A piece I made last year:
I ran into an old family friend as I walked into a resturant, today. We saw each other and smiled and hugged, and then she introduced me to the woman who was sitting across from her.
“This is so-and-so, she’s part of my homeopathy circle.”
But I smiled and nodded, not saying anything, really just wanting to sit down and eat my lunch.
“Josh used homeopathy as a child… He and his family used homeopathy.”
It’s completely true. My father and mother used all kinds of alternative medicine when I was growing up; and they gave it to their two sons as well. I remember taking arnica for bruises, zinc tablets for a cold, and for a brief period of time colloidal silver (I’m just glad I’m not blue). Oh yeah, and I wasn’t vaccinated until I went to college.
My parents still believe a lot of that stuff, though they’ve dropped the anti-vax nonsense and I think the homeopathy. They still get acupuncture, and they still use herbs their acupuncturist ”prescribes.” The family friend in the restaurant was there when I was born…at home…by a midwife. You could say we go back a ways.
So, I didn’t say anything about homeopathy at the restaurant. I was polite, albeit non-communicative, and then I sat down at the bar and ate my lunch. Inside though, I felt dirty.
I hate the feeling of being implicated in something in which I no longer believe; like when someone comes up to me and says, “Oh I remember you from church!” I don’t know what to say in that kind of situation, I really don’t.
As a young white guy to an older white guy,
Ben, I think I understand, you’re defending the status quo; as skeptics, we all do that sometimes. We tell people that modern medicine works; that the government really isn’t out to kill us all. In “Riley on Marketing—Anatomy of an Internet Sensation,” you’re arguing that when it comes to children’s toys, the status quo is to be expected and, in addition to that, you don’t really see this as a problem. Perhaps, as a young white guy, I can explain why it is a problem and why its worth complaining about.
Ben, let me just say…we (men) get all the best toys. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but I’m younger so I’ll remind you.
Girls toys are pink and inarticulate. They come with different sets of clothes, but they can’t move their arms. (This has probably changed but I was a child in the nineties, it was true then.) The fictional characters they represent are babies, rich fashionistas, princesses and rock stars. But Barbie, the iconic female toy, has may different professions, one might point out. True, but these professions if anything, heighten the idea that barbies is simply a body to dress up. To my knowledge they have yet to build a barbie aircraft carrier despite giving barbie a career in the navy; Barbie castles, condos and houses abound. Barbie is primarily a body to dress up, a fashionista.
Of the four major types of female toys, only one is a productive profession. Princess is simply a fantasy and the other two are blatantly regressive; actually come to think of it, the princess is usually pretty regressive as well. Baby dolls come from an era when girls were expected to be future mothers, and little else.
Boys’ toys are very different, and in general they’re better. For one thing, there’s a hell of a lot more of them. Since the invention of GI Joe, boys have gotten to play with dolls too, they’re just called ‘action figures.’ Of course, these dolls articulate at every joint, making them much more fun to play with. They come in many (overlapping) professions: movie/television character, soldier, or superhero to name a few. Its hard to categorize the toys boys play with, there’s so many of them.
Returning to toys that aren’t dolls, many of our toys are gun facsimiles. Nerf Guns, water guns and laser tag are all boys’ toys. Additionally, where girls get magic wands and fairy wings, we get plastic swords, and ninja costumes. Remote controlled cars, and Hot-Wheels add even more variety. Variety of form includes variety of color. While a boy’s toy can be almost any color, except pink or purple, girl’s don’t get much choice. Its pink, or a pastel shade of blue or green, if they’re lucky.
Ben, we boys get the better toys, and the four year old Riley is complaining about this, not just the fact that the girls’ toys are all pink. Boys’ toys are more varied, more active, and they come in more colors.
Maybe Riley doesn’t want a wonder woman action figure, maybe she just wants a baby doll but in some other color than pink. They problem is not that toys are pink or even what the toys are. The problem is that toys are unambiguously gender segregated by color. Girls do not have an inherent attraction to the color pink. In fact that tradition is only fairly recent. If you don’t believe me, just read Ben Goldacre.
No one is suggesting “a sexist marketing conspiracy,” but we are suggesting a self perpetuating cycle. People buy pink toys (and clothes) for girls, because girls like pink. Girls like pink because everything marketed and manufactured for girls is pink. Manufacturers make pink toys because people buy them. Repeat. Marketers are not malicious, they’re simply perpetuating a cycle.
The only way to break the cycle is to bring attention to the unfairness of it, and demand variety just like Riley (and her dad) did.
Or so I thought, as I listened to the most recent episode of Interfaith Voices, which featured a man named David Murrow, who runs the website churchformen.com, and wrote the book Why Men Hate Going to Church. (I don’t make a habit of listening to ‘Interfaith Voices’ but as soon as I heard the title of Murrow’s book, I had to keep listening.)
Murrow’s platform, or shtick goes something like this:
Women comprise more than 60% of the adults in the typical worship service in America…. Volunteer ranks are heavily female.”
He thinks this is a problem because:
The bigger your man shortage, the more likely your church is in decline. The denominations with the largest gender gaps are also those that are losing the most members.”
And he believes that the reason churches have this ‘man gap’ is because church has become sissified.
A male visitor detects the feminine spirit the moment he walks in the sanctuary door…. It’s hard for a man to be real in church because he must squeeze himself into this feminine religious mold.”
Therefore church needs to be more manly to attract men back.
Don’t force your men to hold hands or hug each other”
…cause you know…that’s gay.
And finally, my favorite, the justification:
Jesus showed us how to grow a healthy church: focus on men first. Christ loved women and children, but he spent most of his time and energy developing a handful of men.”
I’m sure he did.
It’s interesting and nerve wracking to put a piece of art online. I mention in the Fictitious FAQ that it took me a while to make the Octopus Crucifix, and part of that came out of a genuine uncertainty as to whether this thing was even worth making. For a long time the pewter casting sat unfinished in my shop, and I couldn’t seem to force myself to make the cross or add the nails in the hands and feet. It was finally the realization that I had this idea almost a year ago and still hadn’t made it happen that forced me to get off my ass and finish it.
I was pretty unsure about making something controversial. After all, I’m not an established artist. I don’t do this full time, though I wish I did, and I’m fully aware of how online reputation can affect real world things like job prospects. I’m a young guy, barely out of college, with a degree in Sculpture and not much other than a couple of academic awards under my belt. I don’t know much about professional art, other than everyone tells me its hard to do successfully.
I’m anxious about the future, but making blasphemous art and sharing it with the internet helps. I’m inspired by bloggers my age like Jen McCreight, and bloggers even younger than me like Rhys Morgan. At 17, he’s out there dealing with legal threats from quacks, and winning. It’s hard to get more inspiring than that. Originally I thought I was going to have two separate blogs, one about skepticism call Unapologetic Skeptic, and one about making things, ie this one, but I quickly decided that I couldn’t really separate the two. After all, PZ Myers blogs about atheism and hard science, why shouldn’t I blog about skepticism, art and making things?
I’m glad there’s been so much interest in this thing I made. I especially like that some people see it as a crucifix being engulfed by an octopus but other people see it as an octopus/Jesus hybrid. For the record, I’m open to both interpretations.
Special thanks to the American Humanist Association for sharing this thing with people, but thanks to everybody who commented. It means a lot to me.
Last year the Smithsonian censored a show being shown at the Nation Portrait Gallery at the urging of Bill Donahue. The piece, David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly,” showed video of ants crawling across a crucifix. I made this sculpture for the one-year anniversary, and for Donahue who continues to describe the video as “hate speech.”
Symbols should not get special protection; in fact, they should be enveloped by cephalopods.
Have questions? Read the Fictitious FAQ
EDIT: My views and opinions in no way reflect the views or opinions of the American Humanist Association. This art, and any comments expressed here are solely the responsibility of the artist or the author.
This piece has sold! Thanks everyone for your interest, you raised $220 for the American Humanist Association.