In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Oregon militia bulldozes Native American archaeological site, still NBD

During their weeks-long occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, armed militants have declared their intention to return the federal land to its “rightful owners.” They’ve also made it apparent that by “rightful owners,” they weren’t talking about the Burns Paiute tribe, whose ancestral lands encompass the reserve. And on Wednesday, they made their priorities clear when they bulldozed a path through a Burns Paiute archaeological site.

Ritual without gods

I’m an atheist, and I always have been. I’m a third-generation atheist, moreover; my parents are atheists, and so were/are most of grandparents. But unlike my parents or my grandparents, I was raised without any Jewish observance in my life at all, mostly due, in my opinion to various family schisms and my parents not having good associations with those celebrations (cf family schisms). But I’m also a folklorist, for a certain value of folklorist, at least, and tradition, ritual, ceremony, all seem to me to be important elements of being human. Not the most important elements, no doubt, but important to me nonetheless.

I’m thinking about this because I just went to the Bat Mitzvah of the little girl I babysat/nannied for when I was in graduate school, lo those many years ago (she was two months old when I started). I found the ceremony moving, as I usually do at ceremonies of people close to my heart, and that made me think about what I wanted for myself and my son.

When I was pregnant I was looking into Bris Shalom, the secular humanist Jewish alternative to Bris Milah, and I found the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, essentially a secular humanist shul in New York City. I am particularly intrigued by their Bar/Bas Mitzvah program, in which the kids focus on learning about Jewish history, heritage, and literature and presenting their studies to the congregation, as well as taking up some kind of activism. I like that idea; I like the idea of preserving Jewish identity without requiring a belief in the Jewish God. And I was certainly raised to consider social activism part of my Jewish heritage.

I consulted with their rabbi, and developed a naming ceremony for my son presided over my uncle, an anthropologist who feels similarly about the importance of tradition and ceremony. I have made small, private rituals for myself to mark important anniversaries, but this was the first time I included family and some friends (mostly family). Everybody was very supportive and it meant a lot to me, and my uncle gave a great talk about my son’s name and its history and famous namesakes. I spoke a little about his middle name and having named him after my grandfather.

I know I’m not the only unbeliever here (I’m pretty sure), and I’m wondering what others do vis-a-vis ritual and ceremony. Are you just as happy to be free from it? Do you observe any even without believing in them? Have you adapted any to be more meaningful to you? And you know, I’m interested in what those who do believe in various gods and religions think and feel, too.

Monday morning mood lifter: The best defense

It’s a gray, drizzly Monday morning in Birmingham, Alabama, and I’m grumpy because I stayed up last night reading a book because I was hoping it would get better, and it never did, and I’m perfectly happy to accept a degree of sleep deprivation if it’s for a book that’s actually good, but this is just out of line, but you know what? This weekend, a kid in St. Andrews, Scotland, took down a bigoted street preacher in “the most Scottish way possible.”

Quick hit: Malala Yousafzai aced high school, naturally

Malala Yousafzai survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in retribution for her passionate activism about education for girls starting when she was just eleven. She started a nonprofit to promote and enable education for girls, including those threatened by the Taliban in her native Pakistan. She won a Nobel Prize at age 16. She’s spoken to the UN. She’s traveled the globe to speak with world leaders. She’s also declined to speak with world leaders when it would conflict with her high school class schedule, which is why her grades are better than yours.

Quick hit: Duke freshman refuse to, can’t wait to read Fun Home

On the one hand: Several Duke University students have publicly announced their unwillingness to do the suggested freshman summer reading. They refused to read Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her experiences with her father and her relationship with her sexual identity, because it offends their Christian values. On the other hand: Other students, not locked into a fearful, fundamentalist view of the world around them, are excited to read Fun Home and gratified to see it on the reading list.

Friday Hypocrisy Link Dump: Ashley Madison edition

Hey, what goes on in a person’s bedroom is their own damn business, and the number of people wittingly or unwittingly invited into a couple’s relationship is also their own damn business. (My personal feeling is that honesty is the best policy, but you do you.) (Or other people, if that’s your thing. Like I said, not my business.) That said, if you’re going to actively fight against marriage equality on account of family values, and claim that it will result in the collapse of traditional marriage and the destruction of families, it helps to have your own marriage on the up and up. It definitely helps to not turn over your credit card information and personal profile to a site dedicated to helping people have affairs like some kind of extramarital OK Cupid. Especially when that site is vulnerable to hacking and massive data dumps.

Catholic bigots are not alone! in new coming-out video

As coming-out videos go, it’s a heartbreaker. It’s pretty moving. They’ve got the style right on: black and white, sentimental music, earnest testimonies delivered straight to the camera. A little bit of tearfulness at the back of the throat, because seriously, it’s hard to come out. It’s hard to be honest with people when you don’t know how they’re going to react, that they’re not going to judge you. It’s scary putting yourself out there and saying, “Listen, I trust you to take this part of me, this vulnerable piece of me that I’m putting in your hands, and still love me once you know the truth. The truth, that I am…


It’s a coming-out video from Catholics who are against same-sex marriage.

So apparently this is a thing: wearing a hijab for Lent

ICYDK: Lent is the six-week period between Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras, which is of course the last day of debauchery and excess before the start of Lent) and Easter in many wings of Christianity. It’s supposed to be a time of prayer and repentance in preparation for the Big E, and many Christians commit to fasting and/or the sacrifice of certain luxuries to better appreciate the temptation and the suffering of Jesus and his sacrifice (or something. Stories vary). This can come in the form of giving up alcohol or a favorite snack food, kicking a bad habit, praying more, doing volunteer work, or, for one woman, wearing a hijab for 40 days.

Three young Muslim students murdered

I’ve been trying to find a good link for this story on and off all morning, but I can’t. I’m pulling together what I’m reading off my Twitter feed. If anybody has a good link, please leave it in comments and I’ll add it to the post.

Update: here’s a link, with thanks to Pseudonym.

So apparently an aggressive white atheist by the name of Craig Stephen Hicks murdered three Muslim students at Chapel Hill yesterday, newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, a second-year student in UNC’s School of Dentistry, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, who was going to enter dental school in the fall. Mohammad’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a sophomore in college, was visiting them and also murdered.

I’m not getting a whole lot of information here, but I think it’s quite telling that despite Facebook posts denouncing both radical Muslims and radical Christians, Hicks chose to go after young Muslim students who seem to have been devoted to good works, traveling to provide free dental care to those in need, etc. That’s what it means to live in an atmosphere of Islamophobia, aided and abetted by those in US government.