So, remember how I talked about taking our activism, passion and filthy atheist lucre elsewhere? Here’s an elsewhere: the Ada Initiative. It’s named for Ada Lovelace, “the enchantress of numbers” and the first person who wrote an algorithm meant for machines. She was essentially a computer programmer before there were even computers, people. That’s how awesome she is.
So this foundation honors her memory by supporting women in tech. They are not afraid of a certain f-word, either:
And they’re currently raising money for another excellent year of activism. They’ve got a challenge out to us: raise $5,000, and they’ll bring their Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon.
The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men simple, everyday ways to support women in their workplaces and communities. Participants learn techniques that work at the office, at conferences, and online. The skills we teach are relevant everywhere, including skills particularly relevant to open technology and culture communities. At the end of the workshop, participants will feel more confident in speaking up to support women, be more aware of the challenges facing women in their workplaces and communities, and have closer relationships with the other participants.
You know, this seems to be aimed at men, but all genders could benefit. We’re swimming in sexism, and we don’t always know how to combat it. So yes, let’s bring this to Skepticon, train up as allies, and get to work defeating sexism in all our spaces.
We’ve got lots of days left, but not many more dollars are needed! Like PZ said, getting a lot of broad support going would be outstanding, so if you can only chip in a small amount, do it! You may not think it’s much, but it’s another voice speaking up, and we need all the voices we can get.
This is how we change the culture, people. I love this stuff. Moar, pleez!
Let’s do something positive for public atheism: sponsor Jamila Bey! This sounds awesome:
“The Sex Politics And Religon Hour: SPAR with Jamila Show” considers all the topics one was never supposed to raise in polite company. It’s coming back as a podcast. You can be part of its glorious relaunch!”
Says it all, doesn’t it? If you want more information on the project, or want to pledge your support, visit her Beacon page. But do it fast – the fundraiser ends tomorrow!
This is the kind of thing we can throw our support to, with so many of the atheist orgs treating us like they can have their sexist bullshit and our dollars, too. Let’s support independent atheists who can put together the kind of media that will inspire whole new batches of freethinkers while feeding our own need for change:
We’ll discuss the more interesting things in our world and our lives. These shows and blog posts will investigate the role of race, gender, political affiliation and other alleged private beliefs and assumptions that bear upon the news and newsmakers.
If you can, please do go throw some funds Jamila’s way. Search for her videos on YouTube. And if you want to learn how to pronounce her name and get a taste of her merciless humor, watch this all the way through. (Just don’t come crying to me about how meaaan she is if you’re a Republican, cuz you earned every damn word.)
Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.
Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.
But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.
“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.
Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.
Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.
How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?
And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.
Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.
“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?
“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.
Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?
“I haven’t seen him doing that.
And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.
“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.
People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.
Only, it is.
“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.
ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?
Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.
“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.
How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?
He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?
This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.
James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.
Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.
But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.
I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.
If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.
You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.
I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.
Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.
You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*
Don’t say anything yet.
Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+
No, don’t say anything yet.
Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:
If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?
If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?
Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.
You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.
There’s one more thing I want you to consider:
My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.
And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.
So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?
Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.
Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.
Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.
Think these things through carefully before you speak.
You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.
Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.
ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.
I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.
* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding. ↩
+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.↩
Things are calming down in Ferguson, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. There’s still a dead teenager, and a culture that finds it all too easy to throw black lives away, and a police department absolutely determined to do nothing, not even fill in a police report on the shooting.
You may feel helpless. You may feel like there’s nothing you can do, but there is. Start small and build, but start. Today.
You can like the Justice for Mike Brown Facebook cause page. You can also like the Justice for Michael Brown community page. Show your support with a couple of clicks.
You can donate to Mike Brown’s family so they have the funds they need to seek justice.
You can send his family a note of condolence.
Tell your Congresscritters to support the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.
If you’re white, examine your privilege.
And when the police in your community shoot citizens dead, or beat them to a bloody pulp, or taze them, or detain them on flimsy pretenses, or show a pattern of looking the other way when white people do something but crack down when the suspected offender is black, demand accountability.
Some or all of these things should be things we can do. They won’t always be easy. But they’re necessary things, the least we can do.
When I see my black neighbors out walking with their children, I don’t want to wonder if they’ve already had The Talk, and which of those kids will live to have their own kids, and which of them will be stopped and harassed and assaulted by police just because of their skin. I want to wonder what they’ll be when they grow up, whether I’ll see them on the news for inventing a new widget or curing a disease or breaking a world record. I want to give them a better world than their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents had. I want them to grow up and grow old in a country where their civil rights are an accomplished fact, not a daily struggle.
Let’s help create that world together. Let’s start now.
Funny thing is, I’d been looking up real safety tips for surviving earthquakes when I was fact-checking our Christianists texts on the subject. And I learned that I had a lot of wrong-headed ideas. In light of the Napa earthquake that went on today, I figured I’d share those tips so that folks in seismically active areas can polish up on their earthquake survival.
Here’s the takeaway lesson, although you should read the whole thing so you know what to do before, during, and after:
That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.
Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?
I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.
This country was founded on the premise that citizens should be able to express their displeasure to their government. The Constitution enshrines the right to protest:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
States are as bound by that Constitution as the Federal government. And yet, in Ferguson, a young black man with his empty hands raised to the sky, petitioning his government for redress of a very serious grievance, is met with overwhelming force. In America, if you are a black person protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the First Amendment does not apply. You will be silenced with military hardware.
This is the world we’ve made.
Some of you may like it. You’re not likely to be targeted. You don’t have to walk out your front door with the possibility of getting shot to death by the police on your mind. You think the black people you’ve discriminated against and had your proxies brutalize and robbed of any hope of a future deserve everything the police dish out. You like the tough-on-crime rhetoric that lets you enjoy your drugs in peace while black kids have their slender chance at a decent life ruined over a little bit of pot. You can break the law in a thousand minor ways without being murdered by a cop, but will look for any tiny misdeed on the parts of the black folk executed by law enforcement. You think this society is just, that the police are in the right, and those who are suffering deserve their suffering. You think that everything the police do is justified if people who have suffered endless injustice are backed into a corner, and have no way out except to lash out. You condemn them for anything you can, just so that you won’t have to confront the uncomfortable fact that you’re part of a system that crushed them, and then sent riot police to attack them when they had the temerity to protest the brutality visited upon them.
I have nothing to say to you. I will not waste my time digging for that shred of humanity that may be left in you.
For those of us who just didn’t pay attention, who let our fear get the better of us, who didn’t realize the horrific scope of the problem because we never get pulled over for driving while white, stopped and frisked for being white in public, and are treated with at least a patina of respect by police officers who know they can’t get away with casual brutality toward white people, I think it’s well past time we wake the fuck up, and start doing something about the things we’ve allowed to happen in this country. It can start right now, with a signature on this petition, asking for a full investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown. Sign it now.
And then listen to the stories pouring out, the anger and the pain.
The young man was on his way to college the next day.
Yet he was brutally executed by fascist police state thugs in occupied territory and left to bleed in the street like a dog.
He did everything that white America claimed he should do to keep from being branded a savage and was murdered in cold blood.
As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.
We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.
Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.
So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.
Trayvon Martin was just walking home with skittles and a fucking iced tea. He was killed for nothing, bc of a racist scumbag who should be in prison. I’ve walked to the store at night before. I’ve worn a brightly colored tee shirt, and shorts. I’ve carried my cellphone and wallet at all times. Why? Because in the back of my mind, I have to worry about the possibility that someone will want to shoot me because I’m a person of color. Nevermind that I don’t own a gun, and don’t want to. Nevermind that I’ve never been in a fight in my life. Nevermind that I’m not an aggressive person prone to violence. Nevermind that I have a hard time hurting a roach, let alone another human being. No, nevermind all that. There are people out there that wish I were dead, or would take the opportunity to kill me for nothing.
Perhaps you’ve even heard of Ezell Ford, a 24 year old black man who was killed by police while he was walking along 65th street, some TWO HUNDRED blocks north of where a shooting had been reported. He was lying on the ground and obeying police orders when he was killed by police.
He died on August the 13th. oh look.
you all going to be paying attention when the next unarmed black man dies to police on the 15th? you gonna remember their names when there’s another black person lying dead in the street, killed by police on the 17th? are you going to remember eric garner’s name?
Racial profiling, disproportionate sentencing including the application of the death penalty, police brutality and murder, institutionalized discrimination, systemic inequality in matters of health and quality of life, changes in voting laws and redistricting to try to minimize Black votes, disproportionate rates of being the victims of violent crimes, involuntary sterilizations and contraceptives with serious side-effects offered without proper counseling, high maternal and infant mortality, children disappearing into the foster care system instead of being placed within their own communities, etc.
Some things have gotten better since We Charge Genocide, but mostly they’ve just gotten a little less official.
Here are a couple stories in which police officers shot people, and race was most certainly not a factor, because race is never a factor now that Barack Obama is President/Dictator for Life. We begin with the tragic death of a man named John Crawford, who was shot by police officers in an Ohio Walmart for the crime of shopping for a BB gun while black. While Crawford was busy exercising his Second Amendment rights, two other shoppers, April and Ronald Ritchie, decided they ought to inform the local police that a scary black man was carrying a gun in a store where guns are sold.
This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity” through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead.
I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.
Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It’s a constant complaint from what remains of this country’s civil liberties caucus. Just this last June, the ACLU issued a report on how police departments now possess arsenals in need of a use. Few paid attention, as usually happens.
The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.
If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.
Yet again, the protesters took to the sidewalks and streets, facing a row of police guarding the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office. “Hands up!” they chanted, their arms aloft. “Don’t shoot.”
“This is how the boy died!” Kendrick Strong, 42, hollered at police officers Tuesday morning. “This is how the boy died! With his hands up in the air!”
The hands-up — a sign of surrender and submission black men and boys here say they learn early on when dealing with police — has been transformed into a different kind of weapon.
Standing in his backyard along with a few friends and family was 24-year-old Rich West. And after seeing the police deploy tear gas as they marched down the empty street, West and his friends felt like protesting.
“You go home! You go home!” they chanted. As the police come closer, they all put their hands up.
Once again, the police officer with the megaphone ordered the protesters to go home.
“We’re in our yard!” they responded.
At one point West walked to his fence with his hands high up in the air.
“This my property! This my property!” he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.
Whether you identify positively or negatively with the term or the idea, whether you feel that uprising is an appropriate reaction to state violence or whether you prefer the term rebellion instead, the act of the riot is a historical one as necessary to democracy as any form of civil or uncivil disobedience.
One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that MLK and many other non-violent black activists employed armed guards in the 60s?
Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases arresting photographers for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, there is no where to go but against.
When your town is two-thirds black, your police force is almost exclusively white, and you’ve taken to the streets in tanks like it’s fucking Fallujah, you need to hush your cracker mouth about “respect.”
The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”
You also think the stomp of boots, rumble of tanks, teargas, rubber bullets, big damn guns and real bullets can’t ever come marching to you. Because you don’t want to understand what happened yesterday. That day when a police force went rogue military and shut down a town is a day I thought I would not see. I didn’t think I’d live to see that happen, but I have. And what I have lived to see is fucking terrifying. It should scare the hell out of every single person in the U.S., regardless of class, colour, or location.
Never think it can’t happen here.
It’s time for the police to be de-militarized, time for this country to truly confront its problem with racism and racial injustice, and time for us to demand the brutality stops.
Yes, my darlings, in a post full of links to other people’s stuff,* I couldn’t help poking fun at the current clickbait “One Weird Trick” thingies. I’ve been reading stuff with lots of good suggestions (not so much tricks. And who wants to trick people into behaving decently when we can do it by being straightforward?).
My friends piled on their own disappointment as we lamented one sad story of sexism after another. And so, since it was late in the evening when such silly/amazing things can happen, Maria Walters started a Disappointed Feminists tumblr where YOU TOO can share your most disappointing moments in feminism and display your disillusionment.
Ima submit one soon. Don’t let me forget.
Let’s go down the list and clear the backlog, here… this piece by Amanda Marcotte is definitely on the read and bookmark list. This is my favorite line:
Let’s be clear: Anyone who accuses you of hating “men” when you are explicitly critiquing misogyny is rather unsubtly arguing that all men are inherently misogynists.
PWND. That’s a thing I find fascinating about these anti-feminists who babble on and on able how men are visual creatures and they can’t help themselves and she shouldn’t have been wearing that because of course men will want to attack her… those folks may think they’re protecting dudes, but all they’re really doing is telling me they think less of men than I do. I mean, people suck sometimes, and they do things that suck, but geez, I have a lot more respect for men than that. I think most guys are quite decent, really, and eminently capable of not being rapey misogynistic arseholes. Funny that so many of the people who think they respect men actually think otherwise.
In the quotable quotes category (ctd.), there’s this stinky beauty from David Futrelle:
The trouble with having your head up your ass most of the time is that when you take it out, people tend to notice the smell.
And this, which ties the spirit of both above quotes together rather wonderfully:
I mean, what people who blame mental illness are actually saying is that his disinhibitions are the only thing that kept him from being a well-adjusted misogynist who simply spouts harmful and violent speech on the internet… HELLO?!
Have you sampled much MRA babble? It’s pretty much exactly that: a bunch of dudes busily making arguments that they’re not that guy, in such a way that they actually end up sounding pretty much just as awful as the awful person who shat a bunch of misogyny all over the internet, then ran off to do some real-life murderous rampaging. Way to make us think you’re the reasonable ones, MRA dudes!
Here’s a good bit to throw at some jackass arguing that the least quiver of an eyelash by a woman is permission to ravish her, but unless she’s screamed “NO” through a bullhorn and sent a notarized letter advising she does not wish to engage in intercourse with the ravishing party now, at all points in the past, and in all future times up to and including the moment Earth gets fried by the sun, then she didn’t make it clear that she didn’t, actually, want sex:
That’s all I ask: That the standard being used to say “no” and the one being used to say “yes” are exactly the same. If “no” has to be verbal and explicit, then so should “yes”. But—and this is what I believe—if women can say “yes” by using body language and verbal discourse that is contextual but understandable, such as saying, “Oh god, I want you right now,” then women should also be able to say no by those standards, and stiffening up or making excuses also counts as a no. If you run around saying that women can’t expect men to hear “no” if they don’t say it bluntly, then you don’t get to turn around and say men can hear “yes” if it’s expressed subtly.
Bolded for truth.
Along similar lines: this comment by Tony! The Queer Fucking Shoop! on why men whistling at women is No Bueno:
See, I’m different. I think whistling at women is wrong. Our culture sexually objectifies women and treats them as things that exist for the sexual pleasure of men. Whistling at woman doesn’t treat them as a human being you wish to interact with as an equal. All it is is the equivalent of saying “I want to fuck you”, but without words. And women are tired of men doing this. I’m tired of men doing this. Women are not objects. Women do not exist for the benefit of men. Women are human beings, just like everyone else, and they deserve to be able to participate in society to whatever extent they choose without people treating them like they’re things to fuck.
YES. THIS. ^^^
All right, ya ready for your weird tricks to combat sexism and abuse? Sure you are! Here they are:
One last thing to note for all of the men out there reading this and saying to yourself “Y’know, this guy’s got a good point,” keep in mind that the women in your life have already told you these things. You just didn’t listen because, y’know . . .
The whole post is brilliant, and you should read it, especially if you’re just now waking up to the fact that your lady friends have been trying to tell you something.
Now, for your next trick: adding one small qualifier means everything:
Only one thing mars my enjoyment of the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our team moves forward. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.
The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 international goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.
The male position is not the neutral position. It has a point of view, the male point of view, which not everyone shares, and which is not always superior. Either clarify everyone or clarify no one, otherwise it sends that message that one group is the norm and the other is a deviation, even when “the other” is more successful in the field.
In case you’re pressed for time and don’t click through, the takeaway here is that we need to stop saying shit like “women’s soccer” or “female judge” without doing the same for the men’s versions. Sounds great to me!
The truth is, there are lots of things you can do. Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment. Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.” Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face. When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them. Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment. Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems. If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent. Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help. Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed. Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it. Document anything you receive by being associated with her.
If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it. It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already. Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it. Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue. Report abusive social media accounts. Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators. Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.
It has to stop. Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant. This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment. It is violence. We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is. This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse. And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.
Right, that should keep you busy. And thee shall have some nice pictures soon, as well.
*And yes, this is what you’re getting instead of pictures of Fidalgo Island. We didn’t go to Fidalgo Island because both of us were far behind on sleep and too hot to move. We ate Ezell’s and watched MMA instead. We’re going today instead. Probably. Or maybe just back to Ezell’s because ZOMG best chicken ever.
Comic-Con, mecca for geeks, reflects geek culture – and that includes the harassment (h/t). This isn’t the only event that’s put geeks harassing women who are also geeks in the spotlight recently, but it’s one of the biggest. It’s also seen a cosplayer brutally attacked.
Sexual harassment and misogyny are huge problems in fandom, as evinced by the above. So now seems like a good time to share this bit I’ve been meaning to highlight from Andy Khouri’s Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment.
This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.
Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.
It’s on us.
How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.
The more good people who speak out, the less chance creeps and assholes have to engage in bad behavior. No, it’s not fun. No, it’s not comfortable. Yes, it’s hard calling people out on this shit. But if we don’t, when we could have, we’re enabling that behavior. If you can do so safely, and without making the situation worse for the victim, check the creep.
While you’re at it, read this post from April 2013 by Meredith Placko.
At DragonCon last year, I witnessed a guy take photos of a girl’s backside at a group photo shoot. So many people were so involved with their own stuff, they failed to notice. But I sat there and watched as several people looked on at this guy and they said nothing. I broke off from my shoot and stood in front of the guy taking the lewd photos and confronted him. He took off before I could get any information about him. The girl had no idea she was even being photographed.
It’s easier to look the other way. Standing up and saying something means you have to get involved, you have to put effort into your actions. You may even come across as the bad guy. But standing up means you may save someone’s day.
And finish off with this post from Sushi Killer, which contains photos much better than my photoshopped jobs, horror stories, and bits like this:
One photographer mentioned that when he is working with a cosplayer and sees someone trying to take a picture of her butt or up her skirt, he jumps in front of their camera, blocking the shot with his own crotch. This draws attention to the pervert and can shame them, while also protecting the cosplayer.
I’d very much like to see more people at conventions intervene when creeps start creeping. I’d like to see this become the norm, until assholes get the message that their assholery isn’t welcome. Let’s make Comic-Con, all cons, and the geek world in general safe for geeks and unsafe for predators.