What’s Supposed to Happen AFTER You Shut Up and Listen

For the last several weeks, I’ve felt growing jealousy toward those friends and acquaintances who have had the opportunity to attend the second Women In Secularism conference. I felt that twinge of envy die back considerably watching the twitter and liveblogging reactions of surprise and disappointment when the conference kicked off with the remarks of Ron Lindsay, who is the president and CEO of the conference’s sponsoring organization, the Center for Inquiry. Now while I still wish I could have been present for those panels, in many ways I’m relieved I have not given (for my budget, considerable) funds to an organization whose highest leadership seems to fundamentally not understand the purpose of something that means so much to me.

I’d also like to extend my greatest sympathies and support to Melody Hensley, whose task in successfully managing this event has been made harder and harder by the management of her own organization. It is absolutely not her fault that this has become disastrously mismanaged, and my admiration for her dedicated work has only grown in the face of this “PR disaster” as she described it last night (can’t direct link to the comment, which is #40 on this latest doubling down by Lindsay). Ms. Hensley said,

Half of the Slymepit have shown up to support these series of blogs. These are not our supporters or donors. They are harassers and sexists.

I’m completely embarrassed. I feel betrayed that that my allies are upset and the people that wish me ill will are cheering this on. I wish we could go back in time and delete this PR disaster.

I agree. And while I’ve watched this in increasing frustration, the thought occurred to me that maybe Ron Lindsay never actually read far enough to understand what’s supposed to happen after someone with privilege shuts up long enough to listen to the experience of someone who has a better view of the social and legal deck stacking in society. In the hopes that he can learn to listen long enough for understanding, I’ll try to give him a concrete example of how this is supposed to work.

Privilege is one of those remarkably sneaky things where it’s inherently part of having privilege that it is hard to see how you are benefited and how a thousand little things create the microaggressions that wear others down every single day. It can be something as simple as not having choices created with you in mind because you are not considered the default.

A while back, Greta Christina wrote about something that drives her crazy. (Me too!) When organizers for events order merchandise, somehow it seldom seems to occur to them to order t-shirts in women’s styles for their female attendees.

Here’s where the shutting up and listening portion comes in: my spouse, after hearing about this concern, one he never would have known about had he not been receptive enough to listen and learn (the shutting up and listening part), realized he’s seen this done on a particularly egregious scale in his own professional life.

Spouse’s office has to do with programs that feed children, and so disproportionately deals with women rather than men. Far more women than men attend their conferences and training sessions. Yet every single time they’ve ordered shirts for these, events, they’ve ordered unisex men’s t-shirts. How is it that for years, it had never occurred to anyone to order women’s style shirts for these events when they vastly comprise those they work with?

Simply put, shutting up long enough to be receptive to a criticism of Greta Christina’s, spouse has learned something he can be aware of and implement that will make one less message these women will receive in their day that men are the default and nothing can be done about it. It makes their lives slightly better and costs my spouse nothing but a moment of consideration during the planning stages of events. This isn’t about silencing. It’s about caring enough to learn how to be a better person.

Now I realize that Lindsay does not believe his opening remarks were primarily about how he fears privilege is used to silence critics. He may certainly not have intended his speech to launch Women in Secularism to tell attendees, speakers and panelists to say that asking others to check their privilege is a silencing tactic, but that is what he did.

I’ve read his prepared remarks. They open by discussing religious traditions of deliberately disempowering and silencing women, move on to telling this audience he does not welcome them because there’s too much work to do, then express concern over what kind of feminist foundation is being built in the secular movement before they get directly into criticism of the critically important concept of privilege. Your remarks are about how uncomfortable you are with how many of us use privilege as a key tool to educate and change behavior. There is a clear line of reasoning (that you yourself cite!) that links the opening statements of religious silencing tradition with the straw-stuffed explanation of privilege checking in your remarks.

Mr. Lindsay, I ask you to take this opportunity to stop, listen, reflect and learn. Stop and consider that the criticism of your remarks came from your own hosted panelists as well as attendees at at the conference while the loudest applause you are getting is coming from the very people who want to tear down the work of Women In Secularism and the dedicated efforts of those in your own organization.

Not Again, Ezra Klein

Like most Americans, I am outraged that the United States Senate is procedurally broken. I’m incensed that the always dubious filibuster has been used to obstruct popular and necessary legislation. I’m beyond merely angry that the minority Republicans successfully blocked debate on a bill addressing long-overdue gun sale regulation.

But there is a world of difference in recognizing the Senate is currently broken & non-functional because it requires a super majority for normal legislating business and insisting that part of the problems creating the gridlock is the system designed to protect small states from neglect. I am not only upset that he still fails to recognize the merits of system that gives small states a meaningful voice in policies that affect them, but that he’s implicitly blaming the system that protects me as a resident of a small state for the fact that gun control just failed.

STOP DOING THIS, Ezra Klein. You’re better than this.

Sorry they got caught?

UPDATE: Hospital Is Fucking Lying Their Asses Off, Plus Police Abuse, Homophobia, AIDS Hysteria

I have to say I was not surprised to hear that the hospital in the Kansas City area was lying. I was surprised just how blatantly they were lying because the truth is so much more sickening and horrible than I suspected. A new interview on AMERICAblog is just utterly horrifying and heartbreaking. Please read it.

Here are some highlights.

  • Gorley’s husband, Allen Mansell, although in and out of consciousness, clearly expressed his wish that his husband stay & his brother leave. As Roger Gorley was physically hit & pulled by police, Mansell attempted to hold his husband’s hand to keep him from being removed.
  • The “belligerent” conduct being referred to is the outraged reaction Gorley had when Mansell’s brother challenged the spouse’s right to make medical determinations under their power of attorney. Hospital staff, despite knowing better, sided with the brother, and insisted & facilitated a violent removal of his husband over the patient’s objections.
  • Police were brutal, discriminatory, unnecessarily violent and utterly cruel.
    • In order to break his hold on the hospital bed & hand of his husband, police bashed at his wrists
    • When they knocked him to the ground, they dislodged his glasses & hearing aids and drew blood
  • Massive homophobia and AIDS stigma and ignorance
    • One officer would not touch Gorley with his bare hands, even refusing to touch his own handcuffs (because they recuffed him three additional times) when they were handed back to him
    • All officers acted as if there was an AIDS concern obviously because Gorley was gay, and not because of any routine reason

When I first read this, I cried. I got weepy again writing this update. These assholes are not only liars, they are brazen asshole liars who treated a gay couple like dirt.


Today we’ve learned about a man in Lee’s Summit, MO who was removed from his hospitalized husband’s bedside, handcuffed, escorted off the property and arrested because he refused to leave. There have been some conflicting reports about a restraining order*, but that much of it has not been disputed by anyone.

Since this morning, the local Fox affiliate (the ultimate first source on all the pieces I’ve seen written) has put up an update that Roger Gorley is now free to visit his husband again, but there is no detail or explanation of how & when this development occurred.

It definitely was not there when the Change.org petition to have the hospital stripped of its Medicare and Medicaid access was started. So the cynic in me is wondering whether they actually realized they did a bad thing or whether they just want people to shut up about it so they stop looking bad.

Hospital statements have been cagey about the details of how & why Gorley was removed and frankly what is reported as part of a statement to the police is in direct contradiction to how he describes what happened. What I think explains the difference is that the hospital staff probably has different rules for family and non-family visitors of patients.

According to Roger Gorley, he arrived at the hospital and found that his husband’s family was already present in the hotel room, and it was one of them that told him to leave, even though he and Allen have been in civil union for years and Gorley has power of attorney for medical issues. (What’s more, apparently that power of attorney is on file and Allen has received treatment at this facility previously so there can be no reasonable claim of ignorance one the part of hospital staff.)

The local news report says that hospital staff asked Gorley to leave because they “did not want to have any visitors to Allen’s room.” To be frank, I do not believe the hospital here and this is why:

  • No mention of Allen’s family in any statements about visitors
  • Allen has previously been treated here without any problems of visitation for Gorley & Allen

So yeah, I think they’re trying to cover their asses here. Especially because they keep claiming they’re totally respectful of same-sex couples and the only problem was that Gorley was “belligerent,” “disruptive” and physically resisted being removed. I won’t believe them until they answer one key question: Why was it necessary to remove a spouse from a patients’ room?

Because I do not blame Gorley one bit for causing a scene when he was told to leave by his spouse’s family. I would be belligerent and disruptive too.

I don’t think this is just some misunderstanding. I think the hospital was sorry they got caught so publicly & are covering themselves to make it go away.


*The local affiliate may have updated the story to remove reporting about issuing a restraining order, because I have seen sources linking that site as the source of a restraining order filing. The most recent public statement by the hospital was on their Facebook page claiming they never asked for or issued a restraining order.

“Turd-Pong” Or, Some of the Best Feminism 101 I’ve Read in a Long Time

Today someone linked* to a wonderful piece by Lindy West explaining feminism to the dude who wants to talk debate the existence of privilege and misandry. And it’s fucking wonderful.

I was sold before I hit the phrase “turd-pong” which just made my damn day. Here’s the end of the introduction:

It is nearly impossible to address problems facing women—especially problems in which men are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of “misandry!” from men and replies of “misandry isn’t real” from women. Feminists are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong: hollow “conversation” built on willful miscommunication, bouncing back and forth, back and forth, until both sides throw up their hands and bolt. Maybe you are tired of this too. We seem to be having some very deep misunderstandings on this point, so let’s unpack it. I promise not to yell.

The rest is organized by sections.

Part One: Why Feminism Has “Fem” in the Name, or, Why Can’t We All Just Be Humanists?

Part Two: Why Claiming that Sexism Isn’t Real Is a Sexist Thing to Say

Part Three: Why People Being Shitty to You Is Not the Same as You Being Systematically Disenfranchised

Part Four: A List of “Men’s Rights” Issues That Feminism Is Already Working On

Part Five: I’m Sorry That You Are in Pain, But Please Stop Taking It Out on Women

You should read it.

* I don’t regularly read Jezebel, mostly because stuff there is problematic more often than I’m happy with, but feminists write some wonderful pieces there that I usually find through links and/or Twitter.

Yes, the United States Senate is “Very, Very Unequal.” And that’s a good thing.

I normally love the kind of numerical/graphical analysis Ezra Klein does. So it was with great shock and frustration I watched him do his signature challenge while he was guest hosting the Rachel Maddow Show last Monday and he explained the Senate structure giving influence to less populous states as a bug, not  a feature. (His shorter writeup post is up at the Washington Post here.)

It’s factually correct that the way that the US Constitution sets up the Senate, it decreases the proportional power of the residents of populous states in a major way. More so now than it did when the Constitution was first drafted (from approximately 11:1 to 66:1). He includes this big and shocking looking graphic showing the seemingly over-weighted influence the same population has at the federal level.

Washington Post Graphic from Ezra Klein's Article

Washington Post Graphic from Ezra Klein’s Article

What he doesn’t really talk about is why the architects of our federal government would choose to create an inherently lopsided seeming system of representation. There was the idea that a number of checks would be required to ensure that risk inherent in democracy, the “tyranny of the majority,” was balanced. Small states feared (reasonably I might add) that because they were small their interests and needs would likely be swallowed if a majority of highly populous states ignored the need.

Our Constitution and federal government is structured in such a way to recognize that and mitigate harms. To protect individuals, we have the Bill of Rights, later amendments and a judiciary system to ensure that the rights of of individuals don’t get trampled.  But what about the representation needs of people in less populous states? Well for that, we have the United States Senate.

A major function of government and taxation is to ensure that vulnerable and poor people in our population are given the support they need; it’s the “common welfare” idea from the preamble. But there is no reason why that allocation would be proportional by state. In fact, when you look at the states with lower populations, there is a decent correlation between states that are lower in population but significantly higher in terms of poverty and strained infrastructure.

What’s more, some states are burdened in ways others are not. As a concrete example, the Intermountain West has two things that either directly govern or highly influence every important aspect of life here: lots and lots of space and very little water. That reality means our populations are clustered around areas where we can find enough water to survive, mainly around mountain ranges with reservoirs. What does that mean? Lots and lots of infrastructure costs; without federal transportation funds, we couldn’t function in a modern way*. We rely on interstate highway corridors for transportation in a way that other states don’t need to. Does that mean we’re “making out like bandits?”

I don’t think so. States will smaller populations are going to necessarily have a harder time generating comparable tax revenue to cover the needs of their citizens than highly populous states with affluent urban centers. Okay you say, but what does that have to do with the original idea of super-lopsided representation in the Senate?

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if the Senate were proportional body like the House of Representatives. What would happen to the federal aid, infrastructure and other funds that small states rely on? Well, it seems safe to say that we wouldn’t get most of it. It’s a lot easier to ignore the needs of constituents of small, poor states with two or three representatives when their votes have zero clout and impact in how federal legislation is passed in D.C.

So stop telling Californians they should hate the Senate, Ezra Klein. It does what it’s supposed to.

*In Utah, the town of Boulder got its postal delivery by pack mule well after World War II because of how remote & isolating the geography is.

Chile Verde Recipe Updated: All Fresh Ingredients

Thrackerzog very much treats cooking as a hobby.  He’s joked that it’s in some ways an unfortunate one because he can’t sell his chicken cacciatore on etsy. He came up with an initial recipe that included a few of non-fresh ingredients in canned or pre-packaged form, and won the chili cookoff in his office using that recipe.  But since the end of 2011, our recipe has had a few revisions and is now completely fresh (with the obvious exception of some seasonings).  We’re happy to share out delicious cooking  if only digitally, so I’m updating that recipe to reflect the more fresh construction.  I’m giving proportions based on the pounds of pork purchased, so it’s a highly scalable recipe.  (The last time we made it, we used 8 pounds of pork and used a giant stockpot to start cooking down the sauce.)

This recipe is one of the most delicious things we do in the kitchen.  It’s also incredibly time-intensive and we only do it a few times a year.  But oh, is it worth it.

The ingredients:

  • The amount of tomatillos you want will vary based on how large a pork roast you’re planning on cooking.  Buy at least twice as many pounds of tomatillos as pork.  You can use a small amount for just a couple people or cook for a bunch.

Approximately three pounds of tomatillos

14 pounds of tomatillos

  • Poblano chiles. For the proportion on these, plan on halving the pounds of tomatillos and using that number of poblanos and anaheims each.  Obviously adjust to taste for spiciness and flavor.  (Some supermarkets label these “pasillas” rather than poblanos, but that’s wrong.  Pasilla is the dried form of a chilaca, rather like how dried poblanos are called ancho chiles.)

Four poblanos

  • An equal number of anaheim chiles to poblanos.  (Again, this is adjustable according to taste)
  • A yellow onion for approximately every 5 pounds of pork

Two anaheims, two limes, one yellow onion and one bunch cilantro Read More…

“My Wife”

I had one of those everyday sexism recognition moments this morning while I was driving in to work. It was a subtle, seemingly trivial thing so internalized that I had never noticed it. Until I noticed it.

When interacting with coworkers (regardless of where I worked), I noticed a marked difference in the way that male and female coworkers talk about their romantic partners. Women I’ve worked with almost exclusively mention their spouses by name. Men I’ve worked with almost exclusively refer to their partners as “my wife.” I don’t even know the names of my male coworker’s partners; I’ve worked here three months. I knew the name of a female coworker’s in the first week.

It is incredibly subtle, but the implicit message is clear. Women’s partners are full autonomous people with names. Men’s partners are defined only as how they relate to them.

Coverture: not as dead as you thought.