Monday, February 28, 2011

In Your Defense, Perhaps You Were Born a Jackass

Today's Failbook fail: Charlie Sheen's Lawyer Has a Point.

I'm going to be honest with you: I don't keep up with news about dickwads who are unjustifiably famous. (Sheen's dad? Justifiably famous. What the fuck has Sheen done to make him so damn famous, besides being born into a famous family? The last reasonably good movie he did was Being John Malkovich, and that was 1999.)

Anyway, so I don't keep up with the Sheenosphere. So my curiosity was piqued by today's Failbook fail, which says, in its entirety: "in Charlie Sheen's defense, cocaine is fun and those women have vaginas."

So, I have no interest in telling anyone what drugs they should or should not put into their bodies. The cocaine part, I am indifferent to.

But the part about women . . . well, I just wanted to know what the hell the commenter was talking about. I searched around for recent Sheen meltdowns, and I couldn't figure out what the women part was about. All his recent ranting seems to be entirely based on cocaine, self-aggrandizement, and anti-Semitism.

Then I pulled up this gem from the New York Times that summarizes Sheen's relationships with women: "In addition to wreaking all manner of havoc on himself with drugs and alcohol that has put him in the hospital and the show on hiatus, Mr. Sheen has done a lot of damage to the people around him, women in particular." It goes on to describe three separate incidents in which he threatened to kill women with whom he was involved, and how he had physically abused all three of them. The kicker: "Yet none of these incidents got Mr. Sheen fired from his lucrative day job as a sitcom star, not even suspended. What did? He insulted his boss."

So . . . his violence against women was utterly minimized . . . he never seemed to face any repercussions for it . . . and this douchebag on Facebook says, "those women have vaginas."

I'm fairly sure the original commenter was excusing Sheen's fucking around, not his beating up of those he fucked, but . . . no. Just . . . no. I have no tolerance for anything even close to this level of shit when it comes to domestic violence. Sit down and shut up, jackass.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Today's Failbook fail: Town Hall Discussion.

Blah blah blah, open forum, blah blah, lesbians caused the New Zealand earthquake.

If this dude was serious, he is a bigoted douche. If this guy was making a joke, he is an idiot. Are you aware, sir, that people actually believe this? At the very least, if it's not clear you're making a joke, then some people will see that and get bigoted, ridiculous ideas.

Even if it were clear . . . I mean, again, it's like that whole "back to the kitchen" thing. You may mean it ironically, but there are plenty of people who will take it utterly seriously, so maybe you could deign not to parrot the words of people who oppress marginalized groups that don't have a bite of your nice privilege sandwich.

And one more thing: I don't care how ironic you think you're being -- it's too damn soon. They're still cleaning up rubble, for fuck's sake.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I -- What -- But -- Really, WHAT

Today's Failbook fail: Men, Women, and Trees.

Oh shit, y'all, it is on.

Failbook hasn't been pushing my buttons for the last two weeks or so. I was starting to secretly wonder if . . . no, it can't be, but maybe . . . are they reading this blog?? I do tweet them with a link when they do something absolutely atrocious. But they've certainly never responded.

This is typical of my relationship, if you can call it that, with Failbook. I email them, or tweet at them, or use their contact form to complain -- not that I do this very often, mind you, but I did it a few times when they started using "frape" like it was the new hotness instead of a hot mess -- and they never get back to me. Ever. Not even a form letter to say, "Thank you for your concern. Humor is subjective, blah blah patronizing bullshit, we hope you enjoy our product."

So, I don't know, I thought they could be silently reading. I have to assume they read my emails and were silent, so I postulated that they could get my tweets and stay silent, too.

Anyway, my point is, my ridiculous fantasy wherein they read this blog and say to themselves, "Shit, we are being assholes by promoting some of this stuff"? Shattered. Totally shattered. All thanks to today's post.

A woman kicks off this layer cake of sexism with this gem, which I have always hated with a fiery passion: "If a man says something in the middle of the forest and there isn't a woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?"

STOP. STOP IT. I know you think you're being cute, but you are perpetuating this Henny Youngman vision of heterosexual relationships that still, to this day, colors almost all interactions between men and women. Women nag! Men pout! Take my wife, please! Christ on a cracker, have we seriously not moved past that?? You are free to date and/or marry anyone you choose (if you are het -- we're working on it for the gay half of this equation, obviously). Why would a woman become involved with a man who, in her opinion, is always wrong?? Why would a man become involved with a woman who believed that about him? Can we not all agree that men are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, and that women are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, because as wacky as it sounds, we are all the same species?!?!

A woman says, "Of course." Shut up.

A man says, "Balderdash, we are always right." Triple, no, quadruple shut up. "Women are always telling men they're wrong" is an ugly manifestation of our culture's ideas of heterosexuality, but "Men are always right" is an even uglier manifestation of men's domination of women. Read some of the stories at No Longer Quivering and then make that fucking joke.

And the last comment, the one that no doubt launched it onto Failbook, is a man saying, "If a tree falls on a woman and no one is around to hear her, why is a tree in the kitchen".

Let's go through what that one sentence is doing:
  1. Telling a woman her place is in the kitchen; and
  2. Throwing in a healthy dose of violence, by way of blunt object trauma.
I know a lot of men, a lot of men, who consider themselves to not be raging sexists, use that whole "back to the kitchen/make me a sandwich" shit in an attempt to be . . . ironic? Or something. Yeah, it's just like wearing a trucker hat, except for the part where you deny the potential of half the human race to achieve anything outside one room in one house.

Lest you think I am overreacting, I invite you to watch The Daily Show's coverage of the 2004 March for Women's Lives (which I proudly attended). It's only 6 minutes long, and it's hilarious, so you should watch the whole thing. But if you're insanely pressed for time, skip ahead to the 2:30 mark, where you see that the anti-abortion protesters are screaming at the marchers, "SUBMIT! BACK TO THE KITCHEN! NOTHING COMPLICATED!"

So, yeah, about your irony? There are plenty of people who don't find it so fucking ironic.

In summary: imagine a train speeding along at 90 MPH carrying a metric ton of sexism. Now imagine Snidely Whiplash has tied a giant sexist douchenozzle to the tracks. Finally, imagine a trucker carrying a wide load of sexism is speeding towards the train tracks, because the arm that's supposed to come down to stop him is tragically malfunctioning.

That KABOOM reverberating through my little scenario is the trainwreck of sexism that this post created. Ugh, it's like sexist shrapnel is being lodged in my brain. Get it out, get it out!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Being Trans Is Not a Punchline

Today's Failbook fail: Lady GaGa's Perfume.

You know, Failbook's fails have been pretty minor for the last couple weeks. It was getting to the point where I was wondering if they had decided to cast off the Dark Side and actually respect human beings.

Then I saw today's fail and I was like, "LOL, they got me, ROFL."

Someone mentions that Lady Gaga (which is, BTW, the correct capitalization of her stage name) is making a perfume called "Blood and Semen." (I have no idea if this is true, and I don't give a shit if it is.) Someone of course makes a crack about how she should use her own semen in it.

I have to phrase what I want to say here very carefully, because it could easily be read by fucknecks as being anti-trans. I want to be clear: there is nothing wrong with being trans. This is obvious to all people who are not jackasses.

However, there is obviously something wrong with wielding accusations of being trans (or gay) as though those accusations are insults and/or punchlines. For the people who've been hiding under a rock for the past three years, Lady Gaga is an immensely successful pop icon, and because she is a successful woman, people "accuse" her of being a transwoman. She is in fact a ciswoman.

There's something insidious and awful about denying people's right to label themselves, for starters. And, of course, only gayness/transness are used as punchlines. Let's try to imagine the opposite scenario with a famous gay person (I would use a famous trans person, but I honestly cannot think of a transperson with the level of public visibility necessary to make this analogy work):

Rando: "Hey, I hear Ellen DeGeneres is starring in a kids' movie where she's married to Colin Firth and their kids get into wacky hijinks." [Ed. note: I clearly just pulled this out of my ass, but N.B. I love Colin Firth.]
Jackass: "Ohmigod, I knew it, this just proves Ellen is a straight!! She's always acting so straight, you know? I know she's says she's a lesbian, but Christ, you can feel the straight vibes just pouring off her."

No. This is clearly ridiculous. We only feel the need to snipe at the people we feel are transgressing the normal bounds of sexuality and gender, try and herd them into their so-called rightful place, way on the edge of the map. To many, being called "gay" or "trans" is punishment for not conforming. And therefore it is an insult, because to deviate from the "normal" course of having your gender line up with your genitals/chromosomes/upbringing (there are many ways of being trans), and having your sexual desire focus upon a lifelong monogamous partnership with a member of the opposite sex, is horrifying to jackasses everywhere.

So Lady Gaga, in all her non-conforming glory, must be herded to the edge of the map, confined to Transworld. That's her punishment. Because for many (most?) people, it is punishment.

I can't wait for the day when someone's sexuality or gender identity is a non-issue. A part of who they are? Absolutely. But as unrelated to others' reactions and judgments as the color of their eyes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

No, Seriously.

Today's Failbook fail: How To: Hookup on Facebook with No Fear of Rejection.

The imaginary women in this post are named "Sexy McSexbucket" (photo: stereotypical young Asian schoolgirl"), "Derpy Derpina," "Ugly Pog," and "Dickshrivel Wench." And it's all about wanting to have sex with women.

Go fuck yourself. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Woman + Tattoo = JUDGMENT

Today's Failbook fail: Financial Advice.

Man, Failbook hates tattoos. Considering that two out of five people in the Facebook/Failbook age demographic have at least one tattoo, this seems strange to me.

Oh well, let's move onto the slut shaming! Yes, of course there's slut shaming -- a woman wants a tattoo! So what does her "friend" say? "Skip the slutty tattoo."

Listen up, "friend." You may think a tattoo is in poor taste, or ugly, or ill-considered, or what have you. Unless it literally states, "I have had sex with many men," it's not slutty. And you know, even if a tattoo said that, you should keep your double standards to yourself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Breakfast Is So Gay

Today's Failbook fail: Joshua Got Stuck.

Some guy says he wants meat. His "friends" say they've heard he loves a great sausage. The guy plays along, then realizes what they mean.

LOL! He's gay! LOL, LOL, LOL! Are you LOLing with me?? Gay, gay, gay, LOL!

Man, I'm cracking myself up. Hey, maybe I should write for Failbook!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Sorry for the two-day absence, bloggees! My future in-laws were in town -- staying at our house, in fact -- which made a lot of things difficult or impossible, including writing up fiery diatribes about oppressed groups of people. Now that we have our house back, I can get back to Failbook.

And, I am surprised to note, there isn't much going on today. But I will say . . . .

Today's Failbook fail: Know Your Tool.

Someone does something stupid and comments, "yes i am retarded." Can we just stop that, please? I know it's tough. I know it's everywhere. I'm not defending its usage, but shit, when you hear something from most people you spend time with, it's hard to drop. (That's why I suspect casual usage of "crazy," as much as it pisses some anti-ablism activists off, is not going away.)

That being said, let's all agree to take a step in the direction of not using "retarded" as a synonym for "stupid." If you blurt it out, just say, "Excuse me, that was insensitive, I meant to say [stupid/thoughtless/lacking in intelligence/cockamamie/whatever]."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Also, Blowjobs.

Daily Failbook fail: Bad Day -> Great Day.

Don't even bother clicking the link. It's boring. It's just, "You know what women are good for? Blowjobs." Yawn.

No truly outrageous fails today, though. I'm starting to think Failbook is growing a conscience!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No fail?!?

I'm speechless. Two consecutive days with no real fail. Is Failbooking learning its lesson, or is this an anomaly? I guess we'll find out together tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Fail, Win!

No fail today! In fact, one post really cracked me up: A Blast from the Past. It's just a perfect, ridiculous example of all this awkward shit that can happen between exes. And the current girlfriend's response is so perfect. I laughed for a while at that one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Real Life Intrudes on "Humor"

Today's Failbook fail: Divorcée Frapes Are The Best Frapes.


Okay, had my small moment of pure rage, now we can move onto the rest of the fail.

A man hacks into his ex-wife's Facebook account. He does the following things as her (in chronological order):
  1. Posts a note detailing her cheating, and its alleged consequences.
  2. Posts a status saying how much more well-behaved the children are with her new boyfriend, because "they see how quick [she] was to leave [her] adoring husband" and they don't want to be "trade[d] in too."
  3. Changes her relationship status to "married."
  4. Comments on someone else's status that she feels like a "slut."
  5. Friending himself.
Then the woman regains control of her account, somehow, and posts a status calling her ex out on his actions, to which some random asshat woman responds that he just "loves his wife and kids and wants them back." Thanks, abuse-negating woman! Nice to see you've got your Patriarchy Hat on.

Let's see what we've got here: slut shaming, of course. Naturally. But what really chills my blood is the husband friending himself -- which I imagine this woman did so that he could no longer monitor her -- and changing her status to married -- which I imagine this woman changed because she left the relationship.

This guy screams "abuser" to me. And he is, clearly, emotionally abusive; just look at what he wrote when he was posting as her. But more than any other fail I've commented on thus far, I wonder if this guy abused her (and/or their kids) physically as well, if he raped her, etc.

Oh, I'm not supposed to think about the actual circumstances of this post, right? I'm just supposed to laugh at the dumb bitch whose ex hacked her account. Let's see what the Failbook commenters have to say: "Awesome. Yes, her husband hacked her FB… but she sounds like a total idiot. lol" Yes, yes, there's that sweet ambrosia of human compassion.

Wait, this just in, from another commenter:

he’s actually a huge lush. Someone on this blog let out the person’s full name and you can read the whole thing on facebook right now if you check out [redacted] on facebook.

He’s real pathetic. I feel pathetic just reading it.

Wow, so, she's not a dumb bitch? Her reasons for leaving were complicated? Her cheating was a sign of a relationship gone horribly wrong? I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Sociopath's Day!

Today's Failbook fail: Oh, Baby...

I don't know where to begin with this post. I truly don't.

There's slut shaming. There's a rape joke -- a joke about raping a baby, of course, since it comes in the middle of a series of dead-baby jokes, which is just hit after hit of pure horror.

I'm generally not against humor because it's shocking. I had a great love of South Park in its heyday, and I still like to go back and watch some of the classics. (When Cartman froze himself so he wouldn't have to wait for the Wii? Classic. And the whole point of those two eps is to make fun of atheists, i.e. my own identity, but I don't give a shit, because it's hilarious.)

But these jokes aren't . . . oh, what's the word . . . umm . . . oh, FUNNY. They're not fucking funny. Their shock value is through the roof, which may make some people laugh in a sort of startled way, but there's no actual humor there. It's just dudes being "dark" because, I don't know, they think they're special? They think they're just so amazing that they have this offbeat sense of humor?

If I had these guys in a room, honestly, I would force them to watch footage of starving babies in resource-poor countries, or compel them to volunteer in a NICU for a week. At least then I could tell if their sense of morality was just so fucked that they should be sent to their own little Island of Misfit Toys, or if the exposure to actual human suffering would break down their ridiculous, "edgy" personae.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

And If You Live in "The Ghetto," You By Definition Don't Use Google Maps?

Today's Failbook fail: A Million Dollar Idea.

Someone wishes for Google Maps to add an "Avoid Ghetto" option. So . . . really you mean, "avoid people not of my race," right . . . ?

"Ghetto" is a really racialized word, as I've learned multiple times over the course of my life. Even knows that. This guy could have said "slums" or "skid row" and I would've let it slide. But no, it had to be "ghetto." Bah.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lethal Disease = Mass Statuses

Today's Failbook fail: Status Irony.

This is just pure, distilled jackassery. Someone posts one of those mass statuses where they're asking for support for cancer survivors and victims. Some jackass responds, "These 'support' posts are the cancer of Facebook."

Honestly, I don't have a whole lot of academic feminist talk to bust out on this. It just pisses me off. Chances are, the OP has cancer, or someone close to him/her does. So, what the fuck, commenter. If you really can't stand mass statuses, ignore it. Or hell, block that person. Don't make them feel like they're ruining your fun just because they want to mention cancer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Douchebags

Real dilemma tonight, guys. There are two posts on Failbook today that are both of the highest douchebag nature. One is just pure sexism; the other mixes sexism with the false sexuality binary and slut shaming.

Okay, how's this: I'm going to do the mixed one, and assign the pure sexism one as homework. I'll grade anyone who comments.

So. Today's Failbook fail: Try-Sexual.

This is a gem on so many levels. The original post is someone saying they don't "believe" in bisexuality. I love it when people think they have a vote on other people's lived experiences. It's like when jackass white people put down "human" as their race on forms. It's true that bisexuality doesn't seem to be as common an identity as being straight or gay, but I think it's more common than asexuality (which also exists, regardless of your willingness to "believe" in it, dear reader!)

Then a girl comments, saying she is bi, and has two girlfriends and a boyfriend. Now, while this does showcase her bisexuality, it's worth noting (for people who might be, I don't know, confused?) that bisexuality and polyamory are unrelated issues. I mean, they're related inasmuch as they threaten the patriarchy, but they're just two more slightly overlapping circles in the giant Venn diagram of human sexuality.

Still. A dude denies people's identities. A lady reminds him that it is her identity. What do you think is gonna happen next, smarty-pants?

If you said, "He's gonna slut-shame her!", I award you 50 Patriarchy Points!*

Yeah, he says, "That just makes you a whore." Yeah! You tell it like it is, bisexuality denier!! People having multiple consenting relationships definitely means they are sex workers! And also, sex workers are best referred to by epithets! You're so brave, telling it like it is in a sea of acceptance and friendliness towards women, sex workers, bisexuals, and poly people!

Here's an idea, dude: you're not the arbiter of others' sexuality. I know it's a shocker, but better to get it through your fucking head now than later, when you're screaming at some girlfriend because her "number" (ugh) is higher than you thought.

* Redeemable for male privilege at a Wal-Mart near you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

That's So Straight.

Today's Failbook fail: Phone PHAIL.

Breaking news: "Gay" still not a synonym for "broken," "bad," or "wrong"! In other news, the Earth still orbiting the sun four billion years after its formation! Later this hour, we show the shocking truth about mammals: they STILL have hair and a neocortex!!

Why are we are so inured to "gay" as a random negative adjective? Can you imagine the average teenager walking around saying shit like, "My principal blocked Twitter at school. He is so black!", or, "My mom grounded me for a week! It's so wheelchair-user of her.*" I'm not playing Oppression Olympics here; I had a really wise African Studies prof in college who campaigned fiercely against that kind of thinking, and it stuck with me. I just can't believe it's 2011 and we're still saying, "That's so gay." And most people don't even bat an eyelash.

Anyway, thanks, Failbook, for slipping that in there. I was starting to get worried that you thought gay people were human beings or something!

*I think some people would argue that the use of "lame" actually fits the bill here, but I respectfully disagree. Words that initially serve to negatively label oppressed groups can and do evolve beyond that usage. My go-to example is "dumb," which was used against the Deaf for decades, but there are no Deaf people arguing we shouldn't say "dumb" to mean something is stupid. It has become utterly divorced from the Deaf. Similarly, when people say something is "lame," they do not connect it in the least with people with physical disabilities. I don't believe this is the case for "gay," the primary difference being that it's a group's self-label, not a superfluous outgroup usage.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

They Already Paid for It, Asshole

Today's Failbook fail: You Break It, You Buy It.

Congratulations to Failbook for being about the eighteenth entity to try to tell me this stupid joke:
Dear Egyptian rioters,
Please don't damage the pyramids. We will not rebuild.

Thank you.
The Jews.
Failbook is behind my grandmother on this one. My AOL-subscribing grandmother. Hooray for relevance!

Moreover, this joke is just bullshit. First of all, the pyramids were almost certainly not built by Jewish slaves. Archaeologists think the builders were skilled, paid laborers. In fact, the historicity of the entire Exodus narrative is not supported by any science or, indeed, any accounts outside the Bible.

So the Jews didn't build the pyramids. And, you know, that's not widely known, so whatever. But I think the larger point is that this is actually a really negative, awful message about an oppressed group of people that is trying to throw off their oppressors. The Egyptians have been protesting -- not "rioting" -- since January 25th. They've already effected a lot of change, and it looks like there's more to come. But there's no surer way to denigrate a group of protesters than to call them "rioters" and boil all their struggles down to a destructive action that might hurt the only landmark in their country that most white Westerners give a shit about. And since Jews are construed as "white" in the sane corners of America, it's just a racist/Islamophobic clusterfucktastrophe of a "joke."

Look, I'm Jewish; I get that I am the owner of a problematic identity, to say the least. But this joke makes me ashamed, since it was probably kicked off by a Jew. We should give more of a shit about the Middle East than to crap out a dud like this.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No fail!

Perhaps in honor of my mother's birthday, no fails jumped out at me today. Enjoy the break!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Short Failbook Fail: Screw Assumptions

Today's Failbook fail: Trailer Tatty.

This post, my friends, is the motherlode of classism. Someone posts a quote by Winnie the Pooh (except, excuse me, I read that book when I was little, and that quote is not A.A. Milne, but I suppose that's beside the point). Commenter #1 says they want a tattoo of Winnie the Pooh. Commenter #2 racks up the following assertions about those with "cartoon character tattoos":
  • They live in trailer parks.
  • They are fat.
  • They abuse their children.
  • They frequent Wal-Mart.
  • They cannot read.
  • They have mullets.
  • They love wrestling.
Wow. I mean, what classist assumptions can even be added at this point? Okay, okay, I guess there are some, but the big points were all hit.

Underneath all these seemingly unconnected statements, of course, is the assumption that poor people are stupid. They get stupid tattoos, parent in a stupid fashion, shop at stupid stores, and wear stupid hairstyles. Never mind that their income level and their intelligence may not be related. (Education and income are generally highly correlated, but innate intelligence pops up in people regardless of their background.) If you are poor, you are stupid; you are worthless; you deserve my mockery. That's what Commenter #2 needed to say to Commenter #1, who only wanted to get an image of a cartoon bear emblazoned on her skin.

Look, if someone wants to get an "88" tattooed on their arm, I can say with high confidence that that person is a racist, anti-Semitic assclown. But if someone wants a Winnie the Pooh tattoo, the only thing I can say with high confidence is that they like Winnie the Pooh. But I don't know their income level, their haircut, or whether they're a good parent (or a parent at all).

I feel like three-quarters of my posts are about not making dumbass assumptions about other people. If we could all adhere to that one tenet, what a lovely world this world would be.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Face the Fail

Today's Failbook fail: Not the First Time a Girl's Boobs Saved Her from a Shot to the Face...

There's nothing particularly fail-y about this post as it occurred on Facebook. A girl says she walked into a wall, but her breasts acted as a cushion.

Then, of course, Failbook has to turn it into a joke about ejaculating onto a woman's face. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WOMEN'S FACES ARE FOR, AMIRITE??! That, and saying things about how wonderful their man is. Dude.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Hilarity of Slavery

Today's Failbook fail: R.I.P. Billy.

A guy posts an ad for a "server" (i.e. a piece of computer equipment). His jackass "friends" pretend he is selling a woman who will serve them. The jackass-iest comment of all has to be, "She better not talk back!"

You guys. I am really tired, but I just have to point out that 27 million people across the world are enslaved today. Today, as in, February 4, 2011, 150 years after we "abolished" slavery. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual slavery.

So this post is not fuckin' funny. I don't have the energy to state the obvious anymore.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fiftieth Post Special Edition: A Feminist Skeptic

For this, my fiftieth post, I thought I'd veer off a little from laying waste to Failbook and instead discuss an issue that has been a thorn in my side for the better part of the last year, namely, what's a feminist skeptic to do?

(If either of those words confuses you, try referencing these working definitions of feminism and skepticism. It may be the case that neither means what you think it does, even if you are well-educated.)

At first blush, feminism and skepticism seem to complement each other like chocolate and peanut butter. Skepticism is the perfect vehicle to debunk claims about female inferiority, and feminism is all about breaking out of traditionally held but incorrect notions about all aspects of life. I can cite a few wonderful examples of this marriage of the two concepts: Delusions of Gender, Woman: An Intimate Geography, and Amanda Marcotte's amazing Skepticon talk late last year (we'll get back to her at the end).

But more often than not, feminism and skepticism are either at odds with each other, or, more frequently, completely out of touch with each other. The fault lies on both sides, and I've seen failures on both sides so many times that it makes me despair for the joining of forces that seems logical to me.

Let's start with the feminist side, because I have more experience with the feminist blogosphere than I do with the skeptical blogosphere. I follow a lot of feminist blogs: Feministe, Feministing, Fugitivus, Tiger Beatdown, and Yes Means Yes! are just some of the feeds in my Google Reader. But when I think about which feminist blog best sums up my experience in this world, it has to be Shakesville. Melissa McEwan takes on the worst of sexism, racism, heterosexism, ablism, transphobia, and so many other ugly ideologies in this world with wonderful contempt, causing anyone with an open mind to re-examine themselves for prejudices so ingrained that they might as well be undetectable, were it not for her illumination of them.

And yet. And yet when it comes to matters of science, I sometimes see Shakesville fall short in ways that make me cringe. When it comes to scientific studies that support Shakesville's positions on, say, abortion, they are lauded. And they rightfully post vicious take-downs of pseudo-scientific bullshit studies about gender differences.

But a couple weeks back, when Melissa made a post entitled "Feminism 101: Coded Misogyny and Institutional Prejudice," I found myself wincing at just a few of the points she made. Some of them are dead on: Black women are punished for wearing their hair in a natural style; our sexist culture codes war and the lack of a social safety net as masculine and therefore desirable; we should all be aware of the way that gender binaries influence our thinking about many, many aspects of culture. But her attack on "Western" medicine is painful for me to read:

So, too, discussions of Western/non-Western medicine. Western medicine is coded rational/masculine; alternative medicine is coded irrational/feminine. And here again is an example of intersectional prejudice, as many alternative practices (yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal remedies) are imported from the East. (And practiced disproportionately by people marginalized in the West: Women/people of color/queers.) The wholesale dismissal of alternative practitioners and practices as quacks and opportunists (despite there being plenty of quacks and opportunists to be found in Western medicine, too) is an institutional prejudice frequently loaded with both coded misogyny and coded racism.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I'm not going to explain why non-science-based medicine (NSBM) is generally a bad idea: you can go to Science-Based Medicine for that. But I'd like to take on her claim that the opposition to NSBM is based on sexism and racism. In fact, my personal objection to NSBM is caused partly by my advocacy for social justice. In short, women and people of color are more likely to be poverty-stricken and without adequate health care. If they are having medical issues and the only care they can afford is "alternative" care, that is a huge, institutional problem that we should be addressing, because alternative care is not adequate care. Black and Latina women with breast cancer don't have equal access to treatment. If they fill that gap with homeopathy or acupuncture, that is not adequate and not equal. Immigrants to the U.S. get about half the health care services afforded to natural-born citizens. If they fill that gap with traditional medicine from their home countries that has no measurable positive effect on their health, that is not adequate and not equal. I could go on and on, but the point is this: marginalized people may be more willing and likely to opt for NSBM, but this is not good for their overall health outcomes, and may in fact be a product of their marginalized status.

Yes, there are problems with science-based medicine, specifically the way it interacts with capitalism (see Bad Science for more on this). And Melissa rightfully points out in the comments that medical trials need to include more marginalized populations. But modern, science-based medicine has lengthened our lifespans, given us birth control and abortion, made it possible for transfolk to physically transition, and afforded new opportunities to the disabled. Don't we owe it a little more respect than to say, "reflexively privileging Western medicine, which is best at serving the needs of financially privileged straight white thin generally able-bodied cis men, serves the narratives of the Patriarchy"?

So that's one example of how my favorite feminist blogs can be insufficiently skeptical. (There are plenty others, but I'm already headed for tl;dr territory.) It's posts like those that make me feel that I cannot make my Internet home entirely within the feminist blogosphere.

But I can't migrate to the skeptical blogosphere either. Though skeptical bloggers should be using their well-developed senses of critical thinking to examine their own prejudices, this just doesn't seem to be the case.

Sure, skeptical bloggers are generally progressive folks. They tend to be pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, anti-censorship, etc. But the safe space that you see on feminist blogs, where racism/sexism/homophobic/etc. are not acceptable, is not present in the skeptical blogosphere, perhaps because the skeptical movement is dominated by white, cisgender, straight, able-bodied men. Here's an example: about a month ago, Skepchick had a post up about the kerfuffle over the removal of n-word from Huck Finn. The author rightfully condemned the proposal, but in his condemnation he wrote:

Did he discover that Twain was not commenting on an atrocity of the time the book was set, but simply writing a buddy story about Huck and Jim that we can update every couple of decades to suit our current culture? I can't wait for the version with the rapping river boat captains, or the version where the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson sign on as a couple of skank 'ho's on The Bachelor.

Sweet Stephen Jay Gould's ghost, what was this poster thinking?? In case it's too subtle for you, he equated modern Black culture with rap and "skank 'ho's." What an evenhanded, neutral representation of an oppressed minority culture! It's as though a Kanye West music video came to life in the form of words on a skeptic blog.

Even on consciously progressive skeptic blogs like the Friendly Atheist, the comment threads can devolve into rampant, ugly sexism. (I wanted to post a link to a discussion I found particularly offensive, but the post where I believe it happened seems to have been scrubbed of all evidence of the back-and-forth between the misogynist and the women who protested his comments. I'm not a fan of this revisionism; I'd prefer the offending comments be hidden [i.e. accessible an extra click], with a note from the mod as to why it's unacceptable on that site.)

So what's a feminist skeptic to do?

Personally, I've only found one blog that meets in the middle of my two deep-seated identities, and that's Pandagon. This is Amanda Marcotte's baby, and she attacks both social justice issues and skeptical issues with unmatched rigor. More and more these days, I find myself sharing all her articles with my Google Reader followers, posting them on Facebook, doing whatever I can to spread her opinions across the Internet. We need more bloggers like her.

Just don't expect me to answer the call! I happened to have time to write this all up today because I'm home sick. Otherwise I'd be running around on my usual hectic schedule of full-time job, part-time school, and constant, time-consuming disease management. I'll continue my daily posts taking down Failbook, though, because it's a good outlet for my extreme frustration with popular culture. And maybe for my 100th post, we can dive back into this topic.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mostly, Just Shut Up

Today's Failbook fail: The Justin Bieber Movie Trailer.

My fail yesterday was not posting! We did have power, but the day got away from me. My apologies.

Someone mentions Justin Bieber. Some jackass makes a joke about how Bieber is closeted.

I'm so tired of this joke. It's hard for me to believe that the folks at Failbook aren't. Justin Bieber: entertainer. I can look at him and approximate his age, maybe his race; I cannot examine his innermost desires and tell what his sexuality is. Neither can you. He could be gay, straight, asexual, bisesxual, whatever, and none of those orientations would be morally different from any other. We do people a disservice when we assume we know shit about their sexuality when they haven't identified as anything, because it reinforces stereotypes and creates rampant heterosexism.

So . . . shut up.