Lavender becomes us

Minnesota Atheists are highlighted in Lavender magazine. The reason? Gays and atheists often find themselves fighting on the same side in battles against the Religious Righteous, and Minnesota Atheists recently filed a friend of the court brief in a pending argument against the odious “Defense of Marriage Act”.

The amicus brief filed by Minnesota Atheists supports the couples in their effort to get rid of the law and argues the unconstitutionality of DOMA, noting the law’s theological basis.

The Minnesota State Constitution, with clauses guaranteeing freedom of conscious and freedom of religion, and the U.S. Constitution, which establishes freedom of religion in the First Amendment and equal protection for all in the Fourteenth Amendment, are violated by DOMA, according to the brief.

Berkshire said the religious roots of the law are grounded in “conservative Christian” views and leave those who have differing beliefs out in the cold.

“[DOMA is] a religious law that’s not just a difference of opinion,” Berkshire said. “It’s a religious law that’s harming people.” The amicus brief gives several sectarian arguments why same-sex marriage is considered unacceptable by some religious institutions, but says there is no secular reason to bar same-sex couples from opportunities given to heterosexual couples.

There those atheists go, making the world more tolerant and wiser one step at a time.

Stuff that annoyed me this morning

There’s nothing wrong about being pretty, or sexy, or shopping, or being interested in traditionally girly things—but there is a big problem when that’s the only option you’re given. I know I’d be stressed if I were constantly told I’m less of a man if I’m not playing football or working in a manly occupation that involved large wrenches and heavy industrial tools, so I can sympathize with the limited choices given women: oh, you aren’t wearing a bikini on your lithe body with the large breasts? Then you’re an ugly dyke. You aren’t planning a career as a homemaker and mother? You just want to be a man.

So let’s socialize the little girls early, and start them on video games with good role models: slender women obsessed with clothes and boyfriends.

Read the description. It’s appallingly shallow. It makes me want to run out and buy John Madden’s football video game, so I can learn what it takes to be a True Man.

That’s one side of the problem: pressure to conform to a ridiculously narrow set of values. Here’s the other: the absence of support and recognition when you try to pursue other better, greater interests.

There’s just something wrong with our society. Women, get out there and fix it, OK?

(Also on Sb)

Oh, you cruel gay kids!

David Barton and Sally Kern have a conversation.

Barton: With all of the protection we have for free speech, there’s still a number of areas where you’re not free to speak out on certain things. If you touch homosexuality, be prepared to pay a price, not just attacks, it’s gonna cost you economically, other things as well, may cost your life. This is, the way people respond to what you say about homosexuality if you criticize it and we got Sally Kern today, State Rep from Oklahoma who experienced that first time, what happens if you exercise your right of free speech and happen to say something disparaging about homosexuality.

I know there are a fair number of gay readers here, so ‘fess up: how many heterosexuals have you killed? I had no idea we had gangs of homosexuals casually beating and murdering the poor oppressed heteros.

Kern: I have to be honest with you Rick, when I was sitting there in my car that day and when she told me that those emails were coming from homosexuals, honestly, fear gripped my whole body, because I was very aware of the homosexual lobbyists and the power that they have. And people say, ‘oh you’re so brave, so heroic,’ but I’m not, I’m just a sinner saved by grace and I was gripped with fear that day. I just said, ‘Lord, what have I done?’

She did say one true thing: sitting in a car trembling in fear of the gays is not brave. Actually, it’s rather cowardly to use your fear of a class of people to push legislation that really does cause fear and anxiety.

Muslim women: screwed wherever they go

Muslim women in Muslim countries are at the mercy of the theocrats. Marzieh Vafamehr is an Iranian actress who made a movie describing the plight of modern men and women in a country with a medieval theocratic government — and as if Iran really honestly wanted to demonstrate that it actually was as bad or worse than the movie showed, they have now sentenced her to 90 lashes and a year in jail.

Jeez. Muslim women ought to flee to the West, then. Not so fast: it seems we aren’t so welcoming. Irum Abbassi was trying to take a plane from San Diego to San Jose when she was kicked off for looking Muslim.

Irum Abbassi alleges that on March 13, Southwest Airlines employees unlawfully removed her from a flight from San Diego to San Jose, where she was headed to finish research for her Master’s thesis. According to the complaint, Abbassi “was readily identifiable as Muslim by what she wore: a long shirt, pants, sweater and hijab, or Islamic headscarf.” She was detained at security for a second screening, but was allowed to board.

When boarding, Abbassi says she was on the phone with a Verizon representative in order to activate her smartphone. When the plane was getting ready to depart, Abbassi alleges she told the representative “I’ve got to go.”

Soon after, there was an announcement that an “administrative delay” would hold up the flight, at which point a TSA agent came on board and asked Abbassi to get off. From the complaint:

Once at the jetway the TSA agent explained to [Abbassi] that the flight attendant believed that she had been acting suspiciously. Although the flight attendant admittedly could not adequately hear [Abbassi], she reported that [Abbassi] might have uttered ‘It’s a go’ into her cell phone.

Shortly after, the complaint alleges, the TSA agent determined that Abbassi was not a security risk, and said she could re-board the plane. But at the gate she was told that the captain would not let her board because the crew was “uncomfortable” with her on the plane.

It always seems to be Southwest Airlines, doesn’t it? What’s the matter with that company?

At least she wasn’t whipped for her temerity. I think we should aim a little higher than being able to say “Come to America, Muslima! We usually won’t lash you with a whip!”

Calling all radical homosexuals: take this survey!

An organization called American Family Patriarchy Values wants to demonstrate that the world is actually just as bigoted as they are, so they’ve put up an internet survey to get “data” bolstering their views. I think we should help them out.

Radical homosexuals claim YOU support same-sex marriage, special job rights and promotion of homosexuality in schools. Please fill out the survey below and let your voice be heard.

1. Should businesses, schools, churches and daycares be required by law to hire and advance homosexuals or face prosecution and multimillion-dollar lawsuits?

2. Do you support the use of taxpayer dollars for AIDS-awareness programs and homosexual research grants?

3. Should homosexuality be promoted in school as a healthy lifestyle choice rather than leaving education on such matters up to the child’s parents?

4. Do you support same-sex “marriage” or marriage-like benefits for homosexual couples, such as adoption?

5. Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn traditional marriage between one man and one woman?

I notice they do a little skewing of the questions, but ignore that; the first one in particular is dishonest, since no one is advocating requiring that homosexuals be hired, only that they not be discriminated against. But yeah, the rest are cool.

Unfortunately, they don’t publish any of the stats — you’re basically signing a petition that they want to flaunt at congress and claim that Americans really do hate gays, so let’s make more laws to discriminate against minorities. They’re unclear on the concept of democracy in multiple ways, I’m afraid.

I think they’re going to have to throw out their poll or lie about the data after we’re through with them.

(via JT)

Someday, maybe social media will apply their rules consistently

Remember when Facebook started censoring the pages of breastfeeding women? They were removing photos that showed…nipple. It was a violation of the TOS! If they didn’t hold the line on nudity, they were on a slippery slope to open pornography. Think of the children! And most importantly, they were enforcing a consistent policy that simply banned all nudity without judgment about its purpose or context.

The situation has a apparently changed in 2011. Now there are crass Facebook pages filled with crude jokes about rape, and that’s all right despite the fact that they do plainly violate the TOS, that states “You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” Is rape not hateful? Is it not threatening? Is it not violent?

Have no fear, Facebook has a rationalization. Rape is a joke.

Facebook’s initial response to the public outcry was to suggest that promoting violence against women was equivalent to telling a rude joke down the pub: “It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining” went the bizarre rape apologia. “Just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.”

Does breastfeeding a baby get you thrown out of a pub? Shouldn’t joking about rape be more likely to get you thrown out? (I know,it isn’t).

Personally, I don’t think Facebook should censor the rape pages: they’re awful and shameful, but it’s good to see that the hateful morons are out there so you can guard against them. I’d rather that social media were open and that they allowed all — they simply shouldn’t be in the business of monitoring user-created content.

But Facebook has gone the other way. They are regulating what people are allowed to say, and they are creating a culture in which a bare breast is obscene and disgusting, while violent sexual assault is considered amusing. It isn’t that they allow rape jokes, it’s that they’ve exposed themselves as two-faced and untrustworthy, and are actively promoting an environment in which men have carte blanche and women are targets, and had better like it.

(Also on Sb)

Some students should not go into a health profession

I’m afraid Ben Cochran is one of them. He’s a nursing student who wrote a column in a newspaper because he was upset at the time it took for the emergency medical services at his local clinic to help him with his sneezy, phlegmy cold (which, I would have told him, is going to put a low priority on something they can’t really treat anyway). He places the blame: the clinic offers women’s reproductive services, and they were busy helping a “gaggle of preemie sluts [] get a free pass on harlotry” and treating their “cunt problems”.

But he really doesn’t have a problem with these women, he says. He just wants to end women’s medical services and the distribution of condoms on campus.

I don’t take issue with sex mongers. They serve their place. Hell, according to the bible, it’s the oldest known profession on earth. So you sultry sex fiends are clearly established, but this is a place of higher being. Please take your gaping holes elsewhere for medical services, and leave the real health issues to those that actually belong on a college campus

Yeah, he’s going to make a greeeeeat nurse. He’s already an expert on triage: men with runny noses must be treated before sluts with gynecological issues.

He’s going to have a tough time doing the work, though, with all the holes Ema ripped into him.

(Also on Sb)

Atheism has a sexism problem

It’s rather like a case of acne; we’ve got it, people are pointing it out, and we’re trying out denial as a solution. It doesn’t work. I think Victoria Bekiempis is quite right in pointing out that New Atheism is a boys’ club.

But other female atheists are blunt in their assessment of why the face of atheism doesn’t necessarily reflect the gender makeup of its adherents. Annie Laurie Gaylor, who founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, in 1978, sums it up succinctly: “One word – sexism.” Gaylor’s husband, Dan Barker, who helms the organisation along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organisation’s leader and her numerous books on atheism. Doubt author Hecht, too, identifies basic chauvinism in the persistent lower profile of female atheists, stating that in her own experience, the work of female atheists tends to be individualised, rather than contextualised as part of a watershed scholarly movement. “Nobody talked about [Doubt] as a ‘phenomenon’,” she notes. “They just talked about the book.” Finally, when well-known atheists also happen to be just as well known for their misogynist statements – like Hitchens, as well as fellow skeptic Stephen Fry, who once theorised that women “don’t really like sex” – it just adds to atheism’s existing public-relations problem.

Representation matters, and when various media reports combined to create the “New Atheist” meme without mentioning the contributions of the women involved in the movement, the result was that the meme itself became masculinised. And because contemporary atheism has become so synonymous with this initially identified group, women atheists may well continue to be overlooked by the mainstream (or will, as some female skeptics have, reject inclusion on principle). It’s a state of affairs very much in line with the history of women in other fields in which battling continued institutional neglect – as opposed to intrinsic hostility – is an ongoing theme.

I know what happens next. Hackles rise, men get all defensive, and get huffy and angry while simultaneously denying that they have a pimple and how rude of those nasty feminists (said with a sneer) to point it out. But the facts are all there. Women have been activists and leaders in this movement for a long, long time — I blame Susan Jacoby and her book Freethinkers as the catalyst that first really inspired me — and yet, somehow, they always get forgotten when it’s time to give credit or build a list of invited speakers for a conference or when the media, largely ignorant of atheism, tries to name a few atheists. I’ve seen it happen over and over. It’s a very real phenomenon that Bekiempis is describing, and what’s also real is how some people will get very angry if anyone mentions it.

I think that last line is mostly correct, though. It’s not an intrinsic hostility to women (although we’ve encountered a few people who are nasty haters — but they are a fringe minority and definitely not part of the leadership), but a pattern of blindness. The good news is that this is a problem we can easily correct: we have no shortage of talented women in atheism right now, most of the atheists I’ve talked to readily acknowledge atheist women’s existence with a little nudging, and every conference organizer is receptive to the idea of greater inclusion.

It isn’t just atheism, either. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in my classes: I often put optional, extra-credit questions on my exams, and one I used many times is the simple, “Name a female scientist”…and students are often stumped by it. The most common answer I get is “Marie Curie”; the second most common is no answer at all. And this is in a department where half the faculty are women! There are other famous female scientists besides Marie Curie, and they ought to be at least aware of the local talent.

The solution is relatively easy: more of that consciousness raising. The women are here, the guys just have to notice…and that doesn’t mean noticing that there are breasts around, but that there are good minds without Y chromosomes, and that we can be equals without diminishing the male contribution.

Our one obstacle? The small number of indignant people who will be in denial, and take recognition of a common problem as an insult. Get over it. Appreciating women as partners actually doesn’t hurt, and the only insult here is the bizarrely obtuse attitude of some men and women.