“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.

Guest Post: “Quit Sitting Around Here Being Brand New to This”

Ceesays has put together the beginnings of a fantastic resource for those of us willing to buckle down and educate ourselves, but who aren’t quite sure where to go for our 102-201 level courses. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor, was so kind as to list the links. Good thing summer’s almost over (in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer beach reading time is approaching (in the Southern) – we’ve got a lot of resources to read.

Turning it over to ceesays:

 

Okay now go on to step two and start looking for more blogs of people talking about racism. Black skeptics and the Crommunist archive are only a start. there are many, many more people who have been talking this talk for years, in dead tree books and online, things that have *already been said.*

The truth is, dezn_98 should not have had to make this blog post. It is a shame that dezn_98 did, and the shame is yours.

The material available for white folks to educate themselves about racism has existed for over a century, and the sheer volume of material has been growing at an astonishing rate for over 50 years. So stop patting yourselves on the back and being thankful. Y’all are fcking late.

Y’all ought to be going after racist claptrap with the ferocity and eloquence that you use to go after sexist claptrap, and you really ought to have been getting to that level of competence *years* ago. So quit sitting around here being brand new to this. Get wise, and fcking HELP US.

And I don’t mean get wise as in get Tim Wise. The fact that a white man is making a living talking about anti-black racism is a further shame, because it actively demonstrates that white people are so racist they refuse to listen to anyone but a white man about what happens to black folks. Yes, he knows all the moves and he makes all the arguments. Realize that not a thing he says is original to him. He stole it all from Black people talking about their lives. he’s the Elvis Presley of anti-racism.

Kwame Ture’s birthday was yesterday. You might remember him better as Stokely Carmichael. Read him. But don’t just limit yourself to reading black men. Find yourself some Audrey Lourde. Read Blackamazon. Gather comforting things around you and read Beloved. Read Kindred. Find books about the atlantic slave trade, just make sure that the author is black. Read Zora Neale Huston. Read Langston Hughes. Read the archives of The Bad Dominicana. Read Racismschool.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Read Angela Davis. Read bell hooks. Read Gradient Lair. Read TransGriot. and if I sat and thought I could come up with twenty more, and more after that, because the sheer number of black writers writing about blackness ain’t nobody heard of is truly staggering.

And every time you get angry, or feel the tears coming, Stop. grab a journal. write down how you feel in that moment. don’t edit or correct. then close the book, and don’t go back to read what you wrote before. Go for a walk or something, clear your mind, and get back into the book you were reading, but start 5 pages back from where you got angry, and read it again. Keep going. Keep reading, keep thinking. And everytime you start to feel upset or angry, write it down, and don’t go back and read it.

If all goes well, in a year you will be appalled by the person who wrote their anger in that book. Read it anyway. Understand what it took to come as far as you have come. Understand that there are literally millions of people who still think like that. that we’re all of us raised to think like that. we swim in racism as pervasive as the sexism you fishes have noticed. you have to actively work to raise your consciousness about racism in a way you didn’t really have to about sexism, because there were enough feminists talking that you were willing to listen to.

There are not nearly enough anti-racists for your consciousness about racism to be lifted with as much ease. If you wonder why that is, think about how much harassment the prominent feminist women you’re familiar with go through. Realize that adding a color to that – any colour, though I speak specifically of anti-black racism – easily doubles the harassment.

Read the comments on any article you happen to find written by a woman of colour or a man of colour about racism. note the bonus additions that white women do not have to suffer while they talk about sexism.

Get out there and help us. I’m too tired. I’m tired of trying. I’m weary of the ways of white folks. More and more, I retreat to where most of the voices online are black and get the hell away from the white man’s internet, because it’s killing us while it robs us blind. Stop being comfortable and pleased with yourself, and help us.

Go now, and educate yourself. there are millions of words already provided. go find them. Go read them. Quit being brand new.

***

oh and I forgot to mention – the diarizing is an important part because reading about racism isn’t going to leave you with a lot of choices about who you can talk to about it. And you do not want to try – because it’s an imposition to the people who know, and talking to people who don’t know will not help you. however I am certain that everyone will understand that experience fully if they take my advice!

***

And like i said, there are a lot of black writers writing about blackness. we could add to this list for days and days. If we started listing the writers talking about colors that aren’t black, that would be one heck of a library.

i find the online resources a lot easier to access of course, being poor, but also – these books aren’t in my library. I’ve been fortunate in that people have gotten books to me so I can read them, and I have passed these books along, because many of us are poor, and the small press and short print runs that are a “natural” consequence of publishing “niche work” means that a lot of these books can be quite difficult to find if you haven’t got cash to spare. But I’m building my shelf, gradually.

I wonder how many people would find that same thing? that for some, it’s just a matter of just buying them, but for others, the books stay out of their hands because Blackness isn’t valuable enough to make it available?

 

If that last sentence doesn’t shatter you, you haven’t got a heart.

So let’s do this. Those of us who need to be reading will get reading, and I hope those of you with the knowledge will expand this list. I want that “one heck of a library.” We should have a “one heck of a library” page, and have enough reading there to keep a speed reader busy for a few lifetimes. And if any of you know about groups or programs dedicated to republishing these works, any groups working to get them into the hands of people who need them, tell me so that we can throw our collective strength behind them. If they don’t exist, they need to. I’m hopeless at creating that sort of thing, I’ll freely admit – but this is Freethought Blogs, and I’m sure someone reading this is the person who can make it happen.

Thank you, ceesays, and dezn_98, and all of you who have taken the time to educate those of us who haven’t had to face life as a person of color, on the previous thread and on Pharyngula, and Blag Hag and Greta Christina’s Blog. For several of us comfortable white folk, it’s been the hammer to the head we needed to jolt us into awareness. I’m sorry you had to rap on thick skulls yet again. Hopefully, we’ll be better at wielding that hammer with you from now on.

If there are any white people in the audience now gearing up to howl about the usual shit butthurt white people* do when confronted with the fact that they are not The World’s Most Perfect Ally: please go read what dezn_98 said. And then bite your tongue, and dedicate some time to reading this Pharyngula thread. If you’re pressed for time, zero in on this comment in particular.

I’m shutting up now so I can get back to reading.

*Full disclosure: I was once a butthurt white person, and too often still am. At least until I remind myself just what vast amounts of shit I don’t have to live with every day because I am not brown. Amazing how the pain goes away when one considers that. Try it yourself!

“How to Help Change This Incredibly Toxic Culture”

I will have a great deal more to say about the predators in our midst, and the cowards who give them cover. So much more. Much of it will not be kind.

But I think we’ll start here, with what good people can do to help victims, and what they can do to help stop the assholes who prey on people who can’t stop them. This advice comes from fcmp in a comment on Pharyngula, and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

First, if you really want to know how to help in a specific situation, then assume that victims know that rape is a crime, and that the police exist. Victims can choose what to do with that knowledge. If they do report, give whatever practical and/or emotional support is asked for. If they do not report, give whatever practical and/or emotional support is asked for. And maybe a cup of tea.

I think, though, that the question was more about how to help change this incredibly toxic culture. There have been many suggestions, but I have one more: if you know or strongly suspect that your friend/colleague/partner/whatever is a sexual predator, don’t let your cognitive dissonance keep you from protecting potential victims. Do something. Tell someone. Refuse to be complicit. I don’t believe for one second that I was my rapist’s first victim. I don’t believe that his friends would have been completely shocked had I told them what happened. I believe his girlfriend had an icky feeling in the pit of her stomach that she ignored, because she loved him. Maybe one of them could have helped me stay safe.

I’m sure that at least one of you reading these comments has an icky feeling about someone you like and respect. If you can, please do something.

It doesn’t have to be extremely brave or confrontational, either. That person giving you an icky feeling has probably done things like make disparaging comments about women/transfolk/gays/etc. That person probably makes inappropriate jokes. Boasts about their ability to coerce people into doing things they don’t want to do. Brags about their ability to break the law and get away with it.

What can you do?

  • Tell them that’s not cool.
  • Don’t laugh at their violent and/or abusive jokes.
  • Don’t congratulate them on being clever enough to pull off felonies without getting caught.
  • Turn what they’re saying around to show the perspective of the victim in the story.
  • Tell other people who may not know these things about that person’s attitude and opinions.
  • Refuse to participate if they try to draw you in to their “antics.”
  • Turn them in if you find out they’ve broken the law (unless doing so will hurt their victim worse – in which case, you’ll have to follow your conscience).
  • Support their victims – not them.
  • Trust that instinct that tells you something’s not right.

I’m sure there’s plenty more, and you’re clever enough to figure it out. This is just a start. Some suggestions to get your brain churning.

I wish I’d had fcmp’s advice way back when. I could have stopped a predator. The signs were all there. None of us recognized them, but we should have done. On some level, we knew. And no, no one was really surprised at what he was capable of. In the backs of our minds, we’d known it all along.

Let’s not have endless replays of the same mistakes. Most of us are smarter than that. Most of us have the wisdom and the fortitude to “help change this incredibly toxic culture.”

Do it.

internet-high-five

We Were Too Forgiving

So you may remember when DJ Grothe accused certain skeptic women of scaring other women away from TAM, and destroyed the goodwill of many in our community. Former supporters ceased supporting TAM, but most of us were willing to give James Randi the benefit of the doubt. Some of us even tried to meet our obligations to TAM, and suffered for it.

And many of you probably remember when Ron Lindsay got up in front of a room full of skeptic women, at a conference for skeptic women, and insulted them thoroughly. Then he took to his official blog and attacked Rebecca Watson rather viciously. Then he failed to apologize. CFI took an inordinate amount of time to issue a statement that amounted to “suck it.” But when Ron finally got round to apologizing, we forgave him, and most of us cautiously supported CFI again, despite the fact the Board had failed to take appropriate action.

And now, this. And this.

unacceptable

It’s too much.

My opinion is only my own, but I believe we have been too generous. We’ve forgiven too easily. And we’ve shielded reputations, failed to name predators, failed to demand substantial change. Our community has suffered for that failure.

We just wanted to be reasonable.

We need to internalize this truth: the reasonable thing to do is to demand abusers and harassers be held accountable for their actions. The reasonable stance is to demand that the leaders of the skeptic community apologize sincerely when they’ve harmed women, and make necessary and substantial changes in addition to that apology. The reasonable request is to require that organizations take measures to appropriately respond to harassment and abuse perpetrated by their employees, or speakers and attendees at their conferences.The reasonable stance is to say that this behavior will not be tolerated within this community, and if you are proven to engage in it, you are no longer welcome in our organizations and at our gatherings. And it is reasonable to expect those who fail to appropriately address misbehavior to step down, or if necessary, for their employers to terminate their employment.

It is reasonable to withdraw support from organizations that fail to live up to these standards.

It is unreasonable to tolerate the status quo, to protect big-name predators because they are big names, or to expect the victims of predation to suffer in silence.

It’s also reasonable to give people and/or organizations a chance to correct their deficiencies (although obviously this does not apply to those whose harassment was egregious, or if they assaulted or abused another person). It may even be reasonable to give them a second chance to get it right.

But it is far from reasonable to give them a third chance.

We cannot be expected to accept excuses, explanations, and lukewarm apologies indefinitely. Nor should we be expected to endure indefinite inaction. We cannot tolerate abusers remaining comfortably anonymous and allow their victims to be gagged.

We cannot continue to support organizations like the JREF and CFI, who have gotten it so egregiously wrong so very many times.

Here is what I believe should happen now:

Women in Secularism 3 should be moved from CFI to Secular Woman, American Atheists, or another national organization that has proven it can be trusted on these issues.

Those who speak, write, or volunteer for JREF and CFI should decline to continue doing so.

Employees of those organizations who are not okay with how these serious issues have been handled should be assisted in finding other employment if they choose.

Those who donate their time and/or money to these organizations should cease all support immediately.

Does this seem harsh? It’s meant to be. We’ve already given them first, second, third, fourth, and umpteenth chances. Despite the good they have done, they have proven they will not adequately deal with harassment and abuse. They’ve made their choice.

It’s time for us to make ours.

19

Sometimes, the news from my old home state is horrible.

Yarnell, Arizona is a tiny little community along the Highway 89 corridor. It’s got less than a thousand people. It’s in dry country, just a little north of Phoenix, near Prescott. There’s been a drought, and record heat, and it’s the dry-lightning season, when everything’s ready to go up at a spark, and the clouds give bolts with no rain. This is the time of year when Arizona residents bite their lips and look worriedly at the wilderness, hoping against hope they won’t see the thin column of smoke that speaks of a conflagration to come.

Lightning struck. The winds picked up. And that dry chaparral around Yarnell went up like someone had doused it with gasoline and lit a match.

Firefighter watching blaze. Image courtesy Nick Perla (the White Wolf on Flickr)

Firefighter watching blaze. Image courtesy Nick Perla (the White Wolf on Flickr)

The twenty-member Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter team from Prescott went down to save lives and homes. One survived.

The tragedy Sunday evening all but wiped out the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots, a unit based in the town of Prescott, Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said as the last of the bodies were retrieved from the mountain. Only one member survived, and that was because he was moving the unit’s truck at the time, authorities said.

[snip]

It was unclear exactly how the firefighters became trapped. Southwest incident team leader Clay Templin said the crew and its commanders were following safety protocols, and it appears the fire’s erratic nature simply overwhelmed them as they huddled under their heat-resistant shelters.

A National Weather Service spokesman said there was a sudden increase and shift in wind around the time of the tragedy. It’s not known how powerful the winds were, but they were enough to cause the fire to grow from 200 acres to about 2,000 in a matter of hours.

You know there’s a risk. You know that every fire is unpredictable, that conditions change, that this is wildly-dangerous work and some of you may not make it out. But you don’t think it will be nearly everyone. You don’t ever expect to lose all but one member of a team in minutes.

A Hotshot firefighter battles a blaze along Highway 87, south of Payson, AZ. Image courtesy Fireground via Flickr.

A Hotshot firefighter battles a blaze along Highway 87, south of Payson, AZ. Image courtesy Fireground via Flickr.

Nearly all of those kids were younger than I am. And that makes me think of the years they won’t have, and it’s terrible and sad. But what they did with their lives, however short, was extraordinary. Us dry country folk will never forget what they gave to save as much and as many as they could.

Ashcraft, Andrew – Age: 29
Caldwell, Robert – Age: 23
Carter, Travis – Age: 31
Deford, Dustin – Age: 24
MacKenzie, Christopher – Age: 30
Marsh, Eric – Age: 43
McKee, Grant – Age: 21
Misner, Sean – Age: 26
Norris, Scott – Age: 28
Parker, Wade – Age: 22
Percin, John – Age: 24
Rose, Anthony – Age: 23
Steed, Jesse – Age: 36
Thurston, Joe – Age: 32
Turbyfill, Travis – Age: 27
Warneke, William – Age: 25
Whitted, Clayton – Age: 28
Woyjeck, Kevin – Age: 21
Zuppiger, Garret – Age: 27

You can help the folks who have already lost so much, who are still at risk of losing everything, and get the community back on its feet after the flames die out. You can donate to the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Arizona Red Cross here. You can donate to the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ families here. There are other suggestions for helping here.

Those beautiful, brave nineteen have left a legacy. We can help ensure the community they died protecting and the people they left behind have the resources they need to rebuild their lives. Let this be part of their memorial, the most enduring one.

Firefighter sculpture at sunset. Image courtesy Heather Paul (warriorwoman531 on Flickr)

Firefighter sculpture at sunset. Image courtesy Heather Paul (warriorwoman531 on Flickr)

Thank You, Ron

Dear Ron Lindsay,

Thank you for your apology. Thank you especially for this bit of your apology:

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.

You could have taken the Way of the Weasel and said so sorry we were offended, but you did what a leader needs to do and accepted full responsibility. I respect that. And that has, in turn, restored a bit of my respect for you. (Still – I’d have suggested replacing some with many, but otherwise not too bad.)

I’d also like to say that you just bested your own Board of Directors (and it might be nice if they stepped up and followed your lead – it would show they have the same ability to recognize when they’re wrong that you do). I appreciate that. I realize you could have left matters with their ridiculous non-statement and cut us all loose, but you didn’t – you did the right thing, and you’ve explained why you waited to do it. I hereby rescind my request for your head on a pike your resignation. Never wanted that as much as a sincere apology, anyway – you’ve done good work in the past, and it will be good to see you continue that work with a new understanding going forward. I certainly haven’t forgotten your strong statement against hate directed at women in the secular community. Perhaps now we’ll see you live up to your own words:

Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

(Hint: Justin Vacula is one such individual. Y’know – the dude you hugged who writes for a hate site? Yeah. The people who cheered your unfortunate speech, snippy blog posts, and subsequent silence, and are now no doubt enraged by your apology, are others you should consider carefully before extending any welcome.)

Some folks are still wary, some are still pissed, and all of us will be watching to make sure you and CFI were actually listening, but I for one am reasonably sure you were. I think you’re the kind of person who can take criticism on board and, after the heat of the initial moment, and the instinctive defensiveness, comprehend why it is you came under so much fire. I know you can read past our anger and disappointment, extract our advice, and put it to good use. And I know that will make you a better ally, one I’ll be proud to stand beside.

We all fuck up sometimes. Thank you for being a person who can recognize a serious mistake and issue a true apology. Thank you for letting pride bend when it needed to.

See you at WiS3.

Sincerely,

Dana Hunter

PS. Have a sleeping kitten as a symbol of peace between us. Who (other than PZ) can resist that, amirite?

Sleeping Luna.

Sleeping Luna.

PPS. Dear Board of CFI: You have a long way yet to go before you earn forgiveness for that appalling and frankly insulting non-statement of yours. Get crack-a-lackin’.

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