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.

 

 

 

Attention Coyne, Dawkins, and Harris: You Are Part of the Problem

I’d like to ask a favor of anyone who can manage to get a critical viewpoint through the defenses of atheist celebrities like Harris and Dawkins: please get them to read Libby Anne’s infuriating and heartbreaking post, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion? Because it’s a question they need to address. They’re driving people like Libby Anne away from movement atheism. That is very much to the detriment of the movement.

Libby is one of the best atheist bloggers out there. I don’t always agree with her, but I have to put careful thought into why when that happens, because she’s a lot smarter and more thoughtful than I am. She emerged from the Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull culture, so she has insights into the extremes of fundamentalist Christianity that are invaluable. I’d not be blogging about Christianist textbooks or aware of the plight of kids trapped in that awful bubble if it wasn’t for her. She’s also my go-to person for showing that there are better ways to parent than hitting your children. She’s made me aware of just how relentlessly even mainstream culture genders kids, well before they’re old enough to even have a concept of themselves as boy or girl or something else. She’s worth a thousand Richard Dawkinses or Sam Harrises to me. She could be a tremendous asset to any atheist organization.

She could, but movement atheism is too busy patronizing women and making sure we all get the impression that we’re only of use to our Fearless Leaders™ when we’re being used as a cudgel against religion, and she wants none of that.

It is men like these who confirm my decision not to engage in movement atheism. Despite their claims, I don’t see them displaying a greater willingness to question their biases or engage in critical thinking. Frankly, I have felt for some time that atheist activists are frequently only willing to call out sexism when they see it in religion. It’s one more way they can point to how thoroughly horrible religion is as they call for its demise. But the moment an atheist woman says she has encountered sexism at atheist conventions or at atheist gatherings, she is lampooned and derided, called all manner of names and even threatened with rape or death. But isn’t this the kind of thing these same atheists criticize religion for?

Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large. They are the sort of people who are eager to use the shooting of young education activist Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban to prove how horrible religion is for women but somehow fail to mention that Malala is a Muslim who speaks of drawing her inspiration to fight for gender equality from the Koran. This is not standing up for women. This is exploiting women as merely a tool in a fight against religion.

You know what, atheist dudes? Women are smart enough to see what you’re doing there, even if you’re not willing to remove your own blinders.

Image shows two cats in a box with their chins on the edge, looking toward the camera. Caption says, "We see what you did there."

We can tell when you don’t genuinely give a shit about us, and are only using us as a weapon against someone or something else. You think you’re amazing allies, because wow are you so brainy, and you say such wonderful things about how wrong those religious practices that fuck over women are, but when it comes to treating the women within your own movement better? You shriek and whine and shit all over us. You use the plight of those religious women against us, as if this is either/or, as if we cannot address sexism within western secular spaces until we’ve destroyed all the religion.

Bullshit.

You need to start paying attention to the women who are telling you they are not yours to use. People like Hiba. Her comment on Libby Anne’s post needs to be etched onto atheist leader dude’s mirrors, where they’re forced to read the words every day, until they get it:

Ex-Muslim woman of color here. I blog about this stuff over at the Freethought Blogs. Your words are affirming. I too, feel used. Especially when the plights of women like me–women raised in Muslim-majority countries, forced to cover, controlled and abused by militant Islamist organizations and individuals–are appropriated and used to bolster anti-feminism in the West, to minimize battles against harassment and unequal representation. I refuse to have my story used to attack and demean other women. I refuse to have my story used as a talking point for hypocritical anti-theists.

I seem to recall men looking round the atheist movement a few years ago and wondering where the women are. We’re right here, either outside the movement or heading for the doors, because we tried to come in, but you made the place so hostile many of us said fuck all y’all and walked out.

You, white male atheists who spend so much time screaming you’re not sexist that you can’t acknowledge when you’ve done sexist things and bloody well stop, are causing women to stomp out in disgust. Then you’re blaming us for not wanting to put up with your shit. It’s well past time you cut your pride down to size, swallowed some of it, and listened to what women are saying to you. Women like Hiba, and Libby Anne, and so very many others who’ve had it.

You want a strong, united movement? Then fix the problems you’ve caused. Until you do, I’ll just be hanging out here on this side of the Deep Rifts with the people who give an actual shit about women. I’d rather spend my time with those who are working their asses off to make themselves and our spaces better, not just for women, but people of color, LGBTQ folk, and a lot of other people you’ve trampled all over.

You can either join us over here, or enjoy your rabble of merry misogynists and your increasing irrelevance. It’s completely up to you.

Image is a black and white photo of two women at the rim of the Grand Canyon early in the 20th century. One is holding the back of the other's dress as she looks into the chasm. Caption says, "Yes, it's a very Deep Rift, but it definitely could get deeper."

Some Useful Links on Sexual Predation

A while ago, I was looking up some facts and stats on rape, and collected a handful of links that might prove useful when arguing with people who refuse to see that there is a substantial subset of men who are, indeed, the majority of the problem. It also speaks to why we shouldn’t tell daughters not to get raped as much as tell sons (and, indeed, daughters) not to rape. As even Narendra Modi says, “After all, the rapist is also someone’s son.” (Or daughter. Let’s not pretend women can never rape, and men can never suffer rape, because that’s hardly true. It’s just that men are overwhelmingly likely to be the perpetrators rather than the victims. And those men who want to argue that, answer this honestly: when you plan a first date with someone, are you afraid she may not sleep with you, or that she’ll be weird or boring, or you’ll make such a fool of yourself she’ll never want to see you again – or that she will violate and then possibly kill you?)

Right. Here are the links. Feel free to add your own links to good resources in the comments.

How Many Men are Rapists?

Meet the Predators

Predator, Redux

50 Actual Facts About Rape

Pharyngula Wiki Link Roundup: Rape and Rape Culture

Image shows a sheep draped over a barely-visible wolf.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Image courtesy Pierre Tourigny via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Fifty Shades of F**king Abuse

Let me tell you how I got acquainted with some of the worst books on the market:

It was an odd time. I’d just spent over a month intensively critiquing creationist earth science texts, and that triggers depression after so many chapters. One begins to lose all hope for humanity. The end of summer loomed. B and I had a rather serious falling out. So there I was, mopey and miserable and wishing the world could just stop for a while.

I don’t remember what I was reading, but there was a link to Jenny Trout’s blog in the comments. And she had done to the Fifty Shades trilogy what I’m doing to Christianist textbooks. I’d been hearing for years how bloody awful the Fifty Shades of Grey books were, how they glorified abuse, how fake the BDSM was, and how terrible the writing was. I’d heard it from enough people whose opinion I trust that I hadn’t wasted my time attempting to read the bloody things. But now there’s gonna be a movie, and about nine trillion people think this shit’s the cat’s pajamas and ever-so-good for their looove lives, so maybe it would be a good idea to find out a bit more about it. And here was a brilliant, funny, and feminist writer who’d read and reported on them so I didn’t have to. It was like Cliffs Notes, with brutal honesty and snark.

Now, I should’ve been working, but I really couldn’t. And a day off wouldn’t hurt. And I read this:

Ana flushes way too much. I’m going to throw this out there right now. At the end of one paragraph, her face flames. There is a line of dialogue, and then the beginning of the next paragraph, she goes crimson. I get the distinct impression that she’s a Humboldt Squid in a dress, flashing red like a broken neon sign.

And I decided, “Fuck it. In bed, all day, with Jenny Trout’s MST3King of FSOG. That’s me.”

That day became a week. And it didn’t end with Jenny.

I couldn’t stop. I mean, this shit was far worse than I’d expected. Dude, I’ve read The Gift of Fear. I’ve delved into forensic psychology. And every section Jenny quoted screamed, “This asshole will murder you!” Have you ever read one of those signs-of-an-abusive-relationship dealios? Like Jenny pointed out in her Chapter 14 recap, this supposedly epic romance between Ana Steele and Christian Grey waves all the red flags:

When I first finished reading it, I thought it was funny, because how could anyone not understand that this isn’t a good relationship? But stuff stops being hilarious when a social worker sends you all her red flag charts and you realize that the book you just read is being held up as a romantic ideal by women all over the nation.

Yet this is the fucked-up “romance” that had the local adult stores filling their walls with BDSM-lite crap themed around FSOG, and people were raving about how seexxxy it was, and none of the fans seemed to realize this isn’t kink, it’s bloody domestic abuse. Shit’s not romantic, people, it’s rape culture, complete with rape.

Image shows 50 Shades noose cover. Left side says, "Fifty Shades of Abuse Romantacized. No thank you." Right side has list of "Signs of an Abusive Partner: Jealousy and possessiveness; Sexual violence; Verbal abuse and disrespectful behaviour in front of others; Not listening or responding when you talk; Unpredictable temper; Damaging or destroying your possessions; Controlling where you go and who you see."

50 Shades of Abuse Flyer – Canada

And we don’t need to be telling women that this is what true love with a side of BDSM is. Jesus. It makes me wonder how many women are trapped in physically, sexually, verbally, and emotionally abusive relationships right now, pretending they’re wonderful because E.L. James says this is perfect love. It makes me wonder how many women are dead because they mistook red flags for roses, because of these books.

Someone asked recently why I “hate” on the readers who liked this series. I don’t “hate” them. I’m just pissed off at them for making excuses for this blatant anti-female, anti-sex propaganda that tells women that kink is only for fucked up people, and if their guy is physically and emotionally abusive, they’re just not loving him hard enough. And you know, I don’t feel like I need to be particularly nice to women who want to further that message in our culture, just like I wouldn’t be nice to Paul Ryan if he emailed me asking why I just can’t be more civil about his policies regarding abortion. Because I can’t, because if you’re civil and nice about this shit, people take it as tacit agreement with whatever fucked up thing they’re trying to say.

Jenny Trout

I ran Christian Grey through Gavin de Becker & Associates’ Risk Evaluation Test. Based on his actions in the first book, he got a) 8 out of 10 for risk and b) a 154 out of 200 for quality of the assessment. (It could have been higher, but he did not own a handgun or share children with Ana. Both of these things will become factors in the next two books, so Ana’s situation will only become worse.)

Now, I don’t know how bad 154 is (though a risk of 8 out of 10 sounds pretty bad)…but de Becker & Associates kept imploring me to call the police on this (unnamed) controlling, manipulative, lying, abusive stalker-rapist and get his nameless victim to safety and shelter IMMEDIATELY. They pegged him as unstable, violent, rigid, and completely unable to deal with anything that challenged his viewpoint or the way that he saw himself. Interestingly, they said that people like him rarely kept jobs for long; any crisis at work or challenge from a co-worker or rival would reduce him to a state of rage. He simply wouldn’t be able to cope with any opposition. They also said that he had many traits shared by serial rapists and serial killers. And they found his frequent drinking to be a sign that he was becoming less and less stable.

Does that give you a general idea?

Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

When your romantic hero is the kind of person Gavin de Becker’s MOSAIC program tells you to call the police over, then you should know you’ve mistaken love for murderous psychopathy somewhere, and you maybe oughtta backtrack.

“… if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern.”

Several of these signals. As in “three or four.” Three or four of thirty reliable pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence and murder indicates that there is reason to be worried. The victim is in serious danger.

Twenty-four Twenty-five popped up in the relationship of Christian Grey and Ana Steele.

TWENTY-FIVE.

This is not a relationship. It is a murder waiting to happen.

- Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

Image shows Jackie Chan with his hands up by his head and a WTF face. Caption says, "What the actual fuck did I just read?"

Woman after woman in the reviews I read said the romantic hero extraordinaire reminded them of their abusive asshole exes:

Really, though this whole thing pisses me off for more than just the slave vs. submissive thing and you just kind of pointed out why. Because James, undoubtedly, would defend that mistake with the fact that she is an ignorant cockmonkey and just didn’t know. After all, I’ve seen people defend their love of the book with, “Well, I didn’t know that BDSM wasn’t like that, so it’s okay that it’s not accurately portrayed because I don’t know the difference.” No, it’s the fact that Gaston is getting her to crave sex and orgasms and actually manipulating her into believing that only he can give them to her and that the only way he’ll keep giving them to her is if she’ll agree to all of his demands. Wanna know why that is so off-pissing for me and why it makes me want to book a flight to England so that I might personally kick this bitch’s ass?

Because that is exactly what my ex-boyfriend did to me.

I was sexually naïve and innocent, very young, and he was the one who gave me my first orgasm. He got me hooked on them, and then proceeded to convince me that only he could do it, and that I couldn’t bring myself to orgasm. He conditioned me. And after he was done with that, he convinced me that I owed all kinds of sex back to him because, after all, he was doing that great favor to me and I couldn’t do it myself! Gaston is doing exactly what my ex-boyfriend did to me. The ex-boyfriend who abused me on every conceivable level: sexually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The ex-boyfriend who had such a bad effect on me I wound up in a mental hospital because of him because I wanted to kill myself when it was all over and I realized that I’d just been abused for seven years and thought that I’d ruined my life, because of the time he found me.

*sneering* So, James, so far you remind Ket, Gehayi, and I very strongly of our exes, to the point that it both enrages and upsets us. Christian Grey is pretty much a nice little combination of all of our exes, taking all of their worst aspects and bundling them together into one absolutely foul and loathsome abomination of a character, and then you dump a lot of money on him and make him hot because, well, that makes it all better.

I’m not gonna bother trying to find a picture, GIF, or video that would best encompass just how much I despise you, getting rich off of this. Because there isn’t one. It just makes me feel used and dirty, like you’re publishing the worst chapter of my life and calling it True Love and making millions from it.

Fuck you, and fuck your fanbase. Yes, fuck the fanbase too. Because they agree with you. Because all of them, by saying it is romantic and True Love and wonderful, are by default saying that what happened to me, Gehayi, and Ket wasn’t rape and abuse.

Fuck. You. All.

- Mervin from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

When your epic romance is triggering abuse survivors to this extent, you’re doing romance wrong. But we’ve been doing it wrong for a long time, haven’t we?

Those of you who have been reading the sporkings for a while know that I’m an editor, and that many of the things I edit are romances. Now, I have MAJOR issues with rape, stalking and controlling another person against his or her will being presented as romantic. All of these things are rife in the romance genre and I HATE that, because people are idiots and will believe that if an author SAYS it is romantic, the author must be right.

I’m an oddball in that I will tell the author that X is not acceptable and that we don’t want to send the message that rape and stalking are signs of love. But all too often, both are sugar-coated, so that you read about a man being “overwhelmed with passion” and “taking” a woman as she vainly tries to fight him off, or about a boy stalking someone he has exchanged one word with: “Hello.” And if you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe that is not only the way that it is, but the way that it SHOULD be.

This kind of drivel—which, fortunately, is not the only thing written in the genre but is far too common—causes damage. It tells women that stalking is love, that rape is love, that physical and mental degradation which they loathe and want no part of are love. It’s just the man’s way, and they need to accept that.

It is a vile, contemptible, anti-woman message and the fact that this piece of shit, like most romance novels, was written by a woman just makes the message that much worse.

The fact that I have a couple of friends in the BDSM lifestyle and that their information directly contradicts, oh, THE ENTIRE BOOK, plus the fact that the Suethor couldn’t be arsed to do one scrap of research is just the rancid icing on a very ugly cake.

- Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

This is dangerous bullshit, and it needs to stop. We need far less Fifty Shades, and far more Boss trilogies, not to mention our own Greta Christina’s Bending. We need real kinky (and vanilla) love that respects and requires enthusiastic consent. We need truly strong female leads, not glorified doormats. We need series that don’t trigger domestic abuse victims into creating a blog ring to document all the ways this fucked-up shit glorifies violence.

All of the above issues in FSOG are horrible enough. More than enough to torpedo the series. But even setting that aside, there’s the fact that James got so very much about BDSM wrong. Completely, dangerously wrong. Want to know how it should have been done? Read The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to the Fifty Shades Trilogy. Please, please read it, or download the ebook for a mere dollar, and mark up your copy with copious highlights and notes, before jumping into a BDSM relationship because this stupid series got you curious about kink.

Two strikes. Strike three: the atrociously-bad writing. Jenny Trout and sporkers Gehayi and Ket do magnificent jobs showing the endless errors. James’s grammar is awful, words don’t mean things, the prose is so purple it’s urple, the comma is abused as badly as the female lead, and the bits of plot that sneaked in are tiny and broken things. On top of all that, the research wasn’t done for pretty much anything. Most of the characters are so cardboard you could box up a Barnes and Noble with them. The female lead was a shallow twit who was so sexually repressed she used “down there” as a euphemism for her genitals. The male lead was a violent shallow twit who thought rape was an appropriate response to a woman’s defiance. The writing was so glaringly awful, it makes Twilight look like a masterpiece.

Image shows Edward and Bella from Twilight. Caption says, "Still a better love story than Fifty Shades of Grey"

And speaking of Twilighthere’s a fairly comprehensive list of what James ripped off from Stephanie Meyer. Remember, this dreck started as Twilight fanfic. She changed a few details, but she basically put a wig on a pig and called it a pony. Not. So.

It nearly finished off my will to live, knowing this crap not only got published, but found such a vast market of willing suckers. And I’m not the only one who has found themselves massively changed:

Just for reference, when I started reading these books I was a church-goer. Now I’m an atheist. I’m not saying they’ve destroyed my faith in God all on their own, I’m just suggesting they may have been a contributing factor.

*shudder* And to think these horrible books are actually responsible for something positive

Thanks to sporkings and spankings by incredibly talented people, plus the Boss trilogy, I survived. And I have plenty to shake FSOG fans with. And it brought B and I back together – there’s no bonding experience quite like commiserating over awful writing. And I learned a lot about my own sexuality, and am a lot less reluctant to discuss it. Excellent people have wrested some good from this unmitigated horror, and I’ve benefited from their wisdom.

I hope they’ve also given you some gifts. And I hope more than a few of you are now prepared to patiently explain to those who gush about the movie just what this story is actually glorifying, thus preventing some very stupid mistakes by enamored fans.

Image shows a cat that looks startled and horrified. Caption says, "This is what people like to read!?!?!"

Okay, Okay, Jeez, I’ll Get You a Feeder!

For the second time this summer, a little gray hummingbird has hovered meaningfully in the corner of my porch where a feeder could be hung quite handily, looked at me for a minute, and then zipped away. I am apparently being told in no uncertain terms that a hummingbird feeder is desired. I live to serve not only cats, but hummingbirds! Just think of the photos I could get for you, my darlings!

But I refuse to hang a feeder in ignorance. Advice and recommendations from those of you who know about this stuff would be awesome. The birds, the cat and I all thank you!

Image shows a gray and green hummingbird in flight against a pale gray background.

This isn’t my hummingbird. That little bugger never hovers when I have a camera ready. This is a female Anna’s hummingbird which vaguely resembles it. Photo by Matthew Field. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Cataclysm: “The Path of Maximum Abrasion”

Back at my old high school in Arizona, some genius or set thereof had made two independent but intersecting decisions regarding physical education:

  1. They made shorts mandatory, and
  2. They decided we’d do tennis in March.

Now, neither decision is necessarily bad, at least not on its own, but there were critical components of meteorology, geography, geology, and architecture no one had factored in. Namely: March is the absolute windiest month in Northern Arizona, Page is covered in thick sand eroded from the magnificent Page Sandstone, and the tennis courts were outdoors. I often had occasion to reflect upon the fact my youngest uncle had stripped the old paint from our Datsun 240z by sandblasting it. I now knew how that car felt. My legs had never been so completely free of dead skin, which had been stripped off along with several layers of epidermis. If I’d known much about religion in those days, I may have converted to a variety with an extreme emphasis on modesty, just so I could’ve claimed a religious exemption and put on trousers. That wind-blown sand hurt like blazes.

And that was just the ordinary spring wind, carrying plain old sand, not a volcanic blast cloud carrying all sorts of super-sharp, sometimes large, and definitely hot fragments of rock and glassy ash. I can’t imagine how much worse that would be.

Fortunately, we’ve got science to tell us enough to fill in the blanks. Geologists James Moore and Thomas Sisson were all over the trees after Mount. St. Helens hit them with all she had. You might think it’s weird, how two science guys can crawl around trees and stumps measuring what’s not there (on account of it having been abraded away), but they managed – and thus wrote another chapter in the volcanic saga.

They were able to figure out how much of these poor trees was removed by a kind of forensic reconstruction of their original thickness, using the bits of their outer surfaces St. Helens had missed, plus growth rings. They relied mostly on stumps and small trees that hadn’t toppled. And those measurements tell a story that make me realize just how good I had it on those windy tennis courts.

 A nearer view of tree torn from base on Harry's Ridge, five miles north of Mount St. Helens crater. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

A nearer view of tree torn from base on Harry’s Ridge, five miles north of Mount St. Helens crater. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

If you were the side of the tree facing the volcano, you had it very bad indeed. Nearly equally, from bottom to top, you would have been completely sandblasted. Not even falling would protect you: it just meant that your roots got the brunt of it on the parts exposed to the volcano. The abrasive phase of the lateral blast may not have lasted long, but it was long enough to hit you both when you were up and when you were down. Yeow.

Moore and Sisson’s measurements show that all the bark was stripped on the side facing the blast. If you were a large tree, that was 1-2 centimeters (.4-.8 inches) of you ripped right away. If you were small, you’d lost an average of a millimeter – which may not sound like a lot, but it’s all relative. If you were close to the volcano, more than 180° of your trunk had its bark blasted off. If you were a stump, you’d end up more abraded than if you were a small tree thin enough to bend over in that searing, grit-filled wind. Stumps within 8 kilometers (5 miles) were actually abraded several centimeters deep. My near-microscopic layers of missing epidermis ain’t nothing compared to that.

Farther away wasn’t that much better. Small trees 14-20 kilometers (8.7-12.4 miles) distand (disregarding the southern margin) had 180° of bark removed. One of the eeriest things to see at the Johnston Ridge Observatory is a display of one of the trees where that’s happened.

Detail of the half-debarked tree at Johnston Ridge Observatory. The left side shows the side of the tree facing the volcano: it's stripped of bark and a bit polished. The right shows the side facing away, which still retains its thick bark.

Detail of the half-debarked tree at Johnston Ridge Observatory. The left side shows the side of the tree facing the volcano: it’s stripped of bark and a bit polished. The right shows the side facing away, which still retains its thick bark.

Further away, the near sides are roughed up but not completely debarked by the sandblasting they endured – my legs can sympathize.

USGS geologist Richard Waitt had a look at downed trees that had retained their branches, and found their former undersides, which faced the volcano after the trees toppled, were “debarked and abraded,” showing that even after the phase of the blast powerful enough to fell old giants where they stood, the blast was still hurling projectiles horizontally – a mind-boggling amount of force.

Abrasion decreased with distance; the patterns show there was a “simultaneous decrease in size, velocity, and number of fragments carried by the surge” the further away it got. It was losing energy and dropping its load; the debris it buried the trees in tells us even more about the complex phases of the blast. The trees had been sandblasted, felled, and scorched, but the volcano wasn’t quite through with them yet.

 The area devastated by Mount St. Helens and damaged tree stumps. Lithic fragments and scoriaceous gray dacite driven into upstream side of a splintered stump on ridge east of Studebaker Creek. Hammer for scale. Photo by S.W. Kieffer. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 220-D, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

The area devastated by Mount St. Helens and damaged tree stumps. Lithic fragments and scoriaceous gray dacite driven into upstream side of a splintered stump on ridge east of Studebaker Creek. Hammer for scale. Photo by S.W. Kieffer. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 220-D, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

 

Previous: The Cataclysm: “From Unbaked Fragments to Vitreous Charcoal”

Next: The Cataclysm: “Fully Down and Buried”

References:

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

 

Previously published at Rosetta Stones.

Dear Richard Dawkins: Your “Hypothetical” Is Still Rape

What a sick, sad man you are, Richard. First, you run a Twitter tutorial in getting away with rape:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words.

Then a woman who was raped at the age of 14 comes forward to tell you how your “how to get away with rape” tweets harmed her, and all you can say is:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Yes, I believe you. Why would I not? Unlike the hypothetical case of my tweets, you have clear & convincing memories.'" There is a link to the New Statesman article. Second tweet says, "In my tweets I explicitly stated that I was considering the hypothetical case of a woman who testified that she COULDN'T REMEMBER." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Dawkins responds to a rape victim with all of his classic tact and care – I mean, defensive and arrogant whining. The tweets are his, the image is mine.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember.'" Second tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

And the arrogant, defensive whining continues, ending with a “Why didn’t you come to meeee in private?!!!” flourish.

I’m avoiding expletives here, because your poor brain shuts (further) down when you hear them directed at you. But I do have to say, you’re being such a reprehensible little… man. Instead of doing the right thing, saying “I’m sorry, rape is rape. I’m so sorry for the pain my sordid little not-hypothetical-until-I’m-called-out tweets have caused, I shall stop tweeting and go educate myself on these matters forthwith,” you just keep digging and digging. And you lied to her. Really, you did. You lied to her, and to us, when you said of course you believe, because really, you only believe because she’s making you look like the… quite awful person you are being, and additionally, hasn’t named one of your friends as her rapist. You’re pretending some memory is all the evidence you need to believe, but this is what you really believe:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets. First tweet is from Oolon and says, "Lucky this 14yr old had "clear and convincing memories" or @RichardDawkins wouldn't believe it was rape'" Second tweet says, "@oolon Well, would you believe it if she had unclear, unconvincing or non-existent memories? (Except that there was another witness)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

The rape-culture apologist emerges in full.

It’s not having no memory at all, is it, Richard? You’ve moved the goal posts. We must have “clear and convincing” memories, not mere memories. We must have a witness. Or we cannot say that the sex that happened without our consent is rape, much less report it to authorities. No, you want us to shut our mouths, because how terrible is it that a poor man who simply takes advantage of women (or anyone) while they’re too drunk to know what’s happening could be accused of rape? *delicate upperclass shudder* Why, if men were only allowed to have sex with people sober enough to enthusiastically consent, there would be fewer opportunities for men to get their jollies, and that’s just terrible!

As for those women who might enjoy getting drunk, or are perhaps too young and inexperienced to know our limits? He has advice for us, ladies:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of a tweet that says, ".@mrgregariously Exactly. If you want to drive, don't get drunk. If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don't get drunk." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Shark. Jumped. Not that he hasn’t had plenty of practice in jumping cartilaginous fish lately.

That’s it, girls (and boys, and other genders who might like to have a few): in Dawkins’s world, we are not to get drunk if we wish to avoid sexual assault. And if we do get drunk, and someone decides to rape us, we are not to go crying to the courts about it. He may have done a no-no to you, but really, you shouldn’t ruin his life just because you were a wasted little slut he took advantage of.

Richard Dawkins, you love to pretend you’re one of the smartest men going. So tell me: how is it that you’re so profoundly, so willfully, so determinedly ignorant that you cannot understand that when a person is too intoxicated to consent to sex, sex should not happen at all? How can you fail to understand that if a person has sex with someone too intoxicated to consent, it is rape?

Let me repeat that: having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent is rape.

In your hypothetical*, where the woman can’t remember a thing and there is no evidence (of what? sexual intercourse?), she was too drunk to consent and if sex occurred, it was rape.

In the real world, when a person decides to take advantage of someone too impaired to understand what’s happening, and engages in any form of intercourse with them, that person has raped, and is now a rapist.

We can talk about courts and evidence and hypotheticals until we are brick red and lose our voices from screaming at each other, but at the end of all that, if someone is too intoxicated to consent, and one or more people decided to have sex with them in that state, that person was still raped.

Listen to the people who are trying to talk sense to you:

Image is a black rectangle. Across the top and bottom, it says, "Sex with a person too intoxicated to consent IS RAPE." In the center is a red square, with tweets pasted in on left side. Beth Lakin says, @RichardDawkins If you can't remember, you can't consent. So how do we handle the fact someone had sex with you without your consent?" Jeff the Kopite says, "@RichardDawkins @DefuseSec if one party is aware that the other is intoxicated and unable to give consent and still engages in sex, its rape." Danostrowski says, "yup @erasmuslijn @RichardDawkins "Fact: When intoxicated, an individual cannot legally consent to sexual activity." http://goo.gl/qplbYJ." Emma says, "@RichardDawkins if a woman is too drunk to even remember, she's too drunk to consent. Men take advantage of that situation. #ibelieveher." On the right is a silhoutte of a person who is falling over backwards with a bottle dropping from their hand.

People attempt to talk sense into Dawkins. I wish them the best.

And we don’t need the courts to find the evidence is beyond all reasonable legal doubt to decide whether or not to believe the victim who says they have been raped. We do not need a conviction in a court of law to decide whether or not we believe the victim who says they were raped by a specific someone. Tell you what, if you’re so worried about men getting accused of raping people who are too intoxicated to consent to sex, how about tweeting this remarkably simple solution:

IF YOU WANT TO AVOID BEING ACCUSED OF RAPING SOMEONE, DON’T HAVE SEX WITH A PERSON WHO’S BEEN DRINKING.

Easy, amirite?

How about this tweeting this one, too, Richard:

IF YOU WANT TO BE IN A POSITION TO AVOID BECOMING A RAPIST, DON’T RAPE.

And don’t forget to tweet what we’ve discussed here today:

SEX WITH A PERSON TOO INTOXICATED TO CONSENT IS RAPE.

It’s really that simple. Remarkable, isn’t it, how much clarity is achieved when we sweep aside all these byzantine and ever-changing rules for victims like, “Don’t ever get drunk under any circumstances,” and just tell potential rapists not to rape. No, not even if xir clothes are sexy. No, not even if xe’s passed-out dunk. No, not even you can screw xir without leaving a single bit evidence. No, not even if xe consented to kissing and then decided xe didn’t want to continue. No, not even if xe signals mere reluctance rather than screaming “NO!!!” and beating you to death with the nearest implement. If you don’t have crystal-clear consent, don’t have sex. Then you won’t ever have to worry about being a rapist.

And you can bloody well stop covering for them.

 

*Your hypothetical is bloody useless, because if she can’t remember a damned thing and there is no evidence of anything happening, that means we have a situation that will never ever happen anywhere on earth and we can bloody well ignore it.

Two Videos to Make Your Heart Go Melty (Unless You’re a Hater)

Sometimes, things happen that remind me the world isn’t filled quite to the brim with assholes. There are plenty of good folk, too. And sometimes, I collect those things and share them with you.

First up, a commercial from a for-profit company that carefully considered some of their customers’ suggestions they hate the non-heterosexual folk and said, “Nah, we’ll go with making love from hate instead.”

Yes, of course I got teary-eyed. Are you kidding? And yes, the cynical will say that of course they laughed at the haters, as ten times as many customers aren’t haters, but this was a rather in-your-face rejection of the hateful message rather than just quietly letting the subject drop. So yes, Honey Maid will of course be my graham cracker of choice whenever I venture into culinary territory that requires them.

Next, we have got a mock-serious Irish ad warning about the gaypocalypse that will surely happen should same-sex folk be allowed to marry. They portray the actual dangers of passing marriage equality legislation. Nailed it. Before you watch, please finish all food and/or drink and remove anything spillable from around the computer, because you’re probably going to be howling with laughter and possibly pounding the table. Let’s not allow the gaypocalypse to claim another victim before it’s got properly started.

Unfortunately, I suspect there actually will be people barricading themselves in little enclaves and homeschooling their children in desperate fear that accepting people different from them will get them zapped by God. They will be as pitiable as the couple in the ad.

Want a bonus video? Of course you do! Here you are: the original hater song!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel they were unfair to gibbons… We shall make up for it with a desperately cute meme.

Image shows a cat being hugged by a monkey. Caption reads, "Teh monkee is gibbon meh a hugz."

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVc: Wherein the Climate Heats Up

Onward, Christianist weather! We’re warming up with some global warming talk today. While SPC was content to devote a mere text box to climate change, basically blowing raspberries at anyone who gives a shit about it and waving off dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions by proclaiming hey, plants love carbon dioxide!, BJU’s Earth Science 4th Edition isn’t satisfied with blurting a few facts and moving on. No, there’s a whole chapter on the subject. And, people, they are the totes reasonable ones. They’re right in the middle. Look: they sneer at both sides!

They begin with a very telling couplet of sentences:

You’ve probably heard a lot about climate change. And you’re probably wondering what you should think about it.

This right here encapsulates exactly the attitude shared across all three Christianist curricula: they aren’t here to teach kids how to think. They’re telling them what to think. There’s only one way – God’s way – and they all have the direct line to the Almighty. Never mind they’re all hearing different things when they call. They have the answer (theirs God’s), there’s only one correct way to think about things (theirs God’s), and by God, you will think exactly what they God tells you to think. (Nevermind that God appears to have told the three textbook writers different things. I’m sure it’s just one of those ineffable mystery thingies, or the other two are delusional, or something.)

Image shows a white and orange cat bopping a gray and white tabby on the nose. Caption says, "BJU cat sez, "No, this what bible meanz."

Image courtesy Nathan Vaughn
via Flicker (CC BY 2.0). Caption by moi.

So let’s find out “what you should think,” per BJU’s God.

The first thing is not to think like those Christians.

Some Christians reject the principles of environmentalism because they associate them with the extreme views of people who worship nature and violently protect animal rights. These believers go in the other direction, polluting and consuming Earth’s resources with no concern about conservation. They may think, “God is going to burn up this world some day soon anyway and create a new one. So there’s no need to worry about using the earth and its resources wisely, right? This view is anti-environmentalism.

Well, that sure told them. Are you listening, A Beka and ACE? Herngh??? You’re not thinking right!

Now, I hope you were running low on straw, because ES4’s having a fire sale:

There are also radical environmentalists who view people as nature’s biggest problem. Man’s works are evil. Nature is good. Population growth is bad. Technology consumes Earth’s precious resources and pollutes. “Mother Earth” must be protected at all costs because we came from the earth through evolution.

Ah, how sweet of them to call everyone who thinks we should, maybe, y’know, save the planet we live on from our own predation because hey, we live here “radical environmentalists.” It’s kinda like how all the folks who think hey, mebbe we should stop being so shitty to women are “radical feminists.”

And, like MRAs, they want us to know that we are so wrong, you guys. We’re defying God! Humans are the bestest, He said so! And those other Christians are wrong, too, because we’re stewards! God said so!!

Oh, and the “climate change debate” is “a crusade of extreme environmentalists.”

Oy.

Well, at least they believe saving animals from our own stupidity like oil spills, doing some recycling, and engaging in some energy conservation glorifies God. Baby steps.

Image shows a swimming dog with bulging eyes, getting ready to bite a bottle floating in the pond with him. Caption says, "How many times do I have to tell you that this goes in the recycling bin???"

All that’s the first page of the chapter. Laying it on with a trowel, they are. Fortunately, aside from a not-funny cartoon about a teenage girl using global warming as an excuse to buy a new wardrobe, they dial back to just-the-facts mode. They do a fine job explaining things that affect climate, like latitude, ocean currents, topography, and so forth. No God talk ensues until we turn the page and run smack into a text box about the Canopy Theory. Yes, that canopy. Oh, dear.

We’re told to “imagine the rain pounding on the Ark’s roof,” and where did all that water come from? (And why doesn’t ES4 mention it would’ve been boiling?) We’re treated to vapor canopies and proof texts. There’s an illustration of the vapor canopy that looks like an orange wrapped in a coffee cup sleeve. They fuss over how the Hebrew word raqiya should translate. They dither with Russell Humphrey’s idea that God made a bunch of stuff with two different gobs of water, and hey, even though “we don’t know as a certainty how God actually created the universe,” that totally fits the Bible, right? Only to become shocked – shocked, I tell you – that actually modeling this canopy thing shows either a) Earth was broiling hot like Venus or b) you could hardly get your ankles wet with the rain resulting from the canopy collapse. And the authors conclude that the canopy’s probably a dud, because the dude who came up with the original vapor canopy theory was one of those freaks who believe in an Earth that’s millions of years old. Harrumph.

This would be adorable if it wasn’t in a book claiming to be an actual science textbook.

Following, we have a long section about climate zones, which could use a little more detail on their map, plus someone who knows what a saguaro cactus is (“Towering Sonora cactuses?” *snortle*) Otherwise, it’s not bad, and is a nice introduction to the concept of climate zones.

But we get a hefty dose of OMFG with the “Serving God as a Climatologist” box. They wax nearly lyrical over Lonnie Thompson, who “may have spent more time than anyone else in the world above an elevation above an elevation of 18,000 feet.” He is, they say, “trying to preserve history in the ice.” Now, you may get the impression that Dr. Thompson is a creationist, considering how these creationists are salivating over him. He is not. In fact, he is a pretty important scientist on the climate change front, and so the staff writing ES4 have a shiny-sharp knife for his parka’d back:

Dominion Opportunities

A secular climatologist’s work is impressive and can be difficult, but he is missing something big. His data is valuable and is needed by the climate change debate, but his interpretation is affected by his worldview. What he interprets as annual changes in ice over thousands of years may actually be a record of individual storms over a much shorter period of time. Secular, old earth views of history reject the authority of God’s Word.

Waal, that’s a fine fuck-you to Lonnie, innit?

The current controversy over climate change highlights how this science and the politics it drives can touch our daily lives. We need more Christians in this field to build solid scientific models based on the true history of the earth – the one found in the Bible.

So. These little ratfuckers want to infiltrate scientific fields, shit all over the data scientists like Lonny T have sweated blood and risked their lives to obtain, and force everyone to follow their fairy tales, which basically means allowing the world to broil to death because we can’t see reality for what it is.

I don’t like ‘em and can’t trust ‘em. Nor should anyone who works with one of these voluntarily delusional fuckwads.

I shall let Dr. Thompson have a stern word:

Thompson dismisses skeptics who contend that the current warming trend is due to a natural cycle. “Name one who has ever really studied climate or collected data,” he says. “I bet you can’t.” Glaciers, he adds, “have no political agenda. They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Science is about what is, not what we believe or hope. And it shows that global warming is wiping out invaluable geological archives right before our eyes.”*

Image shows a man wearing a fur hat, sunglasses, an ice-goatee on his beard, and a black jacket with snow on it. He is looking into the camera with a no-nonsense attitude.

Lonnie G. Thompson during an Antarctic Expedition in 1974. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah. Something tells me he’d have zero sympathy for BJU’s “but that’s not what God says” shenanigans.

You’d think, after a post this long, that we’re done with this chapter. But no! There’s a whole ‘nother half devoted specifically to climate change. Buckle in, kids, and be sure to wear your best crash helmets. I have a feeling the next post is gonna get wild and wooly.

 

*I believe that, my darlings, is the rhetorical equipment of bringing a howitzer to a knife fight. Lonnie is awesome.