Raising a glass and taking a step: An eulogy and a call to action

heart made of candlesOver the last week I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about the murders in Isla Vista and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading tweets and essays about the #yesallwomen movement.  Originally I thought I would write a furious blog post excoriating Elliot Rogers and anyone who believes that misogyny should be dismissed.  But now that some time has passed I’m sick of that twisted individual and everything he represents.  I never want to hear his name again.  I want us to learn a lesson from him and then forget him.  He does not deserve my attention.

But other people do deserve my attention.  Raise a glass with me to:

George Chen

Katherine Cooper

Chen Yuan Hong

Veronika Weiss

Weihan Wang

Christopher Martinez

On April 14, three people were killed in a hate crime outside a synagogue in Kansas.   Their names were:

Reat Griffin Underwood

William Corporon

Terri LeManno

So many people of color are shot every day that I don’t even have the space to list all their names – a fact which should outrage all of us..  According to USA Today:

In 2011, the last year for which the FBI has complete data, 1,668 blacks under the age of 22 were killed in this country. That’s more than triple the 469 American servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan that year. An average of eight children was killed each day in 2011 — and half of them were black — according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

So tonight I raise my glass to everyone who is targeted because of their skin or their economic status or their appearance.

I raise my glass to every woman who has been assaulted, threatened, patronized, or dismissed because of her gender.

I raise my glass to the women of Darfur who venture outside to gather firewood, knowing they will probably be raped and/or killed, because that’s what they have to do to keep their families alive.

I raise my glass to the missing girls of Nigeria, and to all the girls around the world who are assaulted, kidnapped, or killed simply because they want to go to school.

I raise a glass to the teachers and children who were shot to death in Newton, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.  I raise my glass to every parent who found the courage to send their kids to school in December 15, 2012.

I raise my glass for every woman who dares to walk alone at night, who wears what she pleases, and who speaks her mind.  I raise my glass to all women who have the courage it takes to say “no”.

I raise my glass to all the women who continue to believe in love and who have the courage to say “yes” despite the knowledge that “In recent years, 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims were killed by an intimate partner” (from The American Bar Association).

I raise my glass to all the women who have shared their stories and I raise my glass to all the men who have supported us.

I raise my glass as well to my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, interest, and asexual fellow human beings who are targeted because of their gender identity and their sexuality.

I raise my glass to all the people I have not listed, whether in the USA or internationally, who are targeted because of race, gender, sexuality, or religion.  I raise my glass to people who struggle for freedom, whether they do it by rallying in Venezuela or by refusing to stay in after dark in a city in California.

Take Action 

Here are some sites that are involved in activism that promotes causes including gun control and equal rights for women.  Sign a petition, make a donation, vote at the ballot box and with your dollar.  Check out the #yesallwomen movement on Twitter and examine your own behavior.  Do a thing.  Do anything.  A small thing is better than no thing.

National Organization for Women

RAINN:  Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

Planned Parenthood

Amnesty International

ACLU LGBT Project

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

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Richard Dawkins Misses the Point – Again

Picard and RikerOh, Richard Dawkins.  For such a genius (and I’m not being sarcastic – he’s an incredibly intelligent and influential writer on the topic of evolution and on the topic of atheism) he sure has been missing the point lately.

Dawkins said this earlier this week, which I’m reprinting from NPR:

“Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.” He goes on to state that as a prep student, he and others had been groped by a teacher, but says, “I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage.”

I’ll give you all minute to digest that.  When you are done ripping out your hair and screaming, ponder this – in May, Dawkins infuriated lots of people by mocking a woman who complained (rather mildly) about being propositioned in an elevator at a Skeptics conference.  This woman, Rebecca Watson, didn’t accuse her propositioned of being a predator or anything, she just pointed out that maybe 4AM in an elevator is not the right place or time to ask a woman to come up to your room if you want her to feel comfortable.  Her comments were mild and brief but somehow this escalated into an Internet discussion that left smoking keyboards all across the land, and Dawkins remained, to the end, convinced that there was no problem – that Rebecca Watson had no reason to feel uncomfortable and if she did it was her choice.  You can read more about that ugly exchange, including Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima” comment, here, and you can read Rebecca Watson’s response to the controversy here.

Particularly in the child abuse quote, there are so many offensive things being said at once that each deserves its own blog post.  But since I’m confident that thousands of people are frantically typing their own essays about the problem with the phrase, “mild pedophilia”, I’m going to focus on another problem – why is Dawkins so dismissive about instances where people’s boundaries are violated?  Or, as Deanna Troi might put it:

Angry Troi

For once, Troi says it better.  I tried to find a picture without the “F” word in it that would convey my sentiments, but sometimes the “F” word just really, really applies.

The common thread Dawkins seems to follow is that if something does no “lasting damage”, then it’s not worthy of much concern or condemnation.  I’m pretty skeptical about his claim that his schoolmates who were sexually and physically abused didn’t experience “lasting damage”.  But just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend (OK, I’ll use a less loaded word – let’s assume) that Dawkins is correct.  Does that mean that we should accept some violations of our physical boundaries?  Allow Worf to speak for us all:

Angry Worf

I think what he’s trying to say is…”No.”

Well, no, we shouldn’t.  If nothing else, we shouldn’t ignore “mild” violations, because they contribute to a culture in which violating the body of another is acceptable in any form.

I understand Dawkins’ point that not every violation has the same impact on a person.  If someone grabs my butt at a science fiction convention, is that the same as being dragged off a bus and raped to death in the street?  No, of course not.  But both things are made possible by the same belief:  the belief that the body of someone who is less powerful than you is yours to use for your own ends.

That’s why it’s important that women be treated with respect at conventions (there are, of course, other reasons, but this is the core reason that I think best addresses Dawkins’ concerns).  It’s not that we’re so stupid that we can’t see that being grabbed is less traumatic than being raped – it’s that we DO see that both groping and raping are pieces of the same puzzle.  The reason Rebecca Watson felt uncomfortable in the elevator is that women know that we live in a culture where we have to constantly defend our bodies from everything from mild indignities to government inference to murder.  In defending my right to go out in public without being harassed, I am also defending my right to live without being raped, beaten, or killed – I am saying that my body is mine, and must not be violated, not even a little bit.

If people, be they women, children, or men, are to be able to live their lives with safety and dignity, then there have to be legal and social consequences to those who violate the physical boundaries of others.  Although there are legal protections for rape victims, social condemnation hasn’t caught up – witness how many times rape victims are blamed for the rape (they were wearing the wrong thing, they were in the wrong place, etc).  We have stronger social sanctions against those who molest children partly because the violation of trust is greater.  There’s a sense that a woman should know that she can’t trust a stranger in an elevator (and isn’t that sad, and so unfair to the vast majority of men who are NOT predators), but a child should be able to trust adults, especially adults that the child has been specifically told to trust and is completely dependent upon (parents, babysitters, relatives, teachers).

If Dawkins survived his childhood unscathed, then I’m happy for him.  But our world is, well, scathed, because of what happened to him and his classmates.  Our world is lesser, and we are all less safe, not because those specific teachers are lurking in our closets, but because because the idea that you can use the body of another person to satisfy your own whims lurks in our culture and in other cultures throughout the world.  So yeah – I do condemn people who grope children, and I do condemn people who harass women, and I do condemn rapists and murderers.  My body is mine, my daughter’s is hers, and Dawkins’ is his.  And that’s important.

Spock and Jim

Thank you to the cast of Star Trek for helping me out here.  As a new blogger, I’m still figuring out when it is and isn’t acceptable to use images posted online by others – if you click on the photos and go to “description”,  you can see where the photos come from.

Wednesday Video: Nothing To Prove

WednesdayVideoSeen this yet?  No?  Well, watch it now – it’s awesome.

I’ve never had a hard time being recognized as a geek, possibly because I emanate geekness from my very pores.  But our society is still having a hard time coping with the concept that you can love science fiction, fantasy, and gaming even you have *gasp* girly parts.  As evidence I give you the fact that my nine-year-old daughter loves Star Wars and Phineas and Ferb and The Avengers, but those T-shirts are only sold in the “boy” section of the store (and when she wears them to school, believe you me, her classmates have a lot of questions about why she’s wearing “boy” clothes).  And God Forbid there should be a Black Widow shirt from the Avengers movie.  Come on, marketers.  Avengers was a major blockbuster.   Black Widow was a major character.  Where’s the love?

Given the fact that women dominated the social media conversation about Comic-Con in 2013, and that women bought 40% of the opening weekend ticket sales to Avengers, and that four of the six authors nominated for a Nebula Award in the 2012 “Best Novel” category were women, and that 40% of the people who attended Comic-Con in 2012 were women, and that men as well as women are fed up with the fact that this is still an issue (special thanks to allies Will Wheaton, John Scalzi, and Jim C. Hines), I’m hoping that my daughter’s daughters will find the above video to be cute but baffling.  I am so sick of this conversation – but I’ll keep having it as long as I need to, until my daughter’s daughters can like what they want, when they want, where they want, without being judged on the basis of gender.