Saturday, March 31, 2012

Transphobia Defined

Sometimes people use "transphobia" when they mean "bigotry toward trans people". But this post... this is pretty much the definition of transphobia, and honestly of paranoia in general.

Starting with the title: Are Boys Turning in to Girls Because of Man Made Chemicals? Wow. Total fearmongering here. Scary emasculation! Scary chemicals! Scary science!

Then the tagline: Cases of accelerated puberty in young girls and the "transgender" phenomenon) are occurring with increasing frequency.  Seriously? First, what's with the hovering parenthesis? Second, why is "transgender" in scare-quotes? Oh right, fearmongering. Cus it would be too much to admit that transgender people are real people living real experiences. Got it.

Then the image. It's so horrible I won't even post it here, but here's the URL if you dare: Basically, it's a heavy-set balding hairy person wearing a corset and holding a cigar. They went out of their way to think of the least "mainstream attractive" male body-type they could imagine, then added breasts and female undergarments to it. Presenting this as their representative sample image is transphobic and dehumanizing to boot. (And seriously, who even walks around in their undergarments anyway?)

What follows is a lot of science mixed with pseudoscience jargon mixed with more transphobia mixed with plenty of the naturalistic fallacy. But don't worry, they have a bulleted list:
  • Educate yourself,your family and friends about endocrine disruptors.
  • Use organic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Do not give young children soft plastic teether or toys
  • Buy organic food Whenever possible
  • Do not store  fatty foods or water in plastic containers. Use glass article were ever possible.
  • It is better to use natural estrogen replacement for men who require hormone replacement therapy.
You can hear the silent "or your girls will turn into sluts and your boys will grow up to be skirt-wearing fags!!1!" at the end of each line.  Someone pass me a barf bag.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Defending Sexism at The Reason Rally (or, Who's Exempt from Skeptical Inquiry?)

Reasons for God (RfG) has issued a response to the Friendly Atheist's post which is a response to various complaints about various speakers at the Reason Rally. RfG says "Mehta’s argument is that the documented sexism of some of the biggest speakers [Richard Dawkins, Penn Jillette, Bill Maher] is just not a big deal! ... Therefore, it is still worth having them speak because 'we need big-name celebrities to attend.'"

I have heard the argument that big-name speakers deserve to push out other speakers.  To me, that reeks of appeals to authority, and it's also a pretty effective "shut up, that's why" tactic.  (RfG claims that the Westboro Baptist Church was also officially invited to attend.  Frankly, that point is moot, since there's no way they wouldn't have planned to attend in any case.)

At this point, RfG takes the time to point out that anyone can be sexist (true) and that atheists attempt not to be sexist, in general (also true). They seem to imply that sexism is caused by atheism and sexism is in spite of Christianity. Ha!

Anyway, on to the main show.

Point #1: Is it true that Bill Maher, Penn Jillette, and Richard Dawkins have all made blatantly sexist comments?

In shortyes.

Moving on...

Point #2: Are these comments representative of a broader problem with the atheist movement?

Yes, but this is where the answer isn't a simple Google search away. Let's zoom out past the atheist movement. Let's even bypass Christian culture. Let's zoom out to any level of society, really, even the entire world. What do you see? Gender inequality to varying degrees, with very few exceptions. That means we should apply that skepticism we so often apply to religion needs to be turned onto ourselves when someone makes the claim that we've somehow uniquely (seemingly from magic) achieved a community free from sexism.

Point #3: So what does it say about The Reason Rally that an organizer of the event is arguing that a higher standard—such as “no sexism”—should not disqualify speakers?

These "questions as points" are getting irritating.

Anyway, RfG writes what sounds like an excellent intro to this issue, but then places it at the end of their post with an air of finality, as though we can dust off our hands and walk away from this issue.  The reason is, they don't really care about the success of the atheist movement, they're just looking for their "CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS" moments.

Screw them, here's where we get down to the heart of the matter:

Actual Point: Nobody is exempt from having the skeptical toolkit applied to their issues.

Nobody. Even when we're trying to get a huge group of people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences together.  And you know what really says "lulz, I get an exemption, u mad bro?"
If we got rid of every speaker who held an irrational belief, there would be no one left on that stage.
So deal with it.
Oh okay!

No wait, no. I don't have to "deal" with it, I can talk about it and anyone else can talk about it and even RfG can talk about it, because it's there and it's not exempt. Maybe you're worn out.  Maybe you have listened to a thousand complaints and need to turn off your email so that you can get some work done before you address complaint number one-thousand one.  Everyone has their limits.  But atheists are as entitled to talk about atheism as atheist leaders are.

After all, this rally is about us. We're the ones the politicians need to represent and the media needs to understand.  We will not travel across the nation to be told that our experiences should once again be second-class status and that our voices should fall into the background.  We will not exempt anyone from skeptical inquiry.

So yes, the rally is going to bring a whole lot of differences together in ways previously unseen.  But it is our right to expect more from each other, from our leaders, and from our future.  We will not be silent.  We are atheism.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Breeding Atheists

Someone on the internet suggested that some atheists stay home from the Reason Rally in case “something” happened, that way there’d be plenty of us left to breed more.  Turns out, Poe’s Law, he didn’t mean it.

But people say that all the time and do mean it, and they’re simply wrong.  While home life and childhood culture can heavily influence a person’s religious choices, there is no atheist gene.  A lot of the atheists I know were raised in a religion.  Many Christians claim they used to be atheists (or at least were non-believing Christians or something).

Moral of the story: there is no obligation to breed when conversion (plus the overpopulation of the planet) is going strong.  It is actually offensive to suggest that women ought to be atheist-factories in a world where Christian and Muslim women are being forced to be religious-warrior-factories.  Cut it out.

Anonymous asked: While agreeing with the points made in "Breeding Atheists", I do have one gripe re the unstated assumption that atheist parents will, and *should*, necessarily have atheist children. No. Atheist parents should raise children that think critically. I have confidence that such children will turn out atheist, but there is no guarantee. An atheist parent should be more pround of a critically minded child that decided that Christianity makes more sense, than an unthinking atheist.

I don’t think that raising someone to be atheist is sustainable. I think raising someone to ask questions and to self-educate is preferable.  When I was a [christian] child, I was punished for asking the “wrong” questions or for reading the “wrong” things.  That didn’t stop me from doing it, though. I just got better at not getting caught.  By the time I became an adult, I had a pile of books I finally could get to read in peace, and I discovered to my dismay that the Harry Potter series were rather tame and that Dungeons and Dragons did not give me any ability or interest to cast magic spells.  Kinda like how studying the Bible after all those years didn’t give me any ability throw a mountain into the sea or heal the sick in the name of Jesus.  So yeah, nobody has to be raised atheist.  We just need to foster an environment for everybody that encourages asking questions and learning new things.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On trans women holding “residual male privilege”.

“Asking or expecting individual trans women or all trans women as a group to agree to participate in discrimination against themselves (or agree that what they experience as discrimination actually isn’t), is not a reasonable request, and one which can never in practice be satisfied.”

This is an issue shared by all gender minorities, and all minorities really. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, as a uterus-bearer, to agree with some dude that women really hold all the power because women give birth. Or been expected as a white person to agree that affirmative action gives people of color an unfair advantage (as opposed to, you know, having been born with white skin). Or been told if I’d only “act straight” then I’d be deserving of rights.

So I look around me and I see that cis men rule the world (or men who are assumed to be cis, anyway). And then trans women (or even all trans people) are asked to agree that they really hold power over cis women, or that they want a special unfair advantage, or that they need to “act cis”.

This is complete BS. I refuse to appease privilege. I have a personal zero-tolerance policy for bigotry. I will never say “gee, you have a point, trans women do act mannish”, the very insult so commonly hurled at cis lesbians and cis feminists to silence them.

The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck (Trans Edition)

Listen to me read this here:

Inspired by 

Despite cries of "die cis scum", I am not a cis-hater.

If I played by cissupremicists' rules, specifically the one that dictates it only takes one trans person doing one Mean or Duplicitous or Disrespectful or Unlawful or otherwise Bad Thing to justify hatred of all trans people, I would have plenty of justification for hating cis people, if I were inclined to do that sort of thing.

Most of the degendering comments I have heard have been in supposedly safe spaces.  I frequent feminist and atheist communities, many of which claim to love queer and trans people as a reaction against conservative Christian hate of the same.  I have heard that my genderqueer identity is an invention to blind myself to the realities of the kyriarchy, that trans women are just men trying to blackmail lesbians into having sex with them if they don't want to be called bigots, that trans people are oppressing cis people with our denialism of biological realities.

But I don't hate cis people because I play by different rules. In fact, there are cissies in this world whom I love quite a lot.

There are also individual cis people in this world I would say I probably hate, or something close, people who I hold in unfathomable contempt, but it is not because they are cis.

No, I don't hate cis people.

It would, however, be fair to say that I don't easily trust them.

My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the constant arguments and occasional threats of violence as regards to my gender. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with cis people—the casual cross-dressing joke, the use of the wrong pronoun, the dehumanization of the non-binary body, the accusations of overreaction, the requests that I be patient with them as they still "see me as a woman" so this is going to be very difficult for them.

There are the insidious assumptions guiding our interactions—the supposition that I will regard being exceptionalized as a compliment ("but you're really hot!"), and the presumption that I am, really, still eager to reinforce the way cis people have always thought about gender. "Surely, we're all in agreement that if I'm attracted to women, and I'm attracted to you, that means I get to relate to you as I do to other women." Always the subtle pressure to abandon my identity, as if I'll one day throw up my hands and laugh "you caught me, I was just doing it to feel different and special, when I'm really just female to the core!". I am exhorted to be patient and understanding, and if I hesitate, I'm just not being understanding, surely I can't expect cis people to understand. And so it goes.

There are the jokes about "my gender is now mongoose", about "traps", about "invented" pronouns, 
about "Ann Coulter is a man". They are told in my presence by members of supposedly safe spaces, just to get a rise out of me, as though I am meant to find funny a reminder of my second-class status. I am meant to ignore that this is specifically meant to put me into my place. I can laugh, and they can thus feel superior, or I can not laugh, and they can thus feel superior. Heads they win, tails I lose. I am used as a prop in an ongoing game of kyriarchal posturing, and then I am meant to believe it is true when some of the people who enjoy this sport, in which I am their pawn, tell me, "we're all on the same team, really."  I am meant to trust these words.
There are the occasions that people—intellectual people, clever people, engaged people—insist on playing devil's advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Gender Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged people want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged people, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. "Why do you have to take this stuff so personally?" ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged people, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is considered more biased and less relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of cis people who make a pastime of informal observation, like gender is an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn't make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.

There are the persistent, tiresome pronouncements of similitude between cis and trans/genderqueer experiences, the belligerent insistence that they don't "feel gender" either! that trans identities reinforce gender stereotypes! that anything done by one gender can be done by another! that they don't even mind when someone uses the wrong pronoun! and other equivalencies that conveniently and stupidly ignore institutional inequities that mean X rarely equals Y. And there are the long-suffering groans that meet any attempt to contextualize gender and refute the idea that such cis experiences, though prevalent they all may be, are not necessarily equal to trans* experiences.

There are the stereotypes—oh, the abundant stereotypes!—about trans people, not me, of course, but others, those trans women with their relentless shopping habits and their disgusting vanity and their inability to stop talking and their disinterest in Important Things and their trying to trap men and their false rape accusations and their being bitches sluts whores cunts… And I am expected to nod in agreement, and I am nudged and admonished to agree. I am expected to say these things are not true of me, but are true of trans women (am I seceding from the union?); I am expected to put my stamp of token approval on the stereotypes. "Yes, it's true. Between you and me, it's all true." That's what is wanted from me. Abdication of my principles and pride, in service to a kyriarchal system that will only use my collusion to further subjugate me. This is a thing that is asked of me by people who purport to care for me.

There is the unwillingness to listen, a ferociously stubborn not getting it on so many things, so many important things. And the dispassionate refusal to believe, to internalize, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injure not make-believe—an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favor of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I'm just being oversensitive.

And there is the denial about engaging in transmisogyny and binarism, even when it's evident, even when it's pointed out gently, softly, indulgently, carefully, with goodwill and the presumption that it was not intentional. There is the firm, fixed, unyielding denial—because it is better and easier to imply that I'm stupid or crazy, that I have imagined being insulted by someone about whom I care (just for the fun of it!), than it is to just admit a friggin' mistake. Rather I am implied to be a hysteric than to say, simply, I'm sorry.

Not every cis person does all of these things, or even most of them, and certainly not all the time. But it only takes one, randomly and occasionally to call me "she", like an unexpected punch in the nose, to send me staggering sideways, wondering what just happened.

Well. I certainly didn't see that coming…

These things, they are not the habits of deliberately, connivingly cruel people. They are, in fact, the habits of many of the people in this world I care for quite a lot.

All of whom have given me reason to mistrust them, to use my distrust as a self-protection mechanism, as an essential tool to get through every day, because I never know when I might next get knocked off-kilter with something that puts me in the position, once again, of choosing between my dignity and the serenity of our relationship.

Swallow being misgendered, or ruin the entire afternoon?

It can come out of nowhere, and usually does. Which leaves me mistrustful by both necessity and design. Not fearful; just resigned—and on my guard. More vulnerability than that allows for the possibility of wounds that do not heal. Wounds to our relationship, the sort of irreparable damage that leaves one unable to look in the eye someone that you loved once upon a time.

This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: cis people are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.

A shitty bargain all around, really. But there it is.

There are cis people who will read this post and think, huffily, dismissively, that a person of color could write a post very much like this one about white people, about me. That's absolutely right. So could a lesbian, a gay man, an asexual. So could a poor or disabled or intersex person (which hardly makes a comprehensive list). I'm okay with that. I don't feel hated. I feel mistrusted—and I understand it; I respect it. It means, for me, I must be vigilant, must make myself trustworthy. Every day.

I hope those cis people will hear me when I say, again, I do not hate you. I mistrust you. You can tell yourselves that's a problem with me, some inherent flaw, some evidence that I am fucked up and broken and weird; you can choose to believe that the genderqueer and trans people in your lives are nothing like me.

Or you can be vigilant, can make yourselves trustworthy. Every day.

Just in case they're more like me than you think.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Crime of Being Female in Public

To some, it doesn’t matter what you do: once you are charged with being a female* in public, you can’t win.  Take this article and the following comments about Angelina Jolie and two of her children going to the movies - let’s see how the kyriarchy responds to that seemingly innocent act:

  • Treating motherhood as a public spectacle.
  • Putting a young girl’s body up for public vote.
  • Expecting females at all ages to express the proper amount of femininity (while playing a shell game with that that actually looks like) and either:

  1.  Pitying one for not expressing enough femininity, or
  2. Shaming one for expressing too much femininity.

And the fact that people can find these things “cute” is a symptom of how sick society really is.

*This post seeks to analyze the way the public treats those who are presumed female girls, and makes no speculation as to the actual gender identity of these children

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why do so many feminists seem to be anti-sex?

A curious mind asks:
Hello again. I have been dealing with an issue that I believe is rooted in religious morality. The issue is of being sex-positive.
Within some feminist circles, I sense reluctance if not outright disapproval about women who are proud of and enjoy their sexuality. To be honest, it feels as that if a woman were to really enjoy her sexual nature and beauty then she’s a traitor to feminism.
I resent that to the extreme. I don’t want to point out that men get to fully enjoy that aspect about themselves without any apology. I understand objectification and commodification of women, truly I do; however, I’ve seen some ultra-feminists shy away from sex-positive females if not outright condemn them.
I know I’m new to this group so I’d like to get a sense of what you all think…

It’s a very complicated issue.  First, feminists enjoy sex at the same rate as the population at large.  There are lesbians, straights, bisexuals, asexuals, all types.  They even use birth control and sometimes even make jokes about how they must be sluts as a result.  The fact that women are shamed for liking sex where men are shamed for not liking sex (and apparently all other genders are invisible) is sexism.  Feminism is against harmful gender-based double standards like that.

However, just because someone likes doing something doesn’t mean it’s good for gender equality as a whole.  Take for example the issue of posting nude photos of yourself online as a political act.  In Egypt, that can be quite a revolutionary statement against the male ownership of women’s bodies.  In the USA, if you think you’re being revolutionary, you’re a joke - we have no shortage of nude women and we never will.  Context.*  I mean, knock yourself out, there’s no shame in being proud of your body, but don’t assign political meaning to an act where there is none.

Which leads me to another thing that many feminists are critical of: the idea of sexual “empowerment”.  I have observed that there is a tendency to equate “empowering women” with “getting women to feel like pandering to the male gaze is something women do for each other and not for men”.  Protip: it’s called the male gaze for a reason.  And the reason it’s so frustrating (infuriating, even) is that there’s a decided lack of balance in society to celebrate other women’s choices to dress in sloppy clothes or swear off makeup or to (gasp!) dress in butch styles as “empowering women”.  Apparently it’s only worth celebrating if the hetero man-penis approves.

I’m sex-positive.  But it is so disappointing how many sex-positive blogs I read that embrace the above biases.  They claim to be about embracing the whole sexual person, but then they only focus on stories that pander to the male gaze.  Queer bodies aren’t represented.  Asexual experiences aren’t represented.  Monogamous couples barely get any notice except for those who practice extreme forms of BDSM.  Again, this isn’t all of them.  (I’d like to take the opporunity to encourage everyone to visit as an example of a group I admire.)  But when feminists see people take the patriarchy, wrap it in a pretty ribbon, and then try to sell it as sex-positivity, we feel cheated by the continual wasted opportunities for real progress.

*Someone has correctly pointed out that, even within the USA, certain bodies can be revolutionary that are traditionally marginalized by our society.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


This word is getting quite a workout in recent times.  Between the Limbaughs who use it as a way to dehumanize and the Slutwalkers who use it as a way to rage against rape culture, the word “slut” is getting pulled in any and every direction with everyone trying to put it to use for their own personal agenda.

Some women are trying to grab a hold of the word “slut” and claim it as a badge of honor.  It’s unfair how there isn’t a word for “women who love sex” that isn’t a horrible insult, unlike how words for “men who love sex” are all compliments.  And from a certain perspective, women who love sex are the ones most entitled to use that word in any way they like.

The only problem is, conservadouchebags are the ones who continue to hold power in society.  They’re also the ones who continue to decide that words like “slut” and “whore” are insults, and they’re the ones who have the power to use those words to harm women.  Can women fight back and make “slut” an acceptable identity, much the way queers have with that word?

Perhaps.  But as long as the word continues to cause harm, everyone needs to take a good look at why they feel the need to use it.  ”Am I using this word for myself with pride?  Or am I using it against someone else without their consent?”  Until we succeed in our all-out takeover of society by flaming atheist liberal feminists (and why stop even then?), we can’t let our starry-eyed vision of a better tomorrow cloud our ability to see the realities of today.