The Power of Doubt

god made me an atheist / and to glorify him i shall carry out his divine purpose / doubting

“God loves you more than you can ever love Him!” declares the guest speaker of my online cult workshop. I am doing the Twelve Steps with Big Book Awakening, a workbook, study method, and online community (or cult) of over 300 recovering alcoholics, drug users, compulsive eaters, “chaos creators,” and other literal and figurative addicts who attend weekly workshops like this one, in addition to supplemental workshops and homework groups. We are studying the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have been working on Step Four, “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” for six weeks now, and today’s topic is “self-defeating beliefs.”

i cherish the principal of anonymity / why / because i can't remember anyone's names

The speaker walks us through an “inventory sheet” of his example self-defeating belief: “God doesn’t love me.” He explains the detrimental effects this self-defeating belief has on his self-esteem, ambitions, security, personal relationships, and so on. Then, his stunning realization: it’s a lie! The truth is, God loves him very much! God loves each and every one of us, for he sent his only son Jesus Christ etc.

Since the start of this workshop five months ago, I have been intentionally, intensively, sincerely, and open-heartedly trying to cultivate faith in a Power Greater Than Myself. I envy this speaker the security and comfort he enjoys, because he believes in a loving God. But he has already alienated me, for as much as I would love to feel loved by an imaginary friend, my pesky need for truth keeps getting in the way. 

people may let you down / but god never will / that's because god doesn't exist. it's his best feature

‘The truth is, God loves me’ isn’t the Truth!” I later complain to a friend. “It’s a very nice belief, but God is unverifiable and unfalsifiable. The God of Jesus Christ might be a transformative concept, but it’s not in the realm of Truth!”

Born and raised an atheist, I keep returning to my lack of faith. I have been praying for faith for almost 40 years. I have my moments, but the desired faith never arrives. I am not like the Jesus guy, who I assume was raised Christian, left his faith, and came back. We always return to our childhood religion, don’t we? Well mine is atheism, and despite my best intentions it keeps pulling me back. Atheism loves me more than I can ever love it, apparently.

Being in an online cult, I haven’t been giving my atheism the respect it deserves. Instead I feel bad about it, feel Iacking. The best faith I can muster is suspension of disbelief, as when reading fiction or watching a movie. 

My fellow cult members are having their own come-to-Jesus moments during today’s Q and A, crying openly while confessing their minds have been blown by hearing the truth that God loves them so much. They too realize their doubts were just a pernicious lie. But my doubts aren’t lying to me. This stuff just isn’t true, and I can’t suspend my disbelief any more.

why do you believe in god / i have religious experiences / i have atheist experiences

What am I to do? I’m in a Spiritual Program. Step Two is literally, “came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and Step Three is “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood Him.” But also I am required to be rigorously honest. 

I like being honest. I’m willing to “act as if” I believe in God, but to say “the truth is God loves me” is a lie. Worse than a lie, it’s blasphemy against capital-T Truth and its requirements of verifiability and falsifiability. Sometimes I say the Truth is my Higher Power, and I admit we can know very little about it. Other times I say God is an Imaginary Friend. As long as I know I’m imagining Her, I can imagine Her meeting all my needs for love and security and protection, all those ways my fellow humans fail me. But that’s a psychological strategy, not the Truth.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” — Philip K. Dick

If God is real, if God is the Truth, then I don’t need to believe in Her (or Him, It, whatever). Praying for faith is just making me crazy. “Let go and let God,” they say; how about I let go of trying to believe in God? The mere thought of giving that up sends me waves of relief.

i used to be a fuck-up / then i found god / now you're a religious fuck-up
Recovering addicts tend to huff God the way they huff inhalants.
They tend to see things in black and white; as page 53 of the Big Book says, “either God is everything or else he is nothing.” They go all in on the faith project. 

Active alcoholics have drinking buddies; recovering alcoholics have prayer partners. It’s all a great improvement over substance abuse, and I’m happy for them. They get high on God. But I can’t get high with them.

My cult workshop reminds me of being at a party where everyone is drinking and using except me. (A non-drinker, I am in recovery for behavioral compulsions, not drug use.)

i can't stop my compulsive ear chewing, so i asked god to help / that's totally irrational / irrational problems demand irrational solutions

At times I have tried very hard to enjoy alcohol and drugs, withstanding their horrible tastes and smells in pursuit of the alleged buzz. But as with my pursuit of faith in God, always I failed. At best I could pretend. 

At KROK, a Russian animation festival on a river cruise boat, I learned to “drink” socially by filling my glass with water and not telling anyone it wasn’t vodka. I could do that with God too, but why? Especially as my cult asks me to be rigorously honest, as well as faithful. Maybe I can’t be both.

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

My attempts to cultivate faith have brought me back to atheism. I am an Unbeliever.

But for an unbeliever, I sure cling to a lot of other beliefs. God may not be among them, but many of my beliefs are at least as untrue, and far more destructive.

Beliefs are heuristics, a word I just learned a few days ago: shortcuts for reasoned thought. They are essential for navigating everyday life, when there’s simply not enough time to reason out every decision. As much as I cherish my skepticism, I simply can’t be skeptical of everything at every moment. I must believe to function.

I have scrutinized my relationship to God, or the concept of God, for decades. I have scrutinized my atheism. I have tried to instill in myself a handy shortcut — faith, prayer — to help me navigate life, and it hasn’t fully taken. But you know what has fully taken, what persists in this alleged unbeliever’s head? Self-loathing, despair, and what AA calls “100 forms of fear.”

If someone doesn’t like me, I believe that something is wrong with me.
I believe I should change myself to please others.
I believe I should be different from how I am.
I believe I am defective.
I believe I am a bitch, a monster, a parasite, a witch, a failure, bad at choosing friends, abused, exploited, betrayed, crazy, neglected, obsolete, ruined, subhuman, unworthy…
And so on, into the 100’s.

Of course I don’t consciously believe any of this; I’ve looked at my fears before, I’ve “done the work.” But there they are anyway, sneaking back again and again, and there I am believing them without realizing it. 

this is how i think i should look / this is how i think i do look / how do i really look? no one cares!

My own stunning realization is, if I’m such an incorrigible atheist, I needn’t believe any of this nonsense. Unlike my cult’s Jesus-loving guest speaker, I don’t have to assert any contrary Truth; many of my beliefs are also in the realm of the unverifiable and unfalsifiable. Instead, I simply withdraw my belief. I don’t have to believe anything. I mean, I have to believe some things; as I said above, I need beliefs to function in daily life. But shitty beliefs, beliefs that hurt me? I need only doubt them. 

That is the Power of Doubt.

In slogging through BBA’s weeks of “fourth-step inventory” worksheets, I saw that I feel unprotected. It’s a bad feeling. The solution, I thought a few weeks ago, is to seek protection in God. I prayed for faith in God, for protection, and for faith in God’s protection. I got caught in the rain on a bike errand and thought, “God is protecting me.” I got wet. I thought, “God’s protection is permeable.” I developed an apologetics of God’s protection. I wasted significant brainpower on this, because honestly being unprotected scares me, and the Truth is I can’t protect myself fully, and God doesn’t actually exist (although I could still Act As If I have an Imaginary Friend, which would go a long way to alleviate my fears).

when you point your finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you

Then a few days ago I met the belief, “I am unprotected” with doubt, and it evaporated. I didn’t have to prove anything otherwise; I simply didn’t believe it. I reminded myself I am an atheist. I have faith in my atheism. 

“I am unprotected,” says my brain. “I don’t have to believe that,” I say back. And the fear slinks away from the power of my doubt.

Thus my doubt brings me to the same place I thought (believed) I needed faith to find. 

“Faith works for them that got it.” —Unknown

There are limits to my doubt, just as there are limits to my faith. Sometimes I got faith. My mind needs shortcuts and doesn’t have time to properly doubt everything. I still believe many things, and will continue. And the power of my doubt is not so strong I can rely on it constantly. I am an atheist, but one who lapses often.

Faith is a lapse of doubt, just as doubt is a lapse of faith. Doubt and faith are like left and right hands. I can get by temporarily with just one, but do so much more with both.

i used to be orthodox / then i saw that god both does and does not exist / now you're a paradox



Mimi & Eunice Recovery comix – read oldest to newest

Synaonon – what happens when 12-step programs go off the rails


The War of Resistance

“Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”

In George Orwell’s 1984, the past is altered, but war is constant; the names of the combatants are changed retroactively, but combat is continuous. 

Members of nations at war bond more tightly with their compatriots. War offers a shared dream of triumph over a common enemy. Thus, continual state of war is an effective means of social control. It doesn’t really matter who Oceania is at war with, as long as Oceania is, and always has been, at war.

1984 illustrates how supporting wars is a sucker’s game. War is a product of the Establishment — governments, the military-industrial complex, corporations — using us, the people, to maintain their power. Keeping us in line. Keeping us obedient with fear!

We the enlightened, who have read 1984, don’t get caught up in nationalism. Instead, we RESIST. We resist the war machine, the governments, the military-industrial complex. We don’t play their games. We organize a student protest! We build a shantytown on campus. We demand a ceasefire now!

Students have always joined such movements against the Establishment. “Revolution Now” has been chanted for centuries. There is always a revolution in progress, and there is always a power structure to be revolted against. There is always a dream of triumph over a common enemy.

While most revolutions fail, every once in a while one succeeds. Then what happens? The Resistance becomes the Establishment. The Resistance IS the Establishment. Just as the students making protest camps on the green lawns of universities ARE the upper middle class. 

Who funds the Resistance? The Establishment.

Why would they do that? Because they want to be always at war. The same reason warring nations do. Social control, you dupes.

The Resistance has always been at war with the Establishment.


Thank You

A friend gave me these flowers for my birthday. I am so grateful for my friends!

I have complained a lot about being canceled since 2017. But I have also been supported by you this whole time. Some of you send direct donations. Some of you buy my merch. Some of you donate to my Patreon or the Heterodorx podcast. Some of you send kind messages. Some of you recommend my work to others.

Many of you go out of your way to support me for the exact same reasons others cancel me. You are awesome.

Your generosity is as real as the cancelations I struggle to shed my bitterness over. It’s a miracle, it has kept my going, it keeps me going, it gives me hope as well as material support. Like many humans I can get caught up in the bad without sufficiently acknowledging the good. The good, your good, has been very good. Thank you.


Spoiler Alert: DUNE 2

Timmy and Johnny on Arrakis

If I recall correctly (from a few hours ago, I just got home) DUNE 2 starts with a recap of DUNE 1 from a pretty posh lady recording her diary on another planet. Looks like a pile of dead bodies is getting set fire to on Arrakis. I remember the name Arrakis from reading the books 40+ years ago but really not much else, and I didn’t see DUNE 1 so I’m relying on the filmmakers to catch me up. 

On a sandy duneside, Paul Atrides aka Timothee Chalamet wakes up with the Fremen, a charismatic and sexy desert people. Apparently his family “House” is mostly dead, killed by the House of Bald Guys, led by the Fat Ugly Bald Guy. Who’s that woman Timmy is talking with? Is that his girlfriend? Wait that’s his MOM. She pukes which in movie language means she’s pregnant.

Timmy wants to be accepted by the charismatic desert hotties which is very reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia. Also their Lead Charismatic Guy speaks with a strong Lawrence-Arabian accent. He’s on Team Timmy, believing him to be a prophet of prophesy. But first Timmy has to prove himself to the Fremen, who are not only strong fierce and good-looking but also racially diverse, unlike the ugly Bald Guys who are so white that when they have a tournament outdoors the film itself has no color at all.

People of No Color

Looks like a Younger Bald Guy is being chosen as a royal heir, and he distinguishes himself by being a psychopath with a sort of cute face for a bald guy with really dark teeth. He slits the throats of a few bald sluts just for fun. He’s being set up as a foil for Timmy, who is learning the desert ways, helped by an especially cute young Freman possibly named “Chani” but pronounced Johnny. Johnny is the salt of the earth, not like those posh brittle Bene Gesserit ladies. She fights like hell along with all the other Fremen women who are apparently all soldiers. It’s not clear who’s raising the Fremen babies, but we occasionally see old ladies hobbling around in the aftermath of attacks. Johnny teaches Timmy how to camp, and Lead Charismatic Guy teaches him how to ride a sandworm which turns out to be so gigantic it fulfills another prophecy! These prophesies keep getting fulfilled! 

Timmy’s Mom becomes Head Woman of the Fremen because there’s a job opening and they’ll kill her if she doesn’t. She drinks blue poison which predictably turns her eyes blue. Also it turns her power-mad, along with her fetus which got bathed in the stuff in utero and is now both psychic and possibly psychotic. Timmy has recurring nightmares of following a woman to The South which leads to catastrophe. Is the woman his Mom? His girlfriend Johnny? Because Johnny and Timmy have hooked up by now. Johnny is devoted to her people and doesn’t want Timmy to just be fighting for his dumb foreign House. But she doesn’t believe he can be a real Freman either, until he rides that giant sandworm. Then he is accepted into the tribe and given a new name: Ulla or Ulsa or something like that, plus M’aud Dib (I remember that from the books!) which means “desert mouse.” Cute!

Now Timmy’s Mom goes to The South because her job demands it, also she gets tattoos all over her face of some script that looks vaguely like a hybrid of Arabic and Devangari. If I knew someone with a tattoo like that I’d say, “her face is an open book,” but no one says that in the movie. Her eyes are bluer than ever and she’s trying to get Timmy worshipped as a messiah. But Timmy doesn’t want to go to The South because of his nightmares. Who is that woman he’s following? I bet it’s his sister, who’s still just a fetus but obviously psychotic and power-mad like most of the non-Fremen characters. The Fremen aren’t crazy or power-hungry, they just want their land and some water so they’re not dessicating all the time. The outworlders, like Timmy and his Mom and the Bald Guys and the Emperor and the Bene Gesserit and all the Houses, are all WHITE COLONISTS. But obviously Timmy is more than that, he really wants to assimilate into the Fremen but they can’t help but worship him as a god which makes him a White Savior. d’Oh! In 2024? Oh man I can’t imagine the cognitive dissonance the filmmakers suffered here. Eventually Timmy, too, drinks the Blue Poison, which turns out to be baby sandworm puke, which also gives him blue eyes which symbolize INSANITY and POWER to remind us that white saviors are NOT OKAY sort of except they are maybe and that’s NUANCE.

Her face is an open book.

Timmy almost dies from the blue poison and the only thing that can save him is girlfriend tears, so Johnny has to be summoned to cry on him. Earlier in the movie we learn that Fremen don’t cry because it wastes water, but Johnny and Timmy openly cry in spite of that and no one seems to chastise them. Johnny’s tears revive Timmy which is exactly like Disney’s Tangled (Rapunzel) but when he wakes up she slaps him because why did he drink blue poison?? She told him earlier she’d always love him as long as he kept being him, but you know that blue poison is a powerful substance that changes people and now he’s probably not who he is anymore. 

Then there are a bunch of fight scenes and more fight scenes and stabbings and big boom explosions and zillions of soldiers running at each other and hand-to-hand combat and shooting and killing and I would have checked my phone for a distraction at this point because I hate battle scenes but it’s rude to use a glowing device in a theater, even an almost empty one. At least the movie didn’t have explicit sex scenes, that was a relief. Timmy says he will love Johnny forever and then Young Bald Guy and Timmy have a showdown involving choreography and daggers and guess what, Timmy wins! And then he offers to marry the Emperor’s posh daughter, RIGHT IN FRONT OF JOHNNY! Clearly it’s just politics but Johnny, being the salt of the earth, doesn’t play such games so she catches the first sandworm out of there.



Dear Young Self: The Conversation

Note: I have recently been writing to my 18-year-old self, who wrote crazy journals in 1986. Here’s an excerpt.

Journal page from October 18, 1986.

March 16 2024 8pm

Young Self, you are oblivious to men’s interest in you. In this respect and a few others, you really are an idiot. Yes, it’s kind of charming: a kind of modesty, not full of yourself like other girls. But if you’re acting that oblivious just to support an idea of yourself as “modest,” an identity, then you are a narcissist. Fortunately that’s not why; you are genuinely, sincerely clueless.

Unrelated: you are also a narcissist. Don’t panic! It’s normal for 18-year-olds. Your depressions, which grow more severe, are abysses of self-loathing, which is self-obsession, which is narcissism. I know you don’t want to be depressed; you are a victim of mental illness. Unfortunately framing yourself as a victim is also narcissism. But don’t panic! You are ill, but you are also robust. You will recover.

It’s not like Future-Me saying this to Then-You would make any difference. It would just make you cringe and despair. There is a chasm between us, of Time, maturity, and recovery. You will cross that chasm but you can never go back. Sick mind doesn’t understand healthy mind.

Is it healthy for me to call you a narcissist? Maybe not. I am grateful every day I am recovering. When I consider how much less narcissistic I am today, I feel relief and peace; I smile. But you are still in the Bad Old Days. Your strong mind attacks itself, and the label “narcissist” is just another cudgel you will beat yourself with. I want to handle you with kid gloves, kid, but that won’t help you either. I want to save you, but only Time can do that.

Instead, let me enlighten you about men: they are horny. They desire women. You are an attractive young woman. Yes, your body alone is enough to attract men. You think men are like you: that they seek understanding, or at least compatibility, or meaningful connection. You think a man’s attraction to you signals he thinks you’re really awesome and special and worth some kind of risk. Actually, men do think that, for seconds or even minutes at a time. But it’s just their hormones talking. Yours do the same, except it takes weeks or months to really sink into your brain and alter your thought patterns even when the object of your infatuation isn’t present.

Men are not like you, no matter how male-identified you are. You think men are so awesome they couldn’t possibly desire awkward nerdy little you. Your mistake is that they do want you, but they’re not awesome. I see these men are giving you ample evidence they are both attracted to you and not awesome, and your oblivious idiot self gets it backward. Which causes you a lot of pain, I’m afraid.

Still, I blame hormones. When they finally release you (yay menopause!) you are no longer attractive to men anyway.

From ages 13 to 50 you will be in a hormone haze, attracted to men despite ever-accumulating evidence this hurts you. Somehow your life contains other items of interest, so it’s not a total waste. Speaking of total waste: your uterus! You have to menstruate for 37 years too, and it’s continually horrible. It never “smooths out” or whatever. Female bodies are made for having children. It infuriates you, having a female body. When you’re finally diagnosed with that giant cervical fibroid at 49, you learn pregnancy and gestation are prophylactics against fibroid development. The female body is like, make those babies or I will punish you myself.

You are at war with your body as well as your mind.

I have no solution for this, Young Self. Being human is hard. Having a body is hard. But this is, literally, Life. Suffering of one kind or another is normal; it’s inevitable. In Time, you will come to love and appreciate your body. At 55 I am much more comfortable in this old body than you are at 18.

You will make peace with your female-ness specifically. Fuck babies, fuck “moon cycles,” that all sucks for you forever. But you are still a woman, and you come to love and respect that. Many women your age today similarly hate their female-ness, and they are not so lucky as you. That’s because if they say they “identify as” boys, doctors will put them on testosterone and cut off their breasts. Yeah, I know you’d love that right now, but you’d still hate yourself and your body. You’d just have some irreversible medical damage and trauma to contend with as well.


I hear you saying,

“Irreversible medical damage and trauma? But it sounds cool! Maybe I want to be trans. No more periods, no babies ever, and I hate my breasts. I like gay men more than straight ones — I could be a GAY MAN! I already say  I’m a gay man trapped inside a woman’s body. Sign me up! What’s the problem??”

Okay Young Self, let’s have The Conversation. The one where I tell you about the transbirds and the transbees.

First, just because some people say you’re a man, and you really want to be a man, and you modify your body to resemble a man (facial hair is especially convincing), you will never actually be a man. No one will know that more acutely than gay men. Gay men like men, not women who look kind of like men. Not mastectomized, hysterctomized women on exogenous testosterone.

You already have delusional expectations of Life. Expecting to become a man, which is physically impossible, will put you on a path of continual, endless frustration and disappointment. It will make you angry and depressed — even more than you are already, although that’s hard to believe!

Don’t give me that look. Are you mad at me, telling you you can’t become a man? Maybe you think I’m the only reason you can’t, that if it weren’t for my negativity and “transphobia” you could be a man why am I saying no why do I hate you???

Young gender-dysphoric Self, Life has limits. Yes, you can overcome some limits, those imposed by human beings and society (called social constructs) if you are brave and believe in yourself. People say you can’t survive as an independent artist and cartoonist, but you will! They say you can’t make an animated feature film all by yourself, but you will! They say you can’t drop out of college and make something of yourself, but you will!

But changing sex is physically impossible. Sex is not a social construct (although claiming sex is a social construct is a social construct). Sex is a true limit.

You say,

“I’m not so delusional I think I can literally change sex. Obviously I won’t be able to father children, but I won’t want to. You’ve already told me how awful menstruating is, why wouldn’t you want to spare me that? And what use are these breasts? I just want to ‘live as a man.’ Looking like a man and being treated like one is enough.”

So, no stable relationships? No gay man will go for you, they require a working penis. And het men are turned off by masculinity.

You’ve already told me we never have a long-term healthy relationship with a man anyway, Old Self! So who cares? At least I won’t have breasts and periods.

Hmm, you make a fair point there, Young Self. Do you know about the myriad health complications of cross-sex hormones? Vaginal atrophy?

I’m not gonna use my vagina anyway, not as a MAN!

You are going to want to be as healthy as possible. Medical transition is unhealthy.

Being FEMALE is unhealthy! I have irregular painful periods. I have painful breasts—

That’s Fibrocystic Breast Disease, by the way. Yeah it’s bad. It goes away after your hysterectomy though. Yay menopause!

You’re saying menopause is so great, wouldn’t medically transitioning me just put me into early menopause? Sounds great to me!

Well, Young Self, medical menopause isn’t like natural menopause, it’s much harsher.

Harsher than 32 more years of this menstruation and hormone haze shit?

Okay Young Self, you are wearing me down. It’s late. Let me try to sleep on it and try to persuade you tomorrow.


March 17, 6am

You are 18. You won’t transition. You’re old enough to comprehend the consequences. Like I said before, a few years ago, when you were 13 or 14, you would have transitioned, had it been an option. But at 18 you’re already having sexual experiences with men. You currently fancy yourself “in love,” albeit with a man who moved to California over a week ago and still hasn’t even called. Meanwhile you’re hanging out with your male friends, soaking up their attention as you convince yourself it’s JUST FINE that R_____ hasn’t contacted you yet with a phone number or address. Your dorm friend Eric calls you a “stupid shit.” He’s calling everyone a that nowadays because he’s “divorcing” his girlfriend and is bitter. You think he’s funny. But here you are, Young Fool, absorbing his attention and that of ____ _____, with whom you will have a fling in just a few weeks or months. You stupid shit.

Detail, October 18 1986

As painful, delusional, and crazy all this relationship business is, you simply adore men and are hopelessly attracted to them. Transing won’t fix this. In fact, testosterone would almost certainly increase your sex drive. It would likely alleviate your depression temporarily, but in the longer run have a devastating effect on your fragile psychology. Yes, I’ve said you have a strong mind, but it’s also fragile, the “sanity” part. At 18 you know something is wrong, that your mental state is delicate, which is why you don’t use psychoactive drugs despite your fascination (you recently read The Doors of Perception, after all). Testosterone is a psychoactive drug and some women who use it are genuinely psycho, like “The Nashville Shooter” who shoots up her former school and kills 6 people in 2023. You care enough about your mental health to consider that a deterrant.

But the biggest transing-deterrant at 18 is you become aware that your female body is admired by men. You love men; men love your breasts that you hate, your curves that you hate, your femaleness that you hate. Using pure intellectual reasoning alone, you understand more men are het than gay, so if you like men, this female body of yours will help you “get” them. If you transition, gay men won’t be into your body no matter how much you masculinize it. If you transition, het men will be turned off by your masculinization. Your sexual experiences, fraught as they are, will get you more connected with your body and cure you of your adolescent fag-haggery as you discover het men are in fact good for something.

As for your uterus, if I could go back in time and get you a hysterectomy, I would (keeping your ovaries of course, you need gonads for health, as much as you hate your hormones you would have worse problems without them, like brittle bones). But they don’t let teenagers get hysterectomies even today, unless they claim they’re trans. Then it’s a medical free-for-all.

If you medically transitioned, your life would be much different. But it’s moot because in 1986, transitioning children and teenagers isn’t a Thing. For this reason, becoming a “transman” is not your story. It is the story of the similarly confused, depressed, alienated-from-their-bodies young women of today.


PRESS RELEASE: Nina Paley Declines Screening Permission to Vagina Museum

Urbana, March 15 – Nina Paley, a renowned filmmaker known for award-winning films like Sita Sings the Blues and “This Land is Mine” has announced her decision to deny permission to screen her film Seder Masochism to the UK Vagina Museum, an organization which purports to stand for the values of respect, integrity, and inclusiveness, but which has demonstrated a pattern of behavior directly opposite of those aims.

Although Seder Masochism is Free Culture, dedicated to the Public Domain and therefore free to show, edit, reuse, remix, and redistribute by anyone, Vagina Museum Community Cinema Co-Founder Charlie Corubolo (They/Them) wrote in the UKVM’s enquiry, “Even if our understanding is that we can screen the film for free, we would like to ask you for permission to do so and if there is any requirement prior to the screening,” thus granting Paley this opportunity to deny.

As a committed artist who has produced comics, textile arts, films, books, and other works, Paley has historically supported the screening of her work by small organizations, schools, and festivals, believing that culture should be open, free, and inclusive of everyone. Seder Masochism has won awards from the Moscow Jewish Film Festival and Fantaspoa (Brazil), but since its release has been pulled from venues by fearful organizers who surrender to anti-woman activist calls for Paley’s works to be canceled due to her personal gender critical views.

Paley’s decision is extraordinary. This is the first time she has refused permission for a screening of her work, but Paley is standing up for the belief that an organization that purports to realize feminist goals must be consistently inclusive of women. When women objected to the Vagina Museum deploying woman-erasing language, the Vagina Museum reacted with derision and mockery, even referring to objectors by the misogynistic slur TERF. “How can I, as a woman, work with organizations that cancel women? I would be working against myself and my sisters,” Paley added.

Paley hopes this decision will encourage other artists and organizations to reflect on the values they support and promote their work through partnerships with organizations that respect women. “Organizations can support women by acknowledging the definition of women: adult human females. Until they do so, any claims to support women are meaningless,” said Paley. 

The Vagina Museum and others like it which wear a feminist cloak and then muddle and confuse the meaning of biological sex, conflate gender identity with sex, and deny the well-established historical oppression of women on the basis of sex, must be held accountable for their detrimental behavior against women.

For further information:

Nina Paley

Nina Paley remains dedicated to free culture and the widespread screening and distribution of her work, which can be used without permission by anyone, even those she disagrees with.