Not All Opinions Are Tolerable

In every election year, the progressive folk start talking about tolerance. Actually, progressive folk talk about tolerance a lot. It’s kind of our thing.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist, which of course ALSO means that I hear a lot of talk about tolerance. One of our seven principles is that every person has inherent worth and dignity. I believe this on a theoretical level. Some days I even believe it on an actual level. In fact, I always believe it enough to be, for example, anti torture. Congratulations Al-Queda, you have enough inherent worth and dignity that you should NOT be waterboarded!

Here’s the thing, though. Tolerance is great. In all seriousness, obviously you need to treat people well. Don’t be an asshole, is what I’m saying. But I feel like tolerance often gets confused with the idea that all opinions are automatically valid, because TOLERANCE!

But…the thing is not all opinions are valid.

The opinion that women should not have agency over their own bodies and should not be able to make decisions about their own reproductive choices is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that gay folks should not have the same rights as straight folks is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that people of color are somehow less than is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that global warming is not happening is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that torture is acceptable is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that “some women rape good” or it’s the victim’s fault if she was drunk or wearing a miniskirt, is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that religion or football or Boy Scouts gives you the right to cover up the systematic sexual abuse of children  is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that religion is an excuse for subjugation of any kind is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that  hitting children is good parenting is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

There are lots of things that reasonable people can argue about. The drinking age. Whether marijuana should be legal. How best to improve our schools. Cloth or disposable diapers. Merit pay for teachers. The most ethical way to eat. Whether to use a clicker or just treats to train your dog. How to die well.  Whether goat cheese or Parmesan is better. The best kind of chocolate. What animals can be in zoos. Etc etc. And then there are things that are not debatable. There are opinions that are just not tolerable. If you hold these beliefs, well–hold them, fine. But my rights end where yours begin, and if you want to hold them, don’t you even think about putting them on anyone else. I’m tired of hearing about how good progressives or good UUs or whatever are tolerant. We can be tolerant in the sense that we do not hurt others, but that does not mean that we have to put up with opinions that are not tolerable. There is a right and a wrong, at least some of the time. It isn’t always absolute and there are lots of grays and nobody is ever all bad–as they say, even Hitler was a vegetarian–but there are still right and wrong. And the far right? They are just wrong. So yeah, that means I’m not going to respect you if you vote for Romney/Ryan. Because it is not ethical. And I can be tolerant and still assert your inherent worth and dignity if you vote for that ticket–but that doesn’t mean you are right, or that your opinions are tolerable.


Read Around The Web

the dangers of hotel housekeeping (in which the NYT op-ed page is actually halfway decent about sex crimes!)

let’s play Spot the Institutional Racism! (the comments on this post are mostly good…until you get to “Ashley” and “Katie” who are all, well we are colorblind and you all suck since you SEE RACISM OMG. ::headdesk::

Oh look, Daily Kos actually addresses White Privilege in a way that doesnt scream “STOP WHINING you overly sensitive people!”

OMG its an eight year old shark conservationist! I LOVE THIS KID.

The Feds Finally Borrow Hillary’s Balls to refuse defunding Planned Parenthood

Apparently there’s gonna be a Sarah Palin movie, and not the Tina Fey kind, either. Too bad, because the Tina Fey kind is the only kind worth watching.

This may be the worst thing I’ve read about the prez candidate, and in a world that includes Palin, that’s saying something.

ETA because the girl scouts are apparently abortion pushers!

OH AND LOOK A PSA I ACTUALLY LIKE and it aired during Glee which means people actually saw it, hooray!


Reading Rebecca Traister’s fantastic book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, was…hard. In the three years since the 2008 elections, in the drama of Obamacare and insane birthers and Gitmo and in Hillary Clinton’s rise to one of the most beloved women in America and perhaps our best Secretary of State, I’d more or less forgotten about the need for Shakesville‘s Hillary Clinton Sexism Watch. I’d forgotten about those on the left, the purported liberals, who let loose with such stunning misogyny that I was left speechless and raging, both at the time and in reading BGDC. (REALLY, Chris Matthews? REALLY, Keith Olbermann? Why are you still around? REALLY, tons of other people?)

Traister is very honest about her own shifting feelings throughout the contest, and the book is peppered with anecdotes about her experience covering the campaign, hearing Bill Clinton talk, sobbing at Hillary’s concession speech…she is a really gifted writer and a really gifted observer, and she was watching very closely. The book’s story about gender and class in the election is really important reading.

I remember meeting Gloria Stienem. I was sixteen and writing for Young D.C. and covering some sort of pro choice concert with Ani Difranco. Wish I could remember the exact event. At any rate, they sent me to interview Stienam. It was, obviously, a huge thrill. One of my favorite parts of reading Traister’s book were the Gloria Stienem Stories, especially her conversations with Shelby Knox, who was living with Steinem at the time. Knox reported telling Stienem that not only did she (Knox) want to see a woman president but she wanted GLORIA to get to see it.

So there were lots of gutting moments in this book, and there were lots of goosebumpy moments, lots of enraging moments and of course lots of joyful moments. But none–none–left me as gutted as this exchange:

“It was in this same interview that Stienem first told me that she voted for Clinton because she did not believe she could win her party’s nomination. Believing Stienem to have misspoken, I interrupted her. ‘Because you knew she couldn’t win?’ I prompted, waiting for the correction. ‘Right,’ she said gently. ‘I’ve always known she couldn’t win.'”

It’s not that I wish Clinton had won. I’m glad of the way things turned out, very glad. It’s just that I wish so much that she could have won.

Favorite Feminism Sundays

Do You Trust Women? (Bitch PhD, and possibly my favorite post on abortion ever).

Rape Culture 101 (Shakesville; I sometimes find Shakesville a bit…much somehow but I love this post, and in fact I tend to love everything Melissa McEwan writes about rape and rape culture).

I Know I Can Fight Rape Culture By… (Feministe: some of the comments are especially interesting, although as always some are just fuckwits).

Abortion Manual (from the now defunct blog Molly Saves the Day: I remember reading this post when it was first published in 2006, just after the South Dakota abortion ban. And yes, I think having coherent information about how to safely perform abortions is important–although I hope we never, ever have to use it).

#mooreandme roundup

I’ve been meaning to blog for days about the Twitter movement #mooreandme. But instead, I’ve been monitoring it from my computer. Suffice to say that this is one incredible story about how a bunch of feminists used Twitter to change–at least a little bit–the victim blaming, rape culture narrative around the accusations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for rape.

So here is your roundup. These are all well, well, WELL worth a read.

Sady Doyle,  #mooreandme founder (read the whole blog, this is just the end).

Jaclyn Friedman, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

Kate Harding on why she supports the protest

Real Feminist Jaclyn Friedman debates Fake Feminist Naomi Wolfe on Democracy Now

Millicent explains how and why the protest worked

Still Waiting at the Foot of the Tower

Michael Moore on the Rachel Maddow show. And thank you, Rachel.

and of course, the Twitter feed itself. Warning: there are some really awful trolls over there.

this has been a fascinating discussion. I am appalled at Keith Olbermann, who really fucked up and failed to uphold basic journalistic standards. I am a little less appalled at Michael Moore, who at least bothered to apologize. But mostly I am appalled at a society that still allows rape to be taken so lightly–a society that still refuses to take all victims as credible victims, a society that refuses to believe that any woman can be raped. And a society that seems to find it impossible to hold 2 things at the same time: yes, we can support WikiLeaks AND RAPE VICTIMS. We can even be highly suspicious of the timing of the charges–virtually no one disagrees that they are suspicious–and we can even (gasp!) assume that Assange, as is theoretically true of everyone under American law, is innocent until proven guilty. We can do that and we can also honor rape victims and take rape seriously. Yes, we can.

My sincerest thanks to Sady Doyle, Jaclyn Friedman, Kate Harding and every other feminist who has worked tirelessly on this all week. It’s a small victory, true: but it is a victory, and there will be more to come.

Fucking Grown-Ups

To set the stage:
On Tuesdays I watch SB, NJ and AG. NJ has soccer (today was the last day–thank God). NJ’s coach is a tall, brash guy who communicates to the kids mainly by yelling at them. I’ve always thought he was a jackass–in fact, let’s call him Coach Jackass–but today he Went Too Far.
The kids playing soccer are divided into 4 groups with 2 playing at any given time.
The kids who aren’t playing–remember we are taking about 6 year olds here–usually come off the part of the field where Coach Jackass holds his practice and play with their friends. Since they are six, some of this includes wrestling.
So at one point this afternoon I looked over to see SB (who doesn’t play soccer) sitting on another kid, L. He and L. are good buddies and also SIX, so I didn’t think anything of it. (SIX!) also: L was not supposed to be on the field at that time.
In the span of just a few seconds, I saw Coach Jackass say something like “he’s sitting on my player” and then he went over and yelled at SB. Really yelled, and given that he’s tall, it was scary! I think he said “HEY! GET OFF MY PLAYER!”
Well. I couldn’t believe he would do that, and SB was devastated. His parents are not big yellers, and I’m not, and his teachers haven’t been, and the poor kid. He was really upset. I asked him if he’d like me to talk to Coach Jackass. I was actually a little nervous myself, but I went over and said excuse me? SB would like me to ask you if next time you could ask him nicely. He said, “who’s SB?” and when I pointed, he immediately started stalking off, yelling again. He wasn’t yelling as loudly as he had been at SB, but it was nasty. He said something along these lines: “NO. He was on top of my player! NO. Sorry, I’m just not that nice.”
I said “then you shouldnt be working with kids” but he didn’t hear me.
Poor SB was really, really upset. He sat on my lap for a long time and I told him–over and over–that he had done nothing wrong, that he and L. were just playing, that it’s not OK for grownups to yell at kids they don’t even know. I said–very firmly-that the fact that Coach Jackass had yelled at him made me VERY ANGRY, which I think helped SB. Because I was really furious and it was clearly coming across in my voice. I did my very best to make it clear that SB had done NOTHING wrong and that it was completely unacceptable for Coach Jackass to yell at him.
Eventually, we all went home, and after I dropped off NJ and AG I took SB home and we waited for his mom. I explained that his mom was not going to be upset with him but that I felt it was important for her to know. So I told her the story, with some assistance from SB, and she was furious. And flabbergasted. She thanked me for standing up for SB, which was nice, and said she had to mull it over. She told SB also that he had done nothing wrong and that it was completely unacceptable for Coach Jackass to have yelled at him.
Then she said–and I think this is what got me the most about the whole thing–“just because you’re a child doesn’t make it okay.”
And she is SO RIGHT. I fucking hate adults thinking that they have the right to yell at kids just because kids are less powerful. SERIOUSLY NOT OKAY. Especially a child that you have NO responsibility for, a kid you don’t know, a kid who isn’t doing anything.
I understand that if you see a child doing something dangerous–running into the street, punching another kid–then that’s different, and you need to react fast. But this was NOT that circumstance.
So I am still furious. I do believe that it takes a village to raise a child–I really do–but this is NOT how a village should behave.

ETA: Coach Jackass called NJ’s mom. Eager to hear what the fuck he said–she just left me a message. Watch this space…
ETA2: So SB’s dad called Coach Jackass to say, basically, that they’d come home to a very upset 6 year old and an upset babysitter and they wanted to get his perspective. Apparently Coach Jackass mostly just talked. Then at some point, SB’s dad said something about how, if you have a problem with a child, TALK to the child or the caregiver. Coach Jackass was claiming that he had told SB to get off L. four times already, and also that L. was upset. Both of these are patently false. I know this because I WAS WATCHING.
Now here’s my favorite part! After SB’s dad said this, Coach Jackass apparently announced that I was NOT WATCHING THE CHILDREN. Yes, that’s right. Coach Jackass accused me of being a bad caregiver.
Now that pisses me off.
I am very, very good at what I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about these kids and what is going on with them and how I can help them. In my head I repeat things I’ve read in “How to Talk So That Kids Can Listen” and try to respond to them, always, in a way that is respectful, calm, firm if needed, and gentle. You can bet your ass I was watching those kids, because that’s what I do: I WATCH THEM.
And part of taking care of kids is standing up for them.
Seriously, this makes me quite furious. Admit you shouldn’t have yelled at a kid YOU DON’T KNOW AND HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHO IS DOING NOTHING WRONG and don’t blame the kid’s babysitter.
Sigh. Fucking grown-ups.