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On Sexism: Barbie Penises and Matchbox Vaginas

12 Jul

galifinakis pregnant

I saw this meme1 posted on Facebook by a 19-year-old woman with the comment: “This goes out to every young girl who should be PLAYING WITH BARBIES INSTEAD OF PENISES.”

Would you EVER hear someone say “young boys2 should be playing with matchbox cars instead of vaginas3“? Of course not. Once again, the old double standard: young women are called out for their sexual choices and slut shamed for them, whereas young men never are. I won’t even qualify that with an “almost never are” because I have literally never heard of a man being slut shamed in the way that women are.

Of course people recognize that men as well as women can be promiscuous, but they do not shame the man for it because they do not see his behavior as problematic. The ones who do not view promiscuity in either sex as wrong would not shame any person—man or woman—for being so. Most of those who do see promiscuity in the sexes as wrong exclusively view it as wrong only when it applies to women. Even those who claim to think promiscuity is equally wrong for both sexes will shame a woman for that behavior but not a man.

You never hear: “Look what he’s wearing. He’s just asking for it4.”

You never hear: “OMG! He’s had sex with _____5 girls. He’s such a slut!”

You never hear: “Finish school without getting a girl pregnant.”

I know that the woman who posted the comment is very young, and I’m certainly not trying to beat up on her. But this kind of sexism is everywhere, and it makes me sad to see it—especially from someone who would have the most to gain from a world that treats all6 sexes equally.


1. I have no idea why this meme includes Zach Galifianakis’s face. I can’t find anything on the Internet where he or a character he’s played is quoted as saying this except for in the meme. The only attribution I can find is to someone named Avinash Wandre, whose Twitter profile lists him as “an amateur philosopher,gulzar finatic, movie buff, musical soul,” but I have no idea if this attribution is correct.

2. Another sexist nugget that I’m often guilty of myself: The use of girls/women versus boys/menGirl is used to refer to basically any human female, and young girl to any human female under the age of eighteen. Boy is used to refer to any human male under the age of about twelve. Any older, and he is almost exclusively referred to as “young man” (maybe under the age of eighteen) and then “man.” (The only time I ever hear an adult human male referred to as a “boy” is by women talking about prospective, current, or past romantic partners. This would never be done in a formal setting though, whereas you hear women of all ages referred to as “girls” pretty much ubiquitously.)

3. WordPress spell checked “vaginas,” and I was like “What?! I know the plural of the word vagina! What’s going on?” Well apparently I did not know the plural of the word vagina. Did you know that although vaginas is an accepted plural of vaginavaginae is the preferred plural form? The Latin scholar in me is delighted! I wish it was in favor popularly so I could use that plural without sounding like a pretentious asshole. Maybe someday… ::sigh::

4. “It” being to be raped, naturally.

5. This number will of course vary depending on age group and other factors. One question you answer on the dating website OKCupid to determine your compatibility with a prospective partner asks “Is a woman who’s had sex with 100 people a bad person?” Another question asks “Is a man who’s had sex with 100 people a bad person?” I don’t have any data on this (let me know if you know where I could find some), but in my own experience with the site, the vast majority of people who answer “yes” to the first question answer “no” to the second.

6. Gender, of course, is extremely fluid (one could identify as being male, female, both, neither, etc.), but sex is not always binary either. There are hermaphroditic people who have both male and female sex organs and intersex people whose sex organs are ambiguous.

Michele Baldwin, HPV Awareness Activist, Succumbs to Cervical Cancer but Leaves Legacy

15 Feb

Michele Baldwin (1966–2012)

Michele Baldwin, a passionate HPV and cervical cancer awareness activist, succumbed to the disease she fought so long and hard against on February 5, 2012, at the age of forty-five. Her father, Skeptical Inquirer editor Ken Frazier, wrote a beautiful obituary for Michele in the Albuquerque Journal.

Michele had already gone through two extensive rounds of treatment, one in the fall of 2009 and another one year later in the fall of 2010. Both rounds included a surgery—one of which was experimental. In the summer of 2011, the cancer once again returned, and this time the news was worse than ever: it was inoperable, and Michele had run out of treatment options. She was given less than a year to live.

Michele on the Ganges River in India (credit:

Michele, a lover of water sports, threw herself into being a kayak guide. She realized that during her long hours on the water she was able to go for long stretches without thinking about cancer. It was then that she had the idea that would become her life’s work and legacy: she would stand-up paddleboard, a sport she had only just taken up in August 2011, seven hundred miles down the Ganges River in India for HPV and cervical cancer awareness. The journey began on October 18 in the Himalayan rapids of Rishikesh and ended on November 24 in the city of Varanasi. Michele set a world record for greatest distance ever paddleboarded by a woman and earned international press for HPV/cervical cancer awareness with her project, the Starry Ganga Expedition. She did it to save the lives of others; to make sure that other women wouldn’t have to suffer her same fate.

In a world in which we have politicians like Michelle Bachmann spreading misinformation about a vaccine that can literally save lives by preventing certain forms of cervical cancer, we need more people like Michele Baldwin who are willing to advocate for the HPV vaccine’s use. Michele made it her final mission in life to help the fight to stop this horrible disease. Her battle underscores the importance of getting this vaccine to women worldwide regardless of religiously based moral convictions.

Michele’s legacy will continue to bring awareness to the importance of HPV vaccination. Her entire journey down the Ganges was filmed by biographer Nat Stone and will be turned into a documentary by director/producer Mahmoud Salimi. Her’s is also the central story in Frederic Lumiere’s forthcoming television documentary, Anyone’s Daughter: The HPV Epidemic. Michele set up a living memorial to raise funds for cervical cancer/HPV awareness. Donations can be made through the Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer.

Conference to Give Voice to Women in Secularism

1 Feb

Have you ever had that moment of being excited that there are 10 or 12 female speakers at a secular event followed a nanosecond later by the “wait a minute…” realization that they still compose less than a quarter of the event’s roster? Let that feeling be banished this spring—for the weekend at least.

May 18–20, 2012, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) is sponsoring the conference “Women in Secularism,” the first[*] of its kind in the organized secular humanist movement in the United States. The conference will be held at the Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, DC, and I’ll be covering it for CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism and of course We Are SkeptiXX!

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Standing Up to Gender Bullying

5 Jan

You’ve probably seen this Tumblr post already, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

In summary: Kristen, a woman who works as a shift manager for Gamestop, recently witnessed a father trying to bully his son, age 10–12, out of buying a purple game controller along with a game with a female protagonist. Luckily, the boy’s elder brother, a high school wrestler,  stepped in and stood up to the man. Kristen also comforted the boy by assuring him that “There’s nothing wrong with what you like. Even if it’s different than what people think you should.”

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What’s Small and Cute and Pink All Over? Almost Every Toy in the “Girls” Aisle of the Toy Store

31 Dec

When I started We Are SkeptiXX, I was so pumped about the blog—especially after PZ Myers mentioned it on Pharyngula, which resulted in the views on the blog jumping from 18 on its inaugural day of December 1 to 1,604 on December 3 and a whopping 2,249 on December 4. I pretty much invited everyone I know to contribute, male or female. As long as the post is in keeping with the blog’s stated purpose of “supporting women in the skeptics movement,” I would love to consider any and all submissions for the site. When Ben sent me the expanded version of a piece he had done for Discovery News as a submission for SkeptiXX, I hadn’t even read the original post yet and so told him I’d need to look it over before posting it. When I finally got the chance to read it, I was actually pretty taken aback. I was hesitant to post it, but not because I disagree with the majority of what he wrote—after all, a big part of skepticism is civil argument about questioned claims. But I couldn’t figure out what the post had to do with “supporting women in the skeptics movement.” I started to reply to the article on a very long Facebook thread, but then I realized I might as well reply in this forum instead. Below you’ll find Ben’s original We Are SkeptiXX submission that expands on his online article. Below that is my counter-response. I hope you enjoy the exchange and will let us know what you think in the comments section.

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