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.

The truth is life is too hard

Aug 5th, 2012 3:36 pm | By

And there’s Colombia, where acid attacks on women are the hot new fad.

It’s heartbreaking.

Every glance at a mirror transports Consuelo Cordoba to the moment when her boyfriend doused her with a skin-searing acid that obliterated her face, leaving her with gruesome wounds that will never heal.

The chemical burned off an ear, melted an eye, ate through her lower face and ruined her teeth. She now wears a skin-tight elastic mask, breathes through a straw-like tube that protrudes from her nose and walks the streets looking “like a monster,” as she put it.

“I would like to go to sleep today and not wake up tomorrow,” she said. “The truth is life is too hard and I am alone.”

What could she possibly have done to deserve that?

The precise reason for the spike here — and not in, say, neighboring Peru — is not known. But women’s rights advocates in Colombia talk about an epidemic of violence against women, from spouse-battering cases so extreme that they make the nightly news to reports of illegal armed groups using rape as a weapon in a murky rural conflict.

“Sometimes in the West we make fast judgments and say, ‘Look how terrible they treat women in the East,’ and we don’t look first at ourselves,” said Monica Roa, the Bogota-based international programs director of Women’s Link Worldwide, a rights group. “The violence here may be different, but it emanates from the same place. This is a culture where machismo reigns, where men do what they want to do.”

H/t Simon Davis.


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

A little jaunt

Aug 5th, 2012 12:02 pm | By

On a pleasanter note – the Curiosity Rover is close to Mars and will be landing in about ten hours. This is seriously exciting.

The Nasa robot’s flight trajectory is so good engineers cancelled the latest course correction they had planned.

To be sure of touching down in the right place on the surface, the vehicle must hit a box at the top of the atmosphere that is just 3km by 12km.

“Our inbound trajectory is right down the pipe,” said Arthur Amador, Curiosity’s mission manager.

It’s been on the way for eight months. It’s got the best scientific equipment evarrr to drill into rocks and scoop up samples. It’s got energy to last for 14 years.

JPL Mars program.

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

Parties during Ramadan

Aug 5th, 2012 11:08 am | By

There’s a guy in Pakistan who, according to some reports, has been holding drink and dance parties during Ramadan.

So the fuck what, you ask. So he and a woman were forced by police to walk naked to the police station.

Really. There’s this religious holiday, which requires participants to drink nothing (including water) and eat nothing from dawn to dusk. Some guy didn’t participate, therefore the cops humiliated him and some woman on the way to the police station. That’s some totalizing religion! No opting out. Don’t like it? Fine, take your clothes off, you’re busted.

The BBC’s Shahzeb Jillani says incidents of public dishonouring are not uncommon in Pakistan, but this incident is particularly shocking because it was carried out by police and filmed on mobile phones.

Last year, several men were arrested for stripping a middle aged woman naked and parading her round the village as punishment for her son allegedly having an affair with a woman in their family.

Shahnaz Bibi told the BBC at the time that her life had been ruined by the ordeal, and she could never go home.

Relentless everyday hatred and humiliation, casually trashing people’s lives for petty reasons or even to punish someone else. It makes me shiver with disgust.

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

She walks the streets half-naked

Aug 5th, 2012 10:28 am | By

The theocratic group Sharia4Belgium responded to Sophie Peeters’s documentary about street harassment by remarking that she dresses like a whore.

In Thursday’s video message Sharia4Belgium said of Ms Peeters that “She walks the streets half-naked and dresses like a cheap prostitute. She has painted her face like a clown. She has done all this to attract the attention of men.”

The fundamentalist group believes that Ms Peeters provoked the men in the film.

“Why do you think that women go about scantily-clad and with painted faces? It’s to get reactions from men.”

And men “react” by calling her “salope” – and that’s her fault. Charming.


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

Can a middle aged white guy be a feminist?

Aug 4th, 2012 6:12 pm | By

Asks the blogger at Above the Field. He can and he should, he answers himself.

Yesterday I read of a sexual assault in Washington DC that occurred not long ago. A bicyclist cruised up to a woman and stuck his hand up her skirt, violating her very being before riding away laughing. It would be easy to pass this off as an isolated incident of some pervert getting his kicks, except that this particular woman victim (Liz Gorman) wrote a blog about it, and hundreds responded with their own stories of similar experiences and worse.

Thank goodness this woman and others like her are speaking out instead of staying silent. Thank goodness they’re upsetting the status quo. Thank goodness they’re waking people like me up to what is going on around us every day.

Not “playing the victim.” Not whining, not making a big fuss about nothing, not refusing to do anything for ourselves, but just speaking out instead of staying silent about microaggressions, and upsetting the status quo that tells us to ignore sexist bullshit and Just Get On With It.

I fear for our future when I see adolescent and college-age guys being spoon-fed rapacious porn and jocular yet overtly sexist advertising that just feed into their levels of testosterone at that age. Couple this with how we continue to muffle women’s voices about sexual needs and desires, and we are raising another generation of coarse, close-minded men who rally around Daniel Tosh and don’t think twice about their sense of privilege or entitlement.  Basically: bad lovers, bad fathers, absentee husbands. I grew up knowing the experience of having an adulterous, alcoholic father, and far too often I was an absentee husband in my own failed marriage, far more focused on career than relationship. That cycle needs to stop.

I fear for the daughters of men like that. I really, really, really do. I fear for the daughters of men who have contempt for them because they’re not boys.

The stereotypical male is a sexist pig. He sees women as merchandise to be gazed at, and groped at. He sees himself as the master of his domain, and sex as HIS enjoyment, or even as his conquest. He may know of boundaries, but often feels they don’t apply to him. He laughs at sexist jokes, he gawks at pretty ladies like a slobbering schoolboy, and he is enabled and empowered by an advertising industry that gears its print and television ads at him – because, after all, the stereotypical male is the head of household, the breadwinner, and the decision maker.

I know this firsthand. I ran numerous websites and published a sexy cheerleaders calendar years ago that pandered to this demographic, and did it well. I gave no consideration to the fact that I was feeding the sexism machine, subjugating and objectifying women in the interest of making a buck. After all, the models I worked with were professionals who were thrilled to be on the sites or in the calendars, and my target demographic was those stereotypical white males who buy the merchandise.

It’s time for feminism to be mainstream. It’s time for open-minded, forward-thinking men to realize that equality means embracing feminism. Feminism isn’t a bad word. It’s simply a cry for fairness in an unfair world dominated for far too long by a small segment of white males who have convinced too many of us that speaking out is wrong, that having a voice is a privilege rather than a right, and that somehow they know what’s best for all of us.

Welcome aboard, comrade.

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

Not at all

Aug 4th, 2012 5:26 pm | By

Seen on Twitter.

Dissing FtB is no more naughty than dissing HuffPo. It’s obviously a reaction to aspects, not every square inch. Ob-vi-ous-ly.

No. That’s completely wrong. Clearly lots of people are thinking something like that, but it’s wrong. The Huffington Post has editors. It’s like a magazine. Magazines have editors. They have a style, and a policy, and criteria; they have a lot of elements that make them a unified entity. It makes sense to generalize about The New Yorker or The Atlantic or The New Statesman – or the Huffington Post.

Freethought blogs is a network of blogs. There is no editor of all the blogs. There is no directive, there is no style, there is no policy. Once you’ve joined there are no criteria. It’s up to the individual blogger what she writes. There are no leaders. Just yesterday I saw somebody talking nonsense about not reading “FTB” until there was a change in “the leadership.” There is no leadership.

There is initial compatibility, yes; people are invited to join for reasons. But that’s it. It’s not comparable to the Huffington Post. And it is not the least bit obvious that endless sniping at “FTB” does no harm to, say, Dana Hunter or Mano Singham or Hank Fox. Yes, no doubt I’m a horrible person and deserve to be set on fire, but not everyone at “FTB” is a horrible person. Boooooooo on people making excuses for the “FTB” nonsense.

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

Surely it’s just a coincidence

Aug 4th, 2012 4:11 pm | By

They’re talking about the “don’t mention the religion” problem at the Freethinker, too. Barry Duke Mentioned in the last paragraph of the post.

Last year, the British government’s Forced Marriage Unit investigated more than 1,400 cases of forced marriages, most of which occur in Muslim communities. Britain is home to more than 1.8 million Muslims, most from Pakistani roots.

But that’s the Freethinker, not the BBC or the Guardian.


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

The dog that didn’t bark

Aug 4th, 2012 11:19 am | By

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed have been convicted of her murder. There is much admirable refusal to excuse them because that’s “their culture.” All very well, but something is missing. Their “culture” is condemned; tradition and values and traditional values are declared non-exempt from competing values and from the law…but something is missing.

Consider what the judge said, according to the BBC.

On sentencing, Mr Justice Evans told the couple: “A desire that she understood and appreciated the cultural heritage from which she came is perfectly understandable, but an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.”

Consider what the Guardian editorial said.

The police wisely refused to call Shafilea’s murder an “honour” killing. There can be no exonerating circumstance, no licence granted to those who claim cultural protection for brutality. Domestic violence and child sex abuse happen across cultures and ethnicities. But that only makes it all the more important that those charged with spotting it, supporting its victims and tackling its perpetrators, have the ability to understand what they are seeing and how to respond to it, wherever it is found.

Cultural heritage, cultural environment, culture of the country. Cultural protection, cultures and ethnicities.

It’s all culture. Not a word about religion. It’s as if the two were completely distinct, and as if religion had no influence on culture, nor any power to amplify and entrench and protect it from criticism.

Here’s a news flash for the Beeb and the Graun: culture without religion is a lot easier to shed and adapt and improve than culture with religion. “Culture” that’s indistinguishable from religion is a whole lot more difficult to escape. That’s just all the more true when organs of “culture” such as the BBC and the Guardian pretend it’s out of the picture altogether.

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


Aug 3rd, 2012 5:57 pm | By

Sexual harassment? What sexual harassment?

When Sofie Peeters moved to Brussels for a film degree, she found herself confronted with a depressing problem almost every time she left her front door. Walking around her local neighbourhood, the mixed, working-class district of Anneessens, at any time of day she would be greeted with cat-calls, wolf-whistles and jeers of “slag” and “how much do you cost?”

Sick of wondering whether it was her fault for wearing particular clothes, she made her end of year film on the topic, armed with a hidden camera to record the street harassment.

You can see a short clip which shows how bad it is.

The student film, Femme de la Rue, a shocking account of everyday sexist insults in the street, is now at the centre of a political and social storm in Belgium and across its borders. After it was shown on TV and at a screening last week it has become an internet success and triggered a public debate.

Belgian politicians say they were already planning legislation to crack down on sexist insults and harassment, promising fines for offenders. French feminist groups seized on the film to highlight similar problems in France and break the taboo surrounding street harassment.

There’s a taboo? What the hell? A taboo not on doing it but on talking about it?

In the film, she walks round her neighbourhood wearing jeans and a cardigan and then a knee-length summer dress and flat boots. A hidden camera shows that both times, men – from youths to groups of older men on cafe terraces – leer, cat-call and proposition her. She is called “whore”, “slut”, “bitch” and told that she looks up for sex. One man follows her saying she should come to his house or a hotel room. She says she gets this kind of comment eight to 10 times a day.

Going outside while female. Not allowed, apparently.

The French feminist group Osez Le Feminisme, which praised the film for triggering debate on the issue, linked to its comic film-clip on role-reversal of women jeering men in the street.

French feminists said the film showed how street harassment was a universal issue for women.

Tut. They’re just playing victim. They should pull their socks up and get on with it.

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

The pir was an expert in evicting djinns

Aug 3rd, 2012 5:23 pm | By

So there was this girl of 13 in Pakistan. Her parents took her to a pir to evict some djinns that had possessed her. Well any parent would. A relative had recommended the pir.

 “He told me that the pir was an expert in evicting djinns and did not charge anything for his services,” [her father Manzoor Hussain] said.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hussain said the girl was tied to a charpoy and burned with a heated iron rod. He said the pir had poured red chilli powder on parts of the girl’s body before burning them with the rod. He said the parents were made to leave the room after midnight. “He told us to wait outside. He said it was not safe in the room,” he added.

In short, she was tortured to death.

The report of an autopsy performed on Salma, 13, stated that she had died from suffocation. It said the girl’s breathing was hampered by blocking her nostrils with cotton buds and holding her mouth shut.

The autopsy, carried out at Cheechwatni tehsil headquarters (THQ) hospital, confirmed that her skin was burnt with a hot iron rod. The report said there were bruises on the girl’s arms, face and chest.

Where the djinns are now is unknown.


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

Girls, like boys, feel fully human

Aug 3rd, 2012 4:08 pm | By

Soraya Chemaly on girls turning anger into depression.

To become a woman, especially a woman of color, in our culture is cognitively dissonant, and girls respond differently to that experience. Girls, like boys, feel fully human, but culture tells them that they are not. Even the most privileged girls, those that can afford doctors, psychologists, good schools excellent teams, etc. etc. get this message. Sometimes they rebel, sometimes they compartmentalize, sometimes they agitate for change, sometimes they bury their heads in the sand, sometimes they conform, sometimes they get angry. Sometimes their anger is pathologized instead of given free expression because we’d rather call it anything but anger.

I think it took me an exceptionally long time to notice that. I think it wasn’t until I started getting pissed off about my older sister’s weirdly minimal life that I noticed it. That wasn’t until I was 18 or so. Then I started getting pissed off about all the mouthy SDS men and their silent passive girl friends at my university, and I was launched. But until then – I didn’t get the message. Probably because I went to a girls’ school.

You know what else happens in the buildup to puberty besides the “hormonal problems” that beset girls? Girls have to come to terms with a broad assault on their sense of self. They face a daily virtual avalanche of micro-aggressions whose messages would anger and sadden any thoughtful, sane adult. Think about what girls experience as young children and they enter puberty:

    • Repeatedly processing the information that our culture thinks being you or like you. (a) Is the ultimate insult. What girl hasn’t heard “cry like a girl,” “throw like a girl” or “scream like a girl?” and (b) Means you’re untrustworthy, catfighting and backstabbing (ie. Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Don’t Trust the Bitchall of reality TV)

Yes, yes, yes, yes. All of that. The “like a girl” thing is starting to truly eat at me, because of what it must do to all the actual girls. All those men who think it’s hilarious to “insult” each other that way? They need to stop doing that right now.

Boys get all kinds of cultural crap too, but on the whole it’s better crap. It’s less belittling crap.


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

Telegraph columnist calls Times columnist snobbish

Aug 3rd, 2012 10:50 am | By

Iiiiiiiiiit’s Brendan! Pissing on Caitlin Moran this time, but recycling his stupid trope about how contemporary feminists are just like Victorian women passing out on the drawing room floor.

Remember when feminism was about The Sisterhood? About women clubbing together to stick it to The Man, patriarchy or whatever they were calling the system that kept them in a state of social subjugation?

Those days are gone. Today, if Caitlin Moran’s wildly successful feminist tract How To Be A Woman is anything to go by, feminism is less a universal club and more a bitchy sorority, made up of well-connected women like Moran who consider themselves better, more spiritual and more “real”, than other women, than lesser women, than what the Victorians might have called “fallen women”.

Cute how he gets the word “bitchy” in there, innit. The whole thing is fantastic – feminism is bitchy, and upper class, and Victorian. And what a ridiculous claim, too, when any kind of reform is based on thinking that X is better than Y. O’Neill considers himself better than Moran, doesn’t he, or else he wouldn’t have written all that nonsense. Then there’s the fact that Moran is the oldest of eight children who were raised on the dole, so how O’Neill gets to pretend she’s a toff looking down her nose is beyond me – except that he’s notoriously shameless.

Moran is a columnist for The Times, Britain’s newspaper of record, where she is paid a fortune to titillate that paper’s largely Tory readership with tales of her countercultural antics.

Says Brendan O’Neill, who is a columnist for The Telegraph.

…in essence, How To Be A Woman is one long countercultural boast, one big fat advert for the author’s superior tuned-in outlook on life and culture in contrast with the outlook of “yobs”. So where, for example, most men and women are obsessed with keeping themselves fit, plucked and preened, Moran says she prefers to be chilled out, to live “like it’s 1969 all over again and my entire life is made of cheesecloth, sitars and hash”. The book is full of such contradictorily ostentatious claims to coolness.

Says Brendan O’Neill, who makes almost no claims that aren’t contradictorily ostentatious.

Moran’s chief contribution to feminist thinking is to argue that porn brainwashes women as well as men. Where 1980s feminists fretted like latter-day Victorian chaperones over the power of porn to turn men into rapacious beasts, Moran panics over its transformation of women into slavishly hair-free freaks.

Says Brendan O’Neill, panicking over all the things he dislikes about Caitlin Moran and contemporary feminism.

Does Moran think she’s being radical when she says women are driving themselves nuts keeping themselves hair-free and dolled up and when she depicts working-class women’s sexuality as something peculiar, possibly even dangerous? If so, she couldn’t be more wrong. Because both of those ideas are carbon copies of the sort of waffle promoted by respectable lady writers in the Victorian era.

Those long-dead snobs also fretted over women’s obsession with prettification. The 1857 book Etiquette for Ladies said: “It is not too much to say that women in general, from a dread of falling into coarseness, neglect a good deal the care of their health.” Today it is rad feminists like Moran who fight the “dread of falling into coarseness”.

Also, just like Moran, decent Victorian ladies looked upon working-class women’s sexuality as more animalistic than their own. As Elizabeth Langland put it in her book Nobody’s Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture, in the Victorian era “women of the working class became vested with a dangerous sexuality, and middle-class women… became the guardians of spirituality”. Moran, with her practiced rock-chick style and her constant railing against saucy mass culture, very clearly sees herself as a modern-day “guardian of spirituality”.

Now we can see where the title How To Be A Woman comes from: Moran’s book is, at root, a new etiquette manual for ladies, an instruction from on high, from far outside the Sea of Bullshit, about how women should speak, live, shave and fuck. Moran’s treatise confirms the unstoppable backward march of feminism into the snobbery, sexlessness and censoriousness of the Victorian era.

Says Brendan O’Neill, doing his usual showily “contrarian” act by straining a ludicrous comparison past the breaking point. His rant confirms his unstoppable march into complete systematic shameless bullshit.

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

No pope-mockery allowed

Aug 2nd, 2012 5:42 pm | By

There’s a Catholic archbishop in Germany who’s fed up and not going to take it any more. He wants a blasphemy law, and hurry up about it.

“Those who injure the souls of believers with scorn and derision must be put in their place and in some cases also punished,” said Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick on Wednesday.

He said there should be a “Law against the derision of religious values and feelings,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

And men in purple beanies. A law against the derision of that is seriously urgent.

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

No growing up to idolize Kim Kardashian

Aug 2nd, 2012 4:25 pm | By

Caitlin Moran’s book sounds like a good read.

There are lots of things to love about Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be a Woman,” an invective against backsliding attitudes toward feminism that, this time last year, every woman in Britain seemed to be reading. There is the stand it takes against bikini waxes. There is its protest against the pornography and stripping industries. Above all there is its deployment of sweary British slang to remind us, in this era of manufactured outrage, what a truly great rant should look like: rude, energetic and spinning off now and then into jubilant absurdity.

Well that’s certainly always been my view of the matter!

Ms. Moran, who is 37, has two young daughters, and the book is, in part, a protective reflex against them growing up to idolize Kim Kardashian and spend half their disposable income on depilation. It also springs from her horror at the shuffling unwillingness of many women to claim a use for feminism.

“Why,” she writes in a section about the agony of walking in stilettos, “do we believe that wearing heels is an intrinsic part of being a woman, despite knowing it doesn’t work?” She blasts the ironic reclamation of strip clubs as somehow empowering to women and slams actresses and models as women whose careers are built on pandering to sexist stereotypes.

That sounds radical. Watch out!


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

Revisiting difference feminism

Aug 2nd, 2012 3:33 pm | By

A Twitter discussion of skeptical feminism caused me to go look at one of the first things I wrote for the ur-B&W, the website not the blog. It’s an “In Focus” article on “difference feminism” with a collection of resources at the end.

I started with a defense of a certain kind of radical feminism (which is not to be confused with the term ”radical feminism” as currently used by the troll-crowd, who don’t know what they’re talking about).

Second wave feminism has always had a radical strand. It has always been about more than equal pay. It was also, for instance, about exposing and then discarding banal conventional unreflective ideas that led to banal conventional unreflective behaviour. Ideas about cooking and cleaning being somehow naturally women’s work, for example, which led to men cheerfully lounging about while women put in what Arlie Hochschild calls a second shift. And even more than that, unexamined ideas about what women are like, what they want, what they should be and do. David Lodge once remarked that women became much more interesting after feminism, and his own novels bear this out, as do those of Michael Frayn and other male novelists who started writing in the ’50s or ’60s. The pre-1970 female characters are non-entities, the post-1970 ones–Robyn Penrose in Nice Work, Kate in Headlong–take up a lot of space. The very way women are perceived and noticed and thought about changed with feminism, and that would not have happened if mere institutional reform had been the only goal.

The way women are perceived and noticed and thought about changed with feminism, and that’s a good thing. It’s not better to have half of humanity perceived as just a little cleverer than the family dog.

But there are radical ideas and then there are radical ideas. One of the less helpful ones was difference feminism. The foundations of this shaky edifice were laid in the ’70s, when a popular rhetorical move was to label many usually well-thought-of attributes and tools–reason, logic, science, “linear” thinking, abstract ideas, analysis, objectivity, argument–as male, and dub their opposite female. So by a contortion that defies “male” logic, it somehow became feminist to confine women all over again to intuition, guesswork, instinct, feelings, subjectivity, and arm-waving.

If you’re going to rant and rave about feminism gone wrong, rant and rave about that. Don’t rant and rave about women refusing to be treated as inferiors; that’s the wrong thing to object to.

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

To more public calls for change

Aug 2nd, 2012 12:34 pm | By

So is all this trashtalk about women just a big joke, something to take for granted as part of life in gaming, the Internet, sport, business, computer programming, uh…everywhere? Or is it just more of the same old shit and something to get rid of?

The latter, according to the New York Times.

When Miranda Pakozdi entered the Cross Assault video game tournament this year, she knew she had a slim chance of winning the $25,000 prize. But she was ready to compete, and promised fans watching online that she would train just as hard as, if not harder than, anyone else.

Over six days of competition, though, her team’s coach, Aris Bakhtanians, interrogated her on camera about her bra size, said “take off your shirt” and focused the team’s webcam on her chest, feet and legs. He leaned in over her shoulder and smelled her.

Ms. Pakozdi, 25, an experienced gamer, has said she always expects a certain amount of trash talk. But as the only woman on the team, this was too much, especially from her coach, she said. It was after she overheard Mr. Bakhtanians defending sexual harassment as part of “the fighting game community” that she forfeited the game.

Mr. Bakhtanians sounds confused – he thought he was supposed to be harassing a player on his own team?

Sexism, racism, homophobia and general name-calling are longstanding facts of life in certain corners of online video games. But the Cross Assault episode was the first of a series this year that have exposed the severity of the harassment that many women experience in virtual gaming communities.

And a backlash — on Twitter, in videos, on blogs and even in an online comic strip — has moved the issue beyond endless debate among gaming insiders to more public calls for change.

We’re doing that too!

Executives in the $25 billion-a-year industry are taking note. One game designer’s online call for civility prompted a meeting with Microsoft executives about how to better police Xbox Live. In February, shortly after the Cross Assault tournament, LevelUp, an Internet broadcaster of gaming events, barred two commentators who made light of sexual harassment on cameraand issued a formal apology, including statements from the commentators.

Even so, Tom Cannon, co-founder of the largest fighting game tournament, EVO, pulled his company’s sponsorship of the weekly LevelUp series, saying that “we cannot continue to let ignorant, hateful speech slide.”

“The nasty undercurrent in the scene isn’t a joke or a meme,” he said. “It’s something we need to fix.”

People in this scene are saying that too.

Like Ms. Sarkeesian, many women gamers are documenting their experiences on blogs like “Fat, Ugly or Slutty” (whose name comes from the typical insults women receive while playing against others online). It cheekily catalogs the slurs, threats and come-ons women receive while playing games like Resident Evil or Gears of War 3.

Men call me things.

Just as on the broader Internet, there are people who delight in piquing anger or frustration in others, or “trolling.” For trolls, offensive language — sexist, racist, homophobic comments — are interchangeable weapons that vary with the target.

“They treat the Internet like a vast game,” where offending others scores points, Mr. Toulouse said. But the standard advice to ignore the taunts (“don’t feed the trolls”) is now, in the wake of Ms. Sarkeesian’s treatment, being accompanied by discussions about “how to kill a troll.” And many people are calling for the gaming industry to do more.

Same here.

It’s uncanny, isn’t it.

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

The jerk filter

Aug 2nd, 2012 11:42 am | By

Zinnia reports a slightly rude introduction to life at Freethought Blogs. She didn’t realize, when she joined, that there would be people bouncing up every few minutes to squawk “FTB!!” in feigned alarm/concern/disgust. (We’re going to have to make it a policy to warn people about this before inviting them to join.) She doesn’t mind, though; it’s a good jerk-filter. There’s that random person on Facebook, and then there’s…

the national executive director of CFI Canada. Who announced on Twitter a couple of days ago

reading freethought blogs just gives me a headache. I have yet to find a single post in it’s [sic] entire history which was even remotely readable

I pointed out to him that FTB is about 35 blogs, and he admitted “In fairness, I haven’t read everything by every author” – but then added that he didn’t have “a good impression” all the same. Brilliant. Make a sweeping rejection of an entire large blog network on the basis of a sample, and then defend it on the basis of an “impression.” Totally makes sense. So if you dislike a novel by Austen and one by Conrad and one by Anita Desai, it’s reasonable to disparage Penguin Books, because hey, it publishes all three.

It must be catching, because DJ Grothe did the same thing yesterday.

Freethought Blogs, anyone? “@alaindebotton: The best cure for one’s bad tendencies is to see them in action in another person.”

Kylie Sturgess pointed out that she’s on FTB, and DJ replied

Of course I mean the bigger and more polemic blogs. Sorry for the confusion. I don’t consider you an ideologue/polemicist.

Oh of course – so it’s quite all right to disparage the whole network because “of course” you mean “the bigger and more polemic blogs” – plus it’s quite all right to disparage “the bigger and more polemic blogs” as opposed to just spelling out exactly what you mean and what you object to. Go ahead, don’t be shy – just use your platform to trash other people but keep it vague for the sake of deniability.

I keep wondering why the people who were and are in such a rage at Rebecca for misusing her position to rebuke someone lower down the chain…are so silent on the way DJ uses his position as president of a major organization to rebuke bloggers.

Kylie protested again, as well she might, and DJ replied again.

 I was guilty of generalizing, but not stereotyping per se. Your blog network is identified w/ its prominent bloggers most :(

Therefore it’s quite all right to damage bystanders in the effort to smear FTB’s “prominent bloggers.”

Can’t we all just get along? Obviously not.

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

A vocal contingent of extremely hateful people

Aug 1st, 2012 5:15 pm | By

Part 7 in Amy’s series: Matt Dillahunty.

Matt’s piece has the considerable virtue of being specific – of actually saying what the problem is.

He notes that a lot of people are just confused or uninformed about these issues.

Unfortunately, there’s also a vocal contingent of extremely hateful people who aren’t willing to honestly engage in the discussion and they’ve been venting – if not simply trolling. When there’s an expressed concern, or a proposed solution to a concern, they frequently respond with cartoonish arguments loaded with fallacies but the more disturbing responses simply include hateful threats of rape and violence.

These individuals are beneath contempt. They’re not just misinformed or mistaken, they’re malicious little thugs who are lashing out in response to the fear that someone might actually expect them to treat another human being with respect. They aren’t decent people disagreeing, they’re part of the problem. We don’t have to exclude them from these conversations; they’ve excluded themselves.

Yes them! Those are the ones we mean.

Read the whole thing.


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

Olympic weightlifter to sexist trolls: what makes you think we care?

Aug 1st, 2012 3:53 pm | By

British Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith, that is. Sexist trolls expressed indignation and shock that she’s not dainty enough for their taste. She pointed out on her blog that their taste isn’t high on her list of concerns.

This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.

Which is much like what Ernest Adams said last week: good men are not threatened by strength and intelligence in women. What kind of men are threatened by women like that? I leave it to your wisdom to determine.

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

You may well call it a windfall

Aug 1st, 2012 3:09 pm | By

The economy is in the ditch, but the Templeton Foundation keeps handing out money in units of a million to finance “research” into various wings of religion.

Millions of people fervently believe in an afterlife. John Martin Fischer, a philosopher at the University of California at Riverside, is not one of them.

But Mr. Fischer does see the subject as ripe for academic research, and on Tuesday the John Templeton Foundation awarded him a windfall to make that happen—$5-million for a multidisciplinary investigation of human immortality.

It’s a great pity that atheism has no Templeton Foundation. I wouldn’t mind being handed 5 million bucks to investigate secular ethics or the roots of sexism or where to find the best gelato.

The Immortality Project will invite research proposals from philosophers, theologians, and scientists. Stressing interdisciplinary projects, it will award grants ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. There will also be two conferences and a Web site.

Research  proposals from philosophers, theologians, and scientists. Why theologians? Since when do theologians do research? I understand how historians of religion and biblical scholars can do research, but how can theologians? How do you do research into something that is spiritual, metaphysical, not there to be investigated?

Can I have a grant to look into it?

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