Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Brendan O’Neill attacked by Stepford students horror

Nov 23rd, 2014 12:45 pm | By

There was supposed to be a debate on abortion last Tuesday at Christ Church, Oxford. Brendan O’Neill and Timothy Stanley were the scheduled debaters.

That fact by itself fills me with a great cloud of weary irritation. If you want to stage a debate on abortion, why the fuck ask two men to do it? What is the point? Why is it of more interest or significance to hear what two men have to say on the subject than it is to hear what two women have to say? Why just always ignore and jump over women as if they weren’t there, even when talking about things that affect women directly in a way they don’t affect men? Why do that? It’s not as if Brendan O’Neill is such a brilliant thinker or so original or reflective that no one else will do. On the contrary, he’s shallow and highly predictable.

People protested, the debate was canceled, O’Neill is now preening himself on being a martyr for free speech. (What I said – predictable.)

Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar.

Oh look, a dog whistle. “Banter” is code for sexist shit-talking and harassment.

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological…

Oh shut up. That objection shouldn’t be brushed off as “identity politics.” It is objectionable for men to talk over the heads of women about whether women should have particular rights or not. I think once the debate was scheduled it shouldn’t have been canceled, but I also think it shouldn’t have been scheduled in that form in the first place.

Last month he encountered other “Stepford students” who thought he was wrong about lad culture and rape.

One — a bloke — said that the compulsory sexual consent classes recently introduced for freshers at Cambridge, to teach what is and what isn’t rape, were a great idea because they might weed out ‘pre-rapists’: men who haven’t raped anyone but might. The others nodded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pre-rapists! Had any of them read Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novella about a wicked world that hunts down and punishes pre-criminals, I asked? None had.

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and I can hardly believe what I’m reading. Seriously? If his objection had any merit there should be no driving education, no health education, no disease prevention education, no safety training, no anticipatory instruction of any kind. Yes, students should be taught that consent is required for sex even if they haven’t raped anyone yet, because not everyone understands that consent is required. That’s not some dystopian horror. But then, again, O’Neill isn’t a young female student, so he doesn’t have to worry about young male students who like to drink beer and engage in “banter” and don’t grasp the point that sex without consent is rape. It’s no threat to him, so he’s free to have a cavalier attitude about it, and sneer at people for whom it is a threat.

Heaven help any student who doesn’t bow before the Stepford mentality. The students’ union at Edinburgh recently passed a motion to ‘End lad banter’ on campus. Laddish students are being forced to recant their bantering ways. Last month, the rugby club at the London School of Economics was disbanded for a year after its members handed out leaflets advising rugby lads to avoid ‘mingers’ (ugly girls) and ‘homosexual debauchery’.

Horrors. What a terrible world it will be without leaflets advising lads to avoid ‘mingers’ (ugly girls) and ‘homosexual debauchery’. (“Minger” is a pretty harsh word for “ugly girl,” by the way, given that “minge”=female genitalia. Google says the source is unknown, but it seems impossible that the two can be strictly separated.)

I’m deeply tired of people like O’Neill, people who are relentlessly callous and indifferent about threats to the free participation of people who are not like them.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Women are unable to safely report

Nov 23rd, 2014 10:32 am | By

The New York Times has a think piece on the clash between Cosby’s Wholesome Image and the proliferating allegations that he had a decades-long habit of drugging and raping women. It starts off with a very peculiar headline…

For Some Fans, Accusations of Rape Crumble Bill Cosby’s Wholesome Image

Department of pointing out the obvious.

“He implanted so many positive images, moments, subliminal pictures of what African-Americans can be,” Mr. Osborne said. The portrayal struck him as false — the families he knew in Brooklyn did not live in well-appointed townhouses in the Heights; the Cosby children’s range of skin tones made it a strain to see them as siblings. Still, he recognized the accomplishment.

“There was a time when white people used to claim, ‘I watch “Cosby” ’ as their bona fides,” he said. “While we can look at it very cynically, there’s some good in that.”

The closeness and personal pride may be what allowed people to look away when rape accusations against Mr. Cosby surfaced decades ago. And still, with at least 15 women coming forward with similar stories — of being given a drink or a pill by Mr. Cosby, then waking up feeling they had been sexually assaulted — many fans continue to point out that he has never been charged. The women, they say, must be after money.

He has never been charged so it can’t possibly be true because all rapes lead to arrest, every single one, no exceptions. Meanwhile, no one is allowed to mention it. That’s how our legal system works. That legal system applies in Ireland as well as the US.

As Mr. Cosby, now 77, took the stage in Melbourne, Fla., on Friday night as part of what was to be a comeback tour, at least two in the audience shouted out, “We love you, Bill Cosby!” To this, Mr. Cosby, wearing a “Hello Friend” sweatshirt, responded with a clenched fist above his head, and many in the crowd copied him.

Oh did he! Really! Meaning what? Power to the rapists? Power to guys getting away with serial rape for decade after decade? Power to the very very rich and famous tv star guys getting away with serial rape for decade after decade? Or is it just Here’s what women who accuse rich and famous tv star guys of rape should get – a fist.

Dr. Beverly Gray, like the fictional Dr. Huxtable an obstetrician and gynecologist, recalled watching the show every week with her family.

Reflecting on Mr. Cosby now, she thinks of the survivors of sexual abuse she sees in her work in Durham, N.C.

“I feel like women are unable to safely report male perpetrators in our culture,” Dr. Gray, 38, said. About the show, she said: “I remember a very happy, close family. It’s the contrast between that and what you hear on the news that’s so upsetting.”

Exactly. Women are unable to safely report male perpetrators in our culture. We know this from experience.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Cosby would then take his pick

Nov 23rd, 2014 10:16 am | By

Another corroborator of the allegations about Bill Cosby – this time not a woman but a former wing man.

A former NBC employee and Bill Cosby confidante has claimed to the New York Daily News that he acted as a cover-up for the comedian as he slept with women and paid them off.

Well…he’s just doing it for the fame and attention!

Frank Scotti, 90, who worked for the studio where “The Cosby Show” was filmed from 1984 to 1992, told the Daily News that he took out money orders in his name to pay women who he suspects Cosby had slept with. Scotti also alleges that he would stand guard at Cosby’s dressing room while he met with young models.

Well…I’m sure Cosby was just giving them good fatherly advice on how to pull their pants up.

Cosby would reportedly claim he was “interviewing” the young models for parts in his show.

He allegedly had a deal with a Manhattan modeling agency that would stop by the set with several girls at once. Cosby would then take his pick, Scotti said.

“The owner [of the agency] just walked right out,” Scotti told the Daily News. “She knew exactly what was going to go on. Then he’d tell me, ‘Stand outside the door and don’t let anyone in.’ Now you put that together and figure [out] why.”

Career advice. Grooming tips. Experiments in the effects of certain drugs when mixed with alcohol or tea or Sprite.

Scotti provided signed memorabilia and photographs of himself and Cosby to the Daily News. He also showed receipts for money orders with the names of women on them — at least one of whom recently stepped forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault.

Cosby’s accusers have said that the comedian lured them in with promises of career help and mentorship, then gave them pills to make them immobile so he could assault them. The allegations span decades — some dating back to 1969 and one as recent as 2004.

Ok ok ok fine, but never mind all that, because he’s Cliff Huxtable. That’s all that counts.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A bus to Nairobi

Nov 23rd, 2014 8:57 am | By

What’s new in Kenya: al-Shabaab murdered 28 people on a bus at dawn on Saturday.

The bus travelling to the capital Nairobi with 60 passengers was hijacked about 50 kilometres from the town of Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia, said two police officers who insisted on anonymity because they were ordered not to speak to the press.

The attackers first tried to wave the bus down but it didn’t stop so the gunmen sprayed it with bullets, said the police. When that didn’t work they shot a rocket propelled grenade at it, the officers said.

The gunmen took control of the vehicle and forced it off the road where they ordered all the passengers out of the vehicle and separated those who appeared to be non-Muslims — mostly non-Somalis — from the rest.

God’s people over here, garbage people over there. That’s the way we want people thinking.

George Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private primary school in Mandera, survived the attack. He was travelling home for the Christmas vacation since school had closed.

Ochwodho told AP that the passengers who did not look Somali were separated from the others. The non-Somali passengers were then asked to recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring oneness with God. Those who couldn’t recite the creed were ordered to lie down. Ochwodho was among those who had to lie on the ground.

And they were all shot dead except Ochwodho.

17 out of the 28 dead were teachers according to the police commander in Mandera county.

That will be a nice extra for al-Shabaab: they managed to get rid of 17 infidel teachers.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Who is most popular?

Nov 22nd, 2014 6:22 pm | By

Elsewhere in tvworld, the Duggars are getting some pushback.

A petition on urging TLC to cancel the family’s reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” is gaining momentum.

“End LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars,” a letter posted on petition page reads. “The Duggars have been using their fame to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people. You need to take a stand on the side of justice and cancel their show.”

The petition currently has over 78,000 signatures.

Not terribly impressive when you note that they have 400,000 likes on their Facebook page, but it’s a start.

Last week, the couple posted a Facebook photo of them kissing and encouraged other married couples to share their own. The caption read, “God designed marriage to be a loving, dynamic relationship between a husband and wife for a lifetime. God loves marriage and it is supposed to be full of love, joy, fun and romance,” it said. “We challenge all married couples to take a happily married picture and post it here.”

John Becker, of LGBT blog “The Bilerico Project,” posted a photo of him kissing his husband. He says his photo was later taken down and that he was banned from the Duggars’ page, according to E! News.

Well it’s like this. God doesn’t want human lips to make contact with other lips except when one of the humans is a man and the other human is a woman and the two of them are married to each other. Any other lip-to-lip contact is haram and sin and bad. Don’t even talk about tongues.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

An adoring audience

Nov 22nd, 2014 6:00 pm | By

How sweet, CBS reports that Bill Cosby did a show last night and everybody forgot all about those pesky rape allegations and just had a damn good time laughing at his jokes. How warm and cuddly.

“I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” the comedian told Florida Today. “People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”

After giving the backstage interview, Cosby regained the revered status he long enjoyed, for 90 minutes at least.

The show in Melbourne, Florida, might have seemed destined for disaster for the comedian. What he got, though, was an adoring audience that laughed so hard they slapped their knees, shouted love at the stage and rose to their feet as he came and went.

“I think people went in there with him as Bill Cosby from the TV show,” said Travis Weberling, 40, of Melbourne, “not the guy they heard about on the news.”

As they should, as they should. He’s that guy from the tv show, and who cares about all those annoying women who say he raped them. The important thing is that he’s that guy from the tv show!

What remained to be seen was whether the evening marked a turning point for a beloved television father, or simply a momentary reprieve. It did nothing to immediately change the fact that Cosby’s projects have been nixed and stalled, performances have been canceled across the country and women continue to come forward accusing him of serious crimes.

Yes but he’s a beloved television father, which is as much as to say he’s all of our daddy, which means he’s kind of like god, which means he gets to rape women, because if god does it it must be good. (That Euthyphro guy said so.)

Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Singer, said the accusations had “escalated far past the point of absurdity,” dismissing them as “fantastical,” ”unsubstantiated” and “uncorroborated.”

“When will it end?” he asked. “It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.”

And, throughout the audience, his fans agreed.

They talked of watching him on TV as a child, and of his albums becoming familiar friends when the moved to unfamiliar, faraway towns. They brushed off the accusations, howling at everything he uttered.

That’s right. That’s right. Brush them off. They don’t matter. All that matters is adoring the guy who played a good guy on tv. All that matters is maintaining the illusion that he’s a good guy like the one he played on tv. The many independent accusations of rape don’t matter at all.

His 90-minute set wandered from a childhood fear of God to the loss of freedom in marriage to the rocket-speed Spanish of a piñata-store worker.

He sat for much at the start of the show, then grew increasingly physical, impersonating jujitsu and gymnastics poses, laying on the floor in stocking feet and thrusting a fist upward in a gesture of battling the everyday oppression of living with a wife. And when it was over, he said “good night,” walking off as the audience again stood.

Cool. Battling women all the way.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: The problems of American Women are fast becoming the problem of Global Women

Nov 22nd, 2014 11:22 am | By

Originally a comment by Hj Hornbeck on Yes, there should be rivalry in victimhood.

[Trigger Warning: Domestic and Sexual Assault. Also, BIG comment with many a footnote.]

Here’s an angle I haven’t seen mentioned yet: there’s more than some hidden racism in Dawkin’s focus on Islam, which he exploits to distract from real global problems. The quoted portion in the OP is my starting point:

The greatest threats to women, in his view, are Islamism and jihadism — and his concern over that sometimes leads him to speak off-the-cuff.

“I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial,” he said.[1]

That’s demonstrably false. Consider, for instance, a 2006 WHO study on domestic violence.[2] It surveyed fifteen sites worldwide, and found that the highest lifetime rate of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner was 71% in the Ethiopian countryside and 69% in the Peruvian… both of which are Catholic-majority states. Third place is rural Muslim Bangladesh (62%), fourth is rural half Christian, half Muslim Tanzania (56%), fifth was urban Muslim Bangladesh (53%), and so on.

The percentage of women who think being beaten is an acceptable punishment for not completing their housework? About 65% in rural Ethiopia, 45% in rural Peru, 30% in rural Tanzania, 25% in urban Tanzania, and so on. Interestingly, urban Bangladesh women are in the middle of the pack when it comes to saying they should not be beaten (rural Bangladesh… not so much).

How about sexual violence against women that aren’t intimate partners? A staggering 55% of assaulted women in Samoa were attacked by non-partners… and Samoa is majority Christian. In Brazil (majority Christian) that’s 40%, in urban Tanzania it’s 34%, urban Peru it’s 31%, and so on.

The prevalence of injury among ever-abused women ranged from 19% in Ethiopia to 55% in provincial Peru. Injuries were associated with severe physical violence. In Brazil, provincial Peru, Samoa, Serbia [Christian] and Montenegro [Christian], and Thailand [Buddhist] over 20% of ever-injured women reported that they had been injured more than five times.

Although the majority of injuries were classed as minor (bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, and bites), in some settings, more serious injuries (broken bones, injuries to ears and eyes) were relatively common. At least 20% of ever-injured women in Namibia [Christian], provincial Peru, Samoa, urban Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania reported injuries to the eyes and ears. In Bangladesh, Ethiopia, provincial Peru, and Samoa, over a quarter of ever-injured women reported that they had lost consciousness as a result of partner violence.

It’s obvious that intimate partner violence is a global issue, affecting a huge percentage of women worldwide. However, it isn’t obvious this is tied to religion; Christianity seems to dominate the stats, but that could be because it’s still the dominant global religion, or the researchers couldn’t get into certain Muslim states.

Worse still for Dawkins, Islam is not a monolith. According to a Pew Forum study,[3] while 99% of Afghan Muslims support Sharia law, 8% of Azerbaijanis do. The biggest predictor of support is secularism, not religion; Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, but only 12% of their Muslims support sharia law.

Things get weirder when you look at specific beliefs: 50% of Bangladeshis that support Sharia say that family planning is morally acceptable, while among those that oppose Sharia law… only 28% think it’s acceptable. On the flip side, 28% of pro-Sharia Kazakhs think it’s acceptable, yet 52% of anti-Sharia Kazakhs think it’s fine.

The veil? In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 40% of Muslims agree that women have the right to choose, while in South-East Europe that sits at 88%. How about the ever-popular topic of suicide bombings? 96% of Bosnian Muslims do not think it is justified, or think it’s only fine in rare circumstances, while in Pakistan, the spot with the greatest support, that number sits at 49%. Yes, more Muslims in Pakistan think that suicide bombing is poorly justified than that it sometimes or often is. At least 85% of Muslims endorse non-Muslims practicing their religion freely, with some areas hitting 97%. In South Asia, 76% would be OK with executing apostates; in Central Asia, only 16% are.

And yet, Dawkins is opposed to Islam, full stop. No shades of gray.[4] Every Muslim is an olive-skinned Middle Eastern person that wants every woman stuffed in a burqa. Never-mind the existence of Black Muslims in Nigeria or Caucasian Muslims in the Caucasus, they’re all the same to him. While he loves to toss out the phrase “Islam is not a race,” he certainly treats them as one[5,6] and is happy to exploit xenophobia to distract from more important issues.

You might argue Dawkins wasn’t talking about domestic violence, though, but mild sexual assault and sexism. But that supposes those issues are specific to North America and Europe, and absent everywhere else. Again, that’s just not true; as Hans Rosling loves to point out, there really isn’t much difference between developed and developing countries nowadays, with urban areas of some “developing” countries on par with developed nations.[7]

Just looking at cell phone and internet usage, 45% of Lebanese own a smart phone, 39% of Chileans, and 33% of South Africans; in contrast, 23% of Russians and 21% of Mexicans do.[8] By 2018, it’s forecast that 67% of cell phone users in all of Africa will have a data plan.[9] The fastest internet in the world is in South Korea, the fifth is in Latvia, and the Czech Republic comfortably edges out the United States to take seventh place.[10]

This means that the problems of American Women are fast becoming the problem of Global Women. And as the world becomes more connected, the campaigns and experience of the former can be easily modified and exploited by the latter to improve their lot. The same isn’t true for combating Islam, however; as I pointed out above, that religion is quite heterogeneous and thus you’d have a tough time spreading one area’s fix to another place.

This leaves Dawkins as little more than a wailing, short-sighted bigot.


[1] “Richard Dawkins Stands by Remarks on Sexism, Pedophilia, Down Syndrome.” Religion News Service. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[2] García-Moreno, Claudia., London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine., Program for Appropriate Technology in Health., World Health Organization., and Women and Health. Department of Gender. WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women: Initial Results on Prevalence, Health Outcomes and Women’s Responses. [Geneva, Switzerland]: World Health Organization, 2005.

[3] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[4] Well OK, I was a bit shocked when I cracked open my copy of The God Delusion and rediscovered that he endorsed teaching the Qur’an as a source of literary heratige. That bit’s on pages 386 to 387 on my copy, or just look for the last two paragraphs in Chapter 9.

[5] Malik, Nesrine. “Message to Richard Dawkins: ‘Islam Is Not a Race’ Is a Cop out.” The Guardian, September 20, 2013, sec. Comment is free.

[6] Chituc, Vlad. “Islam Isn’t a Race, and so What?” NonProphet Status. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[7] The River of Myths by Hans Rosling | #BillsLetter, 2013.

[8] “Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[9] “Africa Telecoms Outlook 2014: Maximizing Digital Service Opportunities » Informa Telecoms & Media.” Accessed November 22, 2014.

[10] “South Korea’s Internet Is About to Be 50 Times Faster Than Yours.” Motherboard. Accessed November 22, 2014.

[BONUS] Hans Rosling: Religions and Babies, 2012.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: The motto draped above the Dudebro Defense League crest

Nov 22nd, 2014 10:57 am | By

Originally a comment by Tom Foss on If only you’d said it more sweetly.

Wait. I thought atheist dudebros were super-rational and only care about things by order of magnitude of objective mattering, while SJWs and feminazis are all hyper-reactionary people who want their subjective feelings of offense enforced by totalitarian law. But now Dawkins is so offended by mild snark that he doubles down even on things he’s admitted being wrong about, while SJWs are irrationally failing to consider feelings when they think a preeminent science popularizer with a reputation for being a blunt firebrand could see past harsh language to the actual arguments and evidence?

Oh right, I forgot the motto draped above the Dudebro Defense League crest: “The only thing better than a standard is a double-standard.”

@Anthony K:

Besides, “Ur doin it rong” has always been Hemant’s shtick, hasn’t it? Wasn’t he on that side in the accommodationist wars?

I think Hemant played center field on that one. IIRC, he later did a “not so friendly anymore” post where he announced a change in tactics, or somesuch, that was pretty firebrand-friendly. If anything, Hemant’s always been the “the answer’s in the middle somewhere” guy, and late to the game on everything else, but his continued harboring/promotion of libertarian/conservative bigot/asshole Terry Firma doesn’t do much to endear him these days, nor do his blundering forays into the Deep Rifts.

As to the Accommodationist Wars, it’s continuously interesting to me to see that the battle lines are largely the same now as they were then, except the one side that used to be all “we need to be nice and hide the atheists so we can attract and accommodate religious skeptics” is now “fuck SJWs and minorities, if you can’t take the slurs, stay out of the bigot kitchen!” The only major shifts have been Abbie Smith and Jerry Coyne, and arguably Phil Plait, and I only really remember Jerry being involved toward the end of the conflict. In a way that is, perhaps, largely unsurprising, it seems that the Accommodationists were less concerned about making religious believers more comfortable and more about opposing whatever PZ and Ophelia said.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Next stop Europa?

Nov 22nd, 2014 10:48 am | By

Wo – how about a probe of Europa next? It has an ocean covered by a thick layer of ice. Phil Plait has the story:

He starts with a remastered image just released by JPL:


Click on it for even bigger detail.

So that would be a hell of an interesting thing to explore, right?

Europa is 3120 km (1930 miles) in diameter, a hair smaller than our own Moon. Unlike our Moon, which is rock through and through, Europa has a rocky core covered with water. And by water, I mean liquid water, an undersurface ocean covered with a kilometers-thick shell of ice. The water may be in a layer 100 km thick, and salty, making it a true ocean. In fact, it may have more liquid water than Earth does!

The cracks you see are where ice floes fit together; the brighter areas are nearly pure water ice, but the red/orange regions are cracks, possibly where briny water has been squeezed to the surface, and materials in it chemically affected by the intense radiation environment surrounding Jupiter (caused by its very strong magnetic field interacting with material blasted out by volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io).

Ok then go there! More exciting landing probes on things.

JPL made a video about it.

That video is very well-done, and as I watched it I couldn’t help but think it felt like a trailer or promotional video for a new mission in the works. I know a lot of planetary astronomers have wanted to send a dedicated mission to the moon to investigate it far more thoroughly…

… and then I found that, due to the mid-term elections, Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex) is now head of the House’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee. He’s long been an advocate for a Europa mission.

Really? Not for shutting NASA down because Starve the Beast? Good on him.

I’ve had my issues with Culberson about NASA, but, depending on how it’s done — extra funding for NASA so that no current or other future missions will get bled of funding, for starters — then an orbiter, lander, and sub-lander to Europa could very well be something I could get behind.

This is something I think NASA should be doing: Pushing the frontier, doing what only a national space agency can do. This would be a huge undertaking, and one that would fire up the public imagination like nothing before it since Apollo. I’d very much like to see that happen.

Sounds very cool to me. And think of all the kids in classrooms being told that if they work hard on their math they have a shot at working on the project.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Now the Royal Astronomical Society

Nov 22nd, 2014 9:53 am | By

The Royal Astronomical Society has also issued a statement on shirtstorm / shirtgate. (That’s what they call it, just as the AAS did.)

It’s not nearly as well worded as the AAS statement, but it’s still good to have. I doubt that Dawkins will be calling the RAS “pompous idiots” the way he called feminists he considers wrong “pompous idiots,” so the statement is good to have. It might conceivably cause Dawkins to reflect on the fact that some people he respects actually agree with the feminists he considers wrong (and pompous idiots).

Last week saw the successful landing of the Philae space probe on the surface of Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is a huge achievement for the European Space Agency and for the many scientists and engineers who worked on this project.

At the press conference announcing the landing, the lead scientist chose to wear a shirt with inappropriate depictions of women and used an expression in his description of the comet, that were offensive to some of those who watched what was otherwise an unqualified triumph for space science and astronomy. The Royal Astronomical Society welcomes his subsequent unreserved and sincere apology.

That’s one of the places it’s not as well worded. “Offensive” is the wrong word for the purpose. It’s the wrong word for the purpose, and it’s also a favorite whipping-word of people like Ricky Gervais and the armies of misogynist harassers. The core point wasn’t so much that the shirt and remark were “offensive” as it was that they were the kind of absent-minded belittling or relegation or dismissal of women that, repeated many times every day, combine to discourage women from entering a discipline. Dawkins waves that analysis away as pompous idiocy, but he’s wrong to do that. Big names in science should not wave that analysis away. Hence it’s good that the RAS issued this statement, even though it’s not perfectly worded.

Much of the discussion that followed the press conference took place on social media, for example on Twitter as #shirtstorm and #shirtgate. Unfortunately many of those who commented have been the subject of physical threats. The Society unequivocally condemns the perpetrators of this abuse, which overwhelmingly targeted women.

Again, not perfect. Physical threats are not the only form of abuse worth condemning.

In all areas of our work, the Society takes issues of discrimination and diversity very seriously. We have recently increased our activity in this area, with the appointment of a staff member to cover these concerns and a designated member of Council who holds the role of Diversity Champion. The RAS also signed the Science Council Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at its launch on Monday 6th October (see

We therefore recognise that behaviour choices, from clothing to language, can discourage women from pursuing careers in science in general. These are equally important considerations in both the workplace and at public events such as press conferences.

Better. Much better. Let’s highlight that: behaviour choices, from clothing to language, can discourage women from pursuing careers in science in general.

The Society notes that the Rosetta team has a number of prominent women scientists and engineers who are excellent role models. They provide a positive message that gender is not a barrier to achievement in astronomy and space science at the highest level. Particularly in its future events, we strongly encourage ESA to make use of these women in its efforts to encourage people of all backgrounds to engage with the extraordinary science it delivers.

Good idea. Apply it to people of color as well. If there’s ever a time to make a point of assigning women and POC to a job it’s when you need someone to go on tv to talk about holy shit we just landed a probe on a comet.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Yes, there should be rivalry in victimhood

Nov 21st, 2014 6:03 pm | By

Andreas Rekdal at NonProphet Status considers Dawkins’s revelation the other day that he is a passionate feminist.

Dawkins has been criticized by many, including fellow atheists, for trivializing Western women’s experiences of sexual harassment. According to Dawkins, his apparent insensitivity is really borne out of his deep commitment to feminism. And as a feminist, he believes we need to focus more on the threat of Islam to women everywhere:

I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial.

This statement casts doubt on the sincerity of Dawkins’ apology for his “Dear Muslima” letter earlier this year. Back then, Dawkins wrote of comparing abuses:

There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison.

In a way, that’s one good thing about the interview: Dawkins finally admits that he was indeed saying that we should shut up about unwanted sexual demands or contact because there are worse things happening to women living in Islamist countries. I don’t think he’s admitted that before, except by implication in the (now nullifed) apology. That’s what we always said he was saying, so in a way it’s good that he admits it. On the other hand it’s hard to reconcile with the tweets about “if you think saying ‘violent rape is worse than date rape’ equals saying date rape is not bad, go away and learn how to think.” There’s a tension between the two. On the one hand, yes, saying “women who aren’t allowed to drive have it worse than women sexually assaulted at work” was indeed intended to say that women being sexually assaulted at work is trivial. Is trivial. On the other hand, no, to say “one kind of rape is worse than another kind” is not to say that the second kind is trivial.

So which is it? Well, clearly, the first. He stood by it. He told Kimberly Winston he stood by it. He’s made up his mind. So he’s saying there should be rivalry in victimhood, and that he is a good judge of who wins the contest.

It’s a good thing that he’s spelled it out for us. It’s a bad thing that that’s what he’s spelled out. It would be better if he did not believe and say and insist on such a horrible stance. It would be better if he could grasp that it’s not good for men to declare rules for which bad things done to women are worse than other bad things done to women. The things are not done to him, so he shouldn’t pronounce on them.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

One million people sign up

Nov 21st, 2014 3:31 pm | By

Julia Burke at Skepchick considers the Silencing of Richard Dawkins.

From his twitter account alone, Dawkins has drawn fire over comments widely believed to be sexist, racist, Islamophobic, ableist, rape apologia, and downright douchey. This account had 1,060,435 followers as I wrote this. One million people sign up for his daily musings––and that’s after what he’s said so far.

So, not very silenced. Not very muzzled. He gets hostile responses, but with more than a million followers on Twitter it’s probably pretty easy to think of those as the ravings of a warped minority.

Dawkins has his own site and foundation, giving him a pedestal for longer-form discussion whenever he wants and the finances to back up a campaign promoting that discussion. He also has the support of the mainstream humanist movement despite statements that alienate much of its population: Dawkins has been a featured speaker at two humanist cons in the last year and will be featured at a CFI conference in 2015. When I called the organizers of these cons to ask whether Dawkins’s inflammatory comments had influenced their decisions to use him as a featured speaker, the World Humanist Con and American Humanist Association both declined to comment on anything concerning Dawkins himself. Ron Lindsay of CFI, to his credit, did grace me with a thoughtful reply:

“We humanists, as a whole, define the direction of humanism… For this reason, I don’t hang on every utterance that Richard Dawkins makes or pay close attention to every tweet that he transmits. Dawkins is undoubtedly someone who is entitled to much respect and honor for all the contributions he’s made to advancing atheism and humanism. Without doubt, he is the person most responsible for bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. He may also be the best advocate for evolutionary biology, again in terms of bringing this awareness to the non-scientific community. These are important achievements. But despite his formidable intellect, he, like anyone else, may make mistakes and misjudgments from time to time. This does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions.”

Hmm. I can’t help thinking that last sentence is more likely to be true if you’re not the kind of person Dawkins belittles while he’s making mistakes and misjudgments. In other words I don’t agree that his making misjudgments – like calling feminists who objected to Matt Taylor’s shirt “pompous idiots” – does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions. I think it does detract materially from the value of his overall contributions, at least the first one Ron mentioned – bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. I’m not as pleased about that as I once was, for the very reason that that awareness is now far more likely to be of obnoxious mind-blind anti-feminist assholes. I don’t want atheism to be seen that way, and I  think Dawkins has done a lot to ensure that it is seen that way by many.

There’s more to Julia’s article, but I gotta go.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“Pompous idiots” is it?

Nov 21st, 2014 2:15 pm | By

Well all right then. Perfect. The American Astronomical Society issued a statement Wednesday (but dated it yesterday Thursday) on the matter of The Shirt.

I hope Richard Dawkins reads it attentively.

I hope Ayaan Hirsi Ali reads it.

I hope Christina Hoff Sommers reads it.

I hope Steven Pinker reads it. [link goes to Michael Shermer quoting Pinker at a talk]

I hope Russell Blackford reads it.

I hope all the sneerers and minimizers and harassers and attackers read it.

I don’t think anybody considers the American Astronomical Society an organization of “pompous idiots” (Dawkins) or “idiot women” (Hirsi Ali).

The following statement was issued on 19 November 2014 by the Executive Committee of the American Astronomical Society on behalf of the AAS Council:

The past few days have seen extensive international discussion of an incident (known online as #shirtstorm or #shirtgate) in which a participant in a European Space Agency media conference wore a shirt with sexualized images of gun-toting women and made an unfortunate remark comparing the featured spacecraft to a woman. Viewers responded critically to these inappropriate statements, especially jarring in such a highly visible setting (one in which very few women appeared), and the scientist apologized sincerely. But in the meantime, unacceptable abuse has been directed toward the critics, from criticism of “over-active feminism” to personal insults and more dire threats.

We wish to express our support for members of the community who rightly brought this issue to the fore, and we condemn the unreasonable attacks they experienced as a result, which caused deep distress in our community. We do appreciate the scientist’s sincere and unqualified apology.

They’re talking to you, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christina Hoff Sommers, Russell Blackford. They condemn your unreasonable attacks on people who objected to the shirt and the unfortunate remark.

The AAS has a clear anti-harassment policy, which prohibits “verbal comments or physical actions of a sexual nature” and “a display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.” Had the offending images appeared and comments been made under the auspices of the AAS, they would be in clear violation of our policy.

We also note the important sentiments that preface the policy:

As a professional society, the AAS must provide an environment that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas. In pursuit of that environment, the AAS is committed to the philosophy of equality of opportunity and treatment for all members, regardless of gender, gender identity or expression, race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, veteran status, or any other reason not related to scientific merit. All functions of the Society must be conducted in a professional atmosphere in which all participants are treated with courtesy and respect…

That’s not too much to ask. That’s not unreasonable or irrational. It’s not “witch hunting.” It’s just a reasonable personnel policy, intended to make it possible for people to work together productively and amicably, people of many different kinds, without invidious treatment as different or there for consumption by the top group.

The AAS Council reaffirms the importance of the Society’s anti-harassment policy to our mission to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Only when all astronomers feel welcome and supported in the profession can our discipline realize its full potential for excellence.

Apparently Dawkins and Hirsi Ali and Sommers and Blackford oppose that policy.

Why do they?

H/t PZ

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Minimum allegation threshold

Nov 21st, 2014 12:22 pm | By

Where the Cosby discussion was just two months ago, in mid-September: the New Yorker did a long profile of him, and gave the allegations of rape this amount of attention at the end of the piece:

In the past decade, the tales of infidelity have been joined by much more serious allegations. At least four women, using their own names and telling similar stories, have accused Cosby of sexual assault. The accounts, made public in outlets that include the “Today” show and People, depict Cosby luring each woman to a private place, drugging her, and assaulting her. Cosby settled a lawsuit filed by one of the women, but he has never spoken of the allegations in public. (Earlier this year, his publicist dismissed one of the stories as “discredited.”) Whitaker doesn’t mention them, either—a remarkable omission. Unlike Cosby’s extramarital affairs, these alleged assaults can’t easily be integrated into a consideration of his work: no doubt many of his fans will find it easier to put the claims out of mind or, especially if more information emerges, to put Cosby out of mind instead.

Not very much attention, then.

It’s odd how “meh” this kind of thing seems to be. I wonder what the minimum number of women accusing Mr X of sexual assault is before anyone pays more than perfunctory attention. (I’m included in this question. I didn’t pay attention until the numbers started growing.)

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

As more women come forward

Nov 21st, 2014 11:53 am | By

Bill Cosby is losing gigs now.

Additional Bill Cosby shows have been canceled as more women come forward alleging he sexually assaulted them many years ago.

Officials at the Treasure Island hotel-casino on the Las Vegas strip said they’ve mutually agreed with the comedian to pull the plug on his Nov. 28 performance.

Jenny Carpenter, the manager at Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, confirmed that Cosby’s April appearances are canceled.

The moves come after the Diamond Desert casino in Tucson, Arizona, on Thursday scrapped his Feb. 15 gig. No reason was given.

He’s 77. That’s a lot of decades of getting away with it. His tv sitcom ran from from September 20, 1984 to April 30, 1992, eight full seasons. He played Mr Fabulous Solid Humorous But Also Responsible And Wise Father. Think about that. Think about playing that kind of part while being a guy with a pattern of drugging women and then raping them and then getting away with it because they were drugged. Think about combining those two things. He didn’t present himself as just a stand-up comic, but also as a quintessential good guy. A paradigm of the good guy, a pattern for all aspiring good guys.

The allegations from a growing number of women have prompted the cancellation of interviews and much-anticipated projects on NBC and Netflix, and reruns of“The Cosby Show” have been pulled off the air.

I wonder if he’s going to be another martyred hero for the people who think Matt Taylor is a martyr to feminism.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If only you’d said it more sweetly

Nov 21st, 2014 10:53 am | By

Huh. Surprised again. Always being surprised. I saw a post by Hemant titled Why is Richard Dawkins Doubling Down on His Previous Statements? I thought it was a post about Dawkins’s previous statements and his new statements in which he says even worse things. I thought it was Hemant finally seeing the problem.

Silly me. Of course not. It turns out to be Hemant saying it’s our fault.

That wasn’t immediately apparent. It wasn’t apparent from this:

In an interview with reporter Kimberly Winston, Dawkins stood by the really frustrating and tone-deaf remarks he’s made over the past year on Twitter (and even before that, in other venues). It was pretty obvious from his remarks that none of the criticism leveraged at him has sunk in. And those of us who still appreciate his books — count me in that mix — are left trying to figure out what the hell to make of all this.

But then we get to his real point:

I also think he’s used to more formal debates where, if you disagree with someone, you respond with a calm rebuttal. Turns out the online world doesn’t work that way. So all he sees are vilifications of his character — the same tactics used by his lifelong opponents — and that just convinces him that he’s been right all along. No wonder he doubled down on his statements. It’s a lot easier to change your mind privately, where you’re not subject to humiliation and being portrayed as the bad guy. When you’re attacked publicly, as is usually the case with him, you become more defensive.

I can tell you that if I were criticized in the way I’ve seen Dawkins criticized — with flippant sarcasm, or over-the-top outrage, or having my own words twisted in a way I never intended — I probably wouldn’t change my mind, either. I’d just get angry at the people who refuse to give me the benefit of the doubt and who seem hell-bent on discrediting me. That’s not to say the critics aren’t justified (or right), but that it just wouldn’t be an effective way to get through to me. There’s an art to telling people they’re wrong in a way that’ll get through to them — I know some teachers who are experts at it — and the Internet is where that skill goes to die.

We kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, too.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Created to defend Clarence Thomas against allegations of sexual harassment

Nov 20th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

So what’s this Independent Women’s Forum that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was talking to when she called us idiots? Let’s ask Wikipedia.

The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) is a politically conservative American non-profit organization focused on policy issues of concern to women.[6][7] The IWF was founded by activist Rosalie Silberman to promote a “conservative alternative to feminist tenets” following the controversial Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1992.[8]

The group advocates “equity feminism,” a term first used by IWF author Christina Hoff Sommers to distinguish “traditional, classically liberal, humanistic feminism” from “gender feminism”, which she claims opposes gender roles as well as patriarchy.[9] According to Sommers, the gender feminist view is “the prevailing ideology among contemporary feminist philosophers and leaders”[9] and “thrives on the myth that American women are the oppressed ‘second sex.'”[10] Sommers’ equity feminism has been described as anti-feminist by critics.[11]

In the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, the IWF took a vocal stance against Barack Obama on its website and in a series of political ads comparing the President to a dishonest boyfriend.[12]

I left all the links behind; you’ll have to go to the source if you want them.

Founded in 1992 by Rosalie Silberman, Anita K. Blair, and Barbara Olson,[8][13] the IWF grew out of the ad hoc group “Women for Judge Thomas,” created to defend Clarence Thomas against allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties.

Oooookay I think that tells us all we need to know.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“We must retake feminism from our fellow idiotic women”

Nov 20th, 2014 2:03 pm | By

They must have a Facebook group or a Google+ group or a mailing list or similar. They must be coordinating their moves. Now it’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali echoing Dawkins echoing Sommers echoing #GamerGate and on and on until they disappear into an infinite regress.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a harsh critic of Islam’s treatment of women, said Wednesday that modern American feminism is focused on “trivial bullshit” and needs to be reclaimed.

Speaking at the Independent Women’s Forum Women of Valor dinner, where she received an award for courage, Hirsi Ali reminded her audience of how far feminism has strayed from its original purpose.

“I want you to remember that once upon a time, feminists fought for the access — basic right — access of girls to education,” she said.

Yes, that’s right, and we’re still doing that. “Access” isn’t just a matter of having a law on the books saying “girls shall be permitted.” Access is a lot of things. It depends on the place and time and background and many things. In some places – many places – “access” is an empty word for children who can’t afford to buy a required uniform, or children whose parents make them take care of their younger siblings, or children who are malnourished and fall asleep in school.

She talked about her parents.

Her mother wanted to take her and her sister out of school because education would lead them to rebel against their family and “bring shame upon us.” Her father responded by saying, “If you take my girls out of school, I am going to curse you and you are going to burn in hell.”

Taken out of context, Hirsi Ali said, one might side with her mother, but in reality, she said it was her father that allowed her to be educated and helped make her what she is today.

Yes. Men can be feminists, and women can be anti-feminists. We already know that.

We’ve won, she says. It’s done.

“Feminists in this country and in the West fought against that and won the battle,” she added.

But now, Hirsi Ali said, feminism has taken that victory and squandered it.

“What we are now doing with the victory, and I agree with you if you condemn that and I condemn whole-heartedly the trivial bullshit it is to go after a man who makes a scientific breakthrough and all that we as women — organized women — do is to fret about his shirt?” Hirsi Ali said, referring to the controversy generated by the shirt featuring cartoons of scantily-clad women worn by the scientist who helped land a robot on a comet. “We must reclaim and retake feminism from our fellow idiotic women.”

Hey! There it is – you can see she and Dawkins have been Skyping like mad, feeding each other lines. “We must reclaim and retake feminism from our fellow idiotic women.” That’s Dawkins. “Pompous idiots,” he called us.

So, what about her claim. It’s a crock of shit, that’s what about it. Part of access is feeling as if you belong. Part of access to places like school and university and STEM fields is feeling as if you belong there as part of the enterprise – learning or teaching or practicing. Part of access is not being made to feel that you “belong” there only insofar as you are sexually interesting to men.

But, Hirsi Ali said, we should not throw away feminism, because that would be like throwing away the civil rights movement. Instead, feminism needs to fight the real war on women: Radical Islam and other parts of the world where women don’t even have the right to an education or to leave their home without a male guardian.

Don’t. Don’t, don’t, don’t. Don’t do that. It’s right-wing bullshit and you have no business engaging in it. Nobody has any business doing that. By all means urge US feminists to pay more attention to women in Somalia, or in majority-Muslim countries, or wherever, but don’t do it by saying “pay less attention to your own stuff” first. It’s hateful, it’s wrong, it’s a ploy, it’s bullshit.

But I shouldn’t even bother, should I. She’s at the American Enterprise Institute, along with Sommers. What trying to destroy feminism has to do with “enterprise” I’ll never know, unless “enterprise” is just code for “right wing on all subjects.”

Whatever it is, it’s a crock. Whether from Hirsi Ali, or Dawkins, or Sommers, or Shermer, or Blackford, or Rush Limbaugh, it’s all a crock.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The public shaming is going a long way

Nov 20th, 2014 12:22 pm | By

Anderson Cooper did an excellent segment last night on the snowballing allegations of rape against Bill Cosby, and why he hasn’t been prosecuted, and why prosecution was difficult, and what that means for everyone else.

One of the women who has accused Bill Cosby of rape is Andrea Constand. Back in 2005, she came forward alleging the comedian drugged and groped her at his house.

Bill Cosby has not been charged in connection with any of the rape allegations made against him. Constand settled a lawsuit against Cosby.

Former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Prosecutor Bruce Castor made the decision not to charge Bill Cosby in that case.In a discussion that also included CNN Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin, Mr. Castor told Anderson he believed Constand’s account, but did not have the forensics to back it up.

Castor and Hostin both talk about the fact that rape can be very difficult to prosecute, and that that does not mean the prosecution does not believe the woman who reports she was raped. For instance, when the victim is drugged, then her memory is blurry, and that makes it hard to prosecute. Does that sound familiar? Yes it does. Alison Smith told Mark Oppenheimer her memory was blurred.

What this means, of course, is that drugging a woman for purposes of rape is a very good way of ensuring you’ll get away with it. Win-win: she doesn’t struggle, and she can’t prosecute you. Total freebie! Minus the cost of the drug, of course.

Hostin points out that 13, maybe 14 women have come forward and described the same MO, and they have nothing to gain from this. At about 3:30:

I am just so sick and tired of reading on Twitter or getting emails from people saying, ‘they have a lot to gain, they’re gonna get fame and notoriety, I can tell you from working with victims of crime, they don’t want that kind of fame, they don’t want that kind of notoriety, they want their story to be heard, and I think that is why we are seeing so many people come forward. What I am curious about is when Bill Cosby is going to come forward.

Castor around 4:30:

My gut from 25-30 years of doing this business was that she was telling the truth and he was being evasive and lying. So this was a classic example of what drives prosecutors to wake up at night, which is, I thought he was guilty, I didn’t have enough evidence to prove it, and I was worried that he would go out and do it again. So I wanted to make sure that whatever investigation we did would be useful in the civil case. The public shaming here I think is going a long way, and at least in my case the victim did have a civil recourse.

The public shaming is going a long way. Huh. So we’re allowed to do that? We’re allowed to report allegations, and discuss them in public? Really? Isn’t there some guy in Ireland insisting that we’re not allowed to do that? And trying hard to extort apologies from people who do that?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More women complaining

Nov 20th, 2014 10:45 am | By

I wonder how Richard Dawkins would see this – as an example of something he cares passionately about, or as an example of something women should just put up with because there are worse things?

From the Yemen Times:

“May God protect you and your family,” it begins. Perhaps not considered harassment to some, but to the women who experience it daily, the intent is obvious. “I want to know you.” “Good Morning.” “What nice eyes. “Nice body.” “Let’s have lunch together.” Yemeni women are used to hearing phrases like these the second they step away from their homes.

Some women have become accustomed to such harassment and see it as an inevitable but minor daily annoyance. For others, it can be emotionally exhausting, leading them to change the kind of clothing they wear, the route they take to school or work, and the transport they take to get there.

Street harassment is not limited to Yemen, but is a world-wide phenomenon. The blame for harassment is often put on women instead of the male perpetrators.

It’s a world-wide phenomenon. Hmm. So is the solution to the Dawkins Dilemma to decide it’s bad when it happens in Yemen, India, Egypt and the like, and harmless when it happens in the US? (It’s not clear to me what Dawkins’s view is of UK women who complain of harassment. Are they bad because not Yemeni, or good because not American? I don’t know. He did specify it’s American women who make him impatient, but maybe that’s because the reporter he was talking to is American and he wanted to be polite.)

Whether the harassers believe their behavior is acceptable or not, they know they can easily get away with it. Men are often excused for bad behavior, with some people reasoning that it’s simply ‘the way men are,’ while women are held responsible.

That’s true in a number of areas. That too is not limited to Yemen.

While teenagers are a major source of harassment directed towards women, middle-aged men are by no means exempt. Even children sometimes harass women in the streets.

Rawan, an 18-year-old high school student, said while she was walking in the street, a child, who she guessed was around the age of 12, approached her and said “Let’s have lunch together today.”

On the other side of the age spectrum, Lamia, a 22-year-old Sana’a University student in the Faculty of Arts, notes there are also a lot of  middle-aged harassers. Lamia said she felt most afraid of this demographic compared to young men because they often say more obscene words and can be more persistent.

As the famous Yemeni proverb says, “what you don’t accept for your sister, don’t accept for others.”

While there are notable organizations in Yemen promoting women’s rights, there is a lack of effort towards discouraging and solving the issue of verbal harassment in the streets. At least that is Abdu, a pharmacist thinks. “I call on civil organizations, the media, policy makers, and the security personnel to join in solidarity with this issue,” she said.

I wonder how many famous Yemeni men there are telling reporters how impatient they get with Yemeni women complaining of street harassment when there are women in Mali who can’t even afford to buy a burqa.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)