Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rebecca Watson and Good Intentions

I feel like a total jerk. About a year ago I took the Skepchicks to task with a blog comment criticizing them for their yearly Skepchick calendar. I thought it was playing into sexism and thought, men don't take us seriously so why on Earth would you play into the idea of women as eye-candy?

Now that Rebecca Watson is at the center of a shitstorm for simply asking for a little space and common courtesy (like don't just walk up to a complete stranger in an enclosed space at 4am and ask them to come back to your hotel room in your very first couple of sentences to them, duh.) I cringe at my previous comment. I was aware of sexism and misogyny in the skeptical movement, but I see the problem is much, MUCH bigger than I imagined. She even got a few patronizing and insulting responses from none other than Richard Dawkins on the Pharyngula blog.

So I'd like to apologize to everyone at Skepchick and especially Rebecca. I thought my intentions were good, i.e., not giving men a chance to see women as purely eye-candy. But I was completely, completely in the wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the calendar or women wearing what some would be considered sexy clothing (sometimes this could be anything less than a burka). Women are fully human and nothing diminshes that, not even when you pose for a calendar. Not that I ever thought that it did, I just worried about how some men would react. But it's not a woman's job to educate men that being human and being 'sexy' for a woman aren't mutually exclusive. That should be self-evident, right? I shouldn't have been worried about how any man would react. Intelligent men get it, the ones who don't aren't worth the time or energy to worry about. The fact that there are some people actually connecting the two now to discredit Rebecca makes me sick to my stomach. And even worse the fact that I said something slightly similar, even though I thought I was saying it in an enlightened way and wasn't trying to shame anyone at Skepchick, or sound like a sexist against other women.

I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Rebecca Watson. The nastiness that's been thrown her way is truly sickening and I don't know if I could have handled the same situation with the grace and humor that she has.

So, my apologies Rebecca. You are a new hero to me and a great voice for both skepticism and women's rights. ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Girls sold into trafficking rebuild their lives and reclaim their childhood.

Girls sold into trafficking rebuild their lives and reclaim their childhood being freed from this 7 billion dollar a year industry.

A documentary support about how Made By Survivors fights slavery with empowerment.

Made By Survivors is the core program of Made By Survivors Network, a US based NGO that works internationally with survivors of slavery and human trafficking. Founded in 2005, our mission is to end slavery through economic empowerment and education, giving survivors and people at the highest risk the tools they need to build safe, independent, slavery-free lives. MBSN currently operates programs in six countries, with a concentration of programming in India and Nepal. We offer job training and fairly paid employment to survivors, and provide intensive business development support to our core programs and partners. We market and sell the survivors' products in the US, and also assist them in finding other buyers.

Those who are able, please help support their work through your consumer dollars!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Dame With A Rod

(Just a note: No, Steven Pinker is not a rape-apologist...he has the wrong ideas of the causes of rape, and I don't appreciate his labeling people who disagree with him as "delusional" and the hyperbolic language like "the madness of crowds". But obviously he isn't "pro-rape" and would like rape become a thing of the past. OK? Good.) 

Well-respected evolutionary psychologist and author Steven Pinker says,
"I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence."

He thinks rape is motivated by the natural need for males to pass along their genes, an adaptive reproductive strategy, and that seeing it as a weapon of power is false and not helpful in attempting to stamp it out.

I think that if the motivation is sex, the fact that a man is ignoring a woman's privacy and bodily integrity by forcing himself on her while she is telling him to stop is *always* an expression of power and contempt. It's a sense of entitlement to a woman's body regardless of what she wants. To be able to do this is to have complete contempt for your victim, to be completely oblivious to their cries for mercy, begging you to stop, ignoring their tears and screams.

To be able to ignore this makes you a monster.

But apparently it's sheer "madness" to think a rapist is malicious in his intent. And preposterous! And utterly delusional! That Pinker uses such strong language to disparage women who point this out is just bizarre. And where is this "mountain of evidence" that proves otherwise? Assertions aren't evidence. Women, especially those uppity ones he often disparages ("gender" feminists)have no authority to talk about rape. Too emotional I guess.

But what is the typical excuse or justification used for rape? It's rarely 'I was just really desperate for sex, sorry.' It's 'she was asking for it,' 'she's a whore' or 'slut', she 'deserved it' or she was wearing the wrong clothes or was out where she shouldn't have been.

That's about punishing women for not obeying the rules of a male-dominated society and that is definitely about power. And to a victim, rape is definitely not 'just sex,' it's violence and abuse. And that violence includes ignoring a women's humanity and right to bodily integrity. And it does make me feel threatened whenever I see a woman put through hell when she's brave enough to try to prosecute her attacker and she's dragged through the mud and told rape was just punishment for her disobedient 'sluttiness.'

So yes, it does terrorize ALL women, and very effectively.

The fact that the statistics of women and girls who are raped are high, 1 in 4, is seen by people like Pinker as proof that rape is a natural thing. But he doesn't explain the high rate of male-on-male rape, which is thought to be one in six boys/men. How is that about passing on genes?

We all have the instinct/drive to eat, we need to eat for survival. That wouldn't justify someone walking up to strangers in a restaurant and grabbing the food off their plates, would it? (I know, I hate to compare women with objects or food, but I don't know what else could get through to someone making excuses for rape other than comparing rape to stealing).

For a great rebuttal of this idea and the bad science behind it I recommend biologist Jerry Coyne and Andrew Berry's "Rape As An Adaptation?"

And Jerry Coyne's article in The New Republic "Of Vice and Men: The Fairy Tales of Evolutionary Psychology":

Juliana Hatfield - A Dame With A Rod

I'm a heroine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another reason to love Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those people you wish you had for a teacher when you were a kid. That amazing teacher that made any subject exciting and fascinating, even if initially you thought the class would be boring or tedious. Neil is an astrophysicist and hosts the educational science television show NOVA scienceNOW on PBS.

He is also infamous for upsetting a lot of kids (and adults) by declaring Pluto isn't a planet anymore:

Alas, Pluto, which is small and icy and orbits just beyond Neptune and has an eccentric orbit that is tipped out of the plane of the solar system, is none other than a Kuiper belt object—a leftover comet from the solar system’s formation. If Pluto’s orbit were ever altered so that it journeyed as close to the Sun as Earth, Pluto would grow a tail and look like a jumbo comet. No other planet can make this (possibly embarrassing) claim.

"I must vote—with a heavy heart—for demotion."

He got quite a bit of hate mail after that.

At the Center for Inquiry conference, “Secular Society and its Enemies” a talk featuring Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Victor Stenger, one of the last questions was from a male audience member, “A Larry Summers question. What’s up with chicks in science?”

For those who don't know, Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, claimed that the reason for the low number of women in the fields of science and math was due to our biology and not discrimination, the lack of role models and the open hostility women face when trying to break into male-dominated fields. This view is heartily endorsed by evo-psychologist and author Steven Pinker, who believes IQ tests prove women's inferiority and that reality is sexist so feminists should basically just shut up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson answered the "Larry Summers question", saying:

“I’ve never been female, but I have been black my whole life so let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as the community of women in a white male dominated society…

"When I look throughout my life…I got to see how the world reacted to my ambitions. All I can say is the fact that i wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicistist was, hands down, the path of most resistance through the forces of society. Anytime I expressed this interest teachers would say ‘don’t you want to be an athelete?’…

"I wanted to become something outside of the paradigms of expectations of the people in power…Fortunately my depth of interest in the universe was so deep and so fueled and rich that every one of these curveballs that I was thrown and fences built in front of me and hills I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going. Now here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land and I want to look behind me and say ‘where are the others who might have been this?’ and they are not there. And I wonder what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented me at EVERY turn, at EVERY turn…”

“So my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, we got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunities, then we can have that conversation.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

This is to mother you, dear A.C.

My best friend A.C. killed her self three years ago this month. She had an an emotionally and physically abusive mom and dad, and she was kidnapped and molested by a neighbor when she was eight. When she confided about the molestation to her mother, her mother laughed at her and even said it was her fault for being stupid enough to trust the neighbor. It was such a betrayal that she said it was almost as bad as actually being molested. If you can't trust your own mother for protection and love, what chance does a kid have to ever feel safe in the world?

This is for her and all other girls and women, boys and men, who have been abused and not believed, or worse, told it was their fault:

"This Is To Mother You"

By Sinead O'Connor

This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you
This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn't do
Which is to mother you
All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the wrong things they have done
I will take from you when I come
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness
For child I am so glad I've found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
I saw you
And I'm here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you