“The cost of unity”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"The cost of unity is the silence of people being screwed over."

“The cost of unity is the silence of people being screwed over.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 45: “Policing Our Own”)

(Image description: above text, juxtaposed next to close-up image of black woman’s closed mouth)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“The cost of unity”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen
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Femme, Adjective or Noun?

greta-selfie-at-atheist-film-festival-party
I’ve always been a bit confused by the word “femme.”

This might surprise people who know me. I’m a dyke who wears dresses and skirts 98% of the time, who almost never leaves the house without makeup, who has her shoe collection in a display case and her boot collection hanging from racks on her walls. But “femme” as an identity has always puzzled me. I don’t object to it, I totally support people who use it — it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’ve often said that I’m “femmey, but not a femme.” For me, femme is a description, not an identity; an adjective, not a noun. And part of the reason is that I don’t really grasp, intellectually or instinctively, what that identity means. People who identify as femmes have a strong, clear sense of what this means to them, and how it shapes not only what they wear but how they think of themselves. I don’t have that.

But even people who do identify as femme, as a deeply personal identity-noun, sometimes struggle to define the term. Years ago I attended a femme conference: one of the panels was asked, “What does femme mean?” — and almost all the panelists fumbled and stumbled. That’s not to slam them: it’s a hard concept to define. But the clearest definition, the one that’s stuck with me over the years, was given by Susan Stryker:

Femme is adopting the trappings of femininity in a way that subverts them.

That stuck with me. And I think it explains why I’m happy to take on “femme” as an adjective but not a noun; as a description but not an identity.

*****

Thus begins Femme, Adjective or Noun? It’s my first contribution to Femme Feminism, the new magazine dedicated to joyous expression of femininity within the context and exploration of feminist values. To read more, read the rest of the piece. And check out the rest of the magazine! Other articles so far include On Respectability, Afrocentrism & Accepting Fashion as Self-Care, not Self-Indulgence by Tajh Sutton, Redefining Fem(me)ininity by Lauren Munro, and Femme: a Case Study by Rebecca Aylesworth. Have fun!

Femme, Adjective or Noun?

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

It’s entirely reasonable to criticize Hillary Clinton. She’s running for President of the United States, after all. 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 and her voice, microanalyzing her gestures and mannerisms, 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.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton. Enjoy!

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

Joani Blank, 1937 – 2016: A Sex Positive Pioneer is Gone

Joani Blank

You may not have heard of her, but the chances are excellent that she changed your life.

Joani Blank was, among many other things, the founder of Good Vibrations, the feminist sex toy store. You might be thinking, “Which feminist sex toy store? There are so many!” There are now. There weren’t in 1977. Good Vibrations was only the second one in the United States (the first was Eve’s Garden in New York). The roaring success of Good Vibrations made it clear that women cared about sex and wanted to improve their sex lives — and that sex shops didn’t have to be sleazy, shameful holes in the wall with shoddy goods. If you’ve ever bought sex toys, sex information, erotica, lube, or other goodies in a pleasant, shame-free environment (brick-and-mortar or online), one that welcomed men but focused on women, your life was changed by Joani Blank. She died of pancreatic cancer on August 6, 2016.

Like tens of thousands of women, I bought my first vibrator at Good Vibrations. I screwed up my courage and walked into the store, excited but nervous and embarrassed — and found a clean, well-lighted place where sexual products were sold openly and without shame, with clear information about which product did what, and a well-informed staff that would help you make your decision as if sex was healthy and entirely ordinary. The store Joani founded did more than just sell sex products. It changed the way people see sex. She shaped tens of thousands of lives. Probably hundreds of thousands. Continue reading “Joani Blank, 1937 – 2016: A Sex Positive Pioneer is Gone”

Joani Blank, 1937 – 2016: A Sex Positive Pioneer is Gone

Why Is It So Hard To Read For Comprehension About Consent?

Facepalm-Meme-Picard

Me, in piece about consent on AlterNet: “If you know someone well and have kissed them a lot, you can probably read their body language pretty well…” “They’d been dating for a while at that point, and she’d made her interest in him clear, so it’s not unreasonable to think he was able to read her body language.”

Commenters: “What’s wrong with reading body language?” “Making verbal communication the only acceptable or exclusive way of consent is BS.” “+1 for notorized consent forms.” “My wife says it spoils the mood if I ask for things.”

Why, oh why, do I read the comments?

Why Is It So Hard To Read For Comprehension About Consent?

5 Amazing Scenes Where Pop Culture Got Consent Right

brad-pitt-shirtless-in-cowboy-hat-holding-hair-dryer-thelma-louise

Pop culture often promotes some lousy ideas about consent. Persistence and not taking no for an answer are portrayed as romantic; rape and sexual assault are excused because the victim “wanted it“; lying and manipulating people into bed, and having sex with people too drunk to consent, are offered as light, prime-time humor; rape victims stay friends and lovers with their rapists, with rape being trivialized and even denied.

But pop culture does have its moments. Whether it’s because the creators were thinking consciously about consent or simply had good values, here are five times pop culture got consent right. (Spoilers for Steven Universe, Thelma and Louise, Frozen, The Philadelphia Story, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 5 Amazing Scenes Where Pop Culture Got Consent Right. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy! (Please note: AlterNet changed the title, and the title they gave it is somewhat misleading: not all the scenes are sex scenes, and not all of them are exactly right.)

5 Amazing Scenes Where Pop Culture Got Consent Right

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights

Hillary Clinton

I’d been working on a piece about reasons to vote for Clinton, but it was becoming huge and unmanageable. So I’m breaking it down into bite-sized morsels.

Here’s a reason to vote for Clinton: reproductive rights. Clinton isn’t just more pro-choice than Trump. She’s more pro-choice than any major-party Presidential nominee in decades. She’s pushing to stop Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood. She’s said she wants Planned Parenthood to get more funding. She understands the role that income and poverty play in this issue, saying that “low-income women deserve health care” and “a right without the opportunity to exercise it isn’t a right.” Very importantly, she’s pushing for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions — something she did without being prompted, and something no other major-party Presidential nominee has done since the amendment was enacted.

And she hasn’t been shy about any of this. Her record on reproductive rights has been well-established for years, it’s full-throated, and it’s front and center in her campaign. Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards even spoke at the Democratic National Convention. (Here’s a run-down of Clinton’s positions and record on reproductive rights.) Continue reading “A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights

Hillary Clinton Nominated

Hillary Clinton

This has been a difficult primary, with inspiring things and shitty things on both sides. But I’m going to take a moment and be weepy and proud at the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated as a major party Presidential candidate.

(Hillary haters: please, don’t post it here. There’s plenty of other places, and there will be lots of other times. Thanks.)

Hillary Clinton Nominated

10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind

“Well, sure, he raped her. But it’s not a big deal. Rape, shmape. All friendships and relationships have their ups and downs. They can still be friends, or get married. Heck, maybe the rape could be the start of a beautiful love story.”

Does this sound like an absurdist attempt at ghoulish humor? It’s not. This trope is all over pop culture, and has been for decades. In some stories, rapes happen while characters are friends, lovers, or married, and the relationship goes on as if little or nothing happened. In others, rapes are the beginning of a happy relationship.

Here are 10 characters in pop culture who voluntarily stayed friends, lovers, colleagues, or spouses with the people who raped or tried to rape them.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists. To read more, read the rest of the piece.

10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

“I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!”

dictionary photo

Content note: sexism, racism, other systems of oppression, gaslighting, passing use of racist and sexist language

Tl;dr: Rejecting the definitions of sexism and racism don’t make them disappear.

“I’m not being sexist or racist! My friend isn’t being sexist or racist! That person I admire isn’t being sexist or racist! Sexism and racism means being consciously, deliberately bigoted. It means consciously believing that women or people of color are inferior. I don’t care how the words are defined by the thousands of researchers who have been studying this for decades — I looked the words up in a dictionary, and that makes me an expert. So stop saying we did something sexist or racist unintentionally, that our stubborn refusal to listen to women and people of color is sexist or racist, or that there are systems of oppression we’re perpetuating and participating in. You’re only sexist or racist if you openly say you are!”

When we talk about sexism, racism, and other isms, we hear this stuff a lot. It’s been coming up a lot in the shitty defenses of TJ Kirk, a.k.a. the self-styled “Amazing Atheist” (see Martin Hughes’ extraordinary takedowns for context). There are lots of arguments against it: I could rattle off a bunch in my sleep. But there are times when I want to throw up my hands and say, “Fine.

“Let’s concede the terminology. For the sake of argument, let’s say the words ‘sexism,’ ‘racism,’ ‘classism,’ ‘ableism,’ etc., only mean conscious bigotry and oppression. And let’s give another name to that other stuff. Let’s give another name to unconscious bias, to systems of oppression, to the stubborn refusal to acknowledge them. Let’s give another name to people who deny that they’re sexist and call women cunts; to people who deny that they’re racists and call African-Americans lazy thugs. Let’s call it (goes to random nonsense word generator, hits ‘refresh’ until she finds a word she likes) grimprom. Strenaviction. Yurity, Ooo, ‘yurity.’ I like that.

“Can we now have a conversation about yurity? Continue reading ““I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!””

“I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!”