Notes and Comment Blog

Nobody “slipped”

Jun 1st, 2016 11:19 am | By

My former zookeeper side is obtrusive this week. I used to know a few gorillas quite well – not as well as their longstanding full-time keeper, but quite well. I felt very attached to them. Harambe’s death makes me sad and angry, even though I don’t think the zoo could have done anything else.

The police are investigating the family of the boy who jumped into the gorilla exhibit.

That sounds kind of absurd on the face of it – they surely didn’t tell him to jump in, or want him to. But. People can be amazingly irresponsible at zoos…except that irresponsible is too mild. People will go over and around barriers at zoos; that’s what I’m saying. People will ignore all the impediments that are obviously there for reasons, in order to do what they feel like doing. The public was always by far the worst thing about working at the zoo.

That doesn’t apply to a toddler though; it applies to parents. The story I’ve seen is that there were four kids and the boy got in when no one was looking. An accident. Ok but maybe they should have been more careful than that?

A day after police said they’ll investigate the family of a boy who slipped into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, the child’s family spoke out.

“Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well,” the family said Wednesday in a statement released by a representative.

That’s good, but Harambe is still dead. That’s not so good.

“We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child,” the boy’s family said Wednesday.

“We are also very appreciative for the expressions of concern and support that have been sent to us. Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept. If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name.”

The continuing to praise God for His grace and mercy part really pisses me off, because it totally ignores the stupid wasteful death of Harambe. Where’s the grace and mercy for him? He wouldn’t be dead if the parents hadn’t lost track of their toddler. You’d think he was a piece of machinery the toddler got to close to.

Cincinnati police said Tuesday that their review will focus on the actions of the boy’s parents and family. It is not related to the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo, authorities said.

“After the review, we will determine if charges need to be brought forward,” police spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy said.

“If it is determined charges need to be brought forward, we would then discuss it with the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office.” The prosecutor’s office declined to say how long the investigation might take.

Authorities have said the boy’s mother was with the child when he slipped past a fence and tumbled into the moat.

Except I don’t believe it about the “slipping” past a fence. If it were that easy the zoo wouldn’t have gone 38 years without anyone jumping into the gorilla exhibit.

Jane Goodall’s response to the killing highlighted the conflicted nature of the decision to kill the animal.

“I feel so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of,” Goodall wrote in an email to Maynard.

Goodall described the killing as “a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas.”

The zoo really had no choice, but that doesn’t make it any more fun for them.

Major strides

Jun 1st, 2016 9:59 am | By

In Egypt on Sunday a girl died under general anesthetic for a genital mutilation.

Mayar Mohamed Mousa, 17, died in a hospital in the province of Suez on Sunday while under full anaesthesia, said Lotfi Abdel-Samee, the local health ministry undersecretary.

“This is something that the law has prohibited,” stressed Abdel-Samee.

Despite the ban in 2008, female genital mutilation (FGM) is still widespread in Egypt, especially in rural areas. It is practised among Muslims as well as Egypt’s minority Christians.

Christians as well as Muslims think females are dirty deformed creatures.

While 200 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to the practise, there have been major strides in Egypt, as well as Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Kenya against FGM, according to Claudia Cappa, the lead author of a February UN children’s agency report on the issue.

“The latest figures from the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey show that we’re winning,” the United Nations Development Programme said in a report last year.

“Mothers’ attitudes are changing, too,” UNDP said.

While 92% of mothers had undergone the procedure, only 35% of them “intend to circumcise their daughters,” according to the UNDP report.

Too late for Mayar Mohamed Mousa though, as well as her sister, who was mutilated first and survived.

Guest post: The “you crossed the line” guy

Jun 1st, 2016 9:40 am | By

Originally a comment by Kevin Kirkpatrick on Women interrupted.

I think it’s a direct parallel to the well-documented “racism without racists” cultural trend.

In that vein, I was every bit as disturbed by this guy:

At that point a man at the next table said to the guy, “You crossed the line”.

Just unpacking those 4 words, and the context and brazenness of their usage; it comes across as “Dude. Yes, of course sexual objectification of women is funny… but you gotta be subtle to be funny… you know, with clever entendres, sly winks, and nudges. You aren’t being funny because you’re being too overt.”

Putting myself in his head for a moment, I suspect that this guy actually believed himself to be standing up for the comedian, and for women in general.

I totally empathize with Samantha’s sentiment about the “boldly sexist asshole” needing to be fired along the lines of “Who would even feel safe working late with him around?” I think this is the boss whose overt sexism makes for slam-dunk discrimination lawsuits; who can’t help but make comments like “Oooh, looking good today, Janice! You should wear blouses like that more often”.

On the other hand, the “you crossed the line” guy is the boss who’s going to have that thought, but keep it to himself (taking pride in how not-a-sexist he is for doing so). And who, two weeks later, is going to put Jim, not Janice, in charge of the next big project. Not because he’s sexist, but because he’s pragmatic, and just wants to ensure everyone’s mind stays focused on the job, not on Janice’s chest.


Women interrupted

May 31st, 2016 5:04 pm | By

Jen Grant’s account of the sexual harassment that interrupted her act appeared in the Huffington Post Canada.

She starts by explaining that she does corporate comedy, with its strict limitations, because it pays better than clubs. She had a gig at a corporate country club. The organizer was nice, everything was fine.

I get introduced to the stage and within about three minutes I am interrupted by a male (late 30s/early 40s) saying to me: “There’s a 51 per cent chance that my buddy here will have sex with you. and I will take the other 49 per cent.”

Of course I was shocked to hear something like that at a squeaky clean corporate event IN A COUNTRY CLUB. I was taken aback but as a 16-year comedy veteran, I took a breath and tried to push past it and do my best to ignore him. I thought, “Oh great. I’ve got Mr. inappropriate audience dude that I will have to deal with.” It’s not going to be easy to do this show with this guy piping up. I never thought in a million years it would get a lot worse.

Then it got worse.

After a couple more minutes he says in a very “rapey” tone, “I bet you do” following one of my jokes. Women know what I mean when I say “rapey.” It’s that tone that makes you feel like they have verbally taken advantage of you. As he is saying these horrible things, I am embarrassed and feeling small. I am just trying to do my job and I can’t. I felt naked and vulnerable. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t put up with shit normally. I have developed thick skin from doing stand up comedy. You have to!

If she’d been in a club she could have responded and put the guy in his place, but she wasn’t so she couldn’t.

His words were cutting like a knife. I felt off balance and violated. I looked out into the crowd at one of the few women that were in the room (the crowd was 80 per cent male). She looked at me like “what the hell is going on?”

Then about five minutes later (25 minutes into my 45 minute set) he says to me (again with that tone), “Ohhh the things I would do to you.” It’s hard enough to focus on what you’re saying when someone is talking constantly between your jokes but when they are verbally abusive, it’s almost impossible.

I said to the crowd, “Really? Is this really happening right now?” At that point a man at the next table said to the guy, “You crossed the line”.

It’s hard to put into words how I felt at that moment. Scared. Objectified. Threatened. Invalidated.

I felt like I was going to cry. Turned my head for about 15 seconds, took a sip of water, told myself to just plug through, went to talk and my voice was all warbled like I was about to cry. Realized I couldn’t talk because I was so upset. Said into the microphone, “I’m sorry but I can’t do this.” Put the mic into the stand and walked off stage.

In 16 years —

I have NEVER cried on stage.

I have NEVER not done my time.

I have NEVER been abused that badly on stage.

I was not able to do my job because someone was sexually harassing me. As a stand up comic I do not have a Human Resources Department. The stage is my workplace and I was publicly humiliated, objectified and belittled.

When I got off stage I was shaking and bawling. The organizer came up to me extremely apologetic and said she didn’t hear what he was saying because she was at the back of the room. I believe her. She was surprised no one else around who could hear him didn’t say anything. It makes me think of what’s happening in the news this past week with “FHRITP.” Shauna Hunt shined a light on something that’s been happening for a year. Good for her for exposing it because it represents a bigger issue. I hope to do the same with this blog. Words have power. They hurt. They humiliate. They violate. Sexism might be better than it used to be, but it is still alive and well.

Remember that? Remember tv journalist Shauna Hunt and the guy who shouted “fuck her right in the pussy” at her while she was on camera? Remember how that was a thing?

Women are just living breathing targets, that’s all.

Most female comics get that within their first week

May 31st, 2016 4:39 pm | By

A year ago the CBC told us about a very bad man, and a better one:

Saskatchewan-born comedian Brent Butt is rushing to support comedian Jen Grant after she was sexually harassed during a set at a corporate event.

“I have been a standup comedian for 28 years and not once have I been heckled with sexual threats. I also don’t know of any other male comics who have been sexually threatened,” his Twitter statement read in part.

Grant, who is originally from Ottawa and now lives in Toronto, had been hired to do a 45-minute corporate set in a country club in suburban Toronto. According to Grant, within three minutes of taking the stage, the heckling began.

“I am interrupted by a male … saying to me, ‘There’s a 51 per cent chance that my buddy here will have sex with you. and I will take the other 49 per cent,'” she said in a blog post.

It was a corporate gig, so she couldn’t respond the way she would at a club; the rules are different. So he went on and on and on.

“‘Oh, the things I would do to you,'” Grant quoted the man as saying, in what she called a “rapey” voice.

“It’s hard to put into words how I felt at that moment. Scared. Objectified. Threatened. Invalidated,” she said.

Grant walked off the stage in tears, something she said she had never done in 16 years as a comedian.

That’s nice, isn’t it? She was doing her work, and that guy stopped her doing it, by reducing her to the hole between her legs. “You don’t have any talent, or anything to say; you’re not smart or funny or interesting; you’re just a hole.”

So Brent Butt tweeted:

I’ve been a stand-up comedian for 28 years, and NOT ONCE have I been ‘heckled’ with sexual threats. I also don’t know of any other male comics who have been sexually threatened. Yet most female comics get that within their first week. A lot of them hear it on Day 1.

And then again, and again, and over and over, during their entire career. But, heaven forbid, if a female comic ever finally gets fed up with this repetitive, vile, hostile garbage, there’s always some dim asshole who’s quick to tell her she’s being ‘too sensitive’. Well guess what, you dim asshole, she’s not being too sensitive.

You’re being a piece of shit.

Try not being a piece of shit for a while, and I bet that’ll REALLY cut down on the amount of rampant sensitivity you have to tolerate.

That. We’re not being “too sensitive” by responding to repetitive, vile, hostile garbage. We’re not.

Promising him a good job and a better life

May 31st, 2016 3:18 pm | By

Slavery in Scotland.

Abul Kamal Azad went to work at a remote hotel in the Western Highlands. He thought he’d been given a job in London.

When he called his new employer from the airport, he was told the plan had changed. He was to take a coach to Glasgow, then another bus to a place called Ballachulish in Lochaber in west Scotland.

Used to the clatter and commotion of Dhaka, he found the isolation disorienting. He was met by Shamsul Arefin, the man who had arranged for him to come to the UK, promising him a good job and a better life. Arefin drove him the last leg of the journey, and at last he found himself standing on the side of a hill in a remote corner of the Highlands, staring up at the dark windows of the hotel. He felt the first stirrings of fear.

It sounds like a Gothic novel, but it was real. He’s answered an ad in Bangladesh –

The advert led him to Arefin. A big man with a powerful voice, he exuded confidence and authority. His wife had important connections in Bangladeshi political circles and he owned a chain of businesses both there and in the UK, including the Stewart hotel. After their first meeting, he contacted Azad again and again, encouraging him to take a job. “He saw something, I don’t know, some vulnerability,” Azad says. “He was always calling me with promises,” he says softly, looking at his hands.

Arefin showed Azad a work contract for £18,000 a year as a tandoori chef, but told him he’d need to pay up front for his Tier 2 sponsorship visa, which would allow him to work for up to five years in the UK. At first he asked for £5,000. But as soon as Azad raised the money, he was told to find more. In the end, Azad borrowed £15,000 from moneylenders and raised another £5,000 selling his family land, his business and, finally, his wife’s jewellery.

£20,000 of debt for a fraud – visas don’t cost £20,000.

Azad spent months working as the sole employee in the Stewart hotel, cleaning, cooking, and gardening for up to 22 hours a day, seven days a week. After a few weeks, Azad asked for his wages and says Arefin grew angry, telling him he would be paid at the end of the month. The date came around, but his salary never appeared.

“I was the only worker for 37 bedrooms, I did everything. I woke every morning at 5am. Two coaches [of tourists] would arrive day after day.” Locals would be hired but then leave almost immediately. “Nobody would stay and work for this man, but I had no choice. I thought, if I go back to my country, how will I pay my debt? My family depends on me. Every month I need to send money home.”

Then other Bangladeshi men started to arrive, having paid Arefin £15,000 to £30,000 for a work visa. Arefin paid them only £100 a month. They worked from 5 a.m. to midnight.

The workers were too scared to talk to locals or guests about what was happening. “He told us, ‘You can’t talk to anybody. If you do, I will cancel your visa,’” Azad says. There was no mobile phone reception, no internet access and no transport. Arefin accompanied them whenever they went into town on hotel business. Some of the workers slept on the floor of empty rooms; others were forced to sleep in a decrepit caravan behind the hotel, with only slug-infested blankets for warmth. In the middle of winter, they were made to go outside in the freezing rain and snow to chop logs, wearing only the sandals they’d brought with them from Bangladesh.

They did eventually get out, and Arefin was prosecuted and convicted, but they’re very little better off – they still owe huge debts in Bandladesh, they have trouble finding work, the authorities did little to help them.

In opposition to every rule of medicine

May 31st, 2016 11:53 am | By

In Arizona

The voice on the other end of the phone is friendly, but unhelpful, when a Rewire reporter says she’s six weeks pregnant and would like an abortion.

“We don’t provide that,” Marie says.

Marie makes appointments for MomDoc, Arizona’s largest women’s health network. MomDoc is owned and run by Mormons who [sub]scribe to a belief that opposes abortion in nearly all cases.

“Can you tell me where I can get an abortion?” the reporter asks.

Marie says she can’t. “I’m sorry,” she adds.

People who oppose abortion and put that opposition into practice should not be running women’s health networks. Period. It’s ridiculous. People shouldn’t set up networks for the purpose of not doing a major part of the work the network claims to do. They should go into other kinds of work.

MomDoc imposes a virtual gag order on employees when it comes to abortion care, as a half-dozen former OB-GYNs, nurse practitioners, and support staff told Rewire in a series of recent interviews by phone and email. What they described affords a window into the workings of a private medical practice, one that opposes abortion care and attempts to suppress abortion access on religious grounds.

That Arizona’s largest OB-GYN practice opposes abortion care disturbs pro-choice advocates in a state where reproductive health access is constricted by forced waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and state-directed counseling intended to discourage patients.

Ethical guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional organization of 57,000 members, advise physicians who object to abortion on religious grounds to notify patients beforehand and to refer them to abortion providers.

“You need to give your patients all the options so they can make their own choice,” Julie Kwatra, legislative chair of the Arizona chapter of ACOG, told Rewire in a phone interview. “Not telling a patient information is in opposition to every rule of medicine.”

But oh no – they have a religion, so they can do whatever they want to.

In 2012, Arizona’s right-leaning legislature instituted a religious privilege law that shields health-care professionals who hold religious beliefs from losing licensure.

These protections, critics argue, further stigmatize a legal medical procedure that’s already under attack in GOP-held legislatures nationwide.

Yes but it’s only women who need it, so it’s fine to stigmatize it and conceal it and lie about it and refuse to tell women who to get it. God hates women, after all.

MomDoc’s website and advertisements make no mention of its faith-based opposition to abortion rights, pro-choice advocates note.

“Drive down the freeway and every other billboard will be a MomDoc billboard on how they provide midwife care and how they really care about the family,” Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL Arizona, said in a phone interview with Rewire. “To me it’s almost like locking down and cordoning off abortion care even more than it is in the community.”

By asking its employees to refrain from discussing abortion care, MomDoc runs counter to prevailing professional health-care norms to inform and refer patients, explained Lori Freedman, author of Willing and Unable, a book about doctors’ constraints on abortion.

“I think there’s an ethical problem there—this is information patients would want,” Freedman said a phone interview with Rewire.

But God is the boss of ethics, so the Mormons must be right.

Maybe this time is Gone Girl in real life

May 31st, 2016 10:33 am | By

Sarah Ditum at the Staggers:

Maybe he didn’t do it. Maybe that man you care about didn’t do that awful thing to the woman you don’t care about very much. Maybe this time, of all the times, is Gone Girl in real life and that man you like – the sports star one, or the actor one, or the musician one, I’m not going to specify – really is the victim of a vicious feminine plot to destroy him. After all, you’d know the real thing if you saw it, wouldn’t you? You’re no rape apologist. You’d never harbour liking or admiration for a man who was abusive or violent to women. We all know that this is at the core of your moral thinking, because you’ve been extremely careful to say so, explicitly, before declaring that this time – this one time – is different.

Of course. Absolutely. Because we human beings have an infallible goodness-detector – I think it’s up there somewhere near the prefrontal cortex – in our brains that has been demonstrated to work perfectly over all of human history. Well when I say “human beings” I of course mean men – women aren’t human beings, they’re human-other beings, or human-less-than beings – human-minus beings perhaps says it best. Women don’t have infallible anything, obviously, and they can never tell shits from the sweetest kindest gentlest guys you’ve ever known. But men have it, and women who listen to men can avail themselves of it.

I will let you in on a secret now. A sensational true fact about abusive men. Here goes: pretty much every man who has ever harmed a woman has been liked by someone. Even the ones who aren’t famous have someone to have a pint with. Extraordinary I know, but the ability to be popular with other men – or with other women – has never stood in pristine opposition to the ability to go home and shove your girlfriend against a wall, taking care to focus only on the parts of her body that will stay clothed and covered.

Wait – really? Are we sure? That’s disturbing, if so.

Because it’s not really about the fact that they’re talented or charming or successful. It’s about the fact that they’re men. There is a quiet conspiracy of power compelling us to preserve every crevice of doubt where a man’s reputation can hold on. It’s true that women are not believed when they come forward with allegations, but even the disbelief has an insultingly shallow quality – if her story becomes impossible to deny then the criteria for her dismissal can be easily changed, and the charge of “liar” replaced with one of “slut” or “gold digger” or “asking for it”. The reason women’s words count for so little is that women are counted for so little.

Because men could be football players or movie directors or tv stars. Women are just bleh. It’s too wasteful to throw away talented men just because they hit women.

Being liked is not just compatible with misogyny: misogyny can be the social code that cements the liking. Patriarchy would have fallen apart a long, long time ago otherwise. So maybe this time, this sports star or actor or musician didn’t do it. It’s possible. And maybe this time, like so many other times, she’s telling the truth. Maybe her life matters at least as much as his career and reputation. That is possible too.

Possible, but so very very unlikely.

Any excuse to beat her

May 31st, 2016 10:10 am | By

Life for women under theocracy:

The Council of Islamic Ideology has proposed a new Women Protection Bill for Punjab that allows husbands to “lightly” beat their wives for disobedience.

The proposed bill was on Wednesday discussed by the religious body, formed in 1962 under the “modern” Ayub Khan dictatorship to ensure all laws in the country conform with Islam, after a previous version drafted by the Punjab government in collaboration with women rights organizations and civil society was rejected by clerics and religious parties for being “un-Islamic” only a day after its passage into law.

That right there is theocracy – having a government body set up by a dictator to ensure all laws in the country conform with a particular religion. Religions are crap at respecting human rights, because they are more concerned with a deity’s rights. They are even worse at respecting women’s rights, because religions are artifacts of history and thus are male-centric: they write laws to control women and give men absolute power over them.

In the version of the bill discussed on Wednesday, the council recommends that husbands should ‘lightly’ beat their wives for disobedience and for refusing to wear the Hijab or take a bath after intercourse and menstruation.

And for eating sweets, and going out without permission, and talking back – just as if women were all six years old.

‘Light’ beatings are also recommended for wives who refuse sex with their husbands without a valid religious excuse, speak loud enough to be heard by strangers and donate money without the consent of their spouses.

Because god said so, that’s why. He told Muhammed and Muhammed told everyone else, so now you know.

A number of professional sanctions on women are also proposed in the bill, including a bar on participating in military combat, a ban on female nurses treating male patients and a recommendation to prevent female models from appearing in advertisements.

The bill also bans co-education for women after primary schooling and bars them from welcoming ‘foreign’ delegations or interacting with males to whom they are not married or related by blood for recreational purposes.

Shut up and pray.

What would be seen as sexual violence in other contexts

May 30th, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Via Soraya Chemaly, I read this Washington Post piece about pornography and violence against women and girls. It’s not one that will please the choosy-choice, I’m a pornographer so don’t you dare connect porn with violence types.

A current government inquiry into sexual harassment in schools and a new cross-party campaign to tackle misogynist abuse online have all highlighted the ways in which pornography contributes to and legitimizes negative attitudes with very real impacts on the lives of women and girls.

It is crucial to understand pornography as a form of violence against women. Overwhelmingly, content is produced and consumed by men, with strikingly consistent themes. The content categories of two of the most popular tube sites — XHamster and Pornhub — reveal a dismal pattern of endless scenarios of male dominance and female subordination, categorized by specific acts, female body parts, race and age.

It doesn’t take a great awareness of cultural theory to grasp the social meaning of images of women being repeatedly penetrated in every orifice to a chorus of “slut,” “bitch” and “whore.” It does, however, require a willingness to think beyond the rhetoric of “choice,” “empowerment” and “free speech” that is invariably used by industry representatives to justify such content.

Sometimes those industry representatives are disguised as hip, knowing, awesome people, even feminists, even women.

First and foremost, mainstream pornography consists of socially sanctioned acts of direct violence against women. What would be seen as sexual violence and brutality in other contexts is par for the course in pornography, as female survivors will confirm. However, pornography does not simply function as an arena in which direct violence is sanctioned and routinized. It also functions as a form of what sociologist Johan Galtung terms ”cultural violence.”Exercised in the stories a culture tells itself — its texts, its images — it is “an aspect of the symbolic sphere that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence.” One of the things that pornography does extremely efficiently is provide an endless flow of narratives of women being treated as objects, violated or “done to.”

It’s still baffling to me that people – men – like that, like a steady diet of it, think it’s the best kind of sex fantasy.

[T]he cultural violence of pornography is usually far more mundane. Porn narratives are not simply those accessed by users; they also find their way into mainstream cultural images: the jeans advertisement that replicates a gang bang scenario; the perfume advertisement mimicking the penetration of a woman’s shaved vulva; the underwear advertisement that utilizes an “up-skirting” image. What these kinds of images do — and there is certainly no shortage of them, on billboards, in magazines, online — is cumulatively to tell us what women are about: that the defining feature of women’s bodies is that they are available and violable. Not only does pornography entail very direct forms of violence in its production; it also, in a world where violence against women is endemic, serves to naturalize and normalize such violence. As Galtung says, “Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right — or at least not wrong.”

But, fortunately, there is no real violence or abuse of women in the world.

Oh wait.

Bros before

May 30th, 2016 5:07 pm | By

Paul Bettany ‏@Paul_Bettany May 28
known Johnny Depp for years and through several relationships. He’s the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man that I’ve ever known. Just saying.

Lawrence M. Krauss ‏@LKrauss1
@Paul_Bettany as another friend of Johnny’s I wanted to thank you for your brave and true statement. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.

Just saying.

The awesome God that he is

May 30th, 2016 4:20 pm | By

Hmm. She forgot to mention something.

Erdoğan tells women what they’re there for

May 30th, 2016 11:52 am | By

Erdoğan spoke up today for the benefits of overpopulation.

He is quoted here as saying:

We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, the President said he believed that:

A woman is above all else a mother.

In a speech peppered with quotes from from the Koran on the virtues of motherhood, he stressed that women cannot be freed:

By destroying the notion of family.

It’s a win-win, you see. More submitters for the religion, and fewer rights for women.

While urging his compatriots to protect the family, the President also insisted that:

Women are not equal to men. Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.

He said he believes women and men are not equal “because it goes against the laws of nature” and because of differences in their “characters, habits and physiques.”

“You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men,” Erdogan said, because women cannot do the same work as men “as in communist regimes,” where women are given a shovel and told what to do.

This is against their delicate nature.

Sure. They’re delicate flowers, plus they’re stupid, so nursing a baby is really all they can do, frankly.

What makes her worth that price?

May 30th, 2016 11:03 am | By

IS “fighters” are now apparently selling sex slaves on Facebook. As one does.

The woman is young, perhaps 18, with olive skin and dark bangs that droop onto her face. In the Facebook photo, she attempts to smile but doesn’t look at her photographer.

The caption mentions a single biographical fact: She is for sale.

“To all the bros thinking about buying a slave, this one is $8,000,” begins the May 20 Facebook posting, which was attributed to an Islamic State fighter who calls himself Abu Assad Almani. The same man posted a second image a few hours later, this one a pale young face with weepy red eyes.

“Another sabiyah [slave], also about $8,000,” the posting reads. “Yay, or nay?”

Facebook took the photos down within hours (within minutes would have been better) and it’s not clear whether the posts were marketing or commentary.

As the terrorist group comes under heightened pressure in Iraq and Syria, these female captives appear to be suffering, too — sold and traded by cash-strapped fighters, subjected to shortages of food and medicine, and put at risk daily by military strikes, according to terrorism experts and human rights groups.

You don’t say. There we were thinking they were living a life of luxury, doing voluntary “sex work” among the theocrats.

Social-media sites used by ­Islamic State fighters in recent months have included numerous accounts of the buying and selling of sex slaves, as well the promulgation of formal rules for dealing with them. The guidelines cover such topics as whether it’s possible to have sex with prepubescent prisoners — yes, the Islamic State’s legal experts say — and how severely a slave can be beaten.

Allah is merciful.

In displaying the images of the women, Almani advised his Facebook friends to “get married” and “come to dawlah,” or the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria. Then he engaged with different commenters in an extensive discussion about whether the $8,000 asking price was a good value. Some who replied to the postings mocked the women’s looks, while others scolded Almani for posting photos of women who weren’t wearing the veil.

“What makes her worth that price? Does she have an exceptional skill?” one of his correspondents asks about woman in the second photo.

Right? How much is a hole really worth, when you think about it? The hole should at least be able to make a great dinner out of minimal ingredients.

The Facebook incident comes amid complaints from human rights groups about waning public interest in the plight of women held as prisoners by the Islamic State. The organization Human Rights Watch, citing estimates by Kurdish officials in Iraq and Syria, says the terrorist group holds about 1,800 women and girls, just from the capture of Yazidi towns in the region. After initial denials, the Islamic State last year issued statements acknowledging the use of sex slaves and defending the practice as consistent with ancient Islamic traditions, provided that the women are non-Muslims captured in battle or members of Muslim sects that the terrorist group regards as apostates.

Of course. One is decent only to one’s own tribe; everyone else one is free to persecute. That’s the height of religious virtue.

Treated like an untouchable

May 30th, 2016 10:10 am | By

Speaking of menstruation…the Independent reports:

Teenage Nepalese girls from Sindhuli, 130 kilometres southeast from Kathmandu, took pictures to document the restrictions imposed upon them during their periods as part of a campaign by charity WaterAid, challenging taboos and improving female sanitation.

Every month in Nepal, the girls are separated from their families, forbidden [to look] at the sun, touch fruit and flowers and even stay in their own homes.  In Nepal girls during their periods are considered to be ‘impure’ or ‘contaminated’.

The tradition is called Chhaupadi, popular in  western-nepalese hindu communities; it is common for girls to remain excluded from interaction with the family for up to 6-10 days, childbirth can also result in a 10 day exclusion.

The Supreme Court outlawed Chhaupadi in 2005, but of course it continues anyway.

Manisha, 14, who took part in the project explained the limitations put on her during her when she began her first period: “I stayed at someone else’s house during my first period. I wasn’t allowed to go to school and, on top of that, I wasn’t allowed to even read a book. It was a wrong belief that we shouldn’t study during menstruation.”

I hope someone at The Establishment reads this story.

Barbara Frost, WaterAid’s chief executive shared the charities motivations to conduct the project:  “The silence and stigma that surround menstruation impinges on girls’ everyday lives. Furthermore, when there are no safe, private toilets in schools, girls often skip school during their period, or drop out of school altogether once they reach adolescence. With nowhere hygienic to clean sanitary pads or wash, women and girls also risk infection”

“Being able to deal with periods in a hygienic and dignified way is crucial to women’s wellbeing. It helps women feel that they are able to play a full role in society, no matter what time of the month.”

Being able to deal with periods in a hygienic and dignified way means being able to do so in private but not in seclusion. There’s a difference. The difference of course is in who gets to decide: it has to be the girl / woman who decides.


Sushma Diyali,15: “This is the girl’s toilet of our school. We are in urgent need of MHM friendly toilet. The one we use doesn’t lock properly. If someone is inside, other person has to wait outside pushing the door for her. Because of lack of latrines in our school, we have to wait in the long line. This is very problematic for us and we are need of more girls’ friendly latrines.” (WaterAid)


Bandana Khadka, 15:  “This is my mother and sister in the picture. Here, my mother is feeding my sister with so much of love. Mother loves me very much as well. However, during my menstruation cycle I am kept separately and have to eat at distance. When nobody touches me, I feel unloved. We need lots of love and support during our menstruation but, when I am separated and treated like an untouchable I feel no love from my mother and father and I feel only hatred. I feel sad being treated that way.” (WaterAid)

This project was part of a Uk aid programme WaterAid are running across Nepal, to improve girls’ ability to manage their periods. For more information

A kind of routine violence was normalized by johns

May 29th, 2016 5:10 pm | By

A couple of weeks ago Meghan Murphy did a detailed examination of Emily Bazelon’s NY Times article on prostitution.

Over the weekend, Emily Bazelon, a staff writer at the New York Times, published an article called“Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” What she didn’t say was that she had already answered her own question, and that she chose to distort (or outright ignore) facts and interviews in order to push a narrative in support of full decriminalization, under the guise of neutral reporting.

Her bias becomes clear early on to anyone who is familiar with the politically loaded term, “sex work,” which she adopts uncritically, claiming this is “the term activists prefer.” While Bazelon admits that most of those who speak publicly as “sex workers” are white and very privileged in comparison to most women in the industry, she doesn’t challenge the language.

So that’s weird, isn’t it. It’s a bit like taking upper management’s view of working conditions as definitive and ignoring what the people on the factory floor have to say about it.

While Bazelon centered her piece around the perspectives of those who support a legalized sex industry, she intentionally left out stories of survivors who would have disrupted the chosen narrative for her story. A woman named Sabrinna Valisce who was involved in the sex trade in New Zealand on and off for many years, both before and after decriminalization, told me she spoke with Bazelon for the piece, but that her interview was cut. Valisce was a volunteer with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) until about two years ago and had advocated for full decriminalization until she experienced its results firsthand.

While the Prostitution Reform Act was meant to make the industry safer for women in it and enforce safe sex practices, it’s done the opposite, Valisce says. Women were suddenly expected to engage in “passionate” kissing and oral sex without protection (called “NBJ” or “Natural Blow Job”) — things that had previously been viewed as “a betrayal of the sisterhood” and internally policed by the prostituted women themselves. “All that has gone by the wayside [due to] high competition and lowered rates,” Valisce says. “Girls are also now expected to let men cum as many times as they can within the booked time. It was never that way before. They paid once and received one service.” Under decriminalization, Valisce’s efforts to institute exiting programs were rejected full out.

Not only that, but a kind of routine violence was normalized by johns. “I’m not talking about punching and beating… [though this still does happen] I’m talking more about the everyday violence of gagging, throttling, spanking, hair pulling, rough handling, and hard pounding.” Valisce says there has been a notable rise in men’s sense of entitlement and a normalization of abuse since the new law came into effect.

Well after all…it’s legal…

When I spoke to her over Skype, Valisce said she had told Bazelon that she had worked alongside trafficked women post-decriminalization. Trafficking was hard to track, as it had been rebranded as“sex worker recruitment,” but it still went on. Nonetheless, Bazelon reported that “the New Zealand government has found no evidence that sex workers are being trafficked,” and left it at that. Bazelon’s desire to paint a rosy picture of decriminalization in New Zealand seems to have led her to expunge Valisce’s testimony from the record, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that she was the only person Bazelon interviewed who had worked under decriminalization in New Zealand.

“The things she’s said about decriminalization in New Zealand are absolute falsehood,” Valisce said.

Everything Valisce told me, she also told Bazelon. Which makes her statements about New Zealand and the benefits of decriminalization all the more shocking, and Bazelon’s choice to leave Valisce’s testimony out of the story all the more telling.

That’s just a small sample; it’s an excellent critique.

He’ll give us something to cry about

May 29th, 2016 12:06 pm | By

Ricky Gervais is so thoughtful and wise and empathetic.

People offended by the “C word” would hear it a lot less if they didn’t go around acting like such cunts.

Isn’t that just the truth?

Similarly people offended by the “N word” would hear it a lot less if they didn’t go around acting like such niggers, right? People offended by the “F word” would hear it a lot less if they didn’t go around acting like such faggots? People offended by the “K word” would hear it a lot less if they didn’t go around acting like such kikes? And so on?

That tweet of his has 8.4 thousand likes.

Hey I have an idea! Trump should totally get Ricky Gervais to be his running mate. You have to be a US citizen to run for office, but what the hell, billionaires can do what they like, and Gervais would be perfect – if one bully is good two bullies must be even better.

That tweet is such classic bully-thinking – if you don’t want me to bully you, you shouldn’t be the kind of person I like to bully. I would bully you a lot less if you didn’t go around acting like someone I don’t like. It’s your fault that I bully you, because you’re such a loser and I’m so fabulous.

Why are people like that so popular?


May 29th, 2016 11:23 am | By

I’m upset this morning because of something that happened at the Cincinnati Zoo yesterday.

After a 4-year-old boy slipped into the gorilla enclosure on a crowded day at the Cincinnati Zoo, a security team killed the gorilla to save the child.

The zoo said in a statement that the boy “fell into the exhibit’s moat.” A male Western Lowland gorilla was in the yard with the child – and “the Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team responded to the life-threatening situation and made the difficult decision to dispatch the gorilla (Harambe).”

Harambe was agitated and aggressive and injuring the child, so the zoo had no real choice. But it makes me livid and sad. The adults who let the child fall into the moat got that gorilla killed.

His family will miss him.

In 1986 a five-year-old boy fell into the gorilla exhibit at Jersey Zoo. That outcome was better.

“Machismo kills” and “No means no”

May 29th, 2016 10:16 am | By

A gang-rape in Brazil has caused outrage.

Brazilians reacted with shock after the May 21 assault came to light last week. Graphic photos and videos of the unconscious, naked teenager were posted on Twitter, and several men joked online about the attack.

Of course they did. Women are a joke, girls are a joke, rape is a joke, the degradation of women and girls via rape and social media is the most hilarious joke ever.

The authorities said the teenager had been raped in the São João shantytown on the west side of Rio de Janeiro as she was visiting her boyfriend, The Associated Press reported. The girl told the police that she was briefly alone with him but remembered nothing until she woke up naked the next day in another building among dozens of men who had guns.

The case has rocked Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation, and highlighted its deep-rooted problem of violence against women.

Unlike other countries that have no such problem, for example…

…no, I don’t know of any.

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Rio on Friday night with signs that said “Machismo kills” and “No means no,” Agence France-Presse reported. In São Paulo, protesters made a mural with messages that included “I like to wear necklines, that’s not an invitation to rape me.”

The girl, in brief comments to the O Globo newspaper, said: “It’s the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying: ‘It’s her fault. She was using scanty clothes.’ I want people to know that it is not the woman’s fault. You can’t blame a robbery victim for being robbed.”

And yet people keep doing exactly that.


Public platforms aren’t places for chats between pals

May 29th, 2016 10:04 am | By

Beatrix Campbell on Facebook a couple of days ago – it’s a public post and some people don’t want to mess with Facebook so I’m just going to share the whole thing here.

Morning people, here’s my reply to my old friend Jacqueline Rose on transgender and no platforming in the London Review of Books:

‘I am pretty sure that, were I transsexual, I wouldn’t want [Germaine] Greer on any platform of mine,’ Jacqueline Rose writes (LRB, 5 May). But she isn’t transsexual and public platforms don’t belong to her, or to transsexuals or to anyone else: they belong to the collective we – the public. Public platforms aren’t places for chats between pals. They exist in a forum where we, the public, get to hear people, be in their presence, listen, learn, call them to account; a forum where we get to join in public conversation, where we do politics.

Rose understands that of course, and she states her position: ‘I tend to be opposed to no-platforming.’ But she sets Greer up as the demonic person who goes too far, who breaches Rose’s own tendency and warrants banishment. Greer is an easy target. Her opinions on transgender issues are described as ‘hateful’. ‘Hate’ and ‘phobia’ are part of the hyperbolic lexicon of trans debates. Another pioneering feminist activist, Julie Bindel, has been declared ‘vile’ and no-platformed in resolutions affirming trans rights passed by conferences of the National Union of Students. Bindel is cheeky, irreverent and occasionally offensive. She is also an adroit campaigner for justice for the most marginalised and maligned women. But the NUS does not allow students to hear her in person, or to be heard by her.

That is why the no-platforming of feminists in the name of trans sensibilities is so toxic: it not only silences some feminist voices and purges legitimate feminist discourse from some public platforms, it excludes students themselves from active participation, from challenging and changing their own and other people’s minds. I once invited an NUS women’s officer to debate that ban in public. No, she said. So, a feminist is consigned to the NUS proscribed list, along with neo-fascists.

More recently I suggested that one of Britain’s leading gay journals – I won’t name and shame – host a round-table. No, they said. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Are you frightened?’ Yes, they said. I suggested the same thing to an Oxbridge political journal. No, they didn’t think they would or could, they said, because university must be a safe space, like home. As if every home is safe! As if debate is dangerous.

I should declare an interest: Jacqueline and I are old friends, we have enjoyed agreeing and disagreeing with each other for years. But I find myself foxed: why in 15,000 words is Greer’s purported hatefulness flagged, but not the bullying that flays feminism? The sexual revolution wrought by feminist and gay activism has, of course, changed the political landscape in which trans lives can be lived. It co-exists with the commodification of gender archetypes and the reinstatement of seemingly polarised and parodic masculinities and femininities. All of this can be aired in feminist forums and, say, Mumsnet, but not in trans/feminist discourse in the NUS.

As I write, up pops the following notification from ‘youngradfems’:

Unfortunately we’ve had to take down the post ‘how I became a cis-privileged shitlord’ because the author was scared of being outed as a DISGUSTING TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] BITCH if her fellow students found out about her radical feminist views. Yet another example of radical feminist young women being bullied into silence.

The NUS impulse to no-platform feminists who problematise transsexualism or prostitution, who attract the abusive designation ‘transphobic’ and ‘whorephobic’ (they often go together), has migrated to other venues and organisations.

In February 2015 Deborah Cameron and I gathered more than 130 signatures to a letter published in the Observer opposing no-platforming and the stifling of debate. Rose was not one of them. It was provoked by the Bindel ban, new purges, and threats to feminist students and to the comedian Kate Smurthwaite at Goldsmiths (she has expressed support for the ‘Nordic model’ – criminalising the purchase of sex); it also referred to the Germaine Greer kerfuffle, and the ugly harassment of the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read. He’d written a philosophical essay on transgender and feminist issues in 2013 but two years later he was subjected to a public thrashing. People threatened to picket his election appearances as a Green Party candidate. ‘There are few things more conservative,’ Sarah Brown, a transgender former LibDem councillor in Cambridge, wrote about Read, ‘than the view that trans people are dirty perverts who shouldn’t be indulged in our supposed delusion, that sex workers are wanton harlots who are certainly to be discouraged, and that masturbation is some kind of social ill that needs eradicating.’

Read, of course, held no such opinions. But that didn’t matter. Following relentless attacks on social media, including death threats, and with the Green Party itself thoroughly spooked, Read had to ‘retract’ things that he had never said in the first place. Brown, a leading trans activist, had form, a talent for spite. In a public riposte to a fellow Cambridge councillor, she wrote: ‘I invite you to suck my formaldehyde pickled balls.’ This field is bloodied with ‘hatefulness’.

Our ‘no to no-platforming’ Observer letter said: ‘You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.’ The signatories included scholars and activists, transsexuals, people for and against prostitution united by commitment to democratic debate and opposition to no-platforming.

One of the signatories was Mary Beard. She – like Deborah and I – didn’t know what all the signatories thought about the contested issues, but the day after the letter appeared she wrote on her blog that they included ‘many I am proud to be next to: Nimko Ali, Peter Tatchell, Lisa Appignanesi, Melissa Benn, Caroline Criado-Perez, Catherine Hall, Gia Milinovich, Sophie Scott, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, and loads more. Hardly the forces of gender darkness, unless you are a real reactionary.’ Yet, she continued,

since the letter was posted on the Guardian website … I have been bombard[ed] by tweets … I got sixty tweets in the space of about an hour from one person alone … Last night I went to bed wanting to weep … It wasn’t the force of any remark, it was the relentless pummelling of attack on the basis of extraordinary loaded, sometimes quite wrong, readings of the letter … You can see why a lot of women (and there is a gender issue here) might choose not to put their heads above the parapet.

Peter Tatchell was also bombarded – all the more galling for him because he is a strong advocate of trans people and sex workers. Many responses, he wrote, ‘were hateful and abusive: homo, foreigner, misogynist, paedophile, nutter and so on. Others were threatening: “I would like to tweet about your murder you f*cking parasite.”’ The pioneering trans campaigner Stephen Whittle blogged: ‘I was astonished to discover that those social justice campaigners, Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard, among others, had become the latest attack of the twittering trans-sirens.’ Was this ‘vicious streak’, he wondered, the ‘death of the inclusive, tolerant trans community’? The answer seems to be yes.

Sara Ahmed, professor in race and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, is adamant: ‘There cannot be a dialogue when some at the table are in effect or intent arguing for the elimination of others at the table.’ But speaking is not the same as pointing a gun, as Whittle reminds us. Ahmed organised a group response to our Observer letter, published in the paper a week later: ‘We do not agree that freedom of speech is freedom to speak unaccountably.’ But NUS no-platforming does, precisely, prevent speaking accountably: it not only proscribes speech but students’ active participation – in hearing and, crucially, being heard.

Feminism is nothing if not a politics that problematises gender and the construction of masculinities and femininities; it is bound to get into ‘gender trouble’. Who knows whether ‘What is a woman?’ is a feminist question or a patriarchal conundrum? Transsexuals, including Kate Bornstein and Miranda Yardley, for example, have put these questions on the trans agenda.

If feminism can’t make gender trouble then it can’t talk about anything, indeed it is silenced by Ahmed’s authoritarian notion of ‘dialogue’: language loses meaning and politics is shot.

Beatrix Campbell
Beverley, East Riding