Frivolous Friday: Buffalo Wings


Over at Almost Diamonds, Stephanie Zvan has a hi-freaking-larious review of ManCave brand bratwurst, Buffalo wing style with bleu cheese, in which she coins the word “portmanbro.” It reminded me of my very silly story about Buffalo wings.

Not much to it really. Just that when I first saw Buffalo wings on a menu, and for literally several years after, I did not connect them with the city of Buffalo. It did not occur to me even for a second that Buffalo wings referred to a style of preparing and serving chicken wings invented in Buffalo, New York.

Instead, I thought the term was meant to be a fanciful imagining of what buffaloes’ wings would be like, if they had them. I thought the joke was that if buffalo had wings, they would be tiny and vestigial. I thought the joke was that buffalo had evolved from birds, or possibly pterodactyls, and had evolved into large land-bound mammals who couldn’t fly, but they still had vestigial wings which didn’t serve any purpose for the buffalo — but which were delicious.

It reminds me of Mondegreens (comical mis-hearings of song lyrics or phrases). They often make less sense than the actual thing. Often our brains fill in missing information with the most obvious, readily-expected thing — but sometimes, they really, really don’t.

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!

Frivolous Friday: Buffalo Wings

Not All Media is Made For Everyone

Alice in Wonderland book cover
Alice in Wonderland was written for children. Many adults enjoy it, but we’re not who the book was written for.

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why was written for atheists. Some religious believers may find it informative and useful, it may help them understand and support the atheists in their life, but they’re not who the book was written for.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability was written for disabled people who have sex or intend to. It says so, in the description: “The first complete sex guide for people who live with disabilities, pain, illness, or chronic conditions.” Other people might find it informative, but it’s not written for us.

Playboy is published for men. It says “Entertainment For Men” right on the cover. Some women might enjoy it, but we’re not who it’s made for.

Sesame Street is made for children. Adults might enjoy it — stoners have a long tradition of enjoying TV made for kids — but it’s not made for us.

The AARP magazine is written for people over 50. What To Expect When You’re Expecting is written for pregnant people and their partners. The Advocate is written for TBLG people. Remodelista was written for homeowners, architects, and designers. The 700 Club is made for Christians. 501 English Verbs was written for people who are learning English.

And of course, there are all sorts of examples I can’t think of — because they weren’t made for me, and I’m not familiar with them. There’s music made for people who dance at nightclubs. There are video games made for kids with ADHD. There are technical videos on how to repair your Jaguar.

A huge amount of media is made for specific audiences. In fact, a case could be made that just about all media is made for specific audiences — the people who will get the cultural references, who have the money to pay for it, who have the technology needed to access it (digital music isn’t made for Kalahari Bushmen), who speak the language.

So why do people flip their shit when they hear that Beyoncé’s Lemonade, or other media, is made for black people?

White people are used to everything being made for us. The overwhelming majority of media is made with predominantly white faces, white characters, white bodies. White people are depicted with variety and nuance, while people of color are largely depicted in a handful of stereotypes. We’re used to being treated as the default: being treated as the default is the air we breathe, so omnipresent we don’t even have to think about it. We often assume that media made for white people is made for all people.

And it’s uncomfortable as shit to hear about this. Lots of white people don’t like thinking about the realities of race and racism. Once you recognize this reality, you’re morally obligated to do something about it. And when you accept that some media is made for people who aren’t white, you have to recognize this reality. You have to accept that black-oriented media is reasonable because most media is made for specific audiences, and most of those audiences are white.

That’s hard to accept. It’s easier to keep pretending that all media is made for everyone, and that making any media for non-white people is racist.

That’s why I keep talking about this, why lots of us keep talking about this. If it’s irritating, that’s by design. We have to make it harder to deny reality than it is to recognize it.

Not All Media is Made For Everyone

Where to Invade Next: Guest Post by Donna Jay

This is a guest post by Donna Jay. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect mine, although they’re obviously sympatico enough for me to post this piece. Content note: racism, racist violence and murder. -GC

where to invade next movie poster detail

I fulfilled my duty as a white-appearing middle-aged liberal woman. I went to see the latest Michael Moore movie, Where To Invade Next? I had heard mixed reviews but, fitting the core demographic for his films, I headed down to the local Alamo Drafthouse to catch an afternoon showing. It focuses on Michael traveling Europe finding ideas he would like to bring back to America – better prison systems, free higher education, free medical care, etc. Some have described it as watching a recent college graduate go to Europe for the first time and return with the belief “everything is better there – America sucks.”

Starting off the movie Moore shows the multitude of problems in America through a series of film clips. How best to set up the premise and show why these European ideas would be better for America. Moore relies on humor to get his message across. In his films, he may lay out the facts; however, he wants people to laugh along the way, making social commentary more palatable through comedy.

In the series of America-in-ruin clips he included the video of the death of Eric Garner. We were shown the video of multiple police officers standing around Eric on the ground. We’ve all seen it. Collectively, we watched a snuff film. The officers hold their stance, glaring at the people around them, almost challenging them to make a move. Try to help Eric, you will be on the ground next to him. Eric repeats, again and again, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I. Can’t. Breathe.” The movie cuts to a different clip before we see Eric die, but we know what the end result is. They do not show his final breath. But we know this man lost his life because he was poor and black and selling single cigarettes to other people who are poor and black and cannot afford a pack of cigarettes, his death the result of systemic racism empowering a police force that saw no reason to treat him as human. A minor crime was turned into a death sentence. He was black and poor so he must be a dangerous criminal. His life was viewed as having no value. His pleas for help were meaningless to the officers because he did not matter to them. He could not breathe and no one who could or should have helped him cared. So he died on a street surrounded by people who were sworn to protect him. He died within minutes of when the footage shown was filmed.

Moore did not expect us to laugh specifically at this scene. It was a short clip in a series of clips, a rapid fire series of issues in the US. But we were expected for find some humor in the seemingly out of control state of things in the US. With the music and the voiceover, we were supposed to find absurd humor in this series of events. And Eric Garner was in that mix, dying on a sidewalk.

And people laughed. Continue reading Where to Invade Next: Guest Post by Donna Jay”

Where to Invade Next: Guest Post by Donna Jay

Some Things That Will Get Your Comment Trashed

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I’m being more of a hard-ass lately about comment moderation, and am trashing comments that I once might have let go and started an argument about. If you want your comment to be posted here, do not:

Start a sentence with, “I personally think women are entirely equal to men except for…”

Say that it’s racist to recognize the realities of race and racism, or to point out that not all media is made with white people in mind.

Say that expressing an opinion in your own blog about troubling language is “issuing orders about what words other people may use,” and that it’s “arrogance,” similar to “going around correcting other people’s grammar and pronunciation.”

Argue for continuing to use certain forms of ableist language, in the post where I specifically explained why I didn’t want that kind of language in my blog anymore.

Write a long, wildly off-topic comment about how you want to make friends and engage in debate in this blog, in which you question the very existence of trans people, deny the reality of systemic sexism, and make it all about you.

For more information, read my comment policy, or read my perspective on blocking, muting, unfriending, and banning. Thank you.

Some Things That Will Get Your Comment Trashed

What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t

The Bechdel Test is not — repeat, NOT — the sole test of whether a movie (or any story) is sexist. In fact, by itself, it’s not even A test of whether a story is sexist. It is not a test of whether a story is feminist, or whether the writer or writers are feminist. It is not a test of whether a story has strong female characters, awesome female characters, or admirable female characters.

The Bechdel Test is a test of one metric, and one metric only: Does the story revolve around men, or do women have their own lives? And while it’s sometimes appropriate to apply the test to individual movies or other stories, in general it makes much more sense to apply it to the film industry as a whole, and to show persistent patterns in pop culture.

essential dykes to watch out for book cover

In case you’re not familiar with it: The Bechdel Test comes from a Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip by Alison Bechdel, later of Fun Home fame. In it, two women are discussing whether to see a movie, and one says she’ll only see a movie if (a) it has two women in it, who (b) talk to each other, (c) about something other than a man. (She says that the last movie she could see was Alien — two women talk about the monster.) Later discussions of the Bechdel Test have refined and clarified it: the usual standard now is that the two women have to be named characters (i.e., if Woman At Bar #1 discusses the overly-warm martini with Woman At Bar #2, it doesn’t count). It’s a ridiculously low bar, and yet large numbers of movies fail to clear it. The Bechdel Test sometimes gets cited as The Test For Whether A Movie Is Sexist — and in a classic straw-feminist tactic, the fact that it fails at this is given as a reason for why it should be dismissed entirely. So I come back to my point:

The Bechdel Test is a test of one metric, and one metric only. It tests whether a given story revolves around men, or whether women are depicted as having have their own lives even to a small degree. And while people sometimes bring it up with individual movies — “Why didn’t The Avengers pass the Bechdel Test?” “Does The Lego Movie pass the test?” — it’s much more a test of common pop culture patterns. When it’s applied to single movies, it’s usually in service of pointing out the pattern. And while sexist patterns of this form are often unconscious, there’s at least one report of this one deliberately being taught in film school.

Matrix movie poster
Here’s why I bring this up. Ingrid and I were watching The Matrix the other day (me for the first time since it came out in 1999, her for the first time at all). We started wondering if it passed the Bechdel Test; and rather than watch the whole movie again, we decided to go to one of the many Bechdel Test websites and discussion boards. On this particular discussion board, some people discussed whether the movie was lacking in strong female characters; or they objected to putting The Matrix in the “fail” category, since Trinity is a powerful character and therefore the movie isn’t “anti-female.”

Sigh. Yes, Trinity is a powerful character. But that’s not what the Bechdel test is testing. It’s testing whether women talk to each other about something other than men. It’s testing whether the story revolves around men.

It’s testing who the world is about.

If men talk with each other a ton about their mission, their jobs, which road to take, which guns to use, which restaurant to go to, which religion is true, which farts are funnier — and women only talk to each other about men — that tells you who the story is about. That tells you who the world is about. Continue reading “What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t”

What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy — Greta’s Addendum

two armchairs

Content note: depression

Miri has a great piece at Brute Reason about how to get the most out of therapy. If you’re thinking of getting into therapy, or if you’ve been in therapy and not gotten as much out of it as you wanted, I strongly suggest that you check it out.

I have my own personal addendum to Miri’s list. #5 on Miri’s list says, “Set goals for therapy.” Based on my experience, and with all the caveats Miri included about how not all these suggestions are necessary or appropriate for everyone, I would add an addendum to that.

#5a: Set goals for therapy — but be prepared for them to change.

When I look back on my times in therapy, and think about the ones that were really successful, some very vivid themes pop out. In my first successful stretch of therapy, the main thing I got out of it was learning how to identify my emotions. Literally. I’d talk about something that was happening or that I was thinking about, my therapist would ask me, “How do you feel about that?” — and I’d say, “I don’t know.” He’d then talk me through it: “How do you feel in your body? How does your stomach feel, how does your jaw feel, how do your hands feel?” In talking through my physical sensations, I learned to identify my emotions, which sensations meant I was angry, scared, excited, confused. It’s weird looking back on it, I’m now pretty in touch with my emotions, but that was a skill I had to learn.

In my second successful stretch, the main thing I got was learning how to let myself experience feelings and sit with thoughts I was frightened of. I had a lot of fear about certain emotions or thoughts that I thought would overwhelm me, and I kept pushing them to the back burner for fear that they’d consume me and control my life. A huge amount of what we did in therapy was creating a safe place for me to experience these emotions. When I had a trained witness sitting with me, someone who stayed calm and didn’t try to fix my feelings but who also know how to intervene if it was necessary, I was able to let myself have these thoughts and feelings — and I learned to trust that even when they were temporarily overwhelming, they always eventually passed.

In my third successful stretch, the one I’m winding up with now, the main thing I’ve gotten is understanding and accepting that depression is a lifelong condition for me, and learning how to manage it. Until recently, I’d always thought of my depression as situational, something that cropped up now and then when times were rough, but not something I needed to worry about or even think about the rest of the time. In this stretch of therapy, I’ve accepted that depression has come and gone my whole life and will probably always do so, and I’ve learned what to do about it — what kinds of life events tend to trigger it, how to recognize the warning signs, what specific actions to take when an episode is coming on, what to do when I’m deep in the middle of an episode or am starting to pull out of it.

The common theme among all of these? Going into therapy, I had no idea about any of them. If you’d asked me what my goals for therapy were… well, the first two times, I would have said “I’m unhappy and am not handling it well.” I was unhappy about relationships or work, I didn’t know what to do or even how to decide, and my unhappiness was taking over my life. The third time, I went into therapy because my dad was dying, and I knew I should be in therapy when he died. As therapy proceeded, my goals changed.

I agree with Miri that it’s a good idea, if possible, to have goals going into therapy. And a case could be made that what I wound up getting out of therapy did meet my original goals. Learning how to identify my emotions, how to let myself feel my emotions, and how to manage depression, were the tools I needed for my original goals of not having my life be completely screwed-up by my unhappiness, and figuring out what decisions I needed to make. I’m just saying: For me, therapy is often surprising. When it goes well, so far it’s always been surprising. It takes me places I couldn’t have predicted, and helps me solve problems I couldn’t have named and didn’t even know I had.

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy — Greta’s Addendum

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

Peter_Pan_and_Wendy_book_cover_1911 200
Okay, maybe this is a little macabre for Frivolous Friday, but it was on my mind and was making me chuckle, so I thought I’d share.

You know the bit in Peter Pan, where Peter explains that every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies,” somewhere a fairy falls down dead? I read this when I was a kid. And afterwards, I started to go around saying under my breath, “I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies,” and imagining fairies dropping like flies, one by one, all over the world.

I’m not sure why I did this. I didn’t actually believe in fairies, and I certainly didn’t think I could murder them from a distance by saying words out loud. In retrospect, I think I was annoyed by how saccharine and manipulative it was. It was like, “You’re going to guilt-trip me into believing something I have no reason to believe, by telling me my non-belief will destroy it? Yeah, screw you.” But maybe I’m reading too much into this, and putting too much of my adult interpretation on it. Maybe I was just a contrarian little fuck with a thirst for power. Strike that. I know I was.

I was thinking about this because of Tony Thompson’s HI-FREAKING-LARIOUS piece about the Catholic cardinal, who apparently thinks that the acceptance of TBLG people is killing God. No, really. Tony is very excite about his newly-discovered superpower, as well he should be. And it occurred to me: This is totally like the Peter Pan thing. Every time a queer person is happy and accepted, a little bit of God dies.

Let’s all say it together: “TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome. TBLG people are awesome.” And we can imagine a little bit more of God dying, every time.

If you read Peter Pan, did you have any reaction to the “I don’t believe in fairies” bit? Or was that just me, being contrarian and power-hungry and weirdly macabre?

Frivolous Friday: Peter Pan, and Killing Fairies

#mencallmethings: “frigid Stygian-witch”

Content note: misogyny

Quick bit of context: There’s news that filmmaker Michael Moore wants to make a movie about atheism and atheist comedians, featuring (sigh) Bill Maher, Seth MacFarlane, Ricky Gervais, and Sarah Silverman. I posted a brief series of tweets tagging Michael Moore, saying, “Re proposed ‘Kings of Atheism’: If it happens, please, PLEASE, have it include plenty of atheist women and atheists of color.” “Media representation of atheists typically is overwhelmingly white and male. Makes many atheists feel unwelcome in our community.” “In particular, Seth MacFarlane’s repeated, unrepentant sexism makes women atheists feel unwelcome when he represents atheism.” In the ensuing discussion, which included a list of several women comedians who might be good additions to the movie, I got this response:

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“Why not invite Janeane Garofalo, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin? Could have been a more interesting atheist/com group”

“Besides the fact that they arent funny, but probably not as reactionary as frigid Stygian-witch Greta

Right. Because if you’re trying to convince the world that there isn’t a misogyny problem in atheism and there’s no need for a major media production about atheism to have diversity of gender and race, the best way to make your case is by calling women reactionary and frigid, and insulting them for being old. (I’m assuming that’s what the “Stygian-witch” bit was about.)


Continue reading “#mencallmethings: “frigid Stygian-witch””

#mencallmethings: “frigid Stygian-witch”

What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People”

Content note: sexual content.

I’m going to make an analogy. It’s going to be flawed, as analogies always are, and if I get stuff about this wrong I hope the people concerned will tell me.

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In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I worked for the lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs, the first sex magazine created by dykes and for dykes. We had a fair number of male customers and subscribers, and that was fine with us. We couldn’t have done anything about it even if it hadn’t been fine with us, but it was fine with us. If straight guys who got off on lesbian sex wanted to help bankroll our operation, we weren’t going to argue.

But we didn’t make the magazine for them. We made it for us. When the writers were writing, when the photographers were shooting, when the illustrators were drawing, when the editors were deciding which photos and stories and illustrations and essays and news items to include, we thought about dykes. We thought about the lesbians and bisexual women who were hungry for authentic sexual images of ourselves, who were hungry to see our sexuality recognized and reflected, who were hungry for new ideas about hot things to do in bed. We thought about the dykes who were hungry for a feminism that celebrated the huge variety of lesbian sexual possibilities (i.e., that didn’t shame women for being into kink and dildos and porn).

We never thought, “What will our straight male customers enjoy?” Continue reading “What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People””

What I Hear When I Hear “Not for White People”

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland Thursday, May 19! Discussion topic: The Orbit — Atheism and Social Justice

Social Club May 19 The Orbit for website
Godless Perverts is having a Godless Perverts Social Club in our wonderful new Oakland location, Thursday, May 19! 7-9 pm. We have a new location for the Oakland Godless Perverts Social Clubs — we’re now meeting at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Avenue, next to the Fox Theater (and right near the 19th St. Oakland BART station).

Our discussion topic for this evening: The Orbit: Atheism and Social Justice. The Orbit was launched in March: an atheist media collective dedicated to working on social justice, both in and out of organized atheism. How and why was this site founded? Why does the atheist community need sites and organizations that explicitly endorse social justice? What are some of the challenges and rewards of doing intersectional work within atheism? Godless Perverts co-founders Greta Christina and Chris Hall are both founding members of The Orbit, and will be introducing the site and answering questions about it.

Rudy’s Can’t Fail is a fun, friendly space that serves meals, small bites, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and desserts. We’re meeting in the back room/ dining car, which is ridiculously cute: the dining car has somewhat limited space, probably enough for all of us, but it’s a good idea to arrive on time if you want to be sure to get a seat. The Oakland Social Clubs are on the third Thursday of the month (First Tuesdays are still in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds.) Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland Thursday, May 19! Discussion topic: The Orbit — Atheism and Social Justice”

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland Thursday, May 19! Discussion topic: The Orbit — Atheism and Social Justice