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April 3rd, 2012

10:14 am: Kyriarchy is more complicated than who gets shot when
OK, so first thing in the Department of Obvious; can we agree that adopting one -ism in fighting another -ism is Not Cool? It seems to be fairly well acknowledged on feminism sites that feminism has had problems in the past with racism, homophobia, etc., etc. and that That Was Not Cool--even if those same sites have not magically stopped ever getting it wrong on those issues.

So can we also all agree that even if one group places higher in the Oppression Olympics than another group--and black men (on average) probably do place higher than white women (on average) IMO*--that doesn't suddenly make it okay for that group to bash another group? Can we agree that fighting against racism doesn't excuse misogyny, just as fighting against misogyny doesn't excuse racism?

So why does calling curvykellylane a "cunt" get no objections from the other people who disagree with curvykellylane? Not to mention someone later calling her a "cow", which is both a gendered and a sizist insult, probably prompted by the fact that she calls herself "curvy".

Based on the reblogging, like this person I also wondered what curvykellylane was talking about when she said that people didn't want white women to take a stand in the Trayvon Martin thing, since one of the "I am Trayvon Martin" pictures is a white woman. But I wondered if maybe there were earlier comments she was responding to, and there were. I don't think a white woman in a hoodie is seen as dangerous, but I don't think an infant of any color is seen as dangerous, and I don't think black women are generally seen as dangerous either (though they may be seen as potential shoplifters), and both an infant and a black woman were also pictured, but I do think that white men in hoodies may be seen as dangerous, though to a lesser degree than black men, especially by women--which still doesn't mean that they're likely to get shot by George Zimmerman types, since the repercussions are seen as greater.

Who gets shot isn't based solely on who's higher up the kyriarchy chain. Privilege (or disadvantage, or whatever you want to call it) is not that simple.

This:
Well, I’m saying that one group has it worse. I’m saying that Black men have it worse than white women. You want to put that to the test? Get one to point their finger at the other and scream an accusation, and then see which person dies.

is not a good argument.

If a white woman screams an accusation at a white man, which person is more likely to die? Probably neither. But the white man probably has a greater chance of dying, at least if there are bystanders involved. That doesn't mean that white men have less privilege than white women (although you'll hear differently from men's rights activists). If it's a white woman and a black man, it's still probably neither, but with a greater chance of the man dying.

On the other hand, I could say, "White women have it worse than black men. You want to put that to the test? Get both of them passing-out drunk and see which one gets raped." That would not prove that white women have it worse than black men.

I do think that curvykellylane's discussing POC as a monolith ("Yet the black and other minorities are here telling US we don’t belong with them") comes across as racist. I don't think it counts as a derail, though, since kelly didn't start it, it was started by the original people criticizing the photos.

And what is my opinion about the inclusion of a white woman in the photos? I understood it as a show of solidarity, not as an attempt to claim that white women are equally in danger of being shot by George Zimmerman types, so I don't see why she shouldn't be included in the photos.

*How MUCH higher depends of if you're controlling for class differences or not. If you are including the fact that black men tend to have less money/material resources, black men "win" the Oppression Olympics by a greater margin. If you are trying to ONLY look at the effect of racism, IMO they maybe eke out a "win" on the Oppression Olympics. (Just IMO; the only way to know for sure would be for someone to experience life as both a white woman and black man. Well, even then you wouldn't know for SURE, because you'd only have experienced life as one individual black man & white woman, not the average of all white men and white women.) All this is assuming that we're talking about the U.S. It would probably change depending on what region of the world you were talking about.

February 4th, 2012

09:42 am: Vigilance in dangerous situations is not helplessness.
OK, I kept reading the comments from this post as the percentage of stupid got higher and higher, and now I'm pissed off, but about halfway down the levels of stupid got too high and I finally stopped.

One of the commenters who was particularly stupid called himself John C. Welch:

As best I can tell, every comment here agreeing with Greg, and even Greg's post have what is to me, a very bizarre, and honestly disturbing theme:

*women are helpless*.


Welch went on to talk about some of the women he knew who had defended themselves either in hand-to-hand combat or with weapons and told the commenters:

Defending yourself is not some esoteric bullshit, it is something that every man, woman and child needs to understand and know. Not that bullshit women's self-defense with a series of carefully choreographed moves that will never be practiced and therefore leave one with a false sense of security, but rather something you think about and practice regularly.

If you feel you are too weak to defend yourself, there is an answer: Become stronger. Lift weights. Do the same things men do to become stronger. (NO, you will not instantly become some roided out freak if you get to where you can do 20 pushups without needing to be on your knees.)

It is nice and wonderful and good that there are men willing to go out of their way to help you out. But why, why, WHY are we assuming that is the only answer? Why are we, well, no, why are so many of YOU assuming women are so damned helpless?


1. Isn't one of the points of martial arts/self defense that it's better to avoid a bad situation than relying on combat skills to get you out of it?
2. You don't have to be "helpless" for avoiding attack to make sense. Even if you're a good enough fighter that you're BETTER at fighting than most of the men you run across, that's still only "most". (I don't think any woman can achieve this without, at minimum, making martial arts their primary hobby.) Only one person can be The Best Fighter In The World. And if you wait until a situation is unambiguously dangerous to do anything to avoid it--for example, wait until someone has grabbed you arm--you're already at a disadvantage.
3. Being vigilant of potentially dangerous situations, and either avoiding them or being alert and wary when you're in them, is exactly the opposite of being helpless. It's being proactive.

Also, anyone who reads the dog analogy in the linked post and thinks, "He's insulting men and calling them dogs!" is stupid.

February 2nd, 2012

07:21 pm: People Can Hear You When You Talk! Part 2: Black People and the Republican Primary
The long version is here. Via Ta-Nehisi Coates, who adds:
The key, of course, is to understand is that none of this is directed toward black people, so much as its meant to appeal to the Party's base. That there is still an audience for this sort of thing is, given our history, both predicable and sad.


Between this stuff and the immigration stuff, good luck getting minority voters, Republicans.

February 1st, 2012

03:47 pm: Emily Yoffe on Alcohol & Possible Rape
Why do I keep reading Emily Yoffe's "Dear Prudence" column?

There was a recent column that I thought was off the mark.

Jezebel has picked up this story, and there is a tumblr about it as well. I was actually expecting more of a shitstorm about this on feminist blogs.

Q. Friend Has Revised One-Night Stand Story: A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn't think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape—that the guy must have put something into her drink . She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn't have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges—she has the guy's business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn't remember anything the next day. I'm not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?

A: Trying to ruin someone else's life is a poor way to address one's alcohol and self-control problems. Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices. Yes, I agree that men should not have sex with drunk women they don't know. But I think cases like the one you are describing here—in the absence of any evidence she was drugged—where someone voluntarily goes home with a stranger in order to have a sexual encounter, makes it that much harder for women who are assaulted to bring charges. Talk to your friend. Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there's any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual. Say you understand her shame, but you're concerned about her drinking, and if she addresses that, she won't find herself in such painful situations.


There's not really much evidence here one way or the other about whether the woman was drugged. I remember reading something about how date rape drugs are overhyped and it's not uncommon for women to misinterpret the effects of alcohol as being drugged (presumably men would be less vulnerable to this because they aren't worried about being drugged); I don't remember how they determined this, though, so I'm not sure how strong the evidence for this is. On the other hand, the fact that the friend seems to be experienced with being very drunk seems like evidence that she'd be likely to know when there's something besides alcohol affecting her.

Neither the fact that she at first blamed herself for drinking too much nor the fact that the guy gave her his business card seem like strong evidence that it wasn't rape to me. These actions both seem irrational, but humans beings aren't very rational a lot of times, and one thing I've learned from reading people's personal accounts in comments and stuff to stories like this is that both of these attitudes are fairly common. Rape victims can have denial as an initial reaction, and rapists can also be in denial that they've actually done/are doing anything bad.

[Also learned from feminism-type stuff: rapists often target women who are drunk. This post on Feministe links to a study and discussion about this, where men are surveyed about this. You may wonder, "who admits to being a rapist?" The men admit to doing things that are rape, but don't believe/admit that those things are actually rape. Sort of like obviously-racist "I'm not a racist, but..." statements.]

I am not arguing that "clearly she was raped". It is very unclear whether or not she was raped, but Emily Yoffe writes as though it is clear that it was not rape. Taking the letter writers at their word is NOT necessarily Yoffe's usual response. Some of her responses, she basically psychoanalyzes the letter writer, and her ideas really come out of left field IMO. Why no skepticism this time?

The part that first set off my skepticism-alarm was this: "She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk [vs drugged], she couldn't have given consent so she was a victim of rape." This raised the possibility, to me, that she told a more detailed version to the crisis line than what the friend got--she may have been too drunk to say "yes" or "no", for example. And while you shouldn't always take the word of experts, I don't exactly consider the letter-writer a reliable narrator, and I would give more credibility to the person working on the rape-crisis line than the letter-writer. Also, "I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn't remember anything the next day," seems more like evidence that makes it more likely and not less likely that she was raped, since it sounds like she binge-drinks enough that it would be plausible that she'd be passed-out drunk. The fact that she DOES consider this evidence that her friend wasn't raped only makes her opinion seem less trustworthy to me.

The subtext of one of the responses she chose to publish (and Yoffe's response, to some extent) also bothered me:

"The woman should ask herself if she really was raped or she really just drank too much, and unless she's 100% sure that she was raped, she should learn a lesson from this, not make her fellow one-night-stander into a victim."

The "learn a lesson from this" just seems a little too close to "you deserve to be assaulted if you drink too much". I don't know, though, I guess if they really believe that it was consensual, they're saying "you deserve to have sex that you don't remember well and later regret". This still seems icky to me, though. ...And actually, they don't say, "if she wasn't raped", they say, "if she wasn't 100% sure she was raped." "If she's only 90% sure she was raped, she should learn a lesson from this." Yeah, definitely sounds icky.

Disclaimer: I have never been drunk, and have never been raped, so I'm not expert on either subject. You might think that this would make me more judgmental about people who drink too much, but I don't know, I guess sometimes when every drunk person is kind of annoying to you the distinctions between different drinkers don't seem as strong.

January 1st, 2012

09:06 am: "Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists"
I don't have any criticism of the body of Rebecca Watson's post. (It is written by an atheist frustrated with the community dynamics of the atheism subtopic on Reddit--in particular, a bunch of creepy sexual comments after a 15-year-old girl posts a picture of herself with a Carl Sagan book.) But man, that title.

-Could you put up a more obvious linkbait title?

-If you care about having a nice comments section that people actually want to read, maybe you shouldn't put up the type of headline that will piss people off, cause them to not read or not really "get the point" of the post, and just talk about the title--or people who are legitimately critical of the title will also just talk about the title--and so we have a big discussion about the title and not about the point of the post. For example, from the most recent comment at the time I'm writing:
"Instead of making you hate atheists, it would make more sense to hate the assholes and their upvoters which you cite in the article… and the non-moderator at reddit who allowed this crap to flourish."

People should post headlines/titles that reflect the actual article/post, instead of inflammatory titles chosen to try to generate traffic, but the fact that they don't is expected at this point. People should read the actual post, but the fact that some people won't is expected at this point.

-Ha ha, I hate a religious group! That's so clever! What a great title!


This kind of thing is pretty common (Slate, which I otherwise like, is a serial offender), so why did this one set me off? I think at least in part because of this part from a post by Kate Harding (also an atheist) linking to it:
"Similarly, if you’re an atheist whose first response to something like this is, “Don’t blame atheists! Most of us aren’t assholes!” you are awful, too. You’re right–most of us aren’t! And that has nothing to do with the fact that this is happening on an atheist forum–not to mention at atheist conferences–and yet, instead of wondering, “How might I help clean house in this community I care about, which I do not wish to see filled with assholes?” your first instinct is to explain to women why they’re wrong."

You know what, I'm sorry, but that's a completely predictable reaction when you call your article "Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists". I know that you like the actual post and stuff, Kate Harding, but that title is crap. It's inflammatory linkbait. And it is designed to provoke exactly that reaction, with the hope that people will read the actual post and get the point of it and by the time that they're done, forget about the inflammatory headline, which isn't exactly a reasonable expectation. And since you just said that you agree that most atheists aren't assholes (and so, probably, does Rebecca Watson), how is saying that most atheists aren't assholes "explaining to women why they're wrong"*? It is changing the subject, but in an entirely predictable way given the stupid inflammatory linkbait title. It's the reaction that I'm basically having, even though I am a woman who thinks that the problem you guys are trying to write about is a problem (or, moreso, a symptom of the problem of a toxic culture that goes beyond moderated-in-name-only Reddit threads).

*Except, I guess that if you feel the need to point that out, either you think that Rebecca Watson/Kate Harding are saying that most atheists are assholes, or you think that hating atheists because the ones on a Reddit subthread are assholes, even though you know most atheists overall aren't assholes, is the wrong conclusion to draw, or you think Rebecca Watson chose a terrible title and she was wrong to choose that title. Then you are "telling women that they're wrong", I guess. Is Kate Harding seriously suggesting that anytime feminists say something that seems offensive to some other group, pointing out the offensive part is just derailing? Feminists being racist/anti-gay/etc has happened. Kate Harding has talked about it being a problem. So what is going on? Is this some Oppression Olympics thing where you can only critique things if your group is oppressed enough? I don't think that's it. I think that she's decided that the title should be given a pass because the writer is an atheist... and then because she's given it a pass, she forgets about its very existence when writing her response.

December 19th, 2011

07:42 pm: A Game of Thrones and Stories We've Seen Too Often
I came across this list of "Stories We've Seen Too Often" from Strange Horizons (maybe I should try reading some of their stuff that's not in the submission guidelines section!), and when I came to this one, I immediately thought of A Game Of Thrones:

Brutal violence against women is depicted in loving detail, often in a story that's ostensibly about violence against women being bad.


(George R. R. Martin doesn't directly state that violence against women is bad, but my sense is that part of the point of all the rape is to say, "See how bad it was in the olden days?")

But wait, there's more! This too-often-seen-story comes with a subcategory, one that I didn't notice that A Game of Thrones belonged to until a blog post on Tiger Beatdown jogged my memory:

Man is forced by circumstances or magic to rape a woman even though he really doesn't want to, honest.


(Spoilers: In what is probably the most disturbing scene in the book, Tyrion participates in the gang-rape of his wife. She is a prostitute and therefore unsuitable in the eyes of his father, so his father arranges this to happen. I don't remember exactly what the threat was if Tyrion did not participate.)

Granted, the rapes and violence against women, although frequent, are not the whole plot, so the book as a whole does not technically fall under the "Stories We've Seen Too Often", just those parts of the book.

I don't want to read scenes like that every fucking chapter in something I read for fun. George R. R. Martin has some cool ideas (but the winter-is-coming zombies are stupid, IMO) and can write page-turning books. Hell, the violence (including but not limited to the sexual violence) probably contributes to that by making you worry about the characters and what will happen to them. I'm tempted to say it's a cheap, or at least an easy way of making a book a page-turner. But in any case, the interesting aspects of the book couldn't overcome my desire to not read scenes like that every fucking chapter, so A Game of Thrones will remain the only George R. R. Martin book I have read.

December 13th, 2011

08:01 pm: Hate speech laws mean the government decides what is hate speech
This is about as good an argument for why laws restricting speech are dumb as I've ever seen-although I don't think the author was trying to take a position on the wisdom of such laws:

Earlier this year, in a highly publicized trial, Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred through Hate Speech. Dutch courts stated that his speech is denigrating but not hateful. Prosecutors were asking for a sentence that contemplated the possibility of jail time. Wilders has used coarse and xenophobic language against immigrants and minorities in this country. His party is funded on the premise that those of us who hail from nations classified as Non Western have no place in this society. He actively promotes laws and initiatives to further alienate and isolate immigrants. And yet, his words were deemed non hateful and, as such, not deserving of a sentence or even one day in jail, protected by free speech laws. A young Black man protests racist stereotypes that actively hurt him, he protests a tradition that further promotes his isolation and his status as “Other” and he is brutally beaten and dragged through the ground, arrested. He is told he has no right to protest, no right to raise his voice. Obviously, the protections afforded by free speech are only available to those that the State deems to be free to begin with.


From a blog post on Tiger Beatdown about the "Black Pete" tradition.

Also--seriously, "Black Pete" defenders? Blackface isn't racist except in America? That's your argument? Is that like how gay people don't exist in Iran?

December 2nd, 2011

08:37 am: American left, stop acting like Fox News!
http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2011/11/26/an-open-letter-to-the-left/
I suppose if I had one of those new-fangled Twitter accounts I'd post this there. Below, a couple quotes:

Bradley Manning? He couldn’t have been arrested for stealing military secrets, then treated badly in jail, though not uniquely so. He had to be a political prisoner, one who Barack Obama had literally ordered to be tortured. The Assange rape case? It couldn’t be, you know, an actual case where women had been raped. It had to be a "honeytrap," a plot by the CIA to get Assange to the US, where he could be killed, or, alternately, a case of women who shouldn’t be allowed to cry "rape" over a little thing like someone not using a condom when he’d agreed to and then refusing to stop when he was told to stop. And now, the unbelievably stupid crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in New York and Oakland and Berkley? They couldn’t be the combination of mayoral stupidity and police that have been slowly militarized over the past three decades. No, this has to be a coordinated plot, run out of the Oval Office, to destroy Occupy Wall Street.

...

Enough.

Look, as we on the left are fond of hurling at the right, we’re entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. And too often lately, the left is going on with their own facts at the same time the right is going on with theirs. And this leads us to where we are now, where there is literally no common ground between the activists in both parties, because both sides are so certain that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.


April 28th, 2011

07:30 pm: On the value of logical arguments
This post is a pretty good analysis of the value of logic and emotion in debates, I think.
Emotion has more value in argumentation than Burt credits. I agree that it’s not good for constructive debate if Schroeder calls Woodstock an asshole rather than answering Woodstock’s arguments. But emotional expression can be persuasive, and sometimes rightly.

Remember what I said earlier; just because someone has the better logical argument doesn’t always mean that they’re right. Sometimes it just means that they’re the more skilled debater. If someone makes a very logical argument concluding that the highest good requires kicking all puppies to death, our emotional revulsion may protect us from accepting a bad argument merely because it’s well-constructed and hides its holes cleverly. Emotion can be used to test logic’s soundness.

Of course, emotion isn’t the end-all and be-all; sometimes emotion is wrong. Just as we use emotion to test logic’s soundness, logic should be used to test emotion’s soundness. The point is to maintain balance; a wholesale rejection of either logic or emotion is a mistake.


Also, this part, in comments, by the author is good, too:
I kind of believe that everyone is a bigot at some level, some of the time. So for me, saying “you’re a bigot” is often a sort of meaningless statement, because it’s too generalized and nebulous to be useful.
...

I also think we should acknowledge that “your argument is based on some bigoted premises” is different from “you’re a bigot” as a matter of argumentative fairness. If I just say, “Linus, you’re a bigot,” Linus really has no way to respond. I’m commenting on what’s in Linus’ heart and soul, and Linus has no means available to prove to me I’m wrong. In contrast, if I aim my criticism at Linus’ policy, then I’m forced to come up with specifics, and will therefore give Linus potential grounds to argue on.


March 25th, 2011

11:55 pm: Have children for the health benefits!
"Thank you for menstruating", starts out like this:

Okay, so as a guy, I’m probably the last person that should be writing this post. But here I am, so here it goes.

I keep seeing this commercial for hormonal birth control. I’m not even sure what the product is, because I only every notice the last little bit of the ad, when my what-the-hell-o-meter kicks in as the lady says “Did you know that there’s no medical reason to have a monthly period?”

Then she explains that if you don’t mind aggressively screwing with your hormone levels, you can trade in that silly and inconvenient monthly grind for a much more convenient four periods a year.

First of all: no medical reason? What is that supposed to mean, anyway?

Yeah, there’s no medical reason for a lot of stuff. Doesn’t mean there aren’t some damn good biological reasons for things.


That's pretty much all you need to know. The author, Josh West, knows that by offering a political-type opinion on what women should do with their reproductive organs, he is entering a situation where he has the massive potential to screw up and say something offensive. But he does it anyway. Even more importantly, he admits that he DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE PRODUCT IS, and his research seems to have consisted of watching part of a commercial. But he goes ahead and offers his opinion anyway. And then he makes a distinction between medical and biological that doesn't seem to make sense and he never really explains. But, here's a hint: the purpose of a period is to get rid of the uterine lining. There's not much there when you're on birth control pills, so getting rid of it really isn't necessary. Going off to a female audience on a subject on which you are ignorant is pretty much the definition of mansplaining, but his wife, Amy, has deleted every comment with the word "mansplain" in it. (Oddly enough, she did not delete every comment that called him or his post "misogynist", "asinine", "ignorant", etc. Maybe "mansplain" struck a nerve because it fits so well.)

Every action has a reaction and it freaks me out to think about the unintended consequences that come along with tinkering around with the biology that’s at the heart of fertility and womanhood.

I love the things that make women women. Please think twice before you start medicating those things away. Even the inconvenient ones.


Commenters make some good points about why it's offensive to say that menstruation is "at the heart of womanhood" and "what makes women women". Josh and his wife, Amy, backpedaled away and said that it was one of many things that contributed to womanhood and basically made it clear that their opinion was, well, they hadn't meant to offended anyone, so therefore it just wasn't fair for people to tell them that Josh's words were offensive. (I mean, the people whose feelings really matter are Josh and Amy, not some transgender or menopausal woman.) Commenters also made some good points about how offensive the implication was that most women don't "think twice", or that his feelings about their menstruation should matter to them ("loving the things that make women women" and thanking them for menstruating). Oh, but according to their later comments, they weren't saying that women didn't think about it, just that the medical establishment was keeping the information from them? (Maybe, "please don't trust your doctor to give you all this information" could have gotten the point across without implying that most women don't think for themselves and have a childlike trust in what commercials tell them?)


But the real mess isn't in the post itself, it's in the comments. A little collection highlighting the 'best' of Amy and Josh West's comments:Collapse )

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