My comments on the American Atheists racefail; and their defenders

So you made a sign highlighting a pro-slavery line, with an old image of an African slave, to make an argument that African Americans should reject Chistianity because it supports their enslavement?

Well, isn’t that just fucking cute. I thought you knew that all Christians cherry-pick their bibles, since that book is so contradictory it’s absolutely impossible to follow all of it? And if you knew this, why the fuck would you think that African Americans would recognize that line as in any way relating to their Christianity? And as a consequence, why do you think they’ll consider you relevant to their lives, if you’re attacking something that isn’t part of their flavor of Christianity, while using the struggle of their ancestors as a rhetorical tool without any visible sign that you are also engaging with the struggles that are part of their everyday experience?

Let me explain:
Sure, many African Americans won’t care either way about this sign; some might even agree with the message, and that the message you meant to send was the one that’s being received (but those would have agreed with you before, so you’ve just wasted a fuckload of money to preach to the choir). But many don’t see it that way. Many members of the African American community don’t see their religion reflected in that quote. What they do see, however, is a billboard that ambiguously declares that slaves should obey their masters; one that could, in almost exactly the same design and wording, be run by a white supremacist organization as supporting black slavery, rather than repudiating religion. What they might also perceive is a stereotypically white organization using them as a rhetorical device, instead of seing them as real people: they won’t see atheist organizations helping their friends who got in trouble with the racist cops (the churches do that); they won’t see atheist organizations helping kids in neglected urban neighborhoods finish school (churches do that); they won’t see atheist organizations fighting voter-registration laws that disenfranchise them (churches do that); they won’t see atheist getting together to make sure members of their communities who have lost their homes find shelter (churches do that); but they will see atheists using the struggles of their ancestors for cheap point-scoring.
So, they will conclude that atheists are racist; that they are unconcerned with the actual lives and struggles and beliefs of African Americans, and instead just want to score rhetorical points.

Do you think that will convince the doubting and the closeted atheists to break their ties to the churches and join an atheist organization? really?

Oh, you say that’s not at all what you were trying to say with that billboard? That you didn’t mean any of what I just “read into” your billboard? Tough shit. Advertising (and that’s what you’re doing when you put up a billboard; you’re advertising yourself) is not about you. Why do you think companies shell out ridiculous amounts of money on customer-data? It’s because advertising is about your target audience, not about you. You want an effective message? You have to put in the bloody effort of researching what issues are perceived as relevant by that target audience; you have to make the effort to understand the cultural, historic, and socioeconomic context in which your message will appear, so that you can understand how to create one that will be read the way you want people to read it. Because it’s your fucking responsibility to make yourself understood. Because intent isn’t magic; not in any form of communication, but especially not in advertizing. If you don’t want to do that, if you’d rather whine about people misunderstanding and criticizing you than put in the required effort and research your target audience, then:

stay the fuck out of advertising, and stay away from demographics you are not part of, and thus lack any useful knowledge about.

**EDIT: and, in case this is unclear to some of the troglodytes who stumble upon this post: a failure to do the relevant research yet assuming that you can get your message across anyway is a manifestation of privilege (in this case, racial privilege); and the public recognition of and involvement with African Americans only when it’s rhetorically useful to score points against religion is just plain racist, because it erases them and reduces them to rhetorical devices; and because it ignores their perspectives by making an argument from a dominant (in this case, white) perspective even when the target audience is an oppressed minority (in this case, the African American community)**

**Post inspired by (and partially paraphrased from) this post by Sikivu Hutchinson, as well as the massive outbreak of stupid in this thread on Pharyngula**

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Link dump

there’s a few issues on my mind that don’t need a lot to have said about them (or, you know, render one completely speechless), so I’ll just collect them all here:

1)douchebag: now an insult also applicable to racists: Hey Did You Know Your Vagina’s Personality Is Based On Your Race?

2)something that’s quite old by now, but that I haven’t gotten around to respond: Walton linked to an article about a boy in London fighting the ban on cornrows in his school. The ban was being defended because it bans things associated with gang-culture. Someone else commented that it was “unprofessional”. That reminded me of how political black people’s hair is: how much racism there is in associating traditionally black hairstyles with criminality, and how much shaming there is (usually of women) for their natural hair, to the point where many of them end up damaging it to make it look like white people’s hair. Anyway, here’s a good article from the guardian about it: Cornrows? Non-traditional? What rubbish

3)News Corp trying to shut up critics, in a way that vaguely reminds me of something a certain someone recently did… News Corp’s Times Of London Cartoon Shows Starving Children Bemoaning Phone-Hacking Scandal Coverage

4)Limbaugh claims that current heatwave is a Liberal Conspiracy: Limbaugh: The Killer 116° Heat Index Is ‘Manufactured By The Government’

5)Sustainable development that’s actually sustainable: Permaculture in Cambodia (30 min documentary)

EDIT: one more, for good measure: Fox News: Are There Really Poor Americans?, from The Young Turks

Get them while they’re young

Once upon a time, Lego’s were a genderneutral toy. Now they are no longer, as exemplified by the fact that Scheels has a set of children’s winter coats, with the “boys” coats having a lego design, while the “girls” coats have a butterfly design; or the fact that Lego now has “girls” sets, that come in pink boxes and have pink bricks, and are designed to make girly things.
And it’s not just Lego. The visit to almost any children’s toy site asks, as the first question before you can see the products, whether you’re shopping for a girl or a boy, or at the very least sorts all its toys into a “boy” and a “girl” category; the categories are usually non-overlapping, too. Because boys and girls are just SO different that they wouldn’t ever play with each other’s toys, and just picking from a general selection of toys might result in buying a toy for the “wrong” gender? And ads are just as bad, as This video explains (And looky there, Sweden comes out as the most progressive country again :-p). I’m sure the banning of ads to kids is helpful, but until stores stop gendering their toy-sections, and adults stop buying such highly gendered toys for their kids, the stupid gender stereotypes will continue, and will give adults an excuse to perpetuate the stereotypes; after all, all little girls naturally like to be told they’re pretty, right? Can’t be that they’ve been socialized from birth into this, right?

*sigh*

***today’s post is almost entirely made up from the gender: children/youth tag as Sociological Images. I encourage everyone to go look through the rest of it, because it’s really a fascinating topic.***

Toxic Masculinity (Part One)

This was supposed to be a single post, but then that sex conversation broke out on Pharyngula’s Endless Thread, and issues from that kept invading this as I was writing it. Since it was all rather tangential to my point here, I cut those bits out and will make a separate post about toxic masculinity and sex some other day. This post is about toxic masculinity and environmentalism.

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Toxic Masculinity is one of those “patriarchy hurts men, too” things; the “patriarchy” part is the part where men are better than women; the “hurts men” part is where having your dangly bits between your legs rather than on your chest is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a man. For that, you must under all circumstances and at all times avoid accumulating women-points by doing or saying things that are considered feminine; best is to do the opposite of “feminine”, which of course then would be “masculine”, and gives you man-points.

Now, what precisely is considered feminine (and therefore having its opposite considered masculine) is almost completely arbitrary, but it’s one hell of a long list. It starts at such relatively harmless things as peeing while sitting down, but it also includes things that have real consequences to men (hence the “hurts men, too” part), like the weird belief that going to the doctor is “girly” unless you’re bleeding to death (and even then, you’d probably get extra man-points if you just sew your wound shut with spiderwire), so men miss out on a lot of preventive care because it’s not manly, and they end up suffering health consequences. This goes double for mental health; men are still more likely than women to commit suicide, and toxic masculinity is a main reason for that.

Toxic Masculinity has other, broader effects as well. Something I hadn’t much considered before, but am starting to notice more because it touches on issues I find important, is that it affects how far and how fast progressive changes to society can be advanced. Toxic masculinity seems always at the forefront of every imaginable backlash to progressive politics, most obviously of course in terms of women’s and LGBT rights (because they clash with the very basis of patriarchal thinking). But it also clashes with efforts to become more environmentally sustainable.

I’ve recently read this article from my free monthly trial of Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture (because I’m dirt-poor, and can’t afford subscriptions to these kinds of things :-p ) about meat consumption and masculinity. It talks about three commercials (this and this, and a third one I couldn’t find on youtube) which show manhood attacked by “chickfood”, i.e. small portions, veggies, tofu, et cetera. “Chickfood” stands in contrast to “manfood”, which in the first commercial are giant slabs of red meat, and in the second one it’s a ginormous, fatty burger. Now, why precisely healthy food is chickfood I don’t know (it’s probably some weird hunter-gatherer pretension where meat=manly, greenery=womanly), but it being “chickfood” means men must avoid it in order to avoid turning into girly-men. Now, the first problem is simply that this manly food is unhealthy, so being forced by the rules of toxic masculinity to eat it or else turn into a girl is already bad for men, on an individual level. On a societal level though, this also means that shifting away from highly processed foods, giant slabs of red meat and other highly inefficient forms of food threatens toxic masculinity, and as such is being actively hindered by this “eating less meat will turn you into a girl” peer-pressure/backlash. At the same time, the words “sustainable” and “organic”, and “vegetarian” are considered essential chickfood labels. And god forbid you actually go to a farmer’s market! On a Saturday morning, when every self-respecting manly man is recovering from a proper hangover!

And the same goes for transportation: the humvee AKA Hummer is most “manly” vehicle; a Honda Civic or a Toyota Prius already makes you pretty girly; a bicycle turns you immediately into a “bike fag”. And for saving electricity (what sort of man doesn’t have a ginormous entertainment center?! or wears a sweater, like that girly-man Carter?!), and for recycling, and for recreation (ATVs are manlier than biking and hiking), and for a whole bunch of other things.

So, the big question is: how do you move forward in creating a healthier, more sustainable society when men are being told that doing so will make their penis fall off?

Toxic Masculinity (part two)