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.


Isfahan’s tourist industry is at stake

Oct 23rd, 2014 5:22 pm | By

The Guardian reported on the acid attacks in Isfahan on Monday and said there might have been as many as eight. I saw an Iranian source on Facebook that said the number was 14 in 8 days.

According to police, attackers riding on motorbikes have thrown acid in at least four women’s faces in the city, but local media have put the number as high as eight.

There are fears that the victims were chosen because they were wearing clothing or headscarves that were revealing or did not conform to perceived Islamic norms, though authorities have so far denied that the assaults had anything to do with the hijab.

The Iranian source I saw said that at least four imams had fulminated about “bad hijab” at the last Friday prayers.

The Isna news agency has spoken to a number of victims and their families, including a 27-year-old woman, identified only by her first name Neda, who was targeted two weeks ago in Isfahan close to Bozorgmehr Square. She has since been taken to a hospital in the Iranian capital, Tehran, for further treatment but the agency said she had lost full sight in one of her eyes and has partial sight in the other.

Please tell me again how misogyny is just a made-up thing.

“While in her car, Neda had pulled over in order to answer her mum’s call,” the victim’s father told Isna. “Two men riding a motorbike threw acid in her face and ran away, leaving her burnt in different areas such as her eyes, her left ear, neck, hands and legs.”

“What was her fault?” he asked. “She had not committed a single crime, she had always lived with her head kept high and never had a spat with anyone.”

And now she’s mostly blind.

Women in Iran are required by law to cover themselves head to toe but many, especially young women in bigger cities, defy the regulations and the morality police by showing their hair or wearing clothing that could be deemed inappropriate.

That “could be deemed inappropriate” by filthy-minded meddling perverts who think it’s their business how women dress. Fuck that noise.

A member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, Abbas-Ali Mansouri, said: “Foreign and Zionist intelligence agencies” were aiding those carrying out the attacks in order to distort Islam’s image worldwide.

Ah right, we did it, the foreigners and Jews and infidels. As if Islam needs our help to have a bad image.

The Graun also reports on the protests in Isfahan.

Isfahani citizens, horrified by the scale of vicious assaults, gathered in front of the city’s justice department on Wednesday, calling on the authorities to put an end to the crimes which has highlighted the striking challenges women face in Iran, where hijab is obligatory.

A number of protesters in Isfahan chanted slogans that described the attackers as Iran’s own version of Isis, the extremist group that has committed many atrocities in Iraq and Syria.

“Stop violence against women,” read a placard held by female protester, according to images posted on Twitter. “Freedom and security are the rights of Iranian women,” demonstrators chanted in Isfahan’s Nikbakht Sstreet. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency estimated the number of the participants to be around 2,000. After a few hours, local police was reported to have dispersed the crowd.

In Tehran, dozens of people showed solidarity with the victims in Isfahan by staging a similar but smaller gathering in front of the Iranian parliament (Majlis), calling on MPs to halt a bill which gives more freedom to the morality police and plainclothes militia in their crackdown on women with “bad hijab”.

Good luck to them. I hope the MPs listen and heed.

Earlier this week, Iranian MPs considered a bill which prohibits the use of violence in the hijab crackdown but at the same time gives more leeway to the relevant officials.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a leading Iranian human rights activist, told the Guardian on the phone from Tehran that she was among the protesters in the capital.

“How can you live in the society and remain indifferent towards such horrible attacks,” she said. “We are opposed to the parliamentary bill. If it is implemented, those who engage in violence against women will certainly feel that they have protection.”

And that of course is the intention. Women covering up every bit of throbbing slutty hair is obviously far more important than preventing enraged thugs from maiming those women. That’s a healthy set of priorities.

In the face of the assaults, Iranian officials have gone on the offensive, scrambling to deny that their long-standing policy of cracking down on women not wearing the hijab has contributed to the Isfahan incidents. “We are still unsure about the attacker’s motives but some foreign and opposition media organisations have linked the attacks to the issue of hijab and women’s covering,” he said. “This is not true and those attacked were from faithful families.”

He’s missing the point. This whole business of making such an anxious fuss about what women wear on their heads just feeds and fosters loathing of women. It doesn’t promote healthy attitudes to women, to put it mildly.

Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, the head of the informal voluntary Basij militia, said western media were linking the attacks to the hijab issue, trying to distort the image of Islam. In his view, “western intelligence services” were behind the attacks.

Iran’s justice minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, has described the Isfahan assaults as terrorist attacks intended to sabotage the city’s safety. “We are very concerned and are doing all our best to bring those responsible to justice,” he was quoted as saying.

Shargh said the incident had already affected Isfahan’s tourist industry. “Some foreign tourists have since asked us if they would be attacked by acid if their headscarves were pushed back and we had to reassure them that this will not happen,” said one hotel operator.

And the hotel operator knows that how? What bullshit; why wouldn’t foreign women be attacked by acid?

The authorities seem to be worrying a lot more about Iran’s reputation than about Iranian women’s right to live their lives umolested.

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



She was a witch, she put curses on us not to progress

Oct 23rd, 2014 4:41 pm | By

Oh, horrors. (And content warning and all that.) Via Leo Igwe – in Nigeria a middle-aged man killed his mother because “she was a witch.”

In his confession on Tuesday, Ucheagwu admitted that he killed his mother, alleging that the woman prevented the progress of her children and indeed that of the family.

According to him, his elder brother, 45, is unmarried because of their “mother’s witchcraft and curses on the children.”

“My mother was evil, I killed her because of her wickedness. This incident happened in May. She prevented good things coming to her children.

“She was a witch, she put curses on us not to progress. Others were blindfolded because of our mother’s witchcraft. Because I was the only that knew her plans, she was always attacking me.

“I killed her because she planned to kill me because I called her ‘Queen of the coast’ (her spiritual name). But I had to act fast and kill her first.

“My mother was a witchcraft living in the sky, I killed her and burnt her body in the bush called Ogbukwu with fuel and firewood.”

The sleep of reason produces monsters.

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



She didn’t smile, she didn’t say hello

Oct 23rd, 2014 4:10 pm | By

I know this feeling.

Instead of greeting two male gamers wearing Halo and Call of Duty shirts, prominent gamer and actress Felicia Day crossed the street.

“Seeing another gamer on the street used to be an auto-smile opportunity, or an entry into a conversation starting with, ‘Hey, dude! I love that game too!’ the Supernatural actress wrote on her Tumblr. But for the first time maybe in my life, on that Saturday afternoon, I walked towards that pair of gamers and I didn’t smile. I didn’t say hello. In fact, I crossed the street so I wouldn’t walk by them. A small voice of doubt in my brain now suspected that those guys and I might not be comrades after all. That they might not greet me with reflected friendliness, but contempt.”

I know that feeling. I know it so well. In certain crowds – crowds I would once have assumed were full of natural friends – I become a bit like a rabbit in open country: watchful, cautious, ready to bolt at any sign of contempt or loathing.

The change in Felicia Day’s case is of course GamerGate.

Day said she has kept quiet on GamerGate, which recently forced Intel to pull advertising from gaming site Gamasutra, largely out of “self-protection and fear.”

“I have been terrified of inviting a deluge of abusive and condescending tweets into my timeline. I did one simple @ reply to one of the main victims several weeks back, and got a flood of things I simply couldn’t stand to read directed at me. I had to log offline for a few days until it went away. I have tried to re-tweet a few of the articles I’ve seen dissecting the issue in support, but personally I am terrified to be doxxed (having personal information such as an address, email or real name released online) for even typing the words ‘Gamer Gate.’”

So, what happened? Don’t be silly, you know what happened. Of course it did.

In fact, Day was reportedly doxxed within an hour of writing her post on GamerGate. The immediate doxxing of female GamerGate critics, including Day, has been pointed to as an example of the sexism of the movement. Former NFL player Chris Kluwe, who wrote his own post calling GamerGaters “basement-dwelling, cheetos-huffing, poopsock-sniffing douchepistols,” said Day was only targeted because of her gender.

“None of you fucking #gamergate tools tried to dox me, even after I tore you a new one. I’m not even a tough target…Instead, you go after a woman who wrote why your movement concerns her,” Kluwe said onTwitter.

Well they’re not going to mess with a football player, are they. He might hit them.

 

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



She stays because she lacks the power to leave

Oct 23rd, 2014 3:52 pm | By

And then there’s that more hidden, secret, insidious kind of domestic violence – the economic kind.

In her new book, author Ludy Green argues that economic abuse is the core reason why women don’t leave abusive partners. “Depriving the victim of control over her own economic well-being is a despotic and confining element of domestic violence,” she writes in Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom. “Why does she stay? Despite appearances to the contrary, the decision to stay is not a decision at all. She stays because she lacks the power to leave.”

If you have zero money of your own, you can’t start over.

Green has worked with domestic violence survivors for more than 20 years. In 2001, she started Second Chance Employment Services, the first employment agency in the U.S. for domestic violence survivors. “Second Chance was started solely to provide financial independence for women who were victims of economic abuse,” Green said. In Ending Domestic Violence Captivity, she examines the economic conditions that abusers manipulate to systematically disempower women. As she explains, economic abuse is highly effective at creating physical and psychological barriers to leaving.

And it’s not obvious the way a broken nose is, and most of it is not illegal.

One way to do it? Sabotage her ability to have a job.

There are a number of ways an abuser can prevent a victim from holding a job. He may cause physical injuries to her face or body, so that she’s embarrassed to go to work. He may keep her from getting enough sleep, or show up at the workplace and harass the victim, disrupting her duties. He may refuse to provide child care, forcing the woman to stay home with the kids, or he might not allow the victim to have a car, depriving her of reliable transportation.

Another way is controlling all the finances. Another is destroying her credit.

Another tactic that is becoming more common is identity fraud. The abuser may take out a credit card account in the victim’s name and pile up debt, destroying her credit rating.

“It’s very frightening,” said Green. “Women get to the point where they have nothing and no way to get control of the money again.”

Ruined credit can be a devastating burden once a woman attempts to leave. She may have trouble renting an apartment or may need a co-signer for any financial commitment.

Dominance. Such a deep need for dominance. So destructive.

H/t AB

 

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



The newly popular status

Oct 23rd, 2014 11:52 am | By

Pop culture item #3 – I saw the last 20 minutes or so of Law & Order SVU last night and it was pretty damn interesting – as well as (intentionally) enraging in places – especially the bit where

SPOILERS

the judge tells the rape victim (who is a porn star) as he overturns the jury’s guilty verdict, “Young lady, I don’t know if you’re seeking the newly popular status of victim…”

Belle Knox, the Duke student who is a porn star (Belle Knox is her porn name), has a fascinating post about the episode, which is based heavily but not entirely on her experience.

Warren Leight, the executive producer of the show was nice enough to let me see an advance copy of “Pornstar’s Requiem” and he agreed to answer my questions about how this entire episode came to be. (I’ve been careful not to reveal any spoilers, but there are a few plot points contained herein.)

When I asked Leight (who used to be executive producer on HBO’s “In Treatment”) why he chose to dramatize my story, he explained, “As usual, we tried to distill several stories and headlines into one character’s journey. You, and others, have made the case that sex work is legitimate professional work, a potentially empowering choice individuals should be able to make without repercussions or stigmatization. Other students who’ve done pornography have not survived the harassment that followed. We wanted to tell their stories, too.”

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché, nor do I want people telling me that this is why I’ve made the choices I’ve made, but I know well the chilling rape culture entitlement that comes along with men discovering that I’m a porn star. This is the scenario that plays out on the episode. One of the frat boys accused in “Pornstar’s Requiem” even goes so far as to say to the police the following jaw-dropping line: “I didn’t think you could rape a girl like that.”

But the prosecutor thinks you can, and (SPOILER AGAIN) the jury agrees, but the judge doesn’t. It’s a stomach-turning scene, and impressive for mainstream broadcast tv.

I’ll share with you what the executive producer told me about the writers’ room and the process for putting the script together.

“The writers’ room had been hashing out a number of overlapping issues lately,” Leight told me. “The increasing number of students who’ve turned to pornography to pay their tuition. How for some of those students, it’s been empowering, but for others, it’s led to horrific slut-shaming. And how a few students have been so stigmatized when their sex work becomes public, they felt driven to suicide. We also had long wanted to do an episode about how hard it is for sex workers to get justice when they are victims of sexual assault. The more we talked about these issues, the more we felt they’d combine well into one episode.”

More feminist than most US tv, that’s for damn sure.

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



Under his…wing

Oct 23rd, 2014 11:19 am | By

Another pop culture lacuna – I didn’t know Bill Cosby had been accused of rape by multiple women. Apparently lots of people don’t know that, or, worse, know it and don’t care.

In 2004, Andrea Constand brought a civil lawsuit against Cosby that grew to include 13 other women, all of whom reported being drugged and raped by one of America’s most beloved entertainers. Cosby settled under undisclosed terms in 2006.

Notably, two other women — who presumably had nothing to gain financially, as the statute of limitations had run out on their cases — also shared their stories with major media outlets. Their accounts included  similar details: Cosby took them under his wing and, on multiple occasions, fed them alcohol laced with drugs and assaulted them.

It’s almost as if there’s a pattern…

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



Which nerds?

Oct 23rd, 2014 10:30 am | By

First, a confession of pop culture dereliction (if I ever did a full confession on that it would go on longer than one of Michael Nugent’s blog posts): I’ve never seen Revenge of the Nerds. Until a few minutes ago I didn’t even know anything about it other than the title. A comment I saw on Facebook caused me to inquire a little.

Wikipedia naturally has a detailed plot summary. So there’s this, at a point after the fraternity jocks have persecuted the nerds at a party thrown by the latter (the nerds are all male as of course are the frat jocks):

The nerds then seek revenge. First they stage a panty raid on the Pi Delta Pi house and use the distraction to install video cameras to spy on the women while they undress.

These are the good guys, the ones bullied by the jocks. Then there’s this:

Although the Tri-Lambs put their superior knowledge to use in the athetic event, they still come a close second to the Alpha Betas. They then use topless photos taken from their Pi Delta cameras to easily win the charity sales, where contestants wear costumes. Lewis changes his costume to Stan’s and tricks Betty into having sex with him. Betty is surprised, but then admits that Lewis was a better lover than Stan.

Lewis is one of the nerds, Stan is one of the jocks. So that’s a rape as one of the cool things a nerd does to triumph over a jock.

Now a post by Noah Brand a couple of years ago, How Revenge Of The Nerds Ruined My Life.

As a bullied kid, Noah Brand loved the movie. It spoke to him.

Let me be clear. Revenge Of The Nerds has so much rape culture, you could use it to make rape yogurt. The women in the film are entirely represented as objects, and their sexual consent or lack thereof is explicitly portrayed as irrelevant. The heroes and the villains are theoretically competing for Adams College’s version of Hogwarts’ House Cup, but in point of fact the prize they’re competing for is the blonde cheerleader, Betty. At the start of the movie, she is the property of Stan Gable, the villain, but in the end, the hero, Lewis Skolnick, triumphs by claiming her as his own via rape.

I’m not kidding, that’s actually what happens. The hero’s big triumphant payoff moment is when he rapes the villain’s girlfriend. And she falls in love with him as a result.

Incidentally, while he’s raping her, his fraternity is having another heroic triumph at the fundraising event, selling nude photographs of Betty that they obtained without her knowledge or consent by planting cameras in her house. (Huge 80s cameras, too. Very difficult to conceal.) Again, this is explicitly presented as a heroic, cool action. When the villain finds out what they’re doing, his reaction isn’t “Holy shit that’s like ten kinds of illegal” it’s “Hey! That’s my pie!”

So, that’s that pop culture classic.

You know what it reminds me of? Strongly? Robert Altman’s movie MASH, with a screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. Specifically, it reminds me of the turning point scene where the oh so cool hipster guys finally get the better of bossy military by-the-book Hot Lips Houlihan. Remember it? (If that’s one of your pop culture lacunae, of course you don’t.) They gather everyone into a big audience to stare at the bathing hut where Houlihan is taking a shower, and then one of the cool guys yanks on a rope and the fabric curtain in front of the hut falls away to leave Houlihan exposed in the shower. Hilarity ensues. Ha ha ha fucking ha. That scene ruined the movie for me, and the fact that as far as I ever knew no one even objected to it ruined my mood. Mind you that was decades before Google, so I couldn’t confirm that no one objected – but I did see plenty of adulation of that movie and the screenplay, with no clauses about the shower scene.

So, yeah. It’s always been hip and cool to humiliate women.

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



A story about arrogant scientists

Oct 22nd, 2014 4:44 pm | By

The ridiculous conviction of seven scientists for failing to warn the public about an earthquake in Aquila in Italy is being appealed now, but it looks as if the appeal will go just as stupidly as the trial did.

The chief prosecutor has already deployed the same tactic used by the prosecutor who won the convictions: Keep repeating that this is not science on trial. Rather, assert that this is a story about arrogant scientists shirking their duty to sufficiently warn about earthquake risk.

But saying so doesn’t make it so. Scrutiny of the prosecution’s argument and the judge’s roughly 900-page verdict reveals that the case absolutely constitutes science on trial, right down to the use of a 1995 scientific paper co-authored by one of the defendants.

“The judge also determined that other results published in scientific papers were ‘risk indicators’ that should have been weighed more heavily by the experts,” said Alessandro Amato, a seismologist with the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, who has been attending the proceedings. “He even plugged these so-called indicators into a conceptual model for risk analysis in a way that any scientist would recognize as invalid.”

And besides you can’t make that a criminal matter – it’s just absurd.

In other aspects, the case turned out to be less science on trial, more cringe-worthy illustration of what happens when public officials flat-out do not understand probability.

We can not predict earthquakes. Period. Scientists can only make probabilistic forecasts over time scales of decades. If someone did have a reliable tool for predicting earthquakes down to the day, or even week, geoscientists would know it because no one wants to see that puzzle solved more than geoscientists.

Not knowing when an earthquake is going to happen isn’t a crime, even if your job involves trying to do that.

Maybe I have an advantage here, having been through a lot of earthquakes and thus heard a lot about how impossible it is to predict them. They’re not like volcanoes: they don’t send signals for weeks ahead of time. (And neither do all volcanoes, so there.)

Perhaps most disquieting of all about the case is the lack of interest outside of Italy. When charges were first leveled against the seven men in 2010, the response from the scientific community was unequivocal condemnation. Yet few people today seem to know that there is an appeal, let alone that it is underway.

One geoscientist I spoke with yesterday speculated that people have just lost interest because the situation appears hopeless. Powers that be in Italy are hellbent on assigning blame for the deaths caused by that earthquake, and no additional evidence or commentary will sway their thinking.

Well, now we know.

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



Red shoes

Oct 22nd, 2014 3:37 pm | By

A Turkish woman has been arrested on suspicion of “blasphemy and inciting religious hatred” for posting a photo of a pair of feet stepping on a Koran.

Embedded image permalink

Via Twitter

The arrest came after Melih Gokcek, Ankara’s controversial mayor from the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), launched a criminal complaint against the 38-year-old-woman, who uses the Twitter handle @kedibiti (cat lice).

The woman, who has over 5,000 followers and describes herself as “an atheist who respects only humans”, allegedly shared a picture showing a pair of red high heels on a copy of the Koran, Dogan news agency reported.

It’s a nice choice, the Koran being so hostile to women.

Dogan said the woman was later released but Gokcek said he was suing “the infidel” for insulting religion, inciting religious hatred and threatening public peace.

“It is time for justice now. No one has a right to insult our religion. We will never allow this to happen,” Gokcek wrote on Twitter.

No one? I beg to differ. Your religion is a big poopyhead. I have the right to say that.

Gokcek, who has held the top municipal job in the Turkish capital for 20 years, is a colourful but controversial figure known for his fiery comments on Twitter and derogatory remarks about women.

He once famously said a mother who considered abortion “should kill her herself instead and not let the child bear the brunt of her mistake”.

Ah but Mr Gokcek, what if “the child” is female?

A source in Turkey tells me that @kedibiti says she’s not the one who has been arrested. So the cops couldn’t find her so they grabbed some random woman instead? Nice.

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



By calling it discipline

Oct 22nd, 2014 2:58 pm | By

Yemisi comments on a case of child abuse in the UK and views on child “discipline” in Nigeria.

Yes, it hurts me personally and in every humane way possible when children undergoing abuse are not believed when they finally find the courage to speak out. It also hurts me to no end that in the part of the continent I come from, people define ‘child abuse’ in a different way and conveniently brush it aside by calling it discipline!

It is indeed sad that some Nigerians consider this case as ‘culture clash’ and even racial discrimination!

To many Nigerians, it is considered normal for pastors to accuse children of witchcraft and slap them in churches. It is considered OK  for prophets to take children to beach sides and beat them mercilessly while their parents shout “Hallelujah”, under the ‘acceptable disguise’ of casting out evil spirits from the children.

And it’s much the same in the US, thanks to people like Michael and Debi Pearl in books like To Train Up a Child. Libby Anne summarizes some of their teachings on “discipline.”

The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of “every child” (p.2) for “Christians and non-Christians” (p.5) and for “every transgression” (p.1). Parents who don’t whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are “creating a Nazi” (p.45).

On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.” On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard “a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside.”

On p.44 they say not to let the child’s crying while being hit to “cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And “if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher.” “Defeat him totally.”  On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum “a swift forceful spanking.” On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. “Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same.” They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper.”

They’re religious, so that gives their advice that extra respectability. If they weren’t religious, who would see them as anything other than sadists?

Back to Yemisi:

In the case of this couple, I would ask, were there injury marks on the bodies of the children? The article said there were, to quote the article-

 Revealing scars the eldest said her mother had hit her with a cable, a broom, and a hoover and her father had dangled her by her feet down the stairwell of the house, tied her hands behind her back and her legs together ‘to get the devilish spirits out’, prosecutor Emma Smith said.
Her sister, who was seven at the time, had a stick shaped bruise of her thigh and after a few months in care, she drew a series of pictures showing her dad beating her and her being left home alone and including a speech bubble saying “I’m hungry”.

These are PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL indications of child abuse.

Should the geographical location, race or skin colour of children determine whether the children have been abused? No, every child matters! If such abuses would never be tolerated from white parents, why should it be tolerated because the parents of the children concerned are black?

No children should be abused, not in London or Lagos or Memphis or Sedro-Woolley.

 

 

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



Not today

Oct 22nd, 2014 2:12 pm | By

The attack in Ottawa resulted in the cancellation of a ceremony to honor Malala. I won’t bother to point out the ironies.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office says two scheduled events today in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have been cancelled.

The last-minute announcement comes amid an ongoing emergency in Ottawa, where several shootings have occurred on or near Parliament Hill.

Harper was to moderate an afternoon question-and-answer session with Yousafzai at a Toronto high school.

He was then scheduled to head to a downtown hotel, where the 17-year-old from Pakistan was to receive honorary Canadian citizenship.

Instead he’s been zipped away to a safe place.

I wonder if that’s why the attack took place today rather than some other day.

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



The alternative isn’t quite clear

Oct 22nd, 2014 12:14 pm | By

Anna Merlan at Jezebel doesn’t like Christina Hoff Sommers and “The Factual Feminist” any more than I do.

A conservative think tank has embarked upon a quest to convince us all that women worry way too much about getting drugged and raped. This is an interesting hill to die on.

According to a new video from Caroline Kitchens at the American Enterprise Institute, we foolishly live in “constant fear” of being roofied by strangers in bars, when in fact women should just… the alternative here isn’t quite clear. Not watch our drinks at bar? Assume that nobody’s going to mess with our beverage, so maybe wander off for a little bit and do some other things?

Oh, go ahead and watch your drinks at the bar, but shut up about it. That’s what women should just. To talk about it is to be a “professional victim” and let down the side, while to shut up about it is to be a strong take-charge woman who punches her way through all the obstacles while never talking about them.

But how does that make her strong, you may ask? And how does it not make her self-centered and indifferent to the broader good? And why should women have to punch their way through obstacles that don’t need to be there in the first place?

Ask the libertarians, because I don’t know.

This inspiring message, which resonates with precisely nobody, is the latest in a series called The Factual Feminist, a weekly dose of bummer usually hosted by Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the think tank. (Sommers is one of a small army of Gamergate defenders who have decided to back the Gamergaters in a fight with some writers over at our brother site Gawker. The Gamergaters call Sommers “mom,” a Freudian field day we’ll have to leave for another time.)

I wish she hadn’t put it off. I too think that’s gross, though not primarily for reasons to do with Freud. I hate the whole half-jokey custom of nicknaming people granny or uncle or Mom merely because they’re older than the people doing the nicknaming. It’s stupid and usually condescending. Imagine the fanboiz calling Dawkins “Grandpa” and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Mardan transcribes some of what Kitchens said:

“A reality check is in order,” Kitchens intones. “Our fear of being drugged and sexually assaulted by a predatory stranger in a bar is not grounded in reality.” She suggests that the whole “process” of being drugged and raped sounds just ridiculous to her: “Just think about it: it requires a stranger to find the drugs, slip them into a woman’s drink undetected, manage to take the victim away from her friends without anyone noticing and then reliably erase her memory of the experience.”

Oh they don’t need to bother with the last part; the rapist can rely on everyone to ignore her if she reports it. But the first three? Yes, and? Those are all too difficult to be real? No.

Kitchens veers solidly into awfulness when she suggests that the real problem is Dumb Bitches Getting Too Drunk. Or, as she puts it, “Most commonly, victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault are severely intoxicated, often of their own volition.”

To start, the presence of alcohol and other drugs in rape cases is trickier than Kitchens makes it out to be. She doesn’t mention this very large 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, which estimated that nearly three million women in the U.S. have been victims of drug-facilitated rape at some point in their lifetime. As with the study that Kitchens looked at, Rohypnol (roofies) were very, very uncommon: the DOJ researchers estimate they’re only used in about two percent of drug-faciliated rape. In the vast majority of cases, they found, alcohol was the primary drug. (When a second drug was present, it was usually marijuana.) But there are also over 100 other benzodiazepines, and it’s not at all clear that they’re all tested for in incidents of suspected drug-facilitated rape.

In the cases where alcohol alone is suspected, how did said alcohol get consumed by the victim? Again, here, Kitchens isn’t entirely wrong: in a lot of cases, yes, the assaulted people drank alcohol voluntarily; in some, they were plied with alcohol by their assailants, given drinks that were stronger than they realized, or a host of other scenarios. The end result is the same: a person was raped or sexually assaulted after they became too impaired to consent to sex or fight off their attackers. Rape doesn’t become less of a crime if the victim is voluntarily drunk.

You’d think that would be obvious, wouldn’t you.

But Kitchens’ conclusion isn’t even that it’s not a bad idea to watch your drink; she allows that’s still probably a reasonable thing to do. But, the implication here is simple, and it’s nasty: if you think you got roofied, you probably didn’t. So why bother mentioning that suspicion to the police, right? Why even report your rape at all? It’s probably somehow, at some level, your fault. It’s the same vicious old argument, in other words — don’t get too drunk, girls, if you don’t want to wind up raped! — buried under a new, laughably thin layer of purported “feminism.”

“Feminists should be concerned that women are modifying their behavior on their girls night’s out in order to protect themselves from some vague improbable threat,” Kitchens tells us, somewhere near the end of this exhausting slog. But what she doesn’t acknowledge — or even seem aware of — is that women feel forced to modify their behavior in ways large and small to stay safe all the time. It sucks, and we hate it, but we still do it. Watching your drink at a bar is what we might call harm reduction, a strategy to mitigate, in some small way, the effects of living in a toxic culture where rape is pervasive. Awareness of date rape drugs is one of the things in the shitty, depressing bag of tools we’ve all developed to try to stay safe. It’s not “constant fear,” as Kitchens suggests. It’s just reasonable caution and concern.

And when that bag of tools fails and someone is raped or sexually assaulted, whose fault is it? Oh, right: the person committing the rape. Always. Every single time. Whether the victim was drunk, high, stone-sober or any combination thereof. And the more we argue over Rohypnol or idiotic roofie-detecting nail polish or just how often someone might be spiking our drinks, the more we veer further and further away from the real issue: the people who think it’s fine and acceptable to commit rape, very often against someone they know, someone who trusts them. Any other discussion at this point it starting to feel deliberately evasive, a way to avoid shining the light where it truly belongs.

Because that’s exactly what it is.

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



Ottawa

Oct 22nd, 2014 11:23 am | By

There’s been an attack inside the Parliament building in Ottawa, the CBC reports.

Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa,before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block nearby.

MPs and other witnesses reported several shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, according to MPs’ eyewitness accounts.

There’s perhaps another shooter at large in downtown Ottawa.

Ottawa police confirmed shots were also fired in three locations: the war memorial, inside Centre Block and near the Rideau Centre east of Parliament Hill, although earlier reports of shots inside the shopping mall have been denied by police. The downtown area remains in police lockdown.

Yikes. I’ve been there. I have friends in Ottawa.

The soldier shot at the War Memorial has died.

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



Serial acid attacks in Isfahan

Oct 22nd, 2014 10:59 am | By

Kaveh Mousavi alerted me to a news item that he discusses at Margin of Error:

It’s always good to see good news after a week of horrifying news. Last week we saw serial acid attacks against four women in the Iranian province of Isfahan. Today people have poured into streets in both Tehran and Isfahan to protest these heinous crimes.

I’m not sure I think that quite amounts to good news.* There are some kinds of good news that are so dependent on previous terrible news that it’s hard to see them as really good. “People protest the random torture of women” – well good, but better if people just didn’t randomly torture women.

Still. I know what he means, of course, and I point out that kind of “good news” all the time.

Via Al-Monitor:

Four individuals have been arrested in connection with a number of gruesome acid attacks on women that shocked and terrified the residents of Esfahan. [...] The first incident was reported Oct. 16. Men on motorcycles allegedly attacked women in their cars. Rumors immediately began to circulate that religious vigilante groups were targeting women with improper hijab. But as the acid attacks, which left the faces of their victims disfigured, increased, some Iranian media outlets reported that some of the victims were from religious families and were not improperly covered.

So for real just throwing acid on women because they are women. Yeah. Sometimes I wish we could have a complete species-overhaul.

Today Iranians took to the streets to protests. These photos are taken by the readers of BBC Persian and submitted to that website:

141022095402_isfahan_demo_640x360_non_nocredit

141022095523_isfahan_demo_640x360_non_nocredit

Their report doesn’t indicate how many people were there, but since Iran’s climate is very sensitive these days, the very fact that these protests were allowed to happen with no resistance from the regime is enough cause for celebration.

Well…maybe not quite celebration.

*Edited to add: Kaveh clarified that he meant that the fact that the demonstration was allowed to happen was the good news. Now there’s a bit of privilege-blindness for you – because I’m not up close and personal with life in a theocracy, I totally failed to think of that. [slaps self upside head]

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



Terms and conditions

Oct 22nd, 2014 10:51 am | By

Dawn reports that Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani has said a Muslim woman cannot object to the second or subsequent marriages of her husband.

Presiding over a meeting of the council here on Tuesday, he said a woman could not demand divorce if her husband married a second, third or fourth time.

He said Islam had given the women the right to separate from her husband, but another marriage could not be a valid ground for doing so.

So a married woman gets no choice and no say how she lives her life. If her husband decides there will be one or two or three more women living with them, she doesn’t get to say no and she doesn’t get to leave. She also, of course, doesn’t get to tell her husband there will be one or two or three more men living with them.

On March 10 this year, the council noted that the laws regarding second marriage by a man in the presence of the first wife were against Sharia.

“Sharia allows men to have more than one wife and we demanded the government to amend the relevant laws where a person has to seek prior permission from the existing wife / wives,” the CII chief had said in the meeting.

And this is Pakistan in 2014, so the government probably isn’t going to feel comfortable saying no.

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



Its necessary end?

Oct 22nd, 2014 9:56 am | By

Jessica Valenti is more optimistic than I am. She says GamerGate is the last gasp of the angry white guys. I wish.

As the cultural relevance of angry white men on the internet withers away and ends, their last words – muttered angrily at an empty room – will surely be“Gamer … gate”.

The recent uproar – said to be over ethics in journalism but focused mostly on targeting outspoken women who aren’t journalists at all – is just the last, desperate gasp of misogynists facing an unwelcoming future. But this particular bitter end, while long overdue, is loud, angry and extremely dangerous.

I wonder what gives her the idea that this is the last gasp and the bitter end. Why would it be? We’re not going to shut up, and Twitter and Facebook aren’t changing their rules and practices, and laws against campaigns of harassment don’t exist, so why would it be the last of anything? It’s a pleasant thought, but it’s nonsense.

Maybe that was just a rhetorical flourish and she didn’t notice that it’s not true, because she argues the opposite in the following paragraphs.

…despite assurances from Gamergate supporters that they have no problem with women, their de facto leaders are being outed as violent misogynists. (Sample tweets: “Fat/ugly women seek out dominant men to abuse them” and “Date rape doesn’t exist”.)

It’s tempting to believe that this online row – a toxic combination of misinformation, anger and anxious masculinity – is just about one specific technology industry’s subculture, or that it will blow over. But by labeling Gamergate a “gaming problem” and attaching a hashtag to it, we’re putting unnecessary boundaries around a broader but nebulous issue: threats and harassment are increasingly how straight white men deal with a world that no longer revolves exclusively around them.

Quite so, and they’re not about to stop.

When I spoke to her by phone in San Francisco on Sunday night, Sarkeesian saidGamergate is “absolutely” an issue that goes beyond gaming:

The harassment is becoming more intense towards women and other marginalized communities, and it seems to be happening more to women in male-dominated fields, and to women who speak out or make critiques.

Sarkeesian told me that the backlash in gaming – hardly a new problem – has gotten more vicious as the conversations about women’s representations in games and their role in the industry have gained steam. “This reaction, mostly from male gamers, is to protect the status quo,” she said. The same is true more broadly, and always has been when it comes to women’s progress: the more ground we gain, the worse men react.

So this isn’t a last gasp at all; it’s probably much closer to a first gasp than to a last one.

That’s why right now is such a dangerous time for women: we’re in the midst of an unprecedented feminist moment that not all men are pleased about. Sexual consent is being radically reframed, but feminists are accused of trying to classify all men as rapists. Television and movies created by women are at an all-time high (though still nowhere near parity), but they’re derided as“peak vagina”. And while institutional coverups of violence against women – be it rape on college campuses, domestic violence in the National Football League or the international news mediaat large – are no longer publicly tolerated, women are still being blamed for their own assaults.

I’m a lot older than Valenti, so I don’t see any of this as unprecedented or new. It’s the same as it’s been all my adult life: feminism versus the more or less enraged opposition to it.

It would be easy to assume that the current online backlash that many women face from Gamergaters and beyond is simply the domain of a handful of trolls and a few harmless kids. But we’ve seen the violence that sexist men can do when they don’t get what they want. And even after authorities found a 140-page misogynist manifesto from the California shooter who killed six people this year, women were cautioned against calling the crime one of sexism.

By Jaclyn Glenn, for one.

What excuse will we use after the next inevitable act of violence? That we didn’t see the horror coming? Angry men are plainly telling us to expect it.

Even if the threats being bandied about now don’t come to real-life fruition, their chilling effect is real – Sarkeesian noted that women are already “being threatened out of the industry and out of their homes”. These are not small things.

Gamergate enthusiasts will continue to argue that the vitriol against women is coincidental – and they will likely never acknowledge their fear of irrelevance and accountability. That’s to be expected. But as the grip of angry white men on our cultural conversation arrives at its necessary end, it’s up to the rest of us to make sure that, as change comes, we take the anger from those men far more seriously. Ignoring “trolls” doesn’t work when they show up with a gun.

Hmm, back to claiming the bullying is arriving at its end. I don’t see it. It would be nice, but I don’t see it.

 

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



Top 10 reasons to ban Rebecca from Bay Area Science Festival

Oct 21st, 2014 4:14 pm | By

Rebecca has a post giving 10 good reasons to ban her from the Bay Area Science Festival.

Two weeks ago, PZ Myers pointed out that Dr. Eliza Sutton of the University of Washington in Seattle was the source of a rumor that PZ had contracted gonnorhea at SkepchickCon last year. Sutton posts on blogs and social media as “Skeptickle” or “Skeptixx,” where she has been open about her profession as a doctor, and has also previously declared her own name.

Obviously, a medical doctor diagnosing hated enemies with an STD is a gross breach of medical ethics, which is why a link to PZ’s post was Tweeted from the Skepchick Twitter feed, which we use occasionally for quick links that aren’t worth full posts.

I found her behavior so abhorrent that I retweeted the @Skepchicks Tweet. Obviously, this inspired someone to start a petition begging the Bay Area Science Festival to ban me from hosting my comedy science panel quiz show Quiz-o-Tron, which happens this Saturday, October 25, at the Castro Theatre. Advance tickets are only $10!

Obviously. It was fine for Dr Sutton to start a story that PZ had contracted gonnorhea at SkepchickCon last year and terrible for Rebecca to share a tweet about it. That’s all terrifically clear.

So she lists and explains the ten reasons.

9.

Devin Fabricius: I really don't care what this lady said or did. I do not want to know either. I am here to take a stand against these tactics alone. The ends never justify these means.

Devin isn’t really sure what’s going on, but he knows he doesn’t like it! And that’s why he will not be attending my comedy science quiz show with “Survivor” contestant Yau-Man Chan this Saturday.

Number 3 is especially cogent.

3.

Bruno Vinogradoff

I assume Bruno is referring to SJW’s, a new social-justice themed chain restaurant currently opening in Target shopping centers across the country. Though I do not own this chain, I am excited about their menu items, like delicious cheese-stuffed FriendZonis. This is absolutely a great reason to have me barred from hosting Quiz-o-Tron, the world’s best comedy science quiz show on October 25 in San Francisco.

And 1 is, I think, conclusive.

1.

Obo Agboghidi: It's shameful that anyone would do this, to suppress opposing views. This isn't how a civilized socoiety works. If Rebecca wants to attack Dr. Sutton work, then attack her work with better proof. Doxxing should not be tolerated.

Obo is absolutely correct. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to fully examine Dr. Sutton’s important work on e-diagnosing people she hates with gonorrhea. What were her methods? Did she get a blood sample from PZ or any of the Skepchick bloggers? Did she access our medical records? These are the questions I should have asked, instead of retweeting that tweet linking to that blog post that pointed out that she said those things. In order to make up for this oversight on my part, I hereby offer to engage Dr. Sutton in a debate over whether PZ Myers has gonorrhea. She may choose the time, the date, the format, and the moderator.

I’m available any time except for October 25, when I’ll be hosting Quiz-o-Tron at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco as part of Bay Area Science Festival.

If I were in San Francisco I would so go to that.

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



A more nuanced look at the issue

Oct 21st, 2014 2:34 pm | By

Via several thoughtful and informed comments.

By quixote:

Childhood leukemia is one of the big recent success stories of clinical medicine. The girl’s chances would definitely be better in the hospital. About 90% better.

But.

I’m a biologist. I’ve worked with scientists all my adult life. We’re human. Which means we’re only one tiny smidgen less susceptible to the Old Boy Net than your average curmudgeon in the street. Which means scientists are just as capable of ignoring the obvious in favor of dogma as anyone else.

Just one example. Plants with some kind of pharmacological activity are on the order of 1% in the Amazon rainforest. For plants in native pharamcopoeias that rises to 30%. So when Merck spent millions of dollars inventorying the Amazon for potential new drugs they started with plants used in the local ethnomedicine, right? No, because those people wear feathers. They started with a brute force inventory because that seemed more “scientific.” (An ethnobotanist at NY Botanical Garden tried to show them the more useful path, but I don’t know how that worked out.)

In the good old days, aspirin in willow bark was used for fever by old wives. Real doctors at the time used leeches. The Europeans were ostracizing lepers when the tribes in the Burmese rainforest were using chaulmoogra to cure it. Etc., etc., etc.

I am NOT saying you’re wrong in this particular case. What I’m trying to say is that a less dogmatic (omg, skeptical?) approach would be better. Just because something does not come out of the medical establishment doesn’t mean it’s wrong. (Ack. I hope y’all can work your way through all those negatives.) Just because something comes out of aboriginal medicine doesn’t mean it’s wrong either. It’s the *evidence* that matters.

By MyaR:

‘Tradition’ and ‘culture’ trump knowledge and the value of human life.

Well, it’s what we’ve been doing to native and aboriginal peoples for centuries. Which also plays into this particular scenario — what reasons do they have to trust that the 90% is real? When they know their traditional medicine practitioners are part of their community and care about them, specifically, but the hospital medical staff don’t know them and don’t understand their culture. And there are plenty of cultural differences that don’t matter in terms of physical, emotional, mental well-being, but those have been (sometimes systematically) stomped on by OUR culture. That kind of systematic denigration skews your ability to assess evidence presented by a component of that very system.

BUT. These are arguments for treating families (whatever their cultural background) with sensitivity, finding a way to provide the information they need to make actual informed decisions, ensuring that staff have explicit training in how to treat people from non-dominant culture respectfully, providing reasonable accommodation for cultural practices, and, if necessary, bringing in child welfare authorities if it is deemed medically necessary for the child’s well-being. And no, culture shouldn’t trump life-saving medicine for children, and this justice made a terrible decision. (Adults can do as they wish, although hopefully with decent information.)

In short — I suspect the family, as people, were NOT treated respectfully, and I’m not talking about their beliefs. After all, they did start the chemo and did not immediately reject it.

Cultures and religions have no value when real human lives are at stake.

Well, no, but people (because what are cultures and religions without people?) do. And from a purely pragmatic perspective (i.e., trying to save the most lives) you have to take culture into account. When a child has a potentially fatal illness, the family if also part of the treatment, and we recognize this very well when the child is from the dominant culture. (I’ve been part of that family. The family’s beliefs and culture are often accommodated and integrated into the treatment as much as the staff can.)

My main point — treating people who make these incredibly bad decisions as if they’re just idiots is a PROBLEM. No one makes decisions for arbitrary reasons, and if you want to improve the way people analyze problems and consider their potential courses of action, you need to understand why they are making the decisions they are making. And when you’re talking about cultural practices, you have to take the cultural dynamics between the relevant cultures into consideration. I’m more interested in talking about why people may distrust what medical staff tell them than in condemning them for the decision they made.

I think we are all in agreement that the justice made a terrible decision, so what else is there to say? Quite a lot, if we want to find ways to stop these sorts of decisions from being made in the future.

Anthony K:

‘Tradition’ and ‘culture’ trump knowledge and the value of human life. And this horseshit is staggeringly common among people who THINK they’re ‘progressive.’

Yawn.

As someone who actually works with First Nations communities with health concerns, specifically cancer, it’s frustrating to deal with the resistance to what’s sometimes considered ‘white’ medicine and knowledge. Especially so because I’m government, and for reasons now completely lost to white history, First Nations people in Canada tend not to trust the government. Weird, I know. I mean, the last residential school in Canada closed in 1996. Ancient history.

Nonetheless, we’ve found strange resistance to barking numbers and rates at communities (and not just First Nations ones; lay people of all backgrounds, though they are perfectly capable of reading scientific literature, tend not to do so as often as might be helpful. Again, it’s mystifying.)

So the situation is unfortunately complex, and not really amenable, in my experience, with the new atheist/skeptic tendency to yell at everyone until they become scientifically literate.

What seems to have been successful, is lowering barriers to entry in medicine and related fields for First Nations people, so that they’re able to bridge some of those cultural gaps. And let them take the lead. For instance, there’s a semi-formal policy of guidance around aboriginal data even as it’s used for epidemiological purposes, called OCAP (ownership, control, access, and possession), which is often summarized as ‘Nothing about us, without us’, where ‘us’ refers to aboriginal Canadians. That concept is developed by aboriginal people, and we respect it. In turn, they’re happy to give us data.

Because the reality is that the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians is still fraught with tension, racism, suspicion, and distrust. That’s not solved by thrusting studies at people, nor by the backassward idea that paying credence to concepts of traditional knowledge (credence not being the same as complete deference) used by historically and currently oppressed people to empower themselves and their communities is ‘infantilizing’.

So I know, I’m one of those FAKE PROGRESSIVES john the drunkard likes to rail against, but I this stuff is part of my job, and I know what seems to work, and I know what sure as hell hasn’t.

 

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



Amy Goodman talks to Anita Sarkeesian

Oct 21st, 2014 10:59 am | By

Democracy Now did a segment on Anita Sarkeesian and #GamerGate yesterday.

Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote: “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the “Gamergate” controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. “Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic,” Sarkeesian says. “Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries.”

Sadly, or pathetically, the comments have filled up with the familiar misogynist dreck.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRinZyeugfY

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



Just because they have a degree, that makes them more knowledgeable?

Oct 21st, 2014 10:25 am | By

From the National Post:

For Laurie Hill, resident of Canada’s largest aboriginal community, it’s just wrong to suggest that modern medicine is the only way to treat cancer and other serious diseases.

She stands firmly behind the Six Nations neighbours who took their 11-year-old daughter with leukemia out of chemotherapy, and are treating her with traditional, but unproven, native methods and other alternative health-care instead.

“Unproven” is a bit of a euphemism. Surely it’s more a matter of having abundant reasons to think traditional methods and alternative health-care aren’t effective against leukemia.

“There’s a fear of [aboriginal remedies] or denial of it. If things can’t be quantified or qualified, to them it’s irrelevant,” said Ms. Hill, as she shopped at Ancestral Voices Healing Centre Thursday. “Who are they [doctors] to say she will make it with their treatments. Just because they have a degree, that makes them more knowledgeable?”

Well…yes, probably. On this particular subject, if they have the relevant degree, then yes, that does – other things being equal – make them more knowledgeable. It’s possible that Laurie Hill’s neighbors are equally knowledgeable thanks to self-education, but it’s not terribly likely. For one thing, few people want to go to all the trouble of getting a medical education if they’re not going to get a degree.

Also, I bet the doctors aren’t saying she will make it with their treatments; I bet they’re saying her chances of making it are much better with their treatments than without them. And who they are to say that is people who know something about the stats.

As an extraordinary court case in nearby Brantford moved toward an end, a lawyer for McMaster Children’s Hospital argued that child-welfare authorities should have used their power to require the young woman to stay in treatment. With chemo, childhood leukemia now has a survival rate in the range of 90%, and remains a likely death sentence without it, experts say.

But Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice suggested physicians essentially want to “impose our world view on First Nation culture.” The idea of a cancer treatment being judged on the basis of statistics that quantify patients’ five-year survival rate is “completely foreign” to aboriginal ways, he said.

Oh please. That’s insulting. It assumes that people can’t learn anything new.

“Even if we say there is not one child who has been cured of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by traditional methods, is that a reason to invoke child protection?” asked Justice Edward, noting that the girl’s mother believes she is doing what is best for her daughter.

Yes, yes it is. Of course it is. You know what else is? We can say there is not one child who has survived being locked in a basement with no water or food for a month, and that that is indeed a reason to invoke child protection if a child is being held in a basement with no water or food. If a child has meningitis and the parents want to pray over her instead of taking her to a hospital, that is a reason to invoke child protection. Yes.

“Are we to second guess her and say ‘You know what, we don’t care?’ … Maybe First Nations culture doesn’t require every child to be treated with chemotherapy and to survive for that culture to have value.”

What?

The judge said the culture will still have value, so let the child die.

Wow.

There is also an issue of medical consent, but the child is 11, and if her parents have been telling her the traditional “treatments” are just as good, she’s probably not in a position to make an informed decision.

Back at Six Nations, meanwhile, Ancestral Voices employee Hayley Doxtater said aboriginal remedies are becoming increasingly popular. She pointed to a cancer treatment — a collection of herbs including slippery elm and turkey rhubarb root ­ — that she said one customer has repeatedly traveled an hour from Toronto to buy for a sick friend.

“We have people come in here who are so happy that something works,” she said. “They’ll say ‘That stuff is amazing.’ “

Ah, the one hour drive evidence that the treatment is effective.

 

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