What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?

Guest post by America Yamaguchi

[CN: sexual assault]


“Female-bodied” is a term that is endlessly harmful.

It reduces cisgender women to their uterus. While childbearing is a massively important component of patriarchal harm, it goes far beyond that. It is also harmful to insist that childbearing or a uterus is what makes a woman a woman, both to trans people of all genders, and to cisgender women who are infertile for any reason. It compounds a major source of psychological distress to cis women who cannot have children. By the standards of “female-bodied” to mean the uterine body plan, a cisgender woman who is missing any aspect or has a dysfunction by any part, is bound to feel like less of a woman. Thus, this term directly attacks the womanhood of a variety of cis women as well as trans women.


Diary of a Failed Laboratory Method

My thesis is one chapter away from completion, and it’d be three chapters away if I hadn’t made a strategic decision to give up on a certain measurement I’d been hoping to make.  That measurement has been a pox on my career since I first proposed it.  Even as I acknowledge that actually getting it would have been an impressive boon for my thesis, I am glad to see it go.


Crack in the Womb

[Spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe follow.]

The moment that sealed Steven Universe into richly-deserved fame and a place in future discussions of the evolution of pop culture was the 52nd episode, ”Jail Break.”  In addition to pointedly and thoroughly burnishing the show’s credentials as queer-inclusive and emotionally complex, it provided viewers with a beautifully-composed song-and-fight sequence, from the only one of the four main characters to have avoided a musical number until then:

The words of “Stronger Than You” are poetic and poignant, particularly these:

I am a conversation.

I am made


Lo-o-o-o-ove o-o-o-o-of

And it’s stronger than you.


Anthropomorphic Terror

The human brain has a great deal of real estate devoted to the tasks of recognizing faces and recognizing emotions in those faces.  Neither of these tasks is foolproof: seeing faces where they are none is the most common form of pareidolia and has whole religions devoted to it, and prosopagnosia and difficulty reading emotions in faces are both common difficulties associated with autism.  One of the most common malfunctions of this facial recognition module is treating animals as though their facial expressions and other behavioral signifiers mean the same things as ours.  It’s from here that we eventually get snarling velociraptors in modern creature features.

A great deal of cruelty is had when people refuse to read animals for what they are saying, and instead read what they think ought to be there.


Fishy Redemption

It is a bad idea to enter the aquakeeping hobby on a lark.  Not only is this a recipe for any of various easily-avoided mistakes that beginners make, but it encourages a cavalier attitude about one’s new pets.  It is easy to treat fish and other small-animal pets as easily replaced decorative accents rather than animals with their own needs, behaviors, and beautiful uniqueness, especially since relatively few fish respond well to attempts to physically interact with them.

I started on the path to fishkeeping as a precocious child, and my parents and other adult models were not themselves hobbyists.  What I learned about the best practices for populating and maintaining an aquarium, I learned by reading every fish book I could find…and by trial and error.

There were a lot of errors.

Every fish that perished prematurely under my care stung my precocious heart.  I felt affection for every individual fish, even if I couldn’t tell them apart or if I replaced them quickly.  For every one of them, seeing them sicken and die as a result of something I did felt like a crime I was committing not just against them, but against their whole kind.  This idea stuck in my mind, each failed effort seeming like an un-redressed wrong as well as an unsolved problem.  I convinced myself over the years that I could assuage my conscience by revisiting each species and giving it, with that later effort, a home in which it could thrive.  There is no possibility of effecting restitution for the fish I killed long ago with my overzealous and poorly-informed attempts, but I can still do right by others.  Even if that reasoning is decidedly irrational, these stories may spare other aquakeepers from making the same mistakes and other fish from these often-gruesome fates.


Let’s Have a Shut Up and Sit Down

I am a scientist, and I am a leftist.  To many, these ideas are starkly opposed, and a cursory read of each area’s maxims would seem to corroborate that opposition.  But both modes of thinking are enthusiastically embraced by commanding fractions of the atheist community, often the same people, and there is a good reason for that, too.  This is how this particular leftist scientist reconciles those ideas. (more…)

Think Like a Bug: How to Deal with Common Pest Arthropods

In the various circles I have inhabited, I have always, always been the one who is most okay with creepy-crawlies.  My friends and family alternately flee from or declare pogroms on the many-legged urban wildlife they encounter, unless I am around.  Then, they notice the demanding smolder in my eyes and let me escort the errant creatures outside, away from insistent shoes.

It’s a cliché, but most of those creatures are not dangerous, only misunderstood.


Full Faith and Credit

Of all the phrases theists use to lull themselves to sleep each night, “atheists have faith just like we do” might be the most obnoxious.
“Faith” is one of several word games believers play with nonbelievers when they’re feeling dishonest, alongside “spirituality” and, beautifully, “belief.”  These games bank on how deviously slippery those words are, as they can mean more-or-less whatever the person using them wants them to mean.  While all of these games are infuriating, “faith” gets under my skin more than the others, because it is somehow more dishonest.


Sounds of Summer: The Charming Cicada Cacophony

The central-eastern chunk of North America has a very distinctive background noise for a substantial chunk of the year.  While this sound is not totally distinctive to the United States and Canada east of the Mississippi River, the one here has special properties.  I speak, of course, of the buzz of the cicadas.  Erroneously called “locusts” because of their size and song, these insects have far more going on than meets the eye.

I remember my first encounter with one very well.  I added the placid, unknown behemoth to one of several plastic insect habitats that were my favorite toys during the warmer New Jersey months, alongside some houseflies and beetles I’d caught earlier that day.  I had to go inside, probably for food, and we soon heard a noise that we thought was some sort of chainsaw or motorcycle, but coming from the backyard.  Alarmed and confused, my parents and I went outside and quickly localized the sound to the insect dome, and to the huge bug inside.  The heat had given it a bit more energy and an amplifier, which it naturally devoted to its mating call.  I let the beast go shortly thereafter.  Cicadas would have a special place in my heart after that, combining teeming masses with an alien countenance.