The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics

An earlier form of this post was originally published on Facebook a few days ago.

I was dealing with a “You’re why Clinton lost” guy the other night. I’ve dealt with them before. My usual go-tos have been “What exactly do you mean by lost, given the popular vote?” and pointing out that this isn’t supported by the data we have so far. Then he said the fatal words “I’m just trying to improve our strategy”, and that little portion of my brain lit up.

So let’s talk strategy. Let’s talk about ditching “identity politics”, strawman version and what people are really objecting to. Let’s talk about not allowing deflections from discussing racism, because of course, that’s what this guy was advocating against. (Disallowing deflection is rude, people.)

However, we’re not going to pretend this can happen in a vacuum. That’s bad strategy. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to look at the choices this forces on us. Because make no mistake, the people advocating for this are telling us to choose between them (or not them, exactly, but all those nameless, faceless people for whom they’re carrying water) and other people.

So, strawman identity politics. This is the Bernie Sanders et al version, in which representation is happening for its own sake regardless of positions on issues. Continue reading “The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics”

The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics
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On Shame and Elections

I had some things to say about shame while driving down to Skepticon. I did manage to save them until we switched drivers, at least, but then Twitter got an earful. Enough people shared the thread there that I’ll collect the whole thing here.

Continue reading “On Shame and Elections”

On Shame and Elections

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

On Saturday mornings, I put on a bright pink or yellow vest and go get between people who think abortion is the world’s big evil and people who want or need one. As someone in this position, I can’t help but think that much of the talk about wearing safety pins to tell people you’re a resource in the face of the freshly empowered right is reinventing the wheel. My vest isn’t a perfect analog of the safety pin or the situations its meant for, but it’s close enough to make it worth talking about.

When I put on my vest, I’m making a promise to the clinic I work with and to its patients and their companions. I’m promising to watch, to see and document what happens, to be aware of everyone’s rights in the situation and the resources we have (or don’t) for protecting those, and to intervene as needed and wanted in a way that puts the patient first. If I’m not prepared to do that, I don’t go put on a vest that day.

There is the possibility of violence any time I put on a vest. Continue reading “Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort”

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition

No, really. How do you take a character like Catwoman and make a movie about her this bad? (Usually sexism.) I don’t know yet. (I’m guessing sexism.) I haven’t seen the movie. (Still probably sexism.) But I’m about to, along with our crew of mockers. Feel free to join us.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition”

Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition

Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition

Honestly, Witchboard wasn’t a very good horror movie, but it wasn’t terrible either. It was, however, entirely a product of its time, from the moral panic over mass-produced “supernatural” toys to the hair. Oh, the hair. And the Eighties? Now, they were terrible. So I expect they’ll be most of what we’re mocking with this Halloween choice.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition”

Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition

Who Niki Massey Was

We lost her yesterday. We don’t know how. Her life and her health were complicated enough we might never have clear answers. It doesn’t matter. Answers won’t make her not dead. My friend, colleague, co-conspirator, and a host of other, more complicated relationships, Niki Massey, died early yesterday afternoon.

There are good reminiscences out there already. I don’t know how Olivia managed to write this amid the shock and the sorrow, but she did, and I love her for it. Alex wrote this, I think, because it needed to be written, and I love him for that as well. And yes, PZ, so vivid. There are others, but I’m having a hard time reading any by people I don’t know fairly well. Facebook is a wave of every emotion grief can possibly raise in no orderly, “staged” progression.

Yet I still feel like I need to say something here. I still want–need–to tell you about the bits of Niki that this much love and grief will try to file off. I need to keep her from being “sanitized” in the name of being worthy of it all. So this is who Niki Massey was. Continue reading “Who Niki Massey Was”

Who Niki Massey Was

Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society

I treasure fantasies of manners when I find them. Science fiction of manners is far more rare these days, but this story by Henry Lien certainly qualifies. It was nominated for this year’s Nebula Awards.

CHAPTER I
Mrs. Howland-Thorpe vs. Mrs. Fleming, Battle One
In Which Mrs. Howland-Thorpe Loses Her Seating
At Supper Four Seats from Mrs. Vanderbilt and Blames That Italienne Creature, Mrs. Fleming.
Mrs. Fleming Prevails.

     Good sense advises that it is not prudent to make war against the garden of a lady of breeding and society with words, moles and voles, or combustibles, for she shall grow cross and vengeful.

Mrs. Honoria Orrington Howland-Thorpe came of family of no particular distinction. The Orringtons had once begun to build some beginning towards a fortune in whaling but that was gone now and long ago, after the carcass of one specimen was left too long unbutchered on the dock and the foetid gases growing in its belly as it decayed caused it to explode all over the street, resulting in a series of lawsuits that were small in value but legion in number and unending in appearance, which eventually reduced the Orrington business and family name to nothing worth noting. They were now far from among the first families in Boston. They saw in Honoria, possessed of an unearthly beauty and famed for her complexion, the last great hope of their line and did all in their power to send her to Farmington for the finishing of her education, though it caused them to have to repair to a house in the Fens to pay for it. Honoria made good return on the investment and married Tiberius Howland-Thorpe, as much for his railway fortune as for his relations, and thought well of the placement, although looking at his features produced in her a state of mild but constant irritation that continued without cease for the next 50 years. Together, they managed to keep themselves on the invitation list to sup at Marble House with Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt and her husband each summer at Newport.

Mrs. Cecilia Contarini Fleming was a great beauty of foreign extraction. She was the last of a noble Italian family that could trace its lineage back to ancient Etruscan lines but whose prospects had grown more modest with each successive generation. She married Patrick Fleming, an industrialist of humble origins who made his fortune importing combustibles from the Orient and selling them to interests who employed them in the laying of railways and the hollowing of mines. Mrs. Fleming had been among the first women to study at Newnham College at Cambridge and had followed her education not with the customary Grand Tour Abroad, for, being an Italienne, she was from abroad, but with several years in Japan studying lacquerie, gardening, and poetry, and then a brief tour traveling with missionaries in Africa. She could dance, sew, sing, play the pianoforte, draw, paint, compose poetry, compose music, ride, fence, perform archery, and read and speak Greek, Latin, Italian, French, English, and Japonais. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society”

Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society

TBT: “Consent Is Hard”

A repost, because people never do stop bringing this up.

There’s some interesting conversation going on in the comments on my post, “An MRA Speaks on Rape.” It’s interesting not for how it starts–which is the typical fretting about potential edge cases in consent–but because of where it goes from there.

It started with the standard misdirection:

Wel I have some reservations against calling “having sex with an intoxicated person” rape. Does that mean that if both persons were intoxicated they raped each other?

Photo of a red cocktail in a rocks glass on a white bar napkin. A lime wedge and cranberry seeds float at the top.
“The Normandy at The Normandy” by Ben Zvan, used with permission

I pointed out that that wasn’t what was being discussed. It is, after all, a very different thing to say that one may be too intoxicated to effectively give or withhold consent (as federal definitions of rape do) and that no one who is intoxicated can consent to sex. Someone else wasn’t keen on me keeping the thread on topic, however:

Given the numbers of people who go home together after meeting at bars or clubs or parties or other places serving alcohol–given the number of people who go out to such places in order to meet someone–and the countless stages of intoxication, and of comparative intoxication, of visible intoxication, questions of who’s buying the drinks, what each person’s goals are–of all the conversations to cut short with simplistic and sometimes unkind responses, this is not one.

I think that there are questions in there to be fleshed out. Because that’s the kind of statement that sounds good and solid, and can block a further conversation if it’s not deconstructed. I’d have looked into it.

Declaring an area crystal clear does not in fact, get rid of that obnoxious blurriness.

A number of commenters made excellent points, and they’re all well worth reading, but I just want to say this up front: If you find the topic of consent to be difficult to sort out, you’re going at sex wrong. Continue reading “TBT: “Consent Is Hard””

TBT: “Consent Is Hard”

“Growing Up Humanist” on The Humanist Hour

This week, we’re hearing from several young Humanists about the difference Humanism makes in their lives.

Today’s American adolescent Humanists aren’t the first generation of young people to be raised in a nonreligious philosophy. They are the largest in modern times, however, and the demographic shift in the U.S. means the generations that follow will likely be even larger. That means it’s time for us to pay attention to the challenges and opportunities faced by teenaged Humanists.

At the American Humanist Association’s annual conference in Chicago this May, AHA convened a panel of familiar names. At least the last names of the panelists were familiar. This was a new set of humanists, however, the teenaged children of Humanist leaders and other longtime Humanists. They came together to discuss the challenges of being a religious minority among their peers, charting their own paths, and finding ways to live up to their humanitarian ideals. We’re sharing audio from that panel this week.

Due to time constraints, part of the Q&A session for this panel is not included in the podcast. You can watch the entire panel on AHA’s YouTube channel.

You can listen to the podcast here.

“Growing Up Humanist” on The Humanist Hour

5 Things That Don’t Make You Right on the Internet

I wrote this post for Patreon patrons ages ago, playing with formats. I could update at least one section, but then I’d look less like a prophet. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

It’s true that not everyone on the internet spends all their time arguing. It’s just that the people who do argue online spend so much time and so many words at it that it drowns out almost everything else. Cat pictures manage to rise above but only because cats have trained us not to argue with them.

Of course, we can’t just argue. Arguing as a genial pastime is apparently one of those social activities that require face-to-face interaction. Online, we have to win. We have to be right, and we have to make other people acknowledge that we’re right.

That, however, is not so easy on the internet, where anyone can cut and paste any old nonsense to keep an argument going until you start to think that camping on the Arctic tundra sounds like a nice vacation. Gish Gallops, links to irrelevant pay-walled articles, and long-discredited assertions of fact–all get in the way of declaring our victories even when we’ve managed to earn them.

So what do we do when good arguments don’t do the trick? We make stuff up. We pick out behaviors that sometimes go along with being terribly, horribly wrong, then we claim that anyone doing them has lost the argument.

That may work when all we really need is a reason to step away from the computer and get some sleep. It’s a terrible idea if we have any interest in getting to the bottom of a disagreement. Unfortunately, once we’ve come to some agreement on these made-up “rules”, many of us act as though we believe they determine the truth of an argument.

Here are five common arbitrary internet rules on winning that don’t actually make us right online. Continue reading “5 Things That Don’t Make You Right on the Internet”

5 Things That Don’t Make You Right on the Internet