Last night, Amanda Marcotte tweeted a link to a pretty fantastic video of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performing an original song, ‘Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.’ I retweeted the link, posted the video on my Facebook, but also wanted to post it here because I think the majority of the people who read this site would find it equally as fantastic. Awesome enough, the song itself is actually pretty good.
So, take a look at the video below. Lyrics are after the jump. You’re welcome.Monday, December 13, 2010
Salvation Army Refuses to Distribute Harry Potter and Twilight Toys and Other Things You Should Know About the Christian Organization
The Salvation Army and their bell ringers and big red kettles have been out in front of popular stores and malls since immediately after Thanksgiving, as they are every year, collecting funds that are assumed to go to people in need during the holiday season. Additionally, they have also been collecting toys at malls, schools, police stations, and other locations and again, these toys are assumed to go to underprivileged children for the holidays. Except for the toys the organization deems “inappropriate”–those toys are stocked in warehouses and left undonated, only to collect dust, and then disposed of, as reported by the Toronto Sun who recently uncovered that the Salvation Army refuses to distribute Harry Potter and Twilight toys.
A man in Calgary who admired the amount of toys collected by the Salvation Army had volunteered to sift through a southeast warehouse that housed unused, donated items. This volunteer learned that toys depicting Harry Potter and Twilight were left undonated due to the themes of wizardry, vampires, and werewolves that are “incompatible” with the Christian beliefs the organization holds. The volunteer said he was told by Salvation Army officials that these toys are “disposed of” and are not given to other charities, which Capt. Pam Goodyear refuted in an interview with the Toronto Sun, saying that the toys are given to other agencies and are “distributed in another manner where parents can choose.” An odd statement to make when she then was unable to provide even the name of one of these “other agencies.” Not surprisingly at all, the Calgary volunteer asked an official what was to be done with a donated plastic M-16, in which he was told, “That’s for the 10-year-olds.”
So to recap, toys that are linked to stories, figments of their author’s imagination (with added Mormon ideology mixed in for fun in Twilight’s case), are ungodly and immoral enough to be banned from being given to underprivileged children during the holiday season, yet plastic depictions of very real weapons used in war in which countless innocent people are left for dead are just fine and dandy. That is some stellar logic!
I know of several people who buy brand new toys every year just to put them in collection boxes of the Salvation Army’s toy drives. Considering the popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight over the recent years, I would be willing to bet that several people have bought these toys for the sole purpose of donating them only to, unbeknown to them, have their money completely wasted by this “charity” organization by the decision to dispose of these toys.
This isn’t the only thing the Salvation Army has done to make people question the authenticity of the word “charity” in conjunction with their name. No, they have been doing some pretty horrific and utterly sickening things for quite some time now, including getting into bed with politics.
Another issue that is “incompatible” with Christian beliefs are the rights of GLBTQ people. Among the Salvation Army’s list of invested interests, along with quite literally throwing away money by disposing of donated toys they don’t agree with for one reason or another, is actively denying GLBTQ people help, support, and rights.
The Bilerico Project wrote about how the Salvation Army insisted that they and their partner break up and leave the “sinful homosexual lifestyle” in order to receive assistance while homeless. When they refused, the Salvation Army turned these two homeless people away and they were left to sleep on the streets.
In 2001 it was found out that the Bush Administration had made a “firm commitment” to the Salvation Army that would have allowed them to disobey state and local laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people when administering programs with federal funds. When this secret deal was made public, that firm commitment didn’t hold up very well and the Salvation Army was held to the same law everyone else was; as it should be. Not wanting to grant domestic partner benefits to their staff, in 2004 the Salvation Army threatened to close soup kitchens, homeless shelters, foster care programs, and HIV services in New York City if they were to be expected to follow the law that insists city contractors must extend benefits to domestic partners.
You can find out more about the Salvation Army’s list of anti-gay stances in the video below:
When I mentioned on Twitter that I was writing a post about the Salvation Army, a friend of mine tweeted back with a link to a post he wrote about how he was personally attacked by the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, a branch of the Salvation Army.
maymay talks openly, honestly and intelligently about sex and is the creator of Kink On Tap. In his own words, he works to “[empower] sex-positive activists and educators to put together low-cost, high-value, fast-paced, user-generated sexuality conferences called KinkForAll unconferences.” These conferences (or unconferences) operate on the belief that sexuality affects all aspects of life; they are open to anyone who has an interest in learning or contributing to an open and safe discussion about sexuality. The Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, which is a tremendously misleading title when you really just begin to dig into the ideology that surrounds this group, sent out an email to their mailing list subscribers painting maymay as a child molester, a sex slaver, and a “nightmarish creature.” They described the KinkForAll unconferences and thus sex-positivity as a whole as “slimy, putrid, decaying, nasty, trash.” This is seriously wrong.
So when you’re walking in or out of a store and a Salvation Army bell ringer starts calling after you and asking you to donate, feel good about declining and walking away, knowing that your money is not being used to forward a bigoted and shamelessly discriminatory agenda.Saturday, November 20, 2010
Every year on November 20th since 1999, people around the world remember the trans people who have had their lives taken from them because of transphobic violence; because of hatred, prejudice and ignorance. Today is that day–the 12th Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 after the November 28th, 1998 murder of Rita Hester. Gwendolyn Ann Smith was discussing this murder, as well as the wrongful death/survivor’s action for Tyra Hunter on a message board and realized that so many people had forgotten some of the individuals who have been lost at the hands of anti-transgender violence just in those recent years. Smith felt that by so many forgetting those people, society as a whole would be doomed to see their deaths repeated, and so she created the Remembering Our Dead web project to make sure that no one would forget those around the world who had been murdered for merely being themselves.
Honestly, I have been struggling with what, exactly, to write all day. Some have made excellent points about the involvement of cis people on this day, pointing out that while it is important to remember the people who have died, it is equally as important to remember how they died and why they are no longer here. It is because of cis people and it is because of a society of cis privilege that allows for more people to join the list of Remembering Our Dead. But even so, as a cis person, while I humbly respect those who have been speaking out today against transphobia, violence, prejudice and hate, I still remain adamant on the fact that my voice is not the voice that needs to be dominant today and to think that it is, is to marginalize an already marginalized group of people even further. That is not something I am interested in doing. So instead I would like to share some of the posts I have been reading today from people who have proven that they are more than capable of speaking for themselves and it would be in our best interests to listen.Sunday, November 7, 2010
A friend of mine, Mark Carras of RockMyMonkey.com, sent me a message last night alerting me to a story that Tech Crunch had published about Google technical writer Noirin Shirley taking to her personal blog to speak out about sexual assault she endured at the hand of Twitter engineer Florian Leibert, at a post-conference party she held in her hotel room after ApacheCon on Friday night. After the post spread through Twitter, rose to the top of Hacker News, and her blog post racked up over 150 comments, mostly from people who have taken it upon themselves to blame Shirley for her assault, slut shame her, diminish what she went through, and make fun of her, Tech Crunch pulled the story altogether, now only directing to a 404 page. Mark Carras didn’t print the story on his site, as he runs a website that focuses on the music industry and this story isn’t music-related, but I do want to thank him immensely for directing it to me and for being interested in my thoughts on the subject and more-so, why I think Tech Crunch pulled this story. So, thanks!
Firstly, here are the facts we know only from Noirin Shirley’s blog post:
And then I went to the loo, and as I was about to go in, Florian Leibert, who had been speaking in the Hadoop track, called me over, and asked if he could talk to me.
He brought me in to the snug, and sat up on a stool. He grabbed me, pulled me in to him, and kissed me. I tried to push him off, and told him I wasn’t interested (I may have been less eloquent, but I don’t think I was less clear). He responded by jamming his hand into my underwear and fumbling.
I broke away, headed back to the group, and hid behind some of the bigger, burlier infra guys, while Bill sorted out all the people who’d left stuff in my room, so that I could reasonably escape. We headed back, people got their stuff, Bill stayed around, and I slept.
When Bill woke up, I pretended to still be asleep, because I couldn’t deal with speaking to anyone. I sent a mail to our planning committee to say that I’d been assaulted. Charel came to talk to me, and then I e-mailed Nick, who came up and helped me sort things out so I could get to the keynote and feel safe. Florian didn’t turn up today, and it’s probably for the best.
I had a few drinks. I was wearing a skirt of such a length that I had cycling shorts on under it to make me feel more comfortable getting up on stage and dancing. I had been flirting with a couple of other boys at the party.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it. I’m tired of the fear. I’m tired of people who think I should wear something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong impression.
But I don’t give the wrong impression, and it’s simply not true that guys can’t read me right. I don’t want to be assaulted, and the vast majority of guys read that just fine. It is not my job to avoid getting assaulted. It is everyone else’s job to avoid assaulting me. Dozens of guys succeeded at that job, across the week. In the pub, in the stairwell, on the MARTA, in my bedroom.
One guy failed, and it’s his fault.
Thanks to Google Reader, if you’re subscribed to Tech Crunch, you may still be able to access the now-deleted article. Here’s how it ends:
It is notable that the allegations of wrongdoing now have a realtime venue to play out, primarily because the players in the drama have tech community prominence and are both on Twitter. Neither Leibert or Shirley have tweeted anything since Shirley sent out her blog post about the incident.
I have contacted Leibert for his side of the story and will update this post when he responds. Shirley makes no indication she has filed any formal complaint.
So, let’s clear some important stuff up here first. Noirin Shirley sought the help of friends to ensure she was no longer in imminent danger and she emailed her employer, make them aware of what had happened to her. She also added to the bottom of her blog post, “My heartfelt thanks to the Atlanta police for their sensitivity and professionalism.” One could assume that Shirley has indeed filed a formal complaint, but even if she has not and doesn’t plan to, that is completely her decision. There are a large number of sexual assaults and rapes every year that go unreported and there are a great deal of reasons for that; all of those reasons are those of the victim and it never means that an assault never happened or that the person who has been assaulted “had it coming.” More often than not, when a person files a complaint and decides to press charges against their abuser, it is their choice of attire, alcohol level, and sexual history that are put on trial, not the person accused of abuse. Until we stop blaming the victim in a court of law, there will not be an increase in reported abuse; re-victimizing the victim is not the path to justice, nor should it ever be used as such.
Also, why would Noirin Shirley write a blog post about her sexual assault? Frankly, because she damn well can. Period. End of story. She can. And she did. Shirley took to her own blog, her own space, to write about her experience. She has the right to do that, as does anyone else with access to the internet. Sadly, with the internet also comes trolls; people who insist on blaming the victim at all costs, who repeatedly claim that, women especially, have what’s coming to them based on what clothes they were wearing at the time of the assault or if they had been flirting, or what they would personally define as flirting, or if they had alcohol in their system. By these people making their narrow-minded and despicable comments known all over the internet, it in fact deters more people from taking to their own personal and safe spaces to speak out about their own experiences. I, for one, am happy that Noirin Shirley felt safe enough to take to her own space and to speak out about her own experience, it may have surely inspired other people who may have went through the same experiences to talk about it and refuse to be silenced.
Tech Crunch, however, is all about silencing, as proven by their deletion of the post about Noirin Shirley and Florian Leibert. Obviously they have no intention of editing their post, or publishing anything about Florian Leibert’s “side of the story.” It wouldn’t surprise me if they went on from here as if they never published the story in the first place. You can speculate a great deal of reasons for this, but I think it’s because they have indeed talked to Leibert.
After a little poking around here and there, I found that Tech Crunch had a party of their own back on October 7th at their new headquarters. Their Beer & Data Salon featured four speakers within the tech industry. One of those speakers just so happened to be Florian Leibert. Obviously someone high up at Tech Crunch has a relationship of some sort with Leibert which may have led to the deletion of the article.
Another speculation, Leibert is very well-known within the tech industry as an engineer for Twitter. It isn’t a big secret that the tech industry of note is made up of mostly men and thus operates as any other boy’s club, or it just may seem that way since we’re still operating within the atmosphere that any woman who can talk about technology on the same level as a man is considered “hot.” Women are still very much seen as inferior within the tech industry, their experiences and expertise being diminished to nothing but a sexual fantasy by the majority of their male colleagues. It’s pretty damn common for women at fan conventions, tech conferences, as well as in other atmospheres, to be propositioned, harassed, and assaulted for merely being women. It is for this reason that the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project & Gentlemen’s Auxiliary was created. So, to get to the point, well-known techy male is accused of sexually assaulting lesser-known techy female and the article mysteriously just disappears from well-known techy website? Not so coincidental.
Regardless of the reason, or the canned response Tech Crunch may or may not ever give for removing the article, removing the article in its entirety instead of editing or adding to it at all, reflects horribly on Tech Crunch and is an action that can only be seen as siding solely with Leibert, an accused sexual predator.Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Yesterday was Coming Out Day. I had started this post yesterday in order to properly commemorate the day, but the post never did get finished and I ended up being way too tired to get more than a little over 200 words written and then absolutely, positively needed to sleep. So, please forgive me for this post coming a day late, but I think it’s better to have it grace the internet a day late than not at all.
So, Coming Out Day. I like this day; I like it a lot. I like that, as Feminist Hulk put it yesterday afternoon on Twitter, it completely trumps the colonialist and genocidal day that is Columbus Day and I like that during the breaks I took throughout the day from my looming workload, that I was able to read so many awesome, inspiring, kick ass Coming Out Day blog posts from a variety of really amazing people.
Coming Out Day is important. It is crucial. In the wake of the recent heart wrenchingly tragic suicides of LGBTQ people and the daily harassment and bullying many LGBTQ people are still going through today, Coming Out Day presents a great opportunity for those who are in a safe space and who have the ability to come out to do so and share their stories, their experiences and their points of view; no one ever knows where their stories will go, who will find them at perhaps the time when they needed them the most, or who they just may help in some way just by putting it all out there. When you’re sharing your thoughts via the internet, there are no limits and that is why a day and a movement dedicated to empowering people and never settling for less than complete equality for everyone, regardless of their race, ability, location, sexual orientation or identity has the power to do so much.
So I suppose now is the time where I share with you, dear readers, a little bit of myself. Coming Out. I have never actually come out, as in announced to my family, friends, acquaintances and so on that from this point forward I will be identifying as [insert identifying label of choice here.] I have merely just existed and have presented myself to the people around me as exactly who I am, or as who I was at the time they connected with me. I have never made a formal announcement about what words sum me up completely.
I am a cisgender pansexual woman. The word pansexual is newer to me, not because I have not always felt attracted to people of all genders, orientations and identities, but because I just didn’t have a word that best described that for me in a way I was comfortable with. I know that some people find the word pansexual as being a privileged term, as Shanna Katz mentioned in her own coming out story. I have heard this before, but have yet to find another word that I am personally as comfortable with as I have come to be with pansexual.
I questioned for a very long time what I was in terms of my sexuality. I knew I wasn’t straight; some of my first childhood crushes were on other females, I have always been attracted to females, at times even more-so than males. I have dated women, have had flings, romances, and my heart broken by women. The same has happened with men. At first, I self-identified as bisexual which worked fine for me because I thought that pretty much encompassed my sexuality. I wasn’t straight, I wasn’t gay, I could see myself settling down and being happy with either gender, but as a young woman I was told some pretty horrible things by some people who I had told, in which they replied with “Of course you’re bi, all young women are nowadays.” That felt like shit, as if people felt it was okay to invalidate me and other bisexual young women because they have been presented with a warped view of bisexuality after seeing way too many late night ads for Girls Gone Wild. I also received some pretty narrow-minded advances from men who thought they had hit the mother load when they learned that I was bisexual, thinking that I should have no problem having a threesome with them and another woman and not just that, but that I actually owed it to them to do so. However, I should also probably mention that I have had threesomes on solely my own terms. With the right people, under the right circumstances, and with the ability to make your thoughts and preferences known, it can be tremendously fulfilling and enjoyable. No one should ever make you feel like you owe them something when it comes to sex. How and with whom you share your body is completely and totally up to you, no exceptions.
When I found myself absolutely attracted to people who were trans or questioning, I didn’t feel as if bisexuality was enough to identify my own sexuality. So, I went where all people go when they are looking for information of any and all kinds–the internet. I found the word pansexual and it immediately clicked for me. It made sense. I liked it. And that’s where I am now, today. My self-identified labels may change in the future, for instance, I just may find a word other than pansexual that resonates with me more intimately, but what I have shared with you today is who I am and I guess that means I have formally come out.
If you’ve written about Coming Out Day, feel free to share your link in the comments. I have really been enjoying reading what others have had to say about sexuality, gender and sexual liberation and would love to read more.