Ferguson: Some Concrete Actions You Can Take

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.

Image is a drawing of Mike Brown, with the caption, "I am Mike Brown and my life matters."

Mike Brown. Image courtesy dignidadrebelde via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

New at Rosetta Stones: Earthquake Safety Tips

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:

Image shows the three steps essential to staying safe in an earthquake: drop, get under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on until the shaking's over.

Excellent advice from the Great California ShakeOut. Click the image to visit their page and sign up for the drill.

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

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.

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

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.

As for freedom of the press, well, they are free to get arrested in McDonald’s and slammed into things by the arresting officers when they do not respond instantly to conflicting commands.

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.

Listen.

Image is a drawing of Mike Brown, with the caption, "I am Mike Brown and my life matters."

Mike Brown. Image courtesy dignidadrebelde via Flickr.

In Solidarity w/Ferguson sick of your colorblind bullshit

White America:

Michael Brown.

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.

This Is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown

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.

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By 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.

Even atheists have sacred cows

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.

[snip]

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.

That’s today.

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?

The Mellow Monkey on Even atheists have sacred cows

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.

Midwestern Police Trying New ‘Shoot All Black People’ Approach

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.

NAACP Should Already Know That The Politics Of Respectability Cannot Save Black People’s Lives

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.

Silence is Not an Option

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.

America Is Not For Black People

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.

Protesters use hands-up gesture defiantly after Michael Brown shooting

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!”

[snip]

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.

Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas on Protesters Standing in Their Own Backyard

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.

Be Proud Americans Still Know How to Riot

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.

Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming

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.

Ferguson P.D. Would Like All Y’all Black People To Hush Up And Be ‘Respectful’ Now, Ya Hear?

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.”

Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

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.”

Inaji on Even atheists have sacred cows

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.

Go look at what the police are doing there.

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.

Start today.

You Won’t Believe This One Weird Trick to Combat Sexism (Actually, Lots of Tricks, and Actually, You Will)

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?).

Did you love Confused Cats Against Feminism? You’ll also love Disappointed Feminists – and you can be one, too!

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.

Image shows a turtle with its front flippers folded under, looking disapproving. Caption says, "Turtle is not angry. Turtle is disappointed in you."

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.

Heh. Indeed.

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.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."

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:

First, something for the newly-clued guys to remember:

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.

[snip]

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!

And, finally, here’s your lotsa weird tricks for helping women combat online abuse:

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.

“This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours.”

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.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."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.

Image shows two dogs and a baby in costumes. Caption says, "Our costumes are cool, not consent."

Original image courtesy Pets Adviser.

“What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?”

I’m slowly wading through the comments moderation queue, and this one from Jenny on the without-their-silence article stands out:

I read both articles. I then asked my husband to read both articles. He did. When he was finished, he asked, “What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?” I didn’t have an answer. Neither article appeared to have an answer.

Is there an answer? If so, what is it?

An answer? No. Many answers, yes. A few from the top o’ me noggin:

Believe women. They tell you things that are hard for you to believe, sure. Shut up, though, m’kay? Listen. Absorb what they’re saying, and understand that the world is a very different and quite often hostile place to people who don’t identify as male. That’s the first, and most important one to start: don’t automatically dismiss our obsession with locking doors, and our (to you) excessive caution, and our endless stories about harassment and assault. You haven’t experienced what we have. Listen to our truth.

And do more:

  • Familiarize yourself with everyday sexism.
  • Did you realize you’re doing sexist things? Stop doing them.
  • Stop using sexist epithets. Substitute non-gendered ones instead.
  • Did you realize your buddies, coworkers, family, random jackasses are doing sexist things? Call ‘em out. Doesn’t have to be a huge big deal: a simple, “Hey, that’s not cool, bro” often suffices.
  • How ’bout some feminism 101, now.
  • Hey, mebbe a little more.
  • You’re at work, and the men in the meeting are talking over the women? Speak up! All it takes is a simple, “I believe Sally was trying to make a point” is usually sufficient to shut the over-talkers up.
  • Did some jackass just claim credit for the idea Sally came up with? Point out it was Sally’s idea in the first place.

You’re doing great! Keep on keeping on:

  • Brush up on Schroedinger’s Rapist. No, look, you know you’re not a rapist. That female stranger on the street has no fucking idea who or what you are, though, and she has to play it safe, so don’t take it personally, m’kay?
  • Pay more attention to your phone, or the scenery, or some other dude than that woman or group of women on the bus or on the street or on the trail.
  • Sure, you can say “Hi.” Make it short and casual, and don’t pursue conversation unless she does.
  • If a woman asks you to leave her alone, do just that, cheerfully.
  • See some jackass pressing his attentions on a woman who’s all but screaming “Leave me the fuck alone?” Distract him. Run interference. You don’t need to be all obvious and heroic. Just ask him the time and start chatting him up.
  • Did you witness someone getting harassed? Stand with them against the harasser, and assure them you’ll be happy to be a witness, if it comes to a report. And follow the fuck through.

Image shows an otter on its back with its front paws up. Caption says, "Woah, back off, bro"

All right! You’ve come a long way. Give yourself a tasty reward. And then go further:

Check your male privilege.

Are you in a position to influence diversity in your workplace? In your social circles? Do it.

Support women and minorities when they try to advance.

Don’t be lazy and stop at the usual suspects when you’re thinking of putting together a team at work, or a list of speakers for a conference. Seek out a balance of folks rather than letting it be all white males with only a token woman or PoC.

Insist that any panel you’re on or workgroup you’re in be genuinely diverse.

And don’t stop just because it’s hard.

I could go on. And on and on and on. But I’m going to turn it over to my readers, now, because they are wiser than I am, and will catch things I’ve missed, and have seen the world through different eyes. They can give you more ideas on what to do. I’m just going to end my piece with this:

Challenge yourself to be better.

And do at least one thing, every day, to make this world a better place.

Image shows several variously-colored kittens and a green parrot walking on a mantle. Caption says, "Itteh bitteh kitteh committeh promotes diversiteh."

You’re Bloody Amazing, Is What You Are!

So yesterday, a post went up asking for contributions for a legal fund to help Karen Stollznow fight Ben Radford’s asshole lawsuit. I’d had my fingers crossed for a long time, hoping this day would come. Had cash ready and everything. Good thing I was watching for it, because I barely got me contribution in before you amazing people pushed it over the $30,000 goal. In six hours.

Image is a kitten with its paw raised as if inviting a high five. The caption says, "High 5!!!"

And now the thing’s up to nearly $40k, and I’m thinking Ben Radford is going to end up dangling from his ankles while Karen’s lawyers shake him for spare change.

Because of you, a woman who’s already suffered at the hands of an asshole will not have to settle with his asshole of a lawyer to avoid complete ruin. Our legal system is a fucking mess, so I can’t predict she’ll win, but it’s my fervent hope that Radford lives the rest of his life in crippling debt, loved only by the handful of terrible people who like to call themselves skeptics but are really raging fuckwads who live to harm others, and perhaps a dog, although I’m not sure a dog’s famous impulse for affection is quite so strong as that.

I’ll be donating this month’s filthy lucre from this very blog. If Karen doesn’t need it, the people who advocate for sexual assault victims certainly could use it, and all her excess is going to that good cause. I had an advocate with me whilst navigating the legal system in an attempt to make my rapist pay, and I can tell you that she made all the difference in the world. I’m happy to see funds go toward that cause. I hope sincerely that the entire amount can make it there, on account of Radford having to pay any and all legal fees, plus a hefty settlement.

Even if it doesn’t, even if it takes all we can give and more to fight this thing, it’s still worth it. It’s time to send a message to harassers who love to use lawsuits to shut their victims up that it ain’t gonna work no more. Too many of us in this community have had it. And our pockets are jingling with just enough spare change to hire an excellent lawyer and give ‘em the old what-for. This nonsense must stop.

I’ve always known that our side of the divide is filled with the best people. The response to Karen’s fundraiser absolutely proves that. Those of you who donated, those of you who can’t but are cheering from the sidelines, those of you who are taking a stand for real justice: you are what makes this the best place to be.

Image shows a My Little Pony looking at the viewer on top, and winking on the bottom. Captions read, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

If you’ve got the funds to spare, throw a little extra change Karen’s way. It’ll help make it clear that we’ve drawn a very firm line, and those who choose to cross it had best be prepared for pain.

Those who don’t know what all this is about can find out at our own Lousy Canuck’s excellent timeline.

As Expected

My rather ridiculous medical crisis punted The Talk with my supervisor, but it we finally had it on Sunday. It went as expected.

Image shows a kitten with its paw up, with the caption "High 5!!!"

Actually, we only had half The Talk, because he’d spent (part of) the weekend thinking of how the projector time could be made fair, and came up with a plan that allows everyone to take a turn, whilst allowing the top performers on our team extra turns based on stats. Everybody wins: he’s got an extra way to incentivize us, and we’ve now got a system where everybody gets a chance to subject the team to their entertainment tastes. We’re better off than we were before, when it was random and led to conflict and didn’t give our supervisor new ways to ensure we stay in the lead. That’s something I wish more people would understand when these issues come up: when you face them head-on, when you think them through, you can so often find ways to not only make things fair, but improve them for everyone. Everybody wins.

And this, my friends, is why my supervisor has been in the #1 slot in call center stats for nearly a year straight. He’s not afraid to look at a situation that needs to be fixed, fix it, but also add some additional bells and whistles.

So The Talk began with me thanking him for doing that. Then we had the Transphobia Talk, which went something like this:

Me: I know you weren’t intending it to, but your funny story came across somewhat transphobic. Don’t want you to run into problems. We’ve got folks who’re either transsexual or know someone who is, and transsexual people, especially male-to-female, suffer a lot of violence.

Him: Oops. Didn’t mean it to come across that way. I’ll be more careful in the future. Have I ever told you about the time I lived on Capitol Hill*?

The Talk abruptly segued into how to focus the story on the funny elements, then the weirdness that is Capitol Hill, and then points beyond. Somewhere, we came up with a faboo reality teevee show idea starring Charles Manson being faced with the fact that the race war he preached ain’t never gonna happen**, and then we discussed what we were going to do for the Morale Captain cape I’m making for the team, and that was that. He understands me, I understand him, we have improved things that need improving, and if we can sell our teevee idea to TLC or similar, we can abandon the call center life forever.

I always try to prepare for the worst-case scenario when it comes to this sort of thing, but it’s usually not that bad. At least here in Seattle, the majority of people are more than willing to hear you out and make necessary changes. And if it comes to a fight, I’ve got plenty of people in my corner, cheering me on (not to mention you lot – you’re one of the best cheering sections in the Known Universe). It’s a city full of people who’ve spent time on the wrong side of at least one privilege, and who haven’t forgotten what empathy is. I can always count on enough progressives with the willingness to endure a bit of temporary pain in pursuit of improvement that I’m rarely alone, albeit usually the most vocal, when it comes to these sorts of challenges.

That’s why I bloody love this city. It could be so very, very much worse.

As for B and I… well, we exchange pleasantries at work. I don’t know that we’ll ever get beyond that. That hurts to a ridiculous degree, that we should lose each other over something like this, but his reaction to my plan of action was that pointy bit of ice above the waterline. More to it than the visible bit. More damage than expected from what was on the surface. So it goes. That’s something that happens, in these situations, where a minor event is a catalyst. It’s not the thing and the whole of the thing, could’ve been shrugged off if the bit floating on top was all there was to it, but it wasn’t, and so you end up with a suddenly-sunken ship and a lot of people wondering what-the-fuck. It’s a risk you take, and honestly, if an event like this sends a friendship to the bottom of the sea, it was headed there long before the final collision.

Was it worth the risk? Of course. I prefer honesty to superficially comfortable fiction. Fuck, if I wanted to live a happy lie, I’d still believe in gods, now, wouldn’t I?

Thank you all for the cyberhugs and encouragement and enthusiastic cheering. Thank you for inspiring me, and being there, and being the bit of solid ground a person needs to stand on when applying a lever to a world that’s so often a pain in the arse to move.

Thank you for being you.

And thank you for being courageous enough to put a hand to the lever and push with me. We can do this. Together.

 

 

*Put it like this: if you’ve got any sort of phobia when it comes to sex and gender, you’re probably not going to survive living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for more than fifteen minutes or so.

**Copyright 2013 me and my supervisor. All rights reserved.

 

When a Projector is a Projection of Our Fucked-Up Culture

So the thing about having your consciousness raised is that you can’t really lower it again. When your attention’s repeatedly drawn to something important, when people chip through your resistance and decades of cultural conditioning and open your eyes to things you should have seen long ago, you can’t close them again without seeing after images.

Image show a gray kitty with yellow eyes peering over a table with an expression of concern and horror. Caption says, "What has been seen cannot be unseen."Take the fucking projector that has caused a good part of angst in my personal life just lately. Years ago, I’d not have noticed the endless parade of dude stuff. Dude stuff was just fine with me. Who wanted that icky chick stuff, anyway? Who cared if the ladiez didn’t get a look-in – they’d probably choose some awful chick flick thing. Eww.

And then I started spending my time around people who, like fish investigating the invisible medium they swam through, had discovered such things as everyday sexism and microagressions and the billion and one ways we tell women and other minorities they’re second class. I’ve learned about chilly climate and niceness as a tool of oppression. I’ve learned I had a bad case of internalized sexism, and that it’s more common than the common cold, which means any woman I meet could be suffering it, too. I’ve learned that intent is no excuse for problematic behavior. I’ve learned that this same patriarchy hurting me and mine is hurting every gender, including men. And I’ve learned that the incidental shit we surround ourselves with – the jokes, the entertainment, the places we go and the people we choose to see – can have an outsize impact. For instance, that harmless sexist joke told by the non-sexist among us? It could be encouraging the closet sexist in our midst to feel good about himself and fuck women over with a clear conscience, free of social consequences.

Along the way, I’ve had to learn uncomfortable truths about my own sexism and racism and privilege. I’ve had to learn that a person can be the furthest thing from a sexist or racist or other ist, and yet do ist things. I’ve watched people completely fail to understand that, and snivel when they should be solving. Sometimes, I’ve been the sniveler. But I’m trying. Now that my eyes are open, I’m trying to do better.

So the projector, it rankles. It wouldn’t have done before. I’d have been with B: it’s no big deal. Don’t make a fuss. But I cannot in good conscience do that any longer. And every time this shit comes up, when I know I’m going to have to gear up for Yet Another Battle With a Good Person™, I get grouchy and sad and tired. I think of just letting this one slide. And then I think of Jean Valjean:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

So I bloody well speak.

Damn the consequences.

Because this shit matters.

It doesn’t matter to the dudes who live comfortably on top, who refuse to have their masculinity threatened by The Notebook (heaven forfend they should like it). They’ve given the ladies a shot at it! They graciously let us watch So I Married an Axe Murderer that one day didn’t they? Of course the dudes complained and grumbled because ew, ick, wedding dress, but they let us get away with it. And they’re fine with us picking stuff out – as long as it’s kung fu movies, or police procedurals, or shoot-’em-ups, or Duck Dynasty. See – when you ladies are one of the guys, it’s no problem! Fairness and equality for all. As long as you don’t mind seeing your gender represented as nothing but a sex object every time you look up, if there are women on the screen at all. As long as you don’t mind a constant barrage of testosterone. And as long as you understand that your viewing choices can and will be superseded by what anyone with a penis decides he wants to watch at any point during your flick. Move along, no sexism to see here.

They don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing, because no one’s ever shown them. They’ve spent their lives this way, with the women most often letting them have their way, going along to get along. Because lord knows, if you piss off the dude with the projector, he may take his projector and go home, and then everybody suffers. Don’t be that girl.

And it doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody really watches this stuff. We’re busy taking calls! It’s not a democracy! But everybody’s gotten to choose something! You can’t get everybody to agree on everything. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. These are all excuses I’ve had thrown in my face since suggesting that maybe, just possibly, it’s not cool to shut out the women on the team, and I for one will not be putting up with it.

I’ve very likely lost an important friendship with something this bloody stupid as a catalyst. One thing’s for sure: even for women who, like me, don’t usually get a lot of crap for being a social justice warrior, there are sometimes severe consequences to giving the boat even a slight, careful nudge. And you can never tell when the explosion will happen or who will set it off.

My life would be easier and happier if I could close my eyes and soothe my consciousness to sleep again, if I could tell my conscience to shut the fuck up. But that’s what’s brought us here: too many good people unwilling to do the right thing because other good people get nasty, and it makes everyone unhappy for a while, and the consequences are too much for many of us to bear. So, I have a Jean Valjean moment:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

And I decide that being condemned by the people around me, however uncomfortable, is not a patch upon the damnation that will be visited upon me by my outraged moral compass, and that changing this world just a little bit for the better is worth any amount of personal pain and professional discomfort. I do not, to my everlasting shame, always decide to do this. Despite what people who think I’m a loudmouthed crusader think, I don’t always speak. But I should.

And I will. As often as I can, as loudly as I can manage.

And as long as the person I am speaking to, who has the power to fix this, is the personI think he is, the conversation won’t go too badly. He’ll see that these microaggressions are bad things, and that soaking in endless masculinity isn’t much good for the dudes, either. He’ll still say this isn’t a democracy, but it won’t hurt to introduce a few democratic principles into the totalitarian government of our team. He’s already agreed not to stop shows partway through. We will work out further equitable solutions, and considering all three women on this team do actually love kung fu more than princesses, the masculine suffering should be minimal. We’ll have some stuff on with kick-ass female characters, and gays, and lesbians, and transsexuals, and POCs, and even some heart-string tugging things that will get the super-macho among us sniffling about dust in their eyes, and everyone will come out of this a bit better and broader than they came in.

Everyone.

Because this isn’t just about giving the women equal time. It’s also about setting men free from strangling gender roles. It’s about creating a better environment, wherein people don’t have to keep themselves closeted over the things they love for fear of social censure. And it’s about giving people a chance to discover that there are things out there they’ve never suspected they could like, but do, and don’t have to be ashamed about admitting it.

These constant battles are fucking exhausting, and they cost. Oh, they cost. But the price, ultimately, is worth it.*

I do not want to live in a world where, forty years from now, we wonder why we’re still held back by the same old shit.

I do not want to have to look back and say, “Well, because it was because I didn’t do anything to change it.”

Instead, I want to be painting my friend’s grandson’s toenails pink while debating the virtues of the latest Porche vs. Ferrari with an honorary grandniece while she orders something fashionable for her transsexual friend. I want to take them outside to play in a park afterward where kids aren’t busy shaming other kids over their fashion and bodies and lifestyle choices, and sure as shit aren’t concerned about their color or religion. I want a world where people can be people in all their endless variety without being shit upon. I want a world where everyone gets a chance to visit the buffet groaning under the eternal variety of things that make us human, and can pick whatever they want, without shame or fear. Except, you know, for those sexist, racist, and other ist dishes. I hope we’ll have consigned those to the garbage forever by then.

We may never have that world. But it’s a world worth trying for. And even a less-than-perfect version will be wonderful.

 Image of hands of many colors clasped in star-pattern, with a quote by Maya Angelou superimposed:

For a crash-course in social justice, clear your calendar, lay in a supply of coffee and alcohol, and visit these link roundups:

Pharyngula Wiki: Social justice link roundup and Sexism Education 101 Link Dump

Brute Reason:  Social Justice Resources

A+: Education on Social Justice Issues

Geek Feminism Wiki: Feminism 101 

*For me. At this time, in this place, with my privilege, I can bear this cost. Others may not be able to, and it is no shame if they can’t fight the fight openly. Everyone has to do their own math, and decide what they can take, and when for their own good they’ve got to disengage.

Help Syrian Refugees

Please direct any excess dollars you’ve got lying around here. I love the Foundation Beyond Belief for helping make helping happen. I especially love that they chose a charity that’s doing so much to help women stay safe and/or recover from sexual violence, and working so hard to reunite families. If you’ve been standing around helpless, wondering how in fuck we’re supposed to help another country being torn apart by remarkable violence, here’s a way to help.

 

What you need to know about the Syrian refugee crisis:

  • More than 2 million people are now externally displaced and 4.5 million internally displaced by the violence, a total displacement of one-third of the population of Syria. Half are children.
  • More than 3,500 children currently in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq crossed Syria’s borders unaccompanied or became separated from their families, according to UNICEF.
  • Half of all Syrians are now in need of humanitarian aid.
  • 35% of Syrian hospitals are now non-functioning; 70% of medical professionals have fled, according to the WHO.
  • The scale of this humanitarian disaster is “unparalleled in recent decades,” according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Donations to this crisis response drive will be forwarded continuously to the IRC. FBB retains no portion of donations. All donations to and through Foundation Beyond Belief are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Click here to make a donation.

Image courtesy Foundation Beyond Belief.

Image courtesy Foundation Beyond Belief.

Right. Let’s get this done.