The law is magic

Dec 29th, 2020 1:11 pm | By

A tedious conversation:

Hahahaha right the law is magic and changes men into women when they say the magic words.

This “movement” has been hell on people’s thinking skills.



A sop for the bullies

Dec 29th, 2020 12:11 pm | By

The really scary thing is the abject apology Jessica Cluess felt compelled to give.

Well, I tell you what, if she does learn more about “Ms. Germán’s important work with #DisruptTexts” she won’t be impressed. She probably knew that when she said it. She was either appeasing the bullies or mocking them, or perhaps both at once.

Having just read a bit of Ms. Germán’s important work I can report that it has no value. She’s not literate enough to do that kind of work; she’s not sufficiently interested in literature to do it. She’s the wrong person for the job.

The reality is there are already teachers reading against the grain, encouraging students to think critically about what they’re reading, and the like. I have no idea how general that kind of teaching is, but I know it’s not completely absent, because scholars of education have been writing about it for decades.



His plays harbor problematic depictions and characterizations

Dec 29th, 2020 11:33 am | By

The Lorena Germán – Jess Cluess contretemps has nudged my curiosity, so I looked for more.

Way back last July:

Oy. You mean, like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton? For example?

Fast forward to today and she’s being bullied in the usual fashion.

So how about this DisruptTexts crew of educators?

Here’s Lorena Germán on how (and why) to disrupt Shakespeare.

We knew that suggesting educators disrupt Shakespeare would be a challenge for many. We were pleased to see the openness to the idea and the willingness to engage. But then again, it could be because we’re “preaching to the choir” and we acknowledge that educators hesitant to challenging thinking around the use of Shakespeare in our schools chose not to engage. The chat surfaced some valid points and great thoughts around the reasons for replacing and/or critically interrogating Shakespeare. Here are some of our thoughts around Shakespeare and his pedestal:

We believe in offering students a wide variety of literature and access to playwrights other than Shakespeare. That is valuable, restorative, and productive.

No kidding. Do any schools say Shakespeare and only Shakespeare should be on offer? University students who major in English literature will take one or more Shakespeare course(s), but primary and secondary schools mostly don’t specialize that way.

We believe that Shakespeare, like any other playwright, no more and no less, has literary merit. He is not “universal” in a way that other authors are not. He is not more “timeless” than anyone else.

Nope. Wrong. Wrong in the “no more” part. He does have more “literary merit” than most. You’d have to read him and/or see him on stage/film to see how and why though. It’s not a myth; he really is as good as he’s cracked up to be. This is all the more interesting because he came from such an unremarkable background. He wasn’t an earl or even a knight, he wasn’t rich, he didn’t go to Cambridge or Oxford, he started out as a player (an actor), who had to go on the road when plays were banned in London because of the plague (sound familiar?), which was considered very raffish and low-class indeed.

We believe he was a man of his time and that his plays harbor problematic depictions and characterizations.

That “harbor” is sly – as if he were hiding a fugitive Nazi in his basement. Anyway – Othello? Shylock? They’re not as straightforwardly “problematic” as you’d expect from a 16th century country boy. And then there’s the women question, on which he is startlingly original and different from his rivals.

Overall, we continue to affirm that there is an over-saturation of Shakespeare in our schools and that many teachers continue to unnecessarily place him on a pedestal as a paragon of what all language should be. Though we enjoy reading some of the plots in his plays and acknowledge the depth and complexity within many of his plot arcs and characters, we also find that educators are often taught to see Shakespearean plays as near perfection, his characters as “archetypes”, and to persist in oj indoctrinating students into a false notion of the primacy (and superiority) of the English language.

Oh we enjoy some of his plots; how generous. That passage is illiterate and stupid, and this group should not be allowed anywhere near any curriculum decisions.

We do not see these same problematic approaches in other plays where whiteness and the male voice are not centered…So, let us be honest, the conversation really isn’t about universality, nor and this isn’t about being equipped to identify all possible cultural references. This is about an ingrained and internalized elevation of Shakespeare in a way that excludes other voices. This is about white supremacy and colonization.

I’m not persuaded. You know why? Her words are not up to the job. Language is a vital tool for persuasion, in fact it’s pretty much impossible to persuade without it, unless you consider a fist under the nose “persuasion.” Exposure to rich, complicated language just might be a path to important fields of learning and work.



Purging and propagandizing

Dec 29th, 2020 10:25 am | By

From the Wall Street Journal:

A sustained effort is under way to deny children access to literature. Under the slogan #DisruptTexts, critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts—everything from Homer to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss.

Their ethos holds that children shouldn’t have to read stories written in anything other than the present-day vernacular—especially those “in which racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm,” as young-adult novelist Padma Venkatraman writes in School Library Journal. No author is valuable enough to spare, Ms. Venkatraman instructs: “Absolving Shakespeare of responsibility by mentioning that he lived at a time when hate-ridden sentiments prevailed, risks sending a subliminal message that academic excellence outweighs hateful rhetoric.”

Now just a god damn minute. The reason Shakespeare shouldn’t be dumped into the bin labeled “Evil Hate-monger From the Past” and forgotten is nothing to do with “academic excellence.” Fun fact: he wasn’t considered an elite taste in his own day, but rather one of those vulgar players, who wrote some of their vulgar plays himself. Gabriel Harvey pointed out as a matter of surprise that he appealed to both classes, but Ben Jonson considered him much too pop and too little erudite…until he sat down to read the First Folio in preparation for writing an introductory poem. The reason Shakespeare shouldn’t be dumped is because many of his plays are simply brilliant. Ignoring him would be like going to the Grand Canyon and carefully staying in the car the whole time, looking in the opposite direction.

Outsiders got a glimpse of the intensity of the #DisruptTexts campaign recently when self-described “antiracist teacher” Lorena Germán complained that many classics were written more than 70 years ago: “Think of US society before then & the values that shaped this nation afterwards. THAT is what is in those books.”

Mmyes, good point. Everything written before 1950 is evil shit. Definitely.

Jessica Cluess, an author of young-adult fiction, shot back: “If you think Hawthorne was on the side of the judgmental Puritans . . . then you are an absolute idiot and should not have the title of educator in your twitter bio.”

An online horde descended, accused Ms. Cluess of racism and “violence,” and demanded that Penguin Random House cancel her contract. The publisher hasn’t complied, perhaps because Ms. Cluess tweeted a ritual self-denunciation: “I take full responsibility for my unprovoked anger toward Lorena Germán. . . . I am committed to learning more about Ms. Germán’s important work with #DisruptTexts. . . . I will strive to do better.” That didn’t stop Ms. Cluess’s literary agent, Brooks Sherman, from denouncing her “racist and unacceptable” opinions and terminating their professional relationship.

The demands for censorship appear to be getting results. “Be like Odysseus and embrace the long haul to liberation (and then take the Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash),” tweeted Shea Martin in June. “Hahaha,” replied Heather Levine, an English teacher at Lawrence (Mass.) High School. “Very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!” When I contacted Ms. Levine to confirm this, she replied that she found the inquiry “invasive.” The English Department chairman of Lawrence Public Schools, Richard Gorham, didn’t respond to emails.

What about keeping the Odyssey in your curriculum and including the “we wouldn’t do that now” stuff in the discussion? It does of course have a lot of such stuff, because it’s about war and warriors and the domestic life of warriors, many centuries before the Geneva Convention and the UDHR and feminism. It features slaves, and war crimes, and mass murder. It’s a harsh world. But it’s worth reading.



The value of community

Dec 29th, 2020 9:44 am | By

Small backwater towns are not all Frank Capra and social capital. They can be all MAGA and fuck wearing masks, instead.

Ten years ago, Dr. Kristina Darnauer and her husband, Jeff, moved to tiny Sterling, Kan., to raise their kids steeped in small-town values.

“The values of hard work, the value of community, taking care of your neighbor, that’s what small towns shout from the rooftops, this is what we’re good at. We are salt of the earth people who care about each other,” Darnauer says. “And here I am saying, then wear a mask because that protects your precious neighbor.”

But Darnauer’s medical advice and moral admonition were met with contempt from some of her friends, neighbors and patients. People who had routinely buttonholed her for quick medical advice at church and kids’ ballgames were suddenly treating her as the enemy and regarding her professional opinion as suspect and offensive.

Because somehow medical science and reliance on evidence and listening to expert advice became a matter of politics instead of a matter of the right tools for the job. It makes about as much sense as deciding that calling a plumber when a pipe breaks is something liberals do, while conservatives prefer to let it fix itself.

That wedge is splitting off health care workers from communities that desperately need them.

More than a quarter of all the public health administrators in Kansas quit, retired or got fired this year, according to Vicki Collie-Akers, an associate professor of population health at the University of Kansas. Some of them got death threats. Some had to hire armed guards.

“These are leaders in their community,” Collie-Akers says. “And they are leaving broken.” Collie-Akers notes these professionals also leaving at a terrible time. The pandemic is still raging. Vaccines still need to get from cities to small towns and into people’s arms; public health officers are as important as ever.

Also it’s going to be hard to replace the people who are leaving, because the situation remains what it is.



It’s Mock the Lesbians Day!

Dec 29th, 2020 8:50 am | By

The Gender Studies professor strikes again.

Hur hur. So funny. Lesbians are not endangered! Yes, there are a lot fewer of them in the rising generation but that’s because they’re glorious inspiring trans men instead! Which is obviously so much better! So let’s laugh ourselves sick at the very idea that fewer lesbians means fewer lesbians.



In whatever terms

Dec 28th, 2020 4:34 pm | By

This is a Labour MP.

But that’s not true. Everyone isn’t free to define herself in whatever terms she deems fit. I’m not free to define myself as Charlotte Nichols MP, for instance. Many many kinds of defining oneself as something or someone one is not are criminal fraud, while others are reckless endangerment, and others are rape, and we could go on this way. We’re not free to tell lies about ourselves if anything hangs on those lies. If it’s just play or fantasy or a game, sure, but that’s not what Nichols is talking about, nor is it what the LGB Alliance is talking about.

Would Nichols say the same thing if it were a white guy identifying as Keith Vaz? I don’t think so.

Presumably that’s not what she meant, but then what did she mean? What is this supposed truism that we can all identify any way we like? I wonder if they will ever start to notice that they’ve created their own reductio ad absurdum.



Your concern for lesbian visibility

Dec 28th, 2020 12:43 pm | By

The conversation seemed to start well.

But it didn’t go on well.

…”you drawing the lines of who gets to be one” – well if there are no such lines then what are we even talking about? What even is a lesbian?

This is laughably basic but apparently not everyone gets it – the reality is we can’t talk about anything if we don’t have common meanings for the words we use to talk about things. One broad hint at this state of affairs is that we can’t go prancing all over the globe striking up conversations with everyone we encounter, because the world contains many different languages, and it takes time and effort to learn new ones.

The word “lesbian” has a meaning. Lesbians are women attracted to women. That’s it, that’s the meaning. It’s not an issue of who gets to be one, it’s an issue of who is one, who can be one. It’s not a country club that the members can hand out guest passes to, it’s a word with a specific narrow meaning. Some words have broad meanings, like “beautiful” for instance. There’s room for argument there, and people do argue over what is or isn’t beautiful. Are the Sainte Chapelle and the Chrysler building both beautiful or do you have to pick one? That kind of broad meaning. But “lesbian” isn’t like that. It isn’t evaluative, it’s just factual. Men can’t be lesbians, because that’s not what the word means.



Only the second ever

Dec 28th, 2020 11:23 am | By

The Glinner Update leads with one of those Women of the Year items.

Monday 21st December – Even A List Of Women Isn’t Just For Women

THE TIMES: The paper’s 50 Women of the Year list was published.

It included three males.

Imagine a 50 BAME or Black People of the Year that included three white people.

The first was Valentina Sampaio, a transgender model from Brazil who has posed for Victoria Secret and featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.

The second was High Court judge, Victoria McCloud, who transitioned in the late 1990s. In 2010 McCloud was hailed as only the second ever woman to become Queen’s Bench Master. Though, of course, he wasn’t.

Smile when you steal a women’s only the second ever.

The third trans-identified male on the list was Raquel Willis, a black trans rights activist and writer from the US. Willis is the Director of Communications for the Ms. Foundation, an organisation intended to amplify the voices of women and girls.

Amplify the voices of women and girls and a few men.



All shall have toilets

Dec 28th, 2020 11:00 am | By

South Oxfordshire is catching up.

A local authority will ensure all its buildings have a gender neutral toilet in a bid to help transgender people.

Will it also ensure that all its buildings have women’s toilets? Or is it going to create its “gender neutral” toilets by converting the women’s. Probably.

The council’s constitution, policies, forms and internal and external communications will also be gender-neutral.

Eh? What does that mean? What if a policy is about women? How can they make all forms “gender-neutral”? If they do that how, for instance, can they tell whether or not they’re failing to hire or promote women?

The motion also stated the council, which covers Henley, Didcot, Wallingford and Thame, respects that “trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary genders are just as valid”.

But the first is false, the second is false, and the third is meaningless.

This crap is embarrassing.



Vision for an intersectional

Dec 28th, 2020 10:40 am | By

Big news!

He’s proud to be the first man to be elected co-chair of Green Party Women.

Never mind, he has that winsome head-tilt, so what does it matter that he’s taking a woman’s position away from a woman.

Actual women can just go jump off a bridge, right?

Yeah, all women, dammit, including the ones who are men! About flipping time!



Don’t take away our NAME

Dec 28th, 2020 9:11 am | By

Don’t do that.

It’s not “people,” it’s not randomly assorted “people” who somehow found themselves pregnant, it’s not a wide-open set of people that we have no word for. It’s women. It’s the sex that has always been viewed as and treated as both inferior to and subordinate to men. If you can’t call them “women” then you lose sight of that systematic subordination, and the contempt and loathing that goes with it. It’s ethnic minority women that Harvard Med is talking about here. It knows that but…



Facing extinction

Dec 27th, 2020 5:35 pm | By

From The Telegraph:

Lesbians are facing “extinction” because of the “disproportionate” focus on transgenderism in schools, a controversial campaign group for gay rights has claimed.

The LGB Alliance, which has been branded a “trans hate group” by Pink News and other vocal critics, was set up in October 2019 amid concerns that Stonewall, the UK’s leading gay rights charity, had become too fixated on gender identity.

Its founders, Kate Harris and Bev Jackson, claim to have been “cancelled” for questioning gender identity theory and airing their concerns about the erosion of women’s rights in the face of the transgender movement.

Their detractors claim their refusal to include the ‘T’ in their LGB Alliance is transphobic…

But why should that be seen as transphobic? Why can’t there be a group that’s about lesbian, gay and bisexual people? Being trans is not the same thing; even if you think it’s closely related, you can’t think it’s just plain the same thing, so why does it have to be included every time anyone talks about lesbian and gay issues?

On Wednesday, Ofcom chief Melanie Dawes said it would be “entirely inappropriate” for the BBC to approach groups like the LGB Alliance to “balance” debates around trans issues after SNP MP John Nicolson, a homosexual, described them as “transphobic”.

Ok, I say Melanie Dawes and John Nicolson are transphobic; does that mean they have to be ignored and shunned too?

“If you do not accept that everyone has a gender identity then you are automatically labelled transphobic which means you can no longer discuss women’s lives and what’s happening to lesbians,” said Ms Jackson. “We are increasingly discovering that lesbians are no longer welcome in the LGBTQ+ world, which is astonishing.”

Ms Harris said: “We are both convinced, had we been growing up now, that we would have transitioned.”

Referring to her childhood as a tomboy, she added: “If I was in school today, I would be taken to one side and helped to come to terms with the fact that I was gender non-conforming. And how special would I feel? What child would turn down additional attention?”

Citing scientific studies which have found elevated rates of autism in transgender people, she said: “This is what drives us. We were recently talking to a teacher in a SEN [special educational needs] school who said there were 24 trans kids, one non binary, but no gays and lesbians.

“Is lesbianism going to become extinct? Yes. It’s deeply uncool. At school, in university, it is so uncommon, it is the bottom of the heap. Becoming trans is now considered the brave option.”

Well hey lesbians got maybe two weeks of being the brave option, so that’s enough, right?

Following accusations of being associated with “neo Nazis”, Ms Jackson said: “We have no connection whatsoever with any far right organisation, any religious right organisation”.

That came after its Just Giving and Go Fund Me pages were taken down following complaints by the SNP’s Mr Nicolson, who described the LGB Alliance as “a hate group which encourages the trolling of trans people and those who champion their rights”.

The MP for Ochil and South Perthshire is now campaigning for the organisation to be denied the charitable status it applied for in February.

He told the Telegraph The LGB Alliance had launched a “sinister campaign of abuse” against him, with supporters branding him a “paedophile” a “rape enabler” and a “misogynist” online after he questioned their motives.

But the Telegraph just got through saying he called them transphobic. He didn’t just innocently “question their motives,” he called them toxic names, names that get people systematically shunned and punished.

“No one is shutting it down,” he said. “It’s incredibly mouthy and loud and obstreperous and perfectly entitled to make the arguments it likes. What I object to is its demonising of trans people.

“I call the LGB Alliance sinister because it is. It’s milking the gullible for cash by claiming it is championing gay rights. Under no circumstances should they get charitable status. The Charity Commission should take one look at its abusive tweets.”

He seems like quite a bully.



This is how you be an ally, kids

Dec 27th, 2020 3:59 pm | By

I just had to ruin the rest of your day (or night if you’re 8 time zones east).



The specter of Karen persisted

Dec 27th, 2020 1:08 pm | By

Number 9473381 in the series “Why we really really need to call racist white women ‘Karens’.”

There was no direct connection between the “Central Park Karen” incident in New York City and the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, beyond the coincidence of timing.

But let’s plant the idea anyway.

The specter of Karen persisted as Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest spread around the country following Floyd’s murder and reckonings with racism began to roil institutions, toppling careers as well as statues. More than just an amusing meme, Karen allowed for a new kind of discourse about racism to gain credence in the US.

Actually it’s a very old kind of discourse: the misogynist kind.

“We as a culture have adopted this stance that white women are more virtuous and not complicit in upholding racism in particular,” said Apryl Williams, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan. “They just sort of go along with it, but they’re not conscious actors. The Karen meme says, no, they are conscious actors. These are deliberate actions. They are complicit. And I think that’s why it strikes a nerve with people.”

But the Karen meme also says women are bitches. That too is why it strikes a nerve with some people.

… Amy Cooper took on the mantle of an American archetype: the white woman who weaponizes her vulnerability to exact violence upon a Black man. In history, she is Carolyn Bryant, the adult white woman whose complaint about a 14-year-old Emmett Till led to his torture and murder at the hands of racist white adults. In literature, she is Scarlett O’Hara sending her husband out to join a KKK lynching party or Mayella Ewell testifying under oath that a Black man who had helped her had raped her. In 2020, she is simply Karen.

The Carolyn Bryant example gets cited a lot, but the interesting thing about that is that she didn’t torture and murder Emmett Till. Scarlett O’Hara and Mayella Ewell are of course characters in novels, so they can hardly provide evidence of real life actions by real women.

Of course there are racist white women, and of course some of them do racist things, but we can say that without this invidious “Becky/Karen/Goldilocks” thing. There are angry sexist violent black men, too, but we can talk about that without giving them a contemptuous nickname. These “memes” which are actually just contemptuous nicknames don’t make anything better.



Guest post: A patriarchal hierarchy of normative worth

Dec 27th, 2020 11:42 am | By

Originally a comment by Nullius in Verba on How things actually are in the world.

Shannon @ #20:

Let’s tackle these in reverse order.

3) Multi-gender social orders do not entail what you think they do. Whether we examine the Navajo or the Indian “genders”, what we find is not a system of biological classification, but instead a patriarchal hierarchy of normative worth stinking with misogyny and homophobia. The function of these systems is to exalt the masculine and crush the feminine. In those systems where the additional gender or genders are categories of male people, those genders are for males whose masculinity is perceived as deficient or corrupt in some way. Masculine deficiency can be such things as physical weakness, small genitals, or pacifism. Masculine corruption could be interest in dolls, an effeminate manner, or homosexuality. The “third gender” hijra is not a category of liberation; it is a way for a patriarchal society to protect their honor from the shame of having to admit the existence in their families of gay boys and gentle boys. It’s a way for a father to deny that one of his sons is a failure, because it is preferable to mark a son as a hijra than as a filthy faggot.

This analysis has far more explanatory power than the epistemologically relativist notion that these multi-gender cultures had/have some special insight that the rest of the world failed to grasp. It explains why homosexuality is illegal in Iran while the nation performs the second most transsexual surgeries in the world. It explains why women who resist bear the brunt of the venom from activists. It explains why so much of the justification for knowledge claims about “gender identity” derives from gendered—i.e., sexed—stereotypes regarding acceptable behavior and interests. It explains everything.

2) Complex question hiding false assumption: sex is not defined by genitalia, nor is it defined by brains. Sex is defined by the reproductive functions involved in sexual reproduction. There are two such functions, represented by two types of gamete. A creature’s sex refers to which of those gametes its body is configured to produce. Because such configuration is temporally unstable, we also include in each category (A) those whose bodies are no longer so configured (e.g., due to age, hysterectomy, etc.) and (B) those whose bodies are not yet so configured but eventually will be (e.g., due to youth). We also include (C) those who at any point fit into (B); e.g., a boy castrated at five. Group (C) naturally gives rise to including those whose sexual development goes awry, and so we also include (D) those with DSDs.

The concept is neither uncommon nor controversial. The overwhelming majority of temporally unstable categories behave in the same manner. My hair is black, and I remain black-haired even if I shave my head. Humans are bipedal, and so I remain even if my leg be amputated.

If your brain were removed from your body and placed in a vat where your consciousness survived, we would have to stretch our language in order to describe the situation. Natural language develops to describe situations that speakers encounter. No one has ever encountered the brain-in-a-vat scenario in reality, so we don’t have a way to comfortably describe it. This lack forces us to default to analogy. By analogy, if all that remains of your body is your brain, then you have had your legs amputated, and you are still a bipedal creature. By analogy, if all that remains of your body is your brain, then you have had your gonads removed, and you are still either male or female.

1) A word’s dictionary definition is often—nay, usually—not its complete or technical definition. Dictionaries provide definitions that capture general usage. Crucially, definitions of words for things in the world tend to be satisficing. That is, they are true of the things described. For example, Merriam-Webster provides this as sense 8 for its definition of C: “a structured language for creating computer programs that is designed to be compact and efficient”. This is certainly true of the programming language C. It is a structured language for creating computer programs, and it was designed to be compact and efficient. However, there are many structured languages for creating computer programs that were designed to be compact and efficient. These other languages are not C.

Similarly, “a group of organisms that share a genetic heritage, are able to interbreed, and to create offspring that are also fertile” is true of species, but there are also groups that fit this description that do not qualify as species; e.g., the set of all tigers and lions. Further, by this definition, any infertile organism cannot be a member of a species, because an infertile organism cannot create offspring.

Does this mean this is a bad definition? No! It is a good definition for its purpose: general, non-technical distillation of a complex concept.

What it does mean is that we are dishonest if, knowing how dictionary definitions function, we conclude from their imprecision anything about the things they describe. The plurality programming languages relative to the dictionary definition of C does not entail that computer science categories are fungible or mysterious. Neither does the “messiness” of biology relative to the dictionary definition of species entail that biological categories are fungible or mysterious.



Mental health

Dec 27th, 2020 11:38 am | By

Pandemics are not good for mental health.

The coronavirus crisis poses the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war, with the impact to be felt for years after the virus has been brought under control, the country’s leading psychiatrist has said.

Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a combination of the disease, its social consequences, and the economic fallout were having a profound effect on mental health that would continue long after the epidemic is reined in.

Bad things are happening and they’re making people anxious and sad.

Modelling by the Centre for Mental Health forecasts that as many as 10 million people will need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the coronavirus epidemic. About 1.3 million people who have not had mental health problems before are expected to need treatment for moderate to severe anxiety, and 1.8 million treatment for moderate to severe depression, it found.

Even surviving the damn thing can mess you up.

The threat to mental health has been used as an argument against lockdowns, but James said the mental health grounds for controlling the virus should not be ignored. Beyond the fear of becoming infected or having vulnerable loves ones fall ill, suffering severe disease can trigger mental health problems. About a fifth of people who received mechanical ventilation during the spring developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

I’m surprised it’s not more.



Objective evidence

Dec 27th, 2020 10:35 am | By

Legal feminist gets to the core of it, as good legal minds are so skilled at doing.

The question I find interesting here isn’t really a legal question. It is this: what is it that’s special about treatment with puberty blockers that makes the Tavistock think that parental consent isn’t good enough? If a child needs a vaccination to reduce the risk of a potentially serious childhood disease, parental consent is good enough. If a child needs a filling to deal with tooth decay, or an extraction to deal with an overcrowded mouth, the same. If a child needs surgery to pin a broken bone, the same again. 

I remember strongly dissenting to treatments of that kind as a small child, and failing to get my way. (I was terrified of shots as a child, to a degree that baffles me now. The “pain” is so small and brief that my horror then seems just weird. My best guess is that knowing the little owie is going to happen magnifies it out of all proportion in an undeveloped brain.)

Parental consent is good enough for most medical treatment because its necessity or desirability can be established by objective evidence. Tooth decay and broken bones can be seen with an x-ray; the risks of mumps, measles etc. (and the benefits of vaccination) are well-established by epidemiology. But if a child with the body of a girl says she is so sure that she is really a boy that she wants to be treated with puberty blockers to ensure that she doesn’t mature physically as a woman, there [is] no blood test, no visible symptom, no scan, no x-ray that can confirm her condition. How are parents, teachers, therapists and doctors to know whether she is truly trans (assuming for the purposes of argument that there is such a thing – or if even if there isn’t, at least so intractably dysphoric that radical body modification offers her the best hope of a flourishing life); or temporarily caught up in a teenage craze; or expressing distress in response to childhood abuse, homophobic bullying at school, or a traumatic bereavement or abandonment, or the pervasive sexism and misogyny of the society in which she is growing up?

Emphasis mine.

The whole thing is in the realm of saying, thinking, feeling, saying one thinks or feels. It’s all notional – it’s notional twice over, or even more.

The issue isn’t that that realm doesn’t matter, or that it’s trivial; of course it matters and of course it’s extremely far from trivial. Without it we might as well be bots. But mattering is one thing and being reliable evidence of a material condition is another.

One might think that these were the kinds of difficult questions with which clinicians would grapple earnestly before agreeing to set children on a path to medical transition and lifelong patienthood. What’s going on here? What are the causes of this child’s dysphoria? What are her chances of growing out of it with natural puberty? If treated, what are the chances that she will later regret the treatment? 

Also what do we mean by gender dysphoria? Is there really such a thing? Is it an idea created by people and made popular by social contagion? Is this child confusing the political or sociological or psychological with the biological? Might political involvement (i.e. feminism) or psychological investigation work better than physical intervention? There are a lot of relevant questions.

Astonishingly, one would be wrong. Even more astonishingly, it seems that the clinicians who have guided the development of the GIDS would not even regard these as valid questions. Bernadette Wren, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the GIDS until her retirement in 2020, posed herself these questions in a 2014 paper:   

Can ‘postmodern’ ideas about the non-fixity and instability of gender serve the perplexed clinician? Can we forego the grounding of our ideas in demonstrable certainties? Operating with a postmodern notion of gender, can the clinician justify irreversible physical intervention?

In other words is it copacetic to just make it all up? The answer of course is “Yeah pretty much.”

Alarming though this is, it does at least make perfect sense of the GIDS’ unwillingness to accept parental consent as a substitute for the young person’s consent when treating children or adolescents with puberty-blockers: to do so would be fundamentally at odds with the philosophical underpinnings of the service. Parental consent would be rendered acceptable by a firm evidence base for the treatment proposed. But puberty blockers are not provided because there is convincing clinical evidence that they are needed (or even likely) to alleviate distressing symptoms or effect a full or partial cure for a pathology: on the contrary, it is admitted that the evidence base for treatment is thin tending to non-existent. The conclusion to the 2014 article that “the meaning of trans rests on no demonstrable foundational truths” goes further, suggesting that even a search for such evidence would be misconceived.  Instead, treatment is provided because children and young people – who should be enabled to experience self-determining freedom, including the freedom to make their own mistakes – ask for it. 

Yes, including the freedom to ruin their own bodies at age 17, 16, 15.

It makes an alarming kind of sense of something else, too. The court in Bell repeatedly expressed surprise at the Tavistock’s inability to provide evidence about the effects and outcomes of treatment with puberty blockers, noting – in particular – at paragraphs 23 and 24 that it hadn’t been provided with the results of a research study started some nine years earlier at the Tavistock, which it had requested but been told was unavailable because one of its authors had yet to respond to issues raised in the peer review process. On the face of things, that was quite extraordinary: the study was centrally relevant to the matters discussed in the judicial review, and even if it was still going through the lengthy process of peer-review and hadn’t been finalised for publication, it undoubtedly existed in a near-final form which could have been provided to the court had the Tavistock chosen to provide it.  (It was finally published on the day the High Court’s judgment was handed down.)

But if the service was run by postmodernist-leaning clinicians who regarded “truth claims” with suspicion and saw their task not as relieving the suffering of patients with distressing pathologies, but instead as facilitating their young clients in the pursuit of identity projects, what use would they have for clinical evidence? 

That’s tragic in the obvious way (people left with ruined bodies) but also in a less obvious way, which is that “identity projects” are the last thing adolescents need. The best way to form an identity is to look away from the self and engage with the world instead. Dive into politics or science or the arts or engineering or conservation or climate issues or any of a thousand things. Don’t be like “Rachel” McKinnon/Veronica Ivy, be like Greta Thunberg or the young John Lewis.



People don’t want to hear it

Dec 26th, 2020 5:42 pm | By

Child poverty, we have it.

Even prior to the pandemic, the United States lagged other developed nations in child poverty levels. More than one out of every five American children lives in poverty, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data. As the pandemic continues to exacerbate the underlying crisis of American poverty, 45 percent of all children now live in households that have recently struggled with routine expenses, according to a report out this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP. Black and Latino households have been especially impacted by the economic starvation that the mishandling of this pandemic has wrought, and these populations were already disproportionately likely to grow up poor.

But we want it this way. It means people are forced to do whatever shit work we want done, for shit pay and no benefits. We get cheap chicken and they get evictions and hunger.

“We don’t want to be responsible for them. A very wise historian, Michael Katz, wrote that ‘poverty is the third rail of American politics.’ We don’t like to talk about poverty in America, and we don’t like to deal with it,” Jeff Madrick, a veteran journalist and author of Invisible Americans: The Tragic Cost of Childhood Poverty, told me. 

“And I’m including the Democrats here,” Katz continued. “Democrats hardly ever talked about child poverty until recently. And I include Hillary Clinton, in that she didn’t mention child poverty very much in her 2016 electoral campaign. The reason is not merely that they are insensitive, but they think it’s bad for electoral politics, because people don’t want to hear about it.”

And because they think it means “socialism” and they think socialism will electrocute you from 100 miles away.

That’s also why the Democrats always talk about “the middle class” and never ever the working class or the poor. It’s as if the words are vile obscenities.

The solutions to child poverty are not mysterious. Socialists, liberals, and leftists have long advocated for more generous benefits to families that would alleviate some of the financial burden many parents currently shoulder alone. Last year, Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project released “The Family Fun Pack,” a comprehensive family welfare plan that would dramatically supplement the immense costs of raising a family in the United States: material supplies and paid parental leave are paired with free pre-K, childcare, health care, and a $300 monthly allowance. “The easiest solution to the problems posed by family life under capitalism is to levy broad-based taxes and then use the revenues from those taxes to fund a set of benefits that provide resources to families with children,” Bruenig wrote.

Even more moderate Democrats have backed proposals that could radically reduce child poverty. On the campaign trail, Joe Biden endorsed expanding Section 8 housing vouchers to cover all families who qualify, which would effectively cut child poverty by a third. Kamala Harris’s LIFT the Middle Class Act would replace the Trump-era tax cuts with large tax credits to low- and middle-income households who work. 

See? That’s what I mean. Why is the act called that? Why lift the middle class? What about the people below the middle? Surely the people in the middle don’t need lifting nearly as much as the people on the fucking bottom.

Poverty is not some abstraction or a phenomen[on] only relevant during the holidays but rather a material consequence of deliberate policy choices. It would be possible for the government to make a serious effort to alleviate childhood poverty, but it’s a task far too big for Santa. 

Yes but socialism.



Street food

Dec 26th, 2020 4:41 pm | By

Archaeologists in Pompeii have found an ancient fast food shop.

Known as a termopolium, Latin for hot drinks counter, the shop was discovered in the archaeological park’s Regio V site, which is not yet open the public, and unveiled on Saturday.

Traces of nearly 2,000-year-old food were found in some of the deep terra cotta jars containing hot food which the shop keeper lowered into a counter with circular holes.

Like the big metal pots you have on steam tables now.

The front of the counter was decorated with brightly coloured frescoes, some depicting animals that were part of the ingredients in the food sold, such as a chicken and two ducks hanging upside down.

The golden arches of their time, but much more attractive.

Archaeologists also found a decorated bronze drinking bowl known as a patera, ceramic jars used for cooking stews and soups, wine flasks and amphora.

Archaeologists dig up Pompeii restaurant - Hartford Courant