rant

Quickie Rant: Hey Actually, That’s Ableist

Since getting involved with atheist activism, which was my first introduction to online social justice circles, I have seen people make an effort to drop racism language, cissexist language, sexist language, etc. from their vocabularies. Yes not all and not nearly enough, but still there was a visible segment of the community that made this effort.

The same cannot be said for the effort people put in to remove ableist vocabulary from their language. Sure some of the big ones like R*t*rd that many of us have known since childhood was a slur, but st*pid, Id*ot, Cr*t*n, M*r*n, l*me, Cr*zy, for those I haven’t seen as much effort, even from people who claim to care. It’s disheartening.

Every day I scroll through my newsfeed and I’m bombarded by these words from people who are my friends, who claim to care about me and people like me.

Do you really think we don’t notice?

Many of us are just too exhausted to have the same argument again and again. When many of us struggle to survive in a world that in some cases is actively trying to kill us, often through neglect (think flashing lights, they are fucking everywhere!!), it can feel like too much to tell yet another person: “Hey actually that’s ableist.”

 

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Rant: $13 a Pill is Still Ridiculous

The internet has been alive in the last few days with regards to the hedge fund manager who raised the cost of a pill from $13.50 to several hundred. People were outraged, his email was made public, and the anger even received news attention. The public outcry was so great, that the businessman involved returned the price back to normal, or so it was recently reported.

The pill in question, was widely reported to be an HIV drug. People could understand that most people with HIV would never be able to afford such a dramatic increase. There was discussion and outrage over how many people would die as a direct result of this unfair price increase.

I’m glad the outrage happened, and I am glad that the discussion came up, but what surprises me is that in all the commentary, no one pointed out just how ridiculous the original cost of the pill already was. $13.50 a pill, for a pill that needs to be taken daily amounts to almost $5000 a year. That’s over $400 a month. What’s more, this medication isn’t even a treatment for HIV. Rather it is a prophylactic for some of the opportune infections suffered by people with compromised immune systems. The drugs that treat HIV can be even more expensive. There are people dying because of the costs NOW.

It’s not just HIV treatments either. My own medication Remicade, even in Canada, costs $1000 a vial. I take 10 vials every 6 weeks to treat my Crohn’s disease. That’s $10,000 every six weeks. I had to apply for special coverage for this medication from the government. A program called Trillium that gives prescription coverage to low income people. The problem is that they get to decide whether or not I get my medication. Because Remicade is still on Patent and being studied, there is a coordinator who has to have special forms filled out every year to evaluate whether or not the government will continue paying for it.

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RANT: A Defence of Divisiveness

 

As a movement, secularists and skeptics defend dissent. We don’t just support it; we encourage it in the name of truth. So what is the hypocrisy that suddenly when it comes to dissent in our own movement that we call it divisiveness?

Intersectionality Feminists are called divisive because speaking out about race issues, women’s issues, oppression, brings out the worst in some people. Those people then go out of their way to make people who dare to speak out feel unwelcome. They send threats, post cruel harassing comments, and in some cases release private information for the purpose of stalking and worsening the attacks.

When people defend themselves by calling out the abuse, the reaction is to accuse those self-same people of being divisive, of causing rifts within the movement.

I think we’ve too long let harassers frame the conversation by letting divisiveness be seen as a bad thing.

What is divisiveness but a move to extricate and separate oneself from those who would abuse, harm, or persecute? It is dissent and an unwillingness to accept the status quo. In other words, it is what we as secularists and skeptics do!

It ignores the fact that we as a movement are already divisive. When we identify as atheists we are being divisive. We are dividing ourselves from those who have faith with no evidence. When we identify as evidence-based skeptics we are being divisive. We are dividing ourselves and dissenting against those who would peddle woo and false miracles.  Divisiveness exists with every label. It is not something to be ashamed of and sometimes it is necessary.

Our movement is no longer so small that we have to tolerate abusive elements just to maintain some quota of membership. No longer to we have to grit our teeth to accept those whose morals and values we do not agree with in order to have the support of numbers on our side.

It is time for the atheist, skeptic, secularist movement to decide who we want representing us. What values and morals do we want to be our message to the world? Do we want to be represented by those who would be a force for equality, or do we want to be represented by people who see nothing wrong with threatening women with rape? Those who stand up for other’s whose voice might be silenced, or those who try to silence those self-same voices?

Boycotts are essentially voting with your money and your feet. Everyone has a right to do so, and if enough people do it encourages change.

The difference between someone saying they won’t go to x conference because someone like PZ or Watson are speaking and calling for boycott is honestly just branding. When known harassers raise money to go to conferences to continue their campaign of harassment, or when they are unable to go, call on people to avoid conferences with those self-same speakers, they are doing the same thing. We’ve allowed them to frame the debate however by making it seem as though they are standing up for free speech.

 

Rant: Internet Harassment is a Big Fucking Deal

I just don’t have the energy to be eloquent anymore. I don’t have the energy to come up with ways to make what should be self-evident arguments sound polished.
I am so sick and tired of this bullshit argument that the internet doesn’t matter. That the harassment people face online is somehow not as bad as if it were happening through some other medium. That it is less dangerous, less personal, just less. What’s worse, is when I defend the validity of the paint and terror felt by victims of internet harassment, I am accused of somehow saying that stalking is somehow less serious or even not serious at all.

Frankly I am fucking sick of it.

To ignore the importance to the internet in our society is essentially to ignore our society. Our entire lives are dictated by the internet. It is where most of us get our news, how we keep in touch with friends and family, most of our work involves the internet in some way.

When I was working for law firms, and real estate agents, people’s cases, closings, purchases, sales, depended on my ability to access the internet. On my ability to be able to check my email, to be able to send emails.  While working, a significant majority of my day on the computer and most of that on the internet (if only with my email open and frequently refreshing).

When I came home I would also spend the majority of my time back home on the computer, talking to my friends,  writing on my blog and promoting my writing to help build my writing career, promoting my businesses which took place almost entirely online.

Since having to give up work due to disability, I still spend close to 12 hours a day either on the internet directly or connected to it in some way. Especially when my ability to interact with people in person and go out is hindered, the internet can be my only connection to the outside world. When (as it is now) my ability to pay my bills and buy groceries was hindered by my ability to work, it was the internet that came to my aid by donating money. When I needed help funding the ability to write my book it was the internet that did so. My connections with other writers who will introduce me to publishers happened entirely through the internet.

We rely on the internet, but it can be a tool against us as well. When harassment occurs through the internet it can feel more personal. The barrage happens in your own home, in your place of business, anywhere and everywhere where you have an internet connection. Even if you block everyone at the first hint of harassing behaviour, that first hint still has to occur. With the ease of creating accounts, your harassers can keep coming after you even after you have blocked them 3, 4 even 20 times.

If your harassers have access to your email, you have no choice but to browse through the endless tirades and hate messages. Even if you never open and read the emails, the previews give you an indication of their content. If they are using your work email, you may not even have the option to read and delete those emails.

When harassers doxx their victims, they are revealing private and identifying information. They give perfect strangers information about your phone number, your address, your place of business, and a variety of other identifying information.  They release this information on public sites where the information is accessible by strangers. This information is a where and when guide to stalking you.

You don’t even need to be in the same city to stalk someone anymore. With access to their information you can call their work, their home, you can email them, leave comments on their blogs or pages they frequent.

If like me, you operate online businesses, harassers can destroy your business without ever leaving their home; or worse, from their phones. Fake reviews, reporting false violations, all of these are simple for anyone of a mind to destroy someone.

Imagine everyday finding endless threats of bodily harm, of life, of safety, or of one’s ability to support oneself. Imagine these messages coming at you through your twitter, through your Facebook, through your email, left as comments on your blog, sent to your friends and coworkers when they cannot reach you. Imagine that the same people who harass you and/or your friends show up at conferences that you help organize or at which you are speaking. Imagine that your harassers donate money to the legal defence of another harasser who is suing his victim for speaking out about her harassment.

Imagine that your harassers make trouble for you with your online store, or through your websites.

Imagine that the companies you work for facilitate that harassment by siding with the harassers in public statements. Imagine that when you speak out about the devastating psychological impact that the constant harassment has had on you that people demand, DEMAND, that you release your private medical information to prove that the psychological consequences are real. That when you rightfully don’t want to release your private medical information to complete strangers that they accuse you of lying. That they make up lies about you and claim you are a professional victim.

Imagine that after releasing private information, or making you the target of their harassment, that they claim no responsibility when someone who is a stranger to you decides to assault you while knowing your name.

If you still think that internet harassment doesn’t matter or is no big deal, you can seriously fuck the fuck off.

*The scenarios presented are a composite or several different occurrences and not targeted or related to any one specific event.

** I have no interest in debating this or tolerating any abuse on this post or anywhere else. If I don’t like what you have to say I will block you and you can complain about how your rights to Freeze peach were violated by some big bad feminist on her personal feeds.