Sunday, November 15, 2015

Penguins of Color Badges (The Skepticon Disaster)

Skepticon, a conference for "skeptics" in Springfield, Missouri that boasts being "the largest FREE skeptic conference in the nation". It is a conference that has also long boasted for being on the side of progress in its conference policies in regards to harassment and inclusion.

This year saw an interesting addition to their existing policy:
Updated October 22, 2015 Starting with Skeption 8, we will be utilizing a three color communication system at our convention. The color communication badges we will be using are small, round stickers you can place on the Skepticon badges given at registration. Be sure to place a sticker on the front and the back of your badge in case your lanyard flips over. If you decide to use the sticker system, all stickers must be placed on your badge so that others can easily find and identify your preference. Not all of our attendees are required to actively participate, but are required to respect the boundaries and choices of those who do. Please be aware of people who are using stickers on their badges and act accordingly. Showing a green sticker means that the person is actively seeking communication; they have trouble initiating conversations, but want to be approached by people who are interested in talking. Showing a yellow sticker means that the person only wants to talk to people they recognize, not by strangers or people they only know from the Internet. The badge-wearer might approach strangers to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to talk back to them in that case. But unless you have already met the person face-to-face, you should not approach them to talk. Showing a blue sticker means that the person probably does not want to talk to anyone, or only wants to talk to a few people. The person might approach others to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to talk back to them in that case. But unless you have been told already by the badge-wearer that you are on their “blue list”, you should not approach them to talk. Having no stickers means that person is comfortable verbally confirming their boundaries and social availability. Via Autistic Advocacy: “Color communication badges are a good aid because they allow people to express their current communication preference quickly, nonverbally, and simply – people can change what card is showing if their preference changes. They are a good way to prevent situations where someone is caught in a social situation they do not want to be in, or situations where someone wants to talk but can’t initiate. This means that communication badges can help make conferences, conventions, meetings, college campuses, and other spaces more accessible. People with communication impairments, people who have trouble expressing their communication preferences, and people who have trouble reading social cues about communication preference, may find color communication badges useful. Color communication badges also help all people, abled or disabled, to more easily and effectively let people know whether they want to be approached for conversations or not. This can creates a positive impact on the social atmosphere where communication badges are being used.” If you have any questions regarding the color communication sticker system, please contact us at

The idea sounds ridiculous to many people, but it is actually a tremendously good policy. It's good not because the convention is including more autistic persons, as  it is being marketed, but rather that it's been a long overdue change.

This policy is not for a select few - this policy applies equally well to the average socially awkward penguins that attends these sad real life Tinder meetups for those with "atheist"/"skeptic" fantasies.

Skepticon is a conference steeped in "social justice", and anyone following the social justice hivemind will confirm that often those that most need to be labelled do not actually have an autism diagnosis. The badges apply just as well to anyone that remotely requires a "trigger warning" - in fact, "trigger warnings" are entirely redundant if appropriately self-marked people can be turned away at the door.

Fans of harassment policies, "social justice" and "feminism" have long owed the world transparency into the breadth of their hangups. There ought to be color badges for the humorless, the medicated, the violent, the prone to drama and the incapable of assuming responsibility.

While badges are sorely needed, the great irony of this attempt to be "inclusive" is that the first year this policy of autistic people, Skepticon decided it would be great idea to harangue an autistic person on stage with a lengthy unscripted Q&A with the audience.

The panel was Mark Schierbecker being "interviewed" by his pro-bono publicist and friend, Danielle Muscato. Schierbecker's claim to fame is a white academic named Melissa Click calling for "muscle" to remove him from student protests in Missouri. Danielle Muscato (formerly Dave) used to work for American Atheists and had the misfortune of also being a part of the last Skepticon drama.

The video of Mark's panel is a mess, as can be expected. Anyone would be able to predict that a panel of two people already very familiar with one another ends up being quite ridiculous. This is doubly so as Muscato is trying to be Schierbecker's publicist.

Hopefully one can be forgiven for skipping the on-stage massage Schierbecker and Muscato are giving one another and skip to the audience Q&A that has illuminating moments after Muscato asks Schierbecker if he is racist (@ 26:12) which appears to be a scripted question.

The audience then has a few interesting "points" to make as it then devolves into a discussion of just how problematic Schierbecker is. An audience member at 32:40 claims the "point" of things is to "uplift black voices" instead of Schierbecker's, a white person who had entered a "black space". Schierbecker is then given the "Dear Muslima" treatment in his claim to may have been assaulted by Click - the rationalization is that his is not real victimization when what happens to black people is far worse.

At 1:07:55 , another "question" states that Click would not have assaulted Schierbecker if she had not felt like her own space was invaded by Schierbecker. The tirade blames Schierbecker for the majority of Click's actions. Afterwards as Schierbecker claims social anxiety due to autism, "aww, white tears" is audible in the recording (@ 1:11:45 )

After the event, Muscato claimed that Schierbecker said "multiple indefensibly racist things" and terminated both their personal and professional relationship. Schierbecker posted a tearful video labelled "Journalists' Livelihoods Matter", a title which demonstrates that he really is oblivious to the tone and verbiage the Skepticon audience expected of him despite his seeming willingness to be an "ally". The student journalist did, after all, say all the liberal-approved things about Breitbart and Fox News.

The event was really an ironic inquisition by people who claim to be in favor of "safe spaces". The laughable part is that if one do not adequately understand the current political concepts surrounding "safe spaces", as Schierbecker does not seem to, then one is immediately not found to deserve one. Those undeserving are then subject to "hypervisibility" into one's "prejudices". 

All the while, Skepticon claims to be an "inclusive" space, where appropriately badged people get what they wished for. Both autistic journalists and autistic activists get their padded cells of safety. 

To some this may be conceived as an education of sorts.

The lesson learned is that safe spaces like Skepticon are unworkable, incoherent, hypocritical disasters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Stop Giving Work Visas To Men

Imagine devising a scheme that was to intentionally keep women in their "place".  This "place" can be assumed to be the home, the kitchen, or some sort of volunteer caregiving role. What could this dastardly misogynist conspiracy plan to do?

In order to be effective, the scheme could do a number of things:
  • Ensure men remain 'breadwinners' by restricting ability to work
  • Make education inaccessible or prohibitively expensive
  • Tie all kinds of legal rights to male companionship
Unfortunately, these systems are not actually imaginary. They are quite plentiful. They can be assumed to exist in the comically patriarchal, often theocratic, societies that exist on our varied planet. What is more surprising is that biased institutions can exist in "progressive" nations.

A decent example of a system keeping women in their place is the immigration systems of many wealthy nations. And the largest problem is not adhoc systems designed to facilitate the needs of refugees - but rather the systems designed with intention to allow people already desired by the capitalists of the nation.

Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, allow the spouses on dependent visas to work without much fuss. While status is still subordinate to the primary visa holder, the simple right to work is notable as it is not necessarily a given. Certain tiers of visa categories in the United States, for example, will disallow a spouse from working even if they have been a resident for almost a decade. Even after "reform", applying for work status for a spouse is conditional on being in a queue to be granted permanent resident status. Each step is tentative and byzantine.

It's admittedly not the end of the world having to rely on a flimsy patchwork of boring forms before one can get a job. A career is not the only dimension to life. One can choose to pass the time with meaningful study. Unfortunately, this is often a non-starter due to spouses being considered 'international' or 'non-resident' students at many academic institutions and subject to special fee multipliers that rarely attempt to be numbers that could be described as modest.

Observant individuals may suggest that the immigration systems are not strictly designed to create unbalance - they are simply based on the institution of marriage and realities of the workforce. Each component works according to some internal logic, and let the chips fall where they may.

This reasoning does not suffice, as skilled immigration systems are an artifact created by government that does not need to be bound to some 'natural order' of the economy. Immigration systems are often elements of trade agreements and experiments in social engineering.

And there is some evidence that some tweaks could be worthwhile. One such tweak that is often made is caps - Britain has a current total Tier 2 outside-Europe quota of somewhere around 20,000 a year, with a further 30,000 using intra-company transfer rules. The United States has a H1B cap of 65,000 a year, with a similar number of annual applicants using intra-company transfer rules.

Many people are advocating for a raise in immigration limits - tech companies especially want the limits to go up. More skilled workers is good for people wishing to invest. Immigration is generally good for business -- but not for labour. Unions and established populations of middle class workers are not generally excited about the possibility of the migrant workforce doubling in size.

Certain "progressive" groups have criticized the explosive growth of the tech sector in terms of "gentrification" and the privatization of services. Certain companies in San Francisco, for example, can be said to be both importing the world's best talent and literally moving them around the city with a private and exclusive network of buses and other transportation services unavailable to the public.

But in strictly feminist terms, work visa programs are not helping matters - and may in fact be harming the push for "women in tech".

There is a clear gender bias in distribution of work visas:

Karen Panetta, the vice president for communications and public awareness for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the United States of America, testified in her prepared remarks that “the vast majority of H-1B workers are men.”
“The I.E.E.E.-U.S.A. represents more American high-tech workers than anybody else, so we have sources,” Ms. Panetta said Monday afternoon. “One from inside the industry, looking at the offshoring companies that dominate the H-1B program, is that their global hiring is 70 percent men.” But in the United States, where outsourcing companies get more than half of the limited number of H-1B visas, she added, “the ratio is more like 85 percent men.

Before we assume the worst, let's step back for a moment and think about what could be creating the large disparity. The hiring bias could overweight companies with relatively low-skill information technology services. That is, the overwhelmingly male workforce might not be engineers, scientists and programmers. It could be that the "top tier" market leading technology companies are employing more women.

Thankfully, companies like Google publish their diversity numbers so we can find out:

Google's EEO report seems to put their US based workforce at 32,000, with other sources putting their global workforce at 57,000. The above breakdown, like most "women in tech" discussion, is US only - therefore let's focus on the 32,000 total US employees.

It's unclear from the charts and tables how many people are considered "tech" workers. To be quite generous to the role, let's assume that the overall number of the 32,000 that are considered is nearly two thirds - and arrive at a nice round 20,000 tech employees.

It turns out that in 2014, Google was granted around 2,000 H1Bs. If earlier assumptions are true, this would mean Google fills about 10% of its tech current workforce from a single skilled worker visa category. If we were to consider employees on a different status or "graduates" of a work visa program, the percentage may be higher.

For the sake of expedience, let's continue with the assumption that 10% of Google's tech workforce is currently H1B. It is a reasonable guess that also explains to some degree why Asians are currently over-represented in the above data - for comparison, the state of California is only 15% Asian while Google's tech workforce is 35%. What does Google think about this?

It turns out, Google has been wanting to have more H1B employees for many years now. In 2008, Google published the following rant:

As was the case last year, tens of thousands of highly skilled individuals hoping to work in the United States recently learned that they'll be unable to do so. About 163,000 H-1B applications were filed this year, significantly more than the 65,000 cap. Those lucky enough to win the H-1B lottery will be allowed to work in the U.S., but the rest will be turned away.
As for Google, this year we submitted 300 H-1B applications, and we're sorry to report that 90 hopefuls were denied. The yearly H-1B lottery continues to affect our employees and our business, which is why we continue to urge the U.S. government to increase the artificially low cap on these visas.
We realize that many people have strong views on the topic of immigration. Some commenters to our recent post on H-1Bs criticized Google for not hiring more Americans. Although we're committed to hiring outstanding American candidates, Google hires employees based on skills and qualifications, not on nationality. Many times our strongest candidates are Americans; in fact, about nine out of ten of our U.S.-based employees are citizens or permanent residents. But if we're to remain an innovative company -- one that is creating jobs in the U.S. every day -- we also need to hire exceptional candidates who happen to have been born elsewhere. After all, if we were to hire only U.S.-born talent, we would effectively close ourselves off from most of the world's population, and tools like Google News and orkut (both of which were invented by former H-1B visa holders) may have never been developed.
[Note: "nine out of ten" is in line with our estimates above.]

We continue to urge the U.S. government to raise the H-1B cap, to ensure that we and other American companies are able to attract, hire, and retain the world's top talent.

The plea strikes at many cosmopolitan sentiments in American culture - examples of immigrants creating great things, the need for growth and innovation. And it comes with a built in message of diversity, in which Google does not "see" nationality.

While tech companies may not see nationality, they have a hard time demonstrating that they do not see gender. Effectively what is said is that tech companies need to be able to sift through the world's 7.3 billion people in order to succeed.

It just so happens that the vast majority of the clever people they happened to find are men.

The demand that tech companies stop importing dudes is easily dismissed as quasi-racist and xenophobic. Arguments about potential good or bad economic impact are a dead end - trying to disallow companies from hiring foreign talent is simply a politically dead concept when the status quo at these companies does a decent job of lobbying and producing Presidential candidates.

But maybe there is a solution that would make everyone happy - mandate that companies need a nearly perfect gender balance in their current allotment of skilled work visas.

It's not an unimplementable idea. All a business would possibly need to do to get another man into the country is create a position of equivalent pay for a woman of the same nationality. Rules already in force in the United States and United Kingdom already ensure there is not a wage gap between a citizen and an immigrant, so there is already precedent demonstrating that corporations can quite readily comply with similar wage schemes.

Who would be opposed to such a law? The only opposition to the creation of a position for a skilled foreign man is the creation of an equivalent position for a woman from his country.

There are many reasons that enforced quotas have a tendency to create unpredictable negative side effects. These side effects can include fraud, jealousy and perverse incentives. There are many good reasons to not enforce 50/50 gender balance regulations in an all-encompassing manner. It's difficult to imagine that it would work out exactly the way we anticipate.

In the realm of immigration, however, the game changes. It's already subject to quotas. It's already a relatively small segment of the economy. And skilled worker visas deal with a very unique segment of the world's population - it deals with groups that are privileged to some extent, but also not subject to entitlements created for the citizenry of the host nation. To be clear, skilled workers are not refugees, work visas are not another version of asylum. If manipulating work visa quotas are a slippery slope to more draconian social policy, so is changing a speed limit.

Go forth, scour the globe. Extract top talent from the world's nations and enlist them in one's rabidly capitalist desires.

But please do find some women. Alright?

Happy headhunting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Friendly Fire: The Demise of the Social Justice Warrior

Every so often, we are asked to contemplate the "culture war" - what it is, what defines each 'side', and who might be winning.

One such piece was recently rebroadcast by BoingBoing, an article by Laurie Penny entitled "Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War".

The piece was originally written in 2014, with topical references to the photo leaks of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities.

It replays the typical story:

This a song we know by now. It starts and ends, almost always, with attacks on our sexuality, on our bodies as meat and function: our sexual and relationship history is broadcast everywhere, which is what happened to games developer Quinn, after an ex-boyfriend posted a disturbed, disturbing novella-length attack on everything she is and everything she stands for. The gamersphere then collectively wet its knickers over not being allowed to mercilessly slut-shame their chosen target without being called out, because freedom of speech.

It builds a very stark difference - on the one side, an army of misogynists and free-speech absolutists ready to verbally abuse everyone. On the other, the valiant group of social justice warriors, that will save the world and avenge Jennifer Lawrence.

This view of the world casts the world as two groups - one "ignorant" or "bigoted", one "progressive" or "inclusive". The thinking is the bigots need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, as they have been throughout history.

Of course, this framing is complete nonsense. How do we know this?

We know this by watching Laurie Penny being smeared online. Not by misogynists, racists and other malcontents - but by people in her own social justice league. Her own merry band of would-be ideologues.

Laurie Penny, the co-opting capitalist

A beautiful thing happens when Laurie Penny types a strongly worded thinkpiece for a liberal-minded paper. A certain segment of Twitter shows up to let her know she's co-opting marginalized voices and profiting from it.

Further, people that seem to be misreading Penny claim her articles of "win" are actually simply more erasure from white feminists. These people are apparently serious, so much so that Penny herself feels the need to respond to their concerns. Even transgender activists are found telling Penny to "pass the mic" to the underprivileged.

Laurie Penny cannot herself write an article without getting privilege checked. Oddly enough, she is not alone.

Getting Catty about Catcalling

Jessica Valenti is a writer for The Guardian, a writer who has a particular habit of writing rather absurd things. One recent example was an article about catcalling, which Valenti shared a very personal story about catcalling (and lack thereof) and how it impacted her self esteem.

The story in the article titled "One perk of older age? Fewer catcalls" is explained quite directly by its subtitle: "To my great shame, the thought of not being worth men’s notice bothers me, even though I’m a seasoned feminist and I know better".

There are many angles of this that could be deconstructed and dissected. Are the contents of Valenti's self-esteem actually the result of street harassment? Do women sort of like catcalling in the same way they sort of like vampires and 50 Shades? Does catcalling actually somehow work for the catcallers?

Unfortunately before anything resembling a critique of what qualifies as "feminism" could be established, Valenti was already derailed by a social justice warrior. The well-meaning concerned 'activist' invaded Valenti's mentions to say:

I appreciate the honesty, but this feels like a very white, cis piece. [For] WOC & trans women, catcalls can be life threatening
Jessica Valenti's piece was certainly quite ridiculous. But it was also very personal, very subjective, and not at all as ridiculous as privilege checking her experiences and emotions. Valenti provided an empty response of "I hear you", which is analogous to apologizing for her perspective.

This privilege check is amazingly silly because catcalls are not life threatening. Catcalls can be made in an environment is life threatening, can precede an assault, but they are in themselves sufficient to cause injury. A catcall has yet to put anyone in the hospital.

By example, let's revisit how generic and therefore boring this argument is.

Jessica Valenti: NY!
Concerned Social Justice Warrior: I appreciate the honesty, but this feels like a very white, cis, heterosexual sentiment. For women of color, trans women, immigrants and the poor, NY can be life threatening.

It's almost a blessing - from here on, one can expect all subjective claptrap about the feelings of privileged liberals to be derailed by the same victimhood mentality they've worked so hard to build. The "progressives" that have long thought comparisons of their cultural critiques to the reality in developing nations were needless distractions (e.g. akin to "Dear Muslima") find themselves torn to bits from a neighbor that seizes the opportunity to share their own melodrama.

The common refrain of "What about the menz?" can be dismissed with ease - but to be checked by the gilded underprivileged is something of immediate concern, as the armchair social media activists must not think of one as a bad ally.

Escaping a Lesbian Lasso 

One may think what we are witnessing is the destruction of the old guard of feminism - the college educated, rich white blogging women are simply having to hand their baton to the leaders in the next cultural conquest. A type of Culture War 2.0 - this time, it's intersectional and inclusive. It's no longer simply about a binarist gender divide - it's about sexuality, gender identity and race!

If one needs evidence that this is perhaps nothing more than an internet soap opera, consider the following story about a hashtag based community.

Once upon a time a number of people participated in #ThisTweetCalledMyBack - the tag was about many things, but one big piece of the commentary was the co-opting and plagiarism that was similar in substance to the aforementioned debate surrounding Laurie Penny. For quite some time, things went swimmingly. Friends were made and electronic hugs were traded.

Tragically, one young woman read quite a bit into the plethora of heart-shaped emojis and thought one of the other ladies was looking for something more than the destruction of white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy, if one gets the message.

Private messages were exchanged and it turned out the recipient of the messages and advances, Zahira (@bad_dominicana) was having none of it. As is the norm for failed sexual endeavors in social justice circles, it ended up being blown up as Zahira labelled the interested party as creepy and "rapey". Alliances formed and friends of the lustful lesbian published an obsessively documented Tumblr outlining their grievances over how Zahira handled the situation.

The battle raged, many retweets and favorites were spilled and the damage done to the hashtag was immeasurable. Friendships were strained, followers were lost. Hopefully those involved had an adequate amount of social justice insurance.

To revisit the theory that social justice warriors are "winning" some sort of culture war, consider that a great amount of unwinding happened when it appeared that a mostly virtual relationship was going to get a little bit physical and a little bit gay.

"Social justice" is not winning a war. "Social justice" is nothing more socially awkward penguins abusing each other, wading through their own hypocrisy, misunderstanding the law, comedy and math. The future will undoubtedly be further enveloped in their own fears. Sadly, the only way out of social justice club is to be forgotten and distrusted or cast out as a bigot.

A victory, indeed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Good Feminists Do Nothing

Rape is a crime that is continually in the headlines. The story usually follows a familiar pattern - the victim has been awfully mistreated and disbelieved. The rapist is said to have a history of violence. Bystanders have done nothing, and people are daring to say that the victim has made it all up.

With this background, one difficult scenario to contemplate is what changes when the people in the story are those you know personally. Not unknown people that one judges from afar, but people that one has interacted with in real life.

Imagine for the sake of argument, that a female feminist blogger pal was kidnapped and raped. Then, instead of getting the treatment and support she needed, she had to leave a clinic before completing a rape kit. Even though the clinic did next to nothing, she received a bill for $200 for their trouble.

This is about as bad as it gets, right? This is rape culture enforced by the state, as it literally makes the victim pay for their own assault.

What would a concerned, vocal feminist do in this situation?

Here are some ideas:

Start a crowdfunding campaign. The friend is out $200 after being kidnapped and violently assaulted. The least anyone could do is crowdfund for a friend. Crowdfunding is currently used for blog posts, YouTube videos, and lawsuits that did not happen. Surely a crowdfunding campaign could happen for the criminal case that will happen.
Send support. Letting a survivor know they are supported and have allies is free and possibly the easiest thing someone can do
Petition the government for change. Paying for a rape kit is outrageous and victimizes people. 
Signal boost. As it turns out, your friend is brave enough to share her story on her personal blog. This action should be commended and this courage should be shared with the world.

As it turns out, none of this is a hypothetical situation. It all happened about three weeks ago, to Elyse, a former writer at SkepChick that remains one of their most prolific contributors, blogging for six years and possibly being only second in post count to the founder of the website.

Elyse is a person that is well known within secular liberal feminist blogosphere, with people like Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers and others being mutual followers of her on Twitter. And it isn't that these people follow just anyone - all three of these people follow under 1000 people. Furthermore, it's very likely Elyse has met several of these people in person during events like SkepchickCon.

Elyse is also Facebook friends with the same people - Amanda Marcotte, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers - basically everyone who has written for Skepchick and Freethought Blogs, but with some notable exceptions. But more on that later.

On September 8th, Elyse wrote the following in a post titled "I thought I retired from getting raped"

I also thought that when I wrote my article about having been raped by 4 different men on 4 different occasions, I had hung up my getting-raped hat. 4 was a good number to just retire on. I didn't need more rapes. I was pretty okay with that being a part of my past.
Now, don't call it a comeback, but I collected my 5th sexual assault last Wednesday. I'm like the fucking Michael Jordan of getting date raped. I swear to god.
I was shaken and confused and not particularly co-operative. I agreed to go to the hospital to get a rape kit done. I was not allowed to have anyone with me in the ambulance or in the emergency room. Not my husband. Not my friend. Not even a victim advocate from a crisis center. I was terrified and alone and I don't know how long I was in the ER, but eventually my anxiety was just too much. I fled the ER. I just stormed out.

The story continues. It is an absolutely harrowing tale. Not only was it told in this blog post, but there was a post-rape selfie in an ambulance posted to Instagram and several conversations on Twitter about that happened. And a copy of the bill for $200 was also shared.

Why is this probably the first one has heard of this? Why isn't this story on the front page of Skepchick, DoubleX. Pandagon or FreethoughtBlogs? Where is the solidarity for a friend?

For several reasons, Elyse is an "imperfect victim":
Elyse is promiscuous. Elyse needed her husband to save her from a date she was on. This explains a lot about her current living arrangements.
Elyse is mentally ill. Elyse is regularly sharing about her medications and her problems with mental health.

Elyse is a drug user. Beyond the prescribed medications, Elyse has a history of drugs and alcohol. Elyse is often seen sharing moments of questionable levels of sobriety. 
Elyse has been charged with assaulting a police officer. On August 8th 2015 Elyse was allegedly found walking intoxicated along a highway. When police officers interrupted her Elyse is said to have kicked and spit on them.  
Rape kits will be free next year. As it turns out, being billed for a rape kit in the State of Illinois will be made illegal on January 1st, 2016. This particular aspect of "rape culture" is a battle that is already over - being mad about it at this point will have absolutely no impact.

There are plenty of reasons to not share Elyse's story. Sharing the story may make this person "hypervisible" and subject to more scrutiny and harassing critics. Sharing the story may further exacerbate her mental health issues. Sharing the story may have some sort of anti-feminist result that can be rationalized.

But there is a simpler reason that Elyse is not the spokesperson leading the charge against rape culture.

Elyse has burned all the bridges with her feminist blogger clique.

Elyse and Skepchick had a brutal parting last year: 

Elyse mocked Rebecca's legal defense fund and was then criticized by Skepchick and FreeThoughtBlogs pundits:

Elyse has spent her time since her assault smashing the products of her former friends:

As it turns out, Elyse has bitten the hand that feeds and damaged her relationship with Rebecca Watson. Elyse has found herself in a smaller band of sisters with a considerably smaller footprint. Elyse presents herself as a victim of trolling, when in reality she spends an incredible amount of time tweeting photos of herself on the toilet and blasting her former friends for not being supportive of her.

It could be that all Elyse's acquaintances are burying her story for her own sake - for the sake of her fragile mental state. That would be understandable... but also something that they do not do for other people as it follows a condescending, erasing logic that they've often railed against. "Listen and believe" is the word of the day, always.

Thus, the simplest explanation is that "feminists" are trying to no-platform a victim simply because this victim might have bad things to say about how supportive they've been in the past. "Feminists" have abandoned their religion for the sake of optics.

Besides, Skepchick has better things to raise money for.

Donate today.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grape Can Be Funny

Murder. One would hope that such an event would be one researched, investigated and reported on by knowledgeable and diligent people that invest a great amount of time bringing relevant and timely information to light.

Unfortunately, in the days of BuzzFeed, HuffingtonPost and Gawker, murder is just an excuse to publish a poorly researched "investigation" into some fake crisis created by and maintained for poor journalists in need of clicks.

Grace Mann was a student at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and a member of the "Feminists United on Campus" (FUC) student group. Grace Mann was found dead on April 17, 2015. The suspected murderer is one of her roommates, a 30 year old man who is now facing trial and has pleaded not guilty.

Apparently the murder did not happen within a tranquil campus environment, as in May the FUC group filed a Title IX complaint alleging the campus administration did nothing to stop threats against outspoken student feminists.

As Washington Post covered the complaint:
Banks, the attorney, said a majority of the 700 comments aimed at Feminists United were name-calling or sexist, but a handful were direct threats. In one, members were threatened with rape “in the mouth,” and at another point, someone posted about killing a “bitch.”
Threatening oral rape is no laughing matter. It is outrageous that school administrators did nothing. How could this be? Something must be done!

BuzzFeed sheds more light, with some screenshots:

Yik Yak users began posting derogatory messages about FUC last November when its then-president Paige McKinsey spoke out against fraternities on campus and their reported relationship to increasing incidents of sexual assaults.

HuffingtonPost shares the same concerning threat (as does Mic):

On the app, students also joked that McKinsey "makes her boyfriend sleep in a dog crate," feeds him pepperonis through the wires, and that she does meth. Yik Yak bans certain keywords that are typically assumed to be offensive, but posters found a way around that to threaten to rape members of the Feminist United Club:

Jezebel (a Gawker property that does not deserve a link) picked up on the story from HuffingtonPost: 

At this point, many concerned emphatic human beings are rightly worried about the safety of the feminist club and UMW. However, any person well versed in comedy and popular culture is shaking their head in disbelief.

For this "threat" is actually a silly reference to a famous sketch:

At least four media outlets and one campus feminist club did not pick up on the reference. It is not a question about not agreeing with the "rape joke" being appropriate or not - it is a question of whether or not they even understood that this wasn't original material. One cannot even begin to discuss a threat on its merits if people do not even understand the reference or perhaps even maliciously cover up the connection.

Not only is it absurd that this is floated as an example of threatening abuse to be covered by the Title IX obligations of the university, it is absurd to believe the university had the authority to police anonymous social media applications used by students. How would the university legally act on this?

The simple fact is Title IX is toothless and worthless, and modern "feminist journalism" is a gendered version of a hyped-up ebola paranoia. No evidence has been presented that suggests that Mann's homicidal roommate spent his time trolling campus feminists by quoting WKUK on social media. That a tragedy is being used as a springboard to speak about farcical 'threats' that speaks volumes about our "think of the children!" culture that cries wolf before thinking critically.

The Return of FHRITP

For those who don't know, FHRITP is a vulgar phrase with vulgar and fraudulent origins. FHRITP is a YouTube meme that has seen tremendous growth in popularity precisely because it's obscene and outrageous - the thought of someone shouting it during a live TV broadcast boggles the mind.

Yet that is what some men are doing. The Toronto Star describes the situation:

On Sunday, Hunt hit her breaking point when it happened to her while reporting from outside BMO Field. Instead of ignoring the men or apologizing to viewers or yelling back a one-liner, all of which she says she’s done in the past, she calmly confronted two huddling nearby, conspicuous by their giant smirks.
They admitted their plans. The one with the Top Gun sunglasses called the phrase “quite substantial.” His friend with the FC scarf said that it was “hilarious” and “amazing,” that Hunt was lucky they didn’t stuff a vibrator in her ear like they do in Britain.
Their goon friends grinned and leaned back in that manly belly-laugh way. It gave me flashbacks of those terrible frat parties where the price of female admission is degradation.
Not one stopped their friends. Not one passing soccer fan stepped in to support Hunt.
Not that she needed help: she handled the situation flawlessly. Still, the silence that grew around her spoke volumes about this city.
Many men in Toronto find entertainment in verbally raping women.
Apparently ruining a live TV broadcast is "verbally raping" women. And to some extent, there is a distasteful gendered component that is reminiscent of catcalling. The yelling is usually done by men, the professional embarrassment is usually felt by women. One hopes that this trend balances out by having more women yelling something nonsexual at the male anchors doing live broadcasts.

As distasteful as the FHRITP prank is, comparing a YouTube gag with rape and sexual assault is an insulting equivalence. Furthermore, the "live TV broadcast with pretty lady standing in front of a drunk crowd" is arguably a vestigial form of the booth babe made extinct by concerned "feminist" activism, it's simply a matter of time before the entire trope is rendered problematic.

Enter the Ironic Misandrist

Bahar Mustafa is a student union "diversity" officer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Mustafa became widely known as word spread that diversity meetings on campus were to specifically exclude white people and men. Some people found this absurd, and managed to find past tweets that Mustafa had made that allegedly included the hashtags "#Misandry" and "#KillAllMen".

Online petitions were created that asked the administration to remove Mustafa from her post. Whatever the merits of Mustafa's exclusion of men and white people, what seems to have been really provocative was the indifference and abrasive way this message was communicated. It is difficult to imagine Mustafa as a literal misandrist or actually wishing to kill all white people. 

Fast forward to Amanda Hess' coverage of the Mustafa drama:

Mustafa is not the first to have her reputation raked across the Web on account of some lousy tweets. But she may be the first to crumble over a case of ironic misandry, a tongue-in-cheek form of discourse favored by the young feminist Internet natives. You may have spied them on Twitter or Tumblr, working on their “KILL ALL MEN” cross-stitch or sipping from a mug labeled “MALE TEARS.” Ironic misandrists say they’re poking fun at long-standing stereotypes about militant feminist man-haters. That seems to fit Mustafa’s tweets. In a statement to Goldsmiths students, she owned up to using the hashtags, calling them “in-jokes” between herself and other members of “the queer feminist community.” If some people failed to get the joke, well, that was kind of the point.
Apparently it's just ironic misandry and people that do not get the joke only have themselves to blame. Nothing to see here.

Moving on... 

The Triumph of the Social Justice Edgelord

Once upon a time, there was an internet drama called #GamerGate, which had something to do with videogames and misogyny. Two participants in this was Milo Yiannopoulos, a pro-#GamerGate man with a great number of opinions, and Sarah Nyberg, an anti-#GamerGate advocate and outspoken Twitter "feminist" and "social justice" activist.

As it happens, there were chat logs of Sarah Nyberg saying a lot of things that were decidedly not politically correct and perhaps illegal. Milo Yiannopoulos compiled this evidence into an article that essentially alleged that Nyberg may have been a racist tax evading software pirate that was attracted to children

Amazingly enough, Sarah Nyberg responded not by saying that the evidence was false, but by saying she was a reformed "edgelord" that was being unjustly harassed. More surprising was that the count of Nyberg's allies largely remained the same - with a great number of concerned Twitter "activists" sharing Nyberg's post and actually thinking Milo Yiannopoulos was leading a "harassment campaign" for publishing words Nyberg has not denied writing.

Let's recap what this all means.

If you reference sketch comedy on an anonymous chat application, people will believe you're about to commit murder.

If you troll a live broadcast, people will say you're sexually assaulting a reporter.

At the same time, if you write "kill all men" or advocate for nonconsensual sexual encounters and fail to pay your taxes, you're just being very "ironic" and people are failing to treat you like a human being.

Eventually everyone must decide if everything is serious or everything is funny, with the latter choice being the only option unless someone never feels the need to say something they do not literally mean. At the very least, pick a standard and stick with it. Dongle jokes cannot be forbidden while bad inverted scrotum jokes are said to "punch up".

A key part of humor is who says what, when and how. It's entirely possible that context matters a great deal. But it simply is not the case that the rules of comedy are as moronic as to nearly always absolve what one gender says while policing the other. This is the dogma of a "social justice" that values identity over all, with the content of the message being secondary to one's race, sexual preference and gender identity. 

Let's not check our minds at the door to appear to be better "activists" or "allies". Growing a thicker skin is not actually an activity that always must help the "privileged", but rather an activity that helps one pick meaningful battles.

If one has a hard time understanding this, there is a radiator one can be tied to.

Sorry, Men Are Not Technology Wizards

As long as there was an ability to do anything, there has been a debate about which gender is better at it. Humans love nothing better than a simple explanation, and nothing is much simpler than an age old gendered competition.

The latest iteration of this drama is possibly the "women in tech" debate, in which everyone is gathering to explain the gender disparity in the workforce.

One vocal person in this debate is a one Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is undeniably an interesting character - when not opining about women in tech, he finds the time to use stereotypes of cishet men to troll the insecurities of cishet women by writing of a coming "sexodus", a John Galt like departure of men caused by distasteful feminism and attractive sexbots.

Milo definitely has interesting ideas about women and feminism - but it is wrong to denounce him for being intentionally provocative. Such silencing criticism would undeniably be the evil "tone trolling", a crime worse than being a prankster.

Sexodus aside, Milo wrote an article in July titled: "14 Facts the 'Women in tech' Movement Doesn't Want You To Know".

The article contains many truths, but there are a few points that sound much like many other criticisms of 'women in tech' that needs further exploration.

Specifically the points -
"Most Women Aren’t Interested In Tech, And They Never Will Be" (#2)
"Women’s Brains Aren’t As Well Suited To Programming As Men’s" (#3)
Diehard latest generation feminists will dismiss these points as "biological determinism" and "gender essentialism". At the same time, critics will cite studies that show men may in fact occupy a larger "range" of intellectual abilities - it is said that the population of men contains more geniuses, but also more dunces.

Science says the population of men is likely to contain more Albert Einsteins. Or that is what we are led to believe. Furthermore, in a more lazy manner, it is said that data shows men and boys prefer more science and tech related activities.

It could all be true - men could be a bit more clever and want to tinker more. But to what extent does this create the employment disparity we see in tech fields?

Implied in "women aren't interested in tech" messaging is the idea that men generally are. Men are just following their dreams and their abilities. Dominance in engineering and the tech industry was inevitable. Once sold on this idea, it can be applied to any field that appears to be clever or nerdy - advanced maths, astrophysics, etc.

It's a quaint explanation, and from a certain perspective does explain disparity. If we understand "tech" as just another field for clever people with particular tastes, it all works out.

However if we understand "tech" as a potentially bottomless pit of money, the reasoning is plainly and obviously bullshit. And to a great many men, tech is precisely this.

The reality of "Silicon Valley" and the tech industry is often not of simple preferences and science fairs. Venture capitalists are not in the game because they think transistors can change the world. Our planet's  gadget gods are not in the game to find out how a watch works. They're in the game to make money, not to make particularly good timepieces. (As recent history demonstrates)

One becomes the alpha male of tech not by being a creative, but rather being a creative capitalist. This is obviously true among the CEOs and startup founders in the "tech" industry, but this is quite a small sample of the entire population within tech. More surprising is that there may be legions of henchmen that do not have the tinkering attitude or intellectual aptitude that is the force we're led to believe motivates men into tech.

Believe it or not, the Apple's "Genius Bar" does not employ very many literal geniuses. Higher up the food chain, the workforce does not become more inspired. There are the gadget makers that does not care to SnapChat, the videogame programmers that do not care to participate in all-night deathmatches, and the consultant that does not actually think their calling is applying software updates.

Watch the most common job in the United States change from the late 1970s until today. A few positions stand out as dominated by women ("Secretary", "Teacher"), the rest we can safely assume as mostly male ("Software Developer", "Truck Driver", "Computer Analyst", "Farmer").

Let's compare one popular industry to another - software development to truck driving. Some have said the gender disparity in truck driving is worse than that of the tech industry. We can devise similar arguments for trucking - all the women that want to drive trucks are driving trucks, men are more interested in driving trucks, men are more physically capable of driving trucks, etc.

Whatever rationale is invented for truck driving being only 5% to 6% women, hinting that men just want to drive trucks that much more may be "true" in some sense but also an oddly hilarious explanation. For it's difficult to imagine that a great number of men would choose to drive a truck all day every day as if it tickled their fancy.

Men have made something of themselves in trucking for the same reasons they've made something of themselves in the tech sector - it's in-demand work that represents the most money they can make in alignment with their skills and abilities. A number of aptitude tests can devise that men are predisposed to do well in particular component, a number of anecdotes may be shared about what each gender did during childhood, but it rather crudely erases the simple cash transaction that is occurring.

Many more things are explained when men are thought to be money gathering automatons rather than beings of superior intellect driven out of a feeling of whimsy. Consider that for whatever reason, nature or nurture, men may overweight the importance of salary in their sense of self. Therefore an industry - whether clever or not - stands to be visited by masculinity so long as it pays the bills.

Back to tech, what then explains tech having somewhere around a 3 to 1 (or up to 5 to 1, depending what you read) ratio of men to women? It's a combination - a mixture of competence, curiosity and self-interest. But these factors are interrelated, as the question creates a chicken/egg problem. For several decades now, it's been obvious that tech is printing money. This goes far to create a lot of stories of "childhood curiosity" that are nice to retell during an interview.

Many "tech" fields of study, like computer science and engineering, have just as much in common with MBA programs as they do advanced math degrees. MBA programs also have a gender balance issue that tends the same way, with just over 60% of all degrees earned by men.

The vast majority of men in the tech industry are not would-be chess grandmasters or clones of Stephen Hawking. They're refugees from the implosion of other sectors, the demise of which came about through free trade and technology itself. They're men that would have been working at a factory. They're men that would have been selling insurance. They're men that would be just as happy working for a bank or an oil company, but did not bet on these industries finding room for them.

Are men uniquely clever or simply spent the last few decades successfully playing "show me the money"? Could it be true that women failed to follow the gold rush as effectively? There are many theories as to why this could be the case that do not need to be rehashed here.

Why are more men in tech? Some innate features may account for some disparity, a large factor must be that men just want to be involved more for purely social reasons. Men latch on to the tech industry not because they're smarter or more "passionate" about the field, but because they want to cash in and are more acutely aware of what wealth means to them.

Or when the day comes, they hope to simply have enough money to afford that sexbot.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Show me where TSA touched you

Every September 11 is a strange day on social media. Twitter is already a mirror of vanity and asinine problems every day of the year, but something about September 11 makes for particularly nauseating oversharing.

Every tragic anniversary is met with elements of poor taste. Contemplation is often difficult within the shameless parade of amateur patriotic art, political slogans, and Vogon poetry. And it seems like every poorly written television series manages to treat major catastrophes as props to give a shallow plotline some emotional depth.

September 11 is treated like a big red "sad" button to be pressed for effect.

But not every narrative is the same kid of sad. But as it turns out, there is a marginalized type of sad. It is the sad that is not the sad on television. It is the sad muslims feel in the post-9/11 world. As it turns out, if there was a "World Islamophobia Awareness Day" it would be September 11 due to the tragic comedy that is the internet.

Every year, without fail, fans of Islam take to social media to share how Islam and muslims have been unfairly maligned or violently assaulted since September 11. And much of it is true - it's undeniable that muslims in primary school are familiar with Islamophobic slurs. And several people have been murdered in revenge killings. Disturbingly, attackers also have a habit of confusing muslims with members of the Sikh faith, showing that many of the most violent people are the least educated and the least deliberate.

No rational person endorses violence against innocent muslims. Yet at the same time, no rational person is being given a reason to believe there is an epidemic of Islamophobia, despite the numbers the media may provide. One could absolutely believe that the western world is descending into an abyss of Islamophobia and white supremacist retribution. Similarly, one could absolutely believe that Sharia law is coming to Kentucky. (Word is still out on how Sharia-compatible Kim Davis county is)

The difference is one group of people is eating Fox "News" hysteria while another is deeply enamored with social justice "math" (1 , 2) that aims to measure nothing but feelings and fears.

The reality is that muslims actually are the primary victims of Islamist violence - but not because post-9/11 anti-muslim animus is a threat. It is because Islamists typically injure other muslims before reaching the front door of the infidel. Islamists beat their wives, beat their kids, kill their neighbours long before reaching the jannah that is self-destruction in a bi-curious bar in Tel Aviv.

Instead of any true analysis of the situation, we're left feeling guilty that a backscatter x-ray machine is currently inspecting the nipple of a hijabi while a TSA agent gives her the side-eye. The climate of distrust is making someone feel slightly uncomfortable before reaching the Starbucks past the security gate. Boys on the playground with the middle name "Hussein" need to learn a better comeback. Imams need to learn how to rationalize scripture with modernity and convince a brother not to join al-Shabbab or ISIS.

Sounds difficult. Difficult things tend to marginalize people.

Time to do the privileged American thing. Create a hashtag, a Patreon, a Tumblr. Put the focus on yourself and start tweeting about how stressful high school is as you fight "the system". Inshallah the ummah will show up for you because the rest of America is soooo different and doesn't get it.

Nobody else truly understands, surely.