Guys, living here is like living in a social justice paradise. I saw Julia Serano give a reading last week, and next week I’m going to a poetry slam about social change and then seeing bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry speak and then going to a workshop on gendering racial microaggressions.
And that’s just the stuff I find time for. :P
Also, I had never been in New York during the fall before, and it’s so beautiful it makes me cry. Not even kidding. Check it out.
Since I probably won’t do another one of these updates within the next two weeks: Skepticon is coming up I am so excited ahhh. If you’re going and getting there early enough, check out my workshop on consent at 4 PM on Friday, or just feel free to come say hi to me at some point during the weekend. (Seriously, every time I get back from a conference someone tells me online that they really wanted to talk to me but felt too shy and didn’t. First of all, I would totally do the same thing. But second, I’m super friendly so just come up and ask me to tell you about what I’m reading or writing. Or politely argue with something I wrote. Whatever!)
1. Speaking of conferences, the Skeptech team is running a fundraiser to help organize their second annual conference! I went last spring, spoke on two panels, and had an amazing time and plan on coming back in 2014. The organizers are auctioning off a personal portrait of one lucky winner by SMBC cartoonist Zach Weinersmith. The fundraiser ends at 1:30 Central tomorrow, so go bid if you’d like. Even if you can’t do that, consider spreading the word about the conference and/or attending in April 2014 if you can. It’s a really great con and has a strong commitment to bringing diverse speakers and creating a safe, welcoming space for everyone.
2. If you only read one article on this whole list, you must read this. It’s called “Dating Tips for the Feminist Man,” but it goes so much deeper than that. And while it’s applicable to people of all genders, it addresses the problems that straight, cis feminist men are particularly likely to face:
If you find yourself disregarding something she is saying because she is upset as she is saying it, notice that this is sexism. You may have been raised to believe emotion is not rational and is therefore not legitimate. That is for you to unlearn, not for you to impose on others. Emotion and intuition, when finely honed, serve clear thinking. Don’t retreat into your head or use logic to disconnect from empathy when you find emotions coming your way; clear thinking is informed by ethics and compassion. Build up your capacity to feel and to respond to feelings in a rational, intuitive, self-aware way. You’ll be more human for it, and a better feminist, too.
If you asked your girlfriend, “Do you want a Hawaiian vacation for your birthday?” and she didn’t say anything, would you buy plane tickets? If you asked someone at the grocery store, “I only have one item, do you mind if I check out ahead of you?” and they stared determinedly into space, would you cut in front of them? Why is it that “you didn’t say no” applies only to sex?
[...]So tell me, do you want to have sex with someone who lets you fuck them, or with someone who wants you to fuck them?
We should be able to give a lecture without a colleague eyeing-up our legs. We should be able to bend down and tie our bloody shoelace on campus without someone making a comment about our bum. The gateways to particular people, jobs, ideas and spaces should not be guarded by questions of whether or not we are willing to entertain the idea of screwing someone in a position of power. We should be able to talk about stuff like this and call it out without being made to feel like some sort of sour killjoy.
5. And another great one about sexual harassment in science, and how easy it actually is to not do it (contrary to some men’s claims):
But what about cases where you didn’t mean anything sexual, like when you complimented your coworker on her outfit, and she accused you of harassing her?
This scenario is, largely, a fraud.
Lots of people legitimately worry about it, because they’ve heard so much about this in the media, in politics, in news. The thing is, the reason that you hear all of this is because of people who are deliberately promoting it as part of a socio-political agenda. People who want to excuse or normalize this kind of behavior want to create the illusion of blurred lines.
6. Thomas has a great post at Yes Means Yes about how to stop rape by noticing predatory behavior, calling it out, and excluding those people from your social groups. Read all of it. (TW)
The thing is, rapists absolutely need one thing to operate. They need people to believe they are not rapists. Stranger rapists do that by trying to hide that they are the person who committed the rape. Acquaintance rapists do that by picking targets who won’t say anything about what happened, or by using tactics that, if the survivor does speak up, people will decide don’t really count as rape. If you want to do something about rapists, make sure people know they are rapists.
7. Ed (formerly of the Heresy Club) criticizes a common way atheists talk about faith:
Belief is a complex assortment of cultural, societal, and personal motivations. A clusterfuck if you will. And by unpacking all that complexity into “Herp derp, God’s for stupid people and crazies!”, you do absolutely nothing to lessen people’s reliance on religion in the first place. Which again, considering blind faith’s many potholes, is a perfectly valid goal to shoot for. The idea that we can shoo people away from religion by being insulting enough though? That’s dumb. And while I’m not saying that most organized atheists actively engage in that sort of behavior, it’s an attitude I see plenty of, even within my closer communities.
8. Olivia A. Cole writes about the sexual assault of boys, relating it to Chris Brown’s recent revelation that he “lost his virginity” via rape (except, it’s important to note, he did not refer to it as such; TW):
What if we have been normalizing male rape victims’ symptoms for centuries? This is not to say that every man has been the victim of sexual abuse, but I know more than a few who have been, and their cries for help—the ones that get such attention when our “ladylike” daughters act out sexually and/or aggressively—went unnoticed, chalked up to a male standard of behavior that not only turns a blind eye to promiscuity but rewards it. Can you imagine? Can you imagine being sexually abused and then growing up being told that this is a good thing? That your sexual potency has been enhanced? That rape was a “head-start” into the wonderful world of sex? The damaging system that tells girls they are worthless after rape has a disgusting flip side for boys: you have worth now. This violence has made you a god.
9. A great response to people who claim that they’re “just not attracted” to trans women:
But when some say for example “I am not attracted to trans women”, they make a blanket statement based on the assumption that they can tell them apart before attraction occurs, guess what: you can’t. Then usually the “I don’t like penis” argument comes along, but guess what: not all trans women have one. Then follows the argument about how magical cis vaginas are and what an abomination trans women’s vaginas are, nearly always from a person who doesn’t have proper knowledge or experience with them. Then a last-ditch attempt of “but I wanna have my own children” is thrown into the mix, but that is hardly trans specific as there’s plenty of infertile cis women, and some trans women get their genetic material frozen before they transition. All of this is just an ego trying to wriggle itself out of admitting that just maybe, it’s culture has taught it to be repulsed by trans women.
10. Trudy writes about sex positivity:
My vagina is not the place where I “prove” my politics to other people. That’s MY BODY. Why does sex positivity, just like sexual orientation itself involve “papers please” moments, especially for Black women? Well…this idea that I can only be a “whore” or “prude” is a racist, patriarchal, misogynoirist binary that directly connects to controlling images (i.e. Jezebel, mammy) used to oppress Black women. And unfortunately, it’s not only Whites who view Black women through this binary; internalized White supremacist thinking amidst Black people means the same views are replicated intraracially. Black women exist in every sexual orientation with a plethora of sexual practices, desires and emotions; disinterest or interest in heterosexual relationships does not make Black women “prudes” or “whores.”
Sexual assault is about power. It is about the perpetrator feeling like they have power over the victim. It is not about sex. The inclusion of my genitals in this assault was incidental. The doctor in question wasn’t trying to get any kind of sexual thrill or fulfill a sexual desire. Who I was didn’t matter. She just needed to assert her own power over someone else, and I was the lucky victim.
We need to start recognising that loving is not incompatible with criticism – who we are and what we create is not perfect and criticism acknowledges this. Progress is made by filling the cracks of things we’ve previously examined and thought could be improved upon. We hinder this process by insisting our loves are perfect, that none may touch or alter or view it differently.
13. At the Feminist Current, Cecilia explains why men who demand to be educated about sexist oppression are perpetuating that same oppression:
The most common argument is: If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn. This is how it usually plays out. Self-described Nice Guy interjects discussion with earnest appeals for feminists to engage with his personal opinions. Having pushed past his bristling discomfort at feminists being bitter, resentful and combative (but not before pointing out this sacrifice), Nice Guy is bewildered not to have his theories discussed immediately and in a reasonable, non-angry way. Despite the hundreds of resources on the subject which he could, like the rest of us, go off and read, Nice Guy expects women to stop what they are doing, and instead share their experiences of oppression and answer his questions. In an ironic twist, Nice Guy is unaware that by demanding women divert their energies to immediately gratifying his whims, he reinforces the power dynamics he is supposedly seeking to understand.
14. This article about women in the tech sector who defend or ignore sexism is absolutely brilliant.
Unfortunately, women play a particular dangerous and critical role in discrediting and gaslighting other women and their experiences and speech acts, allowing the industry to persist in a state of denial and providing a highly credible means of deflection from the issues at hand. Women in the community can often be seen berating other women for their “anger”, “negativity,” or “vitriol”, criticizing feminist discourse for alienating men, discouraging or minimizing open discussion of the ugliest issues in the community (such as rape and assault), or painting civil debate as feminist bullying. In tone policing other women, many women are co-signed and supported by influential white men (just check out Dave Winer’s championing of white women defending and indulging his egregious ignorance and obvious, unrepentant sexism) — perhaps hinting at the hidden system of reward offered up to women willing to carry out patriarchy’s bread and butter regulation. In these roles, women themselves act as the first line of defense against feminist dialogue in the industry.
That’s it for now. Have a great weekend and a happy Halloween! Don’t be racist! :)