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.

Occasional Link Roundup

What a week. Three midterms, one awful and demoralizing bout of writer’s block, two 80-degree days, and one slightly-viral post. Go forth and read!

1. First and most importantly, we have a new blogger on the network! Her name is Yemisi Ilesanmi and her blog’s tagline is “Proudly Feminist, Proudly Bisexual, Proudly Atheist.” Go welcome her!

2. Dan Fincke is offering affordable online philosophy classes for those who want to be able to tell their Nietzsche from their Heidegger (among other things). Learn more here and sign up here if you’re interested. I’d totally do it if I weren’t brokedy-broke.

3. Speaking of Dan, I found this slightly older post of his that hit me right in the feels:

So, I never stop loving any of the women I loved. I rarely think about most of them. I almost never think of getting back with them. I don’t pine for them. My love for them never disrupts my next relationships or makes me love a new person with any less rapturous infatuation or commitment. But I’ll always love them. I love loving them. I love remembering them and what they meant to me. I love having people who when I think about them, I can find their uniqueness still mesmerizing in a way that never completely wears off. I love that there are people that I can think about and always have this twinge of fascination, however muted with time and distance.

4. Another one for the slightly more moneyed among us: A group of fantastic student activists, including one from my university, are putting together this campaign to teach college students about their Title IX rights, especially as they pertain to survivors of sexual assault. This is really important and there are about three weeks left to donate. It’s called Know Your IX. Check it out.

5. Orlando on rape prevention (this went super-duper viral when I posted it on Tumblr, so trust me, you want to read it):

If owning a gun and knowing how to use it worked, the military would be the safest place for a woman. It’s not.

If women covering up their bodies worked, Afghanistan would have a lower rate of sexual assault than Polynesia. It doesn’t.

If not drinking alcohol worked, children would not be raped. They are.

If your advice to a woman to avoid rape is to be the most modestly dressed, soberest and first to go home, you may as well add “so the rapist will choose someone else”.

6. Jessamyn at Geek Feminism discusses the psychological concept of delayed gratification and uses a recent study to brilliantly show how socioeconomic circumstances can influence human psychology:

The experiment was conceived to study self-control, but there have been several follow-up studies that seemed to indicate correlations between how long the children could hold out on the marshmallow task and their subsequent competence, SAT scores, and brain activity in regions related to control and addiction. In short, people often refer to the marshmallow task study to support claims that willpower at a young age predicts success later in life.

But the assumption there is that waiting is the optimal, if most difficult, strategy. Because sure, waiting for an additional reward could show self-control and the ability to look ahead, when the children think they can trust their environment.

7. Ally says that consent is much more simple than some people seem to think it is:

If you do something to someone’s intimate bits (or with your intimate bits) which you know s/he has not consented to or is unable to consent to at that moment, you are committing an act of sexual assault or rape.

There. That’s it. In practice this means that if s/he says “I’ll do this but I won’t do that” it means you have consent to do this but not do that. If s/he says “I’ll put this here but I’m not having it there” then you have consent to put it here but not put it there. If s/he says “I’ll do this but only if you wear that” then you have consent to do this, if and only if you are wearing that. (I’m mostly thinking of condoms here, but I guess the same principle applies to the pirate outfit. Whatever pushes your boat, you’re still the skipper.) If you ignore this very simple principle, and proceed with an act which your partner has not consented to, you are committing an act of sexual assault or rape.  Oh, and if you do ever find yourself uttering words along the lines of “I’ll do it if I want” then – BIG FUCKING CLUE – you’re a rapist.

8. Chana thinks you should stop FAPing. Wait, let her explain:

What all these people have in common is that when they see a discussion going on about a particular topic, they seem to think to themselves “I know an argument about that topic!” and then proceed to give it, whether or not it’s appropriate or relevant. FAPers see making their argument as so important that it doesn’t matter whether it adds to the discussion or not.

(FAP stands for “fixed action pattern,” by the way.)

9. Mitchell talks about “You can be anything you want!“:

First, as with all, “You can do it if you really try”, messages, saying these types of things implies that if you don’t reach particular goals, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough. While it may be true that there are people who could have been astronauts if they just studied a little harder, that’s certainly not the case for everyone who ever wanted to be an astronaut and didn’t make it. Plenty of people who may have dreamed of being astronauts probably have mental or physical limitations that prevent it from being possible. Plenty of others were probably raised in contexts where they didn’t have access to an educational system sufficient to the task of preparing someone to pursue a career as an astronaut. Others still may have had the pursuit of that particular goal derailed by debt, traumatic life events, personal disasters, natural disasters, etc. The simple reality is that not everyone can be an astronaut, and it’s not just because everyone who doesn’t make it is lazy.

10. Lauren Divito at Bitchtopia gives some advice to men’s advice columns:

I recently came across this gem from AskMen.com: “Top 10: Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat.”  Not only does this article perpetuate the idea that fat bodies—and fat women’s bodies in particular—are unacceptable, but it doesn’t do straight men any favors, either. If it’s not clear enough from the ratings (87% feeling “furious,” and only 2% feeling like “a better man”) then allow me to spell this out for you: these kinds of articles suck.

[…]No woman’s body type makes her deserving of emotional abuse.  I don’t care if you don’t find a certain body type attractive; you’re allowed to have preferences.  However, that does not give you the right to try to make a woman feel bad about her body.  People should be allowed to feel confident about themselves at any size.  If your girlfriend is happy with her fat self, don’t try to change her.

11. Ozy makes a good case for studying snail sex and dispels the myth that researching arcane subjects is the reason we’re fucked financially right now:

The government is not loads in debt because they have spent a lot of money on research about animal fucking. The government spends most of its money on Social Security, the Department of Defense, and “Unemployment/Welfare/Other Mandatory Spending.” The Department of Animal Fucking Research was, unfortunately, too small to show up on the pie chart.

12. Heina on “fauxminism“:

While trying to set up a One True Feminist or Feminism would be problematic (not to mention blatantly fallacious), if feminism really were just about supporting individual women’s choices, then it would simply be called “female individualism.” While choice is an important part of feminism, it is far from the only part, especially in a world where those doing the talking about feminism often have more choices available to them than those they would criticize.

Feminism, then, does not equal blind support for all women and all of their choices, but working towards a world where more and more women have more and more agency in their lives — a world where women who aren’t hot, extraordinarily talented, Republicans, mothers, assigned female at birth, powerful, or able to look sexy while kicking someone’s ass are still able to be people, too.

13. Wes at Polyskeptic writes about skeptical monogamy and gives a bunch of reasons why skeptics may choose it:

Most people feel sexual or romantic desire for more than one person. However, not everybody does. A couple who approached their relationship skeptically could easily conclude that they were only interested in each other. However, the difference between this and your garden-variety monogamy is that skeptical monogamy (or what Shaun calls accidental monogamy) would not have rules against outside sexual or romantic connections. They just wouldn’t happen, because neither party would be interested. A skeptical couple, however, will know they cannot predict their future desires (especially many years in advance), so a skeptically monogamous couple will not make long-term plans or rules that are dependent upon their desires remaining only for one another.

14. Emily Fincke wrote this amazing piece on sensationalism in the news. Don’t just read the excerpt. Read all of it.

Your false suspense. Your overly-produced segments featuring concerned blonde ladies in news rooms in front of footage of carnage. Your suspenseful music and pre-commercial teasers. Your “shocking breakthroughs” and “exclusive information (which may or may not be correct)”.

You take our human concern and pervert it. You make our desire to know what’s going on and turn us into peeping toms. You take the human interests and make them into reality tv performers.

[…]Until you figure this out, news. I’m going to continue to continue to get my news from brilliant reporters like Seth Mnookin and Taylor Dobbs. I’m going to continue turning to the brilliant group of journalists, both fledgeling and veteran, both professional and amateur, whom I follow on twitter. I will continue to get my morning news from NPR and my evening news from BBC world. I will not be watching your overly-produced reality porn. I will not be giving your sponsors eyes. I will not be falling prey to the messages you send about who are the *correct* people to be afraid of. I will not be absorbing your biases and your messages of fear and hatred. I will not buy into your manufactroversies, and I will not hound innocent young men because they fit the profile you want me to suspect.

Go give me ideas for my blogothon on Sunday, post your own links in the comments, and have a great weekend!