Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Last Part: Men

So, yesterday, I made a rushed post (with several typos I discovered later) about how Christians, white people, and men are NOT being oppressed in this country. Your culture is not being destroyed. People who are different from you having both the right to be different AND the same civil and human rights as you is not oppression. You also cannot sit in a position of extraordinary power (seriously, White Christian dude in 21st century America? There has never been a more powerful and privileged group of people in the history of the world) and whine about how you’re being oppressed while simultaneously laying into people who are ACTUALLY being oppressed for complaining about it. You can’t have it both ways.

I ran short of time when ranting about men, and at least one friend on Facebook asked if I would please finish it. So, since the actual oppressed group here (women) includes me, sure, why the hell not?

Let’s begin by establishing: as things go, historically there’s never been a better time or place to be a woman. Especially if you have the fortune to be a white woman. And, yes, I’m a teacher who grades on a curve, up to a point.

However: Men, you piss me off. #notallmen, but enough of you that you get to be thrown in with the “people who don’t know how damned good they have it” crowd. This is what it is to be a woman: you get paid ON AVERAGE 78% of what men do for the same job. The average here is important, because it obscures the often-even-worse numbers it averages. In Washington D.C., where women have the best deal, women make 91% as much as men do. That’s as good as it gets. On the other end, in Louisiana, women make a disgustingly low 2/3 of what men make for the same work. It’s worse if you’re not white (actually, it’s worse if you’re not Asian. Asian women average 90% of what white men make). If you’re a Hispanic woman, you make 54% of what white men make. So, you see, inequities can be stacked – you get to be both not white and not male! Yay!

This gap exists in every occupation. Read: sexism in pay exists everywhere. In fields where women dominate (elementary school teachers), to where we’re the rarity (computer programmers), women are always, apparently, worth less.

Tellingly, the gap is small (90% equity) for women under the age of 35. It jumps to 75-80% after the age of 35. Ladies, what happens around that age? Yeah, that’s right. We have babies. Now, men have babies, too, but…it’s weird how kids seem to HELP men in their careers, isn’t it? Men with kids are seen as more stable, more mature, and as needing their jobs and money more. Women with kids, well – they are probably about to quit to stay home, and anyway, don’t they have a husband to support the family? And why are they always taking their kids to doctor’s appointments? (Hint: because society still expects us to.)

So there’s that. Women get paid less, and the excuse is, “Well, you do less work because you’re taking care of babies.” Bullshit. Women over the age of 35 with no kids STILL face that wage gap. And also? When men do take care of their kids, they don’t usually get dinged for it. (Sorry; I have a reference for that, but my Google Fu failed me.) Finally, even if we assume that men work more hours because fewer kid duties…more work does NOT equal more productivity. The “work limit” is a phenomenon that we’ve known about for a while now – as you pass your work limit (somewhere between 38 and 50 hours in a week for 95% of all people), you become LESS productive. That is, if your work limit is 39 hours, and you decide to work for 42, you wind up with less than 39 hours of actual work product.

Then there’s the fact that we have to constantly withstand a barrage of unwanted male attention, which is usually physically benign (“hey, hey, smile, baby, what’s wrong with you, what you think you’re too good to smile, bitch?”), but is emotionally draining. Just so we’re clear: ALL OF US EXPERIENCE STREET HARASSMENT. If you’re male, and not an asshole, that should horrify you. Men who are strangers have put their hands on me more often than I really want to get into.

We’re afraid to walk alone, especially (but not only) at night. This is NOT because we’re terrified little mice. Please. It’s because there are actual threats, and those threats are a nasty subset of men. More of them than you want to admit. This post says “only” 6% of men admit to having raped someone. ONLY? That means that if I pass 25 men on the street as I walk alone to my car, there was probably at least one rapist in that group. That means that there were an estimated 4 rapists in my genetics class last semester. ONLY six percent?

While we’re on the subject of college kids – one-third of college-aged men say they would rape if they thought they’d get away with it. Holy. Shit.

There’s more, but let’s leave it at that. I want to discuss the more…subtle sexism, now.

Tim Hunt. Not the only example, but the one from my own sphere that has most recently outed himself as a bit of a sexist ass. What he said, for the record:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

Sure, this was meant as a joke. Which he chose to say to a room full of female scientists and science journalists. Some of whom say he asked in advance whether he should make the joke and was advised against it. Here’s the thing: it’s not funny. And it’s not that I’m a humorless feminist. (People who know me will confirm that I am, on occasion, a very funny feminist.) No, it’s that it’s punching down. Hunt is a Nobel Laureate, a fairly privileged rich white guy, and he was making jokes at the expense of people over whom he has power. Many of whom were in the room, having invited him to be an honored guest. So, right. Walk into someone’s house and insult them to their faces. Funny shit, that.

Hunt was later asked if he’d meant the comments, and admitted that he did mean the part about his “trouble with women”. It’s only after he started having to resign from purely honorary positions that he started to claim “it was only a joke” and act like he was the victim of some sort of internet witch hunt.

Again, let’s be clear: nobody was fired. And free speech does NOT include the right to be free from the social consequences of your speech (also, Hunt is British, and they have a somewhat different attitude about free and appropriate speech). But even if we assume our standards are “best”: you can say assholish things. But often you will face social consequences for those things. You come into my house and insult me, you probably get shown the door and not asked back. The First Amendment only says the government can’t abridge your speech. The government can’t punish you for your speech (within reason, most of the time). Other components of society can, and do.

Also, this isn’t about academic freedom. Tim Hunt wasn’t fired from an academic job for saying something controversial. He is a retired scientist who was cut loose from an honorary position because he was not the public face the university wanted. Actions, meet consequences.

Speaking of no sense of humor, one of the major responses to the Tim Hunt shenanigans was the hashtag #distractinglysexy. Go to Twitter. Check it out. We’re funny as hell; but Tim Hunt said it was a “savage attack”. Who has no sense of humor?

The inevitable backlash from Hunt’s resignation was oodles of privileged white dudes (many of them scientists, some Nobel Laureates) who once again started acting like they were being oppressed by the twitter lynch mob. Because…wait for it…they feel like they can’t say whatever the hell they want to anyone they want without consequences. Gosh, privilege is nice. Guys? Other people watch what they say in public ALL THE TIME. All the time. Partly because not being sociopaths, we want to avoid having our words hurt other people. Partly because there may be social consequences for the words we choose to use…and partly because those consequences are unequally meted out. What you’re reacting to is being treated LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Sucks, right?

So, again: grow up. Join us in the world of people who expect consequences for our actions.

There ya go, Shan. 😉

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You’re The Oppressor, Dummy

Something’s been bugging me for a while now, and since this is my blog, where I get to rant, I think I’ll do so.

It is very difficult, in a representative democracy, for a group in the majority to be oppressed. And yet I hear weekly, if not daily, from Christians, white dudes, and men. Let’s get something straight: none of you are oppressed.

Christians: in a recent Gallup Poll, three quarters of Americans identify as Christian. The most recent census data have almost exactly the same results. So, if you identify as Christian, there are three times as many of you as everyone else put together. You are the majority, by a long shot. Folks like me (atheists) constitute less than a percent of the population (though I suspect a lot of the “no religion” and “decline to state” folks are closet atheists). I am the minority. In a place where religious freedom wasn’t guaranteed, I might have to live in fear of being jailed, tortured, or executed for my (lack of) beliefs. But because I live in the United States of America, with it’s lovely Constitution and Bill of Rights, I just get to know that I am in the least-trusted, most-despised religious group in America.

But I get to be an atheist.

Christians are the majority. There’s no “War on Christmas”. Me saying, “Happy Holidays” doesn’t change Christmas, or what it means, to anyone who believes in Christ. Incidentally, I also say “Merry Christmas”. Depends on the day. The fact that I, a woman who believes Jesus was a nice Jewish kid with a hammer who gave a good speech, still celebrates Christmas shows you just how much Christianity has a foothold in this country.

Why, then, do Christians say they’re oppressed? (Most don’t, incidentally. But a subset, all, in my mind, delusional, insist they are.) Near as I can tell, it boils down to being asked to tolerate behaviors and beliefs they disapprove of, and, on the flip side, not being able to force their specific brand of religious observation on everyone else.

There are numerous examples of this: campaigns to pull evolution out of science textbooks, to eliminate sex education in school, to make abortion illegal…all of these are attempts to force one’s own version of morality on others. The most obvious recent example, however, is same-sex marriage.

Homosexual behavior is considered a sin in many religions, including many sects of Christianity. Sure. I get that. But it’s irrelevant to the issue of marriage. Because Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…in other words, the government isn’t allowed to care whether your religion forbids a specific behavior when making/upholding laws. And here’s the thing that this specific and vocal group of Christians (Mike Huckabee, I’m looking at you) don’t get: IT DOESN’T ABRIDGE YOUR FREEDOM TO EXERCISE YOUR RELIGION WHEN OTHER PEOPLE ARE GAY IN THE SAME COUNTRY AS YOU. Why is that so hard to get?

In this country, your religion doesn’t get to come packaged with the ability to force your religious beliefs on others. Your desire for everyone to behave as you do doesn’t trump others’ civil rights. You are still allowed to believe that gay people are evil. You are still allowed to think queer people marrying one another is abomination. You are NOT allowed to force that belief on others. And if your job is to hand out marriage licenses, you are actually not allowed to refuse to give them to gay people based on your religious beliefs. If your religious beliefs require you to not do your job, you need to get another job. You are not oppressed by the very existence of queer people. If you’re trying to withhold a basic civil right because you disagree with it for religious reasons, you’re the oppressor, dummy.

White Dudes: Okay, it’s not always dudes, here, but more often than not. Again, though, the numbers: 77.7% of Americans are white. More than three times as many of us as anyone else. It’s easier for us to get jobs, loans, mortgages. African-Americans are six times more likely to die by homicide (before you say “black on black crime”, most white victims are murdered by white people. Irrelevant to the argument). And the biggie: most African-Americans are here because their ancestors were brought here as slaves. Seriously, it’s only been 150 years since we stopped OWNING PEOPLE.

It’s actually a lot to expect people to be “over it” in such a short time, especially when the disparities are still huge, and when racism is still obvious and pervasive. I know a lot of people who just want to pretend racism is over. It’s black people wanting special treatment who are perpetuating it.

Are you freaking kidding me with this? Let’s recap: just this month, nine people murdered by a white supremacist who did bible study with them for an hour first. As a result, widespread calls for us to finally, FINALLY, stop flying the Confederate Battle Flag over government buildings across the American South.

The reaction of many white people? “It’s not important; it’s just a cultural symbol; why are you attacking white culture?”

Let me take a moment to be offended by the idea that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of my culture. I’m not on board with a flag flown by an army of traitors fighting a war to be allowed to continue owning other people as property being symbolic of my culture. If you are, then, yeah, you’re the oppressor, dummy.

(Oh, and following the semi-successful campaign to get rid of that flag? Six black churches burned down in the past week. But, sure. Racism is so over.

Men: Let me start by acknowledging that men aren’t the majority. But then everyone reading, acknowledge that men have historically had the vast majority of the property, money, and power. It hasn’t even been 100 years since women got the right to vote in this country (and we had to fight for it, hard). Women are raped on the street, then blamed for “dressing wrong”. Women get paid less than men, and it’s excused because they…reproduce. The list goes on.

I’m running short of time (kids to retrieve from daycare, ahem), but let me say: if you feel like you’re being oppressed because a retired Nobel Laureate, a man with a lot of power and influence, makes a terrifically sexist series of jokes in front of a room full of women (and later admits it’s not really a joke), has to resign from a couple of honorary positions…you’re the oppressor, dummy.

Do the rest of us a solid, and grow the hell up, folks with power. Seriously, we’re trying to have a civilization here.

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Yeah, that went well.

naked mal (Image from Firefly (Fox))

It’s been a good day. Heck, a pretty awesome week. Today will make the history books for more than one reason. Marriage equality is the big one – this is up there with the Loving verdict, and we can perhaps put one social justice issue to rest with the correct answer.

The rest: the President had a truly wonderful week. Today’s eulogy will rightfully earn him a place in history – like him or not, you’re being dishonest if you don’t think he’s accomplished anything, or if you think he’s not the most relevant president we’ve had in at least 50 years.

Today he gave the speech that, in my book, fulfilled the promise of his presidency. It’s been coming all along. He’s been up there, doing the work, whatever he can get done in the face of a truly ridiculous GOP opposition to everything, all the time. Since his re-election, it’s been speeding up. The sense of, “look, I’m doing these things because they’re right, get out of the way if you won’t help” has been building.

He had a great week. Obamacare still exists, and will likely continue to do so. No sane Republican Congress really wants to repeal it now. (Granted, how sane they are remains to be seen.)

Marriage equality – we knew it was coming. I had only the tiniest doubt about how this one would go. Scalia’s aneurism-in-writing is something of a bonus, though. And I actually thought that Thomas might swing (given his interracial marriage and all). But this one was a win for the President, who, yeah, is showing himself to be an actual liberal more and more every day. (WOOT!)

And today…America’s first black president gave the eulogy/speech that will likely define his legacy. He went for it all – guns, institutional racism, the works.

This week, and, in fact, this year, he’s been the President we were hoping for all along. I always knew it was there, but it has been truly glorious to watch. Bill Clinton is brilliant, and was very good at his job, and I love him. But I think Barack Obama is going down as the greatest president in modern times.

Yeah, that went well.

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