Category Archives: feminism

Why Miley Cyrus is Cooler Than You Think: The Progressive South

What I was supposed to be when I grew up

When people meet me, even here in South Carolina, they almost always are surprised to learn that I am from the South.  I don’t have much of a Southern accent and I am not demure or interested in playing dumb.  There is, unfortunately, a prejudice that exists, even in the South itself, against people who are Southern.  There is an assumption that everyone here is stupid, poorly educated, and a redneck.

It’s not that the South hasn’t come by its reputation honestly.  There are Bible Thumpers, Tea Partiers, Second Amendment Freaks, and an education system that is more broken than not.  There are rural areas that don’t even seem like America to anyone who has lived near a town, and the problems and poverty that come with that.  But, while a Democrat may never win the state of South Carolina, 40% of the population votes for a Democrat.  You may be able to paint the South itself with a broad brush, but you lose a lot of you also paint individuals from the South with that same brush.

I have struggled over the years with embracing that I am from South Carolina, but I really am about as Southern as it gets.  I was a debutante, I was sent to cotillons when I was growing up.  My father hunts and fishes and collects rifles, my mother worked for Lee Atwater and George HW Bush.  When I was young, I spent most of my days with my babysitter/nanny who lived in a trailer park and we watched NASCAR, drank Mountain Dew, and occasionally I missed my nap and watched The Bold and the Beautiful.  The first time I ever got on a plane was to go see Graceland.

Before my breast reduction and dying my hair red, I think I could have pulled this off

And, even more embarrassingly, the thing I most wanted to be when I grew up was a country music singer.  I’ve never lost my love of singing or a (not so) secret desire to be a rock star, but I did lose my fondness for country music over the years.  But yes, there was a time when my favorite song was “Achy Breaky Heart” and I dreamed of being Dolly Parton.

I suspect many people reading this would think that this was a major handicap, something that I had to overcome to be the erudite, snarky, witty, and progressive person that I am today, but I think it was actually completely necessary for me to get here.  I only wish that I was better at embracing it and not being embarrassed by it.  In an attempt to embrace being Southern, I’m offering a paean for Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus is a lot cooler than most people realize.  I’ll be the first to admit that her devotion to her faith is not something that particularly appeals to me, but the fact that she is Southern Baptist and still open-minded is something we should be celebrating.  And I confess that her music isn’t exactly my thing, as most of the teen music I like was written by people now in their sixties.  But the really cool thing about Miley Cyrus is that she’s a bona-fide red-state American who depends on red-state Americans for her career and she hasn’t let that stop her from speaking out against what she perceives as injustice.

The only tattoo I'd consider getting

She is a vocal supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights.  This past May, she bashed both Urban Outfitters and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum for being anti-gay.  She is so in favor of gay rights that she got it tattooed on her body — an equal sign for “equal love” on her ring finger.  And when someone disagreed with her stance on Twitter, she posted, “Where does it say in the bible to judge others? Oh right. It doesn’t. GOD is the only judge honey.”  Hell yes!

She fights in favor of reasonable body images for women. When people try to shame her for her weight, she says that her accusers are part of the reason there are so many women with eating disorders and states quite clearly that she has no intention of buying into it.  “I love MYSELF & if you could say the same… I don’t wanna be shaped like a girl I LOVE being shaped like a WOMAN & trust me ladies your man won’t mind either.”  That’s a feminist message about body acceptance, and an important one for the age group that she appeals to.

It’s easy to look at Billy Ray flag waving for Republican candidates, how very Southern they are, how vocally Christian they are, and assume that they are stereotypical, uninformed conservatives.  They are not.  Her grandfather, Kentucky Colonel Ron Cyrus, was a Democrat and a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives for 21 years and he was the secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO.  It turns out that Southerners have a wide range of political beliefs.

From the video

The inspiration for this post was a video in support of the Occupy movement that she posted this week on YouTube, as part of her celebration of her 19th birthday.  Most of the response among my friends on Facebook has been shock and a little bit of poking fun at her music and at the irony that she, of all people, was the big musician to support the Occupy movement.  But actually, it is not ironic and, if you’ve followed her, it is not surprising.  It is, however, marvelous.

Their surprise I can understand, not everyone is as obsessed with LGBT activism as I am, but it is when people dismiss her entirely that I get upset.  There is an article in the National Post that made my blood boil.  The writer describes Miley’s birthday party, which apparently included a unicorn, and then goes on to discuss the Occupy video:

At the very least, it seems Cyrus is interested in showing a more socially conscious side of herself now that she’s entered the twilight years of tween stardom. Like many people, 19 or otherwise, Cyrus has apparently been following the Occupy movement, and together with Rock Mafia (the production team helmed Cyrus hits including 7 Things and Can’t Be Tamed), she Tweeted a link to a video montage featuring footage of Occupy protesters around the world. Titled “Don’t Give Up – It’s a Liberty Walk,” a remix of the pop star’s 2010 track Liberty Walk features in the video, which Cyrus posted to YouTube with the following message: “This is Dedicated to the thousands of people who are standing up for what they believe in.”

This, we can only assume, includes unicorns.

That may be the most dismissive thing I have ever read.  I’m not going to go into a rant about how wrong it is to dismiss people for being young and female, because I might explode, but that’s exactly what’s going on here.  “Oh, she’s interested in politics and unicorns, how sweet.”

Why not?

Miley Cyrus is now a player in progressive politics, not because she is a politician, but because she has a voice that is heard by millions.  This young woman isn’t part of the “Hollywood Elite” — she is from “Real America” and her fans are all from “Real America” too — she is an ambassador to the red states.  But because she is young and because she sings pop and because she is from the South, many people are tempted to dismiss her out of hand.  Her conservative critics are wise enough to be afraid that her influence will lead young Christians away from the intolerant values of their parents, perhaps we should be wise enough to be very grateful to have her on our side.  Embrace her or not, she has influence with the people progressives have the hardest time reaching.

Maybe being from the South isn’t a handicap, maybe it makes our progressive voices that much stronger.

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The Polygamist Message from May, 2007

I know you all can’t get enough creepy messages, right?  So here’s the best of my collection, the greatest message I’ve ever gotten from a complete stranger.  Can you handle it?  Bolds are mine!

It’s come to my attention that people (women) often say that one of the most fundamental things they are looking for is honesty in a man but since they’ve more than likely never met an honest man they don’t know what to do when they actually confront one.

That having been said let’s see if you write me (an extremely honest man back. Now this writing back deal will require a certain amount of curiosity and gumption and no small amount of an open mind. If you wonder why no honest men it’s because the world is backwards and most of the the time people not only tell you what you want to hear but know what invariably happens when telling the truth…..let’s see:

You would never find a better more honest friend, lover, husband. How do I know that? Because I have two wives and I’m looking for a third. That’s getting the 500 pound gorilla out of the way up front and being honest isn’t it?

What do you suppose type of man I am? One you should avoid or embrace? Well I’m not a dishrag. I appreciate intelligent physically strong females because they make the best babies and I’m all about family and yes I can afford three wives.

Well you have a choice to ignore or explore. I expect everything and ask for nothing. Consequently I’m unable to place you in an akward position. You might just be curious….if so please feel free to write. I won’t bite and you can always use me for a topic of conversation. “I actually correspond with a polygamist from Florida on a regular basis!!!”

Looking forward to your reply……..C. Smith

Ashley Writes Back:

Well, huh. I mean, it’s simply too weird not to respond to, you know? I’ve got to admit, you’re definitely ballsy. Do you just send these out en masse, or did you actually choose to send it to me for some reason?

I’m not really interested, you being over twice my age, married, with kids, and, I’m guessing, religious. But, kudos for being totally straightforward. I’m sure that someone is looking for you, so good luck with that.

You don’t have to respond, but I do wonder if you’ve seen the show Big Love. And what on earth drives you to be so openly polygamist.

He writes back:

Hi Pumpkin,

Thanks for the reply.

I think on some level it is shocking to be in a position to tell the truth or put another way….in a position to tell society to kiss my ass. But I have structured my life so as not to place myself in a situation where I have to cowtow to others. As an example I can never be excomunicated from the catholic church. I’m not catholic!!! For that reason I’m not a joiner. If you join anything it usually comes with a handbook of rules outlining what they expect from you.

Today’s news is replete with a story about the ex-govenor’s wife and her feelings when he announced to the world that he was gay. (she wrote a book about it) Also there were 70 comments from people explaning their like experiences. I looked at it this way: If he hadn’t lied to her and she hadn’t married the bastard their daughter would never have been born.

I’m an intellectual…we speak five languages between us and number two is half way through her masters in accounting at JU. I wrote you because you have a brain. You’re curious enough to at least write back and you know that any system made by man is for the benefit of man. Women didn’t make the laws against polygamy (we are not religiously driven….just to make that clear, and nothing stops the members of my family from leaving if they want to).

Age means nothing to me (well young girls no – I’m not a pedophile) because if it were important I would think, chronologically, you would be a little young. Yuliya is just turned 27. But I should think it would be more important to know who was in charge of your household (who made the last word final decisions on the important things) your father or your mother. It would be neigh on to impossible no matter how old you are to get along with you if your mother raised you. See that’s more important don’t you think?

Finally to answer your question further about my openess. Nobody really gives ashit what you do unless it impacts them and what I do is a building experience….more family, more intelligent kids, better life style (everybody pools their resources) more fun, more options. Lets say you end up with “Mr. Right” who cheats on you and lies to you and saddles you with obligations that you don’t want. What say do you have because you were following the norm. girl it doesn’t work out for half the people who get married! Be realistic. So why should they care what I’m doing….they don’t. Now they care in Utah because the Mormons (a sect) kicked out the polygamists a hundred years ago in direct opposition to their founder Joseph Smith (who was killed by that time) so they could join the Union. So you could say they sold out and because of that they are so fervently against the other mormons who consider themselves the “real” mormons. I, of course, could care less as I build family.

Perhaps you will write back. Maybe you would like to see what I do in my spare time:

http://www.aerofast.com/photography/index.html

Is their one you like better than the others?

Clayton the Honest

Skepticism: Tits or GTFO*?

Originally posted at SheThought.

I hate writing about feminist issues, because every time I do I get accused of being a feminazi or caring more about women than men, or of buying into victim culture, or any number of accusations that come with the territory.  Feminism isn’t generally my main issue, and so I’m always hesitant to distract from all the other things I care about by getting into knock down, drag out fights about why should I care about how women are treated or how they’re portrayed in the media.

Occasionally, of course, I do write something about feminism, because I’m upset enough to ignore the warning lights in my head that say I’m going to have to deal with a lot of BS because of it.  As you might imagine, this post is me ignoring those warning bells.

Skepticism has a woman problem.  It’s been said more than once, it’s been pointed out countless times, and it’s being addressed in a lot of positive ways that should absolutely count in its favor.  I don’t want to dismiss or underplay the fact that there are a lot of men in the movement who care a lot about this issue and are actively working to fix it.

That said, the amount of privilege and harassment I see coming from a number of the powerful men in the movement is really distressing.  The assumption that young women are taking advantage of older men or that men have the automatic right to presume sexual interest and the right to sexually harass young women is a problem, and it’s a problem within this movement, not just outside of it.

This problem came up today, because Lawrence Krauss, a respected scientist and one of the featured speakers at TAM9, defended his buddy Jeffrey Epstein, a man who plead guilty to hiring underage girls, some as young as 13,  to have sex with him.  Krauss is skeptical of the claims because he always thought the girls around Epstein were 19-23 and apparently thinks it’s ok to have sex with a 13 year old so long as you think she’s 18.  He also doesn’t seem to understand that a 13 year old having sex with a powerful, rich man has been coerced into it, no matter what.  Ignorance is no excuse there, it’s rape and it’s taking advantage of a child.

He is also skeptical of the claims made by the prosecution, despite the fact that Epstein plead guilty and they did an 11-month sting operation documenting his activity.  And they have his, apparently horrific, diary.

It gets worse.

DJ Grothe, on the Skepchick article about this, comments , saying basically that he doesn’t know anything about the situation, but he lied about his age when he was under 18 so that he could get laid, so maybe underage prostitution isn’t that bad.  I appreciate that he’s not saying that sex with a 13 year old is OK, he specifically says it isn’t, but since that’s what actually happened, I’m really not sure why he felt the need to defend Krauss.  Nor do I understand how he is also missing the power play aspect of this.  Epstein took underage women who were not prostitutes and coerced them into sexual acts, using money and power.  This is not acceptable behavior, even if you’re OK with prostitution and 16-year-olds having sex.

This isn’t a question of the legality of prostitution or what the age of consent should be.  This is a question about abuse of power, non-consensual sex and sex trafficking of minors.

I wish I could tell you that this blindness to abuse of privilege and power existed only in response to this one issue, but it permeates the skeptic movement.  Many of the men in this movement are guilty of abusing their power to take advantage of the women in the movement or to hurt them when they won’t agree to sex, or turning a blind eye to the behavior or other men who are guilty of similar behavior.

If I could tell you all the horror stories I’ve heard, all the individuals who have been mistreated, insulted, taken advantage of by men in this movement, you’d be shocked.  If I told you the number of men I’ve been told that I need to be careful around because they have a “problem with young women”, you might not believe me.  Unless you’re a woman, and then you’ve probably heard some of it yourself.

I believe these stories because I’ve been at the receiving end of some egregious behavior and I’ve seen a lot of it with my own eyes.  The women in the movement ignore it because it’s less important to us than our desire to be part of a community that matters to us.  Hell, I don’t even feel comfortable talking about it because I know it’s going to make me unpopular, I don’t want to list anyone’s name because I just don’t feel comfortable with the backlash that would come with it.  I can’t bring myself to do it and I feel absolutely ashamed for that.

When a powerful scientist asks a young women who is trying to be taken seriously in the sciences if she’d like to be his next mistress after meeting her once,  that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man implies he’ll help a woman out if he sleeps with her, that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man implies he will blackball a woman if she doesn’t sleep with him, that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man dismisses or insults a woman because she doesn’t want to sleep with him, that’s an abuse of power.  There’s a word for coercing women into having sex.

I doubt this will be read by powerful men in the movement, but if it is, I just want to say that you have a responsibility to set an example as to how women should be treated and where their value should come from.  If you think women are only sex objects and you only care about the young, pretty ones who don’t seem too frigid, how on earth are we going to be taken seriously by everyone else?

Why is it that when I go to conferences I have to be hyper-vigilent to the behavior of men whose opinions I respect?

*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tits+of+gtfo

EDIT: I would like to say a special thanks to the men who have reached out to me, male support on these issues helps make sure we know it’s everyone’s problem, not just a woman problem, and also reminds women that there are a lot of guys who’ve got our backs.

Women and The Internet

It has long been a truism in the advertising world that men may make the money, but women control the purse strings, just watch any episode of Mad Men. All you have to do to see the truth of this is to look at those popular Old Spice Body Wash commercials, here’s a product aimed solely at men with commercials aimed primarily at women.  Even with this conventional wisdom, you might be surprised to know just how skewed the internet is to women users.

The majority of users on all social networking sites, especially Facebook and Twitter,are women, and women spend 30% more time using them than men.  55% of mobile social networkers are women.

Looking at Groupon stats, over 3/4ths of their users are women.  And that stat is similar across most online shopping and coupon services, from obvious sites like Etsy to more surprising ones like Chegg, a textbook rental service.  Social and casual gaming (think Farmville and Angry Birds) is also dominated by female users.  The numbers are staggering.  Not only are women the majority users, they are by far the most interactive and social.  Women maintain larger and more in-depth relationship circles on the web.

What does this mean for you and why am I throwing so many stats your way?  Well, for a start, it means that when you’re advertising online, you should be aware that women are going to be the most important and influential demographic to aim for.  Are you testing your products on women?  Are you taking into account what women respond to, what they’re looking for, and what turns them off?  Do you have women on your team?  So many tech companies are dominated by men, if you’re looking around you at a sea of male faces, you need to reach out to women, especially in your social marketing strategy.

More information, stats, and inspiration available here from the incredible Aileen Lee .

Sheryl Sandberg looking Badass

Gratuitous picture of Facebook's COO looking Badass

Emotions Are Not The Enemy

When I was an adolescent, I really wanted to be Mr. Spock. I thought that being hyper-logical and unemotional would be far better than being hyper-logical and hyper-emotional. I think there is a particular kind of self-loathing that kids develop when they’re far more intellectually developed than they are emotionally developed, like I was, and it can result in an extreme distrust of emotions and things that are not strictly logical. It took me going through and coming out of an extreme depression to realize that treating emotions as the enemy wasn’t only kind of stupid, but it was also really unhealthy.

Sci-Five!

I think that there is a lot of this in the atheist/skeptic community. I don’t want to fall into the fallacy that women are more compassionate than men, but I do think that the lack of large numbers of women doesn’t help. The association of emotions with women is so strong that it seems many people are uncomfortable with thinking of emotions as important empirically, or important in comparison with logic. It’s not just men who don’t want to be seen as weak, women are also afraid of being seen as stereotypically female and not as rational as men.

Today, Hemant at The Friendly Atheist posted about a woman who, at the hands of her religious upbringing, was taught to be so ashamed of her body that she was unable to breastfeed because she was so uncomfortable with her breasts. Hemant made a real effort to give a feminist response – women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and it’s not his place to make those decisions for someone else – but he also said “It’s ultimately her choice, but I think I’d feel more comfortable about her decision (as if it matters what I think) if there was a more scientific rationale behind it.”

I recognize in blogging you often say things off the cuff that, given a little more thought, you probably would have worded differently, but I have to say I was a bit flabbergasted that Hemant would dismiss dealing with trauma as lacking in “scientific rationale”, as though any decision made based on emotion is necessarily irrational and therefore bad. And I should say I’ve no reason to think that he wants to change the language, but I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. I love Hemant, I love his blog, I can only assume the best of him, so I hope that the way he worded it wasn’t the way he meant it.

Stop Being so Illogical!

I feel like the atheist/skeptic community does a lot of dismissing of people’s feelings. It happens whenever a woman brings up feeling uncomfortable, underrepresented, or underserved by the community. It happens whenever people point out the small number of minorities, or being uncomfortable by perceived racism. There’s something about emotions that seems to really bother people. If nothing else, I think it isn’t useful to dismiss someone’s feelings as invalid, no matter how wrong you’re sure they are.  Perhaps it’s too difficult a line to walk, but treating people’s emotions as something they should be embarrassed by isn’t only cruel, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose. Ideas and behavior are things worth critiquing, but someone’s emotions cannot be invalid, you cannot argue with someone that they can’t feel something, that’s not how it works. How they respond to their feelings? Yes, that’s fair game, but that they have feelings at all isn’t something you get to say is bad.

Cheer Up Emo Kid!

I can’t help but look at the traditional associations of emotion with women and children and logic with men and be a bit bothered by all this from a feminist perspective. I don’t think it’s conscious, but it seems like because emotions are seen as girly they are also seen as unimportant and weak. And if something is logical or rational, it is manly and strong and important. It’s not limited to this community, but also a lot of my friends who are interested in film, a group that is dominated by men as well. When a movie is technically impressive, it is important, but if a movie relies on emotions, it is not. The King’s Speech shouldn’t have won the Oscar because it’s just a story about emotions, not a technical feat like Inception or The Social Network, because emotions aren’t important.  That’s why some movies go to Lifetime and some go to Spike TV.

I ultimately decided that Spock was more irrational than people because he treated the emotional experience as invalid. Although dedicated to logic, Spock never took the extra step and accepted that human emotion was rational, and existed for rational reasons, and that to dismiss it was very limiting. Ignoring the importance of emotion and emotional health isn’t actually a rational way to deal with people. To pretend that human emotions don’t matter or aren’t important, to dismiss mental health as a non-scientific reason for pursuing a course of action… it is most illogical.

Tron: Legacy: Where are all the women?

The Poster

I’m the first to admit that sexism and lack of reasonable representations of women in movies doesn’t always bother me, especially if the movie is entertaining otherwise.  The original Star Wars Trilogy, for example, didn’t pass the Bechdel test at all, but I still love them.  So, my extreme dislike of the movie Tron: Legacy is not just because it’s terrible at representing women, but also because it’s terrible generally.  It’s just that a lot of my inability to appreciate even the special effects and music comes from the ridiculous treatment of women in this film.

The Bechdel test, for those unfamiliar with it, is a very simple test about the representation of women in a movie.  Passing doesn’t mean a film isn’t sexist, but it is useful in showing how few films actually do the following:

1. Have at least two named female characters
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a man

Fembot/Siren

Tron: Legacy passes the first one, and only just, having the characters of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Gem (Beau Garrett). All the other women in the film have names like “Siren #4”.  There is only one line in the entire movie spoken between two women and it is “He’s different,” spoken by fembots, excuse me, “Sirens” about a recently en-spandexed Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund).

What I don’t understand about this movie is that there are so many opportunities to put women into it, why couldn’t there be some in minor roles?  Why couldn’t they be in major roles?

Why couldn’t Sam have been a woman?  Would a story about Flynn’s daughter not have been equally compelling?  I think it could have only helped the film, and it would have been a much more original piece to have a young woman who refused to take up responsibility at her father’s company, than having yet another rich boy who won’t take up his father’s mantle.  The movie could have been exactly the same, but with a Samantha instead of a Samuel, it would have been much better and much more original.

But let’s accept for the moment that the world is just not ready for girl slackers even though it loves the infantilized Apatow boys, surely there could have been a woman in the real world that had an impact on Sam’s life, right?  Instead, the evil CEO and the young Encom programmer they set up as Sam’s rival, and then drop without a second thought, are both men, as is Sam’s only living mentor.  The security guard and police that chase him?  Men.  Even his dog is a boy.  As for his grandmother, she’s just dead, as is his mother — both of them unceremoniously dumped from the film for fear of encumbering it with nuances in the presentation of women.

Jeri Ellsworth: Real Life Awesome Programmer

But surely within the world of the computer there is room for females, right?  After all, there are women programmers, women love the internet, and within a computer it doesn’t really matter if you’re a man or a woman.  The freedom in the semi-anonymous enclave of the computer has been a source of great empowerment for women, surely the creators of the film would give a little something back to all the women who go to Comic Con.  Because women are actually a huge part of geek culture, and the last people who are going to trivialize women and make them into mere sexual toys are the nerds, right?

I have to admit that I was shocked at the fembots/sirens scene — it pulled me right out of the movie.  When Sam Flynn goes into the Grid world, he is immediately taken into a room with four super sexy women — the kind of ridiculous, hyper-sexed women I haven’t seen in a theater since Dude, Where’s my Car? — they strip him down and then dress him.  Why does this scene exist?  There is no new information given and surely they could have introduced Gem, who appears later, in a much less embarrassing way.

"First you give us the continuum transfunctioner, then we give you oral pleasure."

So then Sam goes to fight in the Neon Frisbee games, and all of his competitors are men, because hurling a frisbee is bad for female programs’ delicate sensibilities, and then he goes to talk to the evil Clu, who has a strictly XY inner circle.  I will refrain from complaining too much, because James Frain was brilliant and I love him, but is there any reason the major domo couldn’t have been a woman?  Or maybe the guards or people working on computers nearby could have been female.  Or just one person in the light cycle bike racing fight.

I find these heels incredibly practical for fighting and driving

When Quorra finally makes an appearance, it’s almost a relief to remember that non-fembot women are, in fact, allowed to be on screen.  Unfortunately, Quorra is a hyper-sexualized, wide-eyed, male fantasy.  She only wears skintight clothing, can fight and drive fast cars, but doesn’t know anything and needs men to teach her about the world and make decisions for her.  I love Olivia Wilde, but this character is embarrassing — after seeing how brilliant and nuanced she can be on House, it’s incredibly depressing to see her made into nothing more than fodder for fanboy fantasy.

At this point the film just gets dull and repetitive until we are reintroduced to the siren Gem, and meet Zeus, played to manic David Bowie extremes by Michael Sheen.  Once again, there is an opportunity here for a meaty secondary role to be given to a woman, and once again they give it to a man.  I love Michael Sheen, but what if Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton had had this role?  It would have meant giving lines to a woman who wasn’t a smoking hot 25 year old, I know.

Quorra gets injured and has to be saved by Flynn the elder.  And then she gets captured by Tron and has to be rescued by Flynn the younger.  And then there’s a chase scene in which she flies a plane, as directed by the men, and Flynn the younger shoots at people and Flynn the elder uses his magic godlike powers to fight Clu.  At the end our intrepid hero gets the girl and drives her around on the back of his bike, where women belong.

Why is it necessary to have this shot, and why am I sitting like this?

There were so many opportunities for this film to treat women as anything other than sexual objects and so many good reasons for it to have done so.  It’s very difficult for me, as someone who loves and identifies strongly with geek culture, to put up with the complete lack of reasonable female characters in almost every major release that is supposed to appeal to me.  This stuff isn’t hard and it doesn’t require that much thought, but of course the only female with a major role in the creation of the film was the woman who wrote the original screenplay to Tron 30 years ago.

Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s difficult to be a woman online, or what objectification looks like, or if you’ve ever wondered why I don’t vlog or like to be on camera, I’d like to direct you to a 27 page message board discussion that took place over the course of 6 months about whether or not I was hot when I was 22.

http://www.xmfan.com/viewtopic.php?t=69611

Spoiler Alert: Not hot. Also, they hope I will kill myself and film it.

Finding 24-year-olds sexy? Not Pedophilia

I am a huge fan of the show Glee. This is not necessarily because the show is that great, a lot of the episodes fall hugely flat, the plots are occasionally nonsensical, and the characters change to suit whatever the episode is doing. But, it’s a show about loser high school kids and they sing songs I know the words to. Plus, Jane Lynch.

So, Dianna Agron and Lea Michele, who are both 24, posed along with Corey Monteith, 28, in GQ and the Parents Television Council has said it “borders on pedophilia”. You know, I’m just going to let Classically Liberal do the talking because it’s less expletive laden than my response:

Pedophilia is a persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV also says the adult partner must be at least 16 years of age and at least 5 years older than the child. Non-sexual photos of adults, even of adults who play teenagers on television, is not even on the borderline of pedophilia.

In fact, by definition, even if the photo shoot were of actual teenagers this would not be pedophilia. Notice what pedophilia is NOT. It is not the violation of age of consent laws. Age of consent is a legal definition for a status crime, it is not something that falls under the clinical definition of pedophilia.

Nor is pedophilia a sexual relationship with significant age differences, unless one of the individuals is a prepubescent child. A man of 50 who dates an 18 year old is not a pedophile since the 18 year old is not a prepubescent child.

Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to sexually immature children.

Go read the entire article. Really, this is meant to just be a link saying how well-written and thoughtful that article is, but I’m too irritated by the entire thing to leave it at that.

Because I do actually have a problem with the photoshoot — why isn’t Corey Monteith nearly naked too? Mary McNamara at The LATimes got this right:

But the problem isn’t so much the sex as the sexism. And the disappointing banality of it all.

One assumes that Michele, whose poses are much more aggressively suggestive than Agron’s, also wants a payoff for the hours she has clearly spent in the gym since the show premiered, or at least a bigger payoff than her recent Britney Spears number. And no one can blame a young actress for wanting to make it very clear that, the Broadway cred notwithstanding, she isn’t a theater geek but a sexually attractive young woman who shouldn’t be shoeboxed into Rachel roles.

But honestly, does a woman still have to strip down to panties and thigh-highs and straddle a bench to accomplish this? That’s not titillating or provocative or even retro. That’s just sad.

This is GQ we’re talking about, so the fact that anyone is at all surprised that there are women wearing little in the way of clothes while the men are fully dressed should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever. I think GQ is pretty damn trashy, but if that’s what people want to do, it’s not like I can stop them. These are things this magazine has had in the past:


I included Borat because it’s the only nearly naked man I could find in the magazine, played for laughs, of course. Obviously the right-wing PTC doesn’t care about feminism or equality, but does care about Glee being too demented for children’s fragile little minds.  Now, why it thinks children should otherwise be allowed to read GQ to see the pictures in the first place remains a mystery.

Why do atheists always have to mock religion?

I was asked this question, sincerely, by a relatively new convert to fundie christianity who had been, throughout the evening, talking an awful lot about church and god and such.  I had gotten bored of that and, over the course of about 10 seconds, referred to the xtian god as an invisible friend, sky daddy, and had finally gone too far by calling Mohammed “Mo”.

He lashed out, very frustrated that I didn’t take the religion thing very seriously, after all I took atheism seriously, right?

I mock religion for the same reason I mock Twilight, though at least Twilight fans generally have the good sense to realize that the book they obsess over is fiction.  It’s very difficult not to make fun of someone with bad taste or who believes something that is obviously very silly, especially when the undertone of your every day life is that there’s something wrong with you for not believing.  And sometimes it’s just fun to make fun of something that is a sacred cow, because why on earth should I have to respect your sacred cows?  I just don’t see why I have to respect your belief that you’re better than everyone else because an invisible man in the sky wrote it down in a self-contradicting book.

I said it was the same as making fun of an adult who still believed in Santa Claus, but he claimed he wouldn’t do that.  I don’t really think the average believer wouldn’t mock someone who believed in Santa at the age of 30, and as believers don’t refrain from mocking other belief systems, I’m going to feel pretty safe in that assumption.

Religion makes factual claims about the physical world, and to be a fundamentalist of any stripe requires ceding your thought process over to something that is demonstrably false.  If you’re going to be a touchy-feely deistic type of believer who doesn’t fund the evil things religion does, then fine, but don’t ask me to respect you for brainwashing children, destroying civil rights, and being responsible for the creation of Christian Rock.

I’m not sure to what degree the average religious believer is willing to “take responsibility” for the religious doctrines they believe, the religious institutions they are members of and support financially, or the religious leaders they follow and thereby give power and authority to. I can’t begin to count how often I’ve seen religious believers disparage civil rights protections for gays on the argument that homosexuality is “chosen” without recognizing that religion is far more like a “chosen” set of behaviors than it is like an inherent characteristic like race or sex.

People say they adopt certain moral positions because it’s what their god wants and thus disclaim any responsibility for either the moral position or any of its consequences. People vote in certain ways because of what religious leaders tell them about the meaning of scripture and/or the will of their god and thus try to avoid personal responsibility for what the government does in their name.

Things to Make You Angry – Lots of Links

More money for Homeopathy in UK
Despite being ridiculed by the British Medical Association, homeopathy products will still be available on a tightening NHS budget


Evil Parents
A Beavercreek couple who left their infant daughter’s fate to God rather than seek medical treatment for a mass that grew over her left eye will face charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Evil Rape Enabler Goes Free
The Utah Supreme Court has reversed Warren Steed Jeffs’ two convictions on charges of rape as an accomplice and ordered a new trial.

Christians fire people for being gay, still get tax breaks!
Apparently NZ doesn’t like Homos either.

Ted Haggard is Still Completely Heterosexual
But now he curses!

Is meat making you fat?
I’m always really skeptical about these food studies, it’s so difficult to separate correlation and causation, and there’s always one study that says this, that or the other is bad for you. And they don’t differentiate between fat gained or muscle gained.

Ipad Owners are Selfish Elites
iPad owners tend to be wealthy, sophisticated, highly educated and disproportionately interested in business and finance, while they scored terribly in the areas of altruism and kindness. In other words, “selfish elites.”

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And to cheer you up:

Baby Daydreams