Thursday, February 10, 2011

Update to the Update

Well, human long-term memory strikes again.

I'm posting this as a new post to make it more visible, because I don't want anyone to feel like I tried to bury my admission of a mistake. I recently watched the video of the panel discussion in question, and Blair does not address the question and poll the audience. He simply moves on, as I had originally remembered.

I was under the impression that the people I was talking to who gave me the information in my update below had watched the video. They had not; they were going by memory as well. Now that I've seen the video, I see that my initial recollection was correct.

Before anyone goes judging me or my friends for trying to twist the truth, I'd like to inform you that everything you remember about anything is wrong, too. Human memories become distorted with time. No matter how clearly you think you remember something, I assure you, some details have changed. This has been proven time and again; and that is why I was so ready to correct myself when presented with my friends' description of the events. Next time, I'll be sure to wait and watch the video myself before making any amendments.

I hope everyone who has read any postings regarding this incident will watch the video and judge for themselves. I feel like the video supports my point of view. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Females, Womyn, Dicks, and SERAM

There is a lot of buzz going around in atheist cyberspace right now regarding the South East Regional Atheist Meet (SERAM) and sexism. There was an incident during one of the panel discussions, and attendee Sharon Moss wrote this guest post about it on the Blag Hag. I was also an attendee, and I was present during the incident. I'd like to blog a response to Sharon's post from my point of view (I'm not going to rehash the story here, but rather quote snippets from the aforementioned post; it is not my intention to take anything out of context. Please use the link above and read the entire post, and if you find that I have misrepresented anything, please feel free to mention it in the comments). The subject was women feeling uncomfortable in atheist groups because men incessantly hit on them.

First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.

I did not get the impression that the panel had come to this conclusion at all. In fact, one of my favorite quotes came from a young man on the panel who said that men in atheist groups should take Phil Plait's advice and "just don't be a dick." There were other good points that were mentioned aside from male biology, such as the fact that if you meet someone of the opposite sex at an atheist/freethinkers meeting, you know right off the bat that you share one very important point of view (one that is statistically difficult to randomly run into in gen pop). That makes the prospect of finding a date at a meeting enticing. It was also generally agreed upon that men need to dial it back considerably, and stop being so damned creepy. I was enjoying the discussion, and I thought it was on its way to being very productive. Until...
So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped.

Okay, now I wouldn't say she snapped. She was frustrated because she felt like her raised hand was being ignored (she was way in the back, but really the panel wasn't paying much attention to the audience in general), but I'd say that claiming that she "snapped" is a little insulting to the woman in question.
Her question focused on the language the panel had been using - “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.

Okay. Here is where I think I'm going to really piss people off, because I'm going to be honest about what I think of this. First of all, I want to say that I don't feel like the woman should be criticized or shamed for having an emotional response and speaking up. She had every right to raise her hand and let her feelings be known.


The woman's question had nothing to do with the issue being discussed. I honestly was stunned that she even said it, considering that the actual subject of women feeling uncomfortable because of unwanted advances from men in atheist groups is a very real issue that needed to be discussed. Why bring up semantics?

Okay, she was offended. I get that. I'm not angry about that, nor do I think badly of her for being offended. But that does not mean that I have to agree with her, or even respect her reasons for being upset. I should not be expected to automatically respect her views just because she was offended any more than I should be expected to respect a creationist's views because they are offended by evolution in science class.
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No!

This is correct; the panel did not dwell on the question. This woman's question was a frivolous semantics issue, and the consensus among the audience was that no one else had an issue with it. It did not need to be given any more time than it was given.
The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up.

No. No, she wasn't.
First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”

The reality of what happened here was that there was a discussion (yes, the whole "women/womyn" thing was brought up), it became an unorganized murmur among the group, and a guy on the panel made a joke. The words I remember him saying were "Okay, from here on out we'll just say 'the weaker sex.'" It was a joke to point out the fact that people don't refer to us like that anymore, and we needed to move on. I think that moving on with humor was a good tactic; having a sense of humor about potentially caustic subjects helps diffuse the tension. When you can laugh at something, it renders it benign.
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?)

Me. I wouldn't.
I - a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers - went after her.

This is the only comment in the post that makes me genuinely angry, because it is a lie. Christie Swords, an event organizer, got up and immediately followed the woman to the bathroom to talk to her and see if she was okay. She stayed there with her until the end of the panel discussion. In fact, I had to go in to let her know that she was due to be on stage for her own panel so she would not be late.
...the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.”

As he should have. This was not something that needed to derail the conference. The moderator pulled the panel back on topic; that is what moderators are supposed to do.

This is where I stop my commentary because the remainder of Sharon's post is regarding Sean Faircloth's speech on Saturday, and I was not present for that.

There are many people, men and women alike, who were present at the conference and, like me, feel that Sharon's post misrepresents the events and attitude at SERAM. It worries me that the uproar regarding our opinions seems to always come back to the fact that we "didn't respect the offended woman." As a freethinker, I'm quite offended that fellow freethinkers expect me to mindlessly respect someone's actions and emotions when they are directly inverse to my observations and experience.

I want to end this with the statement that I like Jen (the Blag Hag); I don't always agree with her, and that's okay. I like the fact that as skeptics and freethinkers, we are individuals. I won't stop reading her very well written blog just because her stance on feminism is different from mine. The fact that there are differences makes me think, and examine my own opinions and ideas, and that is what I seek. Just because I express a dissenting opinion does not mean that I have lost any respect for her; on the contrary, intellectual debate and discussion helps us grow and learn. That's a positive thing, y'all.

Update: After some conversation with others who were also in attendence and have recently viewed the video from the panel, I feel that I should add that the moderator actually did address the issue, and asked the audience if they felt the use of the term "female" was offensive. Only two women raised their hand. Then he asked the audience if they didn't find it offensive and everyone laughed and agreed that it was not an issue. The woman then asked the moderator whether he was offended when called a "male," to which he replied, "No, because I am a male." That is when the "weaker sex" joke was made and the woman left the room, upset. These things are all clear on the video and audio, which will be released soon.

Update to the update: See new post. My update has some misinformation. Le sigh.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My First Persecution

Today, my daughter suffered because of who I am.

J has been best friends with B for four years. When you are 14 years old, that is a big chunk of your life. They are very, very close. This weekend, J spent the night with B at B's Nana's house (Nana is B's biological mother). B is the daughter of a lesbian couple, who are now split up (B calls the other half of that couple "Mom"), but Nana lives with her current girlfriend in a happy relationship. I know that's a lot of explaining; but it's kind of important, because it will be useful information later.

Well, apparently, today Nana decided that I am a bad role model and have poor parenting values. Because I am an open atheist and because I am in a polyamorous relationship. Apparently, J and I are corrupting B, and causing her to behave unacceptably. In other words, B does not believe in god, and it is our fault. So, she does not want J and B to spend time together anymore. Oh, and Nana apparently does not want B to grow up to accept people who live non-traditional lifestyles.

Yeah, I'm going to give you a second to process that last one. It blew my mind, too.

First of all, J didn't convert B to atheism.

When J and B first met, B already did not believe in god. She had a pretend, joke deity she called "Afro Roller Skating Jesus," but it was made up, just like other religions. The difference was, B knew this one was made up.

J did not convince B that there was no god. J and B did bond more quickly, I think, because they shared similar worldviews. It's kind of tough to find a fellow 10 year old atheist in the southern United States. So yes, J and B say things sometimes that many people would consider shocking and irreverent. I didn't have a problem with it; kids need a safe outlet for things like that. They both had problems with issues that religion caused them in their personal lives, and they needed to blow off some steam sometimes. I saw no harm in it. Nana doesn't see it that way. To paraphrase what Nana told me today, as long as B lives with her and is under 18, she is going to try to guide her to believe what they believe. No underage freethinking in the Nana household, I guess.

As for Nana disapproving of my lifestyle, that does baffle me. It's not like I scream it from the rooftops, or wear tee shirts saying "I love my girlfriend and our boyfriend" (although that would be a hilarious and awesome tee shirt). B came with us all on a day trip to a big aquarium in our area, so yeah, she is aware that I have a girlfriend and a boyfriend, but it isn't like we all stripped down and started going at it in front of everybody; to anyone seeing the group, it looked like a big group of family and friends visiting the fucking aquarium.

I'm sure Nana has never been persecuted here in the South for believing in god; but I wonder whether she has ever been persecuted for being a lesbian? Did it not bother her? Did her child suffer for it?

I wonder how she would feel if I had been the one who decided that I didn't want J to hang out with B because I felt like her lifestyle was wrong, and it might corrupt my child? I wonder how she would feel if I told her that her family was invalid because it wasn't my idea of what a family should be?

What I can't understand is how can she be so intolerant, when she lives a life that is so susceptible to discrimination and persecution as well? And why does she feel like it's fair to punish our girls for it? She isn't hurting me; I don't give a flying shitcake what she thinks of me. She's hurting my baby girl. And I do care about that. I care about that a lot. And I'm furious. She is also hurting her own baby girl, and I care about that, too. B is a great kid, and I really hate what she must be going through right now. She is going to have religion shoved down her throat horribly for a while, and she's going to be censored like crazy.

All of this makes part of me want to run and hide; change my lifestyle to be more normal, and pretend that I believe in religion just to seem normal. Maybe even go to church once in a while.

But it makes a bigger part of me want to come out to everyone, and just say "Hey. This is who I am. I'm a bisexual, polyamorous atheist with a fucking southern accent. We're a rare breed, and if you don't like it, you can kiss my deviant heathen ass!"

I won't do either of those things. I'll continue to be who I am, but keep it low key. I'll continue to raise my child to be who she is, and do my best to keep her safe while she's doing so. I'll continue to nurture her critical thinking skills, encourage her skepticism, and love her for everything she is. And all I can do is hope that's good enough.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yes, We Can Get Along

Phil Plait himself said it at TAM 8. Don't be a dick.

I recently had a very difficult honor to fulfill. My best friend, S (you read about her here) asked me to write and deliver the eulogy for her mother. As you can imagine, I was very close to her mother. She was my Aunt D (shortened for anonymity). I loved Aunt D so much, and I am so sad that she is gone. S wanted me to do her eulogy because I knew her, and also because she enjoys my writing and felt that I could inject some humor and happiness into what was such a sad, difficult time. I did my best.

Now, as you know from reading about S, she is a believer, but now knows that I am an atheist. That has not changed our friendship one bit. She really is the best. Aunt D was also a believer, and so there was a preacher who spoke at her funeral. S made a point to tell the preacher up front that her mother's funeral was not to be made into a spectacle to further his spiritual agenda (she didn't use those words; but that's the gist of what she told him), and that if he went too long or started getting too preachy (she did not want a sermon), that she would have no problem getting up and telling him to stop (this is all what I remember; I may be embellishing. But she is a spitfire, so this isn't an exaggeration). She would have, too. He seemed to understand.

The preacher opened with a few words and a prayer. S sat between her husband and me, with his arm around her shoulders and my hand clasped in hers. I didn't bow my head for the prayer; I was reflecting on my memories of Aunt D. She was fine with that.

The singers stood and sang. Of course they were Christian songs; and it was right that they were. I sat with my best friend and held her hand through the music. The singers sang beautifully.

Then it was time for me to get up and speak. This was a difficult time for me; I was terrified that I would not memorialize Aunt D as well as I felt she deserved. I was a little afraid that I might offend some of the family by not mentioning things that they felt were important. I was afraid that I would break down and not be able to finish. But I was honored that S had asked me to do this for her, and so I stood and walked to the podium, and delivered the best eulogy that I could deliver.

I said shit a few times in the eulogy. It was intentional. S knew I was going to say it; I was saying it quoting Aunt D. You see, Aunt D was one of the very few parents of my friends who would say "shit" in front of me as a child. I always thought that was awesome, and it was something I wanted to mention. Because it was a happy memory. And it was who she was. S also wanted me to mention the phrase "dumber than owl shit," because Aunt D said that often. So I worked that in there, too. I didn't say anything about where Aunt D "was now," that she was in a "better place," or any gods or Jesus or anything spiritual. I spoke about the strong, beautiful, loving woman that I remember, and about her daughter who so lovingly and selflessly took care of her during her final days. The preacher was displeased, but he didn't show it overtly. He gave me subtle glares. As if to say with his eyes, "I know that you are not one of us; you speak of earthly things."

After I sat down, it was the preacher's turn again. He said very little about Aunt D. He gave a mini sermon. Which is the opposite of what S requested. He talked about how he knew that everyone in the room had an ultimate goal to be with God (wrong), and how Christians should not dread death, but look forward to it, because they finally get their reward. I wonder how he would have felt if a crazy psycho had broken into the funeral home at that moment and offered to give him his reward? The hypocrisy infuriates me.

He made a reference along the lines of some people believe the world was started with a big bang - and "we all know that that is a lie." When he said that, S gave my hand a squeeze, as if to say, "I know. Don't say anything. Everybody knows he is absurd." I just love her so much. Of course, I sat there respectfully. I was there for S and Aunt D. This preacher man was not going to get a rise out of me.

After it was over, almost everyone hugged me warmly and told me that they appreciated what I had said about Aunt D. Except the preacher. He gave me a cold handshake and didn't say a word.

But, there were no cross words. There was no spectacle. As much as it pained him, he did not approach me about my irreverance. And I did not approach him about his. We silently agreed to disagree, and everything remained calm.

I guess my point is, when you have people who love each other very much (such as S and me), you can have huge differences in world view, and it's okay. It doesn't have to ruin anything. And when there is someone that you just really don't like (such as preacher man and me), you can just keep your mouth shut sometimes.

Phil was right. It's best to just not be a dick.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted in so very long; I've been staying busy. Trips with my wonderful daughter, music lessons with said daughter, new job, new hobbies, new friends, new boyfriend and girlfriend...lots of good things to take up my time. So the blog fell a bit by the wayside. I'll try to do better.

This post is about the James Randi Educational Foundation's fantastic convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, The Amazing Meeting 8 (TAM 8). My daughter, her father, his wife, and I all went this year, and we had a fantastic time.

If you don't know about jref, or TAM, click the links to see what I'm talking about. Because I'm not going to bore you with trying to explain what they do when the language on their website is so much more eloquent than anything I can say; what I'm going to post here are the highlights of the trip.
  1. Meeting wonderful, intelligent, skeptical, thinking people, like Shaune and Cindy, Kitty, many more than I can mention here. It's nice to find out you're not alone.
  2. Meeting Mr. Deity himself. I nearly died.
  3. Hearing brilliant talks and forums that inspired questions, discussions, and debates.
  4. The juggling workshop.
  5. Did I mention that I met Mr. Deity?
  6. Adam Savage signed my duct tape purse.
  7. Spending time with my incredible daughter in Vegas. We attended talks, laughed, saw the Bodies and Titanic exhibits at the Luxor, visited the Hoover Dam, had a spa day...I just really enjoyed the hell out of having such a cool getaway with her.

This may not be one of my more entertaining posts. But I wanted to share a bit about my trip, and also let everyone know that yes, I'm still alive.

More soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Error of My Ways

Today I had a conversation with someone who convinced me that I have been wrong. So very, very wrong.

I have re-accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and from here on out this will be a testament to my thankfulness for His grace and that he could forgive a sinner like me, who so callously turned her back on Him.

I am so ashamed of my falling away. I just pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ will understand and someday forgive me as He has.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Random 7

They are themselves random, and they are posted at random times. This is the nature of the Random 7.
  1. Sometimes, when your uterus is falling out and your hormones are making you feel like you need to set something on fire, cookies help.
  2. Also? Beer.
  3. Sometimes, I do things that are only funny to me. I don't care whether anyone else thinks it's funny; it makes me laugh and it makes me happy. For instance (Note to my daughter: you are going to want to skip this one and go straight to #4; DO NOT READ IT AND IF YOU DO THEN YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COMPLAIN BECAUSE I WARNED YOU), the face washing product I use looks very much like semen. Recently when I was showering with someone, I said, "Hey, look at this..." and proceeded to squirt a glop of it on my face like a money shot. I laughed and laughed. I think he was only moderately amused. Actually, I think it may have only been a pity snicker.
  4. My daughter read that last one. She would have laughed if anyone else in the world wrote it. But now she's traumatized.
  5. I have a new job and my boss is totally cool. I can say things to him that are entirely inappropriate and he just laughs at them. It is awesome.
  6. I also have a totally sexy coworker across the cubicle wall from me. He's the guy from #3.
  7. My daughter just got pissed off again because she read that one. I didn't warn her about it because I knew it wouldn't do any good.