So a Muslim Kid Builds a Clock, and Atheist “Leaders” Lose Their Shit

The freakout over Ahmed Mohamed’s innocent clock-building project is an excellent example of Islamophobia in action. Iris Vander Pluym has an excellent post showing how too many people in this country freak the fuck out over black Muslim kids doing safe, simple science, while having nothing but praise for white boys who create literal nuclear reactors. Had Nuclear Kid been brown, black, Muslim, or some combination? Poor child probably would’ve been in Guantanamo by the end of the school day. [Read more…]

Read Tony’s Excellent Article on the “Perfect” Rape Victim. Support Him if You Can!

In this episode of “What Fuckery is Rape Culture Up to Now?” Tony takes on a victim-blaming assclown. Once you’re done with the article, please click his “Donate” link if you can spare some cash. He’s about $500 short for the month, with no employment prospects in sight. Let’s keep him fed, connected, and housed so he can continue delivering the deserved smackdowns.

And this one is really epic. Here’s the three paragraphs that everyone who’s ever told a potential or actual rape victim what they should do/should have done to avoid being raped needs to print these out in 100 point, bold font on contrasting paper, and tape them to several surfaces in the house, such as on the bathroom mirror and the television. They need to have people randomly pop in with a copy and read them aloud until the words are indelibly etched upon their brains.

What advice are women and girls supposed to take in order to protect themselves from being assaulted when they can be raped no matter what they’re wearing, their level of sobriety, their location, the amount of sex they’ve had, or the people they associate with? The reason none of that advice works to reduce the incidence of rape, or afford women and girls protection is because men who rape do so under all manner of circumstances. And again, that’s why *men* need to be targeted [by rape prevention campaigns].

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Dear “Religious Liberty” Brigade: You’ve Lost. You’ve Always Lost

I’m so sick of this script:

“Traditional marriage and religious liberty are under attack all across the nation,” writes former Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill.

No, Jared and all the other crybaby cons. Not a bit of it. Traditional marriage is just being asked to share its sandbox with others. It gets to keep all its toys. It’s still got plenty of room to play. Nobody’s kicking sand in its eyes, or telling it to go home, or borrowing its bucket and shovel and not giving them back. If traditional marriage can’t play nicely with the other kids, that’s its problem, not theirs. It can learn to share the space, or go home to sulk, but nobody’s attacking it. [Read more…]

Turns Out Josh Duggar is a Lying, Cheating Sleazebag. Only Conservative Christians are Surprised

I wouldn’t ordinarily be writing a post about a grown man’s adultery with other grown people. If you cheat on your spouse, you’re a scumbag, but you’re your spouse’s problem – unless, of course, you’re one of those moralizing shitlords who try to keep my queer friends from getting married, encourage people to hate on them, tell us we’re damned for enjoying premarital sex on the regular, and try to legislate what we can do with our reproductive systems and our relationships. In that case, damn straight your cheating is public business, because if you can’t practice, you shouldn’t be preaching, much less trying to get laws passed to condemn others for what you’re doing.

And Josh Duggar, the holier-than-thou sleazeball who loved to pretend he was the perfect husband and father, whose actual work was to harm families that didn’t fit his own narrow definition, has not one but two different kinds of sex scandal going on. First we find out he molested his sisters and their babysitter, now he’s forced to confess that he signed up on Ashley Madison so he could cheat on his wife. He had an OK Cupid account, too. And a Facebook account where he followed local strippers. And a Twitter account where he showed himself to be the typical pathetic straight white boy interacting with women. The man was obsessed with illicit sex.

Image is grayscale. On the right is Josh Duggar, showing only his face. He looks like he's about to cry. To the left are the words, "Be sure your sin will find you out. Num. 32:23"

Yeah, in this instance, the Bible was right.

I’m not happy the truth came out like it did. The people who hacked Ashley Madison were so busy being self-righteous assholes that they gave not a single thought to the kind of people whose lives might be put at risk by their leaks. They didn’t think of the people who would be driven to suicide, the people who might face domestic violence, or the people who could get executed for breaking the law in their countries. They didn’t think of the singles who were on there because it seemed like a safe and secure place to meet a same-sex partner. They didn’t think of the sex workers who would be put at risk. didn’t think of the ordinary lives that would be destroyed. The little shitheads just wanted to prove their point. And like little shitheads everywhere, they’re so full of themselves they have no room for anyone else. I hope they get to contemplate their actions from the interior of a jail cell for quite a long time. [Read more…]

Let’s Stop Punishing Girls for the Behavior of Men and Boys, M’Kay?

When I was in middle school back in the olden days (hint: it was just after leg warmers went out and hypercolor shirts came in), I had this t-shirt that had a cartoon duck on it. It said “Tall, Duck and Handsome.” I’d done some growing, so it was a little short – it skimmed the top of my jeans, and like an inch of belly was exposed when I raised my arms. This was too much for the puritans of our local school district, who pulled me out of class, called my mom, and told her that such skimpy clothing was not allowed on awkward prepubescent girls.

My mother, who was something of a warrior, read them the riot act. She belted them with facts: we were still little kids. The shirt was cute and funny, not sexy. The shirt covered pretty much everything unless I raised my arms overhead, and if they couldn’t handle that little bit of skin, that was their problem. She had them quaking by the end of her tirade. I think they were about to give up and send me back to class, but she pulled me out of school and took me to have either ice cream or lunch – unfortunately, my memory fades on that point. We had a nice mother-daughter day, and I knew from then onward that my mom would always have my back in battles over dress codes. When they divorced, my dad took over the not giving a shit and expecting other people to accept my sartorial choices. When people would ask him how he could possibly let me wear x, y, or z, he’d calmly explain to them that I was comfortable and creative, and if they had a problem, they’d have to deal with it their own damn selves.

I grew up thinking this was how things should be. But I have discovered that we’ve gone rather backwards. Women’s clothing choices have always been policed, but when schools send girls home for dressing like this: [Read more…]

“The Gravity Keeping My World In Place Was Gone” – Escape Chapter 7: Marriage

All of the content warnings, people. Have your emergency kitten on standby. In the final pages of this chapter of Escape, we get a first-hand look at what a forced polygamous marriage looks like.

Two days ago, the Prophet announced Carolyn could go to college – but she has to marry virtual stranger and terrible human Merril Jessop first. Carolyn, her dad, and her two moms arrive in Salt Lake City for her wedding to a man 32 years her senior. She hasn’t spoken with him. She doesn’t even want him to touch her. But when her father only gets two hotel rooms, she realizes she’s going to be forced to sleep with Merril. As her mothers get her dressed and coiffed for the ceremony, she feels like she’s “being prepared for a ritual sacrifice.” [Read more…]

Fundamentalist High School Drama – Escape Chapter 6: The Nusses

After the unremitting awful that was the last chapter, it’s nice to hit a light-ish one again. This is Escape, so there’s still plenty of bullshit that will make your teeth grind, but I’ve gotta admit, it’s kind of fun to get a taste of high school drama FLDS style

There’s a new high school in town, so those folks on the Prophet Uncle Roy side of the great religious divide can finally get an education.

The split in our community was now in it’s seventh year. One of the consequences was that many families pulled their children out of the private high school so they would not be contaminated by the children of the families on the other side of the divide who supported Uncle Roy. As a result, many boys wound up working on construction jobs instead of going to high school. The girls who were forbidden to go to the private high school were confined to their homes. Most of the girls who were kept out of school were disappointed because they had wanted an education and a diploma before they were assigned to a marriage. They knew that their futures were being shortchanged.

Yep. When you’ve got your eyes on eternal salvation, you don’t give a shit about your kids’ education. You don’t care if their ignorance cripples them here on Earth, condemning them to a lifetime of misery and poverty, just so long as their souls are saved. Besides, too much book-learnin’ could lead to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. [Read more…]

Trapped – Escape Chapter 5: “Linda’s Flight to Freedom”

In our last installment of Escape, we watched Carolyn’s sister Linda flee the FLDS cult with her friend Claudel, despite the threat of losing their families and being condemned to the worst portions of hell. In the last half of this chapter, we’ll see that running from the FLDS is one thing. Hiding successfully is quite another.

When women flee the FLDS, they’re hunted down like fugitives on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, only with less of a chance to evade capture. Linda and Claudel only manage a few days of freedom before they’re tracked and surrounded by a posse of their male relatives. The woman they’re staying with has to call the police to get rid of them, and even when told by the cops that the girls are legal adults and can do whatever they want, so scram, Linda’s dad won’t leave until he’s talked to her. She finally relents when he promises to leave her alone after they’ve spoken.

Pro tip: when an abusive asshole or a cult authority tells you they’ll stop bothering you if you’ll just talk to them this once, they’re lying. So, y’know, don’t bother. [Read more…]

Bringing Warren Jeffs to Justice: The Witness Wore Red Review

If you’ve read Elissa Wall’s harrowing Stolen Innocence, you already know a sliver of Rebecca Musser’s story. She’s Elissa’s sister, and was introduced under the pseudonym Kassandra. You’ll remember her as the vivacious young woman married to elderly prophet Rulon Jeffs. She had tried to make Elissa’s underage coerced wedding day less painful, became her lifeline, and left her devastated when she fled the cult. Later, Rebecca helped Elissa begin her escape by giving her a taste of life outside the FLDS. The sisters would later be instrumental in bringing Warren Jeffs to justice.

In The Witness Wore Red, we not only get Rebecca’s own story: we get aspects of Elissa’s story through her sister’s eyes, which helps broaden and deepen the context of both their lives. We see the Wall family as it was in the earlier days, before the new house, when Elissa and Rebecca’s part of the family would have to hide in the basement to escape the violent jealousy of their father’s other wife. We’re shown some of the domestic violence endemic to FLDS families, and the child sexual assault perpetrated so often within them – in addition to the violent other mother, Rebecca has to endure groping and attempted rape by an older half-brother. She, of course, is the one who gets called a whore when he assaults her.

If you’ve read Stolen Innocence first, it’s a bit confusing at first to navigate this book, which is using different names for people we already know from Elissa’s book, but you soon get everyone sorted out. And you’re too wrapped up in the trainwrecks of all these various lives to mind. Rebecca and her co-author are very good at putting you in Rebecca’s shoes, experiencing the stomach-clenching anxiety, anger, and despair of a girl trying to navigate the minefields of her religiously-smothered life.

She survives the FLDS school where Warren Jeffs rules, and gets a brief taste of adult life as a teacher, before being betrothed to 85 year-old Rulon Jeffs at the age of 18. Shortly after her 19th birthday, she becomes his 19th wife, very much against her own wishes. She’s never been given counseling to help her sort out the guilt and shame from her half-brother’s sexual assault, and on her wedding night, is desperately hoping humans are indeed higher than animals and that she won’t be forced to endure Rulon’s sexual advances. FLDS members are supposed to only have sex for procreation, and Rulon is far too old to sire children. But he has no regard for religious rules or Rebecca’s own wishes. Her only reprieve is the notion that with so many wives, he won’t be able to sleep with her often – but then learns that he only sleeps with his youngest wives, ignoring the older ones.

She’s able to go back to teaching, but it’s a difficult life for her. She witnesses the truth of the Jeffs men: they’re not exalted beings, but selfish, grasping men who love to degrade women. When Rulon has a stroke, she watches his son Warren step in and lie to the people. She looks on in horror as he begins to marry off younger and younger women. And then her young sister Elissa is forced into marriage at 14. We see Rebecca ordered to make Elissa happy, and watch her doing her best to cheer her while crying inside.

By the time Rulon dies, Rebecca is already almost at the end of her tether, having endured too much abuse and been forced to witness too many awful things. When Warren Jeffs starts marrying his father’s widows (an act prohibited by FLDS incest taboos, which he as prophet feels free to ignore), she finds herself questioning her faith. She begins a cautious friendship with Ben Musser, the only man she’s ever felt safe with. But after Ben kisses her, Warren tells her she’s cost Ben his salvation, and she’s going to be married to someone else within a week. She’s allowed to tell him her choice of men, but she’ll be forced to do something she’s adamantly against: enter another marriage.

She breaks. Then she makes a break for it, trusting a few scattered memories of the kindness of strangers on the outside. Ben escapes with her, and they begin a new life among the apostates, helped by her brothers who have already been kicked out of or left the cult. She describes how hard the transition is, how it’s difficult to make her own decisions, and learn how to function outside of the FLDS.

Ben begins a relationship with her, one that comes across as dubiously consensual to me. Soon, she’s pregnant, which causes a whole new set of issues. Ben stays with her, but the FLDS life is all they’ve ever known, and they fall into the old patterns of male dominance, which causes considerable strain.

When Warren Jeffs is arrested and Elissa’s former husband is brought up on charges of child rape, Rebecca becomes a witness against them. The last third of the book is her quest for justice, and freedom for the women still trapped inside the cult. She ends up testifying in many trials, always wearing red – a color Warren Jeffs had for forbidden.

Her work with the prosecution exposes her to the extent of the horrors Jeffs perpetrated. She’s there when his Texas compound is raided, and explains the significance of what they find there. Through her, we see the room in the FLDS temple where plural wives would have to witness their husband having sex with each of them, complete with a clerk to record the act. Girls as young as twelve were recorded being raped there. Rebecca listens to the audio of one child rape, and it is horrific, even though she shields us somewhat.

In the end, Rebecca can’t save all of her sisters from the cult. She can’t save her marriage as the strain of repeated trials and diverging worldviews destroys it. But she is able to get justice for Elissa and many other girls harmed by the FLDS cult. And with her story, she shows the way out for many more.

It’s an infuriating, heart-rending book. But it’s also infused with hope. It’s more than worth your time.

Image is the cover of The Witness Wore Red. On top, there is a picture of Rulon Jeffs with many of his wives, all of whom are wearing white. Rebecca's dress has been photoshopped to be red. Below the title is a picture of Rebecca Musser dressed in red and flanked by Texas lawmen, ready to enter the courtroom to testify against Warren Jeffs.

‘Today is a Good Day to Deny': The American Right Wing Refusal to Face Facts

I hope it’s only in America that a young white man can walk into a historic black church, tell the black people inside he’s there to kill them because they’re black, murder nine black people, tell the police he murdered them because they’re black, and publish a manifesto explaining he’s killing black people because they’re black… and end up with right wing blowhards claiming the crime has nothing to do with racism. People, if racism can’t be defined in part as “murdering a bunch of people because they’re black,” it’s time we strike the sapiens from our species’ name. We’re in no way wise if we can’t recognize the blatant racism that drove this horrific crime.

Image is nine photographs of the idividuals murdered in Charleston. The women are on the sides, the men down the middle.

The nine people murdered in Emmanuel AME Church. Via Ophelia Benson.

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