And Now Aoife O’Riordan Joins FtB!

Photo of Aoife O’Riordan, close up, Irish girl with slightly curled brown hair and blue eyes behind classic rimless glasses.I said two more. And here’s the third! Aoife O’Riordan (that’s ‘eefa’, like Eva with an f; and of course, oh-reer-d’n) has now brought over to FtB her more-popular-than-she-thinks blog Consider the Tea Cosy. See her inaugural post for an intro to what she’s about. But for the gist:

Aoife is located in a small town in Ireland, and she won’t let you forget it. She gets paid to teach, but will default to roller derby and social theory if given half a chance. She’s quite likely (but not guaranteed) to be writing about: feminism, queerness, wheelyshoes, Ireland, what she cooked last week, or any combination of the above.

Awesome.

Now Heina Dadabhoy Joins FtB!

Self-pic of the Beautiful Heina Dadabhoy.I promised two more awesome women would be joining FtB this week, and lo, here is the second: my good friend (and one of my favorite bloggers) Heina Dadabhoy (and that’s “hee-nuh dad-uh-boy”), also a queer poly ex-Muslim (though her background is interestingly different from Krisht’s). She’s migrated a year of stuff to her new blog Heinous Dealings. And now just launched her provocative inaugural post on her perfectly respectable exhibitionism. She has always been delightfully frank about this before in my company, so no surprise to me, but she has the audacity to defend the philosophy of it…hence my assessment of the awesome. Definitely challenge yourself by reading more of her stuff!

Hiba Krisht Joins FtB!

Photos of Hiba Krisht side-by-side, at left her past Muslim self fully covered in a hijab, only her face showing, at right her new godless self showing glorious curled hair and bare shoulders. A queer, poly, ex-Muslim woman has joined our blog network. Formerly pen-named Marwa Berro to blog confidentially, she is now going public with her real identity, Hiba Krisht (and that’s hib- not heeb-), and moving her blog here. Check it out: Between a Veil and a Dark Place. Her inaugural post is a must-read. It will get you fully up to speed on this remarkable woman and what she’ll be contributing here that you might want to keep up on. She also does freelance Arabic translation (to or from English) on contract, so if you have need of that service, check her out for that, too. She has an impressive resume.

Two more groovy women will be joining our network this week. Stay tuned!

The Curious Case of Jaclyn Glenn

Screencap of Jaclyn Glenn speaking in her video warning atheists about extreme feminismI’ve been watching the foot-in-mouth implosion of Jaclyn Glenn of late, and some might want to know my take on it, because some people have asked, given that she kind of sort of but really doesn’t criticize Atheism+.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever

Atheism+ is just a name sometimes used (and rarely anymore) for the growing and ongoing movement to unite atheism, humanism, and skepticism. Hence the “+” in Atheism+ means simply “Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.” (See all my past writing on the subject, especially my American Atheists convention talk in 2013, a transcript of which I have just now made available, along with a non-animated edition of my slideshow. I have also just published an essay on it in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which you can now read online as Atheism…Plus What?)

There are generally only three kinds of people against Atheism+ (apart from people who don’t actually know anything about it): people who love and support the goals but hate the name (and I’m all for them…because as I’ve said from day one, I really don’t care what you call it); people who realize humanism entails feminism and hate feminism (and these are often in my experience either awful people or the cultish fans of awful people); and people who realize skepticism means skepticism of claims they like, and hate it when people tear apart their own cherished beliefs (and these are ironically usually the people comprising the SkepticTM community, yet they could take a lesson from the actual Rationality Community: if you aren’t questioning your own beliefs, you are just a dogpile of cognitive biases…like, pretty much every religious person ever).

There are also people who hate the Atheism+ forums, but since I’m not aware of any major Atheism+ advocate having anything to do with those anymore, I really can’t help you if they are eating your babies and skeet shooting kittens. They no longer have official ties to any of us, and are just doing their own thing. Which was, and for all I know still faithfully is, to create a safe space for discussion among advocates of A+ ideals…in other words, a space just for them…so if you are annoyed they won’t let you into their club, usually because you are breaking their rules and aren’t a support advocate, the only people the space was created for, then check your privilege and just accept the fact that you don’t get to disrupt other people’s meetings. If, on the other hand, you are annoyed they said something awful (so far every time someone has said this to me, it turned out not to be true, but whatever), just remember they aren’t me, or any other major advocate of Atheism+ or its goals. Some atheists are horrible people. That doesn’t mean atheism is horrible. As for atheism, so for Atheism+. See Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

Okay, end digression. Back to Jaclyn Glenn.

[Read more…]

The Other Woman Game

I have a game to propose. Read on to see how to play. It’s about recommending better movies to watch. And rewarding artists.

Miniature of the movie poster for The Other Woman, with Cameron Diaz looking all crushed and being glommed on and wrapped around by the other two leggy, smiley women.The new film The Other Woman is making heaping wads of blockbuster cash. Even though, evidently, it is nearly every kind of awful and sets women back thirty years. Linda Holmes produces a most scathing and informative critique of the movie that is a must-read (h/t Amanda at Skepchick). You can also see the trailer for the gist of the plot.

What struck me as I read that review is that I had seen this movie before. Except, in every single way Holmes points out this one sucked, that one didn’t, but did exactly the opposite of everything Holmes rightly complained about. It was as if a time traveler read her review, went back in time, and made the movie Holmes would have liked, based on her review.

That movie is If I Were You, starring Marcia Gay Harden, Leonore Watling, and Aidan Quinn (and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin). Even apart from the fact that I have a major life-long crush on Marcia Gay Harden, I can vouch for the fact that this was a fantastic film, unique, funny, engaging, well-written, well-directed, and superbly performed. You won’t ever have seen anything like it.

The stock description reads:

After Madelyn (Academy Award Winner Marcia Gay Harden) and Lucy (Leonor Watling) meet by chance, they make a pact to fix their unhappy lives: they will only do what the other one says and ignore their own instincts. But Madelyn has a secret. She knows her husband is sleeping with Lucy, a much younger and beautiful woman. Madelyn’s plan backfires when Lucy, an aspiring actress, orders her to play King Lear in a very amateur production, with Lucy playing the Fool. Madelyn’s life is transformed in unexpected ways as, like Lear, she struggles with matters of mortality and betrayal, loyalty and love.

Yeah. That. Huh? Right. BTW, one of the best King Lear performances I’ve ever seen. By a woman.

Miniature of movie poster for If I Were You, showing Marcia Gay Harden poking her head through a red theatre curtain, and a picture of her character's husband's mistress below.Even though it’s about two women hand-wringing over a man (sort of like The Other Woman, only unlike The Other Woman, there’s just one other woman, and the man is likable enough to plausibly explain why both women want him), it still Bechdel tests well (although the trailer doesn’t). The story isn’t identical to The Other Woman (obviously…I mean, hello, the wife ends up playing King Lear), but it is similar enough that one can see that if someone who had all of Holmes’ concerns about The Other Woman decided to write a similarly themed film, they’d end up with something like If I Were You. Smarter, funnier, more compelling, more moving, more plausible (yes, even the playing of King Lear). No one is a caricature. The woman are different and well motivated and emotionally complex and have fuller lives than just the man they are after. The “other woman” is dumber than the wife, but believably so, and sympathetically. And the man isn’t a ridiculous wax-moustachioed sexist villain. (He’s just a so-so guy who cheats on his wife.)

This got me to thinking. How often does this happen?

  1. Big, major blockbuster film gets made and earns tons of cash, despite being a total piece of crap (predominantly that means: badly written, full of eye-rolling cliches, stereotypes, and unforgivable implausibilities, and probably insulting to millions of people).
  2. Little, barely-seen-or-even-known film very similar to it had already been made years before, which is an artistic achievement, with great writing, acting, and direction, that is in every way better than its awful mutant blockbuster twin (fraternal twin, since we aren’t saying the films are identically plotted, just similarly themed enough that most of what’s special about the bad one is in the good one, so if you accidentally burned one of them the world would be a better place).
  3. And the money goes to the crap.

I had a similar experience when I learned about God’s Not Dead, the deeply offensive, absurdly written garbage pile that is now the shame of Kevin Sorbo (in this case, the review to read is by philosopher Dan Fincke: in summary and in detail). Watching the trailer to that (yes, actually in a theater, having never heard of it before) I kept thinking (between bouts of Jen and I busting into laughter), “Wait, I’ve seen this movie before, only it didn’t go in the bullshit direction this one clearly is.” That movie is Salvation Boulevard, starring Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosna, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Marisa Tomei, and Ciarán Hinds (and directed by George Ratliff).

Miniature of movie poster for Salvation Boulevard, shows Pierce Brosnan above looking regal, Greg Kinear and Jennifer Connelly behind him smiling, and a giant bible below, standing upright, in which Greg Kinnear's character is being squeezed and suffocated.Again, Salvation Boulevard isn’t the exact same film. But it shares similar themes enough to be curious. For example, it centers around a debate over God’s existence between a caustic atheist professor and a Christian (in this case a big-money preacher), although this opens the film rather than serves as its climax. Likewise, the central character is a naive Christian struggling to deal with what’s going on through the course of the film, and comes to realizations and renewed confidence by the end. And there are several lesser themes loosely similar. But contrary to what God’s Not Dead does, which is deviate from every plausible reality and produce awful cliches and insulting caricatures (even of its heroes), Salvation Boulevard uses only a few and relatively minor reality-stretching plot points and even those it makes poignantly plausible, and then sends us on a ride that explores a world of religion and faith and loyalty and corruption much closer to reality.

It’s also funny.

(As you can tell from the trailer, but I say, don’t watch that, or read about the film, because  spoilers–just watch it not knowing what’s going to happen and let the plot twists surprise you.)

I think to “get” the game I have in mind, you have to at least read Holmes’ review of The Other Woman and watch the trailer to God’s Not Dead. Then puke. Then actually buy and watch If I Were You and Salvation Boulevard (both are available on Amazon instant video, as well as DVD; see links above). Then you’ll see what I mean. I’m not looking for movies that are exactly or even mostly the same, but that are enough the same that you can compare and contrast them fruitfully. Yet one is a major cash-earning pile of puke, and the other is a far lesser known masterpiece of good writing and acting. It’s a “Don’t watch that. Watch this.” kind of game.

How many movie-pairs like that can you come up with? This is something definitely worth crowdsourcing, because the lesser known movies by nature have been seen by too few people. You will have seen lots of those I haven’t. And so on. Maybe we can help reward actually good filmmakers who deserve to have their work seen and supported more, and send them a little royalty money, by boosting their signal just a touch.

So this is what I shall dub The Other Woman Game: bookmark this post, then post in comments (even if it is months or years from now) every time you think of a pair of movies that scores a hit according to the criteria set above, in the same way Salvation Boulevard pairs with God’s Not Dead and If I Were You with The Other Woman. That’s the challenge. Go!

FtBCon2: Free Online Conference Next Weekend!

Remember when we had this amazing free online conference one weekend last year, with dozens of talks, panels, and speakers, that people all over the world could watch live? And ask questions in real time. And watch the recorded events ever after on YouTube. Well, get ready. Because we’re doing it again–in precisely one week.

Our complete calendar for the weekend of January 31 to February 2 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) will be finalized and go live over this weekend. As will our complete list of speakers and panelists (and its huge! and spans the globe!). For both speakers and schedule, bookmark our page on Lanyrd and check it tomorrow night (as a backstage planner, I can tell you that we’ve scheduled over 30 talks and panels throughout the conference, featuring over 80 speakers and panelists altogether). For everything else, bookmark FtBCon.org and also check that Saturday night.

(We will also have a YouTube collection of everything that you can view if you miss the live events, facilitated by our own Miri Mogilevsky; right now over there you can view all of last year’s talks and panels–you can also read up on last year’s event here and peruse its Lanyrd page here. This year will be organized similarly, and have a similar diversity of topics.)

Last year I attended many of the talks and panels as a viewer and it was awesome. I gave one talk myself, on “What the Military Taught Me about Feminism.” This year I’m doing one talk and one panel, and helping facilitate and introduce a few more (including panels featuring members of the Secular Student Alliance, The Black Freethinkers Network, and the Filipino Freethinkers…who will actually be streaming in live from the Philippines!). [Read more…]

Did You Notice International Men’s Day? Maybe Next Year You Should

Yesterday was International Men’s Day. Our own Freethought Blogger, Ally Fogg (noted journalist and gender equality activist) blogged about it last weekend and then wrote a really good brief on it for The Independent, “Male Victims of Rape, Sexual Abuse and Depression: Breaking the Silence on International Men’s Day,” with the tagline, “Those who mock today are mocking victims of a viciously gendered society.” The latter is an article I think everyone should read. Though some balked or joked (as Ally notes), many feminists support the day and the ideas and goals behind it, and all certainly should: see this article in The Guardian, this article in The National Student, and this article in The Feminist Times, all of which are feminists speaking to feminists, and make some points even Ally overlooked, so they are good reads, too. Take a tour of these articles and expand your awareness of the gendered nature of real-world problems affecting billions of human beings. It will be especially enlightening for anyone who immediately asked, at first hearing of this, “Why do we need a day for men?” The more so if you didn’t immediately think of at least half a dozen good answers.

FTBCon Tomorrow!

Richard Carrier in service uniform as a Petty Officer (1991)The massive, amazing, totally free online conference hosted by Freethought Blogs starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday. We have over 100 speakers and 33 sessions. Many names you’ll recognize and love. Many names you might not know but will be glad to have been introduced to. There will be topics you might not have heard discussed at an atheist conference before. And so many! I’m already sad that I won’t be able to see everything myself, but I’m going to be spending the whole weekend drinking scotch and watching as many sessions as I can.

You can browse the schedule at Lantyrd: see FtBConscience. More information about the conference is available at FtBCon.org, including our conduct policy and how to attend (see here and here) and how to submit questions for Q&A (through our chat room).

My talk, What the Military Taught Me about Feminism, will go live this Sunday (July 21) at 11am Pacific Coast Time (the online schedule is all in Central time, so subtract two hours for Pacific; the official page for watching that session is here). I’ll be telling some embarrassing and personal stories about my time in the service twenty years ago as a young naive man, and reflecting on how they changed me and contributed to what I know and how I think today. There will be a moderated Q&A. Please bring questions. Warning for Viewers: Some of my stories will be about the sexualization of women, and I will be repeating sexual slurs and other things I saw and heard that can be quite shocking.

For more backstory on my Coast Guard career see Atheists in Foxholes. The photo here (above right) is my last service photo in full uniform and cap, as a Sonar Tech, Third Class (which means Petty Officer, Third Class, the equivalent of a Corporal, which is an NCO, or Non-Commissioned Officer), with two marksmanship ribbons (pistol and rifle) and the National Service Medal (indicated by the more colorful ribbon).

How to Do Men’s Rights Rightly

Ever wonder why MRAs promote hatred or hostility toward women when they actually could be doing at least something worthwhile instead? I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this in the last few days (perhaps because of speculations that MRA affiliation had something to do with Justin Vacula being asked to resign from SkepticInc, but that’s not my network so I can’t speak to that).

I’ve said before that MRA groups could have chosen to work as allies with feminists, respectful of women and women’s issues side by side with their own, even sharing contacts, resources, and models for action, just as many other special interest groups do. But that’s not the road they took.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, MRAs are Men’s Rights Activists. MRA can also mean Men’s Rights Activism collectively, but that is more commonly known as the MRM or Men’s Rights Movement. I shall be distinguishing that category (of those who specifically identify as or with men’s “rights” activists) from another, that of men’s issues advocates. There are many of the latter who are exactly what MRAs should be but aren’t: respectful and sensible campaigners for interests unique to men or affecting men in gender-distinct ways. They just don’t pompously describe what they do as advocating for men’s “rights.”

So what went wrong with the MRAs? Instead of acting like other special interest groups of merit, by and large (there may be exceptions; I rarely see them) the MRM has historically developed as a de facto hate movement, specifically in opposition to feminism (MRAs are often explicitly anti-feminist, and almost always at least implicitly so). In every organized instance I know, self-described MRAs endorse or promote sexism or misogyny in some form, and (of interest to skeptics) promote pseudoscience and conspiracy-theory-style claims about the world that are demonstrably false or dubious, but believed because they support a desired narrative or worldview.

And yet, there are those men’s issues organizations that do not identify with the MRM and are not hate groups, but actually do it right. So today I’m going to talk a little about both sides of this divide, to illustrate what “doing men’s rights rightly” would actually have looked like, if the MRM took its cue from those meritorious men’s issues organizations (and other special interest movements altogether), rather than from a baseline hate-filled worldview of delusional anti-feminism. [Read more…]

Lindsay and WiS: Time to Be Heard at CFI

The CFI board meets in a week. The Ron Lindsay debacle should not be allowed to fall from the agenda. To make sure they hear all voices, please send your thoughts to board member Tom Flynn [at tflynn@centerforinquiry.net].

I’ve discussed the outrage and disappointment felt in the community, and my own, in What Do Ron Lindsay and an Oklahoma Tornado Have in Common? which has links to several other movement leaders and writers, men and women, who have echoed much the same sentiments (from Dan Finke to Ashley Miller).

My own letter to the board read as follows:

Please forward to the board of directors of CFI.

I have voiced my thoughts on Ron Lindsay matter on my blog:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/3626

Though others have covered the women and feminism angle very well, I saw other problems with the way he handled Atheism+ in particular and my blog explains what I mean.

Both instances indicate Ron Lindsay doesn’t listen, doesn’t learn well, doesn’t stay informed, and doesn’t have a good grasp of how to maintain a positive rallying message for all worthwhile members of the movement. His talk could have been salvaged with diplomacy (though it did demonstrate a pervasive cluelessness), but the way he handled criticism was far worse, and far more indicative of his inability to effectively lead an organization serving the broader secular community.

There have also been several open letters with numerous signatories (and approving upvotes and comments) making the same and further points, so if you want to hear more voices before coming to a conclusion of your own to send to the board of directors of CFI, you can peruse these:

The damage Lindsay’s behavior is doing to CFI is already becoming evident as people talk about abandoning their affiliation with CFI (e.g. here). So I think the board really does need to hear as many voices as possible, so they don’t misjudge the scale of response his behavior has evoked in the atheist, humanist, and skeptic communities.