Link, Plank, Plunk

[+1 internet for naming the composer this title is in reference to.]

Didya see that? I was posting regularly last week! Nearly-almost-daily! It was great!

It’s going to keep happening, I promise. However, I’ve just had two finals in two days and my brain has given up on almost anything but simple sentences and sleep. Of course, it’s not that easy–I’ve classes and more exams and papers and laundry and endless emails. I’ve promised myself that by midnight, my room is going to look like any parent’s gripe: boots at the door, backpack two steps later, and a trail of winter gear on the floor .

So, in lieu of my own organized thoughts, here’s some organized thoughts from other people.

It’s hard to realize your heroes are less than heroic. Andrew guests posts on Daylight Atheism.

Pervocracy has a sex menu. I have a case of the giggles.

There was a ridiculous piece on FOX about the “War on Men”.

As the author of three books on the American family and its intersection with pop culture, I’ve spent thirteen years examining social agendas as they pertain to sex, parenting, and gender roles. During this time, I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women. And in doing so, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who’ve told me, in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married. When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.

Women aren’t women anymore.

It only gets worse. The solution, dear women, is to stop ruining stuff with our careers, and to “surrender to our femininity”. I swear I am not making that up. Melissa McEwan of Shakesville responds with her usual inimitable style.

As someone who has authored zero books on the American family and its intersection with pop culture, but has definitely talked to some number of humans in my life, maybe dozens or possibly millions, I have also accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who don’t want to get married. And WOMEN who don’t want to get married! I call them—wait for it!—People Who Don’t Want to Get Married for a Variety of Reasons. Because I’m a fucking genius.

The treatment of rape victims at Northwestern. Original Daily Northwestern article here.

Jessica Valenti writes about the intersection of likeability and activism.

Yes, the more successful you are—or the stronger, the more opinionated—the less you will be generally liked. All of a sudden people will think you’re too “braggy,” too loud, too something. But the trade off is undoubtedly worth it. Power and authenticity are worth it.

And in a world where women are told to be anxious about everything—that we can’t “have it all” but will forever be searching for it—saying that ambition and success are actually pretty great can be a radical message.

Better blogging back later!

Link, Plank, Plunk

How To Respond Badly

Sharing problems is hard to do. Our society values being “drama-free” over dealing maturely when drama–as it inevitably does–happens. We’re supposed to fix it ourselves, or just ignore it. Because that’s what you do, right? (If I ever meet whomever made up the stupid rules of society, we are going to have Words.) As a result, we somehow manage to avoid talking about how to respond helpfully to someone with capital ‘B’ Bad News. We’re self-indulgent creatures, after all, and we’ll do all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid staring a situation in the face and recognizing that it’s just rotten. It’s less bad than you think it is! It’s fixable! You’re going to be fine!


Some things are terrible, and all you can do is sit with them and look at how horrible they are. People hurt and die and damage each other for no discernible reason.
It’s just true.
It just happens.
Want to make it hurt less? When someone tells you something rough in their life, don’t do any of these:

Explain how you totally don’t have that problem.

Please, take a few seconds to picture this conversation for me:

Jane: I just got hit by a car! Can you come to the ER so I can have someone there to listen and hold my hand and make sure everything goes okay?

Jeff: Oh, that sucks! I totally look both ways when I cross the street, and I had a near miss last week with this awful driver, but Sally pulled me out of the way. In fact, I’ve never been seriously injured. I never want to be in that much pain or dealing with doctors, and I’ve heard that getting bones set is just miserable!

This is unlikely to the point of hilarity, right?


A lot of human interaction is trying to relate to each other, and when you simply cannot understand why someone has to deal with That Awful Thing that makes no sense, it’s quite easy to shift gears from sympathy to “but that’s never happened to me!”.

I catch myself in it all the time. One second I’m agreeing how awful it is when professors play favorites, and then suddenly I’m talking about the way my sociology professor always learns everyone’s names. That is the conversational equivalent of ignoring the bleeding person in front of you while you make sure you haven’t broken a nail.

Make an only-slightly-related joke to diffuse tension!

Disclaimer: this could actually, maybe, possibly work for people with a radically different sense of humor and conversational skills than me. I just haven’t met anyone like that. Ever. So factor that into your strategic deployment of humorous non-sequitors. 

When I’ve geared myself up to disclose something, it’s an emotional experience. I often practice before, write down important things, talk it over with trusted friends, and then stress, stress, stress. Sometimes that last step is so overwhelming it inhibits me entirely. So when I say something that makes me feel like I’ve been tangled up in knots, it’s a big deal.  Trying to rearrange my face into a pleasant laugh is so far down on the list of appealing activities it’s spending time with the penguins of Antarctica.

Give me advice I didn’t ask for.

I have to pause here, dear readers and tell you about one very well meaning acquaintance, who, upon hearing me off-hand mention that I was recovering from anorexic tendencies, looked very distraught. They stopped in their tracks and said, with a deadly serious expression, “That’s really bad! You should really try to eat more!” 

Luckily, they caught me on a very good day, and I burst into hysterical laughter instead of uncontrolled sarcasm. Eating more! As a solution to starving myself? Could it be?!

We’d all like to think we’re offering The Best Advice You’ve Never Heard Before. It’s going to fix every problem and cure cancer. Nope! By the time you’ve nerved yourself up to share something that leaves you vulnerable, you’ve probably…you know…thought about fixing it some.

We live in an individualistic society, and being strong and independent is valued. (If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they didn’t want to seek help for a medical or psychological condition because they were going to figure it out/push through it….I’d have really saggy pants.) Commit some variation of this phrase to memory:

That sounds [synonym for bad]! I’m really sorry. Do you want to talk more about it, or be distracted, or are you looking for suggestions for dealing with it?

The subtext: I heard you, I care about you, and I care so much that I’m going to do exactly what you think would be most helpful. And if that advice is completely new or original and you just cannot stand to let it go unsaid, begin here:

I think I might have an idea that could help. Do you want advice?

And then, if they say no, please, please, for the love of cheesecake and chocolate, please keep it to yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about your friend who hurts and needs you to listen to them and their needs. Your need to say some words is trumped by their need to be heard.

How To Respond Badly

Do Something Good

Rob Lehr is an awesome guy. He’s the one and only person behind Hambone Productions–which does all the videography for Skepticon.

But here’s the thing about videos–they don’t work for the hearing impaired. Transcripts do. They’re also useful for people who want to quote excerpts, people who don’t have lots of spare time, people who use screen-readers, and on and on and on. Accessibility is important and the skepto-atheist community can do something.  Making these available to those who can’t do audio-only is the minimum standard of access.

So, here’s what’s happening. Transcripts–crowdsourced transcripts (with permission from Rob). Comment below with the one you want to take. And check the comments to make sure there aren’t duplicates! I’m doing Rebecca Watson’s, Miriam has JT’s, and I’ll keep updating this list with links as they go up, since not every video has been uploaded yet.

Rules of thumb I use:

  • Brackets for non-verbal activites [mumble] [audience laughs]
  • em-dashes to show interrupting (“and then she said–)
  • removing filler words (um, uhhh) unless they involve really big pauses or seem conversationally significant.
  • Bolding each speaker’s name.

The List:
Bolded talks have been taken, but check the comments too because I’m going to be away from my computer today.

Greta Christina
JT Eberhard
George Hrab

Phil Ferguson
Julia Galef
Panel Discussion – How should Rationalists approach Relationships and Marriage
Sean Carroll – The Higgs Boson and the Fundamental Nature of Reality
Jessica Ahlquist
Jennifer Oulette
Hemant Mehta – The Rise of Young Atheists
PZ Myers – Evolution, I Do The Kinky Stuff
Rebecca Watson
Keith Lowell Jensen

James Croft – God is Dead. So What?
Matt Dillahunty
Deborah Hyde – The Natural History of the European Werewolf
Richard Carrier
Darrel Ray – The Shame of it All, or Why Do We Act Like Christians
Amanda Knief – Caution: Atheists at Work. How to Avoid Employment Discrimination
Teresa MacBain – Shift Happens
Tony Pinn – Racial Diversity and/in Our Fight Against Theism

Do Something Good

Thanks Giving

The history of Thanksgiving is not exactly a cheerful story of sharing and bounty. However, I am full of thanks, and I do appreciate the importance of sharing the things we cherish.

I am grateful for my friends, the ones who will poke and prod a Tofurkey into our dinner tonight, who won’t mind if the recipe for sweet potato casserole I’m cobbling together turns into burnt-yams-with-vegan-marshmellow-topping.

I’m grateful to Mitch, the ex-boyfriend-turned-best-friend who asks hard questions and has an easy smile. And Mitch? I’ve cried on your shoulder so many times it defies reason. Thanks for that. I owe you a tree’s worth of tissues.

I value my “anarchofems”–the group of secular leaders who became family to me. Who would have thought that a harebrained scheme to roadtrip to and from Texas for me would have evolved into the safest space I’ve ever been in, the people I trust most, the first ones I find when it’s all going wrong? I love you more than I can say–the English language is so limited when it come to telling you how it feels to know that you will always make the hurt better. You save me every single day.

I am thankful to everyone who has decided through history that the mentally ill were worth caring for. I’m thankful to the ones who made wrong hypotheses (I’m looking at you, phrenologists) in the quest to improve knowledge. I have gratitude for those who shook their heads at the bad theories researched and experimented and improved our understanding.

I’m grateful to every therapist who decides to treat their clients as more than The Other, who listens and smiles and has tissues on the table and takes careful notes. Additionally and importantly, thank you to every single therapist and psychologist and classmate who has ever come out about their own illness and made it just one iota easier for me to think I could do this. Here’s to you, Marsha Linehan.

I’m happy, lucky, and thankful for my partner, who makes me mix-tapes, who makes me feel overwhelmingly short and infinitely happy, and who, most importantly, makes a difference.

I’m thankful I know Miriam, for a relationship built on making sandwiches, and a friendship that grew out of that one time I asked her out for coffee and she brought homework. (And Miriam, when you read this? I concede. I probably brought up boys first.)

I’m thankful for the strongest woman I know, who inspires me and writes things that make me cry. Go read it all.
I love you, Cassy Byrne.

I’m grateful to everyone who’s given me a chance this year. To Mindy, the first one to take me on as a blog contributor, to S.B. Morgaine, my first interview, to Hemant, to the lovely Ashley Miller who gave me this chance, to everyone who shares and reads and comments and critiques.

I’m grateful to Lyz Liddell, who somehow has the capacity  to care about every single secular student and I’m thankful for all of the students at the Academies I work with for explaining military bureaucracy slowly and repeatedly.

Most of all, I am thankful to be here, to be happy, to be healthy and loved and understood. That condition isn’t permanent or guaranteed for anyone in this life. Thank you all for being your lovely selves and for intersecting with my life in ways that make it richer.

Thanks Giving

Happy Linksgiving!

I’m seriously considering this as a regular repository for the worst puns I can make. Maybe I’ll make it a contest–can I best the last one?

I hope the Americans among you are celebrating…turkey and stuffing or something. Stephanie has some recipes for you.

I’m staying at home, catching up on classes before I head out to staff a Model UN conference in early December. My holiday will be spent making dinner with the housemates. We’re all vegetarian, so it’s more Tofurkey than turkey, but I adore these wonky people, and it’s going to be lovely.

And the internet! The internet has been blossoming this week, dear readers.

There’s this thing on Women and Casual Sex: The Pleasure Theory.

Adam Lee has tough questions for the pro-life movement.

Sean Austin has a documentary about African-American atheists.

This featherless chicken is running. It’s either cute or terrifying.

Speaking of cute, this is Amanda Palmer with a crochet Dalek.

Math is less cute, but Mindy makes it fun. The Physics Philes series on Teen Skepchick is like Vi Hart in written form.

Down with fake nerds!

I’ve also recently started re-using my Facebook Page, which aggregates all my writing into one nifty place. I also have a tumblr…thing. Really, this medium baffles me, but I’m giving it a try, because there’s no character limit on my dashboard.

I’m also reading Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, and it’s fascinating. Self-identified feminst PUA’s? Definitely exist. Clarisse Thorn (who you may recognize for her writing about BDSM and sex-positivity) is the author. She stopped by NU a few weeks back and this is what my book looks like.





Happy Linksgiving!

How Girls Evolved To Shop

Rebecca Watson’s talk at Skepticon 5, which made my sides hurt from giggling.

So, back in the day, men were hunters and women were gatherers…and now, men like museums while women prefer shopping…And the researcher in question noticed this on a trip to Prague. He went with some friends, and all the men in the group wanted to see cultural attractions and the women wanted to go shopping. And he was like, whaaaaa? [audience giggles] So he has determined that visiting museums is just like hunting, and shopping is just like gathering…ergo, SCIENCE!

In all seriousness, this stuff is only funny when I’m not daling with people spouting it as evidence of gender roles.

[Content note: evo-psych about rape; sexism]


How Girls Evolved To Shop

Care [Spoken]

Last week, I wrote a post about caring. It had been burning a hole in my brain all day, and I scribbled it on the back of two different sets of notes and left me fidgeting in class. When it published, about half the comments were “This is Bad. You should feel Bad.” But then everything was alright, because Alex Gabriel at Heresy Club surprised me by performing it. This is almost exactly how it sounded in my head.

A friend described it as “slam poetry meets absurdism meets second-wave feminist care ethics”. I’ve no idea if that’s right, but I love it.

Care [Spoken]

The Weight of It

We give so little weight to our thoughts.

You can push them away and mold them and let them be and more than anything else, just not think about it.

This is a sharing story. It’s personal. It’s descriptive. This is your trigger warning.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I won’t ever reread my own mental health writing. I write it in dark rooms, on late nights, where the only light is from my computer, with big headphones on and the kind of music that’s sad pianos and violins. I send it off for proofing and then I never look at it again; schedule it without a single reread. You have to, to paraphrase someone wise, let it all flood you just enough to really feel it, just enough to write it well. And then you shove it away.

But, thoughts.

They started in eighth grade. That is, they started collecting, gathering mass and steam and power. If I really think back, I can pinpoint patterns that started even before I left elementary school. Age eight, after weeks of worry, telling my mother I thought my calves were too fat, and how shocked she was. Standing by a blue locker in sixth grade and worrying about the shape of my upper arms–getting so trapped in the thought that I was nearly late to class. It was just seven steps away, and I couldn’t make myself move, because what if I was putting on weight?*

I was ten.

By the time I started my freshman year, I would have weeks where I worried about my weight. I’d go a while with always wondering if I shouldn’t just be a little slimmer, and then suddenly it would stop, and I’d think, That was pleasant. I’ve gone a whole day without thinking I’m fat.** How silly of me to have worried before. A few weeks later, there would be a little thing–pants that shrunk in the wash, a magazine cover, someone looking both happy and slim, and it would start again. I thought I was normal. I thought it was a teenage thing. I thought I just needed a little more distraction, a little less boredom.

The deprivation started with oranges. Two of them–little mandarin ones–and one granola bar. I didn’t eat them. They were my after-school snack, for the two hour break between eighth period and twirling practice. I don’t know why–I think I just wanted to see if I could.

Damn curiosity.

My stomach was empty enough to hurt by six. Three hours later–three hours of running and dancing and leaping about later–I hadn’t touched them. It felt really good.

I try not to think about this very much, that good that permeates everything when I don’t eat. I can’t do it anymore, and–and I’m well aware how horrible this is–I rarely feel that overwhelming, shot-through-with-stars, top-of-the-world, utter happiness. If there’s anything that’s ever made me sad, it’s that the easiest way to really feel good is to fall into a habit that could have killed me. My choices look like weighing some of the happiest I’ve ever been against a plateau of stability. On really good days, it’s not a hard decision. There are fewer Really Good Days than I’d like.

But those oranges.

They stuck in my mind. I could do it–eat less than I used to. And I could do it with limited consequences, I thought. I shouldn’t skip meals entirely; that was Bad. But I could reduce them, couldn’t I? One yogurt cup for lunch. An apple for dinner. Three hours of twirling practice. Bed. Four strawberries for breakfast.

Over about sixteen months, I ate somewhere around a third of needed caloric intake, while maintaining twirling or ballet practice every single day for several hours. (Just so we can enter this in the Annals of Perfectly Obvious, let me say this is a terrible idea.)

The thing is, it’s hard to deprive your body of perhaps the thing it values most. You have to demand control. You have to just absolutely refuse to entertain the thought that you could eat more. You worry that you’ve consumed just a little more than last time. Every mirror is an invitation to compare, to examine, to fuss and pinch and panic. And so you think about it–food, exercise, the shape of your hips in your jeans–all the time.

By the time I was even slightly considering that I should eat more, food took up about 80% of my thoughts. How much, when, what kind. Could I eat a little less today to make up for yesterday? Over and over and over and over. Nothing could happen–not a date, not a kiss–without mentally running through everything I’d eaten since that morning.

Think about that.

Do one simple task today. Get the mail. Wash some dishes. And imagine that you can’t do that without thinking about say, the shape of your eyebrows.

It’s not just a passing thought. It’s everything you think about. Every curve looks like eyebrows. Everything is reflective, and you see your face in it all. You can’t look away. You can’t even stop yourself from trying to find more reflective surfaces.

Think about doing that every second of your day. When all you want to think about is making out with that cute boy, and how nice he is. When all you want to do is sit in class. When walking down the street means every building is a potentially reflective danger zone. It eats what makes you…you.

We give so little weight to our thoughts.

*Numbers aren’t important, and I’m not going to use them here. They aren’t important because if you think that anyone at any weight should have to spend their mornings curled up on the bathroom floor trying to convince themselves they aren’t too repulsive to go out in public, you are the problem.

**Let’s be really clear here. The problem here is that I thought weight was a determination of my self worth. It isn’t. It’s also true that weight does NOT (really, I can’t possibly say this enough) determine whether or not you can develop or have an eating disorder. The problem is more that I thought weight had any bearing on my person. 

The Weight of It

I Link I Can, I Link I Can!

This link roundup may include bad puns.

I wrote a thing at Teen Skepchick about how to actually create a new generation of skeptics off the internet.

Six rules for allies.

Lead a Good Life, by Trey Malone.

 To hear men and women speak of our culture as some Feminazi PC nightmare is embarrassing. To act as though we are not to be held accountable for our words and language is even worse. Free speech has never nor will it ever mean immunity from criticism. Words and languages have meaning. If you don’t think what you say or how you phrase it matters, look up Frank Luntz.

Sometimes the bravest words… [TW of all kinds on that–it’s a suicide note reprinted in whole]

Skepticon. Notable both because my lovely partner wrote it (totally not biased, y’all. But really, it’s kickass) and for Micah Weiss’s response, partially reproduced below:

Now you can argue that if we had more people of color, this switch wouldn’t have caused any problems. You would be right. I could argue the comparative difficulty of organizing the largest skeptical conference in the US to finger wagging, but I would be as right as I would be off topic. The simple truth of the matter is that we are as responsible for the narratives we communicate purposefully as those accidentally. The was a narrative communicated that “Skepticon doesn’t take diversity seriously”. That could not be farther from the truth, but the fact that people got that idea is entirely my fault.


Demographic homogenization can cause privilege to become systemic. This is one of the most challenging problems we face and we take it very seriously. Like hell if we are going to let Skepticon turn into a circlejerk.

That guy is going places.

I’m cheating a little on this link about body positivity blogs, because I started reading it and got to uncomfortable with the pictures and commentary on them to finish. However, I’ve gotten a few people to summarize the end and that combined with the beginning suggests it leans towards my feelings on those sorts of things–too triggering and unpleasant to read to be helping those who need it most.


I Link I Can, I Link I Can!