Archive | November, 2010

Should feminism include men?

30 Nov

The other day I visited a thread on an atheist website about feminism and the role of men. It was a very interesting discussion, with most people agreeing that men can be feminists and help, but their was one particular poster who would have nothing to do with it. To her, feminism was solely about women and improving their situation, no men allowed.

At the same time another woman, who disagreed with this poster, presented a very interesting article from The Daily Kos titled: “15 aspects that must be recognized in third-wave feminism”.

The very first item on the list states:

“There must be a widespread understanding that feminism does apply to men. Therefore, men who stand up for feminist issues may, and should, be identified as feminist. It is counterproductive and hypocritical to discuss gender equality while simultaneously creating a double standard towards males who share feminist values.”

The author then goes on to say that feminists can come from any walk of life, men included, and that feminism is inclusive, not exclusive.

Back to the thread. The lady who started the thread then got into an argument with the “no men allowed” poster over the goals of feminism. To the OP, feminism, while it may have began as a movement directed at undoing the wrongs done to women, has now morphed into fighting for gender equality across the board, men included. According to the OP, the feminist should not only be concerned with fighting the strict gender roles society imposes on women, but the roles imposed on men as well.

As mentioned earlier, the “no men allowed” poster would have none of it. “If that’s what feminism has become, then I guess I’m not a feminist anymore.” Her goal seemed decidedly set on retribution as opposed to making things better for everybody.

For the longest time I was scared to say anything on feminism for fear of running into this person. For the longest time I questioned whether, as a man, I had any right to have an opinion on feminism, much less voice that opinion. I felt like when feminism was being discussed by women, I had to sit in the corner like a child and keep my mouth shut. After all, I was the enemy.

But you know what? I realized something the other day. Men do have an important role to play in feminism. If feminism is going to have any shot of changing society and gaining equality for women, it’s going to have to include men.

Now let me be crystal clear. I am not saying women are dependent on men to do anything. What I am talking about is the simple reality of how movements work.

In order for a minority to achieve something, it needs the help of the majority. It doesn’t matter who the minority and majority are. Blacks could not get the civil rights acts passed without the help of white legislators. Gays could not get anti-homosexuality laws repealed without the help of straight allies. Atheists will be unable to get the separation of church and state enforced without the help of their theist allies. This is a fact of how things get done.

Women may not be a minority population wise, but unfortunately in every other aspect of life they are. They are a minority in government, in businesses, and in churches. They will not get anywhere by alienating the majority in those spheres.

For centuries male has been considered “normal,” the default. It’s part of male privilege and the majority of men are so accustomed to this they don’t even notice. Women trying to tell them that it is not normal will only have so much of an effect because the men they are trying to talk to are living in a bubble where they see the woman as abnormal. “Of course she’s going to say that! She’s a woman!”

This is where men can have their greatest impact. As I talk about in this post, men are able to break through that bubble and reach other men simply because they are deemed “normal.” A guy can easily dismiss a woman’s attempts to correct male privilege simply because she is a woman, but if a man stands up and says “Look buddy, these assumptions are not normal, they are people too and deserve equal treatment”, then that will bypass the other man’s defenses and stick!

So to that “women only” poster I say no. No I will not sit down and shut up like a child. Gender roles and society affect me too, and I am part of the solution. If you’re interested solely in retribution for something other men have done, then I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m interested in working to make society better for all of us, regardless of sex or gender.

What is God to you?

29 Nov

I got this idea from TheSecretAtheist and I thought I’d do something similar here.

The term “God” is used by everybody, but the individual definitions of “God” can vary from person to person, sometimes dramatically. When discussing religion with a person, you can spend hours talking about God, arguing points of faith, and only later realize that both of you are talking about different things when using the term “God.”

So my question to you is this: What is “God” to you? What are the properties of this being? What is he/she/it like? Do you identify with a particular sect? Are your views on God concurrent with this sect’s views? If not, how do you differ?

It is not my intent to attack your view of God in this post. I am simply curious. If you would like to discuss it further, I can create a separate post for that, but this is meant to be a neutral learning post.

I’ll start. For me, when I was a Methodist Christian “God” was the male God of the Bible. He preformed miracles, sent his son (himself) to die for us, he was jealous and wrathful, yet also a loving fatherly figure, he intervened in our daily lives, he had a plan, was all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere. He gave us free will and created everything (including evolution). That’s a rough picture, but you get the idea.

Woman has orgasm while voting- commercial

28 Nov

Recently the Young Socialist Party of Catalunya (in Spain) resealed this ad to encourage people to vote.

Now apparently people from both sides of the political spectrum have come out to criticize this ad as “highly offensive.”

A woman having an orgasm is highly offensive? Seriously? Meanwhile people think stuff like this is perfectly ok:

What I think is going on here is a perfect example of how people feel threatened by female sexuality. “A woman enjoying herself! Oh my heavens no! Women are supposed to be asexual angelic beings!” What’s the saying? “Nine out of ten women dislike sex, and the tenth is a prostitute.” People are just so unnerved at any public acknowledgement that women can enjoy sexual pleasure. In private, sure, but in public women must conform to the double standard and be sexless.

Shame on you Spain, and shame on everyone who is so prudish and repressive to feel offended by this ad.

Passion, zeal, and my history.

28 Nov

I just finished watching The Baader Meinhof Complex on netfilx and found it pretty thought provoking. The movie follows “the birth of West Germany’s Red Army Faction, a radical left-wing terrorist group formed in the lat 1960’s amid a climate of revolution and a fallen generation.” The movie struck a cord with me because back in my teenage years I might have joined such a group if given the chance to time travel. Might have. Past tense.  The movie was in some way a loose exploration of those teenage fantasies.

As a teenager I never fantasized about bombing buildings or assassinating people, but rather I abstractly fantasized about fighting the man and dying for my comrades. I guess I connected with this movie in that I empathized with the characters’ zeal. I could relate with their feelings of oppression, of desperation, and their sense of the injustice in the world.

I’ve been thinking about zealotry a lot lately. I’m wondering if some people are just more inclined to zealous behavior than others. Thinking back, I was always a zealous person. I’m not sure if it was something in my nature, or the result of the time and place I grew up.

The first time I remember feeling a fanatical devotion to something(someone in this case) was when I was twelve. I was in love, or so I thought, with this beautiful girl who lived just a short ways away. We dated for three months before her mother caught us kissing and her father forced us to break up. I would leave roses on her front porch and her father would throw them away. I was determined to get her back, even though she said her father wouldn’t let her date until she was sixteen. I would count the days in my school calendar. Later, I received a tip from her friend pointing me to her live journal. There I found two entries where she detailed how much she disliked me, was never interested beyond a mere crush, and how she had found a new guy. (I printed it out at the time and I still have that worn old piece of paper in a fireproof lockbox, along with other sentimental things)

It was around this same time that I discovered evangelical Christianity. A friend from school was a born-again Christian and he taught me how to pray/mediate. I remember going to special church classes and watching videos that detailed the evils of psychics and ouija boards. My parents, a moderate methodist and an apathetic non-practicing Jew, didn’t see much harm in it; though they were slightly annoyed when I used all my mom’s garlic powder to seal the doors and windows on Halloween in order to keep evil spirits out. The odd thing was that my new found religious faith never really transfered over to politics. I was 12-13 and too busy playing video games and sneaking onto porn sites to pay much attention to politics. I remember standing in my parent’s bedroom late at night watching the 2000 election. I was rooting for George W. Bush, though in the same manner one arbitrarily roots for a sports team in a game you don’t overly care about.

My Zealotry really took off after I met my first actual love. She was witty, intelligent, beautiful, and one of those liberals I had loosely heard about. I have a vague memory of us leaving the mall in her mom’s car at night, and us having some deep political conversation where she converted me to liberalism. According to my memory, which very well may be a complete and unconscious fabrication, she was very proud of herself for convincing me, but warned me saying something like “Careful, there is non more zealous than a convert.” That poorly lit memory has stayed with me all these years.

It was at this time that the focus of my passion was shifting from Christianity to politics. High-school opened me up to new people, new ideas, and I no longer considered myself an evangelical Christian, but some amalgamation of Christianity, Buddhism, and my own spirituality. The city I grew up in was fairly large for Virginia, about a quarter million people. Nonetheless the area I grew up in was very conservative. Throughout high-school I became increasingly politically active as I became ever more aware of just how much in the minority I was. I would print out long political messages on entire sheets of paper and tape them to the back of my car. I started volunteering my weekends at political campaigns, making phone calls, updating data bases, and going door to door. I even went to an anti-war protest with the afore mentioned beautiful girl. I was perhaps most active in yard sign wars.

During election season I would sneak out early in the morning, with my car full of yard signs, and place them at strategic locations I had scoped out the day before. I often did this while blasting Green Day on the stereo. It gave me a huge rush to do this in a very conservative area. I guess I became addicted to that rush. One time I spent over an hour placing about 100 signs early in the morning, only to discover them ALL stolen a few hours later when I drove to school. I was so furious, I couldn’t concentrate at all that day. I then started a tic-for-tat retribution campaign. I kept track of my signs, and stole one in retribution every time one of mine went missing. I even got a large poster, wrote my tic-for-tat war policy on it, placed it at a major intersection where several signs had gone missing, and signed it “The Democrat”. Later I got a phone call from a friend who had watched as someone stopped, got out of their car, and destroyed my sign before his very eyes.

That election season, I think it was 2004 and the second presidential election with Bush, was particularly bad. Not only were my signs constantly stolen, but even the signs on my car were stolen or vandalized. I was even run off the road one night because of a yard sign I had taped to the back of my car. I was shaking, even though I felt the rush. The majority of my teenage years were spent under a heavy siege mentality. This in turn just spurred on my zealotry. I felt like an animal trapped in a corner, and I was determined not to go down without a fight. Sometimes in class I would daydream of setting up a democrat paramilitary fast response team, should civil war break out. I fantasized about us roping in from helicopters or speeding to the rescue on motorcycles, protecting civilians from the conflict. I would even design the patch emblems for our uniforms in the margins of my school work.

During the election seasons I became an avid news junkie. I would turn on CNN any chance I got. Sometimes I’d even watch C-SPAN (a channel that broadcasts the live, and rather bland, proceedings within congress). There was one show on CNN in particular that really struck me: Crossfire. I was amazed at how these political pundits could cite names, dates, statistics, etc from memory. I REALLY wanted to be able to do that. At the same time I was taking Advanced Placement Government in high school and we’d often debate in class. This being the day before smart phones and instant internet access, I sat down one night and spent several hours building a “Battle Binder.” In this 1 inch D-ring binder I created sections for every major issue of the day, along with every relevant name, date, statistic, and talking points. I even included common arguments and refutations. It weighed a ton, but I carried it around with me everywhere I went. I dared other kids to debate with me. Some foolishly did, stating their view on some position, citing some anecdotal evidence about what they heard their dad say, and then I would pull out my battle binder and crush them. They couldn’t compete when I could instantly produce full color charts, timelines of legislation, relevant court cases, you name it. Eventually the other kids stopped talking to me about politics. (I still have that binder in the attic)

2006 was when everything shattered. It was an election year for congress, and I fought hard to get democrats elected. Bush had won a second term, the two wars were starting to drag on with no end in site, and we were starting to learn of the warrant-less wiretaps, secret detention centers, and torture. Well democrats one big that year, I was so elated. They took control of congress and I thought “Now! Now that the good guys are in charge, we can finally stop Bush! We can even impeach him for his war crimes!”

And then nothing changed. Nothing.

This was my first taste of betrayal, and boy was it a spoonful. Here I was, a zealous supporter of the party, willing to fight and die if need be, and I was betrayed by my leaders who promptly caved to every republican demand. It was like being thrown into a pool of icy cold water. I became intensely cynical and bitter. Almost five years later and I still am, though the edge has worn off.

My passion, what was left of it, needed a new seemingly hopeless cause to fight for. By now I had developed a strong love for the underdog. I believed that democrats were the underdog, and worthy of fighting for, but with them in power and ceding everything to the conservatives, that was gone. I needed a new underdog, something with deeper meaning than just political parties.

Enter atheism.

It was my freshman year of college and I was exposed to more world-views than at any other point in my life. It was also the first time I had ever heard of an atheist, or met one for that matter. In fact, I met two. One was a history professor, the other was a friend of a girl I had a crush on. Though I was a wishy-washy feel good spiritualist at the time, I took their advice and began investigating atheism on my own. One of the first people I ran into was Richard Dawkins and his book “The God Delusion”. The arguments really resonated with me and his passion spoke to something crestfallen within me. To add to that, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more underdog-ish than atheism. We’re the extreme minority, despised and distrusted by the vast majority of the world. Atheism is hopelessly outnumbered, and there is something deeply attractive in that.

So my passion was rekindled, though tempered by my experiences. While watching that film tonight, I could see a lot of my pre-2006 self in those RAF members. Naive, hopelessly idealistic, reckless, zealots. The whole time I could not help but notice the extreme contrast between how beautiful, sexual, and vibrant they were, and how violent, disgusting, and shocking their actions were. The way the film was shot, I knew we were supposed to at least partially be on their side, but I could not bring myself to support them. Through the use of violence, you watch them transform into the monsters they set out to fight. As good as it might feel to shoot back, you lose the moral high ground when you do, and that is imperative when winning a war of ideas.

My zealotry has been tempered, and that includes my teenage fantasies about fighting. This is especially true when it comes to atheism. Atheists pride themselves on not doing the dumb shit religious people do to each other. No setting off car bombs in cafes, no flying planes into buildings, no shooting doctors, no assassinations, no gang style shootouts. While I still sometimes fantasize of an Illuminati style atheist resistance, violence would be off-limits. I’d sooner shoot my own squad member then let them carry out some act of violence against our rivals. Not only would it only make them martyrs and stronger, but it would sacrifice our moral high ground.

So as a terse conclusion to this abnormally verbose post: It’s interesting for me to think back about how I was in my teenage years. Was I alone in feeling like this? Did other people go through a similar zealous phase? If you did, what made you change? Or is it ongoing? Was this passion and need for a cause some how inherent in me, or a product of the environment in which I grew up?

Christmas, the worst time of the year

26 Nov

Thanksgiving was yesterday, the last finger holding us onto the ledge has slipped; we now freely fall into the Christmas abyss. Over the course of the next twenty-eight days we will reach terminal velocity, culminating in an orgasm of commercialism and religious fervor. Ah…Christmas in America. This truly is the worst season to be an atheist.

Atheists are always aware of how different they are in a country as awash in Christian privilege as America; December is the month that the rest of the believing populace becomes aware of this difference too. This is the time of year when the separation of church and state comes under the heaviest attack. Tis the season when the willfully ignorant come out in droves to proclaim the marriage of America and Jesus. Defiantly they make their stand against political correctness. Through their eyes they are the majority, the only ones who matter. America is a Christian nation founded by god himself! The non-Christians should be grateful that they are allowed to live in such a wonderful country, and they must humbly show their respect by being quiet during this most Christian time of the year.

To the rest of us, they come off a belligerent and rude, like a man wearing a offensively sexist t-shirt to meeting of professional women. This is the time of year they will demand that nativity scenes and Christian signs be placed on government property, to the exclusion of other faiths. Never mind the fact that there are conflicting accounts of the nativity story and that the government must remain neutral in matters of religion (heaven forbid they actually read the bible or the constitution). When the secular stand up and call foul, we’re accused of having a “war on Christmas.”

In the past, people have gone so far as to organize boycotts of stores that instruct their employees to say “Happy Holidays” as apposed to “Merry Christmas.” Belligerent ignorance. I’m sorry you’re unaware that there are, in fact, other holidays going on in the same general time frame, thus “Happy Holidays” would be more appropriate. But again, to them this is a Christian nation, and Christmas is the only holiday of importance. Nevermind the fact that Christmas is actually an old Pagan holiday.

Despite this minor historical point, this is the time of year signs like this start popping up all around the country:

I have no problem with Christians celebrating Christmas. I have no problem with them decorating their homes, or erecting nativity scenes on their lawns, or on their church lawns. While I would prefer that people realize that not everyone is Christian and said the more generalized “Happy Holidays,” I’m not overly offended if someone says it to me with the best of intentions. I don’t even have a problem with Christians erecting a Christian display on government property for Christmas, as long as everyone is then allowed to erect a display. In order for the government to remain neutral, as it serves everyone, not just Christians, it must allow all or none. Unfortunately the belligerently ignorant insist on preventing some groups from displaying signs depicting beliefs contrary to their own. This is the time of year that the belligerently ignorant go out of their way to make you feel like a second class citizen. The nonbeliever is not only constantly bombarded by visual messages reinforcing this, but by audio ones as well. This is the time of year that the radio stations and stores switch over to playing almost exclusively Christmas music. You cannot listen to the radio, or enter a place of business without hearing some Christmas tune.

This bombardment will last for the next twenty-eight days. The only thing an atheist can do is hunker down, stay in doors, rent some movies, crank up the secular podcasts, and wait for the frenzy to pass.

Should atheism organize?

24 Nov

Atheists  by in large are very individual people and we pride ourselves on this autonomy. At the same time we are not a religion, no matter how much the religious might like to paint us as such. We do not have tenets, we do not have doctrine, we do not have temples, we do not have leaders, we do not have tax exempt status, and we do not have political clout.

I want to suggest something a little faux pas for atheists: We need to get more in lock step.  Hear me out.

Today while listening to an atheist podcast I heard one prominent atheist lamenting the actions of another prominent atheist. Atheist A complained that atheist B’s lawsuits were not what we should be focusing on, and while atheist B is rightly upset about the things for which he is suing, his constant loses are setting bad legal precedent.

The cold hard truth is that we have a real problem facing the atheist movement. There are several major groups, all competing for funding, all with different missions, different legal strategies, different advertising strategies, and different goals.

These groups are all running in different directions and worse, sometimes squabbling with each other. The religious right could not ask for a better situation!

Atheists don’t want to imitate religion in any way and the thought of falling in line goes against our fundamental principles. Well guess what? Do you know why religions are so powerful? Organization!

A disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house – Socrates

The Jewish lobby is a perfect example. The United States has a very small number of Jews (comparatively), and yet Israel is practically the 51st state in the United States. No matter what Israel does, we have their back. The Jewish lobby has an inordinate amount of clout for their population size because they are extremely well organized. Atheists need to do the same.

Organized religion is such an effective political tool precisely because it is organized. The people, the distribution channels, the chain of command, the networks, it’s all there. Whenever an issue comes up for a vote, the religious leaders need only give the signal, phone calls are made, people are mobilized, pressure applied, and votes cast. It is extremely effective and we’re letting them bury us with it.

We need to take this effective model from religion while trying to cut out as much of the dogma as possible. In the big picture individual views do not matter. What matters is that we converge on a platform and decide what is the most effective application of our energies. This may mean forgoing some legal battles and letting the religious right get away with small things…for now. For example: In God We Trust on the money and in the pledge is not a big picture issue. The collapse of our education system is. Stuff like In God We Trust is merely a distraction, one the religious right is happy to keep us focused on while they try to destabilize science education. The stakes are extremely high.

If we organize will they accuse us of being a religion? Of course they will! But when have you cared what they think of you? Why are you allowing that to keep us stuck in the gates? The religious right has us in the PERFECT position! We are too disorganized to pose a serious threat, and we’re too scared of mimicking them to organize. As long as we refuse to mimic them I can guarantee we won’t mimic their success.

Flying Spaghetti Monster stained glass

22 Nov

Originally from my craft blog, but relevant here:

So the other day I was messing around with faux stained glass paint and I suddenly felt this divine presence in the room. I’m sure it was the FSM, come to touch me with his noodly appendage. I felt divinely inspired to make this stained glass likeness of his tasty image. I’m considering making stained glass night-lights for sale. Anyone interested? (Or I could just make more of these to whatever size I can find the materials for)

FSM

 

Gender specific insults

22 Nov

So earlier today some lady on the road really pissed me off. Being human, I mentally shouted a slur at her as I swerved past.  Afterwards I realized that the slur I had mentally shouted had been a sexualized slur. I did it unconsciously, not actually giving any thought to this woman or her sexuality, but nonetheless I realized this after the fact.

Have you ever realized how sexualized insults are in American English? I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. I studied German back in university and I remember that a lot more of their insults revolved around cleanliness. Sure they had sexual insults, but you would never hear an American calling someone filthy swine.

It seems that in my culture when you want to insult a woman, you make some claim about her sexuality and promiscuity. When you want to insult a man, you make some comment about his manhood, usually equating him to being a woman. What gives? I know patriarchal Victorian attitudes about sex and gender roles are at the heart of it, but I’m dismayed that such attitudes have survived subconsciously in our language.

Driving in that car, I had no grounds from which to speculate as to the other driver’s sexuality or promiscuity. I’m a little ashamed that I automatically mentally spit out such an insult. At least it provided me with some food for thought. I’m going to have to work to undo the subconscious societal training and come up with more creative, gender neutral insults for idiots.

Women who date men old enough to be their father

21 Nov

I can’t take it anymore, this is driving me fucking insane. What is it with women who date men old enough to be their father? (I’m talking 13+ years older) It feels like everywhere I look women are dating men much much older than themselves.

Freshman year in college I had a crush on this one woman I kept running into at the coffee shop. I got talking to her, but she was dating a guy in his 40’s. Next, my ex’s best friend starts dating an unemployed guy in his late 30’s who still lives with his parents. Then my ex leaves me for a man who’s almost 40! Over the summer I find out that another ex of mine, from a long time ago, is now dating a new guy who’s in his 30’s. The other guy she was dating (also in his 30’s) turned out to be married. I strike up a long running conversation with a woman far away who’s having relationship issues, and it turns out the guy is almost 50. And now, to continue the saga, a friend from back home says she’s dating a guy who’s 49.

All of these women are my age, in their early 20’s. What gives? I can’t find anyone interesting, and when I do, they’re dating a man old enough to be their father. A friend of mine tried to explain this away with “they have daddy issues,” but that is not the case. My ex who left me for the older man has an amazing dad and a very great, supportive family. Another friend tried to tell me “well they just want someone more mature.” Also not entirely the case. Are their very immature 20 something men? Of course! There are plenty, but there are also very mature 20 something men, I count myself as one of them. I guess I’m just bitter, but I hope the trend is still popular when I’m old. Maybe then I can date someone, even if she’s young enough to be my daughter. /sarcasm

Chariots of Iron Stained Glass Chariot

20 Nov

I’ve posted this up on my main craft blog, but I thought it would be relevant here. (Check out the craft blog if you get a chance)

The other day I found some materials to make stained glass like crafts and hit upon the idea of making a light box for one of my favorite podcasts, The Chariots of Iron. I took their logo, enlarged it, cleaned it up, altered it to look like stained glass, and then spent all night long until the sun came up working on it.

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