Occasional Link Roundup

Greetings from the Amtrak! I’m on my way to Washington, DC for Women in Secularism 3. Both of my panels are tomorrow, so I’m getting there a day early and spending the evening running around the city by myself with my camera. I’m almost as excited for this as I am for the conference itself.

I haven’t done a link roundup in a while, so this will be torturously long. Sorry. :P

1. Speaking of DC, Thomas has an in-depth analysis of the ways in which the police often stonewall rape investigations, using an example that took place here. Please do read this piece before you implore rape survivors to go to the police.

The simple way to think about a problem like this is to say, “figure out who they are and lock them up.” I’d love that outcome. But it won’t happen in a vacuum. In the real world, today, there are a number of reasons that we can’t count on the criminal justice system to rid us of rapists. Some of those reasons are the same cultural stuff that operates on everyone. The same things that make civillians leap to the defense of their local repeat rapist, that make school administrators see them as deserving of a second chance instead of punishment, cause some police to fail to get them behind bars.

Saying, “go to the police” won’t change that. Instead, if we want survivors to be able to uniformly go to the police, we need to work to make the police an institution that survivors can count on; to do their jobs and not to retraumatize the survivor.

2. Cate on the erasure of people of color from dystopian fiction:

When you get to create a world completely from scratch, where you could rewrite the laws of gravity or the science behind genetics should you so choose, but your vision of all the people is still lily white? I really do find that worrisome. It bugs me that people are more easily able to imagine the existence of non-human intelligent beings, or interactions with a completely alien race, than that a protagonist might be anything other than white. It tells me that in the real world, we have a problem imagining the humanity of people of color. It tells me that as a culture we still see people of color as nothing more than bit players in the lives of white characters, if we even see them at all. Why is it that so many people find nothing problematic about the willful erasure of people of color from their visions of the future? Because there’s a real and almost tangible problem with race if audiences can suspend their disbelief enough to accept that a fictional character can burst in to flames, repeatedly, at will, and not die, but not enough to accept that the same character could be black.

3. Mitchell has a great take on the idea that you can’t trust anything online:

I don’t automatically trust bloggers because a group of people I’ve never met decided to give them a badge that says “reporter” on it. I don’t turn off my critical thinking because they’ve gotten to be some sort of “professional”. I have to judge them on the merits of their writing and history of thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness alone. Because they could be a dog, and I wouldn’t know.

4. Suey Park and Eunsong Kim at Model View Culture write about the much-maligned “hashtag activism”:

There is a common belief that activist trends magically and spontaneously happen in cyberspace and remain stuck in that medium. Although lacking a geographic home, Twitter communities are intentionally constructed through the labor of specific groups. We use Twitter to defy the limitations of time and space. We use Twitter to remember we are not alone — or crazy — but instead part of a collective struggle. The idea of ongoing decolonizing campaigns is antithetical to corporate logics and branding campaigns. Yet our stories get replaced and sold as marketable commodities for corporate consumption. They are sold as 15 minutes of entertainment rather than connected and ongoing efforts.

5. Libby Anne discusses teaching consent to small children:

What I find really fascinating about these two anecdotes is that they both deal with the consent of children not yet old enough to communicate verbally. In both stories, the older child must read the consent of the younger child through nonverbal cues. And even then, consent is not this ambiguous thing that is difficult to understand.

6. John McCarroll at Sherights analyzes the language of feminist messages targeted at men:

Common to all these messages is that men CAN rape, hurt, buy women, catcall or what-have-you, but they SHOULDN’T. Men, we are told, shouldn’t hurt women, not because of any intrinsic rights women may have, but because other men might do it to THEIR women, and that would be awful.

Male privilege is re-defined, but not negated, in a way that leaves masculinity unchallenged and still dominant. The wonderful, complex, and multi-faceted language of generations of queer, trans, intersectionalist and sex-positive feminism and human-rights dialogues is thrown aside completely in favor of a request that straight, cis-gendered men join the rest of the world at the big-kids table.

7. Ferrett takes down the myth that “nobody can make you feel bad without your permission”:

But when you say, “Well, nobody can make you feel bad without your permission!”, that sets up a world where you have no responsibility for your speech. Were you digging for weak spots, mocking to make a point? Oh, hey, well, you were trying your damndest to make them feel bad, but if it worked it’s their fault for not having sufficient defenses. It’s not 100% correlation, but when I see “Nobody can make you feel bad!” I usually find a taunting dillweed nearby, taking potshots from the brush and then claiming no responsibility.

8. At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen discusses the dark side of “positive thinking”:

What’s missing from these and many other self-help books? Social structure. The fact that we live in a broader society that has specific economic policies working for or against our getting rich, or a labor market that might help or inhibit having an awesome career never seems to encroach on the dream-like state that many of these books create for readers. While some spiritually oriented books encourage readers to critically examine our material desires, others regard consumption as a reward—one that maybe should be delayed but shouldn’t be denied.

9. Britni writes about refusing to call rape what it is:

When we don’t name rape as rape, we take power away from the act by watering down the words we use to describe it. “Rape” is an uncomfortable word that we don’t like to use and we don’t like to hear. But avoiding it takes power away from the actions we’re describing and makes it easier to minimize the impact of those actions. When someone calls rape “a very bad night,” it makes it easier to tell the victim to shake it off or that it wasn’t such a big deal. It makes it easier to let the perpetrator off the hook as maybe being “too aggressive.” It makes it easier to refer to what happened as the result of “a miscommunication” instead of calling it that ugly word– rape.

10. Melissa at Shakesville writes about the bootstraps myth and how it plays out in the lives of people who actually have to get through life without any help:

The people who claim to never have had any help from anyone are the same people who tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor.

[…]But people need help. Everyone needs help. And not everyone is fortunate enough to have the kind of help that is so reliable it’s possible to dismiss it out of hand as not even having been help at all.

This is what really having no help looks like. We don’t actually reward not having help in this country; we criminalize it.

11. Maddie at Autostraddle criticizes the suggestions RAINN (Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network) made for ending sexual assault on college campuses:

By dismissing rape culture and then, as RAINN’s recommendations do, evoking the criminal justice system as the only and most important solution to ending rape, RAINN both obscures the fact that sexual violence is pervasive throughout the criminal justice system, and cuts off the potential for alternatives, like transformative justice solutions. Devoting resources to developing transformative justice solutions is important, because they don’t require the engagement with the criminal justice system, which at the moment, is often the only option survivors have to make the immediate violence stop. The criminal justice system is unsafe for everybody within it, and is also much less likely to be useful or safe for people who are members of communities of color, queer and trans* communities, or any survivor who does not want to see their assailant behind bars, which is a reality for many people for a variety of reasons. Immediately deferring issues of sexual violence to law enforcement solutions does not end sexual violence; it limits options for survivors and can deter survivors from seeking support, in which cases the violence is more likely to continue.

12. Kat Hache´ talks about names and her experience as a trans woman:

There will always be the negators of the world out there to remind us that our past indeed happened, as if we could ever forget. Their reminders should not be given the weight of invalidation, however. If our society accepted the multitudes within us as trans individuals (to paraphrase Walt Whitman) in the same way that the complexity of cisgender individuals’ identities were accepted, it would cease to be an issue. For this reason I have come to accept my dead name as one of my multitudes. My past is one chapter of my beautiful story, but it is not the entirety of it.

I am a woman named Katharine who was once called a boy named Kevin. If you find that contradictory, very well.

I contain multitudes, and there are multitudes within my name.

13. s.e. smith writes about the practice of wearing fat suits to “simulate” being fat and find out what it’s like:

Nor does wearing a fat suit offer insight into what it’s like to live in a society where you are loathed and hated because of your body. People seeing someone in a fat suit can tell it’s a fat suit, it’s not like these garments are subtle. You might attract comments or laughs, but it’s nothing compared to actually living in a fat body. If you walk down the street in a fat suit eating a doughnut, what people see is a person walking down the street in a fat suit eating a doughnut. Nothing more, nothing less.

14. Cate takes down the tiresome “yeah well Twitter is public deal with it” canard:

By defaulting to “twitter is public I don’t need permission” when dealing with sensitive topics like this, you’re effectively saying “Don’t speak out! Don’t share your stories! Don’t share your pain! Because if you do I will be within my rights to exploit you, make money for myself and leave you to deal with the backlash.” It puts us in a situation where we are pressured into speaking out against rape culture and punished by threats and abuse if we do. There is no way to win.

The “twitter is public” excuse is reductive and lazy. As I said, “in the commons” is not the same as “public.” You wouldn’t eavesdrop on a “private” conversation on the train, and then use the information for your next scoop, while identifying the person involved. Sure you “heard” it, but that person wasn’t talking to you. And the women involved here were not talking to Buzzfeed. The lines between public and private online may be blurred but they’re not invisible. Private conversations can and do happen in public spaces. Twitter is one such space.

15. This is old news now, but Chris Hallquist wrote a great piece about people flipping out that Brendan Eich resigned from Mozilla due to his homophobia:

I also wonder why the people urging tolerance for Eich can’t be more tolerant of the decisions made by other people at Mozilla and OKCupid. Where’s the tolerance for people who don’t want to work for, or use the products of, a company with a homophobic CEO? Can it really be our solemn duty as members of a democratic society to never complain, or decide to take our business elsewhere, when we find out that someone supported an effort to take away important rights from ourselves or our friends?

16. Mitchell has a set of responses when people ask him (in relation to polyamory), “But don’t you get jealous?”

Yes, but it also means I get to unlearn one of the worst root causes of jealousy for me. For me, poly provides an opportunity to unlearn this culturally ingrained habit of thinking oppositionally. When I was monogamous, and someone I was interested in decided they wanted to go out with someone else, it was easy to feel like that was because I wasn’t good enough — that I wasn’t as attractive or interesting as that other person. Being poly, though, means that when someone decides they don’t want to date me, it isn’t because some other person is “better”. If they’re poly, it means that they could date me anyway, which means that I don’t have to think about my rejections in the frame of “I’m just not as good as that other person is.”. I get to practice thinking about them in the frame of “Something just didn’t work between this person and me.”.

17. Benjamin wrote this post that I can’t really encapsulate in a few words except that it’s about effective communication when you want to talk but don’t know how or what about. Anyway, I found it useful for dealing with my spirals of “I’m depressed and I have nothing of value to say to anyone so I will never talk to anyone ever again.”

18. Sparrow Rose Jones writes about identity labels, why they’re useful, and why remarks like “you don’t need labels!” are dismissive:

Labels help us to understand ourselves better. Yes, they are a sort of heuristic — a short-hand and reductionist way to identify things that doesn’t encapsulate the entirety of who and what a person is — but they are so useful. A woman who notices her stomach getting bigger and bigger is comforted by remembering that she is pregnant. Pregnant is a label. When I get frustrated that I have to slowly reason out people’s words and actions and cannot interpret them immediately and on-the-fly, it comforts me to remember that I am Autistic. Autistic is a label.

19. This Medium piece by Rachel Edidin is about Asperger’s Syndrome. So I’m not sure why I related to it so immensely. But I did.

People interest me. I care about some ferociously and passionately. I care about most in at least an abstract humanitarian sense.

But people also baffle and exhaust me, and I don’t trust most of them. They generalize and assume based on very limited data sets. They touch me. From behind. In crowds. They ignore the words I have so carefully arranged to say exactly what I want them to say and project their own insecurities and needs and prejudices. They treat me like an extension of them; they subsume who I am and what I say into whatever role they want or need me to fill and then punish me when I fail to follow a script I can’t see.

I wish I were better at being what people want me to be. I wish they’d tell me what that was.

I wish I knew what the rules were.

I wish there were rules.

Have you read or written anything interesting lately?

(If you’re attending WiS3, see ya at the con!)

Occasional Link Roundup

First of all, the most important thing this week: donate to Karen Stollznow’s legal defense fund. Jason has a timeline of the whole story as it unfolds at his blog, and reading it has really given me an education in how exactly rich powerful dudes shut up the people they abuse. If you want to see Stollznow defeat this ridiculous defamation suit, help contribute to her fund. And by the way, if you don’t want people to write about your abuse of them, try not to abuse them. Eh, Radford?

Moving on, I’m going to briefly mention the various talky things I’m doing this spring and summer. Next weekend, I’ll be at the Skeptech conference in Minneapolis, giving a talk about how technology has influenced the social justice movement (how’s that for a broad topic? Guess who came up with that bullshit?) and also speaking on a panel about moderating online spaces.

Then on May 16 at Women in Secularism 3 in Alexandria, VA, I’ll be on two panels: “Online Activism” and “Intersectionality and Humanism.” If you need any motivation to get to the con before Friday night, there it is.

At some point from July 3-7 in Bloomington, MN, I’ll be on a few panels for CONvergence, but I’m not sure what they’ll be yet. From July 11-13 I’ll be at SSA East in Columbus, OH, talking about microaggressions and making secular groups more inclusive. And if North Texas Secular Con gets rescheduled for late July, I’ll be speaking at that somewhere in Texas. And there’s FtBCon on August 22-24.

I’ll be doing a fundraising campaign sometime within the next month so that I can actually pay for all this (those costs are rarely covered and when they are, they don’t include stuff like food). So look out for that.

Links:

1. Cate explains “white feminism”:

When I talk about “white feminism,” I’m talking about the feminism that misappropriates womanist thinkers like Audre Lorde to declare that keeping white women’s racism in check is “bashing.” I’m talking about the feminism that cheekily denounces “twitter feminism” as useless, without considering that twitter is the main medium through which less economically privileged women (usually women of colour) can put their feminism into practice and gain access to and engage with like-minded women. I’m talking about the feminism that publishes an article advocating for forced sterilization, completely disregarding the way in which forced sterilization was used as a tool of genocide against black and native women. I’m talking about the feminism that thought holding a writer’s retreat at a former slave plantation was a swell idea. I’m talking about the feminism that throws women of colour under the bus in the quest for body diversity and acceptance. I’m talking about the feminism that thinks barging into a Maasai community and “breaking barriers” is feminist, disregarding the work that actual Maasai women are doing to help achieve equality on their own terms, and obliviously parading its class privilege along the way. I’m talking about the feminism that insists that “Muslim women need saving” and refuses to acknowledge that cultural differences mean different, culturally specific approaches to feminism and equality. I’m talking about the feminism that thinks not “leaning in” is the only thing standing between women and economic success. I’m talking about the feminism that defends The Onion when it calls a little black girl a “cunt”. I’m talking about the feminism that celebrates Tina Fey, Lily Allen and Lena Dunham, but tears down Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé and Rihanna. I’m talking about the feminism that pats itself on the back, but doesn’t apologize after supporting a known abuser of WoC feminists who confesses to his transgressions. I’m talking about the feminism that did all these things in the space of one year.

2. Scarleteen has this amazing sexual inventory to help you figure out what your boundaries are and share them with someone else. I’ve seen many of these types of lists, but this is my favorite because of the sheer scope of things it includes as part of a conversation about sex and intimacy that others might not: preferred pronouns and identifiers, comments about one’s body, triggers related to bodies and sex, various types of relationship arrangements, and sexual stuff involving phones and the internet.

3. Jay writes about the lie of the word “normal”:

Normal is a lie. It is a toxic lie, one that seeps beneath our skin and turns us against ourselves. Normal is why I grew up hating the colour of my skin and the way it marked me out as different from my classmates. Normal is why I wanted to be a boy growing up, because boys got to do all the things I wished I was allowed to do. Normal is why my ex used to silence me every time the topic of my queerness arose in conversation with friends – he was ashamed to be dating someone non-heterosexual, someone perverted. Normal is why many Muslims think I’m too “western” and westerners think it’s weird that I don’t drink alcohol or eat bacon. Normal is the little voice whispering in your ear that whatever you are, whoever you are, you are an outsider and a freak and you will never be good enough.

Normal drives people to hate themselves.

4. Chally talks about how patriarchy encourages women to be uncertain of their feelings and opinions, and even of whether or not they “really” experienced boundary violations:

One of the things that gets me the most about patriarchal society is that women are made to be constantly watching out for our own protection, even while we are simultaneously taught to dismiss our opinions, insights, and instincts as wrong or insufficient.

5. Dr. Nerdlove discusses social awkwardness and how it’s used as an excuse by some men as a way to violate boundaries:

The pressure to give someone a second chance – that they were just being awkward and the woman should just relax her boundaries a little – is telling a woman that she doesn’t have a right to establish her limits or to control who she does or doesn’t talk to. It carries the message that the right of a maybe-awkward-maybe-creepy guy to talk to her is more important than her right to feel safe and secure. It means she’s not allowed to trust her instincts and instead should either magically intuit somebody’s intentions or just let the crowd override her decisions.

6. Mitchell explains the usefulness of being selective about who you engage with online:

By the same token, if I had a blog that was all about studying climate change, I would probably block climate change deniers. Blocking a particular climate change denier does, obviously, prevent me from being exposed to their input. However, I wouldn’t consider this a loss for two reasons: first, because their input isn’t new or novel — it isn’t just wrong, it’s redundant — and second, because it is trivially easy to look up the arguments and opinions of client change deniers anyway. If they ever were to come up with a new, interesting idea, it wouldn’t be hard to find.

Blocking those people would mean I had more time and energy to engage with people who have thoughtful, nuanced opinions about the topics under discussion. It absolutely does deprive me of access to those people’s opinions in the same way that not going on a date with that person who pleads “Just give me a chance!” would deprive me of the miniscule chance that they would turn out to be a good match, but ultimately it leaves me with more time to engage with ideas of value.

7. Lucy has a lot of useful advice for screening a therapist.

8. The Belle Jar Blog has a post about those shirts dads wear that have slogans threatening their daughters’ boyfriends:

Rape culture is the normalization and trivialization of rape and sexual assault. It’s a culture in which sexual violence is made to be both invisible and inevitable. It’s a culture that teaches us that male sexual violence is both normal and desirable. It also teaches us that men are not able to control their actions when they are aroused.

And that’s what this shirt is really saying, isn’t it? That a teenage boy will, given the chance, commit some kind of sexual violence against his girlfriend, and that the only solution to that violence is more violence, this time on the part of the father. This shirt assumes that the rape (or attempted rape) of the daughter is inevitable, and the only solution is to remove the boyfriend from the scene. This shirt says that the blame (sidebar – why the need for blame?) for any sex had by the teenage couple will be put squarely on the shoulders of the male partner. Why? Because our culture teaches us that men want sex more than women, that they can’t help being physically aggressive when it comes to sex, and finally that all of these toxic messages are just sexual norms and there’s nothing that we can do to combat them beyond matching violence with violence.

9. Lucia wrote this amazing post about being single:

I have learned, over the years, that my description of my rather persistent singleness is not neutral. The reception and interpretation of my lack of a romantic partner has called up some of the most interesting, misguided, or presumptive statements and unsolicited analyses of my psyche and my behaviour. It has suggested to many that I may be too nervous to date, too preoccupied with my career, too picky about prospective partners, too conservative, too liable to pick “bad” matches, too this, too that. Funny how one’s personal life so quickly becomes open season fo armchair psychologists! And while these commentaries and assumptions can be only rather irritating at times, the banter of a nosy relative or well-meaning friend, I have recently noticed how awfully sinister, how awfully narrow-minded and rife with victim-blaming they can be.

What good things have you read/written lately?

Occasional Link Roundup

First of all, I have an announcement! After a lot of planning, some friends and I have launched a Facebook support group for atheists struggling with mental health issues. It’s called Help Without Heaven. In just a few days, it’s grown to over 100 members and is really active, supportive, and helpful. It looks like this was really a need that hadn’t been filled, and we’re really excited about how it’s going.

Soooo unfortunately, our community being what it is, we (the admins) can only accept members we know personally, or who can get another group member or a mutual friend to vouch for them. This is to ensure as much safety for the group members as possible, and it’s unfortunate that this means that much fewer people can benefit from this group than if we let in anyone who wanted to join.

However, if you’ve had a good record of commenting here and you’d like to join, you can email helpwithoutheaven[at]gmail.com from the email address you use to comment, and I can send you an invite to the group. You can also take a look at the group and see if you have friends in it, or if you have mutual friends with one of the listed admins, who could maybe vouch for you.

And like, I just gotta say for the record, if you try to sabotage this in any way or use this as further ammunition in some dumb vendetta against “FtBullies,” you are really, really sad and pathetic. This has nothing to do with FtB and everything to do with atheists getting the help they need to be happy and healthy.

Anyways! On to the links.

1. Angele on Thought Catalog writes about depression:

But see, that’s the thing — depression doesn’t care what life looks like on paper. It doesn’t give a damn about what you tell yourself about how great life is and could be. What it does is slams the sheer gravity of being down upon you when you least expect it, ties weights to your ankles and drowns you in a sea of anxiety, of “what if”s and “not good enough”s. And that is something that took me a long time to understand and an even longer time to talk about.

2. Janani on Black Girl Dangerous talks about the intersections between eating disorders and race (TW):

I remember being hugely troubled by the language many of the speakers and health educators would use about their experiences: that ‘eating disorders were about power and control, not beauty’.  As if this were a dichotomy. As if beauty were something other than a system of control and domination.  There is nothing shallow about beauty; I have drowned in it. My anorexia had everything to do with affluent white womanhood, something not available to me, but that I was systemically surrounded by.  It had everything to do with heterosexuality: an aspiration for ‘proper and dignified’ white womanhood – that is ultimately desirable to white masculinity.

3. People love to claim that nonbinary gender is some dumb #firstworldproblems thing, but Foz put together this amazing list of nonbinary gender identities from cultures around the world. There’s even one from Jewish religious texts. (By the way, even if nonbinary genders only occurred in the Western world, that wouldn’t mean they’re not legitimate and worthy of respect.)

4. Captain Awkward has some wonderful advice on first taking care of yourself in order to be a better friend when things aren’t going well:

You are the only person who understands me!” “You’re my only friend!” sound like compliments, but they come with too much pressure and too much…self… to actually be compliments. Your friend, even if she promises to be your best friend forever, can’t actually fix your bad feelings about yourself or fill up all your lonely places. I get why you feel abandoned, I get why you are panicking, I get that you would do anything to make this right, and I have oh so much love and empathy for you right now. But my honest advice is, take massive, radical care of yourself and do what you can to comfort and distract yourself  until you can meet her on more solid emotional ground.

5. s.e. smith discusses all the snark about women saying “I’m fine” and not really meaning it:

There’s an almost hostile attitude behind the frequent demands for “women” (as though women are an amorphous, interchangeable mass) to explain why they say, “I’m fine.” It’s a sharp reminder of the demanding tone that tends to prevail in situations where women are pressured to talk when they’re not ready or need time to deal with something before they can approach a conversation. There’s an expectation here that women should be ready on everyone else’s schedule to deal with everything, including their own emotions.

6. Heina writes about being labeled “angry” when she isn’t:

He was hardly the first or only person to dub a carefully-worded, cautiously-approached conversation an expression of anger, despite my avoiding of words like “sexist.” Being read as angry when you are not does not require bad faith on the part of the person interpreting your words. All it requires is the skewed perspective bequeathed to us by the world: that anyone not upholding the status quo is disrupting it, and that such disruption is, by nature, angry.

7. This article from the Belle Jar about men who ask women to debate feminism with them is simultaneously a steelman and a snarky rebuttal, and I love it:

After all, if you’re going to call yourself a feminist, you should be willing to back that belief up with facts, right?

And if you’ve got all the facts, it should be easy enough to convince him, shouldn’t it?

And after all, how is he supposed to understand anything if you won’t educate him?

He just wants so badly to understand.

If you don’t mind, could you start by providing him with some kind empirical data that women continue to suffer from systematic oppression? He doesn’t care about the past, and doesn’t want a history lesson. He wants to talk about the here and now. And from what he can see in the here and now, women are doing pretty well. Just look at you! Smart, well-educated, pretty. What about your gender could you possibly imagine has ever held you back? If anything, it’s probably done you a few favours!

8. Another one from the Belle Jar, that I can also relate closely to:

If you live with a volatile person for long enough, it’s hard to maintain a consistent personal narrative. Every event is re-framed by how they saw it, and no matter how hard you try to hold on to your version of events, the force of their overreactions starts to erode your confidence in your own perspective. Trying to fight against them begins to exhaust you – they’re too good at pushing your buttons, know too well exactly what to say to hurt you most deeply, and you can’t keep up, can’t maintain that level of mean-spiritedness. You start to accept what they tell you, because it’s just easier. It’s easier to be wrong all the time. It’s easier to apologize. It’s easier to lie down and let them walk all over you. Of course, you lose yourself in the process, but what does that matter? By that point you believe that that self was worthless anyway.

9. This sexual boundaries checklist from Scarleteen is one of the best I’ve ever found. I love how many things the author considers a necessary part of a conversation about boundaries.

10. This piece by Gaby Dunn is amazing:

I used to think I was getting away with something.

“Girls don’t count,” I’d say, running my fingers up her arm at the bar. “Don’t you know that?”

We both had boyfriends. Long-term boyfriends. Mine had introduced me to the concept.

“I wouldn’t feel threatened,” he’d say. “I know they could never compete.”

He meant that a woman, no matter how attached I got, could never “steal” me away from him. He meant that he’d only care about male penetration, about “sex” in the most typical terms. I was young and I didn’t value myself and I hadn’t been taught a lot about feminism or how relationships should work. I said nothing, because I wanted it to be true.

What have you read/written lately?

Occasional Link Roundup

I know we’ve been slacking on the advertising front, but the second FtBCon is coming up in…less than a week. Literally. (It’s January 31 – February 2.) The schedule is up (but subject to last-minute additions) and I’ll do a post of blurbs about my panels soon. If you want updates, keep checking our Twitter, Facebook page, and website for updates. I hope to see you there!

Links:

1. First of all, a brilliant post about the myth of “self-care” in social work. This post puts words to something I’ve felt for the last few months, that cringing annoyance whenever professors and supervisors preach on about “self-care,” as though chocolate and bubble baths are supposed to dull the fear of having to pay off a six-figure student loan debt with a $35k salary, or the stress of trying to help clients who can’t really be helped because there are no resources available to help them and nobody gives the slightest fuck. It also applies to many other fields.

Within the social work world, many members of the profession (especially supervisors) explicitly promote “self care.” That’s great, and appropriate. We should encourage professionals to put on their own oxygen masks before they help others with theirs.

In fact, some people conclude that the high rates of turnover within the profession are specifically connected to insufficient self-care. However, this conclusion is incorrect. The drop-out rates within the field of social work have less to do with individual social workers’ abilities to self-care, and more to do with agencies’ abilities to promote self-care as a culture.

2. On Shakesville, Melissa has a great post about the internet and “real life” that is definitely true to my own experience, as well:

The internet has made disappearing easier, in the sense that I don’t totally disappear. I can maintain the necessary indulgence of my introvert nature and still be the one doing the reaching out. Sometimes, it is during a disappearance that I write the most meaningful emails, have the most wonderful tumbling conversations via text, give my friends the biggest laugh by posting some elaborate Photoshopped monstrosity of their favorite things on their Facebook walls. Dispatches from the shell.

3. Apophemi wrote a post about how they feel excluded from the rationality/Less Wrong community due to its frequent dispassionate discussions of really triggering material, and the elevation of that dispassion as the ideal state. Scott wrote a dissenting but extremely compassionate response. Ben responded to Scott, attempting to bring these two viewpoints together cohesively. Any quote I give from any of these three posts will not do any of them justice, so if you have time and care about inclusivity within rationalist circles, I recommend them. I feel like a smarter and more empathic person for having read all three of these perspectives.

4. A person with a serious illness wrote in to Captain Awkward and asked if there’s any way to ask people to support them in tangible ways rather than posting vague memes on Facebook about supporting people with illnesses. As usual, CA has lots of great advice, and says:

Chronic illness/disability sucks in SO MANY WAYS and one of the worst is having to go through this sorting process. It is totally ok if you decide your time and energy are too limited for this crap and just cut those people free. You don’t have to be their way of demonstrating to the world how cool and awesome and caring they are with these meaningless public displays of glurge. There are other awesome people out there, and yes it is possible for us to find them.

5. [older, but so necessary] Trudy explains why she’s tired of people responding to her personal tweets or posts with meta-humor of the “I hate photos of spiders”/”HERE HAVE A PHOTO OF A SPIDER LOLOL” type. I’ve often tried and failed to draw boundaries around this sort of thing, which I also can’t stand.

These are the responses from people who simply cannot handle the idea that I am human and I am not going to perform happiness for them 24/7. I don’t believe in positivity culture where I am not allowed to fully experience sad or angry emotions (or when I do, I am told that “angry” is my “personality” type) and have to perform superficial joy. Thus, they think being abusive and engaging in the exact behavior that I mentioned causes me stress is somehow supposed to “cheer me up” since they are being “funny” by being “ironic.” Why can’t I stay upset if I choose to? Further, why would more of what upsets me magically please me just because they say so?

6. At Feministing, Veronica writes about calling out in the feminist movement:

I am so ready to let go of the America’s Next Top Radical model of social justice; it’s unsustainable, unproductive, and frankly a pretty bad strategy. It seems as though some of us – us being folks invested in the advancement of social justice in some way or another – are calling folks out sometimes not to educate a person who’s wrong, but to position themselves a rung above on the radical ladder. What’s worse, both in real-world organizing and online, this behavior is often rewarded: with pats on the back, social status, followers. We’re waiting and ready to cut folks out when they say the wrong thing. We’ve created an activist culture in which the worst thing we can do is to make a mistake.

7. People often object to the term “privilege” because they think we’re trying to suggest that it means they’ve had an easy life. Not so.

Privilege means that, because of your membership in a non-marginalized group, there are things you don’t have to deal with. And because you don’t have to deal with them, you don’t have to think about them, and may not be aware of them.

[...]I can’t imagine that if you’re a man, reading this evokes something you’ve long felt as an extra advantage you have. It’s an absence that is likely invisible to you until someone points it out — just something that you don’t have to worry about. It doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get hired, it doesn’t mean you didn’t have to compete for your job, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for not thinking about it.

It just means it’s a challenge or obstacle that you didn’t have to overcome, or even think about.

8. The Belle Jar Blog, on virginity as a social construct:

One problem with the idea of virginity is that there’s no hard and fast way of deciding who’s a virgin and who isn’t. Many people would define loss of virginity in a very heteronormative sense – a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. But does that mean, then, that a queer woman who has only ever been with other women is a virgin? Is a gay man, who has only ever had anal sex, a virgin? Most people, when pressed, would agree that no, those folks aren’t reallyvirgins, even if they’ve never had penis-in-vagina-style intercourse. The flip side of this is that many rape victims don’t feel as if they have lost their virginity even if they’ve had penetrative intercourse forced on them. They consider themselves to be virgins because they don’t consider what happened to them to be sex. So taking all of that into consideration, how do we then define virginity?

9. At Youngist, Suey Park interviews Dr. David Leonard on white “allies”:

First and foremost, [terms like "white ally"] presume that struggles against injustice are the responsibility of someone else – those who are subjected to the violence of racism, sexism, homophobia – and that the “allies” are helping or joining forces with those who are naturally on the frontlines. The idea of white allies also reinscribes the idea that whites have a choice as to whether to fight racism, to fight white supremacy. And while this may be true, it turns any agitation into a choice worthy of celebration. At the same time, it turns struggles against racial violence and injustice to a discussion of “what people are” rather than one focused on what people are doing in opposition to white supremacy.

10. Aoife writes about why potential fathers should not have a say in abortion decisions, and why it’s wrong to demand that pregnant women consult their partners about such decisions:

When it comes to abortion, our right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate does not exist because of our genetic relationship to the fetus inside us- forcing a surrogate mother, say, to carry to term is abhorrent. Our right to choose exists solely because the pregnancy is in our body, is part of our body, sharing our blood, our food, water and oxygen. The right to choose is, at the end of the day, nothing to do with pregnancy. Pregnancy is simply a time when that right is contested. The right to choose is about our right to self-determination, nothing more.

11. Laura Lippman writes about being a woman in public:

Of course, the ultimate moment of being Female in Public comes when a woman, deep in thought, is told by a strange man to SMILE. (And this happens only to women.) Gentlemen, let’s get this straight. There is no part of my body that belongs to you, not even my facial expression. Stop trying to stake out territory there, whether by legislation or verbal imperative.

12. Leopard writes about low-paid doctors in Russia, who are mostly women, and the argument that women “just happen” to do the jobs that are devalued in society:

What this illustrates perfectly is this — women are not devalued in the job market because women’s work is seen to have little value. It is the other way round. Women’s work is devalued in the job market because women are seen to have little value. This means that anything a woman does, be it childcare, teaching, or doctoring, or rocket science, will be seen to be of less value simply because it is done mainly by women. It isn’t that women choose jobs that are in lower-paid industries, it is that any industry that women dominate automatically becomes less respected and less well-paid.

13. s.e. smith writes about people with mental illnesses and how we have to put up a facade for our friends a lot of the time:

We spend a lot of time being told that bottling up emotions is unhealthy and we should express ourselves and I cannot even begin to tell you how many of my friends have said they’ll ‘always be there for me’ and ‘are happy to talk any time.’ Those things are said with love, with a genuine desire to help, but with all due respect, they’re also said with a total lack of understanding about mental illness and how it works. Those friends don’t really want me to drop the facade and be real with them, even though they think they do, and they definitely don’t want to be providing amateur counseling services.

What have you read/written lately?

Occasional Link Roundup

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.

3. A post about the idea that not saying “no” is equivalent to saying “yes” when it comes to consent:

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?

4. On sexual harassment in science:

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.”

11. Ania shared her heartbreaking story of being assaulted by a doctor (TW):

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.

12. Tauriq makes a case for criticizing media that you’re a fan of:

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! :)

Occasional Link Roundup

Hello! Sorry for the intermittent posting. I would tell you all the things I’m doing that are causing the intermittent posting, but I wouldn’t want you to get too jealous. So instead, here’s some stuff I’m going to be doing soon that need some help:

First of all, on December 14 here in NYC, there’s going to be a big secular solstice celebration. The idea behind it is really cool: basically to help create a secular holiday tradition and strengthen the atheist community. There are obviously atheists who proclaim that they don’t need traditions or communities or any of that other pseudo-religious garbage (I’m being sarcastic), but for many of us, a sense of continuity and belonging is important for our emotional health. So, I think this is a cool idea.

Anyway, the Kickstarter has a few days left and has almost reached its goal, so if this interests you, please donate! And if you live in/near NYC, you should go. I’ll be there.

Second, Skepticon 6 is coming up: November 15-17 in Springfield, Missouri. They still need help raising money and there’s a matching offer on the table during the month of October, so consider doing that! I’m doing a workshop on Friday (probably at 4 PM) about good sexual communication at cons (a relevant topic these days if there ever was one). I’m also bringing my now-even-larger Cards Against Humanity set, so those of you who recall how awesome WiS2 was in this regard should be very excited.

Links:

1. A post over at the Fementalists’ blog discusses gaslighting and sexual assault (TW):

Your gaslighting may be to ‘calm me down’; to defeat the anger, because, to you, that’s helpful. I get that. But my anger is not what needs defeating. My resigned, depressed apathy does. The anger is valid. The anger is me knowing I did not and do not deserve it. Don’t you want to help me be that person? It might be disquieting for you as I grow into it, but the alternative is that I stay as the person who believes it was not rape. That is the person who tells herself, every day, when she feels like fighting back to anyone or anything at all: shh. Be quiet. Don’t make any noise. Don’t make any fuss.  People might think you are not okay with being raped.

2. Mia McKenzie is getting tired of the term “ally.”

“Ally” cannot be a label that someone stamps onto you–or, god forbid, that you stamp on to yourself—so you can then go around claiming it as some kind of identity. It’s not an identity. It’s a practice. It’s an active thing that must be done over and over again, in the largest and smallest ways, every day.

3. On Disrupting Dinner Parties (a great blog I’ve just discovered), Rebecca writes about an experience with someone who did consent very well.

I was completely blown away by this experience. It was the first time I had ever seen consent practices so explicitly modeled. I want to pass it on. I want to take all aspects of this interaction (except maybe the nudity) out of the counter-culture setting and bring them to the mainstream. Next time I want a kiss, I want to say something like, “I’d like to kiss you” or “Would you like me to kiss you?” to show others how deliciously sexy consent can be! Articles or documentaries or blogs about what rape culture looks like and what not to do, or even about consent culture and “how to practice consent”, are nothing compared to the power of modeling.

What if the movies and the TV shows showed that perfect dreamy first kiss with one party saying “I’d like to kiss you” then waiting for a verbal or physical response before their lips meet? How different would our culture be?

4. Positive psychology presumes that an individual’s circumstances don’t matter, only how one thinks about those circumstances. That makes it ideal for privileged people but not so much for everyone else:

In its pencil and paper and online self assessments, positive psychology assumes that it is personal characteristics that are being assessed and that they are modifiable with the advice and exercises that the workshops and the books provide. The emphasis on character and character-building is neo-Victorian. Positive psychology assumes that life is a level playing field except for the advantages or disadvantages that people have created for themselves. It is not circumstances that matter,  so much as what we think about them.

5. I hadn’t thought of this before, but all those posts you see after a person of color does something cool that collect tweets of people being super racist about it? Those might actually sort of perpetuate the problem:

The racism this story depicts is binary. It’s on or off, is you is or is you ain’t this racist, and that encourages the idea that racism isn’t something you personally do or are. It’s something other people do. You don’t do that, right? So you aren’t racist!

But any colored folk can tell you that’s not how racism works. Everybody is a little racist. There are hundreds of learned reactions to different groups of people to unlearn, not to mention the areas of society where racist sentiment is implicit instead of explicit, like zoning laws or the prison industrial complex or the war on drugs. It’s in all of us. We’re gonna have to live with that racism until we fix it and our selves, and viewing racism as a binary personality choice doesn’t allow for that.

6. At Feminspire, Madison explains why straight people need to stop telling queer people to be “grateful” for Macklemore (or for allies in general):

This is exactly why we have an issue with the pedestal Macklemore has been given. The very same people who applaud him for risking nothing with a song about marriage equality are telling queer people shut up and take what they can get. When we speak about the inequality evidenced by the silencing of our concerns while straight, cisgender people can talk about the same things and be called heroes for it; we get called morons and told not to discriminate.

7. Lucia writes about a really gross M&Ms ad that uses the suggestion of sexual assault as its theme (TW):

The entire premise of this advertisement is a classic reflection of real-life scenarios of sexual violence, and it’s being used, just like so many other companies, to try and sell products. An anthropomorphized M&M is “warned” about the predatory nature of a woman who “just cannot help herself,” then sets up her M&M friend to be taken away from the party by this predatory woman, who then leads that M&M away to her car, locks the doors, and attacks him. The last frame of the advert is the a shot of the parked car, with the poor little red M&M screaming.

8. Finally, the letter you have wanted to send to everyone you argue with online:

It’s with very real regret that we must inform you that your petition to play devil’s advocate has been denied. Thank you for your interest in the devil’s advocate position; we realize that this is disappointing and would like to assure you that your candidacy was considered very carefully. As you know, we receive an overwhelming number of requests to play devil’s advocate every day, and while we would like to accommodate them all, we simply don’t have the resources to do so.

9. Mitchell expertly skewers everyone whining about young people these days:

This is the generation that is scandalized by “hookup culture” as though today’s students are actually hooking up any more than they did when they were students (we aren’t, but fact-checking has never been your strong suit, guys, so we’ll try not to take your investigative inadequacies personally). This is the generation that talks about our generation’s lack of empathy and personal responsibility with straight faces while the companies they run bold-facedly lie about budgets for their employees, and dodge their responsibility to provide benefits.

[...]This generation deigns, so kindly, to lecture their children on taking responsibility.

10. On Storify, @ProFeministBro discusses the importance of teaching young men about consent, and Stephanie painstakingly documents my illustrative argument with a Facebook employee from this weekend.

11. Amanda has some tips for men who feel compelled to harass and abuse feminists online.

Read books written by female authors. Try to do it in a non-defensive pose. Instead of flipping through the pages, trying to find what’s wrong with it and why she’s clearly an overrated writer whose reputation was created by desperate women trying to prove something, read the book like you would a man’s book. If it helps, pretend the author’s a man until you’ve calmed down and started to enjoy the book. Start with Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, and work up to your Alice Munros and Margaret Atwoods.

12. s.e. smith points out something contradictory in societal attitudes toward mental illness and medication:

At the same time that society hates mental illness, though, it’s surprisingly vocal when it comes to the use of psychiatric medications and therapy to manage mental illness. Taking pills makes you ‘weak’ and not able to ‘just handle it,’ while therapy is useless and suspect, something that people are only brainwashed into thinking is useful. People who pay to talk to someone for an hour (or more) a week are clearly, well, you know. Crazy, and the entire mental health profession is obviously raking it in by deceiving all these people with their silly notions of ‘treatment’ and ‘management.’

The disdainful attitude when it comes to managing mental illness is at utter odds with social attitudes about mental illness. If crazy people are so awful, if we’re told that it’s ‘okay to be crazy so long as you act sane in public,’ how are we supposed to be less crazy if we can’t actually get any treatment? This paradoxical attitude is widely in force in society and people don’t seem to realise how absurd it is; if they think that, for example, schizophrenia is a scary and dangerous disease that turns people into monsters, uh, wouldn’t they want people with schizophrenia to be able to access whichever treatments help them manage their mental health condition most effectively?

13. FInally, the Belle Jar has an amazing post on the lies depression tells you. All of these resounded with me, but especially this one:

Everything is your fault.

If you plan a picnic and it rains, it’s your fault. You should have been more thorough when you checked the weather. You should have learned to be an amateur meteorologist so that you could better read the clouds. You should have packed a canopy. If you go out for dinner, for your once-in-a-blue-moon, hire-a-babysitter-and-wear-a-nice-dress date and the food or service or conversation is anything less than exceptional, it’s your fault. You should have read more restaurant reviews, should have asked friends for more recommendations, should have prepared cue cards with talking points. If someone is unkind to you, it’s your fault. You should have smiled more, been more gracious, tried harder to be whatever it was that they needed in that moment.

Everything is your fault.

What good stuff have you read/written this week?

Occasional Link Roundup

Hello! It’s been quite a while since I last did one of these, so it’s going to be quite long and include some slightly-older links. Such is life.

Speaking of life, it’s been pretty busy/weird. I moved to New York, started grad school, started my field placement (all social work students do it three days a week), met a bunch of people, did a bunch of things, and discovered the joys of going grocery shopping and carrying bags on the subway and standing with them for half an hour and then hauling them up to my fourth-floor walkup. You know.

At just under three weeks, I’m still a very very new New Yorker, and it shows when I show up late to basically every social gathering because I can’t Brooklyn or because I neglected to check the subway service advisories. Or when I try to pay with my credit card when half the places here only take cash. Or when I don’t realize that I shouldn’t have bought so many groceries at a time because I’d have to carry them on the subway and stand with them for half an hour and then haul them up to my fourth-floor walkup.

But considering what a dramatic change in my life this was (biggest move since I immigrated to the United States 16 years ago, fuck yeah!), I’m sort of dealing? I love it here so much. I love that today I went to a feminist group meeting and tomorrow I’m going to a thing called Nerd Nite which has lectures and live music and booze and on Saturday I’m hanging out with one of my best friends and on Sunday I’m checking out more bookstores and on Monday I’m meeting with the other leaders of another feminist group and on Tuesday I’m going to see this ridiculously cool-looking play about Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue. I could keep going but I don’t want to make you guys too jealous.

And on top of all that, I get to see stuff like this and this and this and this and this, and eat stuff like this.

Life is good. Hard and busy and stressful but so good.

On to the links!

1. Cliff talks about changing her name from a very feminine one to a gender neutral/male-ish one, and discovering how differently she was treated online:

I used to think people called me irresponsible, dirty, immoral, or speculated about me having diseases because I wrote about having multiple partners.

Then I changed my name from Holly to Cliff.

2. Libby Anne discusses atheist men who want to “save” women from religiously-motivated sexism:

Far too many atheists appear to think that so long as they’re not religious, they surely can’t be sexist. This is wrong. Very wrong. Sexism does not cease at the church door. If a male atheist wants to attempt to deconvert women by focusing on the sexism imbedded in many religions, he needs to make sure that he’s not engaging in sexism himself, and he darned well better be ready to address his own sexism if it is pointed out to him.

3. Tauriq explains that asking to be called what you’d prefer to be called is not “censorship” or “political correctness”:

To claim “censorship” over “compassion”, PC over politeness, is to only reinforce that you don’t actually care about language and, therefore, the other person; it’s to continue weaving the cocoon of solipsism that’s being pointed out, preventing you from actually acknowledging someone that’s not you or like you. This doesn’t mean unnecessary censorship or policing of words or phrases doesn’t exist: mockery of religion, politics and ideas – even monarchy – resulting in bans or firing is problematic.

But it’s fallacious, black-and-white thinking to claim that any time, anyone requests you not say or refrain from saying something it’s censorship: This shows you don’t recognise nuance in a complicated world; you fail to acknowledge that different things require different responses even if they appear – at first glance – the same.

4. Lisa Wade examines some gendered American Apparel advertisements side-by-side and uncovers some hilariously sad differences.

5. Tressie writes about Miley Cyrus and the use and abuse of Black women’s bodies by white women (and men):

I am no real threat to white women’s desirability. Thus, white women have no problem cheering their husbands and boyfriends as they touch me on the dance floor. I am never seriously a contender for acceptable partner and mate for the white men who ask if their buddy can put his face in my cleavage. I am the thrill of a roller coaster with safety bars: all adrenaline but never any risk of falling to the ground.

6. Jane Doe, MD on Twitter talks about the shame many women feel about their genitals and how it has harmful consequences for their health.

7. Ian may have left FtB, but he’s still off being awesome elsewhere:

Identifying as “a skeptic” does not somehow mean that all the things you do, all of the heuristics you use when arriving at conclusions, are magically imbued with skepticy power. Your brain is not better because you have chosen to affix a label to yourself. If anything, the use of a label in the place of a behaviour suggests a brain that is less engaged, not more. The moment that you stopped questioning your own assumptions, the second you abandoned the premise that you might be wrong about something, the instant you precluded from yourself the possibility that you are prone to the same errors that everyone else is, that’s when you stopped being “a skeptic”.

You are “a skeptic” right up until the point when you stop acting like one.

(By the way, I wrote something very similar [before Ian wrote this, I might add] that you might also enjoy, in case you haven’t read it yet.)

8. Alex thinks you should stop asking people for “coffee”:

The popularity of “coffee” stems, I think, from that ambiguity. It serves as both euphemism and get-out clause, putting dating or sex on the table with plausible deniability – ask to hook up, and your neck is on the line; ask them for coffee, and rejection can be parried with face-saving statements that you “didn’t mean it like that”.

[...]The trouble is, that ambiguity puts the other person‘s neck on the line. Inviting someone neither to dating or sex, nor a social event, but to something which could usually mean either places on them the burden of interpretation; of negotiating correctly an advance chosen for its disclarity.

9. Mitchell has produced a very useful guide for Freeze Peach Warriors and Brave Heroes who have been blocked on Twitter:

Second, remember that though these violations of our rights are serious, the powers that be have, in reality, only erected a proverbial Maginot line against truth and justice. Blocked on the Internet? Remember that you can still employ an army of sock puppets to do your truthy bidding! Those people in the park don’t want to hear your speech about the merits of Men’s Rights Activism? Follow them when they try to leave! Don’t stop until you’ve made sure they’ve heard everything you have to say! Family down the street doesn’t want to listen to your doorstep speech about Jesus how feminism is keeping us down? Look up all of their online accounts and make sure they can’t go two minutes without being bombarded by the free exchange of ideas!

10. The Belle Jar on being a woman writer:

When a man says flattering things about your writing, you will always be left wondering whether it is your work that interests him, or the fact that you are young, conventionally attractive and female. Most frequently it will be the former, but still, you can never shake off the fear that you are not so much talented as you are naïve and pretty. You often feel as if you are only valuable in so much as men desire to fuck you.

11. Ultra Orthodox Jewish sects in New York City have a scary amount of political influence, as Adam discusses.

12. Franklin tackles the common but ridiculous assertion that feminist men are just fakin’ it to get laid:

I don’t quite get what’s going on in the head of some guy who thinks pretending to be feminist is a ploy to get laid, but I have to assume that a guy who thinks that, probably doesn’t think women are very smart. If someone pretends to think women are people, but doesn’t actually think women are people, I suspect the ploy would be revealed rather quickly. Probably some time between appetizers and the main course, and certainly well before any clothes come off. I really don’t think it’s possible to pretend to be feminist, at least not for any length of time longer than a dinner conversation.

13. Paul Fidalgo has some of the most lyrical writing ever. Read this piece about sleep.

14. Ginny wrote a great post about anger: how it can be both useful and not useful for social change, and how, ultimately, expressing anger isn’t always about social change:

But all of that is about anger as a tactic, anger as a tool for change, and that’s only part of the story. The other piece of it is anger as simple self-expression: oppressed people have many, many reasons to be angry, and telling them to curb their anger and express themselves in a way that’s polite and acceptable to those who are profiting from the system that oppresses them — well, many words have been written on how wrong that is, and I agree with them. Anger is only sometimes, and only partly, about creating social change; it’s also about letting the damage be real, and be heard. It’s not about me at all; it’s about letting someone who’s been hurt just fucking react honestly to that hurt.

15. Aoife explains why you should stop accusing every homophobic person of being a closeted queer person:

But when you say that the loudest homophobes are closeted LGBT folks, you erase the fact that the vast, vast majority of homophobia doesn’t come from closeted people. It comes from straight people. Casual, everyday homophobia overwhelmingly comes from straight people (and yes, by the way, I know that all of you aren’t like that). The vast majority of people who vote against marriage equality are straight. The vast majority of the people who draft gender recognition legislation that enshrines gatekeeping, divorce, diagnoses and compulsory surgery are cis. The people who think that knowing we even exist should be kept from kids, because we’re too ‘confusing’? Mostly straight and cis. The people who treat us ever-so-slightly differently, who tokenise us, who judge us by how closely we conform to stereotypes? Mostly straight and cis. And, yeah, most of the people who brainwash, reject and demonise us are straight and cis too.

. This post by Melissa McEwan wins every award ever.

I am advised, by people who imagine that rape prevention is the responsibility of potential victims and survivors, that I must be careful what I wear, how I wear it, how I carry yourself, where I walk, when I walk there, with whom I walk, whom I trust, what I do, where I do it, with whom I do it, what I drink, how much I drink, whether I make eye contact, if I’m alone, if I’m with a stranger, if I’m in a group, if I’m in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if I’m carrying something, how I carry it, what kind of shoes I’m wearing in case I have to run, what kind of purse I carry, what jewelry I wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people I sleep with, what kind of people I sleep with, who my friends are, to whom I give my number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment or condo or house where I can see who’s at the door before they can see me, to check before I open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch my back always be aware of my surroundings and never let my guard down for a moment lest I be sexually assaulted and if I am and didn’t follow all the rules it’s my fault, which I already know firsthand from having been raped and seeing about 1 in 6 of my female friends and about 1 in 10 of my male friends going through it and getting victim-blamed, at least once and frequently more.

I am persistently terrorized by the ever-present possibility of sexual assault that I am tasked with preventing and the knowledge, the first-hand knowledge branded into my memory like a scar that never quite heals from the sizzle of the iron that left it, that if I am harmed, there will likely be no one there to advocate for justice on my behalf, no matter how loudly I shout nor how deeply I dig my own fingernails into my skin to escape the agony of injustice and neglect for a blissful moment of self-directed pain.

I fear being hurt again, and I fear being a failure at surviving.

This fear is part of the backdrop of my womanhood.

What good things have you read or written lately? Share them here!

Occasional Link Roundup

Much travel = little writing. Sorry!

First of all, Chana Messinger and I will be on Google+ at 7 PM Eastern tonight talking about Jewish atheism and our experiences with it. You’ll be able to find the stream here once it starts, but it’ll also be saved to YouTube afterward. Although we’ve been planning to do this for a while (like, a year), we figured this would be a good time because it’ll give people some background for understanding this whole hullabaloo with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Ohio’s planned Holocaust memorial. So, watch that!

Second, I should also warn you that for the next few weeks my life is going to consist largely of packing, crying a lot, and moving to New York, so if posts continue to be rare, that’s what’s going on. It’s difficult for me to think about Big Issues when my mind’s completely choked up with questions like, How the fuck will I pay for all of this? When the fuck will I ever see my friends and family again? Where the fuck is the fucking laundromat/coffee shop/bookstore? What the fuck am I supposed to eat? Who the fuck are all these people I’m meeting? Why the fuck is this so hard? You know.

So wish me luck.

Here’s some stuff to read/do.

1. Ben Blanchard, a dear friend of mine and a fantastic activist, is spending a year abroad for a research/service trip called the Pathfinders Project (you might remember it from their FtBCon panel). He needs help funding his trip, and you should help him if you can!

2. If you still have some spare funds left over after that, consider donating them to Skepticon. Of all eight secular cons I’ve been at so far, that one was undoubtedly the most fun and it’s also free!

3. The Thinking Asexual has an amazing post about a concept called the “physical touch escalator“: the idea that a certain type of touch must necessarily lead to the “next” type of touch:

The physical touch escalator is based on the premise that each form or level of touch on the spectrum automatically and undoubtedly implies a progression to the next form or level, usually beginning somewhere after “nonromantic/casual hugs.” Therefore, if you enthusiastically engage in one type of nonsexual, affectionate touch with someone, you are expected to eventually engage in whatever physical act comes after it on the spectrum—and keep going until you eventually reach penetrative sex.

If you don’t want to share Touch C with a person, then you better not agree to share Touch B, and if you go through with Touch C, you’re implying that you’re interested in Touch D, etc. The nonsexual forms of physical affection are only means to a sexual end, their main value the potential for sex that they carry by default.

4. Captain Awkward talks about red flags when job-hunting–for job seekers, not employers. Although few of us are in a position to be picky about the jobs we accept, this is still really useful for knowing what you’re getting into.

What personalities are involved? Look at their social media activity if you can find it. Don’t stalk them or follow them if you weren’t already or feel like you have to read every Tweet, but, is the overall picture that emerges a good one? Do you know people or have interests in common? Is their username Wh1tePr1de666 and do their tweets contain a lot of un-ironic uses of “misandry?” There’s a weird etiquette thing where everyone pretends that they aren’t looking at this stuff, but they’ll almost certainly be Googling you. Google or Bing! them right back.

5. I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook about the erosion of LGBTQ rights in Russia, but I haven’t really written about it here. Will has a post about it and why he’s boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi:

A few days ago, it was reported that Neo-Nazi Russian nationalists have been using a popular social networking site to lure LGBT teens (particularly gay male teens) into traps and then torture them. Of course, the teens have no protection because of the law recently signed by Putin, so these fucking assholes are making videos of the attacks and posting them online. In the video at that link [warning: it is a graphic video], a teen from Moscow who was lured through the social media site is bullied, tortured, and doused with urine in public and in broad daylight. These are not attacks that are happening in alleyways at night.

The Russian government has also arrested and detained gay-rights activists, including four Dutch activists who were attending a human rights seminar at a summer camp. One lawmaker has called for the public flogging of gay people, as well as their “re-education.”

There is a very real and present danger for queer people in Russia.

6. Lucia writes (amazingly) about the way women are “renamed” by street harassment–called names like “sexy” and “baby” rather than their actual names.

These names—adjectives or nouns turned into imposed identities—have been hurled at me from across the street, whispered into my ear by abusive individuals, or spoken to me by men who were little more than acquaintances and wanted only to sleep with me or objectify me. I was no longer myself, but was being claimed, written on, territorialized by the naming practices of street harassment and male entitlement. And it didn’t just stop there. The re-naming of women is often followed by attempts to solicit sexual favours, to imply sexual availability, to taunt, terrify, and to try and tell women that they are nameless, faceless, and powerless.

7. Leopard discusses the exotification of Asian women:

Have a wander round any online dating site or Internet forum discussing Asian women, and you’ll notice that one of the most attractive things about Asian women, according to white men, is our apparent ability to “treat our man right”. But what does “right” entail? Well, to put it simply, “treating a man right” is to treat him as superior. Time and time again, Asian women are lauded for our supposedly meek and gentle natures, for our submissive attitudes, for our rejection of feminist values. (Hah!) Through their fetishisation and racist assumptions about Asian women, they reveal their attitudes towards relations with women in general: one should be quiet and meek, contented with a subordinate status, and eager to serve.

8. Paul Fidalgo is a really great writer. This is a short piece about how he learned about death as a kid and how his son is learning about it now.

9. Dan explains the hypocrisy of people who claim that abusive words are “free speech” but then condemn those who criticize those words:

Unbelievably, for all their adamant explicit insistence on everyone’s freedom to say whatever one wants, they don’t think that complaining about insults is the sort of free speech that should never be criticized. One is allowed to engage in any kind of silencing, bullying speech, unless that silencing speech takes the form of “don’t bully people”. Then suddenly their hypocritical free speech absolutism reaches its limits and they tell others what kinds of speech not to engage in.

10. Thomas has a great nuanced take on the newest Anthony Weiner/Carlos Danger fiasco:

I don’t think the faithfulness of politicians is entirely a private matter.  I don’t need or want my political leaders to be monogamous; I don’t care if they are.  But I do want to know if they can be trusted.  When they say what they intend to do, we as voters often feel like we’re going to be played for suckers by unscrupulous self-servers who run for office largely for personal self-aggrandizement.  Because we usually are.  But one really material way to know if that’s what’s going to happen is whether the politician in question remains true to the people who they know best and have the longest, closest relationship with.  That’s often their spouses.  I don’t care that they promise monogamy, but if they do and ignore that promise, I hold it against them.

The problem is that public profession of monogamy is about as mandatory as public profession of religiosity.  Those political couples with more flexible arrangements, and there are surely some, won’t tell us.  There would be a serious political cost, because the world doesn’t share my values.

11. The Belle Jar Blog has a great rant about women who claim they’re “not that girl.”

12. Why it’s extremely annoying and counterproductive when men dismiss feminist writing with “yeah well not all men are like that”:

Having to point out that not every man exhibits explicitly harmful behavior allows for oppression to continue because having to say “some men do harmful things” gives oppressors peace of mind.  It reassures them, falsely, that only a small portion of men behave in a way that is detrimental to the liberation of groups outside of white men (so, most people).  It reassures them that said white men don’t have to critique their own behavior or think long and hard about why their shitty behavior is damaging to everyone else.

13. Zinnia wrote a really important post about the representation of trans women in the media and the tropes that comedies and documentaries succumb to:

When we point out the myriad shortcomings of most representations of trans people, we’re often asked what could improve this. What would constitute a truly positive representation of trans people in the media, when even the most apparently compassionate approaches are still almost irredeemably toxic?

I don’t believe such a thing is currently possible. When I go about my daily life, I don’t want to be the subject of lazy and hateful jokes, and I also don’t want my existence to serve as someone’s teachable moment. I want normalcy. We want to be able to live without being treated as either freaks to laugh at or zoo exhibits to learn about. We want to be human fucking beings. We want the normalcy of being left alone as others are — and this normalcy is precisely what society won’t allow us to have right now.

What have you read/written lately?

Occasional Link Roundup

So I spent this past weekend at CONvergence in Minnesota, getting chased by a lifesize Dalek, going to panels on cool science stuff such as animal penises, consuming geeky drinks, and hanging out with awesome people. I have a few days to recover from that before I go to Columbus this weekend for the SSA annual conference, where I’m giving a talk about the importance of secular sex education in schools. There will be a video up later this summer if you want to see it!

Here’s some stuff to read.

1. Just kidding, not really a thing to read, but. You’ve probably heard of FtBCon already. It’s July 19-21. You should like our page on Facebook and RSVP attending to our event if you’re going! I’m moderating a panel on sex and skepticism, but we’ll be officially announcing all the panels soon.

2. Sister Outsider (@feministgriote on Twitter) explains why and how you should donate your used clothing to domestic violence/homeless shelters, not to places like Goodwill.

3. s.e. smith explains why it’s useful to think of yourself as a person who could potentially rape someone. It may sound unreasonable, but give it a read:

Recognising that each of us has a capacity to push too far, and probing that ability within yourself, is important if you’re going to be sexually active. Because if you truly do want to be respectful of your partners, not raping them is rather key to that, and ‘not raping’ is not always a simple, clear, easy act; you have to start by acknowledging that you have the capacity to override another person’s consent, and that your intentions in the encounter don’t matter when it comes to the outcome. If your desire was to have a mutually enjoyable fun time and your partner did not have fun, perhaps felt pressured or uncomfortable, it may not necessarily have been rape, depending on how your partner felt, but it definitely wasn’t what you set out to accomplish.

4. On people who tell those considering abortion to “just have the baby”:

To say “Just have the baby” is to say “Just risk a prolonged illness, surgery, and the loss of your income when you have a lot of new expenses.” It’s to tell someone casually that they should sign up for the possibility of experiencing more physical pain and agony than they thought a person could live through, and maybe having a great deal of it continue for days, weeks, months, possibly even years.

5. Ed discusses some research that suggests that racial privilege and bias is embedded in our healthcare system (surprise surprise):

To put it another way, these results indicate that there is a medical cost to be placed upon the perception of one’s color. The whiter you appear, the more likely you are to reach out for preventive healthcare and the more comfortable you’ll feel about it when physically inside the doctor’s office.

6. Heina discusses the idea, often espoused by pickup artists, that if someone says “no” to sex, you should respect that but only for a little while and then try again later:

It’s hard to say “yes” to anything at all when you know that a single “yes” you issue can be taken to be a “yes” to anything and everything at all. More frighteningly, it’s hard to say yes when you know that any “no” you issue, even one as dramatic and clear as a “STOP”, “GET AWAY FROM ME,” or a shove, would be taken seriously. That’s the world in which we live and it sucks. It sucks for women and for men. I’d like to imagine we can build a better world than one where straight men and straight women are pitted against each other in some kind of epic battle where one side thinks the other doesn’t want them while the other feels it has to constantly fend off unwanted advances.

7. Ten ways to know that feminism might not be for you. Read all of this; it’s brilliant.

I know that I’ve pointed out a ton of things that people do that are unfeminist, but the flip side of this is that there’s no one way to be a feminist.

You can be a feminist and be married. You can be a feminist and be single. You can be a feminist and have kids. You can be a feminist and be childless. You can be a feminist and take your partner’s last name. You can be a feminist and keep your last name. You can be a feminist and breastfeed. You can be a feminist and formula-feed. You can be a feminist and work outside the home. You can be a feminist and stay home with your kids.

You can be a feminist in a box. You can be a feminist with a fox. You can be a feminist in a house. You can be a feminist with a mouse.

8. This is a few-months-old article by Dr. Nerdlove about getting a “yes” rather than just trying to avoid a “no” when it comes to sex:

The idea of enthusiastic consent is all about making sure that your partner is genuinely into having sex… that you are getting clear and unambiguous signals that he or she wants to fuck. It’s the difference between “Dear God I want to fuck you right now” and “Yeah… I guess, whatever” when they really mean “no”. Similarly, a partner who is simply not resisting but otherwise not saying anything is not giving enthusiastic consent. It’s about more than just needing to get off – because that’s easy enough to do on your own – but having an experience with your partner. It makes sex about the two (or more…) of you rather than one person using the other as a sex toy that can occasionally help move boxes and dust the window sills.

9. When people talk about sexual harassment, they’re often told that perhaps the men who women consider “creepy” are just autistic and it’s ableist to accuse them of being creepy. This post addresses that claim and a few of the problematic aspects of it:

In the context of harassment, though, the possibility of neurodivergence is almost solely deployed in order to protect men and absolve them of responsibility for inappropriate and harmful behavior – based on the intensely ableist, patronizing, and incorrect, but nonetheless potent and common, assumption that an ASD would render the man either incapable of acting appropriately or requiring/deserving of protection from any consequences for invasive or harassing actions. Meanwhile, women are assumed to be not only capable of, but actively responsible for, either giving up their boundaries or enforcing them in a way that protects the feelings and dignity of the person who is violating them. The possible impact of neurology or disability on their own methods of handling the situation is not considered. As a result, “But what if he’s autistic?” leaves the neurodivergent woman doubly burdened, both by a male-privileging culture which excuses misbehavior and protects harassers in any way possible including baseless speculations on neurology, and by the erasure and denial of her own experiences as a disabled woman.

10. Thought Catalog has an excellent piece on how to actually pick up women.

Stop saying the words “friend zone.” Stop believing in the existence of a “friend zone.” Stop acting as though being friends with women is some kind of hellish existence you wouldn’t have to endure if only you had game. That’s insulting as hell, and it sorts women into two categories: friends and people you fuck. You know what a girlfriend is? A really good friend who you also have sex with.

Stop saying the words “alpha male.” Stop believing in the existence of “alpha males.” This is not the Sahara or the tundra. You are not a lion or a stag. You are not competing with other men for the right to have sex with the best women. If you act like you are, neither men nor women are going to want to hang out with you.

11. Ana Mardoll has an amazing, heartbreaking piece about the fight for reproductive rights in Texas.

I don’t use birth control because I would dearly like a baby. But I don’t want one so badly that I want to die. Or to be disabled for life even worse than I already am. Or to bear one that has no chance at life, and is doomed only to a short, painful death. Or to bear a potential rapist’s child just because he didn’t wear a condom and I found out too late that the pregnancy wasn’t a result of my and my husband’s attempts at conception.

Now today, thanks to the Republicans in the Texas legislature and senate, I have to make a decision. I have to decide whether the hope I’ve been clinging to is worth more than the fear they’ve imposed on me. And if I decide that I can’t live with the fear, then I have to figure out how to become sterilized, how to convince doctors to let me do so despite my relatively young age, how to get my insurance to cover the procedure, how to pursue sterilization in ways that don’t conflict with my current disability or my medications.

And I have to give up my hope.

12. Being in the closet (about polyamory, in this case, but also about anything) isn’t just about you; it also affects your partners and relationships.

Unless your closet is strictly about what you choose to say (or not), it probably entails expectations of your partners or metamours. You may be requiring them to conceal or obscure the nature of their relationship with you, or with metamours, in all or some contexts — perhaps regardless of the depth or duration of your connection. You may be requiring them to refrain from making casual statements or forego common acknowledgements that people in escalator-style relationships take for granted. You may even be expecting them to lie, or to avoid going certain places or talking to certain people. You may be asking for a lot.

13. If you think that women being afraid of you on the street is systemic misandry, you’re wrong.

This didn’t happen because we’re keeping men down. It happened because men, more often than not, lead a relatively consequence-free life when it comes to harassing and abusing women, be they mothers, wives, daughters, or strangers on the street. When men hurt women, they tend to get away with it. That’s the overwhelming truth of the matter — our society favors men.

Self-promote or signal-boost in the comments!

Occasional Link Roundup

Well, I’ve just graduated from college (here are my reflections on that, if you’re interested and missed it). I haven’t done of these for a while, so there are a lot of great pieces here. Hopefully by the time you’re done reading them I’ll have stopped feeling so weird about being an alumna (askdfa;lksfja;lsdfjsf) and will be ready to write again.

1. If you only read one of these things: Over on Culturally Disoriented, there’s a piece about the “family members, friends, neighbors” approach to mental illness advocacy, as exemplified by President Obama at the National Conference on Mental Health. It is so difficult to pick out just one quote from this, but here you go:

Note the construction of the sentence: “We all know somebody – a family member, a friend, a neighbor – who has struggled with mental illness.” The person with mental illness here is always someone else. They are always removed from ourselves. They are the people we help, the people we are sad for, the people we want to save. The people who are sick, the people who are hurting, the people with the problems – they are categorically not us. They are other.

2. Once again people have been whining that the term “cisgender” is “offensive.” Maeve explains why they’re wrong:

The main reason I’m offended by the constant questioning of ‘cis’ and people calling it an abusive term, is that it suggests that when we talk about gender, cisgender people are automatically ‘normal’, and transgender people are to be singled out. It posits cisgenderism as the default. As many homo- and bisexual people have said over the years to heterosexual people: you’re not normal, you’re just common.

3. I’m not the only one writing about Northwestern and depression lately. There’s a beautiful and sad piece on Sherman Ave by Ali Parr, a classmate I unfortunately do not know:

It’s easy to feel insignificant in a school this size. To feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter, because someone else is doing it better. We are constantly competing and comparing ourselves to others, and feeling like shit in the process. I am pleading with you to stop. Stop comparing yourself to others. They think differently, they move differently, they look differently. They are different. The differences, and what we do with them, are what make humans amazing creatures. We each have something unique to share, and we each have the chance to impact others’ lives more than we know. But individuality means nothing without the support of other individuals. We need to nurture each other, to encourage, to talk. We need to not be afraid to openly and freely discuss issues. To not be afraid. We need to ask for help. To help others ask for help. We need to look out for each other.

4. s.e. talks about medical decisions and how harmful it is when people are forced to make them based on cost:

Because we live in a system where people have to hold fundraisers for basic medical treatment, and where people have to refuse advisable and possibly necessary care because they know they can’t afford it. Where a 65 year old man in hospital after a serious medical event refuses a glass of juice because he’s afraid the hospital will charge him $4 for it, and that will be $4 more on a medical bill that will run into the tens and possibly hundreds of thousands. Patients focusing on costs, of course, are going to be experiencing high levels of stress at a time when they should be focused on recovery, but telling them not to think about the expense, to ‘focus on getting well,’ is ludicrous, because what happens after they get well? If they damn the costs and go for the ‘best’ care available, they may well lose everything.

5. Chally on heteronormativity and scripts:

Heteronormativity isn’t just about the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. The expectation that boys woo girls feeds into your mind the expectation that relationships are necessary for fulfilment, and you are less than if you are not having particular kinds of sex with a particular, and a particular kind of, person at particular intervals. It’s about what Lauren Berlant calls the love plot, in which love is produced as a generic text enabling society to interpret your life as following certain conventions. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you’re supposed to want. You’re not encouraged to think about what you want in relationships, if anything, so much as you are encouraged to fit a script. Heteronormativity messes things up for everyone, straight people included.

6. Chana thinks I’m good at arguing! And so, in this case, was Richard Dawkins.

7. Mia McKenzie discusses the myth that there is such a thing as a shared “female experience”:

Despite these and a hundred other examples, the myth of shared female experience prevails. Why? Well, the easy answer is that because “women” are so vulnerable to so many different injustices, even if that vulnerability is vastly different from one group to another, lumping us all in together gives us a louder voice and more power to change things. Even if that’s true, the downside of all this lumping together is significant. Because it allows the people with the loudest voices within the group to always be dominating the conversation. And because those voices rarely, if ever, even understand the experiences of the less-heard members of the group, not only can they not speak for them (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway), they can rarely even understand the importance of making space for them to speak for themselves.

8. A great piece satirizing the “friend zone”:

I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class.

9. Crommunist discusses how to distinguish Islamophobia from legitimate criticism of Islam:

The final typical error I commonly see from critics of Islam is where one group or individual is held up as the type specimen for all Muslims. Videos of a disgusting sermon preached by an imam will make the rounds on Facebook, or a crime committed in a Muslim country will hit r/atheism, and every atheist watching will begin to concernedly cluck their tongues and regurgitate shopworn lines about ‘Muslims’. These same atheists, meanwhile, will vigorously (and accurately) point out that prominent atheistic mass-murderers do not represent all atheists or even most atheists (or even many atheists).

10. On children, who are not your property:

How many times do you see parents/people violate children’s boundaries like this every day? Children are tickled (when they’ve expressed displeasure at it) they are taunted and teased and disregarded when they express emotions or “embarass” their parents. We send the message loud and clear from a very early age that children have no rights to their own bodies and they do not have the right to their emotions. The message is:

“What happens to you, and what you feel, does not matter.”

11. For people who are still confused about what censorship means, Erin explains:

Applying pressure to a private business that has condoned, promoted or not taken a position against hate speech against women is not censorship, it’s activism. Our lives are increasingly defined by corporations and their policies. Telling an advertiser to stop objectifying women isn’t censorship, it’s applying consumer demand within the free market. Telling a business to stop sponsoring a show that calls women sluts for using basic birth control — nearly every woman in this country at some point in her life — isn’t censorship, it’s assisting them and other consumers in allocating their dollars wisely. Telling a user-dependent website to stop tolerating rape imagery isn’t censorship, it’s an uprising within the user community for the purpose of adjusting community standards to those that are safer for everyone. Private corporations are free to ignore the activism, and they are also free to do the right thing. When given sufficient nudge they often do, because women are important consumers.

12. Robby defends the concept of women-only groups (he’s talking about secular groups specifically, but this really applies to everything):

But some forms of exclusion can be OK, even if others are not. A group that excludes women is not equivalent to one that excludes men, for the simple reason that we live in a culture that heavily privileges men over women. Creating events that increase the autonomy of men at the expense of women reinforces that disparity, whereas creating events that increase the autonomy of women at the expense of men does not, and may even erode certain inequalities.

13. Jason discusses strawman conceptions of privilege, and defends the term:

Today, as I write this, I have done a number of things that are expressions of my privilege. I used electricity, all day long. I’m writing on a laptop computer, as I often do well into the night. I did groceries, and I did not go hungry. I ate very well. I did some chores around the house. I took a hot bath. I breathed clean air. I drank clean water. I took my omeprazole on time, reminded by my smartphone. Hell, I walked from point A to point B and didn’t get shot at, not even once. All of these things are little luxuries, so commonplace in my life that I am not conscious of them most of the time. They are all expressions of privilege.

That doesn’t mean I have to feel particularly guilty about being white, straight, male, middle-class, living in an area of the world that is not war- or gang-torn. Being conscious of these privileges, and working to reduce inequalities for others when I see ways to do so, is so integrated into my being now — after years of having my consciousness raised in such manners — that I consider it a moral imperative. As a person with a fully-functioning sense of empathy, I truly feel pained when I see people in circumstances that disadvantage them, even ones I don’t experience personally. I might never fully grasp the scope of their own pain, but that doesn’t exempt me from recognizing that pain and because I have a working sense of empathy, wanting to reduce it.

14. Over an Autostraddle, an incredible piece about one woman’s perspective on street harassment as a butch:

There is something strange about the street harassment I receive as a butch in that it is often terrifying and extremely triggering, but something about it makes me feel justified. I am glad these men see me as a threat. I’m glad I’m being read in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and violent and all the things I fear with every fiber of my being, because even though I know firsthand what terrible things that humans can do to other humans, I’m proud of igniting that in someone who recognized me as queer. It makes me feel like I’m succeeding at my genderqueer identity, at my butch identity, in my masculinity. I’m glad I unnerve that man. I want to thank him for making my nose bloody, just like I want to thank the man who hit me in the face at the bar and the one who called me a “fucking bulldagger” when I stepped between him and his girlfriend.

Hit me, I want to say to them even when my skeleton is quivering with the fear of the familiar and the fatal. I fucking dare you, I want to say. I feel goddamned alive.

15. Keely wrote a really sad and poignant post about leaving her PhD program:

It’s kind of like being broken up with by a person I knew was bad for me. I loved them, cared about them, want them in my life–but I also knew that being fully committed to them was making me miserable, was going to kill me if I kept going the way I was going. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to resolve the issues that were making me miserable– I was unlikely to ever remake academic culture to be more respectful of work-life balance, to learn to healthily run on less sleep/time for self care, to be willing to brave the insane competition for jobs and for grant money that is the result of a national research budget that doesn’t even keep up with inflation. I knew I was probably going to have to make my graceful exit eventually, because I couldn’t change science enough to tolerate me and my needs, and because I couldn’t suffer thanklessly forever.

16. Chelsea explains how privilege blinds us:

Here’s the deal. If somebody of a different gender than yours says gender matters in a situation, it probably matters. Just because you don’t see something (yet) doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and all your condescending, laughing, and scare-quoting will neither help you see it nor make what I see disappear. If lots of people with some common experience that you lack – a gender, an ethnicity, whatever – are all upset by something you don’t even see, chances are better that you’re facing the wrong way than that it simply doesn’t exist.

17. Ferrett does some equations involving assholes:

That was Stage One of my incipient Asshole Theory: Assholes will consume a certain number of other people.  Whether it’s Russell booking planes for guests or a dazzling troll in some forum who raises good points, an asshole will cause some percentage of your crowd to go “Fuck this.”  And the first stage in Asshole Theory is that you must place a value upon the asshole, and then figure out how many people s/he is worth losing.

18. Laurie says all of my thoughts–all of them–about beauty:

Rather than fighting for every woman’s right to feel beautiful, I would like to see the return of a kind of feminism that tells women and girls everywhere that maybe it’s all right not to be pretty and perfectly well behaved. That maybe women who are plain, or large, or old, or differently abled, or who simply don’t give a damn what they look like because they’re too busy saving the world or rearranging their sock drawer, have as much right to take up space as anyone else.

I think if we want to take care of the next generation of girls we should reassure them that power, strength and character are more important than beauty and always will be, and that even if they aren’t thin and pretty, they are still worthy of respect. That feeling is the birthright of men everywhere. It’s about time we claimed it for ourselves.

What have you read or written lately? Leave links in the comments.