Category Archives: Social Justice
How I Met Your Mother is a brilliant show. It’s well-written, the acting’s great, and the comedy is exactly my kind of humor. Except for one teensy problem: Barney is a rapist.
Much is made of Barney’s “conquests.” His friends are always mildly disgusted, but never so much that they aren’t friends with him. The entire attitude is “Haha, silly Barney, getting a girl drunk so you can have sex with her is frowned upon. Oh well, boys will be boys!” It’s the exact bullshit that keeps rape culture alive and well. And I won’t watch a show that pushes that rape apologia.
“But it’s not rape!” you say. Bullshit. I’ve gone into this before, and I’m not going to write it again, because frankly, that post says it well enough. If you read it and you still think I’m completely wrong, congrats. You contribute to a world where rape is normal, where people are blamed for the crimes committed against them, where a football player who organized dog fights draws more ire from the public than a football player who rapes someone. You contribute to a world where 1 in 5 women are raped. You make that possible. And you make me sick.
Hey, whatcha up to? Reading my blog? Sweet. But I have a better idea: Go read this OMFSMHOLYSHITAMAZING article on the GOP candidates’ mysterious racism issues. I want to marry it and have its babies.
Also, check out the Ron Paulites in the comments. Y u no like the truth, RPites?
There seems to be a strange misconception going around that the majority only needs to obey laws designed to protect minorities if it’s convenient for said majority. It happens on the grand scale with a huge shitstorm, like when Cranston West High School recently had its ass handed to it on a legal platter over an illegal prayer banner, and it happens in smaller scales without much noise, like when Portland Lindy Society and Stumptown Dance consistently refuse to enforce a flash-photography ban designed to keep epileptic dancers safe. The common denominator between the two is a majority ignoring the law at the expense of the minority.
Being in the majority comes with a shit-ton of privilege, whether it be Christian privilege or able-bodied privilege or whatever else. The majority is used to having a world that accommodates them, while the minority lives in a world where they are constantly reminded of how they don’t fit in. The minority gets used to having to give ground, and they often try to pass as much as possible to avoid trouble. The majority doesn’t even think about that stuff. The majority isn’t even aware that stuff exists. The majority has the privilege of ignorance – the privilege of not knowing how it feels to be treated as inferior.
So that’s why we have things like the ADA and separation of church and state. If unchecked, the majority will trample the minority – often without even realizing that they’re doing it. The majority will probably agree that it’s good to have laws that protect the minority (unless they’re for Ron Paul…). What they don’t seem to like, though, is having to change their behavior because of those laws. When someone points out the law and tells the majority to obey it, the majority howls about how their freedoms are being infringed. They whine that following the law would bankrupt their business. They demand that the minority ask more nicely, but when the minority does ask nicely, their requests are ignored.
But the fact is that laws are not optional. There is no inconvenience clause, no tradition clause. No amount of ignorant, self-righteous whining will make discrimination legal. But damn if the majority won’t try.
My best friend, who’s a Christian in the loosest, most progressive sense of the term, asked me that question last night. I didn’t have an answer, and it really threw me. Was the movement I’ve come to care so much about doing the same thing as the evangelicals I can’t stand?
After a lot of thought, I came to a conclusion: No, it’s not. Atheist activism is propelled (or should be propelled) by the desire to better the world. Just as the feminists, gay rights, and neurodiversity movements want equality for all, so do we. We see a culture that rejects and suppresses the rights of minorities, that rejects and suppresses science, and we want to change it. We want to changes the attitudes that create this culture of suppression and inequality, and in order to change those attitudes, we need to change the beliefs that support them.
If all religious people were like my friend – if they accepted and supported science, believed that women should have a right to decide what happens to their bodies, that marriage should be between whoever wants to get married, that church and state should be kept separate – in short, if they truly supported good science and equality for all – then I would have no issue with religion. If all religious people shifted over to the type of religiousity as my friend, I’d call it good enough and be done with it.
But the fact is that many religious people don’t believe those things, and those people are, by far, the most vocal of the religious. The progressive believers should stand up to them and tell them that religion isn’t an acceptable reason to deny people rights, but they aren’t. And since they won’t, atheists have to.
We want equal rights for all. We want people to be taught fact, not fiction, and be able to make informed choices. And if religion is the reason people give for not wanting the same, religion needs to go. If we loosed people from the bonds of religion, the majority of them would probably come to the conclusion that equality and information for all is a good thing. Sure, we’d still get some anti-science bigots, but they wouldn’t have the special exemption from criticism that religion affords, and we’d be able to improve the world. And that’s what I’m fighting for: a world where there will be no acceptable excuses to deny people their rights.
There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist community lately about what is acceptable behavior, especially when it comes to speech. There are a lot of arguments that people have used to justify themselves, but a particularly annoying one is the free speech argument: “Free speech! I can say whatever I want, because it’s legal!”
Well, yes, you can say most anything without consequences from the government. But that’s setting the bar for behavior pretty damn low. Is that really all you want your behavior to be? Legal? What about, you know, ethical? Legality is the minimum standard of behavior. We shouldn’t be striving to behave legally; we should be striving to behave ethically, and most of the time, that means exceeding the legal standards.
Atheist get a lot of shit about how we’re amoral. And we know it’s shit. But when we start saying that we can act however we want, as long as it’s legal, we’re failing our own movement. We need to do better than that. We need to actually think about whether an action is ethical – how much harm it will do to others, and how much benefit. Before we speak, we need to think if we’re treating the other person like an actual human being. We need to think about our individual privilege, whatever it may be, and make sure we’re not abusing it. We need to ask ourselves if we are being bigots, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally.
It’s unacceptable to excuse things like Redditgate or anything said on #mencallmethings or calling things “retarded” or any variant thereof, simply because they’re legal. Be better than that. Recognize that it’s not ethical, and it’s intellectually dishonest. It’s treating others like objects or lesser humans. If you hate something, if you hate someone, go on the attack without relying on bigotry. You can say critical things to someone without being unethical. Hell, you can verbally eviscerate someone without being unethical. Just treat them like an equal human being while you do it. Because we are better than that.
So act like it.
Everyone, stop and take a moment to look at this fucking awesome PSA I got from K’s facebook:
This is like 6 kinds of awesome. Rape prevention is mostly aimed at women, and the majority is stuff like “Carry a rape whistle!” and “Don’t leave your drink alone!” and “Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail when you run, because then the rapist will grab it!” (I shit you not, a state police trooper told that to all of us wide-eyed freshman on the first night of college.) The list of ways women can prevent rape becomes a checklist of what a woman who was raped should have done. If you miss one item on the list, we’re off to the victim-blaming races. The fact is, the simplest way to prevent rape is, well, to not rape. But many people think having sex in the four situations above is just fine. (Thus the need for the PSA.)
The crux of it all is consent. So many people think that consent is the absence of no. But it’s not. Consent is not “oh, ok, I guess so.” Consent is not “Well, I guess I owe you.” Consent is not “I’m really drunk, so sure!” Consent should be enthusiastic, and consent should be sober.
This is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago on my tumblr, but I think it’s worth the repost.
At 29.2 percent, Oregon has the highest rate of child food instability of all 50 states, and David Sarasohn is wailing over our besmirched reputation.
His Oregonian article titled “An Oregon magazine cover we’d rather cover up” discusses the “humiliating” Nov. 27 Parade magazine cover story featuring suggestions of how people can help their fellow citizens this holiday season. It’s suggestion number two that humiliates David Sarasohn: “Feed hungry children in Oregon.”
It seems this idea hit home with a lot of people. Ellen Dully, associate director of development at Oregon Food Bank, told Sarasohn that OFB has received donations from “nearly all 50 states, including a few donors from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii” for a grand total of 660(ish) contributions amounting to $38,000.
The proper response to that? “Wow. Thank you.” Sarasohn’s response?
Which helps, even if it feels a little like the money came in because Oregon’s hungry kids were out on the nation’s streets holding a hat. One contributor from Georgia said he’d always enjoyed coming here for Cycle Oregon and was shocked to hear what Oregon’s child food insecurity numbers were like.
That visitor reaction won’t make it into a state tourism brochure.
What the hell? Almost thirty percent of our state’s children aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from, and you’re concerned about our fucking tourism?
Sarasohn then goes on to quote the US Conference of Mayors report’s conclusion that, due to likely increases in requests for food assistance but likely decreases in resources devoted to food assistance, “local officials see maintaining the food supply as the biggest challenge they will face during the next year.” That sobering statement is followed, I shit you not, with:
We could end up on more magazine covers, again for the wrong reasons.
David, I’d like to introduce you to the point. You seem to be missing it. The bad news in this story is not the blow these rankings will serve to our state’s image. The horror here is not magazine covers suggesting that people help us. The bad news is that this exists. Stories like this bring attention to the issue, and as your pearl-clutchingly narcissistic article shows, stories like Parade’s work. Oregon has a huge problem feeding our children, and thanks to Parade’s article, we now have $38,000 more to work with. $38,000! Directly to the food banks! That is fantastic news. It is the only thing about this whole situation that doesn’t suck – the willingness of people to help their fellow humans. This should not bring you humiliation; it should bring you gratitude.
At least, it would if your priorities were in the right place. Now, I know David Sarasohn didn’t pick his headline. That’s the job of the copy editor. But a copy editor sources their headline from the copy itself. The headlines are the tl;dr of the newspaper, and, at least to the copy editor for this article, the overall theme of the article was “An Oregon magazine cover we’d rather cover up.”
In case that isn’t clear enough, I’ll put it in less allusive terms: “Starving kids are bad, but not as bad as people knowing that Oregon is full of starving kids. We wish Parade had kept its big mouth shut.”
Awareness is a pretty trendy thing. A big deal is made of breast cancer awareness, autism awareness, gay rights awareness, human rights violations awareness, etc., especially in privileged groups. If you know about the problem, the logic goes, then it will go away.
The thing about awareness is you don’t have to deal with the messy facts. Instead, you get to paint a subjective picture, preferably one that gets people to give your organization money. Informing people, on the other hand, is more work, because you have to explain things, and you have to get people to look at things differently, and you have to get them to change how they think about basic things. It’s not enough to know that a problem exists. You have to know why it’s a problem, and why it would be better if the problem was gone. You have to know what it’s like to live with that problem, and you need to eliminate inaccurate stereotypes about the problem. That’s a hell of a lot more work than raising awareness, but informing people actually works. It’s hard, but it gets shit done.
So let’s get some shit done. I’m going to be using some terms you may not be familiar with. I’ve defined the terms I think need the most explanation on the Definitions of Common Terms page, but if there’s a term in here you don’t know, ask me in the comments and I’ll explain it. Read the rest of this entry →