Six Snubbed Women in Science

Someone (if only I could remember who!) recently linked this 2013 NatGeo article: 6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism. Rosalind Franklin is there, of course, but there are also women I’d never heard of: Esther Lederberg, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Nettie Stevens. The list hasn’t got any geologists, alas, but physics and biology are well-represented with one shout-out to astronomy.

Image shows Chinese scentist Chien-Shiung Wu smiling at the camera in an old black-and-white photo.

Chien-Shiung Wu. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m happy to be living in a time when women are finally beginning to get the recognition they deserve, but there’s a long way to go. I’ll be bringing back our Pioneering Women in the Geosciences series soon, now that summer field season is over. We won’t let their contributions be forgotten.

 

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

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.

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!

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+

No, don’t say anything yet.

Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:

If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?

If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?

Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.

You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.

There’s one more thing I want you to consider:

My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.

And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.

So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?

Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.

Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.

Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.

Think these things through carefully before you speak.

You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.

 

Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.

I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.

 

* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding.

+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.

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

Yes, my darlings, in a post full of links to other people’s stuff,* I couldn’t help poking fun at the current clickbait “One Weird Trick” thingies. I’ve been reading stuff with lots of good suggestions (not so much tricks. And who wants to trick people into behaving decently when we can do it by being straightforward?).

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

My friends piled on their own disappointment as we lamented one sad story of sexism after another. And so, since it was late in the evening when such silly/amazing things can happen, Maria Walters started a Disappointed Feminists tumblr where YOU TOO can share your most disappointing moments in feminism and display your disillusionment.

Ima submit one soon. Don’t let me forget.

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

Let’s go down the list and clear the backlog, here… this piece by Amanda Marcotte is definitely on the read and bookmark list. This is my favorite line:

Let’s be clear: Anyone who accuses you of hating “men” when you are explicitly critiquing misogyny is rather unsubtly arguing that all men are inherently misogynists.

PWND. That’s a thing I find fascinating about these anti-feminists who babble on and on able how men are visual creatures and they can’t help themselves and she shouldn’t have been wearing that because of course men will want to attack her… those folks may think they’re protecting dudes, but all they’re really doing is telling me they think less of men than I do. I mean, people suck sometimes, and they do things that suck, but geez, I have a lot more respect for men than that. I think most guys are quite decent, really, and eminently capable of not being rapey misogynistic arseholes. Funny that so many of the people who think they respect men actually think otherwise.

In the quotable quotes category (ctd.), there’s this stinky beauty from David Futrelle:

The trouble with having your head up your ass most of the time is that when you take it out, people tend to notice the smell.

Heh. Indeed.

And this, which ties the spirit of both above quotes together rather wonderfully:

I mean, what people who blame mental illness are actually saying is that his disinhibitions are the only thing that kept him from being a well-adjusted misogynist who simply spouts harmful and violent speech on the internet… HELLO?!

Have you sampled much MRA babble? It’s pretty much exactly that: a bunch of dudes busily making arguments that they’re not that guy, in such a way that they actually end up sounding pretty much just as awful as the awful person who shat a bunch of misogyny all over the internet, then ran off to do some real-life murderous rampaging. Way to make us think you’re the reasonable ones, MRA dudes!

Here’s a good bit to throw at some jackass arguing that the least quiver of an eyelash by a woman is permission to ravish her, but unless she’s screamed “NO” through a bullhorn and sent a notarized letter advising she does not wish to engage in intercourse with the ravishing party now, at all points in the past, and in all future times up to and including the moment Earth gets fried by the sun, then she didn’t make it clear that she didn’t, actually, want sex:

That’s all I ask: That the standard  being used to say “no” and the one being used to say “yes” are exactly the same. If “no” has to be verbal and explicit, then so should “yes”. But—and this is what I believe—if women can say “yes” by using body language and verbal discourse that is contextual but understandable, such as saying, “Oh god, I want you right now,” then women should also be able to say no by those standards, and stiffening up or making excuses also counts as a no. If you run around saying that women can’t expect men to hear “no” if they don’t say it bluntly, then you don’t get to turn around and say men can hear “yes” if it’s expressed subtly.

Bolded for truth.

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

Along similar lines: this comment by Tony! The Queer Fucking Shoop! on why men whistling at women is No Bueno:

See, I’m different. I think whistling at women is wrong. Our culture sexually objectifies women and treats them as things that exist for the sexual pleasure of men. Whistling at woman doesn’t treat them as a human being you wish to interact with as an equal. All it is is the equivalent of saying “I want to fuck you”, but without words. And women are tired of men doing this. I’m tired of men doing this. Women are not objects. Women do not exist for the benefit of men. Women are human beings, just like everyone else, and they deserve to be able to participate in society to whatever extent they choose without people treating them like they’re things to fuck.

YES. THIS. ^^^

All right, ya ready for your weird tricks to combat sexism and abuse? Sure you are! Here they are:

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

One last thing to note for all of the men out there reading this and saying to yourself “Y’know, this guy’s got a good point,” keep in mind that the women in your life have already told you these things.  You just didn’t listen because, y’know . . .

The whole post is brilliant, and you should read it, especially if you’re just now waking up to the fact that your lady friends have been trying to tell you something.

Now, for your next trick: adding one small qualifier means everything:

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our team moves forward. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 international goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

[snip]

The male position is not the neutral position. It has a point of view, the male point of view, which not everyone shares, and which is not always superior. Either clarify everyone or clarify no one, otherwise it sends that message that one group is the norm and the other is a deviation, even when “the other” is more successful in the field.

In case you’re pressed for time and don’t click through, the takeaway here is that we need to stop saying shit like “women’s soccer” or “female judge” without doing the same for the men’s versions. Sounds great to me!

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

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

Right, that should keep you busy. And thee shall have some nice pictures soon, as well.

*And yes, this is what you’re getting instead of pictures of Fidalgo Island. We didn’t go to Fidalgo Island because both of us were far behind on sleep and too hot to move. We ate Ezell’s and watched MMA instead. We’re going today instead. Probably. Or maybe just back to Ezell’s because ZOMG best chicken ever.

What Recent Supreme Court Decisions Have Told Me About My Value as a Woman and a Human Being

I’ve learned so much from the Supreme Court over the last few years:

Corporations are totes people who have the right to put as much money where their mouth is as they want – well, they don’t technically have mouths, but they’re still American people who have every right to talk as much as those mere biological people they’re notorious for trodding upon.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) Limits on corporate and union political expenditures during election cycles violate the First Amendment. Corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited sums in support of or in opposition to candidates as long as the spending is independent of the candidates.

(Notice we hoi polloi are thrown a sop in the form of labor unions being able to spend unlimited sums – which would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that corporations have been busy murdering unions for decades. Hey – does that count as first-degree murder? Because that means we should be able to imprison or execute them, then.)

Corporations and rich people have lots more freedom of speech than people who aren’t rich or corporations.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) Limits on the total amounts of money that individuals can donate to political campaigns during two-year election cycles violate the First Amendment.

Image shows Supreme Court portrait: the conservative justices have corporate logos on their robes. Caption says, "I don't always undermine the Constitution of the United States, but when I do, I make sure I get paid."

People who want to keep guns around in order to shoot other people (but not corporations, because while corporations can “speak,” they can’t actually bleed) are more important than people who would rather impose sensible limits on guns for the safety of total non-people (such as children outside of wombs).

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) The individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is fully applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

People of color don’t need any protection from systemic racism. Nossir. Times have changed and there is no longer any such thing as, oh, say, corporations (which are Very Important People) and political parties (*coughRepublicancough*) discriminating against people whose skin is other than white. They certainly wouldn’t refuse to hire them or prevent them from voting!

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains the coverage formula that determines which state and local jurisdictions are subjected to federal preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices based on their histories of racial discrimination in voting, is unconstitutional because it no longer reflects current societal conditions.

Making everybody in government pray to Jesus doesn’t violate anyone’s free exercise of religion. Why wouldn’t Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and pagans and all them other (totally fake) people love praying to Jesus? Their objections are silly and can definitely be ignored. Remember: being forced to pray to a god your religion or conscience tells you doesn’t exist is no big, even if your god is a jealous fucker who will cut you for paying lip service to someone else’s god.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A town council’s practice of opening its sessions with a sectarian prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.

We look forward to seeing the Court twist into pretzels to define why praying to Allah is totes a violation of the Establishment clause.*

The Court has given me to understand that women are definitely lesser people than corporations. Corporations have the right to force women and trans men who haven’t had surgery to pay for their own birth control, because a corporation can be totes religious just like a person, and private for-profit corporations are so pious that they, like churches, can impose their beliefs that women should be baby factories upon women, trans men, and other folks with a uterus. Uterus-having folks, however, have no right to impose their desire for appropriate healthcare upon the corporation providing health insurance as part of their compensation. No word yet on whether corporations must pay for the aspirin they’re telling ladies to keep between their knees as a substitute for effective birth control, but I’m sure they won’t have to if they classify all pills as birth control.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Closely held for-profit corporations have free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Viagra, of course, will be provided to the menfolk with limp willies free of charge.

Image is an angry Captain Picard with his hand extended as if protesting. Caption says, "Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a fucking crafts store."

But hey, isn’t it sweet that the Court’s enlightened enough to finally realize there’s no good reason for the federal government to say “I don’t” to same-sex marriage?

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines—for federal law purposes—the terms “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to marriages between one man and one woman, is a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states.

Shorter Supremes: “We’re going to give corporations insane control over the political process, and gut all the laws protecting you from racist jackasses, and let Christians force their prayers and beliefs upon you even in government settings, and we don’t give a single shit about women’s reproductive rights because every fetus and potential fetus is sacred until it’s born, after which we don’t care if it gets shot, but hey, we’re not bigots – you can have all the same-sex weddings you want! Just, y’know, don’t expect us to tell corporations, which are completely religious people, that they can’t discriminate against you. Because it’s obvious we think they own you.”

Image shows Scalia. Caption reads, "Equality? Not founder's intent, lol."

For those who say elections don’t matter, I just want to point out one thing: the majority are all Reagan / George W. Bush appointees. The dissenters: Clinton and Obama. Just one less Bush term, and women might not have to put up with their employer forcing their religious views up their vagina. Had Obama lost, same-sex marriage would still be a distant dream rather than an impending reality. So fuck you if you’re one of those who was willing to risk McCain or Romney just to punish the Dems for not being progressive enough. Play those games with local and state elections where there’s less risk and more reward, people. Leave the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices in hands that aren’t bloody evil.

Image shows Voting Rights Act being signed. Caption says, "Undone by 5 justices. #whycourtsmatter"

And go read Greta Christina’s piece on this travesty. Get outraged. Get voting. Don’t ever let yourself believe elections don’t matter. The only thing that’s going to defeat all that corporate cash is a lot of good people willing to pull the right levers.

Image is a gray cat in a suit. Caption says, "Lawyer cat objects to everything."Boycott Hobby Lobby. Get involved with SafeAndSecular.org.

*I will soon be running for office as an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – if you vote for me, I assure you each meeting will begin by invoking his saucy blessing upon our government business. Does anyone know where I can find meatballs that are halal, kosher, and don’t violate Hindu dietary laws?

Snippets about the landmark rulings filched from Wikipedia’s handy list.

The following memes were found by Ophelia, who has been blogging this case all day. Take them. Spread them. Annoy your Tea Party relatives with them.

Americans United meme. Text reads, "Apparently, the Supreme Court's HOBBY is acting as a LOBBY for the interests of corporations run by the religious right." Image is a 50s illustration of two women. Caption reads, "Face it, dear. Corporations have more rights than we do." Fight back at www.safeandsecular.org. Atheists.org meme: Image shows a Hobby Lobby store, with a Monopoly-style card over it that reads "Fake religious freedom. Get out of the law free. This card may be used to treat women as second-class citizens." Caption says, "A gift from the Supreme Court to religious extremists."  Elizabeth Warren quote: I cannot believe that we live in a world where would even [sic] CONSIDER letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections. The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

“What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?”

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

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

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

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

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

And do more:

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

You’re doing great! Keep on keeping on:

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

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

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

Check your male privilege.

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

Support women and minorities when they try to advance.

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

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

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

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

Challenge yourself to be better.

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

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

“And you call this PROTECTION?”

A while ago, Marwa at Between A Veil and a Dark Place unleahed a “tirade of snark” upon a correspondent playing the “No True Muslim” and “Not All Muslims” cards with a heaping helping of apologia. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s about time for you to give it your attention. It’s long, and it has a lot of important ideas to digest, so pick a time when you can devote yourself to it. Get comfy, and read on:

You can string out the same tired sentences and stances a thousand and one times and they’ll still be as flawed and dishonest and inhumane as ever, these phrases, ‘oh, Islam grants women her rights, don’t you know, preserves honor, dignity, and doesn’t condone mistreatment’ and seriously, I ask you, do we live in the same world?

[snip]

So…you think that a woman should have sex when she doesn’t want to so her husband doesn’t fight with her,  abuse her,  and cheat on her?  And you call this PROTECTION?  I hate to break it to you,  but what you described is the goddamn definition of marital rape.

And give me a moment for every goddamn LOL on the planet to your self righteous indignation at  the suggestion that Islam condones marital rape when you then turn around and explain why a woman should have sex if she doesn’t want to SO SHE CAN STAY SAFE.  As if safety is not a fundamental human right regardless of any goddamn circumstance without all these dehumanizing conditions.

You know what’s really gut-wrenchingly hilarious (in the sense that it makes me goddamn sick to my stomach) about the stark majority of these ‘women’s rights’ claims touted by Muslim apologists like you? They are all fucking conditional, these so-called rights. Hijab up so that you don’t get harassed, raped, so you can be treated like a human being instead of a piece of meat. Get permission to marry, divorce the husband of your ‘choice’, work the job of your ‘choice’. Have fucking sex with your husband when you don’t fucking want to so you don’t get fucking beaten and cheated on and divorced. Here’s a hint: if it’s conditional it’s not a right. It’s not magnanimity or justice to conditionally grant things that are supposed to be inalienable human rights to begin with.

Let’s make something clear.  One should not have to cover her body in order to NOT be assaulted or harassed. One should not have to have sex if she doesn’t feel like it in order to NOT be yelled at, beaten,  or cheated on.

Sex agreed to in order to avoid anger and violence and holding a marriage hostage to it is not consensual sex.  It’s pretty fucked up and totally unacceptable and there’s something seriously wrong with any religious code that condones something like this, yet you someone think it’s expected, you present it is something standard in ‘any religion’.

There’s more, and all of it’s important, especially for those who are uncomfortable with that line between criticism and phobia.

One thing you may notice: religious apologists are remarkably similar the world round. And their arguments, no matter the horrible aspect of religion they’re trying to twist and defend, have a common core of ridiculousness. People are people…

Image shows a long-haired black cat with an "oh, puh-leez" expression. Caption says, "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and SHIT a better argument than that."

“Without Their Silence, Their Ignorance, Their Shrugging Shoulders, This Situation Could Not Continue As It Is”

Miri’s got something to say. If you haven’t heard it yet, go over there and listen. Then tap your friends on the shoulder, and point them toward it. Share it on social media. Email it around to your friends and family and casual acquaintances. The next time you hear a dude sniveling about how women see him as a predator and that’s just not faaiir, tell him to shut up and read. The next time someone in your circle of acquaintance, whether they be man, woman or gender fluid, sneers at women for taking precautions, sit them down and walk them through this paragraph by paragraph. Check for reading comprehension at the end.

Too busy for the whole thing? Set it aside. Come back to it within the next day or two. But take a moment, right now, to read at least this much:

I’m going to go out on a limb a little here and then solidify that limb as much as possible. Men who refuse to take violence against women seriously until it happens right the fuck in front of their faces are as complicit in this injustice as men who commit violence against women. This is not to say that they are as individuals just as bad or just as sexist or whatever. It just means that, without their silence, their ignorance, their shrugging shoulders, this situation could not continue as it is. It cannot continue without the participation of men who commit violence, and it cannot continue without the participation of men who shrug it off or blame the victims or accuse them of “overreacting.” Both of these are gears have to turn in order for it to continue.

If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that even more women must be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order for you to join in the fight against violence against women. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that women’s personal accounts of violence–which they have little reason to lie about but many reasons to keep silent about–aren’t enough for you. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that on some level–even if you won’t admit it–you think that there’s some level of “bad enough” that this shit needs to get before you’ll even acknowledge it as a problem, let alone actually do something about it.

[snip]

But what’s it going to take for more men to actively, assertively challenge male violence against women? To shut down other men who excuse it or attempt to exonerate themselves by chanting “Not all men!” as though it were a magic spell? To refuse to support a type of masculinity that glorifies dominance and violence?

If what it takes is personally watching women being victimized by that type of masculinity, we’ve got a huge problem.

Image shows a tawny cat with sea-green eyes holding a paw curled by its face and looking very much like a put-out professor. Caption reads, "U get teh point - right?"

Don’t like women having to constantly be on guard? Do your part to make this a world in which women, trans folk, and other marginalized people can be just as carefree as most straight white dudes. Speak out. Stand up. Make a difference. Right bloody now.

Come help us create a better world.

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.