Poemsplaining mansplaining

Maybe this will get through. It’s quite nice.

He Tells Her

He tells her that the Earth is flat,

He knows the facts, and that is that.

In altercations fierce and long

She tries her best to prove him wrong.

But he has learned to argue well,

He calls her arguments unsound

And often asks her not to yell.

She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

- Wendy Cope

Not even creationists want to be associated with creationism

You wouldn’t guess it from the name, but the Akron Fossil and Science Museum isn’t really a museum, has nothing to do with science, and they think their fossils are less than 6,000 years old. It’s also not in Akron; it’s in Copley, Ohio. It would be hard to come up with a more misleading title.

One possible reason is that it’s a way to lure in participation from public schools. At least one teacher, by error or devious intent, has taken students from the Cuyahoga Falls public school district to this creation exhibit, so maybe it’s an underhanded game.

I suspect a more common reason. Creationists love to ape the trappings of real science, and are a bit ashamed of the low reputation their stupid beliefs have, so they play these games. It makes no sense to me. I wouldn’t rename my courses “Jesus’s Holy and Sacred Revelation of Biology”, just to sucker in the rubes. But then I’m not peddling bullshit.

Hobby Lobby won

Of course they did: in a court packed with Catholics and their twisted views on reproduction, it would have been a surprise if they decided otherwise. So now, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have a right to dictate how you manage your health care, and the corporation’s religious convictions (they can have them, apparently) trump yours.

You’re all boycotting Hobby Lobby, right? And if you work there, try to get out.


We now have the underlying truth about the decision.

thesame

Because Indians are magic!

So you wish you were an Indian, because they’re so spiritual and noble and one with nature — they’re so magical that having a name like Manny Two Feathers or Vicki Ghost Horse means the crap you sell on e-bay has extra cred and is worth more money.

Now you can be! It’s easy. There are plastic tribes popping up all over the place, and all it takes to become one is money.

The "United Cherokee Nation," which did not respond to Phoenix inquiries, charges a $35 application fee, while the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" has a $60 application fee and a $10 annual roll fee. The "Cherokee of Lawrence County" don’t charge for membership but instead asks its members to "make it a priority to send $10 a month to help with the tribe" and $12 to subscribe to its newsletter.

Membership fees and dues are just two signs a "Cherokee" group isn’t legitimate, task force members said. Other signs include members using Indian-sounding names such as "Two Feathers" and "Wind Caller," acting and dressing like Hollywood-stereotyped Indians or Plains Indians, asking for money to perform DNA tests or genealogical research, requirements to wear regalia to meetings and requirements to go through an Indian-naming ceremony.

Once admitted into the groups, members usually get membership cards, bogus "Certified Degree of Indian Blood" cards and genealogy certificates "proving" they are eligible for membership.

You might notice the Cherokee mystique: most of the fake tribes seem to be some branch of the Cherokee nation. Apparently nobody wants to be a long lost member of the Humptulips tribe, or a Stillaguamish — although you’d think Lakota, with their history as the stereotypical Plains Indian, would be more popular.

They usually dress it up more, of course. The Red Nation of the Cherokee (totally fake) thinks that if you really feel like an Indian in your heart, then you ought to join the tribe.

We do not need to follow the standards of the antiquated BIA regulations/policies of the late 1700’s or after any longer! Which, dices people up into fractions and percentages, we are true human beings and a whole person.

Our beliefs are, if an individual is of multi-Nations, then they should be allowed to honor each of them in their own way, not being forced to choose one over the other.

We of the Red Clay People of all Nations believe, we should not have to prove our heritage’s on the talking leaves paper, but be allowed to prove in the older way, what is truth in our hearts.

The Creator has heard the prayers of the people, and gave vision to start RedNation of the Cherokee. To make a place, for all the people to have a home and family, to come to and to be finally called brother or sister and to be recognized as blood.

The “talking leaves paper”? Jebus. I know a lot of local Indians (UMM offers free tuition to people of real Indian descent, verified by membership on a real tribal roll), and not a one talks like that. They also don’t wear fringed buckskin clothes with feathers in their hair. You will occasionally see them in traditional costume — which is usually jeans and a plaid work shirt, with maybe a decorative bit of bead jewelry, or a feather in their cowboy hat — when artists and cultural representatives show up on campus for our yearly powwow of native music and dancing. But get real, these are human beings who are part of a changing culture — they are not the TV Indians who never left the 18th century.

I did find this fake tribe’s rationale amusing.

Another group asking for federal recognition is the Cherokee of Lawrence County, Tenn. The tribe’s principal chief, Joe "Sitting Owl" White, said he eventually expects his tribe to be federally recognized because he and his 800 fellow members are Cherokee, and he cites photography as proof.

We’ve been called every name in the book, but we are Cherokee, he said. We can take photos of our members and hold them up and see the Cherokee in us.

He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidence that the Cherokee people are Jewish.

You know, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if some members of the Cherokee of Lawrence County were certifiably and demonstrably of Jewish descent, so he might not be wrong about that. I should apply and join — they could test me and prove that Indians were also Celts who drifted over on a coracle, and Vikings who colonized the entire continent.

Big party this week in Bloomington

You all know by now that #cvg2014 is happening, starting this Thursday in Bloomington. You also have to know that FreethoughtBlogs sponsors a party room, and we’ll be there from 8pm to 1am every night of the con, serving up refreshments and conversation and maybe even playing a few games. Follow the signs at the hotel:

thedeep1(small)

Our theme is The Deep, to complement the Skepchick Space Lab that will be going on next door. Also to have an excuse to decorate the room with squid.

Admission is free with a convention ticket. I should also mention that in addition to our nightly events, the Skepchicks will be running afternoon events in their party room — I’ll be participating in one salon on cancer biology. So if you don’t get enough science in the regular panels, there’ll also be events going on in our rooms.

Whatever happened to informed consent?

Facebook has been experimenting on us, and getting scientific publications out of us. They took advantage of their large numbers of users to do a study on more than half a million subjects on how positive and negative messages affect attitude. I was surprised — I know I could never get approval for such a project (if I were a psychologist, that is). But apparently they had IRB approval.

Did an institutional review board—an independent ethics committee that vets research that involves humans—approve the experiment?

Yes, according to Susan Fiske, the Princeton University psychology professor who edited the study for publication. 

“I was concerned,” Fiske told The Atlantic, “until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people’s News Feeds all the time.”

Wait. I thought one simple, basic criterion was this: do the subjects know that they are in an experiment? Did they voluntarily sign up to be tested? You don’t have to spell out exactly what they’re being tested for, but they do have to understand that they are entering an artificial situation in which they are going to have some sort of evaluation done.

Oh, yeah, the APA says something like that.

When psychologists conduct research or provide assessment, therapy, counseling, or consulting services in person or via electronic transmission or other forms of communication, they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons except when conducting such activities without consent is mandated by law or governmental regulation or as otherwise provided in this Ethics Code.

I’m pretty sure that when I signed up for facebook, it was to be part of social media, to interact with other people who had also signed up for the service. I don’t remember agreeing to be a guinea pig for whatever manipulations the company wanted to carry out.

But then, maybe I’m just naive. Maybe we signed over our rights and privacy to the corporations when we were five years old and joined the Chuck E. Cheese Birthday Club.

Also notice that the APA rules do have an exception. Here it is:

Psychologists may dispense with informed consent only (1) where research would not reasonably be assumed to create distress or harm and involves (a) the study of normal educational practices, curricula, or classroom management methods conducted in educational settings; (b) only anonymous questionnaires, naturalistic observations, or archival research for which disclosure of responses would not place participants at risk of criminal or civil liability or damage their financial standing, employability, or reputation, and confidentiality is protected; or (c) the study of factors related to job or organization effectiveness conducted in organizational settings for which there is no risk to participants’ employability, and confidentiality is protected or (2) where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations.

I’d have to argue that the facebook study does not meet the exception, because it was not purely observational: they manipulated the news items that their users saw. They can’t simultaneously argue that their tinkering with facebook users’ stimuli showed an effect on attitudes, and that their tinkering did not affect their subjects. That, to me, is the key problem — not that they’re analyzing users’ interactions, but that they’re now reaching out to attempt to modify what users do.

Thunderf00t makes a good point

And I’d link to it if he didn’t throw it away at the end, and if it weren’t made to invent a false conflict with Anita Sarkeesian’s major points. His latest video attempts to mock Sarkeesian by using clips from movies and video games to show that there is a huge amount of objectification of men — as targets and victims, rather than sexual objectification — using a similar style to her videos. The thing is, though, that he’s actually confirming what she says: that media is problematic in how it presents human beings. Sarkeesian shows in her work how women are trivialized and reduced to stereotypes; Thunderf00t’s video shows how huge numbers of people, especially men, are reduced to sword and gun targets.

We’ve all seen it. There’s a guard, a minion, a redshirt in a scene, and along comes the hero or villain…there’s a short gasp, a gurgle, maybe a Wilhelm scream, and then…next scene. A human being has just been extinguished and it’s given no moral weight at all, he was simply an obstacle that needed to be removed. And it is also true that it’s almost always a man who is dismissively executed — if the security guard who got garrotted were a woman, it would have greater shock value to the audience. Or look at this list of dead red shirts in Star Trekoverwhelmingly male. Most of the few women killed had brief speaking parts in which we get to know them as people, before their tragic deaths. The men? Just statistics. Bit parts that got killed to add generic weight to a threat, but their stories were completely unimportant.

I’ve made a similar point about the glut of superhero movies. They are festivals of CGI in which mass destruction occurs, cities are reduced to rubble (by the good guys!), and nothing matters at all. Actions lack consequences. But in real life, the death of one person close to you is a traumatic event, a huge concern that can tear at you for years. Signs of a little wood rot in your house can send you into a panic and be a big drain on your finances. But in the movies, death is casual, and houses can be flattened, and we move on to our deep concerns about the hero’s love life. Or in the case of Michael Bay’s ouevre, we move on to the next giant robot and the next explosion.

It’s a real issue. I’d almost be willing to applaud Thunderf00t for bringing it up, because cheap mayhem has become a staple of movies and games. And it’s not as if media can’t be humanizing. The best movie I saw last year wasn’t The Avengers, but Nebraska; the best video game I played (although my consumption of the genre isn’t exactly thorough) was Gone Home. In both, nobody dies, nothing explodes, but I still left the experience thoughtful and impressed. This is not to say there isn’t a place for light entertainment, but why does so much of our light entertainment involve mass murder? (I know, it sells, and the population wants it.)

Where Thunderf00t screws up the message, unfortunately, is in two ways. He cherry-picks his examples to only feature movies where the perpetrator/protagonist is a woman: Kill Bill and The Matrix, for example. But the problem is that movies slaughter men indiscriminately, whether the killer is a man or a woman, and the majority of the R-rated violent thrillers feature manly men as the protagonists. There is a universal trend to treat men as expendable, but they’re generally used as faceless targets for violence; is there any genre equivalent to the slasher movie in which sexuality is the target, and women are the special, select victims of the violence, in which men are murdered? Also, and I’m sure Sarkeesian would point this out, when women are the sword- or gun-wielding hero, they are typically sexualized to the male ideal: they are young (in the case of Kick Ass, way too young), slender, attractive, not your Brienne of Tarth type. Men are also idealized to be muscular, tough, sexually charismatic. It’s all about making the protagonist someone the male audience wants to watch, not necessarily someone a woman would want to identify with.

And then Thunderf00t throws all of his good points away. He ends the video by declaring that it’s all bullshit, and laughing.

That’s what gets me about these MRAs. There are real social problems that affect men — we have expectations about how men must behave that confine their ability to respond appropriately to events. Feminists will talk about ‘toxic masculinity’, and it’s not about claiming that all men are toxic — it’s about how societal stereotypes can lead men to deny the breadth of their identities to fit a particularly obnoxious model. We can see genuine distortions of men’s roles acted out in our media, where they are either brutal butchers, or faceless, unimportant victims who can be destroyed without qualm. I could actually support a Men’s Rights movement that tried to call attention to these sorts of damaging representations, that actually dealt with unfairness fairly — that didn’t make jokes about the prison rape of men, that sincerely tried to see that child custody cases were honestly decided on what was best for the child.

But almost always, these loons destroy their own points. Thunderf00t made it clear that he doesn’t really care about the objectification of men in the media — it’s always about scoring points against the feminists. A good and productive Men’s Rights movement would be working in full partnership with feminists, each working together to end the sexism which harms both men and women. But somehow, the Men’s Rights side is dominated by asshats whose only goal is to put down those uppity women, rather than correcting an injustice.

The recent men’s rights conference confirmed that the driving force behind this incarnation of the movement isn’t men’s rights, but hating feminism. While there were a few talks that sound as if they focused on making life better for men, much of it was about demonizing feminism.

Mike Buchanan, a British men’s activist, warned that feminism was the ideology of “female supremacists, driven by misandry, the hatred of men and boys.” For 30 years, Buchanan said, “feminists have worked through the state to attack many of the pillars of civilized society,” and become “the defining ideology, of the political establishment.”

At the conference, feminism was responsible for turning wives against their husbands, bleeding them dry in divorce proceedings and separating them from their children, levying false accusations of rape and abuse against good men, or creating an ever-present culture of hatred where men are vilified.

Though men’s rights activists who hosted the conference often say sexual assault against men isn’t taken seriously, the audience laughed when speaker Fred Jones mentioned his fears about his son being raped after being arrested in New Orleans. 

“He’s kinda small and kinda cute, good looking, you know what I mean?” Jones said. “You know what they do with –” Jones cut himself off. But the audience laughed.

Why would you respond to a message about how men are victimized, by laughing at a situation where men are victimized? Perhaps MRAs would be more respectable if they actually took prison rape seriously. It’s not a joke.

Barbara Kay, a columnist for Canada’s National Post, argued that Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger couldn’t have been driven by hatred of women because “he hated women because they rejected him sexually, but he also hated men because they had access to women.”

Not getting the point: how dare a slot machine reject his penis, while other penises were allowed to use the slot machine? Rodger regarded women as objects, and that was what drove his hatred — that they insisted on acting as human beings.

Rape on college campuses, she added, was a myth perpetrated by man-haters, and the concept of rape culture, how society can tacitly approve of or rationalize sexual assault, was “baseless moral panic.”

“The vast majority of female students allegedly raped on campus are actually voicing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled promiscuous behavior involving murky lines of consent on both sides,” she said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.” The chuckles turned to guffaws.

I’m on a college campus. I know women who were victims of sexual assault. That accusation is never delivered casually, it’s not used as an excuse, and again, it’s not a joke — these students are harmed by the event, and doubly harmed by the kind of dismissal jerks like Kay perpetuate.

And that’s why I can’t support these MRAs. They really aren’t about fighting injustices done to the rights of men, but about opposing the rights of women.

Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group Inaugural Meeting | Center for Inquiry

This just isn’t fair. The east coast has Women in Secularism in the spring, and now the west coast has LAWAAG every month.

Join us for the inaugural meeting of The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group!

LAWAAG was formed by multi-media artist Amy Davis Roth with the goal of fostering a safe and supportive space for those who primarily identify as women, who are leaving faith, or who already live a secular or atheist-based lifestyle.

LAWAAG will meet the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at CFI-L.A.. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group also organizes art, activism and outreach projects, and works towards building community and support for women without faith.

In order to foster a safe space that acknowledges and can focus on the specific issues women encounter and deal with in a secular community, we currently only accept members who primarily identify as women. However, we often participate in and sponsor co-ed events. We welcome new members at our monthly meetup and welcome all to attend our publicized co-ed events. Please go to our events page for a list of upcoming and current events.

Please contact Amy Roth with any questions or media inquiries.

There’s a gaping void in the middle of the country. Quick, someone set up something similar in Minneapolis! Or the South! Or in every state!


Oh, and by the way, Secular Woman is two years old now.