Constructing an understanding of social constructs

Throughout the discussions on gender that have been sweeping through our circles of late, there’s been one particularly maddening dichotomy in thought that’s been thrown into sharp relief for me — that people having this conversation evidently have competing ideas of what a “social construct” actually is. Will has a great post on the gender discussions proper over at Skepchick, which has a passage that I think highlights exactly why people are getting it wrong in our communities:

It is no coincidence that many people within the atheoskeptosphere tend toward essentialism. After all, most people in these communities tend to highly value the natural sciences and think of science as a culture-free objective enterprise. Thus, the “soft” social sciences (and the non-scientific humanities) are often viewed as being wishy-washy and far less objective than the natural sciences, and so any theories developed in these disciplines are subject to increased, if not hyper, skepticism.

I cannot think of a more accurate statement to summarize why people in these communities are having such a hard time with these conversations.

Content note for topics that involve violence against certain genders or identities, assault on personal autonomy, and might trigger dysphoria amongst people prone to such. I’m trying to be sensitive herein, but we’re talking about gender-prescriptivists and the nexus of sex and gender.

Full disclosure, I’m a heteronormative heterosexual cis white middle-class male — pretty well the privilege royal flush in our society. But I have a particular interest in society and the so-called “soft sciences” of sociology; of human interactions, gender, and social justice. So, I’m bending my thoughts to the fights I’ve witnessed over many many years of blogging and other internet conversations. Correct me if I get anything wrong herein, please. I’d strongly prefer you voice your concerns and I alter part of this argument, than that I cause anyone (especially those already under scrutiny or oppression) any undue pain.

[Read more…]

How do I know he’s a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

Oh, how like a slimer I am in aspect and in character! How viscous my thoughts, how stalker-like my attempts at forming them in context of evidence! I have committed a grievous sin, which I will admit here and hope for papal dispensation from the gatekeepers of intersectionality: I have looked at the Likes on a post on Facebook, on a post that I felt aggrieved people with whom I feel the need to side with in a particular fight.

Ophelia Benson, with whom I have stood shoulder and shoulder in a great many fights against awful human beings bent on destroying feminists for being feminists on the internet, has decreed that I am anathema, that I am like a slimepitter; I am a terrible person and very much creepy and stalkerish for my actions in deciding to disagree with her that the question of whether trans women are women is not an easy one and in my methodology in catching up in the matter. By my picking now, while she feels under assault, to disagree with her specific tack and her specific argumentation about trans women making awful terrible demands of her like asking yes/no questions for clarification, I am of course disingenuous, not legitimately asking but rather just trying to tear her down. I am “joining the mob”. And I am even indistinguishable — despite our history — from that mob.
[Read more…]

Exploring the wasteland in a red dress

I’m just finishing a playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, which I bought when it came on sale as a bundle with all the DLC — none of which I’d played my first time through. In this playthrough, I’m playing a female Courier (I’ve long said that if I always choose playing a woman in the games I get that give me the choice, I might come close to 40% female representation!). I have just completed Dead Money, during which playthrough I obtained Dean Domino’s tuxedo — on him, it’s a three piece with bowtie and albeit dirty, still looks damn dapper after two hundred years of consecutive use by its previous ghoul owner.

I put it on my Courier, and like the formal wear the tuxedo is based on, it becomes a pink dress. It’s still CALLED “Dean’s Tuxedo”, mind. But nothing in this game is more jarring than taking a piece of armour off of someone and having it appear completely different when you try to wear it yourself. Something similar would happen if I was playing a male Courier and I tried to wear Vera’s rose-adorned dress. Suddenly, it’s a red and black tuxedo, looking nothing like the piece of fabric I picked off that skeleton.

Today, I saw rumblings that apparently that sort of clothing metamorphosis will no longer happen in Fallout 4, which should have been a happy improvement in the series. That news was incidental, though, obvious only in a segment of trailer displaying a burly male protagonist playing dress-up for his dog through a series of bad-ass and silly outfits then suddenly the outfit is “red dress with a sledgehammer over one shoulder”. (At 9 seconds in, so you don’t have to wait long.)


[Read more…]

Sally Strange and Burning Bridges: Why You Should Support a New Blog Network

ETA: The fundraiser is actually over. Here’s their Patreon page instead, so you can be a recurring contributor if you’d like.

I’m sure you all know Sally Strange, who frequents these parts and is a staple of the commentariat even here. She and a number of other bloggers are building a blog network to represent some classes of voice that don’t often get heard, and asked me to throw in what meagre support I have to offer. And they have already — before launching — met with an overt attempt at scuttling their plans.

8chan, where the nastiest parts of chan culture re-settled after even 4chan started turning their noses up at their inhumane doxxing, SWATting and harassment, got wind and are already in the process of attacking the Indiegogo campaign and the bloggers for whom it would benefit.

They deserve our support and a shot at making their voices heard. They deserve the chance to speak, rather than to be silenced by this hate mob who attack them “for the lulz”.

Here’s Sally’s plea.
[Read more…]

Getting off on the charges of getting off without consent

Content note: sexual assault, non-consensual sexual activities.

Been a while, I know. This story reignited the RAGE BLOGGER in me, and this is a good thing, because I’ll need the warmup for what I’ve got rattling around in my head the past few days.

Apparently, in Tokyo, a man responsible for ejaculating on non-consenting, unaware women over a hundred times on Tokyo’s train system has finally been caught.

A middle-aged man, Tetsuya Fukuda, 40 has been arrested for the attacks on crowded trains between Kinshicho and Akihabara stations in the capital Tokyo.

[Read more…]

(Guest Post) Words of mass destruction: the weaponization of ‘free speech’

A guest post by Robert Fendt. Please address comments appropriately. :)

(Note: this text deals with harassment, sexism, misogyny, racism and transphobia. Readers’ discretion is advised.)

Dear reader: are you male? White? Heterosexual? Cisgender? Healthy? Congratulations: this text is for you. It also means you are among us lucky ones who get to play the game called ‘life’ on the easiest setting there is. Don’t believe it? Read on.

Disclaimer: I’m also a white male cisgender heterosexual person. And for a long time, I would have said about me having it particularly easy in life: don’t be ridiculous. But I do have friends and colleagues who are not male, who are not white, who are not heterosexual, who are not cisgender, some of whom have to deal with disability or illness, and listening to them has changed and reshaped my perspective. It’s time it changed the perspectives of us all.

In the ‘western’ countries, freedom of opinion and speech are fundamental rights, designed to protect minorities from persecution. So how ironic is it that nowadays ‘free speech’ also functions as a smoke screen for the harassment of women and minorities?

Imagine being a woman walking down the street. Now try to guess how common cat calls and whistles are, and how many unsolicited comments about your body and looks you get. Try to guess how common it is that strangers come uncomfortably close or even touch you without your consent. If you guessed “rarely”, then guess again. Being a woman in public means being scrutinised and ogled and commented upon, at the very least. And now do me a favor: honestly try to imagine being in that position. Imagine dealing with stuff like that. For every. Single. Fucking. Day.
[Read more…]

#FtBCon 3: Asexual Spectrum Atheists panel, and Youtube comments brigaded

Here’s the full panel.

The book mentioned is Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation by Julia Sondra Decker, and here are some links the panelists wanted to include.

A link that Tristan wanted to add, relevant to the “asexual but still having sex”: http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/why%20humans%20have%20sex%202007.pdf

This is regarding the House episode mentioned:
http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/78579198812/tw-massive-ace-invalidation-going-on-here-a

The census is available here: https://asexualcensus.wordpress.com/

And hey, big congratulations to Thunderf00t on fully embracing your nature as a churlish, small-minded and provincial sort, the type of person who gives atheists a reputation of being the Douchebag Brigade, much like was mentioned during this panel. Since your coming-out as such a few years back, your quality of life must have gotten really much better — I know what it’s like to have to hide some fundamental aspect of your life, and it must be nice for you to feel free to be an utter asshole in public now. Good for you. And good for all your fellow douchebags in your audience.

[Read more…]

The null hypothesis

I was cued to write this mini-rant by a conversation on Twitter. I don’t really feel that I should have to explain the null hypothesis to people within this community, but in contexts like sexual assault and rape, it seems that all proportional skepticism goes right out the window.

Ami Angelwings (of Escher Girls fame) tweeted about accusations, and how the accusation that “she’s making it all up” is actually itself an accusation, and needs to be vetted out. She went on to say that the null hypothesis in this case is not that “she’s making it up”. Someone I greatly respect in the skeptical community replied to my retweeting that, saying “it is, give evidence”.

Frankly, that’s a load. That isn’t how the null hypothesis works.
[Read more…]

Enjoying problematic video games

One of my favorite game franchises has long been Final Fantasy, much to the chagrin of some elitist nerds for whom the series of JRPGs represents an erosion of the concept of the RPG. Regardless, its take on mythological creatures, even in its Super Nintendo days, served to clue me in on a small piece of context with regard to religion, from which I synthesised a deeper understanding of religion as mythology. (I’d detailed this in my deconversion story in Mission Creep — it was Behemoth and Leviathan in Final Fantasy 2 that gave me the clues I needed, if you’re wondering.)

That’s right, the video game franchise actually helped me to become an atheist — perhaps not singlehandedly, but it was certainly some scaffolding for my building my epistemology. So, even with its warts, of which there are numerous, and even with the side-eye I get from other gamers, it holds a place in my heart.

And yet, I still must criticise, even if I know that doing so might paint me as a studio-shill Social Justice Warrior journalist-sans-journal, and thus a target for the culture of entitlement that is GamerGate.

[Read more…]

Entitlement Culture War

Woody and Buzz from Toy Story meme -- "Bitter conservatives" top line, "Bitter conservatives everywhere" bottom line. Woody looks appropriately horrified by Buzz's vision.

Woody and Buzz from Toy Story meme — “Bitter conservatives” top line, “Bitter conservatives everywhere” bottom line. Woody looks appropriately horrified by Buzz’s vision.

There’s a turn of phrase that’s been around for a while now: “entitlement culture”. The right wing has this meme that they’ve been foisting on the public that people who are on welfare, people who are on disability, people who are on social security, believe themselves to have certain “entitlements” and that their laziness — read, their expectation that they should get these things — suggests by itself that they shouldn’t actually get what they think they deserve. Interestingly enough, the targets of these particular memes are uniformly the underprivileged — those who are the hardest done by this society, those who have fallen on hard times and aren’t even allowed bootstraps by which to pull themselves back up.

It’s especially noteworthy that the language around this phenomenon is already so polluted by people horrified at the idea that people with nothing might actually need resources to help pull them out of the depths of their despair, and that this is one of those times when the truth of who has a sense of undeserved entitlement is the inverse — it’s always the people who already have it all and think they won it fair and square. The people who’ve spread the meme so successfully have turned the whole argument on its head. And what’s worse is, this same argument about entitlement is happening over and over again, in every single community, under a number of different names, about topics as diverse as birth control and police brutality and video games. In every case, the language is twisted to the advantage of the right-wing reactionary mindset, and somehow we who are anywhere left of Glenn Beck are caught flat-footed by it all, time and again.

There are dozens of disparate threads within my fields of interest with which I’m going to attempt to pick them all up and weave into a single unified tapestry. I may jump around quite a bit, apologies in advance. I’m going to have to start by defining some terms, before I start giving you some examples of what I’m talking about.

[Read more…]