SJWs Aren’t Taking Away Your Free Speech; Facebook Is!

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[Image credit: @IGotZuckedTees]

 

[CN: Transphobia, Slurs, Rape Threats]

Oh hello! Apart from my podcast, I haven’t really updated this page in a while. I’ve been HELLA BUSY lately with school and work. In fact, I was hoping to launch a side project podcast a few weeks ago, but life happened so you’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the big reveal.

For now, though, I want to talk about something that’s been happening to my Facebook friends for the past month. There are a lot of people on the Internet who claim that social justice activists like myself are trying to suppress people’s free speech rights. While there may be a few regressives who fit the bill (there are assholes in ALL communities), most activists in my circle believe that you can’t have social justice without free speech. In fact, right now it looks like the best threat to free speech is Facebook.

For starters, my friend Stephanie Guttormson was banned from Facebook for a month after she wrote this (and I’m paraphrasing because the post no longer exists):

Women wear boys’ clothes

Society: “Eh, whatever.”

Trans women exist

Society: “Ugh, faggots!”

Now even if you didn’t know Guttormson is transgender, it’s pretty obvious that she’s saying our society has a double standard when it comes to trans rights and gender nonconformity. It’s a reflection of what our society thinks, not what she thinks. And unfortunately, people do say the Other F-Word. But since her post included that naughty word, she was banned for a month.

Likewise, my friend Damien AtHope was briefly banned from Facebook after, according to him, he posted an atheist meme that contained pictures of the Holocaust, and one picture had a naked man. Apparently Facebook was more disturbed by a penis than mass genocide. Go fig.

Then there was the time Seth Andrews, Sarah Morehead, and JT Eberhard were temporarily blocked from Facebook for “bullying” (a.k.a. criticizing religion).

And then there’s the case of an infamous TERF who is getting posts removed and accounts blocked for simply referring to her as a “fake goth.” Here is a woman who makes a living doxxing trans women (it’s never trans men for some reason) and making life hell for trans people, and she’s mad that people are calling her names on the Internet. The funny part is she claims to be a lawyer, but as far as I know (please fact check me) hurting someone’s feelings isn’t a criminal offense.

Meanwhile, someone made a fake Facebook page impersonating my friend Danielle Muscato, and Facebook hasn’t done shit about it. I also have friends who claim they reported people sending them rape threats on Facebook, but to no avail.

Really, Facebook? Really???

Now anyone who knows me knows I don’t do the whole “PC Culture Is Ruining Everything” bullshit, but you really have to wonder about Facebook’s priorities. In fact, I’d say at this point if the free speech advocates need something to blog about, some random person on the Internet who says the word “stupid” is ableist is the least of their concerns.

Bi Any Means Podcast #49: Trans and Atheism Activism with Danielle Muscato

My guest for today is Danielle Muscato. She is a trans woman, an atheist activist, and former PR Director for American Atheists. Today we’re going to talk about her backstory, her activism, and a little bit about the new crop of transphobic bathroom bills popping up.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #48: Queer and Autism Acceptance with Benny Vimes

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My guest for today is Benny Vimes. He is a trans man whose new blog, Scrappy Deviation, can be found on The Orbit. Today we’re going to talk about his backstory, and why autism acceptance is better than awareness.

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A Brief Introduction to Rape Culture

[Picture source: http://theodysseyonline.com/vanderbilt/what-do-rape-culture-and-terrorism-have-in-common/297409]

[Picture source: http://theodysseyonline.com/vanderbilt/what-do-rape-culture-and-terrorism-have-in-common/297409]

[CN: Sexual assault, Rape apology]

“Rape culture” is one of those phrases that make anti-feminists like Peter Boghossian, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Godless Mom shit their pants in anger. A few years ago, for example, Caroline Kichens wrote an op-ed for Time magazine saying it’s time to “end rape culture hysteria.” She wrote:

Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm. Twenty-first century America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby leading the public and our educational and political leaders down the wrong path. Rape-culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense.

To which Zerlina Maxwell responded in Time magazine a few days later:

Is 1 in 5 American women surviving rape or attempted rape considered a cultural norm? Is 1 in 6 men being abused before the age of 18 a cultural norm? These statistics are not just shocking, they represent real people. Yet, these millions of survivors and allies don’t raise their collective voices to educate America about our culture of rape because of fear. Rape culture is a real and serious, and we need to talk about it. Simply put, feminists want equality for everyone and that begins with physical safety.

Perhaps criticisms of the concept of rape culture are hung up on the “culture” part. Like Kitchens, they think of rape is an individual action rather than an idea that’s embedded into our collection consciousness. Maybe I’ve giving critics too much benefit of the doubt, but hopefully this brief introduction can clear some things up.

First, Marshal University’s Women’s Center defines rape culture as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” Examples include blaming the victim, making excuses for rape, claiming that “real men” don’t get raped, and tolerating rape jokes. In a nutshell, rape culture is what happens when you say “Rape is bad” on the surface, but then either don’t take rape accusations seriously or say women dressing a certain way are “asking for it.”

For example, in 2011 attorney Tamara Holder and Christian singer (and abstinence only advocate) Rebecca St. James appeared on Sean Hannity’s show to talk about Slut Walks. Hannity began the discussion by clarifying that no one deserves to be raped, to which both women agreed. However, half way through the discussion, St. James said:

I think there has to be responsibility though for what a woman is wearing. When a woman is dressing in an immodest way, in a proactive way, she’s got to think about what is she saying by her dress? They’re asking for sex. They’re asking for sex if they’re dressed immodestly.

In other words, “I’m not saying she deserved it, but she deserved it.”

Another more recent example is Bingham County, Idaho, Sherrif Craig Rowland saying back in March that his state had no need for rape kits because “the majority of our rapes that are called in, are actually consensual sex.” I don’t know about Rowland’s district, but according to Violence Against Women (VAW)2% – 10% of reported sexual assault accusations are proven false. And by “proven false,” VAW means there has been “physical evidence and/or statements from credible witnesses that contradict key aspects of a victim’s account.” The study also includes FBI guidelines on factors that do not count as a false accusation, which include:

• A case in which the victim decides not to cooperate with investigators. Victims make such decisions for many reasons (Jordan, 2004; Lea et al., 2003 ).

• A case in which investigators decide that there is insufficient evidence to proceed toward a prosecution. Rape cases, particularly nonstranger cases, are very difficult to investigate and prosecute, and many investigations are aborted because of these difficulties and because of the perception that successful prosecution is unlikely (Clark & Lewis, 1977; Frazier & Haney, 1996; Frohmann, 1991; Spohn, Beichner, & Davis-Frenzel, 2001).

• A case in which the victim appears to make inconsistent statements, or even lies about certain aspects of the incident. Traumatized individuals tend to recall events in a fragmented fashion, which makes apparent inconsistencies likely (Halligan, Michael, Clark, & Ehlers, 2003); victims may well try to hide certain facts, for example, use of an illegal drug or a particularly humiliating act they suffered—out of fear that they will be treated with suspicion or simply because of the intense shame they experience (Jordan, 2004).

• A case in which a victim makes a delayed report of the incident or in which a victim was extremely intoxicated. Delayed reporting is extremely common in rape cases (National Victim Center and the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992), and there is evidence that intoxicated individuals are at increased risk of being targeted by sexual predators (Abbey, Zawackia, Buck, Clinton, & McAuslan, 2004; Macy, Nurius, & Norris, 2007; Ullman, 2003).

It’s this last factor that brings up the sexual assault allegations against Michael Shermer in 2014. Now I want to state for the record that I don’t know either Shermer or the alleged victims, so I’m not saying he did it. All I know is what I read online. However, I do think it’s worth pointing out how Richard Dawkins dismissed one of the accusers’ story because she was drunk during the alleged assault. I’m not a law student, so I don’t know if saying you were intoxicated during an alleged assault holds any water in court, but even if she was drunk, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. In fact, to automatically dismiss someone’s story because they were drunk at the time is part of rape culture.

So what can we do to stop this? Here are some tips from the Women’s Center of Marshall University:

  • Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women

  • Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape

  • If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive

  • Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence

  • Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations

  • Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent

  • Define your own manhood or womanhood.  Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.

  • Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end violence against women.

As I said earlier, this is just a brief introduction to rape culture. There are a lot of statistics and data that I didn’t go over, so if you have any more data, feel free to leave it in the comment section below. But hopefully this blog post helps clear some stuff up.

Bi Any Means Podcast #47: Wibby Wobbly Gendery Wendery Stuff with Ari Coleman

My guest today is Ari Coleman, co-host of the Gaytheist Manifesto podcast. Today we’re going to talk about their backstory and a little bit about the science behind gender.

(BTW, sorry I’m posting this a few days late. Been hella busy lately.)

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Bi Any Means Podcast #46: Podcast Therapy with Uber4ortyse7en

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Today’s episode is a little different. This week’s episode is a Skype conversation I had with Uber4ortyse7en of the Secular Barbershop podcast about nerd culture, the recent North Carolina anti-LGBT bill, and the importance of intersectionality. We recorded this conversation last Wednesday, March 30, but I think everything we talked about is still relevant.

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Why “It’s True For Me Because I Believe It” Is Dangerous

[CN: Anxiety]

I’m currently taking Religions of the West in college, and one of the texts we read recently was The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade. In the introduction, Eliade defines the sacred as that which “manifests itself as a reality of a wholly different order from ‘natural’ realities” (10). In other words, in the minds of the religious, there is a dichotomy of the natural world (the profane) and that which transcends beyond the natural world (the sacred). Even material things become sacred in the minds of the believer. Eliade writes:

A sacred stone remains a stone; apparently (or, more precisely, from the profane point of view), nothing distinguishes it from all other stones. But for those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into a supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. (12)

For example, according to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the bread and wine of the communion ceremony literally become the body and blood of Christ. The “profane” (i.e. non-Catholic) point of view sees the bread and wine and remaining normal bread and wine. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that anything supernatural occurs during communion. However, the bread and wine become sacred to those who believe it.

So basically when Bill O’Reilly told Richard Dawkins the Christian faith “is true for me” because “I believe it,” he actually made a good point. In the mind of the believer, religious claims are capital-t Truth because of the power the believer gives them. It doesn’t matter what the facts are; if it’s true for the believer, then it’s capital-T truth. The Bible is the Word of God because Christians believe it. The Qu’ran is the Word of God because Muslims believe it. The bread and wine are literally Jesus’ body and blood because Catholics believe it. Circumcision is a sign of being God’s chosen people because Jews believe it.

You may ask, “So what? If it’s true for the individual and it helps them get up in the morning, who’s to say they’re wrong? You claim to be a pragmatist, and didn’t your boy William James say religion is useful because it helps people get up in the morning?” While it’s true that faith does inspire people to get up in the morning and do good deeds, the opposite is also true–unchecked beliefs can be just as harmful.

For example, I have a mental illness cocktail of depression, anxiety, and ADD. One of the worst parts about this mental illness cocktail is that I often give way too much power to false beliefs. “I’m stupid.” “I’m worthless.” “Everyone hates me.” “Something terrible is going to happen.” I have a thought, I obsess over it, and it eventually becomes capital-T Truth for me. It gets to the point where I am literally unable to function because I’ve convinced myself the bad thoughts in my head are Truth.

Ten years ago, for example, I was convinced the world was about to end. I picked up a book called The Bible Code that claimed if you rearrange the original Hebrew text of the Torah in a certain way, it reveals predictions about the future. One such prediction was that the world will end in 2006 in a nuclear war. Even though all my Christian friends said it was hooey because Jesus said no one will know when the world will end, my mental illness cocktail convinced myself that they were wrong. I had no reason to doubt it. Iran was enriching uranium, North Korea tested a missile, and Israel was fighting Lebanon. The stage was set for an all out nuclear war, I thought. Plus, didn’t Jesus say the Son of Man would descend to Earth in a cloud? Could it be a metaphor for a mushroom cloud? Looking back, it’s all ridiculous, but at the time I believed everything I thought. I spent the entire summer of 2006 in crippling fear of the upcoming apocalypse. And when it didn’t happen and I realized The Bible Code is a crock of shit, I was embarrassed.

So even though religious beliefs may help people get up in the morning, they can also hurt people because people give way too much power to religious beliefs. As David Silverman told me last week on my podcast, people put religion on a pedestal as something that cannot be touched. Yet the more we perpetuate the whole “It’s true for me because I believe it” mentality, the more we enable harmful religious beliefs. Which is why I’m finally starting to understand why a lot of atheists say liberal religion enables fundamentalism.

Bottom line: don’t believe everything you think, even if it’s a “good” thought.

More Bathroom Bills Arise After South Dakota Defeat — My Latest Article for TheHumanist.com

This past February we covered a proposed bill in South Dakota that would’ve prevented transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities. Though fortunately that bill was vetoed shortly after we posted the article, similarly atrocious bills have since popped up throughout the United States.

Last week North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill drafted during a hasty “special session” that requires all residents to use bathrooms designated for their biological sex as“stated on a person’s birth certificate.” In response, several corporations—including Apple, the NFL, IBM, American Airlines, and the NBA— have threatened to boycott the state of North Carolina. Just this past weekend Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser banned city employees from traveling to North Carolina on official business. Even the state’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, recently stated he would not defend the new law in court, calling it “unconstitutional” and “a national embarrassment.” Cooper, a Democrat who’s currently running against McCrory, said that not only does the law discriminate against LGBT people, but it will also “set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.”

Gov. McCrory, however, maintains that the law doesn’t discriminate against anyone and that the public outcry is nothing more than “political theater.” In a recent appearance on NBC News he asked, “Would you want a man to walk into your daughter’s shower and legally be able to do that because mentally they think they are of the other gender?”

Read the rest here.

So far the comments all agree: don’t we have bigger fish to fry than who’s taking a shit in the next stall?

Bi Any Means Podcast #45: Firebrand Atheism with David Silverman

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My guest for today is David Silverman. He currently serves as president of American Atheists, and he is the author of the new book Fighting God. Today we’re going to talk about what exactly firebrand atheism is.

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Why “I’m Not a Feminist, I’m a Humanist” Doesn’t Make Sense

[Image: a white man with his arms across his chest. Text reads, "Feminism is too divisive. I'm a humanist."]

[Image: a white man with his arms across his chest. Text reads, “Feminism is too divisive. I’m a humanist.”]

Here’s another blog post I originally wrote on my old blog. Enjoy!

I don’t watch a lot of Jaclyn Glenn’s videos, but yesterday I was on her channel to see what’s new with her. It seems she’s doing more comedy skits than rant videos these days, which is great because I don’t want to be preached at all the time. One such skit involved her and a few other vloggers sitting around a kitchen table talking about how closed-minded religious people and anti-vaxxers are, but soon turns into an argument how anyone who doesn’t agree with everything they say is a close-minded fool. Overall, it’s a good video about how anyone call fall into the dogmatic “I’m right, you’re wrong, get used to it” trap.

Half-way through the video, though, Glenn says she doesn’t feel comfortable identifying as a feminist because so many radical feminists have ruined the term. She’s made several other videos about she doesn’t like the term “feminist,” even though she definitely supports gender equality. In one video, for example, she said she uses the word “humanist” as a way of saying she’s supports human rights in general.

Glenn can identify however she wants to, so I’m not going to crucify her for not using the label feminist. Neither am I going to stand on my soapbox and rant and rave about how she’s another fedora-wearing Dawkins-wannabe anti-feminist atheist. I’m done with all that name-calling crap, to be honest. It’s emotionally draining, and it makes me look like an asshole.

I do, however, want to bring up this phenomenon of people saying, “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist,” and why it doesn’t make any sense.

For starters, “humanist” is more than just an all-inclusive way of saying “feminist/racial justice activist/LGBT rights activist/etc.” In his book Creating Change Through Humanism, Roy Speckhardt defines humanism as “the not so radical idea that you can be good without a belief in a god.” It’s a way of life that looks not towards the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for truth, meaning, and ethics, but on Facts, Reason, and Compassion. Humanism includes human rights activism, but humanism is more of a worldview than a form of activism.

Second, feminism does not mean hating men. Feminists don’t hate men any more than #BlackLivesMatter activists hate white people. Of course, there are a few radical feminists that hate men. For example, there are trans-exclusive radical feminists (TERFs) who believe transgender women are really men trying to invade women’s spaces in order to hurt women. I don’t want to say they’re “not real feminists” because that’s pulling the No True Scotsman card. Rather, these radical feminists are just shitty feminists who are so blinded by their own dogmatism that they become dangerous extremists. Take it from me; stay the fuck away from them!

But for the most part, feminism is about giving women personal autonomy over their bodies, minds, and lives. It’s about seeing women as complex human beings, not two-dimensional objects. It’s about uprooting sexist ideas embedded in our society—and, thus, changing the system—through education and activism. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

That’s why I don’t understand why some atheists say an atheist cannot be a feminist. Saying feminism is incompatible with atheism is like saying racial justice is incompatible with atheism. Unlike religion, feminism isn’t based on a false claim. Sure, we can argue about certain feminist claims like the wage gap (it’s rather complicated, so I suggest watching Peter Thurston’s videos about it), but sexism still exists in society. Whether it’s women being harassed on the street here in America or women being stoned to death in Saudi Arabia, the idea that women are second-class citizens is deeply embedded into our world, and we need to do something about it.

Plus, saying that feminism isn’t inclusive enough because it focuses on women’s rights is like walking into St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and saying, “Why don’t you treat adults with cancer, too?” The reason why we have St. Jude is because there is a need in America for children with cancer to receive all the medical care they need without parents worrying about payment. It doesn’t mean everyone else with cancer doesn’t matter; it only addresses a need that’s not being met anywhere else. The same goes for feminism, #BlackLivesMatter, queer liberation, and disability justice.

While I still believe people have the right to identify however they want, the phrase “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” doesn’t hold any water. True, there are certain branches of feminism that are not compatible with humanism (see the TERFs I mentioned above). However, fighting sexism and misogyny is not only compatible with humanism, but also essential. As skeptics, we openly criticize bad ideas present in our society—from religious dogma to pseudoscience—so why not openly criticize sexist ideas in our society as well? It only makes sense to me.