Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


If you’re all sad in your pants

Oct 1st, 2014 5:29 pm | By

A new version of Tim Minchin’s Pope Song.

It ends with

But if you build your movement on intellectual authority
And believe it is to benefit others in society
Then you, you motherfucker, can expect some talking back
When people get assaulted and you never fucking act!

So fuck these motherfuckers, and fuck you motherfucker
If you call yourself a fucking skeptic
Then you cover for each slimey motherfucker who says something sexist
Fuck you, your apologetics really are pathetic

And if you look into your motherfucking heart and tell me true
If the good name of atheism is that important to you
With its problems with harassment, abuse, and also fucking RAPE
If you’re all sad in your pants then go ahead and write a blogpost

But if you find this song more offensive than the possibility
Of leaders protecting rapists and treating victims with hostility
Then listen to me, motherfucker, I don’t give a tinker’s dam
And fuck you Shermer, Dawkins, Harris, Randi,
And you can keep your fucking TAM!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Keep it on the downlow

Oct 1st, 2014 11:35 am | By

Dana has a post about my report that Dawkins asked me to tell people not to spread the “libellous allegation that Michael Shermer is a rapist or a sexual predator.”

Keep in mind, this was about a year after various unconnected sources came forward and said that Shermer had harassed and/or assaulted them. And he’s still busy covering Shermer’s ass.

Even after so many women have come forward under their own names, he still won’t admit there may be something to this. And the little hyperskeptic lickspittles he’s got crowded round his feet are happy to help out, demanding evidence well beyond what they’d require to denounce a homeopath.

I still puzzle about that. These are real people, not just examples in some article by Christina Hoff Sommers. They’re people he may have met himself on the atheist / skeptic circuit. It’s odd that he’s so willing to trash them for the sake of defending Shermer.

There are good comments on the post – like the one by A Hermit:

Dawkins asked me to dissuade people from spreading the “libellous allegation that Michael Shermer is a rapist or a sexual predator.”

Now that’s a pretty strong allegation you’re making yourself Richard; I mean libel is a serious legal no-no. If Shermer is really being libeled why didn’t he immediately go to the authorities, huh? I mean if he can prove he’s being libeled he should be suing everyone who’s libeling him or it’s not really libel amirite?

I bet he’s just playing the libel victim to get publicity for his new book or something…

And kellym’s:

It almost seems as if trying to protect Shermer is the main reason Dawkins issued the joint statement with Ophelia. Almost immediately after the statement was issued, Dawkins tweeted to imply that date rape wasn’t as bad as being raped by a stranger, and if you disagreed, “go away and learn how to think.” Those aren’t the words of someone trying to heal rifts that were directly exacerbated by his own words. But they are an emotional, poorly-reasoned argument that Michael Shermer isn’t a “real” rapist.

And I’m still confused as to what Dawkins was asking Ophelia to do. PZ posted the rape allegation about a year ago, so that couldn’t be undone. There were several women making accusations of predatory behavior against Shermer. Was Dawkins proposing that Ophelia contact each one to try to gain her silence? Was he hoping for a blog post that attacked their claims? I don’t understand what he was asking.

No, I don’t either, really. Maybe just spread the word, on the libelous allegers’ grapevine? I don’t know. I didn’t parse it very much because there was no chance I was going to do that. With several people telling similar stories…how could I do that?

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Show the world

Oct 1st, 2014 10:51 am | By

What do you do when your stepmother throws acid in your face while you’re asleep? You go ahead and fulfill your ambition of being a fashion designer, and you get other survivors of acid attacks to join you in modeling the clothes. You show the world what it is to woman up.

Rupa suffered extensive injuries when her stepmother threw acid in her face while she was sleeping in 2008.

She was allegedly left without any medical aid for six hours before her uncle found her and transported her to hospital, where she underwent eleven operations and spent three months being cared for.

Her uncle had to borrow on the house they lived in to pay for her medical treatment, and Rupa said her injuries made it difficult to find work.

She dropped her surname to distance herself from her father for supporting her stepmother after the attack.

Wow. That’s some “father.”

After the attack, Rupa teamed up with the Stop Acid Attacks charity who run Chhaon, a support centre for survivors, and began designing clothes.

The charity is now looking to help Rupa raise enough money to open her own clothing boutique in Delhi, which would employ other acid attack survivors as staff.

Rupa said: “Chhaon has helped me feel confident again and believe in myself. I have always loved fashion and tailoring but I never thought I could start my own label. This is the first time I have presented my clothes and I am glad to see them being appreciated.”

The charity asked Mr Saharan to lead the photoshoot, who said the models define “beauty and courage” on his Facebook page. His gallery from the shoot has been shared over 2,000 times.

The album of the shoot is public.

H/t Sarah Moglia

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Maybe it’s the mountain air

Oct 1st, 2014 9:44 am | By

The BBC has had a team living next to the University of Colorado at Boulder campus for a month.

The issue of sexual assaults at US colleges was raised repeatedly by students we met.

It is a national problem, with studies suggesting one in five women will be victims during their time at university.

And it is a serious problem at CU-Boulder too. The college is on the White House’s list of schools suspected of Title IX violations – that’s a law guaranteeing that women in federally-funded universities won’t face discrimination due to their gender.

More than 70 schools including CU-Boulder are accused of having improperly dealt with sexual assault cases, and are now the target of a federal investigation.

Cue Christina Hoff Sommers saying it’s all grossly exaggerated and besides boys like to squirm a lot in school so no fair.

While sexual assault is not a problem specific to fraternities, studies have shown that on college campuses, men who join a fraternity are three times more likely to rape than other men.

The White House launched a campaign last week called “It’s On Us”. The initiative is aimed at encouraging male students to intervene to stop abusive behaviour.

Yes but what about the sororities? What about the drunk women barging into the frat houses? Be fair!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: He called it “Ask First”

Oct 1st, 2014 9:13 am | By

Originally a comment by Hj Hornbeck on Salt.

I’m one of the lucky few who’ve heard Shermer talk about his system of morality in person.

He called it “Ask First:” before doing some action, ask the people effected what they think. It has a Rawlsian quality to it, but unlike the Veil it’s much easier to game. Jails and safe injection sites will never be built, because the surrounding populace will never agree to them. Ever heard of Hobo Fights, where assholes pay two homeless people to beat the crap out of one another? Permitted by “Ask First,” banned by the Veil. Thinking of cutting carbon emissions? Don’t ask the experts, do an opinion poll!

Shermer was peppered with similar corner cases during the Q&A, but he had a solution: “no moral system is perfect,” so we’d just switch to another one when problems arose! I think he even mentioned a “greater good” system as a candidate.

You know, the type of system which would give the same answers in the vast majority of cases, and which we could have gone with from the start. But no, he had to saw off the corners to suit his libertarian views, then hastily glue them back on, in an ad hoc manner, when those corners became critical.

I wasn’t impressed.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Salt

Oct 1st, 2014 7:30 am | By

So, there’s this. JREF promoting a talk on science and morality at TAM 2013 by that expert on morality Michael Shermer. Nine hours ago. A good many days after the publication of Mark Oppenheimer’s article, the one that quoted James Randi saying he was well aware of Shermer’s frolicsome ways with the laydeez and that if he got many more reports about them he would ask him to limit his attendance at TAM.

Randi Foundation @jref ·  9 hours ago
Science and Morality: Michael Shermer TAM 2013: http://youtu.be/kjT1lkmKVhs

Hey, isn’t it about time for Roman Polanski to return to Hollywood?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



How not to stage an intervention

Sep 30th, 2014 5:32 pm | By

Doubting Tom wrote a Dubito Ergo Sum post ten days ago, on Michael Nugent, Vice Principal of Atheism. (Good title. Nugent does carry on as if he’s somehow been appointed to scold some people into obedience while protecting others from unwelcome attention to their more appalling behaviors. Nugent hasn’t been appointed to do that.) This post, I was saying, is worth catching up with.

DT starts by summarizing Nugent’s previous work in this vein, then describes a pattern:

Nugent demonstrated a pattern of behavior that he has since escalated: butt in to an issue that doesn’t involve you, adopt the pretense of mature authority, treat the issue as an academic subject to be studied or hashed out in formal debate, and then move on to some other issue once it gets too real.

It’s odd about the non-involvement. (It’s also very annoying, but never mind that for now.) Nugent spends a lot of words scolding us Americans for the fact that Anglophone media keep talking about “the atheist movement” when really all they’re talking about is some Americans. There’s a global atheist movement, Nugent keeps solemnly telling us. True; so why is he so interested in this issue that’s just an American thing? It’s a puzzle.

There’s that email Nugent sent to PZ back in August – that presumptuous, obnoxious email.

He tried talking to PZ “privately” about the matter first, considering PZ a friend, and apparently seeing the need for an intervention about his destructive behavior. I can sympathize, somewhat. After all, I am all for people calling out their friends when their friends are hurting others. For that matter, I think that’s a situation where a private conversation may indeed be warranted before taking the issue public, a tactic often problematically proposed as a cure-all for disagreements. It’s not, and when it’s two people who don’t actually know each other very well, the insistence on private conversation first is mostly just a way of avoiding transparency and sweeping criticism under the carpet. But if it’s someone you’re close to? Sending them a personal note to say “hey, I think [specific thing you do] is hurting the people you care about, and I’m worried about you” would absolutely be a reasonable step in resolving the issue.

That’s not what Nugent did. Instead, he CC’d Richard Dawkins and Ophelia Benson on the e-mail. Again, I think Nugent thought he was trying to organize an intervention, but that’s really not how you go about it.

To put it mildly. To do that he would have had to ask Dawkins and ask me, before cc’ing us on his unsolicited email to someone else. He didn’t do that. He cc’d me without my permission or advance knowledge. I don’t know about Dawkins; I suspect a few of these guys have been planning a lot lately, so for all I know he did discuss it with Dawkins first. But he sure as hell did not discuss it with me, and I was disgusted by it. It looked to me like nothing but an attempt to embarrass PZ, and using me to do it. Not cool.

Then Tom moves on to Nugent’s little list of PZ’s putative naughtinesses. He looks up the ones I didn’t take the trouble to look up and they’re even more ridiculous as examples of naughtiness than I had realized.

I knew how ridiculous the Shermer one was though. That one jumps out at you.

he has publicly accused…Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes,

Accusations that have been validated by multiple sources. Nugent has said that he was not trying to tell PZ to keep sexual harassment accusations secret, but it’s hard to read this (and the letter, which is worded in nearly identical language) as anything but that. On Twitter, Nugent expanded, essentially saying that he thought this matter would have been better served by the police than hashed out online. We’ll ignore the continued ignorant paternalism in Nugent thinking he knows better how to handle rape than the victim, we’ll even ignore the numerousclearreasonswhy rape survivors don’t go to the police. Nugent’s living in a fantasy world of privilege-enabled ignorance where police officers are never racist or misogynist or themselves rapists, and where every rape kit gets tested and victims are never pressured into recanting or (even with clear evidence that rape occurred) treated like criminals themselves. But look at what we know, especially in light of the Buzzfeed piece: Shermer’s behavior and the accusations were known to atheist and skeptic leaders. DJ Grothe knew about them. James fucking Randi knew about them, tanking the remaining respect I had for that guy. What was their response? To continue inviting him to events, to take out extra insurance to protect themselves from his actions, and to give him a stern warning that if he does it too many more times, he might face some consequences of some sort, while punishing the people who speak out. The same thing played out with Ben Radford. Leaders in the community excuse and coddle accused rapists and harassers, and punish victims. Why should Shermer’s victim have expected anything different to happen if the police were the authorities involved rather than the event organizers?

We’ll never know how Nugent would respond to that, though, because either he’ll have already dropped the whole thing, or he’ll be too busy finding new trivia to scold us for in new 5000 word posts.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



“Females” destroying all the fraternities

Sep 30th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

Fraternities, eh. They’re going to hell in a handbasket, and you know whose fault that is? Drunk women! That’s who! All these drunk women keep forcing their way into the place and they’re ruining everything. Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel has the story.

If you blinked at all, even for a second yesterday, you may have missed a doozy of a story that Forbes ran and very quickly deleted. Which is a shame, since the headline was “Drunk Female Guests Are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities,” and the only thing more hilariously evil than much of the piece that followed was the Satan-y byline photo that accompanied the piece.

Unfortunately, Bill Frezza isn’t a character made up by stoned Onion writers searching for the next Herbert Kornfeld. He is a very real man who many years ago graduated from MIT with a degree in theology and engineering and spends his time now being creepily involved with his old fraternity.

Theology and engineering…that’s a rather frightening combination.

Before feminist web vigilantes call for my defenestration, I single out female guests for one simple reason. Fraternity alumni boards, working with chapter officers, employ a variety of policies designed to guide and police member behavior. Our own risk management manual exceeds 22 pages. The number of rules and procedures that have to be followed to run a party nowadays would astound anyone over 40. We take the rules very seriously, so much so that brothers who flout these policies can, and will, be asked to move out. But we have very little control over women who walk in the door carrying enough pre-gaming booze in their bellies to render them unconscious before the night is through.

That’s so true! Men never can have any control over those bitchez who smuggle booze into the fraternities in their bellies. It’s all part of the plot.

Here are the things that worry me most. Any of them could result in organizational extinction, even if the fraternity never served the “victim” a single drop of alcohol:

Alcohol poisoning due to overconsumption before, during, or after an event. Death or grievous injury as a result of falling down the stairs or off a balcony. Death or grievous injury as a result of a pedestrian or traffic accident as the young lady weaves her way home. False accusation of rape months after the fact triggered by regrets over a drunken hook-up, or anger over a failed relationship. And false 911 calls accusing our members of gang rape during a party in progress. (Yes, this happened, resulting in seven police cars and thirty officers storming the chapter house.)

False accusations of rape more concerning than actual rape perpetuated by frat members on incapacitated women? Hey, I think I’ve heard this one before!

Yeah so have I. I wonder why Frezza forgot to say anything about outrage bloggers who do it for the clicks.

Never, ever take a drunk female guest to your bedroom – even if you have a signed contract indicating sexual consent. Based on new standards being promulgated on campus, all consent is null and void the minute a woman becomes intoxicated– even if she is your fiancée. And while a rape charge under these circumstances is unlikely to hold up in a court of law, it doesn’t take much for a campus kangaroo court to get you expelled, ruining your life while saddling your fraternity with a reputation for harboring rapists.

Uh huh. That’s what happens all the time. It’s never that the woman gets raped and then nobody does anything about it. Never never never never.

Except all the times that it does.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



How dare you

Sep 30th, 2014 11:19 am | By

No. Just no. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. Just don’t even. Dear god what are you thinking. No.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The only option

Sep 30th, 2014 10:32 am | By

A conservative Islamic charity is opening three women-only homeless shelters in the UK.

There are no official figures on how many Muslim women have been forced to leave their homes, but the National Zakat Foundation (NZF) has seen a demand for temporary shelter that meets religious and cultural needs.

The first of three of the hostels will open in London at the end of October and will cater for 14 women.

The other two will open in Birmingham and in Manchester over the next few months.

Muslim females are expected to follow a strict code of conduct, which includes not mixing with males who are not family members and not entering an environment where alcohol is being consumed.

So Muslim women who aren’t fanatically conservative won’t want to go there.

The temporary accommodation offered by the charity will provide an environment which complies with the Islamic way of life.

Nusrat is now in her early 30s but at the age of 19 she was forced to leave home.

She was disowned by her family for wanting to go to university. She initially stayed in the university’s halls of residence but after getting into financial difficulty she ended up on the streets of London.

She said: “I was leading a double life. I’d stay at university for as long as I could during the day and then at night I’d be on the streets pretending to be a tourist. I saw things that I never wanted to see.

“There was prostitution, people tried to pimp girls. The younger and more innocent you looked, the more they were out to get you.”

She said pride stopped her from returning to her family because she wanted to show them that she could be independent.

The hostels which were available to her did not comply with her Muslim faith so living on the streets was the only option.

No, it wasn’t the only option. Another option would have been to live at a hostel that didn’t “comply with her Muslim faith.” That seems to mean there were men and alcohol around…but surely that applies at least as much to living on the streets, along with all sorts of other disadvantages.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Once that hour is done

Sep 29th, 2014 6:17 pm | By

In the Independent: what a student sex worker in the UK thinks of her job.

“Sophie” is 22 and paying for her five year course at university via sex work.

“You get a lot of weird requests. Before you meet you get that out in the open by messaging, they [the clients] say what they want, and you say yes I’ll do that, or no I won’t do that,” and, Sophie says, “you hope they pay attention, but they don’t.”

There is no safety net. “I think it’s hard to…you can pull out every stop to make sure you are going to be ok, and it just doesn’t always work that way. You think its ok, and it’s not,” she said.

There’s a long pause. Eventually she says: “It has happened but, I don’t know, it’s part of the job really, it’s a risk.”

After an ‘outcall’ when she couldn’t get away from the client, “I decided I wasn’t going to do it again, and it was too much.” Having quit, she found herself struggling financially and faced with dropping out, she went back to working in the sex industry.

But she didn’t like it. She doesn’t like it.

Sophie is resigned and bitter about the perception of sex work – particularly the character of Belle du Jour. “I hate it. Because, say I work for a hundred pounds an hour, that it makes it sound very classy, whereas I tend to be going to real s***holes … Yeah, it is a hundred pounds for an hour, but you can be thinking about that hour for the next month.”

She wonders how her clients afford her, continuing, “I don’t like a lot of them. I wonder why they’re there. I’m wary of them, why they’re not seeing women their age when they’re a lot older than you.”

Maybe because they don’t like women. Maybe they like sex but not women, and sex for money does away with the need to interact for all that time when you’re not having sex.

Sophie’s work is carefully separate from her university life. “I’ve met my best friends here, and they are my best friends, but I certainly believe they wouldn’t look at me in the same way if I told them what I did.” None of her friends or family know.

It’s difficult for her to keep up a relationship, never mind start one. “There’s guys I like now, and I’d like it to be more, but it’s just not possible, not at the moment. Because this is not ok, and a guy would not accept this.”

“I walk down the street and I think if people knew what I was like, they would not…” She tails off.

“You just do it, get the money and then get on with your life.”

When she graduates she will leave escorting and her clients behind her, but while she remains at university she will carry on working: “I need them [her clients] at the end of the day, but I don’t like them. I don’t like them at all. I pretend to like them, and then get out. Once that hour is done, it’s out the door, goodbye.”

Definitely not Belle du Jour.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Will our heroes always disappoint us?

Sep 29th, 2014 5:53 pm | By

David Koepsell has an interesting piece at the CFI blog titled Ideas, not Idols.

A danger, of course, to making idols of intellectuals or anyone else is that once we learn more about them as persons, their very real and valuable contributions to their fields may become tinged, just like Heidegger’s work now seems iredeemably blighted by his antisemitism. How shall we confront this danger? As Arendt urged, there are incredibly valuable elements of Heidegger’s work that have changed the nature and path of modern continental philosophy. We would be foolish to ignore his contributions, and we should remain compelled by those ideas within his work that seem devoid of hateful ideology. But we would be equally foolish, in my opinion, to view the fact of these contributions apart from his personal failings, and unwise in any case to idolize anyone, be they layman, genius, or god.

It is ultimately the ideas that matter, the principles not the personas. Our heroes will always disappoint us if we dig deeply enough, because like most humans, their lives falls short of even the most modest ideals.

I don’t know. I don’t think disappointment is inevitable, if we don’t expect superhuman perfection. People can be normally human and flawed and imperfect without being Nazis or rape apologists or indeed rapists, after all. Being selfish, greedy, vain, irritable is one thing, and being sadistic, ruthless, predatory, exploitative is another. In other words some people are worse shits than others. They really are.

As students of philosophy, as members of movements, as communities sharing worldviews, we must be wary of elevating ideas by attaching them to specific personalities, no matter how strong, attractive, compelling, or even valuable to the projection of a message. When these people fall, they risk setting back the valuable ideas we explore and they espouse, undermining the progress of our philosophies in the short term.

True, but I’m always a little ambivalent about this, because I think a little bit of hero-having can be motivating and even inspiring. I don’t want to pour cold water on the whole idea. Maybe the solution is to act like the CIA or similar, and do thorough background checks on prospective heroes before giving them the job.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: Oh, and it would be better if we women didn’t speak up in meetings

Sep 29th, 2014 4:32 pm | By

Originally a comment by Katydid on Horror of the female.

About 6 years ago, my company brought in a sub-contractor. Before he started, there was a meeting to tell the women that because this man was an Orthodox Jew, he would not shake hands with us. Okay, fine…who shakes hands with a co-worker they see every single day anyway?

Then he started, and our seating arrangements had to be changed because he couldn’t tolerate sitting in an area near any of the women. Then, in meetings, the women had to wait for him to seat himself and arrange ourselves as far away from him as we could because his special, special self couldn’t tolerate being in a meeting with women. Oh, and it would be better if we women (all software engineers) didn’t speak up in meetings, because it made him uncomfortable, you see.

Then our “snack table” came under attack; we had a long-standing tradition in our office of bringing in snacks on Fridays–usually some form of baked goods. Suddenly, the women had to stand back and wait for him to serve himself because he couldn’t touch food if a woman had been near it.

It went on and on–this kind of behavior wouldn’t have been tolerated by any random misogynist, but because this guy could cry RELIGION, suddenly it was perfectly acceptable to (expletive deleted) all over the rights of the women forced to work with this guy.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Planes, trains, and ox-carts

Sep 29th, 2014 12:15 pm | By

More on what it’s like to be on a flight with Haredi men who refuse to sit next to women.

One passenger described the trip as “an 11-hour long nightmare.”

El Al passengers heading to Israel to celebrate the Jewish new year were delayed leaving New York on the eve of Rosh Hashanah when ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit near women.

Oops, left out a word. Not ultra-Orthodox passengers but male ultra-Orthodox passengers. It wasn’t women refusing to sit near women (or near men either, apparently).

The pilot asked the disruptive men to sit down and the plane took off.

But after takeoff, chaos erupted.

“I ended up sitting next to a … man who jumped out of his seat the moment we had finished taking off and proceeded to stand in the aisle,” a woman passenger identified only as Galit told Ynet. The man had asked her to move from the seat beside her husband to accommodate his religious beliefs, but she refused.

“People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward,” said Amit Ben-Natan, a passenger who was on board the plane.

That’s just what you want on an airplane of all places, isn’t it – mobs of men clogging the aisles in order to pitch fits of rage about the proximity of women. It’s got everything: intimidation, claustrophobia, noise, fear – only if they’d all been vomiting could it have been worse.

Haaretz reported that in 2012 El Al noticed an increasing number of Haredi men asking to switch seats to avoid sitting next to women. Large groups of up to 20 would try to reserve seats in blocks to avoid it. They would also approach female passengers asking to trade seats before takeoff. An American woman sued, claiming an El Al flight attendant moved her to the back of the plane to accommodate Haredi men.

You know…if you’re going to get on a god damn airplane, then you’re buying into the modern world. You’ve accepted the technological benefits it offers. Ok then – you damn well have to put up with the equal rights it offers too. If you can’t do that then you should just go live in a cave and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



You are not funny. You are not clever. And you are not excused.

Sep 29th, 2014 11:32 am | By

US military veterans have written to Fox News to tell it that a sexist joke one of its hosts told was not cute. That’s good; let’s have more of that.

During Wednesday’s broadcast of “The Five,” co-hosts Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld ridiculed Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female UAE pilot and F-16 squadron commander leading airstrikes against ISIS.

“Problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn’t park it,” Gutfeld said. “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” Bolling followed up.

No.

Herewith the letter:

Dear Mr. Bolling and Mr. Gutfeld,

We are veterans of the United States armed forces, and we are writing to inform you that your remarks about United Arab Emirates Air Force Major Mariam Al Mansouri were unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for.

First, foremost, and most obvious to everyone other than yourselves, your remarks were immensely inappropriate. Your co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was so right to call attention to an inspiring story of a woman shattering glass ceilings in a society where doing so is immeasurably difficult. We never heard an answer to her question: why did you feel so compelled to “ruin her thing?”

As it turns out, women have been flying combat aircraft since before either of you were born. Over 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew during World War II. Seeing as U.S. Army Air Forces Commander “Hap” Arnold said “Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men,” we can probably guess he thought their parking was adequate. The WASP legacy reaches into the present day; on 9/11, then Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney scrambled her F-16. Completely unarmed, she was ready to lay down her own life to prevent further devastating attacks on American soil.

Thus the skill of women as fighter pilots is well established. And before you jump to the standby excuse that you were “just making a joke” or “having a laugh,” let the men amongst our number preemptively respond: You are not funny. You are not clever. And you are not excused. Perhaps the phrase “boys will be boys”—inevitably uttered wherever misogyny is present—is relevant. Men would never insult and demean a fellow servicemember; boys think saying the word ‘boobs’ is funny.

James Randi please note. The idea that this kind of thing is just “what guys do” is insulting to guys.

The less obvious implication of your remarks, however, is that by offending an ally and cheapening her contribution, you are actively hurting the mission. We need to send a clear message that anyone, male or female, who will stand up to ISIS and get the job done is worthy of our respect and gratitude.

We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere. Major, we’re sincerely sorry for the rudeness; clearly, these boys don’t take your service seriously, but we and the rest of the American public do.

And then an impressively large bunch of names.

Thank you, veterans.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Women in particular

Sep 29th, 2014 11:11 am | By

There’s always the “it’s just part of life, get over it” defense. Being groped or plied with drinks or raped is just what happens if you’re female and young.

Rosie Millard makes that [cough] argument in the Independent. She starts off reasonably enough by saying that squeezing a woman’s breasts probably doesn’t merit a prison sentence. But then she veers off into full-on “deal with it” mode.

Yet in many people’s eyes, Dave Lee Travis – another name from the 1970s whose fame surrounded him like a blinding cloud – will have “got away” with it, as if his actions were as repugnant and evil as those of Clifford, Harris and Savile. The unnamed victim of the assault, who said she was paralysed with fear at the time, has spoken of her luck in being able to get on with the rest of her life after the event – the event being having your breasts squeezed for 15 seconds, backstage at The Mrs Merton Show. Hello? If such things really caused deep trauma, half the female population of the UK would be in long-term therapy. Women get their breasts squeezed. They get their bottoms pinched. Without asking for it. It is not particularly exciting, but it is part of life. Get over it.

Um, no?

Those are two different things. A jail sentence for breast-squeezing is one thing and treating unrequested unwanted breast-squeezing as part of life that you have to get over is quite another. Physical molestation, even minor varieties, shouldn’t be taken as normal and just part of the price of being female.

I have worked in television shows similar to Mrs Merton; this sort of thing happened all the time, so much so that it was almost funny. While I was working on one show years ago, one of the executive producers was so used to it that he devised a simple slogan to yell at us humble researchers: “Look, loves, don’t fuck the turns!” Because you know, the turns would turn up and they would, well… hope to have favours granted. Again, I am not referring to or indeed excusing sexual assault. I am pointing out that there was, and probably always will be, a certain amount of irresponsible behaviour in the entertainment world, whether from Radio 1 DJs or anyone else, and women in particular have to negotiate it as they see fit.

But that’s not ok. Dumping an extra burden on “women in particular” is not ok. Treating women as there for the fucking is not ok.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Closing ranks

Sep 29th, 2014 10:34 am | By

Adam Lee has a post about the obfuscations and denial about Michael Shermer by some Big Names (he more politely calls them prominent individuals) in atheoskepticism.

One is Randi, because of what he told Mark Oppenheimer – you know, that whole thing about how Shermer’s a naughty boy, and if there had been any actual violence then somebody would have done something, but as it is it’s just a matter of getting drunk and boys doing what boys do, but hey if he gets many more such reports he might possibly ask Shermer to show up less often.

I quoted this statement in my previous post, but the more I reread it, the more damning it becomes.* This isn’t some innocent misunderstanding of the situation; Randi had been told by multiple people that Shermer had done something blameworthy, and he believed them. (He warned about what would happen if he got “more” complaints from “people I have reason to believe” – implying that he already had some.) He doesn’t even have the slender reed of an excuse that he didn’t think the complaints were credible. But because he didn’t have reports that Shermer had done anything “violent”, he dismisses it with a “ho ho ho, boys will be boys, what do you expect when people are drinking” attitude.

Quite. It’s horrifying.

Then there are Dawkins’s many insulting tweets about rape and being drunk.

Unless you choose to believe that Dawkins just happened to be idly speculating on the topic of drinking and rape at the same time this controversy was occurring – as one of my commenters put it, popping off random facts from “the lottery ball machine of his mind” – the obvious inference is that he believes the allegations against Shermer should be doubted on those grounds. Yet he says so without making it explicit who or what he’s talking about.

Another datum on that: before all this, before the Oppenheimer article, even before the “let’s rank kinds of rape and if you don’t like it go away and learn how to think” tweets – at the end of our email conversation that resulted in the joint statement, Dawkins asked me to dissuade people from spreading the “libellous allegation that Michael Shermer is a rapist or a sexual predator.”

I must say, I stared at the screen in shocked disbelief for quite awhile when that came in. What was I supposed to do, tell people who reported their own experiences to stop doing that? On what authority? On the basis of what knowledge? I don’t know that they are not telling the truth, do I.

I so badly wanted to reply with something along the lines of “How would that be different from what the bishops have been doing for decades?” But that would have been a bad beginning to the post-joint-statement situation, so I didn’t…quite. I pointed out that these were first-person accounts and that I didn’t know they weren’t true, so I couldn’t dismiss them. I did conclude with “It’s too reminiscent of the Catholic church and the rapey priests.” I haven’t heard from him since.

Adam goes on to Michael Nugent, and Jerry Coyne, and D J Grothe. The Grothe part contains the information that Pamela Gay confirmed that the “person B” in her account was Grothe, information that surprises approximately no one.

Adam concludes with that same comparison – which should, if there’s any justice, particularly sting Dawkins and Nugent.

There is, of course, no law obligating anyone in particular to discuss the accusations against Shermer, much less to believe them. However, our community has consistently condemned religious organizations that try to cover up misdeeds by one of their own – and with good reason, in my view. Secrecy leads to unaccountability, to corruption, and hence to harm. Conversely, the truth has nothing to fear from open and honest discussion. It’s this same principle which leads me to conclude that these allegations deserve a hearing, at the very least. Intellectual consistency demands no less.

There are many, many atheists who’ve condemned Catholicism and other religions for covering up allegations of molestation by clergy, shuffling predators from one parish to another or trying to pressure the victims into silence. If any of the atheists who’ve said this in the past are now taking the position that the allegations against Shermer shouldn’t be discussed, those people owe the Catholic church a very large apology. As for me, I don’t believe in a double standard, nor do I expect religion to abide by any moral rule that I don’t strive to live up to myself.

There is no “if” – we know that’s the case.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Horror of the female

Sep 29th, 2014 9:20 am | By

Prepare to be gut-wrenched.

Elana Sztokman was just in the US for a ten day book tour for the publication of her book, The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom. Then she got on the plane for the 11 hour trip back to Israel.

The plane took off 20 minutes late because an ultra-Orthodox man was negotiating with passengers so as not to have to sit next to a woman—me—on the 11-hour flight.

I asked myself if this was karma or poetic justice. After all, I had just spoken to hundreds of people about exactly these issues, and the way women are made to feel like second class citizens as a result. Part of me wanted to smile and hand out copies of my book. But I sat there silently for a long time, watching all this happen, witnessing all these men around me talking about me, mostly in Yiddish, but also in Hebrew and English, without looking directly at me. I sat there, torn between my desire not to make a scene and my feeling that If I don’t articulate, right here and now, how all this affects women, how this affects me, who will?

Because what is this shit? It’s this:

That’s what it is. It’s not anything else. It’s not holy or spiritual or sanctified. It’s othering, it’s disgust, it’s get away from me, it’s don’t come near me, it’s you’re a contaminant.

After listening to them for a long time Sztokman decided to point that out.

I said, “Imagine if instead of men and women, we were talking about Jews and non-Jews. Imagine how you would feel if a bunch of non-Jews were standing around saying that they can’t sit next to you because you’re a Jew, that they are willing to sit anywhere but next to you, because their religion won’t allow it, because you are impure or different, or whatever. how would you feel? How would you ever get over that insult?” I could feel my voice rising. After all these years of writing about this, after this whole tour where I went around listening to people and sharing ideas, I just couldn’t stay silent in the face of this humiliation.

But Mr Ultra-Orthodox and all the other men said she didn’t understand and turned their backs on her. (She doesn’t say if there were any women around, or if so how they reacted.)

I sat down, put on my seatbelt, looked out the window and suddenly started to cry.

At one point I said to the men, whose backs were turned to me, “I sat here for half an hour just absorbing the insult.” That’s what everyone expected me to do. That’s what women are accustomed to doing. We give all kinds of reasons—we say we don’t mind, we like sitting in the back of the bus, we don’t want to “be like men,” this is what God wants, we don’t want to make a fuss, we like their lives. So we absorb the insult. We pretend everything is great. Maybe in some ways it is. Maybe we generally or genuinely love our lives. Maybe we are afraid of losing something if we fight for change. Maybe we are afraid of our own power. so we smile and go about our lives and pretend that this doesn’t happen.

If there is one thing that I would like to change in the world, it is this: I would like women to respect themselves enough to say no to all this. I want women to allow themselves to feel the impact of the silencing. I want women to be honest with themselves and to look at their lives and the places where they are powerless or oppressed, and to acknowledge that. Better yet, I want women to say no, I will not be silent or servile. I will not continue to absorb the insult as if this is all OK. I want women to say that they deserve better. I want women to believe that they deserve better.

So do I. Every day, every hour.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The more demeaning the commentary about women, the more popular it would be

Sep 28th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

Eric Michael Johnson, who writes the Primate Diaries column for Slate, takes a primatologist look at the culture of online misogyny. He starts with “the Fappening”: a 4chan gathering to celebrate the hacking of those celebrity naked photos.

While some reveled in a shared orgasmic intensity, others tried to be as descriptively misogynistic as possible, to the delight of lurking males. The more dehumanizing and demeaning the commentary about women, the more popular it would be, as demonstrated through the upvote feature on the website.

The online gathering was called “The Fappening” by users on the digital bulletin boards Reddit and 4chan. But the event was not really about the hacked celebrity photographs of Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kate Upton, and many others that became the focus of mainstream discussion. Ultimately, this was a virtual sex crime in which men sought to outdo one another and gain popularity for themselves through the objectification of women’s bodies. It was the same performance of gender and power they had learned from the wider culture.

This can’t be good. This can’t possibly be good. Enraged hatred of women is a pastime, a popular pastime. This does not bode well for the future. Men like this are going to fill up the place, and what will that be like? I won’t find out, but a lot of women will.

There were the onslaughts on Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

As in the case of the leaked photographs, young men gained status among their peers by using the most violent, sexually explicit, and demeaning language possible to abuse these women.

What kind of world are these guys creating? I can’t even see how it will function.

There is no question that these are vile, exploitative, misogynistic behaviors that reduce women to fetishized, digitized objects,” said Whitney Phillips, lecturer in communications at Humboldt State University. Her forthcoming book from MIT Press, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, investigates the culture of power and cyberbullying among people who have come to beknown as trolls, Internet users who intentionally provoke or even assault others online. This is a culture that follows what is called “the logic of lulz,” a digital remixing of schadenfreude in which the misfortune of others is publicly exploited for maximum amusement and personal prestige. In this way, lulz (the phonetic plural form of LOL, or laugh out loud) are a kind of cultural currency that these trolls use as their stock in trade. Their targets are women, people of color, so-called white knights who criticize their behavior, and virtually anyone that does not belong to the trolls’ cultural in-group.

Those are the people that Michael Nugent has commenting prolifically on his many blog posts rebuking Adam Lee and PZ Myers and me – and he seems to think, with stunning naivete and cluelessness, that they are commenting in good faith.

The trolls like to say it’s just human nature, Johnson says. It’s a guy thing, it’s natural, there’s no use trying to mess with it.

The Forest Troop illustrates how wrong that is.

In the early 1980s, a group of olive baboons known as “Forest Troop” underwent a unique natural experiment. The territory of their neighbors, “Garbage Dump Troop,” overlapped with that of a tourist lodge. The Garbage Dump Troop had access to the leftover meat that had been discarded into the lodge’s dump. The most aggressive males from Forest Troop began invading their neighbors’ territory to access the meat for themselves. Soon afterward, tuberculosis ravaged the baboons from both troops who had been feeding at the garbage dump. Because it was only the most aggressive males of Forest Troop that died out, the results were twofold: Less aggressive males were more common in the population, and the female-to-male ratio had now doubled.

The social consequences were startling. According to Stanford University primatologist Robert Sapolsky, who documented the event and followed the troop for the next 20 years, the brutal hierarchy that was common among male baboons disappeared, and the amount of affiliative behaviors—such as males and females grooming one another—increased markedly. What was most surprising was what followed over the intervening years. Males always migrate to other troops at puberty, and new immigrant males to the Forest Troop adopted the local culture that they encountered. Even though none of the original population is alive today, this highly cooperative baboon society remains intact. As Sapolsky wrote in Foreign Affairs, “Forest Troop’s low aggression/high affiliation society constitutes nothing less than a multigenerational benign culture.”

So…can we infect all the trolls with TB? Right away?

Perhaps there is a solution to the problem of online misogyny that does not require invasive government surveillance or restrictive practices like those taken by authoritarian countries. If female empowerment is ultimately better for everybody, then male Internet users would be helping themselves by opposing misogyny and harassment in online forums. A supportive environment would go hand-in-hand with increasing the number of women in those spaces currently dominated by bitter baboons. Patriarchy gains support from the passive acceptance of men who are actively hurt by its influence. If baboon societies are able to change the interaction between males and females based on the influence of culture, surely we can too.

Or that. We could do that instead. Whatever works.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Rote learning

Sep 28th, 2014 4:51 pm | By

A madrassa in Kenya has been closed down.

The school in Machakos, about 65km (40 miles) from the capital, was targeted after local youths were detained on suspicion of joining Somali militants.

It is the first Kenyan madrassa to be closed because of allegedly extremist teachings. A police chief warned that others could follow.

Madrassas aren’t really “schools” in the normal sense, as I understand it. They train children to memorize the Koran in Arabic, whether or not they understand the language, and they don’t teach anything else. That’s not really a school.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told the BBC the decision had been taken to close the Daarul-Irashad centre, which opened in 1997, on the advice of the police’s CID, anti-terror and intelligence units.

The recent arrest in the Machakos area of 21 young men suspected of being recruited for al-Shabab first raised suspicions, he said.

The police then profiled suspects arrested in other terror crackdowns and found that others had passed through that madrassa, the spokesman said.

Memorizing a holy book isn’t an education.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)