05 September 2012

Six things I am sick of hearing

1. You are overreacting:
Aside from the instant association this phrase has in my mind with gas-lighting, this phrase gets to me because it is often used for any expression of disgust, dismay, or disagreement. Many people seem to have gotten the idea that any reaction is overreaction, and it’s a bad habit. We should react; we should be passionate about the injustices we see in the world. Lack of reaction is part of the problem, not the solution.

2. That’s just the way it is (It’s always been like that): 
How is that ever relevant? If it is a problem or an injustice or discrimination, its duration should be more of a cause for concern, not less.

3. This isn’t the only place where this happens: 
Much like the above, the more widespread a problem is, the more of a concern it should be. Why do people think that just because something is ubiquitous that it is acceptable, or not worth trying to change? I realize that some people feel overwhelmed by the scope of some problems (I know I sometimes do), but trying to discourage people who feel passionately about wanting to solve problems is counter-productive at best.

4. Getting angry won’t solve the problem: Statistically untrue. Most social problems only change when enough people get angry about them. One could accurately say that ‘temper-tantrums won’t solve the problem’, but anger can be very useful, without resorting to loss of control. Anger will almost certainly lead people to solve the problem, but passive acceptance will most definitely not.

5. You should be afraid: 
I hear this all the time in various permutations. ‘Aren’t you afraid to walk down a dark street alone?’, ‘There are dangerous people in the world, you should lock your doors at all times’, and, my personal favourite, ‘You are vulnerable.’ I am not afraid to walk alone, I don’t lock my doors when I’m awake, and I am no more vulnerable than most people on the planet (of both genders). The media constantly tells us all the things we should fear, and conveniently forgets to put them in perspective. Yes, some people are awful, and do awful things. Most times, they continue doing awful things because people are too afraid to step in and stop

05 April 2012

'Funny' Things That Are Not Funny

Every now and again, I come across a picture/meme on the internet that people have posted because they think it is funny. They might even admit that the picture is a bit sexist, or discriminatory, but in a harmless way. I don't think there is really such a thing as 'harmless discrimination'. Everything we see makes a small impact on how we perceive the world. I'm going to break down a few of them (on several different targets) to get you started, but I think that everyone should try and think about what a picture says about their worldview before they post memes like these. There are plenty of genuinely funny memes to love and share; I'll even post a few examples at the end.

This is not funny. It is insulting to women. Aside from the glaring generalizations and derogatory terms, it implies that the only 'girl' worth dating is hot, smart and nice, and that if she isn't all three of those things, she is defective in some way. The 'only dates assholes' part is either using a different definition of smart than I am familiar with, or is written by a guy who thinks all other guys are assholes because women won't date him (see  'nice guys' who aren't nice). In this view, any woman who isn't 'hot' is ugly, which cuts out a large number of very pleasant looking women. In this view, women are either smart or idiots, nice or annoying, with no middle ground that accounts for an actual human personality. Whoever drew this up and whoever thinks it's true obviously sees women as nearly two dimensional objects created only for their own gratification. Not funny.

03 April 2012

When Religious Freedom Isn't, part II

The last  post I wrote on the topic of some people's egocentric views on religious freedom focused mostly on how women's rights are being stripped away by religious nutbars in America. I feel it is time to address the concept of religious freedom in a wider context. Although I do not hold any religious beliefs myself, I support people's rights to believe in whatever they want; it's called freedom for a reason. What I do not, and cannot, support, is the idea that believing in a religion should afford you the right to impose your beliefs, religious morality or dogmatic rules on others. I think that using the notion of religious freedom as a 'get out of jail free' card for persecuting others is not only reprehensible and illegal, it is the worst form of hypocrisy. Religious freedom means that you and everybody else on the planet get to believe, or not believe, in anything they want, as long as they don't push it on others or break the law. Period. Everybody.

I'm not sure why this is such a hard concept to grasp, but apparently some people are stupid. Some people like these religious extremists in Kansas, who are trying to pass a bill which actively supports people's rights to discriminate, if it comes from a 'religious belief'. It is summed up nicely by this phrase:
"According to this bill, not only would municipalities be inhibited from protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination, but those who do discriminate would become protected and entitled to do so."
This is so wrong, I don't even know where to begin. A) Discrimination should not be 'allowable' under any circumstance. B) Discrimination should not be condoned, let alone supported by a government, especially one that claims everyone is equal. C) This is in no way, shape or form classifiable as 'religious freedom'; it is theocratic oppression, plain and simple. Let's move on.

Other stupid people include this radical religious group filmed in Luton, U.K., who seem to believe that several things are violating their religious rights, and don't seem to notice, care, or acknowledge that what they want would violate other people's rights. Participants in the 'protest' are universally unwilling to open up a

28 March 2012

Where Intentions Meet Perceptions

Discussions often go awry because of misunderstandings; it is especially common in predominantly text-based discussions, but it happens in face-to-face ones too. Often, it is a simple matter of semantics, where two people define a word differently, and the problem is usually resolved as soon as each person makes their definition clear. Sometimes, though, as I have observed recently, the problem has more to do with a perceived insult where none is intended. Words can be fluidly interpreted, and often, multiple interpretations can be equally valid. Some words may have a meaning that a person was unaware of, or a connotation that is known to one group, but not another.

Perception is a powerful thing, and is by nature more subjective than objective. It often takes effort to look outside your own perspective and see why another person finds something insulting. There are many expressions of this problem, but I will only address the few that have cropped up in my world lately. I'm not even going to go into people who refuse to listen to any point of view that doesn't agree with their own, since the 'you're wrong, I don't care what you say, la la la la' argument is just childish and trying to reason with it is pointless.

First up, the simple perceptual misunderstanding, or a perceived offence due to phrasing or terminology. This is a pretty common problem, related to semantics, but usually more personal.
Example 1. An analogy comparing two things may seem apt to the one who makes it, but another person may

14 March 2012

When Religious Freedom Isn't

The news these days is full of things pertaining to 'religious freedoms', particularly in America. Most of these are proposed legislations championed by religious zealots, not to preserve their freedoms, but to quash other people's. Religious freedom is the freedom to believe (or not) in whatever you like, and act according to your own conscience and morality. Dictating what other people are allowed to do with their own body is not religious freedom, it is theocratic oppression. I find it ironic that many of these same people harshly criticize Islamic states for their treatment of women, and yet are just as guilty of misogyny, albeit using different means.

I am speaking of several new laws which have passed or are about to be passed, such as this blatantly discriminatory one in Arizona, which will allow employers to withdraw insurance coverage for birth control unless provided with proof that it is prescribed for non-sexual purposes, such as acne or hormone control. So firstly, a woman would have to show her employer her medical files, detailing her menstrual, skin, or other personal problems, just to be able to get a prescription covered that is perfectly legal and covered by the insurance plan already. How does this support anyone's religious freedom, exactly? Secondly, and more importantly, a woman who has every right to have her prescription covered for whatever reasons she uses it, can have that right taken away by some bigoted fanatic who thinks everybody should live by his/her rules. Not that any woman isn't entitled to have sex whenever she chooses to, but under this law, even a married woman who has decided with her partner that they are not yet ready to have children can have her coverage taken away.

Why, you may ask, is this law being passed?

13 March 2012

The Confusion about Nice Guys (TM)

  I have been involved in several conversations lately concerning The Nice Guy (TM), who is not in any way related to a person who is actually nice. In these exchanges, I have noticed two factors which tend to bog down the concept with pointless bickering and name calling (on both sides). First, there is often confusion as to what separates the Nice Guy (TM) from a guy who is genuinely nice, and how to tell them apart. Second, some people are unable to understand why the Nice Guy (TM) is received with such venom, and why they are regarded as misogynistic creeps. I'll try to clarify both of these, but I think a part of the problem might be due to 'branding'. Although the Nice Guy (TM) does pretend to be a nice person, the name is a bit misleading for a passive-aggressive narcissist with entitlement issues, so let's call him PANE for the purposes of this post. It seems appropriate.

  A PANE is not a nice person. A PANE often thinks that they are nice, but has little to no consideration for others and has trouble viewing anyone around him as a complex person with emotions of their own. A PANE is usually hideously insecure. A PANE is someone who will profess friendship (and only friendship) to a woman, and will go out of his way to provide emotional or financial support, all in the hopes that she will be so impressed by his 'niceness' that she will seek an intimate relationship with him. The PANE often has an idea of 'what women want', which is usually a shallow understanding of romantic idealism (flowers, candles, door-opening & paying for dinner) and agreeing with everything she says. When she does not seek a more