• I’m currently in the final preparation stages for a wine course and subsequent certification exam that, if I pass, will render me a WSET Level 3 sommelier and thus eminently qualified to impress your parents. To […]

    • “I am tasting the stars” is my new catch phrase. Thank you!

      • All carbon-based compounds are stardust. Just sayin’

        This is just awesome. I like wine (or many varieties), but know very little. Now I know I don’t have to be embarrassed around people who know a lot. (At least, if most of them are like you!) The takeaway I get from this post is, unless I’m trying to bullshit my way through a job interview, most wine geeks are happy to share their geekiness. I guess that’s true of most forms of geekery; if you express a genuine interest despite complete ignorance, people will appreciate it.

        • For people, like me, who know nothing about wine, “Mondovino” was a nice documentary:

          “The film explores the impact of globalization on the various wine-producing regions, and the influence of critics like Robert Parker and consultants like Michel Rolland in defining an international style. It pits the ambitions of large, multinational wine producers, in particular Robert Mondavi, against the small, single estate wineries who have traditionally boasted wines with individual character driven by their terroir.”


    • We sit around together and talk about proprietors and portfolios and acidity and sometimes we feel removed from the actual enjoyment of a delicious glass of wine, to say nothing of the social value of sharing a bottle with friends. It’s downright refreshing to be around people who can just say, “This is good!” or “I don’t love this,” because it gives us clues to the average wine consumer’s interests and it’s delightfully direct.

      This. :)

      I’m not a wine expert, but I am a very enthusiastic wine consumer. I like doing the winery-tasting thing because it means that I get a chance to try before I buy.

      It depends on who you get serving you and who you wind up being served with. But in my personal experience, being direct and honest with your impressions leads to a happier and more engaged server and a better wine at the end of the day.

      I had a winery tour on one day over my christmas holiday. The woman serving me was a recent graduate from a vinter’s course at University of Auckland, and she was all bubbles and enthusiasm. But we had a hard time finding something I really liked… Until eventually we tried one of their reds, and my whole body just sagged as I grinned in mute, stupid enjoyment.

      The woman behind the counter lit up like a Christmas tree, she was so damn pleased with herself. ^_^

      I also understand it can be intimidating. I took my girlfriend with me on that tour, and she’d never done it before. She freaked a little bit, but handled herself quite well given it was such a new experience. :P

  • Yeah, that headline is trolling hard. But yeah, for almost as long as I’ve been into craft beer people have been complaining that the IPA is too dominant and it’s pushing people who don’t like hops out of the picture. I find this somewhat regional; one of the things I love about Wisconsin is the preponderance of sours, fruit and vegetable beers,…[Read more]

  • A list of eight beers “you should stop drinking immediately” went around earlier last year and even ended up in my inbox a few times, but I didn’t imagine something so silly could have serious traction among the […]

    • The headline reminded me of this Slate article from a few days ago:

      Against Hoppy Beer

      When I first saw it on Twitter, the headline was something like “Hoppy beer is awful and craft brewers should stop making it”, which A) is a misguided position, and B) isn’t even an accurate summary of the article. The actual thesis is more like “craft brewers are focusing too much on hoppy beers”, which is a pretty valid stance, at least for brewers who want to attract the newbies.

      • Yeah, that headline is trolling hard. But yeah, for almost as long as I’ve been into craft beer people have been complaining that the IPA is too dominant and it’s pushing people who don’t like hops out of the picture. I find this somewhat regional; one of the things I love about Wisconsin is the preponderance of sours, fruit and vegetable beers, bourbon-aged stouts, and other styles that don’t have to be super hoppy. Colorado, on the other hand, is a state I typically associate with hops turned to 11 for every style.

        As for me, I spend about 80 percent of the time encouraging brewers to diversify their lineup, making fun of unbalanced IPAs, and trying as many styles and examples as I can, and the other 20 percent judging the National IPA Challenge and planning my next hop tattoo. So I guess you could say I’m a hophead who cares.

  • juliagulia commented on the post, Not All Cops., on the site Skepchick 4 years, 2 months ago

    Excellent tips. Thanks.

  • juliagulia commented on the post, Not All Cops., on the site Skepchick 4 years, 2 months ago

    I’ll be interviewing several in the coming days for a separate project, and I suspect I know what I’ll hear: cops are put in dangerous situations and must feel they can protect themselves. The system requires change on so many levels––training, racial diversity, follow-up after incidents that suggest officers are unfit for duty, laws on the boo…[Read more]

  • juliagulia wrote a new post, Not All Cops., on the site Skepchick 4 years, 2 months ago

    Yesterday a grand jury decided that the only person indicted in the killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man choked to death in broad daylight in New York City, would be the person who filmed his […]

    • I think the situation is even worse than you are suggesting here. I am less and less convinced that any significant number of police disagree with the tactics in the first place.

      • I’ll be interviewing several in the coming days for a separate project, and I suspect I know what I’ll hear: cops are put in dangerous situations and must feel they can protect themselves. The system requires change on so many levels––training, racial diversity, follow-up after incidents that suggest officers are unfit for duty, laws on the books forcing more accountability, gun reform.

        I think any police that do disagree with the tactics fear undermining their ability to protect themselves, as well as their united front, by saying so. But their perspective could be so valuable to this widespread reform that I believe is needed.

    • I agree that the argument of ‘not all cops’ in the face of such tragedy is absurd. It is a little like saying well it wasn’t me. The part that is so irritating is that there are those in law enforcement that just don’t get it. The jig is up, the American public is disgusted and wants better in its communities. There is a reason that their is distrust there. There was mistrust well before the recording in New York. The abuse of power is just so bad now that people are united and willing to do something about it.

  • Yes, I’d agree that Savage has done a much better job of growing and changing as a person over time. As in, he actually is aware that privilege is a thing.

  • EDIT: The original introduction to this post contrasted Dawkins’s feelings of being “silenced” with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurred at the same time that I wrote the piece. It has been brought […]

    • Damn. I think that went out of the park…

      • My head explodes when I hear Dawkins talking about being silenced. And it explodes because what’s happening is that he’s being DISAGREED WITH. For a while, he enjoyed nearly full immunity from criticism within atheism and now that he has to live with opposing views, he’s claiming oppression.

        TL;DR MAN WHO IS USED TO HAVING IMPUNITY IS CRITICIZED; CRIES OPPRESSION. This is a classic case of entitlementitis.

    • I think that Richard Dawkins is one of the best public faces for evolutionary biology, he is very good a communicating its complexities in such a way that laypeople like myself can grasp.

      Having said that, I think he would do himself a huge favor if he would keep his opinions outside of his field of expertise to himself.

      If that opinion from an internet peon such as myself makes Dr. Dawkins feel bullied I have sympathy for him.

      In fact, if I were so inclined I would visit a blog closely affiliated with his own to remind the marginalized in the world to take heart and a seat while we attend to the bruised feelings of the fragile Mr. Dawkins. But then what kind of asshole would do something that condescending and derailing?

      Oh yeah, never mind.

    • I think the difference between Dawkins and Savage is that Savage is self-aware enough to improve himself regarding inclusiveness.

      • To clarify: I think he actually DOES improve himself.

        • Yes, I’d agree that Savage has done a much better job of growing and changing as a person over time. As in, he actually is aware that privilege is a thing.

          • I think Savage does make an effort to improve himself, and is an activist for those who are downtrodden. Looking over that list, there were a good number of “Dan, why would you say that??”, but then there were some where I think sarcasm or context were missed.
            That said, he still has a bit of a ways to go, and definitely needs to continue to be aware of all his privilege, but he has talked to and seen so many people from so many different backgrounds I think he gets a reminder of how much easier things were for him than they are for everyone all the time.
            It would be good if every community had a wider variety of voices though. That way we don’t have to have the same sort of collapse as Mars Hill when there is a fault in The Leader.

    • Thank you for this. It’s an incredibly well written, elegant piece.

    • I want to attend the CFI conference in Buffalo, NY next June with Susan Jacoby and Rebecca Goldstein but don’t think I can stand Richard Dawkins. Maybe I should go to support the first two panelists and make my opinion known to any and all about Dawkins.

    • I’m still waiting for a prominent atheist leader to bluntly tell Dawkins to his face that he’s a hateful horrible bigot and I feel like nothing is going to change until we finally get someone to do it.

  • The problem is not whether alcohol is a potentially dangerous drug––I’d guess just about all Skepchick readers understand that. The problem is that the burden of responsibility falls completely on victims rather than perpetrators. The message is not, “Be careful not to drink too much; you may be in danger of violating someone’s boundaries. Mak…[Read more]

  • TW: Sexual assault

    Lachrista Greco, founder of the organization Guerrilla Feminism, experienced rape culture firsthand when she was sexually assaulted on the UW-Madison campus in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, ten years ago. When she caught the UW-Madison campus police spreading victim-blaming “advice” in the form of a public service announcement this week, she took matters into her own hands, drawing attention to the post’s “don’t-get-raped” approach and putting the UW-Madison police in the national spotlight.

    In a blog post responding to the announcement, which was originally titled “Shedding the Victim Persona: Staying Safe On Campus” (the word “persona” alone, as Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino noted, is problematic enough––but the rest of the language will make you flip a table), Greco pointed out a Rape Apologist Bingo card’s worth of problematic statements, from “police can’t be everywhere” to “overconsumption of alcohol will quickly make you an easy target.”

    I asked Greco to explain her work with GF and share her own experiences with rape culture.


    Are you comfortable talking about the rape you experienced on campus? If so, when was that, and what are some of the factors that weighed into your decision not to report?

    I actually went to Edgewood College, the small private liberal arts, faux-Catholic (because it’s not recognized by the Pope) college down the street from the UW Campus.

    In the summer of 2004 (before attending Edgewood that fall), I was dating a man who went to UW. He was 24 and I was 18. He would consistently ply me with alcohol (he may have spiked what he would give me––I’m not sure). I don’t remember much from that time, except flashbacks of waking up in his twin-sized bed to him removing my clothing, touching me, and then raping me as I went in and out of consciousness. I lost my virginity this way.

    I initially had a very hard time calling this “rape” because it was not the stranger-in-the-bush scenario that I was taught in school (and through media) growing up. My rapist was someone I knew (very well). Someone I trusted. I didn’t report the rape, because of my inability to call what happened to me “rape” as well as knowing full well that I would most likely be blamed, since I was drunk when it happened (and it happened more than once).

    I wasn’t able to name this as “rape” until I was dating a very kind man a couple of years later. I began having flashbacks to the rape when I was intimate with my boyfriend at the time. I talked to friends, I went to a therapist. I finally was able to name what happened to me.


    To what extent do you see rape culture on college campuses to be tied into “party school” (Playboy ranks UW–Madison the #2 party school in the country) and sports culture?

    Rape culture seems extremely tied to “party school” and sports culture. I think many men grow up learning that they are owed whatever they want from women (and society as a whole). I had a man threaten me at a club in Chicago once because I didn’t want to dance with him. Patriarchy enforces the notion that men are to “do” and women are to “be done.”

    It’s very sad that in 2014, we’re still talking having to explain this. Do I think every man who drinks or enjoys sports culture is a rapist? Of course not. But I do think that our drinking culture and our sports culture allows for men to feel safe, but not women.

    Image courtesy of Lachrista Greco
    Image courtesy of Lachrista Greco


    Have you known people who have reported sexual assault? Without speaking too specifically on their behalf, what kind of response do they generally find?

    Yes, I do. I know people who have had good experiences, but mostly I know people who have had heinous and truly scarring experiences with reporting their assaults. Typically, the responses they get are questions about what they were doing at the time, what they were wearing at the time––other victim-blaming bullshit. For this reason, most rapes go unreported.


    Do you know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the responsibility of preventing rape on men, in their paperwork or their laws? What would that look like?

    Ha. I literally said that out loud (which is sad). No, I don’t know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the onus on men.

    Here’s the thing: rape can happen to anyone by anyone. The rapist is not always male-identified (though, statistically speaking, it [usually] is). I think college campuses need to implement programming that is a requirement for all students (new, old, etc). I think a Rape Culture 101 class should be a requirement. It should be a foundation course that all are required to take. It’s so prevalent, but it’s still swept under the rug.

    I get the sense from most administrations that they are so uncomfortable talking about rape themselves that there’s no way they would effectively speak about it to their students. But if they can’t, then they should invite people who can to teach or speak on it. Policies need to be put in place that don’t allow the perpetrator to come back to school if the victim/survivor is still attending. Being a rapist is practically awarded in our society. “You rape someone? Oh, you still get to keep your scholarship! You rape someone? Oh, you still get to play on that football team!”


    How does fighting rape culture fit into your goals for Guerrilla Feminism? Can you talk about some of the things GF does?

    GF is a global feminist network of people committed to intersectionality (the interconnectedness of racism, classism, sexism, sizeism, ableism, etc). We currently have 30 branches all over the world.

    When we critique and analyze rape culture, we look at it from an intersectional perspective, meaning that we look at all facets of the scenario or situation, and we acknowledge and support that a person who is, for example, black, poor, and disabled will have a very different experience than someone who is white, middle-class, and able-bodied. It’s important to look at the interconnectedness of oppressions that so many face. GF does this daily.


    • “I don’t know of any college campuses whose administration or police puts the onus on men”

      If what their police said is anything to go by, the University of Georgia puts at least some onus on men (I never heard what they told the women). The police had us sit through a long lecture of “what young men get into trouble for at college” back in the early 90’s. It included a section on rape and what to never do along with common stories suspects tell them. I considered it obvious and thought anyone who needed to hear this was obviously too stupid to understand it, but I have since learned these courses do lower reported campus rapes.

      I do not know how well UGA administration or police handle rape complaints. The university PD apparently charged young men every year, though.

    • Would it be ‘victim blaming’ to say that “…consumption of rohypnol will quickly make you an easy target.”?

      Alcohol is deliberately used as a date rape drug. High school and college age women may lack any experience to warn them of dangerous levels of consumption. Women who are being ‘plied’ (pried?) with alcohol may be actively prevented from knowing what they are drinking—Michael Shermer anyone?

      And; as Lisak has documented, rapist predators routinely ‘groom’ their victims. Women who demonstrate a special vulnerability to alcohol may be targeted for future assaults. ‘Blacking out’ is a symptom of alcoholism, indeed it is usually considered an ADVANCED symptom. Normal drinkers will pass out, or vomit, without reaching the stage where memory formation is blocked.

      Don’t let resistance to victim blaming be a cover for rationalizing dangerous levels of alcohol consumption. It helps endanger women on TWO fronts.

      • The problem is not whether alcohol is a potentially dangerous drug––I’d guess just about all Skepchick readers understand that. The problem is that the burden of responsibility falls completely on victims rather than perpetrators. The message is not, “Be careful not to drink too much; you may be in danger of violating someone’s boundaries. Make sure you have affirmative, continuous consent if you engage in sexual activity after drinking.” The message is never, “Be careful not to drink too much; you may not be able to recognize harassing behavior in your friends or the people around you in time to report it.” Instead we are told, “Drinking will make it easy for rapists to rape you, so don’t do it.” That’s victim blaming.

        And then when sexual assaults do occur, victims have internalized the message that if they were drinking at all, it was their fault. Yet if I have a couple of beers and leave the bar to find that my car was broken into, I can still call the cops without worrying that they’ll dismiss the whole thing because I’d been drinking.

        • Thank you for educating ‘John The Drunkard’, Julia. You’re nice than I could have been.

        • And isn’t this shit offensive to MEN? To assume that when women go out in public to drink and if they *gasp* get drunk, the men around them are so awful they are going to start raping any moment now?

          • You’re missing the point, and I thought I was using short words and everything. Alcohol is quite toxic to anyone in enough quantity.
            Men who groom and ply potential victims with booze are DOUBLY culpable.

            ‘Don’t drink and drive’ is basic advice, which a significant number of people are absolutely unable to follow. ‘Don’t accept mystery drinks at frat parties from people you don’t know.’ Is advice that CAN be followed. The fact that the mystery drink is laden with extra alcohol instead of the Big Scary Date Rape Drug doesn’t make it less of a threat.

            • No, I’m not missing the point.

              So you’re saying that women are “fully culpable” if the man is “doubly culpable”? Or are women only “half culpable”?

              For getting raped.

              Culpablefor getting raped.?!?!?!?!?!

              You’re not even TRYING to victim blame, to be honest.

              Don’t drink and drive.

              Women aren’t cars to be driven.

              Don’t accept mystery drink is [sic] laden with extra alcohol instead of the Big Scary Date Rape Drug”


              This is nearly intelligible.

            • You’re not even trying NOT to victim blame, I mean, although I’m pretty sure that’s obvious since you literally just said that women are culpable for getting raped if they get drunk at a party (frat or otherwise, does it make a fucking difference?).

              You said that.

              It’s in black and fucking white.

          • And wait a second, you’re saying that people CAN”T follow the advice “don’t drink and drive” BUT women *can* follow the advice not to drink and party?! How is this shit even comparable? This is a shitty analogy.

            Women dare to go out and drink at a party and expect not to get raped for merely existing at a party while drinking.

            People make the choice to drink and drive and harm or kill people.


      • “Don’t let resistance to victim blaming be a cover for rationalizing dangerous levels of alcohol consumption. It helps endanger women on TWO fronts.”

        What about “dangerous levels of alcohol consumption” for MEN? And how fucked up is it that when you think about a drunk woman in public, you IMMEDIATELY think she’s at risk for *GETTING RAPED*? But you’re not trying to “reasonably warn” any men about maybe keeping their dicks in their pants (or getting raped themselves, or into a fight, or accidentally slipping on a wet floor and breaking their head open).

        No, it’s just us women who “must be careful” when we’re out in public doing things you, a man, do without even a second thought. We must reign in our behavior and make sure not to get “too drunk” (whatever that means).

        Is your next suggestion to just not drink at all? Stay in instead of going out? Never leave the house?

    • Eh, the last paragraph is offensive. I’m really glad go is taking intersectionality to heart but was there a really a reason to write poor black and disabled? I understand the intent but it makes the mistake of associating being black with adversities. I wrote this because a Co worker of mine came upon this article and said “why are we always used as the example of poverty”. Think more critically when you speak about race white people.

    • When I see a drunk woman in public my first thought is NOT that ‘she’s in danger of being raped.’ I just hope she isn’t driving. It is women isolated at parties, or in the apartments of rapists, who are being ‘got drunk’ deliberately.

      Obviously, the victim blaming language is utterly pernicious. But right along with it comes the alcohol exoneration language. It is still considered ‘normal’ for Americans to have their initial sexual experiences while partially incapacitated with alcohol. Almost every Jezebel snip about ‘victim blaming’ includes some glib promotion of binge drinking.

      • . It is still considered ‘normal’ for Americans to have their initial sexual experiences while partially incapacitated with alcohol.

        Citation, please. I was sober my first time.

    • Yes John, it is okay to do something that is legal without your motives or judgement being questioned should you fall victim to a crime.

      Drunk drivers are not victims to their crime, that is where you awful analogy falls apart.

      Would anyone question why you were drinking if you got mugged? Would they say you should have known better? Would they even doubt that a crime occurred? No?

      Exactly, stop make women responsible for being victims, it’s sickening.

    • Great article. I think that one reason why we don’t see much effort to address men is because there’s this misconception that rapists are evil, criminal types, not normal people. And so there’s no point telling them not to rape, since they’ll do it anyway.

      Of course, this is wrong, but I think it’s a foundational falsehood in victim blaming.

  • Since I’ve seen this response regarding my so-called food truck hatred repeatedly, I do want to take the time to address it, mainly because I find it really surprising and baffling amid the reactions I assumed I’d get.

    Here’s what I say about food trucks in the piece:

    1) “If you are more concerned about the availability of food trucks in…[Read more]

  • I’ve written a few posts in recent months for which I received the common logical fallacy response that we at the Skepchick Network not-so-fondly refer to as “Dear Muslima.” It goes something like this: “Stop […]

    • Great piece. Thanks for bringing more nuance to this discussion.

    • I think the FWP meme can actually be quite humorous, but only when used in fun. When my wife points out that the stir stick doesn’t reach the bottom of her extra large coffee cup and points out it’s a “first world problem” we share a laugh.

      When you start to take apart someone’s concern over a real problem because there are “bigger problems” is when it stops being witty and becomes a lazy way to attack that concern without addressing the problem.

    • Julie,
      This is a great piece that really got me thinking! Everyone does have their own problems in life, and it is all about perspective. There is a definite difference when you take FWP into account, and life becomes more superficial if that is what you focus on. I just hope that people look outside themselves and find something they care about and do what they can (little or big) to help make a difference!

      I watched the Weird Al Video and just laughed when he sang “I can’t remember what car I drove to the mall!”

    • Made me think. Thanks.

      (Or, #MMTT, is that a thing?)

    • I remember being annoyed when PZ Myers was complaining about how everyone was supposedly caring more about Robin Williams’ suicide than they were about the Michael Brown shooting as though it was impossible to care about both and in fact it turned out there was quite a lot of people who ended up caring about the Michael Brown shooting after all.

    • Thanks, Julia! Another great piece. When FWP is used to silence an argument, it’s often made by someone who enjoys the status quo. The problem with this is that it’s essentially saying, “It is more important to me that I enjoy this thing without it being criticized than for you to enjoy it in a way that feels safe and welcoming to you.” I really can’t think of any other way to see these FWP criticisms.

  • Last night I read Tom Flynn’s post on the use of the pronoun “their/they/them” as a non-gendered singular pronoun. He picked a nit, to use his parlance, with the use of a pronoun he considers inherently plural for individuals. (EDIT: He was responding to an excellent post by Greta Christina in The Humanist, which for some reason he couldn’t be bothered to link. Go read it.)

    Well, Flynn, this nit’s for you. For starters, “their/they/them” has been used to refer to singular, plural, and an ambiguous number of individuals since the Middle Ages. Beyond that, we all know that no language rules are static––has “nitpick” always meant what it means in his first paragraph? As a former copyeditor, I understand the importance of internal consistency, but that’s not what Flynn is talking about (and, indeed, if he was so inclined, he could change CFI’s conventions with regard to pronouns with a single email). Flynn is talking about who gets to decide what language is used to describe an identity, and especially after a goblet of peach blonde ale from Epic Brewing Company, I simply had no patience for that.

    I thus analyzed Flynn’s post critically with help from Nicki Minaj and beer.


    “If you’re confused about terms like “transgender” and “cisgender,” or feel uncomfortable speaking or writing to — or about — transgender people…”

    Translation: I feel uncomfortable speaking or writing to transgender people.




    “I’m down with all of that except the last bit.”

    Translation: Allow me to assist you with the use of my language that I invented.



    “I say that with empathy — I have friends who have adopted the plural pronoun…”

    Translation: I don’t consider my friends capable of using language or claiming identities of their own, but they’re pretty cool.


    “Just sayin’.”

    Translation: I used Twitter for approximately four days in 2011.



    “If you were formerly cisgender and later identified as transgender, that doesn’t mean the old you died and a new you took your place… From any progressive point of view, that’s an absurd way to look at things.”

    Translation: That friend I had whose pronoun I refuse to use was supposed to help me out with this section.



    “As languages go, English has long been proficient at distinguishing between the mention of individuals and the mention of groups.”

    Translation: I have never used the terms “sheep,” “troops,” “water,” “advice,” “fruit,” or “you.”



    “My options as a writer who wishes to describe this situation clearly have been reduced because the power of my basic linguistic tools has been blunted.”

    Translation: Limitations on my options as a writer who hasn’t the energy for more than a single sentence-worth of imagery are more concerning than limitations on the ability to convey one’s gender identity.



    “Still, at FI we generally insist on achieving gender neutrality on every occasion, even if that means repeating “he and she” at the expense of rhythmic expression. Or, again, we’ll recast the sentence to make the problem go away.”

    Translation: There’s no way to recast CFI to make me go away.



    “As a general rule, if we can be inclusive without courting inaccuracy, I think that’s the way we should prefer.”

    Translation: Let’s get one thing clear: I will decide how to label you accurately. You sit tight.



    “…namely the unambiguous handling of number.”




    “Let it be noted that I have not discussed FREE INQUIRY’s embrace (also drawn from Chicago) of the so-called Oxford comma. Sometime when I want to write a really contentious blog post, I may tackle that.”

    Translation: Enough about trans* people’s rights. Let’s get back to a subject I really care about: prescriptive grammar.


    Special thanks to Courtney Caldwell for her gif location expertise. 

    • Ha!

      This was way more fun, and way more insightful than my piddly comment left on the site itself. Well done.

    • Tom Flynn is fucking awful anyway. He thinks you give “Aid and comfort to the enemy” if you do anything but stare at the wall and be a grinch in December.

    • Anyone who thinks using they/them as singular pronouns is something trans people invented obviously doesn’t get out much. Not only does it go back to the Middle Ages (I didn’t know that until now), but it’s been common at least since I was a kid back in the 1970s.

    • Lets stop worry about the numbers and start worry about the people and respecting them for being born that way and their wishes on what they would like to be called…Thank you!

  • One of my many takeaways from Ferguson coverage over the last two weeks has been a confirmation of a suspicion I’ve held for awhile: journalists have more than earned their bad rap. Sources don’t assume that we’ll quote them unfairly, that prejudice and stereotypes will dominate our narrative, and that we’re after “the story” rather than the truth because they’re paranoid. They assume those things because we do them all the time, and we need to do better.

    Based on the biggest lessons I’ve taken to heart as a young journalist, here are questions I suggest reporters, especially white reporters, ask themselves while writing every story.

    Are my sources diverse?

    White people are accustomed to speaking for everyone, to being the default, and to being considered authorities on issues whether they’ve experienced them personally or not. Fight this bias, and the tendency for reporters (of whom the vast majority are white) to only present people of color in a negative light, by working hard to find diverse perspectives on every issue and making a special effort to find perspectives from marginalized people affected directly by a particular social issue.

    What are my assumptions?

    Good reporting is also good skepticism. Are you fitting your story into a particular narrative or stereotype, like the mainstream media’s depiction of Ferguson’s peaceful protestors and violent police as police attempting to control a “mob”? Are you assuming that anyone’s actions are justifiable, or that any particular narrative is the “right” one?

    Is this a time for compassion?

    While Michael Brown was getting posthumously smeared as “no angel” and the grieving community of Ferguson was being described as “looters” and “rioters,” Robin Williams’s house was getting stalked by ambulance-chasing paparazzi. Those of us who want to build a career on something more than tabloid fodder need to understand that the New Media allows for humanity. For an example of how journalists can introduce compassion constructively, look no further than Sarah Kendzior, an outstanding St. Louis-based journalist who has written powerfully and unapologetically from within the story.

    Is this about me or my subjects?

    Reports of journalists treating Ferguson as a career-making networking fair have circulated since just a few days following Michael Brown’s death. Rather than placing ourselves above it, we need to recognize this as the all-too-common tendency that it is, and call it out from within. The film Capote deals with the writer’s struggle to balance personal ambition and responsibility in one of the most raw and honest ways I’ve seen; ultimately, we are in a profession that profits off misery, suffering, and sensationalized violence, and we alone have the power to reshape that.

    What can I learn from the birth of Twitter reporting and death of print journalism?

    If you are still in the “Internet is killing journalism” camp, go watch the first season of House of Cards and then retire gracefully with Tom Hammerschmidt. Twitter gives a voice and a platform to anyone with something to say, and as such, it is saving journalism from the biases and constructed narratives of yore. By the same token, recognizing Twitter as a viable journalistic medium means respecting intellectual property (and, one hopes, someday actually protecting users from harassment): you can’t just compile a bunch of manual retweets and curated tweets of others and call it your own reporting. If not for Twitter (and Vine and Instagram) we would not know what’s really happening in Ferguson. Think about that, and learn, and humble yourself before the population you claim to serve.

    Featured image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    • Julia Burke,

      A big part of the problem is that the networks want to make money, and reporting on mostly positive stories, including ones involving minorities just wouldn’t be as profitable, so they tend to focus on the negative. You know the old adage, if it bleeds it leads.

    • I understand that, I really do but the adage comes on the backs of Black and Brown people and the media needs to seriously rethink that.

      I live in the Black community. I know for an absolute certainty that we’re not as bad as the MSM has made us out to be but then I have the benefit of personal experience. For White people who don’t have that experience,the only thing they know about Blacks and Latinos is that we’re all nappy headed Thugs and Baby Mommas, who can’t speak standard English. Focusing all of their attention on a minority within the minority.

      The MSM has spent the past 30/40 years equating the word Black with violence/crime. And they were very successful at that. I don’t blame Darren Wilson for what he did bc he is exactly the result you get from constant brainwashing by the media that Black men are the most dangerous, sub-human creatures on Earth and that White men MUST assert their authority over them by putting them down hard. He’s very much a product of his culture.

      Sorry if I sound so cynical but despair about this topic pretty much comes with the color.

    • A big part of the problem is that the networks want to make money, and

      That maybe the problem with “some” of them. For many of them its a combination of laziness, which is to say, they are happy to repeat the narrative being driven by some other media outlet, rather than appose them, and lose viewers. And, those other outlets? They have an agenda. The agenda may be, in some cases, that they will lose readers/viewers, if they don’t bang the drum of their readership/viewership, which are heavily invested in a one sided perspective already (such as being white, or conservative, or Tea Party), but the net result is that their agenda turns into the white, conservative, Tea Party advocates, or what ever other disease riddled world view they are scared to challenge either their readers/viewers, or possibly even boss, over.

    • I think you have to also factor in unconscious (and sometimes conscious) racism.

      We (USA, at least) live in a culture steeped in the centuries-old stereotype that black men are, as a class, dangerous criminals. So when someone — reporter or not — sees a black man doing something, they’re much more likely to assume he’s doing something criminal than if it’s a white person. (There have been a number of experiments that confirm this.) If they’re writing a TV script that calls for a violent criminal, in all likelihood, they’ll make him black. If they’re putting together a “reality” show about police work, and they have a choice of showing them apprehending a white person or a black person, which do you think they’ll choose.

      In all cases, they’ll say they’re not racist, that race doesn’t even play a factor. They’ll explain how the behavior of the black person who’s locked out of his house is really different from that of the white person in the same situation. That the black person who beat someone up is more dangerous than the white person who does exactly the same thing. (Or that the black pre-schooler who knocks over chairs is being anti-social while when a white kid does exactly the same thing is just being exuberant.) They’ll explain that the scene with the black person being arrested is more interesting or more newsworthy or something, and that it has nothing to do with race. If you complain that “human interest” stories almost exclusively show white faces while crime stories almost exclusively show black faces, they’ll just point to crime statistics. They’ll believe they are being “rational” and “objective,” and not see how their perceptions are skewed by the racism they’ve been breathing since birth.

      Racism is endemic and built into the structure of USA society. To support it, all you need to do is take the most comfortable path, to do what’s expected. To oppose it takes conscious effort and looks and feels awkward. It violates social norms and makes people uncomfortable. I remember people disparaging the Gannett newspapers because they had a policy that human interest stories and pictures had to include a representative number of members of minority groups — yet that is exactly what a newspaper has to do if they want to overcome their unconscious racism.

      All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

      (BTW: almost all of this applies to sexism, too; just change the stereotypes.)

  • This post is Part VI in my Skeptical Wine-ing series. Previously: Part I, II, III, IV, V1, and V2

    CN: Spiders; bees; small and quickly darting animals

    Note: The image above, taken by me, is from a winery […]

  • I don’t call this an article, actually––I call it a first-person rant on a forum that allows me to occasionally indulge in things like that. Hi, welcome to Skepchick! We have a pamphlet: http://media.tumblr.com/dba73fc750f51c706df5b515325443bb/tumblr_inline_mp0b4hWfy41qz4rgp.gif

    The point here that I will entertain is #2. I agree! White lib…[Read more]

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  • dr. dr., I agree that an essay identifying a problem should be specific rather than vague.

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  • dr. dr. and anbheal,

    I’m very familiar with the “Dear Muslima” fallacy, and I can understand how my reference to Gaza (which was meant to describe the weight and tone of conversations about food sourcing, not imply that people shouldn’t care about anything else right now because Gaza) might cause you to mistake what I’m saying for that. My…[Read more]

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