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.

Statement against religious discrimination

Sep 25th, 2014 10:46 am | By

Wow check it out – Michael DeDora at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.

I’m so proud – vicarious proud, but that’s the best kind – proud to know Michael, proud of what he does, proud of CFI.


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

Guest post: Nothing to compensate for the exclusion of multitudes of diverse and valuable people

Sep 24th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

Originally a comment by Jennifer Phillips on Whom you name, and he won’t.

I hate “the atheist movement.” If this is what it is, I hate it and want nothing to do with it. If it’s going to act like a mirror image of the fucking Vatican, I want nothing to do with it.

I completely agree, and would go further to say that, as it stands, it’s professionally damaging to me to be associated with Movement Atheists, as represented by Dawkins, Harris, Shermer and their supporters.

It’s paradoxical, because when I first discovered ‘the movement’, the science and reason elements embedded within lit a fire in me. I had already been involved in science outreach throughout my academic pursuits, but listening to DJ Grothe interview the denizens of the Reality Based Community on POI made me aware of how much more I wanted to invest myself in science education and science literacy.

The intervening years have been wonderful in that regard, and I’ve tapped into many local, national, and international science outreach opportunities, particularly focusing on outreach to women and underrepresented minorities in science. Therein lies the obvious problem: By publicly associating with the movement most closely identified with Dawkins, Harris, Shermer and their allies, I risk alienating the generation of young women and minorities that I’m trying to bring into the realm of professional science and reason.

It’s not worth it. Those ‘leading lights’ offer nothing to compensate for the exclusion of multitudes of diverse and valuable people.

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

Dana’s advice for Coyne Dawkins and Harris

Sep 24th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

Dana Hunter has a brilliant post on all this. It draws on brilliance from Libby Anne and from Hiba Krisht, for a hat trick of brilliance.

I’d like to ask a favor of anyone who can manage to get a critical viewpoint through the defenses of atheist celebrities like Harris and Dawkins: please get them to read Libby Anne’s infuriating and heartbreaking post, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion? Because it’s a question they need to address. They’re driving people like Libby Anne away from movement atheism. That is very much to the detriment of the movement.

It most certainly is. And Libby Anne is very far from the only one they are driving away.

I don’t think they’re worried about this, by the way – I think they think they have all the good, clever, sensible, anti-PC people, and we’re just the frenzied ideological cultists. No, that’s not how it is.

Dana lists some of the ways she admires Libby Anne and goes to her for useful reading.

She’s made me aware of just how relentlessly even mainstream culture genders kids, well before they’re old enough to even have a concept of themselves as boy or girl or something else. She’s worth a thousand Richard Dawkinses or Sam Harrises to me. She could be a tremendous asset to any atheist organization.

She could, but movement atheism is too busy patronizing women and making sure we all get the impression that we’re only of use to our Fearless Leaders™ when we’re being used as a cudgel against religion, and she wants none of that.

It is men like these who confirm my decision not to engage in movement atheism. Despite their claims, I don’t see them displaying a greater willingness to question their biases or engage in critical thinking. Frankly, I have felt for some time that atheist activists are frequently only willing to call out sexism when they see it in religion. It’s one more way they can point to how thoroughly horrible religion is as they call for its demise. But the moment an atheist woman says she has encountered sexism at atheist conventions or at atheist gatherings, she is lampooned and derided, called all manner of names and even threatened with rape or death. But isn’t this the kind of thing these same atheists criticize religion for?

Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large.

“Aren’t willing” is putting it mildly – start spitting poison at the very thought, is more like it.

We can tell when you don’t genuinely give a shit about us, and are only using us as a weapon against someone or something else. You think you’re amazing allies, because wow are you so brainy, and you say such wonderful things about how wrong those religious practices that fuck over women are, but when it comes to treating the women within your own movement better? You shriek and whine and shit all over us. You use the plight of those religious women against us, as if this is either/or, as if we cannot address sexism within western secular spaces until we’ve destroyed all the religion.


You need to start paying attention to the women who are telling you they are not yours to use. People like Hiba. Her comment on Libby Anne’s post needs to be etched onto atheist leader dude’s mirrors, where they’re forced to read the words every day, until they get it:

Ex-Muslim woman of color here. I blog about this stuff over at the Freethought Blogs. Your words are affirming. I too, feel used. Especially when the plights of women like me–women raised in Muslim-majority countries, forced to cover, controlled and abused by militant Islamist organizations and individuals–are appropriated and used to bolster anti-feminism in the West, to minimize battles against harassment and unequal representation. I refuse to have my story used to attack and demean other women. I refuse to have my story used as a talking point for hypocritical anti-theists.

See what I mean? A trifecta.

I seem to recall men looking round the atheist movement a few years ago and wondering where the women are. We’re right here, either outside the movement or heading for the doors, because we tried to come in, but you made the place so hostile many of us said fuck all y’all and walked out.

You, white male atheists who spend so much time screaming you’re not sexist that you can’t acknowledge when you’ve done sexist things and bloody well stop, are causing women to stomp out in disgust. Then you’re blaming us for not wanting to put up with your shit. It’s well past time you cut your pride down to size, swallowed some of it, and listened to what women are saying to you. Women like Hiba, and Libby Anne, and so very many others who’ve had it.

You want a strong, united movement? Then fix the problems you’ve caused. Until you do, I’ll just be hanging out here on this side of the Deep Rifts with the people who give an actual shit about women.

It is better over here. Way, way better.

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

Sometimes you need this

Sep 24th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

Like today, for instance.

[Cartoon removed because trolls exist.] [Or, less facetiously, because people told me it was from a transphobic site.]

I’ll just replace the cartoon with a screen grab of a comment on Michael Nugent’s 4,839-word post rebuking Adam Lee yesterday, the fourth in his series of posts rebuking Adam Lee for writing an article that criticizes Richard Dawkins.

“Crackity Jones” is Richard Sanderson, who has repeatedly posted a flagrant flaming lie about me on that post of Nugent’s. Does Nugent write 5000-word posts rebuking Richard Sanderson and his allies for telling lies about people? No. Does he even moderate comments on his blog? No.


Crackity Jones September 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Ophelia has a spot of bother after her latest copypasta displays a cartoon from an artist who is a transphobe. Some of her commentators are politely trying to minimise the splash damage. This is not the first time Ophelia has got into trouble in this area. Seems to be she has a bit of a problem with trans issues.

Sanderson is obsessed with me, for some reason, and he’s a dedicated energetic liar.

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

Whom you name, and he won’t

Sep 24th, 2014 12:29 pm | By

Michael Nugent has yet another endless wordy tedious post chastising Adam Lee for writing an article that’s critical of Dawkins. It’s nearly 5000 words.

One part is exceptionally outrageous.

You then engage in detailed speculation about why you believe Richard was trying to convey a message that a specific person (who you name, and I won’t) should be considered an untrustworthy witness in a specific allegation of rape (which you give details of, and I won’t) against another specific person (who you name, and I won’t).

Adam, you may or may not be correct or mistaken about any of this, but you are relying on speculation of what somebody else is thinking, constructed in your own imagination, to justify publishing a negative characterisation of Richard in a reputable newspaper.

That is bad enough with regard to your speculation about what Richard is thinking, but it is even worse with regard to speculation about the alleged rape that you allude to.

Speculation about that alleged rape is happening on various websites at the moment, and I decline to participate in it. The intimate details of traumatic moments in the lives of real people are being treated as fodder for amateur detective work about what real people did or didn’t do and why they did or didn’t do so.

This is a large part of the reason why I believe that allegations of rape should be reported to the police, not to bloggers. It is not only because of the justice of presuming people innocent of serious crimes until proven guilty, but also to help protect victims of rape from being permanently defined online by salacious speculation about what they have been through.

I have to rush off, but I wanted to make a note of that particular passage.

I hate “the atheist movement.” If this is what it is, I hate it and want nothing to do with it. If it’s going to act like a mirror image of the fucking Vatican, I want nothing to do with it.


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

The closest clinic was 75 miles away

Sep 24th, 2014 10:34 am | By

That woman in Pennsylvania who’s in jail for ordering miscarriage-inducing pills for her daughter online – here’s why she ordered those pills:

Whalen told me that in the winter of 2012, her daughter came to her and said she was pregnant. Whalen told her she would “support her in any decision she made.” Her daughter, who was in high school, took a few days to think and then asked her mother for help ending the pregnancy. “She said, ‘I can’t have a baby right now,’ and she asked me to look up clinics,” Whalen said.

The daughter was 16. I remember being 16. I was not mature enough to raise a child, nor was I in a position to support a child – to put it very mildly. Having a child at that age would have been horrific in every way I can think of.

Together, they looked online. The closest clinic was about 75 miles away. Pennsylvania requires women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure. The cost of a first-trimester abortion is typically between $300 and $600. Whalen works as a personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly. She didn’t have health insurance for her daughter. And she was worried about taking time away from work and her family to make two trips or to stay overnight. At the time, Whalen and her husband shared one car, which they both used to get to work.

You see that’s what all these bullshit laws and regulations making abortions logistically extremely hard to get actually do in practice – they fuck the poor. The clinic is far; there’s a waiting period; the abortion is expensive; health insurance is expensive; many jobs pay very little, Whalen’s job being one such job; low-level workers have a hard time getting time off work; transportation is expensive and difficult. It’s fuck the poor every step of the way – because it’s such a brilliant idea to saddle the children of the poor with unplanned children before they’ve even graduated from high school. Yeah that’s a just and fair society.

What Whalen did in trying to help her daughter — order pills online — is probably an increasingly common response to the rising wave of abortion restrictions that has rolled across the states in the last four years. “Her situation is very scary legally, because we are seeing the number of clinics dwindle,” Nash said. “If women don’t have access to abortion clinics, some will turn to the Internet, and then, will they be charged with a crime?”

The grim answer was yes for Jennifer Whalen because of a series of choices made by officials who had the discretion to respond differently. Hospital authorities decided that they were mandated to report Whalen, according to the district attorney, because they made a judgment call that what she did was “suspected or actual child abuse.” Warren, the district attorney, could have declined to press charges. And Norton, the judge, could have refrained from sending Whalen to jail.

When I asked Jennifer Whalen whether the case has been especially hard on her older daughter, she didn’t want to talk about it. “She’s going to college and working two jobs,” she said with a bit of pride. It was clear that Whalen is still trying to shield her child. She just wants her to go on and live her life.

But how very tragic and unfair that Whalen has to pay for that with a felony conviction, prison, and the loss of a job she loved.

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

Guest post: The whole thing shredded her

Sep 23rd, 2014 5:28 pm | By

Originally a comment by Eristae on A witness steps forward.

I’m not really a fan of “and the victim should go to the police” routine. I’ve seen it play out in person.

When I was in High School, my best friend was raped by a similarly aged family member. She told me many months after the fact. She was depressed, suicidal, and suffering from a host of physical ailments brought on by stress. She didn’t want to tell anyone. I convinced her to tell the school’s counselor, who in turn either convinced her to tell the police or who told the police herself (I believe it was the former, but I am not certain).

The whole thing shredded her.

The police didn’t believe her, told her so, and insisted that there must be something “wrong” with her (like an STD) that was causing her to make up such lies about an upstanding young man. She asked that the police wait until after a school break to tell her parents, and they ignored her pleas and told them right before the break, leaving her isolated with parents who (while they didn’t react as badly as she thought they might) viewed her as irreparably damaged. Her family splintered between those who believed her and those who did not. Afterwards she expressed that she wished she had not gone to the police; that doing so had only made things much, much worse. And I felt horrible, because I had convinced her to go to tell. I, who had bought into the narrative that You Must Involve the Authorities, believed I encouraging her to do what was right. In the end, she just ended up feeling more victimized and violated. And, to all the nits who are thinking, “Well, yes, she may have been more traumatized, but that’s the price we have to pay to keep him from raping another woman!” let me be absolutely clear: the rapist was not subjected to any kind of sanctions at all. He spent no time in jail, was not charged with anything, was not held accountable by his family or peers, and in general suffered no ill effect. Nothing that we did in any way limited his ability to rape again.

Even in hindsight I don’t know what the best course of action would have been. I don’t know if my friend was better off in the long term for having the assault brought out into the open; she stopped being willing to hang out with me soon after this had died down a bit, so I couldn’t even ask her. But what I do know is that if I had it to do over again, I would listen to what she wanted to do more and tell her what to do less. If the police were going to be involved, it was her decision to make, not mine. I didn’t have to deal with the fallout of what happened the way she did. It was her life, her trauma; it should have been her decision. I regret that she had to suffer so much for me to come to this realization.

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

A witness steps forward

Sep 23rd, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Jeff Wagg is the witness, at the JREF forum, on a thread where people are picking over what Alison Smith has said.

Alison’s timeline is correct. Approximately 30 minutes after I took her back to her room, she asked to be taken to the condo. She was having trouble walking to the car which was in the back valet area. Security noticed this, and stopped us, and then offered a wheelchair to help her get to the car. We accepted. I took her to the condo, stayed for a while and then returned to the Flamingo to get ready for the next day of TAM.

I have no way of knowing what went on behind closed doors, but I do know that Alison was very upset, and very drunk. And what she told me that night matches what she’s saying now.

And it does not match what Shermer has said about that night. At all.

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

Take her to the explaining room

Sep 23rd, 2014 11:32 am | By

Matt Lubchansky takes a look at dudely atheism.

Ma’am, have you read my book? We aren’t sexists, okay? Everyone else has read the book. It’s just chemistry.

They parody themselves.


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

One of these things is not like the other

Sep 23rd, 2014 10:56 am | By

Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland has yet another very long post chiding US bloggers for daring to criticize the important atheist Leaders. I skimmed it, because as I mentioned it’s very long, and also very wordy and repetitive. (He uses the phrase “mostly American” four times. He’s really obsessed with the audacity of us Yanks trying to talk about issues in Anglophone atheism.) I skimmed it, but one thing did stand out:

As an added nuance, in these ‘deep rifts’ within parts of mostly American atheist blogging and activism, some people on both perceived sides have targeted some women in a sexist way. Some people on one perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms associated with feminism or body parts. Some people on the other perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms such as gender traitor and chill girls.

No. That’s a very sly and very false equivalence. It’s not “both perceived sides.” The two are not remotely equivalent. Hardly anybody uses “gender traitor” and “chill girl.” That’s extremely rare; vanishingly rare. I’ve never used either one (except in the sense I’m “using” them here – to discuss their use as a red herring and false equivalence). They’re rare. Are “cunt” and “bitch” rare on the “other perceived side”?

It’s interesting that Nugent didn’t spell those out, but did spell out the ones he’s attributing to us, the ones that hardly ever appear, the ones that are so much milder. It’s interesting that he drew a tactful veil over the fact that people call us cunts and twats and bitches, while he drew no such veil over the mostly-mythic “gender traitor” and “chill girl.”

“Interesting” is perhaps not quite the right word.

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

Inviting men and boys to join the fight

Sep 22nd, 2014 6:19 pm | By

Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, said some words at the UN on Saturday.

In her role as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, the British actress andHarry Potter star gave an impassioned speech at UN headquarters Saturday, inviting men and boys to join the fight to end gender inequality:

“I want men to take up this mantle,” Watson urged. “So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too.”

Right? All that “man up” shit? “Grow a pair”? “Try harder, ladies.” Is that actually fun for boys? Being bullied for showing any feeling other than bravado? Being taught contempt for half the people on earth? It’s bad for both genders.

Then, hours after Watson told the UN it’s a woman’s right to make choices about her body, someone created a website threatening the actress by name.

Online perpetrators have created a website called Emma You Are Next with a countdown clock ticking down to something happening in about 4 days.

While the message doesn’t say what happens when time is up, it was posted on 4chan, the same image-sharing site that leaked nude celebrity photos on Saturday, and earlier this month.

The words “Never Forget, The Biggest To Come Thus Far” appear on the page below a picture of Watson apparently wiping away a tear.

Because how dare she?

Watson hasn’t addressed the threat publicly. But after the first batch of photos was leaked, the actress expressed her outrage on Twitter, writing: “Even worse than seeing women’s privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.”

Not only a lack of empathy: an actual enjoyment of tormenting people…especially female people.

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

The impoverished struggling starving NFL

Sep 22nd, 2014 5:59 pm | By

Here’s a good idea – end the tax-exempt status of the National F0otball League.


The WHAT??

Why the sam hill is the NFL tax-exempt in the first place?!

I have no idea, but it is. So I signed the petition saying let’s not do that any more.

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

The creep list

Sep 22nd, 2014 12:31 pm | By

PZ has some new information from Alison Smith. It’s…not exculpatory of Michael Shermer, to put it mildly.

It wasn’t actually the next day that I left Shermer’s room. The entire amount of time that passed between me asking someone to come get me after leaving the party and me calling again to say please come get me I need help and don’t know where I am was around two hours. Some commenters seem to think that I had some kind of morning after regret or something, but in actual fact I was calling it rape immediately.

The other part is – me asking Shermer to be on that panel for the Sex workshop wasn’t a reaction based upon victimization (like, it wasn’t that I was pushing aside how I felt about him in order to accomplish something; and I wasn’t in denial).

It was incredibly calculated – because I knew for an absolute fact that his views on consent were different from the other panelists.

I had a rape crisis counselor on the panel as well, and I was hoping, as the moderator, to steer the conversation over to date rape. I wasn’t going to ‘Gotcha’ him or mention what happened or anything – I just honestly believed that he could stand to have that debate with someone, and maybe learn a thing or two. That’s why I was nice in the e-mail – I didn’t want him to put together what I was doing. I actually laughed when I saw that he was using that e-mail as evidence, because I so carefully crafted it to not sound like I was up to anything. It’s actually proof OF what happened – not against it – and for a brief, wild moment I found that funny.

You know, it’s a real shame that Shermer has never had that conversation. It’s a real shame that he’s never been told that the stuff he does is not ok. It’s a real shame that he decline the invitation to be on that panel.

And there’s a very interesting comment by skeptifem:

oh yeah, and just so people know, my husband dated alison before me. She told him shortly after it happened, and she called it rape from the start. She just didn’t make a huge deal out of it (who would want to? all that happens is you get treated even worse). When the accusations came out we both knew it was true, but didn’t know if it was alison or someone else. Other women involved with coordinating TAM let me know that shermer was on the creep list unofficially circulated by women as a means of self protection.

I don’t know how she can put up with the bullshit people say about this. I hope she makes it through okay. It sounds like she has a ton of evidence. I hope she sues him for sexual abuse.

The creep list. The one that Dawkins and Coyne and Nugent are so pissed off at us for making public. That creep list.

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

In this video, you sexually violate a number of unsuspecting women

Sep 22nd, 2014 10:16 am | By

In another part of the forest entirely – a nasty guy who is nothing to do with atheism or secularism (how refreshing!) has made one sexist video too many, and received pushback from Laci Green in an open letter.

You may have noticed that your latest video “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank” has garnered considerable negative attention.  In this video, you sexually violate a number of unsuspecting women on the street, many of whom are visibly confused and upset at being touched by you without permission.  One woman even says “I don’t like that!” while you proceed to laugh and touch her more.  In “How to Make Out with Strangers”, made a year ago, you pressure women on camera to make out with you – again, many of whom are visibly uncool with it.  Confused and caught off guard, they painfully follow through with your requests, clearly uncomfortable.  In “How to Pick Up Girls with a Lasso”, you physically restrain women on the street with lassos – many of whom look alarmed to be restrained by a stranger.

Ugh. The guy is Sam Pepper. Apparently he’s quite popular.

People don’t like to be violated and they don’t like to see their friends and girlfriends be violated either (hence the group of men that tried to beat you up in the lasso video).  And yet, history suggests that perhaps you find this humorous.  It is very disturbing that we live in a world where the violation of women and girls’ bodies is not only funny, but profitable, and can garner considerable notoriety and views on YouTube.

We are deeply disturbed by this trend and would like to ask you, from one creator to another, to please stop.  Please stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street for views.  Please stop physically restraining them and pressuring them to be sexual when they are uncomfortable.  Please show some respect for women’s right to their own bodies.  While it may seem like harmless fun, a simple prank, or a “social experiment”, these videos encourage millions of young men and women to see this violation as a normal way to interact with women.  1 in 6 young women (real life ones, just like the ones in your video) are sexually assaulted, and sadly, videos like these will only further increase those numbers.

We realize that people make mistakes, and that sometimes it’s hard to see the ripple effect of one’s actions.  We really hope that you will take a step back and consider the power you have to be someone who makes the world a better place.  It’s not too late to make a change!  We invite you to join us in ending widespread bodily violation that takes place in so many forms all around in the world.

Thanks so much.

There are lots of signatories. I’m going to bold one of them, because I’m pleased to see her name there.

Laci GreenMeghan TonjesTyler OakleyTomSkaViHartALBRoss EverettMatt LiebermanMeg TurneyTom FlynnTyrannosaurus LexArielle ScarcellaDan at NerdCubedRachel WhitehurstHannah Witton, Jefferson Bethke, MusicalBethan, Kaleb Nation, Chris Thompson, Michael Buckley, Jared Oban, Liam Dryden, Sanne Vliegenthart, Bryarly Bishop, Nicola Foti, Chescaleigh,Grace Helbig, Wheezy Waiter, Morgan Paige, Nathan Z., MumboJumbo, Miles Jai,Adorian Deck, Alli Speed, Matthew Santoro, Jaclyn Glenn, Hank Green, Rosianna Rojas, Grayson, Taryn Southern, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Adam Hattan, Drew Monson, Josh Sundquist, Mamrie Hart, Strawburry17, Catie Wayne, Hannah Hart,Catrific, Connor Manning, Emily Graslie, Sarah Weichel, Jack Howard, Louise Sprinkleofglitter, Mr. Repzion, John Green, Rob Dyke, Dean Dobbs, Charlie McDonnell, Wil Wheaton, Mitch & Greg at AsapSCIENCE


By all means share or reblog to sign!

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

Probably irritated by exaggerations

Sep 22nd, 2014 9:51 am | By

A comment on Annals of dismissive contempt by a first-time commenter calling himself Vincent:

Unless you waterboard them, you cannot “make” someone drink. So, one can never say “he made me drink” without being a hypocrite. That is what Dawkins was talking about, probably irritated by exaggerations like “plying a woman with alcohol”, “sexual predator” and “meat market”. Predators kill, market is where you buy stuff, meat is dead. The use of exaggerations to amplify emotional impact is a sure sign of lack of otherwise convincing arguments. I consider that people old enough to drink alcohol are mature enough to stop drinking before getting themselves into trouble. We live in a world full of dangers for drunks and getting hit on by Michael Shermer is certainly among the least of them. If I ever get so drunk as to wake up in a man’s bed with a dreadful lower-back pain with no memory of how I got there, I would, yes, consider myself partly responsible for what I got myself into. Especially if I let him serve me drinks till I drop while being certain he wants sex with me. Ending up raped cannot be an excuse for acting stupid. If you get home so drunk that you fall asleep with all doors and windows open, and your house gets broken in during the night, that would not be an excuse for the robber, but I’m pretty sure that your insurance company will consider you responsible and will not give you a penny for your sorrow. You can never say that someone “got you drunk”. That is the only thing Dawkins was saying. He is famous for holding hypocrisy in infinite contempt.

Part of that is true; part of it is not. There are two steps to it. There is the getting drunk, and there is the being raped.

Yes, adults are adults, and adults have to take responsibility for doing silly or reckless things. (Adults have to take much more responsibility for doing things that are reckless with respect to other people – getting drunk before driving a car or performing surgery, for instance.) Yes, it can be silly or reckless to get drunk. Yes, it’s very hard to force someone else to drink alcohol, at least in a public place. Yes, adults are better able to cope with manipulation or pressure than children are. All that is true.

But what is not true is that therefore adult women who get drunk are responsible for being raped.

No, it’s not a reasonable expectation that if you’re a woman and you drink too much alcohol at a bar or a party, then one of the men present will walk you to his room and rape you.

What is a reasonable expectation for what will happen if you’re a woman and you drink too much alcohol at a bar or a party? Lots of things – embarrassing behavior, quarrels, throwing up, loud singing, getting thrown out of the bar. But being raped? No, women should not have to factor that into their thinking about how absent-minded to be when counting the drinks.

If a woman drinks too much at a bar or a party and then gets in her car and drives away, she is doing a very bad thing, and that’s her responsibility (although in the nature of things other people present may share some responsibility if they don’t try to stop her).

But if a woman drinks too much at a bar or a party and then the guy next to her leads her off to his hotel room and rapes her – he is the one who has done a bad thing.

I know that’s a very complicated subtle nuanced difficult thought to have. I’m sorry about that. It’s just how life is.


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

Big drums

Sep 22nd, 2014 8:59 am | By

A friend on Facebook alerted me to an item:



On July 21, 2014, the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group and their drum Moonstone, were invited to participate in a powwow hosted by St. Paul’s University College, University of Waterloo on September 27, 2014. The participation would take the form of sitting in the main arbour with the men’s big drum groups. The invitation was subsequently rescinded by the University, when at a secret meeting held on August 26, 2014, witnesses reported that if Coast Tsimshian Elder, Shannon Thunderbird, keeper of Moonstone came to the powwow she would be “forcibly removed or worse.” The threat was issued by Mark Lavallee, Chippewa Traveller’s Men’s Big Drum. Twenty-four hours earlier, when Elder Thunderbird requested to come to the meeting to speak for herself and her drum, she was ordered by a University administrator to stay away.

Three days prior to the secret meeting, Ms. Tamie Coleman, University of Waterloo Graduate Student, was called at her home and threatened, that if she attended the secret meeting, she would never walk again. This threat was issued by Franklin Van Woudenberg, Cedar River Men’s Big Drum. Subsequent to the meeting, another member of the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group, Ms Pauline Moon was threatened with eviction from Aboriginal housing by the sister of Mark Lavallee. As a witness in attendance at the secret meeting, Ms Moon was also told, by Mark Lavelle, that, “If I was a Cree, I’d smash you in the face.” All of these threats have been reported to the Waterloo police.

After nearly three weeks of protests, via emails and letters from both Canada and the United States, Principal Graham Brown, St. Paul’s University College, and Dr. Diana Parry, Special Advisor to the President on Women’s issues and Gender Issues continue to sanction violence towards Aboriginal women by permitting the abusive men’s big drums to remain in the powwow, while banning an innocent women’s big drum group. Furthermore, the University is in Haudenosaunne territory, yet it was only unsanctioned Anishinaabe Elders who decided that Elder Thunderbird and Moonstone were unsuitable based on faulty information and teachings. Moreover, the so-called Elders who made the decision were not the University’s Elders of Record, they were not invited, nor were any Haudenosaunne Elders consulted.

Despite our efforts to right this grievous wrong, the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group and all interested people, have no choice but to protest at the gates of St. Paul’s University College on September 27, 2014, 11AM (10AM for set up). It is my understanding that protesters will be coming from as far away as Ottawa.

Shannon Thunderbird, M.A. Coast Tsimshian First Nations Elder E: URL:



**Even if your teachings don’t align with women at the big drum, you can support us in stopping violence against women. Violence is violence and it has to stop!**

#VAW #INM #IdlenNoMore

Tsimshian Artist, Singer, Motivational Speaker on Native Spiritualism, Culture and Social Issues, Storyteller.

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

Guest post: 12 kittens and 35 cows

Sep 22nd, 2014 8:31 am | By

Originally a comment by canonicalkoi on The arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about, with added video.

I wish someone could explain something to me. Nugent has 12 kittens and 35 cows over tone and language. He gets extremely prissy about language, about how it’s not right to demonize people over things that they haven’t been convicted of in a court of law. So, here’s where I’m confused:

On Nugent’s website, he has a list, a directory if you will, of atheist/secular songs. All well and good. One of those songs is by the extremely talented and personal favorite of mine, Tim Minchin. The Pope Song. C’mon, you know the one that starts out, “Fuck the motherfuckers…..” It seems a strange choice for Nugent to list since it’s chock full o’ outrage (rightfully so). It’s a good song, but let’s look at this. It deals with:

A. Calling the Pope to account for something he was never charged with in a court of law.
B. Equating him and anyone who supports him with a rapist.
C. Equates anyone who ever covered up for an abuser with a rapist.
D. Deals with assuming the stories of all child-abuse victims whether or proven in court or not, are facts.
E. Uses naughty language that could, in no way, be considered conciliatory.
F. Expresses extreme outrage.

So, apparently, if it’s dealing with the Pope and child-abuse, outrage, “naughty language”, assumptions of guilt, are all just fine. If, on the other hand, you have feminists discussing the sexual misconduct of someone in the atheist/secularist “Holy Trinity”, depending on the stories of far more than one woman, dealing with stories that describe a “hunting pattern” astonishingly alike in each description, or dealing with another of the “Holy Trinity” comparing rape with drunk driving and yet a third member saying that that danged estrogen-vibe is why we can’t wrap our lady-brains around logic, we’re to watch our tone and our language, our outrage is all just a fake and, since nothing’s been proven in a court of law, it shouldn’t be brought up in the first place.

I see. If someone could explain that strange dichotomy to me, I’d appreciate it. And Mr. Nugent? You might want to give another listen to The Pope Song. This verse might get it across, especially if you add the words, “or anyone else” to the end of the last line:

“And if you don’t like this swearing this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you motherfucker, this is language one employs
When one is a little bit cross about fuckers fucking boys” – Tim Minchin


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

Everything they can to pin hateful labels

Sep 21st, 2014 6:00 pm | By

Another one, this time from Dan Arel: one Patheos blogger disagreeing with another Patheos blogger (Adam Lee, who dared to criticize Dawkins (and got called a liar by him as a reward).

Arel doesn’t use punctuation much so what he writes can be hard to follow. With that warning –

Much like Lee, I came to atheism on my own and Dawkins played a major role in my activism, but unlike Lee, I am not ditching Dawkins for simple disagreements.

Lee would most likely argue that these are not simple disagreements however as he seems to have joined the ranks of Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers in doing everything they can to pin hateful labels to Dawkins, instead of dissecting what he has said or simply realize that I cannot agree with everyone on every issue and that sometimes I will disagree with some of my favorite people.

I’m getting tired of this. It’s bullshit. I’m not “doing everything [I] can to pin hateful labels to Dawkins”; I’m taking issue – strongly – with the role Dawkins is playing in making hostility to women, and especially to feminist women, even more entrenched and pervasive among atheists than it already is. We have a right to do that. I’m tired of people treating it as blasphemy against The Heroes. It’s not blasphemy.

…now Dawkins is being criticized for standing up for Sam Harris who found himself in a bit of controversy surrounding a remark he made about atheism and critical thinking being more of a guy thing.

Harris’ remark carried some strong sexist implications, but before he even took to his blog to explain the comment, he was quickly labeled sexist and declared an enemy of women everywhere.

After his full explanation of his remarks, the same who accused him of being sexist continued to do so. Harris explanation did not do a whole lot to change what he said, but they did show, in my opinion that even if those remarks were sexist, and that Harris still needed to be corrected that he was not being sexist, he was just mistaken.

He was just mistaken, in a sexist way. Sure, he was just mistaken, and nothing terrible happened to him for being mistaken. I have a decent readership, but it’s bound to be a fraction of his; why is it so terrible that a blogger disputed his fatuous explanations for the sparseness of women at his talks?

Simply, simply yelling at someone claiming they are sexist is not the best way to influence someone’s way of thinking. Does anyone expect that Harris would just immediately say that he is wrong and everyone else must be right? Of course not. Yet this hostile name calling and finger pointing seemingly upset Dawkins who came to his friends defense, after all Harris and Dawkins are good friends I would assume that Dawkins does not find Harris to be sexist, and Dawkins took to Twitter to ask if bloggers could be faking outrage for clicks in which they get paid…

Yes he did, and that was a cheap and unworthy thing to ask. Blogging is not a way to get rich. I could make more money working at a Burger King a few hours a week; nobody blogs for the money. I write about what interests me, period. I did it for nine years without making any money at all, because I wanted to do it.

Dawkins is right, some bloggers do, does that mean that those like Benson or Myers did? No, and I do think Dawkins was wrong to insinuate they did without proper evidence.
After all, I am a blogger who is paid per click as well, so of course we pick stories people want to read, but it doesn’t mean we are faking our outrage over the topics.

No, we don’t. We really don’t. I don’t pick stories people want to read; I pick what interests me. By this time I know from experience that it will interest other people too, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do not choose stories based on trying to suss what other people will want to read.

Yet this is not sexism, Dawkins may be wrong about clickbating, but is that enough to justify disowning him? I wouldn’t think Lee would either, except other than the Dear Muslima letter Lee spends all his time focused on clickbaiting, except for a one line mention of Dawkins comment about drinking and rape, but Lee never expands on this, he just tells the reader Dawkins is wrong for mentioning clickbating and oh he said this about rape, but by taking no time to explain the context of the tweet, Lee only paints Dawkins in the negative light he is going for and continues to ask his friends why Dawkins is wrong about clickbaiting.


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

The arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about

Sep 21st, 2014 5:12 pm | By

Michael Nugent has a terrible, patronizing, let-me-fix-this post chastising Adam Lee for his article quoting Dawkins’s recent forays into anti-feminism. I’m very tired of Michael’s self-appointed let-me-fix-this posturing, and I was going to ignore the post, but then I saw on Twitter that Adam had responded so I clicked on the link, which turned out to be to a comment – a very good comment – on Michael’s post.

You said that you were going to address the question of where my article was “inaccurate”, but the majority of your article is a complaint about various choices of wording I made, the thrust of which is that it’s unfair for me to use emotive language in support of the conclusions I advocate. I reject this.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen some outstanding activists driven off the internet or out of the atheist movement entirely by torrents of horrendous harassment and threats. It’s an ugly silencing tactic, and it’s still going on: Rebecca Watson tweeted that she blocked or reported twelve abusive accounts yesterday. Not last month or last week, but yesterday. I believe that clueless, dismissive, or hostile remarks by prominent male atheists reward this behavior and encourage it to continue. Am I angry about that? Hell, yes! My words were chosen quite carefully to reflect that conclusion.

And that’s one reason Michael’s rush to defend Dawkins and Harris from the terrible verbal violence of a few feminist bloggers is so annoying. Atheoworld is already very comfortable and accommodating to Dawkins and Harris; it’s already full of worshipful guys worshiping them and scorning feminists who criticize them; it’s already deferential and flattering and soothing to them. They don’t need Michael’s help, but he rushes to give it anyway, stepping on us to do it.

The paragraph then refers to comments about thought police, click-bait for profit and fake outrage, which are not issues about sexism or feminism.

That couldn’t be more wrong. These are absolutely issues about sexism and feminism.

In context, what Dawkins was saying is that feminism is a non-issue, that the only reason people write about it and attack him or other atheists for allegedly sexist statements is that they’re acting in bad faith to drum up attention for themselves, or because they’re “outrage junkies” who simply enjoy getting angry over nothing.

As opposed to thinking his dismissive tweets about rape and his fawning tweets about Christina Hoff Sommers are calculated to put us in our place and to work up more rage from the enraged Macho Atheist Faction, and thus harmful to us (and to a larger and better atheist movement).

This is the same kind of demeaning, minimizing rhetoric that’s always used against people who argue for social-justice-based conclusions. It’s used against atheists ad nauseam, for example: that we’re thought police and outrage junkies who want to stop teachers from leading students in prayer, even though that’s a harmless historical tradition that no one ever complained about before. It’s an attempt to deny legitimacy to any criticism of harmful practices that are in accord with conventional wisdom.

But when Richard wrote about outrage in The God Delusion, he was responding to things like the Vatican police, in the nineteenth century, kidnapping Jewish children who had been secretly baptised by Catholic nursemaids. By contrast, when some people have recently expressed ‘outrage’ against Richard, it has been mostly about tweets on Twitter.

Michael, I hope you realize what you’re doing here. Whether you intended it or not, you’re saying that you’ve taken it upon yourself to decide which issues are or aren’t worthy of our attention, and you want to be accepted as the arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about. Even leaving aside the moral implications of a man talking down to feminists in this way, do you think this is a strategy that’s likely to meet with any success at all?

Exactly. Why is Michael taking it upon himself to decide which issues are or aren’t worthy of our attention, and to try to be accepted as the arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about? He’s not the boss of us. Why is he trying to be that?

I’m by no means the first to criticize Dawkins; plenty of prominent feminists and atheists have been explaining for years how certain of his remarks are untrue, hurtful, or founded in ignorance about the viewpoint and experiences of women. I guarantee those women could tell you that whenever Dawkins says something nasty about them, they get a noticeable uptick in harassment. His worse followers treat it as permission. His joint statement with Ophelia Benson was a welcome attempt to mitigate that, but it was years late, and in any case, I think whatever good it did has been mitigated by his more recent reversion to type – lashing out nastily at feminists by calling them dishonest, witch hunters, thought police, etc. Are those comments also “phrased to generate prejudice in readers”? Will you write a follow-up chiding Dawkins for using such language?

It was my suggestion that he could mitigate the harassment he had himself helped to justify. That part was my suggestion; it was his suggestion that we should sign it jointly. That was a good moment – I thought there really might be some hope of improved relations all around. I did. But it was only two days later that he embarked on the “let’s grade rape according to severity” tweets…and it was all downhill from there.

I think Adam’s reply is eloquent, and I think Michael’s officiousness is infuriating.

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

Sleepwalking towards that feared world

Sep 21st, 2014 11:01 am | By

Adam Lee is taken aback at Richard Dawkins’s comment on Jerry Coyne’s blog post yesterday (the one about Adam’s Comment is Free article about Dawkins).

I saw that comment yesterday, and I saw that it was bad, but I didn’t have time to do it justice. Adam has done it justice; read his post. I want to say a thing or two about it myself.

Thank you, Jerry.

I long ago declared that I would not wish to go on living if I found myself in a world dominated by people who no longer care about what’s true and express open contempt for factual evidence. Either a 1984 world where the Party in power is the sole arbiter of what is “true” and enforces it with violence; or a world where truth is whatever society deems it to be, regardless of evidence, and where dissenters are ruthlessly punished by vitriolic abuse or ostracism rather than violence.

I fear we are sleepwalking towards that feared world, where people shun evidence and despise facts: a world where dogma is king, emotion is queen and evidence is exiled; and where dissent from orthodoxy is suppressed by verbal if not physical jackboots.

What’s this about a world dominated by people who no longer care about what’s true and express open contempt for factual evidence? Excuse me: we have been documenting the things Dawkins types for weeks (in some cases, months). Documenting them. How is that not caring about what’s true? How is it open contempt for factual evidence? How ironic: in complaining about people with a disregard for truth, he tells an untruth about people he dislikes.

Ok wait a second, a partisan of the Dawkins-Coyne faction might say here. Hold on. Why have people been documenting the things Dawkins types? It’s just because you’re looking for fodder for click-bait, right? Right?

No. It’s because Dawkins matters. It’s because he’s not just some random atheist; he’s the most un-random atheist we’ve got. He is by far the most famous recognizable celebrity-like person in the Anglophone atheist movement. (Anglophone, please note. Michael Nugent keeps complaining that global atheism isn’t American atheism, as if we obnoxious Yanks had been pretending otherwise. No, of course it’s not. I’m talking about Anglophone atheism here.) Now an atheist celebrity isn’t a real celebrity by the usual standards; Dawkins isn’t a movie star or rock star or basketball star; but he is a celeb in this particular niche. He’s the celeb.

As such, he does a lot to set the tone of said atheist movement.

That tone sucks.

We – we naughty critics, we bad people who keep documenting what Dawkins says on Twitter – we would like to have a better atheist movement with a less sucky tone. We would like to have an atheist movement that’s not sometimes absent-mindedly and sometimes determinedly contemptuous of women. We think it would help if Dawkins set a better tone.

Or at least I do. I think the others do too; I think that’s basically why any of us do this; but I haven’t polled them and I don’t know that they would word it this way.

But I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of it. The atheist movement is way too riddled with casual sexism, and Dawkins has done a lot to make it that way, and we would like him to stop doing that and do the opposite instead.

There. Now back to his staggeringly hyperbolic and self-pitying comment.

Either a 1984 world where the Party in power is the sole arbiter of what is “true” and enforces it with violence; or a world where truth is whatever society deems it to be, regardless of evidence, and where dissenters are ruthlessly punished by vitriolic abuse or ostracism rather than violence.

And he’s claiming that bloggers criticizing him, on the basis of things he has said and done, are or look like or are leading to a world where truth is whatever society deems it to be, regardless of evidence, and where dissenters are ruthlessly punished by vitriolic abuse or ostracism rather than violence? Really?

It’s so tempting to do a Dear Muslimo about that. So tempting.

I fear we are sleepwalking towards that feared world, where people shun evidence and despise facts: a world where dogma is king, emotion is queen and evidence is exiled; and where dissent from orthodoxy is suppressed by verbal if not physical jackboots.

Verbal jackboots: like, Richard Dawkins said the following clueless sexist thing on Twitter today.


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