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(Not) just the links 17/12/2012

December 17, 2012

Since I haven’t had much luck with writing lately, here are a few links (in no particular order) from people who are doing better with that. 🙂

  • Eclectablog

Guest Post: Men Who Stare at Votes — Insulting treatment of female constituents by Michigan Republicans  – Maybe showing this level of open contempt for your constituents (and, erm, the actual representational democractic process) isn’t the best plan?

We are not being represented by qualified people. They are men who vote with their religion, men who vote with their pocketbooks.

These are men who don’t read bills, who don’t listen to us, who don’t trust women, or care what we think.

I sign petitions, I write letters, I make phone calls, I write articles, I mobilized a group of my peers to join me in the three and a half hour drive to talk to our representatives in person, and all I have learned is that they do not care.

I have learned that that we, the people they represent, the people in their home district, don’t matter to them. Our voices are not heard.

  • Postbourgie (via Racialicious)

On Cory Booker and Poverty’s Psychic Costs. – Lots of truth in this piece. Hopefully, this type of challenge will get some people to stop and think about others’ experiences — but, in and of themselves, they would not seem to do much to further understanding of what it’s like to be poor. (I am glad that Booker was willing to try.) And he’s right: it does stay with you, to some extent. Very different experiences and expectations based on that; probably more on that later.

Booker did this for a week and complained about the hunger pains. And that’s some real ish. But the accretion of poverty’s psychic costs doesn’t end when your belly is full. We know now that poverty saps people’s abilities to do effective cost-benefit analysis in all types of decisions; poor people already have to make too many of those least-terrible-option decisions each day, which means they simply choose not to make some decisions at all. Booker is a Rhodes Scholar and the mayor of a major American city. It’s hard to overstate how much it matters that there was always a discrete end to this for him, that he waded into the tunnel with the light at its end clearly visible, and that there were constraints on the tolls it could exact on him. Poverty isn’t just economic. It’s existential.

  • The F-Word (UK)

Sexting: new technologies, same old sexism

The boy interviewed in the studio told Jon Snow that although girls can just say no and boys would usually listen, girls don’t always say no clearly enough – they might say “not now” or something similar that would make the boy think he could keep asking her.

There is clearly a lack of respect, proper communication and understanding about consent…These are exactly the same issues that plague heterosexual interactions in the offline world.

There’s not much doubt about the respect and consent problems there, but I really do have to question the idea of real miscommunication. This is, indeed, a wider problem. See also: Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The AnswerIn no other context would that “not now” kind of refusal be considered unclear, just polite. Unlike repeatedly pestering people after they’ve turned down a request or invitation, which is pretty clearly damned rude in other social contexts. Which leads us to:

  • The Pervocracy

We are the 95%.

This is part of why I talk about consent so much.  It’s not just to keep well-intentioned guys from accidentally raping.  Most well-intentioned guys don’t really have that problem.  It’s to help well-intentioned guys (and girls, and everyone else) see how vast the gulf is between them and rapists.

If affirmative, negotiated, freely given consent is the norm, then rapists lose the ability to say “I just didn’t know.”  They can no longer make anyone think “but regular sex looks practically the same.”  If romance doesn’t work a damn thing like rape, rapists can’t hide behind “I was trying to be romantic.”

Clear consent does make sex better, and it does prevent legitimate-yet-horrific misunderstandings. But that’s not all of what it’s for.  It’s also so that rapists can’t say–to us or to themselves–“I thought we were just having sex.”

  • Almost Diamonds

 – This one has always gotten me, including the version where you must never have heard of Jesus. How this would even be remotely possible, growing up in the US or any other Western nation, I have no clue. My own experience parallels that described in the couple of comments so far. At different points in my studies over the years, I considered becoming a minister (Disciples of Christ — I don’t like to link to a forum like that, but what they are criticizing is exactly what I still rather like 😉 ) , and converting to Judaism. The whole theism thing was a bit of a sticking point, yeah.

“If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.

That about covers it, from what I’ve seen.

 – I was just going to link, but the video is amusing enough I will go on and embed it here.

Jamie Kilstein shows you how it’s done, at least if your joking about rape is supposed to be funny to anyone who understands that rape isn’t some far off abstraction…

Spoilers: For those of you who need more information before deciding whether to watch the video, most of it is Jamie marveling over internet dumbasses and recounting one particularly brazen bit of street harassment he witnessed. The last part, where he’s reading, relies very much on sarcasm, however. It’s Jamie saying stupid things other people say with the intent that they sound as stupid as they are.

Link: Rape Culture and Glenn Beck Doesn’t like Me

  • The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog

The toolmaker of mass destruction

Do we want to known as the species that had the technology to do many great things but then squander it because we couldn’t figure out how to control our more primal impulses?

We are the only species that can actually think about having a legacy.

Maybe we ought to think more carefully about what that should be.

Are we going to be worked up over the extinction of a very unhealthy snack cake or over the extinction of entities of a real biological consequence?

Maybe its time we started using our tool-making prowess to mitigate some the problems we’ve been causing.


If we really are capable of thinking about our place in this world, then we need to consider the moral consequences of knowing that we can think about them.

Otherwise, the best you can say about us is that we are fundamentally immoral species, half crazed by epicurean ideals and blind rage.

And I know that is not us.

The power of scientific thinking

And that’s the really the big conflict.  People who understand how to think skeptically are very  hard to govern, even if they are also the people you need to have a prosperous economy.

That’s one reason why I think the great progressive struggle right now must be the struggle for rationalism and skeptical inquiry.

You cannot lecture to people what the truth is.  You must give them the tools to figure out for themselves.

And trust me, most people can figure it out once they learn how to use their brains.

Some thoughts on history, politics, and science – Again, very hard to narrow down anything like a brief quote. I have to agree with pretty much everything here.

The religious right in this country has waged war against the Enlightenment. That’s their shtick.

And the best way they’ve done it is to deny the Enlightenment values that are at the base our national identity. One of the worst things one can do to one’s country is to deface its national identity, but these guys get away with it because they say Jesus a lot…

I think that’s one reason why so many of us who study history are so depressive.

All we read is a catalog of horrors– and so many of these horrors are repeat performances.

We wonder when people will try to learn from the mistakes of the past, but all we see is error compounding upon error.

In the US, we have a chance now to correct errors.

Maybe we will.

I can only hope so…

But that’s the real struggle right now. The decent societies we might create need to go on the back burner for now.

We have to fight for the Enlightenment, for without the Enlightenment, there can be no progressivism.

Our entire political movement is based upon people recognizing reality and coming up with realistic solutions to solve problems.

That would be why I side with progressives on a practical level, exactly. (And also part of the reason why I can only describe myself as a kinda-sorta anarchist, on a more theoretical level.)  And I have to link again to an excellent piece on progressive pragmatism and conflict resolution from the late John Mohawk.

  • This Ain’t Livin’
 – I hadn’t even intended to include this one, but yeah.
Disabled people who do fantastic and amazing things do indeed do so over tremendous obstacles, just like nondisabled people. The nature of those obstacles may be very different, and disabled people may face more obstacles, but focusing on an impairment as an obstacle misses the point. The point is not that a disabled person managed to drag herself from some sort of grim half-life, but that a person decided she needed to do something important, something valuable to her, whatever that might be: training as an athlete, becoming a politician, writing an amazing novel, creating fantastic art, or any number of other things. And she set out to do that and accomplished it.
There’s always been a push to label some foods as good and others as sinful, but it’s gotten much worse in recent years. The list of what you’re allowed to eat has narrowed extremely, and it’s accompanied by harsh judgments; you’ll be judged for eating fats, for consuming fast food, for drinking soda, for eating ‘empty calories.’ That judgment implies not just that you’re ‘not taking care of your body,’ but that you are a fundamentally bad person who should feel bad, and living in that climate can push people to make unsound health decisions because they want to avoid judgment or because they internalise this messaging and believe that they can redeem themselves (again with Christian rhetoric in conversations about food) if only they eat and do the right things.
 – Repeating that link, because it’s just that good a piece. I have noticed this for some time, and it has actually helped me with backing off from my own unbalanced approach to eating, because it’s just so nastily inappropriate.
This is certainly not limited to the US. I may just be paying more attention these days, but if anything some of the sexism it relies on seems even less subtle here. A couple of ads:

Note: Sorry the formatting is kind of messed up from here on. Switching back and forth between the WordPress visual and HTML editors has started screwing up line breaks and text formatting tags (AFAICT, by inserting a bunch of its own tags), and I have too bad a headache to try to fix it properly now.

Maltesers I dont feel naughty ad spoof – Real ad, without the horrible dialogue; there’s a whole series of these.  They have halos and all.
Another one, with the original sound: Maltesers Ad 2012. “You’ll have to find new ways to be naughty!” I’m noticing a theme here. And another, depending on the hilarity of homophobia rather than flashing. How droll.
From what I was finding on YouTube, this cream cheese campaign is international. *shudder* This one is Australian, picked for the added “size of a cumulonimbus” grossness. Plenty of grossness to choose from, though.
Again, how droll.
I’m stubborn enough that watching a few of those prompted me to go and get a snack. Which I didn’t think to snap until it was half gone. 🙂 We’re still relying on a halogen floor lamp dragged into the kitchen after the overhead fluorescents conked out, so the lighting is pretty bad here.
That would be a few oatcakes with gobs of the only non-Philly full-fat cream cheese I could find on the last grocery run (seriously, you can’t find any non-“light” flavored ones anymore, unless you go to Lidl for very good German-made stuff), and smoked salmon trimmings. No little devils required–and I think I’ll skip going out and flashing some pedestrians right now. It’s a little cold for that.
The newish Sainsbury’s Organic labels are full of WTFery (some kind of uprooted flower on your dairy products?!), but at least they don’t involve halos. The ludicrously simplistic traffic light labelling is more than enough. (“In short, the more green lights, the healthier the choice.” No matter what other nutrients may be going along with the “baddies”.  See also: A red light against enjoying food, and the more recent Down with the Diet Police!:
They – the experts and the crusaders – know what is good for us, and if we don’t happen to share their fads and fashions, then we will jolly well be nudged, taxed, cajoled or forced into doing the right thing. We need to be protected from our own desires and, even more so, from the dangerous seductions of such evil, health-damning people as, you know, cheese producers. (That’s no joke. In Ireland, the TV advertising ban proposals have been amended so that ‘cheese adverts will be allowed during children’s TV programmes but must include an on-screen message indicating the recommended maximum daily consumption limit’. Never mind units of alcohol – it’s now units of cheese we must watch, too.)
Making information readily available so that people are equipped to make their own decisions is one thing; trying to force them to do what you want in the name of moralitarianism (no matter the area of moral panic), quite another.
Also good from Spiked, which I just ran across now, from skimming: pretty much their whole obesity category.
Also, something on a topic I’ve been avoiding going into:

After Connecticut: the myth of America’s ‘gun culture’. It’s hard to narrow down a suitable short quote here, so this brief description will have to suffice:

The obsession with the guns used in school shootings overlooks the cultural factors behind these modern outbursts of nihilistic violence.

Well worth a read, even if I have some different ideas about some details of what some of the complicated factors here might be. And I will once again state explicitly that I am not interested in engaging in the usual gun control debates here. Anyone who tries to start that up is liable to be disappointed. I will even bold it.

One of the best relevant statements I have run across, elsewhere:

I would like it if we stopped making so many people feel so powerless and so invisible that they think having and using a deadly weapon is the best or only way to grab onto a sense of significance. I would also like it if we would permanently forget the names of every mass killer instead of giving them the notoriety that some of them explicitly seek and which reenforces the idea that killer = someone of note.

I also have no expectation of getting that anytime soon, but yeah. 😐

Also, two excellent related posts from today at Shakesville:

In Pursuit of Doing Something Meaningful – I didn’t include the discussion of the predictable impulse to demonize people with anything perceived as a mental illness, but it’s worth clicking through for. Some text formatting got stripped out here, but…

There is one other subject that is off the discussion menu—and that is the fact that mass killings are committed by men almost exclusively. Of the 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the US since 1982, 61 of them were committed by men. Forty-four of the killers were white men.

Every one of the men who picked up a gun—or multiple guns—and started shooting people was socialized in a patriarchal culture that encourages an aggressive masculinity one of the key expressions of which is meant to be violence.

That is not incidental. And you can bet your ass that if there was an epidemic of mass slaughters committed by women, their gender would be mentioned. How we raise girls would be examined. It would be talked about. Womanhood would be on the discussion menu…

That is something we are never, ever, supposed to talk about.

And it makes me angry that we can’t talk about it, not only because I think it’s part and parcel of all the intersecting things that are part of this problem—gun access, healthcare being a privilege rather than a right, a cultural fetishization of violence—and thus must be addressed as part of a meaningful solution, but also because it prevents us from really talking about what it means that all seven of the adults Lanza killed were women, and how it is (mostly) women who stand on the line between violent men and children. In schools. In churches. In homes.

That discussion needs to happen, too.

And a followup: On Sitting with Fear. Both of these are maybe overquoted, but they are well worth a read.

Fear—or, perhaps, fear management—is a central part of womanhood in a way it is simply not a central part of privileged manhood.

So boys, especially privileged boys, don’t learn how to sit with fear the way girls do. We tell boys explicitly not to be afraid; we tell them that being afraid makes you a pussy. They learn that to be afraid is to be like a woman, and to be not a man…

And the less privileged among their ranks—the working class men of otherwise undiluted privilege—have real fear about job insecurity or healthcare access or how the fuck they’re going to pay the mortgage next month. They are fears that are out of their personal control, and for which the Fear Manufacturers are happy to provide scapegoats—immigrants and brown people and feminists and kissing boys—lest anyone notice the Fear Manufacturers have been the architects of that real insecurity, too.

What is one to do when one has no capacity to process fear, no ability to sit with it and live with it, no developed strategies for coping with fear?

Well, in a lot of cases, one buys a gun.

And when that doesn’t make the fear go away, one buys another one. And another. And another. And magazine clips that shoot more bullets. And more deadly bullets. And so forth and so on.

Some more of the cultural factors I also see as problems here. It’s just too depressing to continue trying to write about ATM (and, thus the headache), so I will call this the end of the post.
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