Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Misogynistic Surge Of 2012

Throughout the history of humanity, misogyny has been an oppressive force against women. We've made some progress, but perhaps not as much as we would like to believe.

The most obvious evidence can be seen in recent comments made by many politicians of the right-wing variety and the more than 600 bills they have introduced in an attempt to take away a woman's right to control her body. Of course, there is also rape, the glass ceiling, inequities in pay between women and their male counterparts, and so on.

There seems to be a surge in misogynistic behavior in some of the most primitive males of the human species. Like a virus before it finally dies out, succumbing to the immune system of its host, there is a surge of feverish activity in a desperate attempt to continue its survival.

However, there is a less-obvious (and perhaps more insidious) source of oppressive behavior towards women by males that often gets overlooked, one that I have personally experienced with increased frequency over the past few years.

It goes something like this:

A woman has males with whom she interacts either in person or online who are casual acquaintances. Sometimes they are old classmates, others may be past or present work associates, friends of friends, or acquaintances from a variety of other sources.

As it goes between most humans, there are shared views regarding economics, politics, and religion, along with differing views regarding same.

Everything is fine until the differences become evident in a debate, and this is where things go south very quickly in a way that rarely occurs between two males or two females:

The male makes statements regarding his views, and the female counters with her own (or vice versa). There is an exchange between the two, but in cases where the female is just as persistent in defending her view as the male is in defending his (especially where the female is providing logic based on facts and the male is relying more on assumptions and an emotional attachment to his own views) the female becomes the enemy, and civility becomes something the male seems incapable of exercising.

I have seen this quite frequently here in "The Bible Belt" where I spend much of my time, but I have also seen it elsewhere. The message seems quite clear: "You're allowed to have different views than me, but you are not allowed to challenge my statements regarding mine, especially when I have not based them on sound information. My male ego is so fragile that I will make you my enemy if you point out logical fallacies, factual inaccuracies, or other information that shows my assumptions and statements to be in error."

A woman can be perfectly civil and never raise her voice or engage in rude behavior, but many men seem to think it is their right to be "right", even when they are wrong, and begin to personally attack the female with whom they are engaged in conversation when her challenge to his logic is as persistent as his refusal to be confronted with factual information to the contrary.

From there, we see ad hominem attacks, anecdotal fallacies, red herrings, and other pathetic attempts to distract the opponent (and perhaps themselves) from the fact that they are losing ground in the argument, debate, or discussion:

  • ad hominem attack: an attempt to deflect an argument by inferring or outright claiming something derogatory (and unrelated to the discussion) about your opponent
  • anecdotal fallacy: unverified stories given as "evidence"
  • red herring: an attempt to deflect an argument by bringing up something else, but usually only after the one committing this act has had a chance to state their case, leaving the other party without the opportunity to do the same

If you're lucky, you learn that this is someone unworthy of your time and you simply stop associating with him. However, it doesn't always work out so smoothly.

There are some males who become so riled by the fact that a woman dares oppose him as persistently as he has opposed her that his ire doesn't end with her attempting to distance herself from him, and he aggressively pursues her with behavior that may range from bullying to stalking, either online, in person, or both.

The cyber-bullying, which has now been classified as a crime, usually involves making statements about the victim which are either false or unsubstantiated, and/or badgering the victim by repeatedly making derogatory statements about her publicly, either addressed to her directly or referencing her on social media platforms or other electronic means.

The cyber-stalking, also classified as a crime, often involves harassing or hunting her down online (finding as many ways to contact her as possible, including multiple social media venues, blogs, etc.) and sometimes even involves attempts to hack into her accounts and disrupt her ability to use them and/or commit crimes using them.

In some cases, the stalking becomes physical and the victim is physically hunted in an attempt to intimidate or terrorize her.

I have several friends in law enforcement who have witnessed some of this behavior toward me from males over the past couple of years and have expressed concern. There have been reports made in some cases and in others, I simply didn't feel it was warranted.

Nonetheless, it is a frustrating state of affairs at best, and a reminder of just how hostile the world still is toward women (especially intelligent, articulate women who do not cow down to arrogant, unsubstantiated proclamations made by emotionally immature males).

I have heard many stories from other intellectual women who hold their own well with their male counterparts, and it wasn't until I heard from so many others that I realized this wasn't just something resulting from my own refusal to back down from a few bullies, but a widespread attitude and set of behaviors from many men who, now that rape and physical assault are not options they can easily get away with, have learned to find other ways to make themselves feel powerful at the expense of women.

Fortunately, there are many males who are not like this. I am very grateful to have many of them in my life, which only makes the less-evolved males stand out even more as the troglodytes that they are.

So, my warning to all women is: don't get so distracted by the idiotic statements of GOP members on television that you fail to notice when someone right in front of you is engaging in the subtle behavior of undermining you psychologically. They may not be able to pass laws in an attempt to control your body, but they are desperately seeking to take up the same amount of space in your mind that they apparently have allotted in their own minds (such as they are) for you.

Evict them.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Raping Your Wife: It's not nearly as bad as smoking pot. (According to Todd Akin)

Earlier this year, I blogged about the scientifically and medically illiterate Stacey Campfield and his ignorant statements about H.I.V. and A.I.D.S. regarding how it spreads and who can and (allegedly) can not get it. (Anyone can get it.)

Now, it's time for yet another blog post about another politician who is even more scientifically and medically ignorant than Stacey Campfield. (Who knew THAT was possible?) I'm referring to Republican Todd Akin, who represents Missouri's 2nd Congressional District.

For the record, his statement was, when asked if he would support abortions for women who have been raped:

"It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
(Continuing with this blog post required a short break where I had to get a drink of water, as the cognitive dissonance created from typing that quote dehydrated my brain severely, and I'm pretty sure the "doctors" he was referring to must have a Ph.D. in voodoo.)

He also said that he would prefer that punishment for rape be focused on the rapist and not "attacking the child".

First of all, anyone who has even a rudimentary understanding of reproduction knows that a fertilized egg and/or a developing fetus is not a "child". Using the word "child" to describe any pregnancy is nothing more than political and/or religious rhetoric stemming from the fear-reactive area of the brain known as the amygdala which, despite its primitive nature, continues to override common sense in many who do not recognize that the only real reason why they do not like the idea of abortion is that they are wired to favor reproduction of the human species for survival purposes.

Any other claimed reasoning for why there is any concern for the developing fetus is nothing more than a rationalization of an involuntary reaction caused by the way the human brain is wired. That includes religious rationalizations, humanistic rationalizations, or any other reason given by those professing concern for a fetus.

Despite the fact that there is no reason for us to fear that our species will not survive if everyone does not reproduce abundantly, the instinct to bring forth spawn is so strong that our species is obsessed with the activity that brings it about (sex) to the point where it almost seems to override any of our other basic needs, including sustenance. (Don't believe me? Ask any teenage boy to choose between eating for a week and having sex, either with another human or via masturbation.)

The instinct to give birth upon becoming pregnant is so strong in some of us that even I believe that if I were gang-raped and became pregnant with quadruplets, knowing that it would likely kill me to carry the pregnancy to term, I still do not think that I could bring myself to have an abortion. The unnecessary instinct for survival via reproduction really is that strong in me.

Luckily, having an above-average understanding of both science in general and medicine specifically, my logical and critical thinking skills are able to override my primitive survival instincts when it comes to respecting the boundaries of other people's bodies.

Here are a few facts which, once understood, help intelligent people to achieve the necessary objectivity in order to behave less like a primitive human and more like an intelligent human regarding this issue:

  • There is no "certificate of conception" or "certificate of pregnancy" issued during a pregnancy because fetuses are not persons.
  • There is no death certificate issued after a miscarriage, because fetuses are not persons.
  • Between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 pregnancies usually ends in miscarriage, often before the woman realizes she is pregnant. This means that a pregnancy does not necessarily indicate a viable potential for human life.
  • Claiming that the potential for development into a human life equals a "child" is the same thing as saying that an egg and a sperm which have not even been joined and are not even in the same body is a "child". It isn't. Potential does not equal existence.
  • Not planting a seed for a tree is not the same thing as cutting a tree down, and not allowing a fetus to develop into a viable human being is not the same thing as killing a person.
Now that we have addressed the ridiculous statement that a "child" is being "punished" if a woman chooses not to allow a blob of cells to remain in her body, let's move on to the next point:

The only thing the female body can do to "shut that whole thing down" if she's raped and does not want to give birth as a result of that rape is walk into an abortion clinic and exercise her right to remove the cells which she does not wish to keep in her uterus. (An alternative would be for the female body to walk into a drug store and request a "morning after" pill.)

That's the ONLY thing the female body can do to "shut that whole thing down". There are no magical powers contained in the uterus or the vagina that suck an egg back into the ovary once it has been released during ovulation. There is no spermicide that is released that kills only the sperm that ejaculate from a rapist's penis.

I had to address the statements made by this arrogantly ignorant politician, simply because to not do so would be irresponsible just in case there might be others who have not been properly educated about these proven facts of life. However, this is not the most important point of this blog post.

(Also, I'd like to pause for a moment and recognize that many women who have been raped have experienced flashbacks triggered by these arrogantly ignorant comments spewed forth from the pie hole of Todd Akin, and if you need help, I recommend visiting rainn.org.)

The most disturbing thing isn't that there are people who don't understand these basic facts even after living in this country for 65 years and having access to every conceivable (no pun intended) necessary resource available at any public library which would allow them to know better.

The most disturbing thing isn't even that this same man thinks that it's a bad idea to criminalize raping your wife, as he claims it becomes a "legal weapon to beat up on the husband" during divorce proceedings. (He wouldn't vote to de-criminalize the use of marijuana, but he would vote to de-criminalize a man raping his wife. Note: This is the year 2012 and this is a Christian man who lives in America, not a Muslim living in Afghanistan.)

The most disturbing thing is that this man (if we can call him that... personally, I think "beast" would be more appropriate) holds public office with a considerable amount of power and authority attached to it, and was put there by American citizens who likely did not even know that he had these views.

Say what you want about "the media". Bitch about how inaccurate it often is, whine about how some things get way too much attention and others not enough, display your intellectual snobbery by claiming that anyone who pays attention to anything the media puts out is naive and "drinking the Kool-Aid", but do NOT tell me that the media always gets it wrong, and do not tell me that being able to watch the words come out of this idiot's mouth is not CRITICALLY important when it comes to understanding who exactly is in power in this country and why they shouldn't be there.

I propose that, in a country that requires any non-citizen wishing to become a citizen to pass a test showing a basic knowledge of this country and how it works which surpasses what even the average American-born citizen knows, we require that ANY political candidate pass a basic high school level science proficiency exam, including a test proving a basic understanding of sexual reproductive science and biology.

If you wonder how it is possible that any politician is against sex education in the classroom, including sex education and safe sex methods for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, it's only possible because they themselves do not have such knowledge, and therefore can not comprehend its importance.

The rest of us, however, know better, and if we don't start demanding that the people we pay to represent us in making policy in this country know what every high school student is required to know before walking across the stage to receive their diploma, we deserve whatever unpleasant results these ignorant people bring to our existence.

And to those who think it doesn't matter who they vote for or are considering not voting or voting for a candidate with no chance of winning because they can't decide which candidate they dislike and/or disagree with the most, understand that you are tolerating extreme ignorance in the leadership of your country by passively allowing it to continue, and you'll have no valid complaint about how unhappy you are with the state of our affairs if you make no effort to help bring about an outcome that promotes reason over superstition.

As a wise person once said:

You deserve what you tolerate.

Do you deserve to be represented by people who have less than a sixth-grade level understanding of reproductive science? Do you deserve to be represented by someone who thinks it's worse to smoke marijuana than it is to rape your own wife?

Vote accordingly.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

When I Was A Christian...

Before anyone who reads this decides that this is "just another post from the atheist point of view" or that it's about me being "against religion", you need to know that I felt EXACTLY THE SAME WAY about the topic I am about to discuss when I was a devout Christian as I do now. EXACTLY. THE. SAME.

When I was a teenager, I was called to give sermons to the SOUTHERN BAPTIST congregation where I was a member in Ringgold, GA MORE THAN ONCE. I remember one of my sermons dealt with what message we sent as Christians with our behavior, and I posed the question: "If someone who knew nothing about Christianity observed us in our daily lives, what would they learn about being a Christian from us? What would be their understanding of what it means to be a Christian?"

I am now going to answer that question.

If *I* knew nothing about Christianity and were observing many Christians today, my impression of Christianity would be that it is mainly about making sure we made a huge show about praying in public before football games, before school started, and at government functions and political events. Also: a lot of whining about the fact that not everyone gives a Christian-specific greeting during seasonal holidays, even though most Christian holidays have pagan origins...

Forget the fact that the Christian holy book makes it VERY CLEAR that making a big show of praying in public is NOT what Christianity is about:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (6) But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (7) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6.5-8 NASB
The Christian holy book ALSO makes it very clear that mindlessly reciting prayers by rote is not meaningful Christian behavior, and yet that is exactly what goes on when "The Lord's Prayer" is recited at public events as some sort of obligatory ritual.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. - Matthew 6:7 KJV
It's quite clear that both of the foundations on which all of this noise is being made about prayer before football games is based are discouraged in the Christian holy book. How ironic.

But perhaps the most sad aspect of this drama is that it sends the wrong message not only to non-Christians, who increasingly view Christians as political invaders who wish to force their religion on everyone else, but also to our children.

When your government denies you special privileges when you demand that they treat your religion as though it is the "official" religion of this country (which we do not have, since our forefathers, in their wisdom, made it clear that we were NOT to make an establishment of religion in our government), when they deny your request for special recognition over all of the HUNDREDS OF OTHER RELIGIONS practiced in this country, and you then behave by claiming that you are persecuted, you are teaching children to take on an attitude of entitlement... you are teaching them that if they do not get special treatment as Christians, they are somehow victims.

This is where bigotry begins, folks. It starts with indulging in the delusional behavior that not getting special privileges equals persecution, and it progresses to believing that you are superior because of your beliefs, and/or that your beliefs are superior to those of others.

From there, the attitude grows into the view that other religions are not only NOT entitled to the special privileges that you fancy YOURSELF to be entitled to, but that they are LESS entitled to EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

This is why Christians who view marriage between two people of the same sex as PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE (the same way many anti-gay-marriage Christians are FINE with eating shrimp, also listed as an abomination in the Christian holy book) are upset that some Christians are attempting to step on THEIR toes by disallowing THEM to legally marry gay couples in their churches.

And, even worse, the massive efforts and grandstanding that goes into "fighting for prayer" at football games, schools, and government assemblies does absolutely NOTHING to advance the cause of Christianity. In fact, it diminishes its true purpose and everything that it is supposed to stand for, which is practicing kindness and respect toward others, remaining humble in the expression and practice of your faith, (as opposed to loudly demanding that everyone wait while and take notice as you do so publicly) and helping those who are homeless, hungry, naked, and sick.

The only thing that comes from praying before these events is self-satisfaction of the Christian ego.

Now, if the same people who are congratulating themselves for "coming together" as Christians from multiple denominations with the common goal of making a huge drama out of praying before a football game were also putting the same amount of effort into collecting food for the homeless at said football games, it might not be such a vulgar display of selfishness on their part to demand that everyone wait while they recite a rote prayer before the game.

I have no problem with anyone who wants to pray anytime or anywhere, so long as they don't whine about not being allowed to do it over a loud speaker as part of an officially mandated activity on government or taxpayer-owned/funded property. I do, however, find it very sad that so many Christians show such a lack of respect for their own religion by ignoring the truly important aspects of practicing it in favor of superficial shows of power before football games.

I feel that way now, and I felt that way when I was a Christian.

Clearly, being an atheist hasn't changed me. It has merely revealed that my ability to tell right from wrong does not stem from religion, but comes from common sense which we all have the ability to exercise, if only we will shed the ego and focus on what really matters.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Lesser of Evils

I have a Twitter friend whom I once viewed as a wise person. Lately, many of our mutual friends have begun to wonder what's happened to him, as he seems to have lost all perspective and logical capabilities, and has begun sounding more like a schizophrenic than someone espousing wisdom.

I was discussing the fact that, if I could vote, given the inevitability that either Obama or Romney will end up in office (barring something extremely unexpected taking place), I would choose Obama. When asked why, I cited the fact that, even though I do not agree with much of Obama's economic policy, I view human rights issues as a priority over the economy. After all, without human rights, no economic policy will be of much help to any of us.

That's when "Mr. T.", as I'll call him, broke in with a mostly incoherent diatribe on why Obama isn't worthy of being credited with having human rights as a priority, because he's a "mass murderer just like all the others" (including Romney).

Apparently, he's calling Obama a mass murderer because of the ongoing wars and additional potential warfare we are facing. While I do not agree with the general consensus that it is our country's responsibility to police the world, I think most reasonable people agree that it's a stretch to call it "mass murder". Death and destruction is an inevitability in any war, but murder is something one intentionally carries out as a goal, not something that comes with the territory of waging a war against a country based on a perceived threat (however misperceived) or any other basis.

Mr. T. proceeded to say that both Obama and Romney are mass murderers, and that I was "crazy" for saying that it made sense to vote for EITHER of them, and that supporting either of them was me condoning mass murder.

In an attempt to bring reason into the conversation, I laid it out like this:

If both candidates are equally guilty of mass murder, and it is inevitable that one of them will end up in office, it makes sense to choose the candidate that will bring less restriction of freedom. I can't control either candidate's decision on warfare or "mass murder", but if I am forced to choose only between two "mass murderers", I choose the one who is for marriage equality and doesn't think he owns my vagina.

He made several pathetic attempts to ridicule me for that statement, calling me selfish and claiming that I think my vagina is more important than the innocent lives of children whom he is accusing Obama of (apparently intentionally) killing. His logical fallacy is quite glaring to me, but to him, it's the most perfect logic ever known to humanity.

I think it's important to mention that there is no evidence whatsoever that Obama (or even Romney, for that matter) intends to murder innocent children. Do innocent children die in a war? Unfortunately, yes. To stretch and distort that into intentionally murdering them is not only inaccurate, it shows a lack of clarity and a very distorted thinking process.

But, just for the sake of argument, let's say that he's right and that both Romney and Obama are mass murderers. I don't agree, but let's just pretend for a moment that it's true.

He repeatedly claimed that voting for someone who is a "mass murderer" simply because they have other policies that I agree with somehow makes me a party to said "mass murder". That would be true if there were only ONE candidate guilty of mass murder and I chose the mass murderer based on my priority of wanting them to keep the hell out of my genitalia. However, if both parties are equally guilty of being mass murderers, and one of those two is guaranteed to end up in office, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it makes sense to go for the lesser of two evils.

Penn Jillette, someone who is good at coming up with great sound bytes that promote critical thinking, has been quoted many times as saying "If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you end up with more evil."

The glaring logical fallacy there is that voting for LESS evil vs. MORE evil somehow creates more evil. It doesn't. Yes, you'll continue to have evil, but you'll have less evil than you would otherwise have had if you voted for the greater quantity of evil over the lesser quantity of evil. The quote makes the assumption that there is at least one viable alternative to the two evils, and at this point in the campaign, there just isn't. Fan or not, that quote is just nonsense.

Ironically, Mr. T. is not a fan of Penn's, perhaps even an enemy, but seems to be saying the exact same thing in accusing me of being "crazy" for saying it makes sense to vote for the lesser of two evils. Somehow in his eyes, me voting for a candidate whom he views to be a mass murderer is the same thing as promoting mass murder. It's not... not unless there is a candidate who stands a chance to make it into the White House who is NOT a mass murderer and I pass them up in favor of my own civil liberties over the lives of innocent children.

In a fantasy world, things might be that simple. In the real world, we are almost always faced with voting for a candidate based on prioritized issues, since there will rarely ever be a candidate with whom we are in complete agreement on everything.

When bills get passed in Congress, there are always undesirable things embedded in them that we'd rather not pass. We aren't voting to pass those undesirable things simply because we view other things as important enough to pass despite the accompanying undesirables embedded within the bill.

Likewise, when I condone voting for a candidate who stands for marriage equality and women's rights over one who is the polar opposite, that in no way requires me to condone other political views or behaviors of those candidates.

If we follow the suggestion that we shouldn't vote at all unless there is a candidate we agree with 100% on everything, then we don't ever vote, and the few control who ends up in office. We still end up with one of two main candidates in office, but we have no say in whether the lesser or greater evils of the two reigns. That's asinine.

According to Mr. T., this view means I am insane. If that's the case, then I'm fine with being insane. Insanity is better than indulging in the foolishness of logical fallacy and hyperbole at the expense of what little influence we taxpayers have. I'll take my crazy ass insane opinion that we should vote for the lesser of two evils over the idea that we should passively allow the worse of two evils to take office just to play make believe that we are better people for "not voting for someone who is guilty of (fill in the blank here)" any day.

All things being equal, if Hitler # 1 wants to kill off entire segments of the population AND control your genitalia, and Hitler # 2 wants to kill off entire segments of the population but does NOT want control of your genitalia, logic dictates that you're a fool for not at least trying to prevent having BOTH evils inflicted on the populace. That doesn't make mass murder ok, and it doesn't mean you are condoning it. It simply means you are trying to avoid that evil which you may have SOME control over.

Yeah, I know. That's just fucking insane. We should all just sit passively by and hope that not voting for either inevitable candidate somehow works out for the best, because it's so much better to pretend we have the moral high ground for never voting for anyone with whom we are not 100% in agreement.

Somebody get me a straight jacket.