Sexual Misconduct is a Bipartisan Problem

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

CN: Sexual Assault/Harassment/Misconduct

Despite our currently polarized nation, recent news has taught us that the Left and the Right have one thing in common: neither is immune to sexual misconduct. On the Right, there’s Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore who, despite his facade of being a pure and holy fundamentalist Christian, has been accused by several women of being sexually aggressive towards them when he was in his 30s and they were just teenagers. As a proud member of the Secular Left, it’s easy for me to laugh at the hypocrisy of Moore’s holier-than-thou attitude and the number of Republicans who would still vote for him simply because he’s not a pro-choice Democrat. It’s easy to make fun of Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon’s disastrous interview on MSNBC, along with the fact that he looks like Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when he reveals he’s a cartoon. Yet even a hardcore liberal like me has to face the fact that even the Left is not immune to sexual misconduct.

Last week radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden revealed that Sen. Al Franken kissed and groped her without her consent during a 2006 USO Tour. Franken has since publicly apologized, and Tweeden forgave him. Besides issuing a public apology, he also called for an ethics investigation of his past behavior to hold himself accountable. In the days following, many on the Left are debating whether or not Franken should resign. Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic says yes, while New York Daily News’ Jonathan Zimmerman argues that, while Franken was wrong, he’s not a predator like Moore. My friend Sydney offered a similar argument on my Facebook wall the other day, but now she’s having second guesses with the news that another woman is claiming Franken groped her.

Yesterday morning, CNN broke the news that Franken allegedly grabbed Lindsay Menz’s butt during a photo op in 2010 at the Minnesota State Fair. The senator claims he doesn’t remember the event taking place since he’s taken pictures with so many people, but added, “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.” Things aren’t looking well for Franken, but he’s not the first Democrat to face sexual misconduct allegations.

For starters, this past September former Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner received a 21 month federal prison sentenced for sexting with a 15 year old girl. Likewise, Newsweek recently listed several politicians who are currently facing sexual misconduct allegations, including Democrats Stephen Bittel of Florida, Sen. Dan Schoen, and Tony Mendoza and Raul Bocanegra of California. And then there’s former US President Bill Clinton, who has been accused by four women of sexual harassment and/or assault. This isn’t, of course, meant to downplay the accusations against Moore and President Trump, but only to say that when it comes to sexual misconduct, no political party is innocent.

As of now, it’s still too early to know if these accusations will have any effect on either Franken’s political career or the 2018 election. One thing is for sure, though, and that’s sexism respects no political affiliation. Despite what many Red Pillers say, these allegations show that patriarchy still flows through America’s veins, and that women are still seen as sex objects to men. Only by addressing this problem can we make real achievement.

The Mental Health Guide To Handling Call Outs — My Latest for Ravishly

Let’s face it: being called out sucks. We like to think we’re “woke” and know everything about smashing the white supremacist cis-heteronormative imperialist ableist capitalist patriarchy. We log onto Everyday Feminism religiously, and our bookshelves are overflowing with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Audre Lorde. We’ve got our shit together, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We’re still human, and we’re all still giant fuck-up machines (as I once heard Yvette “The SciBabe” d’Entremont say), so call outs are inevitable in social justice activism.

Sometimes it’s over a simple boo-boo, like unknowingly saying something ableist. Other times, it’s over a giant fuck-up, like the time I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist groups. Either way, realizing your shit stinks as much as the next person’s still sucks.

It doesn’t help if you are in any way either mentally ill or neurodivergent. I have depression, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, so I never know if someone is calling me out to hold me accountable or just to be holier-than-thou.

A lot has been said about toxic call-out culture among certain social justice activists where they put you through ideological purity tests and shun you if you fail. I once thought I was the target of such a witch hunt a little over a year ago. As I mentioned earlier, there was an incident where I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist Facebook groups. When they called me out on it, I wrote an angry blog post about “toxic feminists,” and then got called out on that blog post a few months later. Instead of backing away and thinking about what they were saying, though, I felt like they were attacking me and had a panic attack. It wasn’t until a trusted friend pulled me aside and told me I was in the wrong that I changed my tune. For the next month, I laid low on social media and started researching how to process call outs while staying mentally healthy, and here are some tips I picked up along the way:

Click here to read the rest.

Beyond the “Atheist Movement”

Happy Halloween!

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately here. Money’s tight, so I’m focusing more on paying freelance writing gigs. But I do want to mention something that’s been on my mind lately.

Today’s episode of The Thinking Atheist podcast is about whether or not the “atheist movement” is dying. I haven’t had the chance to listen to it yet, but because I’m part of the Outrage Brigade, I’m gonna tell everybody what I think without hearing what others have to say first.

(Just kidding, Seth.)

But seriously, the pessimist in me thinks the movement is on its last legs. From Elevatorgate to MythCon, it seems like the whole scene’s been on a gradual decline. Maybe it was always like that, but it’s only nowadays that everyone’s showing their true colors. Either way, sometimes I wonder if all the alarmist “The Atheist Movement is Dead, and the Alt-Right Killed It” articles were right all along.

On the other hand, the optimist in me thinks the movement is stronger than ever. In the wake of MythCon, several prominent atheists have spoken out against Sargon of Akkad’s hateful rhetoric, including David Silverman, who promised not to invite any shitlords at next year’s American Atheist con. So maybe we’re finally getting serious about trolls and shitlords? Who knows.

Then there’s the realist in me that, I think, has the perfect middle ground: to go beyond the atheist movement.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not divorcing myself from the atheist movement. Through blogging and podcasting, I’ve met so many amazing activists like Callie Wright, Marissa McCool, Sincere Kirabo, Jessica Xiao, and others that I don’t just consider to be my friends, but also my family. I’ve also met a lot of amazing fans that message me to thank me for doing what I do. In fact, a few months ago a young transman reached out to me and Callie during a crisis. I wouldn’t have been able to be there for him without being part of the atheist podcast community, so I can’t leave now.

What I mean is doing activism outside of the atheist community as well as inside it.  Fighting religious dogma in our society is still important to me, but so is fighting racism, sexism, and anti-queer bigotry. I can only do so much within the atheist movement silo, which is why I write for social justice websites like Ravishly and The Establishment. I want to build a bridge between secularism and social justice.

Which is why I’ve already made a New Year’s Resolution: to extend my activism. I hope to do a workshop with members of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance about secular humanism at next year’s Creating Change conference (hopefully we’ll hear back from them tomorrow), and I want to schedule talks in my hometown about LGBTQ rights. I’m also pitching workshop ideas to a few atheist conferences about LGBTQ rights and social justice, and getting more of my feminist freelance writer friends on my Bi Any Means podcast.

Basically at this point in my life, it’s no longer about rubbing shoulders with the big names in the atheist movement. Sure, it’s nice to hug Hemant Mehta and smoke cigarettes with Yvette d’Entremont at PASTAHcon, and have Lucien Greaves tell me he loved my “WTF is Genderqueer?” talk from this year’s AHA conference, but that’s not my top priority. What means the most to me is when someone emails me thanking me for my recent article about gender dysphoria and non-binary people, or when someone reaches out to me to talk about trying to figure out their gender identity, or somebody saying, “Thanks for explaining this whole transgender stuff in a way I can understand.” That, to me, makes the most impact, not brownie points from the big names.

Plus, in the age of Trump, the last thing I need is to be part of a self-congratulating circle-jerk while people are scared about losing their jobs, their homes, and even their very lives. While I’m forever grateful for the platform the atheist community has given me, now it’s time for me to do something good with it.

So here’s the going beyond the atheist movement and getting shit done in 2018!

Bi Any Means Podcast #121: Growing Up Intersex with John Schindler

 

My guest for today is John Schindler. They are an intersex activist based in New York who is the co-chair of Intersex Friends and Families. Together with their co-chair Cynthia, they do talks at various organizations about what it means to be intersex, and today John tells us their story for Intersex Awareness Day.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #35: #MeToo and President Pence

CN: Sexual harassment and assault

For the first part of today’s episode, we talk about Harvey Weinstein, the hashtags #MeToo and #IHave, and rape culture. It’s a pretty heavy and uncomfortable conversation about sexual assault and harassment just to warn you all, but a much needed conversation none-the-less. In the second half, we talk about the recent New Yorker article about Mike Pence, and why maybe having him as president might be worse than Trump.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #119: Latinx Secular Politics with Juhem Navarro-Rivera

My guest for today is Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera. According to his official bio, “Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist with expertise in Latinx political behavior and in secularism and politics. He writes about the intersection of secularism, race, and politics in his blog The LatiNone and cohosts The Benito Juárez Experience, a podcast on politics, society, and culture from a secular Latinx perspective. He is author or coauthor of many articles on secularism, politics and race in the United States. He works as managing partner and political director at SocioAnalítica Research. Dr. Navarro-Rivera earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.” And today we’re going to find out more about him and what he does.

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Liberal Politics and Trans Rights — My Latest for Splice Today

Despite the fact Dudebro Classical Liberals have tarnished the word, I still consider myself a liberal. I believe in using free speech to criticize bad speech, a government that works for the people, and liberty and justice for all. I’m also transgender, so when I heard that Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote an article for Areo Magazine called “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion,” I had to read it.

I wasn’t expecting much at first, though. For starters, whenever cis straight people talk about a “rational approach” to LGBTQ rights, they end up sounding like the white moderates Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about. Also, Lindsay and I recently had an unproductive conversation on Twitter where I criticized him blaming Trump’s election exclusively on “social justice warriors,” and his response insinuated that I just shut up and go away. But I figured it’d be better if I read the article before criticizing them. It isn’t as bad as I thought, but still missed the mark.

The article begins with a false equivalence. “On the one hand,” Pluckrose and Lindsay write, “we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn.” I agree; both social conservatives and TERFS (trans-exclusive radical feminists) perpetuate the deadly myth that trans women are really just men in drag that want to infiltrate women’s spaces in order to assault them (even though studies show trans women are more likely to be assaulted in public bathrooms than cis women). But then: “On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.” I can understand objections to the last one, but what’s wrong with the first two? What’s so extreme about trans people wanting to been seen and accepted for who they are?

Click here to read the rest.

And in a strange turn of events, Helen Pluckrose loved the article!

Bi Any Means Podcast #118: Agnosticism, Disability, and Bisexuality with Denarii Monroe

My guest for today is Denarii Monroe. She’s a freelance writer, poet, speaker, and singer based in New York who has written for Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, Wear Your Voice, and Black Girl Dangerous, among other publications. She writes about bisexuality, race, disability, fatphobia, and how they all intersect. So today we’re going to get to know Denarii and her story.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #34: #TakeAKnee U Bum!

On today’s show, we talk about the controversy surrounding #TakeAKnee. We talk about Trump being his usual dickish self, all the racist backlash, surprise allies, and why the hell Steven Seagal is chiming in. We also take a look at news stories from the past two weeks, including Russian hacks, private email servers, psychic vampires, and why Trump’s ignoring Puerto Rico.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #116: When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer with Anthony Pinn

My guest for today is Dr. Anthony Pinn. He is a professor, author, and public intellectual working at the intersections of African-American religion, constructive theology, and humanist thought. Pinn is also the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He has a new book called, “When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race.” Today we’re going to talk about the book and how humanists can be better advocates for racial justice.

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