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.

Floating above the ugly fray of politics

Oct 24th, 2014 3:15 pm | By

If the women won’t do what the harassers tell them to, maybe there are other methods – like going after the advertisers. Amanda Marcotte at Slate:

Gamergate, a diffuse but relentless online anti-feminist movement aimed at drubbing feminist women out of game development and criticism, continues to expand the scope of its attacks. First it started as a traditional anti-feminist campaign, targeting individual women in hopes that they’d quit the industry rather than suffer any longer. When that didn’t work, they moved into targeting advertisers of websites that hire feminist women. They were sadly successful when Intel pulled its advertising from a website Gamasutra, which had offended the Gamergaters by running a piece that argued video games should be for everyoneinstead of just for angry white guys. Now the circle of victims has expanded even beyond just the gaming press, as the website Gawker is being threatened with the loss of its Mercedes advertising after Mercedes got a deluge of emails from Gamergaters who take offense at the multiple pieces Gawker and its sister sites have run criticizing Gamergate.

So…what is Mercedes thinking here? That the people behind Gamergate are very very likely to rush out at any minute to buy a Mercedes, unless they decide not to because Mercedes advertises on Gawker? That the kind of people who buy a Mercedes – which is people with many tens of thousands of dollars to squander – are the kind of people who spend all day hassling women on Twitter?

Really? Does that seem like sound consumer research? I think people like that are way too busy either making the money that buys them a Mercedes or playing golf by way of post-money-making fun and relaxation.

Marcotte thinks much the same thing; she finds it “confusing to see companies like Mercedes, Intel, and Adobe give any credence to a bunch of squalling from an online army of mostly teenage boys and social maladepts who are worried that girls are going to ruin the experience of playing Call of Duty.”

Seriously. People who spend all their time doing that don’t have the cash to buy anything besides an occasional bucket of fried chicken. So why are the advertisers squawking and running away?

The likely truth is they don’t want the hassle. Most of these big corporations desperately want to be perceived as floating above the ugly fray of politics. Intel pulled its advertising from Gamasutra and then issued a mealy-mouthed apology after the fact, saying, “Our action inadvertently created a perception that we are somehow taking sides in an increasingly bitter debate in the gaming community.” Adobe pulled a similar stunt, rushing to agree with Gamergate attacks on Gawker while claiming some kind of general anti-bullying stance.

Yeah that’s horseshit, that claiming to be against bullying while you’re in the very act of enabling or even encouraging bullying. We’ve seen a lot of it in these parts, and it’s horseshit.

Gamergate doesn’t have good arguments, which is why they dissemble and hand-wave rather than engaging in honest debate about the role of women in gaming. But the power they do have is what a colleague of mine characterized as “asymmetrical warfare”: Gamergaters, particularly since they recruit so heavily amongst teenagers and young men, have nothing but time and nothing to lose, making it relatively easy for them to target advertisers with these campaigns.

Many feminist writers know this phenomenon very well, having been targeted for over a decade now by an online guerrilla campaign of “men’s rights activists” and other anti-feminists who dogpile individual women with harassment in hopes of driving them to quit writing.

But now they’re making economic war, and that might do the job.

Which is why Gamergate is so worrisome, because it represents a shift away from targeting individual women and towards targeting notoriously skittish advertisers. It does mean it will be harder for the harassers to deny that they’re actively working to silence feminists online, but the tradeoff is, as we’ve seen with Intel and possibly Mercedes, it might just work.

If the advertisers are supine enough and cynical enough and self-protecting enough to do the “we oppose bullying but we’re withdrawing our ads from anti-bullying sites anyway because no reason just because” thing, then yes, it might just work.

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

Meera Nanda

Oct 24th, 2014 2:34 pm | By

Oh boy, a treat – a talk by Meera Nanda, Beliefs without evidence: Danger of faith-based politics and culture in India.

Meera is fabulous. She’s been a huge influence on my thinking.


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

Charges of “we don’t like you”

Oct 24th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

More on the Red Shoes woman in Turkey, from Hürriyet:

The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office took action against the Twitter account @kedibiti after Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, who is known as an active Twitter user, filed a complaint about the account, also alleging that it had “insulted the president and the government.”

Prosecutors discovered that the Twitter account’s owner was a 36-year-old Istanbul resident, identified only as G.Y. The Istanbul Police Department called her to the police station, and she arrived at the station in Istanbul’s Gayrettepe neighborhood, where she reportedly explained that she was an atheist.

She was released after questioning, but a lawsuit has been opened against her on charges of “triggering hatred in society” and “slandering.”

Charges? Charges in what sense? Can I open a lawsuit against someone on “charges” of being boring or annoying or unfunny or wearing a color I don’t like? A legal system that entertains “charges” of vague meaningless things because someone published a picture of a pair of feet standing on a book is a very bad legal system indeed.

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in 2013 in a similar case, after he retweeted several lines attributed to 11th century poet Omar Khayyam.

Turkey – you’re going in the wrong direction.


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

To better protect religious liberty

Oct 24th, 2014 12:15 pm | By

That Arizona bill was passed. Brian Fraga at the National Catholic Register reported on the passage May 23, 2012.

Note the framing in the headline and subhead:

Arizona Passes Exemption for Religious Employers

The law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, seeks to better protect religious liberty if federal ‘contraceptive mandate’ is struck down.

It’s just a matter of deciding who the subject is.

For obedient Catholics, it’s the Catholics. For most other people, it’s the women who are being forced to tell their employers why they use the birth control pill.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the American Civil Liberties Union said the legislation — which was initiated by the Diocese of Phoenix and known as House Bill 2625 — would enable companies to fire their employees for using contraception. Planned Parenthood said the law uses religion as the basis for “chipping away at women’s access to birth control.”

“House Bill 2625 is only the latest item in a number of bills to restrict women’s access to preventive health care, taking personal medical decisions away from women and handing them over to politicians,” said Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

Like that. Brian Fraga does let that subject say something.

Notice that the bill was initiated by a Diocese. Notice that it was the Diocese of Phoenix – that’s the one that wanted a woman at St Joseph’s Hospital to die rather than have an abortion, the one that excommunicated the nun who approved the lifesaving abortion.

The bill grants an exemption in Arizona’s contraceptive-coverage mandate for religiously affiliated employers, defined as entities whose articles of incorporation say that religious beliefs are central to their operating principles and for whom providing contraception could pose a moral conflict.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix was “tremendously supportive” of the measure, said diocesan spokesman Ronald Johnson.  “This was a bill we initiated and was our top priority for the legislative session.” He and Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas issued a statement May 11 expressing gratitude for Brewer’s signature.

Olmsted is the bishop who tried to force Catholic Healthcare West to agree in writing never to perform such a lifesaving abortion again.

The bill was championed by the Arizona Catholic Conference, which has been pushing for an exemption since 2002, when the state began requiring birth-control coverage in employee health-insurance plans.

“It’s very rewarding for me, after all we’ve been through over the years,” said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference.

It’s very rewarding for them to force all of us to live by their terrible medieval misogynist rules.

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

Guest post: What did she expect when she?

Oct 24th, 2014 11:42 am | By

Originally a comment by Jackie on Red shoes.

I’m so tired of being told as a woman that I should expect and prepare for the abuse misogynist men want to do to me as if men were hurricanes and I should know better than to risk being in one’s way.

What did she expect when she went to a party with friends?
What did she expect when she shared an opinion?

What did she expect when she wore that?
What did she expect when she got an education?
What did she expect when went out unveiled?
What did she expect when she dated a football player/fighter?

The message is that smart women are frightened, silent and move through the world like mice who know that predators lurk everywhere and one lapse of cautious vigilance means doom. Only a very foolish mouse would draw any attention to itself or make any noise at all. A wise mouse stays in dark corners. It is never comfortable. It never fights. When it is devoured, no one will be to blame. After all, predators predate and mice belong beneath them on the food chain. It isn’t a mouse’s lot to feel the sun or enjoy the freedom to move through the world as something other than food. It should have been more careful. What did it expect? A brave mouse is a foolish mouse.

Whether it is rape, stolen nude photos or murder at the hands of theocrats, someone will point out that the woman brought it upon herself for not being cautious enough of men and their power to harm her.

The charge to be more cautious of your oppressor rather than to fight them or live life as if you were really free and equal is not just for women. It’s for all minorities, especially black and LGBT folks. I’m so sick of that. That’s terrorism. “If you think we’re hurting you now, just wait until you piss us off. Pray we do not notice you. Pray we find you accommodating enough”. When you say something like “You better keep your head down if you know what’s good for you”, you are siding with the oppressor.

Please don’t.

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

Freedom freedom freedom

Oct 24th, 2014 11:02 am | By

Update This is from March 2012, and the bill passed. Oy.

I have got to learn to check the date. [slaps self]

Are you kidding me?!

Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel:

A proposed new law in Arizona would give employers the power to request that women being prescribed birth control pills provide proof that they’re using it for non-sexual reasons. And because Arizona’s an at-will employment state, that means that bosses critical of their female employees’ sex lives could fire them as a result.


How about a proposed law mandating that women inform the whole world of everything about them. Let’s just treat women as public property with no rights at all, instead of trying to achieve the same goal piecemeal.

Yesterday, a Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Republican Debbie Lesko’s HB2625 by a vote of 6-2, which would allow an employer to request proof that a woman using insurance to buy birth control was being prescribed the birth control for reasons other than not wanting to get pregnant. It’s all about freedom, she said, echoing everyone who thinks there’s nothing ironic about claiming that a country that’s “free” allows people’s bosses to dictate what medical care is available to them through insurance. First amendment. The constitution. Rights of religious people to practice the treasured tenets of their faiths, the tenets that dictate that religious people get to tell everyone who is not of faith how they’re supposed to live, and the freedom to have that faith enforced by law. Freedom®.

What if it’s a tenet of your faith that women who seem insufficiently subservient and grateful should have acid thrown on them? Is that all about freedom too? Come on, Debbie Lesko, tell us why it’s not.

Further, Lesko states, with a straight face, that this bill is necessary because “we live in America; we don’t live in the Soviet Union.”

So…we live in Nazi Germany then? Arbeit macht frei?

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

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


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.

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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.)


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:



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.)