Compassion and Abstraction

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Abstraction gets a bad rep. It’s often seen as cold, calculating, divorced from emotion. But I’ve found the exact opposite. Abstraction is crucial to my ability to have compassion. Abstraction helps me step back from my own experience, and look at it in a bigger picture — a picture that includes other people.

Here’s an example. We’ve all seen progressives who are very skilled at critiquing oppression that affects them — and utterly clueless about ways they oppress others. We’ve all seen, for instance, white feminists go after men who derail conversations about sexism, focus the conversations on themselves and their hurt feelings, chide women for being uncivil and harsh, demand to be educated on demand about Feminism 101, argue arrogantly instead of listening, accuse feminists of being divisive, and pull out the “not all men” card. Then, in conversations with black women about racism in the feminist movement, those same white feminists will turn around and do the exact same things: derail, make it about them, argue instead of listening, say black feminists are being divisive, etc.

Abstraction helps me not do that. Continue reading “Compassion and Abstraction”

Compassion and Abstraction
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Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

quiet hand over mouth

Please support the crowdfunder, Defense Against Carrier SLAPP Suit!

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. Continue reading “Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit”

Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

the word no

I do not consent to this.

It’s January 20, 2017. It’s inauguration day. And I do not accept it.

That’s an odd phrase: “I do not accept this.” It can mean denial, refusal to acknowledge reality. Or it can mean resistance. I’ve been doing a bit of both: I’ve been sinking into work and organizing, and I’ve been sinking into escapist distractions. I’ll probably keep doing both. I can’t work all the time, I’ll exhaust myself. And I can’t let myself think too much, or for too long, about the world we’re in now. Especially not when I’m alone. I need my escapes into other worlds: worlds where people mostly treat each other decently, worlds where wrongs are righted.

I think I’ve read too much science fiction. There’s a part of me that keeps looking for the key to the alternate reality. One of the most painful things about this election is how close it was. Just a few thousand votes in a handful of states, and it would have been different. The other reality seems so close to this one, and it seems radically wrong that we can’t reach it, that it doesn’t actually exist. It seems wrong that the other world could have been so close to our grasp, and yet be so radically different. The flawed country making itself gradually better, moving three steps forward and two steps back, building on the legacy and momentum of the last eight years… and the worst sides of this country, the dehumanizing racism, the leering disgust of women, the repugnance toward the body, the poisonous fear of the new, the contempt for knowledge, the naked greed, the selfishness masquerading as individuality, the hatred of the stranger masquerading as love of the country, all made flesh at once. So close.

And because the other world is so close — was so close — it makes certain kinds of pain hard to heal, and hard to bear. I know I need to move forward, not dwell, learn lessons and move on. But it’s hard to not feel rage, at people I once saw as part of my extended chosen family, people who should have known better but helped make this happen. And it’s hard to not feel guilt; to feel like I should have done more, better, sooner.

I feel somewhat bad, writing this today. I feel like I should be inspiring righteous anger, issuing clarion calls to action. I know I’ll do that, some of it anyway, in the months and years to come. I know that resistance is not futile. And I will resist. I have already begun to resist, and I’ll continue. But today, I’m deep in grief. I’m grieving the world we could have had. I’m grieving for the world we’re in now. And I am refusing my consent.

Do what you need to do today. Console each other; rage; retreat and regroup; distract yourself; spend all day poking the wound and taking its measure; cry; protest. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is a form of resistance.

Other work in a similar vein:
Depression in a Fascist Regime
The World We’re In Now (my talk at Skepticon 9)

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless perverts Social Club Feb 7 for website

There’s a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, February 7, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime.

Under the Trump regime and with a Republican-controlled Congress, sexual and gender rights will be under attack. Legal protections could be removed, not only for LGBT people, but for anyone in any sexual relationship outside opposite-sex marriage. And the recent rise in hate crimes targets sexual minorities as well as people of color, Muslims, Jewish people, and others. What threats do we have to be concerned about? How is the false panic over religious freedom being used in these attacks? And how can we take action to protect ourselves and each other, and to fight back?

The Social Club is free, and all orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and amazing milkshakes: please support the cafe if you can. If you can’t afford cafe prices, Wicked Grounds customers have bought you coffee or tea: just ask for your beverage to paid for “from the wall.”

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21

women's march bay area banner

March with Godless Perverts at the January 21 post-inauguration-day Women’s March!

On January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, there’s going to be a massive national Women’s March, opposing the rise of bigoted hatred in the United States. (Here’s more detail about their mission.) The main march is in Washington, DC, with sister marches all over the country, including the Bay Area. The march isn’t just for women: it’s open to anyone, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights.

In San Francisco, there will be a rally and candlelight march, starting at 4:00 pm at the Civic Center. The rally will be from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, with the march going down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza starting at 6:00. There will also be marches in Oakland and San Jose.

Godless Perverts will be marching in the San Francisco march. Please join us! Continue reading “Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21”

Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21

Blood Family, Chosen Family

greta-at-edwardian-ball
I have blood family — in-laws, actually — and my wife and I almost always spend holidays with them. I love my in-laws and I like them, and most of the time when we visit them, I dress how I usually dress. I put together outfits that are quirky, comfortable, and stylish in a relaxed and fun way: strong prints, jewel tones, boots unless it’s boiling hot.

But on big holiday dinners with them, I dress like I’m going to a work conference. Dressy, cheerful-but-tasteful, almost entirely non-sexual. I’m festive, don’t get me wrong: it’s just a very respectful version of festive.

I also have chosen family. I do holiday things with them every year, too. And when I dress for the holidays with my chosen family, I dress, not to put too fine a point on it, like a hussy.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for Femme Feminism, Blood Family, Chosen Family. I explore how, in the symbolic language of fashion, there are lots of different ways to say “family holiday celebration” — because there are different holidays, different families, different ways to celebrate, and different ways to feel about all of it. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Blood Family, Chosen Family

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF Dec. 6! Discussion topic: Participating in a Resistance Movement

godless-perverts-social-club-dec-6-for-website

Godless Perverts is having a Social Club in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St., on Tuesday, December 6! 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic: Participating in a Resistance Movement.

How can atheists and alt-sex people participate in a resistance movement? What do we uniquely have to offer? Some of us have limited time, resources, abilities — what can we do? In the coming months and years, more people will be needing more help — how can we step up our game and help them, without burning out? What can we do to resist white supremacy, misogyny, anti-queer hatred, anti-trans hatred, and other forms of systematic oppression? What can we learn from the history of other resistance movements? How can we take care of each other?

Note: This meetup is open to all nonbelievers, and all believers supportive of our mission, who want Godless Perverts to be part of a resistance movement in the new world. If that doesn’t describe you, please consider whether this particular meetup is the right one for you, and please don’t attend just to argue against this goal. Thanks.

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers.

So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in SF Dec. 6! Discussion topic: Participating in a Resistance Movement”

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF Dec. 6! Discussion topic: Participating in a Resistance Movement

An Open Letter to David Campos, and Anyone Else Who Thinks We Lost The Election Because Hillary Clinton Was Establishment, Moderate, or Uninspiring

Hillary Clinton

David Campos
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
San Francisco, CA

Dear Supervisor Campos:

I’ve now heard you say this twice. You said it at the Harvey Milk Memorial March and Vigil on November 27. And you said it at El Rio on Election Night, the night we were all reeling from shock and grief. You’ve said — I’m going to have to paraphrase here — that the reason we lost the Presidential election was that the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton, who was an uninspiring, establishment, Republican-light, business-as-usual candidate.

When you say this, it tells me a few things.

1: You have no idea what it’s like for women participating in political discourse. Millions of women were greatly inspired by Hillary Clinton — and when we spoke about it, we were harassed, trolled, dogpiled on, dumped on with a dumptruck of false accusations, dumped on again with the same accusations every time we said her name, targeted with sexist microaggressions, targeted with openly sexist aggressions and slurs, and harassed some more. Clinton supporters had to form secret groups on Facebook, simply to talk about the fact that we liked our candidate. Millions of women were inspired and enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton — and were silenced. So when you’re analyzing the reasons we lost this election, perhaps you should take that into account. Perhaps you should consider how many people were persuaded not to vote (or to vote third party) by people who insisted that Clinton wasn’t inspiring and the candidates weren’t really different. Perhaps you should consider how many people might have been persuaded to vote for her, and weren’t, because her supporters had to put a lid on their enthusiasm and couldn’t make their case. And when you say Clinton didn’t inspire enthusiasm, that tells me you don’t know how to listen to women. It tells me that because you were personally not inspired by her, because the people in your circle were not inspired by her, therefore nobody was. It tells me that I, a queer woman in your city, am invisible to you.

2: You don’t understand what it’s like for women running for public office. I’m very sorry that you found Hillary Clinton uninspiring. Perhaps you’re not aware of how tightly her emotional expression was policed. And that’s true for any woman in politics: Clinton just got it more because she was running for President. “Smile more! No, not that much. But a little more than that. Would it kill you to laugh? No, not like that, it comes across as derisive. Can’t you be more approachable and friendly? But not too much, when women are too friendly they don’t look like powerful leaders. So look like a powerful leader! But not that much, men find it intimidating. And smile a little more! Maybe just a centimeter.” Hillary Clinton’s emotional expression was critiqued more thoroughly, and more viciously, than anyone I’ve ever seen in public life. And then she was critiqued for being robotic, impersonal, and uninspiring. Of the many sexist critiques of Hillary Clinton, including critiques from the left, this is — well, one of them.

3. You aren’t familiar with Hillary Clinton’s record and platform — or you don’t care about it. When you call her “Republican light,” that tells me you didn’t take ten minutes to look at her campaign website. You didn’t look at her record and planned policy on reproductive rights, global warming, taxing the rich, repealing Citizens United, raising minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on corporations, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, education, LGBTQ rights, women’s issues, children’s issues. When you call her “business as usual,” that tells me you have no idea about her extraordinary skills, legendary even among her opponents in DC: her wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of government and policy, her willingness to listen and change her mind, her ability to get things done. Either you don’t know about any of this — which would surprise me, since you’re an elected official in a major U.S. city — or you don’t care about it, and don’t think these skills are important enough to be considered exceptional.

4. You don’t seem to understand that Hillary Clinton won the election. You don’t seem to understand that she won the popular vote, by a considerable amount. You don’t seem to understand that she lost the electoral college, in large part, because of voter suppression; that this was the first Presidential election since the loss of the Voting Rights Act, and it showed up in the results. This surprises me: I know that you must know about voter disenfranchisement, probably even more than I do. But when you insist that Hillary Clinton lost because she wasn’t exciting or progressive enough, that tells me you’d rather grind your personal political axe than focus on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in swing states wanted to vote for her, and couldn’t.

5. You have no idea about appropriate timing. At El Rio on Election Night, many of us were in deep emotional shock and despair. We were in fear over the world we were facing under Trump — and we were grieving the world we were losing, the world we’d hoped to work for with Hillary Clinton. And you chose that time to tell us that the candidate many of us had fought for, worked for, lost friends and family for, wasn’t someone anyone really cared about, wasn’t worth caring about. You chose that time to grind your political axe. You chose that time to blame the victims — the victims who had busted our asses to keep ourselves, and other people, from being victimized.

I’m told by some of my friends that you’re generally a pretty progressive guy, that you’re mostly a pretty good ally on San Francisco progressive politics. But I can tell you that every time you open your mouth on this subject, it makes me unwilling to support you, or have anything to do with you.

Sincerely,
Greta Christina
San Francisco

An Open Letter to David Campos, and Anyone Else Who Thinks We Lost The Election Because Hillary Clinton Was Establishment, Moderate, or Uninspiring

Art and Craft

greta-ashley-ingrid-at-skepticon
When men do it, it’s art. When women do it, it’s craft.

People have long debated the difference between art and craft, and have struggled to define the terms. Craft is defined as technical ability; art as creative ability. Craft is defined as producing useful objects; art is created for its own sake. The process of creating art is seen as open-ended; craft has a specific goal in mind from the beginning. Art is seen as expressing emotions or ideas; craft isn’t. There are dozens more definitions and distinctions, each hotly disputed by artists, craftspeople, critics, and audiences.

But another factor is at play in this distinction. When lots of men do a creative endeavor, it’s seen as art. When lots of women do it, it’s more likely to be seen as craft.

This plays out in lots of arenas. The craft of everyday cooking, for instance, is seen as women’s work, while high-paid, high-prestige culinary artistry is seen as a man’s world, with male chefs “elevating” the plebian. But one of the places we see it most vividly is in fashion and style.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for Femme Feminism magazine, Art and Craft. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Art and Craft

7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think

Hillary Clinton

(Comment policy: In addition to my regular comment policy, I’m going to ask people to keep comments narrowly focused on the issues raised in this piece. This is not a platform to discuss everything else you do or don’t like about Clinton or Trump. This piece was originally published on AlterNet.)

It’s entirely reasonable to criticize Hillary Clinton. She’s running for President of the United States, after all. It’s an important job, and she should be subject to careful scrutiny. If she’s elected, she’s going to be representing all U.S. citizens: we should tell her what we want from her, and speak out when she lets us down.

But a significant amount of anti-Clinton criticism is loaded with sexism. It’s not just the obvious examples, like critiquing her clothing (women’s appearance is policed far more heavily than men’s), critiquing her voice (ditto), microanalyzing her gestures and mannerisms (ditto), sexualizing her, or targeting her with sexist and misogynist slurs. Much of the sexism against Hillary Clinton flies under the radar. On the surface, it looks like legitimate political commentary: the sexism underlying it is largely unconscious. But when you understand some of the ways sexism commonly plays out, it’s glaringly obvious. Here are seven examples. Continue reading “7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think”

7 Sexist Critiques of Hillary Clinton — Not The Ones You Think