Dismantling a right-wing myth about transgender children

This is an amazing video, well worth an hour of your time. It’s an example of the kind of humane skepticism I wish we saw more of.

To summarize, if you don’t have an hour: there is a news story that is circulating on right wing media of a “liberal mom forcing her son to be transgender” — the parents are divorced, and the child dresses as a girl at mom’s place, and as a boy at dad’s, therefore the story of gender dysphoria is all made up and a ploy to torment the father by a bitter, liberal mom, and gosh, isn’t it evil how the Radical Left uses children as pawns? The video creator digs deep into the story, tracing it back to court transcripts and the actual statements made by the principals in the case, and discovers it’s all taking place in opposite world. The father is the one forcing the child to dress as a boy, motivated by conservative religious beliefs, and it’s the mother who is happy to let the child choose for themself. All the horrors of the story have been conjured into existence by right-wing ideologues.

I guessed how this was going to turn out when I learned that the primary source for the skewed story was Walt Heyer, and that the father was supported by the American College of Pediatricians. Don’t trust that organization! Peak irony was reached when some of the father’s friends in the video urge parents to only go to pediatricians who are members of the ACP, because other organizations are ideologically driven.

Also, the video is beautifully done and the presentation fair and sympathetic. Really worth watching. The ending will make you sad.

The Christian Ott story is fleshed out, to the chagrin of enablers everywhere

Christian Ott was a Caltech astrophysicist who was suspended for a year and ultimately resigned over accusations of sexual harassment. As is usual, the university was close-mouthed about the details — gotta protect the reputation of the institution first and foremost! — but now a former employee of Ott dishes out all the details. Handmer was fired so there might be a hint of disgruntlement here, but since he was fired for the petty detail of keeping his bicycle in his office, I think the circumstances themselves suggest that Ott was a rather nasty tyrant.

He also points out some of the failings of the media reporting on it. One problem was the tendency to report Ott’s unwanted relationships with students as “failed romances”, when they were entirely one-sided, constructed entirely out of Ott’s unrequited harassment. Lesson one: harassment is not at all romantic.

Lesson two is about self-serving myths.

The other failure of secondary reporting was lazy references to the mythical trope of the genius asshole. That is, the stereotype of a professional scientist who is both intellectually brilliant and, in compensation, socially clueless or even mean-spirited. Despite propagation in popular culture such as the Big Bang Theory, there is no evidence that links these two traits in the real world. Nor did the reporting provide any evidence that Ott was particularly brilliant, or have any excuse for social cluelessness. I find these tropes particularly corrosive since their primary application seems to be in inflating the perceived quality of a senior researcher’s work, who themselves compensates for relatively poor performance by taking it out on their powerless underlings. This same trope came into play in reporting on Andy Rubin’s departure from Google.

A lot of the long essay is about the failure of accountability and how university bureaucrats worked hard to bury the stories, which is how Ott managed to get employed and survive a huge number of complaints. What happens when you build an institution, like academia, on policies that shelter assholes? It fills up with assholes.

Potato-nosed old man with no lips and a spray-on tan fears he’ll never get laid again if rape and incest are criminalized

He doesn’t stop to consider the virtues of treating women like people — the only way humanity could have survived is via rape and incest.

Speaking before a conservative group in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, the Iowa congressman reviewed legislation he has sought that would outlaw abortions without exceptions for rape and incest. King justified the lack of exceptions by questioning how many people would be alive if not for those conceived through rapes and incest.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King asked, according to video of the event, which was covered by the Des Moines Register. “Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place … I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.”

Speaking as a fellow homely old white dude, let me just say … being a professional bigoted asshole would be a bigger obstacle than prohibiting rape, and it hasn’t stopped King from reproducing.

The only thing that makes life hard for men is other men

Unfortunately, they also make life miserable for everyone else, too. It’s not just the misogyny, either — the misogyny is a gateway to racism, violence, and organized opposition to any progress that doesn’t put them in charge.

The “Men’s Rights Movement” (MRM) regularly overlaps with and reinforces white supremacy and the “alt-right” through a shared belief that dominant groups in society — men and whites, respectively — are actually oppressed. Along with other “anti-feminist” activists, this misogynist coalition seeks to force its regressive viewpoint on the rest of society, from movie releases to federal education policy. From online harassment to deadly violence, the MRM and its activists are an immediate and growing threat.

Their “opression” is a garbage myth that festers everywhere. We white men are catered to constantly, and we get upset if someone doesn’t bow down low enough to us. It’s getting embarrassing to be in this group.

“Nobody cares about white men,” is a sentence I hear far too often. In facebook comments, tweets, article responses, emails, the op-eds of major national papers. Nobody cares about the white men left behind. Nobody cares about the white men who are collecting unemployment, or working middle management, or not getting regular blow jobs. Nobody cares about the white men whose hair is thinning and dad-bod is settling in and they never got to walk into a party with a hot girl on their arm and now it’s too late. Nobody cares about the white men who have to learn new terms like “privilege” or “cultural appropriation” or “social justice” — terms that don’t do anything to explain why they aren’t rich or powerful or happy.

But of course, everyone cares about white men. Do you want a movie about what it feels like to be a middle-class white man who has never gotten to skinnydip naked in the middle of the night with a hot girl? Oh it’s an entire genre. Do you want a really long think piece about how hearing the phrase “black lives matter” and having to go to community college instead of Harvard even though you only had a 2.3 gpa turned you into a neo-Nazi? If someone hasn’t written it yet, they will. Do you want a great American novel about how being a white dude working a secure, middle-management job with full health and retirement benefits makes you want to open fire at the next company potluck? Pretty sure your local librarian can point you to a few dozen.

Yeah, all you have to do is go to Netflix or Amazon Prime and open up almost any movie — anything from the 1980s is particularly awful, but there’s contemporary stuff that does the same thing — to find Big Men bullying or demeaning women or minorities, solving problems by shooting people. And those are the heroes. Our role models are mostly cocky, gleeful assholes.

You do find shows that feature women or black people in intelligent roles, but those are mocked. Worse, look at something like She-Ra where women play heroic characters, and then check YouTube, where you’ll find man-babies raging about how cartoon women have stolen roles from cartoon men. These are people who think their masculinity is enhanced by screaming about how portrayals of adolescent girls don’t have large enough breasts to suit their needs.

It can be humiliating to be a man, sure…because of that minority of loud, obnoxious cockwombles who use their privileged status to make the world worse for everyone else. The only way to affirm one’s superiority is to stomp on someone below you in the social hierarchy, I guess. I found this story insightful: it’s about how the system is set up to benefit the worst men. The system, in this case, being Facebook, which advertised a wholesome group about “Dads With Daughters” and wrecked the whole thing by bringing in swarms of asshole men.

Chatters says the ad, which features just a father and daughter, brought to his group a wave of single and divorced dads: “Unfortunately, a lot of, I guess I would say, jaded men coming from custody battles and situations where they’re not 100 percent in their children’s lives. They come to the group for support, but that’s a different type of energy. These men have been separated from their partners in a probably negative way, which means that men are coming to this group with a negative perspective of women.”

And even if the more extreme members are a minority in his group, they post a lot more. Given Facebook’s new “badge” system that rewards more active users, the smaller but louder faction rules, Chatters says.

“There is a lot of the research that focuses on masculinity, and how most men are in a place where you can reach them positively and help them understand certain aspects,” he explains. “But when there is a minority of men who are not, that minority of men basically control the larger group of men with their behaviors. And that is very much playing out in this group.”

We could talk about how a social media site like Facebook can be so dazzlingly incompetent at comprehending social behaviors — they’re about bringing in advertising dollars, not facilitating healthy conversations, and pathological train wrecks are always better for that — but this post is about bad men. I think that it’s important to note that a majority (maybe?) of men want to do what’s fair and right, and don’t feel threatened if someone who is not a white man is succeeding. Unfortunately, the system is set up to give control to the most disagreeable and overbearing jerks in a group, whether it’s a little forum on Facebook or the US Senate. That means this becomes the face of every white man on the planet.

I don’t want to be that guy. Most of us don’t want to be that guy. Sadly, the men who do want to be that guy are given the keys to drive us into the ground at birth.

Women for Trump!

In case you missed it, our president* blessed a group called “Women for Trump,” in order to counter his reputation as a pussy-grabbin’ amoral wannabe-rapist who crashes beauty pageants to see naked teenagers in their dressing rooms. Jessica Valenti reports.

Let’s take a look at who’s leading that squad: The advisory board of Women for Trump is a who’s who of bigots and swindlers — with a few former beauty queens, Apprentice contestants, and a Pussycat Doll thrown in for good measure.

Among the board members is Cissie Graham Lynch, the Christian podcaster who argues that homosexuality is Satan’s way of “destroying a generation”; Peggy Nance, CEO of the radical anti-feminist organization Concerned Women for America, who opposed the Violence Against Women Act because it might offer protections for gay people, and expressed fears that gay Boy Scout leaders “put our young sons at risk”; New Hampshire state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, who said that married couples who can’t afford birth control should just practice abstinence; and Meshawn Maddock, who claims society “emasculates men.”

And what would a Trump advisory board be without a few fraudsters on the roster? Gina Loudon was caught lying about having a PhD in psychology. Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh of Pennsylvania was taken to court by the county controller for paying her lieutenant boyfriend over $67,000 in unearned overtime, and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi neglected to pursue fraud complaints against Trump University after receiving a $25,000 contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. And let’s not even get into Becki Falwell, her husband, and the pool boy.

It’s true, they are women. No one ever said women can’t be assholes, though.

All those scientists who defended Epstein? Go jump in a lake.

Yeah, you, Trivers and Krauss. I can’t believe you thought Epstein was a credible patron.

Now we find out he owns a $12 million ranch in New Mexico, and that he had grand plans for it.

The financier and suspected sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein told a number of scientists and confidantes he wanted to “seed the human race” with his DNA by impregnating women at his New Mexico ranch, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

He has been discussing the idea since the early 2000s at various dinners, conferences, and other gatherings, The Times reported, citing four sources familiar with his thinking. But there is no evidence he actually acted on the idea.

The idea was to impregnate 20 women at a time by inseminating them with his sperm, The New York Times reported, citing the author Jaron Lanier, who heard the account secondhand from a NASA scientist who told him about her conversation with Epstein.

We already knew he had a Creep Quotient that was pretty high, but now it’s just shot through the roof, and his estimation of the value of his DNA to the human species was repugnantly exaggerated. He must have heard that Alan Dershowitz was rivaling him for the title of King Creep, and this news had to come out to cement his position as the very worst.

I’d like to know if any of the scientists who took money from him were aware of his ludicrous plans, and if they did, why they didn’t back away from this person. Because he could offered me $10 million personally, told me about his freaky ideas, and I would have thrown the money back in his face and told him to never speak to me again.

Not at my university!

Yes at my university. Every college has this problem: a subset of students are privileged young men who have been fed a lie by the media, that college is a free-for-all where you get to lose your virginity and meet hot horny girls, and they act on that vision. Then they’re nestled in a domain where college administrators are struggling to keep enrollments up and keep politicians, who are mostly older men, content, and who don’t want the horrible nasty boy-children to make the front page, so they swaddle everything in a bureaucracy and do as little as possible.

They failed at the University of Minnesota, and not only did wretched serial rapist Daniel Drill-Mellum eventually get convicted, but his story got big attention from the news. After years of this jerk preying on women at fraternity parties (shut down all the fraternities, please), after being accused multiple times by multiple women and walking away, he finally got sent to prison for 6 years.

(Warning: Account of one of his rapes below the fold)

[Read more…]

Why I haven’t been able to watch The Handmaid’s Tale

I read the book. I think I watched one and a half episodes of the Hulu series before I couldn’t take it anymore — I knew that this wasn’t ever going to get to a happy place. Kammy has it perfectly pegged, though, that it’s feminist torture porn.

Yeah, I said it. Feminist torture porn. Basically we have two full seasons of the men getting away with every sort of physical, emotional and psychological torture imaginable, with June either blankly staring in resignation or with a barely concealed look of rage on her face. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Elisabeth Moss’s ability to convey emotion with just her eyes is amazing, but for fuck sake it shouldn’t take nearly two seasons for one of those asshole Gileads to get stabbed. I literally cheered when Emily stabbed Lydia and kicked her down those stairs. When Emily stomped that dead guy’s nuts after he raped her was another stand up and cheer moment. All I’m saying is that the writers have shown way to much of these shitheads getting away with it and not enough of the women fighting back.

I’m going to have to recommend some counterprogramming, a guilty pleasure: Afterwar, by Lilith Saintcrow. It’s a rough, brutal, post-apocalyptic war story, so not to everyone’s taste, but the twist is that it takes place in a future America, after an all-too-plausible take-over of a large chunk of the country by fundamentalist Christian fanatics who run concentration camps and death camps and enslave or kill anyone of a different ethnicity than white Anglo-Saxon. The premise is very Handmaid’s Tale-ish. This story starts up, though, with the wars to crush the evil neo-Nazis, and the aftermath as the bad guys are hunted down and their regime demolished. Everyone suffers, and it’s not a happy story either, but at least the right-wing fanatics suffer more.

It’s all about people fighting back, so it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy for those of us watching the current ascendancy of scumbags.

The Atheist Community of Austin has drifted out of sync with FtB

Tracie Harris, Jen Peeples & Clare Wuellner got on YouTube to discuss the right-ward slide of the Atheist Community of Austin, and their experiences with the transphobic takeover of that organization.

You may have noticed that FtB hosts The Atheist Experience, the blog for the call-in show of the ACA. Although I’m sure the blog isn’t a major contributor to their popularity — it’s primarily driven by YouTube traffic — it does get a good number of comments each week.

We’re currently discussing dropping the blog from our network in our backchannel, because it has drifted into incompatibility with our mission statement, which I’ll remind you is:

Freethoughtblogs is an open platform for freethought writers. We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism, and in addition, we recognize that the nonexistence of deities entails a greater commitment to human values, and in particular, an appreciation of human diversity and equality.

We are for feminism, against racism, for diversity, against inequity. Our network of blogs is designed to encourage independent thinking and individual autonomy — freethoughtblogs.com is a vehicle for giving vocal secularists a venue for discussion of their values and interests.

Transphobes do not belong here, since we stand for human diversity and equality, and the ACA has abandoned that principle. We’ve just begun the discussion with our bloggers, but we’d also welcome input from our readers, so leave comments here. Write fast because we’ll probably move fast!

Also, to Tracie, Jen, and Clare: it’s also been mentioned that you’d be fully compatible with our values, so if you were looking for a place to blog, let us know.