Notes and Comment Blog

For the little people, for the real people

Aug 25th, 2016 1:53 pm | By

Of course. Nigel Farage teams up with Trump to give the Two Worst White Assholes show.

Farage won cheers by sticking to his time-honed rhetoric of slightly shaggy populism, low on specifics but heavy with generalist calls to national pride and taking back control.

“I think that you have a fantastic opportunity here,” he told the crowd. “With this campaign, you can go out, you can beat the pollsters, you can beat the commentators, you can beat Washington. And you’ll do it by doing what we did for Brexit in Britain.

“My advice for you – if you want change in this country, you’d better get your walking boots on, you’d better get out there campaigning. And remember, anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to stand up against the establishment.”

Yeah, the establishment! Which Trump and Farage are totally on the outside of, peering in famished like little toilet-lickers from Dickens.

Also familiar to Farage-watchers was the seamless glossing over of contradictions. Here was a privately educated former City trader standing alongside a hereditary tycoon to announce that Brexit was “for the little people, for the real people”.

Because the real Establishment is…erm…people who drink weird coffee.

Power to the people!

This ain’t ‘kids joshing around’

Aug 25th, 2016 11:34 am | By

A couple of days ago it was Michelle Marie getting a barrage of abuse on Twitter. The next day it was hackers abusing Leslie Jones. Sexism and racism meet to form the fun new game of Attack the Visible Black Woman.

Leslie Jones, a co-star of this year’s “Ghostbusters” movie who has been besieged in the past month by online abusers who have targeted her appearance and her race, was victimized again on Wednesday when her personal website appeared to have been hacked.

The hackers inserted a picture of the gorilla Harambe on the site, and exposed what appeared to be explicit photos of the actress, along with pictures of her driver’s license and a passport, and images of her with stars like Rihanna, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West.

Because she’s in Ghostbusters, because she’s female, because she’s black, because because because because – a bunch of doodz feel entitled to violate her privacy, hack her website, put intrusive racist sexist shit on her website, and just generally do whatever they can to make her life bad, for their own amusement.

Can we have a safe space from this? Can we be allowed to do what we do without being the targets of angry boy-men? No, we cannot.

Ms. Jones, 48, had spent much of the past month battling online trolls who sent her a stream of racist imagery, pornography and abusive language. She briefly left Twitter, but later returned to tweet about the Rio Olympics.

In the hours after Ms. Jones’s site was taken offline, high-profile defenders offered public support.

“These acts against Leslie Jones are sickening,” the musician Questlove wrote in a post on Twitter. “It’s racist & sexist. It’s disgusting. This is hate crimes. This ain’t ‘kids joshing round.’”

Others, including Paul Feig, the director of the “Ghostbusters” film, the comedian Patton Oswalt and the singer Katy Perry defended the actress on Twitter.

Meanwhile the abusers were hard at work planning their next action.

Beyond the usual platitudes

Aug 25th, 2016 11:14 am | By

The University of Chicago has written a little note to incoming students, in which it tells them not to bother expecting trigger warnings or safe spaces.

They all received a letter recently from John Ellison, dean of students, which went beyond the usual platitudes of such letters and made several points about what he called one of Chicago’s “defining characteristics,” which he said was “our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.” Ellison said civility and respect are “vital to all of us,” and people should never be harassed. But he added, “You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

To that end, he wrote, “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

I added an Oxford comma in that last sentence. Sorry, but it’s better with it. This is not a safe space for people who hate the Oxford comma. Trigger warnings of an approaching Oxford comma are at my discretion.

In the fall of 2014, Peter Salovey, Yale University’s president, used his welcome speech to freshmen to encourage them to respect free expression.

“In the last year or two, we have seen more than the usual number of events on college and university campuses across this country in which the freedom to express ideas has been threatened. Invitations to provocative speakers have been withdrawn; politicians, celebrities and even university presidents invited to deliver commencement addresses have — under pressure — declined to speak to graduates; student protesters have had their signs destroyed by other members of a campus community,” Salovey said. “In the most troubling of these ‘free speech’ incidents, speakers of various political persuasions have been shouted down and rendered unable to deliver remarks to campus groups who had invited them. Although we have not seen these kinds of episodes at Yale in recent decades, it is important on occasions like this one to remind ourselves why unfettered expression is so essential on a university campus.”

And the following year all hell broke loose.

Said no woman ever

Aug 25th, 2016 9:31 am | By

A new Assigned Male comic, from the series by Sophie Labelle:

Sophie Labelle

Liar liar pants on fire.

Have you ever seen any women saying what the woman in the second panel says? That trans people “deserve to suffer a slow death and be raped in a dark alley”? I don’t recall ever seeing that or anything like it, while I do recall seeing a lot of the inverse – trans women calling down violence on feminist women.

Sophie Labelle – translation: Wisey Thepretty – is doing that thing called PROJECTION.

It’s a funny thing that there’s so much ragey abuse from trans women to women – and so little from trans men to men or women. Why would that be, do you think? Could it possibly have anything to do with socialization? Hmm?

When she speaks, we forget that the sex buyer exists

Aug 24th, 2016 5:28 pm | By

The Swedish writer Kajsa Ekis Ekman takes a hard look at feminist women who rush to the defense of johns.

There is something very odd about the prostitution debate. While the absolute majority of sex buyers are male, an overwhelming majority of intellectuals defending prostitution are women. It’s a strange phenomenon that most definitely needs its own analysis.

At the forefront of international “sex work” discourse, we generally do not find a sex buyer, but a female academic. In any magazine, at any conference, at any event where the john is to be even remotely criticized — a pro-prostitution female academic is there to defend him.

Who is she? Well, she calls herself “subversive,” “revolutionary,” even “feminist.” That is exactly why the john needs her as his ambassador. A defence of prostitution coming from this woman makes prostitution look queer, LGBT-friendly, modern, fair trade, socialist — the very epitome of female liberation. But most importantly, when she speaks, we forget that the sex buyer exists.

Doesn’t that sound exactly like Greta Christina? Or maybe that’s just me.

The tacit agreement between the john and the pro-prostitution female academic is that she will do anything to defend his acts, while ensuring that he stays in the shadows. She will speak incessantly about prostitution, but never mention him. Her task is to make sure prostitution seems like an all-female affair. The queer academic will use the prostituted woman as a shield, blocking the john from the limelight. She will use the prostituted woman any way she can — analyzing her, re- and deconstructing her, holding her up as a role model, and using her as a microphone (i.e. a career booster), thereby positioning her as “good” vs. the “evil” feminist.

The “evil” feminist is the one who thinks prostitution exploits women.

This academic has her own definition of intellectual debate. When she speaks, she calls it “listening.” According to her, she doesn’t actually speak in favor of prostitution, she merely “listens to sex workers.” The louder she speaks, the more proof that she “listens.” When someone opposed to prostitution speaks, however, she calls it “silencing.”

Here is the truth: the function of this academic is not that of a revolutionary or a feminist — she is not trying to defend women — rather, she is the sex buyer’s nanny. One of the oldest patriarchal functions that exists. She soothes him when he is worried and takes on his enemies. She makes sure nobody will take away his toys, whatever he does to them.

Read the whole thing; it’s brilliant.

An inconvenient trip

Aug 24th, 2016 4:52 pm | By

There’s Two Women Travel. You can just read their tweets, and the BBC has a story.

The description on their Twitter bio was simple: “Two Women, one procedure, 48 hours away from home.” But more than 40,000 tweets about their journey revealed a conversation that was far more complex.

The Twitter account @TwoWomenTravel was set up on Saturday by a pregnant Irish woman and her companion. It documented their journey from Ireland to the UK for an abortion.

Because of course they can’t get one in Ireland, still under the heavy thumb of the Catholic church.

As hundreds showed their solidarity for the woman and her companion, their actions gained attention from high-profile social media users like comedian and host of the ‘Late Late Show’ James Corden.

Today, @TwoWomenTravel but you're not on your own in this. So many people are with you. X

The bishops are not your friends, Ireland.

Fetishistic invocations of Logic and Reason and Facts

Aug 24th, 2016 4:37 pm | By

Sam Kriss went to a Conway Hall event to hear from the brave champions of Free Speech.

Last night, I watched the trolls announce their revolution. At the launch of the Young British Heritage Society – something describing itself as a “new conservative and libertarian national student organisation dedicated to opposing political correctness on the university campus” – chairman Danial Mirza asked his audience for a show of hands: who among them had been banned from Facebook or Twitter? A loose thicket of arms suddenly rose out of the crowd.

These are the inexplicably furious young reactionaries of the internet, the people who every so often make the news, whenever they’re accused of ruining the life of another liberal journalist or feminist campaigner.

In order to protect free speech!

The biggest bogeyman stalking the hall was feminism. “They’re nothing like the original feminists who just wanted to vote,” one told me. “They seem to be actively anti-male.” Another explained his admiration for Donald Trump. “He’s getting rid of this horrible third-wave feminism movement that’s perpetuating racism and sexism. The only way racism will end is if we stop talking about it.”

It’s so not the case that “the original feminists” wanted the right to vote and nothing else. Some of the suffragists were one-issue, but they weren’t the only feminists there were.

[T]he Young British Heritage Society is the latest half-formed thing to rise out of our increasingly stupid free speech wars. Its general secretary, Jamie Patel, used his brief speech to announce that “cultural Marxists have hijacked the country’s institutions”, and that “any attempt to celebrate British history” is silenced by political correctness.

What is that “cultural Marxists” thing? I’ve seen trolls saying that before and I can never figure out what they think they’re talking about. It’s a bit of an oxymoron, “cultural Marxism.”

Free speech here doesn’t really mean free speech. These are, after all, people from the same alt-right milieu who in ” Gamergate” threw an extended tantrum over video-game journalists writing things they didn’t approve of, with the implicit prescription that these things should not be allowed to be written, and then another one over an all-women Ghostbusters film, with the implicit prescription that this film should not be allowed to have been made.

The anti-PC brigade aren’t angry that they can’t say what they want; they’re angry that when they do say what they want, other people sometimes disagree with them. The society is a protest against the unacceptable censorship of people edging away from them at parties when they start holding forth about how feminism poisons everything; it’s a fury against the fact that people get offended when you’re offensive to them.

All this is tied up with a deeply dispiriting debate-nerd pedantry. Speakers never tired of making fetishistic invocations of Logic and Reason and Facts…

Oh yeah, I know those types. They’re the ones who pipe up at “Skeptic” events: “Why are you dragging your feminism into my skepticism?” They’re the ones who think a proper skeptic is someone without any moral or political commitments.

But anyway, Kriss says, the crowd wasn’t really there for the deep thinking, they were there for Milo Yiannopoulos. They were all crushed out on him.

For his fans, Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t just a washed-up journalist with a head like a broom and a knack for annoying overly serious students; he’s a living god and an object of desperate, panting desire. “I’d love to meet him,” one acolyte told me. “I love Milo so much. He represents truth, logic and common sense. He’s amazing.”

A few people were trying to look like Milo, sporting the bizarre new far-right uniform of peroxide hair and denim jackets. When the sweat-stifled air got too much and Milo took his cardigan off midway through his talk, an anguished groan rippled through the crowd. In his question-and-answer session, hardly anyone could speak to him without a tremor in their voice. Milo is the king of the dweebs, but it’s hard to see why. He is, in the end, a deeply boring man.

Yes he is.

What he wants to be is an erudite, sardonic breaker of false idols, the man who says the unsayable and does it with style. In fact, he’s a try-hard. Little dabs of Christopher Hitchens and William F Buckley creep into his mannerisms; I’d be very surprised if he hadn’t spent endless hours watching all the late lamented tosspots’ bloviations on YouTube, practicing them aloud, perfecting the clipped dismissive tone of the rational, logical idiot.

Exactly! They all worship Hitchens, these bozos, and think they would have been his BFF if only he’d lived long enough to meet them. It makes me tired. (You know if you look at a troll’s Twitter bio and it has a photo of or a quotation from Hitchens – or, shudder, both – you need hesitate no longer over the block button.)

But whatever you think of Buckley and Hitchens, their arrogance came naturally. Milo’s, meanwhile, is all stage-managed, and drearily relentless. “I haven’t been in England lately,” he said. “I’ve been busy getting really famous and successful.” Later he remarked that “you’ll never have my looks or my hair, or my wardrobe, but I can give you tactics and strategies”.

But underneath it all he’s as pedantic a debate nerd as anyone else in that room, just one who’s learned to substitute a pompous drawl for the usual asthmatic wheeze.

A profoundly boring man.


Aug 24th, 2016 4:01 pm | By

This is awfully literal for a comic…

Self-reliant corn syrup farmers

Aug 24th, 2016 10:51 am | By

Rush Limbaugh has spied a new danger.

Here’s how it works. “Rural America happens to be largely conservative. Rural America is made up of self-reliant, rugged individualist types,” explains Limbaugh. (Farmers are “self-reliant” because, even though their sector is technically the recipient of heavy federal subsidies, they are overwhelmingly white.) Obama has a plan to attack them:

They are trying to bust up one of the last geographically conservative regions in the country; that’s rural America … So here comes the Obama Regime with a bunch of federal money and they’re waving it around, and all you gotta do to get it is be a lesbian and want to be a farmer and they’ll set you up … apparently enough money it make it happen, and the objective here is to attack rural states.

Oh no, not…lesbian farmers!! How will we ever survive?

They’ll get rid of all the bulls, you know, and that will mean no milk, and that will mean no cheese. No cheese. I can’t stop shivering.

It’s a simple shift

Aug 24th, 2016 10:19 am | By

Britni de la Cretaz’s ludicrous piece in The Atlantic made me curious about her, so I found another article by her on Trevor MacDonald, this one for Rewire last May. It is, if anything, even worse.

In his new parenting memoir, Trevor MacDonald talks about pregnancy and breastfeeding as a trans man—and why we must dislodge the idea that bearing children is only women’s labor.

No, we mustn’t. That’s not something we need to dislodge. For one thing, it’s not true, and for another thing, women are not The Powerful Caste that we need to dislodge. If Trevor MacDonald wants to live as a man, fine, go ahead. If he wants us all to pretend that men bear children, he can fuck right off.

That was the subhead. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are acts often associated with womanhood. We talk about pregnant women and nursing mothers, but this language—which depends on the male-female gender binary—seems inadequate as trans and nonbinary folks are increasingly visible in the parenting sphere.

Nonsense. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are not “acts often associated with womanhood” – that’s a fatuous way to put it. Skirts, giggles, gossip are among the items “often associated with womanhood” because they’re social; pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are not in that category. No, “this language” does not seem at all inadequate. (Also, what is this insistence on trans “folks” – what is the allergy to the word “people” when trans issues are on the table? Except of course when the subject is abortion rights, which pregnant “people” need.)

By sharing his experiences and documenting the many challenges he faced as a man who planned to give birth and nurse his baby, MacDonald asks readers to reconsider everything they think they know about what it means to be a gestational parent. By the end of the book, readers come away understanding that despite a person’s gender, pregnancy and nursing are universal experiences and valid regardless of how they happen. MacDonald’s voice is an important and necessary one in the birthing community, and there are surely many more people out there like him.

No. Pregnancy and nursing are not universal experiences. Saying it doesn’t make it true, and it’s not true.

Rewire: You talk a lot about struggling to find literature that you related to because pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are typically only associated with women—and motherhood. Can you tell me about the kind of language you’d like to see used to talk about these experiences and why it’s important?

Trevor MacDonald: I think I was a bit naive at first when I was reading those materials. I felt like, “If only the authors knew, I’m sure they would have used different language. They just didn’t know about people like me.” And that’s definitely been the case for some of those authors. Many are starting to change language and using words like “parents” or “pregnant people.” It’s a simple shift, really.

Yeah, kids! It’s easy to erase women! Just stop saying the word – talk about pregnant people instead. (Not pregnant folks. No no, that would be vulgar.) Except when you need to blame women of course; then you have to say the word.

Where I was naive, though, is that there are some people who really don’t want to use inclusive language. Ina May Gaskin is one. I had read her book [Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth] during my first pregnancy and had been so inspired by her writing, and the birth stories are so valuable and needed. I was so hungry for information about what others had experienced. I love that book so dearly, and to realize she really was opposed to including gender-diverse people in her writing was really upsetting. [Gaskin signed this open letter by Woman-Centered Midwifery, a group of “gender-critical” midwives who believe that biological sex determines gender and were concerned about the Midwives Alliance of North America’s use of gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and birth.]

Erasing women isn’t “inclusive.” Erasing women from pregnancy and reproductive rights is the opposite of “inclusive.” Trans men should not be campaigning to erase women. It’s revolting.

War at the university

Aug 24th, 2016 9:52 am | By

The American University in Kabul is being attacked, the BBC reports.

A large explosion has been heard and students barricaded inside rooms in the building say they can hear gunfire close by.

The emergency hospital says it has received five injured people from the scene so far.

Police have described it as a “complex attack” and have deployed special forces.

Some people have escaped, some are trapped inside.

Student Ahmad Mukhtar told the BBC that he was 100m (320ft) away from the university’s main entrance when he heard “six or 10” shots and a “huge” blast.

The explosion created so much light that it momentarily lit up the surrounding area, he said.

Then there were was more firing inside the campus. He added that he had also heard students shouting.

“I climbed a six-metre wall to escape,” Ahmad said.

Another student told the AFP he was trapped with other students.

Massoud Hossaini tweets:

To be continued.


Unwelcoming to men

Aug 24th, 2016 8:24 am | By

The Atlantic has an extraordinarily ridiculous piece about trans men who have babies and breast feed them, and (this is the ridiculous part) the resulting need to stop talking about pregnancy and breast feeding as something that women do.

The writer is someone called Britni De La Cretaz, who calls herself Britni De La Cretaz, Writer on Facebook.

[Trevor] MacDonald began blogging about chestfeeding from his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and soon discovered a whole community of transmasculine people around the world in the same boat, looking for guidance. For trans men and transmasculine folks, putting a baby to their chest to suckle can lead to complicated feelings about their gender. Many lactation support services are available for “nursing mothers,” which sounds unwelcoming to men and non-binary individuals.

But lactation support services are for nursing mothers. It strikes me as very “unwelcoming” to women for trans men to object to the word “mothers.” Lactation support services are not for men, because men don’t lactate. Some trans men do, but that’s not a good reason to delete women from the discourse about nursing.

So what can be done? Kribbe feels that one of the most important points of this research is urging care providers to be especially attentive to the terms they use. Part of that, she says, starts with the kind of education that obstetricians, midwives, and lactation counselors receive, but another part involves providers being willing to educate themselves about terminology that is gender neutral, as opposed to the gendered-female language that currently dominates lactation support. Even acknowledging that the need for change exists in the first place is an important step, the researchers contend.

There. That. Don’t do that. Don’t agitate to remove women from discussions of pregnancy and childbirth and nursing – and abortion rights and contraception. That’s the All Lives Matter version of trans activism, and it stinks.

In response to whether or not there were any questions about providing lactation support to transmasculine or non-binary individuals on the exam to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Sara Blair Lake, the executive director of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, offered a content outline, which shows that the gendered language “maternal” and “mother” is still common, as opposed to the neutral terminology like “parent.” Meanwhile, Melissa Cole, an Oregon-based International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, said in an email that, to her knowledge, there aren’t educational requirements for IBCLCs about how to support transmasculine folks who want to nurse their babies, and that she has received no such training. Cole, who has not yet provided lactation support to a trans person in her practice, wishes she could receive more formal education around inclusive language so she can provide better care.

Maybe it’s just not an issue. Ever think of that? Maybe trans men should just be able to grasp that the vast majority of people affected by pregnancy are women, and that women are not the dominant sex around here, and that it’s not cool to try to get them removed even from areas that affect them the most profoundly. Maybe they should be appalled at themselves, wanting to shove women out of the way.

The comments are uniformly scathing.

And you keep half

Aug 23rd, 2016 6:18 pm | By

And now for something nice, instead. A colleague and friend reminisces about Oliver Sacks.

A year ago, I lost my best friend, Oliver Sacks. For many years, each week, Oliver and I would cruise north on the West Side bike path at sunrise. Alone, our bicycles a few inches apart, we spoke about everything and anything, but mostly about interesting patients, natural history, and food. His voice was soft, and I struggled to hear his words. But his volume and pedalling cadence always accelerated when the massive TRUMP PLACE buildings appeared to our right. He detested the giant protuberances that unpleasantly punctuated the view from our bike seats, and often cursed them.


Instead, he looked forward to passing by the Seventy-ninth Street Boat Basin, which reminded him of his City Island days. There, he had a housekeeper who, once a week, would make a beef stew for him and divide it into seven daily portions. One day, when the portions began to decline in size, Oliver asked, “Did the price of beef go up? I will give you more.” His housekeeper sheepishly admitted to pilfering some stew; she could not afford it for herself. “Then I will give you money for eight pounds instead of four, and you keep half.”

That makes up for a lot of what I’ve been reading today.

He would have been crushed by the rise of Donald Trump and the electoral success of Brexit. Intolerance and fear-mongering, he knew, are rudders that steer societies in dangerous directions. Oliver knew life from the other side: a gay man in a straight society; a doctor who cared for people, not patients; a finder of strength among the infirm. His moral compass pointed to tolerance and kindness. Nearly a decade ago, departing the Havana airport after a swim trip, he was asked if he might donate some clothing for those in need. He told me that he handed over his entire suitcase, and left with his satchel of books, a journal, a magnifying glass, and a few odds and ends, because someone probably needed the rest of his things more than he did.

As he did in Havana, Oliver left us everything he had to give, a treasure of lessons. Care and have empathy for those who are different or less fortunate. Have fun and love often. Find wonder and beauty. Know gratitude.

Yes; all those things.

Church to patient: no treatment for you

Aug 23rd, 2016 5:43 pm | By

This is very bad too. A woman bleeding and in pain from a dislodged IUD is turned away by her doctor because of the bishops.

Melanie Jones arrived for her doctor’s appointment bleeding and in pain. Jones, 28, who lives in the Chicago area, had slipped in her bathroom, and suspected the fall had dislodged her copper intrauterine device (IUD).

Her doctor confirmed the IUD was dislodged and had to be removed. But the doctor said she would be unable to remove the IUD, citing Catholic restrictions followed by Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and providers within its system.

Wait, what, had Jones gone to a church to get medical treatment?

No, of course she hadn’t. She’d gone to her doctor.

The doctor left Jones to confer with colleagues, before returning to confirm that her “hands [were] tied,” according to two complaints filed by the ACLU of Illinois. Not only could she not help her, the doctor said, but no one in Jones’ health insurance network could remove the IUD, because all of them followed similar restrictions. Mercy, like many Catholic providers, follows directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, tubal ligations, and contraception.

“Directive” from bishops saying what medical care people can’t have. From bishops. Religious personnel should have no say whatsoever in what medical care people can’t have.

“She told Ms. Jones that that process [of switching networks] would take her a month, and that she should feel fortunate because sometimes switching networks takes up to six months or even a year,” the ACLU of Illinois wrote in a pair of complaints filed in late June.

Jones hadn’t even realized her health-care network was Catholic.

Let alone that it would refuse to treat a medical problem connected to her contraception.

Jones left her doctor’s office, still in pain and bleeding. Her options were limited. She couldn’t afford a $1,000 trip to the emergency room, and an urgent care facility was out of the question since her Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois insurance policy would only cover treatment within her network—and she had just been told that her entire network followed Catholic restrictions.

Her insurance was good only within her network, and she couldn’t get the needed treatment within that network. This is not right.

Jones, on the advice of a friend, contacted the ACLU of Illinois. Attorneys there advised Jones to call her insurance company and demand they expedite her network change. After five hours of phone calls, Jones was able to see a doctor who removed her IUD, five days after her initial appointment and almost two weeks after she fell in the bathroom.

Before the IUD was removed, Jones suffered from cramps she compared to those she felt after the IUD was first placed, severe enough that she medicated herself to cope with the pain.

All because the god damn bishops say No. God damn religious fanatic bishops who won’t ever be writhing in pain because a dislodged IUD is poking them in the innards say NO to women in that situation. It makes me want to smash a few altars.

A barrage of racist abuse

Aug 23rd, 2016 5:10 pm | By

God damn it.

The Guardian:

A black British woman who was chosen to tweet from the @ireland account for a week has been subjected to a barrage of racist abuse, forcing her to take a break from Twitter.

Michelle Marie took over the account – which is curated by a different Twitter user in Ireland each week – on Monday. She introduced herself as a mother, blogger and plus-size model.

Originally from Oxford in England, she wrote she had settled in Ireland and “it has my heart”.

However, just hours after taking [she took] over the profile – which is followed by nearly 40,000 people – the abuse began.

And Twitter did nothing, as always. “Free speech” – unless it’s someone famous getting abused.

After “8hrs of non-stop hate” she said she was hurt, shocked and appalled but promised she would try again tomorrow.

Marie told the Guardian that the experience had been upsetting.

“I’m saddened that such extreme racism and vitriol is still rife. I am fortunate that experiencing this level of hate is a rarity, but for too many it’s a daily reality,” she said.

No nice things.

The dick pic and the quest for intimacy

Aug 23rd, 2016 4:40 pm | By

A much-needed video appeared yesterday, apparently via Alain de Botton and definitely via The School of LifeThe Dick Pic. You may think sending dick pics nobody asked for is not a very thoughtful hobby, but have you thought about it deeply enough? The School of Life is here to help.

It’s pretty painful to watch, what with the pretentious narrator and all, but it’s an essay as well as a video, so we’re in luck.

The Dick Picture is one of the least well-regarded of contemporary genres. To many, the idea of a man sending an acquaintance a picture of his penis sounds the height of idiotic self-regard and arrogance. Who, after all, would be interested – let alone turned on? It seems a fitting occasion to mock and laugh heartily.

Sigh. Have you spotted what the writer (de Botton?) left out? Have you wondered what happened to the all-important variable? It’s whether or not the recipient wants the dick pic. If the dick pic is invited, I don’t think it is idiotic self-regard and arrogance, it’s just lovers being lovers. But if it’s not invited? It’s all that and worse. But whatever imbecile wrote this thing seems to have entirely forgotten about that aspect. Which is sort of the whole problem, isn’t it…

Clearly, there are ways of sending images of one’s genitals to other people that may go seriously wrong. But there can also be quite important and benign aspects to this apparently crude and alarming phenomenon, dynamics that tells us about what lies at the heart of our sexuality and our search for intimacy.

Not if it’s uninvited there aren’t. If it is invited, there’s no need for this ridiculous essay, and if it’s not, this ridiculous essay is a pile of shit.

We get Dürer painting his in a self-portrait. Great; no problem. Then we get ludicrous commentary.

To make a dick pick isn’t typically about arrogance: it’s an exercise in vulnerability. Other people may laugh. That is what makes the act such a gamble and, when it goes right, a symbol of closeness. Like all men, Dürer knew perfectly well that many people would find his radical self-portrait acutely embarrassing. But, just like many of his modern day successors, Dürer was searching for a kind of friendship through an undefended act of revelation. He wasn’t making an assertion of potency; he was creating a noteworthy new avenue for rejection – in the name of honesty.

But he wasn’t presenting it to people uninvited. He didn’t go knocking on people’s doors and hold the portrait up when they opened. A single self-portrait isn’t the same as a dick pic tweeted to women who didn’t request it.

It is certainly possible to be too proud of one’s penis, and attempt to show it to others out of a desire to shock and humiliate. But for the overwhelming majority of men, this is not remotely what is at stake. The sending of a dick pic stems from a wish to reveal one’s deeper, more sincere self without any of the normal requirements for secrecy and shame. It is precisely because the penis is an area of such potential disgust and ridicule that its calculated revelation belongs to a trajectory of closeness, in which social inhibitions are finally and courageously lowered.

It’s as if women just didn’t exist at all, isn’t it. No need to think about whether or not they asked for these dick pics, no need to ask them how they feel about uninvited dick pics, no need to take them into account in any way.

Honey, sweetie, missy

Aug 23rd, 2016 3:28 pm | By

A couple of weeks ago the New York Times on Facebook invited female attorneys to respond to their story on the ABA’s effort to get sexist remarks out of the courtroom. Many did. A sampling:

  • I have been an attorney in Colorado for 17 years and in late December 2015, in an attorney’s fees hearing in federal court for a case we won in July 2015, the federal judge said, on the record, that my job in the trial (by the way I was the only female portion of my trial team and there were no females on the opposing trial team), “could have been done by a legal secretary” (Note I was second chair). In that 5-day federal jury trial, I helped pick the jury, argued 2 motions (and won one), did the direct testimony of the client and the redirect of him, worked hard with the judge and opposing counsel “after hours” for 2 nights on jury instructions and drafted cross examinations with my first chair. So yes, sexism is alive and well here but I guess at least I wasn’t called, “Honey.”
  • I have been fortunate working in Oregon for the Oregon DOJ. That said, I have been called a soccer mom, sweetie, honey and to “calm down” over the last almost 30 years.
  • During a deposition, opposing counsel responded to me in an off-the-record discussion by saying “That’s a big word for such a little girl.” I was too astounded to respond. A judge once said he liked my braid and followed up by asking “Can I pull it?” Irecoiled but couldn’t really say anything because I have to appear in front of him often. I get sweetie, gorgeous, and honey all the time (not just by male attorneys,either, but older women are guilty of it, too). This is in New York.
  • The day of my first trial, Defense counsel told me in chambers that he was “glad he could be my first.” Then he and the male judge laughed as I squirmed in my chair. I have been called honey, sweetie, missy, and been told I am too young and pretty to be an attorney. I am also regularly mistaken for a non-attorney in the courtroom, even when I’m dressed in a full suit, carrying a briefcase, and in an area reserved for attorneys.
  • I have been casually asked (on the record) if I have children and what does my husband think about my working? I have also several times been mistaken for the court reporter or a paralegal instead of lead attorney.
  • I have a Spanish last name, so three times a judge assumed I could translate and asked me to do it on the record. Then, I have received the “sweetheart,” “young lady” meant in a degrading way, and the “honey” when I was once a law clerk. Often, I receive comments from opposing counsel based on the fact that I am young. Apparently, being young means you cannot interpret the court rules or cases.

That’s a small sample. It makes interesting reading.


Guest post: Feminism has never been about being popular

Aug 23rd, 2016 2:51 pm | By

Originally a comment by ZugTheMegasaurus on All the while insisting we call them “feminist”.

The only thing that seemed to survive this push to destigmatize feminism is the word itself. People wanted so badly for “feminism” to not trigger this negative knee-jerk reaction, but they only succeeded by making it a toothless word that no one feels a need to react to.

It’s not that I don’t understand. I’m also irritated by people assuming all sorts of stupid shit about feminism and feminists. But I can also understand that feminism is, by its very nature, going to upset a lot of people. I can understand that it is not something that everyone is going to embrace, or even see reason for embracing. A lot of women, Kim Kardashian included, have found a comfortable place for themselves in things the way they are. They have found a way to make the patriarchal status quo work for them, and in that light, I think it’s entirely obvious why those people would not be especially enthusiastic about any ideology/viewpoint that wouldn’t include those opportunities.

A lot of us who embrace feminism aren’t in that category. We haven’t found a comfortable place in that system, and more importantly, we don’t want to. We don’t understand how anybody would be, and we have a hard time believing women who say they are; I think that’s where a lot of this push to say “every woman is a feminist, even if you think you’re not” comes from. It’s this insistence that somebody just can’t believe something harmful about themselves and their role in the world, so they must just be confused about what they believe.

But I’m willing to admit that I might just not get it. That’s certainly been the explanation in the back of my head for, say, my entire life. I don’t get wanting to be a wife and mother (I gag a little bit just typing it, FFS). I don’t get thinking that I should defer to someone else for no reason other than my sex/gender. I don’t get accepting someone else’s explanation of who and what I am. But a lot of people do, and that’s okay. It is okay that those people are not feminists; it is okay that beliefs that would be devastating for me are actually positive for them. I still hope that those beliefs are going to disappear from the face of the earth one day, but I can acknowledge that I’m in the minority on that one.

I can be a feminist, and I can still support the many, many women who are not. Not by trying to convert them or by broadening the definition of “feminist” to fit them in, but simply by understanding that they are the ones who will reap the benefits of feminism, not feminism as a label or personal identity, but feminism as a movement of women’s liberation from patriarchy. And even then, if they cursed feminism and feminists to their dying breath, that would be just fine too. Feminism has never been about being popular, and it never will be, no matter how many people would prefer it to be about silly t-shirts and hashtags. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay.

15,053 left within four days

Aug 23rd, 2016 12:27 pm | By

So it turns out that if you give people the opportunity to opt out of a religion they were “born” into, they take it.

Norway’s state chuch lost more than 15,000 followers in four days after launching an online registration system allowing people to opt in or out.

The Lutheran Church is the country’s largest, with nearly three-quarters of the population registered as members.

Nearly three-quarters of the population – in highly secular Norway. How could that statistic not be an artifact of churchy overcounting?

But officials revealed that many instead used the new process to do the opposite, with 10,854 people de-enrolling from the church in the 24 hours after the launch of the website on 15 August. A total of 15,053 left within four days.

The leading Bishop of the Norwegian churches, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, said: “We were prepared for a significant number of resignations and have great respect for the individual’s choice.

“These signals we take seriously. Our task will be to pass on the Christian message and to convey the important role the church can have in people’s lives.”

Sure, it can. But “important role” doesn’t necessarily mean “in a good way.” Churches can have important roles in people’s lives by making them miserable or by suppressing all their hopes and ambitions and making them feel like inferior beings. There’s that, and there’s also the fact that other institutions and ways of thinking and being can also have important roles in people’s lives – and usually without the coercive aspects of religious institutions. Secular groups and outlooks have the advantage of not claiming to have an all-powerful supernatural being running the show.

“No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree”

Aug 23rd, 2016 6:01 am | By

God hates women who get higher education.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis have banned women from going to university, The Independent has learned.

The strict Satmar sect issued the decree, seen by The Independent, warning that university education for women is “dangerous”. Written in Yiddish, the decree warns: “It has lately become the new trend that girls and married women are pursuing degrees in special education. Some attend classes and others online. And so we’d like to let their parents know that it is against the Torah.

“We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school. Also, we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who’ve been to college or have a degree.”

Dangerous for girls but not for boys? Why? Presumably because it would threaten the goddy arrangement by which men are the bosses and women are their inferiors who are required to obey and shut up about it – but the Indy doesn’t quote that part so maybe it’s not there. But that certainly is the implication. You can’t have a rule of that kind independent of the hierarchical implications. You could imagine an alternative world in which only inferiors have to get higher education, and superiors are free to skip it – but that’s not this world. In this world, forbidding Xs to get an education both says that Xs are inferior and does its best to make Xs inferior. It’s a relic, that way of thinking, an evil destructive relic.

Also, notice that they employ teachers who have no higher education – that they rule out teachers who do have higher education if those teachers are women. They insist on ignorant teachers to teach the girls (because obviously the only reason they have female teachers at all is to teach those worthless creatures, the girls). Girls can’t go to university, and they can’t even have university-taught teachers. Wham bam.

The decree was issued from the sect’s base in New York and will apply to followers of the faith group around the world.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews follow a pre-enlightenment interpretation of traditional Judaism and discourage interaction with the modern or secular world.

“There are probably other factors at play, but, ultimately, the results are devastating. Because people from similar communities are not provided with a foundational primary education, they cannot pursue higher education nor careers. When one does not have access to education, career opportunities are out of reach. It forces one to stay within the community as everyone’s personal lives are tied up with their professional lives as well.”

Like the Amish. Amish parents (fathers, that is) are allowed to pull their children out of school at 14 (cf Yoder v Wisconsin, one of the worst Supreme Court rulings in recent history), and the Amish are notoriously forced to stay within “the community.”

Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue and chair of the Accord Coalition which links religious and secular groups to promote inclusive education, told The Independent: “There is much to admired about the ultra-Orthodox, including the Satmar group, who are a very law-abiding community. However, their choice to separate themselves from much of the world around them is not a view shared by many other Jews, who see no problem with being both rooted in Jewish identity and integrated into wider society.

“Going to university is an experience to be valued, for both men and women, whom we regard as fully equal and who should have the same opportunities in education and the workplace. Limiting such abilities is a cause for regret.”

Or to put it another way, it’s a disgusting violation of human rights.