Musical Preferences Vs. Personality

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I heard about a study where they linked the type of music you like with your personality traits, or vice versa; I’m not sure which comes first in this chicken/egg scenario.

Any time I hear about music studies, my interest is automatically piqued. And then, I forgot about it for a while, until I added some music in very disparate genres into my iTunes library. So, today, we’re going to study the study and see how it holds true.

The study was published at PLOS ONE, a science journal I’ve never heard of, however, the article seems to be peer reviewed, which gives me slightly greater confidence in the results. In any event, I take the source material with a grain of salt.

Unless otherwise linked, all quotes in this post are from the article at PLOS ONE.

The Premise

Why do we like the music we do? Research has shown that musical preferences and personality are linked, yet little is known about other influences on preferences such as cognitive styles. To address this gap, we investigated how individual differences in musical preferences are explained by the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory.

OK, so they’re trying to link cognitive styles to type of music preferred. What’s this empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory then?

The empathizing–systemizing (E–S) theory suggests that people may be classified on the basis of their scores along two dimensions: empathizing (E) and systemizing (S). It measures a person’s strength of interest in empathy (the ability to identify and understand the thoughts and feelings of others and to respond to these with appropriate emotions); and a person’s strength of interest in systems (in terms of the drive to analyse or construct them).

I’m highly skeptical of horoscopes since they shove people into only twelve pigeon-holes; this empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory uses only two. Also, is it a theory, i.e., provably true with data to support it, or is it only an hypothesis? The Wikipedia page refers to it as both.

Theories and hypotheses are not the same. You can’t just call a scientific premise a theory willy-nilly. Until you have definitive proof, it’s an hypothesis. I’ll get off my soap box now, but that drives me batty.

Essentially, the “E-S Theory” is supposed to graph all people on a chart between systemizing and empathizing. Most people are supposed to fall closer to one or the other, which makes sense I suppose when dealing with only two sort of contrary criteria.

Also, in the interest of disclosure, I noticed that both the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory/hypothesis, and the study from the Journal PLOS ONE were written, at least in part, by this man, Simon Baron-Cohen:

Simon Baron-Cohen (

Not that his picture has anything to do with anything, but I like to know who’s doing the talking. Also, his name is remarkable similar to this man, Sacha Baron-Cohen, a comedian and professional bullshitter:

Sacha Baron Cohen (

Anyway, moving on since that’s probably not relevant at all.

Essentially, the premise of the study is to categorize all musical preferences and personality types into two groups: empathizing and systemizing, which automatically makes me leery.

Today’s Horoscope: Be cautious of studies from unknown science journals written by people with the same last name as comedians.

The Mechanics

Since this study separately measures (I hope it’s separate–otherwise we’re dealing with a correlation/causation problem from the get-go) what type of music a person prefers and what type of personality that same person has, before I looked at the study’s results, I was most curious as the mechanics of the study. According to Baron Cohen, that would make me a systemizer.

There are millions of possible variations in both personality and musical preference, so I wanted to see how they took that into account.

Facebook users were able to complete a variety of psychology-related questionnaires.

So, Facebook. They used personality test results from people who take those online personality tests and share them on Facebook. Automatically, that means you’re limiting personalities and dealing only with certain personality types, since only some people are likely to do Facebook surveys, e.g., not me.

Each sample completed the same empathy measure but they differed in the musical stimuli presented to them.

Well, at least we settled the correlation/causation question.

By reporting their preferential reactions to musical stimuli, samples 1 and 2 (Ns = 2,178 and 891) indicated their preferences for music from 26 different genres, and samples 3 and 4 (Ns = 747 and 320) indicated their preferences for music from only a single genre (rock or jazz).

So, the first two groups of 3,000+ people were asked to give their opinions on 26 styles of music, while the second two groups, made up of 1,000+ people were asked to give only their opinion of rock and jazz respectively.

If I was in group 4, I’d be screwed since jazz is one of my least favorite genres ever. Anyway…

Results across samples showed that empathy levels are linked to preferences even within genres and account for significant proportions of variance in preferences over and above personality traits for various music-preference dimensions.

Alright, so they found that even in groups 3 and 4 that only listened to rock and jazz respectively, personality differences (between only empathizing and sympathizing) were apparent.


Those who are type E (bias towards empathizing) preferred music on the Mellow dimension (R&B/soul, adult contemporary, soft rock genres) compared to type S (bias towards systemizing) who preferred music on the Intense dimension (punk, heavy metal, and hard rock).

And that right there is why the study first interested me, because I like music in ALL OF THOSE GENRES.

Analyses of fine-grained psychological and sonic attributes in the music revealed that type E individuals preferred music that featured low arousal (gentle, warm, and sensual attributes), negative valence (depressing and sad), and emotional depth (poetic, relaxing, and thoughtful), while type S preferred music that featured high arousal (strong, tense, and thrilling), and aspects of positive valence (animated) and cerebral depth (complexity).

Again, depending on my mood, I like all of those descriptors. I like hip hop, hardcore punk and heavy metal. I like classical, classic rock and country. I like big band, blues and bluegrass. Ska, soul and stoner rock. Progressive, psychedelic and post rock. Folk, funk, flamenco.

My iTunes library has over 40K songs in practically every genre from all of recorded human history. It has over 26 genres of music in the letter A alone. My full shuffle just went from Frank Sinatra to Astronautilus to Cause For Alarm to Parliament. This could go on forever, but you get the picture.

Classify that, Simon Baron-Cohen.

Based on my musical taste, you can’t presuppose that I’m either empathetic or systematic. So, which am I? Well, just to be thorough, I took the personality test.

Just as my musical taste is all over the map, so is my emphathizing and systemizing. At least that much is consistent.

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According to the test, I’m almost right in the middle. I have a “lower than average ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately” and “a lower than average ability for analyzing and exploring a system.”

Because I’m almost dead in the middle, I’m terrible at both systemizing and empathizing. I’m an anomaly and below average at everything. I have failed at human; maybe I’d be a better sea otter.



I think it’s fair to say that, just as every human who has ever or will ever exist on this planet cannot be easily classified as one of twelve astronomical signs, it’s even less accurate when you attempt to shove those same people in only two categories. Then, when you extrapolate those results into musical taste, well, things start getting silly.

And, really, what’s the point anyway? We like what we like, no matter whether we’re an E or an S.

Also, I think generalizations of any kind are bunk. So, thanks for that.

Following the incredibly broad brush strokes laid out here, are you a systemizer or an empathasizer based on the music you like? If you want to go for extra credit by taking the personality test, how accurate are your results, especially when compared to the type of music you prefer?



In honor of the momentous, yet decades late, decision to legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level in the United States, I have drawn a hippo and named him Kennedy. hipporainbow To be honest, I started the drawing of the hippo yesterday before the Supreme Court became rational. Hippos have not much to do with the Supreme Court or same-sex marriage, but Kennedy looks good on a rainbow background. Besides, if they knew or cared what it was, I’m sure hippos would approve of same-sex marriage, because they’re cool.

Thank you, SCOTUS majority, for not taking the sissy way out and merely recognizing same-sex marriage across state lines. No, you went all the way and legalized it. Good job on you!

As to the dusty dissenters, well, screw you. Roberts, go retire somewhere with your hatred to keep you warm at nights, and take the other three curmudgeons with you. That the SCOTUS minority of wizened windbags is having a terrible week doesn’t disturb me as you’ve caused me many in the past.

I have a few words for Scalia, the squeakiest wheel on this particular go-kart. In light of your opinion on Citizen’s United, I’d particularly like to call you out on this bit of double-dealing hypocrisy from your dissenting opinion:

This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

In the Citizens United ruling, you took, as you say, the “most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776” away from “the People” and handed it to the highest bidder in the form of “constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine.”

In the Citizens United case, you didn’t allow something so trifling as people getting married; your ruling took a hacksaw to the underpinnings of American democracy as a whole. Oh, and you also turned corporations into people. How corporations = people still boggles my tiny primate mind. And, no, I’m not likely to get over it or stop bringing it up any time soon.

So, Scalia, I accuse you of the same thing that you’re accusing the majority of today. You go on an on about abuse of power, legislative meddling and chicanery by the SCOTUS majority, when you’re guilty of enacting legislation, or as you call it, “super-legislative power” in the Citizens United case. I suppose if you’re Antonin Scalia, it just depends on which side of the fence you’re on as to whether something’s an abuse of power.

Besides, I don’t even believe that the majority is guilty of abuse of power since Kennedy’s opinion is chockablock with legislative precedence that backs up the ruling. I totally agree with this part of your dissenting opinion though, Scalia:

A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

In view of that statement of yours, would you kindly repeal your Citizens United ruling? Thanks in advance.

One last thing, Scalia: at the same time you accuse Kennedy of using high-flown, flowery language, shame on you for saying “Huh?” in a SCOTUS opinion. A little pomp and circumstance is acceptable, even expected, from the highest court in the land. You do realize that your “Huh?” and the disparaging remarks you made will be on the record forever, or as long as our battered (at your hands) democracy stands, right?

Anyway, personal morals have no business mingling with the law. I can’t say it any better than this line from Kennedy’s majority opinion:

…when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied.

Congratulations to all the people who can now get married anywhere in the US. It’s about damn time.

Obligatory, shameless self-promotion: you can buy your own Kennedy here.

Awarding Thievery

Based on my series 10 Bands You’ve Probably Never Heard, I’m sure it’s fairly obvious that I’m not a big fan of pop music. I never listen to music on the radio, and I couldn’t care less about Katy Perry or Rihanna’s latest. Yawn.

I have Kanye West’s latest album from 2013, Yeezus. I’ve tried listening to it more than once and it’s absolutely awful. Black Skinhead is the only almost listenable song (I can almost listen to the whole thing before skipping it). The whole album is so auto-tuned that I’m not even sure that Kanye West is a real person and not a robot.

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I also have Nas’ penultimate effort, Life Is Good, which for some reason, brings all the background noise to the front and drowns his voice entirely. Who did the mixing on this? It’s terrible. Why are the violins louder than his voice?

I have the latest Daft Punk, too, which swept the Grammy Awards in 2013. I admit that Get Lucky is a catchy song, but it’s also predictable and a far cry from the sound that made Daft Punk famous in the first place.

I bring forth these examples to prove that I do, in fact, try to listen to popular music; I just find it boring and so auto-tuned as to be unrecognizable as a human voice.

I didn’t watch the Grammy Awards last night, but I heard about them this morning. It seems that they were swept by Sam Smith. His song, Stay With Me, that raked in all that Grammy bling, including Song of the Year, was partially stolen. Sam Smith acknowledged it when he agreed to pay royalties:

The settlement reportedly included a 12.5% writing credit to both Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (ELO). The song’s credit on the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) now lists Smith, Petty, Lynne, and Jimmy Napes as the chief songwriters.

Smith said, “I am 22 and I’ve never heard the song.” He’s never heard a multi-platinum song that has never stopped getting radio play, has been covered 20 times by everyone from Pearl Jam to Johnny Cash, and used in everything from presidential campaigns to sports arenas in the more than 22 years it’s been around.

The Grammy for Song of The Year was awarded to Jimmy Napes, William Phillips and Sam Smith, with no mention of Lynne or Petty, either by Sam Smith or the Recording Academy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bill Freimuth, the Recording Academy’s senior vice president of awards, said this before the show:

Since Lynne and Petty did not do any new writing for this work, we are considering their original work to have been interpolated. Lynne and Petty will not be considered nominees nor will they be considered GRAMMY recipients, should the song win. Rather, they would be given certificates to honor their participation in the work, just as any other writers of sampled or interpolated work.

Meanwhile, Tom Petty has never won a Grammy for either Song of the Year or Record of the Year, and Sam Smith now has more Grammy awards than Tom Petty has won in his entire career.

This is hardly the first time that a major American awards show has congratulated plagiarism.

If you’re familiar with this blog, at this point, you’re probably going to want to roll your eyes, since I’m going to talk about my favorite example of awarding thievery, The Departed.

I watched that movie in 2006 not long after it was released. As I was watching, I had a strange sense of déjà vu that I had seen it before. It took about 30 minutes into its tedious 151 minute run-time to realize that The Departed was, in actuality, one of my favorite Hong Kong movies, Infernal Affairs.

Infernal Affairs has a better cast, it’s shorter (by 50 longass minutes) and best of all, it’s original. I’ll take Andy Lau or Tony Chiu Wai Leung any day over Leonardo DiCraprio. Most of you probably have no idea who they are even though they’re hugely successful Hong Kong movie stars.

Let’s strip all the best acting, picture, editing, directing, etc. awards, and just deal with the thievery.

The Departed won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and it was nominated for the best screenplay at the Golden Globes where there was zero mention that it was adapted from Infernal Affairs. It also won or was nominated for best screenplay at twenty other awards shows, out of which, eight of them don’t mention that it was adapted from another source at all. Over 40% of its writing awards and nominations fail to mention that it was not original and it already existed as another movie released only four years prior. But, that movie wasn’t in English, so I guess it doesn’t count.

The Departed‘s writer William Monahan contributed 50 unnecessary minutes which dragged things out by adding lots more ‘splaining, because Muricans are dumb and couldn’t possibly follow a plot unless we’re spoon fed. There was little mention of the movie’s real writers, Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who by the way, won a ton of Asian awards for their original writing, but none in America.

Go watch Infernal Affairs and tell me it’s not a better movie. I’ll disagree every time. To be fair though, perhaps had I not known what was going to happen in The Departed–a supposedly new movie when I watched it–before it happened, I might not hate it so much. It was the last Scorsese movie I ever watched.

End of The Departed rant.

So, yeah, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear that Sam Smith won a ton of awards for a song already written by someone else. Nor was I surprised to hear that he didn’t even acknowledge Tom Petty or Jeff Lynne (who was there) any of the times he was on stage accepting awards. Disappointed, yes, but not terribly surprised.

It seems the American public doesn’t care about creativity or originality. Most people don’t even know that a lot of their beloved pop idols’ songs–starting with Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time all the way to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off–were actually written by a 43-year-old Swedish dude. Max Martin has written more number-one hits than anyone besides Lennon and McCartney, plus, 58 top ten hits in the United Kingdom and 51 in the United States, yet no one knows who he is.

A middle-aged man wrote Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl and no one cares.

Kinda puts a different spin on it, eh?
Kinda puts a different spin on it, eh?

So, y’all go on with your popular stuff. Buy yet another pale, unoriginal imitation. I’ll keep listening to bands who write their own songs and watch movies you’ll probably never see until they’re remade into Murican English for no goddamn reason. Just keep on leaving Tom Petty and me out of your celebrations of theft and unoriginality.

We’re All Liars


In the wake of the Brian Williams scandal, where he was called out for repeatedly telling an anecdote that wasn’t at all true, there’s been a lot of talk about bald-faced media LIES (a post topic in and of itself), and the fallible mechanism called the human memory (this post’s topic).

In the weeks and years immediately following the incident in question, Williams’ retelling was fairly accurate, but over time, instead of being in a helicopter well behind the action, he was right in the thick of it.

I once caught a fish this big...
I once caught a fish this big…

The fact is, he’s a liar. But, so am I. And, while we’re at it, so are you. Sorry, but you lie to yourself and you lie to everyone you know all the time. We all do. There’s even a word for it in psychiatric circles:

Confabulation: To fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory.

Brian Williams may have lied to make himself seem cooler, or he really could have remembered being in a helicopter that was shot down, even though it never happened.

In his memory, this might have been making out with Cindy Crawford. (
In Brian Williams’ memory, this might be him making out with Cindy Crawford.

George W. Bush said that he remembers seeing the first plane crash into the World Trade Center as it happened, even though not one media outlet covered it until a few minutes later and he was in a classroom talking to kids at the time. There’s this famous derpy photo of him being informed of the situation that proves that statement is untrue:

"Mr. President, terrorists have taken a giant shit in your lap." (
“Mr. President, the cafeteria is out of pudding.”

But let’s not use George W. as an example of anything but incompetence.

How about you?

Remember that time that you and your BFF were at that party that one time and that thing happened? Yeah, well, she wasn’t there. She was with you the night the other thing happened at that other party though, so your brain just mashed them together.

Remember how big your childhood house was, right? It wasn’t actually that big; you were smaller. When you picture your first bedroom, you can really picture it. Except it might be not like you remember.

As someone who has plenty of experience with brain FAIL, I can attest to how unreliable and completely changeable the human memory actually is.

We tend to think of our memories as written in stone, but our brains are tricksters. When we demand that they recall something and the memory in question is a little degraded, our brains quick-like-bunny dust it off and fill in the gaps with whatever. It will throw your best friend from college in a memory from college, because he was normally with you during that time period. Except he wasn’t there. And honestly, were you even there?

It’s a sobering thing coming to terms with the fact that the mechanism you rely on for quite literally everything is maybe not so good. Our brains keep us alive by regulating our heart rates, breathing and every other thing our bodies do. They’re responsible for our personalities and every interaction with the world we have ever had. They are at the heart of everything we see, taste, feel, think, read, say and do. They are also in charge of remembering it all, and detailed records don’t seem to be a priority. Good enough is often what we get.

I know first hand how pants-shittingly terrifying it can be to come to terms with just how crappy your brain is. A traumatic brain injury will do that to you. For a while, I couldn’t remember what happened two minutes ago. I had the memory of a goldfish (ahh, this blog’s title suddenly makes sense to you now!).

I had to drop out of school, quit my job and try to shove square pegs into square holes. I did Rorschach tests, word association tests, IQ tests, visual tests, cognitive tests, and tests that tested what kind of test I was testing and how I was testing on the test tests. In other words, I did a lot of tests.

I had to relearn practically everything and my memory went from the healthy memory of a 19-year old to the Swiss cheese memory of a geriatric Alzheimer’s patient. Fortunately for me, because I was so young, my brain was still pretty flexible and I was able to build new neural pathways. It took about a year for me to be functional again, but I will never get it all back. There are memories trapped in my head, mostly of my childhood, that I will never see again.

Also fortunate for me was the fact that I’ve always been a writer. Practically from the time I was old enough to write, I’ve kept a written record of my life, so even if I don’t remember something, I can usually look it up and get my account of what happened at the time. My early childhood is gone forever though.

So much teenage angst...
So much teenage angst…

I tell you all this to reassure you that, even with a massive head trauma like mine, you and your brain don’t have to be enemies. You don’t have to look at every memory that surfaces with suspicion. That said, you shouldn’t take everything at face value either. Your brain is mutable. Memory is not carved in stone, and even though you may see a memory vividly in your mind’s eye, it is not always to be trusted completely.

This post is in no way meant to imply that Brian Williams isn’t a big fat liar. I’m not defending him. All I’m saying is that it is possible–not likely, but just a smidgen possible–that his memory did play a trick on him and he did remember being in that shot-down helicopter when he wasn’t at all.

George W. Bush is still a big fat liar though.

And So It Goes


On September 30th, a panicked, crying teenager called emergency services and told the dispatcher that his mother had just shot his father.

“My parents got in an argument, and there were shots fired. It’s my father. He’s in the house, OK? It wasn’t my mom’s fault. She was defending herself.”

And so it goes. You can listen to the full audio here.

It made the news because the father was the mayor of a Los Angeles area city called Bell Gardens. According to the wife and son, the man abused his wife for years. They’ve been married since 1986.

On September 30th, the story goes that the man was beating his wife, their son tried to intervene, the man punched his son in the face. The wife grabbed a gun and shot the man multiple times. Today, they are holding a public memorial for the man.

This quote from the mayor’s brother is not outside the norm of historical reactions:

“He loved [his family] more than life. He loved his wife a lot, he always loved his wife. I never saw any evidence of [abuse]. Show me the evidence. It has to be proven. She doesn’t want to go to jail–that is why she is saying that. I just want justice for my brother.”

And these quotes from area residents:

Residents described Crespo as a friendly man who ‘just helped so many people.'”

“I don’t believe what happened in here, because he is my neighbor, and he was a very friendly person,” Laura de la Cruz said. “I don’t believe it.”

Meanwhile, the wife’s lawyer said of the wife:

“Her husband’s death was a ‘very tragic loss for the family.’ But, he said, his client had long been a victim of domestic violence — and was prepared to show investigators statements, photographs and other evidences proving such.”

There were no prior law enforcement calls to the residence, and of course, neighbors said they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

What surprised me about this story when I first heard it was not that he was an abuser and she shot him, not his family’s or the general public’s reaction, but that, after a forthright confession of having shot her husband and hours of police questioning, both the mother and son were released without being charged. It’s still under investigation, but as of now, she has not been charged.

A woman shot her husband, not in strict self-defense, but in defense of her son. There was no on-the-record data showing abuse. The husband was a well-regarded elected official who is now dead. Yet, the wife was not charged. That would not have been the case a decade ago.

You can’t shoot your own husband in self-defense. That’s silly talk. He’s your husband.

You can’t defend your children against an abusive monster who happens to be their father and not go to prison.

You can’t expect anyone to believe there was abuse if the neighbors didn’t know and you didn’t even call the police. If there was trouble, why didn’t you call the cops?

She’s making it up. “She doesn’t want to go to jail–that is why she is saying that.” It couldn’t have been all that bad if she stayed all those years.

Why didn’t you just leave?

That’s how most people who’ve never experienced it react to domestic violence. Domestic violence has always been America’s dirty little secret. People do not believe it, even when faced with undeniable evidence.

Victims have historically been treated guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof is on us, not the other way around. If he had killed her, it would have been a quickly forgotten tragedy. But, she killed him. He’s a martyr–a friendly, helpful neighbor, defamed and murdered by a conniving she-devil.

Even without facts or germane experience, people summarily judge. In my experience, women are quickest to dismiss and scoff with a “I would never stay in a relationship like that” tsk tsk. Before I practically begged my abuser to kill me after eight years of abuse, I thought that way, too.

However, this case shows that, recently, there has been an ever so slight paradigm shift. People aren’t quite so quick to jump to conclusions. I think it’s due, in part, to national news stories like the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator.

People are starting to see that it happens. It happens a lot more than they realize, and sometimes, it takes a gun to stop it.

Domestic violence is something we fell into. It happened so gradually that we can’t even pinpoint when it started. They are master manipulators. They convince us that we are stupid, worthless; that we deserve it. We do not deserve it. We did not ask for this. It is not our fault.

It can befall the strongest, most independent women. It can occur in any relationship given the right circumstances. It can happen to anyone. People who’ve never experienced domestic violence do not–cannot–see the amount of strength it takes to pull the courage to act from deep within our battered and broken souls. It is not easy to overcome years of abuse and the results are often deadly.

Please, if nothing else, do not judge the victims without all the facts, because we were lucky enough to survive.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.


The Legacy Of Religion

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)

I heard a story this morning about a woman on death row in Pakistan because she allegedly defamed the Prophet Muhammad. It is against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, a crime that doesn’t have a requisite death sentence, but almost always gets one.

In a legal, not very veiled way, the blasphemy law has fostered dispensation of personal vengeance since it requires no proof–just someone’s word–to arrest a person, and the whole affair will probably end in his or her death. The accused await trial in prison, which might come only after months of delays, destroying their businesses and the reputation of their families in the meantime. This ad hominem revenge is not just used against those of minority religions either. There are Muslims sitting on death row, because someone claimed that they criticized their own Prophet.

The people who are rightfully against this law, the ones who have publicly denounced it, have found themselves in prison or have disappeared in suspiciously Orwellian ways. It is 2014 and there is no such thing as freedom of speech, at least, not in Pakistan where the Prophet is concerned.

This is what religion has given us; a legacy of death, terror, tyranny, and sectarian vigilantism.

The vast majority of Muslims–in fact, all faiths–are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who want the right to practice their faith in peace and privacy. Most faiths don’t want adherents going around killing in their name. Most Muslims don’t want people killing in the name of the Prophet Muhammad, yet it happens all the same. It is not all, or even the many, but the few who are ruining it for everyone.

It is not just Muslims. It’s Jews in Israel lobbing bombs at Palestine. It’s Christians in the United States killing doctors because they don’t agree with the abortion services they provide. It’s Christians warring with Muslims, and sect against sect all over the world.

We have homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda. We have over fifty years of conflict between Israel and Palestine. We have the self-appointed Islamist State caliphate irrationally claiming religious authority over all Muslims across the world while butchering infidels, including Muslims. We have reproductive freedom stripped away from women in the United States. We have bombings and war and terrorist attacks around the world.

This is the legacy of religion.

And today, in America, we remember that, thirteen years ago, 19 people killed over 3,000 in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters in the most devastating attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor during World War II.

This is what religion has given us. There is no end to it. The list goes on and on and on. It’s got to stop.

There’s not one major religion in the modern world that strictly advocates murder. There just isn’t. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist… we are all people. We are all Homo sapiens derived from the same organic matter, sharing one tiny planet inside a universe that’s so big, we can’t even see the whole thing.

No matter what you believe, find a way to live together and leave each other alone to practice (or not practice) whatever religion you choose in peace and privacy. What your neighbor believes is none of your concern. On a biological level, he is no different from you. Find a way, because until you do, the human race will not evolve.

Homo sapiens–the species of every person on earth–literally means “wise man” in Latin. Let’s live up to the name. Stop the killing. Stop the hate.

In remembrance of the countless victims of sectarian violence, war and terrorist attacks around the world, regardless of race, gender or religion.

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)
Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)


The “F” Word


No, not that “F” word, the other one: feminism.

The word feminist has about as many dirty and immediate connotations as the word atheist. People instantly judge you if you call yourself one or the other. I don’t readily label myself either term, but I’m more inclined to call myself an atheist than a feminist, which is silly. Based on the dictionary definitions, I’m actually more of a feminist than an atheist:

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Atheism: the theory or belief that God does not exist.

Really, when it comes down to semantics, I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic just for the simple fact that there is no incontrovertible proof that god doesn’t exist. There’s no absolute proof that he does either, but that’s a story for another post.

As for feminism, I firmly believe in equal rights for everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual preference or any other measure of human beings. As Depeche Mode said in the song People Are People, “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man.” Yes, I just quoted Depeche Mode. Deal with it.

By definition, I am a feminist, yet the term makes me cringe. Why?

There are a few reasons. I’m not much of a joiner. I don’t belong to any clubs or groups or gangs. I never really have. I do my own thing and I try not to hurt anyone in the process. I am responsible for my actions. I am not all that fond of labels or sweeping generalizations. I try not to apply them to other people and I don’t like them applied to me. I can and do only speak for myself.

Feminism is such a broad term. It’s not like saying I’m left-handed. If I say I’m a lefty, that means that my left hand is dominant. There’s no gray area there. If I say I’m a feminist, it could mean anything from believing in equal rights to men bashing. The definition is too open-ended. There are some murky ideas lurking at the bottom of feminism with which I take issue. I am not a man-hater. I don’t want women to rule the world; I just want us to have an equal shot at doing so.

Even though I’m not much of a joiner, there’s no overarching feminist group anyway. If I were to say I’m Catholic, you would have a pretty good idea what that means. Even if it’s an ill-informed idea, people are aware that there’s an organization called the Catholic church that adheres to certain ideology. There are tenets defined by the church that Catholics should follow. There’s structure and a shared sense of community. There is no such thing with feminism. There really is no proper noun feminism with a capital “F.” Sure, there are organizations devoted to women’s rights that have proper nouns, but feminism, in and of itself, is not a proper noun. You can’t pay dues and get a membership card to Feminism.

Above all though, the reason that I don’t label myself as a feminist is because I don’t like people speaking for me. All those dirty connotations I mentioned that surround the word? Yeah, those. I don’t like those. When you tell people that you’re a feminist, some of them picture this bullshit:

(idiotic cartoon from
(awful cartoon from

The image on the left could be labeled a feminazi trope, which is just about the most abhorrent term anyone has ever created to dismiss the female gender. To compare advocates for women’s rights to Nazis is disgusting and shameful, and fuck you.

So, now that I’ve just enumerated all the reasons why I don’t call myself a feminist, let me tell you why I am a feminist.

There’s this ridiculous thing floating about on Tumblr and Facebook called Women Against Feminism. It’s a bunch of women taking selfies holding signs as to why they don’t need feminism.

In some very strange ways, it’s almost the antithesis of the YesAllWomen nonsense, but comparing #YesAllWomen to #WomenAgainstFeminism is kind of like asking which is the more crucial women’s issue in 2014: hair spray or mousse?


Good for you. No one is saying your shouldn’t love your husband or that being a full-time wife and mother somehow demeans women. Well, maybe some idiots are, but they’re wrong and should be ignored. The point is that you can choose to be a stay at home mom or a CEO.


I don’t see how advocating equal rights for women demeans men. Equality is not a seesaw where, when one gender goes up, the other goes down. Equality is, you know, the state of being equal.


I’m happy for you, but how does that have anything to do with equal rights? Is your boyfriend your boss?

(This and the three previous images are from

Ugh. So, you’ve never been stereotyped, discriminated against based on gender and you love your husbands/boyfriends. Well, good for you. Really, that’s awesome. I’m sure Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be very happy to hear that. But, none of that, even making a sandwich for your nice boyfriend, has a thing to do with equality for women.

That disgusting cartoon above? That’s not from the 1950’s; it’s from 2012. Malala Yousafzai was shot for believing that girls have a right to education the same year.

Just this year, a successful discrimination suit was brought and settled by a woman in China. It was the first time a woman ever sued for discrimination in that country and it’s 2014.

Just because you live in a nice first-world bubble where you are allowed to speak your mind, dress how you want, marry whomever you choose and work where you want, that doesn’t mean that everyone has those rights.

While you may not need feminism, there are millions of women around the world who do. There are countless women who don’t have any of those freedoms you are so blithely taking for granted with your signs, so please, don’t dismiss their fight just because you have the freedom to do so. In some places, taking a selfie with your hair and your ideas showing is enough to get you beaten or killed.

While normally I am loath to label myself a feminist, in the face of your trifling Women Against Feminism arguments, I am choosing to label myself the “F” word, in all caps even:



5 Ways The Hobby Lobby Ruling Affects Women

Yup, that's Mr. Rogers flipping the bird.

Late June is a pretty awful time, because that’s when The Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) rulings are typically announced. The Supreme Court, with its unchecked omnipotence, makes me nervous. I wait on tenterhooks to find out which of my rights will be taken away every June.

One decision that I knew was coming soon was the ruling on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. If you’re not familiar with the case, I wrote about it when SCOTUS decided to hear it here.

Basically, Hobby Lobby and a few other corporate holier-than-thous challenged the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide birth control for their employees on religious grounds.

The decision came out today. SCOTUS sided with the corporations. The 5 to 4 majority decision said that privately held corporations with religious convictions have the right to withhold certain forms of birth control from their female employees if they go against corporate religious beliefs (if it were up to me, “corporate religious beliefs” wouldn’t even be a thing).

Really, this decision isn’t all that surprising since in the Citizens United ruling, SCOTUS said that corporations are people. As people, corporations have the same rights to freedom of speech as, well, people.

I simply cannot tackle the Hobby Lobby ruling head on without the use of satire and dripping sarcasm, so here are some positive things for us womenfolk that are sure to come.

1. We no longer have to think for ourselves.

Women, good news–we can rely on our employers to plan our families for us! We don’t have to decide how big, if or when we want a family. Our employers can legally do that for us. If we don’t want or can’t afford to have children, it doesn’t matter. Christian employers can be all up in our reproductive rights and there’s nothing we can do about it. Clearly, corporations know what’s right for us and our families better than we do. Just shut up and let them do the talking.

2. Standardized health care isn’t required.

If we work for a non-family owned for-profit business, we can get birth control as part of the Affordable Care Act. If we work for a religious non-profit or privately owned company that’s religious, they don’t have to provide it. So, if we want less health care options than comparable employees at other companies, all we have to do is go work for Hobby Lobby or any other privately held religious company. They can totally force their ideology on us, even when it comes to our medical care, regardless of our own beliefs.

Corporate beliefs are way more important than individual beliefs anyway, because corporations create jobs or something. I don’t know; I’m just a dumb girl. If it wasn’t for corporations, we wouldn’t have any rights to take away!

3. Discrimination based on gender is fine.

Men–The Hobby Lobby ruling essentially only affects women and all the babies we’ll be forced to have now, so you menfolk can just sit back and relax. It’s not like you have a role in raising babies or anything. Men will still have a full range of health care options.

Women, on the other hand, depending on what company we work for, will not. If we live in small towns and the only employer available to us is a private Christian business, well, too bad. We should move someplace with more employment opportunities if we don’t want to have babies.

4. It opens the door for all sorts of complaints.

Privately owned, for-profit companies, Christian or otherwise–the great news is that this ruling paves the way for all sorts of other complaints based on religion. You don’t agree with vaccinations, stem cell research or blood transfusions? No problem! Pretty soon, I’m sure you’ll be able to take away your employees’ rights to all life-saving treatments if they clash with of your religious convictions. Think of all the money you’ll save by not providing a full range of health care options.

The Hobby Lobby ruling only applies to a couple of forms of FDA-approved IUDs and birth control that prevent pregnancy, which Hobby Lobby and people/corporations like them call “abortion pills” even though they have nothing at all to do with abortion.

However, since the foot is now firmly in the door, I expect that all other forms of birth control will be taken away soon. This decision is really just an arbitrary line in the sand and can be easily pushed to accommodate your own brand of moral policing for your corporate workforces. Eventually, all reproductive rights will probably belong to employers and not to the owner of the actual vagina.

5. We can have all the babies we want (or don’t want)!

Women, go on and have that baby. Have three! Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court encourage us to reproduce, regardless of our circumstances. It’s not like we have any other options now that contraception is unavailable. Of course, don’t expect Hobby Lobby to actually pay for any expenses related to child care, support public services or any sort of minimum wage increase. The expense of raising children is up to us. We’re doing the lawd’s work here, women!

Next up for Hobby Lobby: Pushing Bible study in public schools, because it’s not like that’s exactly what the Establishment Clause is meant to prevent. Why stop at health care? Hobby Lobby’s beliefs for everyone! If you don’t like it, move to another country or figure out a way to become a man (but we won’t pay for that either).

Ugh. That’s about all the sunshine and bullshit I can stand. Seriously, SCOTUS majority, get your fucking heads out of your asses. Listen to Ginsburg on this one.

To Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties, Alliance Defending Freedom and the rest of you assclowns trying to take our reproductive freedom away and replace it with your morals, this is for you:

Yup, that's Mr. Rogers flipping the bird.
Yup, that’s Mr. Rogers flipping the bird.

In case you didn’t catch it the first time, here’s two more:

FUUUUUUCK YOOOOOU. You cannot argue with Mr. Rogers.

Not All Women: A Post-Mortem

(Sebastian Siah / Shooting Gallery / Getty Images)

I wasn’t going to write about this. I swear, I was going to bite my tongue and let the whole thing blow over, which it mostly has. This was my only tweet on the subject:

Picture 5

I was going to leave it at that, but YesAllWomen tweets are still trickling in and I am still seeing crap like this floating around:

Picture 4

I’m not even going to touch on the news story that sparked the YesAllWomen thing, because I already mentioned it here and it really isn’t relevant to what happened afterward.

I am a woman who was raped as a child and as an adult. I was a prostitute. I’ve been taunted, harassed and had men try to stick their hands up my skirt. I’ve had coworkers make obscene and unwanted sexual remarks repeatedly until I quit my job, because I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve been called a lesbian and a bitch because I spurned advances. I’ve been beaten, subjugated and nearly killed by the bare hands of a man. If anyone has a right to chime in on how men are monsters, it’s probably me.

I won’t though, because not all men are the same. For every monster, there are tenfold good, decent, honest men who are being attacked by this pseudo-feminism for no damn reason. It is not fair to them. YesAllWomen forced men, all men, into a corner where they could not defend themselves without being called out as misogynists. If any man dared respond with NotAllMen, women jumped all over them as women-haters.

Not all women are the same either, and not one of you can speak for me. I did not give you that right. None of the tweeters and likers and sharers can speak for me. By using “all” in the hashtag, you lumped me in there simply because I have a vagina, too. I don’t want to be a part of your generalizations. You averaged all men and all women, and I don’t appreciate it one bit.

As this brilliant advertisement for points out, “liking isn’t helping”:

(Sebastian Siah / Shooting Gallery / Getty Images)
(Sebastian Siah / Shooting Gallery / Getty Images)

It takes more than tweets and Facebook posts to make a difference. Over a million of you chimed in with your experiences, which is fairly impressive, but there are over three billion women in the world. When you spoke for “all” women, you didn’t. You spoke for those of us in the first world with access to Twitter.

Women, like the one in the advertisement above, who are living in war-torn countries or not allowed to go to school or dying from starvation, or watching their children die of diseases we cured decades ago because they cannot afford or have no access to medical treatment, did not speak up. They have more important things to worry about than saying, “I have a boyfriend” instead of “no” to a man hitting on them. Oh, boo hoo. You lied to make your life easier.

What did you really accomplish with all this tweeting besides making many good men feel like assholes? Did you make any difference? Did you change anyone’s life for the better? It’s highly doubtful.

Don’t get me wrong, gender bias and inequality are damn good conversations to have, but that was not the way to do it. That was not the appropriate forum nor was it the right message to send. “We’re all victims and they’re all monsters” is not only a gross oversimplification, but it’s flawed finger-pointing, not the basis for a discussion.

The YesAllWomen/NotAllMen debate did a disservice to both genders and the genders in-between. Not all men are monsters and not all women choose to live as victims. Please, let’s keep the subject open to discourse, but do it without assigning blame next time. Gender wars accomplish nothing. Instead of women’s rights, let’s fight for equal rights for absolutely everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Someone Has It Worse


No matter how awful your past or present is, there’s always someone worse off than you.

I was sexually abused starting at seven years old in my home by a sadistic pedophile for over a year while my family did nothing to stop it. The sexual abuse and my family’s betrayal sent me down a self-destructive path that I walked for decades. I’ve only recently started to see the pattern in my behavior and how much of my apathy towards living and consequential self-destruction is a direct result of that year of abuse and my family’s inaction. So much of what I thought was “me” is actually just abuse.

I’ve been following the story of an unnamed fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped, raped, beaten and brainwashed into marrying her captor and having a child. She was held captive for a decade. She is now twenty five with a two-year old child.

Unnamed woman, her child and a monster.

Isidro Garcia was arrested Tuesday after his alleged victim reached out to her sister on Facebook and revealed how she been held hostage in a relationship with the 41-year-old man and had given birth to his child during the decade she vanished.

You keep hearing these stories about women and children who are kidnapped and held captive for years and years. Some of them were forced to have children.

I’m going to be brutally honest here and talk about something humans don’t like talking about–how sympathy can breed selfishness. It’s the same way people stare at car accidents as they drive by. “I’m glad that’s not me.” Humans are self-centered creatures. Deep down, people enjoy seeing carnage and suffering as long as it’s not our own. I’m no different, except I don’t stare at car accidents as I drive by. I don’t want to see it.

When I hear these worse-than-mine stories, it makes me feel better about my own circumstances. These horrible stories, make me appreciate what I have. I am free and not in terrible danger at the moment (unless there’s a comet headed right for me or a homicidal clown hiding in the closet). Even though that’s a terribly self-centered outlook, we have to find the good in these stories because there is always good and they keep happening.

How does this keep happening? How many more cases like this are there that just haven’t been discovered yet? In the Garcia case, his neighbors said they seemed like the perfect couple. I find that notion sickening.

While no longer a physical hostage, the victim saw no way out and lived with Garcia under what investigators described as “sustained physical and mental abuse,” detectives said.

Many of these cases end with the victims essentially choosing to live as their captor wants rather than run. Jaycee Dugard was even allowed a modicum of freedom towards the end of her eighteen years of captivity.

I can’t begin to imagine what that’s like. I can’t fathom not hating your abuser. Stockholm syndrome is a survival mechanism. When you’re still in it and so powerless, it’s easier not to hate. After so many years, you think there is no alternative–no one will come to save you. How could they after ten, fifteen, twenty years have gone by? I never had to put up with abuse long enough to develop that sort of attachment. I always hated the man who destroyed me.

It must be so terribly confusing to go from that terrible life of captivity to knowing the truth. It must be awful to finally allow yourself to see the person you think of as your protector or husband or the father of your children as the monster who stole your life.

And what about the children’s children? What about the kids born of monsters into captivity? How do they cope knowing that their mothers were victims of a lifetime of abuse? How can they adjust to a normal life when the first few years were so terribly wrong?

It makes me want to cry. These stories cut right to the bone. I can relate to the fear, confusion and isolation, but I can never fully understand what it’s like to have your life not just set on a different course like mine, but completely stolen by a monster.

The good news is that I do feel something when I hear stories like that. I feel too much. I relate to these women. It’s good in a way, because it means that I have survived my past with emotions intact. I am not an unfeeling sociopath. I survived my past and came out the other side as a human being capable of emotions like hate and anger, but also empathy and compassion.

I just hope the women in these stories can do the same. They are still alive and they are free now. While there is life, there is hope. Speaking of hope, I hope their captors die a slow, painful death.

More Serious Business.