Lazy writer is lazy

Salon’s Katie Engelhart has a perplexing question: Where are the Women of new Atheism?

Where were the women?

Why, they were right there: stolidly leading people away from the fold. They were irreverent bloggers and institution founders. And scholars. Around the time that the Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris tripartite published its big wave of Atheist critique, historian Jennifer Michael Hecht published “Doubt” and journalist Susan Jacoby published “Freethinkers“—both critically acclaimed. And yet, these women, and many others, failed to emerge as public figures, household names. “Nobody talked about [Doubt] as a ‘phenomenon,’” Hecht has noted. “They just talked about the book.” What gives?

Credit where due: At least Engelhart links to Jen McCreight, Skepchick, Secular Woman and the Amazon page for one of Ophelia Benson’s books. Without mentioning any of the individual women involved by name, other than Hecht and Jacoby as above.

And without a single mention of the misogynist campaign within New Atheism to silence women through constant harassment and occasional worse behavior. It’s as if Engelhart’s wrote a piece asking the question “Why Do So Many People Have Bullet Wounds?” with no mention whatsoever of people who commit assaults, or even of guns.

Those of us who’ve been in the blog world for a while might be excused for feeling a sense of déjà vu.

Nope, it’s not that the women in the movement have persevered in the face of outrageous contempt that eats up time and emotional energy they could be spending getting shit done. It’s because they have “failed to emerge as public figures, household names.”

I expect Engelhart had the best of intentions. But her article did whatever the opposite of “helping” is.

There are of course other aspects of the article that could be profitably dissected. Help yourself to the chum, oh fair denizens of the shark tank.

Misandry In Teh Animule Kingdom!!!!7!

Misandry, polyandry, whatever. I know it’s some kind of -andry. Hordeling Ron Sullivan and her partner in crime Joe Eaton have been spending a lot of time in the San Joaquin Valley of late, and Joe has a new post up on Ron’s blog riffing on their recent frequent sightings of Swainson’s hawks. It turns out that the hawks engage in behavior that completely undermines the traditional institution of marriage as Gahd intended:

Polyandry, it seems, is not that unusual in buteos and related hawks. It’s more or less standard for the Galapagos hawk, which genetic studies indicate is the Swainson’s closest relative. (The i’o or Hawai’ian hawk is also near kin. Swainson’s is typically a long-distance migrant, with most of the population traveling from the North American plains to the Argentine pampas every year. You can see how accidental colonization of remote islands might happen.) Polyandrous mating groups also occur in the more distantly related Harris’s hawk. The advantage? Male raptors often provide prey for their incubating mates and nestlings. A female with two male providers would have a better chance of successfully fledging her brood.

The MRAs were right all along: it’s all about the child support. How dare those ladyhawks go against biology? Don’t they understand about gathering berries?

Anyway, it’s a good post by a longtime favorite natural history writer. And the post title proves that Parentheses Matter.

Speaking of people writing good stuff at the Network, we’ve added two new blogs over there: “InyoOwnWay” by Owens Valley biologist Mike Prather and “Miracle or Mirage?” by renewable energy maven Patrick Donnelly-Shores. We’ve got another new addition pending once she answers her email.

Virginia is for lovers…of similar skin tone and opposite sex who don’t touch each other’s genitals with anything other than their own

The worst attorney general in the world has to be Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli, who has been on a crusade to promote a far right conservative social agenda.

The Washington Post wrote that Cuccinelli has been ”the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia history” and ”has waged war on Obamacare, harassed climate-change scientists, sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals and embraced Arizona’s (now mostly gutted) immigration law.” Cuccinelli waged an all-out assault on academic freedom by using state resources to sue a University of Virginia Professor who was researching global warming, and bullied members on the State Board of Health into shutting down abortion clinics by threatening to sue them.

But I’m hoping now that he has finally crossed the line with an effort to control people’s sex lives.

Although most people think sodomy laws have been unconstitutional since the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would like to explain why — in his view — that’s not so.

What’s more, he wants the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to agree with him and uphold the constitutionality of Virginia’s sodomy law — which makes anal and oral sex between people of any sex a crime — in the process.

Yes. Ken Cuccinelli has a platform of outlawing blow jobs. Anyone campaigning against him in the future needs to remind the Virginia electorate of that.

Strident Catholics hurt my brain

I can call them ‘strident,’ can’t I? They apply it to atheists all the time, and this is clearly a case where the adjective is perfectly appropriate. It’s an opinion piece by a militant (I can use that, too!) Catholic who traces the fall of America to a court decision in 1972.

This year, the Supreme Court will render judgment on the institution of marriage. Though most of us don’t realize it, the Court first did so forty-one years ago in Eisenstadt v. Baird, a decision that gravely wounded marriage and set the nation on a course of gradual debilitation by ruling that states could not restrict the sale of contraceptives to unmarried people.

Oooh, marriage was ‘gravely wounded’ by that decision. It was a fairly straightforward issue in civil liberties: could the law decide that contraception could only be sold to married couples? The court decided no, it could not: even unmarried people have a right to regulate their reproduction by means other than abstinence.

Chaos then swept across the country as suddenly men and women were able to fornicate without spawning children! Yes, chaos! His word, not mine.

Having set chaos in motion in Eisenstadt, the Supreme Court quickly built the garbage bin for dumping sexual debris in Roe v. Wade, which gave a green light to the killing of 55 million unborn children, the overwhelming majority of whom were conceived by those unmarried singles with new access to contraceptives.

Having lived through that period (I started high school in 1972, so I was in prime temporal position to witness precisely all the horrible consequences), I’ve got to tell you: some kids were screwing before 1972, most were not. After 1972, some kids were screwing, most were not. There were single mothers, plenty of them, before 1972, and plenty afterwards — conveniently, during this period I worked part time as an assistant custodian in a school for single mothers*, so again I was in exactly the right place to witness the aftermath of sexual chaos.

It didn’t happen.

Also, I’ve got to wonder if the author thought his thesis through. New access to contraception led to a surge in unwanted pregnancies? Only if they weren’t doing it right. Maybe we should have coupled contraception access to better sex education.

Or just maybe the chaos was all in the author’s head.


A lot of things are obviously only playing out in this guy’s head. This is the extreme Catholic position: it’s not just that child-raising must be carried out within a marriage, but sex is supposed to be channeled towards only supporting procreation. Which is scary, speaking as an old (but not dead) guy who has put all his baby-making days behind him.

Thus, in a well-ordered society sex and marriage go together exclusively, because the union of male and female sexual expression must be undertaken in a union that binds them in advance of the coordinated labors needed to raise the children they may bring into the world. To achieve this, a functioning society demands that each citizen channels his sexual capacities in ways appropriate to these two tasks (procreation and child-raising). That is, it demands marriage.

How about if sex has other roles? What if it’s a general social binder that brings people together in close affection? Wouldn’t that be a good thing, too?

And what if marriage isn’t such a great matrix for raising children when the two adults involved have lost that affection? Surely no one can believe that marriage is sufficient to create a healthy family environment, and knowing more than a few stable, happy couples who are not bound by formal marriage, it’s not even necessary.

So how can Catholics justify sacrificing the richness and complexity of human relationships on the altar of their narrow definition of how people must cohabit?

*Predictably, the community felt the need to isolate unwed mothers from other women their age; they might contaminate them. Also predictably, colloquial references to that school called it the ‘school for bad girls’. Further predictability: I did not tell anyone that I was scrubbing floors and cleaning bathrooms there after school and during the summer because every idiot would have lurid fantasies about what I was doing, when actually I spent little time interacting with the women there (I was working outside of school hours), and what little I did see were women in isolated and difficult circumstances.


An organization called the Susan B. Anthony List — it’s an adamantly anti-choice group that has neatly named itself after an icon of women’s liberation — has a wonderful president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who not only opposes abortion, but is dead set against contraception. She argues here that increasing availability of contraception leads to increasing rates of abortion (what?), apparently because all those frisky couples losing their fear of pregnancy will fornicate more, leading to more unwanted pregnancies.

But…but…abortion rates have been going down as pregnancy rates decline. We can’t therefore account for reduced pregnancy rates by claiming they’ve been terminated by abortion, and it seems kind of unlikely that people are having sex less often, so isn’t the correlation the reverse of what Dannenfelser claims?


Also, I am greatly concerned by the implications of the statement that “to lose the connection between sex and having children leads to problems”. There were precisely 3 periods in my life in which I intentionally had procreative sex, and they were both relatively brief because I married a fertile minx who got knocked up as soon as we both put our minds to it. So, maybe three months where I’ve had sex with reproductive intent, while the other 393 months of my married life I was entirely in frivolous sex-for-fun mode. Furthermore, we have not been the slightest bit interested in having more children for 23 years. Is Dannenfelser trying to suggest that having a monogamous and healthy sex life during those decades should be causing problems because we’ve lost the connection between sex and having children?

Jacquelyn Gill has a good question

From Jacquelyn’s fine blog The Contemplative Mammoth, a bit of context:

You’re enjoying your morning tea, browsing through the daily digest of your main society’s list-serv. Let’s say you’re an ecologist, like me, and so that society is the Ecological Society of America*, and the list-serv is Ecolog-l. Let’s also say that, like me, you’re an early career scientist, a recent graduate student, and your eye is caught by a discussion about advice for graduate students. And then you read this:

too many young, especially, female, applicants don’t bring much to the table that others don’t already know or that cannot be readily duplicated or that is mostly generalist-oriented.

I’m not interested in unpacking that statement beyond saying that “don’t bring much to the table that others don’t already know” is basically a really sexist way of saying that they female applicants “are on par with or even slightly exceed others.” There is abundant evidence that perception, not ability, influences gender inequality in the sciences– it’s even been tested empirically.

What I am interested in is why other people in my community don’t think those kinds of comments are harmful and aren’t willing to say something about it if they do.

And then the question:

After the sexist comments were made, some did in fact call them out. This was immediately followed up with various responses that fell into two camps: 1) “Saying female graduate students are inferior isn’t sexist” (this has later morphed into “she was really just pointing out poor mentoring!”), and 2) “Calling someone out for a sexist statement on a list-serv is inappropriate.” Some have called for “tolerance” on Ecolog-l; arguably, more real estate in this discussion has gone into chastising the people who called out Jones’ comments. These people are almost universally male. To those people, I ask:

Why is it more wrong to call someone out for saying something sexist than it was to have said the sexist thing in the first place? 

That is a really good question.

[Updated to add:] Apologies to Jacquelyn for misspelling her name at first. Need moar coffee.

Jeez, Harding, ease up on the equivocating, OK?

Jezebel justifies its existence every now and then, and today is one of those days. The publication is celebrating a first instance of what will likely become a hallowed tradition, and it starts off with a post by Kate Harding wwith the people-pleasing title Fuck You, Men’s Rights Activists. I really hate when my militant friends start to pull their punches. You know?

Excerpt, with emphasis added for local interest:


So fuck you, MRAs. Fuck you for showing up every time women speak, especially about rape and abuse, and trying to make it all about you. Fuck you for derailing threads about the victims of Marc Lépine, a man who screamed about his hatred for feminists as he murdered fourteen women and injured many others, because you also hate feminists and want a fucking cookie for not killing anyone. Fuck you for making rape and death threats against young women who dared to protest a speaking engagement by a man who thinks little girls would enjoy being raped by their fathers if it weren’t for society telling them it’s dirty. Fuck you for whining about how unfair it is that women might wonder if you’re a rapist when you approach them out of nowhere, while completely ignoring how unfair it is that women feel the need to be on guard all the time in public. Or that if we relax and behave normally—drinking, dancing, dressing however we want—you will be the first motherfuckers in line to blame us for getting ourselves raped.

What is it with Republicans, sex, and science?

They just can’t get it right. The latest eructation of idiotic error comes from Tennessee, where Stacey Campfield makes shit up about STDs.

Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) falsely claimed on Thursday that it was nearly impossible for someone to contract AIDS through heterosexual contact.

“Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community,” he told Michelangelo Signorile, who hosts a radio program on SiriusXM OutQ. “It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”

Do they have to take a Stupid Test to be admitted to the party? And score somewhere in the range of a flatworm?