Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Swansea Student Union Bans Pole Fitness But Allows... Naked Calendars.

As we know, I've a little thing this year about puritanism and especially its reappearance among feminists. Yet another example comes to us from Swansea University's Student Union.

They had allowed a pole fitness society to form however in the last few days it has been reported that they have rescinded this decision on the following basis.

Although 'pole fitness' is sold as an empowering activity, we believe that women have been deceived into thinking that this is a way of taking charge of their sexuality and their own decisions. Moreover, we believe that it is just a further debasement of our culture and another sign of a creeping backlash against women's true empowerment.
Isn't it horrific how organisations such as Swansea Student Union and Object think whenever a woman does something they disagree with it (be it strip naked or, heaven forbid, work out) that that woman has been "deceived"? It is becoming more and more like a religion (where us gays have been "deceived" by Satan into thinking our "lifestyle" is acceptable). Funny isn't it how organisations supposedly with women's best interest at heart seek to undermine their free choices and independence "for the greater good".

So because of its representation of "raunch culture", the pole fitness society has been banned. Fine, obviously they are consistently against representations of "raunch culture" in all its forms then. Wait a minute...

Last year the Swansea University's male rowing team stripped naked for a calendar. This year women from the Swansea University's Equestrian Society have stripped naked for a calendar! Of course these are all just a bit of fun (whereas pole fitness actually involves some skill and effort) so these can't possibly be part of raunch culture! Can they? Stripping for cash for charity is quite clearly a derivative of stripper culture and I for one am disgusted that this sort of thing is allowed! ;)

Of course I'm not. It is all good fun. But I have a feeling Swansea University Student's Union's policy is not just silly, which it undoubtedly is, but completely inconsistent. Sigh. That is the way of these things. The Co-op opposes lad's mags but helps support gay magazine award ceremonies and here it is clear this Student Union opposes a keep fit programme whilst allowing people to strip for cash.

Oh well... at least us men still have our freedom. And in keeping with this please check out this rather impressive display of fitness and talent. It's like dancing in the air! Impressive.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Atheists: Don't Be Those Guys!

I'm a confirmed atheist. If you believe in something supernatural I think you are a wrong. I'm not flinging insults here, I even think I'm wrong.

Somethings I particularly hate about most religious folks are their attempts to suppress art, free expression and enforce their worldview on the rest of us. However I have come to realise that religious beliefs are just a human construct and, thus, getting rid of religious belief doesn't really stop puritanical campaigns against art and free expression. Being boring puritans is obviously something that dwells deep within the human psyche, and thus (it turns out) atheists can be killjoys just like anyone else.

Which takes us to the 9/11 Cross argument. Many people will have seen the pictures, or at least heard about, the 9/11 cross (bizarrely some beams that were in a cross shape stayed in a cross shape, it's a miracle!). It is a silly, silly thing and I have to say it was somewhat insulting to the memories of all those who died in the terrorist attacks in New York to have even a small part of their stories overtaken by news of this cross. But they always say funerals are more for the living than the dead, and I suppose that holds up for clean up operations at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 just as well. And, I'd accept, it probably gave some comfort to some people (the ones who weren't dead and quickly being forgotten as 9/11 was hijacked for political and social purposes).

Whatever one may feel about it, it was a part of the narrative of the post-9/11 cleanup and thus the fact it gets included in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum's collection should be fairly uncontroversial. Not for David Silverman of American Atheists who, after losing a court fight to have it removed, had this to say:

"We are confident that we will eventually win this case and that cross will be removed, or atheists will be allowed to have our own symbol in there,"
Fascinating. What symbol did we have? Did the image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster appear in some shattered glass bringing comfort to atheist rescue workers and clean up crew? There is no doubt atheists died in 9/11 (at the hands of religious nutcases no less!). And they will be remembered by their families and by everyone with a heart. Everything that reminds us of that day should be enough of a memory jog of the horrors that befall so many innocent people (of many different beliefs). The whole rest of the collection in that museum is for secular people. I think we can allow Christians a small token of remembrance of an event that happened after 9/11 that meant something to some people.

"What would Jesus do?" guides many believers (supposedly, though I never feel they quite get it right). I tend to follow the far better guide to moral living "What would a professed believer in Jesus do?". Once you know the answer, do the opposite (which is often actually what Jesus would do, but with less Jewish apocalyptic undertones). Don't be those guys. We shouldn't be launching lawsuits or protests because someone, somewhere has two metal beams stuck together in their museum display.

There is a headteacher (sorry, Principal) in the USA currently suggesting Halloween themed celebrations at school are prohibited due to the separation of church and state. Can you imagine how joyless a life it would be without celebrations and fun? School is horrific enough as it is without the need to take away those small moments of fun we allow kids.

Surely I'm not the only atheist pissed that the Statue of Zeus at Olympia is lost to us? When I went to Thailand I was all over their temples, spirit houses and statues. Accepting religious art, holidays and even their expressions of grief doesn't mean we accept their dodgy beliefs or even accept that one can't have inspiring art, holidays and expressions of grief without religion. It is simply a matter of accepting that beauty, horror and fun are part of the human experience and expressed by EVERYONE. So we atheists need to stop pretending that religious history and culture does not exist and accept that it will always be part of humanity (even if religion itself finally disappears).

Once we accept that, we can enjoy that which is to be enjoyed whilst pointing out to anyone who thinks Zeus is/was a real god that they are very wrong.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Hypocrisy Of @TheCooperative Over #LoseTheLadsMags Astounds Me

Yesterday The Co-Operative group advised a gathering of Lose The Lad's Mags supporters in Parliament of why they supported the campaign to remove lad's mags from shops.

This follows their active removal of certain lad's mags from their own shelves. At almost the exact same time as the gathering in Parliament, Attitude Magazine was holding its annual awards ceremony. I was rather staggered to see this little gem (and not just because of the futility of such an empty gesture...)
Yes, you read that right. The same group who have removed lad's mags due to customer complaints feel no sense of irony in supporting a gay magazine's awards ceremony! "But they aren't the same thing!" I hear heteronormative folks scream (especially those who think us gays are nothing but fluffy desexualised little bunnies here for their amusement).

Please do tell me how Attitude Magazine ISN'T sexualising, objectifying and, if you believe the rubbish about sexualisation of adults, "dehumanising" models (NSFW links follow, which I think says a lot!) here or, even more so, here. The front page headline "McFly Go Frat Party Wild" is, of course, a sign of the world of difference between Attitude and Nuts "Real Girls Of Sports Undressed".

Now this isn't to say I'm criticising Attitude magazine. I used to be an avid "reader", but our politics have drawn quite far apart and I don't read it anymore. It serves a purpose for part of our community, just as lad's mags serves a purpose for some young heterosexual and bisexual men (and a few lesbian or bisexual women).

The Co-Operative must be quite right. Their move against lad's mags is not a puritanical campaign (though it has puritanical outcomes), it is instead an ill-thought out move against certain depictions of women with no thought given to why the same sort of depictions of men aren't also treated in the same way. Many supporters of lad's mags state they just want to protect their children from early sexualisation. But they never seem to worry about their kids getting sexualised by gay mags. Funny that... almost as if they haven't really thought this all through....

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Tommy Robinson's Change Of Heart Leads To... More Muslim Apologetics

I've never met Tommy Robinson, but I have a feeling we wouldn't get on. He's spent the last few years leading a bunch of thuggish, football hooligan-esqe malcontents from protest to protest and not saying much when they chant racist slogans. And I'm a unionist snob who dislikes outrageous displays of "Englishness" (you know, where they deface their own flags and treat them like rags... so patriotic!).

So, no, Tommy Robinson may have decided to stop supporting a bunch of yobs but I'd guess we'd still not have that much in common. And speaking of changes of heart... I've not got much hope for Quilliam Foundation when it is led by former Islamist extremists. I'm quite an unforgiving sort really I suppose...

However... Tommy Robinson's recent linking up with the Quilliam Foundation has not brought relief to Muslims it would seem. Far from it. Rather than being relieved Robinson has gravely injured the EDL (perhaps mortally, but I'll believe that when the deface St. George's flags are thrown in the bin) they are angry that he's linked up with a group that they see as opposing Islam generally (rather than just extremism).

Yvonne Ridley compares the tactics of the Quilliam Foundation to McCarthyism, because they keep a list of Muslims they feel are extreme. And Ridley queries their definition of extreme with a ready example of Salma Yaqoob (I can't argue there, Yaqoob seems like a rather decent and principled person) and... Haitham al Haddad. He's just some decent natured guy who wants to criminalise homosexuality. Yes, he would like to "punish" me for falling in love with another man. He's not extreme at all! And that is just one of his rather dodgy positions. So forgive me if I think that having a go at Quilliam Foundation for having a go at al Haddad is a bit like criticising the Stasi (to use a description from her article) for capturing a murderer. I'd say it was a fair cop, even if one disagrees with Quilliam, and it is a very poor attempt at making them seem evil.

Over at the Guardian, Matthew Goodwin engaged in another attempt to use this story to whitewash genuine concerns about Islam in general and especially its more extreme adherents. It stinks, as ever, of the strange way left leaning folk in this country have of putting Islam on a pedestal above the criticism that they they would see as perfectly legitimate when thrown at any other religion.

Lennon plans to establish a new anti-Islamist movement, which we assume will adhere to his slapdash generalisations of sharia law and misinterpretations of the Qur'an.

Goodwin doesn't elaborate on this. Is it really Robinson's (Lennon's) generalisations that are slapdash or al Haddad's? Because I'm pretty sure Robinson would oppose al Haddad's views... and I'm pretty sure al Haddad would claim to be quite in line with both sharia law and the Qur'an. Goodwin goes on to smear those who repent of their views as becoming equally radical in the opposite direction.

This helps explain why so many ex-terrorists and ex-extremists never manage the transition. Instead, they hurl themselves to the other side of the spectrum, becoming just as fanatically obsessed with the promotion of democracy, fighting their former extremist brethren – or selling their latest book.
You know what... I'd quite like more ex-terrorists to become obsessed with democracy, fighting terrorism and selling books. It sounds absolutely DELIGHTFUL. I'm not sure exactly what is wrong with any of those propositions. Apart from the selling books stuff I think Goodwin's just described Peter Tatchell.

Ultimately it seems that Goodwin just doesn't like the concept of anyone being anti-Islamist. He should avoid us secular atheists. We just like to extend our reach and be anti-extreme religious people of all descriptions. What will Goodwin dislike next? Anti-Scientology protesters?

It is quite possible to hate fascism, dislike the tactics of Quilliam, find Tommy Robinson repellant AND dislike Islamists. Unfortunately both Ridley (understandably) and Goodwin have bought into a strangely illogical position of thinking that ANY criticism of a Muslim or Islam is unacceptable and that to oppose racist yobs one must support allsorts of dodgy religious dogma.

Well I wouldn't accept a Christian supporting the stoning of adulterers or the locking up of homosexuals. And I won't be accepting that sort of stuff from any other religion either. All religions should be open to criticism and there should be no special protections for whichever one is flavour of the month with the left.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are! #nationalcomingoutday

Yes, Dear Constant Reader, the USA's "National Coming Out Day" has arrived again. I've already told my own coming out story, over at the other place, and talked here about how coming out is never over,  how coming out shouldn't be glorified and how marriage equality might ease the coming out process.

But Harvey Milk is still, all these years later, the last word on coming out.


Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.

Harvey Milk. He knew his stuff.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Whitstable Times Has A Timely Reminder For Us Homosexual Sinners To "Take Heed". Yes, Really.

You know local newspaper letter pages. Filled with witty/godawful attempts at poetry, insightful local comment and completely moronic witterings (yes, I've had the occasional letter published). And sometimes, just sometimes, you have some letter that is so offensive as to leave you a little speechless.

Well in this case I'd class the following letter in the Whitstable Times as in the "completely moronic" category. Hey, it criticises Stonewall so I'm almost sympathetic!

It isn't as offensive as some letters I've seen, though I'm not really a fan of bronze age magic books. But what is offensive is the header, written by some sub at the Whitstable Times,

"Take heed, all you homosexual sinners"

It boggles the mind as to what was going through that subs head at the time. It really does. Absolutely unbelievable.

It is a silly thing to get annoyed over, but it has really pissed me off. I don't mind your average Christian moaning about all those people falling in love and being happy (MONSTERS!), but I do mind having Bible quotes editorialised to send a message to readers that is quite unacceptable in a local newspaper!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Student Unions Opposing Atheist Freedom Of Expression

Students just aren't what they used to be. Maybe they never were the rebellious, course work shy, last minute crammers stereotypes portray. I remember my brief stint at university being fairly memorable, involving the removal of bras in record time (undefeated champion, I'll have you know) and a disturbing game known only as "Nervous". Good times, good times. 

Alas such fun seems completely beyond the comprehension of the stony faced union enforcers who rule at fresher's fairs. 

Last year the University of Reading's Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society was kicked out of their fresher's fair for naming a pineapple Mohammed. It is hardly the most sophisticated way to start a conversation but I can see what they were aiming for. But they didn't just provoke a debate about blasphemy, they were basically accused of it (blasphemy is showing contempt for that which is held as holy which, by definition, upsets believers and the RAHSS was accused of upsetting people). The Reading University Student Union has now forced out the RAHSS by attempting to get them to agree to not upset anyone ever again ("Just shut up you blasphemers!"). 

Meanwhile, in another rather unsophisticated move, the LSE atheist group decided to wear "Jesus and Mo" t-shirts to their fresher's fair this year. I find the Jesus and Mo cartoon strips pretty boring and don't really see the attraction. But different strokes for different folks and all that. Well it hasn't gone down too well. Even when they covered up the t-shirts with censored stickers today they appear to have been intimidated by student union officials and security whilst leaving the fair.  

Having your beliefs insulted isn't nice. We all accept that, and understand it. But having my relationship dismissed and insulted by other's beliefs is also not very nice. That is the world we live in, one where grown ups have to put up with some people not being nice. We can moan about it, shout about it, but silencing others just because you don't like what they say isn't a sign of a healthy free society. It is the sign of a disturbing authoritarian mindset that is creeping into a lot of "progressive" thought (again).

One Law For All's excellent document "Siding with the Oppressor" shows how the left are starting to move from preaching tolerance for all beliefs into actively siding with the more extreme wing of Islam over pretty much everyone else (including Muslims and ex-Muslims alike). 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Scottish Nationalists: Religious Freedom Only For Some On #EqualMarriage

Gosh, it has been a long time since my last marriage equality post!

The Scottish Health Secretary, SNP's Alex Neill, has confirmed registrars will be able to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, though local authorities will have to ensure same-sex couples can get married.

All very "liberal" you might say, with his use of "common sense" to explain how local authorities with deal with such refusals. Except, of course, fundamentally there is no common sense here because it is giving registrars the right to refuse only one sort of marriage. Why just one sort? Erm... well... the gays aren't very popular.

Fantastic. It'll all be sold under some spin on the concept of "freedom" yet it flies fundamentally in the face of freedom. When will gay registrars get to refuse to marry Christian or Muslim couples? When will white supremacists get to refuse black couples (or interracial couples, heaven forbid!)? Never. Because both scenarios would be deemed unacceptable, offensive, yet they would be actual freedom in action.

What the SNP has proposed is offensive to common sense. It is the freedom to hate for a few, and everyone else will just have to lump it and keep their own opinions on whether other couples should marry to themselves.

Disgusting. Illiberal and unjust. Come back to me when you have a consistent policy rather than a "same-sex couples upset some people" excuse.

Stephen seems just as angry as I am, but has even better points...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Can Jehovah's Witnesses SURVIVE? - Trevor Willis

Ok. Ok. I'm ending my run of Jehovah's Witnesses books on this one (I've moved on to Christopher Hitchens' The Missionary Position). 

Can Jehovah's Witnesses SURVIVE? is a very decent guide to the beliefs, practices and errors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. It is truly disturbing that such a malignant religion has grown so common place. Lots of us know where the nearest Kingdom Hall is. Many of us share the same "Oh God, the Jehovah's are at the door HIDE!" experience. They are not your tiny band of Scientologists or your less harmful group of Latter-day Saints. This is a creepy, controlling organisation that treats its members incredibly badly. 

Sure I remember when I was younger hearing my family discuss someone they knew who had been converted in the sort of tones one discusses someone who has died. I know lots of people are aware that this is a dangerous group to get involved with. But too many still fall for their lies. 

Next time you open your door to the Jehovah's Witnesses beware. But also do as Trevor Willis suggests and offer them an a friendly face and try to let them know you want to help them if they ever need a person to turn to. There is no good to come of trying to argue theology with a Witness (though I did enjoy it when I did it back when I was a smug A-Level student. I nearly turned one! I'm certain of it). Try instead to be their ticket to freedom. 

A decent book on a worrying subject.