing and the archives are all transferred over now! Huzzah!

Q: Will comments still be on Disqus?

No. All the FtBers will be using the same WordPress comment system. And after a week of banging my head into my desk trying to transfer comments from Disqus, I’m ready to be rid of it. Apologies to those of you who will have to comment with different names or logins.

Q: Will the same RSS feed work, and if not, can you post that in large bold comic sans until my dumb ass gets the message and switches feeds?

I can’t figure out how to make things Comic Sans, but…


Q: Will there be an RSS feed for just your blog, or will it include all the others on FTB as well?

Like I said, the RSS feed for my blog is here, but you can also subscribe to the RSS feed for all of FtB here.

Q: FtB is ugly. Fix the ugly.

There will be a site redesign once all the technical kinks have been ironed out. Don’t worry, it’ll look snazzy soon.

Q: Will there be a decrease in awesomeness now that you’ve sold out to the almighty dollar?

No one asked this, but no. Really I’ll just have a new fund for beer money. And we all know that a well oiled blogger is a good thing.

Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments, get settled into the new comment system, and ask any questions. And thanks for being patient while I figure out this newfangled WordPress thing, and slowly add some finishing touches to the site.

On the sexist failures of geek culture

Read this piece. It’s long, but worth it. Seriously, go, shoo.

I know far too many male (and female) geeks who slip into the type of hypocritical, misogynistic vitriol this article describes. But before you think I’m out to slander all geeks guys, I also know plenty that are kind, thoughtful, and – dare I say it? – feminists.

Oddly enough, those are the geek guys I date. What an peculiar coincidence!

More on my weird life

I went to a Weird Al concert (awesome) and returned home to find healthyaddict, Thunderf00t, and the hosts of Ask an Atheist in my apartment. I have an atheist videoblogger infestation. Send help.

…No, they did not break into my apartment. It is a long and not very interesting story. I rather perpetuate idea that atheist videobloggers come to be via spontaneous abiogenesis.

The sacrificial atheist?

Spoiler warning: This post contains discussion about the season finale of True Blood and the movie The Ledge.
Atheists are popping up more and more in the television and movies. And like any minority group engaging in a civil rights movement – which, admit it or not, is what we’re doing – portrayals of atheists are becoming less and less stereotypical. We’re no longer nothing more than communist villains.

There are certainly stereotypical tropes about us being overly rational, cynical, heartless, selfish hedonists. Dexter, anyone? As much as I love House, he’s not exactly the poster child of atheism. But even within that show, you see another atheist (Cameron) who is un-House-like in every way. And the number of human-like atheist characters is rising – Ellie in Contact, Kurt in Glee, Malcolm in Firefly, Bones.

But I’ve been noticing something recently. I hesitate to call it a trend, since I only have two data points so far. But this came up during a panel discussion I was on at the Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference after we had watched The Ledge. The Ledge is a thriller revolving around the romance between an atheist, Gavin, and a woman, Shana, who is married to an emotional abusive religious zealot, Joe.

I really enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it. So if you haven’t seen it, read forward at your own risk – because I’m about to give away the ending.

Joe eventually discovers the affair and puts Gavin in a situation were either he can die, or Shana dies. And surprisingly, the film doesn’t have a predictable happy ending. The police don’t find Shana at just the right time. Gavin doesn’t have some quirky trick that makes it looks like he jumped from a 30 story building. Nope, he sacrifices himself for this woman.

And during this Sunday’s season finale of True Blood, we see the same sacrificial atheist. Tara, who apparently everyone hates except me, is asked by her best friend Sookie if she thinks Gran is in heaven. Tara replies that she’s always considered herself an atheist, but if there is a heaven, Gran would be president of it. Sookie then says that she wants to grow old together with her best friend, which let me know that Tara was almost certainly dying by the end of the episode.

And would you know it, in the last minute of the show, Tara jumps in front of Sookie to save her from a point blank range shotgun blast from a crazed werewolf lady. (You know, I never realized how dumb this show sounds until I have to type out what happened). People are discussing how she’s probably going to be saved in the first 30 seconds of the new season, or turned into a vampire, or be a ghost for Lafayette to channel, or whatever…but you can’t deny she sacrificed herself for her friend when half of her head was blown clean off.

When we were discussing the Ledge, we couldn’t agree if portrayals like this were heroic or tragic. Is this showing atheists in a good light – that even though we don’t believe in heavenly rewards or the afterlife, we’re willing to give up the thing most dear to us for people we love? Or is it showing atheists as these tragic individuals who never have a happy ending?

I lean toward the former. As much as I don’t want all of my atheist characters meeting untimely fates, I think it means something to give up your life when you’re certain no afterlife is soon to follow. It shows that we do care about other people and have greater value and purpose in our lives, even if it’s not handed down from a supernatural being. And I think it’s the first step to portraying atheists as real people – and soon enough we won’t have to keep dying to prove that point.

But again, not everyone agreed. What do you think? Do you know of any other atheist characters that fit or fight this trend?

Well, this was an odd day

Today was the last day of my parent’s visit to Seattle. We were walking down to grab some Piroshky Piroshky for lunch, when a young man came up to me.
Guy: Excuse me, but… were you the one who did Boobquake?
Me: …Yes.

He sheepishly waved hi and then ran away. And then tweeted at me that he was a blog reader and was sorry for being creepy. My parents thought it was fantastic, and wouldn’t stop talking about how famous their daughter was.

I wondered what the odds were. I’m used to people recognizing me at godless or nerdy events, but randomly on the street seems way less likely. It had only happened once before, when I was on a terrible OkCupid date at the College Inn pub, and a random guy came up and asked if I had ever been on the Savage Lovecast. A potentially confusing question if the answer was “No,” but he ended up being a fan of the blog.

Of course, Seattle is pretty godless and nerdy in general, so maybe I should just expect it.

After lunch, my dad and I wandered off to the Underground Tour and left my mom to spend an hour taking photos of the stupid fish throwing. Our tour guide was really funny, and I thought the tour was super interesting. About half way through as we were walking through some of the underground tunnels, she turned to me:

Guide: Have you been on the tour before? You look really familiar.
Me: …No, but I live in Seattle.
Dad: (to me) I bet she reads your blog too!

Sure enough, at the end of the tour she very excitedly said she figured it out, she reads my blog, and omfgwtfbbq could she have my autograph!?! My dad couldn’t stop talking about it – he thought it was the coolest thing ever. I assured him I wasn’t paying these people off to make me look good while they were visiting.

Anyway, these little things totally make my day. Don’t be shy if you ever see me roaming around. I’m happy to say hello!

On the flip side, they make me feel extra guilty when I realize I just spent another weekend not updating. Whoops. I’ve been having a life lately, which is a bit unusual. I’m sure I’ll go back to my boring internet-fueled existence soon enough.

Welcome to Seattle, Mom & Dad

Within hours of my parents arriving in Seattle, my parents witnessed a pimp making a deal with a john by shouting a phone number and instructions out of his car while stuck in traffic on Broadway on Capitol Hill.
Me: …I swear that’s the first time I’ve seen that happen.

What else will they see on their adventure out of the Midwest? No one knows! Hopefully not any homeless people’s genitalia!

Oh Purdue

I feel like I should fight this, saying there’s only room for one internet meme to come out of Purdue…but it involves cute guys being stupid, so I can’t resist:

My thought of “And then they fell and snapped their necks” flitted away once I laughed at the guy hanging off the Amelia Earhart statue outside of the dorm I lived in for a year.

How to speak Hoosier

These videos crack me up. Not every dialect oddity applies to me since I grew up closer to Chicago, but it is pretty stereotypical for the rest of Indiana:

…I do this all the time. I always have to edit “anyways” down to “anyway” when I’m blogging. Mumble “prolly” instead of “probably.” And I learned from this video that it’s Meijer, not Meijer’s. Dammit.

Pop is the correct way, not soda. … and I have to try really, really hard not to pronounce “milk” as “melk.” I’ve given up pronouncing eggs correctly – they will forever be aygs for me.

Damn youuuuu Indiana!

The science of calling out sexism?

A lot of people, male and female, are often afraid of calling out instances of sexism. They don’t want to be perceived as oversensitive or troublemakers, or they’re afraid of angry backlash.
I say “they,” because I obviously don’t have a problem with blowing up the whole internet in order to call out sexism.

But is this an accurate representation of how men respond to accusations of sexism? One study says otherwise:

In a recent study, conducted by Robyn Mallett and Dana Wagner at Loyola University Chicago, male participants were teamed with a female partner (who was actually a confederate in the experiment). Their assignment was to read a set of moral or ethical dilemmas and discuss together how to deal with each situation, including one in which a nurse discovers that a hospital patient has been given tainted blood.

During their discussion, the female confederate confronted her male partner either for sexism (i.e., having assumed the nurse in the story was female, which every male participant did) or in a gender-neutral way (i.e., disagreeing with the male’s suggested solution to the dilemma).

As expected, men had much stronger reactions to being told that their remark was sexist than they did to mere disagreement. But the reactions weren’t what you might expect. The men accused of sexism smiled and laughed more, appeared more surprised, gestured more often and with greater energy, and were more likely to try to justify or apologize for their remark. But they did not react with more hostility or anger – in fact, they reported liking the female partner in both conditions equally well, and were generally pleasant across the board.

At first, that sounds great. Yay, men who were called out for the sexism smiled more and didn’t respond with hostility! Time to go politely tell MRAs how they’re wrong!

But I have a couple of concerns about the study. For one, their sexist remark…isn’t that sexist. Assuming a nurse is female is based on pure probability rather than assumptions about gender roles. The vast, vast majority of nurses are female, therefore a nurse in a story is much more likely to be female. It’s not like 50% of nurses are actually male, but it’s still perceived as women’s work.

This may seem like nitpicking, but I have a feeling men would react differently depending on what type of sexism is being addressed. It’s easy for a man to go “Whoops, yes, I suppose some nurses are male.” But it’s hard for a man to go “Whoops, yes, I suppose I do have (insert any type of male privilege I’ve never thought about and vehemently disagree with here).”

I’d also like to see results from how the men felt long after the exercise concluded. Were they just acting nicer when they were in immediate social interaction with the woman? Was in genuine? Did they turn around and start telling their buddies about how she’s a stupid oversensitive bitch, or did they really change their minds about sexism?

And finally, I’d love to see this repeated in the setting of blog comments or a forum. What happens when you put the internet between two people, and you have the drug of anonymity in your system? I know it’s anecdotal evidence, but I don’t exactly see people skipping together through e-fields of daisies after an accusation of sexism.

More science! We need more science!

Non-religious arguments for being pro-choice?

A friend of mine who’s in med school is looking for some good, credible resources on non-religious arguments for being pro-choice. Obviously the logical move was to ask a feminist atheist blogger, but I’ve failed him since I 1) Live in Blog Land, where good, credible resources are elusive creatures, and 2) Have a horrible memory and suck at recalling good things I have read.
But I know non-religious, humanist arguments for being pro-choice are out there. I could spend a couple hours writing a huge post myself on my own humanist arguments for being pro-choice. Oooooorrrrr I can be lazy since I know I have an intelligent well-read readership who likes to help me out (especially when I suck up to them by saying how intelligent and well-read they are). So what do you recommend? What are some good articles or books that address this subject? And I suppose blog posts are fine if they’re from a more reputable individual.

And if you just want to throw in your own godless 2 cents on the abortion issue, consider this an open thread. I’ll be hiding in the corner behind some bullet proof glass.