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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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.
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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.
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The virtual radio silence on Brian Dunning’s fraud

Today, Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast and brand, blogger at SkepticBlog, was sentenced to 15 months prison and three years supervised release.

Barely anyone’s talking about it, though (except, obviously, us Social Justice Bullies who will inevitably be accused of crowing about this news).
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Quick, while I have the TERFs and MRAs distracted, go solve all the problems!

Nearly twenty years ago, when I was a sixteen year old wide-eyed innocent who believed the human race is generally good, I was victimized by someone’s lies. I told the story on this blog in hopes of achieving some measure of catharsis for myself, and providing real support to others for whom the same sort of lie had damaged their lives. However, I recognized later that the reason I got off so easy actually meant many people who were really hurt would never see justice, and that this was a problem with society that I would have traded more personal pain to see righted.

Today, someone who ostensibly agrees with me on the existence of the overarching problem with society threw those lies back in my face, attacking me because I disagreed with her that transgender folks should be protected from her attacks, in an effort to poison my Google search results for my name. That someone is Cathy Brennan. And she’s in totally appropriate company in the attempt at poisoning my search results — the same slander is also posted on A Voice For Men.
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Ask Dawkins to reconsider his evaluation of the harms of “mild pedophilia”

I would very much like it if people stopped treating Dawkins as the Secular Pope. We don’t want any “leaders” in this movement, and yet friends of the secular movement will bow and scrape, and foes will treat him as the King of Atheism whose decrees are handed down from on high for all to internalize. Hell, half the time we can barely decipher what he’s saying. Take Twitter for example. A 140 character limit does the man no justice whatsoever — he does not wear “pithy” well.

His recent misstep is, as I’m sure you’re all aware, less than pithy — he’s been given plenty of time and space to bring this intellectual pursuit to full flower, and this is what he’s come up with: his recent suggestion that being sexually assaulted as a child is less bad than being brought up religious, and that one shouldn’t condemn sexual assault done in another era under different social mores.
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Solidarity at #wiscfi

You might have seen this FtB solidarity photo from Women In Secularism 2 floating around, where the members who were on-hand after Maryam’s talk got a group photo taken with our signs expressing solidarity with the atheists in Muslim countries who are being persecuted for daring to think freely — whose lives are made miserable, and in some cases made forfeit, because they dare disagree with the majority.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Left to right, signs say:

Free
Happy
Defiant
Ateist
– Stephanie Zvan

WE ARE ATHEIST
WE
ARE
WITH
YOU
– Ophelia Benson

Recognize The
WORTH of
Non Believers –
– Respect The
RIGHTS of
Non Believers
I stand in SOLIDARITY with
ATHEISTS!
– Brianne Bilyeu

THOUGHT
IS
NOT
A CRIME
– Jason Thibeault

We stand
with you
– Kate Donovan

Secularism for
ALL women –
NOT just Western!
– Miriam Mogilevski

ATHEISM
IS A VIRTUE
NOT A CRIME
– PZ Myers

Together
We are
Stronger
– Ashley Miller

(You might also have seen a photoshopped version of this photo stripping it of its important message and making it all about a certain self-promoting asshole. That’s, I’m sure, SLIGHTLY more important than decrying the human rights violations perpetrated on fellow atheists, right?)

But you may not have seen the full scope of this effort.
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Sadie’s Dream for the World

An eleven-year-old transgender girl named Sadie has written an essay in response to Obama’s recent speech on his inauguration day to remind the President that there are some social justice causes that are being left by the wayside, even as he’s the first president to openly acknowledge the gay rights fight with a specific nod to the Stonewall uprising.

The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends.

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Google Hangout about Atheism Plus

Just finished this Google+ hangout with Alex Gabriel, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan and Debbie Goddard about Atheism Plus, labels, goals, divisiveness, et cetera. Enjoy!

Update: Transcription is now available, thanks to the good folks at A+Scribe. I also talk a bit more about the “drumming out” meme here.

My Geeks Without God podcast appearance: Ancient Aliens

CONvergence represented a whole bunch of firsts for me — the first time people recognized me from my blog before they introduced themselves as readers, the first time a blogger literally got in my face in real-life over a difference we had in philosophies, the first time I drove in a big city (e.g. bigger than Halifax), the first time I was on a panel at a convention, and the first time I was on a podcast.

Well, okay, sure, I’d already cut my teeth on being on the radio, and that’s technically got a podcast attached to it, but this… this was something special. I was helping launch a brand-new podcast and hanging out with some hilarious geeky atheists all at once.

That’s right. I helped launch Geeks Without God.
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