Get Your Misogyny Here!

Another year, and once again I am reminded that tomorrow, August 26th is “Women’s Equality Day”. Thanks going to K. S. Bowers for reminding me this year. I make no apologies for needing to be reminded every year. Not only am I a guy, but I’m the worst kind of guy, being a fat lazy white American. I need to be reminded about everything that’s not related to food eating or TV watching. If you feel these are inadequate excuses, you’re probably right.

I originally set up this blog as a means to talk about my writing, but that’s stalled for now and I find that I still need to say something from time to time. Recently, I took down two years worth of blog posts about the writing and restarted with no particular theme in mind other than what’s going on in my head. I came out of the closet as a full fledged atheist about 8 years ago. Prior to that, I was apathetic towards theism altogether, but having just gotten my PhD at the time, I decided I’d take a stance on the matter and become an apathetic atheist. I’ve grown increasingly less apathetic the last couple of years, but I’ll talk about that some other time, as that is probably the direction this blog will head.

What kept me from organized religion? After all, I get the sense that a great number of “religious” people are more or less unattached to their own religions, which is why I assume so many non-denominational churches have cropped up over the last 30-40 years. People don’t seem to sweat the details of Jesus worship like they did in my grandmother’s time when it was a big deal for her to convert from Baptist to Catholicism. When my mother, a Catholic, married my father, a Methodist, people probably talked (likely from my grandmother’s generation) but not enough that either of them converted. As for my generation, I can’t say as I know of anyone where creed was an issue prior to marriage. Of course, I will stipulate that I grew up in New York State where religion is not as openly pervasive in the culture. Your mileage may vary.

I know what you’re thinking. I never answered the “What kept me from organized religion?” question. This being a post about women’s equality and misogyny, you should be able to anticipate the answer that I’m working toward, so be patient.  ;-)

I’m going to backtrack for a moment to when I was eight years old, in third grade, and playing on the playground. This being 34+ years ago, forgive me if I simply paraphrase the discussion I had with two friends:

Boy #1: Don’t even talk to ####, she kicks where the sun don’t shine.

Boy #2: She has cooties, if she hits you, you’ll get cooties too.

Me: Does she REALLY have cooties? (For context, this is said sardonically.)

Boy #1 & Boy #2 reaffirm that ####, does indeed have cooties and they run off to play somewhere else on the playground.

I remember leaving the brief incident perplexed in that the girl probably tried to kick Boy #1 because he was teasing her, and whereas I was confident that cooties was not a “thing”, I was equally confident that she didn’t “have” them. Indeed, I found no reason to suspect she was inherently different than the three of us. And let’s face it, at eight years old, there wasn’t a lot of difference, so my prepubescent brain came to the conclusion that girls were the same as boys, but a little different. (Hey, I was eight. How deep did you think my thought process was going to be?)

Flash forward to my early twenties, maybe 21 or 22. I went to the wedding of a friend of a friend and in the ceremony the pastor made some comments about the woman needing to obey her husband because “Jesus” and as he continued I waited for the same speech to be made to the groom, only it never came. The ceremony ended apparently without the need for the man to obey his wife and they lived happily ever after, or so I assume, because I never saw her again.

I commented about this at the reception and two or three people tried to explain that those words weren’t like they sounded. Forgive me for being light on the details, but this was over 20 years ago and occupied 4 minutes of my time, suffice it to say none of the people were able to sufficiently explain why the woman had to be told to obey and the guy did not.

At this point in my life I was probably an apathetic agnostic, but it wasn’t unheard of for me to go to a religious service from time to time. After this wedding, I think the number of services I have gone to can be counted on one hand. Once with my sister, once I went to a service given by one of my fencing students (she was a Presbyterian minister), and 2-3 times with an ex whose mother played the organ in a Catholic Church.

To this day, no one has been able to adequately explain this necessity for women to obey in the name of Jesus and the guys do not. My sister effectively told me that someone has to be the head of household, and it should be the man. My female Presbyterian minister fencing student, explained that we all know that the cited passages apply to both men and women, it’s just not written that way, and insert “layers of rationalization here” as to why she’s right and the book representing God’s word on earth is wrong, only we never say it that way.

Thus, I can honestly say that it is the underlying misogyny of the Christian faiths that kept me from sheepling along with the crowd. At least as a young man. As I got older, and gave the metaphysical some deep thinking, I’m sure it was because I realized I just didn’t believe in a sky-daddy puppeteering the universe.

Let’s get back to the Women’s Suffrage. As much as I like to think that I have always been on the women’s side of this movement, I know I’m not perfect. I will share one last anecdote that I try to keep in mind because it was possibly the most important lessons I have ever learned. Namely, as pro-suffrage as I am, I am still a misogynist. Being so holier than thou, it was quite the blow to my ego when I found this out.

About 15 years ago, I belonged to an internet group of like minded individuals that congregated together so as to disseminate copyrighted material to the masses. (Which by the definition I gave you does not include Child Porn, so don’t even go there. You know the kind of material I’m talking about.) I make no apologies for my involvements. Anyway, the group was probably close to half female, but honestly, there may have been more women than men now that I think about it. We were all avatars online, so gender was never all that important to us.

We had our own private server that hosted a special forum where we could post information to each other, the usual chat stuff that forums offer, etc. One day I heard a silly misogynistic joke at school. I don’t recall what it was exactly, but it was joke that ribbed women for getting old. Not that men don’t get old, but socially, this is a bigger deal for women as the implication seems to revolve around women being less attractive as they get older, less useful, whatever. This joke played on that sentiment and I foolishly posted it to the forum.

For what was intended to be a silly harmless joke, our small forum exploded. Half the guys LOL’d, half the guys said WTF! Probably 3/4’s of the women were enraged, and 1/4 scoffed, rolled their eyes at the puerile joke and ignored it. Mind you, this is a group that’s all adults and on the smarter end of the spectrum. (Or at least, capable of doing a lot of technical computer activities for fun in their spare time.)

The group, with stupid me at the center, spent the next few days parsing what the problems were with making this post. After all, it was just a harmless quip for a cheap laugh, why get all panty bunched about it? I’m not a misogynist, it was just a joke, right? I honestly wish I had saved that forum thread as there were a great number of profound comments made by both men and women arguing both sides of the debate. As much as I hate to do it, I will boil down hundreds of comments to just one idea:

Women ALWAYS have to be “on”.

By that, I mean they always have to have their guard up against silly jokes. Because if they react, they’re being overly sensitive. And every guy has made a misogynistic joke of some sort in front of a woman and I promise you 95% of the time the woman let’s it go, because they just kind of have to. Even women in our group said, “Meh” to the forum discussion and moved on, because they’ve just learned that they have to always be the “bigger man” and suck it up.

But silly jokes really are just the tip of the iceberg. Women always have to be “on” about the way they dress. At work, they have to dress better to be taken seriously. Socially, they have to dress in a way that’s not too provocative. They have to worry about their hair, their make-up. They have to worry about the times when they need to worry about these things because they don’t want to get caught “un-made” at the wrong time with the wrong people.

They have to be “on” with their behavior. In the work place, an assertive man is a “go getter”, an assertive woman is a “bitch”. Socially, a woman that asserts herself is “high maintenance”, after all the woman should be deferring to the man, ask Jesus.

They have to be “on” physically. The average woman is significantly smaller than the average man. When I was in Grad school, If I couldn’t sleep, I would walk the streets of Albany (That’s the capital of NY state. For those who live in the U.S., you probably don’t know that.) at all hours of the night. A woman doesn’t have the luxury to feel safe at night in any neighborhood.

This sort of thing goes deeper than that. If a guy wants to ask a woman out for coffee, I can understand why he doesn’t want to ask in front of all her friends. No one wants to get rejected in front of an audience. But it’s not okay to follow her out to her car. It’s not okay to follow her into an elevator and ask her when she trapped. Guys, if you feel like a vulture waiting to swoop in, you’re going about it wrong. No doubt guys don’t think about these things, because their intentions are pure 99.99% of the time, they’re nervous and aren’t thinking straight. But your occasional discomfort is no excuse to socially force women to be on their guard for their physical safety any time they’re outside the home. I could go on about men unknowingly intimidating women, but I’ll let a woman handle that. (K. S. Bowers, are you up to the challenge?  ;-)  )

I’ll wrap this post up with a few words for the guys, though I hope this post has been good for the ladies too.

That forum discussion, spurred by a callous joke, was probably the most illuminating lesson of my entire adult life. Sure, I always knew that women were our social equals. They aren’t treated that way, and it’s unjust. I could say, “End of story”, but guys, it’s really the beginning of the story. It’s easy to pay lip service to high ideals. The real story ends with you. How do you understand your contributions to inequity? And what are you going to do about it?

Step one to recovery is admitting you have a problem…

And Justice For All…

I’ve been following the story of Niloy Chatterjee, the fourth Bangladeshi Atheist blogger to be hacked to death since the beginning of the year, after he was attacked in his own home by four to six assailants. Fortunately, the tireless work of the Bangladeshi police led everyone to the appropriate victim blaming conclusion that Atheists should stop criticizing religion. Nevermind that an al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack. Somehow, the formal police statement didn’t seem to be a satisfying answer to many international reporters. After a mild international backlash, two men were finally arrested, yesterday for the crime.

Though, let’s face it, this action is clearly a smoke screen to make it appear that the police are doing their duty and fighting crime. After all, there was more than two attackers and a terrorist group confessed to committing the crime. Indeed, if this story were the lame plot to an episode of some crime drama, I can see the hard-nosed cop going to see the local al-Qaeda leader (a person he tolerates in his district only because he knows another, possibly more evil terrorist, may move in to replace him). After roughing up a couple nameless henchmen and walking fearlessly into the al-Qaeda den of ill repute, the hard-nosed cop intimidates the local leader into giving up two of the low-level dupes involved. Why does the al-Qaeda leader agree to this? To preserve the local peace and an undisclosed favor to be named later. Naturally, this future favor cannot go against the hard-nosed cop’s “not exactly perfect, but ultimately street practical” set of ethics we can all appreciate. Two incarcerated for one murder. That’s a “+1”, score one for the good guys.

Naturally, that’s fiction. We like the above narrative because it allows us to believe that the world is better than it appears at first glance and it gives us a rationalization for why bad things might happen, if only to achieve a net “karmic gain” for the world. It’s comforting to put on blinders that allow us to forget that bad things happen because bad people with worse motivated reasoning simply walk the surface of the earth. (Note: I’m defining motivated reasoning as, “Hey, that guy doesn’t agree with me.”)

Personally, I don’t see how punishing any number of people who group together to brutally murder a lone person results in any gain for the universe. I see one event of destruction leading to another. Mind you, I am not saying the people responsible should not be punished. Merely, that we should not revel in the prospect of less than half of the people involved possibly getting a fair trial. We should be disgusted by the fact that these evil people forced the rest of society to respond with more evil.

What’s the true narrative here? Honestly, I have no idea. I’m half way around the world and I know nothing of Bangladeshi culture and local policing capabilities, but I can’t help but be suspicious that these two arrests are nothing more than an attempt to create a narrative of Justice as opposed to an honest attempt at finding a band of murderers. After all, the police have to have some pride. Failing to make an arrest for a 4th time would make them look utterly incompetent.

Honestly, with no other knowledge, I find it a reasonable question to ask if the two arrested were even involved? Did the police just scoop up the first two guys they saw wearing al-Qaeda gang colors? Perhaps, the two were asked to martyr themselves for the greater al-Qaeda good and ordered to confess by their head cleric. Or maybe they just happened to be the two biggest A-holes in that local al-Qaeda chapter and when everyone was rounded up and asked, “Whodunnit?” The rest naturally pointed to these two mooks.

I’ll give the Bangladeshi police the benefit of the doubt and assume they collected evidence and can reasonably make a case that these two guys were involved. Regardless, being thrown a raw steak in an effort to patronize those looking to sate some form of bloodlust is unfitting. Niloy Chatterjee spoke out against injustices. It is despicable that his murder has silenced his voice forever. There is no greater injustice.

Forgive me for loading an “anger gun” without offering a positive direction to shoot. I honestly don’t see many positives here. Atheists are the one group that are defenseless against this sort of cultural attack. Atheists do not have a Book of Babble that tells them it’s okay to throw away rationality and decency. They’re stuck applying morality equally and to everyone. The only people allowed to run around with a “moral get out of jail free card” are the ones with a higher power giving them the dispensation to do so. After all, it takes nothing more than quoting a couple verses in the Holy Text to completely remove the humanity from another person. Once that’s done, you can justify doing anything you want to them.

Niloy Chatterjee, thanks for your contributions to humanity. I can only hope the injustices you were forced to endure will one day serve a higher purpose.

Trick 2.0: Trick or Treat

I’m starting a complete resurrection of my blog. Will it be a trick? Or a treat? Likely, neither.

But after more than a year-and-a-half, it didn’t seem right to just pick up where I left off. I decided it was time to reinvent the wheel. I made all the previous posts private, changed the theme, and figured I would start anew.

2014 was not a good year for my family. Quite literally, everyone in my family had a life threatening illness, except for myself and my father. My grandmother passed away at age 83, but she had a good life, so in some ways that was a “highlight” for the year. I put 2014 firmly in the trick category, as these events cost me one job and quite nearly a second.

When the pain and misery slowed down, it took about 4-5 months for most of the depression to wear off. Right about that time, I was laid-off from the second job, so I’ve been unemployed for a couple of months, now. I haven’t really been looking for a new job. I have some money set aside, so I can live without one for a while. Hopefully by then, the work will come back around and I won’t have to actually look for another job. I’m not terribly worried about it. Jobs have a tendency to find me. A fortunate byproduct of having a PhD, I suppose.

Originally, this blog was a platform for my writing, but I haven’t been able to enjoy that vice for a while. No doubt, I’ll eventually put up some of my short stories and a sundry list of other things when I get around to it, but the new blog will probably be a little more focused than before. Previously, I would blog about my writing and whatever else came across the desk in my mind. Quite frankly, no one cared about my writing. Which is no surprise. The internet is filled with many writers and few readers. Despite this fact, I did get some interest in the “other” stuff that came across my mind. Whether it was calling out a gay bigot on the Huffington post, or how television has changed in my life time, there was a small handful of people who actually took the time to read and comment. I’ll focus on the more culturally relevent stuff. Not only did other people seem to enjoy that more, I preferred writing about life, as opposed to writing about myself.

As I asked above, “Will it be a trick? Or a treat?”. I can’t say as yet. More than likely, it will be my treat to get back to expressing myself once again.