[#wiscfi] Liveblog: How Feminism Makes Better Skeptics: The Role Rationality Plays in Ending Sexism

I’m going to be liveblogging Amanda Marcotte’s talk, How Feminism Makes Better Skeptics: The Role Rationality Plays in Ending Sexism in just a little bit! You can follow other tweets at #wiscfi, and me at @donovanable.


3:42 In terms of the amount of time that anti-secularists spend on arguing….gender related issues are some of the biggest topics. (and evolution is the tiny slice of the pie remaining).

Feminism was an idea that came out of the enlightenment. Mary Wollstonecraft!

The Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 was one of the ways feminism really stepped into public.

3:45 Strong endorsement for The Second Sex.  Amanda talks about how we often don’t discuss the anti-theist sentiments of the early 20th century feminists.

Experts agree: feminism can really help everyone. The millenium development goals of the UN have 8 goals specifically focused on women, including combating child mortality, the environment, etc.

Wait, the environment?

Yep, one way to ease overpopulation is to give women the ability to choose how many children they have! (Hint: providing access to contraception does this) Women who have reproductive choices will have fewer children.

Who’s to blame, asks Marcotte…then puts up slide of the Pope. Audience applauds.

3:50 Health care! Marcotte says that things like heart disease, etc are obviously not gender issues. I completely disagree–the signs we tell people to look for to know they’re having a heart attack? Those are the signs for men, not women. (Women experience pain in jaw, not chest/shoulder) That’s a problem.

With skepticism we can fight climate change, sexual repression…people who are jerks towards “fake geek girls”.

We talk about the Duggars. Blargh, I seriously hate that “Your vagina is not a clown car” meme directed at Duggars.

3:55 Plan B. Let’s talk about this.

It was invented to replace docs who were already prescribing high dosage birth control pills for the same reason. Got political in Bush administration. Sex based cults using Plan B! (Srsly, someone said this.)

Judgmental pharmacists try to prevent women from buying Plan B. Also, the “Good Boyfriend” problem, where men try to buy their partners the Plan B…and are denied. Ughhhhh. No.

4:00  2011: in which we have to talk about whether or not teenage girls are capable of figuring out how to take a pill that you put in your mouth and then swallow.

Sidebar: We talk about how Plan B works. One, it’s not an abortion. Two, no, it doesn’t make you suddenly promiscuous. (Would anyone like to offer a coherent argument about why [safe] promiscuity is wrong?)

Obama basically make realpolitik decision to try to prevent Religious Right from having a ‘loaded weapon’ when he decided to keep high age limit on Plan B.

4:05 This entire debate (Plan B) has been between irrational arguments and skeptical arguments backed by research. And we’ve been gaining ground.

A quick word on anti-feminist skeptics from Amanda

Update: SallyStrange is the best:

Straw feminists are being tilted at. It’s silly! Staaaahp! Also, don’t let the haters get you down, skeptic feminists! [insert gif parade]


Why do you call them women’s issues? Men are impacted too.
Answer: Because it’s easier to stay away from the f-word when trying to discuss these things.

Someone asked a thing about marriage. I was inserting gifs!
Answer: Nonmarriage radical feminist speaking! Points out that she’s avoided using word ‘privilege’ in this talk.

[didn’t catch all questions, everyone talked soooo fast. phew.]

[#wiscfi] Liveblog: How Feminism Makes Better Skeptics: The Role Rationality Plays in Ending Sexism

[#wiscfi] Kate Live Blogging Women in Secularism

I am!

I’m here! It’s nice, if a bit muggy in DC, and I am trying to avoid buying ALL THE SURLIES (but will eventually crack).

Jason, Miri, and I will be trading off live blogging events! Ron Lindsay is reading from the Bible right now, and you should go head on over to Lousy Canuck for some snarky commentary.

I’ll also be tweeting along at @donovanable!



Miri will be catching the first panel: Faith-Based Pseudo-Science, with Sarah Moglia, Carrie Poppy, Amy Davis Roth, Rebecca Watson, and moderator Desiree Schell. I’ll catch the highlights and tweet things! (May contain lots of exclamations!)

We’re talking about homeopathy–right now we have an imaginary person who’s projectile-vomiting to cure. You know, standard fare.

Surly Amy is explaining how people can take alt med and get better–i if you’re sick and don’t get any treatment (or take homeopathy) you either get better because you can only go up…or you die. If you die, we don’t hear about it.

Homeopathy popluarized by Mary Baker Eddy. Was a great alternative to…well, bleeding people (a practice of the time).
[This is also why you hear about how homeopathy must work: fewer people died of Spanish Flu in homeopathic hospitals  in France in early 20th century. No, it’s because getting no treatment is way better than being bled.]

Rebecca Watson talking about Creationism–it’s not contained to a single religion.

Sarah Moglia: really awful pseudoscience that really hurts women and the sick: God has a plan. Or, it’s awful cousin “everything happens for a reason!”. NO STAAAHP.

Rebecca: The people who are the most attracted to the “Law of Attraction” are those in desperate circumstances. It’s the worst kind of apathy for the suffering and victim blaming.

Desiree Schell: So do we have a responsibility to prevent all pseudoscience? Are there things that could be good?

Amy: part of the problem is the positive reinforcement from society..which breeds an antiscience culture.

Carrie: If we don’t acknowledge that there’s different levels of harm associated with kinds of alternative medicine, we actually lose people who could be on our side.

Sarah: A really important reason naturopaths get popular: they can spend an hour sitting and listening to what you’re dealing with. Doctors see patients for 7-9 minutes on average. Of course you’re going to feel better after being listened to!

Desiree: Where should we go next with out skepticism? (We have anti-vax, we have homeopathy).

Sarah: (With my favorite answer) We need to focus on the people–don’t dismiss them for using pseudoscience…you’re doing very little to help them. We need human-focused skepticism!

Carrie: chase what’s personal to you, that you can relate to! Way better than trying to make some big Official Skeptical Organizational Focus Change.

Catch Miri’s full write-up of this panel here!

[#wiscfi] Kate Live Blogging Women in Secularism

No, You Shouldn’t Be Jerks to the Homeless Just Because A&F is Awful

Fat-shaming gets me on a gut level. I hate it, I’d like it to go away, and the recent statements of CEO of clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, which included this little gem:

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

…get to me. Which is to say, I really don’t like A&F.

And this doesn’t seem to be an unpopular opinion. Obviously I carefully cultivate the people I interact with, but the scandal has been scorching the internet.

General social justice conclusion? Refusing to sell your clothes in plus-sizes because you think it’s bad for business is a jerk move.

Ooookay, abrupt topic shift.

Remember that time some MIT students set up hobojacket.com, this hilllllarious site where you could pay to give homeless people a sweatshirt from a rival college? And then lots of people said “Hey! Maybe using people as props in an argument that doesn’t involve them is a terrible move that we want to discourage!” …and then hobojacket.com stopped existing and the creator apologized? Man, that was a nice day for internet activism.

Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about Abercrombie & Fitch and this video. In it, the narrator hands out A&F clothing to the homeless.

At first, they seemed reluctant to accept the clothing. Perhaps they were concerned about being percieved as narcissistic date rapists?
Together, we can make Abercrombie & Fitch the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel!

See! Get it! Because homeless people are uncool icky and it’s like, revenge, to give them clothes from a company that wants cool people! /sarcasm

Would someone like to explain how this is better than the MIT students ‘prank? It’s not because you’re fighting against a fat-shaming company. You’re still ignoring the humanity of a whole sector of people who won’t see any benefit from A&F suddenly selling hundred dollar artfully distressed jeans in XXL.Stop pretending like it’s a big win for equality when you’re stepping on people to make a point.

No, You Shouldn’t Be Jerks to the Homeless Just Because A&F is Awful

Monday Miscellany

A little light on the links (and very late) for this one–I ran a fever for a few days and haven’t been much caught up on the blogosphere.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this gem about depression and coping from Hyperbole and a Half.

But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they’ll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you’re having this weird argument where you’re trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they’ll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.

Ray Comfort isn’t the affable creationist we like to paint him as.

How do we research disability? Is it the right way?

Every year, hundreds of studies involving disabilities take place in the US, like wide-sweeping lookbacks into cases of autism and research into multiple sclerosis. The majority of these studies, though, focus on viewing disability from a medical perspective, which is not surprising, since they are run by doctors and they occur in a nation which evaluates disability through a medicalised framework. As such, these studies are about identifying the why of disability with an eye to finding a cure, rather than to the how of disability, and the daily life of disability.

Ania wrote a thing and I’m in it!

…yeah, this is a really short links piece.

Tomorrow: Look for the write up of the…museum with the creationists over at Friendly Atheist!

Are you going to Women in Secularism? Will I get to meet you? Let me know in the comments!

Monday Miscellany

Enchanted Forest, INC. – Novel Excerpt

Yesterday, probably yesterday, who knows with exams being the way they are, a few people expressed some interest in reading my fiction.  What follows is an excerpt, the prologue from my novel Enchanted Forest, INC.  It is Terry Pratchett-esque fantasy/humor/adventure/snark.

There comes a point when a yipping dog has to be put outside or locked in a room or just generally shut up.  With muscle relaxants, sedatives, wine, whatever is on hand and easily administered.  To Malin’s mind, this point had come some 20 minutes previous.  Malin was not a dog person.  No, he was definitely catlike in every sense — rude, apathetic, interested in hunting things weaker than himself, graceful, and scornful.  If cats could talk, and would bother long enough to answer, they’d agree that Malin was very much one of them.

At the moment, he was sitting outside of a window on a turret of a very tall, somewhat foreboding castle.  The wind was picking up and it had begun to rain a very annoying, misty sort of rain that offered very little in the way of atmosphere but a lot in the way of damp.  He was waiting.  If he’d had a tail, it’d be twitching impatiently.

And Princess Gertrude’s dog would not stop barking.  She and her handmaiden had been trying to calm it since he’d arrived — dogs didn’t like Malin.  Nor did they like intruders, so it was really no surprise that the dog was having a fit.  The surprise was that the princess hadn’t sent the creature away long ago.

Still, nothing like the thrill of the hunt, eh?  Normally he was easily bored, but tonight, no, tonight he could wait forever.  Happily.  Well, not happily so much as willingly.  And maybe the dog was getting on his nerves a bit.  And maybe it was a little bit cold.  And probably the rain and wind weren’t good for his skin…

He glanced through the window.

The window had sheer curtains, he couldn’t make out features, but he could see the slender figure of the princess and wondered off-hand how many liberties one could take before a princess no longer counted as innocent.  The search for a maiden princess of marriageable age had taken a very long time, but maiden was a very specific requirement that one could easily work around. With her permission, of course, who didn’t love a scoundrel?

The somewhat larger shape of the handmaid was wrestling with the small dog. If they’d understood dog language they would have heard, “Hey, there’s a man outside your window.  Let me at him!  LET ME AT HIM!”

Of course, they didn’t understand the dog. The handmaid finally managed to get the dog outside. The door closed behind and Malin waited a beat to make sure they’d gone.  He opened the window without a creak, and delicately landed on the floor inside. Really, astonishingly like a cat.

The princess turned, and they both froze in horror.

When you think princess, you’ve got certain expectations: slim, blonde, blue eyes — and the princess certainly had these but… her eyes were small and piggish, her hairline was receding, and she had spots on her abnormally large nose.  She would have been merely below average in the looks department had she not decided to remedy the situation by using as much makeup as possible.  Cartoon round spots of red on her cheeks, drawn on lips and eyebrows, and that hideous shade of blue eyeshadow.  Her teeth, well, they were the teeth of the greatest monarchs worldwide: horsey and a bit frightening.

The look of stupid surprise wasn’t doing her any favors.

Malin pulled out a locket with a portrait in it.  The girl in the portrait was stunning — flawless skin and a tiny nose.  He held it up and compared the two for a moment.

“Are you Princess Gertrude?”

She smiled.  This, Malin decided, was worse than the “O” of surprise she’d been offering before.

“Of course.  What can I do for you?”

Princesses are not, generally, good at self-preservation, their default position being polite rather than, say, running and screaming.

“Are you sure?”

“Well, I certainly have been up to now.”

“Right.  It’s just that I have this portrait,” he walked over and showed it to her.  “Is this really you?”

“Oh yes, I remember Hans the Elder painted that not a year ago.  I do think it looks so remarkably like me.  Are you returning it?”

“By all means, keep it.”

He snapped his fingers and she fainted into his arms.  He carried her out of the window and disappeared into the night.

Moments later, the dog burst into the room.  What a dog of his size could have actually done under the circumstances remains unknown, but he was pretty sure he’d have had it under control.

Enchanted Forest, INC. – Novel Excerpt

The life of the PhD student: Comprehensive Exams

These aren’t all of the books, of course

Tomorrow, I begin the journey of Comps.  There are 4 questions, over 4 days, and I have 4 hours to answer each of them.  It’s sort of the marathon of test-taking.

Last week I turned in a 7000 word historical research paper about the rural purge.  Maybe I’ll adapt that into some sort of much shorter blog post eventually.  I also helped two groups of students write research papers and ran their statistical analyses for them.

I still have another long paper about my visit to the Supreme Court to edit down and turn in.  I’ve written a lot of words, but they are not edited at all.

I also had to do a final proof of my article that’s going to be published in CrossCurrents about the relationship between religion and atheism and white-male dominance.

I am also in the middle of planning my move to DC (in one week).  Trying to find an apartment and a job.  Anyone in DC want to hire a super awesome person to do super awesome things?  I’m available…

From inside my head

And I’m recovering from surgery to remove cysts from my head.

I’m also debating whether I should audition for The Voice, because it appears to be my stepdad’s favorite TV show, and whether I should start spending more time writing fiction.

I’ve got 54k of a young adult fantasy novel in the Terry Pratchett sort of style.  I also have a screenplay (Bible Con – Comic Con for Christians) I feel I should adapt into a novel, because I think atheists would maybe buy it.  So many projects.

Would you buy a novel from me?  Maybe I’ll post an excerpt from one of my projects at some point.

So all in all, it’s a bit chaotic and thank FSM for Kate.

The life of the PhD student: Comprehensive Exams

[Blogathon] Say Hi to Ally Fogg!

So this is a cheater post because I’m on a bus with spotty wifi at best, no place to put my laptop, and an overactive heater.


You should go check out Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men, written by the lovely brilliant Ally Fogg. He’s our latest arrival to FtB, and would probably like some shiny new commenters.

Go say hi!

[And in the mean time, keep an eye on my co-blogathonners, Mike, Chana, and Miri]

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!


[Blogathon] Say Hi to Ally Fogg!

[Blogathon] Wildly Inappropriate Things to Say to People With Eating Disorders

1. But you’re not skinny!

I swear to god, you’d think daring to have an eating disorder while not being rail skinny was the equivalent of wandering around yelling “I WAS MURDERED” while still breathing. No. Staaaahp.

2. But if you don’t think you’re thin enough, what does that make me?!

Bad at understanding mental illness? Lucky to not have an eating disorder?

When someone reveals their mental illness to you, this is not the time to excise your demons.

3. No wonder you’re so tiny!

I wasn’t on the receiving end of this one, but I heard it happen and fled the conversation. Just no. If you do this, you are BAD and you should feel BAD.

4. All you have to do is eat healthily!

In other news, depression can be cured by changing your brain chemistry, and calculus can be understood by using numbers.

It’s a nice effort, but at best you’ve said a word somewhat related to the consumption of food: “healthy” and decided that it’s as simple as just doing that!

5. Here, eat this!

Weird, but common. People will often immediately hand me food. It feels very uncomfortable to turn them down, but a lot of the time, I’m just not hungry right then either. Please don’t use me to assuage your feelings about my disorder.

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

[Blogathon] Wildly Inappropriate Things to Say to People With Eating Disorders

[Blogathon] 6 Reasons to Own a Rat

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

It’s virtually impossible to follow me on any social media and not know I own a rat named Boo. Been considering getting one yourself? You totally should.

1. The tails are not as creepy as you think. they’re not scaly, they’re not cold, they’re not snakes that have latched onto your rattie’s rear.

2. They clean themselves. Yes, like cats. There’s really nothing as cute as watching Boo ruffle his ears and straighten his whiskers.

3. Smell: which is to say, they don’t. Though I haven’t done it for Boo,  I’ve been told that rats can be litter trained. But if you don’t, you just have to change the bedding at a reasonable rate. (Every four days or so for me.)

4. They’re just really silly. They chatter their teeth when they’re happy, bounce around like squirrels, and will sit on your head.

5. A small animal that actually likes you. Rats are really affectionate. Unlike many rodent-pets, they’ll be excited to see you, won’t run away and hide from you permanently, and will probably give you rattie kisses. I’ve always found small furry animals appealing, but for many, I couldn’t see a the difference between “tolerates you because you have food” and “actually wants to see you”.

6. Behavioral experiments: I’d be the worst psych student if I didn’t try this, right? Something I’m doing this summer is building Boo a maze. Easier version: a water maze. In a large tub of water, set two platforms, one with a treat on it. After getting your rat accustomed to the water, put him on one platform, and encourage him to swim to the second. (Large pools and platforms located below the surface of the water make the ‘maze’ progressively more complicated.)

7. This face:



[Blogathon] 6 Reasons to Own a Rat

[Blogathon] Your Jerkbrain is a Puppy & Coping With Anxiety

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I’m posting every hour on the hour until 6pm for SSAWeek! This post was suggested by William Brinkman. Have something you want me to write about? Donate $20 or more to the Secular Student Alliance and tweet me!

An Exercise in Imperfect Analogies

Treat your jerkbrain like a puppy. Do you scream when your fuzzy pup pees a little on the carpet?

You just patiently take it back outside.

And it doesn’t work the first time–the damage is done, of course, and you might have to clean the carpet. But if every time he seems to be even remotely interested in the outdoors, every time he’s eaten, every time it seems he might be searching for a choice squatting spot on the shag rug, you take him outside, soon that puppy is going to be housetrained.

Look at this face. Would you yell at this face?
And that’s nice analogy for what I’d like more people to do with their uncooperative brains–treat them like puppies. Tug them back in the right direction when they loop into how everything is TERRIBLE and EVERYONE HATES YOU and ALL OF THE STRESS. (My brain at least, is an ALL CAPS WARRIOR when it comes to telling me bad things). Smile ruefully when they’re uncooperative and nudge them in the right direction over and over again.
It’s not foolproof, and it’s not easy, of course. Scare a well-trained puppy enough, and he’ll pee on the carpet, no matter how many hours of training he has.
But getting angry at yourself is self-defeating and exhausting and overwhelming. In short, everything that lowers your defenses for the next episode of Brains Being Sucky…and that’s no fun.
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[Blogathon] Your Jerkbrain is a Puppy & Coping With Anxiety