Beauty and the Boys

“Is that all you’re gonna eat? Are you wearing that? Why don’t you dress up? What’s taking you so long? God, girls are so vain! You’re always at the gym instead of spending time with me. Ew, you’re starting to get love handles. Why don’t you wanna go out to dinner? You’re no fun anymore. I just want a down-to-earth girl. But no fat chicks!”

- Boyfriends

On “GamerGate” and Sexism

The fact that Gaters hate Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian reveals they just hate women. And I don’t mean that simply because Ms. Quinn and Ms. Sarkeesian are both women, but because the attacks on each woman are diametrically opposed.

Gaters claim they hate Zoe Quinn because she (or some imaginary potential scenario woman) slept with a male game reviewer in order to get positive reviews. They claim they are upset about “journalistic ethics” and about reviewers not critically examining games, but instead just rubber-stamp endorsing them for financial or sexual gain.

Anita Sarkeesian is exactly what they claim to want. She isn’t part of the industry. She doesn’t work for a gaming mag that exists to sell gaming advertisement. She doesn’t have any conflict of interest, and is thus far freer than possibly anyone else professionally critiquing games to do so fairly. But they hate her too.

On Horrible Professional Communicators

Sam Harris is at it again, claiming he’s being slandered and defamed because people are quoting him. I’ll leave others to explain exactly what’s wrong with his concept of defamation and his quote.

I want to focus on what defenders of Harris keep saying to me, both in this instance and during #EstrogenVibe. They tell me Harris is being misunderstood, that he didn’t mean what he said, that it’s hard to explain things in 140 characters, or that being interviewed is just hard.

To all this I say: If Sam Harris is such a shitty, horrible, ineffective public speaker and author, why does he even have a job??

On Choice, Richard Dawkins, and Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is not pro-choice. This is well publicized and well known position, backed up by her actions as Governor of Alaska and, some would say, by her decision to carry to term a pregnancy later in her life for a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome. But we understand that Sarah Palin would not support termination for Down syndrome or any other reason. She is not pro-choice, and we know this about her.

Some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that Richard Dawkins is pro-choice. After his recent statements on pregnancy and Down syndrome, I think there is compelling evidence that he is not pro-choice. You see, just as Sarah Palin thinks it is immoral NOT to continue a pregnancy with positive genetic testing for Down syndrome, Richard Dawkins sees it as immoral TO continue such a pregnancy.

Neither respects individuals to make this particular pregnancy choice for themselves. And it’s important to mention that Dawkins went on to clarify his position and say that fetuses on the autism spectrum were okay to not terminate because they could contribute to society. This is not an argument from morality, try as Dawkins might to frame it in moral terms. This is an argument from utility, as selfish as anything Ayn Rand had to say. Dawkins declared it immoral to bring a child with Down syndrome into the world, not from some paternalistic concern for quality of life or suffering borne of ignorance of Down syndrome and life for people with it, but from a belief that some people do not contribute enough to be worth being born.

Please understand this point: Dawkins does not think people who will not contribute to society *according to his standards borne of ignorance or bigotry* should be born. He believes their mothers and fathers made mistakes by having them. He believes Sarah Palin made an immoral choice when she had Trig. He gives me a pass for having my autistic son, because he ranks autism as a more “useful” condition, and because I didn’t have prenatal testing to tell me about it. I didn’t know better, so he absolves me of my sin. How magnanimous.

Choice means just that – more than one option. Neither Palin nor Dawkins supports choice for parents expecting a child with Down syndrome. But at least Palin managed not to deny the humanity of disabled people in her public statements. Dawkins has not met that low standard.

Much like Dawkins’ attempt to construct a hierarchy of better and worse types of rape, overwhelmingly based in his personal experiences and not listening to the experiences of anyone else, he has tried to create a hierarchy of better and worse types of disability, and better and worse types of people to let live in the world beside him.

Dawkins argued that this is what happens to the majority of fetuses with Down syndrome; they are aborted. This is true. But why is this true? Is this true because Down syndrome is the kind of disability where a fulfilling and happy life is impossible? No. Is it because Down syndrome is associated with a severely shortened lifespan? Not these days. It’s largely because our culture doesn’t deal well with disabled people and it’s  damn hard to bring into the world a child you know will be bullied and will be told they are a mistake by people like Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is a product of his culture as much as Palin is a product of hers. He devalues disabled life because he has been taught to; she over-values fetal life because she has been taught to. I really want to make this clear: Neither holds my position. Neither respects the importance of choice, and neither simultaneously feels the sting as a disabled person to know so many of my maybe brothers and sisters will never get a chance to be. Neither respects the moral decision making capacity of pregnant people, to decide for themselves what is moral and not moral for their own pregnancies.

Dawkins declared continuing pregnancy immoral. Palin has declared terminating pregnancy immoral. Both are biased by their cultures, by their upbringing, and by the books they read and the people they respect. I wonder if Dawkins realizes that his views on disability are not objectively moral nor rationally derived. If anything, Dawkins’ position has less claim for morality, since it does not consider the input of either disabled or pregnant people (and lord help the man if he ever finds out disabled people and pregnant people can be the same people!)

As a pro-choice advocate, as a woman who has had an abortion, as a mom of a disabled child, and as a disabled person myself: Dawkins does not speak for me, nor does Palin. I believe in choice informed by accurate understanding. The National Down Syndrome Society is a great start for learning more about what life with Down syndrome is like for people today.

In recent years, life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has tripled, from about 20 to 60. While all people with Down syndrome have cognitive impairments, those generally range from mild to moderate. And even if the impairments were severe, that would not make the people with them less worth welcoming into families who want them. In a set of recent surveys performed by the Children’s Hospital of Boston showed that parents and siblings both appreciate their family members with Down syndrome, and that individuals with Down syndrome themselves are happy with their lives, their appearance, and themselves, despite the broad cultural ableism they deal with.

Dawkins was wrong and he didn’t know what he was talking about. This seems to happen often when he strays into moral territory. I wish he would stop.

The Actual Worst

Dear Men,

Stop defending other men. Stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. Stop suggesting false accusations are more common than male criminal behavior. Stop protecting the villains of the play.

What’s that? Men aren’t so bad? “Not all men” violently assault us? Excuse me, but before I can hear you, I’m gonna need you to shut the fuck up while we deal with some problems first. Like all the men who ARE attacking us. And I don’t mean metaphorically “a feminist said something mean to me on the internet” attacking. I mean actual real physical and sexual assault.

Like 283,200 average annual sexual assault victimizations in the US, most of them by men, most of them against women, and most of them going unprosecuted. Or 3,032 homicides of women in 2010, almost all of them by men, and 39% of them being our current or past boyfriends and husbands. Or one of the leading causes of death during pregnancy in my country being homicide by our male partner. That’s right guys, you’re more deadly than pregnancy and childbirth!  And when a woman is more vulnerable because she belongs to another marginalized population, like being transgender or disabled or an American Indian woman living on a reservation, you men are even more likely to assault and abuse her.

More than half of those aforementioned crimes go unreported, in large part because police and legal systems are not set up with women in mind, even though women calling to report (predominantly male) intimate partner violence is the single largest category of 9-1-1 calls. You guys attacking us is more frequent than heart attacks and serious car accidents. When women report rapes to police, the police gather evidence in less than 20% of those cases. I’m not done there. Men also suck in other ways.

Though men are only about half the population of the US, you are more than 80% of Congress, 95% of Fortune 500 company CEOs, and the vast majority of religious leaders. And what have you done with this disproportionate power? You’ve abused it and used it to abuse others. Like studentsdisabled people, prisoners, and women. As politicians, you’ve restricted the freedoms of women and girls.  As police, you commit twice the rate of domestic violence as the rest of men, which isn’t a low rate remember. As priests, you’ve raped boys, girls and nuns, but don’t worry – people will only talk about the boys.

You suck. You are the actual worst. So excuse me if I don’t want to hear how some of you are good. You’ve had untold opportunities to build a better world but you won’t. Maybe a group of rapists and abusers doesn’t deserve the benefit of doubt. At least not while you protect the wicked.

When women are talking about dangerous men and you say “Not All Men”, you’re the one lumping yourself in with the men we KNOW are villains. You’re the one saying that you are so like that criminal they must be innocent, because you think you’re innocent.

So, new rule: Either you shut the fuck up and let women solve the problems you’ve dumped on us, or be prepared to be treated like you’re one of them. One of the bad ones you refuse to name and shame and lock away so that we won’t mistake them for you. You are the one saying there should be no reasonable way for women to tell you from the rest. So fine. You told me you were like the rapists and child rapists and wife beaters and professors sleeping with their students. You decided you were alike and that I needed to consider your morals when talking about them. So fine. I’ve decided your moral are theirs.

If you don’t want to be thought of us like them, by all means stop acting like them. Don’t objectify women. Don’t be chivalrous. Don’t cat call. Don’t second guess women. Don’t present legal defense for accused rapists unless that is your job. Don’t use gendered language like whore or bitch or cunt or slut. Don’t accuse women of being emotional and hysterical. Don’t be possessive. Don’t call other men pussies or say they’re whipped. Don’t victim blame. Don’t excuse or defend male misbehavior. Because until then, I have no reason to believe you when you say most men aren’t like that.

ABA, Autism, and A Call to Action

I was going to write a direct rebuttal to the recent NYT piece titled “The Kids Who Beat Autism” (DoNotLink here). I am still working on that for a future publication date, but I think this gets to the heart of the matter. I’ve included some links regarding ABA throughout the post, including blog posts from autistic adults who underwent ABA as children, posts by parents of autistic children on why they oppose ABA, and some pertinent factual information. 

Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA,, is the most commonly promoted autism therapy in the United States. Most proponents won’t tell you that ABA was originally developed by Dr,. Ole Ivar Lovaas as a cure for homosexuality in “sissy boys“. They also won’t tell you that one boy Lovaas declared “cured” grew up to come out as gay, before ultimately committing suicide. They’re unlikely to talk to you about the long-term emotional impact on children who undergo ABA. What they will talk about is whether or not they think ABA “works”.

The underlying premise of ABA for autism treatment is that, rather than being a complex difference in neurology conferring strengths and weaknesses, autism is a set of undesirable behaviors such as stimming or avoiding direct eye contact, which must be “extinguished“. An ABA success story means a child who is “indistinguishable from peers.” This means a child who seems “normal”, not a child who feels normal or has their needs met.

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