On Wednesday my girlfriend and I went to a live comedy show at a place called Falconetti’s in Vancouver. The comedian was talking about babysitting his nephew (who is of Chinese descent) and hearing his wife sing to the toddler the kid’s song “I’ve been working on the railroad“, and expressing his comical shock and dismay at the idea of singing a song about railroad construction to a Chinese child in British Columbia*.
It reminded me of a summer job I had at Toronto’s Wild Water Kingdom where the inside parks (clean-up) staff was almost entirely black. We were working during the pre-season on resurfacing the stage, a job that we were nowhere near properly-trained or equipped to perform, when the park owner decided to try out some new “island” music. One of the songs that came on was “Pick a Bale of Cotton**”. I looked around and realized I was part of an all-black work gang, doing work that usually requires skilled workers, for which we were being paid minimum wage.
I made the owner throw out the CD.
I’m not the only one who’s had this experience:
While the story is funny, it does highlight the fact that racism often happens in an entirely accidental way, borne of lazy thinking and a lack of perspective. Understanding racism therefore requires the engagement of an active and informed mind, much like we hope to do in the skeptical and atheist world. We want people to be thinking about stuff rather than just patting themselves on the back for all the times they happened not to do something racist.
*Although the joke misses the mark a bit, since “working on the railroad” actually means working as a porter. The song has racist connotations, but for black kids more so than Chinese ones (the Wikipedia article has the original lyrics – bonus points for noticing where it was originally published).
**Interestingly, I recognized this song from singing it in choir as a kid, at my nearly-all-white school. I didn’t understand what it meant then. If I heard it today, I’d throw some shit.
Some day soon I will detail some information about the kind of mansplaining douchebro I used to bein the not-too-distant past. It will have to suffice for now when I tell you that I have said just about everything that those who use the term “feminazi” feel comfortable saying (with the exception of rape threats and the use of the suffix ‘Nazi’, because I was an asshole, not a goddamn moron). As a result, I understand where they’re coming from, and because I managed to claw my way out (thanks to a lot of help from some of my fellow FTBorg), I know where the handholds are.
That being said, it’s also a constant source of shame to recognize my old self in asshattery like this:
Yes, someone has become so infuriated by his repeated rejection on a dating site (I am told it is OKCupid) that he has placed an MRA manifesto in place of a self-description:
I am no longer looking for any female companionship. Infact, I have abandoned the idea of women all together(2). Instead, I have decided to go my own way(3).
I am now officially a M.G.H.O.W(4) and a political activist for the Mens Rights Movement, known as a MRM.
I am actively standing to go on a marriage strike(5) and to fight the evil hate cult known as feminism(6), condeming all males for being.. male(7).
I know writing this won’t ever convince you to care(8) and you can simpley pass me off as “gay”(9) since I won’t bow down to your vagina(10), but I am informing you of this for one simple reason(11).
This is reality. Men are standing up(12). And a wave of indignation for the damage of the female species(13) has finally hit the tipping point. Men are bailing out of the system, and when we leave, the entire thing will collapse(14), and your world of shoes and purses will follow with it(15).
That’s right, you caused it “ladies”(16). I have had enough.
No more entitlements, no more free presents, no more chivalry(17).
Our fathers, brothers, and sons are tired of dieing for you while you cower in your house all day(18) demanding us men go and die for your freedoms(19).
1. Look at your monitor. Now look at me. Now back at your monitor. Now back at me. I’m on a rant!
2. The idea of women! Not just removing himself from the dating pool, but the very idea that women exist! Something tells me the reason he’s having a tough time is because he’s been trying to stick his dick in his ‘idea of women’ rather than, y’know, dealing with a real person.
3. Make sure you use lube and clear your browser history afterward.
4. Man Going His Own Way. I Google these things so you don’t have to.
5. “You hear me? All these wedding rings you’ve been offering me? I will now begin to REFUSE them! See how you like THEM apples, women who won’t sleep with me!”
9. Surprisingly, men who don’t sleep with women are not de facto gay. That’s not how that works.
10. Which is how all the feminist cult meeting start. The high priestess puts a camera on the end of a speculum, inserts it into her vulva, and the rest of us bow down and worship her vaginal canal. True story.
11. I have zero difficulty believing that any of the reasons this guy does anything are the definition of ‘simple’
12. “and we’re not putting down the seat afterwards! So DEAL with it!”
13. Saaaaaame species. Men and women are not different species. Between this and the “bow down to your vagina” comment, I think this guy might never have even met a woman before.
14. I smell Ayn Rand.
15. This is my favourite line. SHOES AND PURSES!
16. “By failing to adhere to my expectation of what it is that women are like (mostly an amalgamation of shoes, purses, and vaginas), I hereby ROB YOU of the title of ladies, and insert sarcastic scare quotes! Kneel before the awesome might of my sophistry!”
17. Chivalry, interestingly, is a fundamentally sexist concept that relies on an image of women as weak and requiring the aid of men.
18. “Sitting on the couch (that a MAN bought for you! Or better yet fashioned with his OWN BARE HANDS out of the carcass of a FREAKIN’ MOUNTAIN LION) and eating bon-bons!
19. Because women in the army (I assume that’s what he’s talking about) don’t exist. And also he serves in the army, fighting bravely for the freedom of women who won’t fuck him no matter HOW many pushups he did at basic.
So yeah… this is particularly painful for me to read not only because of the stupidity and various language errors, but because I can see myself bitterly ranting along much the same lines. It took a long time for me to stop “outsmarting” myself and realize that the problem wasn’t everyone else – the problem was my own fucked up expectations of what the world (and specifically women) owed me.
Also, letters like this are the reason I don’t take MRAs seriously, and while they will never elicit much more from me than mocking dismissal – y’all are silly! If a guy like this feels more welcome in your “movement” than he does among feminists, then y’all are fucking welcome to him. As far as the whole “marriage strike” goes, I hope that it is not too presumptuous to answer on behalf of straight women:
For some reason I cannot fathom, there is an OLD story from the Telegraph with the most misleading headline of all time that is currently floating around the Facebook walls of my friends. No clue why it’s popping up, and why people who I generally know to be reliably skeptical didn’t bother to read the timestamp before hitting the ‘Share’ button.
The story is supposedly about a “dramatic shift” that the Pope made with regard to the Vatican’s stance on condoms. I covered this story when it was actually news:
Come the fuck on, Ratzinger! Condoms are only appropriate in exceptional situations? Apparently in the Pope’s world view, it is better for a woman to become pregnant with a child she does not want and cannot afford to raise than it is for her to protect herself during sex. It’s better for a man to become inextricably yoked to another person for the rest of his life than it is for him to use a piece of latex.
And why is it a male prostitute?
Not all sex results in pregnancy (and I thank my lucky stars for that fact), but there’s always a chance. Many people want to have a child, for whatever reason, and are in a position to provide for it. Using condoms, unlike implants or hormone therapies or other intrusive forms of birth control, do not prevent people who want to have children from doing so. It is a simple technology that harms nobody (unless you count sperm, which I don’t).
Whatever claim to some kind of moral insight or authority that the Catholic Church pretends to have is repeatedly undermined by the ethical stupidity that is repeatedly on display from the Vatican.
The Pope deserves no cookies for saying that an HIV-infected (male) prostitute MIGHT be okay to use a condom. That’s not a “shift” in anything. That’s just him continuing to be a gaping asshole.
So today’s video is in honour of Pope Benedict XVI (seriously… 16? Get some new names going on, guys!):
A bit of humorous absurdity to balance out the totally-not-funny absurdity that is the internet today.
If you’ve been following the #FTBullies controversyridiculous hissy fit reasoned discussion by reasonable people (with reason!), you may have come across a number of people calling my credibility and motivations into question with regard to my refusing to grant any legitimacy to the meme that Freethought Blogs is a hive-mind that silences dissent. “Of course he won’t criticize them,” say the nay-sayers “He has too much to lose! He’s trying to stay on PZ’s good side! He’s trying to ‘move up the ladder*’!”
Well folks… they’re on to me. I need this gig. You see, being employed full-time as a researcher, playing in a rock band, and juggling personal and volunteer activities simply isn’t enough for me. I need to have people occasionally tell me that they like my writing. I need it. I also can’t live without the ~$60/month mega-haul that I get from being on FTB. It’s all part of a grand scheme I hatched 2 years ago, pretending to care about racism and other social justice issues in a devious plot to be included as a middling-trafficked site on a blog network that didn’t exist yet. You got me.
A lot of the discussion about racism is nuanced and requires not so much a list of “dos and don’ts” but a general approach that requires consciousness raising about issues that may fall outside your personal experience. There will never be a specific pattern of behaviours that makes someone a ‘non-racist’ or is foolproof in making sure that you will never offend anybody. Anyone searching for something resembling that is on a Quixotic snark hunt.
Then again, there are some things that are pretty clear cut:
The comedian, W. Kamau Bell, is a recent discovery for me but I’m loving his approach to examining racial issues through insightful critique and pedagogy rather than the tried and true (but, in my opinion, played out) method of comparing the way that whites and blacks drive and dance. He has a new show on FX called “Totally Biased”, produced by another legend of comedy, Chris Rock. It’s set to debut in August, so keep an eye out for that.
This morning I decried the culture of police abuse that allows individual officers to flaunt their authority at the expense of civilians. I also warned, in soothsayer-like tones, of what happens when you lose the trust of the people you were ostensibly sworn to serve and protect. I didn’t really think I’d find such an awesomely direct example:
An elderly woman got the last word after locking a police officer in her basement, and later suing the police. Venus Green, who was 87 when she was handcuffed, roughed up and injured by police, will receive $95,000 as part of a settlement with Baltimore City. The city chose to settle the case instead of taking a chance in front of a jury.
In July 2009, Green’s grandson, Tallie, was shot and wounded. Tallie said he was shot at a convenience store, but police insisted it happened inside Green’s house and that the shooter was either Tallie or Green. “Police kept questioning him. They wouldn’t let the ambulance attendant treat him,” Green said. “So, I got up and said, ‘Sir, would you please let the attendants treat him? He’s in pain,'” Green said.
Green said the officer said to her, “Oh, you did it, come on, let’s go inside. I’ll prove where that blood is. You did it.” Police wanted to go the basement, where Tallie lived, but Green refused on the basis that the police did not have a warrant. “I said, ‘No, you don’t have a warrant. You don’t go down in my house like that. He wasn’t shot in here.'” Green said the officer replied, “I’m going to find that gun. I’m going to prove that you did it.”
A struggle ensued between a male officer and Green. “He dragged me, threw me across the chair, put handcuffs on me and just started calling me the ‘b’ name. He ridiculed me,” Green said. An officer went into the basement and Green locked him inside.
So let this be a lesson to police everywhere: don’t fuck with old ladies from Baltimore. They’ll fuck with you right back.
It is interesting (to me, anyway) to note the similarities between different kinds of non-rational belief, and the way in which they seem to hang together. After all, if you’re willing to suspend skepticism long enough to accept a Palestinian carpenter walking on water (at least when he’s not turning it into wine for some reason), why would you suddenly throw up the logic shields when someone talks to you about the big evolution “hoax” being perpetrated by a nefarious cadre of high school biology teachers?
In the same way, if you’re going to take the word of medical expert Joe Mercola when it comes to vaccines, then why would you think that psychics and tarot cards are nothing but silly superstition? After all, they both have the same amount of evidence supporting them.
Mr. Sharp knows what’s up:
At times like these I think that laughter might not necessarily be the best medicine, but it sure is a handy innoculation.