These adorable little blue-green tortoiseshell frames remind me of the first glasses I ever had.
I was in 6th grade and had just started at St. Francis, the local Catholic school. I’d had a bit of a nervous breakdown at the public school, so my parents started me at the private school for my Junior High years. I got a good education there, though admittedly I got easily distracted. But who didn’t in their early teen years?
I was not terribly fond of my first glasses; they were a bit round and heavy.This meant avoiding wearing them a lot, which made me squinty. In 7th grade, I was only just realising my nerditude, as I started becoming slightly obsessed with Star Wars. This was partly due to my fascination with my brother’s Star Wars RPG sourcebooks, and partly due to a crush (and eventual first relationship) with a boy in my class. He had sideburns and dressed as Han Solo for Halloween. I’m not sure if it’s wishful thinking, but I think I was the only person who got his costume (15 years later, at a pop-culture convention, I was the only person to correctly identify someone’s costume as an Imperial Officer from Star Wars – yup, I’ve still got it).
This week my Uni course started up again, which means I’ve got plenty to do. And in the spirit of being busier and being more productive, I’ve decided to become much more frequent in my blog posts. This may mean my posts get worse, but the theory goes that the more I write the better I’ll get. Expect changes
I read a lot of feminist blogs (surprise, surprise) and I’m particularly fond of Bitch Magazine especially their regular ‘Douchebag Decree’ pieces which highlight a specific example of somebody being a horrible, horrible bigot. I get updates on Facebook when they post a new article, and today was a new Douchbag Decree.
I felt a wave of disgust and a strong urge to facepalm when I read it:
In an attempt to protest the Pennsylvania state House’s recent designation of 2012 as “The Year of the Bible” (which is admittedly messed up), two atheist groups went the fight-douche-with-douche route last week and erected a slavery-themed billboard in “one of the Harrisburg’s most racially diverse neighborhoods.” Ostensibly meant to highlight the hypocrisy of the “Year of the Bible,” the billboard instead pissed people off because it’s racist.
If I had three heads and 12 hands, I still wouldn’t be able to facepalm enough.
This is why I am tempted to stop identifying myself as an atheist: Organisations that keep trying to form a cohesive in-group by picking on, insulting, belittling and vilifying the out-group (not to mention coming across as horrifically racist).
Atheists, stop it. This is not helping. This is just as bad as Christians telling their kids they are going to hell if they think bad thoughts. What you do and say amongst members of your own group is one thing, but putting up billboards like this, which are so very easy to take out of context, is not helping any of us come out of the atheist closet. We need to be better than that. This is schoolyard bullying.
Sure, writing a book pointing out the hypocrisy of African Americans embracing a book that was once used to justify their enslavement is a good thing. But putting up a big billboard in a racially diverse neighbourhood and then insisting that it’s you who is oppressed? No. No. No. That is just making us all look bad. Not just bad, but racist and stupid and short-sighted.
How about this: get your act together and start a before school free breakfast for school children (like my dad used to do alonside the Black Panthers). Or how about this: organise a book van in underprivileged neighbourhoods and sponsor after-school tutoring programs in these same neighbourhoods. How about starting an ‘adopt an atheist’ fundraiser to get churches to donate money to your organisation and give some Christians a chance to get to know one of us so they can stop acting like we’re the enemy? I’m just spitballing, but all of these seem like they’d be a better way to reach out to communities than these billboards which are only going to polarise, rather than get people on your side.
Or wait… is this just a way to get people angry so you can feel like a victim? Is that what this is about? Because that’s a cycle of bullying that I’d like to see stop. I’d like people to see atheists NOT as an enemy. This kind of thing smacks of deficit thinking (i.e. there are limited resources and can only be one winner). Isn’t there enough resources and goodwill for us all? Can’t we fight for equality rather than supremecy? African American groups that sought to build bridges, that focused on ‘hey, we’re just like you’ were much more successful than the ‘kill whitey’ approach. Shouldn’t that tell you something? Like maybe, you should try not to alienate the very members of a group whose movement toward social acceptance and equality you are trying to emulate.
I’ll give them one thing, this Year of the Bible thing is pretty awful, but this is not the way to educate people. Presenting the other side is important. I think people should know the history of the Bible when studying it, and I think that most churches probably don’t do that. But as my Daddo, a Baptist minister used to say, “The only people who think the Bible should be taken literally are Fundamentalists and Atheists.” And more and more, that seems to be true.
Sidenote: I quoted my grandfather before on an Atheist Facebook group and got a apoplectic reply from the group’s moderator. Something along the lines of ‘I don’t see how someone could take it any other way! If you’re not taking it literally, then what’s the point?’ which reminded me that many atheists I seem to meet are either raised without biblical education or raised fundamentalist and rejected their upbringing. A lot of educated, reasonable, rational religious folk are able to take the bible as a historical document (not as an accurate history, but a historical artifact) and interpret the meanings, lessons and implications within it as a window into human nature and therefore, the nature of their god. Since I don’t believe in god, I see it as simply a window into human nature and history. I see what ways I connect with these bronze age goatherds, iron age propagandists and medieval holy men, and what ways I do not.
Recently, I’ve heard the term ‘reverse racism’ or ‘reverse sexism’ making the rounds again. It is the stupidest phrase I’ve heard since ‘politically correct’.
Racial prejudice is bad, as is sexual discrimination. Duh. However saying that racism or sexism can be somehow ‘reversed’ implies the group normally on the receiving end of discrimination making prejudicial assumptions about the group normally in power is somehow backward. Prejudice is prejudice, sexism is sexism. Calling it ‘reverse’ is such a privileged call to make that I am shocked to hear people making it unaware of the irony.
I recall an incident from my childhood:
I was about 12 and was sitting outside of my friend’s house in Sacramento. As I waited for her to get ready to go out, I watched a boy riding his bike in the street. When he noticed me looking at him, he turned to me and shouted, accusingly, “Why are you looking at me? Because I’m black?” It hadn’t even registered to me that he was black. To me, he was just a boy on a bike and I was watching him because he was moving across my field of vision, nothing more, nothing less. I was shocked and insulted at the accusation that I was somehow racist just by looking at him. His assumption that because I was white, I must be a racist, was so completely new to me that for years I thought of this as an incidence of ‘reverse racism’.
It was only later that I realised his assumption was based on his experience, that maybe, wherever he went, white people locked their car doors, stiffened their backs when he sat next to them on the bus, that strangers had perhaps called him ‘boy’ or worse. It’s likely that members of his family lived through the pre-Civil Rights era and carried the baggage of that into the present, and shared their stories with him. What I hadn’t considered was that his experience of the world was different from mine. My experience was only as ever seeing people as equals. I had the privilege of growing up in a mostly white, upper middle class town. I grew up watching the Cosbys and Webster and Different Strokes, and the black people I knew were basically real life versions of these shows (upper middle class or adopted by white upper middle class families). My progressive parents taught me about the history of racism but because of my privilege, I’d never seen it first hand. As far as I knew, it was a thing of the past. I was ‘race blind,’ which sounds like a good thing, but it made me blind to the racism that still existed in the world all around me.
This is why Stephen Colbert’s constant assertion that he ‘doesn’t see race’ is such a hilarious gag. The only people who can grow up blind to racism never experience it first hand, and when they do, it’s ‘reverse racism’.
The biggest privilege of the privileged is to be unaware of one’s privilege.
I guess the second biggest is being unaware of the irony in getting angry when someone makes a snap judgment based on your race or sex.
Word clouds of words from toy ads for girls and boys, respectively.
I’m getting really sick of kids’ toys. Not just the ones lying in wait behind my feet as I turn around at the stove (grrr), but the ones in the store. It’s not even close to Xmas yet, and I cringe when I get there.
The main reason for my annoyance, is the fact that girls’ toys have become segregated into the pink ghetto of toys themed either ‘homemaker,’ ‘mother/nurturer’ or ‘fashionista.’ This is something which bothers me a great deal. A while back, I posted a video on the topic of gendered ads directed at kids which covered the same topic.These products severely limit girls’ imagination and exploration of different roles. We are living in a time when women have more power and equality than ever before, so why are we making a new editions of Monopoly and Scrabble for girls, based around shopping and fashion? And why do girls have to be surrounded by pink?
The other side of this ‘pinkification’ is the ‘blokeification’ of boy’s stuff. I have a really tough time shopping for clothes for my little boy because almost all of the boys’ clothes have messages emblazoned on them that perpetuate the stereotype that boys are dirty, tough, and ‘bad.’ This is why I bought my son a Superman outfit. I figure, if he’s going to have a symbol of masculinity it ought to be Superman, he’s honourable, he’s intelligent and he helps out those who are weaker than him. Most of the ‘boys toys’ are focused around construction, vehicles or warfare i.e. building stuff, driving stuff or killing stuff.
Where are the toys that boys and girls can play with together?
There is such a fine line when it comes to toys. Toy companies have their eye on the bottom line, and so they exploit stereotypes and create toys that cater to parents’ expectations. What’s worse is that parents start to get very strong ideas of what toys are for girls and what toys are for boys, and get uncomfortable when they see little Tommy playing with a ‘girls’ pink toy. Even if it’s the same exact toy in every other way.
Which brings us to the other recent explosion online, which was the boy with the pink toenail polish in the J-Crew ad. Which other bloggers have already covered to death.
And so, rather than flog a dead rainbow unicorn, I leave you with Jon Stewart, who covered it best:
Yeah, this is pretty much how I feel about homebirth too, Patton.
Twice today I posted things in the wrong place!
Anyway, anyone who read that post that was up for less than 30 seconds, it was meant for my other blog, I just had the wrong WordPress dashboard open.
Anyway, I haven’t posted here in a long time either. So I’ll just say, I’m going to post more when I have time.