Monthly Archives: September 2012

Please Keep Making Calendars (if you want to)

Argh. This is tough. I love Rebecca Watson, but I think this is literally the first time I’ve disagreed with her about something. And strongly.

Rebecca Watson has posted a blog in response to (I assume, due to the timing of it) Secular Woman, Inc.‘s creation of a nude atheist calendar project. In it, she lists several reasons why she wishes atheist and skeptic organizations would stop making nude calendars. Hemant Mehta from Friendly Atheist also posted a blog in support of Watson. I’d really just like to take a moment to address the first two of Watson’s criticisms:

1. Regardless of the intent behind the calendars, regardless of how much fun we had making them, regardless of how empowering we found them, regardless of the racial and age diversity we showcased, and regardless of the fact that they were run by a woman and benefited women, pin-up calendars added to an existing environment in which women were seen first as sexual objects and maybe if they’re lucky they’d later be seen as human beings with thoughts and desires of their own. Back in 2005, I thought skeptics weren’t affected by the patriarchy and that misogyny was something left to the religious. In a community like that, a pin-up calendar of women would be absolutely fine. I learned that a community like that does not exist and it was naive of me to assume otherwise.

2. Adding a calendar of men did not balance out the calendar of women. In a perfect non-patriarchal world, it would, but what I realized was that the women in the calendars were not being seen in the same way as the men in the calendars. The women were objectified on a level unmatched by those viewing and commenting on the men. This was something difficult for me to objectively evaluate at the time and was just a hunch based on my casual observations, but that hunch was confirmed last year when I had shitlord after shitlord emailing me to tell me that I have no right to complain about being groped or propositioned at conferences because I posed in a calendar for skeptics (see my filthy slut photo as the featured image on this post). If Phil Plait ever complains about a woman grabbing his crotch at a conference, I’m confident that no one will forward him his entry in the 2007 “Skepdude” Calendar and tell him to stop being such a whore if he doesn’t want that kind of attention.

First off, if the intent behind the calendars is good, and the people making them both had fun and were empowered by it, then that’s all you should need right there. If you want to pose nude (or semi-nude) for a calendar (or anything else) go right ahead. The whole point of feminism is that nobody but you gets to tell you what to do with your body. I realize that Rebecca isn’t saying otherwise, but if you want to make a nude calendar then you should. Don’t let anybody else tell you not to.

The problem here isn’t that women are being sexualized. If you’re posing for racy photographs with the intent to distribute them, then I would hope that you realize that being sexualized is inevitable, if not the whole point.

The problem is when assholes fail to have the ability to see someone in a sexual context for a few seconds (or, I guess, a month) and then treat them normally in any other context. The problem is when these people objectify women, rather than recognize that sexuality is only one small part of an entire person.

So what’s the solution? I don’t claim to be smart enough to know for sure, but I suspect that the following things will help:

  1. More nude calendars with more diversity: Everyone get naked! Let’s try to create a culture where people can be sexual and still be taken seriously. We need more men to strip for the cause because, as Rebecca points out, nobody takes nudity as a mark against men. Maybe, just maybe, we can normalize nudity to the point where it’s not something that people can hold against women. The Atheists Breaking Through calendar is doing awesome in this regard as it has a mix of men and women, including a trans woman. That’s great! Let’s do more.
  2. Don’t give in to trolls: If we let the solution to “dumbasses don’t know how to deal with nudity” be “get rid of all the nudity” then you’ve basically let win kind of people who think that a woman who has appeared naked in a photo once can no longer be taken seriously. If you want to express yourself by appearing nude, then stopping yourself because of negative reactions you get is letting people silence you. And you know what? If that’s a barrier to you expressing yourself that you don’t want to put in the time and energy to traverse, that’s fine too. But what bothers me about Rebecca’s suggestion to get rid of the calendars is that she’s adding to that barrier rather than fighting against it. “If you think that ignoring assholes and bullies makes them go away, you are wrong”.
  3. Stop being an asshole: If you’re the kind of person who can’t take a woman seriously if you’ve seen her boobs, then kindly fuck off. I honestly wonder how you can even have relationships with women. I imagine most of you would actually love to see some boobs, so how do you deal with that in real life? Do all your relationships (romantic, sexual, or otherwise) teeter precariously over the brink of seeing the other person naked? If you have sex with someone do you magically become unable to have a serious conversation with them? How do you operate in life? I honestly don’t get it. But regardless, don’t be that guy. Just… don’t.

Posing nude can be fun. It can be sexy. It can even be empowering.

Although it sucks that there are people in this life who will try and take that away from you, if you decide that your desire to do it outweighs the drawbacks, then great. Go for it.

I did some nude modelling for a friend’s photography art project in university. It was awesome. I am so proud that I did it, because I do have body image issues and being able to be open like that was a huge deal for me. I would do it again in a heartbeat. JT Eberhard, who will be appearing in the Atheists Breaking Through calendar, said it beautifully:

As a recovering anorexic, taking those pictures was extremely difficult, but it was worth it.  This is what flooded into my mind when Bridget asked me to be in this calendar.  It will be scary, but ultimately I think it will be good for me.

I think the human body is beautiful.  After those pictures, there were times when I thought mine was as well.  After years of coming to loathe reflective surfaces but being unable to resist looking at them, that feeling was like breathing oxygen for the first time.  I suspect that participating in this project will allow me to recapture that sensation.

So yeah. If you want to pose naked, then do it. If you want to publish the photos, then do that too. Hell, if you like looking at the photos of other people naked, there’s nothing wrong with that either. You just need to be able to go back to treating the people in those photos normally after you’ve looked at them. Don’t objectify them just because they have tits or a dick.


A friend on my Facebook posted this image:

Spock says:
“Neither of you can prove or disprove God”
“Checkmate Christians & atheists”

I replied as follows (and wanted to repost it here):

Ignoring that science is not actually in the business of “proving” things, but rather gathering evidence through investigation.

Ignoring that if you’re going to use a standard of knowledge that requires “proof” or “absolute certainty” then you actually can’t prove or know anything. And I mean *literally* anything. You can’t prove that the sky is blue because for all you know we’re in the Matrix right now and the actual sky is violet.

Ignoring that Christians can’t even agree among themselves as to the characteristics of the god they believe in; let alone the hundreds of other religions in the world.

Ignoring that, actually, if your claims about gods require preconditions that contradict things that we know about reality, then yeah… you can eliminate the possibility of that god existing. Further, if your the preconditions of that god are logically impossible then you’ve again precluded the possibility of his existence.

Ignoring that absence of evidence is, in fact, the only *possible* evidence of absence, and that you don’t believe in leprechauns, unicorns, fairies or mermaids for the exact same reason that atheists don’t believe in gods (ie: complete and utter lack of evidence for their existence).

Ignoring all that and supposing for the sake of argument that we have absolutely no idea whether or not any gods exist:

Without being able to prove that religion is correct, you don’t get to impose it on other people. There’s no reason to deny loving same-sex couples the right to marry. There’s no reason to institute mandatory prayer in schools. There’s no reason to splash acid in the faces of women for wanting to go to school or drive a car. There’s no reason to refuse to help the poor because they’ll just get some really good shit in their next life. There’s no reason to deny women their rights to bodily autonomy. There’s no reason to deprive children of necessary lifesaving medical technology like vaccinations or blood transfusions.

In the argument between atheists and religious folks guess who’s fully on the side opposing all those things?

That’s right, the atheists.

We don’t do it for ourselves, we do it for everyone. So that nobody has to be oppressed by the religious segments of society.

And you know what? If nobody on the planet were harmed in any way by religion, then I’d still argue with religious people, but it would be in the same way I argue with people who think that Star Wars is better than Star Trek: at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter because neither of us are going to go home and starve our children because of our religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where all the things I listed above happen. A lot.

And before you throw up the “not all religious people are like that” argument, let me just tell you: I don’t care. I don’t give one half of the tiniest shit about that. The fact that it happens AT ALL is the problem.

That’s why the atheists fight.

And if you’re a religious person who lives their full life without harming anyone in the slightest, whether inadvertently or not, because of your religious beliefs? Good for you. Captain Kirk could still kick the shit out of Han Solo.

On a related note, the bit about going home and starving one’s children over religious belief is a reference this story. I worry that it seems like I’m just picking a recent bit of news that proves my point, but the sad thing is whenever I go to write about the horrific things that people have done in the name of religion, I don’t need to dig back very far in recent news to find something. Like, ever. There’s a constant source of terrible, depressing things done by religious people, in the name of religion, easily available for reference in the news stories of the past week or so.

Remind me again how you can’t have morality without God?

Update on Minecraft-Zelda

It’s been about a year since I first posted about my recreation of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in Minecraft. Wanted to give you an update.

The overworld map is basically done.

Gerudo Desert, the Great Swamp, the Orchard.

Lake Hylia, the Eastern Palace, Hyrule Castle and Link’s House.

Lost Woods and Karkariko Village.

Death Mountain.

Zora’s Domain.

The Dark World is basically done:

Village of Outcasts, Skull Woods and the Golden Pyramid.

Misery Mire, Swamp Palace, Ice Lake and the Dark Palace.

Dark Death Mountain, Agahnim’s Tower and Turtle Rock.

Even the interiors of all the dungeons are all done, such as:

Castle Prison.

The Sanctuary.

Turtle Rock Dungeon.

… and more, but there’s too many to show.

Currently I’m in the process of coding all of the dungeon switch-based puzzles, teleporters (using command blocks from the upcoming snapshot) and trying to finalize the last few items that don’t have good equivalents in Minecraft (such as the boomerang or magic cape). Most of the items have been placed in chests and stuff, including apples as heart pieces, emeralds as rupees, bow, arrows, bottles, etc…

Demo for the glass switch blocks that you can toggle up and down.


Map for the inventory to place items in chests, etc…


Who Votes Over the Economy?

The following is a hypothesis. I don’t really have the background in sociology or any idea of the methodology required to confirm or refute it, but I want to put it out there any maybe someone with more of a clue than me can figure out if it’s true or not.

I read the following quote from Grimalkin on the Atheism+ forums today:

People who have their lives voted on and legislated by politicians tend to not care *too* much about the economy, because we’re too worried about whether some governer is going to declare him the right to our uterus or something equally fun.

It got me thinking. The economy is probably an important issue, and one that I admit I don’t really understand. Because of this I’ve always voted on social issues: stuff I can wrap my head around. Marriage equality is important because gay people deserve the same rights as anyone else. Marijuana should be legalized because we are imprisoning too many people for a “crime” that the vast majority of people commit; they just had the misfortune of getting caught. Education costs should not be prohibited. Homeless people deserve a place to live. Women should have the right to bodily autonomy. Transgender people should not have to worry about discrimination. Women who are coerced into prostitution should be protected and women who want to be sex workers should have that right. People should have access to healthcare regardless of how deep their pockets go.

These are all issues that our society is grappling with and for the most part they seem to be supported by the left and rejected by the right.

In the current US election campaign, I hear Republicans talking about the economy a lot more than Democrats. It’s similar in Canada: I hear a lot more from the conservatives about economic and business issues and a lot more from the NDP and Green Party about social issues.

So it makes me wonder, who actually casts their vote based on the economy?

It seems to me that if your primary concern is the economy, then you haven’t really had to deal with a government or society that seems intent on trampling your rights. If your biggest concern is whether your company can make more money with the Republican tax plan, or if your biggest problem is that you can’t afford the lifestyle you used to have then you are privileged in a lot of ways that allow you to ignore how the right is taking away the rights of the rest of us.

If you’re gay, you have to worry about bigots trying to pass constitutional amendments to prevent you from getting married. If you’re in prison for minor drug offenses, you’re probably concerned about the hypocrisy of the people who put you in there. If you can’t afford an education, you have to worry about how to get a good job in a society that increasingly requires a post-secondary education. If you’re homeless you probably have to worry about whether your local shelter has enough beds and food. If you’re a woman, you might have to worry about the long term consequences of if you have a child you’re not ready for. If you’re trans, you probably have to worry about whether the government will let you get on a plane or whether they’ll harass you because you don’t “look man/woman enough”. If you’re a sex worker you probably have to worry about your safety and ability to rely on law enforcement if you’re in danger. If you have cancer you need to worry about whether you can get the chemotherapy that you need to stay alive.

In my opinion, these issues are way more pressing than which candidate gives the best tax cuts.

I’m not saying that the economy is unrelated to these issues: clearly it is as government needs ways to fund a lot of these things (or in some cases is actively wasting money on suppressing the disadvantaged, for example money spent on imprisoning people for drug possession). But if your primary concern when you cast your ballot is which party will better stimulate the economy, then you probably haven’t had to spend any part of your life worrying about whether the party you were voting for was going to turn around and try to stomp you and people like you down and out of society once they’re in power.

A Challenge

I posted this on my Facebook the other day:

Challenge: Explain Tom Bombadil to someone who has never read Tolkien without him sounding like the stupidest thing ever.

Please discuss.

No, seriously, who is this guy?