Greetings from Oregon

Allo, allo! We’re in Oregon with Lockwood for a few days, gathering the last geology of the season (unless we get to Montana later this month – stay tuned!). Day One: Marys Peak, which B hasn’t seen yet.

The sun was at the perfect angle for finding faults:

Image shows me standing in front of a fault that has cracked a cliff of pillow basalts.

Moi with pillow basalt cliff fault.

When we reached the summit near sunset, we could just see the sunlight glittering off the waters of the Pacific Ocean:

Image shows the distant ocean through a few trees. The water is glinting and a bit pink.

Sunset Pacific

A bit later, we had sunset proper.

Image shows gold, orange and pink clouds over a dark treeline.

Marys Peak Sunset

And on the other side of the world, the moon:

Image shows a round, orange moon hovering over the city lights on the valley floor.

Marys Peak Moon

Tomorrow, we’re headed up to MacKenzie Pass, and possibly see some things I’ve never seen. Friday, if we’re lucky and the weather holds, we’ll be spending a bit of time at the Coast. And then, hopefully, we’ll return home to a living catsitter. Misha’s old, but she’s been feeling feisty lately…

Adventures in ACE IX: More Senseless about Sedimentary

We left our merry band of Creationists, so ignorant even other YECs can’t stand ‘em, breezily ignoring all the sedimentary rock in previously-frozen wastes. Now we shall continue on while they butcher the rest. I hope you have hair. You’re gonna need some to pull out. If nature has blessed you with a pate that requires no shampoo, you may wish to glue some locks to your noggin. Don’t worry about having to acquire appropriate hair-care products: they won’t be there for long.

Now just imagine having to read this tripe repeatedly…

Image is a polar bear standing against a rock wall with its front paws over its face. Caption says, "Ahhh, the horror! Make it stop."

The ACE folks must have heard a few facts about how rocks can form once, long ago, third-hand, and remembered a few bits. They know heat and pressure come in somewhere. So they just have the Floodwaters pile up “many feet (meters) above the mountains, pushing down on the layers with tremendous force.” A bit of hand waving about the pressure heating the sediment, and by gosh, you’ve got instant rock!

Um.

No.

You can’t just pile a bunch of water on sediment and get rock. Limestone’s happy to lithify pretty quick, sometimes, but your basic sandstones and shales, they need plenty of time. Sure, they need to be compacted, probably, but they’ve also got to get rid of excess water, and some nice chemicals to stick the grains together would be favorite. Also, when it comes to really fine grains, you’ve got more trouble than just the long periods they need to finally settle out. There’s a bigger problem: “Simple loading of other materials on top will not do; trapped water in the muds would cause sudden liquifaction of the entire mass…”

Whoopsies.

Then they have the supposedly-lithified layers of sediment getting up to all sorts of shenanigans “[d]uring and immediately after the Flood.” One would think Noah & Co. would’ve noticed all this snazzy new rock acting like it was suffering from St. Vitus’s dance, especially once they’d landed, but nobody saw fit to mention it in the Bible.

Well, perhaps Noah was just too drunk to remember.

Painting shows Noah passed out drunk and nearly nekkid. His sons surround him, putting a red blanket over him, with a bit already strategically draped over his nads. One of the kids looks disturbingly like he's about to feel daddy up.

Giovanni Bellini’s Drunkennes of Noah, ca 1515. Image courtesy Art Renewal Center.

Set aside the handful of hair you’ve ripped out and grab another: Mr. Wheeler’s about to explain about thrust faults. Ha ha ha psych! There are no thrust faults in fundie-land! All you geologists who’ve found old strata on top of young, and found evidence that the strata was overturned and put out of order by faults – you’re wrong! Science sez!

“Scientific examination shows further that some of these supposedly ‘out-of-order’ strata were smoothly deposited on top of each other, not pushed on top of each other.”

We’re told that it’s totes impossible for ancient limestone to end up on top of feisty young shale in Glacier National Park, because it’s really really big, and “Scientists have demonstrated that sliding such a large layer of rock for such a distance would be physically impossible even if the layers of rock were well lubricated.”

Oh, Mr. Wheeler, I have the oddest feeling you know nothing of lubrication, much as your “scientists” know nothing about thrust faults. There was no smooth deposition of old limestone atop young shale, and certainly not a solid, well-lubed or not, layer measuring “350 miles (560 km) wide, and 6 miles (10 km) thick” sliding up and over all in one go.

When a fault moves (for example during an earthquake) movement does not occur all along the fault, and those parts of the fault that do move are not in motion at the same time. An earthquake originates at a point along a fault, and the deformation caused by the earthquake propagates away from that point along the fault, until it dies out. The deformation also does not occur along the entire length of the fault. These observations are based on records of earthquake motions, such as those associated with the Great Alaskan Earthquake, recorded by seismometers. Similarly an earthquake along the San Andreas fault will not result in motion along the entire fault. The claim that the stresses required to cause movement along a thrust fault are large enough to shatter the rocks is based on the assumption that movement along the fault occurs simultaneously. This assumption is not valid, and any calculations made based on that assumption will be wrong.

My gosh, it’s as if the people putting words in Mr. Wheeler’s mouth know nothing about actual science, innit?

Image is a diagram showing the Lewis Overthrust and the other rocks and ranges of Glacier National Park.

Geologic Cross section of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Showing the Lewis overthrust fault and the proterozoic rocks above it. Image and caption courtesy Benutzer:Xavax via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the ACE geniuses, high pressure hardens fishies into fossils. No attempt is made to explain why the Flood did this to some of the animals it buried, but fossilized only hard bits like bone and shell for other animals, and pressured only impressions of some. But don’t be surprised Mr. Wheeler’s puppeteers don’t grok fossilization – these are the same folks who point to tree trunks buried upright and scream triumph when geologists actually do know that, yes, sometimes, different sedimentary layers are deposited quickly enough to preserve perishable things like standing trees. They also have a hard time comprehending things like, oh, say, whales getting fossilized in the horizontal, then tilted along with their layers later. No, their rigid faith in the Bible requires them to believe all this stuff happened practically instantly, so they deliberately misunderstand (or outright lie about) fossils like their beloved Santa Barbara whale. And we know it’s willful ignorance or deliberate deception, because scientists have had such polystrate fossils figured out since the 19th century.

No amount of creationist crap on sedimentary rock would be complete without them babbling about bats buried in flowstone. They get positively giddy at the thought of stalagmites forming quickly. Mr. Wheeler tells us that there’s a particular one growing by at least “2.5 cubic inches (41 cm^3) per year.” I tried and failed to find the origin of this claim. It appears not to have come from proper scientific investigation, but has been extracted whole from a creationist bunghole. They may also be conflating what grows in caves with the stuff that grows from water percolating through concrete or masonry, which is a completely different chemical reaction. As for their precious preserved bat – it’s pure bullshit.

Mr. Wheeler ends by telling us about shale, which was once clay mud hardened by – you guessed it – the Flood. You know, aside from the whole aforementioned liquefaction problem, there’s also the sad fact it takes bloody ages for clay to settle out of still water, and won’t settle well at all in turbulent water – a fact I’m sure all in the audience who made mud puddles and whirlpools with their garden hose can attest to.

It’s at this point that I pause again to marvel at the fact that ACE is a complete inversion of the natural order of textbooks; which always contain some errors, but are in the balance correct. These PACES seem to hail from some Bizzarro World where textbooks are meant to consist of endless errors, with the occasional lonely accurate fact stranded like a pristine kernel of corn in the midst of the sludge.

Next, we shall see how they muck up the metamorphic rocks. I hope all that hair you ripped out grows back rapidly – you’ll be tearing it out again shortly.

Image shows a cat with a shaved body and a disgruntled expression. Caption says, "Wut yoo lookin at?"

Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide I: Hoffstadt or Bust

So, you’ve got a day to visit Mount St. Helens. Huzzah! All right, if you don’t now, you will someday, quite possibly maybe, and you’ll want to know how you can do All The Things when you haven’t got much time. Never fear! In response to a request from Silver Fox, I’m putting together your very own field trip guide, which will show you things you can do in a day there, and feel you got your visit’s worth. Keeping in mind, this is a Pacific Northwest summer day and so it is very, very long.

First, download Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity by Patrick Pringle. You can print it out or take it on a tablet, but don’t leave home without it!

To whet your appetite, you can curl up with the field guide some weekend, and peruse these posts: Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Current Quiet Interval Will Not Last…” and Prelude to a Catastrophe: “One of the Most Active and Most Explosive Volcanoes in the Cascade Range.”

Now that you’re wound up and ready for adventure, start up Highway 504 – Spirit Lake Highway. Crusing along with a passenger who can read bits from Pringle’s book, you’ll see quite a lot of geology even before you get to our first stop – Mount St. Helens and the Toutle River Valley have a long history. Evidence of the area’s dramatic past will pop out at you all the way along.

Optional beginning: Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake. For you strange people who like to get a super-early start, this is a nice place to get oriented. It’s got many lovely displays, some handy and inexpensive guide books, and a great little walk along and over Silver Lake, which was created by a lahar that dammed Outlet Creek 2,500 years ago. On a clear day, you will have a lovely if distant view of Mount St. Helens, 30 miles up the valley.

Mount St. Helens with Silver Lake in the foreground.

Mount St. Helens with Silver Lake in the foreground.

If, on the other hand, you’re driving in from Seattle, Portland or similar and arrive late in the morning, skip ahead to our first official stop.

Stop 1. Hoffstadt Viewpoint

Try to come hungry and arrive around 11 am, when the restaurant’s open – I’m not kidding when I tell you they have the absolute best ranch I have ever tasted. And you’ll want to be freshly fueled for the rest of the day. If you’re here on a warm day, you can sit out on the deck, where misters will keep you cool, and this view up the Toutle River Valley will keep your eyes happy:

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.

We’re about 15 miles (25 kilometers) downstream from Mount St. Helens here. The Toutle River is a braided channel weaving its way through lots and lots of sediment, carrying lots and lots more sediment. If you’ve got sharp eyes, you’ll see the remains of the N-1 dam, built to retain some of that sediment. Unfortunately, it failed to retain a rather large 1982 lahar, and winter storms and floods finished off what was left of it. A new, larger, and simply awesome sediment retention structure was built later (if you’ve got time left over, you can make a short side trip over to marvel at it – delightful little walk, nice engineering, and in certain seasons, you can nibble some delicious oxalis).

The remains of N-1 mark the edge of the debris avalanche, which we will be getting to know intimately later today. But most of what you’re seeing here are older volcanics – Spud Mountain (the rather pointy peak in front of St. Helens in the above photo) and the other mountains hereabouts are far older than our active youngster – they’re around 36 million years old, whereas St. Helens clocks in at around 40,000. You’ll see the occasional bedrock outcrop. If you could get up there, you’d also find, somewhere beneath all the biology, evidence of glaciers that mantled this area, some of which came and went before the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet was so much as a gleam in the Cordilleran’s ice. River terraces reveal evidence of pre-1980 lahars that roared down from the mountain in more recent times. Put it like this: this area has a long and exciting history, one that makes reading quad map documentation epic. Not even kidding.

Once you’ve had your fill of scenery, a short wander down a trail near the Visitor Center will take you to the Memorial Grove planted in memory of the people who died in the May 1980 eruption. Don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to pay your respects here – you’ll get a second chance at the end of the trip.

When you continue on, you’ll soon be entering the blast zone….

Photo on the road, within the Blast Zone.

Photo on the road, within the Blast Zone.

 Next: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide II: Castle Lake Viewpoint

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

References:

Decker, Barbara and Robert (2002): Road Guide to Mount St. Helens (Updated Edition). Double Decker Press.

Doukas, Michael P. (1990): Road Guide to Volcanic Deposits of Mount St. Helens and Vicinity, Washington. USGS Bulletin 1859.

Evarts, Russell C and Ashley, Roger P. (1992): Preliminary Geologic Map of the Elk Mountain Quadrangle, Cowlitz County, Washington. USGS Open-File Report 92-362.

Pringle, Patrick T. (2002): Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity. Washington DNR Information Circular 88.

A Rant Against the Dual Nature of Marketing Towards Men and Women

In which our own RQ riffs off my Fifty Shades of Fucking Abuse post. (say something about the gender binary) The floor is hers:

I got to thinking about your post during the day, and on what it means regarding who is reading what, and what kind of reading is marketed to whom. Especially romance and/or sex-related stuff, or, hell, just books that might have sex in them somewhere.

Because all those tired housewives? What’s marketed to them? Insipid romance where the man saves the day (or is horribly abusively ‘romantic,’ right, because what woman doesn’t love a good stalker?), magazines on housewifery and how-to-keep-your-man-interested… What else? Not much – I read a pretty decent science magazine (GEO, not to be confused with NatGeo) that explicitly states in its subscription description that it is geared towards middle-income, successful men. And what is in this magazine? Well, it’s not women in any state of undress – it’s very interesting science and geography articles, with nary a nod towards ‘typical’ male interests (except in advertising, and even that – alcohol, watches, suits…). Why can this kind of stuff not be geared towards women, too? Those bored housewives who are so uninteresting to their husbands – wouldn’t this kind of thing be perfect for them? Educate themselves while gaining a broader perspective on the world (they’ve had some neat articles on transgender children and non-traditional relationships, plus a very feminist one on the role of fathers from a scientific perspective), while acquiring information useful in ordinary, daily conversation with their far more worldly husbands. Sounds great to me, so why not market it as such?

Then there are the women’s magazines, which are… well, cooking, interior design, and, on occasion, nicely dressed and fully clothed men (there was that one comparison of Hugh Jackman on the cover of men’s and women’s magazines a while back). And that’s all fine, until it’s the only thing ‘appropriate’ for married women with children, and the thought of showing a bare-chested man in a housewife magazine (YUMM) is considered racy and borderline non-permissible… Where’s the women’s equivalent to FHM and Playboy? And I don’t mean just erotic shots, I mean the intelligent interviews with the interviewee posing in his underwear as eye-candy. I can think of a few local candidate athletes who would be perfect for this.

But no.

Women, especially women in long-term, childed relationships, don’t have sexuality. Not one worth talking about, at least, except as a ‘haha I bet you never have sex’ joke. This is something that needs to die a very, very painful and quick death (I’d say slow, but I’ve had enough of slow).

And that leaves me to wonder, from whence do women get their ideas about their own sexuality, in a fairly puritanical society that deems them worthy only of having children and being satisfied only under the wing of a man?

And that is what leaves them wide open for books like 50 Shades – because, unfortunately, with all the abusive aspects of it, and the childish language (they can’t even talk dirty enough because it will hurt the sensitivities of women? what?), it does speak plainly and openly about sexual love within the bounds of a relationship. I mean, I read a lot when I was young, and my first awakenings into sexuality came through SF/Fantasy novels (Hel-lo, Lions of Al-Rassan). And then for a while I made sure that all the books I read had at least one sex scene in them, because that shit was awesome! Masturbation material! (Sorry if it’s TMI.) And it was in all kinds of books!

Which leaves me to wonder, are people really so limited in their reading choices (and more specifically, are housewives really so limited in their reading material) that they have to resort to such ridiculous trash as 50 Shades to re-awaken those feelings? To allow them to feel like sexual beings again, to let them know that it’s perfectly normal to want sex and love your body and have someone do wonderful, touchy-feely, hot things to it? Is it just the marketing this time around? Is it a lack of resources to know that, hey, having kids doesn’t automatically turn the pleasure-centres in your vagina and environs off? Because there’s so much literature out there that can get people hot and bothered – if they bothered to look at it that way. But I think I’m slowly discovering that, indeed, there’s a very narrow lane you have to walk when you’re set in a certain role, a very narrow set of interests you’re supposed to cultivate in order to be the right kind of wife/mother/girlfriend. Because the gods forbid you start having fantasies about imaginary characters or unattainable athletes or actors on-screen… Because Hugh Jackman would set a bad precedent by taking his shirt off in a women’s magazine, while being all bare-chested and manily aggressive is perfectly fine for the men to see (because that’s how they should be, too!), but there’s no reciprocating audience to accept him as such, from a sexual point of view (I feel like there’s some underlying homophobia here, too, because sexy pictures of men might be looked at by gay men, and ew, right???).

I suppose this is a rant against the dual nature of marketing towards men and women (and never mind those who aren’t straight and cis, because… well, because, right?), how men are allowed to be sexual, women are too nurturing to understand, and women who want sex for the sake of sex and pleasure are sluts and shouldn’t be treated with respect… Yes, that’s rape culture. But is it really so ingrained that it subtly limits everyone’s reading choices? That it denies such self-examination and acceptance of all of one’s self?

I’m sad to think that the answer is yes – that the only way to awaken women’s ‘lost’ sexuality is through aggressive marketing piggy-backing on the coattails of an already-terrible romance. That there’s so much beautiful, sexy stuff written out there, that would appeal to both men and women without resorting to silly cliches and harmful stereotypes of romance that doesn’t get a single note of attention because… because it doesn’t fall neatly into a box. Because it doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘housewife’ or ‘husband’ or ‘sex after marriage’ (I’m pretty sure there isn’t even a box for that last one). And this is only in the context of plain, vanilla relationships (which can be pretty hot too).

The Lions of Al-Rassan isn’t marketed or ever described as a romance novel – even though, in essence, that’s what it is. No? And it’s not the only book that avoids the ‘romance’ label even though it is chock-full of romance.

Anyway. I’m not sure how to end this in a good way, because it’s saddening and slightly angering that this is what women have to resort to – that this is what is pushed at men as a model – because society is too afraid to acknowledge sex and sexuality as a real, living aspect of all adults, whether single, married, with or without kids, of any orientation or sexual proclivity. Sex is too awesome to be demeaned and swept under the rug like that – why does it happen?

(And yes, I have some idea… I just wish there was a better way to stand against it and make a change.)

*sigh*

Sigh indeed.

New at Rosetta Stones: Stories from Survivors of Creationist “Science” Education

I’m republishing our Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series over at Rosetta Stones. The posts are essentially the same, but with fewer in-jokes (like the word “Christianist”), and aimed toward an audience whose computers (or brains) have naughty-word filters. There will be places where I’ll add direct invitations to creationist students to really think about what they’re learning. I’m also letting through some creationist comments I’m getting, in case you want to go have fun with their myths, misconceptions, and outright ignorance about science. I’ve already had a dude making the “we only use 10% of our brains” claim – it’s hilarious. I’m still contemplating how much creationist schlock I’ll allow to clog up my comments section, but I actually haven’t gotten much. I’m impressed.

Image shows a priest at left saying, "No question!! God did it!! God wills it!!" and a professor at left holding chalk in front of a chalkboard and saying, "Do you have any questions?" Caption says, "Religion vs. Science. Faith does not give you the answers; it just stops you asking the questions."

And I’ve had a ton of comments from people who fully support robust science education. And then there are my favorites: comments from people who survived that creationist crap and managed to discover what science really is later on. Some of them broke my heart. But all of them give me a lot of hope. At least some of these kids make it out.

Please go read their stories, and if you have a story of your own, I’d absolutely love for you to share it either here or there. All my respect and support to you!

Image shows the Eleventh Doctor, pointing at someone off-camera. Caption says, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

Let’s Bring Skepticon and the Ada Initiative Together! #skeptics4ada

So, remember how I talked about taking our activism, passion and filthy atheist lucre elsewhere?  Here’s an elsewhere: the Ada Initiative. It’s named for Ada Lovelace, “the enchantress of numbers” and the first person who wrote an algorithm meant for machines. She was essentially a computer programmer before there were even computers, people. That’s how awesome she is.

Image is a watercolor of Ada Lovelace, wearing a lovely purple dress and holding a fan.

Ada Lovelace, my darlings. She exudes awesome, doesn’t she just? I definitely need to make this costume for Halloween once I’ve got the hang of this seamstress stuff. Watercolor portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780–1860). Image courtesy Science & Society Picture Library via Wikimedia Commons.

So this foundation honors her memory by supporting women in tech. They are not afraid of a certain f-word, either:

Image is a drawing of the words "Not afraid to say the f-word - feminism"

Hells to the yes! Image via the Ada Initiative website.

And they’re currently raising money for another excellent year of activism. They’ve got a challenge out to us: raise $5,000, and they’ll bring their Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon.

The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men simple, everyday ways to support women in their workplaces and communities. Participants learn techniques that work at the office, at conferences, and online. The skills we teach are relevant everywhere, including skills particularly relevant to open technology and culture communities. At the end of the workshop, participants will feel more confident in speaking up to support women, be more aware of the challenges facing women in their workplaces and communities, and have closer relationships with the other participants.

You know, this seems to be aimed at men, but all genders could benefit. We’re swimming in sexism, and we don’t always know how to combat it. So yes, let’s bring this to Skepticon, train up as allies, and get to work defeating sexism in all our spaces.

We’ve got lots of days left, but not many more dollars are needed! Like PZ said, getting a lot of broad support going would be outstanding, so if you can only chip in a small amount, do it! You may not think it’s much, but it’s another voice speaking up, and we need all the voices we can get.

This is how we change the culture, people. I love this stuff. Moar, pleez!

Some Helpful Tips for Those Institutions Wishing to Avoid Sexism and/or Racism

My dear friend and fellow science blogger Anne Jefferson has an excellent post up about sexism and racism in the scientific community. It deserves to be read in its entirety. However, I know many of you movers and shakers are quite busy, so here are her helpful tips, which you might wish to put somewhere easy to find for those times when you might be close to injecting more sexist and/or racist dreck into the community.

So here’s a few simple tips for publishers, funders, and other institutions that have megaphones and amplifiers in the scientific community. If you are part of an organization that’s been caught out on issues of sexism and racism in the past, or you think there’s a possibility it could happen in the future, you might consider printing these tips out and pinning them to your colleague’s cubicles.

1) If you receive racist or sexist material for publication, DON’T PUBLISH IT. Throw it out. Shake your head, laugh about the backwardness of the writer with your colleagues, but DON’T PUBLISH IT. It doesn’t deserve your printed or virtual space, and it’s not “contributing to the conversation.”

2) If you woman and/or person of color is describing problems with racism, sexism, or harassment, assume that what they are saying is true and do not attempt to silence or gaslight them. This is a general rule, but because apparently it needs to be said. Even if, especially if, the women and/or people of color are part of your organization or are accusing your organization of racism, sexism, or harassment, you should let their voices be heard.

3) If your organization is responsible in any way for selecting which voices get heard in science (you know, like publishers, funders, and think tanks do), make sure that women and people of color get representation, and that when you do, that you don’t do with a side helping of victim blaming or condescension.

There you go. All you need to begin the process of keeping sexist and racist dreck out of our spaces. This is how you make the community better.

And now, you have absolutely no excuse for getting it wrong.

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

STEM’s Harassment Problem Goes Well Beyond Field Work

D.N. Lee has a post up at Scientific American that needs to be read right now. Here’s a pull quote, but read the entire thing. Now. No excuses.

I know the SAFE research focused on field research experiences – mostly abroad, away from home institution – but many women are getting harassed out of science before field research opportunities become available to them. You don’t have to go far away to experience this pain, and too many divert their research interests to lab spaces to avoid it. You don’t need a New York Times Op-Ed or Huffington Post published piece to hear these stories. Just listen to your students/academic advisees, especially the ones who may suddenly stop coming/going  to class or students who refuse to go to office hours to see certain instructors or those that flake out on attending after hours social events or if you notice several students en masse avoid a certain instructor or adviser or section of a class/lab offering.  These scholarly environments that indeed do exist, that the royal we have not proactively and deliberately made safe — this is not fair to them or science, either. I wager we are losing some great minds.

The SAFE study was the very first of its kind to document and comment on abuse within field research sciences. When news of this research first hit I remember many critics claiming it wasn’t comprehensive enough, more detailed questions should have been asked, *exact* details of unwanted encounters should have been parsed. Like any ‘first of its kind study’ those comprehensive details are not included. Moreover, I say demanding this amount of detail from subjects is unethical and unnecessary. I have a problem with how easily and quickly fellow scientists can be to harm human subjects because of  ‘for the good of science notion’. No, what more detail do you need? I’m mad that we needed data in the first place in order to have a conversation about doing something. If you or our institutions demand this much research, detail and investment before half-way committing to doing something to establishing safe places and spaces for people, then it means they aren’t really, really interested in creating these safe places/spaces. It shouldn’t matter how often or intense the abuse is or when a ‘not who we expected’ victim speaks up that people in power finally create safe places and spaces. Period.

That second paragraph should be horribly familiar to those of us who have been combating sexual assault and harassment in skeptic and atheist circles. That second paragraph needs to be thrust under the noses of every single person in any community who has been hand-waving away reports of problems. And the ones who continue to hand-wave are the ones we’ll know we need to cull from our spaces.

unacceptable

I have no tolerance left. I’m tired of waiting for people to clue in. Either you recognize there’s a problem with the way women and minorities are treated, or you don’t. If you recognize the problem, help us fix it. If you don’t, get the fuck out of our way.

And go read D.N. Lee’s piece until it finally sinks in: you should be doing something to end this shit right now. You should have started doing it long ago.

No more silence.

Image shows a puma with its paws crossed and its ears flattened, gazing at the camera as if disappointed and annoyed. Caption says, "We expect better of you than this."

Puma photo by Beatrice Murch via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Sexism Starts Early and Is Reinforced Often: STEM Edition

Listen up, everyone who likes to babble about innate differences between the sexes (especially you, Sam Harris). Listen to Libby Anne, whose daughter Sally loves science. Listen to the story of Sally drawing equations on her dad’s office chalkboard, and a science colleague dude walking in, and asking a little girl who’s enthusiastically writing numbers-

(No, he didn’t ask her about her math stuff. Don’t be silly! Everybody knows girls don’t math, even when they’re happily scribbling numbers.)

(No, you weirdo, he didn’t ask her if she likes science. Of course not! Her dad and her two year-old brother can like science, but even if she’s doing sciencey stuff all on her own, that’s obviously not what she likes, because girls don’t science.)

(No, of course he didn’t ask what she was doing! She was obviously just doodling. It didn’t mean anything. Numbers don’t mean things to girls, duh.)

No, of course he asked her the only rational thing you could ask a girl who’s playing with numbers on a chalkboard:

“What’s your favorite princess?”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

Because that’s not reinforcing sexist stereotypes at all.

Libby Anne spoke to the gentleman about it, and you’ll be relieved to know he’s totes aware that women are under-represented in STEM fields, it’s just that his nieces like princesses, so of course that’s what you ask little girls who are playing with math about.

Then, y’know, when those little girls tell you they haven’t got a favorite princess, but they adore science, of course it’s fine to walk out while they’re in the midst of sharing that love, because you’re probably busy and don’t have a moment to listen to miniature females talk about science. She’s supposed to have a favorite princess, anyway, amirite, guys?

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

Libby Anne has a message for us:

Many little girls are into princesses, yes, and that’s fine. But but others prefer legos, or art, or My Little Ponies—or science. I want a world where girls are treated as individuals first, a world where girls are allowed to fill in the blanks in their own stories. Is it so hard to ask a girl her interests instead of assuming them for her?

My son Bobby is two, and I’m interested to hear what people say to him as he grows so that I can compare. What do people lead off with with five-year-old boys? It will be gendered as well, I’m sure, and that’s the problem—this is part of the process of socializing children into specific gender roles. Girls are assumed to like sweet sparkly pretty girly things and boys are assumed to like strong manly messy boy things. And then we do studies on psychological differences between men and women or differences in occupational choice as though these things are wholly natural rather than largely the product of relentless cultural shaping during childhood.

Can we please stop doing this shit? It’s 20fucking14. Isn’t it time to stop shoving little kids into gendered boxes and let them love what they love? Can’t we please encourage kids to figure out for themselves what floats their boat?

And if you engage in stupid oblivious sexist shit like the above dude, you really need to take another look at your assumptions, and consider that your thoughtless actions are a major reason why women and men turn out differently. Hint: it ain’t all biology.

/rant. Sod this for a lark. I need a vat of tequila and a truckload of limes, now, please.