• Sarah posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Wow, what a powerful story. I’m so sorry you had to go through with that, but I’m glad you made the decision that was best for you, and used the best possible coping mechanisms. I hope you’re able to have the family you dream of. <3

  • Sarah posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Not quite. Any -ism (as defined in feminist studies) is prejudice + power. So in this case, since women do not have structural power that men have in our society, sexism can only go one way: toward women. (Yes, men can absolutely suffer from the consequences of patriarchy & toxic masculinity, but they cannot be the direct victims of sexism.) So…[Read more]

    • As a transman who is likely able to become pregnant, I agree with you. The reasons for people’s objections still come from sexism. Transgender men and trans masculine people can still be victims of sexism and restrictions on our reproductive rights are part of that.

    • I wonder if it would be more accurate to say sexism is both against women and people/things coded feminine*, so it can intersect with transmen and non-binary people with functioning uteri and ovaries (organs coded feminine). If you consider male = default, care for these organs (which includes fertility and pregnancy) is separate from ‘normal…[Read more]

      • As a cisman, the main thing for me to do on this subject is listen, so I’m happy to hear from women, transmen, or anyone else who has a different perspective from me on this, but it seems to me that sexism could be pretty much any discrimination against anyone other than a cis male?

        And then it seems to me that most people who are sexist and…[Read more]

  • ThumbnailI knew even before the two little lines appeared that I was pregnant. I’m not saying I had magic intuition or anything, just that I use a period tracker app that’s surprisingly accurate, I had sex on a day I was […]

    • What do you mean by this:

      “I think they are sexist (even though women are not the only people who have abortions, but I still think claims of sexism are valid).”

      My current understanding;

      Sexist means discrimination against specific sexes.

      A women is anyone who identifies as the female gender.

      Anyone with female sex organs has the potential to seek an abortion.

      This means a person having an abortion will either be of the female sex or intersex, but not of the male sex or sexless.

      Therefore gender is irrelevant here, and claims of sexism would be completely valid.

      • “Anyone with female sex organs has the potential to seek an abortion.”

        Scratch that, it’d be more accurate to say:

        “Anyone without female sex organs cannot seek an abortion.”

      • Not quite. Any -ism (as defined in feminist studies) is prejudice + power. So in this case, since women do not have structural power that men have in our society, sexism can only go one way: toward women. (Yes, men can absolutely suffer from the consequences of patriarchy & toxic masculinity, but they cannot be the direct victims of sexism.) So what I’m saying here is that the people who get abortions can be women, men (trans men still need reproductive healthcare), non-binary, or any other gender, but since the majority of people who get abortions are women, I believe calling the pushback against abortion “sexism” is still accurate.

        This page has more info, should you be so inclined to read more: https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/sexism-definition/

        • As a transman who is likely able to become pregnant, I agree with you. The reasons for people’s objections still come from sexism. Transgender men and trans masculine people can still be victims of sexism and restrictions on our reproductive rights are part of that.

        • I wonder if it would be more accurate to say sexism is both against women and people/things coded feminine*, so it can intersect with transmen and non-binary people with functioning uteri and ovaries (organs coded feminine). If you consider male = default, care for these organs (which includes fertility and pregnancy) is separate from ‘normal health care’.

          * Do we need a separate word for these two related concepts? Because the latter starts to veer into ‘sexism hurts men too’.

          • As a cisman, the main thing for me to do on this subject is listen, so I’m happy to hear from women, transmen, or anyone else who has a different perspective from me on this, but it seems to me that sexism could be pretty much any discrimination against anyone other than a cis male?

            And then it seems to me that most people who are sexist and opposed to abortion probably don’t even recognize anyone outside of the normative gender binary categories, which makes their motivation sexist, either way.

    • I think all pregnant women bond about the fact that “morning sickness” actually lasts all day.

      I’m glad you were able to make the right choice for you! Yay for rights!

    • My condolences that you are in the situation where you want a child eventually but not now, and the ‘now’ depends on something as unknowable as your future health. I’m also glad you could get the care you need now, leaving the future open to what you can handle when you can handle it.

      (Also, yes, I hate the idea that there is a hierarchy of reasons for abortion, with ‘I have an ectopic pregnancy, so leaving it alone will kill me’ higher than ‘I have chronic health issues that means pregnancy could seriously injure me’ higher than ‘I could lose my job and become homeless because of this country’s poor excuse for health care’ etc.)

    • Wow, what timing. Today is 9 years since I took the pills that ended my pregnancy. On Sunday will be the anniversary of the birth. I had to have a medical abortion because I was 15 weeks in when I found out I was pregnant, 17 weeks when I had the procedure (I originally intended to keep the baby, it wasn’t a mandated waiting period).

      I have a bunch of medical conditions, and the meds I’m on carried a huge risk to the fetal development, but not one that could be seen on an ultrasound – things like heart/lung development, and neurological stuff. We wouldn’t know until well after the cut-off point if there was anything wrong. So I made the horrible decision, and it nearly killed me. The grief, I mean. Because I was so far in, I had to have an induced labour as the safest option. While it wasn’t planned, I had wanted this baby, and so had my partner, and we both had to grieve the loss. Part of that, for us, was giving the child a name, having a private ceremony of letting go, and I went to grief counselling.

      It was not an easy decision, and people kept telling me I had to be sure, and I wasn’t. I am now – for all the pain, I know I made the right decision – but I still wonder about the could have beens. Particularly since I found out I was pregnant after picking up a test on the way home after visiting my newborn nephew in hospital. It occurred to me there that I might be, and I thought I’d better check. So my relationship with my nephew was unfortunately strained for the first couple of years as he was a stark reminder, and now there’s just an edge of sadness at his milestones for me.

      This is the first year in a while that the anniversary has been bad for me – I think it’s because my husband (not the father of the baby) and I are thinking about starting a family so I’ve been going over and over all the possibilities, and the specter looms large.

      Here’s the thing: it was a desperately hard decision to make, and the grief was all-consuming, but it was still the right decision to make and I genuinely don’t believe that the alternative would have been better. I am glad that, while it is a difficult decision for most people, it isn’t usually as traumatic as it was for me. And anyone using my story as evidence that it is awful has to be damn sure that they’re also presenting all the evidence for the risks to physical and mental health of continuing a pregnancy. I am also glad that there are people for whom the decision is not difficult, and who do not grieve. I would not wish this on anyone. We all have our ways of dealing. There is no hierarchy of reasons, but we should have compassion for the people who struggle afterwards, as their grief is real and brutal too. For a long time, I felt like I wasn’t entitled to that grief as I had killed my baby, so I deserved this pain, but my grief counseller got me past that.

      One more note: I have never, ever been so glad not to live in the US as I was on that day. Having to run a gauntlet of protesters likely would have pushed me over the edge and into suicide (major depressive disorder is one of the things I was medicated for). I came close enough without any of that. I was treated with respect and dignity, in a private room in an anonymous short procedure ward in the hospital. They made sure I was sure and wasn’t being coerced, and held my hand as I sobbed my heart out.

      9 years. Wow.

      • Thanks for sharing that. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through all that but at the same time I’m relieved you weren’t in the US and you did have options available to you.

      • Wow, what a powerful story. I’m so sorry you had to go through with that, but I’m glad you made the decision that was best for you, and used the best possible coping mechanisms. I hope you’re able to have the family you dream of. <3

    • I think the culture of silence and the prevailing idea that “good women” don’t have abortions isolates so many people. So thanks for sharing your story.
      Also I had to smile when you talked about your period tracking app because it reminded me of the time I laid back in a post coital stuper when it hit me. I scrambled for my phone to check my app and son of a bitch there was the green circle of fertility. This app gave me the opportunity to use an emergency contraceptive within the necessary window.
      Period tracking app – a girls best friend

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I found it to be very powerful and insightful. I am not able to have children, but I have always been pro-choice for various reasons. It was sad to hear about the woman was lack of resources. We can do so much better as a country!

    • We need these stories to demystify and destigmatize abortion.

      I remember a few months back, reading about a mother (as in, she already had children) who was pregnant again, had a cancer dx, and refused chemo because ‘it might harm the baby’. Never mind that not getting chemo would kill her and leave her already-born children orphans. That is the degree to which abortion is stigmatized.

    • Tragic abortions are the ones where the pregnant person would like to remain pregnant and have a child but cannot for some reasons.
      If “pro-lifers” were actually pro life, they’d put their efforts into helping those women, for example by lobbying for better protection of pregnant women. A friend of mine spent about 20 weeks mostly lying on her back cause she was at risk of losing the pregnancy. During that time health insurance paid 67% of her wages and her employer culd not fire her. If you need, health insurance will even pay for a domestic worker to do your housework and take care of your small kids. That actually saves fetuses and lets them grow into babies.
      But no, “pro lifers” protest abortion clinics. They harass women, they harass those women for whom the abortion is the worst day of their lives.
      I needed an abortion when my first pregnancy had gone Wahoonie-shaped. Which never gets counted as an abortion since no fetus was terminted, even though the medical term is “missed ABORTION” and the procedure was a D&C, a common abortion procedure. If I imagined having to go through protestors who called me a baby killer that day would probably have broken me into pieces (btw, no need to express your sympathy now. It was bad then, but I’ve had 2 kids since, so I’m fine).
      So, that’s a tragic abortion.
      Everything else is not tragic or sad in any way, shape, or form. I will not have another child. We’re using contraception, but of course it could fail. That would mean an abortion and I HATE that in Germany you cannot get a legal abortion except in rare circumstances. You can get an illegal but not prosecuted abortion within the first 14 weeks AFTER you’ve been told what a horrible person you are and that you should have the baby (mandatory pro-life counselling).
      It’s something that walks with me every day, even though I haven’t needed an abortion yet. It sucks.

      • That was a nice fuck-up, wasn’t it? I remembered to type “person” first and then defaulted to “women”. I’m sorry, I’ll try harder next time.

      • I love this comment. It really shows how messed up the people who claim to be about the sanctity of life are. We have the resources to provide and care for people, but we would rather shame people for poverty, or for making decisions to protect themselves.

    • Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your story!

      I very much concur with helping out your local abortion access fund. Also, if folks have the opportunity, get involved with the work of various reproductive rights orgs collaborating in the fight to end the federal funding restrictions for abortion.


    • Read these:
      A powerful statement about abortion

      Female Imprisonment Syndrome

      “I texted my then-serious-boyfriend to tell him what was happening. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to abort his child. He would work 3 jobs to support the child if he had to, and I would have to drop out of my college to move back home.”

      In other words, he was a potential recruit for the Taliban! Yikes!

    • An ectopic pregnancy would still not be considered an acceptable abortion for the Catholic Church or some others.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story.
      Support from the father is also something you were very much blessed with. This line brought grateful tears to my eyes, your husband sounds like a wonderful human.
      ” This would have been a lot more difficult if he wasn’t talking to me through this process or if I didn’t completely trust that he was being forthright.”

      Also, and importantly,
      how can I find or start a Women Have Options Bowl-a-thon in my city??

    • A few thoughts came to mind.

      In his talk at TAM 2014, Dr. Steven Novella had a part about how when explaining to people their diagnosis, they will sometimes break down and be unhappy when it isn’t the MORE severe but definite outcome because an uncertain and less organically obvious diagnosis leaves them in an uncomfortable grey zone. So when you relay in your story how you were temporarily hoping for a more potentially deadly outcome so you could use it as a way to justify your abortion to other people, I thought it was an interesting illustration of Dr. Novell’s anecdote. It’s amazing how the rational parts of our brains give way when we are under extremely emotional circumstances.

      Also, though it can be difficult and awkward at times, it can be very helpful to talk openly and unapologetically about things that our society sees as subversive. People are often times afraid of what they don’t know. I remember reading about a study somewhere that stated simply KNOWING a gay person increases the likelihood that one will support gay rights. I bet that same concept could be applied to abortion. If it’s topical, I talk openly and honestly about being a person with HIV, not only because it helps be deal with it on a personal level, but because I know it could change the stereotypes people carry with them about who HIV+ people are.

      And sorry for the long comment, but relating both of my thoughts above to your story at the same time, shortly after my HIV diagnosis when I began telling people, I would lie and say it was because of a broken condom in order to deflect judgment away from myself. Until I decided, and I’m quoting you Sarah: “Fuck that!”

    • While I understand the fact/evidence of your health circumstances, I fail to understand the logic of the abortion argument in circumstances of a average health women and a father who wants his child. In other words acknowledging but setting to the side perfectly valid arguments of medical conditions and rape circumstances, if a father is perfectly able to financially provided for the mother until she is able to move on with her life, why is it a better moral standard to give the women sole decision over a fathers child and the opportunity of the most advanced life form to live approximately 80 years? I fail to see this as a logical conclusion based on the well being of all three members. It is great you have an example of a man not caring what happens with his child and gives the sole decision to you, but it doesn’t make it an acceptable decision for ALL MEN. We need to make sure feminism does not confused equality for shifting the burden of unfair from women to men.

      • I understand your argument but I think there are a lot of things you fail to consider. Your argument would be more valid if we were talking about an embryo that is wholly developing within an environment other than a person’s body. But we’re not.

        It can be traumatic and emotional for a person to feel like some part of themself is being destroyed or their (perceived) rights are being taken away. But pregnancy and childbirth can have long-lasting and life-altering consequences on a person’s body. And because of this disparate effect of pregnancy on one party versus another, I don’t think it is logical to conclude that each person has an equal and analogous say in whether or not to continue with a pregnancy. Just because someone’s’s DNA is 50% of an embryo’s makeup does NOT mean their voice is equal to or analogous to the person who must physically carry out the pregnancy. Not everything involving two people should always be seen as 50-50 in all respects.

  • ThumbnailMen hating on famous women is a pastime as old as fame itself. From the vilification of Eve (as if Adam didn’t eat the apple of his own free will) to Annie Oakley (“When a man hits a target, they call him a […]

    • ” I want to remind you that I’m not saying any of them are perfect.”
      I’m pretty sure you once dumped your chewed gum on the sidewalk, therefore you’re wrong. You also deserve…*
      Seriously, whatever offense those women have committed, it usually stands in no comparison to the reaction they’re getting.

      *chocolate, I think

    • Yessss. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that one of the most feminist acts we can do on a daily basis is not be shitty to other women.

    • So much criticism of women is about their appearance or what type of guys they date or “do you have to be so shrill in your criticism of pop culture?”

      And of course, American culture in general promotes narcissism, among other negative qualities.

    • Yeah.

      It is OK to not like someone, or not be interested in what someone is doing. Of course the next logical, rational, and most importantly ADULT thing to do is to avoid and ignore them. I don’t have any interest in the celebrities listed here, so I don’t consume whatever products it is that they’re selling. To my knowledge, none of them have done or said anything particularly harmful to humanity or even any individuals, so I don’t have to think about them on that level either. None of them are Jenny McCarthy after all.

      There’s lots of celebrity white men who have done seriously bad things and no one seems to care… so misogyny and racism seem like obvious components of certain types of celebrity hate. Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Adam Carolla, Chris Brown, Sean Penn, on and on and on.

    • I like your 3 points of advise.

      Regarding famous people – do you think there is any validity in the Oscar Wilde quote of “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” i.e. that some (not all obviously) are ‘playing the media’.

    • I still don’t like Anne Coulter because she is demonstrably wrong about just about everything she says, and I still don’t like Sarah Palin because she is incurious and vacuous but wishes to represent me.

      But here’s the secret.
      Disliking a woman is not misogyny, disliking someone because they are a woman is misogyny.

      The ways that I’ve noticed women being attacked is specific too. It always seems to be about their looks or perceived femininity or lack there of, or else it’s about policing their sexuality, or assuming they are less capable because they are women. I found myself falling into it recently regarding Jennifer Lawrence. It’s insidious. It means I need to try harder.

      P.S. – I almost included my standard snarky comment about Sarah Palin, calling her Caribou Barbie, but then I realized that I need to stop that because even though it implies her lack of curiosity and dim-bulbedness it also implies that these things stem from her looks. So that particular barb will not be used by me any more.

      One step at a time. One step at a time.

    • This phenomenon needs a name, a la “The Streisand Effect”.

    • Oops, pre-coffee reading comprehension fail…

    • “The More Men Hate on a Woman, The More I’ll Probably Love Her” This only shows your bias against men, and possible hatred. Annie Oakley on the other hand. What do you mean by (“When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman. When I hit a target, they call it a trick. Never did like that much.*”)? I looked on Wiki and on her page the only time trick was used, is “Oakley’s most famous trick was her ability to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground. via wiki”. I’m also sure you wouldn’t want her as an example, Annie wanted to go to WWII, I’m sure that if we had it Annie’s way women would also have to register for the draft as well. Just to get the right to vote, drive, and go to college. Also Kim Kardashian? you do know how she got famous right? and no it was not the porn she did. Her dad was the attorney for OJ Simpson… Do you really want a woman that started her fame from a man, be one of your examples? Judging by the title of this article.

      • Given this quote:

        “Judging by the title of this article.”

        I’ll assume you only read the title and the 1st paragraph. Did you even read the footnote about the Oakley quote?

        Uh, if we’re going to have a draft (and not the meaningless “Men have to register, but we haven’t actually drafted anyone since the last week of 1972” situation, then absolutely we should draft women as well as men. Or, better, no one. (Disclaimer: I was due to be drafted in January 1973, even had my pre-induction physical in December 1972, in the midst of the Christmas bombing, but Nixon decided to end the draft as a sop to middle-America, who were sick of getting their kids back in body bags.)

        You seem to think the goal of feminism is to receive all the privileges of men and none of the responsibilities. You’re doing it wrong.

        The fact that Kim Kardashian has (most likely) unearned celebrity is kind of the point. The hate (and criticism not based on their words and deeds) directed at famous women, whether their fame is earned as a result of hard work and talent, or just because they are famous for being famous, only makes sense in the context of misogyny. Read the rest of the post, please.

      • Annie Oakley was not a support of the women’s suffrage movement.

        And why do you speak as if all of us here would obviously be opposed to conscripting women?

    • “I assume that all criticism of women is rooted in misogyny. ”

      So if a woman critiques another woman, do you assume she’s being a misogynist?

      • Yes. Sort of.

        P.S. If you are a woman, you can assume what you will. If you are a skeptic, you will except evidence to the contrary and override your default assumption.

        Several points you gloss over, in what can only be an attempt to score points without have actually read the post: 1) Assuming something is a default. You should always change your mind if there is compelling evidence to the contrary. Sarah says exactly that later:

        “I operate under the assumption that all criticism of famous women are rooted in misogyny until I find conclusive evidence otherwise.”

        2) Saying something someone says “is rooted in misogyny” is not the same thing as saying “the person is a misogynist”. They could be repeating something someone else (who may be a misogynist) said without fully understanding the assumptions or implications of what they are saying, or they could be repeating a cultural meme rooted in misogyny. There is a difference between what people do and what people are. Decent people, when they do something that harms others and then discover or are told why it was harmful, attempt to apologize and modify their future behavior to avoid doing it again. Misogynists (and racists and other bigots and bullies), not so much. They already understand and are doing it on purpose.

    • Try as I might to understand the reasoning, I simply can’t agree with assuming all hate directed to certain famous women is the result of misogyny. Obviously some may be, but I wouldn’t treat it as the initial hypothesis.

      I simply don’t like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West or Nicky Minaj. We wouldn’t work on the assumption that all hate directed towards famous men is the result of sexism, and given that presumably at least some of it isn’t, it’s also possible that some of the hate directed at certain women isn’t the result of sexism.

      (A recent instance of what I saw as sexism was the treatment of celebrity nude leaks involving Jennifer Lawrence, with people being outraged (even comedians like Patton Oswalt and Seth Rogen speaking against it) when in the past, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton et al were made fun of on late night television and called sluts. I imagine because Lawrence is a ‘good girl’, America’s sweetheart, while Kardashian is a worthless slut – the traditional virgin/whore dichotomy.)

  • I have to come clean: I genuinely enjoy the show Married at First Sight.

    I know, I know. I started watching it because I thought it looked terrible, and bad TV is something I love. The first few episodes, I watched and mocked. But I found myself compelled to continue watching. I realized I was sympathizing with the characters and I was actually interested in seeing how their relationships developed. Married at First Sight (or as I like to call it, “Science Marriage”) hooked me.

    In case you haven’t heard of this show, the premise is exactly what the title says: six people get married to someone they’ve never met before. There is a team of four “experts” who look at the personality profiles of these six people and “scientifically” match them up with their “perfect partner.” At the end of the experiment, the couples will decide whether to break up or stay married. I put all those words in quotes because a lot of the things they’re saying don’t really have actual meanings. For example, the “experts” who paired up the couples– why are they experts on marriage? We’re told that each expert has a different specialty– one is a psychologist, one is a sociologist, one is a sexologist, and the other is a spiritualist (curiously, the spiritualist is an atheist), but it is unclear if any of them specifically focus on marriage in what they do. The clinical psychologist is certainly licensed, but his website makes him look more like a pop psychologist that you’d see quoted in Us Weekly, discussing the mental health of celebrities he’s never met, rather than a doctor I would want to trust with my most intimate details. (I wrote that before I found that link, seriously.)

    Unfortunately for people who haven’t seen any episodes of Science Marriage, only the most recent two episodes are available on Hulu Plus. (According to CanIStreamIt, you can purchase every episode on Vudu, but I’ve never used that service before and cannot attest to its legitimacy.) This may be changed once the entire season airs, but I haven’t been able to find anything definitive, other than the fact that it’s been renewed for a second season. This is frustrating because I remember hearing some odd and/or problematic comments during the decision-making process by the four experts, but I can’t remember them exactly and don’t want to misquote someone. Still, it felt a little weird it seemed to immediately be the consensus of the four experts that of course the two black people should be together (which is ironic considering almost all the ads for the show feature a black man and a white woman holding hands in wedding attire). [EDIT: I have been informed that you can watch all the episodes on FYI’s website, as well as downloading them on iTunes.]

    While I love reality TV, I also studied Communications in college, and one of the topics I enjoyed most was critically analyzing media. Jenn Pozner is a media commentator and lecturer (who I was fortunate enough to see speak), has written a book called Reality Bites Back that addresses many of the problems in reality TV and other forms of media. If you like to watch reality TV, I highly suggest you read some of her work to help become more savvy in learning how to recognize some of the issues and tricks in reality TV. Jenn is quoted in this article by Maryanne Haggerty as saying:

    In scripted entertainment, there are some shows that are incredibly stereotypical, and some that are incredibly nuanced. There’s a range. In reality TV, they do have writers, they do have editors — but they never have nuance. There are always the same stock characters: the bitch, the slut, the douchebag, the prince charming, the
    angry black woman.

    Unfortunately, this holds true in Science Marriage. In my opinion, every participant in the show is incredibly level-headed, calm, and genuinely trying to do their best in this experiment. But that’s not what the editors want! You can clearly see them trying to force these complicated individuals into certain molds. Jamie is a bitch because she doesn’t trust Doug! (Don’t worry, there’s no shortage of people saying awful things about Jamie online.) Cortney does burlesque– will that make her husband think she’s a slut? Vaughn expects his wife to cook for him, what a jerk! (Okay, to be fair, I think that is a pretty jerky move, but he does listen to feedback on why that’s not okay to expect.) Doug is so funny and sweet, and Jason is an EMT who takes care of his terminally ill mother, they’re both in the Prince Charming role. And of course, Monet is portrayed as the angry black woman, because she speaks up for herself when her partner tells her contradictory things (even though she’s clearly a very bubbly and cheerful person).

    While Science Marriage is one of the better (read as: slightly less focused on intense fights and drama) reality shows out there, it is still a show whose primary function is to make money. For example, at the beginning of every episode, it shows clips of things that happen in the upcoming episode to interest people. In one episode, the couples were speaking to one of the experts. The expert asks, “Vaughn [the husband], what do you like about Monet [the wife]?” It cuts to Vaughn coughing slightly, and then he says, “Could I get a drink of water?” (paraphrased) and gets up to go get a drink. Then it cuts to Monet’s disappointed face. Dramatic!

    Except…that’s not what happened. When the expert asked Vaughn what he liked about Monet, he immediately replied with a list of things he likes about his wife, to which she replied that she was pleasantly surprised, because he normally does not give compliments freely (again, paraphrased, since I can’t go back and watch that episode). It was only later that he got up for water.

    The show also keeps billing itself as an “extreme social experiment,” but doesn’t really follow any experiment conventions or rules. For example, in the very first episode, they’re discussing the surveys each participant took so they could match them up. It’s a bit unclear, but it seemed like there was a bigger pool of contestants, and they narrowed it down to the six individuals on the show (if someone has insider knowledge or has seen an article that goes more into depth on this process, please share it in the comments!). One survey was asking the participants to rate the attractiveness of other people. I took it to mean that they were rating the attractiveness of the other potential participants in the study, but it could have been just rating the attractiveness of people from stock photos. In any case, it’s preeeeetty unethical to share someone’s confidential survey data on national television (both for the woman answering the questions and the guy pictured– sorry, dude). [The image linked is of a computer screen, with a man’s face at the top and “Rate: 1-5” beneath him. You can clearly see the cursor is highlighted on “1,” the lowest rating.]

    The experts also like to state things about relationships, but due to the nature of the show, it’s impossible to know whether they’re quoting actual studies, or just saying pop psychology that sounds good. In an early episode, the spiritualist (Greg Epstein) says, “I think that arranged marriages work. Through dating, people choose one another for the wrong reasons all the time! And what we’re trying to do is bring people together for the right reasons.” Okay, but what ARE those “right” reasons? Do we have actual data to support this? In the second to last episode (“Last Chance at Romance”), the clinical psychologist says, “I know for sure [Vaughn and Monet] are compatible in a relationship. It doesn’t seem like it at this juncture, and they’re engaged in so much conflict, but it’s there.” Are you sure about that? How do you know they’re compatible?

    This show both proclaims that it’s the first ever experiment like this (which it probably is), but at the same time, seems 100% sure that they have completely figured out the “science” of relationships and marriage. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of experimenting to test a hypothesis? You can’t go ahead and state that your methods are perfect when the experiment isn’t even over yet. Granted, they could have filmed some of the interviews with the experts once the experiment did end (when the couples announce whether they want to stay together or get divorced), but a case study of three couples does not a thesis make. Further, what is the hypothesis? That setting up these couples through the use of surveys will…what, cause a marriage to last for a month? A lifetime? How happy do they have to be in order for it to be considered a success, or is it just if they stay together at all? Further, even if the couples are a success, is it really their scientific matchmaking skills that made the couples succeed, or is it the fact that they had access to marriage counselors the entire time and (probably) a stipend to help them afford to move in together that helped their relationship to succeed? (If they didn’t receive a stipend, then the fact that most of them could afford to pay for the apartment they lived in previous to the show as well as the apartment they moved into with their spouse could also be a factor in the relationship’s success.)

    Is Married at First Sight an interesting concept and compelling television? I think so. But if you do decide to watch it, please apply skepticism liberally– toward the editing, the roles they’re trying to squeeze the participants into, and even the things the experts say.

    In any case, I’ll be tuning in next week to see what all of the couples decide.


    • “Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of experimenting to test a hypothesis?”

      When you write it up for a paper, that is what you say. You pick your hypotheses to explain the experiments you are presenting. A lot of times experiments are, at best, only marginally hypothesis-driven. So you suppress the stress axis and study the animal’s response to an induced fever. You can say “we hypothesized it would increase body temperature relative to controls” or “we hypothesized it would decrease body temperature relative to controls,” but ultimately you are looking to see what will happen and you are going to look at more than body temperature.

      I once had to convince my boss to put in my incorrect hypothesis that I specifically designed an experiment to test. The post-hoc correct or mostly correct hypothesis was so ingrained that he did not want to write up a hypothesis that turned out to be mostly wrong. I told him the test I did only made sense in the context of a specific hypothesis, so he finally relented.

    • The concept for the show was developed by a dane, and was aired on Danish television in 2013

      Only one of the Danish couples stayed together at the end of the show, but they divorced shortly after.

    • In general, “reality TV” doesn’t belong anywhere near “legitimate” or “science”. Or a camera, for that matter.

  • (Trigger warning: abuse, rape)

    Earlier today, I was notified that The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, is launching a Kickstarter for a book called God Is An Abusive Boyfriend (And You Should Break Up). If it isn’t obvious from the title, the book is about making specious comparisons between domestic violence and religion. As someone who was raised strict Catholic and has had abusive partners in the past, I’d like to list six things my abusive exes did to me that god never did to me!

    A book cover with a tall man with a beard whose face is hidden by clouds putting an arm around a young woman, who looks uncomfortable.1) Hit me
    2) Hold me down and force me to have sex while I begged him to stop
    3) Show up at my house/workplace/school unannounced to try and “win me back” after I left him
    4) Give me expensive gifts and then use them as emotional blackmail when I was upset with him
    5) Blow up over petty disagreements so I was always afraid of “setting him off”
    6) Intentionally humiliate me in front of his family and friends, then play it off as a joke when I got upset

    Some things worth highlighting from the Kickstarter:

    If you’re not religious, we hope you find it entertaining and informative.” I agree, jokes about domestic violence are super entertaining!
    From the video: “Personally, this is the most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project.” To respond to that, I’d like to quote fellow Skepchick Julia Burke: “WOMEN ARE NOT YOUR FUCKING POP CULTURE REFERENCE PAWN IN YOUR GILMORE GIRLS ATHEISM.”
    We understand some people will have strong feelings about this project, but it’s certainly not our goal to offend anyone.” Oh, well in that case!


    Are there instances where religion is used to justify the oppression of women? Absolutely. But to define someone else’s personal religious beliefs for them while making a hacky joke about domestic violence is just gross and extremely disappointing. And yet, people still wonder why there aren’t more women involved in organized atheism.

    Rather than give to this Kickstarter, why not donate some money to a local domestic violence shelter? I don’t know what else to say to express my serious disappointment, so I’ll just let Tyra Banks speak for me.


    EDIT (August 7, 2014): Hemant has announced he is cancelling the Kickstarter.

    • I appreciate this article because it gives me perspective that I honestly would have missed. It also disappoints me that, after looking at the pages from the book that are shown on the KS page, it appears that the same book could be titled: “God is a Neglectful Partner” or “God is a Shitty Boyfriend,” or something similar without needing to tone down the “points” made in the book (which are just picture-book-ish one-liners). That title doesn’t even enhance the “joke” for the people oblivious to abuse victims.

      Separate from the abuse issue, I also really liked this terrible example of logic: “The reaction was overwhelmingly positive (at least from the viewers who watched the whole thing).” Translated: “People who disliked or were offended by my video were significantly more likely to turn it off before it ended than those who liked it.” Ground breaking.

    • This book seems to send the message that only women are dumb enough to get in an abusive relationship. Interesting that it is targeted in such a way.

      • Well, straight women, gay men, and bisexuals of both sexes, one could ‘technically’ argue.

        There’s also he idiocy of the notion that it’s always possible to break up without repercussions. Abusers…don’t take rejection well. (Understatement of the century.) Then again, historically, religion hasn’t either, and atheism is still a capital offense in some parts of the world.

    • “We understand some people will have strong feelings about this project, but it’s certainly not our goal to offend anyone.”

      This right here is what gets me most. So they are aware that this sort of connection is possibly offensive, but they care so little about those they clearly know they are going to offend, they do it anyway. Merely to amuse. How nice is that.

      I used to respect The Friendly Atheist. No more. This is just the end of my rope. Using abuse victims for a joke? Disgusting.

      • I’m not sure it make a difference to you, but my assumption is that they are indicating they are aware that it will be offensive to Christians/religious folks, which it obviously would be (to most). My guess is that they were originally tone death to the idea that this was offensive in other ways. At least, I hope that is the case.

      • “I used to respect The Friendly Atheist. No more.”

        Yeah, I’ve kinda been done with him since the whole Elevatorgate thing. If memory serves, as the conflict started to really snowball, his response was basically to play “neutral”: something along the lines of “Hey, everyone, let’s let this go. We’re all on the same side.”

        That was about the point when I realized, no, we are clearly not all on the same side.

      • He’s “friendly” insofar as friendliness means “not fighting”, which ignores the fact that there are fights worth having.

    • And in fact, this doesn’t come off as very “friendly” to me.

    • In answer to this criticism Hemant adds

      Because people have suggested that we’re somehow making light of domestic violence, we wanted to assure you that’s not the case. In fact, we take the issue very seriously. This idea of God as an abusive partner is not a new one and a lot has been written about the parallels. Many of those essays, however, are written for a more academic audience. Our goal is to simplify those thoughts and present them in a way that will hopefully be more effective.

      So “others have done it” is a valid excuse and makes it totes OK? Cause it’s dumbed down, that can’t make it even worse. Ever.

      Is Hemant bucking for a name change to The Clueless Atheist?

      • That’s more of less what I’ve been thinking off him since that secular pro-life incident.

    • imagine if instead he devoted these resources to a more worthy cause like finding out how does catdog procreate

    • When I was coming to atheism, one of the steps along the way was thinking through the fact that the god I had been taught to believe in would be a really scary and evil individual if he were human, and deciding being “god” didn’t change that. So I kind of resonate with that basic premise, but it sucks they have to go so carelessly off on a tangent with it. Some sort of novelization or allegory that made the true weirdness of the described character attributed to this god character accessible as someone none of us wants to know and none of us could in good conscience serve even he did exist might be useful rather than this. But I suppose that would take hard work and time and effort, and wouldn’t be as fun or flashy.

    • So at a stroke they alienate:

      1) religious people, who won’t appreciate their god being compared to an abuser
      2) Anyone who gives a crap about victims of domestic abuse and doesn’t want to see their suffering used for a cheap gag

      So all you have left is pretty much atheist dudebros. Which is the target market for a lot of people like this go for. No thanks.

    • It might have worked if he used the title, but then did a serious book on the subject of religious coercion. Just like The God Delusion and God is not Great were provocative titles, but treated the subject of religion seriously. A book treating domestic abuse as a joke, however, doesn’t work, or is next to impossible to pull off.

      • Right. Like, the comparison’s not inapt, that’s not really the problem here, it’s the fact that they’re *joking* about it. That picture of the woman cowering in the shadow of “God” ceases to be funny when you engage your empathy circuits for two seconds and understand that some people actually do literally cower under the threat of violence from their partner.

    • Thanks for writing this article. Though I had heard of this project I hadn’t given it any thought until reading this article. Signed “Guy who has never been in an abusive relationship though I do recall saying some stupid and mean things to girls when I was young.”

    • Libby Anne (Love, Joy, Feminism blog) does a superb job of describing the nuances of religious coercion. The above bit is more of a travesty. A toy for the dudebros.

    • Raina replied 6 years ago

      It is disappointing, though not at all surprising, that many of the popular/ prominent figures in the mainstream atheist movement continue to appropriate the experiences of oppressed groups for the purposes of attacking religion. This is disgusting. Although I never have been a victim of intimate partner violence it disgusts me to see this sort of violence trivialized. This only further demonstrates how mainstream atheism is centered around the experiences of white cishetero men.

    • I was just wondering if you see a difference between Hemant’s kickstarter and the part of the following presentation that starts at around 7:00 and ends at around 10:00?:

    • Let’s remember, that unlike your ex-boyfriend (and holy-shit what an asshole), God is, thankfully, fictional.

      I say thankfully, because if that asshole was real, you would be subject to a guy who says you better love him or he’ll have you punished.

      I agree wholeheartedly that fictional abuse is much better than non-fictional abuse. That said, there are many, many believers out there who are afraid not to love God in fear of the punishment. For them, the abuse is real, even if not as severe as what you experienced (ASSHOLE!!!!).

    • While I understand and appreciate your point of view, I’d like to point out that some of us that grew up in religious households did experience physical violence as a form of punishment from god (of course meted out by dutiful parents)

      Being a jehovah’s witness growing up meant that the emotional blackmail was extremely strong, and any deviation from the prescribed course meant the potential abandonment from your entire circle of friends and family.

      Of course, god being a fictional character actually does nothing itself, but so many times people use god and the bible as an excuse to do bad things (not to mention the atrocious acts of god in the bible itself) and those that supposedly represent him also use their positions to take advantage of those they supposedly look after.

      That doesn’t make it OK to treat domestic violence as a laughing issue but there are more forms of abuse than just physical, and my upbringing definitely encompassed most of them.

  • ThumbnailI’ve only been an atheist for about four or five years. I was raised Catholic, eventually became a non-denominational Christian, then a “well there’s SOMETHING out there” deist, to a “who really knows?” agnostic, […]