Thursday, October 27, 2011

God Needs To Take A Communications Course

Yes, yes, I know. I'm really bad at updating this blog, I'm easily distracted. So to my one reader (Hi Andrew) I apologise profusely for my lack of content and promise to punish myself later (and not in the good way).

Anyway, back to your regularly (ha) scheduled content. King Mswati III, Swaziland's bat-shit-insane misogynistic dictator, who famously advocated that HIV positive people should be "sterilized and branded", recently announced that god had miraculously communicated with him by, I kid you not, making his TV remote fall off the table.

“King Mswati claims the right to his absolute power on the basis of both Swazi culture and the biblical divine rights of kings. His brothers are on record as saying democracy and other forms of government are illegitimate because the bible sanctions kings but not presidents or elected officials.

“So it is important that the king be able to say he was given a direct sign from God, in this case the seemingly inexplicable dropping of a TV remote from a palace coffee table,” said Ndwandwe. news24

 As you can plainly see, there can be no other explanation, it must have been a sign from god. My only question is, what was god trying to tell him? "Don't watch Oprah, it rots your brain"?

My best guess is that god accidentally dropped by for a chat while the king was watching porn (Awkward!), stammered an embarrassed apology and clumsily knocked over the remote in his haste to leave.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What About The Menz?

If you've spent any time at all around the interwebs, you'll know that whenever a post is written about a problem that women face in society, the conversation is inevitably derailed by someone's cry of "OMG!!! Won't somebody please think about the menz?" This is usually not a genuine interest in discussing how the gender roles encouraged by our patriarchal society is damaging to both genders (and even if it was, a thread about problems women face is not the appropriate place to discuss it), but is used as a tactic to divert focus and get those "pesky feminists" to shut up.

The Lousy Canuck over at Freethought Blogs has a sensible take on the issue that is well worth a read.

As an aside, while writing this post, a colleague came into my office to ask if I had a nail file, and I'm embarrassed to admit that my first thought was "Why would I have that, I'm not a woman". Women in our society are typically expected to be the ones who need to take extra care with their appearances, perfectly manicured nails, make-up, always dressed up to look good. While I as a man have very few expectations lumped on me in terms of appearance, not to say that men can't/don't make an effort to look good, but that no one thinks twice when I come to work in jeans and tshirt and I've let my beard get a bit long. An excellent example of how a woman's worth is often judged by how pleasing she is to look at, while men are valued for more than just their looks.

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Cause


Jesus and Mo is one of my favourite web comics, and they really hit the nail on the head here. Its a classic non-sequitur, used often by reality deniers, make a basic argument (not necessarily a good one ie. First Cause) and then go on to conclude a myriad of unrelated things.

A recent example of this is a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where Robert Bryce decides that the potential discovery of faster than light neutrinos throws doubt on climate change.

It's a common tactic, find something that science has yet to explain (or just ignore the explanation, see the Bacterial flagellum) and then use it to prove that the science you don't like is faulty.

  1. Science can't explain love (See Helen Fishers talk - Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
  2. If science can't explain love then it must be wrong about other things.
  3. Gravity is a scientific theory and so shouldn't be trusted.
  4. Therefore Dumbo/Peter Pan/Superman

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tornado Kills Child, God Merciful

News 24

A tornado wreaked havoc on the East Rand on Sunday, destroying hundreds of homes, injuring many and tragically killing a young boy.
“The Lord was merciful for taking only one child. You can build houses, but not lives,” said Solpha Mkhtshkwa, whose son Xolani, 8, died when a wall fell on top of him.
My heart goes out to the family of the boy, and to everyone who has had their lives drastically uprooted due to this disaster. However, if I believed that the Tornado was due to a conscious entity, rather than a force of nature, 'merciful' would not be the way I would describe this being. It takes a bizarre twist of logic to believe that God sending a tornado, which destroyed a poverty stricken community and killed a young boy, is an act of mercy.

I can understand trying to find comfort in a difficult time, trying to assign meaning to something that is so tragic, but I would find no comfort in a being that destroys communities and kills young children on a whim. That's not mercy, that's terrorism.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another Privileged Middle-Class White Guy

So I was milling about on the internet recently when I said to myself, "You know what the internet needs more of? More opinions from privileged middle-class white guys". Then I thought, "Hey, I'm a middle-class white guy, surely everyone wants to hear what I have to say".

The result of that internal monologue is of course, this blog. There are many words that can be used to describe me, geeky, godless, full of shit (ok, that's a phrase, not a word) but the one I wanted to talk about in this first post is one I've acquired more recently, feminist.

I've never been what anyone would call a raging misogynist, but I was very definitely blind to the privilege I enjoy as a white male, getting my back up when that privilege was pointed out and generally going through life never considering that other people around me had different experiences from my own. In short, I was a bit of an asshole. It took me a long time to learn that the people pointing out my privilege weren't insulting me. They were just trying to get me to realise that my privilege coloured the way I saw things. That it afforded me certain benefits that I took for granted, never considering that other people might not have those same benefits and might experience things very differently to the way I do. For an awesome analogy explaining privilege, go check out On the difference between Good Dogs and Dogs That Need a Newspaper Smack.

Of course, I didn't suddenly come to this realisation on my own, it took some very awesome people constantly raising my awareness of the issue before I was able to see where I'd been wrong. The following people in particular were instrumental in helping me to see beyond my own privilege:

Jen McCreight over at Blag Hag - Jen describes herself as "a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted feminist atheist" and is just an overall awesome person.

Greta Christina who writes amazingly well thought out and witty articles on a range of topics, including atheism, feminism and sexuality.

Rebecca Watson over at Skepchick who is hugely influential in the sceptic community having been giving talks for many years now on scepticism, atheism and feminism.

And finally, most recently, Aoife over at Consider The Tea Cosy who is wickedly funny (See The Case For Vampire Jesus for proof) and provides some fantastic views on a variety of topics.

These are amazing people who are brave enough to stand up for what is right, even in the face of things that no one should ever have to deal with, as Rebecca explains in a recent post. Even worse are the threats of rape that Rebecca gets, it's horrific! And yet, in the face of such a torrent of abuse and incredibly frightening threats, Rebecca and the other women listed here (and the even more numerous to count who are not) refuse to be intimidated and continue to stand up and fight for their rights to be treated as equals and continue to take time to educate those of us blinded by our privilege.

Of course, I've still got a long way to go, I still miss instances of privilege that I enjoy, I still say and do stupid things without realising it. But I hope that there will always be incredible people willing to stand up and point it out to me. Because without them, I wouldn't be here, standing up and saying "I am a feminist".