#mencallmethings: “hideous,” “ugly,” “cunt”

Content note: misogyny

On Twitter:

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#Mizzou event at #skepticon was just a PR event for white videographer. Totally inappropriate and fucked-up use of platform. [For those who weren’t following it, this was in reference to this incident, for which Skepticon has apologized.]

Asshole on Twitter:

Man, this is one stupid feminist-because-she’s-ugly cunt!

It’s almost magical how women named “Greta” are invariably hideous!

#mencallmethings, Intersectional Edition! It’s weird how speaking about racism got me hit with misogynist slurs and hate-trolled about being an ugly feminist. No, actually, it’s not weird. It’s entirely predictable.

Also, can I just say: hate-trolling about my name? That is deeply weird, so irrelevant as to be incoherent. It’s like saying, “It’s almost magical how women born in Chicago are invariably hideous,” or “It’s almost magical how women with mild asthma are invariably hideous.”

[Read more…]

Sexual Ethics in “Steven Universe”

Spoiler alert: This post contains mild Steven Universe spoilers. I’m mostly avoiding more specific spoilers, although I’m fine with spoilers in the comments.

garnet amethyst fusion

So Ingrid and I have been binge-watching/ obsessing over the animated TV show “Steven Universe.” And I noticed something the other day that I wanted to share.

I was thinking about “fusion” (a process by which the Gems, magical superheroes, fuse together into a larger, more powerful being). Let’s assume that fusion is some kind of metaphor for sex. It’s not much of a leap (although I don’t think sex is the only thing fusion is supposed to be referencing).

So in the “Steven Universe” universe, what are the ethics about fusion?

Fusing with more than one person is fine. Fusing with more than one person at a time is fine. Sometimes people get jealous — or envious, I guess might be more accurate — if other people are fusing and they wanted to be in on it. But there’s never any suggestion that there’s anything wrong with having more than one person that you fuse with.

It isn’t, however, right to be dishonest about fusion: to fuse under false pretenses, or in any way to deceive someone into fusing.

It isn’t right to fuse with no concern for the consequences.

And it’s seriously, profoundly not right to force fusion on anyone.


Skepticism, and Emotional Responses to Terrible Ideas

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry.

(Content note: passing mentions of spousal abuse, rape, intense racism, homophobia, transphobia)

earDoes being a good skeptic mean listening calmly and patiently to every idea, and considering every idea with a completely open mind?

Strike that. Let me phrase that question in a more honest way, a way that makes my position clear: Where on Earth did we come up with the cockamamie notion that being a good skeptic means not having an emotional response to terrible, harmful ideas, and not treating those ideas with the contempt they deserve? Where did we get the notion that being a good skeptic means treating every idea, no matter how ridiculous or toxic, as equally worthy of consideration? Where did we get the notion that bad, harmful ideas should not make us angry, and that we should never get angry at anyone who brings them up?

Ron Lindsay recently wrote a piece, “Questioning Humanist Orthodoxy: Introduction to a Series” (No Faith Value blog, May 18, 2015), in which he criticized, among other things, humanists who respond angrily and emotionally to supporters of the death penalty, and who don’t calmly make what Lindsay considers to be good, rational arguments against it. PZ Myers has already responded to the core content of Lindsay’s essay (“Brave Ron Lindsay,” Pharyngula blog, May 19, 2015), so I’m not going to do that here. And in any case, I don’t want to pick on Lindsay: he is very far from the only person to put forth this idea. Several prominent atheists and skeptics have chided progressives for expressing anger over debates about abortion (citations collected at “Having a Reasonable Debate About Abortion,” Greta Christina’s Blog, March 13, 2014), and Massimo Pigliucci described these debates about abortion as “a tempest in a teapot” (“David Silverman and the scope of atheism,” Rationally Speaking blog, March 14, 2014).

This is a very common idea in the skeptical world: the idea that being a skeptic means being willing to entertain and discuss any and all ideas, with a completely open mind, with no attachment to any particular outcome — and with no emotional response.

And it’s an idea that should be taken out into the street and shot.

homosexuality can be cured newspaperLet’s set aside abortion and the death penalty for a moment. Let’s use some different examples, ones that will make my point more clear. Let’s imagine that someone shows up at your dinner party, or comes into your online forum, and says that husbands should be allowed to beat and rape their wives. Or that homosexuality is a serious and dangerous mental illness, and gay people should be locked up in mental institutions. Or that black people aren’t fully human.

How are you going to respond? Are you going to say, “Hm, that’s an interesting idea — I don’t agree, but I’m curious why you think that, let’s calmly look at the evidence and examine the pros and cons”?

Or are you going to say some version of, “That is vile. That is despicable. The fact that you’re even proposing that is morally repulsive. Apologize, or get the hell out”?

And assuming that you did call the idea vile and toss the person out — how would you respond to someone telling you, “You’re a bad skeptic! You shouldn’t be so emotional! If someone is questioning black people’s basic humanity, you should be willing to debate that dispassionately, and with an open mind!”? [Read more…]

#mencallmethings: “mentally compromised,” “should be removed from society,” “it”

Content note: misogyny, ableism

Jerk on my blog, in response to my year-old post on The Amazing Atheist:

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The author of this article is an uneducated and mentally compromised, it should be removed from society and made into an example of how not to live.


I see. So in an effort to persuade people that The Amazing Atheist isn’t really sexist or misogynist and we should give him a chance to explain himself, this person goes onto a feminist’s blog and tells her that she’s mentally compromised and should be removed from society. Also, he (the online handle doesn’t give clues about gender, but the email address did, so I’m assuming the commenter is male) literally dehumanizes me, referring to me as “it.”

I’m reminded once again of Lewis’s Law: “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”

And I’d like to point out: That post came out over a year ago. I’m reminded of the sexist atheistbros who are still — STILL — dredging up wildly distorted versions of Elevatorgate and arguing with them. It’s funny — almost — in the light of how often feminists get accused of hanging on to old injuries and dredging up old muck.

[Read more…]

“The lion’s share of what is on Facebook”: Some Thoughts on Online Politics

In response to my earlier post, Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives, I got this comment:

Greta, what you are citing is not issue advocacy. It is mindless and immature ranting, which is the lion’s share of what is on Facebook. I have almost given up trying to have anything resembling an exchange of ideas on Facebook. It is just not the type of forum that is conducive to a rational discourse, without heavy moderation and a commitment among participants to keep it at a sensible level. Too much ignorance for me.

It’s a commonly expressed sentiment, so I wanted to amplify my reply. Thus, this blog post.

Facebook thumbs upSorry, but I don’t buy the idea that “oh, that’s just Facebook.” For one thing, it’s not true (or it’s often not true). I’ve seen, and participated in, many very good political conversations on Facebook and other social media. Yes, it requires heavy moderation and a commitment among participants. That’s true of any online forum.

For another: Interaction on social media is human interaction. [Read more…]

Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives


Based on some Facebook interactions (I won’t post them here, but you can see the interactions in this thread), I have a couple of notes to progressives on criticizing conservatives.

Note 1: Can you please not criticize Ann Coulter by talking about her prominent Adam’s apple, or saying she looks like a man? It’s sexist, and it’s transphobic. It’s sexist because you’re criticizing a woman in the public sphere by insulting her appearance, when that shouldn’t be relevant. And it’s both sexist and transphobic to insult women by saying they look like men: it reinforces the rigid gender binary, and reinforces the gender policing of trans people. There are approximately 879,500,403 legitimately negative things you can say about Ann Coulter. There’s no need to resort to sexism and transphobia. Thanks.

Aaaaaaaaaaand, Note 2: When someone says, “Hey, when you criticize conservatives, can you please not do it in this sexist and transphobic way,” and you reply (paraphrasing here, but not by much), “I’M NOT BEING TRANSPHOBIC OR SEXIST, THEY’RE A TERRIBLE PERSON SO I SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY ANYTHING I WANT ABOUT THEM INCLUDING INSULTING WOMEN FOR LOOKING UGLY AND TRANS, AND I’M GOING TO THROW IN SOME HOMOPHOBIC INSULTS AT A CONSERVATIVE I THINK IS GAY WHILE I’M AT IT, YOU’RE BEING PC AND UNDERMINING FREEZE PEACH, DON’T TELL ME TO STOP I WILL DO WHATEVER I WANT FOREVER” — you have 100% failed at being an ally. In fact, you’ve 100% failed at being progressive. You are more interested in rooting for Team Progressive and dissing Team Conservative than you are in actually advocating for the issues that progressives supposedly care about.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

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.

Why Are People Bigoted, Even When It Costs Them Money?

burning moneySo there’s this interesting social justice question that has some people puzzled. Why do businesses and businesspeople continue to do things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, etc. — even when it works against their own immediate, tangible interests?

I was thinking about this when I was listening to the Cracked podcast interview with Andrew Ti, of Yo, Is This Racist? Ti was talking, among many other things, about TV producers who are weirdly not cranking out a dozen “Empire” ripoffs — even though the show is hugely successful, and even though TV is one of the most derivative industries around. (Ti was mostly talking about the sad excuses given by network execs for why they weren’t making more shows like “Empire.”)

But this question comes up a lot. It comes up in discussions of why bakers won’t sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples — even in the midst of a same-sex wedding boom. It comes up in discussions of housing, and why landlords and homeowners are less likely, even flatly unwilling, to rent or sell to black people. It comes up in discussions of hiring, and why employers reject highly qualified job candidates who would contribute greatly to their company, simply because those candidates are women/ people of color/ transgender/ otherwise marginalized. It’s absurdly common for businesspeople to perpetuate bigotry, either consciously or unconsciously — even when it means the loss of immediate, substantial profit. And this cuts across a large variety of businesses.

Sometimes this phenomenon gets treated with bafflement. “They’re so foolish! Don’t they realize they’re losing money?” Sometimes it gets treated as cause for optimism. “This means we’ll eventually win! Market forces and natural greed will break down bigotry and oppression! Capitalism will prevail!”

I don’t see it that way. I think it says something completely different. I think it says this:

The fact that people keep doing bigoted things, even when it works against their immediate financial interests, shows just how valuable privilege is.

empireEven if you lose money by not making a dozen “Empire” ripoffs, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not renting or selling to black people, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not hiring talented women, you still gain by perpetuating male privilege.

Even if you lose money by not selling gelato to the hundreds of attendees at an atheist convention, you still gain by perpetuating religious privilege, and more specifically Christian privilege.

Even if you lose money by refusing to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples, you still gain by perpetuating heterosexual privilege.


Think of it this way. Think about affirmative action, and the arguments that are most commonly marshaled against it. “You’re lowering the bar! You’re diluting the talent pool! By going out of your way to look for qualified black people, Hispanic people, women, disabled people, LGBT people — you’re discriminating against all those super-talented straight cisgender able-bodied white guys!”

If we think about this “reasoning” for six seconds, it becomes clear how absurd it is. Expanding a job search to look for qualified people who might not otherwise have been considered — that’s not diluting the talent pool. That’s expanding it. That’s getting more talented people into consideration.

And that’s exactly the problem.

Affirmative action doesn’t lower the bar. Affirmative action brings in more competition.

If you only have to compete against straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied, middle-class men — you’re going to do a whole lot better than if you’re competing against, you know, everyone. And if you’re only okay at your job — which, let’s face it, an awful lot of people are — more competition means you won’t do so well. (To use just one example: When Major League Baseball began to racially integrate, a lot of marginal white players wound up getting cut.)

And jobs are just one example. This phenomenon plays out in pretty much every business where conscious or unconscious bigotry exists — which is to say, pretty much every business.

Privilege is profitable. It’s profitable in thousands of observable, well-documented ways. It’s profitable in the long run, in the medium run, in the short run. In the (usually) unconscious cost-benefit analysis of “bigotry” versus “equality,” privilege is so profitable that perpetuating it is worth losing out on large bundles of cash being dangled right in front of your nose.

So what do we do?

We need to keep putting on the pressure.

We need to make it a whole lot harder to be bigoted than it is not to be. We need to make bigotry more inconvenient, more time-consuming, more costly. When businesspeople say and do bigoted things, we need to make it result in a PR nightmare and some expensive lawsuits and a whole bunch of customers saying, “Screw you, we’re taking our business elsewhere.” Market forces are not going to do it on their own: we need to create the forces that push things in our direction. (Please note that when pundits decry the so-called “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs” consisting of a whole lot of people on the Internet saying, “That’s racist,” “That’s sexist,” “That’s transphobic,” etc. — they’re basically saying, “Please stop putting pressure on people to not be bigoted. Please stop making bigotry inconvenient.”)

Privilege is profitable. We need to make it a huge pain in the ass. We need to make the cost-benefit analysis skew on the side of equality. We need to make bigotry not worth it.

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.

Seven Reasons “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal” is Nonsense

one-hundred-dollar-bill“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. R-O-N-G Rong.

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.

empty-change-purse1: Poverty, and the cycle of poverty. This is the big one. Poverty is a social issue. The cycle of poverty — the ways that poverty itself makes it harder to get out of poverty, the ways that poverty can be a permanent trap lasting for generations — is a social issue, and a human rights issue. [Read more…]

Why Progressives Should Stop Using Violent Rhetoric

(Content note: hate and threats, including violently misogynist hatred and threats of rape and death.)

Progressives condemn the hateful vitriol aimed at feminist women.

Why do we aim it at people we don’t like?

fireAs you probably know, Texas pastor and conservative activist Rick Scarborough recently commented on the right-wing Christian fight against same-sex marriage, saying, “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”

Many progressives responded as if Scarborough had threatened to set himself on fire. And many of those progressives responded to this supposed suicide threat with glee. They said things like, “I’ll give him the matches,” and, “Can I bring the marshmallows?” When the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality came down, they called for Scarborough to make good on his supposed promise, and mocked him for not doing it. (This isn’t just one or two people, either — it’s been all over my Facebook feed.)

I have a couple of problems with this. One, as Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has pointed out repeatedly on Facebook, is that Scarborough’s statement was not, in fact, a threat to set himself on fire. It was an absurd statement of a willingness to fight marriage equality to the death — but it wasn’t a threat to kill himself by burning. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my other problem with this progressive response.

My problem is that I see it as a threat.

Here’s the thing. I’m a feminist writer on the Internet — which means I get a whole lot of people publicly saying that I should experience brutal violence or die in some horrible way, and expressing pleasure at the thought of it happening. And when they do, I see it as a threat. Most of my readers see it that way, too. When people publicly tell me “I HOPE YOU GET RAPED,” or that “someone should tattoo a giant cock across your face,” or that “I think I’m going to become a far right wing, woman raping clergyman,” or that I should “GO CHOKE ON A DICK AND DIE,” or that I should “just die already,” or when they tell me to “Go fuck yourself with a knife,” or when they tell me “Kill yourself” — most of my readers recognize it as a threat. When other women are targeted with hateful messages saying, “You should be killed very slowly,” “Will somebody please rape Rebecca Watson,” “This bitch needs to be punched in the throat,” or “Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself…”– most of my readers recognize it as a threat.

My readers understand that a threat doesn’t have to be explicit to be real. [Read more…]

The Irresistible Woman: A Micro-Horror Collection, Part 7

Content note: fantasy/horror violence, and plenty of it. Also some references to sexism, misogyny, misogynist violence, and some sexual content.

In response to this post on Facebook, from dating coach Jonathon Aslay:

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?

Facebook feminists bring you: The Irresistible Woman. Part 7 of a series. All micro-stories reprinted with permission of the authors, credited and linked to (or not) as they requested.

DISCLAIMER: References to violence, death, destruction, physical torment, psychological torment, supernatural torment, world domination, eternal nightmares, or the warping of the entire space-time continuum to exact revenge on one sexist jerk, are all intended as metaphor. These are fictional expressions of rage and mockery, aimed at the impossible, contradictory, ever-shifting standards of female desirability, and at the barrage of advice given to women about how to meet those standards. None of the authors actually want to do these things, or think they should happen. No, really.


It’s not even about the list at this point. It’s this torrential outpouring of surreality only vaguely provoked by the initial words, mostly provoked by life lived under the thumb of a culture that demands that women be always pleasant, always accessible, and always always responsible both for their actions and the reactions of others. Always beautiful. Always kind. It’s tiresome in its neverending crush. Sometimes you lose the desire to rage. Sometimes all you can do is cough back an equal amount of nonsensical madness, providing yourself and your friends a little amusement, a brief reprieve before we go on to be criticized by our relatives, our doctors, the things we watch and read, before we click away and find another and another and another puff piece telling us how *we* should be, when all we ever wanted was equality and yet *we* are already so put upon to be and be and *be* this thing and the other thing and the next thing here. Decent is how everyone should be. It is not difficult to grasp that these are attributes that literally everyone should possess. But by saying “woman,” you gently echo what we hear every day: that we are not ideal, that we are not trying hard enough, that things fall apart and it is our fault, that we must “share responsibility”, not be demanding, not be entitled. And by saying man, you draw a box around that group of women that not only want relationships, but want them *with men.* Forgetting that even though men love women, women love women, too. Forgetting that some people are neither men nor women, even, if that was a fact you ever knew. And that grates. And then, that women should strive to be irresistible followed by a list that reflects only basic human decency . . . and this is framed as a thing to which we must *aspire*. A goal. A thing we are not presumed to have already. We are presumed to need these lists. This is fair advice, for the most part, though presented as a groundbreaking new observation, that we all — sorry, that *women* — be excellent to each other. To men. Because of course we are directing our actions at men. And yet . . . it rubs wrong. Tastes bitter, a flavor like being so tired you can’t stand up, but too exhausted to sleep. And when sometimes it takes only a feather to tip the scale and send everything spilling. A million tiny acts, tiny words, tiny interactions that we must smile and nod through and fight to find the “meaning well” that lies at the center, and suddenly, the weight of a sesame seed sends everything crashing into chaos. Some lash out in irritation, and that is . . . less than ideal, though certainly understandable. Others, though, are simply inspired to utter surreality. It may seem even more senseless than the anger, but at least it is beautiful. What can you do but laugh? What can we ever, ever do but laugh? –Amanda Gannon [Read more…]