One of the things that makes me averse to getting into deep conversation lately about morality and about people’s sexist and racist behaviour is that we appear to be hard-wired to think the whole conversation is binary — you did a bad, objectionable thing, therefore you’re Evil. You are criticized for doing a bad, objectionable thing, but are generally good, therefore you’re being hounded by Feminazis and Thought Police. Any nuance in the conversation is smashed out by our resorting to binary thinking again and again.
In mathematical terms, the problem is that good and bad, sexist and not sexist, are absolutes. When we render them into pure two-valued logic, we’re taking shades of gray, and turning them into black and white.
There are people who are profoundly sexist or racist, and that makes them bad people. Just look at the MRAs involved in Gamergate: they’re utterly disgusting human beings, and the thing that makes them so despicably awful is the awfulness of their sexism. Look at a KKKer, and you find a terrible person, and the thing that makes them so terrible is their racism.
But most people aren’t that extreme. We’ve just absorbed a whole lot of racism and sexism from the world we’ve lived our lives in, and that influences us. We’re a little bit racist, and that makes us a little bit bad – we have room for improvement. But we’re still, mostly, good people. The two-valued logic creates an apparent conflict where none really exists.
Continue reading “The bad logic of "Good People Can't Be Sexists"”
Content note: sexual assault, non-consensual sexual activities.
Been a while, I know. This story reignited the RAGE BLOGGER in me, and this is a good thing, because I’ll need the warmup for what I’ve got rattling around in my head the past few days.
Apparently, in Tokyo, a man responsible for ejaculating on non-consenting, unaware women over a hundred times on Tokyo’s train system has finally been caught.
A middle-aged man, Tetsuya Fukuda, 40 has been arrested for the attacks on crowded trains between Kinshicho and Akihabara stations in the capital Tokyo.
Continue reading “Getting off on the charges of getting off without consent”
In the rush most Big Name Atheists are making to disavow or diminish the role Craig Hicks’ atheism played in his murdering three Muslim students earlier today, I am not shocked at all that some — most, even — of these Names are the same people who demanded that every Muslim disavow the actions of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre or else be judged complicit. Nuance goes right out the window when viscerally reacting to a traumatic event, and doubly so when your instincts incline you toward protecting The Tribe. Nor am I shocked at the need by some to attempt to perform contrafactual judo in order to attack the intersection of identities that they most easily consider The Enemy Tribe, pinning it on Them, Not Us. Even when the “Them” doing this are more proximate to the problem, insofar as they are the ones advocating against the pluralists and the tolerant liberals and the “Social Justice Warriors” who want people to stop being assholes to one another. All in service of defending The Tribe of Atheism against the heathen Religious who are trying to sully our good name by holding us to account for an antitheist murdering some religious folks.
I’ve said innumerable times that knowing only that someone is an atheist is insufficient information to make the determination as to whether or not they’re a good person. Dictionary atheists — those who staunchly defend the idea that Movement Atheism should be solely about antitheism and must not let our mission creep — reacted quite astonishingly antipathetic to the idea of Atheism Plus. They were evidently quite put out by the idea that one should be more than just atheist, that people who also cared about humanism and feminism and anti-racism anti-ableism and LGBTQ rights might want to find one another, befriend one another, and provide one another with support.
These people have decided that “The Movement” should only be about atheism, and that we should be a granfalloon Big Tent and we should all overlook the nasty behaviour of certain quarters of atheism. Given that said behaviour makes the environment generally toxic to various underclasses and makes the movement inaccessible to all but the whitest, dudeliest, most “un-PC” jackasses whose idea of “edgy” is telling racist or rape jokes as though nobody’s ever said shitty things about women before, this functions as entitlement over an environment.
Continue reading “Tribalism, empathy, atheism, and Chapel Hill”
A guest post by Robert Fendt. Please address comments appropriately. 🙂
(Note: this text deals with harassment, sexism, misogyny, racism and transphobia. Readers’ discretion is advised.)
Dear reader: are you male? White? Heterosexual? Cisgender? Healthy? Congratulations: this text is for you. It also means you are among us lucky ones who get to play the game called ‘life’ on the easiest setting there is. Don’t believe it? Read on.
Disclaimer: I’m also a white male cisgender heterosexual person. And for a long time, I would have said about me having it particularly easy in life: don’t be ridiculous. But I do have friends and colleagues who are not male, who are not white, who are not heterosexual, who are not cisgender, some of whom have to deal with disability or illness, and listening to them has changed and reshaped my perspective. It’s time it changed the perspectives of us all.
In the ‘western’ countries, freedom of opinion and speech are fundamental rights, designed to protect minorities from persecution. So how ironic is it that nowadays ‘free speech’ also functions as a smoke screen for the harassment of women and minorities?
Imagine being a woman walking down the street. Now try to guess how common cat calls and whistles are, and how many unsolicited comments about your body and looks you get. Try to guess how common it is that strangers come uncomfortably close or even touch you without your consent. If you guessed “rarely”, then guess again. Being a woman in public means being scrutinised and ogled and commented upon, at the very least. And now do me a favor: honestly try to imagine being in that position. Imagine dealing with stuff like that. For every. Single. Fucking. Day.
Continue reading “(Guest Post) Words of mass destruction: the weaponization of 'free speech'”
Here’s the full panel.
The book mentioned is Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation by Julia Sondra Decker, and here are some links the panelists wanted to include.
A link that Tristan wanted to add, relevant to the “asexual but still having sex”: http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/why%20humans%20have%20sex%202007.pdf
This is regarding the House episode mentioned:
The census is available here: https://asexualcensus.wordpress.com/
And hey, big congratulations to Thunderf00t on fully embracing your nature as a churlish, small-minded and provincial sort, the type of person who gives atheists a reputation of being the Douchebag Brigade, much like was mentioned during this panel. Since your coming-out as such a few years back, your quality of life must have gotten really much better — I know what it’s like to have to hide some fundamental aspect of your life, and it must be nice for you to feel free to be an utter asshole in public now. Good for you. And good for all your fellow douchebags in your audience.
Continue reading “#FtBCon 3: Asexual Spectrum Atheists panel, and Youtube comments brigaded”
I was cued to write this mini-rant by a conversation on Twitter. I don’t really feel that I should have to explain the null hypothesis to people within this community, but in contexts like sexual assault and rape, it seems that all proportional skepticism goes right out the window.
Ami Angelwings (of Escher Girls fame) tweeted about accusations, and how the accusation that “she’s making it all up” is actually itself an accusation, and needs to be vetted out. She went on to say that the null hypothesis in this case is not that “she’s making it up”. Someone I greatly respect in the skeptical community replied to my retweeting that, saying “it is, give evidence”.
Frankly, that’s a load. That isn’t how the null hypothesis works.
Continue reading “The null hypothesis”
Satire depends heavily on the cultural context in which it was made. Charlie Hebdo is certainly a leftist rag, and certainly satire, and certainly understood as such within France’s cultural context. However, there are some universals about satire that people, time and again, forget.
The first and most important thing to remember is that satire can damage just as much as the original offense, and sometimes more. Charlie Hebdo’s satire was about taking some aspect of the news cycle — some politician or celebrity who held racist and sexist views — and illustrating the logical end result of those views. In a context where a great deal of damage has been done by outright propaganda by outright racists and sexists, where “Evil Banker Jew” and “Monkey-Like Black Person” are well-worn tropes, depicting them as though you’re resurrecting the trope in order to scandalize the person who still holds those views is fraught and potentially more damaging to the person who’s damaged by the original racism.
The second thing to remember about satire is that it is a powerful weapon, to be wielded carefully so as to avoid splash damage. Attacking a class — or being perceived to be attacking a class — that is already under siege by society, is “punching down”. Even if you’re trying to shame the person who’s holding an antisemitic or anti-black or anti-woman view, you could very well legitimize or normalize attacks on that class of person by increasing the number of instances where it’s perceived to be acceptable. Increasing the frequency of a meme does not NECESSARILY legitimize it, but it CAN.
Continue reading “Brief thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech”
One of my favorite game franchises has long been Final Fantasy, much to the chagrin of some elitist nerds for whom the series of JRPGs represents an erosion of the concept of the RPG. Regardless, its take on mythological creatures, even in its Super Nintendo days, served to clue me in on a small piece of context with regard to religion, from which I synthesised a deeper understanding of religion as mythology. (I’d detailed this in my deconversion story in Mission Creep — it was Behemoth and Leviathan in Final Fantasy 2 that gave me the clues I needed, if you’re wondering.)
That’s right, the video game franchise actually helped me to become an atheist — perhaps not singlehandedly, but it was certainly some scaffolding for my building my epistemology. So, even with its warts, of which there are numerous, and even with the side-eye I get from other gamers, it holds a place in my heart.
And yet, I still must criticise, even if I know that doing so might paint me as a studio-shill Social Justice Warrior journalist-sans-journal, and thus a target for the culture of entitlement that is GamerGate.
Continue reading “Enjoying problematic video games”
Today’s a big news cycle in movement skepticism and movement atheism. My old timeline is woefully incomplete and drastically altered by new revelations, now, thanks to Mark Oppenheimer’s article on the state of misogyny in the atheist and skeptic movements over on Buzzfeed.
So, I’m pulling out the relevant links and pullquotes and revamping this timeline. It’s going to be largely intact from the old one, only maybe expanded to provide more context to each individual point. As with previous timelines this will be a living document — it’s as likely new links will be added or intermixed as I have time, but you’re more than welcome to contribute links in the comments.
Continue reading “Timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations against Michael Shermer”
Someone challenged Aron Ra to explain feminism to him via a Youtube video, begging every single one of the seven questions. Aron Ra gave laudable answers, though PZ Myers pointed out some errors and some of the pitfalls that Aron Ra stumbled through (owing, entirely, to the framing of the questions — just look at the expectation of an autocratic hierarchy with an authoritarian power structure).
In the comments at PZ’s, the thread rapidly became a “what about the men” derail by someone who apparently, genuinely, just wanted to explore the topic. He suggested an apposite inverse to feminism would be “masculinism”, which deals with the ways that men are disadvantaged in society.
I had done, some time ago, a piece on the disadvantages of being a man. Strangely enough, all of them stemmed from the current structure of our society, which undeniably advantages men disproportionately. There are a few corrections that need to be made to that essay, which I’ll try to touch on in here. I feel the need to talk about “masculinism”, “egalitarianism” (in reference specifically to gender relations), what it could look like, and why it’s particularly incomplete without integrating into feminism.
Continue reading “Masculinism”