7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand

money closeup

Social and economic issues are deeply intertwined.

“Well, I’m conservative, but I’m not one of those racist, homophobic, dripping-with-hate Tea Party bigots! I’m pro-choice! I’m pro-same-sex-marriage! I’m not a racist! I just want lower taxes, and smaller government, and less government regulation of business. I’m fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.”

How many liberals and progressives have heard this? It’s ridiculously common. Hell, even David Koch of the Koch brothers has said, “I’m a conservative on economic matters and I’m a social liberal.”

And it’s wrong. W-R-O-N-G Wrong.

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm. That’s true even for the mildest, most generous version of “fiscal conservatism” — low taxes, small government, reduced regulation, a free market. These policies perpetuate human rights abuses. They make life harder for people who already have hard lives. Even if the people supporting these policies don’t intend this, the policies are racist, sexist, classist (obviously), ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise socially retrograde. In many ways, they do more harm than so-called “social policies” that are supposedly separate from economic ones. Here are seven reasons that “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is nonsense.

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Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

The “Mad Men” Finale, and Why Peggy and Stan Are Not Going to Have a Storybook Ending

mad-men-finale-peggy-stan 1

I’ve been reading reviews and analyses of the “Mad Men” series finale, “Person to Person.” And there is an important thing about the Peggy-and-Stan romance that ABSOLUTELY NOBODY IS GETTING RIGHT.

Yes, I am right and they are wrong. This is not opinion, this is OBJECTIVE FACT, and I will stand by it until my dying breath, or until someone in the comments persuades me that I’m wrong.

Okay. Everyone keeps talking about how the Peggy-and-Stan romance in the finale is a happy ending, all tied up neatly in a bow. The only debate I’ve seen is over whether this plot resolution is narratively acceptable and well-written, or whether it’s drippy and contrived fan service. Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker described it as “satisfying but also borderline cornball” and said it “felt like the final scene of every romantic comedy that has ever been filmed”; Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone called it “sodden shtick” and said “Poor Stan and Peggy — they deserved a moment that didn’t feel like a cynical series-finale gimmick”; Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter described it as “Peggy’s touching and comic realization that Stan loves her and she also loves him”; Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture called it “one of the most shameless and satisfying examples of fan service I can recall.”

NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. NO!!!!!

Why is nobody questioning this relationship?

I have serious doubts about whether Peggy is really in love with Stan. And I have serious doubts about whether their relationship is a good idea, even if she is in love with him. In fact, during their entire phone conversation when they declare their love, I wasn’t thinking, “Awwwww, how sweet, they finally got together, they’re obviously right for each other, lovey lovey love love.” I was thinking, “Ummmmmmm… hang on. This smells like trouble.”

Here are some things that jumped out at me about that phone call. (Transcript of phone call at the end of this post.) Think about how hesitant Peggy is at first. How she says, “I think I’m in love with you” — emphasis on “I think” — before she finally says, “I love you.” How she then says, “I really do”: not I really am in love with you, but I really do think I’m in love with you, like she’s talking herself into it. Think about how she describes her feelings for Stan — saying, “you make everything okay. You always do.” That definitely sounds like friendship-love, but it’s not so obviously romantic love. Could be — but it’s hardly a slam-dunk.

And in particular, think about how she says to Stan, “I must be [in love]. Because you’re always right.”

I think I’m in love. Really. I must be in love. Because you’re in love with me, and you’re always right.

It seems to me that Peggy is making the exact same mistake with Stan that she made with Abe. She’s letting his romantic love for her bowl her over — and she’s letting his love for her convince her that she feels the same.

And now, think, carefully, about the things Stan says right before he declares his love. He says “I get the person I want to talk to” only when they talk on the phone. He says he misses her when they’re not together — but “every time I’m face to face with you, I want to strangle you.” He says, “When I’m standing in front of you, I bring out something terrible.” It’s not clear whether he means that he brings out something terrible in her, or in himself — but either way, ew.

Will somebody please explain how any of that is romantic? Will somebody please explain how that’s anything other than desperately sad and bug-fuck creepy? [Read more…]

“Great ideas for living life in the face of our mortality”: Amazon Customer Review of “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Got a really nice customer review on Amazon of Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Five stars out of five. (In fact, the book now has 21 Amazon customer reviews, and 18 are either four or five stars.) Here’s what O. Blacklock had to say:

Great ideas for living life in the face of our mortality

Good nonreligious way of coping with our inevitable death.

Thanks, O. Blacklock! And if any of you have read Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGThe Kindle ebook edition is available on Amazon (that’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well); the Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble; and the Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. All ebook editions are $2.99. You can get the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. The audiobook is $2.99 (discounted slightly on Amazon, of course). (The print edition is scheduled for the fall.)

Here’s the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs: [Read more…]

To Block Or Not To Block: A Social Justice Question

Please note: This post has a different comment policy from the usual one. That policy is at the end of the post.

hand on keyboardI have a question for all you other Social Justice Warriors out there. When people say racist, sexist, classist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. crap in our online spaces — should we block them? Or should we engage with them, and try to educate them?

Let me narrow that down somewhat. I’m not talking about when people say crap that’s aimed at us, at a marginalized group we’re part of. I’m talking about when people say crap about another marginalized group. I’m talking about what white people should do when people say racist crap; what men should do when people say sexist crap; what cis people should do when people say transphobic crap; etc. I’m talking about how to ally.

I’ve seen very good cases made on both sides of this question. I’ve read very good pieces by African Americans saying, “Please block the assholes saying racist shit in your Facebook page already, why on Earth are you tolerating that?” (Alas, I can’t find the pieces I read saying this — I really need to learn to bookmark this stuff. Links in comments would be appreciated.) And I’ve read very good pieces by African Americans saying, “Don’t just block these folks. That’s the easy way out. We don’t have access to these people, you do, we can’t educate them — so as painful and difficult as it is, it’s up to you to do that.” (Here’s one example of this, the one that keeps getting cited when this topic comes up.)

It’s one thing when people demand, “Educate me!” — and then ignore, derail, move the goalposts, argue without listening, repeatedly ask questions they could get answered with ten seconds of Googling, and generally show bad faith and a complete lack of interest in being educated. I’m not talking about when willfully ignorant fools demand, “Educate me!” I’m talking about when people I’m working to ally with point to those fools and say, “Educate them!”

Please note: I’m not asking whether I have the right to block people. I know I do. I’m not talking about what I have the right to do. I’m talking about what’s the right thing to do. I’m finding myself somewhat stymied, and I want to hear from people I respect.

Here’s the conundrum I’m experiencing. [Read more…]

“For anyone interested in exploring sexual psychology and the human condition”: Amazon Review of “Bending”

I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for my book Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More — now out in print, as well as ebook and audiobook! Here’s a good one, five stars out of five. (As of this writing, the book has ten customer reviews, and nine are 5-star reviews, with one 4-star.) Here’s what Alysa H. had to say:

A wonderfully kinky intellectual exercise

Reading this book was, for me, less about reading erotica and more of an amazing intellectual exercise. That is, I enjoyed these stories as pieces of writing but only occasionally as erotic. And this has naught to do with the author’s abilities to convey desire, eroticism, etc. I mean, I’m giving this book 5 Stars, see?! I’ve got a “Your Kinks Are Not My Kinks, And That’s OK” mentality, and the author’s (sometimes repetitive) kinks as on display here may or not overlap with yours or mine, even in cases where the differences are in the minutiae — which can be pretty darn important when it comes to kink! — but no matter what your kinks, this book is for anyone interested in exploring sexual psychology and the human condition.

Thanks, Alysa! And if any of you have read Bending, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

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Here, by the way, is ordering info for the book! [Read more…]

Godless Perverts Social Club, Thursday May 21!

godless perverts social club may 21 2015

The next Godless Perverts Social Club is Thursday, May 21! This is one of our Casual meetups — we’re not picking a topic ahead of time, we’ll just chat about whatever comes up. Usually related to sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, skepticism, science, etc. — but not always.

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

The Irresistible Woman

Inspired by this Facebook posting:

“How a Woman Becomes Irresistible To a Man… She chooses to set high standards for herself. She’s clear on what she wants. She knows the value of friendship before sex. She comes from a place of gratitude (not expectations). She is confident and willing to ask a man out on a date because she knows a relationship is a two way street. She demonstrates trust and respect by accepting him for who he is. She’s in no hurry to get to the destination. She can take of herself, she doesn’t need a man. She shows up interesting and interested. She comes from a place of compassion (not entitlement). Lastly, she knows how to inspire a man, because she leads by example. Did I miss anything?”
– Jonathon Aslay, dating coach

And much more importantly: Inspired by the comment thread on this Facebook posting. It’s one of the most genius things I’ve read in a while: it’s a near-perfect blend of wild inventiveness, scathing mockery, and bitter, white-hot rage, mostly written in the horror genre. Scroll down a bit: you’ll know when you’ve gotten to the good parts. Here are my contributions.

*****

The irresistible woman reaches into your muscles, the marrow of your bones, the nuclei of the cells of your neurons. She will force you to desire her. She will rearrange the core of your being, the esse of your non-existent soul, to transform you into a being who desires her, urgently, utterly, desperately. You will desire her, but you will never have her. When she departs, the core of your being will howl for eternity at the loss. You will never feel another love, another desire, that touches you as ferociously or as purely as this loss.

*****

The irresistible woman has transformed her skin into a superconductive ceramic shell. The cold, the cold, you touch her skin and the cold feels like burning, like acid, like inconsolable grief. Her skin burns off your fingerprints. You are no longer yourself, you will never again be yourself. You can recognize the other men who have touched her, by the smooth scarring on their fingers, their faces, their hearts.

You do not leave a mark on her. None of you has ever left a mark on her. None of you ever will.

The irresistible woman has transformed her skin into a superconductive ceramic shell. The transformation on the cellular level was torture; her screams were the cries of the phoenix, the newly-born spider devouring the body of its mother, the Christ hanging himself on the cross and crying out in despair, “Why have I forsaken myself?” When it was over at last, she was left with one small piece of her human skin, her own index fingertip, set in a locket. She is saving it for her daughter.

*****

“The irresistible woman is clear on what she wants, but has no expectations and accepts men as they are. She has high standards, but has no sense of entitlement. She has no need for a man, but cares deeply about being irresistible to them.”

The irresistible woman hears the contradictions, and laughs — a harpy shriek she immediately muffles into her elbow, for fear of giving the ending away. They think the contradictions will baffle her, frighten her, weaken her, send her into despair. They have no idea.

The irresistible woman takes the stage, strips, scratches her face with her perfect nails. She writes the contradictions on parchment in her blood, wraps it around her naked body like a shroud. The parchment twists at her command, and she twists along with it, her body bending, stretching, contorting into a Moebius strip, slicing itself into twisted loops that interlock. Her audience looks on: entertained, then captivated, then gradually paralyzed as the realization sinks in.

The command she spoke to the parchment was spoken at the same time to their brains. Their neurons, axons, dendrites, have twisted inside their skulls. It happened bit by bit, like the heat under a pot of water gradually boiling the live frog. The knots inside their brains are bleeding.

They had no idea.

She unwraps her body with a snap, eases out of the parchment. She knows her way out. She slips into a terrycloth bathrobe stolen from a hotel. She exits through the gift shop.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

A Few Quick Notes About Blocking, Muting, Unfriending, and Banning

I’ve said things like this many times in different venues, but I’ve never put it together here in a single place I can link to — so I’m doing that now.

Ahem.

If you don’t respect my basic right to moderate my own online spaces — don’t bother to comment in any of them.

If you think I’m obligated to listen to anyone say whatever they want, for as long as they want to talk to me — don’t bother to comment.

If you think free speech means people have the right to force me to listen to whatever they want to say, whenever they want, for as long as they want, in whatever space they want, in as ugly a manner as they want, and that I’m obligated to listen, forever — don’t bother to comment.

If you think blocking, muting, unfriending, or banning people in my online spaces means I hate free speech, am not interested in constructive dialog, and am only interested in listening to an echo chamber — don’t bother to comment.

I love arguing. I’ve been arguing online for years, and I’ve been following other people’s online arguments for years. And I know when arguments are going nowhere — and I know the arguments that signal, “I’m not actually listening to you or thinking about what you’re saying.” My time on Earth is limited, and you do not have a right to that time. I will decide for myself who I do and don’t want to engage with. I will decide for myself which conversations are worth my time, and which ones are not.

And this trope of “You are a terrible person if you block or ban or mute people” is one of the most common forms of Internet harassment — especially for women. It’s extra insidious because, to people who aren’t clued in to the reality of being a feminist woman on the Internet, it can sound very reasonable. The mere fact of having boundaries, the mere fact of making decisions about who we are and aren’t willing to engage with, gets us framed as close-minded, non-skeptical, censorious, fascist bitches. When it’s aimed at women, this “How dare you block or ban or mute!” trope basically means, “You have no right to have boundaries. It is your job to listen, patiently and politely, for as long as people want to talk. Men have the floor, and women are the audience. You are a woman, and that means you’re a public commodity, and you have to give access to yourself to anyone who wants it. Quit whining, and engage with every asshole who wants to engage with you.”

Don’t do that. If you want to engage with me, understand that I have the right to leave that engagement at any time. If you want to engage with me in my space, understand that I am not obligated to give that space to you. You have that right, too. You can opt out of conversations with me at any time. You can stop following me on Twitter or Facebook; you can stop reading my blog; you can block me or mute me or unfriend me or unfollow me. And of course, you have the right to say what you want in your own spaces. But if you can’t accept that I have a right to walk away from conversations, don’t start a conversation with me. Thanks.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Some More (Slightly Less Charitable) Thoughts About “Special Interest” Atheist Groups

black nonbelievers logoSo I wrote a piece a few days ago, with a partial answer to the question, “Why do there need to be atheist groups for specific kinds of atheists? Why should there be black atheist groups, Ex-Muslim atheist groups, women’s atheist groups?” It was a fairly calm, civil, patient piece. But some of the commentary on it gave me a much less patient, much less charitable view of this, airquotes, “issue.”

No, the commentary wasn’t hostile. That’s not it. See, a number of people pointed out that there are plenty of “special interest” atheist sub-groups that are entirely uncontroversial. (Within the atheist movement, anyway: I’m sure the Christian Right doesn’t much like them.) There are atheist parenting groups. Atheist book clubs. Atheist hiking clubs. Heck, there’s an entire national organization, the Secular Student Alliance, devoted entirely to meeting the needs of a specific sub-group of atheists — namely, atheist students — and supporting their student-centered groups.

And in the years I’ve been involved in organized atheism, I have never once heard a peep of complaint about any of these.

I have never once heard anyone say, “Why do student atheists need a national organization just for their groups? Why can’t they just go to the regular off-campus atheist group?” “Why do atheist parents need their own group and their own activities?” “Doesn’t the atheist book club splinter and divide our community?” “Isn’t the atheist hiking group segregation — discrimination against people who don’t hike?”

Never. Literally never.

secular student alliance logoQuite the opposite. If these sub-groups and specialty groups can get enough members, and if the groups survive and flourish, it’s seen as a good thing. It’s seen as a way to draw new people into the atheist community: if there are atheists who aren’t that interested in the other group activities, but who like to hike or talk about books, the atheist book club or hiking club might bring them in. And it’s understood that parents and students have particular interests and needs — particular scheduling concerns, and activities they’ll want to do, if nothing else — so again, having groups dedicated to them is actually going to draw more people into organized atheism. And it’s also recognized that if a group is surviving and flourishing, then, self-evidently, there’s a desire for it. There might be a little competitiveness — especially if one of these special-interest groups shoots up as its own thing rather than as a sub-group of an existing group, and especially if it starts drawing members away. But as a general principle, it’s understood that these special interest groups are a Good Thing.

So why is it such a problem to have special groups for black atheists, or women atheists, or atheists from other marginalized demographics?

[crickets]

My not-very-charitable interpretation: A lot of people don’t want to recognize that women, African Americans, other marginalized demographics, even have particular needs and interests and concerns.

After all, if you accept that, then you have to accept that racism exists and is a thing, that sexism exists and is a thing, that other marginalizations exist and are things. To understand why black atheists or women atheists might want their own groups, you have to understand some harsh realities about what it’s like to be a woman or an African American — realities that make the experience of being a woman really different from that of being a man, realities that make the experience of being African American really different from that of being white.

And when you accept that racism, sexism, and other marginalizations really exist and are things, a whole lot of other dominoes start tumbling down. You have to accept just how large and pervasive and terrible some of these marginalizations are. You have to accept the fact that you, yourself, sometimes contribute to these marginalizations, even without meaning to. And if you’re a halfway decent person, you have to start working to make a difference.

It’s much easier to maintain the pleasant fiction that, while readers and hikers and parents and students might have their own needs and interests and experiences, marginalization and oppression can’t possibly shape people’s experiences — certainly not enough that they might occasionally want to spend time with other folks who’ve been through the same crap.

Accepting the reality of marginalization knocks over a whole lot of dominoes.

Starting a book club? That hardly knocks over any.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.