Good bye DOMA

On the other hand!

A  federal appeals court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it denies equal rights for legally married same-sex couples. Booyah!

Now it will go to the Supreme Court, which will overrule the appeals court. Or not  – I say those things out of settled pessimism about this Supreme Court, but then Rieux comes along to explain why actually the Supremes are quite unlikely to overturn.

Anyway in the meantime – DOMA has been thrown out. Very good.

A disgrace to the good name of Seneca

Curtis Knapp, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas, says the government should kill homosexuals. (Whatever happened to small government? What about governs best that governs least? Inquiring minds want to know.) He said it in a sermon.

In the sermon, Knapp cites Scripture to back up his point and said among other things: “They should be put to death. That’s what happened in Israel. That’s why homosexuality wouldn’t have grown in Israel. It tends to limit conversations. It tends to limit people coming out of the closet.

“So, you’re saying we should go out and start killing them? No. I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

And why? Oh you know – because Jesus. Or Leviticus, or Timothy, or one of those guys. Does it matter? The point is – we hates’em, precious.

At the Café Racer

I went to visit Café Racer this afternoon. I felt a little self-disgust or self-doubt that I wanted to – prurience? Murder porn? What are you doing? – but that went away as soon as I got there, and I’m glad I went. I now think one should make a point of visiting murder scenes.

There were a lot of people there. There were a lot of flowers, and a lot of lit candles. There was a slightly goddy message painted on the window, but not too bad, and anyway, none of my biz. It was very, very, very quiet. It was a mourning ritual. Nothing prurient about it.

One woman knelt down on the sidewalk and put two wine glasses down in front of the flowers – in front of the small section of flowers in front of her; she was just one small segment of what was going on – and poured them full of red wine, then took a swig from the bottle. I didn’t look at her any more after that. People were carefully not looking at each other.

I got very chokey right away. It was good that I was wearing a sweatshirt, because the sleeves came in handy.

There were cop cars around, driving past slowly, circling the block slowly. I don’t know exactly what for, but it felt like part of the mourning ritual, and maybe it was. Maybe cops went there for coffee and knew the people. No reason they wouldn’t.

It was, as you can probably tell, overwhelmingly moving, and sad. That’s why I now think one should make a point of visiting murder scenes. Notice should be taken.

It’s desperately sad that it was a place like that, though. Good cafés are among my favorite institutions (along with libraries – long live Kensal Rise branch! and the one in Elephant and Castle that Anthony Grayling and Alom Shaha used to visit often, now also closed – and bookstores and parks). A further terrible detail in this particular tragedy is that the murderer liked the Café Racer too, but he couldn’t go on visiting it because his mental illness made him go off the rails at intervals.

I stood at one end for a bit, where the woman with the wine was, then I moved to the middle, then I moved toward the other end, then I crossed the street and stood there for a bit, then I left.

Irresponsible messaging

So yesterday D. J. Grothe was worried about women not registering for TAM. He said people have been emailing him with wild claims such as “JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking” along with other less wild claims. He thinks the source of this is

irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

I think the source of at least claims like “JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking” are much more likely to come from sock puppets trying to make “a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics” look bad, but I don’t know. What I do know though is that TAM now looks vastly less fun and interesting to me than it did 24 hours ago. I’ve seen quite a few people saying the same thing since yesterday. Grothe himself seems to have created the very situation he was warning against, by his “irresponsible messaging.”

Is that irony?

Shooting the messenger

So DJ Grothe says the women who are talking about sexism among the skeptics are scaring away women.

…this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed…I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

Very true. I’ve noticed it myself. A woman says something – “don’t call me a cunt,” perhaps; “guys, don’t do that,” perhaps; “don’t shout at me on the street for not smiling,” perhaps. The possibilities are endless. So a woman says something like that, and by saying it, she helps create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, because of the torrent of raving bile that erupts all over her when she says one of those things.

And yet – and yet, DJ seems to be blaming the women who say things rather than the people who respond with torrents of raving bile.

I find that unfortunate.

Rebecca was not much pleased either, and she asked DJ for specifics. He replied that she was one.

Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”


If we tell people that our events or our movements are not safe for women, some women are bound to believe that.

Yes, but then they will be believing what is true. Threats. Campaigns of vilification that have been sustained for almost a year now. Demeaning hostile contemptuous sexist language used throughout. That’s not a safe space.

Is DJ saying Rebecca shouldn’t say that? Is he saying she shouldn’t comment on the way she’s been treated?

If so, I find it unfortunate.

Do you at least agree with the principle?

Guest post by Daniel Fincke of Camels With Hammers, replying to a comment on It was a joke, huh huh huh.

May 30, 2012 at 6:49 am  (Edit)

1. It’s not okay to assume that any woman (or non-woman) is at a conference to be your plaything.

(I fail to see such an assumption)

First: this is a general principle Ophelia is laying down. Do you at least agree with the principle?

Second, let’s not get distracted by the semantics of whether literally the couple just looked at Elyse and said, “wow, is that a talking sex doll here at the conference simply for our amusement?? Holy crap, I think it is! Let’s go give her our card with our naked pictures and proposition her for sex!” Of course it is not that simplistic. [Read more…]

The girls complained of headaches, dizziness and vomiting

And another thing that’s actually like the actual Taliban. Poisoning 160 schoolgirls in their school is more like the Taliban than a policy against “booth babes” at atheist and skeptic conventions is. Much more.

Don’t go thinking you already know about this, as I did when I first saw it, because this isn’t that one, this is a new one. That’s right: this is a second poisoning of schoolgirls in their school in Afghanistan.

A hospital in northern Afghanistan admitted 160 schoolgirls Tuesday after they were poisoned, a Takhar province police official said. [Read more…]

Something that is actually like the Taliban

Mariz Tadros gives a vastly depressing account of life for women in Egypt.

…on the streets of Egypt, inch by inch, bit by bit, women’s rights are shrinking. Women, Muslim and Christian, who do not cover their hair or who wear mid-sleeved clothing are met with insults, spitting and in some cases physical abuse. In the urban squatter settlement of Mouasset el Zakat, in Al Marg, Greater Cairo, women told me that they hated walking in the streets now. Thanks to the lax security situation, they have restricted their mobility to all but the most essential of errands. Whereas a couple of years ago they could just inform their husbands where they were going (visiting parents, friends or going to the hairdresser for example), now they have to get their husbands or older sons to accompany them if they go out after sunset. [Read more…]

It was a joke, huh huh huh

Elyse Anders was the keynote speaker at Skepticamp Ohio last weekend, and had an unpleasant experience at the end.

Then, at the very end, when everyone was preparing to leave, and I was packing up the Hug Me table, answering questions, and generally socializing with other speakers and attendees, thinking about how fat my check is going to be from Big Pharma when one man and his wife, whom I’ve become vaguely acquainted with on Facebook in the last week, approached my table. He said, “Here’s a little something to remember us by” and handed me an upside-down card. I turned it halfway over, glanced at it peripherally, then thanked them.

A minute or so later, I had a “wait… what?” moment, then flipped the card over and looked at it not peripherally to discover I had not been handed a business card, but a card with a naked photo of the two of them, with their information on how to contact them should I want to fuck.

TMI – with “I” meaning not information but intimacy. Too much intimacy with strangers, without invitation or permission or preliminaries. People, don’t do that.

I cannot think of a single situation where it’s ever appropriate to hand someone an invitation to group sex if you haven’t already had or discussed having sex. I think a nice rule of thumb on handing out such things is: Have you discussed or engaged in sexual activity with this person? If yes, hand them the card. If not, do not hand them the card. If you’re sad because you never had the opportunity to discuss such an opportunity with them, the thing to do is not to shove your card in their face. The thing to do is accept that sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. There isn’t a shortage of humans in the world. You can find another one to have sex with.

There you go, you see –  If not, do not hand them the card. Don’t start from zero with “wanna fuck?”

Also sprach the Taliban, I know. The cool right on anti-Taliban thing to do is just say “wanna fuck?” to anyone you consider hot enough to fuck, just in case. Treat the whole world as a cruisey park where people are there for instant fucking, to let the Taliban know it’s not the boss of us. Except no, don’t. Don’t treat women who are there to work as if they’re really, under the mask of doing-something-else, there to have sex with you.