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.

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(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.
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Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

“Let’s make the jail cells more colorful.” This shit that’s happening in Ferguson, right now, is by no means new. The problem, if you’re not paying attention or only paying attention to the more odious parts of the so-called news media your country pretends is super serious and not at all partisan, is those blacks rioting. If you ARE paying attention, though, the problem is the systemic brutalization of blacks by white establishment power. The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”

This ISN’T fifty years ago. This is NOW.

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Meanwhile, Ryan J Reilly of Huffington Post and Wesley Lowrey of Washington Post were just arrested at a McDonalds for “not packing their bags fast enough”, then let go when someone realized the cops had just arrested two high profile reporters and told the mayor, whose response was “Oh God”.

This situation is spinning very rapidly out of control as a massive armed response has appeared today to pacify the peaceful protests by pointing guns at law-abiding peaceful protesters and throwing reporters into windows and soda machines.

Police brutality in Ferguson escalates drastically tonight

Another young, unarmed black boy was executed over the weekend — this time by the police. Witnesses claim Mike Brown, a young man returning from a store who was due to leave for university in a week, was shot from 30+ feet away by police while he had his hands up. That he was shot ten times. That he was left to lay in the street for four hours while police “contained” the scene.

The police claimed that he had been shot after a struggle with an officer in which he tried to get the officer’s gun. They claim that he had been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting — despite the store claiming they’d never called the police and didn’t suspect Brown of this alleged crime in the first place.

Protesters chanted things like “No Justice, No Peace” and “Don’t Shoot Me”, and the news media reported this as “Kill The Police”. People are rightly outraged that a young, unarmed boy was murdered by white government officials, and these same officials respond to their grieving by bringing out police dogs and tanks. A cop proclaims, on CNN no less, “bring it on, you fucking animals.”

The town of Ferguson, St. Louis is tonight a warzone as militarized police crack down on protesters. And what do you hear on TV? “Looting” and “rioting”. Nothing about murdering an unarmed boy sparking the protests that are being spun as a race riot. And this in a week that already saw a black man murdered by cops for holding an airsoft gun in the airsoft gun aisle of Wal-Mart.

Antonio French has been recording scenes from the day’s protest and the police action, which now includes firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds, shining lights directly at reporters who are trying to take video, and intimidating people who are clearly only armed with cell phones.

This brutality has got to fucking end. What year is this?

Ashley, Heina and I talking about rape, comics and conventions

Three disparate topics, not exactly light conversation to start off, but we got progressively less ragey at least. It was an interesting conversation tonight on the Ashley F. Miller Show. (The F stands for “Fuckin'”. [No it doesn’t. And you’d know that if you’d watched FtBCon!])

It was a relief to be on a panel I wasn’t running, with people who needed no prompting to set things up appropriately, after having done that all weekend long. Though I think I might be burned out on public appearances for a little bit. Let me restock on spoons for a bit, then we’ll see.

Also: I can’t believe I misattributed the nude revolutionary calendar to Taslima Nasreen. Now both she and Maryam Namazie are going to hate me. :(

Thirteen year old black kid gunned down while taking out trash by white neighbor

Unbelievable that this is happening again, in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting. You’d think it would have been an object lesson in “children are not a clear and present danger”! And yet, somehow, I expect the white supremacists to dig through this thirteen year old’s history to find something with which to convince everyone he’s some sort of thug.

A 75-year-old Milwaukee man charged in the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy who lived next door had been a repeated target of break-ins, according to neighbors.
According to the complaint, Spooner approached Simmons as the boy retrieved a garbage cart from in front of a house Thursday morning. The boy’s mother, Patricia Larry, who saw the shooting, said Spooner told her son he “wanted his stuff back and that he wanted his shotguns back,” the complaint said.

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