Friday, August 01, 2008

Women Deserve Better

(Jump to comments.)
  • Culturally-diversified bi-racial girl,
    with a small diamond nose-ring
    and a pretty smile
    poses beside the words: "Women deserve better".

  • And I almost let her non-threatening grin begin to
    infiltrate my psyche-
    till I read the unlikely small-print at the bottom of the ad.
    'Sponsored by the US Secretariate for Pro Life Activities
    and the Knights of Columbus'
    on a bus, in a city with a population of 563,000.

  • Four teenage mothers on the bus with me.
    One latino woman with three children under three,
    and no signs of a daddy.
    One sixteen year old black girl,
    standing in twenty two degree weather
    with only a sweater,
    and a bookbag,
    and a bassinet, with an infant that ain't even four weeks yet-

  • Tell me that yes: Women do deserve better.

  • Women deserve better
    than public transportation rhetoric
    from the same people who won't give that teenage mother
    a ride to the next tranist.
    Won't let you talk to their kids about safer sex,
    and never had to listen as the door slams
    behind the man
    who adamantly says "that SHIT ain't his"-
    leaving her to wonder how she'll raise this kid.

  • Women deserve better than the three hundred dollars
    TANF and AFDC will provide that family of three.
    Or the six dollar an hour job at KFC
    with no benefits for her new baby-
    or the college degree she'll never see,
    because you can't have infants at the university.

  • Women deserve better
    than lip-service paid for by politicians
    who have no alternatives to abortion.
    Though I'm sure right now
    one of their seventeen year old daughters
    is sitting in a clinic lobby, sobbing quietly
    and anonymously,
    praying parents don't find out-
    Or is waiting for mom to pick her up because
    research shows that out-of-wedlock childbirth
    don't look good on political polls.
    And Bush ain't having that.

  • Women deserve better
    than backward governmental policies
    that don't want to pay for welfare for kids,
    or healthcare for kids,
    or childcare for kids.
    Don't want to pay living wages to working mothers.
    Don't want to make men who only want to be
    last night's lovers
    responsible for the semen they lay.
    Just like [they] don't want to pay for shit,
    but want to control the woman who's having it.

  • Acting outraged at abortion,
    when I'm outraged that they want us to believe
    that they believe
    "Women deserve better".

  • The Vatican won't prosecute pedophile priests,
    but I decide I'm not ready for motherhood
    and it's condemnation for me.
    These are the same people
    who won't support national condom distribution
    to prevent teenage pregnancy--

  • But women deserve better.

  • Women deserve better than back-alley surgeries
    that leave our wombs barren and empty.
    Deserve better than organizations bearing the name
    of land-stealing, racist, rapists
    funding million dollar campaigns on subway trains
    with no money to give these women--
    While balding, middle-aged white men
    tell us what to do with our bodies,
    while they wage wars and kill other people's babies.

  • So maybe,
    Women deserve better than propaganda and lies
    to get into office.
    Propaganda and lies
    to get into panties,
    to get out of court,
    to get out of paying child-support.

  • Get the fuck out of our decisions
    and give us back our VOICE.

  • Women do deserve better.

  • Women deserve choice.

-Sonya "The Drama" Boom Renee
Individual World Poetry Slam Finals 2006

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Midwifery, sexism, woo-woo: a Tangled mess of pseudoscience and bigotry

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I've thoroughly enjoyed several blog posts in my time since I embraced skepticism and feminism, and the changes they spurred within me. My favorites are usually those that discuss the intersections of different bigotries, such as My System of Oppression Has a Bigger Cock Than Your System of Oppression, There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions, and On the Culpability of Moderates. Religious, sexual, and racial bigotries are all cut from the same cloth.

In the skeptic, atheist, and scientific blogosphere there is often talk of bigotries on behalf of both pseudoscientists and real scientists, and I've begun explicitly combating the misogyny of their online fora. But one thing I don't think I've seen much of at all, is discussions of when these subjects intersect in such a way so as that somebody mistakes one bigotry for another. This afternoon I found a big box of it.

I've never been sure how to approach it, but some of the feminists I admire have a penchant for Alternative Medicine — or as I like to (correctly) call it, pseudoscientific bullshit that robs people of money, time, and often enough, their very lives.

I was reading a post at Shakesville today, discussing midwifery. Midwifery is an interesting subject to me nonetheleast because Missouri is embroiled in legal and legislative battles at the moment. It looked like Juliemania was going to discuss misogynistic arguments against midwifery but, much to my disappointment, it became apparent that Julie has a problem separating the scientific battle against pseudo–science with misogyny.

There's no doubt that many — most, even — doctors are sexist. So much so that comedy shows such as Scrubs think they can get a free pass for misogyny simply by pointing out every six episodes or so that surgical residency is a boys club, and misognist researchers and statisticians have recently finding ways to make the excuse "But golly gee, women just aren't interested in science, so it's OK for me to tell them they're a bunch of uppity bitches if we tell them not to be interested to begin with!"

No doubt that part of the AMA's push to outlaw midwifery comes from many of it's leading members think women shouldn't be in medicine at all. One cannot even deny that, considering that women are simultaneously credited with being more skilled at sewing and crafts — finger skill centric activities — yet accomplished surgeons are mostly men.

I certainly can't blame julie for her confusion, though. Over at the Skeptic Dictionary, which I link to, see here the definition of woo–woo:

adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey. Also n., a person who has mystical or new age beliefs.

Compare this to all the accusations of women being too emotional, totally emotion–driven... Yeah. Not julie's fault. It's our fault. That word has been misogynistically defined here by omitting the qualifiers that actually make it a word worth using. It should read more like this:

adj. concerned with appeals to emotion and spirituality pertaining to scientific claims, so as that the appeal is taken to override facts and scientific method when determining reality.

On the crux of it, Juliemania is right. There is no merit to the AMA's push to go after midwifery by giving it's own edict in their manifesto, when the arguments presented against it apply equally to any instance of performing medical procedures without the aid or presence of medically–trained individuals.

At least there would not be had this push be pre–emptive. But it's not. It's reactionary, brought on by some attempts at legislation and voter–initiated ballots in Missouri which would take rights to midwifery too far into dangerous territory, medically.

Conversely, many attacks on the medical establishment apply equally to childbirth and other areas of medicine, yet some have taken up the childbirth and midwifery battle as a front to wedge a foothold into the whole of the medical community. This is why julie was brought 3 reports on AMA's battle with midwiferey that were only done because Ricki Lake is involved. Ricki Lake, as a talk show host I haven't even heard of in a long time, is the kind who will go only so far with this childbirth thing and move on to advocating dangerous forms of alternative medicine, such as bad cancer treatments (chelation therapy, vitamin C) or the anti–vaccination woo going on right now, in a similar fashion to Opera and "the Secret," or even Montel's obsession with making himself look like he cares for US troops by subjecting their families to the cruelty of Sylvia Browne.

Anyhoo, back onto the post at Shakesville. Julie is inspired to write the post because she recently attended a midwife convention spured on by this example of when midwifery goes bad (which also, I will argue, is an example of exactly why it should be outlawed outside of hospitals).

It begins with this paragraph.

Shakesville: Doctor Knows Best

Sadly, as powerful as that meeting was, the only area that could be addressed was when a mom becomes a "patient". And through this process of understanding I realized the very dangerous paradigm under which much of the American medical community operates.

That first sentence reveals the very first thing that julie, and the vast majority of midwives, are mistaken of. A woman becomes a patient, in the sense of needing medical supervision, the second labor begins, not when something goes wrong. Often enough that's exactly when the trouble begins.

From this fallacious idea comes a tirade full of undefended slurs.

Much of the American medical community operates under a "Doctor Knows Best" paradigm. Only their scientific methods are considered factual. Only their knowledge and expertise can be used to make decisions on our behalf. This paradigm is frequently used across the board for every issue, even herbal or holistic.

So of course, the AMA "knows better" than midwives about childbirth and pregnancy, dismissing the fact that from the beginning of time midwives (not doctors) have been helping women give birth at home. Hell, they even co-opted the latin word for midwife — obstetricis. It doesn't matter that there is plenty of evidence to prove that homebirth and midwifery is safe and sound; unless the evidence comes from the American medical community it is false!

Many doctors don't believe homebirth is safe at all, and I suspect that many don't believe vaginal births are safe, either. How can they, when they are so grounded in the "doctor knows best" paradigm? One doctor told me that he "would try to honor her request to have a vaginal birth"; he admitted that if he perceived the slightest risk, he would not.

Emphasis in original.

It's not really a "doctor knows best" paradigm. It's a paradigm of evidence–based medicine. If something is not shown to be safe, you don't do it. If a group of people trying to perform a medical procedure routinely display incompetence in doing so, you don't let them.

One fallacy juliemania employs is the "from the beginning of time" line. It's an argument from antiquity and argument from tradition; fallacies. As a feminist who often deals with the "but it's tradition" defenses of misogyny, she should know better. History also reflects that the decline of childbirthing by non medically trained personell is the cause of a reduction in childbirth deaths and survival past infancy.

Another misharacterization she preforms is the sarcastic "unless the evidence comes from the American medical community it is false!" Juliemania seems to be under the impression that all medical research done the world over is done by the AMA itself. But that's not the case.

Wanna know the reason most doctors, obsetrician, don't think homebirth is safe? Because it removes the mother and fetus from real medical care. The link julie provides is a clear example of how stupidly fucking dangerous it is to just assume a birth is going to be fine. And then act as if a person "realizing" something is wrong and taking the mother to a hospital is the same as obviating problems. It's not. Most of the time, there is a sign of the problem a midwife realizes is there, that doctors and nurses would have seen much earlier, because they have the tools, cooperation, and most importantly, knowledge to recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent them.

It's just ridiculus to do something like childbirth outside of a hospital. They could push for a midwife program initiative, but apparently that's not magical enough.

You don't assume a major procedure (and something can be both routine and major) is safe until it isn't. You just don't. It's criminally irresponsible. You just don't do it. Whether it's childbirth, brain surgery, an appendectomy, amputation, or removing an internal cyst, or anything of that nature.

So is this an attack on women? Not entirely. Not even majoritively. The sad irony here, it's that it's the midwife community that is hurting women here. They do it by insisting that it's a "spiritual" experience. It's the midwives here that are telling women that they're driven by ineffable an mysterious emotions. I've been in the hospital during both of my sister's childbirthings. Know what's interesting about nursing? It's mostly women, and they're very friendly towards woo. I've heard nurses advocate all sorts of bullshit to their patients. Coffee enemas, herbs that have been proven to be bunk, all sorts of c–r–a–p. So, is it the hospitals that are unfriendly towards putting spirituality and fuzzy feelings? Fuck no. Not in the least.

So are nurses by and large against midwifery? From the midwives' talk, yes. And I wonder why? Simply, it's because their peer-reviewed, scientific, evidence-based education enlightens them to the idea that it's a dangerous idea to do it outside the hospital! Period. Calling it spiritual, saying it feels good, is no excuse.

I doubt if she reads this post it'll convince Julie very much of anything. I think this because she lumps in the midwife issue with "holistic" and "herbal" medicine. She's in a very ignorant place concerning medicine right now.

I've tipped off Orac of Respectful Insolence of julie's post. He has paid subscriptions to medical journals and the experience to draw the relevant citations, so I hope he can shed some additional light on the details of the controversy. I encourage Julie to look into the skeptical community. To read about logical fallacies as they apply to medicine and any other field of science, at Skeptics Dictionary, from James Randi, others at scienceblogs who deal with medicine of some kind, and search for childbirth postings at the Grand Rounds medical blog carnival, etc.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Blog Changes Coming

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I have a few announcements about changes to my blog:

  • I am turning off individual Blogger comments for each post. The Haloscan comment links will remain.
  • Strict comment policy.
  • I am considering a change of domain. I will experiment using a Blogger 2.0 template (I'm using old–style template because I can understand a text/xhtml+xml template better than a heavily XML–based application/xhtml+xml), or move to something like Wordpress, which integrates with Haloscan/CoComment while Blogger does not.

Comment Policy

  1. No anonymous comments.
  2. No bigotry against any group, including:

    • Women
    • Races
    • Lesbian / Bisexual / Gay / Transexual / Transgender / Androgynous
    • Obese
    • Minorities of any kind
    • The weaker.
    • The younger.
    • The elderly.
    • Ideology.
  3. Must be on topic! This includes the prohibition of forum threads, even duplicates of blog entries, from any forum whatsoever, if they are not under discussion by my post.
  4. No Suckpuppeting.
  5. No Concern Trolls.
  6. No doc–dropping.
  7. No violence, or jokes about violence. This includes jokes about lynching, assault, murder of all degrees, vandalism, harassment (yes, online does count), and yes, rape.

A warning: with Haloscan, your IP addresses are fully exposed to me. You get one warning before I IP–ban you. Remember Dan? Yeah. I will publish your IP address if you do anything like he did, or if I suspect you are conspiring to perform first–person wrongdoing of any kind.

It also means I can recommend IP–banning you to other bloggers using Haloscan or another comment services capable of identifying IP's, if your bigotry reaches a certain level at my discretion.

Changes will occur as I accomplish them. This includes modifying my template xHTML some.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Clarification

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Let me make this more explicit.

It's not just that Dillahunty/Loubet think that all strippers are happy. That's stupid enough.

It's the hypocrisy of saying that there's reason to be skeptical about a person's veracity if they believe in god when they're not talking to close personal friends, and then claim we should be absolutely credulous if a stripper says she's perfectly happy if you're not a close personal friend when she says it.

It's the hypocrisy of at one point saying that all strippers and strip clubs are exploiting men and never the women, and then talk about the need to change the way strip clubs are done so that they're not exploitive any more.

It's the hypocrisy of at one minute saying that the strippers are exploiting and indirectly hurting men, then in a contradictory analogy, refer to strippers as not hurting anybody.

And since when does the fact that person A isn't hurting anybody (allegedly) an argument for truthiness when they talk about their own happiness?

And since Dillahunty is sure that all strippers are in the business of exploiting men, which makes their job dishonest, shouldn't that base level of dishonesty make them less trustworthy, including in statements about themselves? So why be credulous, again? Unless Dillahunty is implying that people he sees as skeevy are more likely to be honest because they're more ego–centered. Which is it?

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Male Privileged Projecting 101

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"Every stripper I've ever met was happy and she's only doing it to get through college!"

Every single guy person who defends the exploitation of women in some way will say this. Without fail. You'd think that with so many strippers attending our universities and community colleges, conservatives would be all of them as whore schools, talking explicitly about how all the female attendees are strippers. They're not. Which tells me, even the guys in my comments here and everywhere else on the internet, nobody really believes it. Most of them are lying.

Stop it.



Edit 10:05 pm, June 01: In my comment moderation queue was yet another comment about how I should go back tot he forum and answer the thread I started. Richard asked I should find if I have the balls/estrogen to do so.

Way to prove what a misogynist turd you are. Either I'm a man whose lost my balls, or I'm a woman, hence my weakness. You made weakness synonymous with the absence of masculinity.

Also, I've already explained I'm not going to bother because the forum's admins have made it clear they will vandalize my profile because of personal feelings. How ready would you, the readers, be willing to try to reply on that thread knowing that the admin is willing to change your text?



Edit 2: June 3 4:24pm

The comment I just discussed could also be construed to argue that he associates both testosterone and estrogen with courage. If that's the case, what about a person who has both or neither?

Interesting that no matter what, the commenters from the SGU forum and whatnot cannot make a statement that is not bigoted against somebody based on their genetic heritage or lack thereof, in this case the transgendered, hermaphroditic, and hypo–hormonal.

Still, the comment is still sexist against women more, because when a woman attacks feminism, she is rarely accused of being too manly. But if a man makes feminist statements, he is accused of androgyny with regularity. And it's a pattern that's been well established in the fora (that's plural of forum for you noobs). In fact, I've been identified and re–identified and double– checked as a man, with penis, testicles, body hair and all, in the forum and IRC chat a shitload of times now. There can be no doubt of my gender either biologically or personally. It also says as much in my blogger profile, so there can be no doubt that Richard is aware, so his comment obviously has the implication that my sex is called into question by my lack of loyalty to men as he sees it. The insult was that it is supposed to be insulting to call me womanly. That's clearly misogynist.

You might be able to say I committed the fallacy against KT, but I did not check KT's gender in her profile before mistaking her for a man. This is different from Richard, who's read the forum thread and has probably been in the chat at some point by now, and already knew I was a man, and accused me of being womanly as an insult anyways.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Male Privilege In My Podcasts

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Yup. It's not just the forums, or the chat rooms that they claim they aren't really associated with. It's the podcasts themselves, as well.

I was listening to the Non–Prophets podcast last Saturday. One topic, which had swept the internet and cable news channel all last week, was the new alleged letters from Einstein where he said theism was childish. On the podcast, they talked about contradictions where you can find quotes from Einstein where he seems to believe in a god, even a personal one, and you can find quotes where he is atheist. Dillahunty and Shilling and Loubet do a good job pointing out that, as with many atheists in the world, Einstein probably believed in a god in his early life, and did not in the later part of his life.

Even so, they explained, scientists and professionals of all kind can always be found expressing popular opinions as their own, and we shouldn't always take what they say or imply at face value.

Cut to about 23m:30s into the podcast file, they begin talking about pornography, stemming from an aside about a college secular organism offering fellow stuents to trade in their bibles for porn. One of them immediately accuses anybody who finds pornography to be offensive and/or degrading to women a a prude. The other says he doesn't want to go that far, but then talks about how "we" (the Non–Prophets? Just him and the other podcast host?) have had arguments with the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin) about whether or not prostitution should be legal, and the following long quote is the result. I think I have the voices identified correctly. I don't watch the video files for atheist experience often, so I'm not 100% sure on that. One person, Dillahunty I think, does most of the talking, while I thought only Loubet had smaller comments. Maybe Loubet and Shilling were both adding small bits to Dillahunty, but I couldn't tell them apart here. Dillahunty is clear, the others aren't.

Dillahunty: Um, well, I — I don't want to take it that far, because — because I think that some of them have good reasons... you know we've had good arguments before, um, with an ACA group about, you know, whether or not prostitution should be legal, and um, whether establishments of strip clubs or whatever, um, "oh they'r explotings women," Well let me tell ya. I've been to strip clubs, it's not the women who are being exploited in the strip clubs.

Loubet: Ha ha ha ha. Good point.

Dillahunty: Uh, their wallets get fat, they are safe... I think that, if, you know if we end up having the discussion about prostitution, the best argument you could make is that it's going to happen either way, um, we should use strip clubs as an example, and, legal brothels, and, like Vegas and other countries as an example, of how to turn this industry, which is going to happen anyway, into something that is safe and non exploitive. I mean, you can go to, uh ok, what I end up see — uh, somebody will say, "Well, you" — if you go to a brothel and you end up talking to one of the prostitutes, most of them will say "Hey, this is what I wanna do, I mean, I make good money, you blah blah blah" and the answer you get, and this comes from religious people and non–religious people, anyonoe who's opposed, is "well those women are lying, they're so, they're so abused they don't know any better.

How dare you, be so arrogant and condescending, that, a — a person, a free–thinking person, who's — who's not hurting anybody, who's making a living, and tells you that they're happy... How dare you just call them a liar.

Loubet: Just contradict them.

Dillahunty: Because their view, of, of right and wrong, their view of life and happiness doesn't match yours.

You know, if, if somebody tells me they're happy, congratulations. I'm glad your happy. Um, as long as you're not hurting anybody else, cool.

(trying to get off the subject now) But I didn't meant to get off on the whole...

Loubet: If, if if if, you know, if you tell me you believe in god, no matter how difficult I find that, to you know, comprehend... I grand them the same, common courtesy, you know... If they say they're happy, believe 'em.

Dillahunty: The problem is, that there are examples of people who will tell you, "oh I'm happy and this is wonderful," when they aren't. Um, and —

Loubet: What, out of fear?

Dillahunty: yeah, um, and, it's kind of cult–like in training you, so this, with, um, women in abusive relationships, where, you know despite being beaten, they just love them so much that they don't want to turn them in or leave them, uh, But those are types of things I think we can analyze psychologically. Um, and it's not just a simplistic comparison to the norm,

Loubet: And I don't think we're talking about the pimp and his hoes.

Dillahunty: yeah,

Loubet: We're not talking about that kind of situation.

Dillahunty: I mean, you know,

Loubet: That is exploitative.

Dillahunty: yeah...

Loubet: you know, get the girls hooked on drugs, and then use them up. You know that's... that is exploitative.

Dillahunty: Yeah, and I've always... been opposed to that. But anyway, I didn't mean to get this up, and...

And they move on.

What — the — fuck.

At one moment, hey people who aren't hurting anybody and who appear happy (scientists, other professionals) lie about their beliefs and contentment all the time, and we shouldn't be surprised, and can casually skeptical of their veracity on the subject. The next, somebody else who's not hurting anybody and appears happy (a strippper or prostitute) should be believed at face value.

That's pretty fucking contradictory.

Also, he says that strippers — all strippers — are exploiting men, i.e., hurting them. So even turning strippers into "somebody who's not hurting anybody" for his analogy is at best disingenuous.

So let's get this straight. Dillahunty says he doesn't like seeing women exploited. So when he goes to strip clubs, he makes sure to find one that he thinks appears non–exploitive of its women employees. Then he gets on the microphone for the podcast and acts as if all strip clubs are like the one he selects, in spite of the fact that he may be selecting against entering a majority of strip clubs as they fit his criteria for exploitation.

Dillahunty you fucking hypocrite.

Also, notice just a complete false dichotomy in the beginning. It's not the women being exploited in the clubs, he says. Implying it's the men.

As if an industry can't simultaneously exploit both employees and customers, men and women, in different ways. As if exploitation is always one–way.

He also injects a fallacy of excluded middle. He paints a picture in which there's only battered wives and drug–addicted prostitues, then bitches in strip clubs taking all your money. Nothing in between.

Oh, fuck you Matt.

Here's the reality of the situation. Women in strip clubs aren't given insurance, health care, anything like that. It has to come out of their pocket, and that makes the "wallets getting fat" claim pretty stupid, especially when we all know now that insurance companies will find any reason to not give you money. One of those reasons could be your work, which means strippers have to do some fancy footwork to keep health insurance, and all their effort is in vain if they catch an STD from a guy who touches them, and they get labelled with a "pre–existing condition." Especially if they have children, and many do. Additionally, strippers rarely, if ever, get holidays or requested days off in a non–exploitive way, as these businesses are not a meritocracy. They have to personally court for common decency. The relationships are cheapened by both the customers and the bosses.

And then, finally, stripping does not translate into any other career field (it's not even a career). The stripper's life, unless she already has the wit and determination (and you can't act as many strippers have it; remember, that 50% of everybody is below average), is condemned to a life in sex work. It takes extraordinary effort to get out of it. The club owners, customers, the men in their lives, their fellow strippers, and assholes like Dillahunty always shame them when they're outside the club trying to have normal lives, accusing them of leeching off of men and corrupting the child support system. Even their families.

And finally, strippers age out. Yeah, go talk to all the retired strippers in the world who's cash didn't last (because of drug addiction that nobody in the club or family would help with, or supporting children, or some kind of debt they can't handle), who don't have any applicable job skills as the world passed them by while they stripped.

Tell me how not exploited they all are. You piece of shit.

Of course we can say we know better than other people on whether or not they're expoited. Dillahunty and Loubet do it all the time. Day in and day out, they talk with the ACA and each other, and in email replies to fans, about how atheists need help waking up, who need help to stop lying to themselves, who need help to stop being fooled, into thinking that they're being treated right. Dillahunty/Loubet/Shilling constantly exhibit exactly the "arrogance" they denounce when they do not take people's stated beliefs at face value. Much about the persecution we atheists face by this religious country can easily be translted into coherent patterns found in every bigotry, against the poor, against the weak, against non–heterosexuals, against women, against other races.

But it all goes out the window when they talk about women doing sex work. Because they think if they were women, they'd find stripping glamorous.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the worldview of somebody drenched in male privilege.

And they get support for this worldview. Most of the fans of the Non–Prophets and the Atheist Experience are also fans of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. One of it's hosts, Rebecca Watson, is featured on a website called Skepchicks, which spearheaded a calendar for skeptics that features nude women (covered up to be PG-13). That is exploiting women. That they have a skep–dude calendar is also exploitive of those men featured in it hardly compares, as it doesn't have it's own popular website and nobody ever advertises it, much lest hosts a blog on its site. And most of these fans are under the delusion that Rebecca Watson is a feminist. But I have to tell you, she's not. She rarely talks about exploitation of women, of misogyny, of our rape culture. She has nothing to say about the SGU forum/chat's rape jokes. She doesn't discuss or link to any other feminists from the blogosphere, even obvious ones like Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti and Pam Spaulding. And she's never audibly or textually angry about anything she writes concerning sexism.

So what we have is a bunch of white men drenched in male privilege, living in Texas, who are convinced that they've seen all their is to see in the world of sex work, that strippers are bitches, and that since they have this one popular woman friend in the podcast/skeptic world, they can act as if nothing they say goes against women as a gender.

Fuck that.

And a Friday Feminist Fuck–You to male privileged podcasters.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

On Personal Agency and Made-Up Areas of Neutrality,

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Let's just get this straight. It is impossible to be a person and not be an active agent. People often misplace action upon passive persons, but that doesn't mean that you can be passive and active at the same time. It just means that the active agency has not properly been identified. Language is elicitation and solicitation. Always. Anybody who ever says "Hey — I'm just sayin'!" is lying, or (and this is unlikely) unaware of the consequences of his words. When you are speaking, you are an active agent. When it comes to the exchange of ideas, you can't elicit a concept and at the same time be passive.

There is ambiguity. But since you have elicited a concept, you have become an active agent about it, and there's no such thing as as passivity.

I present to you 5 examples of common bullshit defensive of bigotries or criminal behavior, in no partcular order:

  • "What did he expect, this is the internet!"
  • "Come on, this is business, people!
  • "Internet: serious business!"
  • "It's just a game, don't let the smack talk get to you."
  • "I'm just sayin'."

I recently confronted a chatroom — and this is the third one — about their rampant misogyny, and just like the first two times, I've found the group to be so defensive, so obsessed, so pathological in their rape–centric clique that I'm too disgusted to ever go back.

What I did a few days ago, I did in the name of justice. When people are discussing behavior that is simultaneously a crime in the legal sense and in the sense of human rights — in thise case rape — there is no such thing as a person positing a neutral position. The fact of the matter is, if you have no position, and you're of capable psychological condition, you are still an enabler, and that puts you on the criminal side. Making fun of victims is even worse.

Sorry to break it to you, but it's the truth. And it's true no matter what the place or medium of communication, whether it be face to face, on the telephone, snail mail, email, graffiti... or even an internet chatroom.

To cover some of the many defenses of the constant rape jokes and misogyny in the IRC channel for (some) fans of the Skeptic's Guide to to the Universe podcast:

You can say Lzrd didn't mean it all day long, but it still doesn't make it right. And even in context, I know I'm still in the right saying that it was hateful. You act as if you don't mean your rape jokes, but you can only possibly try to argue about it being facetious if you do not approve of directing the jokes towards a victim. Lzrd crossed that line. Then you defended it. You focused more on being positive that he didn't mean it before you could ask his defense, and more on attacking me just for the boot before you even tried to think about why we all have boot powers and when it's OK to use them.

It's clear, even from the context of the whole discussion of that CNN link about the youtube rape girl, that nobody in the room was comfortable talking about it. The best you could say about it was that it was "weird" that the prosecutors dropped the case. Heck it wasn't just the court–appointed attorneys that abandoned her, it was the entire DA office. The best you could say was that it was "weird?"

It was — nay, it IS an injustice. To knowingly remark upon it as anything less is reprehensible. It was not only an injustice for not listening to her and giving more credit to the counter– allegation that she's making it up, it was also contradictory to the mandate of their jobs as the DA and prosecutors. To have nothing to say about these issues when you bring it up, is ridiculous.

Then after failing as human beings to call an injustice when you see it, you tried to change the conversation. Even after I tried to point out that there is a pattern of prosecuting attorneys exhibiting a pattern of bias against rape victims in this manner. No, it was just too awkward for you to have anything meaningful to discuss for once, even when you are the ones to bring it to the table.

And Lzrd hasn't even come into the picture yet. After you successfully quashed the conversation, somebody else came in and asked what's up. Your responses were about your new subject. You tried to evade the subject that you were just on entirely. And then, after a couple minutes, out of nowhere, Lzrd chimes in with his "joke."

So no. It was not innocent. And it was not neutral.

The article goes on to describe how rape victims to speak up about their rapes become futher victims to the hostility of their peers.

This should invoke your sympathy. But instead, you "jokingly" blame her? Call her a whore, say she fails at life and that she's just "whining" on youtube?

FUCK THAT. FUCK THAT, AND FUCK YOU. IT WAS WRONG. FRACTICALLY WRONG, EVEN. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT BEHAVIOR.

You actually use one of the main victim–blaming fallacies that all rape educators talk about: you criticize the victim based on what your a priori (i.e., prejudiced) ideas of what a victim should act like, then acted as if she must not be since she didn't 'fit the profile'.

And yes, while some of those listed were away from their keyboards, I can still say you support him. For day after day, you come in, take a couple minutes to read what your IRC client has recorded for you, and you never have anything to say about the rape jokes that have been going on. You always support them. And you supported Lzrd because he had the justified knowledge that you would not criticize or penalize him in any way.

As for LeeTheAgent's constant defense that it's just the internet: I think it's pretty clear that you all do not think of it that way. You have spent hours upon hours, adding up to days, fuming at me, writing about me, insulting me, getting ladyK to follow me on Twitter (Twitter alerts you to everybody who follows you), making pseudonymous comments on my blog, and making an enormous thread on the forum. You clearly have emotional investment in your chat sessions.

Today Marcella Chester posted an article concerning the girl who committed suicide because of online harassment. Everything she had to say is relevant to this incident. I will quote the article in it's entirety (until/unless she asks me to parse it down).

Differentiating Between Jerks And Criminals

Techdirt has a post opposing the federal charges related to the suicide of Megan Meier which takes the position that harassing Megan under a false identity by first working to become her friend and then turning on her was nothing more than being a jerk.

To say that I disagree with this assessment would be an understatement.

The story is, most definitely, sad and tragic -- and it's no surprise that there are people out for vengeance, with the main target being Lori Drew, the adult who participated in some manner in the hoax. However, as we said back when state prosecutors in Missouri couldn't find any law to prosecute, being a total jerk online is not a crime. As stupid as the prank was, it wasn't designed to make the girl commit suicide.

This positioning of someone as merely a jerk is something I see often when people want to stop someone from being held legally accountable for the deliberate and targeted actions they take which cause harm to others.

It is critical to note that this hoax was not stupid as characterized above, it was clever. The hoaxer and those in on the hoax decided not only on a name for the "boy" who would friend Megan, but an entire backstory was created for this "boy." If the stated goal of information gathering used to to create this profile were true then there would have been no sudden turn by this "boy" from someone who liked her to someone who hated her.

Befriending and then attacking someone using a fraudulent identity cannot be done for any purpose other than to inflict emotional pain. That makes it an act of vengeance for the fallout between Megan and Ms. Drew's daughter. But Techdirt overlooks this fact and turns those actions into random jerk behavior.

Not surprisingly, those who want to hold the "jerk" accountable are framed as the "people out for vengeance" and people who "target" someone else. This rhetorical strategy turns those who want accountability into the only people who have crossed an ethical line. Those who want justice for the person harmed become the only people who must be stopped.

Nice trick, but one we cannot fall for.

Many tech people have taken the position that anything goes online and that targeting and harassing others and using false identities to do so are just normal behaviors which say nothing negative about the person or group of people who harasses others. But harassment is harassment. Online communication is only a medium for communication. Ganging up on a 13 year old girl online is no more excusable than ganging up on a 13 year old girl offline.

This framing device is popular with those who refuse to use the label of rapist for a boy who corners his girlfriend and makes it clear that she will be trapped until she gives him the sex he wants. If the girl doesn't try to scratch the boy's eyes out then the boy is a jerk and the girl might feel raped but she choose to give that boy sex. If she feels raped that's a tragedy. If she reports this rape "she is out for vengeance" and has "targeted" this boy.

This framing deliberately and falsely disconnects the boy's action from the girl's decision and turns the girl into the only one who took actions to intentionally harm someone else. Since a boy who uses physical coercion to rape is framed as a non-rapist then those who hold him accountable have -- by this warped logic -- committed the greatest wrong.

Those who use the "jerk" excuse claim to be against the harm done, but their framing directly supports that harm and complete lack of accountability for the harm caused.

A jerk is someone who lets the door slam in your face when you are carrying a heavy box. A jerk is someone who lets a stinky fart rip the second the elevator doors close and then smiles as the others in that elevator car make disgusted faces.

The woman who created a false MySpace profile took actions which cannot accurately be equated to genuine jerk behavior.

What they are doing is deliberately disconnecting cause from effect. Those who intentionally inflict harm on others are excused of all responsibility by labeling the harm their actions caused as a tragedy.

Getting killed by a landslide is a tragedy. Getting swept away in a flood is a tragedy. Being targeted for harassment through fraud is no tragedy. It is malicious injury even if those who inflicted the injury used the Internet as their weapon.

Those who don't acknowledge this cannot be viewed as credible observers.

There are only 3 differences between the criminal in this story, and the members of the SGU–fans IRC channel.

  • The victim is not aware of this particular incident of ridicule.
  • The victim is not dead.
  • The ridiculers made sure to do it in a place where it is not likely to reach the victim.

Beyond these details, people who constantly make rape jokes, like those I listed and even some more that are there every day of the week (not to mention the members that frequented Janice Rael's irc channel wikkedwire # stopperbot when I left it), are not better than the criminal in the preceding case by a high enough degree to warrant sympathy for their exposure or a lack of criticism for their callousness.

I think, justifiably, that they are fully aware that if they did what they do to the girl's face, it would be criminal harassment. That they only do it in an IRC room or somewhere they know that the law will probably treat it as untouchable, speaks not of their insincerity in the hatred/callousness with which they fill their humor, but of their forethought. It's a tactic. Which is why I know their callousness and/or hate is real.


I must also point out that I blog non–anonymously (another detail that these chatters chose to mock) because of my disgust of the internet = unreal mentality.


And finally, the reason why it has taken me several days to elaborate upon my original post. When ducky (or ducky_sgu as he calls himself in SGU's channel as opposed to the JREF channel), took it upon himself to vandalize my profile, writing "16y.o. gothfail girl" in the "custom title" attribute.

Ducky is the techie for the site. He is not an admin or a mod. It is outside his job and permissions to censor or edit other members' posts. He even states as much in a post he made to explain why he's not banning me like you all begged him to.

And he vandalizes my profile. If you want a case of serious hypocrisy and lying, you'll find it in ducky. He even sends me a personal message insulting me some more and defending his actions, and even that was sexist. Because he, like all of you clearly do, believes that activism against the defense or belittling of rape is a female–only endeavor, and that it indicates an emotional volatility found only in women that is to be ridiculed.

You have proven yourselves every bit the misogynists as I have described you.

Ducky said that if I have any problem with it, I should take it up with Rebecca (Watson). The implication being "Hey, I know a woman who's ok with rape jokes, therefore rape isn't bad." Again, hypocritical, a non–argument, and because of the "women can't be misogynist" defense, further proof that you are, exactly as described, rape apologists.

Well you know what? I took it to Dr. Novella. And he made ducky take it down.

At least I have real reasons for taking actions that may "defame" your character. But you... you're another level of cretin. A forum cannot be justly run when somebody with the privileges to alter the very code, takes it upon himself to vandalize. And because he wasn't really punished beyond a reprimand, he knows he can get away with it. To make things worse, he's a volunteer, and he knows that the SGU cast will have an extremely difficult time finding a free replacement, and if they can't, they'll have to pay somebody enough money to grind the podcast to a halt. Basically he's holding them hostage.

On Sunday, May 18, "LeeTheAgent" and "emptiness" tried to harass me in Phil Plait's weekly chat at uStream.tv. Not just me, either. They threatened to hold up the entire chat (bustling with over 100 users) with their harassment. They had to be threatened with kickbanning before they stopped. It was only because I argued explicitly that we were on Phil's time (and everybody else's time) and it was not the time or place to do it, that I was not kicked with them.

When I told them I wouldn't be discussing these issues until my profile vandalism was corrected, they laughed about it. They condone it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fascistic attitude. The SGU forums right now, has somebody with the power to manipulate it's code, who, with his supporters, is in the business of harassing others, to the point where he can censor beyond his rights. And because his supporters will do it outside of the forum, and hold up other people's ability to communicate, had intentions of inhibiting freedom of speech by trying that day to control even whom else I can listen and speak to.


So there you have it. Rape, like any other hate crime, is something on which one cannot be neutral. You are either for it or against it. And the members of the SGU forums who I have named are surely on the wrong side, as I have explained.

On top of this, they have chosen to support a fascistic method of suppressing opposing attitudes on the forum of which they are members.

Feminists like myself are not merely better than these assholes. We're fractically better. (Oh, I do just love that meme)

This is as far as I'm going to discuss it with the SGU forum members, as they cannot be trusted to be conversed with on equal grounds. I am turning on comment moderation, and I will forbid/delete anonymous posts.

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