What’s Wrong With Saying Hello?

Content Notice for Street Harassment, Sexual Assault, & Violence

Disclaimer: The 100-catcalls-in-a-day Hollaback video making the rounds has its intersectional (i.e. racial) issues. I think it still serves well in starting a conversation and makes a point about an experience with which very few men are familiar.

Most of these men said seemingly positive things to the subject of the video: compliments and simple “hi”s and “hello”s. So what’s the problem here?

The problem is that, if you are or are perceived by society to be a female person and are walking alone, there’s no good way to react to random male strangers greeting you on the streets.

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The Double Lives of Brown Girls’ Closets

Once they know about my religious and family background, people generally want to know how my family relationships are now. They’re not so bad these days, thank you. After 8 years, even such a dramatic revelation as apostasy loses its ability to shock and agitate. Filial love can, in some situations, overcome anger and pain.

More difficult to overcome than my family members’s distaste for apostasy are their feelings about bodies.

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Open Thread: Social Justice-Free Atheism / Secularism

A note about comment moderation for this post: It will be even lighter-handed than usual, hence “Open” rather than “Ajar”. I will not be responding in the comments except for asks for clarification or warnings about threats. Any responses I have will be given in subsequent posts.

Let’s say that I’m giving up most of what I stand for. Suppose I said the following without any hint of irony.

Let’s stop our mission as the secular community from creeping into issues that have anything to do with anything other than secularism. Let’s prevent the mission from drifting to anything that doesn’t directly pertain to being an atheist promoting a secular worldview.

What would you tell me were the important issues? What is this movement for, and for what are we fighting?

If you believe that secularism should only focus on issues that are purely secular, devoid of anything that isn’t entirely an issue of secularism, what might some of those issues be?

I am genuinely curious as to what people not firmly on the pro-SJ side of things think are the important issues. If you want to respond but not as a blog comment for some reason, you can reach me via TwitterTumblr [anon enabled], Facebookask.fm (anon enabled), or good ol’ fashioned email.

LGBT Muslims: Past & Present Realities, Not “An Oxymoron”

a person in sunglasses flashing the peace sign. to their right is a sing that says "LGBT MUSLIMS - YES, WE EXIST"

The weekend before last, I gave a talk in Akron at the second annual Sexy Secular Conference on the history of LGBT folks in societies dominated by Muslims. The title was Queerness and Islam: A Longer History Than You Think in deference to the fact that the non-cis and/or non-hetero side of history is often erased in popular discourse. Such erasure is especially prevalent in areas where very little in the way of LGBT rights and acceptance has been achieved, but is hardly limited to such regions.

The fact that LGBTQ people exist and always have existed seems to miss many. I found out just how much my talk was needed in the weeks leading up to and following the event. The response to the topic of my talk from the atheists of non-Muslim backgrounds to my talk was often, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

Whether meant in earnest or in jest, saying that there can be no such thing as an LGBT Muslim is to be complicit in harmful erasure that supports the hateful message of religious fundamentalists.

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Search Term Round-Up #2

Remember Search Term Round-Up #1? In the grand tradition of other bloggers, I’ve decided to share some more of the funnier and/or more bizarre incoming search terms that have led people to my blog.

I have noticed a change since I did my last round-up: People are searching for me by (sometimes misspelled) name and by search term strings directly related to the titles of my pieces. Gulp.

Content notice for the last of the lists.

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Beauty Level-Up #1: Confidence

This is post 2/4 of an October Friday series leading up to Halloween.

As I simply adore writing about beauty, I figured I could do an occasional (weekly, if it works out that way. #FemmeFriday?) post about it called Beauty Level-Up.

I used to be fairly uninterested in cosmetics outside of eyeliner and maybe some quick eyeshadow and mascara if I was feeling fancy. As I’ve gotten older and more femme, I’ve been enjoying setting little beauty goals for myself and working towards them. It’s very RPG-like for me: I enjoy attaining the goals, but I know I will never quite run out of them. Also, I like finding good bargains — or at least products worth my dollar — and I love finding ways to startle myself with my own face. Everyday cosplay, if you will.

Without further ado, the matter of the week.

How long have you been doing the make up thing? I’ve only recently started, and I’m curious how long it took you to get confidence. [Read more...]

Feminism 101: Objectification & Sexualization vs. Sexual Desire

Merely experiencing desire upon beholding someone is not to necessarily objectify. To wit:

I’ve been objectified by men when I’ve worn frumpy sweatshirts and baggy straight jeans: my butt was groped when I was arrayed that way at a hole-in-the-wall eatery. I’ve been objectified by men while I was wearing long, loose tunics and skirts topped by carefully-draped headscarves: I was asked if I was a “total freak under that thing”, the last word punctuated by an unmistakable gesture towards my scarf. Hell, I’ve been objectified by men for being a virgin who mostly stayed at home: a much-older man online told me that he found it titillating to think about me “locked away” and insinuated that if we got together, he’d rescue me to a liberated life of constant sex and nudity at his apartment.

Notice a pattern here?

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In Defense of Clickbait: We’re Doing This to Ourselves

When I attempted to start discussion about Facebook’s troubling Real Names Policy, I called my piece “Mark Zuckerberg Hates Ex-Muslims”. I could have called it “Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Care About Ex-Muslims” but that’s longer and less provocative. People are far less likely to click on longer and less-provocative titles.

Furthermore, I don’t think my word choice was a misrepresentation. Utterly disregarding the concerns of a group, pompously declaring anyone who can’t use their legal names on Facebook to be “lacking integrity”, and deleting their profiles is hateful, in my view. However, thanks to my choice in title, the discussion was derailed into “but the title is misleading!” debates. In the hopes of a more germane conversation, I changed the title.

I fear that, in appeasing people those who took more issue at my implying a powerful person might be hateful than at the hateful policy he is implementing, I might lessen my impact. Clickbait only exists because it works.

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It Wasn’t Sexual Until White People Columbused It

Columbusing, or the art of [white people] “discovering” something [people of color do] that is not new, ought to be declared the term of 2014. It probably will in 2015, if it manages to get itself Columbused by next year. Something that did recently get Columbused is twerking. Those who only pay attention to mainstream white culture associate it with Miley Cyrus, erasing its long history among those of African descent.

As Christiana Mbakwe says in The Origins of Twerking: What It Is, What It Means, and How It Got Appropriated:

The roots of twerking are rich. Variants of the dance exist in most places where there’s a high concentration of people of African descent. Its current iteration is commonly associated with the New Orleans bounce scene, however growing up in London I immediately associate it with the Dancehall scene.

If people took the time to explore the root of what’s been dubbed as the “twerk,” they’d realise its origins lie in West Africa. It’s strikingly similar to the Mapouka dance from Côte d’Ivoire, a dance done by women that focuses on the buttocks. It’s existed for centuries.

The similarities between twerking and another dance of non-white origins gets downright eerie around here:

If we view twerking through a Western prism, we’ll interpret it as being sexual, scandalous and controversial. However when you place it in its original context you’ll realise it’s a cultural expression of joy, with its function being primarily celebratory rather than for sexual provocation. Growing up, I saw it most frequently performed during joyful occasions — family gatherings and weddings. There was nothing scandalous about it, it was simply dancing.

What happened to bellydancing is what is happening to twerking.

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#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship

Content notice for all things domestic abuse. Please note that this is intended to be a personal account from a person whose feelings about what happened to them aren’t always fair or coherent and may carry misplaced resentment.

Whenever you realize what’s going on, remember

  • The wedding. How glamorous you felt. How happy everyone’s mom was. How sternly affectionate everyone’s dad was. How even the relatives you hate seemed lovely to you. How even the relatives who hate you wished you well without coming off as entirely passive-aggressive.
  • The cute story about the mishap from your honeymoon, when he performed a heroic, manly feat that saved you both.
  • The flowers he got for you on his way home from work each time you called him at work to let him know you were going to have his baby.
  • The ginger tenderness with which he held each newborn. The happy smile on his face in the picture you took each time of the bundled baby lying so snug and so small that he only had to use one arm to hold the tiny person.
  • How much your firstborn, who you love so dearly, looks like him.
  • That time you were listening to that one song on the radio and he swore he’d give his very last drop of blood for his children.
  • The one trip you took when there was no Incident.

When you are confronted by peers who realize, bring up

  • All the times you “almost left.”*
  • That he’s a good provider.
  • Your own lack of sainthood, how you
    • Provoke him.
    • Didn’t stand up to him in time or enough to fix it.
    • Still aren’t good enough to fix it, but you hope to be, someday.

* When confronted by your own hopes and dreams, talk to him about leaving

  • There will be absolutely no conviction in your voice.
  • There will be no reward for you, since you know that he knows that you know that you’d be helpless without him. Your punishment for this will be meted out slowly over time.
  • There will be no risk to the relationship, since you know that he knows that you know that he’d be helpless without you. He will remind you of it, voice quavering with penitence, and you will draw, yet again, from your endless well of forgiveness.

When your babies get sad, tell them what other daddies do to their babies

  • Beat them.
  • Starve them.
  • Leave them.
  • Sell them.
  • Mutilate them.
  • Marry them off.
  • Ship them away.
  • Rape them.
  • Kill them.
  • Hate them.

When your babies get angry, explain to them that

  • He’s only trying to fix them. They don’t want to grow up to be imperfect like you, do they?
  • All men are this angry, this irrational, this irritable. They’d better get used to it.
  • He used to be worse. Nobody is perfect. Everyone deserves a chance.
  • He used to be worse. Their anger will make him regress. They should stop their fussing right now, before he gets home.
  • He feels bad for it. Remember how bad he felt last time? It will blow over this time, like it did last time.

When your babies get too big and too loud with their sadness and anger, ask them why they

  • Are living in the past.
  • Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.
  • Assert that an old — older than your father when he died, older than his father when he died, growing older every day — man, who never changed when he was younger, can’t change.
  • Refuse to give him credit where it’s due. He isn’t as bad as he was before.
  • Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
  • Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.