The kind of people who elect Michele Bachmann

Scum of the earth. Parts of Michele Bachmann’s district contain the most smug, pious, conservative rat-buggering jerks on the planet (like Marcus Bachmann and his anti-gay “clinic”, for instance). And the symptoms are beginning to show: the Anoka-Hennepin school district, part of Bachmann’s domain, home of the Elmer Gantry-wannabe Bradley Dean, is also the epicenter of an epidemic of teen suicides, 9 in the last two years. These are kids who were bullied for being gay, or suspected of being gay, or not fitting in to the their inbred little community (and who would want to?), and the school district has been acquiescing to pressure from religious groups to maintain a policy of intolerance and even demonization of gays.

As civil rights groups have pushed the Minnesota school district to do more to increase tolerance of LGBT students, conservative religious groups fought to keep them away from public schools. After Samantha’s suicide and several others, students in Anoka-Hennepin schools participated in the Day of Silence. The event, organized by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, encourages kids to remain silent for the day in recognition of the effect of anti-gay bullying and harassment. In response, religious activists took up the “Day of Truth,” an event championed by the “ex-gay ministry” Exodus International that’s usually held the day before the Day of Silence. Students who participated were encouraged to engage their classmates in discussions of homosexuality from a Christian perspective.

Fifteen-year-old Justin Aaberg appears to have been one of the targets of this initiative. One day last year Justin came home and told his mom, Tammy, that another student had told him he would to go to hell because he was gay. “That did something to his brain,” she says. He hanged himself in his bedroom last summer. Only after his suicide did Tammy learn that the Parents Action League had reportedly worked with area churches to hand out T-shirts promoting the “Day of Truth” to students at his high school (which is also Bachmann’s alma mater). The students were also instructed to “preach to the gay kids,” Aaberg says. (No one from the Parents Action League responded to a request for comment.)

You would think that Christians, who claim to have the moral high ground in everything, would recognize that driving kids to suicide is not ethical behavior. Unfortunately not; it’s part of their agenda. If they can’t convert them to their sanctimonious faith, it’s just as good to have them dead.

Will the school district change its policies? I doubt it. The churches dictate what is allowed.

I’m sure they’d let her use their bathroom, though

Ah, the subtle ways we can discriminate. An Arkansas school decided a black woman just wasn’t the right kind of person to stand up at their graduation ceremony.

A high school southeast of Little Rock would not let a black student be valedictorian though she had the highest grade-point average, and wouldn’t let her mom speak to the school board about it until graduation had passed, the graduate claims in Federal Court.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, got only a single B in her 4 years at McGehee Secondary School, and loaded up on Honors and Advanced Placement classes. She had the highest G.P.A. and says the school’s refusal to let her be sole valedictorian was part of a pattern of discrimination against black students.

Wimberly says that despite earning the highest G.P.A. of the Class of 2011, and being informed of it by a school counselor, “school administrators and personnel treated two other white students as heir[s] apparent to the valedictorian and salutatorian spots.”

Doesn’t that bring up those fond memories of high school? We all knew who the anointed ones were, the kids who were typically the children of the wealthier members of the community, who had the connections, who had the right image, who associated with the right other kids, who were in the right clubs. I remember my one brief moment of ‘fame’ in my high school: I blew the doors off the SAT exams, and was one of four who were National Merit Award finalists. We were all called into the principal’s office for congratulations, and the guy schmoozed up to the other three, the popular kids, and laughed and joked and had a grand time, and finally came to me, the strange nerd in the well-worn jeans and ragged shirt, gave me a “who the hell are you?” look, and said “Good work.” Done.

And then we got acknowledged in an assembly. The other three got praise and thorough introductions; I got named, nothing more, and was last. It was the weirdest feeling: nobody had said anything wrong about me, I was given a moment in the spotlight, but somehow I came out of it feeling like I’d been snubbed and spit upon. I wasn’t the right kind of person, I didn’t belong to the blessed clique, I was an interloper.

I can sort of understand where the administrators are coming from. They’d probably say they aren’t racist, oh no, it’s just that Bob and Janet (or whatever the white kids’ names are) have been such active leaders in the school, they’ve had school spirit, everyone knows and loves Bob and Janet, they deserve prominence at graduation — they’ll say nothing demeaning about Wimberly at all, they’ll couch it all in the most positive terms. And the black woman will still feel the sting of being snubbed, because she’ll have gotten the message: hard work, intelligence and talent simply aren’t as important as being the right kind of kid. Sorry, girl, academic accomplishment isn’t as important as going to the good church, dressing right, being in sports or cheerleading, going to the right parties, and all that other stuff that establishes your position in the social hierarchy. Shoulda studied less math and worked harder at being white, like Bob and Janet.

Racism is only rarely a matter of snarled epithets and swinging ax handles. Usually it’s a subtler thing, where a groups are set apart on superficial criteria, and the categorization becomes a proxy for recognizing ability honestly.

(via Think Progress)

It could be worse, part II

We could be gamers. Oh, wait … some of us are! If you want to see the very worst of raging, testosterone-poisoned sexism, look to nerd-dominated gaming culture; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a significant part of the current conflict in the skeptical movement comes from our large overlap with that segment of the tech-savvy, rather clueless collection of man-children who see all women as aliens who are fat, ugly, or slutty.

I’m not heavily into gaming, but I do play a little World of Warcraft, poorly (it’s easy, though, so my old-man reflexes can mostly cope). Mostly, I find the population of MMOs embarrassing. I’m on a server, Proudmoore, that has a reputation as gay-friendly, with several large guilds that combat gay stereotypes…but it is so common to get in a quick cross-server group and find myself labeled as the ‘fag’, and sometimes even getting kicked out on sight because of the name of my server (or more often, I leave as the gay slurs start to fly — I don’t play if it isn’t fun). Women players are very cautious about revealing their sex; some won’t speak on audio because they know as soon as their female voices are heard, the annoying comments will start to come in.

So, yes, skeptics/atheists are better than some cultures…but that’s not an excuse to avoid improvement.

It could be worse, part I

We could be Christians. Answers in Genesis distributes a little quiz about modesty: I took it and failed. Most of the questions assume clothing is defined by God, that the purpose of clothing is to hide sexuality, and the focus is almost entirely on women — look at questions #9 and #10, for instance. That could have come straight from a Muslim handbook.

The Style Quiz

Take the following True/False quiz to discover what you really believe about clothing, and then compare your responses with the answer key below.

1. According to the Bible, the primary purpose of clothing is to cover the body.

2. There’s nothing right or wrong about particular clothing styles. It’s all just a matter of taste and personal opinion.

3. The Bible tells us what styles of clothing Christians should wear.

4. Since the Bible says God looks on the heart, what we wear and how we appear aren’t that important; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

5. Our clothes and appearance reveal a lot about our values, our character, and beliefs.

6. What I wear is not really anyone else’s concern. I should be free to wear the kind of clothes that I like and that I feel comfortable wearing.

7. Modesty means dressing in a way that is outdated, dumpy, and unattractive.

8. If a girl doesn’t wear trendy clothes that are at least a little revealing, guys won’t notice her.

9. Except for guys who are “over-sexed,” most men are not really affected by the way women dress. Most guys don’t even notice how women dress.

10. I can’t help it if guys struggle morally because of what I wear. It’s up to the guys to control their minds. I shouldn’t have to change the way I dress just because they can’t control themselves.

11. Parents shouldn’t impose their standards or beliefs about clothing on their kids. They should let them make their own decisions, even if they don’t approve of what their kids are wearing.

12. Christians are free to dress as they wish, because we’re not under the law, but under grace. It’s legalistic for parents or youth leaders to establish guidelines or standards for the way young people dress.

13. Christian women should never wear clothes that are revealing or that look sexy (i.e., clothes designed to arouse sexual desire or interest).

14. There are some public settings where it is okay for Christian women to wear clothing that exposes their private parts (e.g., thighs, breasts).

15. A woman can be covered from head to toe and still be dressed immodestly. 16. A woman can wear modest clothing and still be an immodest woman.

17. Most girls and women do not understand the meaning, the power, or the benefits of true modesty.

Oh, you want to know the right answers? Look below the fold.

[Read more…]

Why are they even debating this?

The UK has been having a debate about Sharia law in the House of Commons. Why, I don’t know; it’s so regressive and oppressive, such a step backward, that it ought to be simply dismissed out of hand. Maryam Namazie gave a speech opposing Sharia law, and here’s a small piece of it.

After all, Sharia law is based on the Koran, the hadith (sayings and actions of the prophet Mohammad), and Islamic jurisprudence. They all agree that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, a women can’t sign her own marriage contract, men have the unilateral right to divorce whereas a women have limited rights to divorce; child custody goes to the father at a preset age; girls get half of the inheritance boys do and so on.

The Islamic Sharia Council explains why this is so: With regards to women’s testimony, ‘If one forgets, the other can remind her.’ It’s the difference between a man and a woman’s brains.’ ‘A woman’s character is not so good for a case where testimony requires attention and concentration.’ And this also applies to divorce. ‘Women are governed by emotion; men by their minds so he will think twice before uttering talaq [divorce].’ It goes on to say it is not ‘derogatory’ but ‘the secret of women’s nature.’

We’re done. Really, there’s no debate necessary at this point; we live in the 21st century, when no legal code should enshrine inequalities (and I’m well aware that there are inequities in US law, but we’re fighting hard to remove them, not add more).

Calm, nuanced, proportionate

Today, Greta Christina has weighed in.

Comments closed here, because I’ve put up with enough of the hysterical delusions of people offended by calm, nuanced, proportionate statements. It’s like the responses to those mild bus signs like “You can be good without god” that leave some people profoundly and irrationally upset. We’ve now found an analog: “guys, don’t do that.”

Take it to Greta’s place if you need to complain.

Two awful no-good terribad miserable arguments

They keep dragging me back in. I try to drop it, but my inbox is full of people still arguing this point, and it’s getting ridiculous. The thing is, they keep throwing godawfully bad arguments at me, as if they’re trying to hit me in the head with a brick enough times to make me stupid enough to believe them. It’s not going to work. Here are a few of the worst of the bad arguments.

Let’s stop the shouting that Richard Dawkins is some kind of raving misogynist. What’s happened here is that he is at some remove from all of the details, and this issue got blown up by lunatics who felt their manhood threatened and who exaggerated the situation to an absurd degree. I think he is wrong, but what he was arguing against was a cartoon of feminism which far too many people have been peddling on the blogs.

What cartoon of feminism, you might ask? This is the most common bad argument I’ve been seeing, and here’s a doozy of an example:

Atheist Flagellants and Puritans. Try reading this and recognizing even a dim resemblance to the events that triggered this episode.

The latest moral panic / fart-in-a-bathtub comes, rather depressingly, via Skepchick’s Rebecca Watson, who you could be excused for expecting to be above such trite gamespersonship. In this case exploiting a perceived atrocity against that most terrifying of socio-theo-politico-morasses: the sacred temple of the divine yoni and all of its sensitivity and delicateness. A blasphemy against the purity of the holy of holies, the supreme goddess-hood, the sublime and perfect eternal feminine, the über-she who’s poop smells like cinnamon buns…

Yeah, perhaps that is stretching the point. But there is no other way to try and get a handle on the way conventional reality simply vaporises and all commonsense ceases to play any role when the deadly combination of pussy, circumstance, insecurity and a readily available male patsy to blame everything on combine in surreal Grand Guignol – especially when the masses rally behind it and give it a good head of indignant steam. This is all grist for the misandrist blog industry, but it is particularly disheartening seeing it become such a staple amongst the godless and allegedly “freethinking” rationalist communities.

This was posted under the category “shrieking hysteria”. I think it was self-referential. The rest of the post doesn’t get any calmer, either.

Let me remind you what really happened, without the “divine yoni” and “Grand Guignol” and self-righteous accusations of misandry. A woman was awkwardly propositioned. She said no. She later briefly addresses atheists in a youtube video to say, “guys, don’t do that”.

So let’s just be clear here. If your version of the events requires comically strident exaggeration in order to make a case, you’re definitely wrong, and you are to blame for the discord and confusion. You are lying. And, by the way, if you even mention the words “misandrist blog industry”, you’re a flaming conspiracy nut.

Here’s another example of disgracefully bad argumentation, this time from an
online advice columnist who seems to specialize in pandering to adolescent male fantasies. This is the pseudo-biological argument that it is the male’s nature to hit on women all the time, everywhere, and how dare we stymie such natural impulses?

Men “sexualize” women. Ladies, they want to have sex with you, your sister, your sister’s friend, your sister’s friend’s friend, the cashier, the waitress, the lady with the big luscious ass who’s crossing the street, and her sister and her sister’s friend. If men weren’t like this, the planet would be filled with plants and cockroaches instead of human beings.

If it is troubling to you to be sexualized, stay home, or only leave the house in a big black burka.

Start fucking right now, everyone! We have to outcompete the cockroaches, and the only alternative is to wear a burka!

You know, it’s true that men (me among them) have frequent sexual thoughts, and we do notice secondary sexual characteristics, and we do enjoy sex. If we actually do have sex several times a week, and have two or three children over the course of our lifetimes, then we’ve pretty much fulfilled our reproductive obligations, we can rest assured that the cockroaches won’t overwhelm us, and that humanity’s fate is secure. It’s kind of amazing, actually, that those responsibilities can be carried out in such a small fraction of our time, and that we can have fun while safeguarding the future of the species. So what are we going to do with all of our free time?

Hey, how about conversation and learning and science and art and music and engineering and mathematics and dancing and movies and reading and…say, it turns out we do a lot of things, and they take up more of our time than sex (for most of us, anyway), and also, they’re things that make us human and not cockroaches or plants. We are surprisingly well capable of setting the sexual impulses aside for most of our lives and doing other interesting things. I really don’t think there’s a problem here that requires indulgence in sex at will to solve.

It’s also misleading. Women have the same sexual desires (cue argument that the cockroaches will defeat us if women don’t surrender to those desires right now), but notice — most don’t want to have sex non-stop, either. Maybe they’d also like to read a book or have a conversation, too.

This poor excuse for an advice columnist is full of contradictions. After telling us how men want to have sex with every female, she reveals that that isn’t actually true.

My dad told me to worry when men stop asking you out, when construction workers stop whistling. You want to “have the power”? When somebody whistles at you, smile and wave and be on your way. Don’t be (and act) all offended down to your ugly feminist-approved shoes.

Oh. So her definition of power is “men want to have sex with you”. And inevitably, someday, you’ll be old and ugly and men won’t want to have sex with you, so you’ll lose all your power. How sad. As for feminists: ugly shoes. There, we’re done with them!

You don’t even want to crawl into the comments at that site. We’re getting a lot of accusations that those feminists leave hateful, mean comments, but you’ve got to compare them to comments made by hysterical men to get some perspective. There are several that point out that Rebecca Watson is, apparently, powerless because she’s ugly and a lesbian.

And then there’s this comment, which creepily makes a perfect point for Watson’s reasonable concern.

Jeez, what meathead. Skepchick, that is. Look, I’m 6″2, I’m lean and I’m strong. If I’m in an elevator with a woman asking her out, I’m not trying to rape her. If I wanted to rape her, I would. Like the average woman can put up any kind of resitance to a man who wants to rape her. But, this is the interesting part – we don’t want to. Of course 90% of all women know this. Of course we don’t want to rape you. We really, really like you. We don’t want to hurt you. You smell nice, you look good in skirts, some of you are even kind enough to give the occational blow job. We don’t want to hurt you.

When some idiot like this spreads the notion that a guy asking her out is a potential rapist, she’s insulting everyone. She’s insulting the women who are supposed to believe her, she’s insulting us, the men, suggesting we are rapist. She’s insulting those poor, unfortunate women who really have been raped. Even worse, perhaps some men will think “damn, could that really be perceived in that way? I’m never asking anyone out in an elevator”…and next week, she’ll be complaining that some guy in a bar offered her a drink. We need MORE dating and MORE screwing in this world. With women like this in power there’d be less screwing. We’d still be screwed, though.

Case closed. I think Jesper here has done a far better job of making me ashamed to share a gender with him than anything Rebecca Watson could ever say. I think I need to take a shower after reading that.

To wash that unpleasant taste out of our mouths, let me suggest some good posts to read. Lindsay Beyerstein has an excellent, restrained, and accurate summary — no divine yonis in evidence. Stephanie Svan has a depressing series of testimonials from women who have been abused (trigger warnings galore!); this is not a negligible problem here in the first world, and there are many women who have justified fears of being caught in situations that Jesper seems to find romantic. I particularly recommend the comment from Doubting Thomas, which will chill you to the bone.

I repeat, though, that the story Rebecca Watson told was tempered, moderate, and polite, with only a reasonable request that the atheist community demonstrate a little more respect for women, and that it was not the hysterical feminazi nonsense so many people are claiming. And that appeals to base nature and testosterone do not justify uncivilized behavior, ever — we are human beings, animals with far more complex and diverse behaviors than that.

Also, the Amazing Meeting is coming up this week, and many of the principals involved in this argument are going to be there. Some people seem to think this topic is going to be the major discussion point there: it isn’t. We’ve all got our talks lined up in advance, the theme is space exploration, I’m working on a talk about the likely nature of aliens, and at best feminist etiquette is going to be babbled over in the bar afterward. I’m also getting a little fed up with dealing with such patently bogus arguments, anyway. The JREF has posted some sensible guidelines, though, just in case — so remember, treat your fellow attendees as human beings first.

We might as well have some fun with the oblivious commentariat. Here’s your bingo card!


(via Katie Hartman)

I guess I’ll never get a retail job at Harrods

There goes another dream. The department store has a very strict dress code for its employees.

Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a ‘washing out’ effect).

I don’t even know how to do that! I could try, I suppose, but my only role models lead me to suspect I couldn’t pull off the ‘discreet’ part.

Oh, wait…only the female employees have to cover up their natural hideousness with artificial cover-ups. I guess we men are just prettier without it, a fact that is confirmed by that sensible, objective source, the Daily Mail:

Women who feel no compunction to improve what nature bestowed upon them are, in my experience, arrogant, lazy or deluded, and frequently all three … Why does a young woman think her desire to show us her open pores and ruddy complexion outweighs the wishes of her employer to present a polished face to the customer?

Now I’m confused — is she suggesting that we make-up-less men lack those open pores and ruddy complexions and other such scars and flaws, or is she just suggesting that men are arrogant, lazy or deluded? Because I don’t even know what “blusher” and “full eyes” are, and I couldn’t tell you the difference between the three things you’re supposed to paint your lips with, so I’m hoping it’s the former.

Man, there’s a lot of bullshit involved in being a Proper Woman, I guess.