Quick Memes, Part 4

It’s time to clear out the Stupid Bad Memes hopper once again: here are a few more memes that are irritating, but not irritating enough to write an entire post about.  If you missed them, check out parts 1, 2, and 3 of this “series”.


bones-and-meat

First, a grammar quibble:  do not use an apostrophe when making words plural.

Second: Women aren’t meat.  Unless you are a vegan/vegetarian, meat is something you consume, at the expense of another creature.  To equate a woman’s body with meat is to say that she is something to be used, to be devoured.  A man who thinks of a woman as meat believes that she exists solely for his enjoyment.  If you’re interested in reading more about the connection between sexism and meat consumption from a feminist-vegetarian perspective, you should read The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol J. Adams.

Third: body shaming works both ways.  I understand and respect the push-back against shaming curvy people, but I don’t think the appropriate response is to shame skinny people (which I assume was the purpose of the hideous statement “Bones are for dog’s” [sic]).  Everybody needs love and acceptance, regardless of body type.  Furthermore, the male of the species should not be separated into dogs and men based on their sexual proclivities.  Some men like skinny women, some men like curvy women, some men like other men, some men like everybody, some men like nobody.  Let’s not band men (or women) into false dichotomies for the purpose of a stupid meme.

And while we’re on the topic of attraction…


i-need-feminism

No.  Just no.

Nowhere in feminist theory does it say that a man cannot be attracted to a woman based on her looks, nor that a man who doesn’t find a particular woman attractive is shallow.  The only thing feminists would request is that regardless of whether you find a woman attractive or not, you treat her with the same basic respect and dignity you would show to men.

Anti-feminists like to pretend that the feminist agenda is to subjugate men by placing them in no-win situations, but we know that’s not true.  Feminism has never been about subjugating anybody, but in achieving equality across the board.  Why does a movement interested in equality call itself the feminist movement, then?  Because historically, women have been victimized, subjugated, and de-humanized to a far greater extent than men.  In a society where men rule, women are often second-class citizens.  Feminism aims to correct this imbalance, not to turn the tables on men.


how-many-planets

On the lighter side, we have this bit of fluff.

Those of us who have the privilege of education know that privilege is spelled with two I‘s.

We assume there is one Universe (for lack of direct evidence to the contrary).  Also, as per the decision of the International Astronomical Union in 2006, our solar system contains only eight planets.  Sorry Plutophiles!  But if we’re considering the entire Universe, then there seem to be uncountable zillions of planets.  Nevertheless, the abundance of planets in the Universe has little to do with you meeting your true love.  Every human in the Universe lives right here on Earth.  If you haven’t met your soulmate yet, take heart; he or she is definitely within 13,000 kilometers of you.  On the scale of the Universe, that’s less than a stone’s throw.

The number of coutries, islands, and seas really depends on how you define each term.  For example, as of 2016 there are 195 officially recognized countries, but I suppose that’s a matter of politics.  Also, there are well over 809 islands in the world, especially if you include river and lake islands, but a great many of them are uninhabited and therefore unlikely to be the site where you meet your life partner.  And that whole 7 seas business has to go; we’re not ancient mariners here.

So it’s fine to create a romantically-inspired meme, but please…do your homework.


immigrants-and-homeowners

Did you know you can write sentences without capitalizing the first letter of every word and we’ll still be able to read them (no matter how much we wish we couldn’t)?

An immigrant is a person who goes to live permanently in a foreign country, regardless of whether they followed legal channels or not.  Somebody who swims across a river in pursuit of a better life is just as much an immigrant as somebody who files paperwork.

This is a poor analogy, and the author’s high school English teacher must be very disappointed.  For the most part, immigrants are not coming to the United States to take something you worked hard for.  On the contrary, studies show that undocumented immigrant workers actually improve the financial situations of documented and native workers.  Unlike the common thief who breaks into your home and steals your jewelry, immigrants provide valuable services as well as ethnic and cultural diversity.  That’s why I think that instead of trying to tighten immigration laws, we ought to consider fast-tracking the naturalization process.  Even the most hardened anti-immigrant bigots ought to appreciate the value of having more hard-working, tax-paying citizens in our communities, right?


luck-or-god

Those are not mutually exclusive things.  Suppose a bank robber manages to escape with the loot mere seconds before the police arrive.  Would you say that he got lucky, or would you contend that God helped him out?

On the other side of that coin, suppose a pious man is walking to church when he is struck and killed by a car.  Is this bad luck, or does God have it in for him?

If you believe in God, that’s fine.  It’s your choice, after all.  But it seems silly to me to assume that the existence of God precludes the existence of luck.  Sometimes good (and bad) things happen without the agency of a higher power.  If you claim that all instances of so-called luck are really the mysterious and unseen movements of a loving, divine being, then you must be prepared to explain the fact that (A) sometimes bad people have good luck, and (B) sometimes good people have bad luck.


seatbelts

*sigh*

We’ll discuss the overt sexism in this meme soon enough, but first I have a few quibbles with the grammar and with the illustration.

I’m pretty sure the meme should read “45% fewer car accidents”.  Generally, you use fewer when you are talking about things that can be enumerated, and less when you’re talking about things that cannot.  For example, I’d like to see fewer stupid sexist memes, and I would be happy if this particular meme contained less stupidity.

Also…there appears to be some kind of steel wall between the front and back seats of this car.  There is clearly a mirror, but it is rendered useless by the lack of rear visibility.  Surely this poor car design will contribute more to accidents than any other factor.

Now then…the message behind this idiotic meme is that men could drive more safely if their female passengers would just, you know, shut up.  Apparently, female chatter accounts for a whopping forty-five percent of all traffic accidents, which makes me wonder why they never warned us about riding with women when I took driver’s ed.  Apparently the feminist agenda machine got to my school before they could tell us the truth.

Now it is true that the leading cause of car accidents is distracted drivers, and the chatter of passengers is a source of distraction; however, many drivers are also distracted by talking on the phone, texting, eating, grooming, and reading, and none of those distractions are depicted here.  I find it interesting that the author of this meme thought that the only way to silence passengers – and in particular female passengers – is to physically gag them.  How typical.  How disgusting.


sherbert

Sherbet.  Sherbet.  Sherbet.  There is only one R in sherbet.


That’s all for now.  Good night everybody!

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Quick Memes, Part 3

It’s time to take a look at a few memes that are Stupid and Bad, but which don’t warrant an entire post.  Enjoy! (Here are parts 1 and 2, if you missed them.)


is it legal

The mind of a smart man asks “Is it legal and right, and if it’s not legal, does the rightness of it outweigh the possible legal ramifications?  Is right for me the same as right for everybody else?  Is my right more important than other folks’ right?  If I think that something illegal is nevertheless right, should I try to reform the laws concerning that thing, or should I just do as I wish and damn the consequences?”  And then the smart man starts to realize that ethical decisions are far more complicated than the simple dichotomy suggested by this meme.

Be aware: if anybody has ever called you a slave because you concerned yourself with questions of legality, that person is a fool, and he’s no friend to you.  A real friend would not offer a false dilemma like this one in order to goad you into making potentially life-altering decisions.  A friend would encourage you to consider all aspects of an ethical decision – legality, fairness, long-term consequences, and so on – before making an informed decision.  And if, in the end, you decide that the rightness of an act is more important than its legality (or lack thereof), then so be it.  But at least you’ll have considered all the relevant details and will have made your decision accordingly, and you’ll know that you’ve made your decision not just as a free person, but as a wise person.


Fences

Several things wrong here:

  • Just because some “rednecks” enjoy watching NASCAR doesn’t mean that rednecks contracted, designed, or built the fences the surround NASCAR tracks.
  • Even if they did, there’s a huge difference between building a fence that will stop a 190-mile-per-hour stock car (and the flying debris inevitably associated with it) and building a fence that will stop a nimble person determined to get past it.  People trying to cross the United States-Mexico border – let’s be honest…when you said illegal aliens, you weren’t talking about Canadians, were you? – are seldom (probably never) driving 190-mile-per-hour stock cars.
  • There is currently a “wall” along the United States’ southern border, but it’s an incomplete hodgepodge of various fence types.  There have been political pushes to complete it – especially during election years – but the price tag for this project is uncertain and unpredictable.

So, yeah.  Building a 2000-mile-long fence across various types of terrain is altogether a different task than building a 2-mile-long fence around a NASCAR track.  This meme’s author is trying to compare apples to oranges, and probably feels terribly clever for doing so.  To the author:  Stop it.  You’re not clever.

Also, stop calling them illegal aliens, you racist prick.


IntelligenceTest

This is a personal quibble and I understand if you disagree, but I hate these little “math” puzzles posing as intelligence tests.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  I get it.  I see the pattern, and given any pair of numbers, I could generate the expected “solution”.  For example:

55,500,000 + 55,611,111 = 111,111,111,111,111

Or:

228,333 + 228,456 = 123,456,789

Now that’s clever.  But I digress.  The problem with these “math” puzzles, besides the fact that they use non-standard definitions for the plus and equal signs, is that they aren’t intelligence tests at all.  They’re nothing but sharebait.  The “puzzles” presented in these memes are generally trivial in order to maximize the number of people who solve them and pass them along.  Why?  Because a challenging puzzle – a puzzle that really makes you work for that shot of self-satisfaction when you solve it – would hardly get any exposure at all.  These stupid math puzzles give you the impression that you’ve done something smart, when all you’ve done is cleared the minimum hurdle necessary to share somebody else’s meme.


Gays and Guns

Capital idea!   Our approach to gun ownership should exactly mirror our approach to marriage: it’s only legal with the state’s consent and it must be thoroughly documented!

Or would you rather just acknowledge that marriage rights and gun rights are separate issues, and that supporting one doesn’t obligate you to support the other?

Your call.


Privileged Earned

I’d say you’re wrong, Morpheus.  You might be successful because of your education and hard work, but you’re privileged because of the station into which you were born, and because of society’s reaction to that station.  Ignoring privilege doesn’t make it go away.


Facebook Feeds The Hungry

No it doesn’t.  Facebook’s charitable donations are not affected by the number of people that share a meme.  Just like the math puzzle above, this is sharebait.  Its only purpose is to reward you with a false sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for a minimum amount of effort.

If you want to make a real difference, donate real money to real organizations that are working to alleviate hunger and sickness in developing nations.  If you’re a genuine activist, leave the comfort of your home and nation to volunteer in the regions struck by famine, war, and poverty.  Real change takes real effort; clicking “Share” on Facebook isn’t going to do it.


Stand Up and Be Men

Did you ever read something so blatantly sexist that you have to read it twice because you’re certain you misread it the first time?  For me, that’s this meme.  Yowza, what a load of sexist bullshit!  I didn’t even realize they had memes back in the 1950s!


Pennies from Heaven

“When an angel misses you”?  Are you operating under the misconception that angels are the departed souls of our loved ones?  Because if you are, I have to tell you: that flies contrary to your own religious dogma.  I researched the topic briefly, and here’s the theological consensus, as best as I can tell: angels are not humans, nor have they ever been.  According to most religious scholars, angels were created by God specifically to be his right hand not-men; humans, on the other hand, are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Death is not some kind of graduation from human to angel; it’s merely a passage from physical human to non-physical human.  Or so the Scripture goes.

I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, but those who are telling you what to believe say that people don’t become angels when they die.

If we take this meme at face value, it raises all sorts of interesting questions:

  • Do angels materialize pennies themselves, or do they take already-minted pennies from somewhere else?
  • If they create coins ex nihilo, could they destabilize the economy by injecting enough money into the system?  Do angels have to be careful about that, keeping close tabs on how much money they’ve given away?
  • If angels get their coins from somewhere else on Earth, where?  A fountain, perhaps?  Do angels routinely search between peoples’ couch cushions for loose change, which they redistribute to people who are feeling glum?
  • If angels are the messengers of God, does God direct them to drop pennies?  How do they decide who gets a penny and who doesn’t?
  • Is there a way for people who are really upset to get larger values of money – say, quarters?
  • Do angels deliver pennies only to Christians, or can people of other faiths – and atheists – benefit as well?
  • Do people living in other countries also get US pennies, or do they get coins from their own currency?  Given the abysmal buying power of a single penny, it wouldn’t seem to matter much.  But still, if I lived in Uruguay, being given a useless US penny by an angel would almost seem like an insult.

I eagerly await the advisement of learned theologians on these queries.

Struggling to Fly

If It Wasn't For Me

Really?  Personally, I would leap at the chance to live a life on Easy Street, even if it meant owing a debt of gratitude to somebody else.  Sure, it’s annoying when somebody trots out all the ways you should be grateful to them, but  you know what’s even more annoying?  Struggling to survive.

I’m going to paint you a metaphorical picture.  Your life…is an airplane.  An airplane’s purpose is to fly.  Your life’s purpose is to be successful in some way.  There are many ways to evaluate success, from the tangible (material wealth) to the abstract (self-actualization), but for now, let’s evaluate success strictly through a financial lens.  For our purpose, a person is successful when he is capable of providing for his own needs, and for the needs of his family, if he has one.  When a person can make himself and his family comfortable, without having to worry about the crucial details of survival, then that person is up and flying.

An airplane needs two things to fly: thrust and lift.  Thrust is the force that pushes the airplane forward, and lift is the upward force of the onrushing wind against the airplane’s wings.  If the airplane is incapable of producing thrust, it will not fly.  If the air is not dense enough to provide sufficient lift, the airplane will not fly.  That’s why a single-engine Cessna cannot fly into outer space; above a certain altitude, the air simply becomes too thin to provide the lift needed for the little airplane to go any higher.

In this metaphor, thrust is represented by determination and hard work.  In order for one to take wing, one must be willing and able to apply a sleeves-up nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic.  But that’s not all one needs to be successful.

Lift is represented by the support of the society in which you live.  Without social support, all your hard work and determination will be fruitless.  A man can work his fingers to the bone in pursuit of the American dream, but if there’s no social support for his advancement, he cannot rise.  A man’s success depends not only on his determination, but also on the willingness of the society in which he lives to allow it.

In the United States we tend to heroify the “self-made man” – that rugged individual who takes his fate into his own hands and claws his way up from humble beginnings to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  But the self-made man is a myth.  He is invented, like Uncle Sam, to represent what we want to be instead of what we are.  There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to the mythical icon of the self-made man, but we should be cautious not to start believing the myth.  Believing in a self-made man is like believing in an airplane that can fly on the Moon.

The self-made man exists in a vacuum, independent from social forces, but we do not.  We depend on the footholds, opportunities, and yes, handouts from our fellow humans to get where we want to be.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  Part of being successful is learning to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to you.  And, if I may say so, it wouldn’t hurt for you to express your gratitude to the people who gave you those opportunities.  It doesn’t make you weaker or less important; it shows that you are a social creature, like us, and therefore worthy of the trust that has been given to you.

I almost hate to change tones so abruptly, but this is a perfect opportunity to discuss another social aspect that helps or hinders somebody’s prospects for success: privilege.  I know that word causes many peoples’ sphincters to tighten, and perhaps we’d like to pretend that privilege doesn’t exist.  But privilege does exist, and it’s a key determining factor in what kind of air your airplane gets to soar in.

For those of you who don’t know what privilege is all about, John Scalzi constructed an excellent role-playing video game metaphor for privilege (specifically, white heterosexual male privilege).  In Scalzi’s explanation, being a straight white male is like playing a video game on the lowest difficulty setting; it doesn’t mean you’ll win, but you will level up faster and have more opportunities opened to you with less work than somebody playing on a harder setting.

To port Scalzi’s analogy into my own, being a person of privilege (more on that in a moment) means that your airplane has nice, broad wings and that you’re flying in a dense, supportive atmosphere.  You can still crash through incautious piloting or simple bad luck, but it’s altogether less likely.  A person flying without privilege is trying to succeed in a rarefied atmosphere, like that of Mars.  He’ll have to thrust much harder just to generate the same lift.  In Scalzi’s metaphor and in mine, you don’t get to choose which airplane and in which atmosphere you fly; these variables are assigned to you at birth.

I’ve been working on a concept I call the American Star of Privilege; a tool for determining how much privilege you can expect to wield in American society.  First: simply being American gives you a slight advantage, but there are five other attributes that will give you, the citizen, a leg up on your path to success.  In no particular order, the five points of the American Star of Privilege are:

  1. Being white.
  2. Being a cis-gendered male.
  3. Being heterosexual.
  4. Being Christian.
  5. Being relatively wealthy.

If all of these points apply directly to you, then congratulations!  You occupy the pinnacle of American privilege.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing – especially not for you.  It means you won’t have to work as hard to achieve the bare minimum standard for success, and that your efforts to surpass that baseline will find more traction.

Now let’s be clear: you can still be successful even if you start out as a poor trans-gendered homosexual person of color who doesn’t believe in God, but it won’t be easy for you.  Society’s cards are already stacked against you.  You’ll have a much steeper climb to reach a place of financial comfort.  It will be harder to procure people’s trust – to get that all-important chance that is granted freely to others.  Strangely enough, if you are one of the above-described under-privileged people, and you do make it to the top, you will have come much closer to achieving the mythical status of “self-made [insert preferred gender identifier]” than the person who made this meme could ever hope to.

Why We All Need Feminism

Male Feminists

In 2012, sixteen students at Duke University began a social media campaign to shed light on issues of gender equality. It was called Who Needs Feminism? As part of the campaign, participants displayed posters around campus. Each poster bore an image of a man or woman holding a whiteboard sign starting with the words “I need feminism because…” The students’ motivation was to show that feminist principles could be important to everybody, and that there was no feminist archetype.

Images from and inspired by Who Needs Feminism?

Images from and inspired by Who Needs Feminism?

The students also launched a three-pronged online campaign on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Within hours their message was spreading rapidly across the Internet, and they had garnered a lot of attention, from men and women; from feminists and antifeminists.

A quick word about antifeminists: I’m not going to universally bash antifeminists by assuming that they are all misogynistic sexual predators-in-training. Just as there is no feminist archetype, there is no antifeminist archetype. They each have their own motives, even if I disagree with their conclusions. But there are those among the antifeminist crowd who betray a spectacular misunderstanding of women, their desires, and their struggle by creating garbage like this meme. If you are an antifeminist who thinks this meme is hilarious, it is to you that I address the rest of this post.

Despite what you may have heard in the last meeting of your He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, feminism is not about women dominating men. Most feminists will tell you that feminism is about equality; they subscribe to the notion that women are actual people who deserve the same social, political, and economic benefits as their male counterparts. Now really, there shouldn’t be anything too upsetting about that, unless you’re part of the privileged class and you’ve bought into the fairy tale that an increase in someone else’s rights means a decrease in your own rights. Don’t worry, rights are not a limited resource. There are plenty to go around.

If you are one of these misogynistic antifeminists, then you no doubt believe that any man who espouses feminist ideals does so only because he’s trying to get laid. Let’s take a few seconds to enumerate everything that’s wrong with that position.

  1. Blogger Feminspire writes that one of the most harmful aspects of the “male feminists just want to get laid” argument is that it betrays a complete indifference to the humanity of women. Anybody who makes this argument apparently cannot understand why any man would feel otherwise; ergo, any man who appears to support a woman’s cause must be trying to con a woman into sleeping with him.
  2. Men are not all single-minded sex-seeking missiles. It is conceivable that some men have interests outside of sex. It just might be possible that some men are interested in equality for everyone, and they can express their support without expecting any sort of sexual compensation.
  3. If a feminist ally truly understands feminist ideals (and he’d better), he knows that being feminist is not a free pass to having sex anyway. A woman chooses her sexual partners based on many qualities, not just ideological compatibility. If he didn’t already know this, he would learn real quick.

I am a white, straight male. I occupy three of the five sides of the American Pentagon of Privilege (a concept I just now invented, as far as I know. The other two sides are being wealthy and Christian.) I am aware of my privilege, but I don’t want to give it away. I want everybody to have the same privilege. That means I don’t want to tear others down or block their progress. When I identify myself as an ally to feminists (and to homosexuals and to people of color), it’s not because I want something for myself; I want us all to be in the same boat. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.