The Salamander Song

A bunch of us went out to lunch during the conference to Voodoo Dog, an awesome hotdog place.

Last weekend, Shelley Segal was in town for a Humanists of Florida Association conference. She performed a few songs during the conference, but the really awesome part was when she performed after the conference. During this impromptu show, she performed my new favorite song: The Salamander Song. The sad thing is, though, that she hasn’t recorded it yet. However, Mark Palmer (HFA executive director and a friend of mine) was able to convince Shelley to perform the song for his podcast. So, here it is! The song starts at about 14:30 (but the explanation of the song starts a few minutes before that, at about 11:00). The audio quality is not the best, but the song is still very funny and totally awesome.

Also, if you haven’t bought her album, “An Atheist Album,” you can find it on iTunes and Amazon. *cough*gobuyit*cough*

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Atheists Un-Anoint Roadway… But Why?

So maybe you’ve heard about this already. A few atheists decided to un-anoint a road in Polk County, Florida. But why did they do this? Are they just silly people with too much time on their hands? Actually, no. I was part of this group of atheists this Saturday, and I must say, everyone is getting this story wrong. Very wrong. Let me explain how…

First of all, I’d like to explain why we did this a year after the actual anointing. We didn’t learn about this situation until two weeks ago (at a CFI conference in Orlando), at which time the current leader of Tallahassee Atheists, John Porgal, got all angry (as he does sometimes) and wanted to do something about it. So he did a bit of organizing and asked the former leader (who’s still a member) of Tallahassee Atheists to write a press release and send it out. I participate in the group and I was at the conference, which is how I became a part of this event. Now, to why we did this at all…

This whole thing started many moons ago, when a group called Polk Under Prayer decided to anoint roads leading into Polk County. Polk Under Prayer (PUP) isn’t just some fringe group of wingnuts. This group was endorsed by the Mayor of Lakeland (the largest city in Polk), the Sheriff of the county, and the Superintendent of Polk County schools.

Polk Under Prayer billboard

Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, Polk County Schools Superintendent Sherrie Nickell, and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

And this anointing situation is not the only crazy thing that Polk County officials have done. This Sheriff has been on a vendetta against EllenBeth Wachs, acting president of Atheists of Florida and current president of Humanists of Florida. This is the Sheriff that arrested her and raided her house in March 2011 for using the title “esquire” (she’s a retired lawyer) on request for information from the county government (they had given tax-payer property to local churches). In May, he arrested her a second time (for noises coming from her bedroom… I’m not kidding) and put her in solitary confinement for a week. Oh, and this is the county where an atheist (current president of Atheist of Florida) was arrested at a school board meeting (for protesting prayer during the meetings). Now, keep all of this in mind.

In March 2011, PUP anointed all the roads entering into the county. On the website of  a local pastor (not part of PUP, but friends with one of the organizers of the anointing event) said this about the anointing of the roads:

A strip of anointed oil has been placed over all lanes of highway at the county line and a prayer has been given at each location asking God to bring them to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county and to bring under conviction to those who seek evil and we asked God to bring them to a state of submission and repentance. If they will not submit to God’s way of living, then the prayer is to have them incarcerated or removed from the county.

These actions and attitudes are why we did the un-anointing. We wanted people to be aware of what is happening in this county; in the fucking United States of America. The press release explained why we did this, however, this narrative apparently did not suit the local (and national) media. I guess the real story is too long and complicated. It also makes us look unquestionably like the only rational side.

The original press release follows:  Continue reading

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Abortion: Myths and Misconceptions

I cannot count the number of times I’ve talked about abortion with someone and they got something so very wrong, and I’m not just talking about wingnuts. Even my friends who are pro-choice don’t fully understand what abortion is and what it means for many women. So I’d like to take some time to correct these myths and misconceptions about abortion.

The Procedure

First off, let’s learn a bit about what abortion actually means, medically speaking. How many times have you heard some crazy bullshit from conservative christians about how awful and bloody it is? Just the other week, I was arguing with talking to a Tea Party lady who claimed that an abortion is when a doctor induces birth and then kills the baby by putting a nail through its head (“partial birth” abortion is the only kind of abortion, dontcha know). Honestly, these people have very active and gruesome imaginations; I think it’s all that bible reading they do (Srsly, have you guys read that thing? Crazy!). Anyway, that’s definitely not how abortion works.

There are two common types of abortion: medication abortion and in-clinic abortion.

Medication Abortion

This procedure can occur up to 9 weeks after the first day of a missed period. It’s called a “medication” abortion because an abortion pill, called mifepristone (or RU-486), is what is used to terminate the pregnancy. This pill  blocks the hormone progesterone, without which the lining of the uterus will break down.

There are three steps in this procedure:

  1.  A women will take the pill at the clinic, and then will be given antibiotics to take afterwards.
  2. A second medication, called misoprostol, will be given about three days later (usually at home). This causes the uterus to empty. This part is probably the worst part (but not nearly as bad as some would like to claim). This will cause heavy bleeding and cramping: like a really bad period. This will last a few days at most, but spotting can last for a few weeks afterwards.
  3. Two weeks later, there will be a followup to make sure the procedure was successful. This includes an ultrasound and a blood test.

And that’s it. Not so awful, is it? It’s just a safe, effective medical procedure.

In-Clinic Abortion

In-clinic abortions are usually performed 9 weeks or later. There are two common kinds of in-clinic procedures: aspiration (aka: vacuum aspiration) and D&E (dilation and evacuation). The first is usually performed from 9 to 16 weeks, and the latter after 16 weeks.

Aspiration:  The woman’s uterus is examined prior to beginning the procedure. She’s offered pain medication and possibly some form of sedation. Then a speculum is inserted into the vagina and numbing medication would be injected. The cervix is stretched with dilators (possibly several hours to a day before the procedure) and/or medication. A tube is inserted into the uterus and it is suctioned until the uterus is empty. Sometimes an instrument, called a curette, will be used to insure that the uterus is empty. Antibiotics will be given, like with a medication abortion. This procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes to perform, but more time will be needed to prepare the cervix.

Dilation and Evacuation:  This procedure is similar to an aspiration abortion in many ways. The main difference is that, with later second trimester abortions, a drug may need to be injected through the abdomen to ensure fetal demise. This procedure takes 10 to 20 minutes, with additional time needed to prepare the cervix.

The few days after these types of abortions will be similar to after a medication abortion. Some bleeding and cramping may occur, lasting a few days.

And that’s that. Nothing scary or gruesome or dangerous. It’s just a simple, safe medical procedure.

How Women Feel

You’ve probably heard something like this before (actually, Santorum just said something like this): women are emotionally damaged by abortion; it ruins women’s lives; etc. etc. This just isn’t true. As Planned Parenthood puts it:

You may have a wide range of feelings after your abortion. Most women ultimately feel relief after an abortion. Some women feel anger, regret, guilt, or sadness for a little while.

Serious, long-term emotional problems after abortion are about as uncommon as they are after giving birth.

Most sources I’ve seen say that most women just feel relieved. Any post abortion emotional problems are rare and usually pass quickly. If you’d like to read more about it, Planned Parenthood has a good explanation of several studies on the topic here [pdf] (it also cites sources!).

Other Misconceptions

A lot of pro-choicers will say things like “I’m not pro-abortion; no one is pro-abortion, but women have a right…” Well, I’m here to say that I am pro-abortion. I am absolutely for a safe, effective procedure that gives women the ability to control their own reproduction. That’s not to say that I’d prefer women get abortions rather than properly using birth control. But, hey, shit happens, even with the proper use of birth control. And I’m certainly not going to make moral judgments on a woman because she’s had an abortion (or even multiple abortions).

Another misconception floating around is that a woman must have a really good excuse to have an abortion. She must be a victim, unable to financially support a child, or have a medical problem. Well, fuck that shit. The only reason any woman needs to have an abortion is that she either doesn’t want a child or cannot safely have a child. That’s it. And if she doesn’t want to explain herself to you or someone else, then she doesn’t have to.

One thing really bothers me is how the media sometimes reports about abortion. Have you ever been watching a report about something abortion related and seen the stock-footage they use? It’s just fucking stupid. They always show women who are hugely pregnant; ones that are clearly in their late third trimester. Or they show ultrasounds that are similarly from later in a pregnancy. As if indicating that this is what women who get abortions look like; this is what their fetuses look like. Well, it’s not! Abortion that late in pregnancy just doesn’t happen. It’s not even legal in the US! I mean, I doubt they’re (usually) pushing an anti-choice agenda. They’re probably just lazy and have grabbed whatever stock-footage they found first.

These are just some of the myths and misconceptions floating around these days. There are many more, but hopefully, my dear reader, you’ve come away from this with more knowledge about this “controversial” topic.

If you’ve heard any myths about abortion that I didn’t get to, please leave a comment.

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We Are All Sinners…

Brother Jed with Sparkles (facebook.com/sparkles11)

At least according to Brother JedBrother Micah, and Sister Elizabeth. If you’ve gone to a university in the US in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of them or seen them in person. They’re traveling preachers, and today (and tomorrow) is my university’s turn. They preach fire and brimstone and, as an atheist, I love it! They probably help make more atheists than Richard Dawkins could ever dream of.

According to Brother Jed, a woman should fight a rapist (“defend her virtue”) even to the death. He also told his story about how he had lost of sex in his father’s car when he was young. He also told several women (including me! I’m so proud) to be quiet because “the men are speaking” (but I think he says this mostly to shock people). Ah, Brother Jed, he’s so very entertaining (and a little creepy). He’d be less entertaining if anyone on campus actually agreed with him, but they never do.

Brother Micah with his "no porn" and "no homo" buttons

Brother Micah taught us that if a woman wears pants, she’s a lesbian! He told us that he was perfect and we’re all sinners. He’s perfect because he’s Christian; no joke, he really said that. If you’re not perfect (i.e. a sinner) it means that you’re not a True ChristianTM. These guys have really large egos. And, I can’t forget this part, he also sung us his “Happy Homophobe” song. While he is entertainingly stupid, I don’t like him as much as Brother Jed; he lacks charisma.

Sister Elizabeth explaining the 17 things that will keep us from heaven

We also got to hear from Brother Micah’s wife, Sister Elizabeth (or, as she likes to call herself, Saint Elizabeth; see, the egos again). She talked to us like we were small children and chastised us every time we used a “dirty word”. She did this when one lesbian woman said “I love pussy”. And I was forced to say to Sister Elizabeth: “What’s wrong with pussy? It means vagina. That’s not a dirty thing. Vagina’s are great!” (I also waved around my birth control pills and asked if anyone wanted a “free abortion” after she said that the pill is abortion. Those guys make me do the craziest things!)

I honestly don’t mind these people coming to campus and doing this. The university isn’t paying them and I’m all for free speech (especially when we can have free speech right back). And it starts real discussion on campus about religion (and it usually brings out the atheists). Also, it’s funny as hell (seriously, the idea of hell is pretty funny).

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She’s Just an Attention Whore

I was having a discussion recently with a friend about women in comics, which led to talking about female gamers. The conversation was going well until my friend (who I always considered a pretty not sexist guy) said this: “There are two types of female gamers: ones who actually like games, and ones who are just trying to get attention.” This comment set me off, we had an argument about it, and it didn’t end well. But that’s another story for another time (or not). The point of this post is to bring the underlying idea of this comment to light. That idea being that women who admit that they’re women online or while gaming are just attention whores. So, let’s dive right in.

As any women who’s online a lot (in certain places) or who games will tell you, the number one sin is admitting you’re female (in any way). You can never do this, even if it’s relevant to the current conversation. Everyone assumes you’re male unless you say that you’re female (ugh, it’s like they think they’re real people or something!). The second you let that bit of information slip, you’re told one (or more) of the following three things: (1) tits or GTFO, (2) get back to the kitchen, or (3) you’re just an attention whore. (I’m not even sure who’s saying 1 or 2 anymore. Do they think that they’re funny or clever with that bit?)

The idea that women only like x because they want attention has been around as long as I can remember. “Women only pretend to like football so that men will like them,” “Women only pretend to like games so that men will like them,” “Women only pretend to like Star Wars so that men will like them, ” etc, etc. According to this stereotype, women only pretend to have interests so that guys will like them. Women have no agency; no interests; the only thing they want is male approval and attention. This stereotype is perfectly illustrated in the Idiot Nerd Girl meme.

Why is this happening when 40% of gamers are now women (PDF) and over 50% of internet users are women? It seems like this is just another way for women to be silenced. If you’re constantly told you’re an “attention whore” for speaking up while female, would you keep doing it? Probably not. That’s why so many women pretend to be men while gaming (here’s a small poll illustrating my point) or online. Or they just let people assume that they’re male. It just makes things easier. I know that when I’m online in certain places, I just let people assume that I’m male. The few times that I’ve admitted to being female (in those places) shit hit the fan. I was called an attention whore, asked for pictures, and told to get back to the kitchen. It’s not fun. I wasn’t upset about it, I was just annoyed because I couldn’t discuss what I wanted to anymore. This just perpetuates the “there are no girls on the internet” trope. But some women won’t be bullied into silence. Those women are called attention whores for refusing to hide the fact that they’re female and still having an opinion.

Things like this are so prevalent online and in nerd culture that it’s hard to understand why so many people are puzzled by (relatively) low numbers of female involvement in these things. It’s because we’re treated like shit by some while others stand by and let it happen over and over again. We (us nerdy women) just can’t fucking please anyone! We’re sexualized when we participate, and then criticized for being attention whores! I can understand why so many women just give up and leave or pretend to be male.

But this kind of thing isn’t limited to just gaming, nerd, or online communities. Any time women speak out, they’re called attention whores. Female skeptic talking about an awkward situation? Attention whore.  Female activists bringing attention to victim blaming? Attention whores. Smart woman who blows shit up? Attention whore.

This is something that troubles me frequently. I just want to participate equally in the communities that I enjoy without someone trying to harass me into silence because I had the audacity to have an opinion, interest, or hobby while being female. People rarely ever speak out when these things happen. I can understand why some women remain silent (they don’t want to bring the attention upon themselves). But what about the ones who don’t mind the hate? What about the men who just sit by without speaking up? Won’t someone speak up? I can’t take them all on by myself.

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