Saturday, August 22, 2015

Black and White: A Poem

There is no one else in your home
Thunder rages outside
And you are alone
The lights have gone out
And their words have been swallowed by darkness
There are no laws here
No men with guns enforcing order
You are flying
But flashes of lightning cast shadows on the walls
You cannot move
Freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Friday, August 21, 2015

Men's Rights Meme; Episode One: Talking About Feelings

I've decided to start a new series on this blog, entitled, of course, Men's Rights Meme. The premise of it is simple, but elegant. I hope so, anyway. Basically, I'm taking memes created by Men's Rights Activists on the internet and, well, beating the shit out of them. That's basically the whole thing. I'm challenging MRA rhetoric from a feminist perspective. That's so original, right?

 This first episode will, I think, be a short one. The meme I'm looking at today is a common one, which has been refuted countless times by better minds than mine. But I think it's a good introduction to the series, so I'm going to do it anyway. Let's get right to episode one: Talking About Feelings.

Here's the offending meme, which is a commentary on Emma Watson's He For She speech. It's a really poorly done commentary, and we'll get to why in a moment, but it's a commentary nonetheless.

Okay, wow. There are so many problems with this thing that it's hard to know where to begin. I would first like to point out that this thing finally shows the hand of the Men's Right's Movement. By that, I mean that the creator makes no effort to hide the blatant misogyny that plagues what can only generously be called a movement. This man seems to think that there's some shadowy conspiracy by a cabal of female leaders designed to suck away his money, for some reason. You'd think the illuminati would have a more reliable source of income. It's like he dated one crazy person in college and then just assumed that every woman is exactly like her, always.

But as much as I'd love to sling insults at those hateful fucks who pretend to care about real issues, we have something more important to discuss.

Namely, that Watson never actually said the words, "Men should talk about their feelings more." What she said was far more eloquent and nuanced than that. I suppose I can't fault the creator of the meme for straw-manning Emma here. Sexist assholes aren't usually known for their sliver tongues or discerning intellects. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist taking one more cheap shot at this guy.

The entirety of Watson's speech can be found here, but the bit I want to focus on is this, as it's the one the meme is referring to. At least, I think that's the case. Quite frankly, this is so nonsensical that I can't tell what it's trying to say. Anyway, here is the full quote, placed back in the context this guy ripped it from.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.
If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.
Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.
If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. 

The part that really gets me is that the above ideas are exactly the kind of thing a real Men's Rights Movement would be promoting. But, like I said, these people don't actually care about the real issues facing men today. They just need an excuse to yell about how awful women are. It's a thinly-veiled way for them to express their deep-seated rage. Personally, I think it stems from the size of their dicks. That's just me, though.

Also, newsflash, guys. Anger is still a feeling. Maybe if you listened to her arguments instead of calling her a bitch on the internet, you would understand that.

You would also understand that men don't become homeless because of the aforementioned secret cabal of evil ladies. Roughly one-third of homeless people are in that situation because of mental illness, according to this. Many of these people would benefit from the opportunity to talk to a trained professional about their feelings directly. And they would have that chance, if the patriarchy didn't regard having emotions as a sign of weakness. Watson is one hundred percent correct here.

So much for this being a short one, huh?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the first episode of Men's Rights Memes. Stayed tuned for the next one. I'm going to try and post these every Friday, and we'll see where it goes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cloudy: A Poem

They poured water over the fire in my veins
They coated my bones in rusty metal
Their megaphone screams echo in my ears
I gaze up at the stars
sparking dimly in the firmament
Has the light at the end of the tunnel
finally gone out?

The Taste of the Storm: A Poem

They say no one can harness the thunder
I wish I believed them
I wish the lightning could tear the sky in two
I wish freedom's ring
would bounce off the spray-painted walls
I wish the rain could mask your tears.
I wish the storm would keep on raging.

Slipping my Mind: A Poem

I can feel you about to forget
I see the wind take your hand
And pull you away
From my loving embrace
You cry out
But your heart's not in it.
I can feel you acting it out.
The memories are fading
And I know it.
But your lips are sewn shut

Bittersweet: A Poem

It strikes your tongue
Like rain from on high
Your fingers are aching
You can't hear the noise
You raise the glass to your lips
Forcing it past a smile
Drink up your life
You can only taste the dying

Monday, August 17, 2015

Freedom of Speech

Okay, you guys. We have to talk about freedom of speech. I've written about censorship twice before, both in the context of comedy and games. You can read those posts here and here, but I don't think the points I made there have really sunk in yet. So here is my rant about the broader concept of freedom of speech. Put another way, you dumb fuckers don't know what freedom of speech actually means, and so I'm going to beat the real answer into your skull right now. Buckle the fuck up, assholes.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequence. Nor does it mean that you have the right to an audience. I'll explain what those statements mean in a moment, after I tell you what the idea of freedom of speech is really about. Freedom of speech only applies to the government. Your freedom of speech only guarantees that the government cannot literally put you behind bars for saying something that the regime disagrees with. That is it. Freedom of speech says nothing about criticism leveled against you by private citizens. If someone has a legitimate criticism of your ideas, or they ask you not to say something, they are not infringing upon your freedom of speech. Like, if you call me a faggot, and I tell you to stop doing that, I am not censoring you. Only the government can censor you. That's what the word censorship fucking means.

And, as I said on twitter some time ago, "Freedom of speech means you can say whatever the fuck you want, it doesn't mean I have to listen." That goes back to the bit about right to an audience I talked about earlier. You can say anything you like, but you are not entitled to an audience. If you are sending somebody death threats, they can report you to the police. Like I said, that does not curtail your freedom of speech. If that person decides not to listen to you, if they block you or whatever, that's also okay. Freedom of speech only says you are guaranteed a platform to express your ideas. Nobody has to listen to those ideas. That's not part of the first amendment, all right? Good.

This is not just something to think about. This is not just my opinion, and it isn't up for debate. This is fact. I hope I made you realize that today.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How To Do Reboots

Some time ago, I expressed support for Marvel's decision to make Thor a woman. Since then, I've been thinking a lot about what constitutes an effective reboot in the context of comic books. I say 'effective rather than 'successful' because it's actually really easy to measure whether or not something was successful. In this context, if a thing made money, it was a success. I'm more interested in, obviously, the effectiveness of reboots. Not what makes them lucrative, but rather what makes them good.

After a good deal of rumination, here's what I came up with.

Reboots have to bring something new to the table, ideally based on whatever major change the writers decided to make. What do you mean by that?" My imaginary audience asks in unison. Well, in order to answer that, let's look at the new, female Thor again, shall we?

Previously, the person who carried the mantle of Thor was a man. Now, the reverse is true. What this means is that Lady Thor has to be a character in her own right. If your rebooted character acts exactly the same as their previous incarnation, then there's no point in rebooting said character in the first place. The new version must respond to stimuli differently than those that came before her. She must make her own decisions. Essentially, the rebooted character has to be able to stand on their own.

This is a very difficult task, because if the rebooted character abandons the essence of her predecessor, then she sort of ceases to be that character at all. This results in a kind of balancing act, wherein the new character must be different while still maintaining a significant link to the original. Finding that happy medium is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of any reboot.

To do this, try to identify the most important aspect of the original character. Once you know what really makes them tick, you can play with that in interesting ways. Explore traits in as many new areas as possible. If rebooted characters must respond to stimuli in new ways, confront them with new stimuli. We’ve never seen the real Thor react to a giant, fire-breathing rabbit rampaging around the city, so putting Lady Thor in that context helps make her into a new person. Make sure to maintain some of Thor's machismo, though. The link still needs to exist.

Just something to think about.

(For those interested, my initial post about Lady Thor and diversity is here.)

Moving Forward: A Poem

(After “The Protector,” by Charly Palmer)

  The line you crossed was a wall you broke down
You hacked at it with pickaxes and hatchets
Steely resolve in your eyes
Though the monolith crumbled slowly
Though it took eons for the stones to fall away
You soldiered on
You and a hundred others 
shattered the barriers
You know there’s still work to be done
You are ready to dig up the hatchet
 they forced you to bury
The fight isn’t over
But you’ve already won

One Minute to Midnight: A Poem

Dust blankets the ground
toxic snow in June
The clocks have stopped ticking,
the voices have been swallowed by the air
Midnight approaches
huddled underground, 
hidden from the lights
that strobe in the sky
glued to one another
as though your hearts are tied
You wait.

Ancestor Songs: A Poem

The sun burns the clouds away
And scatters the birds
The blue sky is blinded by white
But the fieldworkers pay it no mind
Sweat runs in rivers down their faces
But there are still baskets to weave
There are still stories to tell

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why I Love Star Trek

All of the best science fiction, in my humble opinion, is that which introduces the reader, or watcher, or whatever, to scenarios or ideas that they would not otherwise encounter. Or, failing that, places philosophical questions that are not uncommon into a context that allows them to be viewed from an alternate perspective.

Star Trek does this with an unparalleled frequency and zeal. While one could argue that the various incarnations of Star Trek are more or less philosophical than others, I think there is good philosophy in every Star Trek series. I don't agree with all of it, but I think every question the show raises is worth exploring, if only for curiosity's sake.

The Original Series of course dealt with a lot of the social and political issues of the 1960s, but the other shows seemed rather interested in exploring the more abstract, ubiquitous philosophical questions that stood the test of time, as it were. These are questions that everyone who has ever lived has asked themselves at some point or another. They're questions that, in some cases, still have yet to be answered.

One example that comes to mind is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Measure of a Man," which explores the question of whether the android Data was a Starfleet officer, or whether he was really just Starfleet property. In it, Data expresses certain wishes and seems to have a will of his own, but at the same time, he has no emotions. It isn't as if denying him those wishes would cause him any kind of suffering.

This episode was one of many that explored interesting ideas and morally ambiguous questions.

Interestingly, my favorite episode of Star Trek that deals with morality comes from a series that is often regarded as the worst of the bunch. It's an episode of Enterprise called "Cogenitor." Enterprise as a series takes place at a time in Starfleet history before the Prime Directive was ratified, and this episode explores some of the reasons why non-interference became such an important value for the Federation.

On the one hand, it asks, "Well, shouldn't you intervene if you see some injustice occurring?" It does this while also wondering whether it is a wise idea to interfere with a culture that you don't entirely understand. And what I really like about this episode and the show as a whole, is that while it leans in the direction of non-interfeerence, it leaves the question a little bit open, so that the viewer has agency. We are exposed to new ways of thinking, but it is left up to us what we do with the knowledge we are given.

That's why I love Star Trek.

Just something to think about.

Ink in My Veins: A Poem

If you want to be
Like the masters-
Write, paint, create-
Like the masters
You must become the master
Of letting go.
Cut, slice, chop
Every word must earn
Its way onto the page
Ink is more valuable than blood
Don’t waste a drop

Confessions of a Founding Father: A Poem

Listen up:
I’m only going to say this once.
Pay attention.
I never chopped down the fucking cherry tree.
I'm not some prim and proper elder statesman, 
oozing wisdom from every orifice.
People who tell you that are liars.
Guess what.
I can tell those.
That's how I got this job.
But I don't want it anymore.
I like booze and women
and I hate Ben Franklin. Pompous ass.
I don't want to spend my entire life in some dusty hall
arguing with a bunch of stuffy idiots.
I don't want to lead.
I want to live.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Survival of the Freest: Short Fiction

“I have to admit, being dead isn’t nearly as boring as I feared it would be,” I said.

“I’m so glad to hear that, Dane,” Jenny replied. “But could you maybe save the life updates for after we’ve defeated the horde? Thanks.” With that, she squeezed the trigger of her sawed-off shotgun. The zombie in front of her barely had time to scream before its head exploded into a gooey mess. The body collapsed to the floor. Its legs twitched piteously before it fell silent for good. She repeated this process twice more, until the floor of our house, if you could even call it that, was obscured by heaps of decaying flesh.

“That’s the last of them,” I said, tucking my Louisville slugger into the waistband of my jeans.

Jenny holstered her weapon and slammed the door. “Gee, y’think?”

I plopped myself down on the couch, which mercifully avoided most of the splatter that coated the walls. The same could not be said of the dust that covered every inch of the damn thing. In life, that would’ve been murder on my sinuses. Heh. Murder. “Why you gotta be like that?” I asked.

“Like what?” She grabbed a bear from the mini-fridge and took a seat next to me.

“It’s the fucking apocalypse, and we’re both deceased. I’m having a pretty shitty week, man.”

“I thought you said this was fun.” Jenny took a long pull on her beer.

“No, I said it wasn’t boring. Big difference, there.”

“What’s your point, Dane?”

“My point is that you don’t have to pile on all the time. I’m having a rough enough time of all this without all your negativity.”

“Tell me something,” she said.


“Before you died, were you a woman?”

“That’s offensive for the both of us.”

“Whatever. Stop whining so goddamned much. Everybody else is mindless. You gotta live a little.”

I looked at her sideways. “Really?”

“You know what I mean. Lighten up. Have fun.”

“Kind of hard when, again, we’re both dead.”

“Yeah. We left the drudgery of life behind. We’re dead, man. We’re free.”

I snorted. “Your lower jaw is rotting off.”

“I’ll get a new one from this guy,” she gestured to the corpse closest to her feet. “It’s cool. Everything’s cool.”

“For you, maybe,” I said.

She twisted around to face me, so that she was sitting Indian-style on the couch. “What were you doing before all this?”


“Just answer the question.”

“I was a code monkey in Silicone Valley.”

“Really? What are you doing here in Nowheresville, Kentucky?”

I shrugged. “I heard on the radio that there were survivors here.”

“Guess you got screwed there, huh?” Jenny did her best to avoid staring at my empty left eye socket, but she wasn’t fooling anybody.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Whatever. That’s not the point. Did you like your job?”

I shrugged again. “It paid the bills.”

“See? That’s not enough. Now you don’t have to do that boring shit anymore. You’re free, goddamned it.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know if freedom is better than not having to worry about a steady food supply.”

“It is, man,” She said wistfully. “It totally is.”

“Your turn, then,” I said. “What did you do before this?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“No way. You’re not getting off that easy. I answered all your questions. Now it’s your turn.”

“Okay, fine. I’m only seventeen.”

I looked her up and down. Most of her skin was gone, revealing the rotting bone underneath, but she didn’t strike me as that young. “What? No way.”

“Yeah, way.”

I glanced at the can of beer in her hand. “Should you be drinking that?”

 Oh, please. We can’t get drunk anymore. And anyway, I think I deserve this.” My home life was pretty bad.”

“Bad how?’

“Angry, abusive father is how.”

“Oh, shit,” I said. If I could still breathe, I would’ve sucked in a breath right then. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Dane.”

“Still, I shouldn’t have made you talk about it. I should’ve let it go.”

“Too late now.”

“I guess.”

“That’s what this is for me,” she said after a moment of intensely uncomfortable silence. “A second chance. A do-over. This is freedom. From dad, from the nightmares, from everything.”

“Do you think that’s really it?” I asked. “A second chance, I mean.”

“Huh?” She sipped her beer again.

“As far as I know, we’re the only two zombies with functioning brains. Do you think we were chosen? Do you think we were saved?”

“I don’t know why this happened, and I don’t care all that much, to be honest.”

“You don’t?”
“No. The way I see it, we’re alive again, and we don’t know for how long. There’s no point in wasting time wondering why. We just gotta live a little.”

“We gotta be free,” I said with a smile.

“Exactly,” she answered.

Suddenly, there came a thunderous pounding on the door, accompanied by several ghoulish groans. The door shook as a new batch of the undead swarmed outside our home.

“We’ll do that later,” I said. Then I got up and hefted my baseball bat. Jane followed suit, cocking her shotgun.

 “Right now, we’ve got company,” she said.

Diversity in Geek Culture

A while back, Marvel decided to make Thor a woman. This made a lot of geeks really, really mad. I understand why they're pissed, but at the same time, I think their logic is flawed. Here's why.

And before you go down into the comment section, just know that I, too, am a giant nerd. I get where you're coming from and, as I said, I see where you're coming from. Simply put, I'm one of you. With that out of the way, let's get to it.

Also keep in mind that these are my own opinions, based on my own experiences. At the end of the day, that's all I can really speak to.

Geeks are a special breed. Many of us got picked on for being socially awkward, or day, or whatever. We are not an oppressed minority, but most of us were made to feel that way by people who were supposed to be our friends. The majority of us filled the holes left by that trauma with pop culture. In the absence of any real self-esteem, comic books became a sort of replacement for that. Star Trek isn't just a show you like. Rather, it's an emblem, a sign of who you are as a person.

So when someone changes something about it, it sort of feels like they're invalidating your identity. "If Thor is a lady, then who the fuck am I?" Geeks don't like change, because we spent years trying to find a place where we fit in. It took a lot of work, and now someone is fucking it all up.

I've been there. I get it.

But that's a bullshit mentality, man. It doesn't make any logical sense. Because the original stories that you love, that you identify so strongly with, those still exist. Nobody is taking your copy of Avengers no 1 and drawing a vagina on Thor. You can still enjoy that shit.

By making Thor a woman, you're opening up those stories, and the ones that will come after, to millions of new readers. Let's face it. Comics have been broadcasting chiefly to straight white males for a long, long time. Making Thor a women will broadcast the medium to new people, which will inspire them to check out the older stuff. Inclusivity can only be a good thing, because it brings us together. It opens you up to new experiences and new ways of looking at the world.

And that's awesome, man.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Objective Morality

As some of you may know, I do not believe in an objective sense of morality. But more than that, I know that there is no objective sense of morality. There are a number of reasons for this, so let's go over a few of them today.

Because i do not base my morality on anything objective, everything I do, whether I think it's right or wrong, is entirely based on how I feel about it. Anything that does not conform to my standards of morality, I consider to be immoral. As far as I'm concerned, the only morality in this world is mine. It's really just that easy.

Well, it's easy for me, anyway. But the fact that there are so many people, from all around the world, who seem to disagree with me, only confirms the fact that there is no objective morality. If there was an objective morality, we would not be arguing over whether or not it was okay to kill children, or circumcise baby girls, or rape women. There would be no debate about whether or not it was okay to stone someone to death, or to own slaves. We would all just know, instinctively, that these things are wrong. We wouldn't have to fight about these things, we just wouldn't do them.

Now, there is a form of morality that rests outside of me, and in some cases differs from my conception of what is moral. I'm talking here about societal morality. But even then, from society to society, we all believe different things. The Nazis believed that it was moral and just to exterminate the Jews. Even during World War Two, within Nazi Germany, there were people who stood up and fought against this idea. Shouldn't the Nazis have just known that it was wrong to kill millions of people, Perhaps. But there was a certain percentage of people who did not know this, and therefore, objective morality cannot and does not exist.

This is further evidenced by the fact that there are those who operate outside of morality entirely. Stalin is a perfect example of how somebody can exist without a moral code, and still live with themselves. That's how sociopaths work. There is no objective morality.

Just something to think about.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Big Bad Wolf: A Poem

They look at my teeth
and they go pale
They look at my eyes
all big and red
and they run screaming
but no one ever asks
About the size of my heart

Planned Parenthood

Today I'd like to talk about Planned Parenthood. I've done so a little before, mostly on Twitter. But there have recently been some false accusations leveled against them, through the use of heavily edited videos. Through these videos, the world was given a completely false impression of the organization. This makes me angry, so I'm going to write about it. Here we go.

The video in question is propaganda. There's no point in sugarcoating it. Social conservatives, in yet another of their despicable bids to regain the power they held in the fabled 'Good Old Days', essentially took an actual interview and contorted it into a lie. Their stated goal was to harm the reputation of Planned Parenthood, and it has unfortunately been rather successful. Through this, the world was given a completely false impression of the organization. I'm here to do my small part in rectifying that falsehood.

To begin, I'd like to look at the name. Planned Parenthood. When you plan something, it is a deliberate action, carried out with forethought. There is a process involved when you are planning or have planned something. Planning something ensures that you will accomplish your goal in the manner you want to, and the manner that makes the most sense. As opposed to, say, just doing it in the spur of the moment and hoping everything works out. I think we can all agree that, in most cases, planning something is a good thing.

Then, you have 'Parenthood.' The process of becoming a parent. If you have a planned parenthood, that means you intend to become a parent, as opposed to most people who end up as parents, who do so accidentally. It's fairly easy to end up a parent when you do not wish to. Put Tab A into Slot B and repeat as necessary. It's not rocket surgery, which is probably why it happens so often.

As I said, planning is a good thing. So it follows that if you plan you parenthood, things will go more smoothly than they would've otherwise. It means you're ready to take on that responsibility and you are doing so deliberately. That's what Planned Parenthood does. It makes sure that women have the ability to plan their pregnancy and decide to become pregnant when it suits them and fits into their lives. They do this through birth control and sex education.

Notice I didn't say abortion there. That's a part of it, sure, but it's a very small part. Not all Planned Parenthood facilities perform abortions. All of them provide birth control, they teach people about their bodies, and, hell, they even treat STDs and yeast infections. They do cancer screenings, for cervical cancer and breast cancer. I could go on, but the point is, they provide valuable resources for low-income women and middle class women. In some cases, they provide the only resources these women have available.

Abortions comprise only three percent of what Planned Parenthood does. And some branches that do perform them allow women to voluntarily donate their fetal tissue to things like stem cell research. The key word there is donate. These women are not making money off this practice. There is no incentive to get an abortion. Defunding Planned Parenthood is just another tactic in the GOPs war on women, and their war on the poor. They are vile, and disgusting, and the people who vote for them need to wake up.

Just something to think about.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Breaking Free: A Poem

Their eyes have long since passed me over
their attention has been diverted
 once again
they craned their necks to gaze at the Olympians.
no longer am I trapped
but still I am lost.
the future echoes in my head
infinite and unknowable

Shapes: A Poem

The labyrinth is eternal, 
fog dances
 through its winding halls 

The serpent has a silver tongue,
 hidden in the shadows,
 promising gold.

Fleeting dove,
by the summer breeze.

Opening the Door: A Poem

We seek fleeting unity
that lasts forever
in cramped spaces
under flickering lights
among forgotten identities
away from their prying eyes
but never truly alone
You whisper something to me
it is drowned out by their screams
but I know
My shaking hand takes yours
We walk into the light

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Censorship and #GamerGate

I've noticed something recently, a kind of strange, twilight-zone-esque phenomenon. Namely, a weird-ass confusion of what censorship means. It happens everywhere, but I'd like to focus on it within the context of the GamerGate movement today. Why, you ask? Well, because I think it's particularly egregious within those circles.

Look, GamerGaters. I know this might be a hard pill to swallow, mostly because it isn't red, but bear with me for a moment. Disagreement isn't the same thing as censorship. I don't know if your misinterpretation of the concept of censorship is intentionally dishonest, or if you're just stupid. Honestly, I feel like both of these eventualities are entirely plausible.

Essentially, you argue that by advocating for better, more even-handed representations of female characters in games, that means that violence against women will be outlawed in the context of games. Quite frankly, this makes no goddamned sense. Feminists calling out shitty behavior does not mean that the behavior will cease. Feminists challenge society to make their behavior better by appealing to their sense of reason. The change they're advocating for is not that games like GTA are banned, or even that sexist portrayals of women are lessened. Feminists want a counterbalance, which ensures that both sides are equally represented. That isn't censorship. If there are people who want to outlaw such portrayals of women, then that is censorship, and it is bad. As it stands, feminism seeks to establish more positive portrayals of women in the medium. This creates a more open space in which a greater quantity of ideas can be explored. This seems to be the exact opposite of censorship, doesn't it?

And, at the end of the day, it is up to game creators to decide whether or not to take the advice of feminists on this issue. They are not obligated to change the way they portray women in their games. It would be nice, sure, but all we can ask is that these people listen to our points. We are not forcing you to do anything, we're just presenting you with options.

Your argument seems to be predicated on the fact that power in the gaming industry is somehow finite, and that by including more balanced portrayals of women in games, that somehow means that there will no longer be games like Grand Theft Auto. This is not the case. Nor is it the case that violence against women in games causes violence against women in real life. Rather that depictions of violence against women in games like GTA reflect societal norms. Violence against women exists in the real world, that is a fact. And when you commit in GTA, you are not punished for it. This serves to normalize the practice, rather than cause it.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

On Lewis' Law

For the uninitiated, Lewis' Law was first coined on Twitter by prominent feminist Helen Lewis in 2012. It says, in a broad sense, that comments on any article about feminism justify feminism. Many antifeminists have labeled this assertion a fallacious one, meant to construct a reality in which feminism is beyond criticism. In their minds, leaving reasonable critiques of feminism in the comments of an article about feminism automatically makes them invalid. At least, that's the truth according to Lewis' Law.

That seems like a valid point at first blush. But after a little digging, we find that their ideas about Lewis' Law are deeply flawed. Here's why.

Helen Lewis in no way implied that all comments on feminist articles justified the movement, or even that most of them did. Merely that some comments would apply to her assertion. Reasonable counterarguments do not fall under this umbrella.

 Some examples of the sort of comments she is talking about are things like, 'get back in the kitchen', or 'That's just the way things are.' Simply put, these sorts of statements are indicative of the kinds of societal attitudes that feminism is attempting to address. According to the Law, articles about feminism will invariably contain examples of the attitudes that feminism exists, in the first place, to challenge. These comments justify feminism in that the object being justified is the further exercise of feminism.

Essentially, Lewis' law calls attention to the fact that sexist attitudes towards women still exist, and they rear their ugly head whenever feminists attempt to discuss their ideas. As long as these attitudes exist in any form, feminism will be justified.

Just something to think about.

Pope Francis and Climate Change

So Pope Francis recently wrote a paper on climate change, wherein he stated that all the data points to three things. The first is that climate change is a real thing that is actually happening. I didn't think this needed to be said, but apparently I was wrong. Just shows what happens when I act as if humanity is not populated entirely by dense, knuckle-dragging mongoloids. Damn you, optimism!

Anyway, the data also says that climate change is harmful, and that action needs to be taken in order to prevent its effects from worsening even further. Again, I figured this was obvious. Again I am wrong.

Finally, the numbers point to humanity as the number-one cause of climate change. The planet is fucked, and we are all collectively responsible for this fact. I guess our species really is idiotic. Would you look at that? I was right about something for once!

So after Pope Francis pointed all this out to us, and urged the proper authorities to take meaningful action on the issue, people flipped their shit. Most of these people were the uber-religious right-wing type, which really should not have surprised me as much as it did. There were two narratives these assholes pushed, none of which is particularly accurate. Nor are they all that different from one another, come to think of it. They're both bullshit, anyway.

People like Greg Guttfeild, the 'comedian' on Fox News, claimed that Pope Francis is not an authority on science, and so the church should stay out of the discussion. In essence, he should've left the science to the scientists. That's odd. He wasn't saying that when creationists wanted to teach their crackpot theory in high school science classes, now was he? That seems a tad hypocritical to me.

And, also, his argument is factually incorrect. Pope Francis is leaving the science to the scientists. Everything he said in that document is corroborated by data and scientific consensus. Pope Francis is merely agreeing with it. He recognizes that the Church holds immense power and influence over the common people. He has elected to use that power for good, and that's awesome.

The other talking point these people spewed forth from the depths of hell is that public opinion skews against climate change. The American people don't support taking action against it, so therefore we shouldn't do it.

Quite frankly, I have no fucking idea where this is coming from. This shows that the people, by and large, support action in regards to climate change. But even so, who gives a shit? Climate change is an objective reality. It's a fact. You don't get to have fucking opinions on facts. Just trust the scientists, okay?

Just something to think about.

Infighting Vs. Legitimate Dissent

 People, particularly those in antifeminist and/or MRA circles, have decried the feminist movement as being full of infighting. If even feminists can't agree on their goals or methodology, why should anyone be a part of the movement? I don't want to ally myself with something that is not entirely good and pure! The fact that no movement, and indeed no person, is without fault, seems to elude these people.

The really weird thing is that I've seen feminists take the same position on this issue. They believe that feminists have to unify in order to be taken seriously. Any hint of disagreement within the movement is seen as a weakness, which must be crushed in order to further the end goal of women's rights.

I agree with this to some extent. If the so-called infighting has devolved to name-calling and screaming, then we need to shove it aside and focus on our common goal of aiding women. But here's the thing. I don't think we've reached that point. What you call infighting, I call legitimate descent. Disagreement is absolutely vital to a movement which does not wish to be caught in an echo chamber full of groupthink. A group which shoves aside the personal feelings of its members in favor of furthering the greater good. This kind of unity is purely superficial, and not sustainable. We must all argue our points so that actual unity can be attained. If evidence is brought fourth in reasoned debate, then everyone within the movement will reach the same conclusions of their own accord.

Further, feminism is broadly defined as a movement which seeks to elevate women to standards that men have already achieved. This, in turn, will help other minority groups rise to similar levels in their respective contexts. But, given the relative youth of feminism compared to other social advocacy movements, there is still a great deal of discussion within it over how exactly we achieve our stated goal. I have some of my own thoughts on that, which you can take a look at here. However, I welcome disagreement, because only through debate and reasoned discussion can we reach real, sustainable unity.

Just something to think about.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Lesser of Two Evils

I've heard a lot of people, particularly on the left, who have become disillusioned by the political process, and thus have ceased the practice of voting. I think there are a host of legitimate reasons to take  this position. However, the most common one I hear is not. I'd like to talk about that today.

The way I hear this point summed up most commonly is that the political candidates are all the same. the Democratic party has become conservative. they're center-left, of course, but they exhibit the same kind of corporatism that their opposition in the Republican party does. This is true to some extent. After all, President Obama made ninety percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent. This is a profoundly conservative move, proof of which can be found here.

Events like these will often lead the above disenfranchised people to say something along the lines of, "That's why I stopped voting. I didn't want to keep electing the lesser of two evils."

Do I even need to explain the problem with this argument? It's the fucking lesser of two evils. Someone is going to be elected no matter what happens. One person not voting isn't going to change that. In fact, not voting is probably the worst thing you can do if you want to send a message. The whole point of democracy is that the people must have a way to send a message to their elected representative. You know how we send those messages? We fucking vote. That's how you affect change, by electing candidates who have views that will better the nation. But sometimes boring establishment people win the nomination. Sometimes the choices aren't radical enough. You know what we do then? We vote for the lesser of two evils. As I said, someone's gonna get elected either way, it might as well be the person closest to the correct one, especially if the precisely correct one is nowhere to be found.

Just something to think about.

Censorship and Jerry Seinfeld

I recently went to see Jerry Seinfeld perform a comedy show. I thought he was excellent, and I was also a huge fan of his television show. His comedy matters to me.

That's why I was rather nonplussed when he said that he would no longer perform at colleges, given that they are too politically correct, or 'PC.' Here's the thing that weirded me out about that. Jerry's comedy isn't fucking edgey. He does observational humor, and I would've felt comfortable taking my kid to that show. It baffles me that anyone would be offended by any of his jokes.

In light of that, there are two distinct possibilities, two collections of events that could have transpired which caused him to make that decision. Either somebody got pissed at a joke that he made based on a misunderstanding of the material. That is to say, someone became angry over subtext in a joke, when said subtext was not intended. I will concede that this is plausible, but again, the material that he used at the show I attended was in no way offensive. I find it exceedingly unlikely that any rational, thinking person would ever describe him as being 'non-PC.' But maybe the material he used at the college was different from that which he used at my show. I have no way of knowing that.

Which leads me to what I consider to be the more likely possibility. Jerry Seinfeld is a sniveling, whining little asshole. By that, I mean that his joke didn't land, and he got pissed about it. Then he went out of his way to blame anyone but himself for the failure he committed.

Look, let me be clear. I do not agree with censorship in any form, least of all in the context of a comedy show. The jokes that a comedian tells are not necessarily indicative of his real feelings on a subject. His persona onstage is merely an act, intended to illicit laughter from the audience. It cannot be offensive, in my view, because it is comedy. If the humor employed by shock-value comedians like Daniel Tosh offends you, then it is your responsibility to avoid that sort of humor. You cannot force a comic to change his act. You can educate, and engage in constructive debate, but if he chooses to ignore your suggestions, then that is completely within his right. He has a right to peddle the sort of product that he wants, to the market demographic he desires. If that demo does not include you, then suck it up and deal. No one is forcing you to listen to comedians you don't like.

But, in a way, the same goes for comedians. It's still about personal responsibility. If a joke you make onstage doesn't land, it is his responsibility to evaluate why. He must place the blame on himself, and examine his material from a logical standpoint. If he discovers flaws in his act, he can change them to appeal to a broader subset of people. And if he wants to keep pleasing his current audience, that's fine too. But in the context of entertainment, my original point still stands. Both parties are personally responsible for their own actions.

Just something to think about.