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.

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.)

Reason for pause

Aug 1st, 2012 12:07 pm | By

I’m late with # 6 in Surly Amy’s series. It’s David Niose, the president of the American Humanist Association, this time.


The blogosphere has rarely been known for its high sense of decorum, but the vile comments recently directed toward women in the atheist-humanist-skeptic communities give us reason for pause. Occasional disagreements within our communities on various issues are to be expected, as are the fiery tempers that sometimes accompany such disagreements. Given our strong opinions and our willingness to stand up for what we believe, it would be more surprising if we went a lengthy time period without some kind of high-profile clash occurring. But still, the inevitability of conflict in no way justifies any kind of conduct, whether by written communication or otherwise, that utilizes violent intimidation. As atheists-humanists-skeptics, and as decent human beings, we need to do what we can to create an environment that reflects an understanding of the difference between healthy debate and threatening conduct, between mature discourse and hateful bullying.


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

Gore Vidal

Aug 1st, 2012 11:39 am | By

I wasn’t as keen on him lately as I once was, because of the conspiracy-thought and the sympathetic view of Timothy McVeigh and the like…but still, he was a hell of an essayist.

Not a very good novelist, I always thought, but a brilliant essayist. Orwell was the same. Some people just shouldn’t write fiction; it’s odd when they don’t realize it.

The Times obit says I’m not the only one who thinks so.

In the opinion of many critics, though, Mr. Vidal’s ultimate reputation is apt to rest less on his novels than on his essays, many of them written for The New York Review of Books. His collection “The Second American Revolution” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982. About a later collection, “United States: Essays 1952-1992,” R. W. B. Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Vidal the essayist was “so good that we cannot do without him,” adding, “He is a treasure of state.”

Mr. Vidal’s essays were literary, resurrecting the works of forgotten writers like Dawn Powell and William Dean Howells, and also political, taking on issues like sexuality and cultural mores. The form suited him ideally: he could be learned, funny, stylish, show-offy and incisive all at once. Even Jason Epstein, Mr. Vidal’s longtime editor at Random House, once admitted that he preferred the essays to the novels, calling Mr. Vidal “an American version of Montaigne.”

“I always thought about Gore that he was not really a novelist,” Mr. Epstein wrote, “that he had too much ego to be a writer of fiction because he couldn’t subordinate himself to other people the way you have to as a novelist.”

Learned, funny, stylish, show-offy and incisive all at once – much like Hitchens, which is no doubt why Vidal named Hitch his “heir” about fifteen years ago. Hitchens used that as a blurb afterwards; he was very proud of it.



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

Won’t somebody please think of the baybeez?

Jul 31st, 2012 4:55 pm | By

More dreck from LifeSiteNews. (This may become an absorbing new hobby. LifeSiteNews is a real swamp of nasty.)

Shock-horror: Obama wants (and says he wants) his daughters to have reproductive rights. Imagine that! He wants them not to be trapped by unwanted pregnancies if they don’t choose to be. (That’s not a tautology. Some women choose to continue pregnancies that they don’t want.) LSN wants to lose its lunch at the thought.

Mr. Romney wants to get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood. I think that’s a bad idea. I’ve got two daughters. I want them to control their own health care choices. We’re not going backwards, we’re going forwards.

We all know the word “choice” is a euphemism for “abortion.” And the fight to defund Planned Parenthood is all about abortion. So clear as mud, Obama was advocating the freedom for his daughters to abort his own grandchildren.

Yes – because his daughters’ bodies belong to them, not to him.

Rejoice rejoice: bigots are rushing to support Chick-fil-A from the evil creeping homoseckshuals.

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day invites pro-traditional-marriage fans to support the fast food chain by “simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.”

“No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate. The goal is simple: Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse.”

The sign-up has already surpassed 209,000 people, with 23,000 “maybes” and another 1.6 million invited.

Only 1.6 million invited? Slackers.

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

His stand for Christian principles

Jul 31st, 2012 4:22 pm | By

And now a word from the bigots. The creepy LifeSiteNews reports gloatingly that a bakery in Colorado has seen a surge in business after the owner refused to provide a cake for a gay wedding. Isn’t that heart-warming? A little piece of spiteful meanness is popular in Lakewood Colorado.

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, told local media that this wasn’t the first time he had turned away homosexuals seeking wedding cakes, but it is the first time his stand for Christian principles has resulted in so much media attention and some death threats.

What stand for Christian principles? Where did baby Jesus say don’t provide wedding cakes to gay people who want to get married? Where did Paul say that? Who says that’s Christian principles?

The situation developed on July 19 when two homosexuals entered the shop and announced they were getting “married” in Massachusetts and wanted to order a wedding reception cake for their reception in Colorado.

Jeezis – who runs this site, Francisco Franco? These are some seriously nasty people we’re looking at.

From the About page:

3.’s writers and its founders, have come to understand that respect for life and family are endangered by an international conflict. That conflict is between radically opposed views of the worth and dignity of every human life and of family life and community. It has been caused by secularists attempting to eliminate Christian morality and natural law principles which are seen as the primary obstacles to implementing their new world order.

4. understands that abortion, euthanasia, cloning, homosexuality and all other moral, life and family issues are all interconnected in an international conflict affecting all nations, even at the most local levels. LifeSiteNews attempts to provide its readers with the big picture and the most useful and up-to-date information on this conflict.

Mm. Vicious and paranoiac. Fabulous.

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

Bowling in northern Mali

Jul 31st, 2012 3:49 pm | By

The Islamists who grabbed power in northern Mali have settled in and gotten comfortable. On Sunday they stuck a woman and a man in two vertical holes in the ground, leaving just their heads exposed, and threw stones at them until they were dead. They did this in front of 200 people.

Mali’s government has expressed disgust.

“The government learned with indignation and astonishment of the stoning to death of a couple in Aguelhok by the extremists occupying northern Mali,” read a statement from the communication ministry.

“At the same time as it expresses its sympathy to the families of the victims, the government severely condemns this dark-age practice and assures that this act will not go unpunished.”

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion.

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

Batman doesn’t need to seek help

Jul 31st, 2012 10:20 am | By

Laurie Penny and Martin Robbins were chatting about feminism one evening on Twitter. [interjection: I've been there! I've done a good deal of chatting about feminism on Twitter. Some of it with Laurie Penny and Martin Robbins, though not at the same time as far as I recall.] They decided to make it a non-Twitter conversation, with more room to swing the arms. They chose the spacious airy riverview Independent. It’s a very good conversation.

Martin starts by saying that “Feminists are fighting a centuries-old system of power that benefits nobody but the elite.”

Laurie: What you’re talking about is structural violence, and the difficulty people have in understanding that there’s more to sexism than individual men doing individually nasty things to individual woman. In a world where we’re encouraged to see ourselves purely as atomised individuals with no relationship to any sort of broader social context, that’s a tough distinction to make.

So we get people – many many people – telling us to shut up, stop “playing victim,” toughen up, just Be Strong and get on with it – as if it were possible to overcome systemic obstacles by pure will.

They talk about the way “patriarchy” (for want of a better word) is bad for women and men.

Martin: This is where I think ‘male privilege’, while accurate, can be a distraction – because the privilege really in modern society is that men are held back maybe 10% while women are held back more. Nobody is ‘winning’ any contest aside from a shrinking elite at the top of the pyramid who have an uncanny knack of getting the proles to fight among themselves.

They talk about sexist men and lonely men and male roles in popular culture.

Martin: And I think that’s a function of how we’re raised. Look at male role models in popular culture – they tend to be lone wolves or alpha males in a group. Loneliness can be hard to define. You can be surrounded by people and be alone. The NHS have some good research on men my age, one of the biggest problems is not being able to discuss their feelings, and an inability to seek help.

Laurie: Yes, although it wasn’t always like that. Again, the model of masculinity changes according to what success and power is supposed to look like. Sixty years ago it was being the head of a household, an important role in your organisation or company or union, a pillar of your community. Now success for men is far more likely to mean lonely entrepreneurism. Seeking help is seen as weak.

Martin: Batman wouldn’t seek help.

Laurie: Batman doesn’t need to seek help, he has a butler.

Martin: And a billion dollars.

Laurie: And an enormous tower with his name on it.

Martin: Yes. No issues there at all.

They talk about sex and power and sex-as-power.

Laurie: I’ve had men tell me that actually it’s women who have all the power, because they have the power of sexual refusal. Women are also informed that this is the only power we have or are expected to want – and ironically, of course, when we do say ‘no’ we’re rarely believed. Sexual refusal is the battleground, and if that’s women’s main power, it’s a shit power to have – particularly as it mainly works for young, hot women. For a lot of men, though, it seems like ‘women who I want to have sex with’ are the only ones admitted into the category ‘woman’ in the first place. Sexual refusal as a limited, contingent form of control is double bullshit for women and girls, because it means that if we actually happen to like sex and seek it out, as most of us would were we free to do so, we’re judged harshly for it. We like to think we live in a hugely sexually free culture, but we don’t. We don’t.

Martin: Well, that’s another point I wanted to hit. With men’s magazines, say, we’ve developed this weird lad culture that’s almost grown up in opposite to feminism – except it’s counter-productive and infantilising. And in a weird way a lot of examples of ‘rape culture’ – Brendan O’Neil’s “how can I help wolf-whistling at women” for example – are immensely infantilising. It’s like being told you’re a dribbling animal, so weak-willed that you’re guided by your penis. This weird clique of writers at magazines gradually fading out of fashion have an almost hysterical need to define what is and isn’t allowed to be sexy, and it seems not to bear much relationship to what people choose in real life. I remember, growing up,  a lot of pressure on finding the right type of woman attractive – namely FHM’s sexiest 100 women, which as an exercise is like asking all humanity what their favourite foods are and then blending all the results into a sort of bland gruel.

Laurie: I like that. Ever thought about writing for a living?

Martin: Not sure there’s any money in it!

They talk about the difficulties of male feminism.

Martin: …Feminism can be a daunting area for men. Feminism has its own language, codes, like any cliquey area of writing. I’m keenly aware of blundering in as a man and saying stupid things, it put me off writing about it for a long time until I had the confidence. I was nervous about this chat. I’m keenly aware that you could probably make mincemeat of me on this topic.

Laurie: Unfortunately, it is true that there’s a small but serious risk of getting painfully jumped on if you get something wrong, particularly with the internet.

Martin: You almost need a sort of training arena where you can say stupid things to feminists and not get shot down in public. When I was struggling to understand patriarchy, I found feminist blogs unhelpful. I was asking questions I now realise were a bit stupid, but out of naivety rather than anything else.

Laurie: I’ve thought about this a lot and unfortunately, I do think female feminists are going to have to be a bit more forgiving and generous in our corrections from time to time, if we can do that without diluting the message – firm but fair. Which of course sucks balls, because we’ve spent our lives being told to be forgiving and generous and make men feel better.

Yes. We want to be (ahem) assertive, but we get called cunts for being it.

Martin: Why are more men not talking about this? Where are the spaces where men can stand up and say – actually, this is fucked up? I wish feminism was seen as a discipline in which we discussed men’s issues as much as women’s.

Laurie: We need some more outspoken male feminists. Maybe you should be one. I’ll train you, we can be like Pai Mei and Beatrix. I’m Pai Mei.

[Insert elaborate training montage where Martin is made to climb an enormous mountain of privilege-comprehension, dodge the tar-pits of in-fighting and finally destroy Rick Santorum in hand-to-hand combat armed only with a copy of The Dialectic of Sex ]

Martin: *gasps* I…I know feminism.

Laurie: Now you’re ready.

He’s trained. Booya.


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

GenderQueerAtheist listens to Cosmos Choral Suite

Jul 30th, 2012 5:40 pm | By

This is very cool.

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

It was just a fantasy

Jul 30th, 2012 5:08 pm | By

Holy crap.

A Christian guy in Largo, Florida who did a puppet show on tv has been arrested for


I’ll let the Tampa Bay Times tell you.

But there was another side to Brown, according to a 29-page criminal complaint filed July 20 in federal court in Tampa: The man who, as he was feeding pizza to teenagers, nursed fantasies of murdering and eating them. The one who acted out Bible stories with puppets at his church, while musing online about carving and cooking the body parts of a young parishioner for Easter.

“I imagine him wiggling and then going still,” Brown told an associate in an Internet chat session, describing his plot to kill and cannibalize a boy at Gulf Coast Church, according to the criminal complaint.

On Friday, Brown was arrested on charges of conspiring to kidnap a child and possession of child pornography and booked into the Pinellas County Jail. U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents who searched his home found lewd images of children bound and gagged, a flier for a missing child and “images of children that appear to be deceased.”

According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Brown told agents that he and Kansas resident Michael Arnett, another alleged child cannibalism enthusiast, “did discuss killing, dismembering and eating” a specific boy at Gulf Coast Church. However, Brown said “it was just a fantasy and he could never and would never hurt anyone.”

Nothing like dead child porn, is there.

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

How happy he is to be able to think and learn

Jul 30th, 2012 4:27 pm | By

The other day I told a brief version of how Vyckie Garrison’s then 3d grader fared going to school after eight sheltered years. She tells a fuller version at NLQ.

These days, I am thoroughly enjoying my “blessings” ~ they are far from perfect as they’ve gone from passive, obedient little robots (a couple of them were more like zombies ~ and, Chassé ~ my “spirited” child ~ really reminded me of a jack-in-the-box gone bonkers ~ no matter how many times she was stuffed into the box and the lid slammed down on her, she had this quirky way of popping back up with a crazy, intimidating, you-can’t-get-rid-of-me smirk) ~ to “normal” kids with their own unique personalities, feelings, thoughts ~ and … every single one of them now has this idea in their heads that their particular experience and perceptions of life matter.

Something we out here in the world take for granted, but it’s not how things are in Quiverfullworld.

I say they are “far from perfect” ~ but actually, they’re very good kids ~ not Duggar-like with neat, matching outfits, always helpful and obedient and smiling ~ they are taking full advantage of their new freedom to discover themselves which means that they don’t always say, “Yes, Mom” ~ and they’re pretty likely to disagree with me and not one of them still believes that I know everything and have all the answers.

Human beings in a human world, in short.

Now Andy -

When I put my kids in school, I was especially worried about my then-10 year old Andrew. He was so far behind academically ~ plus, he was so angry because after Angel left home, he became the main focus of Warren’s abuse. He was so beaten down and dispirited that he would scurry about the house like a mouse ~ trying to stay off of his father’s radar because as soon as Warren noticed Andrew, he’d spend hours lecturing and preaching to him until the poor boy was in tears. I remember many, many nights when I would lay in bed and think to myself that Andrew had not spoken a single word all day.

So when I talked to the elementary school principal, I expressed my concern, “I’m afraid Andrew will go to school and beat everyone up.”

Well ~ it didn’t turn out anything like what I imagined. Although Andrew was the most fearful and reluctant of all the kids when we talked about public school ~ he is now totally loving it.

I think the key factor in how well he’s doing was his teacher ~ she is amazing ~ absolutely “pro-Andrew” and that made all the difference for him. At the second parent-teacher conference, Andrew’s teacher was beaming with pride as she told me how Andrew was excelling in every area ~ academically and socially. She told me that at the beginning of the year, they were struggling to get him to write the “d” in his name rather than a “b” ~ but soon he was writing pages of really good stuff.

She asked Andrew to read one of his reports for me titled “Changes.” In his story, Andrew told about the divorce and how, at the beginning he really didn’t want me to divorce his dad ~ he didn’t believe that Warren was really so bad and he felt sorry for him because he’d lost his family. But, after getting away from him and seeing how other people live, he knows now that before the divorce, he was not even a real person. Then he told how happy he is to be able to think and learn and have his own ideas and opinions. He concluded by saying that he is grateful that I divorced his father because he knows it was a very hard fight for me but I did it so that he could have a life and now he can be anything he wants to be.

When Andrew was done reading his report for me, his teacher was all teary-eyed and she told me that when she gave the assignment, the other students wrote about how, “My life really changed when we got a new kitten,” and such ~ but when Andrew got up and gave his report, the class listened with total interest, and when he was finished, there was absolute silence ~ and then they started clapping ~ and then the whole class gave Andrew a standing ovation.

Hang on a second while I wipe my eyes …

She had to do that when she told me the story, too. I had to take a couple of deep breaths myself. “Then he told how happy he is to be able to think and learn and have his own ideas and opinions.”

And about Warren – he has a much better relationship with the children now. When he starts to get preachy at them they just tell him to chill, Dad, and he does.

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

There are fragments left

Jul 30th, 2012 3:50 pm | By

Eric describes an odd thought experiment in Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue.

He asks us to imagine a time in the future when people have got fed up with science, have removed science from the curricula of schools and universities, killed or imprisoned all the scientists, and then government is carried out — well, how, exactly? Since science is not only physics and math and chemistry and biology, but a fairly strict methodological approach to information, how would a government function where fact checking was ruled out, and decisions were based on pure whim? MacIntyre seems to forget that science is not only composed of lists of facts, but is tied together by theory and based on experience, and that that process can scarcely simply disappear when we stop teaching the sciences. However, imagine it done for the purposes of argument. Now, says MacIntyre, we are to suppose that a generation comes along which is opposed to this science-destructive world outlook. However, during the anti-science period the scientific tradition had been virtually destroyed. There are fragments left, a book here or a page there, and a few memories of phrases and scientific terms, like the periodic table without any sense of what it was once about. But now we are to imagine people trying to reconstruct science in the absence of any understanding of what science was once really about, so they begin using scientific language without really understanding what the language was for, or what it really signified. Science, for this new generation, is a bunch of disjointed technical terms thrown out more or less at random, and repeated pointlessly in a form much like some postmodernist free association.

In this situation, MacIntyre supposes, people would still have theories about how science functioned.

If the scientific tradition had been virtually destroyed, then on what grounds is the new generation opposed to this science-destructive world outlook? That idea doesn’t seem to make any sense.

The tradition is all but destroyed, so the new generation is unfamiliar with scientific thinking of any kind. The new generation is kind of like Sarah Palin or George Bush. What would there be in the heads of that new generation that would prompt it to oppose the science-destructive world outlook, let alone to try to reconstruct science in the absence of any understanding of what science was once really about?

Nothing, that I can see. People in 6th century Britain (say) didn’t sit around pining for science; they didn’t know from science.

MacIntyre seems to be thinking of it as a kind of cargo cult, but the periodic table wouldn’t attract people the way bottles of Coke do.

Some thought experiments just aren’t very good.


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

Barry Karr speaks up

Jul 30th, 2012 2:22 pm | By

Barry Karr is the Executive Director of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. Surly Amy posts his statement.

I find totally reprehensible statements advocating violence, rape and even death directed towards women. I have said it in personal communications, and I will say it here now: People who make statements filled with hatred and threatening or calling for acts of violence have no place in the humanist or skeptical movements.

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

Having it both ways, Albuquerque division

Jul 30th, 2012 12:20 pm | By

Good old religious entitelement. The state can’t tell religious entities what to do, because freedom, but if the state wants to give religious entities lots of money, why it’s the least they can do. That’s how the people who run Hope Christian School in Albuquerque view the matter.

A three year-old was denied admittance to Hope Christian School in Albuquerque, N.M. because he has two gay fathers, KOAT-TV reported.

A letter sent to the family offered the school’s rationale:

“Same gender couples are inconsistent with scriptural lifestyle and biblical teachings,” and “Home life doesn’t reflect the school’s belief of what a biblical family lifestyle is.”

The letter added that because Hope Christian School is private, it is exempt from “excessive government interference in matters of religion,”according to KOAT-TV.

And yet, the school will receive over $60,000 dollars from the federal government this year, according to the Huffington Post.

Heads we win, tails you lose. That’s fair, right?

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

Stiff upper lip v misogyny

Jul 29th, 2012 5:57 pm | By


Last January the first meeting of the All-Party Women’s Group in the UK Parliament met to discuss “The Media: A Female Politician’s Worst Enemy?” Well there’s a subject, eh?

British women no longer apologise in a whisper: they blame themselves and each other in loud and strident voices, refusing to admit or allow any vulnerability, and advocating nothing more to counter misogyny, sexism and gender discrimination than an upper lip so stiff even Brief Encounter’s Celia Johnson would have balked.

“Have you all finished whingeing?” Janet Street-Porter shouted at the rest of the panel of female politicians and leading journalists. “What you lot have to get your heads around is that we’re our own worst enemies. That you get the press you deserve. And that this stuff you hate, is bought by other women.”

You get the press you deserve? Because the world is fair and no one ever throws verbal shit at women just because they’re women? Oy.

Back on the floor, there was more women-blaming to be done. Lady Gillian Shephard, a former secretary of state for the environment, transport and the regions, berated speakers who had dared to admit being upset and intimidated by things the media wrote about them and other women.”One really should not get hung up on the stuff you read about yourself in the papers or be enticed into victimhood,” she snapped.

“Women today are, I have to say it, inclined towards victimhood. [When I was younger] I didn’t know about feminism, I just thought I would get on with it.”

And that’s all there is to it, because there are no barriers to “just getting on with it”; it’s simply a matter of trying harder.

And there you have it. No matter that the media’s laceration of women might have something to do with the fact that just 17% of David Cameron’s 121 ministers are women; that women make up just 15% of UK board members; or that contributions from women on Radio 4′s Today are so few and far between that, on any one day, listeners can go two hours without hearing a female voice.

No matter that this environment enables us to remain a nation of teenage boys who, confronted by a clever, eloquent woman prepared to put her head above the parapet of public life, will stare at her shoes, giggle at her cleavage and gossip about her waistline before we listen – if we ever do – to the words coming out of her mouth.

And no matter that this all culminates in a media climate in which, as the Leveson inquiry heard this week, newspapers routinely engage in inaccurate, prejudicial and victim-blaming when reporting violence towards women, as evidenced by the headline in which a gang rape is called an “orgy in the park”.

No matter to all of that. According to the first all-party group set up to tackle these issues, the answer is almost too simple for words: if you can’t stand the heat, just get your kitten-heels out of the kitchen.

Tits or GTFO.

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

Civil but not sedate

Jul 29th, 2012 3:54 pm | By

More on this issue about how to discuss things without everyone getting out the flamethrowers, and do we even want to discuss things that way, and is it the right thing to do even if we don’t want to.

I do think it’s better to err on the side of avoiding calling people names, but I have to add that I don’t actually want a Fully Sedate™ discussion. Chris Hallquist explains one reason today.

Furthermore, most of Dan’s suggested alternatives are to a degree academic and there’s a risk of classism in demanding people put their criticisms of others in academic terms. Robin Hanson makes a good point about this:

Lower “working” class cultures tend to talk more overtly. Insults are more direct and cutting, friends and co-workers often tease each other about their weaknesses. Nicknames often express weakness – a fat man might be nicknamed “slim.”

Upper class culture, in contrast, tends more to emphasize politeness and indirect communication. This helps to signal intelligence and social awareness, and distinguishes upper from lower classes.

I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t think cutting insults are a good thing even if they are part of working class culture, but I think there is something to the idea. I know that I don’t want this place to be academic-like.

I’ve read a couple of Fully Sedate™ threads on distant sites lately, and while it’s good that there’s no “hey you’re stupid and ugly,” the trouble is that they were also quite lifeless and boring – even stilted. I don’t want that.

This is no doubt because I’m shallow and lazy and frivolous. I don’t like dryness in writing. Then again I also don’t like too much poppyness – I’m a good deal too fussy.

But there it is. I don’t want ponderousness. Maybe I should, but I don’t. I want lively writing. That doesn’t mean rude or flamey or permananently hostile – but it does mean leaving room for irritation and frustration and exasperation, along with humor.

So not flamethrowers – how about those party favor things that unfurl and toot when you blow on them?

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