‘Born This Way’ Narratives Hurt Bi People

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One really common argument about gayness is that we should accept gay people because it isn’t a choice. “Who would choose to be gay?” the argument runs. “If you’re gay, you’d experience homophobia, which can lead to rejection from your family and friends, discrimination in housing and on the job, and sometimes even violence. Therefore, it could not possibly be a choice. No one would choose gayness.”

 

My mother responded to me coming out with “oh, well, you’re bi, you should just choose to be straight, then. It would be a lot easier and you wouldn’t have to face any homophobia.” I think that my mother probably intended to be compassionate: after all, she’s a nice liberal who doesn’t consider herself to be homophobic in any way. But this still was, mm, not exactly a great way to respond to me coming out. And I’ve met quite a few other bisexuals whose parents responded similarly.

I put the blame for that response squarely on “no one would choose to be gay” discourse. If you believe sincerely that gay people should be accepted because they didn’t choose it, because no one would live a gay life if they had another option, what happens to those of us who could be straight, if only we lied and repressed part of ourselves? Why would the compassionate response to us coming out be anything other than shoving us back in the closet as quickly as we can, for fear we might experience the tremendous suffering that is being queer? If no one would choose to be gay, then when we choose to be gay, we must be misinformed or simply making a mistake.

Make no mistake, “I’m just concerned about the bigotry you’ll experience!” is, well, bigotry. Well-intentioned, kind bigotry, to be sure. But if you say to a bisexual person “I’m just concerned about the rejection you’ll face as an openly queer person!”, you’re, well, rejecting them. You are saying that someone should hide a core aspect of themselves, should lie about a fundamental aspect of their experience. That is the thing you are doing.

(This is by no means a phenomenon that only bisexuals experience. People who disapprove of interracial relationships quite often justify their disapproval by citing all the other people who disapprove and might cause trouble. In fact, some people in interracial relationships have the experience that the only people who are remotely jerks to them at all are the ones who are trying to protect them from jerks by getting them to break up.)

But I think if we are going to get people’s nice straight liberal parents to stop responding to their coming out in that fashion, we’re going to have to shift the way we talk to nice straight liberals about LGBT issues. We’ve got to switch it to “sometimes, being gay is fucking miserable; sometimes, being gay is really awesome. Over time, the misery-awesomeness ratio has been moving more in favor of awesomeness. It doesn’t matter whether or not someone chose to be gay. The reason we should accept them is that being gay is not actually inherently any worse than being straight. The only reason they’re any different is because some people decided to be douchebags, and we’re not going to let the douchebags get their way and chase everyone into the closet. And because we didn’t do that, the douchebags are losing, and soon it won’t be worse at all.”

On Lesbians Who Like Penises

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Erika Moen has given some legitimately bad sex advice recently, and there is Drama on Tumblr about it, which means I now have to see dumb criticisms of Erika Moen in addition to the legitimate criticism of “please do not provide inaccurate and dangerous information in your sex education comic.”

So this comic includes a woman who is described as follows: “enjoys romantic and sexual relationships with women, loves to suck and be fucked by cocks.” This has been described on Tumblr as “Erika Moen characterizing bisexual women as people who enjoy romantic and sexual relationships with women but love to suck and be fucked by cocks.”

Except that Erika Moen never said that that woman was bisexual. Not once! All she said is that the woman in question has romantic and sexual relationships with women, and also likes sucking cock.

First of all, there is nothing in that description that implies the woman is having sex with men at all. Some women have cocks. A woman who likes cocks that belong to women but does not like cocks that belong to men is, in fact, a lesbian. To call her bisexual is being unnecessarily confusing for everyone, such as the men who might think she’s interested in sucking their cocks.

Second, you might protest, “I am a bisexual, and my sexual orientation isn’t remotely reducible to liking women and cocks. I have romantic and sexual relationships with men, women, and nonbinary people!” That’s great for you. I am absolutely certain that, in the event you were a character in an Erika Moen comic, the little arrow pointing to you would say “likes romantic and sexual relationships with women, men, and nonbinary people.” But that arrow didn’t say that, and it certainly didn’t say “all bisexuals are interested in romantic relationships with women and also giving blowjobs.” It said that there exists at least one woman who is (by implication, only) interested in romantic-sexual relationships with women, and also likes giving blowjobs (by implication, to men).

This does exist! There are, in fact, people in this world who don’t want to date men, who could really take or leave the male form, but who for whatever reason are really turned on by penises (and of course the converse for women). I’ve, like, met them. Now, they are of course a tiny minority, but so are the other groups she’s talking about: there aren’t actually a whole ton of bisexual enbies who like pegging and are dating cis men either, myself aside. The idea of that part of the comic is “human sexuality is wonderfully diverse and as long as you aren’t being mean whatever you do is fine!”

Now, you may think, in defiance of all logic, that every other polymorphously perverse variant of human sexuality exists, but by God there are no women who are turned on by male penises but who aren’t attracted to men. That may be where you draw the line of implausibility. That may be where you say “no, your fetish is fake and you are lying.” To that, I respond that “some people turned on by multiple kinds of genitals, not turned on by multiple genders” is far more plausible than, say, latex fetishism, without even getting to the more outré areas of human sexuality.

Or you might think that while those women may exist, the general point of Erika Moen’s comic doesn’t apply to them– being turned on by men’s penises without being attracted to men in general is bad and wrong and they should stop. I think this is a silly argument. Of course it is wrong to lead someone on about whether you’re attracted to them; instead, you should clearly communicate that you are turned on by penises, but not really attracted to men in general. But there are, in fact, quite a lot of men who would be perfectly okay with this situation and even aroused by it.

You might argue that only being aroused by someone’s genitals is “objectifying”, which I take to mean that it is wrong to have sex with someone and treat them like just a body without a mind attached, to not pay attention to their subjectivity and agency and autonomy and so on. But I also feel that if not being attracted to someone causes you to ignore their subjectivity and agency, then that is a personal problem that not everyone else has. The penis is the only part some people might be aroused by, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only part they’re going to pay attention to; of course a good sexual partner will care about whether everyone involved enjoys themselves and is making a free and informed choice.

Or you may think that while those women may exist, and their sexuality is fine, but we shouldn’t talk about their existence, even in a context that makes it perfectly clear that they’re a tiny minority. That I consider to be appalling.

I mean, some straight people might read Erika Moen’s comic and get confused and think that female bisexuality is the condition of wanting to fall in love with women and suck men’s cocks. (That would be a refreshing change from straight people thinking that female bisexuality is the condition of wanting to fall in love with men and eat women’s pussies.) However, an earnest and well-meaning straight person would look at the overwhelming amount of evidence that bisexual women do, in fact, fall in love with men, and get themselves straightened out. The real issue we need to be concerned about here is people who think that it is any of their business whether other people are ‘fake’ or not, that they are allowed to mistreat people whose consensual sex lives don’t fit their standards, and generally that they get a say in other people’s sexualities. Those people are going to wander around causing trouble regardless of what they do or do not believe. The fundamental problem is not that they think some women want to marry women and fuck men. The fundamental problem is that they think they think other people’s consensual sex lives are any of their business.

I am sick and fucking tired of people who want to throw people under the bus in the hopes of appeasing assholes. My line here is “if you personally are happy with your sex life, and it contributes to your growth and fulfillment as a human being, it is okay”; my line is “you don’t have to justify your sexual choices to me or to anyone.” My enemy is people who do not believe this. My goal is to get them to agree with me about the fundamental issue here, not to get them to grudgingly admit that this or that group is maybe okay.

Furthermore, representation actually matters. It matters, for those of us who are completely invisible, to see that people like us exist. Imagine the tremendous struggle it would be for any lesbian to come to terms with being turned on by men’s penises. Compulsory heterosexuality is still alive and well. There are more than enough people who are happy to say “if you think you might want to give a blowjob, it means you have to be willing to get married to men and have children”; there is more than enough pressure on lesbians to become attracted to men; it is difficult enough for a woman to articulate a lesbian identity. It helps for someone to say “look, if you want to give a dude a blowjob, all that means is that you want to give a dude a blowjob. It doesn’t mean you need to date men, or fall in love with them, or marry them. It doesn’t even mean that you’re sexually attracted to them in general, as opposed to having a fetish for a particular body part. And if you think your experiences, taken as a whole, are best expressed by the term ‘lesbian’, you have a perfect right to it.” And frankly I care more about the happiness and self-acceptance of actual queer women than I do about whatever nonsense straight people might think up.

EA Global Notes: Starting Projects Workshop

This is a writeup of my notes on a talk given by Brian Kateman, founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, on marketing and public relations for effective altruism.

The first stage of any new project is information-gathering. Get to know a lot of people starting related projects: you can ask them to go out for a coffee, Skype with you, or call you on the phone. You never know where initial conversations are going to go; while some are going to be a dud, a lot of people can provide useful advice or help. Don’t be scared! People are usually excited and receptive: they love being able to share their insight and knowledge. Aim high: think about the presidents of organizations, great documentarians, and so on. They’re probably a lot more accessible than you think.

In this initial stage, create a platform to get people excited: for instance, a basic yet cool website, a prototype of a product, or an outline for a research initiative. Come up with something that looks exciting and awesome.

It’s okay to think that you’re awesome and it’s worthwhile for people to talk to you. What you’re doing matters, and you have to believe it’s a good use of their time for influential people who know and do a lot more than you do to talk to you. It’s totally fine to come from a place of doubt and insecurity, because people like being mentors and giving advice. But you have to be enthusiastic about your idea: if you think your idea is stupid, other people are going to think your idea is stupid too.

It’s important to develop social proof and authority. People base their behavior on the behavior and actions of others, so build social proof into your projects early on. For instance, Brian Kateman reached out to experts for testimonials. Don’t start with super-high-profile people– after all, there’s no reason for them to help you– but you can work your way up incrementally: Kateman started with Peter Singer, whom he knew through his connections in the effective altruism movement, and then used Singer’s endorsement to get endorsements from people like Richard Dawkins. It is always better to go for it than not to go for it. Make the ask. There’s no reason to be nervous. Once you have social proof, build it into your messaging and pitch.

Authority is seeming like you know what you’re talking about. Appear to be an expert, and get the initial credibility. For instance, Kateman got a TEDx talk by luck really early on, which made him look like an expert.

There is no one in the world you can’t reach if you’re proactive and smart enough about it. It’s possible to just guess people’s email: make a spreadsheet with a bunch of different variations of their name. Firstname.lastname@gmail.com is very common. You can also go to events you’ll know they’ll be at, like book signings or lectures or EA Global. Don’t stalk people: if you’ve talked to someone and they’re not interested, drop it. But feel free to send followup emails every now and then. Remember, they’re not celebrities, they’re just people.

Be willing to help your connections! By the principle of reciprocity, people are more willing to help you if you’ve helped them. If other people are promoting your pet project, promote theirs; if you have knowledge about some topic they’re curious about, share it with them. And try to approach your networking from a perspective of intentionally building up relationships with awesome people: it’s not about what they do for you, it’s about getting to talk to really cool people who are doing good things for the world.

It’s important to grow your platform and scale up through online advertising, conferences, social media, and traditional media.

The best way to get media attention is a good press release and a story to tell. You can do tactics all day long, but if your story is boring or sucks no one is going to write about it. Find reporters who have covered similar stories. Get to know them and email them; connect with them on LinkedIn. Try writing reporters fan letters: “I liked your article about X Related Thing, keep me in mind if you ever want to talk about Y Pet Project.”

To find their email, you can make a spreadsheet like that one above (be sure to try variations like @nyt.com), look for their emails on the newspaper’s webpage (Washington Post has them available), or buy media lists (although those can be quite expensive). To message a bunch of different people at once, use a mail merge: this automatically fills in key information like the person’s name and newspaper, so you only have to send one email to reach ten thousand reporters.

Smaller notes: Keep your elevator pitch short. Give yourself an impressive-sounding title. Sincerely compliment people like crazy: everyone loves to be appreciated. Don’t be ashamed to namedrop: if Richard Dawkins has endorsed your nonprofit or Peter Singer emails you regularly, say so. Read Robert Cialdini’s Influence for more advice; it’s a tremendously insightful book.

Negative Emotions Are Like Foot Pain

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Negative emotions are like having a pain in your foot.

You can have a pain in your foot for a lot of different reasons. Maybe your shoes don’t fit. Maybe you walked too much yesterday. Maybe you have a corn or a callus. Maybe your foot is broken. Maybe you have arthritis. Maybe you have nerve damage in your feet so it sends you pain signals even when nothing is wrong. It’s important to investigate, figure out exactly what is wrong, and fix it.

It is a bad idea to go “foot pain is bad, and only bad people have foot pain! Therefore my feet don’t hurt.” If you try that, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to hobble around with a corn for the rest of time. Your foot pain isn’t bad. Whatever’s causing your foot pain is bad, but the foot pain itself is useful! It’s telling you that something is wrong. If you didn’t have any foot pain, you’d never find out when your feet were broken.

It is also a bad idea to go “walking makes my feet hurt, so I am just going to sit on this couch for the rest of time.” Maybe it’s actually your shoes, and if you stopped trying to never wear anything but ballet boots you’d be able to walk fine. Maybe you need to do some physical therapy exercises to get your feet to feel better, even though they hurt; sometimes you need to push through your pain. It’s important to push through your foot pain in a smart way, though; some things that are beneficial hurt, but not everything that hurts is beneficial.

So consider, say, jealousy.

You can feel jealous for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you feel insecure that your partner will find someone a lot smarter and prettier and better than you and then leave you. Maybe your partner isn’t taking enough time for you; you feel lonely and neglected. Maybe your partner gets to do all kinds of cool stuff with his long-distance partner, and the last four conversations you had with him were all about the laundry, and you feel annoyed because you bet he never talks with his long-distance partner about laundry. Maybe you’re naturally monogamous, and trying to be poly, and you feel like your partner dating someone else takes away the specialness of your relationship.

(This comes from a polyamorous context, obviously, but I suspect it should be applicable to monogamous people– after all, nothing about monogamy says you can’t be insecure, neglected, or envious.)

And all of those reasons have different solutions. Maybe you need to work on your sense of self-worth and security, so that you don’t worry your partner will leave. Maybe you need to say to your partner “I want to spend more time with you– let’s have a date night once a week.” Maybe you need to remind yourself that you and your partner’s long-distance partner both have an identical amount of cool stuff, it’s just that yours are spread out over a year while his are crammed into a week when he’s in town, and the latter isn’t actually better. Maybe you need to stop being poly.

It is a bad idea to say “jealousy is bad, and only bad people are jealous! Therefore I’m not jealous.” Jealousy isn’t bad. The cause of your jealousy might very well be bad, but the jealousy itself is useful! It’s telling you that something is wrong. If you didn’t have any jealousy, you’d just run around with neglected relationship needs and no sense of self-worth for the rest of time.

It is also a bad idea to go “when you talk to men by yourself I feel jealous, so you can’t ever talk to men by yourself ever again.” You might not be dealing with the actual problem: maybe the actual problem is that your partner never talks to you about his feelings, which– notably– is not solved by telling him not to talk to other men. The actual issue goes unresolved. And sometimes you have to push through the pain of jealousy: maybe you’re afraid he’ll leave you if he finds someone else attractive. Fear doesn’t go away if you try to avoid it; it only grows. To defeat fear, you have to face it. Of course, that’s dependent on the problem actually being fear: if your problem is that your partner dating other people takes away the specialness, facing them dating other people is not going to fix it. There is no point in going about doing every unpleasant thing, but sometimes it’s a good idea to do some unpleasant things.

You may replace ‘jealousy’ with sadness, fear, anger, disgust, guilt, or shame, as you like.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jerks On The Internet

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ARRRRRGH THIS PERSON IS SAYING SO MANY MEAN THINGS ABOUT ME ON THE INTERNET I AM GOING TO FIGHT THEM AND TELL THEM HOW AWFUL THEY ARE AND ALSO HOW THEIR FEET STINK.

This is a terrible idea. Please reconsider it.

Why? I don’t want to reconsider it. I want to fight that person who is saying mean things about me. 

Personally, I think good rules for one’s social life are the following:

  1. Talk to nice people.
  2. Don’t talk to jerks.

You, my friend, are currently violating rule #2, and because of opportunity cost are probably also violating rule #1.

But the person I’m talking to isn’t actually a jerk.

It happens! Sometimes there is a person who is generally a nice and lovely person, pets dogs, gives to charity, doesn’t have a mean bone in their entire body, but there is just one issue that sets them off and they are completely irrational about it. I have a couple of those issues myself. It can be worth it to try to respond to the person and deescalate– maybe they’re having a bad day, and if you talk to them with kindness and compassion, they’ll chill out. But if they don’t chill out, it’s okay to go “welp, that guy is mostly okay, but he’s just a complete jerk about alpacas.”

(Notably, deescalating does not involve insults, snark, ALL CAPS, or multiple exclamation points. If you feel moved to engage in such behavior yourself, it is probably a bad idea to respond even if they are having a bad day– you’ll only make the situation worse.)

The question to ask yourself is not about the moral character of the person you’re considering arguing with. The question is whether there is any chance that the discussion is going to be productive. If the answer is no, why are you engaging in it?

Because they’re saying mean things about me! I have to stop them from saying mean things about me!

No, you don’t.

All of our instincts are horribly miscalibrated for the Internet. Our genetic instincts are designed for tribes of a hundred and fifty people, in which a person constantly misrepresenting you and going on about how you’re an asshole means you’re going to be ostracized and dead in short order. Our cultural instincts are designed for communities of a few thousand people, in which a person constantly misrepresenting you and going on about how you’re an asshole means you have a serious problem on your hands. The Internet, however, contains literally millions of people, and of those millions of people some of them are going to be dickbags.

Over time, however, I’ve come to notice that the only way that jerks on the Internet can hurt me is if I let them.

Is this some sort of Eleanor Roosevelt shit? No one can make me feel inferior without my consent? That’s not actually how human psychology works.

No, I mean what I said literally. If you’re seeing someone saying mean things about you more than once, it is almost always because you made a decision that lets you see the mean things they’re saying about you. Stop making that decision. It’s a terrible decision.

If someone is sending you nasty messages, block them. If you’re on Tumblr and people keep reblogging them, blacklist their name or unfollow the people who reblog mean things about you. If someone is saying nasty things about you on their personal social media accounts, don’t read the nasty things being said about you. You don’t have to. No one is tying you up and forcing you to read what the douchebag is saying– or if they are, you have a much more serious problem than what someone is or is not saying about you on the Internet.

But what if I actually am a terrible person? I have to check and see if they’re saying some reasonable and valid criticism!

In general, people who actually want you to benefit from their criticism will make an effort to phrase it in a tactful way. People who are calling you a vile hypocrite or writing haiku about how your mom fucked a goat are not trying to improve you as a person. They just don’t like you.

Also, why would you trust the judgment of a person who is writing haiku about whether your mom fucked a goat on the subject of whether you’re a good person? They don’t exactly seem like they’re an expert in the topic of good personhood. Best case scenario, they’re irrational on the topic of you and are likely to condemn things that in a saner moment they would think are fine. Worst case scenario, they’re a terrible person, and the things they condemn are likely to be completely uncorrelated with things that are actually bad.

But what if my friends believe them and none of them talk to me and now I am socially isolated?

It’s possible that your friends will all go ‘wow, I didn’t realize so-and-so was a vile hypocrite, now I’m going to mock them mercilessly as well.’ In that case, your problem is not that a jerk is saying mean things about you. Your problem is that you have terrible friends. It is a basic requirement for friendship that they don’t agree with people saying unfair and mean things about you. You should, if anything, feel grateful for the douchebag for enlightening you about how terrible your friends are, so you didn’t have to find it out when facing some actually important issue.

But what if the harassment explodes and I become a trending topic on Twitter because of all the millions of people who want to tell me how terrible I am? Or what if the person is a stalker and eludes my attempts to block him?

It’s true that I’m tacitly assuming that the jerk on the Internet is going to stay one jerk, and not turn into a thousand jerks where you can’t block all of them and some of them might try to get you fired from your job. In the latter case, you have a serious problem. And you might get a very determined stalker who eludes your attempts to block them. However, it is very rare for isolated jerks on the Internet to transform into thousands of jerks or a stalker; the vast majority of the time, blocking the person and no longer reading their stuff will end the issue.

The question to ask is what benefit you’re getting out of the conversation. Talking to stalkers only encourages them. And preventing the one jerk from turning into thousands of jerks implies that you can get the one jerk to stop writing goat fucker haiku about you through reasoned argument and/or insults. So far, I have never actually seen a case of this working. It is hard to argue someone out of being completely irrational on a particular issue, and even harder to argue them out of being a dickbag.

You’re saying I should just let the jerk GET AWAY WITH IT?

No, I’m saying that the jerk should experience the natural consequence of their actions, i.e., nobody wants to talk to jerks except for other jerks. This is a reasonable and proportional consequence for assholishness, which– crucially– does not require you to pay attention to them at any point.

Actually, I’m a supporter of an important cause that that jerk is slandering!

Well, then, it might possibly be worthwhile to talk to a random jerk on the Internet. However, when you do this, remember that you are advancing the cause. You are not arguing to convince the random jerk. You’re arguing to convince someone who happens to be reading your blog. It’s really important that you make the people reading the argument think better of your cause, rather than worse of it.

So you have to use all the tactics people use to convince others to be on their side. Respond calmly and kindly to insults– ideally with a little bit of not-mean-spirited humor. Be willing to point out times you agree with someone. Don’t lecture: ask questions and let the other person draw conclusions. Look at things from their point of view. Leave them an easy way out where they can admit being wrong without losing face. Unfortunately, all of those are really hard when you’re angry! If you’re not going to be capable of doing that, step away from the argument. It’s bad enough that someone is slandering your important cause; there’s no point making it worse.

So what, I’m NOT supposed to get angry that someone is saying mean things about me? 

No, you can totally get angry if you want to. However, continuing to interact with the jerk is a bad way of responding to your anger. Instead, you can try a bunch of other coping mechanisms! You can take a warm bath and light a scented candle and do progressive muscle relaxation and the rest of that froo-froo self-care stuff. You can distract yourself with a sad movie, music that makes you happy, or watching stand-up comedy. You can angrily clean your room (highly recommended). You can pull the covers over your head and refuse to get out for the entire morning. You can complain to your friends about them, but only if that won’t increase the temptation to respond (it always does for me). It’s probably a bad idea to vent, as that seems to increase anger.

I sense a secret evil motivation here.

I totally have one! Some people are just dickbags, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Dickbags gonna dickbag. But in my experience the #1 cause of preventable assholery on the Internet is that someone feels like they’ve got to respond to every asshole who drives them up the fucking wall, because they have to SHOW THE ASSHOLE THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS and PUNISH ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR and KEEP ALL THEIR FRIENDS FROM ABANDONING THEM or what-the-fuck-ever. Naturally, when you’re angry, you have really shitty judgment about whether your tactics for engaging with someone are (a) the sort of thing you approve of in your better moments, a reflection of the kind of person you want to be (b) going to accomplish your goals, like, at all. Therefore, not only will the tactic recommended in this FAQ keep you from interacting with jerks, it will also help reduce the number of jerks on the Internet by keeping you from being one.

Ozy, you are terrible at not responding to jerks on the Internet.

Why do you think I wrote the FAQ?

Ethicists Are Less Ethical

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The research of philosopher Eric Shwitzgebel appears to show that ethicists are less ethical. Katja Grace argues that that’s exactly what you ought to expect. Since ethicists are supposed to change our understanding of ethics, we should expect ethicists to behave unethically according to our common-sense understanding of ethics. If not, why are we employing them?

However, I think her argument is flawed.

There are two minor flaws. First, ethicists tend to behave less ethically across a wide variety of different measures. While it might be true that it is morally obligatory to talk during American Philosophical Association presentations, in spite of the general consensus that people who talk during presentations are dickbags, it would be very strange if it were also equally obligatory to steal ethics books, slam doors, and leave your trash behind in conference rooms. Surely common sense morality has to be right about something. In addition, as far as I am aware, these issues are rarely addressed in ethical debate; as far as I am aware, ethicists do not generally work on the subject of whether it is morally obligatory to talk during presentations, and thus it would be very strange if they’d collectively decided that it was.

Second, Shwitzgebel also included peer ratings of the ethics of ethicists. Presumably, if ethicists were consistently behaving according to a morality that makes more sense than common-sense morality, they would be rated by their peers as more ethical, not about the same. (Unfortunately, Shwitzgebel does not include a breakdown of whether ethicists believe other ethicists are more ethical than non-ethicists do, so it is possible that non-ethicist philosophers simply haven’t gotten the memo.)

More importantly, Katja Grace’s argument depends on eliding the difference between unethical acts and ethically neutral acts. Most formulations of ethics– “everything not permitted is forbidden” utilitarianism aside– have a category for acts that ethics doesn’t care about much at all. Ethics does not have a strong opinion on whether I drink coffee, tea, milk, or nothing in the morning. Ethics research might very well say that an act believed to be unethical is actually ethical, but it might also very well say that an act believed to be ethically neutral is ethical. Indeed, several famous points of disagreement between ethicists and non-ethicists fall in the latter category– most notably charity donations and vegetarianism.

Most people see eating meat as a morally neutral action and donating large amounts of money to charity as, if not neutral, certainly not obligatory. Ethicists are more likely than the general public to believe that eating meat and not donating to charity are both wrong. Nevertheless, the evidence appears to suggest that ethicists are statistically indistinguishable from non-ethicists in their meat consumption and charity donation habits. This is frankly kind of embarrassing, because you’d think at least the Peter Singer fans would drive up the average.

In conclusion, I think it is still probably true that thinking about ethics doesn’t make you a better person.

Against Steelmanning

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I hate the word ‘steelmanning.’

Steelmanning refers to arguing with the best possible version of someone’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented. Put like that, it sounds really good! After all, we all think it’s important not to misrepresent people [citation needed]; trying to present the best possible version of someone’s argument is good.

The problem is that every time I’ve seen the word ‘steelman’ used, it’s referring to one of two things.

In the least obnoxious case, Alice misinterprets and strawmans Bob’s argument, and then presents the argument Bob actually made as a steelman. That kind of steelmanning can feel really frustrating and condescending: not only is this person strawmanning you, but they’re also acting like you’re an idiot and they’re so much better than you for being able to think of the argument you actually made. However, it’s not that bad, because at least Alice does eventually get around to arguing with something that Bob actually said, however self-deceptive and strawmanny she is in the process. The best way to eliminate this sort of steelmanning is just to ask “did you mean [insert steelman argument here]?”

In the most obnoxious case, Alice doesn’t actually understand Bob’s argument at all. Often, there are fundamental worldview differences: for instance, Bob might be a Marxist, while Alice is not only a liberal but does not realize that non-liberals exist at all. That sort of steelmanning can feel like looking at your beliefs distorted in a funhouse mirror: Bob plaintively cries “but I don’t actually believe in autonomous individuals making decisions uninfluenced by society!” as Alice continues “now, the strongest form of ‘exploitation,’ I think, is that sometimes workers aren’t in a good bargaining position compared to employers, which can be totally solved by a universal basic income…”

That form of steelmanning is actively harmful to epistemic charity and to careful thought. Instead of understanding that people believe things differently from you, you’re transforming everyone into stupider versions of yourself that don’t notice the implications of their own beliefs. In fact, this kind of steelmanning is a form of strawmanning.

You can say “but neither of those are actually steelmanning! Real steelmanning is being able to put other people’s viewpoints in words they themselves find more compelling than their own arguments!” However, that is an extraordinarily rare and difficult skill; even most people who do it once can’t do it consistently. Saying “to steelman position X…” should be interpreted the same way as saying “to express perfect loving kindness for all beings…” It’s certainly a nice ideal which people might want to approach, and some people even manage to pull it off sometimes, but it’s a bit arrogant to declare that you’re definitely doing it. Even when you think you are, you usually aren’t.

What are the alternatives to steelmanning?

First, seek to understand the actual viewpoints people you disagree with are actually advocating.

Second, seek out intelligent and well-informed advocates of viewpoints you disagree with. You don’t have to make up what your opponents believe! As it happens, you have many smart opponents!

Third, whenever possible, try to switch conversations from a debate focus to a collaborative truth-seeking focus. This is best in one-on-one conversations between people who trust each other. You should be able to say “hm, but I’ve just noticed this piece of evidence against my position” without the person talking to you jumping on you and saying “ha! This proves I’m right! You admit it! I win I win!”– and they’ll do you the same favor.

Everyday Feminism Is Bad At Feminist Theory Again

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[cw: descriptions of abuse, slurs]

There is a bad article on Everyday Feminism about masculinity again, and I’m complaining about it.

First: in my opinion, it is incredibly dangerous to talk about abuse as a normal thing that people typically do. Most people have never abused a partner. This is important because normalization of abuse is a common abusive tactic. One of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships is that they think “oh, well, all men are abusive. If I leave this guy who hits me, I’ll just find another guy who hits me– and I already know what sets this one off. There’s no point in leaving.” Normalization of abuse is also a tactic abusers use to justify abuse to themselves: they think “oh, everyone mouths those platitudes about respect in public, but in private every woman calls her husband a cunt and backhands him when he does something wrong– you have to keep men in line.” To counter this, we need to point out that while a lot of relationships are unhealthy and a lot of people deal with their feelings in suboptimal ways, most people are not abusive. Abuse is not the same thing as being a douchebag!

Second: I dislike Everyday Feminism’s conflation of masculinity and manhood. Not all men are masculine! Actually, I think the use of the word ‘masculine’ tends to conflate a whole bunch of different categories into one, and ought to be replaced with terms like “gender-conforming”, “male-socialized”, “identifying strongly with being a man”, or whatever else you would like to talk about. We can keep ‘masculine’ as a word for the burdensome social role.

It also seems unreasonable to me to discuss masculinity without talking about the work that has been done in men’s studies about the different kinds of masculinity. The masculinity of a poor black kid from the ghetto is different from the masculinity of an upper-middle-class white jock from suburbia, which in turn is different from the masculinity of a gay autistic man. All of these have very different relationships to violence, emotions, and destructiveness. The author specifies “cis masculinity”, but ignores other dimensions on which masculinity can differ.

That’s particularly important when you talk– as this article does– about masculinity as fundamentally oppressive and violent. Depending on what you mean by ‘masculinity’ and on how radical feminist I’m feeling today, I probably agree with you! Masculinity, cross-culturally, does have a current of violence: sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, but always present. And the male gender role and the behavior it leads to causes tremendous harm to men, women, and nonbinary people. But it is extremely important whenever you talk about the oppressiveness of masculinity to be completely clear that you are not calling all gender-conforming men oppressive and violent. Most gender-conforming men are not violent. And gender-conforming men are victims of sexism as well: the limiting nature of the male gender role affects them. By conflating manhood and masculinity, this author insults the very people he is trying to reach out to.

Third: I do support the project of men figuring out the ways in which they are complicit in the harm caused by patriarchy. I also support the project of women and nonbinary people figuring out the ways in which they are complicit in the harm caused by patriarchy. As it turns out, women and nonbinary people are sexist too. Just because you are harmed by a system does not mean you play no role in upholding it.

But this article adopts entirely the wrong approach. I want men to become less sexist because I think it will help other people, yes. But I also want them to become less sexist because I think it will help them. It hurts people to have to repress their emotions. It hurts people to feel like their sexuality is innately violent, innately predatory, and that they must repress it to keep from harming others. It hurts people to not have any close, intimate friendships outside of their romantic relationship. It hurts people– most of all– to wind up in situations where they must either be violent or become a victim of violence, a situation all-too-common among marginalized men.

I want male feminists to be selfish. An unselfish male feminist is likely to stop once he’s done enough that he can salve his ego, or become burned out because of how much patriarchy there is to fight, or seek his rewards in being the Good Man, the man who Gets It, the ones who gets adulations from all the cool feminists and is free to mock any woman who disagrees. A male feminist who sees that feminism is benefiting him personally will actually do the work. He has motivation.

Fourth: I disagree that much of this allegedly common behavior is common. I have a firm policy of not spending time with people who lie to me repeatedly, or call me names, or treat me poorly in order to keep me wrapped around their finger, or who yell at me, or who refuse to listen to my ‘no’, or who violate my privacy, or who limit my interaction with other friends, or who refuse to take my viewpoints and needs into account. So far, this does not seem to have resulted in me joining a lesbian feminist commune. In fact, most of my community is male!

Now, it is possible that my friends are this odd little corner of perfectly nice men and all the other men are running around lying to their partners, violating their privacy and boundaries, and calling them nasty names. Certainly there is a significant subset of the population that is doing so. But at least from my perspective the men who are that cruel to their partners are a minority.

Saying “all men struggle with urges to be abusive” is bad in a couple different ways. For one thing, it’s extraordinarily insulting to men who aren’t abusive and who have no desire to be abusive. Some men who are particularly prone to guilt issues may wind up hating themselves for being abusive, even though they have never done anything abusive. Other men may have a difficult time setting boundaries or standing up to their controlling partners because they’re afraid that that makes them abusive; after all, abuse happens to people of all genders, and “I’m not abusive! You’re the real abuser!” is a common abusive tactic.

Even if you don’t care about hurting men, this discourse lets abusers off the hook. If not abusing people is a difficult process of unlearning that all cis men struggle with and very few have completed, then it’s not that blameworthy to call your wife a cunt. After all, all cis men want to do it! It’s certainly not good, but it’s understandable giving in to temptation. On the other hand, if not abusing people is a basic expectation that the vast majority of people are fully capable of achieving, then when you call your wife a cunt, you are doing something exceptionally bad, something most men do not do and are not tempted to do.

Fifth: because this is an Everyday Feminism article, the first suggestion on how one can become less of an abuser is ‘eliminate violent and oppressive language,’ a section in which the word ‘bitch’ is called ‘the b word’, as if we are all five years old and afraid of having our mouths washed out with soap. Look, guys, I occasionally use the word ‘bitch.’ It’s a satisfying word. Has a good mouthfeel. It turns out there is nothing about the word ‘bitch’ that means you have to abuse anyone.

Of course, it is a bad idea to call your partner a stupid bitch. (Unless you happen to enjoy insulting each other, and this is a mutually agreed upon flirting or conflict resolution strategy that improves both of your lives.) But switching to saying “you foolish asshole!” doesn’t actually improve the situation. The problem is not the language you use while insulting your partner. The problem is that you’re insulting your partner.

Finally: I don’t know what it means to say that a lot of male friendships, instead of being transgressive, “reify patriarchy.” To reify means to treat an abstract concept as if it is a concrete thing. I have no idea how a friendship could do that. Do you, perhaps, mean “is patriarchal”?

On Personal Experience In Social Justice Activism

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I recently read this excellent personal essay about transness and how alienated one closeted trans woman feels from feminist discourse, and it has me thinking about discourse norms.

Social justice tends to emphasize people’s beliefs coming from their position in society. The previous belief tended to be that people of color, women, disabled people, LGBA people, etc. were biased, because they were involved in the issue, while white people, men, abled people, straight people etc. could have an objective view on things. Of course, no one has an objective view on anything, all our viewpoints are inextricably linked to our positionalities, and we just have to muddle along as best we can to get at objective truth. (The anti-social-justice reader who is about to object to this paragraph should reflect on how many of their beliefs are a product of having the positionality ‘human.’)

At the same time, marginalized people have access to a certain kind of knowledge that privileged people do not. There are quite a lot of cis academics who have a better understanding than I do of the etiology of transness, trans people cross-culturally and in history, the causes of transphobia, etc., but not one of them has felt the icicle-in-the-heart of being thoughtlessly misgendered. Of course, it is quite possible to have experienced that and also be wrong about things– just as it is possible to be an expert in the neuroscience of gender variance and be wrong about things– but just like it would be a mistake to leave neuroscientists out of the discussion of transness, it is also a mistake to leave trans people out. For these reasons, social justice tends to prioritize the opinions of marginalized people.

On the other hand, the sensible viewpoint that marginalized people’s opinions should be prioritized can create a culture of obligate self-disclosure. Marginalized identities are often a source of great pain. For many marginalized identities, such as abuse survivor or intersex person, disclosing your marginalization can mean disclosing private information that people feel uncomfortable sharing with strangers. In many cases, such as mental illness and queerness, a person may be a member of a marginalized group and not know it themselves. And of course being publicly a member of a marginalized group sets you up for all sorts of bad experiences, ranging from familial rejection to harassment to well-meaning people attempting to keep you from going to hell.

So what does this mean?

  • Any person you talk to about homophobia could be a closeted gay or bisexual person.
  • Any person you talk to about poverty could be poor or have grown up poor.
  • Any person you talk to about transphobia could be trans, whether stealth or closeted, or a non-transitioning gender dysphoric person.
  • Any person you talk to about sexism could be female. (And for the MRAs in the audience, they could be male too.)
  • Any person you talk to about disability could be disabled– whether neurodivergent or a person with an invisible physical disability.
  • Any person you talk to about race could be a mixed-race or white-passing person.
  • And online, any person you talk to about any subject could be anything. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Now, you might be thinking, “Ozy, does that mean I am not allowed to criticize anyone for being oppressive?” Of course you can, because marginalized people are routinely oppressive to other marginalized people. You can even criticize them in a snarky or vicious way, if you think that tactic is warranted: it is perfectly reasonable to be snarky about Debi Pearl’s misogyny, in spite of her being a woman. However, it seems wise to me to direct snark at people with stupid ideas, and not people with privileged identities. The ideas, after all, are the bad part.

There are certain tactics I would advise avoiding in one-on-one discussions. For instance, do not tell people what they did or did not suffer; it’s rude and always an asshole move. People can suffer things they don’t tell you about, and being told you didn’t suffer something you did feels like shit. Similarly, don’t tell someone they couldn’t possibly understand X experience because they are privileged; even if they’re not closeted, a lot of experiences are shared across marginalizations anyway. It’s probably wise to avoid speculating about the group membership of people you don’t know very well; there have been far too many awkward cases in which the privileged neurotypical turned out to be a mentally ill person. In general, whenever possible, stick to arguing about facts and evidence, instead of exploring why the person you’re arguing with believes the thing they believe; the latter often winds up condescending.

On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to give everyone the same treatment you would to a person you know is a member of a marginalized group. Think about neuroscience. In general, people will give more weight to the same neuroscience claim coming from a neuroscientist than they would coming from a layperson. Of course, neuroscientists can still be wrong, and non-neuroscientists can still lay out citations to peer-reviewed papers that show their claim is correct. But if you wanted to not disclose that you’re a neuroscientist for some reason– perhaps this identity is the one you mostly use for writing very embarrassing fetish porn– then you’re not going to get the respect people give to neuroscientists. Similarly, people give more weight to the same claim about what being trans feels like when it comes from a trans person, as opposed to a cis person. But if you are not out as trans, you cannot expect to be given that benefit of the doubt.

Book Post for July

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Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America: This man can write. This is one of the few nonfiction books I’ve ever gotten invested in like it was a novel. I was on the edge of my seat: were the call-ins going to work? Would Kennedy soothe the ruffled feathers of Insert Bureaucrat Here, or would they end the program forever? Would he ever be able to convince the cops that his idea works?

Unfortunately, the writing style that makes Don’t Shoot suspenseful also makes it light on things like ‘evidence’ and ‘examination of alternate explanations.’ Don’t expect many references to peer-reviewed journal articles here.

Kennedy argues that open-air drug markets and inner-city homicides are the result of perhaps a few dozen men, and literally no one else likes it. The police want to win the drug war, but don’t know how, instead resorting to failed broken-windows policing and arresting small-time drug users; feeling like failures, they blame the black community for encouraging violence and drugs. The black community, noticing how many of its members are incarcerated or harassed by police and yet drugs and violence still run rampant, conclude that police are racist and not trying hard to get rid of the drugs (perhaps even putting the drugs in the community themselves). Even most of the gang members don’t like the violence; after all, who wants to have a life expectancy of less than twenty-five?

Kennedy’s proposal is essentially identifying gangs that kill people and going after them as hard as they can, arresting gang members for everything for public urination to violation of parole, and telling them that the harassment will stop as soon as the killing does. That way, gang members can save face, and everyone can stop shooting at the same time, without any gang having to unilaterally disarm. In addition, he proposes ending open-air drug markets (which he considers to be considerably more damaging than friend-of-a-friend drug markets, since the latter exist in white suburbs as much as black ghettos) through gathering enough information to arrest the dealers, calling a meeting, and saying “we are not going to arrest you unless you decide to deal in public again.” Kennedy’s suggestions appeal to my worldview: people respond to incentives; people are generally not stupid or evil, but instead behaving in ways that make sense to them given their circumstances. However, perhaps I should be even less likely to agree with something so intuitively appealing.

A Manual For Creating Atheists: The author of this book, Peter Boghossian, apparently makes a habit of three or four conversations per day (!), often with strangers, trying to get them to become more rational. You can be minding your own business, checking out at the grocery store, making small talk with the other people in line, and you mention you’re a naturopath and suddenly this guy is asking you to cite peer-reviewed evidence that it works. I mean, his book is full of advice that seems reasonable about how to do this thing, if you wanted to, but why on earth would you want to?

My response to this book was mostly making a mental note not to sit next to Peter Boghossian on an airplane, before I got to his obnoxiously stupid chapters on unreason in the academy and ways to make faith less acceptable in society. He characterizes academic leftism as accretions on classical liberalism– and before you say “well, maybe he doesn’t mean actual classical liberalism”, he specifically traces the academic left’s origin to John Locke. Someone should perhaps tell him that Marxists hate liberals and the Enlightenment.

Boghossian argues against the DSM saying that culturally accepted beliefs aren’t delusions, presumably because he wants religious faith to more routinely qualify as a delusion. I agree that the ‘culturally accepted belief’ heuristic isn’t exactly principled, but there is an obvious difference between the cluster of psychotics and the cluster of Pentecostals. For instance, one would not expect Pentecostals to stop being religious if they are given anti-psychotic medication. Putting Pentecostals and psychotics in the same category makes the DSM useless for psychiatrists, its actual purpose. Besides, the only obvious alternatives to an unprincipled heuristic are the DSM listing out what beliefs are and aren’t reasonable, or relying on clinical judgment. The former seems rather outside its core competency, and the latter opens up every unpopular belief for pathologization. Does Boghossian want a teenage atheist in the Deep South to be diagnosed with a delusion because he doesn’t recognize the obvious truth of God’s love?

Boghossian’s beliefs about ending oppression in the developing world seem to be of the “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done” variety. He ignores the wide variety of excellent feminist activism in the developing world, from the International Planned Parenthood Federation to Girls Not Brides to postcolonial and Third World feminisms. He pushes for feminist groups to spend more time on condemning Islam, without any examination of whether condemning Islam would actually improve the lives of Muslim and ex-Muslim women in any way (or, indeed, whether it would make them worse). Such feel-good, non-evidence-based activism does not belong in a book that claims to be about skepticism.

Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make A Difference: The best introduction to effective altruism I have ever read. In an engaging and readable style, MacAskill covers standard effective altruist concepts, such as replaceabilty and expected value; the last set of chapters explain clearly what actions you should and should not take, in light of effective altruism. Crucially, there is little to no normative ethics; instead of fussing around with children in ponds, MacAskill assumes that you have at least a little altruistic motivation, and instead focuses on teaching the skills of thinking like an effective altruist.

Even committed EAs can learn a lot from this book. I mostly stopped feeling vaguely guilty about things I wasn’t doing anyway. Buying fair trade has little to no effect on people in the developing world, and may even lower their wages. It doesn’t really matter whether you turn your lights off or unplug your TV; the best methods of reducing your carbon output are flying less, eating less meat, purchasing a mysterious kind of magic called ‘loft insulation’, and buying offsets. Voting, however, is surprisingly important, for much the same reason being vegetarian is (it isn’t that likely that you make the difference between a desired outcome and an undesired outcome, but when you do you get all the credit, so it works out as positive expected value).

My husband is mentioned in this book! And he is in the acknowledgements! My husband is famous.

The Drug Wars In America, 1940-1973: Essential history for libertarians and anyone who’s interested in the operation of American state power or the reasons behind America’s failed drug war. The Drug Wars in America follows how America transitioned from a tax-and-regulation-based model that focused on narcotics to the modern war on drugs. The thesis is essentially that the drug war has never been about eliminating the drug trade, because someone would notice that it wasn’t working. Instead, the drug war serves other purposes of state power: for instance, American foreign policy goals, maintaining the discretion of police even after their professionalization, increasing the profits of drug companies, and policing inner cities. Detailed and well-researched.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing: Why is this classified in ‘Zen Spirituality’ on Amazon? Is it because the author is Japanese? While it does have a spiritual element, the element is clearly Shinto. It’s not the “Japanese art” of anything, also! It’s Marie Kondo’s art of decluttering and organizing! She made it up.

I love this book! Essentially, it’s a reframe of decluttering. Most decluttering defaults to assuming things should be kept and then comes up with rules about what you should discard (e.g. things you don’t use for six months). Konmari, on the other hand, defaults to assuming things should be discarded, and then comes up with rules about what you should keep (e.g. things that ‘spark joy’). You don’t keep things because they’re a present, or they were expensive, or you might use them someday, or you want to be the sort of person who uses them, or because you’re too lazy to throw them out. But on the other hand if you like something and it makes you happy, you get to keep it, even if other people would think it was excessive.

Konmari has a certain animist element which I loved, but which some people might dislike. For instance, she suggests thanking the items you discard for their service to you, greeting your house each day, emptying out your bag each evening so that it gets a chance to rest, and folding your clothes in a way that will make the clothes happy; she talks about how whenever she goes to declutter a house she introduces herself to the house and asks permission first.

Many of the negative reviews seem to be from people who don’t want to declutter. That is an absolutely fine life choice which I do not judge, but I rather wonder why they’re reading a book subtitled ‘The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’ then. I don’t read books about how to cook meat and then go “ugh, zero stars, it was constantly telling me to eat meat and I’m vegetarian.”

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children: I love this book! Definitely on my list of top books about parenting.

Teenagers are notoriously moody, disengaged, and impulsive; as a person goes through puberty, their sleep schedule shifts later, so that they usually want to go to bed around midnight; in spite of this, high schools begin earlier than elementary and middle schools; moodiness, disengagement, and impulsivity are symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation. And then we punish kids for sleeping in class! I think this argument is, in and of itself, enough reason for a person who is capable of doing so to homeschool their teenagers.

Children learning through imitation goes beyond the famous ‘violence in media’. In an experiment in which some children read books about why sibling rivalry is bad for several weeks and some didn’t, the former group had more sibling rivalry. The reason is that to convey the moral ‘sibling rivalry is bad,’ the books of course had to depict siblings arguing with each other– and children learn behaviors through modeling and imitation! If a preschooler sees ten pages of bickering and two of making up, there’s five times as much bickering for them to model themselves after. This suggests a truly wearying task for the parent who wishes to censor their children’s media, because it’s not like Common Sense Media screens for People Behaving In A Non-Violent Yet Annoying To Parents Fashion.

If you’d like to keep children from lying, the best strategy is to model telling the truth yourself (and remember that preschoolers think that being mistaken is the same thing as telling a lie, so apologize if you’re mistaken!), to not teach children to tell social lies, and to make sure that it’s always a better idea to tell the truth than to lie. If they might get punished if they lie, and they will definitely get punished if they tell the truth, then they will of course lie. Your kid is probably good enough at lying that you can’t tell whether they’re lying a lot. All teenagers lie to their parents; the teenagers who lie to their parents the least are the ones who argue with them the most, which the parents find stressful and upsetting. I wonder if reframing the arguments as ‘my teenager trusts me enough to tell me about things they want’ makes that better?

The Three Body Problem: I clearly have an inaccurate model of the censorship opinions of the Chinese government. I would have expected them to heavily censor information about the Cultural Revolution, but literally the first third of this book is a very stirring, evocative argument that the Cultural Revolution is bad. Apparently I am mistaken about Chinese politics! Which makes sense because I don’t know anything about it.

Anyway, this book is great, completely deserving of its Hugo for Best Novel, precisely the sort of richly imagined, well-written, well-worldbuilt, suspenseful, sense-of-wonder science fiction that is the genre at its best. The science is hard as fuck, at least from my position as a non-physicist, and the characters are well-done without distracting from the shiny neat ideas we came here for.

Don’t read the back. It spoils. Actually, avoid the reviews of it too. I don’t know why everyone decided to summarize this story using the shocking twist, but they did, and knowing it made my experience of the book a lot worse.

The Hatred of Poetry: Literary criticism is fun. Lerner argues that poetry is widely disliked because the goals it sets itself (being both a universal song that anyone can relate to and a personal expression of the poet’s soul) are impossible individually, much less together, and thus poetry is disliked because it is never capable of doing the thing it’s trying to do– even though its failures may be beautiful in their very failure. Mostly great as an excuse to read William McGonagall to Topher, who got to the fourth line of The Tay Bridge Disaster before threatening to divorce me to make it stop.

Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed: Please Stop Helping Us appears to be under the impression that a large amount of black violence is caused by use of the n word, gangsta rap, use of non-standard English, and sagging pants. As someone who reclaims slurs that apply to myself, listens to music that glorifies violence, occasionally speaks non-standard English, and sometimes shows people their underwear, and who has never felt the slightest desire to shoot anybody, I suspect there are other causes here.

Please Stop Helping Us claims that parts of the prison-industrial complex such as the crack/powder sentencing disparity aren’t racist because they weren’t originally created for racist reasons, and then turns around and discovers “just because your policy wasn’t intended to be racist doesn’t mean it doesn’t disproportionately negatively affect black people” as soon as they’re talking about the minimum wage. And he talks about how historically black colleges and universities have a very high dropout rate and therefore are failing their students and should be closed, and not three pages later quotes someone who mentions that historically black colleges and universities disproportionately educate poor people who probably wouldn’t have gone to college at all otherwise. Like, gee, maybe that’s relevant in the assessment of whether they’re failing their students? In short, sufficiently dishonest that I do not update my beliefs based on its conclusions.

I Will Fear No Evil: Well, now I suppose I know what transformation fetishists read before the existence of transformation fetish porn. Also, Heinlein’s dirty old man character is obnoxious– I have literally zero desire to be inside the head of one of the men who has sexually harassed me– and he isn’t much better when he’s a trans woman instead.

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