Fucking Misogynistic Cunts

download (1)This nexus of gender politics and… well, anything, is like a year-round Santa providing a never-ending supply of deep-fried comedy gold. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. I seem to exist at the perfect nexus of topics to always have something to roll my eyes about when it comes to this. I’m a skeptic, a nerd, a gamer and a writer which means practically every day there’s some kind of internet kerfuffle relating to one of these as the strident ‘social justice’ warriors try to flex their moral-majority muscles to force people to conform in exactly the same way they’d decry the Christian right doing. (They get confused with Islam because they’re a minority experiencing prejudice but also have horrible beliefs).

If you were following the recent moral panic about trolling that hit the television you may have seen the Atheism+ cardinal ‘Oolon’ (double heresy, he’s a dickhead who uses Bod as a Twitter avatar and a Douglas Adams reference as his nickname) promoting his ‘Block Bot’. In principle the idea of a ‘block bot’ is a good one, a shared list of trolls and ne’er-do-wells in much the same way that programs like Adblock share lists of advertising sources to block them or that spam filters share keywords and sources to stop you getting all the spam you otherwise might. The trouble is that while an advertisement or spam mail is fairly cut and dried, what constitutes trolling is much more delicate and down to interpretation. It’s a much more nuanced and human problem, requiring discernment, which means it’s – at least for now – not something you can automate.

The practical upshot of this is that any block-bot list is, necessarily, going to have to be compiled by human beings. Vindictive, nasty, dishonest, cunty human beings. Cunts – literal and metaphorical – being the one thing Atheism+ is by no means short of. Predictably what this has meant is that mere disagreement with Atheism+, radfem dogma or not being the ‘right’ kind of feminist has lead to people being blocked as trolls. Pre-emptively blocked even, by those stupid enough to accept the block-bot at its word and automatically block whatever is on its list. This has lead to at least two ‘old school’, egalitarian feminists (what Christina Hoff Sommers calls equity feminism) being blocked by the block-bot at the A+ ideologues and probably a great many more. It has also meant a lot of people who simply question and demand evidence – such as myself – have been blocked. If I now swear and treat A+ and its ilk dismissively it’s because of bitter experience, not prejudice (judice, if you will).

One of the most ridiculous reasons given for some of these blocks is use of the word ‘cunt’.

For some reason ‘cunt’ has been elevated to the level of unholiest of unholies, the unutterable Word of Curse, the unspeakable oath, Americans, in particular, seem to take great exception to the word. Culturally there’s less of a taboo elsewhere. Here in Britain for example it’s used with relative ease and has nowhere near as much impact as it does to Americans. My wife, originally a yank, takes great pleasure in shouting the word, especially when there are other Americans around to be shocked. The SJ/A+ goonsquad has taken this to the level of saying that anyone that so much as uses the term is a misogynist.

I’ve never understood the taboo around swearing anyway. Why is ‘fucking cunt’ more insulting than ‘fornicating vagina’? Why would the first elicit fisticuffs and the second laughter? They mean the same fucking thing after all. Still, the point of most swear words is that they touch upon taboo. ‘Shit’ – excretion, ‘Piss’ – urination, ‘Cock’ – gender organ, ‘Cunt’ – gender organ. If ‘cunt’ is misogynistic then surely ‘cock’ is misandrist isn’t it? Man hating just as ‘cunt’ is woman hating?

I have an alternate hypothesis. Swear words just use taboos as a release of tension, an adding of emotional emphasis. While they talk about our ‘bits’ and our taboo activities (sex, death, pinching a loaf, draining the lizard) they do so through code words and euphemism because these things make us uncomfortable. Some of us. It doesn’t make them inherently misogynistic, misandrist or, indeed, anything else.

To paraphrase Jeremy Webb:

“Swearing is wonderful, and if you don’t like it, you can fuck off.”

The Real Dr Skeptic

Hypochondriac's NightmareOh dear PZ… you keep sinking lower.

Dr Skeptic is sitting in his office when a Mr Myers bursts in and tells him on behalf of an anonymous ‘friend’ that they caught leprosy from someone at a business conference. While rare this is within the bounds of possibility, but Dr Skeptic can’t do anything to confirm or refute this self-diagnosis without examining the patient. The claim is sufficient to investigate, but not sufficient – especially without the actual patient – to assume it to be true. Even though leprosy is a serious disease and a more infectious version would be big trouble.

To diagnose the patient Dr Skeptic will need to see them, examine their symptoms and come to a conclusion based on what they can see. The anonymous friend dropping by with a feasible but unlikely scenario isn’t going to do that.

Let us also say, for arguments sake, that Mr Myers – and this alleged leprosy victim – are also members of a self-help group for hypochondriacs and that members of this group have repeatedly turned up at Dr Skeptic’s door insisting they have brain cancer after having spent all night on WebMD entering their symptoms. Might – an established pattern of behaviour having emerged – Dr Skeptic not be somewhat justified in treating the leprosy claim with a pinch or two of salt?

Of course, they might really have leprosy, but if – for years – you’ve had Ms Watson coming to the clinic and claiming her skull is infested with scorpions just because she got a slight headache that went away when she took some ibuprofen, a reluctance to take it seriously isn’t that hard to understand.

Claims made, without evidence, should not be taken as true whether they’re medical, legal, scientific or otherwise. The claim is the basis for an examination, not evidence in and of itself and not an excuse to call the CDC, start a witch hunt or blow the national budget on cold fusion.

An insistence on evidence and on ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is not an assault on women or ‘going to the defense of powerful men’, it’s being consistent in the application of logic, reason and evidence.

Patriarchy? What Patriarchy?

Guys

I recently stopped following Laurie Penny on Twitter because in the aftermath of Trollmageddon no amount of political agreement on broader topics was worth putting up with the disagreement on ‘feminist’ issues (scare quotes used with reason). Laurie is normally on the more reasonable side of things but in the context of the stupidity going on (which you can see me discuss in earlier posts) it was simply too much and not worth the anger and frustration.

Still, lots of people I follow have time for her and retweet a lot.

Today she’s asking:

Which on the face of it is a good question to ask, but betrays a certain bias in the use of the term ‘Patriarchy’.

In feminism, Patriarchy is defined as:

All forms of feminism define patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. As feminist and political theorist Carole Pateman writes, “The patriarchal construction of the difference between masculinity and femininity is the political difference between freedom and subjection.”In feminist theory the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women. Feminist theory typically characterizes patriarchy as a social construction, which can be overcome by revealing and critically analyzing its manifestations.

To ask, then, how ‘Patriarchy’, a system that is supposed to exalt men and oppress women, hurts men, disarms its own point. ‘Patriarchy’ wouldn’t harm men, so if you’re claiming it does you’ve eliminated the idea of Patriarchy from the discussion from the get go. It is an inherently ridiculous question most often encountered as a statement instead: ‘Patriarchy hurts men too’ and if you change it slightly that inherent ridiculousness becomes even more apparent:

Plutocracy hurts rich people too.

Or…

White supremacism hurt Caucasians too.

The idea that there is some global conspiracy of men doing things purely to benefit men has about as much cachet as David Icke’s theories about the world being run by ‘invisible space lizards’.

The idea, the concept, the promulgation of this idea of ‘patriarchy’ is harmful in and of itself. It places blame on a gender, others men, justifies poor treatment of them that leaks back up into academia and judicial decisions. It puts a sort of ‘original sin’ upon men simply for their chromosomes and having a penis.

 

It’s all a matter of perspective anyway, anything you can characterise as a male advantage can be seen as an imposition. Military service is a great example with women seeing themselves as restricted from entering or performing certain duties and men seeing themselves as imposed upon to serve or be drafted. It’s all in how you see it.

Kyriarchy is a much better term for the interlocking set of roles and expectations that we find ourselves in. One that doesn’t damn or blame men. Unfortunately its not a particularly well known term. How about we stick to ‘How do gender roles hurt men?’ rather than placing the blame as is inherent in the term Patriarchy? That would be a great start.

There’s plenty to talk about it, but phrasing it as ‘How does Patriarchy hurt men?’ is like a Christian asking an atheist ‘Why do you hate Jesus?’. The questioner is assuming certain things about the person answering.

guys2

Phobomisia & Inepticism

Muslims_not_a_race

I’ve been wanting to be more positive lately, but it seems I’m not allowed to be.

Dawkins got into a bit of a jam this week criticising Islam. Well, not so much of a jam per se as being dogpiled by a large number of people who should have known better. For some reason people who are happy to go along when it’s Christianity being criticised get nervous when Islam is the target – as it has been more and more lately. This seems… peculiar given the unreformed nature of Islam and its many, many difficulties – not just in the text itself but in the majority interpretation of it.

Why the peculiar reaction? Well, apparently people mistake religion for race and racism makes people – justifiably – nervous. It’s not justifiable when we’re not actually talking about race though. Dawkins, and most of the rest of us, seem to understand this better than the people claiming racism and making the – racist – assumption that Islam is only followed by one type of brown person rather than a spectrum. Clutching one’s pearls over criticism of Islam in this way just seems silly and it would be just as silly to accuse criticism of Christianity as racism. About the only case in which this criticism might be mildly justified would be in Judaism, where race and faith overlap perhaps the greatest amount. Even so though, criticising the faith and its adherents – judging people on what they believe and do – is not the same as writing them off on the basis of very slight differences in genetics.

Dawkins’ criticism was along the lines that, despite being numerous (and supposedly more and more numerous) Islamic people have not had particular success in the field of scientific advancement since Imam Hamid Al-Ghazali fucked things up royally in the 11th-12th centuries. Up until that point Islam had been (comparatively) liberal and open to having people of other faiths (or none) around and the result of this multiculturalism and openness was a period of rapid scientific advancement, particularly in astronomy and the beginnings of chemistry. A version of the scientific method was laid down in the same period. Then Al-Ghazali decided that mathematics and trying to understand the works of Allah was ‘evil’ and the whole enterprise was fucked from there on out.

The pattern has been repeated. Things went tits up in Christian nations as well during the dark ages and it took The Renaissance and The Enlightenment to get over that.

There’s little doubt that religion has a negative effect on advancement in many arenas of which science is just one. Well, maybe that’s a bit simplistic. It seems to go through several phases (I haven’t worked on this much yet, but the seed of an idea is there):

  1. Religious ideas are presented as the answer to everything.
  2. Religion encourages examination of the world as a way of glorifying their god/s.
  3. The penny drops that reality doesn’t marry up to the religious myths and enquiry is suppressed.
  4. Despite that, religion starts to lose its grip and progress begins again.

‘Christian’ nations are mostly at step 4. Islamic nations seem to be stuck at step 3.

What’s been missing from some people’s analysis is that they don’t seem to spend a lot of time arguing with Islamists. If they had, they would know that Islamic apologists are very fond of talking about how numerous their adherents are and how superior and amazing the Koran is when it comes to science. (Caution, may cause excessive facepalming). Given these boasts one would expect Islamic nations to be at the forefront of science and to have a lot more – and more modern – accomplishments to their name.

Yes, of course there are other factors at play, but given the boasts, the oil wealth etc it seems odd that there’s so little to point to. Of course, if you’re accusing Dawkins of racism it’s easy to say this is down to racism too, but that doesn’t particularly seem to be true if you look at the spread of winners across the science and medicine categories, especially in the modern era.

People seem to just be looking for any excuse and one really wonders why.

***

The other big thing going on in atheism and skepticism at the moment are a host of accusations about sexual misconduct being made against various figures. Most of these seem to be anonymous and they’re otherwise united only in their lack of evidence.

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being so utterly disgusted and cynical of FTB and A+ that where I would normally take these accusations seriously (since they’re specific) I find that I just can’t. Quite apart from whether there’s any truth to the accusations or not, the actions of PZ Myers in spreading them when there’s no substantiation to them is irresponsible. Not to mention that a sceptic should have more respect for the Burden of Proof and the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Things were already silly before this latest round of events and the schism between simple atheism or scepticism and the A+ ‘cult’ is now causing actual damage rather than mere exasperation. Trying to crudely weld other issues onto the loose atheist ‘movement’ was always going to be doomed from the start but now that accusations are flying things have become serious.

TrollingPart of the problem is that the language and concepts that are used within the FTB/A+ axis aren’t those used by others. Where they talk about rape or sexual harassment it’s not necessarily what anyone else would recognise from those terms. When they talk about ‘patriarchy’ or ‘racism’ or ‘misogyny’, again these may not be used the same way anyone else would understand them. Combine that with the dogmatism, air of superiority and assumption that you have to agree with them and it’s an even bigger issue. Then there’s the fact that if someone is accused of misconduct and you express any skepticism or demand any evidence, that seems to be taken as confirmation (somehow) of rape culture, misogyny, etc all over again.

I think it’s time to simply part ways. Let the A-plussers and their ilk go do their own thing, have their own conferences, forums and tags. Where they actually engage in skepticism and atheism  and goals cross over, fine, but otherwise it’s just not worth the grief that’s involved or the effort wasted on internal struggles between those who want to focus on atheism/skepticism and those who want to foist a bundle of other causes and issues onto the ‘movement’ as a whole.

Not that anyone will listen to me.

UK Sleepwalking into Fascism: Workhouses for Disabled, The #RacistVan, Racial Profiling

A must read.

Scriptonite Daily

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This week has seen a plethora of actions by the UK government, which if adopted by any other country, any compassionate person would consider fascist. Government sponsored vehicles are roaming the streets telling people to dob in suspected illegal immigrants, the UK Border Agency are stopping mostly non-white commuters on the transport networks and requesting they display credentials to prove their right to be here, and disabled people are being carted off to modern day workhouses. Yet in spite of all this, many are still reluctant to face the gut wrenching reality that all is not well in blighty.

Godwin’s Law? Oh Give it Up

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No doubt someone is already preparing a comment accusing me of Godwin’s Law for making this comparison.  So I’ll take a moment to set out why I am making it, and why it does not conform to the term.

Godwin’s Law was intended…

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