Romney too

It’s unfair of me to point out Santorum’s idiotic views on religious freedom when Romney said the same exact thing earlier today.

“They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”

You keep on using that phrase “religious freedom.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

This new “religious freedom” schtick is because the Obama administration has dared to say that all hospitals – even Catholic ones – need to provide health insurance that covers contraception. And despite the Catholic outrage being utter bullshit, it looks like the Obama administration will cave. Oh joy.

The “Justifications for Saying ‘Cunt'” bingo card

The comments in my previous post are getting a little mind numbing, so I thought I’d give you all something to make it more fun:

If you still don’t get why some of these squares are totally asinine, start reading the comments. I believe each has been thoroughly torn to pieces by now. I really have no interest in explaining basic concepts like “words have meaning.” I mean, is it even possible to explain that concept with words to a person who believes that? Do they consider phrases like “I don’t like you” and “I fucking hate your guts, shitface” to be equivalent and expect people to react equally unemotionally to either? Curious.

I do have to give a shout out to Penn Jillette’s wife, Emily, for helping me create half of the squares. She randomly started tweeting at me last night, apparently annoyed with my post about her husband. Amongst other gems (like her claiming to be a moral relativist because she follows Kant), was this exchange:

And then I stopped engaging with her, unable to take anymore examples of people who lack compassion and common decency. What a pair.

EDIT: Excellent idea from my friend Jesse – to make each square a link to an explanation as to why that statement is wrong. I don’t have the time to write up 25 summaries, but if people want to do it in the comments, I’ll be happy to link them up here.

EDIT 2: Matthew Smith briefly summarizes what’s wrong with every square here. Thanks, Matthew! His summaries more or less mirror what I was thinking.

Women who don’t amuse Penn Jillette are cunts

Lindy West is a freelance writer who often writes for Slog, so I’ve grown to love her writing since I’ve moved to Seattle. She has a piece at MSNBC poking fun at the apocalyptic Super Bowl ads from last night. And this is what Penn Jillette thinks of her article:

“What a remarkably stupid cunt. Why did I read this? Strained comedy that does exactly what she’s busting. Horrible. How about not watching? This is just someone trying to hate people and be superior and having to work really hard at it. She does the same fucking joke 4 times and pats herself on the back for it. I’ve never seen any of these ads, and never will, but what a fucking talentless cunt.”

Yep. According to Penn Jillette, if a woman makes a joke he doesn’t find funny, she’s a stupid talentless cunt.

It was irritating when he was promoting a garbage piece his friend wrote about how guys will be guys, and the skeptical movement should accept that instead of trying to be welcoming to women. But this crosses the line. Gender based insults like “cunt” are unacceptable. And frankly it’s a little sad that Jillette embraces the skeptical movement and we embrace him back, yet he can go on tirades like this…without even watching the ads that the article is poking fun at. What happened to becoming informed before taking a position?

I’m done with Penn Jillette. We can come up with better skeptical role models and celebrities than this.

Do not donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am pissed off about Susan G. Komen’s decision to pull its grants for breast cancer screening from Planned Parenthood.

Komen claims the move is because their newly adopted guidelines do not allow them to donate money to organizations under investigation by Congress. But let’s cut the crap: this is nothing more than a snivelling political move to appease anti-choicers:

Komen has been under pressure from anti-abortion groups to drop its funding for Planned Parenthood, which received $680,000 from the anti-cancer group in 2011. Most recently, abortion foes forced a Christian publisher to stop printing pink Komen bibles and pressured bookstores to take them off the shelves. Groups have also called on supporters to boycott Komen entirely, and decried the group as a “lie from the pit of Hell.” But Komen says the anti-abortion groups’ activism didn’t play a role in its decision, which it claims is the result of a new internal policy forbidding it from funding for any organization that’s currently under investigation in Congress. (Planned Parenthood is the target of a congressional investigation, but that probe is led by an anti-abortion lawmaker who has sought to end all federal support to the group.)

One thing the AP piece misses, however, is that pressure to end the Planned Parenthood funding may have also come from within Komen itself. Karen Handel was named senior vice president at Komen in April 2011, and is now “leading the organization’s federal and state advocacy efforts.” But before joining Komen, she was a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, and was critical of Planned Parenthood. “[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” she wrote in a blog post, and pledged to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor.

Isn’t it oddly convenient that their new guidelines coincide with these events? Why, it’s almost as if they adopted those guidelines in order to appease anti-choicers, while simultaneously attempting to deflect blame onto Congress!

We can speculate on Komen’s motivations until we’re blue in the face, especially since they won’t even reply to Planned Parenthood’s requests to discuss the decision. But the motivations don’t change the result: Roughly $600,000 a year will no longer be going toward breast health education, clinical breast exams, and mammogram referrals for predominantly poor and minority women. Without these preventative measures, women’s health will suffer.

Some people will argue that this is not true because Komen will simply donate the money to other organizations. If there’s an organization that provides these services with the experience and geographical spread of Planned Parenthood, fill me in. But this means more than funding for some exams, as Amanda Marcotte points out:

The existence of breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood has always been a thorn in the anti-choice side. Most of Planned Parenthood’s services are related to the choice to be sexually active—contraception, STD screening and treatment, cervical cancer screening—making it easy to write off those services as unnecessary if you follow the strict abstinence-only prescription the Christian right has for women. Breast cancer, however, can strike the lifelong virgin, the married woman who only has sex for procreation, and the dirty fornicator (i.e. the vast majority of American women) alike. Because of this, anti-choicers have tried to create a rift between women’s health advocates who focus on breast cancer and those who focus on reproductive health concerns below the waist. Today, they had a victory with Komen’s act of cowardice.

[…]In the end, the grant money is less important than the symbolism of Komen buying into the conservative myth of good-girl health care vs. bad-girl health care. In reality, women’s health care can only work if it’s comprehensive health care.

Even without this latest development, there were enough issues about Komen to give me pause:

Their removal of support from Planned Parenthood is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I will now be looking for other breast cancer foundations to support, and I’ve made a donation to Planned Parenthood’s emergency funding drive. I suggest you do the same, and inform your friends and family about this situation.

Who needs pap smears when you have acupuncture?

All too often I hear critics who assert that skepticism and feminism have nothing to do with each other, and I should stop pretending that skepticism is relevant to women’s issues. And then I run into articles like this one, where an acupuncturist claims only prostitutes get cervical cancer and pap smears aren’t “real preventative measures” but only serve to conjure up unrealistic fears.

Thankfully Richelle of Skeptic North has the full take down, including real facts about HPV and cervical cancer. I love this little bit of snark in particular:

I’ve had an abnormal pap test, and unlike Freak-out McMelodrama, I talked to my doctor about what it meant and why it wasn’t particularly concerning, but worth monitoring. It wasn’t a cancer scare, it was a “huh, that’s weird.” Maybe I’m just used to my body doing strange things, but I really can’t fathom using it as the impetus to quit my job and go to an unaccredited college to get a unrecognized 4 year TCMD (Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctorate) diploma for $40,000. If you’re worried about an abnormal Pap test, or just the potential to exposure to HPV and the risks of cervical cancer, talk to your family physician. And if they tell you that only prostitutes get HPV, find a new physician, and then talk to them.

But Richelle, don’t you know family physicians are just the slaves to big pharma and all medical advances are a ploy to fear monger people into popping pills?! Much better to go poke someone with needles.

Gee, thanks, God

According to Rick Santorum, we shouldn’t allow abortions even in cases of rape, because those fetuses are gifts from God. Yes, God’s gift to rape victims is pregnancy. Maybe this is just me, but I would kind of prefer God to give me the gift of Not Being Raped In The First Place.

It’s easy to write off Mr. Frothy Mixture as an extremist lunatic, but… Well, he is an extremist lunatic, but he’s not alone. Over 150,000 Americans have voted for him so far in the Republican primaries. Yikes.

The matriarchy is coming for your video games

Video games are no longer safe from our lady-clutches! Why, they’re starting to have female characters in them that aren’t totally worthless or in need of saving! And this has a lot of MRAs worried:

I call bullshit on this subject. Video games are the last place for guys to hang out and now women are taking over. Why not just save us the trouble and instead of eliminating our fantasy world just throw us in work camp to provide for thier bastard children (literally speaking) while they shit all over us…wait they already do that.

Oh noes, a space where we have to allow ladies?! How totally unfair! What does this takeover include? Why, portraying women as competent and equal to men:

You’ll see the same thing in most stat-based role-playing games as well, where you have the option of a female player character – like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, D&D, etc. The women never have any strength or intelligence penalties compared to the males. … They want to give the impression that people of any race, gender, and sexual-orientation are interchangeable – that there are no differences in ability between them, and that only a bigot could think otherwise. I’m sick of it too.

What do MRAs consider an accurate portrayal of women in video games?

It would be hilarious to portray the female characters realistically. If you chose the female character in your FPS [First Person Shooter] she would have to move very slowly, dragging the gun around. You could build in some extra shake to the crosshairs to represent hopeless accuracy. Every time you needed to reload your gun, instead of just pressing a button, you’d have to find a male character and go through some flirting dialogue options to persuade him to do it for you. One out of every four missions the game would tell you that you were sitting out this one due to ‘women’s issues’.

I’m sure women in the military would have a thing or two to say to this guy. You should read the rest of the silliness (like how Lara Croft somehow oppresses men) over at Man Boobz.

While we’re on the topic of video games: My boyfriend and I only have one level left in the expansion pack of Pixel Junk Monsters, and we’re looking for a new game to play together. We’re patiently waiting for Skulls of the Shogun since we loved it at PAX, but who knows when it will finally be released. And we can’t play Civ 5 together (yet) because my desktop computer is on the fritz. Does anyone have recommendations for good multiplayer strategy/tower defense/tactical type games? Co-op prefered but not required. (EDIT: We have a Wii, PS3, XBOX360, and PCs, so platform is irrelevant).

Recommendations are appreciated. Because, you know, I have to love strategy video games in order to invade his one last man space and enslave him. Not because we enjoy playing them with each other or something.

Results for the Most Influential Female Atheist of 2011

In past years, the vote has been closer. But I don’t think anyone will be surprised by 2011’s Most Influential Female Atheist:

Rebecca Watson

She blew away the field with a whopping 233 votes. And she earned the recognition. I don’t think Rebecca knew quite what she was getting into when she made that initial benign comment, but her perseverance through the resulting shitstorm was amazing. She exposed the reality of sexism in the atheist and skeptical movement, alerting people to the problem and inspiring social change.

But one of the reasons I love doing this poll is because multiple women are recognized, and I often learn about a lot of new ladies that deserve my attention. Here are some of the runner ups:

Greta Christina (105 votes) – For her “consistent excellence”, especially her talk at Skepticon: Why Are Atheists So Angry? “Even when she’s writing about something that has pissed her off, she never comes across as snappy or condescending.”

Jessica Ahlquist (48 votes) -“For trying to make my high school abide by the Constitution, as well as for inspiring other young activists.” “Because of her courage in facing a school full of antagonistic believers every day.”

Maryam Namazie (25 votes) – “For her brave and public leadership against the rising tide of radical Islam in Britain (and elsewhere).” “For doing what she does with grace and style and always remaining a strong, inspiring and positive force of nature despite the horrific hateful racism and misogynist bigotry that’s continually thrown her way.”

Natalie Reed (19 votes) – “A real trailblazer into what was previously (and still is) an issue of near invisibility in our community: transgenderism.”

Ophelia Benson (18 votes) – “I find her blog, Butterflies and Wheels to be greatly influential and informative for me personally.”

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy (17 votes) – “For the single most audacious act of protest against theocracy this past year.” “Who else has enraged and entire country? Who else has raised awareness so globally? Who else now lives with very real death threats?”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (13 votes) – “She is the most courageous person I’ve ever heard of, and though she didn’t do anything to garner much publicity in ’11 (which may well be a *good* thing, given the desires of the many people who wish to see her brutally murdered), her shadow looms large across the whole of skepticism. She sits astride the ‘respect’ the faithful demand, providing the ultimate counterexample to the fatuous bleating of ‘peace’ and ‘love’ mumbled so soddenly. Every day she draws breath is a victory over the medieval cowards who wish to see her destroyed for standing up and daring to strike off the shackles of ignorance that hold far too many people in bondage.”

Amanda Marcotte (13 votes) – “Because she’s so good at articulating and elucidating things that I subconsciously pick up on but haven’t quite thought through.”

Godless Bitches Podcast (10 votes) – A group award for Beth Presswood, Jen Peeples, Tracie Harris, and Lynnea Glasser. “This gives me more to think about in any given week than just about anything else.” “It’s a wonderful show and wonderfully educational.”

Thanks to everyone who voted! And thanks to those of you who voted for me – I really appreciate it :)

2010: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
2009: Tracie Harris & Jen Peeples

New game: Trolling, or just that stupid?

It’s a question I often ask myself as I’m reading blog comments. This particularly facepalm-inducing instance occurred last night, as Greta Christina and I were giggling like 5 year olds over Santorum jokes. I then received the following tweet from Ed Clint, President of the Illini Secular Student Alliance:

I’m sure many of you would be delighted to explain to Ed how giggling about innuendo used to ridicule politicians with bigotted, homophobic, misogynistic platforms is different from reducing (almost always) women to nothing more to their genitalia and joking about a traumatic crime that affects 1 in 5 women, with said joking contributing to the culture that blames victims and encourages rapists.

So: Trolling, or just that stupid?

The straw woman of the skeptical movement

Let’s break this one down sequentially:

1. Penn Jilette tweets a link to a “really wonderful” article his friend Mallorie wrote about her experience in the skeptic community.

2. I click said link.

3. I nearly vomit while eating my dinner because the article can be summarized as “I’m a woman who doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the skeptic community, therefore all those other women who complain are humorless, overemotional, and anti-sex. Don’t listen to them, listen to me because I’m part of the boy’s club!”

4. I get in a twitter fight with Penn Jilette and he actually responds, insisting that she’s “just right.” Yes, I know, my life is weird. He is totally bewildered by all the people trying to explain what’s wrong with her article.

Penn Jilette is a major celebrity in the skeptical movement and has traditionally played a major part in The Amazing Meeting, including throwing his Bacon and Donut party to raise money for the JREF. I know he cares about it, so I want him to understand why this article is so terribly, terribly wrong. Let’s break it down:

For as long as I can remember I have been welcomed in to communities which were generally considered “sausage fests”. If not for the constant noting of this fact I would have never noticed. You guys were always just my friends.

As I’ve gotten older these subcultures have become more vocal about wanting to include more women, the discussion has become “how can we make the community more welcoming to women”.

As a woman who has been here all along this is distressing to me, I love you guys for who you are, from my table-top strategy gaming group though my political debate forum right in to the skeptical community. You have never been anything but awesome and welcoming. Who made you think you weren’t?

The women who are seen as nothing more than sex objects and whose views and opinions are ignored or dismissed. The women who give talks and receive compliments about their appearance before the content of their presentation. The women who are sexually harassed by big names in the movement and are too afraid to speak up lest her social life or career is ruined. The women who make it clear that sexual advances are personally unwelcome, yet have their boundaries disregarded. The women who blog that are silenced by gendered insults and threatened with sexual violence, rape, and death threats.

The outspoken women who aren’t as lucky to have had awesome, comfortable experiences like you.

I am here, in my various communities because I like you guys, and I like the basis of the movement. The idea that you have to set time aside to cater to me, because my vagina imbibes me with some special needs is becoming increasingly insulting. These communities are about our minds, not our genitals and as far as I can tell my mind is just like yours.

Here’s the first straw man. No one is asking for communities to cater to our special needs, because being treated as equal is not a special need. We’re asking for exactly what you claim to want: recognition that these communities are about our minds, not our genitalia.

More recently I have noticed a trend among men in my communities, you seem to have been told that you’re  awful and need to change. Again, apparently because your genitals imbibe you with an inescapable assholism. Please never believe this lie. With all my heart I beg you to not make monsters of your gender. I like your jokes. I like your humor. I like the casualness and ease that no gender distinction has allowed us all over the years. You have never hurt or insulted me, you have brought me years of joy, wonderful debate, and stimulating conversation. By forgetting to see me as a woman, you have treated me as an equal, as a comrade, as a friend.

Again, straw man. No one is saying all men are evil misogynistic assholes, and that this is a trait somehow biologically predetermined by the presence of a penis. Were saying that the select men who are treating women poorly need to cut it out and treat us like human beings.

If your jokes or teasing manner offend some people, so the fuck what? Someone will always be offended by jokes, never let them make you believe that you are guilty of something worse simply because of your gender. If you want to make boob jokes thats fine by me, you have after all been making dick jokes since you were old enough to make jokes. Plus they are funny as hell. If you want to go free and uncensored among a group of like minded people, if you want to try to acquire sex from a like minded person, awesome, do it, sex and friendship are amazing. You are not a monster for wanting these things.  You are not a monster for attempting to acquire them.

Third straw man. This has nothing to with dirty jokes or flirting. Scroll back up to that paragraph I wrote about the kind of women who are asking for change. That’s what we’re upset about. Not crass jokes. I am the skeptical movement’s fucking patron saint of boob jokes. Don’t tell me that’s what I’m complaining about.

I type this with all of the warmth and sorrow of someone entangled in the most beautiful of bromances. I love you guys. And I’d like to slap the silly assholes who have given you the idea that you have mistreated me.

With all of my heart I beg you: Do not change. Do not change for me, do not change for someone else. You’re wonderful, just the way you are. If the day comes when you censor your language around me, when dick/fart/vagina jokes are not allowed because of my delicate gender, my heart will break as I wave goodbye in a search for a more open, natural, candid community that does not insist on seeing me first for my gender. And if you want to tease me because I am shedding a little girlish tear though an odd smile as I type this, thats ok too. But don’t ever stop being you.

Yeah, just do whatever you want! Who the fuck cares if you’re hurting people. If you’re racist, great. Homophobic, splendid. Sexist, woohoo! Because you should never change your behavior to try to be a better human being.

I did not enter this relationship with the intention of changing you all. I am enough of a grownup to know that is a terrible idea. I entered because I love science, truth, questioning, and curiosity. I love candor, and occasionally rough humor, I love the ingroup demeanor we have with each other. And I have stayed because you never insisted on seeing me as a girl.

And there’s the first part of a declaration of being part of the boy’s club. “Thanks for not seeing me as an icky girl.”

I came because I love what we are about, and I love you guys too. Don’t ever adulterate yourselves in an attempt to try to lure more vagina possessing patrons. I can think of nothing more tragic and disingenuous.

Keep joking with me, keeping being open and awesome and curious and funny, keep trying to fuck me, because I cant think of any reason why I would rather fuck someone else, we are after all human. I assure you I’ll return the favor.

And there’s part two: “Keep trying to fuck me.” That statement effectively communicates “I put out, unlike those sexless naggers, so you should keep me around.” It’s a straw man in itself, since no one is telling men to stop flirting or trying to get laid. We’re asking that you respect the boundaries that we clearly state, understand when no means no, and time your advances for appropriate social situations. Flirt with us in the pub night following the group discussion, not while we’re organizing a campaign to fight the anti-vax movement.

And I’m not sure how this logically flows with her insistence that guys don’t see her gender or treat her differently. Unless the whole skeptical community that she’s addressing is bisexual, and she’s the only one in on that secret.

In conclusion: Don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for being you, for being male, for being funny, don’t ever believe the lie that us delicate girls cant take being hit on, cant keep up with the filthy jokes, cant argue you blue in the face, and need special treatment. I love you guys. Don’t change.

Don’t ever believe the lie that those topics are what skeptical women have been shouting about for the last couple of years.

I’m glad there’s a woman out there who has had nothing but lovely experiences in the skeptical movement. I hope the number of women who feel that way grows and grows. But I hope none of them totally disregard the experiences of other women like Mallorie has. It’s salt in our wounds that Penn felt the need to promote this. Has someone so involved in the skeptical movement really not been listening to what we’ve been saying?