#mencallmethings: “ugly, buck toothed lesbian”

Comment from Snardiff, in the discussion on the post Do We Concede the Ground of Death Too Easily?: “You are a cretinous, ugly, buck toothed lesbian. Why would anyone listen to you?”

#mencallmethings

Not sure I have too much to add to this one. It pretty much speaks for itself. Apparently, the only reason a women is worth listening to is if (a) she is attractive, and (b) she might potentially have sex with you. If she is an ugly lesbian, then she fails on both counts, and her ideas are not worth listening to. (Too bad they didn’t get the memo that I’m actually bisexual. Maybe then my ideas would have been worth consideration.)

And I’m now going to issue the standard request that I always issue when the #thing that #menhavecalled me is some version of “ugly”: Please, unless you’re a personal friend or someone I’m having sex with, don’t try to make me feel better by saying that I’m not ugly. If I write about fashion or post the hot pic of myself in the Skepticon calendar, you can say nice things about how I look… but please don’t do it here. I’m not calling this out to garner reassurance about my appearance. I’m calling this out to show people the kind of shit women routinely deal with. I have a thick skin, and I don’t get my feelings hurt by sexist jackasses calling me names. That isn’t the point.

The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it shouldn’t matter.

Just When You Think They Couldn’t Sink Any Lower…

In yesterday’s New York Times: In Milwaukee Post, Cardinal Authorized Paying Abusers.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

Jesus. Fictional. Christ. I think I’m going to be sick.

Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”

But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked.

Translation: “I can’t believe you would make such a heinous accusation! Paying off priests who raped children, to get them to leave the Church quietly? Outrageous! Insulting! How dare you!” (shown evidence) “Oh, right! Those payoffs!”

“It was a way to provide an incentive to go the voluntary route and make it happen quickly, and ultimately cost less,” said Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese. “Their cooperation made the process a lot more expeditious.”

Right. Because when children are being raped, the important thing is to hush it up quickly and cheaply.

You know a really good way to get employees who are raping children to leave your organization?

FIRE THEM, AND CALL THE POLICE.

Do We Concede the Ground of Death Too Easily?

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry magazine.

“Sure, atheism may have better arguments and evidence. But religion is always to going to win on the death question. A secular philosophy of death will never comfort people the way religion does.”

I’ve heard this idea more times than I can count. And here’s the weird thing: It’s not just from religious believers. I hear it from atheists, too. It shocks me how easily non-believers concede the ground of death. Many of us assume that of course it would be lovely to believe in an eternal afterlife… if only that were plausible. And largely because of this assumption, we often shy away from the topic of death. We happily talk about science, sex, reality, other advantages the secular life has to offer… but we stay away from death, and concede the ground before we even fight it.

I think this is a huge mistake. I agree that the fear of death is one of the main reasons people cling to religion. But I don’t agree, even in the slightest, that religious philosophies of death are inherently more comforting than secular ones. And if we want to make atheism a safe place to land when people let go of their faith, we need to get these secular philosophies into the public square, and let the world know what we think about death. [Read more…]

‘Hysteria': What the New Movie About the Fascinating History of the Vibrator Leaves Out

A romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator. Set in Victorian England. With references to feminism, socialism, class privilege, phone sex, prostitution, harm reduction, science, evidence-based medicine, and steampunk. What could be bad?

A fair amount, unfortunately.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed “Hysteria” quite a bit. I found it funny (generally), charming (usually), intelligent (mostly), and entertaining (often). But I wanted so much more than to just like it. I wanted to love it. I wanted to be shouting about it from the rooftops. I wanted to be stopping strangers on the street, grabbing them by the lapels, and pleading with them to run out and see it right this minute. It was a movie about the invention of the vibrator, for fuck’s sake. I didn’t want to leave the theater thinking, “Yeah, that was pretty good — but it could have been so much better.”

And far too much of what was wanting from the film had to do with its treatment of the central topic — female orgasm.

*

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, ‘Hysteria': What the New Movie About the Fascinating History of the Vibrator Leaves Out. To find out more, read the rest of the review. Enjoy!

Coming Out Atheist — I Need Your Stories and Advice

I’m writing a new book — a how-to guide about coming out atheist. And I need your stories, and your advice.

IMPORTANT: Please read this entire post before commenting! I’m looking for somewhat specific kinds of stories, with somewhat specific kinds of information. So please don’t just scroll to the comments and pour out your heart. Please read this entire post before pouring out your heart. It’s not that long, I promise.

I’m writing a how-to guide about coming out atheist. I obviously want this guide to reflect a wide range of atheist experiences. So I’m gathering stories. And I’m looking for somewhat specific kinds of information. You don’t have to answer every one of these questions, btw — if you do, it’ll help, but partial answers will also be very useful. [Read more…]

Mad Men, Sex Work, and the Ownership and Freedom of Women: “The Other Woman”

Spoiler alert: This piece has spoilers about the most recent episode of “Mad Men.” If that’s not okay with you, don’t read it.

What made this last “Mad Men” episode so upsetting?

Ingrid won’t watch “Mad Men.” She watched the first bunch of episodes with me, but then she dropped out: she found it too harrowing, the lives too miserable and trapped. Normally I don’t agree. I mean: yes, it’s harrowing, yes, the lives are miserable and trapped. But I find it encouraging to think about how much has changed since then — and as trapped as they are, at least some of the characters are beginning to make that change happen, for themselves and the rest of the world.

This last episode, though? “The Other Woman”? Even I was cringing at. Even I felt bludgeoned at the end of it. (Peggy’s escape notwithstanding. Which was totally awesome.)

And then I read Amanda Marcotte’s analysis of the episode on Pandagon, and I started wondering: Why was I reacting this way? Why is this episode different from all other episodes? Had I internalized the idea that prostitution is inherently degrading and shameful, and that it would be a dreadful tragedy for a “good” woman to engage in it? [Read more…]

#mencallmethings: “ugly,” “mental illness”

Comment from Andy, replying to a post about sexual harassment at atheist conferences:

“I suspect it’s only ugly women who complain of the environment they find themselves in. It is simply a marker of your typical feminists mental illness.”

#mencallmethings

I just want to point out something Jen McCreight said on Twitter (@jennifurret): “I like how I’ve been attacked for being pretty and for being ugly. You can’t win as a woman, can you?” Women who talk about sexual harassment are either ugly, and resentful of the fact that they’re not getting attention… or they’re pretty, and therefore are bimbos who are asking for it. Or, in some cases, both.

As for “mental illness”: Right. Because it is so totally out of touch with reality to think that men sometime use their power to take sexual advantage of women, and to think it’s an important problem, and to try to stop it. m-/

Oh, btw, I’ve said this before when the #thing that #menhavecalled me is “ugly,” and I’ll say it again here: Please, unless you’re a personal friend or someone I’m having sex with, don’t try to make me feel better by saying that I’m not ugly. If I write about fashion or post the hot pic of myself in the Skepticon calendar, you can say nice things about how I look… but please don’t do it here. I’m not calling this out to garner reassurance about my appearance. I’m calling this out to show people the kind of shit women routinely deal with. I have a thick skin, and I don’t get my feelings hurt by sexist jackasses calling me names. That isn’t the point.

The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it shouldn’t matter.

Which Do You Think Is the Bigger Problem?

In these ongoing discussions about what is and is not appropriate flirtatious/ sexual behavior at atheist conferences, there’s an idea that’s been floated. It’s the idea that many women are trained by our culture to “play hard to get,” and act uninterested even if they’re not — since they’re trained that seeming too eager or saying “yes” too quickly is slutty, will result in being disrespected, etc. So therefore, men can’t always tell if women are really interested, and if men aren’t persistent, neither the women nor the men will get what they want.

I have a lot to say on that subject. But for now, I just want to say this.

Compare, on the one hand, the problem of a hostile environment in which many women don’t feel welcome or safe in a community, because of a climate that tolerates sexual predation, or that looks the other way when it happens.

Compare, on the other hand, the problem that some women who don’t want to seem too eager won’t get laid when they might otherwise — and that some men who aren’t persistent in the face of rejection won’t get laid when they might otherwise.

Which do you think is the bigger problem?

***

UPDATE: This was not supposed to be a hard question.

Men Behaving Badly at Atheist Conferences

I’ve just gotten back from the Women in Secularism conference, which was made almost entirely of awesome, and was one of the best conferences I’ve been to. I’ll soon post a recap of the conference highlights.

But right now, I want to point you to some posts about one of the main topics of conversation at the con: the discussion, started by Jen McCreight on one of her panels, about some male speakers behaving badly towards women at conferences, and the fact that women who attend these cons regularly have an informal network warning each other away from these guys… since, for assorted reasons, women don’t feel safe talking about this publicly and naming names.

Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds has two excellent posts up right now about the issue, summing up the main problems and proposing/ discussing solutions. She says most of what I want to say, so I’m just going to point you there:

Zero Intolerance
Making It Safer in the Meantime

Skatje Myers, guest posting on Pharyngula, also has a good post discussing this (near the end of the post):

Women in Secularism conference: a summary, part 1

And at WWJTD?, JT Eberhard has a related post, on a separate but not entirely unconnected issue: how conferences can be made comfortable and safe for women, free of the persistent unwanted sexual advances that are all too common… while still being welcoming to flirting and hooking up for people of all genders who want to do that:

Flirting, sex, and lines: removing skeeze from the movement

It’s a somewhat separate issue from the one Jen raised at the conference — because of the power imbalance, “skeezy behavior on the part of some speakers/ organizers/ other leaders” and “skeezy behavior on the part of some conference attendees” are very different issues — but they’re not totally unrelated, and talk about one is almost certain to raise talk about the other. So go to Almost Diamonds and Pharyngula to talk about how to deal with predatory male speakers in an environment where women don’t feel safe naming names… and go to WWJTD? to talk about boundaries and social cues in flirting, physicality, and hooking up.

Why Atheism Demands Social Justice

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry magazine.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Being an atheist demands that we work for social justice.

A lot of atheists will argue with this. They’ll say that atheism means one thing, and one thing only: the lack of belief in any god. And in the most literal sense, they’re right. It’s different from secular humanism in that way. Secular humanism is more than just not believing in gods or the supernatural: it’s a positive, multi-faceted philosophy that includes specific principles of ethical conduct. Atheism, technically, means only the conclusion that there are no gods.

But conclusions don’t stand in a vacuum. They have implications. That’s true for the conclusion that there are no gods, as much as any other conclusion. And when you conclude that there are no gods, I would argue that one of the implications is a demand that we work for social justice: an end to extreme poverty, political disempowerment, government corruption, gross inequality in economic opportunity, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so on. For reasons that are high-minded and noble and altruistic… and for reasons that are pragmatic and Machiavellian to the point of being crass. [Read more…]