Hello, World. Still Fucked Up, I See: Elliot Rodger Edition

Not that I expected it to improve dramatically while I was sleeping, but I have to say, a few things we’ve been pointing at and shouting “HELLLOOOO THERE’S A PROBLEM HERE” have been rather emphatically highlighted by certain recent actions. I shall be exploring them in between marathon snooze sessions. In between, we shall have nothing but lovely happy fun picture time round here, because from what I’m seeing, ya’ll could use the break.

So, misogyny. You know, I used to deny there was a problem with that in this civilization. My gosh, I could wear pants and talk about being an astronaut someday, so all problems with equality were solved forever and women who objected to being treated as sexual objects and resented being treated as invisible otherwise were just whiny bitches. Then people like Stephanie Zvan popped me on the noggin and did that thing where the sensei grabs the pupil’s jaw, mooshes their lips into an appropriate representation of their gaping ignorance, and proceeds to forcibly enlighten them. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to realize that you, a woman, are in fact a misogynist? Awkward.

I’m just glad unapologetic feminists did me this favor before Elliot Rodger invested much time and effort into making videos and writing manifestos that explained exactly how his extreme hatred of women was motivating him to go out and kill as many of them (plus their men) as he could manage, then attempted to live his vile dream. Without them, I may have been one of those howling about feminists besmirching the good name of misogyny. Or denying that the call is coming from inside the house. I mean, how dare we take a man at his word, right? He can’t be a terrorist – those are supposed to be foreign, brown, and generally screaming about Allah. Gotta be one of those crazy people, even though the shit he was spewing was separated only be degrees, no kind, from the kind of shit spewed at women by “ordinary men” every single fucking day.

It was comfortable, believing that. It’s not comfortable, reading about a man shooting up UC Santa Barbara and not being in the least surprised, only wondering why it doesn’t happen far more frequently. Denial was wonderful. It made the world look better. It was nice to pretend people like Rodger are anomalies and not depressingly common. But even before the feminists claimed me as one of their own, I’d begun to recognize the truth. I’d had a friend turn into a predator when I turned him down, after all. I’d read the forensic psychology books on the “nice, quiet men” who liked to indulge in a little light serial killing when their terrifying hatred of women overcame their ability to play ordinary citizen. I’d seen the evil that men do.

I just didn’t understand how intimately connected it was to the background sexism of our culture. I just didn’t want to.

Even back in my denialist days, I couldn’t deny that when it came to perpetrator-versus-victim populations, it was an overwhelming majority of men doing the evil, and an overwhelming majority of women suffering the evil. What I could deny was that this was a continuum, from my friends who casually denigrated women (present company accepted, o’ course – you’re practically one of the guys, Dana!), to the domestic violence my mother suffered, to the creeps who let their creep-flags fly, to the rapists and murderers and their cheering sections. It’s so much easier to blank out that grim line connecting the middle to the beginning and end. You certainly take a lot less shit for saying that people like Rodger are just crazy weirdos, total anomalies, rather than taking them at their word and saying that, yeah, this society has a huge problem with women – and while Rodger’s violence was a bit extreme, it wasn’t actually so far removed from the every-day beatings and rapes and murders that men commit.

But nothing improves when we pretend these connections don’t exist. So I shall add my voice to those who have already spoken quite eloquently. I do agree that, yes, Rodger had some serious issues, and that the little don’t-kill-people switch in his brain was broken, and we need to improve the way we recognize and handle people whose don’t-kill-people switches are broken. But I’m also going to mention that there are many people whose don’t-kill-people switches don’t function properly. It’s a damned good idea to work on fixing the bits of our culture that gave them the genius notion that some subset of the population deserved all the hatred and violence their broken little selves could muster.

And pointing out that Rodger’s violence existed on a continuum, that it’s part-and-parcel of the contempt too many people in this world have for women, that it’s not an isolated incident but part of a pattern, isn’t “hijacking” a tragedy. It’s facing facts. That shrieking you hear about hijacking is coming from people who find those facts rather painful. I shall play my tiny violin for them, but not for long – there’s serious work to be done, making this a better world. Perhaps the denialists will be so kind as to join us once they’ve finished being deliberately obtuse.

Image shows the British crown with the words "Keep calm and change the world" beneath it.

An Obvious Alternative

You know, maybe we should be debating abortion after all. We sometimes get so hung up on the way things are and the way we think they should be that we forget there’s more than one way to solve our problems. Yes, it’s true that there isn’t a lot of common ground between anti-abortion and pro-choice folks. One side wants to prevent pregnant people from getting abortions, and the other doesn’t want to force pregnant folk to be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. So what do you do with an unplanned pregnancy, eh?

But maybe there’s a way to prevent most abortions AND not force unwillingly pregnant people from staying pregnant. Maybe there’s a third way. Mimmoth has an innovative idea:

Perhaps we have been asking, over and over and over, the wrong question.

If we are going to deprive people of bodily autonomy to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death there is an obvious alternative that we, as clear-eyed skeptics willing to question tradition and religion, should be examining–an alternative that causes less harm and does more good, as it benefits not only women, but also men.

The question we ought to be asking is, should we sterilize men to save wonderful wonderful fetuses from death?

Every man over the age of puberty would make a few sperm donations, which are frozen away, then promptly be vasectomized, period, no exceptions. The frozen sperm is saved for when he and his partner decide together to have a child. In the meantime, never again need a man fear being tapped for child support for a child he didn’t consent to. And never again need a woman fear being made to endure pregnancy and labor for a child she didn’t consent to.

It’s true that this would deprive more people of bodily autonomy–all men instead of one third of women. But the harm would be much smaller. Instead of vomiting through nine months of pregnancy and screaming through eighteen hours of labor we would be talking about a half-hour visit to the doctor’s office, of which the shaving would be the most time-consuming part of the procedure.

With every child a deliberate decision on the part of both parents, abortions plummet–not quite to zero, alas, as there are those rare tragedies when a wanted pregnancy goes badly awry–but by easily 90-99%. Surely that is cause for rejoicing, if saving wonderful wonderful fetuses from death was actually the point.

And it may turn out, when it’s men’s bodily autonomy we’re talking about stripping away, that bodily autonomy is important after all, so we’ll live with abortion on demand and without apology. That’s also okay with me.

#UpForDebate

Brilliant! There is so much win here. MRAs could stop whining about getting spermjacked – they’d never have to worry about that again! Fetus worshippers could rest easier, knowing that the only “babies” being “killed” would be ones where it was self-defense. Women wouldn’t have to worry about unwanted pregnancies and birth control. Even God would be happier, knowing sperm was no longer being wasted. The “no sex except for procreation” crowd would still be grumpy, but they’re only happy when they’re mad, so even they would be satisfied.

It’s the perfect solution. I look forward to it being implemented in the very near future.

Image shows a cat sitting slumped over like a dejected person. It's front legs are draped like arms with its paws in its lap. The caption says, "Don't look. I just got back from the vet.

 

I Wish I’d Had These Words

Back when my best friend and I had our final falling-out over his utter lack of concern about the lives of young women, I wish I’d had this post to send him. It might have gotten through. He might have understood why I was raging.

When you express opposition to abortion on demand, your words mean that you view all of this as perfectly fine: My death. Their deaths. Their poverty. Their children’s poverty. You would condemn real people to death, to a life of misery and suffering. And for what? For this:

Image shows an embryo. Image courtesy UNSW Embryology, via Iris Vander Pluym.

Image courtesy UNSW Embryology, via Iris Vander Pluym.

OH WAIT, I’m sorry. I got mixed up. That’s ^ a mouse embryo up there, not a human embryo. Sure looks a lot like that human embryo, though. And yet, nothing like a mouse. Weird.

Read the whole thing, and bookmark it, and send it on to that person in your life who either cares more about little globs than they do actual women, or those who are so indifferent to women that their health and safety doesn’t matter as much as voting the way their church wants them to vote.

A Thought Experiment for the Philosophy Dudebros

Hey, let’s do some philosophy for any more philosophy dudebros who might show up wanting to talk abortion rights. I LOVE philosophy!

All right, dude. Ready for a thought experiment? You’re always totally down with one, I’m sure, cuz you’re a philosophy dude. You’ve signed up to be an organ donor, right? Right? If not, exit the conversation now and never ever even consider you have anything to say about what women should do with unwanted pregnancies. If you’re not willing to let your dead body save other lives, you don’t even get to hypothetically consider what I should do with my alive and aware one.

Okay, organ donor wanna-debate-abortion philosophy dudebro. You’ve been in an accident. You were riding your bike, you forgot your helmet, swerved to avoid hitting a dog and ended up going ass over ankles over the handlebars on to the pavement. Cracked your head wide open. Now, you got flown to the best trauma hospital in the world, and they’ve put you back together again. You’re never going to contribute much to society, though, because your brain is so damaged that your cognitive function is greatly reduced and you’re never going to be able to live without 24-7 care again.

Hey, what’s this on your license? Is that an Organ Donor YES that I see?

Image shows part of an Organ Donation form with the box for "Donate all my organs and tissue" checked.

Organ donor form. Image courtesy Magnus D on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Sweet! Look, philosophy dudebro: there’s so many lives you can save! Sure, you can still feel pain, and being stuck in the hospital rather than a residential facility makes you really upset, and you’re aware of just how bad the quality of your life is when you can’t control what’s done to your body, but you don’t matter as much as all those people you can help, do you? After all, you’ve got two functioning kidneys – why shouldn’t we take one to save the life of a person who, with a working kidney, will go on to be a productive member of society? Right? I mean, you’ve got two, you don’t need the other one. Except if your remaining kidney fails, you’re shit out of luck, and if you develop kidney stones in that one remaining kidney, you might have complications, and there’s the fact that the surgery is hella painful and can lead to the potential for infection, complications and death, but you wouldn’t mind being forced to donate part of yourself to save another life even with those risks, would you? After all, you once marked yes on a donor registration form. Look, if you survive the removal of your kidney, and you don’t have anything bad happen to your other one, the long-term risks are minimal. That other person has as much right to live as you do. Hey, maybe even more, since they don’t need residential care. So that’s a good argument for forcing you to donate your kidney, right?

You know what, I don’t see why we can’t do it right now. Sure, you have a fully-functional brain, and your own hopes and wishes and dreams, and you don’t like to suffer, but you’re a match for this person whose kidneys have failed. It’ll only take you about four weeks to recover from the surgery. Isn’t it more ethical to save a life than keep both your kidneys? Shouldn’t society be able to choose for you whether to save a life or not? And if you’ve said you’ll be an organ donor after death, why wouldn’t you want to be one now?

I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to go through nine months of having something feeding off of you. It’s not like you’re risking all these complications, or these complications, or maybe these really bad ones, or these permanent changes to your body (not to mention lotsa complications). Compared to that, kidney donation’s a breeze!

Image is a stylized representation of a person giving blood.

Blood donation pictogram courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s have some blood out of you. It’s totally safe – your risk of complication is virtually nil. Sure, you may faint. Sure, you may despise needles and panic every time. Sure, there could be bruising and bleeding and scarring and nerve damage and stuff, but surely it’s worth it to save lots of people. Right? We can come take your blood any time we need to, and you won’t mind a bit, because life is so darn precious. I mean, wow, your blood might save that poor pregnant lady who’s bleeding to death while trying to deliver that child you forced her to have. How cool would that be?

You know what, let’s go whole hog here. You can totally donate some bone marrow, and it’ll barely hurt a bit! Barely any risk! Sure, you may suffer complications from anesthesia, but what’s a teeny-tiny little risk of death compared to saving a life, huh? I mean, you’ll be at far less risk of dying than pregnant women are! So there should be no problemo, right, philosophy dudebro?

I’m sure it’s totally fine to perform all of the above procedures on you, whether you consent or not, because greater good and life is precious and all that jazz – not to mention, you consented to be an organ donor once, and you risked your life on your bike once, and that means you’ve totally consented to the consequences we decide to impose on you. Surely, you don’t think you matter more than other people. What if the person you save is the next Elvis? Or the next Einstein? Or a fetus? Yeah, buddy! You know we can’t risk potentially losing any of those potential awesome people just because you have some silly notion about bodily autonomy, so hop up on that operating table and let’s get crack-a-lackin. Hey, you might be saving the person who grows up to cure cancer! Betcha that’ll make all the pain and fear and complications you suffer feel like nothing.

What’s that? You won’t let me cut on you? How very selfish of you. Ah, well, as you know, it’s your body and we can’t force you do use it to keep other people alive without your permission, now, can we?

So why is it you have such a hard time understanding women and trans men are people, just like you?

Image shows a thoughtful velociraptor with the caption "You mean to tell me... that women are people too?"

Yep.

Abortion Is a Human Right

You cannot compel me to give life. It’s not your place to determine whether a pregnant woman or trans man may be allowed or denied an abortion. You are not the one whose body is being used by a fetus. You are not the one risking your life, your health, and your future. You are not the one who should be making the choice. That’s for the pregnant person to decide.

And it’s not up to you to determine at what point in a pregnancy a pregnant person may abort. Until it is fully born, the fetus is a parasite feeding off of another person. It’s up to that person to determine how and when that parasite should be removed. If the pregnant person decides at nine months that they can’t face childbirth, whether vaginally or by c-section, they can request an abortion, and if the doctor determines it’s safe to perform one, they can have it. Their body, their choice.

Image is a red poster with a drawing of a uterus on top. Caption says, "Keep calm and stay out of my uterus."

That’s the position I’ve come to after nearly 40 years. I used to think abortion was hideous, but if mom or baby was in danger, then it could be done. Then I thought a pregnant person should be allowed to have an abortion until the fetus was viable, at which time abortion should be denied except to save the life of the mother. I was sure this was a good position. But there’s something I wasn’t during all those years: pregnant.

I’m not now, have never been, and likely never will be pregnant. But I’m older now. I’ve seen a lot of women endure pregnancy. I’ve been with two women who considered abortion, who then chose to carry the fetus to term. Their body, their choice. One friend who decided to give her baby up for adoption changed her mind and kept her daughter. Her child, her choice. My cousin chose to keep her baby early in the pregnancy. I know at least one of those women never regretted her choice. But they had the option of abortion. They thought carefully about their options. And they made the choices that were best for them.

It was up to them what to do with their unintended pregnancies. If they’d decided to abort, it wouldn’t have been a tragedy. It would have been a good choice, the right choice for those women. Pregnant people are capable of making the right choice for themselves.

No one else should ever be able to make that choice for them.

Ever.

I’ve come to realize that pregnancy is a dangerous gamble. And if you think adoption solves anything, it doesn’t. The pregnant person is still risking their life and health and future. It’s up to them whether to roll the dice, and they get to decide when to stop gambling, no matter how late in the game or how high the stakes. That autonomy only ends once the fetus is born. When the fetus is no longer attached to and feeding off another person’s body, then there is no choice. The formerly-pregnant person has no right to end that life once it is free of their body.

I’ve reached this position because there is no other acceptable dividing line. No one has the right to tell anyone else that they must relinquish control over their body so that someone else can live off of it.

There is no secular or religious argument against abortion that doesn’t hit this wall. You are not allowed to force someone to donate a kidney, half their liver, skin, muscle tissue, bone marrow, blood, cornea, or any other part of themselves to save someone else. Not even to save an infant. No, not even if they registered as a donor. I can’t compel you to sacrifice part of your body or give your life for another person. You can’t compel me to carry a fetus to term.

Image has four pictures. The first is an egg yolk and white in a dish. Caption says, "This is not a chicken." Second image is an acorn, and says, "This is not a tree." Third image is a silkworm and a silk cocoon, and says "This is not a dress." Fourth image is a blastocyst, and says "This is not a person." Caption says, "This is not a difficult concept."

In fact, I’d say I have a better case for forcing you to donate some part of your body to save a life: we’re talking about giving the gift of life to a conscious person, someone with a rich tapestry of life experiences, who has hopes and dreams for the future, who is suffering and vividly aware of that suffering. But I can’t force you to so much as a needle stick and the temporary loss of a bit of blood. You have to choose to be an organ donor; without that, I can’t even remove desperately-needed parts of your body from your corpse after you’ve died. I can’t violate your vacated body to save several living human beings. How, then, is it your right to compel me to sacrifice so much more of myself for a potential person?

You don’t have that right. It’s not your body. Not your choice. Not ever.

I Lost My Best Friend to Abortion – I Can Stand to Lose the Atheist Orgs

I haven’t spoken to my best friend of 21 years since November 2012, when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

We’d survived about everything together. We made it through the years of horrible clingy-ness and self-esteem issues brought on by a lifetime in a church that told him he was worthless. We survived his crush on me, and three thousand miles of separation, and enormous long distance bills. We survived my loss of faith, and his journey through various flavors of Christianity and paganism before he returned to the Church of Christ. We survived him voting for Bush Jr. (twice) and me voting for Obama. We survived my obsession with science while his interests diverged into the occult. We thought we’d be forever.

But our friendship died when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

Image shows a headshot of Mitt Romney with a quote: "Outlaw all abortion even in cases of rape and incest." -CNN Debate, 11/28/07. Caption reads, "Romney supports dangerous "personhood" amendments. 'Is committed to overturning Roe vs. Wade, and he supports such amendments that define a life as beginning at the moment of conception.'" -Debbie Wasserman Schultz

This was a time of increasing attacks on women’s reproductive rights. And my best friend, who has many women in his life that he adores, and two beautiful nieces he dotes upon, voted for the man who would force all of us with wombs to carry unwanted, even potentially dangerous, pregnancies to term.

That broke something inside me. I can forgive a lot in my friends. I can accept their religion, even though I think religion is harmful bullshit. I can accept a certain amount of conservatism. I can accept that a person may have thought it sensible to vote for Bush Jr. Twice. But after that fiasco, to vote for the man who would not only flush our economy back down the toilet, but ensure Roe vs. Wade was a footnote in the history books and that women would have to turn to back-alley abortionists and dangerous home remedies to terminate even the results of rape – that was too much. That was a personal, visceral attack.

We argued. I did some shouting, I won’t lie. I was livid. And it was even worse when he told me he respected my right to choose. Really? How could anyone say that, when they were voting for the people who would take that right away? That’s the thing my pro-choice-but-very-conservative former friends and acquaintances cannot understand: your words whisper, but your actions scream through an amplifier.

What my best friend told me by voting for Romney, knowing full well that this would lead to a Supreme Court packed with anti-choice judges, who would ensure that women’s rights were set back a century, was that he doesn’t give a shit about me or his nieces. He doesn’t care what happens to us. He’s willing to gamble our bodily autonomy, health, and economic futures on a shitheel who was recommended by the church he made fun of every Sunday. He didn’t even consider us when he cast that vote. And he couldn’t understand why that felt like being stabbed in the heart.

Then it came out that he was personally anti-choice, because he’s adopted, and he’s glad he wasn’t aborted. He couldn’t see how saying he supported my right to choose while working to ensure that right was taken away was basically telling me I’m nothing to him. How selfish it is to force other people to give birth because your birth mother chose to carry you to term. How awful it is to be treated as nothing more than a walking womb.

We managed all of two conversations after that. Both of them ended with me furious and him unable to understand why. It wasn’t worth it anymore. I couldn’t stand trying to love someone who was willing to cast women’s health and safety aside so easily. We decided it would be best not to talk again for a while. And after an initial mourning period, I came to the conclusion that this was a deal-breaker. My friends must, at the very least, walk their walk when it comes to human rights.

Image shows me at the end of a wooden bridge, distant and walking away. Image credit Cujo359.

Image credit Cujo359.

You can’t tell LGBTQ people you love them and support their right to marry, then work to elect the people who not only want to deny them that right, but want to make their love illegal.

You can’t tell women you personally support their right to choose, then vote for the people who would rip their choice away.

It’s just words. Just noise. You say something lovely – I support you – and then open the trap door that dumps us into misery. That’s not support. That’s contempt masquerading as love. And I don’t have to tolerate it.

I’ll tell you something about the atheist organizations working hard for the rights of the non-religious. I appreciate the effort. But I’m not going to support orgs whose leaders think my right to choose isn’t just as unquestionable as the right to die and the right to live without the government forcing religion upon me. I can’t stand with leadership that is willing to cede my rights, who are trying to recruit people who want to force birth on women and trans men who have the misfortune to get pregnant. I will not accept a big tent that includes people who treat me and mine as less than human.

We’ve got enough of a problem with sexism without recruiting more misogynists. We don’t need a herd of atheists who believe women should be forced to be incubators, whose concern for them stops the instant they develop a blastocyst. If those are the people you want to reach out to, then what you’re saying is that you want me to leave.

And don’t tell me you’re pro-choice, personally. I don’t give two shits. The talk isn’t important. It’s the walk. And when you walk in the direction of the people who see me as worth less than a fetus, you’re showing me that your pro-choice stance is utterly meaningless. I can’t trust you to have our backs without stabbing them. I can’t believe you when you say you care about us and our concerns.

What you are telling me is that women aren’t welcome in this movement (and you don’t even think about trans people). You’re telling me that thousands of women aren’t worth as much as a handful of anti-choice conservatives who just happen not to believe in god. You’re telling me that your organization is not for me and mine.

I have no desire to be part of a tent that big. Atheism isn’t enough to make me want to stay in it. And if this means a schism, I’ll be happy to see that rift open. I’m much more content in a smaller tent that contains people who can see me as a human being even if my uterus ends up occupied, and who will ensure that real choices are available if I need to serve an eviction notice to the parasite in residence. I’d rather be united with those who care for each other more than their guns and their low taxes and their supposedly-small government.

Our right to abortion is not a bargaining chip you can trade. I lost my best friend over this issue. Imagine how much easier it is to lose you.

Image shows a pro-choice rally. A huge pink banner says TRUST WOMEN. Other people are holding signs saying "I have a heartbeat, too!" "Stop the war on women," and "Stop the war on choice."

Image credit ProgressOhio (CC BY 2.0)

“When Its Sacraments Are Others’ Standing Jokes”

Alex had an excellent post a while back talking about “why atheism can never be inoffensive enough.” This bit made bells ring for me:

Few things but faith could yield such results: blasphemy, even apparently when most benign, threatens the norms on which religion rests. The earnestness of faith, and faith itself, can’t be taken comfortably for granted when its sacraments are others’ standing jokes, and what can’t be assumed must be explained.

Some folks have a robust faith that can stand being laughed at, and I’ll frequently find my religious friends in on the joke (when they aren’t cracking it themselves). But there’s a disturbingly large number of people who want you punished for poking a bit o’ fun at their religion. Some of them are probably feeling entitled, some of them are probably afraid their sky god will smite them if they don’t smite us, and some are just assholes, but I suspect a majority of them are outraged by blasphemy because it jams a finger on the ol’ doubt button and keeps it pressed.

And being an atheist who’s not afraid to say “Hey, I’m an atheist” is enough to unleash their outrage. That being the case, I’m not gonna bother with trying to be an inoffensive atheist. I’ll calls it like I sees it, and if faith can’t withstand it, it’s not worthy of respect. If the deity is as powerful as proclaimed, if the religion is the rock people assure me it is, then it had better be able to at/with/near us. If not, it’s a sad, pathetic little thing that people might as well not bother with. If a little light blasphemy is enough to destroy it, it was never worth having to begin with.

If you’re ready for poking some fun at faith, you could head over to Loltheist, where you will find many fine illustrations of the concept of blasphemy.

Image shows the pope making spyglasses out of his fingers. Caption says, "I seez blastfemmerz!"

What Secular Anti-Choicers Are Really Saying

Giliell,  professional cynic, -Ilk-, has decoded the language of those secular people who think women (or trans men) who had the temerity to have sex (or get raped) should carry the resulting pregnancy to term:

Secular arguments against abortion I’ve heard are usually:
-She had sex, so she should bear the consequences*
-Bäbeeeeez!
-She had sex, so she should bear the consequences**
-Adoption!
-She had sex, she should bear the consequences
-It’s a continuum and I’m going to dismiss the one actual clear-cut point that we have which is birth
-She had sex, she should bear the consequences
-There aren’t enough healthy white babies for us to adopt
-She had sex, she should bear the consequences
-The straw-abortion of a healthy, almost-term fetus because the woman has suddenly decided she’d like to go clubbing at the weekend
-She had sex, she should bear the consequences
-I don’t know anything about pregnancy, HELLP, Potter syndrome, childbirth, ectopic pregnancies, post-partum depression, but I held a baby once and handed them back to their loving mother when they cried/pooped.
*Fuck them for thinking of children as “consequences”
**Quite often combined with the idea that men shouldn’t have to pay child-support for the offspring of their one-night stand, because consequences are for women only

I think that explains matters clearly enough. I encourage you to read the rest of that comment, which is an education for anyone who thinks they can decide when a pregnant person can no longer choose to become not pregnant. If you have time, read that entire thread. And for those hot and heavy about the “it’s fine until 20 weeks” bullshit, read this right now.

Oh, and Dave? You can fuck right off. You don’t get to throw my reproductive rights under the bus to attract more assholes to the movement. American Atheists won’t have my support unless and until your organization makes a woman’s right to abortion non-negotiable. Think about what’s more important: trying to win the support of a tiny number of conservatives who are probably going to tell you to piss up a rope regardless, or keeping the support of the much larger number of atheist women who are already here – but won’t be for long if leaders in this movement keep throwing us away.

Man-and-Horse-that-Built-Civilization-71449154125

 

Taking Boys Out of the Box

I didn’t like being a girl. It was harder to duck behind a tree when nature called when we were out playing in the woods. I sometimes had to do cruel things to the boys to prove I was tough as them. One of my friends wouldn’t let me play with his army men because I was a girl, and girls don’t play soldiers (I quickly disabused him of that notion, much to his astonishment).

But a lot of the time, I didn’t notice I was a girl. I was wearing pants and jumping my bike and getting in the mud and building stuff and commanding the pack, just like one of the boys.Hell, I was even more hardcore than some of them. When I crashed my bike on a road chip-sealed with cinders and road-rashed myself from toe to waist, I told ‘em I’d be right back, and hobbled home for some quick patching up. Alas, my mom decided someone with that many bleeding wounds needed to stay inside, but my friends respected the fact I hadn’t shed a tear. One of our buddies would head sobbing for home the instant he stubbed a toe. None of us wanted to be like that.

So yeah, I was usually one of the guys, which was fortunate, because there were a grand total of five girls in the entire neighborhood, none of them my age. No one had any problem with a tomboy, of course. And, outside of a few incidents like the Army Men War, no one bothered to tell me I couldn’t do something because female. Even when I went home and played with dolls, even when I prettied up my playhouse, no one thought it was odd for a girl to be a girl in boy’s clothes, mostly doing boy’s things.

The guys didn’t do girl stuff as much, but there were times when they’d come over to play dress-up, or do a nice afternoon tea with us, and my yellow Easybake Oven was one of the boys’ favorite things ever. I remember once when my one close girl friend and I were getting our nails painted by her mom, her brother wanted in on it, too. So his mom gave him a few red nails, until he got bored with manicures and wandered off.

But that was a line rarely crossed, that dividing line between girls and boys. We girls could wear anything, any time, but the boys never put on a dress outside of playing dress-up in the house. And as we all got older, they stopped doing even that. They had to hate girls, and run from our cooties, and be all tough and in to boy things like trucks. Girls were sort-of encouraged to be pretty and feminine, but we could run around in ripped jeans and ratty sneakers one day, and a dress the next. We could cross the boy-girl divide at will.

I didn’t think that was very fair, when I thought about it. Why shouldn’t the boys do the pretty clothes and makeup if they wanted? Why couldn’t they play the girlie games without getting tormented by peers and parents alike? Why couldn’t they be openly interested in girl stuff? I might have hated being a girl at times (especially after Aunty Flow made her first appearance), but I was grateful for the chameleon opportunities it gave me. People back then were great with girls doing boyish things, so I could do absolutely anything I wanted, while my boy friends were stuck on the boy side of the divide.

I think of that often, now, as the world gets ever more pinkified. I mean, for fuck’s sake, they’ve even gendered the dogs.

 

Gendered doggie toys and clothes at one of the local mega-petstores. This whole pink-and-blue obsession has gone way the fuck too far.

Gendered doggie toys and clothes at one of the local mega-petstores. This whole pink-and-blue obsession has gone way the fuck too far.

And while we’re fighting to get girls out of that box they’re being energetically stuffed in to lately, the one that says they love pink and princesses and ponies but heaven forfend they like boy colors and boys toys, we need to remember that boys are in a box, too. Libby Anne has both a son and a daughter, and she sees people trying to stuff them both in their respective boxes all the time.

“Look at him!” [Uncle Dale] said. “He’s obsessed with that train. He’s such a boy!” I frowned. I hate it when this happens. I took a deep breath.

“Actually,” I said, “When Sally was Bobby’s age, she was completely obsessed with large construction vehicles.”

Uncle Dale laughed. “How odd,” he said. His voice was dismissive.

“I don’t think it’s odd at all,” I replied. “I find that if you let kids just be kids rather than pushing them into gendered boxes their interests are generally eclectic.”

[snip]

Neither Sally nor Bobby fit in conventional gender boxes, but someone who spotted Sally playing at princesses might very well respond with “She’s such a girl!” in the same way that Uncle Dale noticed Bobby fascinated by trains and responded with “He’s such a boy.”

What’s going on here exactly? Confirmation bias.

And that hurts girls, but boys have it bad, too. They’re not encouraged to play with dolls, put on makeup, stomp in high heels (unless their mom is as awesome as Libby Anne). If a girl crosses the divide, she often gets forced back into the girl box, but there are plenty of people cheering her on, encouraging her to break out again. Boys who try to cross, though – society loves to belittle them, be horrified by them, call them gay, tell them to man up. We need to fight to get them out of the box, too. We need to have a response ready when society tells them they’d better toe the masculine line.

We need so much more of that. Kids don’t need this gendered crap. Neither do adults. Let people be people. Erase the lines. Let the girls put on the firefighter’s outfit. Let the boys wear ballgowns. Let’s strive for a world where no one’s trapped in a gendered box.

And the next time you see a child crossing the divide, tell them they’re wonderful.

An Offensive Strategy for Dealing With Creationist Attacks on Science

I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading about the failures of creationist geology. Many people have come before me, tearing this nonsense down bit-by-bit. It’s an extraordinary amount of work, and leaves Flood geology scrambling for ever more bizarre ways to overcome the laws of science.

But maybe we don’t do quite enough. We defend science, we present the reality, we knock down bits of their structure, but there may be an easier way to deal with the creationists and Intelligent Design proponents attempting to force their nonsense into science class, and hanging round the fringes of our professional meetings hoping some credibility will rub off on them. I quite like Donald Wise’s proposals:

If such activities are to be opposed effectively, a first step is to learn the ideas, history, and underlying assumptions of their proponents. A second step is to devise an effective counter strategy. To date, the scientific community has been woefully inadequate in the Creationist battle on both counts. This paper is an attempt to focus our opposition, (1) by providing some readily accessible information on the Creationists, (2) by making a proposal for an offensive rather than defensive strategy, and (3) by giving some background facts to implement the strategy. In public forums, the Creationists should be challenged to defend their total model of earth history, difficulties and all, and to give their supporting “evidence” on an item-by-item basis. Again and again, we should force the point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of proof. Such public confrontations with Creationists may have only the scientific depth of disputes between three-year olds, but at least the proposed strategy will force those fights to occur with their toys in their sandbox rather than ours. [emphasis added]

Yep.

And this strategy is gorgeous for two reasons:

1. It shows up creation science for the incoherent farce that it is,
2. If by some miracle the buggers turn out to be right, it forces them to do the hard work of good science and provide the kind of overwhelming proof it would take to revolutionize science.

So keep after them, when you get chances to confront them in public, or even just casually. Demand the mountains of rock-solid data. Demand the models that explain and predict more elegantly than our current ones. Demand they confront and solve the major problems with their models. Demand the peer-reviewed papers that specifically back up their claims, and if they haven’t got them, demand they write up and submit their work to the reputable professional journals. Settle for nothing less than valid science of such quality that it can win majority support amongst the professionals. If they can’t provide that, too bad for them. They’ll have to come back when they can.

Image is a cat with narrowed eyes. Caption says, "Skeptic Cat demands proof."

This doesn’t mean we don’t stop crushing their arguments. It’s fun and valuable work, and like we saw in the Kitzmiller trial, not to mention the Nye-Ham debate, shooting this stuff down can be a fantastic opportunity to teach real science to the public. But we need to make sure we’re putting the creationists on the defensive at the same time.

They want their version of science accepted? They’ll have to do the hard work, and provide the kind of undeniable evidence it takes to change well-supported scientific paradigms. Until then, they have no place in our scientific spaces.