Yeah, so after my last post, I had planned to roll out some big projects. Well, that didn’t quite work out as I then spent over a month having to screw around with iTunes just to get the first thing I had planned semi-functional.

Well, I’m not going to promise revolutionary yet, but I’m going to try and have more content.

First up:

I am proud to announce a new podcast created by me featuring all original Lesbian Pulp stories called Lesbian Pulp Theatre Podcast.

The first two episodes are up on iTunes for subscription, or you can be old-fashioned and check out each episode as it’s uploaded to the archives. The first arc will be 4 episodes long and the last two episodes of the arc should be out and uploaded by end of December.

If you’ve got ideas for future arcs, please leave them in the comment thread.

Second up:

If you know me on Sadly, No!, you’ll know I do this thing in the comments there sometimes where I go in and takedown an article ripping it apart and occasionally even approaching funny.

Well, a random recommendation by Substance McGravitas on the last post made me think, hell, why not do a weekly thing here where I find a piece of wingnut drivel and rip it apart?

So expect to see the first example of that in a couple of hours.

Third up:

This is still in the future as I want to create a buffer first, but part of this last month has been brushing up my video editing skills for a new project where I will be ripping into bad movies with transgender characters, mocking both the terribleness of the movies as well as the offensive wrongness of the characters.

It will be called Transgender Media Fail and I hope to start releasing it early next year.

There may be more, but hopefully this will give you all something to enjoy in the meantime.

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So some of you may have noticed that I update at the same glacial pace that tortoises fuck. Well, I thought to myself, “Self, surely my readers deserve more than that” and so it was. Starting soon there will be a few additional regular projects that will be popping up to give regular content.

First up on that list will be a regularly updating podcast called Lesbian Pulp Theatre that will present all original radio plays done in the Lesbian Pulp aesthetic.

Why am I as an asexual doing this?

Because I like writing plays of all types and because like many minorities, I can’t help but become intimately familiar with more dominant cultures (even if they are not the dominant culture).

So if that sounds fun to you, please check it out in the link above and I’ll let you know when it’s been approved by iTunes so that you can subscribe there.

If you have at all paid attention to the Right during this economic downturn, you have noticed their firm disbelief in the idea of a social safety net.

“Entitlement programs”, “wasted money”, and so on. In their eyes, welfare and other safety net programs in place to take care of the unemployed, the unable to work, and those who are down and out merely breeds laziness in those who partake in it and actually does harm to the employment rate.

In their eyes, the unemployment rate is the way it is because of the laziness of “moochers” stealing the hard-earned money of the “productive class”.

Now, all of this is patent bullshit. Hell, at this point of political debate, the fact that it comes from a right-winger at all is already a giant clue that the argument has no connection with reality or sound policy.

We could talk about how UI and other aid to the poor have some of the highest impacts per dollar spent of any stimulative expenditure. UI has a $1.64 economic impact for each dollar spent, meaning the government is actually gaining money in expanded economic activity and thus taxes paid back when they “waste money” on the poor.

We could point out that countries with a strong social safety net have some of the more robust economies. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were able to much easily ride out the global economic collapse than countries with less robust safety nets. Scandanavia in general has one of the highest rates of entrepeneurship and has actual class mobility, where the ability to form a start-up and succeed is much easier than in the states. This fantastic article from Inc Magazine points out that the presence of a robust safety net allows those with ideas for businesses to take a risk and start a business for they know that if they fail, they won’t be ruined. Shockingly, seeing as how most new business ventures do fail, having that not mean potential death encourages people to take a risk and be innovative. Robust welfare systems instead of breeding cultures of waste and laziness show the highest rates of innovation and some of the robuster economies in the world.

We could even point out that in the type of capitalist system we have that there is a minimum unemployment rate that the economy is not allowed to dip below. Thus, there must always be at minimum at least 5% of the working population out of work at any time and that’s not counting those who are unable to work or those who have taken themselves out of the workforce entirely (retirees, full-time homemakers, people unable to work for physical or mental reasons). This is necessary for the economy that there always be people out of work, looking for work that isn’t yet there. Raw empathy alone would argue that if we are always going to have less work than people looking for work that two things would be true.

1) That such people should be given a basic ability to pay rent, food, and other necessities.
2) That the image of the jobless as lazy and unwilling to grab the plentiful jobs that must exist is fundamentally untrue.

Furthermore, we could point out that our current economy does not have a problem of companies seeking to hire and being unable to find takers, but rather companies refusing to hire and using the downturn as a reason to become even more selective in hiring, looking to hire the recently laid off of rival companies and seeking those with 20 years experience for entry-level jobs, thus making it nearly impossible for even the hard-working to break into even basic level employment.

And indeed, I have pointed all this out, but it’s not what I want to focus on in this post.

Sure, they are wrong at nearly every level, but let us look just at the most basic assumption.

That fear, fear of unemployment, is the greatest motivator for looking for work. And furthermore, that motivation of lacking a safety net is the only thing preventing complete surrender and slacking off

Let us address the second of those points first.

The thing is, people want to work. They want to feel useful and like they are contributing rather than feeling devalued, a drain on society, or worthless. People want to work to feel external validation for their worthiness and will seek it out even when the pay isn’t dramatically different. Those who don’t do so tend to find their validation in the self and for the most part they will try and find worth in activities they choose themselves such as personal projects.

In many ways, the fact that the “poor people are lazy and won’t get work unless forced” meme is so seductive to so many is proof that a critical American text has gone unread by too large a section of the population. That text is The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.

The titular “Feminine Mystique” is the longing of the housewife to engage in activities that are valued. Since housework and childcare were devalued both by men and society, a stay-at-home homemaker felt infantilized, devalued, massively depressed, and almost manic at the repetitive chores and lack of purpose. Even today, someone stuck at home often has a mental weight on them and is in need of clear delineators of when their “work day” begins and ends, frequent release to the outside world, and important hobbies to retain sanity.

There may be a few who take advantage of a generous system, but for the most part, people who are able to work in any system will do so, because the mental weight of being an unemployed layabout is often emotionally crippling as the Feminine Mystique painfully points out in harrowing story after harrowing story. Such experiences are not gendered.

And now let’s address that first part. Are people more motivated by fear than other methods to search for work?

Well, no, not really. We can look to countless psychological reports that fear actually shuts down the ability of the brain to think at its peak ability. Furthermore, fear and dire potential consequences often induce strong boats of depression and despair and as anyone who has suffered depression can tell you, depression means immensely lowered energy reserves, longer sleep schedules, and so on. This means less time available and less energy available to send out applications and continue job searches. Add this with businesses’ desire to hire happy workers and the fact that job searching is an emotionally tumultuous and unpleasant activity and one can see that making it even more harrowing and difficult is about the same level of good idea as beating an abuse victim to try and stop them from flashing back.

I can definitely attest to this personally. I have kept putting out applications and chasing leads, because I genuinely wish to work, but such work has been immensely difficult emotionally because the complete lack of available of safety net that means a damn makes search incredibly difficult.

For the last year, I have been gripped by the fear, dread, and panic that conservatives argue make one a better job searcher. As such, I have drifted into deep depressions. Each job search and each failure feels more like a personal evaluation on my worthiness of life (a deliberate desire of the conservative model, the unemployed’s ability to survive is directly related to their ability to get someone to hire them and hire them for living wage). So after the thousands upon thousands of applications I have turned in in the last year and two months, the evaluation has become one of absolute meaningless. My mind has often betrayed me. I have become unable to do anything but search for jobs and weep for months at a time, feeling guilty even for simple self-care procedures or taking any time in the pursuit of projects that could even make me some small income if I were to finish them. I have repeatedly over the course of this campaign been reduced to complete breakdown, unable to do anything but cry and hold myself tight. And I am ashamed to admit that thoughts of suicide have certainly been making their attacks on my psyche.

Cause the thing about high consequences is that it doesn’t motivate one to grab hard on the tightrope and battle the angry horde back onto some semblance of balance. It motivates one to surrender, to give up to the hopelessness of a cause and accept the seemingly inescapable fate.

I don’t say these things out of desire for pity, but to point out that it has only been through my will, my desire to do this for myself that I have been able to send out any applications, despite all the rejections, because the mental torture of having no safety net makes each action so much harder than it needs to be.

Indeed, very recently, I have been at my most productive in the long year I have been unemployed. I had been receiving aid from a relative and I had just begun to believe in it as a makeshift safety net. The pressure finally lessened and I was able to put forth applications and simultaneously work on two side projects that I have been very excited about pursuing and which could make me some small bit of money if I am able to complete them to my standards.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like a zombie, barely shambling forward on nothing but momentum, but someone genuinely excited and full of spirit. The mental energy wasted on raw fear of the future had been alleviated and allowed to actually work on productive acts for my improvement.

With a safety net, I was able to truly be motivated.

Not just doing it because I had to, fighting every mental scar, and relying on my personal will, but with full emotional and mental batteries actually working on real and important problems rather than simply focusing on base survival.

Things were easier and I had an easier time doing the activities for my future good when I didn’t have to worry where next month’s groceries or rent was going to come from.

This is a lesson that Scandanavia and most first-world nations have already realized. That a safety net doesn’t make tightrope walkers jump and instead makes it easier for the walkers to perform their maneuvers instead of being unbalanced by the fear of death if they should fall.

Fear doesn’t motivate, it only cripples.

And I feel that again.

My relative will be unable to continue helping me in future months. Don’t worry about me, I think we should be able to survive fine and I’ve got a few more months of aid to turn into desperate minimal savings.

I’m not saying this to request aid or pity, but rather to note that with that news, all the comfortable motivation I felt has fled and I’m back to the same scrap and scrape feeling I had been for a year, relying on will to continue forward and fighting mental and emotional betrayal by my mind to cloud my ability to work on both applications and my own projects.

Having the feeling however illusionary of a reliable safety net and now having the feeling of a complete lack of safety net again, I can understand viscerally how such “motivation” doesn’t motivate. How it demotivates, breaks, and destroys.

The right, as they always are in their arguments about society and human motivation, are full of shit.

You didn’t need me to say this, but I hope this further illustrates how every petty, mean assumption they bring to bullshit like the Debt Crisis and the so-called “Spending Crisis” are woefully lacking in veracity.

These are people’s lives, who are being asked to die, who are suffering until eventual bankruptcy and death, because a bunch of sociopaths think that a lack of a safety net will make people search harder for non-existant jobs.

This. Should. Not. Be.

I don’t care what else should be true, but that at least, is the minimum our empathy should expect. That such a system should not exist and no one should have to go without food or shelter because someone thinks they’ll be “more motivated” without them.

The double-bind

07/06/2011

I just recently finished writing a long post on the recent atheist community’s privilege fail with regards to Rebecca Watson doing that most vile of female actions, talking about a problem related to the treatment of women.

I’d recommend reading that first, because what I’m going to talk about is a lot of the double-talk that got invoked in that whole rigmarole.

Specifically a lot of dudes were very upset with Rebecca Watson that she or any other woman would ever feel threatened by being cornered in an elevator in the middle of the night, having consent ignored, and being asked for sex at 4 am from someone you’ve never met.

Yet at the same time, whenever a woman is assaulted, the refrain from many men, including many of the same men is that the woman should have done more to prevent that occurrence. The woman brought it on herself. She should have been more forceful with her refusal, never have gone to that location, been in an isolated location with them, should have resisted, carried mace or a taser, and so on.

That would be the first double-bind.

Women are asked to be on guard against rape, to expect it at every action, and engage in refusals far and above the normal standards for refusal. And yet even minor actions like being skeeved out and feeling disrespected by skeevy and disrespectful behavior is treated like a Grand Crime against all men.

Men want women to be perfectly on guard against rapists, but perfectly trusting with them or anyone else they may remotely identify with including in some respects actual rapists. Perhaps in a world where rapists are kind enough to wear identification tags and introduce themselves as such, that could be close to a sane and non-contradictory state of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”, but in this world?

Yeah.

I’ll also note that some of the people terribly upset at the gall and rudeness and disrespect (to the man of course) of Rebecca Watson to be talking about this and refusing because she was tired, uninterested, disrespected to, and he was skeevy and didn’t seem to pay attention to consent or context also recommended that she and other women should “carry tasers or mace if they were so worried”.

This double bind is not worth counting, but worth noting for the sheer chutzpah in arguing that they would totally have a woman’s back if she tazed a guy for being skeevy and creepy while exonerating her for being polite to the person and merely reporting the behavior as unfortunate. Yeah, we believe you, because there is no evidence that that wouldn’t be seen as equivalent to a woman chopping off every penis in the Greater Chicago Area.

Another double-bind, labeled number two, is one brought to light by the issue. Related to the previous one about trust, many minority groups are asked to trust dominant group allies and are often raked over the coals when they dare be suspicious of the support, suspect it to be fair-weather or read into actions patterns used in the dismissal of said minority group or other groups in the past.

And yet, incidents like this reveal the fragility of that support when it brings up issues outside of the duh level. Sure, there was support when it was foreign cultures doing FGM, sexism in religious societies, and even ideas like rape and abuse in general are bad things, but then an incident like this rolls around and suddenly leaders in the community can’t wait to tell the uppity women to shut up.

This was sadly demonstrated in posts by Dawkins and Mehmet I quoted in my last post where after they tell Rebecca to shut up about this basic feminism issue (by claiming it’s minor and not important as other issues and yes the irony of atheist leaders who are unlikely to win the “Oppression Olympics” any time soon claiming the “All issues must wait until more important issues are solved” is not lost on me) about objectification, they both try to shame her about another feminist issue as if they had any right to. I mean, when one has pretty staunchly refused to engage on a basic feminist argument and has stated its worthless and the dropping of their support, it’s hard to immediately believe they are the diviner of everything feminist and they get to determine what the “real” feminist issue is like they were still proven allies.

But still women run into this a lot, often with men who are very much fair-weathered allies, but grow incredibly incensed if you react as if that was the case or even acknowledge the existence of privilege and toxic cultural baggage. A double-bind for those who don’t just accept that they’re “bitches” for “not trusting” “obvious allies”.

And the last double-bind is this.

The article I noted earlier this blog talks about a study that did conversational analysis to determine how people refuse things including sex.

And what they found was that people don’t tend to do a direct no, but rely on softening the statement, because a direct statement is considered rude. They found that people understand the refusal fine and this is true for pretty much everyone tested, demonstrating that it is the cultural norm and that the “just say no forcefully” advice regarding sexual assault places an additional burden and ignores the fact that men don’t really need that to know when someone has said no.

In fact, direct “no”s tend to make subjects angry and make them feel justified in escalating to violence and assault.

Now, that’s not the third double-bind, but it’s certainly a doozy of a double-bind in and of itself.

No, the third double-bind is that the reason for this perception of a direct refusal as rude is simply cultural inertia and social convention.

It has always been, and thus violating that is a violation of social norms and thus inherently off-putting and thus “rude”.

Which brings us up to the real doozy and the reason why this entire backlash existed in the first place.

People are also culturally trained not to talk about the behaviors we’ve learned with regards to minorities. Specifically with regards to feminism, essentially, we don’t talk about feminism. Women being silenced, being disrespected, being treated like sex objects, or being threatened or skeeved out. These are not discussed and certainly not in a way that places male behavior under scrutiny.

Women are judged for their behavior. Men get to do what they want. That is the social norm. That is the way it has always been done.

As such, someone pointing this out and asking to talk about it will be seen as rude.

Period.

That’s the double-bind.

Any speech, no matter how nice, how softly, how qualified, or how brief will be seen as a violation of norms and will cause the dominant group to freak out, to trip over the privilege, to find themselves angry and not knowing why, and feeling justified asking for silencing or viewing the person who dared bring things up as the real person who did wrong.

And that’s really what is the story of this incident. Rebecca Watson brought up things that have always gone unexamined and asked to examine them. This was inherently a violation of social norms of silence around those issues and a lot of men responded with the cultural training to view that as the real problem (after all, the behavior wasn’t really violating any cultural norms in the sense that they are sadly too common in our societies).

But the double-bind continues in that any attempt to fix this will necessarily be seen as rude, be derided and be met with anger and a sense of “division for the sake of division”.

Mere acknowledgment is seen as the real problem and people speaking on behalf of themselves are seen as the rude thing that’s going to scare everyone off with their rudeness.

And yet it’s necessary. To fight, to struggle, to be rude and crude, and resisted with much frantic flailing. All of this must occur because otherwise, all we get is the same status quo affairs and the horrible prison that is for everyone for whom that doesn’t benefit.

And so, the struggle is inherently rude in the eyes of those who are struggled against or in the eyes of fair-weathered allies. Off-putting, not helping, distracting, and rude.

But in that final double-bind comes freedom.

If anything is rude. If what is requested is naught but no-win situations and impossible requests, then there is simply no reason to care.

When anything is rude, there is no need to carefully tailor one’s arguments or even act like these predictable patterns of whiny flailing are at all good faith or must be heeded.

Why not speak loud and clear? Why not call a bigot a bigot or call out a self-claimed ally on their blind-spots? Why not ignore the tone trolls and those who yell “distraction”?

In creating no ability to win, there are many sad injustices, but there is also complete freedom.

We don’t need to answer to anyone, least of all those more privileged than us with regards to tactics or life experiences or speaking out.

All we need to do is to keeping doing it, in all the myriad of tactics and styles we can until it is the bigoted positions, the old “social norms” that become the things seen as rude.

It’s what’s worked for every other rights struggle in at least the last 100 years.

So thank you atheist community backlash for perfectly illustrating how the supposed double-bind is simply a bundle of untied rope.

For the atheist community at the moment, the biggest news is the story of Rebecca Watson.

For those not in the know, any of these threads will work.

Not to mention the long running and terribly terribly sad saga of posts on Pharyngula where the more…shall we say…douchey members of the atheist community made a relatively small problem into a major unsettling demonstration of how far things need to go.

Okay, before I get to deep into all that, let’s give the quick breakdown for those really confused right now.

Rebecca Watson was at an atheist conference, speaking on, among other issues, sexualization of women in the atheist community. Later that night at 4 am an attendee of the convention approached her while in the elevator, ignored her claims that she was tired and just wanted to go to bed and skeevily asked for sex.

Now, this happening in an enclosed space with absolutely no attempt to get to know her as a person and with an added creepy bonus of deliberately ignoring the refusal of consent in her being tired and uninterested in pursuing things, Rebbeca Watson was understandably skeeved and said on her vlog, hey guys, don’t do that.

Apparently by doing this, she personally ordered Hitler to invade Poland.

Who could have known?

There was a backlash and when she pointed out this backlash as an illustration of a point that the atheist movement has to grow with regards to women’s inclusion in the whole conventions, speaking tours, etc… side of atheist activism, well, there was an even bigger backlash.

And when PZ Myers decided to prove that his feminism wasn’t for sure and decided to throw into the ring his first tepid support for the rather non-controversial idea that maybe just maybe we could respect women as full people rather than the sex class and not be douchey when hitting on them, or at least failing that, at least not provide a stark reminder to even the few female leaders and speakers in the movement that any man will feel comfortable pulling social privilege and make you feel disrespected and an object, well…

The lunatics were let out of the asylum on that one and if you follow my links to the PZ posts you will see an epic swarm of marauding men trying to beat the others off to show off their best attempt at the Privilege Fail.

And when that’s going on, what soon followed was the usual silencing tactics, minimizing of women’s issues, blatant anti-feminism, full out misogyny, and so on.

Basically, the misogynist community let their freak flag fly on this one.

And that’s bad. But it’s worse because the last big discussion of women regarding the atheist community was THIS ONE.

Basically, the last big fight was on how we can get better inclusion of women in the atheist movement and basically fix the “middle class white men” problem it has.

That fight had led to some good developments, more atheism and feminism discussions, better inclusion of the marriage of feminism and skepticism, and even some airing of concerns about the con problem where women who attended were made to feel unsafe, out-numbered, disrespected, and of course treated like a sex object open to sex offers anywhere, anywhen.

Yeah.

Oh, irony. Well, not irony, more like unfortunately illustrative example.

What makes this worse is that luminaries like Richard Dawkins and Hemant Mehta came down on (if you’ll pardon the euphemism) the side of the devils on this one.

So, yeah, that’s the situation and the context.

#

And now, 500+ words into my post, let’s get into the real meat of what this fail illustrates.

And to begin, let us just note the sad obvious. Rationalist men are no less devoid of their cultural training in an unfortunately misogynistic culture with regards to women.

Being a free-thinker doesn’t save you being raised in a world where a woman is thought of as the sex class, some sexual object there to provide sexual relief and little else and not fully deserving the full respect one would give a man.

Being a free-thinker doesn’t make one fully cognizant of the rape culture, including the culture wherein if Rebecca Watson had been raped in that enclosed space where her consent was already being treated as optional, many of these same men would be following cultural traditions in saying she should have been more forceful in defending herself.

And if I may tangent here, many of the comments claim simultaneously that Rebecca Watson was making a mountain of a mole-hill and shouldn’t have committed the high-crime of talking about it in the nicest least-threatening or angry way possible while simultaneously giving advice like “she should have carried a taser if she was so worried.” Yes, the same people who thought mild rejection followed by “hey guys, don’t do this” were somehow going to have her back if she tazed this guy in the nuts. That doesn’t even begin to make since.

Back on the roll, being a free-thinker doesn’t protect one from privilege fails. I mean, that’s what it’s about. Being a free-thinker cis-gendered male means that you were raised male, raised in the toxic soup of culture and will have to heavily examine those learned behaviors if one wants to improve.

And unfortunately like what we’ve seen from a large section of men and other dominant groups, it can be easier to trip over your privilege and make yourself look like an asshole than to just listen to minorities and acknowledge basic level stuff.

And here, we need to discuss directly two quotes from major giants in the atheist community. Men whose work I respect, especially the latter.

First, Hemant Mehta:

This was bad form for two reasons. One, it was a distraction from an otherwise important talk. Instead of us discussing the incredibly important issue of how the Religious Right harms women (the subject of the talk), we’re all discussing whether it’s right for someone with a big megaphone to pick on someone with a smaller one, whether someone was being a “bad feminist,” and all sorts of shit that doesn’t need to be aired in public.
Two, whether it was the intention or not, you’ve convinced a young female in our movement that if she says something you don’t like, she better be ready for an all-out barrage of criticism from every “big name” in the atheist blogosphere.

Second, Richard Dawkins:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

And yes, the second one is directed towards a fictional invented strawman for the purpose of “mocking” Rebecca Watson’s arguments. And that sound you’re hearing is my heart breaking because I fucking love Richard Dawkins. Like, The Selfish Gene was the first non-fiction book I ever bought for myself love.

Now, these posts contain a lot of arguments, so let’s just quickly translate what they are saying:

Shut up.
Shut up. Shut up.
Shut up. ShutupShutupSHUTUP!

And if you read the comments in PZ Myers’ posts, you’ll find that that was a common thread when people could bother to respond to Rebecca Watson’s arguments instead of bitching at all women or feminists.

Now, you may think this unfair, but let’s treat these arguments as if they were good faith and look at exactly what they are arguing at their most basic level.

Both directly call for the cessation of Rebecca Watson making her argument, seeing it as a distraction from bigger issues, those being a) the radical sexism of the Religious Right and b) the horrific treatment of women in third-world Middle Eastern and African countries.

Now, people who know anything about most minority rights movements can recognize that this argument is already made of fail. The idea that Issue X must wait until “much bigger” Issue Y has been resolved has always been a silencing campaign to try and shame a cultural movement from discussing issues the speaker personally finds threatening to their privilege or self-regard and those following that advice have often found themselves inevitably having to return to those issues later from a more disadvantageous position because of the loss of forward momentum on the issue.

But let’s really look at the arguments. They are arguing that Rebecca Watson is basically making too much of a small problem and “wasting our time”. But that doesn’t follow.

A small problem doesn’t waste time, especially not a small problem that Rebecca Watson didn’t seek to make a big thing of.

I mean, let’s think of it like an actual small problem.

I was recently in the San Francisco Pride Marches (Trans, Dyke, and Pride and yes, pictures will be coming, I promise). Now, feet get tired in those, so let’s say I step on someone’s foot accidentally.

This is a small problem. To solve it I would say sorry and seek not to do it again. If the person turned to me and said Ow, I would say the same thing.

And if someone said on a blog that people should strive not to step on people’s feet in marches, the general consensus would be “yeah, of course, no problem”.

It’s not a hard problem to solve. So instead, the community ripped open its head and let loose a thousand angry chipmunks to demand that Rebecca Watson be silenced. That’d be like if the entire crowd attacked the person whose foot I stepped on because them saying Ow was distracting from the Parade.

Possibly shaky analogy aside, I hope the point stands. Small issues don’t get massive blowback. Small issues aren’t asked to shut up. Small issues aren’t treated as grave distractions from important work (also extra fail points go to both gentlemen for choosing subjects that “Rebecca Watson should be focusing on instead” that Rebecca Watson has often devoted a lot of focus to and which feminists in general have been more outspoken about than male atheists…yeah, whoops).

Because that’s the thing, small issues are small. Minor problems are minor and they don’t get entire communities backlashing against them, massive pushback by leaders, and arguments that they need to stop carrying on about them while “real work” needs to happen. Minor issues get resolved quickly without fuss. That’s how you know they are minor. When they are met with a collective yawn.

Once you argue they are “distracting” from real fights, you are acknowledging that this problem is real and discussion needs to occur.

Now already these arguments taken in good faith reveal the dichotomy, but let’s also go one step deeper.

Notice anything about the “more important” issues?

Yeah, they’re both about cultures that the speakers in question don’t belong to. Yeah, it’s real easy to condemn and see as evil acts done that have no connection to oneself whatsoever. Hemant Mehta doesn’t really have any connection to the Religious Right and Dawkins doesn’t to the Middle East or Islam. They are easy targets.

They are also targets that have limited ability to fix from the outside.

Yes, atheists can, do, and should point out issues in the Religious Right all around the world, both Christian and Muslim, pointing out egregious behavior and making it impossible to hide them from the public eye and public condemnation. To make it easier for people to leave those communities and try to reach those who can break from the oppressive conditions they find themselves in.

But the thing about that is that comes with a lot of downtime.

Trying to leave stuff to reach the curious in those communities to leave or grow or even seek to reform from within is great work, but at the end of the day, the best work is going to be done by other individuals learning and growing and becoming better.

And that’s really the best activism when we get right down to it, trying to improve oneself, trying to improve one’s community, and trying to reach others in other communities to improve themselves as well.

And that’s the part being directly rejected in those posts by these important leaders in the atheist community.

While we can do little but speak out and hope on getting people out of the Religious Right or the end of oppressive operations on women in the third-world, we can do a lot in our own communities. Improving them to be better versions of itself and thus providing even stronger incentive for others to join the rest of the world.

In short, the atheist community is not going to be able to quickly fix FGM, but damnitt, it can, if it put it’s mind to it fix the Atheist Community’s problems with women and sexism. It can address how women are made to feel sexualized and dismissed at conventions, can address the easy privilege fails that many male atheists fall into when speaking to or about women, can try and discourage the douchebags in its community rather than seek to silence the feminists who dare speak about that which we do not speak about.

There’s a lot and what can be done will produce much more dramatic change than we can affect in other cultures, who will always see its most dramatic changes from within. From those who lived the experiences, from those in the cultures, from those who escaped to those still in it.

But that would be hard. That would involve personal growth and hard looks at the community and a genuine demand to improve the hard interconnected issues that lead to problems like wide-scale sexism in the first place rather than giving oneself a blank check to feel smugly superior to a backwards uncivilized lesser culture.

And that could be an excuse if we were 5 year olds and we weren’t talking about a movement based in critical analysis of sacred cows and unexamined claims. A movement based on looking at the momentum of social inertia and goes, hey, wait, is there any support for any of this or are we just doing what we’re doing because we’ve always done it.

And that’s what makes these privilege fails so sad to witness. Because the community has the tools to examine these automatic resistances to discussion and growth, that has them calling for silence and demonization at the mildest of topic introduction, these cultural learned behaviors that serve no one’s interest, not men’s, not women’s.

And they are being actively deliberately ignored in favor of rolling into a ball and trying to wish it all away.

And that would be the biggest privilege fail of all and until that issue is addressed, atheism will always find its calls for minority identities to join in the struggle ringing a little hollow and its numbers continuously white, male, middle class, cisgendered, and heterosexual. Because a skeptics movement based in observing reality as is that refuses to seriously address the racial, sexual, sexuality, gender, class realities that are simply isn’t one yet.

The atheist community has a lot of growing, but like I’ve said in previous posts, I believe it will do so, shakily and possibly with a few fallen heroes of old having painful flameouts, but nonetheless growing into a movement able to address its problems and become a better movement for it, a more inclusive movement with a stronger respect for intellectual honesty and consistency.

But I won’t lie in agreeing with Rebecca Watson and others that the display seen here in the backlash to her is an overdue reminder on just how far the movement has to come, especially in its conventions.

But hey, it’s work we can do the most easily. Because it’s our own damn community.

So I’ve decided from time to time I will dredge out some ancient long-simmering rant about some movie or videogame that everyone has already discussed to death and try and hopefully present something new to at least some people.

Today’s edition is about a videogame released last year called Metroid: Other M. For those of my readers who are not gamers, Metroid is a series of games about a female bounty hunter named Samus Aran who is called in to various solo missions where she unravels the plots of a group of Space Pirates and often saves the universe from huge epic threats.

The games began as basically a form of side-scrolling platformer and were later turned into a first-person shooter. The character can often turn into a ball to jump higher or navigate tight spaces thanks to futuristic space armor with a host of weapons that are often acquired through the game for often arbitrary reasons. For more reading, here’s the wikipedia page.

Now, that’s the basics of it and I’ll be getting into the rest later.

Now, the reason I’m doing this rant (and specifically now) is because of a series of factors.

First, the release of this latest game in the series, Metroid: Other M. The game has been routinely criticized for creating a hideous mess of a game with an unbelievably offensive grasp of women.

Basically, the short of it was the game was handed to a company called Team Ninja who are famous for a game called Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball which was game based around watching women in skimpy outfits bounce up and down, so basically an even more objectified version of The Man Show.

Said company made a number of questionable decisions regarding the titular character, deciding to give her an “epic backstory” which basically presented her as a PTSD mess unable to accomplish anything akin to the tasks she had in other games without the assistance of men.

Worst of all, they included a game mechanic wherein Samus had massive daddy issues and an Elektra complex that caused her to doff any sense of competence and actually take ongoing damage from environments until the object of her affection told her she could protect herself. In the game this would consist of walking into flames and getting burnt until the male authority figure known as Adam told her she could protect herself.

As an exploration of abusive relationships or possibly BDSM, this mechanic could have been interesting, but instead, it was presented as straight. Samus was unable to think for herself because this was the developer’s idea of a reasonable depiction of how a woman would act.

But I’ll get into further rants on that after I point out the other “recent” events that have excavated this rant.

Second, has been a video response to the controversy by MovieBob who is a movie and games critic who also has a show called The Game Overthinker. During this show, he had a video up defending the game, which I have link below:

The Game Overthinker: Heavens to Metroid

The episode gave me quite a bit of an urge to rant. But that gets us to the final prompt.

Another gaming critique show called Extra Credits, which may be one of my favorite shows on the site for its frequent deconstructions of the medium of video games and various cultural issues, recently had a video about Other M embedded below. This followed an excellent video on Female characters in video games, which is a must see:

Extra Credits: Learning from Other M

This video was posted today and takes care of a lot of the issues of Other M, pointing out the broken mechanics and a number of other creative missteps that created the game.

There even was some brief addressing of Other M’s most egregious faults (the sexist protrayal of its central female protagonist), but both it and MovieBob’s review ended up glossing over it to a large extent.

And the sexism shouldn’t be glossed over, because it is a large part of the backlash.

No, not because the sexism is just a way to attack Japan for having a different culture as MovieBob tried to deflect to, but because how women are presented in video games is a real subject with some real problems.

Video games doesn’t have a wealth of good female characters. Worse yet, it has an even smaller pool of female main protagonists and an even smaller pool of good ones.

I own many of the games that do and love many of them. Silent Hill 3, Portal, Beyond Good and Evil, Parasite Eve, Mirror’s Edge.

Sadly, many of these games are cult favorites, not so much remembered (Portal being a recent exception) and few being as fully recognized as the Mario or Sonic games in gaming’s lexicon.

As such female protagonists are few and far between and rarely are such characters non-sexualized as objectified pieces of ass for presumed male players.

Worse yet, such characters are rarely allowed to be competent badasses on the scale of male heroes, many female characters in gaming playing support roles, being the reward object (such as Princess Peach in the Mario games) or otherwise on the periphery.

This is especially true when you focus on the icons of gaming history. There are a number of male heroes that are considered gaming icons. Mario and Sonic, Simon Belmont of Castlevania, Pacman, Megaman, Bomberman, Link from Zelda, and so on.

Nintendo has a game series called Super Smash Bros which collects those gaming icons it has created as a longtime gaming company and in it there is a number of beloved characters.

And most of them have presumed penises. In the last Smash Bros game, of the 35 characters included in the game as characters, only 3 were women.

Two of those women were support characters. One the aforementioned kidnap victim Princess Peach, the other a homebase support character from the Zelda games (Princess Zelda) who basically kickstarted most missions by sending Link off to save the world.

And then there is Samus Aran.

Samus Aran is the first female main protagonist in gaming history. The revelation in Metroid where she takes off her suit to reveal herself as a woman to the player remains one of gaming’s most important historical moments. Furthermore, she is one of the few female characters in gaming who wasn’t sexualized to titilate male gamers.

Here she was, the games argued, a tough bounty hunter who will break into the Pirate spaceship and blow shit up, just like her male contemporary heroes.

So she was important, but it is even bigger than that. Samus is the only positive female icon in gaming.

Let me repeat that:

Samus is the only positive female icon in gaming.

She is the only figure of gaming’s history that is regularly considered one of history’s true defining characters, one of those figures from the early days of gaming that nongamers have heard of and that can be synonymous with gaming.

One of the figures who belongs in the medium. Not as an accident, not as a fad, not as a cult favorite, but because she has been beloved for decades and is a welcome part of gaming’s history.

This is important because this has been a rocky shoal that female gamers have clung to.

Female gamers have constantly been considered secondary in gaming. They are not the target audience of new games. Little attention is put into catering to a female audience and when it is, the attention betrays a complete lack of understanding of what women want.

Worse yet, female gamers have found themselves the trigger for a lot of hardcore vs casual debates. Every genre that finally posts equal numbers of fans of male and female varieties seems to end up being deemed casual and not real gaming shortly thereafter.

This happened to puzzle games (yes, Tetris used to be considered hardcore), adventure games (again, Myst was hardcore), simulation games (SimEarth and SimCity used to be considered for supernerds), and now recently with Japanese RPGs.

If women like it, it must not be real gaming. I can’t wait for shooting games to eventually have a 50% female audience to see how that became “pussified” and “casual” in the minds of the gamer community.

But that’s beside the point. What is the point of this is that women tend to be tolerated at best, and often just ignored or written out entirely in the gaming industry. We rarely get characters we can wholly identify with. We rarely get explorations of themes that are important to our day to day lives and we often have to slog through a bunch of “jiggle physics”, string bikinis, and ultramacho dialogue just to enjoy our leisure time.

But no matter how unwanted female gamers have felt in the general gaming community and in the eyes of developers, they have always known that they belonged in said communities.

Why?

Because of Samus Aran. As long as Samus Aran was an icon of gaming, as long as she was someone female gamers could drift into enjoying all the empowerment fantasies that their male counterparts took for granted. As long as that was true, then women belonged in gaming. There was proof we had been there in the beginning, that we’ve been along for the ride and that strong female protagonists and games that didn’t insult female gamers were worth exploring.

And that really illustrates why Other M is such a travesty and why responses like MovieBob’s fail to grasp why the backlash over the game is so intense.

If they merely screwed up on a character, one in a dozen, there is backlash from fans of that character, feelings of betrayal from those who loved that series. It’s bad, but it’s contained. People can go enjoy another character they love and can identify with.

Similarly if a game includes a sexist storyline, depiction or character. It’s bad. It can easily ruin the ability of a woman to enjoy the game and it will prevent a lot of men who can’t ignore those issues from enjoying the game as well. It’s bad, but meh, there’s a lot of garbage so what can you do.

But this was something even worse. They took gaming’s sole female icon. The one thing that women have consistently had to look up to and know they belong in the fan community. They took that and made it a sexist mess.

They made a badass competent professional into a mewling child unable to complete missions without men completing the important tasks. Unable to even protect herself unless the man she imprints daddy issues onto tells her she’s allowed. Every nasty stereotype of women seems packed into this game.

Women are emotional, check. Women are incompetent, check. Women can’t think for themselves, check. Women can’t do anything without a man, check. Women are willing to sacrifice and be puppets for men, because that’s natural. Dear fucking Bob in Himmel, why is there a checkbox for that!

There is no real way to explain the betrayal, the sheer punch in the soul that that kind of betrayal of character represents (and regardless of what MovieBob argues, it is clear she at least had enough humanity in early presentations to not be a walking “women are shit” bag of sexist stereotypes).

This is reducing gaming’s one female icon into a sick joke, a sexist nightmare.

It is nothing less than the developers of Other M telling female gamers that they simply do not belong in gaming. That they are unwanted and that there is no female character so beloved, so well crafted that it can’t be reduced into a steaming mess of sexist assumptions in order to appeal to the default male gamer.

And there is no real alternatives. Women do not have another icon to turn to and say oh well. The scarcity that made Samus so critical also made her fragile and hideously damaging. As such, we will have to wait for her character to be passed to a better studio and to get the apology game and retcon assuming such a game even surfaces.

Its also why the backlash is so intense. Not only was this a horribly offensive idea of a female main protagonist, but it was done to a beloved icon. And not only a beloved icon, but the female icon.

If there is one positive its that meek off-topic defenses like Movie Bob’s (where he argues with a straw man over arguments where he holds some small level of accuracy) are the minority.

For the most part, the mostly male gaming community has reacted with rage at Other M and better yet, the focus of that rage has been the sexist characterization and betrayal of the icon and what she represents.

People have repeatedly pointed out the most egregious sexist moments and called out the developers for it.

And I think this is proof of what Samus represented and represents to this day. That her presence as a good female character with a rich long history is important to gaming as a whole in its slim connection to a female audience and to the viability of female protagonists in games today.

Even men who would gladly ignore the objectified women or sexist typecasting in other games, realize that this was a step too far and a travesty to the character.

For the first time, the feminist argument is one heard by the majority of gamers, not a small targeted minority.

And that is good and to be cherished, but it also highlights the damage.

Which is why close to a year later, female gamers and those who wish to see more of us are still ranting about this game.

Joe My God has the details*.

The video details a transwoman getting thoroughly thrashed by two assailants because she was seen as entering the “wrong” bathroom at a Maryland based McDonalds.

The staff filmed the assault and did not intervene in any way to stop the assault and in fact urged the assailants to flee before police arrived. The only person who intervened on the woman’s behalf was an elderly woman.

For all of the people who like to deny the correlations between cultural hatred and disregard of trans identity with violent assault and murder of trans individuals.

Moreover, for all of those who argue that the bathroom issue is “complicated” and that transpeople need to take a back seat to “concerns about safety”. That the cultural segregations at the bathroom do not create a mindset wherein defense of a clear separation isn’t seen as the most important thing. For those who can’t understand why bathrooms end up being such a huge source of stress, fear, and so on.

And especially for those so bound by hatred for transpeople’s existence that they believe transpeople deserve to get assaulted if they want the ability to shit like normal human beings in a closed stall like every other bastard seeking privacy and intestinal relief.

Watch the video at the link. Listen to every frightened scream. Listen to every hate-filled assault. Watch every boot come down.

Do that and then come back here and I dare you to not find the words turn into ash in your mouth.

For the rest of us, dear Bob in Himmel. It hurts to watch. And it hurts more to know this happens nearly every day in one form or another.

And if there’s one piece of hope I can give you, it’s that more and more people seem to be recognizing such acts as evil. More places are outraged when incidents like this occur. McDonalds has responded with an emphatic apology for the terrible actions of its employees and the initial uploader, at first proud of it, has found themselves at the center of a very nasty backlash.

Maybe just maybe, the social safety of being a bigot is decreasing and such actions will be less and less likely to be seen as laudable or “normal”.

*Warning on the comment section of the Joe My God post. It’s infested with some vile right-wing trolls and bigots so if you decide to scroll down into them, be wary.

The Problem

04/18/2011

Let’s talk about a political situation. A problem that occurs at the level of our politicians. Something that has been analyzed both cynically and hopefully, by means of problem identification and problem solving. It’s a problem at the root of a growing alienation and dissatisfaction among youth and liberals in general. It’s used as a battleground for the usual battle of party-line enforcer versus idealist reformer. And it may well be the problem that ends up destroying this nation. Certainly the problem that prevents any real solution to what is ailing the country from ever being considered much less enacted.

The problem has created vast gulfs between what is seen as politically possible and what is socially supported. Is the reason why most liberals work far more often on social reform than political solutions. Is the reason why the Democratic Party often finds its base disappointed and alienated. Is the reason why things have seemed to only get worse in the last 30 years with a crushing feeling of powerlessness seeping into the politically minded and motivated.

What is this problem?

This problem is a pattern.

What is this pattern?

This pattern is the one we’ve seen over and over again.

On half is Republicans sweep into power and its huge conservative reforms, important safety nets or human rights ripped up or targeted, legal processes ignored, lawmakers steamrolled and liberals in political power left to try and stem the worst of it, accepting any number of abuse to the system in its wake.

We see this now in Wisconsin, with the Republican victory there leading to an all-out assault on the collective bargaining rights (aka, the end of the right to unionize, a long time “free-market” conservative pipe dream). We see it again in the tea party congress victory in the House of Representatives leading to a stand-off against the most conservative representatives over the continued functioning of the government where the only deal was how Republican of a plan to accept (one which eliminated and privatized medicare and social security or one which merely gutted every single non-defense agency, already decimated by earlier cuts and attacks). We saw it in the Bush Administration where constitutional rights were wholesale ignored, plans to privatize social security, pass constitutional amendments banning gay rights were considered, and multiple wars, multiple torture camps and concentration camps were opened and so on. And certainly the iron march of tax cuts pairing with “spending cuts” and poison pill department heads targeting perceived liberal sectors such as the EPA, Department of Education, science funding, welfare, drug treatment, and so on. Not to mention the huge spade of retrograde laws being passed in Arizona since they got a wingnut governor.

This on its own is a relentless push. Dominated often by desperate scrambles to defend the basic rights of whatever minority is targeted this week, where things quickly get worse and one hopes merely to survive rather than reform.

But it gets paired with the other side of the problem.

And that side is that Democrats seem almost as ineffectual as Republicans are overpowering when they are in power. At the same time as WI, we here in CA have seen a large victory for Democratic leadership. The state has a large need for heavy reform. Our tax situation has been completely fubared by Prop 13 and intransigent minority power Republicans, our privatized public utilities have been nickel and diming the citizens, and a number of retrograde laws were passed since the time of Gov. Davis. Our new governor however will be looking to begin by passing a Republican compromise of heavy spending cuts to education and other public sectors, leaving alone Republican supported sectors such as prisons. In congress, our Democratic leaders in the Senate and the Presidency seem unable to gain any real positive change over the teabagging new House. Going back 2 years, Democrats had their heaviest gains in nearly their entire history, holding briefly 60 seats in the Senate, found themselves unable to pass anything but old Republican ideas deemed too liberal by today’s Republicans and various “half-and-half” compromises that resulted in things getting slightly better.

The saddest thing is that slightly better is something that was refreshing to many owing to its extreme novelty. Since the time of Reagan, Democratic gains have seemed to coincide only with things getting worse only slower, rather than any real improvement. Clinton presided over DADT, NAFTA, and any number of Republican-friendly compromises.

The pattern is thus, with regard to human rights, minority protection, social safety net strength, regulatory power, and the funding we give to our government infrastructure.

Things get dramatically worse under Republicans. Things only get slightly worse under Democrats.

The problem with this is that conservative views are toxic, wholly resistant to the notion of a real world, and often based more in tribal hatreds than any real desire to deal with reality as is or humanely interact with people.

So our system continues to suffer, often surviving only on personal rebellions, the remnant social improvements and safety nets installed in the 30s-70s, and shortchanged infrastructure in all fields being held together by the equivalent of baling wire and hope. Our education system limps on a shoe-string and disrespect, powered only by its last defenders willing to accept abuse and poverty wages to support something they believe in. Our bridges and electrical grid is literally falling apart. Our regulation system is unable to intervene to prevent ecological disasters like the BP oil spill, nor adequately address the various factors that lead to the global financial collapse.

In addition, we are seeing an ever-growing gap between what we socially support and what we view as politically possible. Ted Rall wrote a book during the administration called “Wake Up, You’re Liberal” which pointed out the various number of political issues that had majority liberal support when polled individually and how such support only went up when people were provided full information on what each side supported.

During the big health care debate, huge majorities supported systems far more liberal than were ever argued politically. Systems like single-payer or medicare for all. Nonetheless, politically, even with huge Democratic majorities, the debate seemed ever more slanted to ever more Republican compromises, ending with a few emergency pieces of duct tape trying to patch off recision, bad insurance policies, and setting up private insurance exchanges to kick in at 2012.

Unfortunately, those who have low-grade insurance at the moment have seen how ineffectual such changes were in making any real change to the broken system. Paying for “care” that never seemed to pay out is a system still well in practice.

This isn’t to bitch about Democratic weakness or to lay the blame wholly on our liberal leaders at the political level.

It’s pretty clear that campaigns of political nihilism on the part of conservatives have allowed them to make great gains where they are socially unpopular. Holding one group’s rights or humanity hostage for another group’s downfall, exploiting legal loopholes to bypass public scrutiny or delay legal rights by their opponents, and engaging in out right fraud.

The last especially has seen Presidents bribing foreign hostage takers to delay release of American prisoners so they look better when fully elected, illegal concentration camps, bribery scandals, quid pro quo deals with corporate financiers, and suicide bomb legislators who don’t care about ill will because they plan on entering corporate welfare after they do their damage.

This has led to victory, but has only fueled the gulf. Not only does this breed a growing feeling of powerlessness and civic disengagement by many with regards to political rights, but also this leads to a huge gulf between who we are socially and what our political system looks like.

Now, for our conservative counterparts, this may seem like a victory. Civic disengagement and depression among liberal activists and the victory of conservative desires above and beyond social support by any means necessary means continued support of an extended status quo, corporate power, and the continued punishment of “undeserving” minority groups for perceived sins.

But while this is frustrating and unhealthy in the short-term, it’s even worse for us all in the long-term.

The more we feel that the peaceful political option in addressing problems, grievances, and suffering is closed to us. And the more that feels to more people…

Well, that is the exact set of circumstances that tends to lead to things like the French Revolution. When the powerless see no peaceful means to protect themselves, bring benefits to their lives, protect themselves from exploitation. When the powerless see their lives get consistently worse and when more people see themselves as powerless, then alternate options end up being the only response.

For the political is important. It’s what affects our lives, provides the protections we take for granted, provides the society we rely on. When that finally breaks, when what we see socially fits in no way with the debates in the political arena, there is naught but conflict.

Hopefully we can fix this problem before it ruins us.

Image is the property of Dean Trippe, his website can be found here

So, cool news. I’m going to be semi-regularly contributing to the Slacktivese. The Slacktiverse is a blog founded by the community of an old blog called Slacktivist run by Fred Clark who is a great writer, an unfortunately rare example of a good evangelical Christian, and one of the most important experts we have in understanding fundamentalist Christian culture.

Before, I continue, I urge all to read Slacktivist, especially his on-going page-by-page take-downs of the Left Behind series of books because it really is the best way to understand the myriad of seeming non-sensical patterns in right-wing paranoid culture. Most of the things that seem to come out of nowhere in right-wing obsessions or memes can be directly tied to the Pre-Millenial Dispensationalist and John Birch Society beliefs he illuminates. If you’ve ever wanted to understand the Rapture cultists and how much political power they have, Fred Clark is a necessary read.

That isn’t of course to sell my friends at Slacktiverse short. The former community includes a huge amount of talented writers who’ve made growth and understanding one of their key pillars. If you want brilliant illuminations and personal narratives from a variety of marginalized viewpoints, then Slacktiverse delivers in spades.

With regards to this site, I will still continue posting here with my usual erratic schedule and will post links to my Slacktiverse posts as they go up.

On that note, my first post Frakking Bathrooms is up and is about my personal and cultural experiences with bathrooms as a transwoman.

A sample:

Let’s talk about bathrooms, specifically public restrooms. Now this doesn’t seem like much of a real topic. What are public restrooms? A place to expunge our wastes, wash our hands, and go.

Except…I’m a transwoman.

And as such, much of the battle for my basic rights seem focused on the issues of public restrooms.

Whether or not we have protections from being fired or turned over in hiring owing to our gender identity, whether we can be kicked out of housing or denied aid, whether we can legally be recognized as our actual sex, whether we are allowed access to aid mechanisms or services, and of course, whether our murders are to be investigated or silently left unsolved…all of these issues tend to be debated on the issue of whether or not we should be allowed in “their” bathrooms with their unprotected womenfolk and children and so on.

Now, that’s a stupid debate, filled with actions that say more about our opponents than those they attack. Much of it seems to assume that the gender signs on bathrooms act as a sort of magic ward that prevent men who want to assault women from entering unless they “disguise themselves as women”. Naturally, such occurrence of cross-dressing attackers in bathrooms never seems to manifest, though some of those who seek to defend from such a menace turn up to be bathroom attackers themselves.

I will, if allowed, gladly fill a column just about the political debate, but that isn’t why I’ve brought it up.

Today, I want to do something different than just arguing for my humanity and my right to poop.

Read the rest here

Clever post title sold to pay for heating.

Anti-gay arguments. Many of us in the LGBT community have heard them for a long time. We’ve gotten so used to debunking their complete break from reality that it’s become routine. The problem is that we’ve gotten used to just debunking them and moving on. I mean, the people using these arguments generally are just using them as smokescreen for raw animus anyways, so…

However, I feel that’s failing to appreciate the raw horror that are these arguments. Let’s look closely at some of the more popular arguments used in arguments against gay rights (specifically gay marriage) and what they reveal about the type of person who’d make and/or believe them, or otherwise find them compelling.

#1) Marriage is for procreation

The common stand-by, because the ability to conceive a child by unprotected sex is one of the few things that separate same-sex couples from opposite-sexed couples. Sure, a same-sex couple can still have children from previous marriages, use IVF, enlist a surrogate, adopt, or serve as mentor for a large group of children, but they can’t conceive solely using the plumbing and DNA of the two people in the relationship…unless one is trans and pre-medical transitioning…and shut up, shut up, shut up.

As I said, we’re used to breaking down this argument logically. There’s a great post here doing so. But let’s look at this argument much more closely with regards to what it’s saying.

At it’s most basic level, it argues that marriages are solely about children and procreation. Thus, that marriage is adamantly NOT about love. And this is a rather radical belief here in 2011, thanks to the tireless work of activists who have come before.

We are used to in the 21st century the notion that marriage is a ceremony to enshrine love, to say, “I love this person so much, that I want to try and be with them the rest of my life. They are the person who understands me the best, the one who can relay my concerns and needs the best of all when I’m incapacitated, sick, or dead. They are my sweetie.”

But SSM marriage opponents are right when they say that this isn’t the “traditional view of marriage”. The “traditional” view of marriage was one of a man purchasing unwanted property off of a father, that of a daughter. Said man, would then take his new property and put it to work as a house slave to keep his house, birth and raise his children and meet his sexual needs when he so desired, regardless of her own beliefs on the matter.

This attitude has mostly died off, thanks to pioneering artists for centuries dreaming of love as a matter of the heart and feminist activists slowly building up public regard for women until it became more common to imagine them as full people with hopes, dreams, ability to love, and furthermore someone that shouldn’t be raped or devoid of the right of self-ownership.

And just like we see in the “abortion debate”, that female self-ownership is still woefully supported, we see here in the anti-gay argument the resistance to this cultural evolution.

These people are admitting that their own marriages aren’t about love. They are about duty or because someone was knocked up, or because they were told they were nothing if they didn’t have the possessions “a family”, “a wife”, “kids”.

And it’s worth taking a moment to boggle at how utterly terrifying and sad that is.

To the people that this argument resonates with. To the people making these arguments as if they made rational sense to them. To the ones to which this makes emotional sense, marriage must be a trap rather than a celebration. Something tolerated merely out of duty to tradition and fealty to perpetuating a stark patriarchy for religious reasons.

No one’s marriage should ever be that. It should be a celebration of love.

Sadly, the number of jokes about “marriage as trap” and “wife as ball and chain” seem to hint sadly, that the true “traditional” marriage may not be so long dead as we would hope.

#2) Gay marriage is a slippery-slope to polyamory, bestiality, and child-molestation

Often made with these sexual unions being marriage level recognized unions. Now, let’s leave aside the fact that recognition of polyamorous triads, quads, and so on are in fact something that society should eventually grant social recognition and protection to similar to marriage, possibly by expanding marriage. And let’s leave aside that the main perpetrator of what is socially scary about polygamy (the hideous patriarchal “harems” of certain mormon sects) are also the main backers of most of the anti-gay movement at the moment (Mormons run NOM, which is behind most of the movement fighting against gay marriage).

Leaving all aside, it’s a remarkably bad argument. Not only because it’s a raw emotional appeal that doesn’t make legal sense, but because of what it fucking screams about the person making this argument.

And the thing it screams is that the person making the argument has ZERO, and I mean ZERO concept of consent. Or if they do, that they do not value it or regard it in sexual and marital interactions.

Or to put it bluntly: “What part of consenting adults eludes you?”

This argument is remarkably popular. Such conservative stalwarts as Pat Robertson, John Cornyn, and the usual gasbags like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have all made the argument.

Overall it might be the most popular anti-gay argument made in the fight for gay marriage.

But again, let’s point out the obvious. This statement, in order to even make internal consistent sense, has to completely ignore or devalue consent.

And to be frank, this is not an unfair statement. The conservative opposition don’t really believe in consent. Look at the “abortion debate”, look at the current Republican attempt to redefine rape, look at the constant anti-feminist resistance to the notion that rape means anything other than “white christian and her black boyfriend”.

And furthermore, the people making this argument and who this argument resonates with just don’t value consent. I don’t mean that they are rapists, per se, but that the culture of most conservative religions such as Fundamentalists, Mormons, Catholics, and many others views sex as inherently bad and sex one has chosen to commit as worse.

So if sex is inherently wrong, then there isn’t much moral difference between some consensual heavy petting and raping a child or a cow. Furthermore, there is a belief that sex is “more permissible” if one got “caught in the emotion” than if one has planned a sexual encounter, taking care to buy contraceptives and to fully explore boundaries and consent before hand.

Thus in these world views, consent actually makes sex worse because it shows a consciousness and “sluttiness” betrayed by admitting you are like 99% of people in the world and crave sexual interaction.

Now, it’s worth pointing this out, because this is a horrifying worldview that needs to die a quick and merciless death. Consent is critical in sexual interactions and respect for it needs to be unanimous or close enough. That so many are of the opinion that consent is either not a part of the marriage or sexual debate or that consent actually makes it worse, so that this slippery slope argument could at all make sense to them, shows a deep rot in our society and the relative youth of the movement to make consent a household expectation rather than a radical position.

A child or a horse can’t provide meaningful consent to either legally binding documents or sex. That they see it as equivalent shows that it’s all “bad sex” to them and thus, I fear for the sexual partners of every person who has ever made this argument.

Because their partner just argued in front of everyone that they don’t value consent in their sexual interactions with said partners.

Yeah, heartbreaking isn’t it?

#3 and #4) If gay marriage is allowed and everyone is gay married, then no children will be born and everyone will go extinct AND Homosexuals recruit and are trying to recruit me or my children into the “homosexual lifestyle”

The latter is an old standby and the former is gaining steam in the anti-gay movement as the arguments are turning towards “marriage is for procreation” arguments that I mocked earlier owing to the fact that that’s the only definable difference between same-sex parties and opposite-sex parties.

My “favorite” recent example of the former is probably Jeffrey Kuhner‘s insane assertion that it’s socially barren and a “homosexual society” or a culture that permits homosexuals will thus become extinct because homosexuals can’t create children with each other. And the latter has been seen everywhere.

Now, see, these arguments are very similar, because they both assert that homosexuality is so very desired. So very much seductive that everyone would be gay if there wasn’t such heavy social stigma against homosexuals in society. The argument of extinction, basically building on the older “gays recruit” angle to argue that legal rights would be seeing everyone switching teams because it’s just so awesome.

Now, see, let’s be frank.

There is no way. NO single possible way this is at all convincing to a person who is heterosexual or asexual.

Period.

See, heterosexuals and asexuals, and even homosexuals know that one can’t be “recruited” to the other side. You are attracted to what you are attracted to and not to what you aren’t. Nothing could make me sexually attracted to men or women.

So, what these people are doing, what they are screaming out to any who will hear is that they are very very gay. Or at least bi.

And not so much on the bi, because all of the people selling this argument the hardest often speak of homosexuality as this huge temptation that no one could possibly pass up. The extinction arguments are great, because it’s basically arguing that once the social stigma against homosexuality is gone, no one would stay in the sham marriages and we’d all go with the “obviously superior” option.

Which screams to anyone who really looks at this argument that the person who made it is flaming, is so very attracted to the same sex that they are legitimately concerned that the growing social equality of same-sex couples is threatening their marriages.

In fact let’s add

#5) Gay marriage threatens my marriage

To the list.

All three arguments, have at their core the fact that the one making the argument is feeling legitimately tempted by homosexuality. They have romantic and sexual interests in same-sex partners and are counting on social stigma to keep them from acting on it openly.

Basically everyone who makes this argument in any sense of seriousness has just come out as a Kinsey 1 at the least and considering they see it as a dominant choice, something that trumps all others, we’re talking Kinsey 4-6 much much more here. These are people who are admitting they are mostly homosexual in fighting against gay rights.

And what interests me is that this argument is relatively popular. Which provides pretty strong anecdotal evidence to a pet suspicion of mine that the majority of people aren’t heterosexual, but some flavor of bisexual.

As I said before, these arguments have no resonance for people who are really heterosexual. There is no there to tempt and it’s clear there is a vast separation in their desires for women and their lack of desires for men.

Now to be fair, it could just be bisexuality mixed with intense misogyny. The same religious cultures which short-change consent and hard-sell marriage for duty also view women as inhuman creations tolerated at best. They are instruments for birthing and raising children, a step up from possessions, who are to be resented for their femininity and weakness lest it somehow taint the masculine male by association.

These viewpoints are hardly alien and are lurking in our culture as a sort of toxic guidebook for masculinity that claims to be the only real path to being a man.

With women sold as beings to loathe, as lesser beings only good for sex, and where what matters most is one’s connections to other men, there is the basis of strong homosocial connections.

And for those just stumbling along, maybe with the slightest bisexuality, it might seem like it would be so much easier to ditch the dead weight of the woman and make those homosocial interactions homoromantic and homosexual as well in order to fulfill all needs without having to debase oneself seeking female companionship.

And for these people, I can see how the social stigma against homosexuals does seem like the only thing in their way. If gays weren’t categorized “girly men” or socially feminized, then what’s to stop the bisexual intense misogynist from sticking with the winning team where masculinity would reinforce masculinity.

And possibly more frightening is that these ultra-patriarchal societies are painful and shitty for the women living in them. If they could “choose” who they wanted to be with, with no social stigma, why would they stick around?

It’s a fear that keeps patriarchs awake at night, that their possessions might just do without them and “go lez”. It’s not rational and growing feminist victories means that people are slowly doing without those strict patriarchal relationships and striving for more egalitarian ones in all relationships. But still, it’s a crippling worry for those who are relying on social mores to keep women “in community” and ignorant of options.

Again, none of these options speaks well of the people advancing these arguments.

The point, finally

We often point to the disingenuousness, the history of equality movements, and the similarities between anti-gay arguments and anti-other-minorities arguments to show the moral depravity of the anti-gay movement and its proponents.

But we needn’t go to so much effort. The greatest horror of their statements isn’t the raw hate, isn’t the willingness to grasp any lie to make us suffer, it’s the statements themselves.

The arguments they make reveal their true characters far better than we could ever hope to reveal.

Let us take them at their word and be appalled by it.