Notes and Comment Blog

“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.


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.)

Not separated by partitions or walls

Sep 28th, 2014 9:49 am | By

Cape Town had a liberal, open mosque for a short time, but it has now been closed.

South Africa’s first gay-friendly mosque, which also allows women to lead prayers, is being ordered close.

A City of Cape Town councillor says the newly established Open Mosque has violated municipal by-laws.

The mosque officially opened its doors on Friday despite criticism from members of the local Muslim community.

Note the discreet bullying in that last sentence; note the covert way it frames the progressive mosque as an intruder and a foreigner; note the veiled way it sides with the reactionaries by calling them members of the local Muslim community; note the way the BBC always sides with membership and localism and community when it comes to issues to do with Islam; note how very reactionary and obstructive that is, and how creepily unfair to the people who want to be treated as equals. Note that the BBC is subtly siding with the reactionaries against gays and women.

News24 tells us more about the Open Mosque, September 19:

Cape Town residents exchanged strong words about “open religion” outside what proclaims to be South Africa’s first gender-equal, non-sectarian mosque on Friday.

Around 10 Muslim men in religious robes stood in front of the gate of the Wynberg open mosque, founded by Dr Taj Hargey, refusing to let people in for its inaugural prayer session at 13:00.

One of the mosque-goers, who did not identify himself, pushed through and shouted at the men.

“South Africa has got a great Constitution. What did you fight apartheid for? Not this crap!” he said, before managing to squeeze through the closing door.

The men moved to the side but still voiced their displeasure at a large throng of reporters and TV cameras.

Shaheem Vardien, from Manenberg, said Hargey was creating “mischief” among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

By not treating women and gays as obvious inferiors and subordinates.

Hargey’s mosque welcomed all sects of Muslims, non-Muslims and women to take part in the sermon.

Public order policing vans lined the road close to the unassuming green industrial building, sandwiched between auto-repair workshops.

At 13:00, a group of people entered the mosque from a steel gate on the side of the building, accompanied by three police officers and the media.

Inside, people laid their boots and takkies on metal shelves and kneeled on an emerald green carpet laid across half the cement floor.

Women in headscarves gingerly made their way to chairs or the carpet, not separated by partitions or walls.

Imagine the horror! Women not shoved to the back but treated like human beings.

But that won’t do, so Cape Town has now shut the mosque down. Brilliant.


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

More barley

Sep 27th, 2014 5:09 pm | By

A happy piece of news for a change. Three Irish students have won a global science research competition at the GoogleScience Fair 2014 in San Francisco. Also, they’re all girls. Girls, I tell you!

Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork were named the grand prize winner in the 15 to 16-year-old age category for a project which examined the use of natural bacteria to increase crop output.

They were inspired to try and help improve food production, particularly in third world countries, after learning about a famine in the Horn of Africa in 2011.

The basis of their project focuses on a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph.

Their research showed that if Diazotroph is present, it accelerates the germination process of high-value crops such as barley and oats, potentially boosting output by up to 50 per cent.

How’s that for a thing to get done when you’re 16? Increasing food production – you can’t get much more useful than that.

Using naturally occurring Rhizobium strains of the Diazotroph bacteria family, they carried out an extensive study of their impact on the germination rate and subsequent growth of the cereal crops wheat, oats and barley.

Detailed statistical analysis of their results indicated that these bacterial strains accelerated crop germination by up to 50 per cent and increased barley yields by 74 per cent.

Such a cereal crop performance improvement could significantly assist combatting the growing global food poverty challenge and benefit the environment by reducing fertilizer use.

Makes me feel all soppy.

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

A great way to make a movement

Sep 27th, 2014 12:46 pm | By

So Katha’s article is online now, so I can point to it. She talked to me when she was working on it.

Here’s a great way to make a movement: have your most famous and powerful public figures obsess over Henry Higgins’s famous question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Why aren’t they more into critical thinking, argument, logic? more rational? Why do they accuse a man of sexual harassment when he’s just trying to chat them up in an elevator at 4 in the morning? Why do they get drunk and then accuse men of rape? Then, having alienated a huge number of actual and potential members, to whom you sound arrogant, vain, sexist and clueless, look around and wonder, Gee, where are the women? They must be even less rational than we thought!

Well quite. People can bluster and fume all they like, but that is what has been happening. It’s no good pretending that Dawkins has not alienated a huge number of women and feminist men (among others).

At the grassroots level, women who speak up against harassment or sexism in the movement have been the target of disgusting attacks online, the sort of vicious obscenity and violent threats notoriously visited upon Anita Sarkeesian and other women in the gaming and tech worlds. If a recipient becomes angry or upset, that just proves she was weak and crazy to begin with. Let me tell you, I’ve seen a tiny sample of the missives directed at Melody Hensley, executive director of the Center for Inquiry–DC, and I can see why she suffers from PTSD. “I receive harassment all day long every day on social media. I also receive threats daily. I have had dozens of videos made about me, harassing me,” she says. “Everything I write online is compiled by my harassers. Even though I know the Internet is public, it’s eerie being watched every moment. I have had people call my home and tell me that they were going to kill me.”

Again – it’s no good pretending all that is just make-believe.

I don’t think it’s healthy for the secular movements to be so focused on a handful of male stars, but here is where some firm leadership might be useful. Instead, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris talk as if their obnoxious fanboys were all that stood between the values of the Enlightenment and the barbarous darkness of feminist fascism. And they’re happy to make common cause against feminists with whoever’s available. As Dawkins tweeted on September 7, “The ‘Big Sister is Watching You’ Thought Police hate @CHSommers’ Factual Feminism, and you can see why.” That’s the same Christina Hoff Sommers who has a mutual admiration society with noted Enlightenment philosopher Rush Limbaugh. If she’s spoken up against the misogyny and willful ignorance of the Christian right, I’ve missed it.

Then she moves on to the joint statement and its almost immediate aftermath, and Sam Harris’s “it’s more of a guy thing” moment. Then she says that at this rate she’d rather be a Catholic than be part of the atheist movement.

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

More globality

Sep 27th, 2014 12:24 pm | By

The Secular “Global Institute” has added a new fellow. He’s in Australia, so that’s a huge boost for this absurd little institute’s claim to be “global” when it’s actually almost entirely American.

They’ve been filling out the website, too. There’s a Newsletter page, with news stories on it. One news story on that page is titled Roundup of Recent Activities, Honors, and Events of Our SGI Famous Team. Yes really; I’m not making it up; that’s actually the title.

We are pleased to report that many SGI Fellows and communicators have made the news and are engaged in spreading secularism to our growing non-religious brothers and sisters worldwide.

Ouch. Jeezis. Can’t they get a better press person than that? Our growing brothers and sisters? The brothers and sisters are getting bigger, are they?

  • Michael Shermer’s latest book “The Believing Brain“In this, his magnum opus, one of the world’s best known skeptics and critical thinkers Dr. Michael Shermer—founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and perennial monthly columnist (“Skeptic”) for Scientific American—presents his comprehensive theory on how beliefs are born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished. This book synthesizes Dr. Shermer’s 30 years of research to answer the questions of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives, from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics, and social beliefs.

Uh huh. Good choice. Top guy; super-famous; one of the greats. Well done.

Gettin’ more global every day.

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

Unethical and sleazy?

Sep 27th, 2014 12:10 pm | By

Now the anti-feminism faction in atheoskepticism is attacking Katha Pollitt. Who’s next? Barbara Ehrenreich? Rebecca Goldstein? Susan Jacoby?

The Nation ‏@thenation Sep 26
What is wrong with the men at the helm of the Atheist movement?

Miranda Celeste Hale

.@thenation Nothing. & Now it’s my turn to ask a question: why did you run this sneering, unethical, & ideologically-motivated attack piece?

iamcuriousblue ‏@iamcuriousblue 14h
@mirandachale Probably the same reason @thenation ran this sneering, unethical, ideologically-motivated attack piece …

Miranda Celeste Hale ‏@mirandachale 13h
@iamcuriousblue What a nasty & reactionary article. I’m not familiar w/much of Pollitt’s work but what I’ve read has been unethical & sleazy

Ian N ‏@IanNieves 13h
@mirandachale @thenation Katha Pollott is an ideological hack who festers in innuendo, smear & smut. The Nation is shit sans Hitchens.

Unethical and sleazy. Really? I have a feeling what Hale means by “not familiar w/much of Pollitt’s work” is “completely ignorant of any of Pollitt’s work except for this one piece.”

At least Katha actually is all the things she calls herself in her Twitter profile, unlike some people.

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

Openly Secular

Sep 27th, 2014 11:36 am | By

Kimberly Winston reports on the Openly Secular campaign.

A new coalition of atheists, humanists and other nonreligious groups is taking a page from the gay rights movement and encouraging people to admit they are “openly secular.”

The coalition — unprecedented in its scope — is broadening a trend of reaching out to religious people and religious groups by making the secular label a catchall for people who are not religious.

I’m not sure how making the secular label a catchall for people who are not religious is reaching out to religious people, but maybe the idea is that “secular” comes across as less antagonistic than “atheist.” People can of course be both secular and religious under one meaning of the word – but that one meaning isn’t the only one, so we get clashes and arguments.

The campaign, “Openly Secular: Opening Minds, Changing Hearts,” was unveiled at the 65th annual gathering of the Religion Newswriters Association here on Sept. 20. It includes a website, resources for families, employers and clergy, and a YouTube channel featuring both prominent and rank-and-file nonbelievers announcing their names followed by the declaration, “I am openly secular.”

I’ve been asked to do one of those videos, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

To raise awareness of discrimination against nonbelievers, Openly Secular looked to the “It Gets Better” project launched several years ago by gay rights activists. In that campaign, openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people sat down in front of a video camera and told their stories of discrimination and bullying and encouraged closeted LGBT people to do the same. Many sociologists credit the “It Gets Better” project with the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

One hint? If the goal is to increase acceptance of non-religious people, it would probably be a good idea not to keep broadcasting brutally callous and wrong opinions on rape. Just a thought.

But as innovative as the campaign claims to be, it has a major hurdle. One of the main backers of the campaign is the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, headed by the famous evolutionary biologist who is one of the most outspoken critics of religion and religious people. Project Reason, founded by vocal anti-theist and New York Times best-seller Sam Harris, is also a supporter.

Openly Secular organizers are confident that hurdle can be overcome. Robyn Blumner, executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, told reporters the Oxford don has many friends who are religious.

Does he have many friends who have been raped?

A frequent criticism of the atheism movement is that it is not diverse enough, but Openly Secular’s coalition includes humanistic Jewish, African-American, Hispanic and ex-Muslim groups. The campaign also has an international component. Groups from Canada, England and the Philippines have signed on.

Cool. Now if it could just fix The Woman Problem…


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

Guest post: Notice the contrapositive

Sep 27th, 2014 11:12 am | By

Originally a comment by doubtthat on To testify & jail a man.

Two things:

1) By the time Dawkins slouched his way to that tweet, he was in full retreat mode. All of initial tweets were from the perspective of concern for the accused: Oh, what an injustice that someone would be jailed with NO EVIDENCE and only on the word of a victim who testifies that they remember nothing (something that has never happened); it’s wrong to rape, certainly, but isn’t it also wrong to accuse someone when you’re drunk…blah blah.

Then, probably being somewhat aware of how fucking wrong that was, he started to slowly shift his point to glib, disingenuous “concern” that the poor victims just won’t be believed by juries. THAT’S what he’s really worried about — never mind that the behavior of an average jury in the US has nothing to do with whether or not WE believe victims, or, specifically, a particular woman.

2) I pointed this out on Nugent’s blog as was accused of generating a straw man:

If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.

Notice the contrapositive of that statement:

If you do get drunk (have gotten drunk) then you’re not in a position to testify or not in a position to jail a man.

The Dawkins defenders said over and over that No, No, NO, our sweet leader was not suggesting that women who had been drinking should stay silent or should be precluded from testifying, yet there it is. A statement and its contrapositive are logical equivalent, and Dawkins is saying that the only condition under which a woman has been drinking is she’s unable to “jail a man,” meaning that she should either stay silent or expect to not be believed.

I assume Dawkins understands first order logic, so he is responsible for the contrapositive of his statement.

As a general rule, if you find yourself arguing that a properly formed contrapositive is a “straw man” or some voodoo like manipulation of a person’s statement, you should either refrain from describing yourself as rational or head over to the local community college for a symbolic logic course before making further claims.

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