Notes and Comment Blog

In loco parentis

Mar 11th, 2016 4:22 pm | By

The Independent has a story from Pakistan:

A 13-year-old girl in Pakistan was raped for three months by her school teacher and made pregnant.

The teenager, from the city of Larkana in southern Pakistan, suffered months of sexual abuse at the hands of the teacher while her family were also threatened to remain silent.

Muzafar Mirani, the schoolteacher at Government Primary School in Nauabad who has now pleaded guilty, reportedly at first placed pressure on the girl’s family to remain silent, along with his “supporters”.

He has powerful friends, while the girl’s family are poor.

That is privilege. The real thing, not the made up kind.

More intersecting

Mar 11th, 2016 11:40 am | By

Some background on the clash over intersections at the University of Cape Town, specifically on why UCT suspended Chumani Maxwele:

According to the university[,] on Mayday, Maxwele went into the Mathematics building after being informed that “as it was a public holiday, all lecture theatres and classrooms were locked. Once inside the building, and after ascertaining that the said rooms were in fact locked, he is alleged to have:

  • raised his voice at the lecturer (who was in the department to mark student papers), stating that she was “a white woman who takes all the rights of the black students”;
  • shouted aggressively that “the statue fell; now it’s time for all whites to go”;
  • stated that he was not interested in the opinion of whites and that they should be killed;
  • continuously shouted and swore at the lecturer and two other witnesses to the incident;
  • started banging on the lecturer’s office door (after she had entered the office and locked her door) and when the lecturer opened the door, to have pushed her in his attempt to enter;
  • continued to shout and scream at her and bang on her desk; and
  • uttered the words: “We must not listen to whites, we do not need their apologies, they have to be removed from UCT and have to be killed.”

Witnesses apparently backed up this version of events, while none supported Maxwele’s, which was published by the Cape Times on the 12 of May.

The UCT Trans Collective has a Facebook page where it explains things.

Intersectionality in Cape Town

Mar 11th, 2016 8:03 am | By

This is a tragic story of intersections tangling instead of smoothly and lovingly intersecting.

The Rhodes Must Fall Exhibition, “Echoing Voices from Within” was disrupted yesterday by members of the University of Cape Town’s Trans Collective, a student led organisation that prioritises the rights of transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex students at the University of Cape Town.

That’s the trouble with the trans activism branch of intersectionalism right now, isn’t it – that it prioritizes its own rights instead of promoting or defending or raising awareness of them. In other words, it’s the opposite of intersectional: it says Put Us First. As it did here, by disrupting an anti-colonialist exhibition for the sake of it’s not clear what exactly.

Students smeared photographs with red paint and blocked the entrances to the Centre for African Studies Gallery with their painted naked bodies. The exhibition was shut down.

For not being about trans issues, apparently. But that’s not very intersectional, is it.

Whether the exhibition will be reinstated is still under discussion, as certain photographs have been removed, while others have been covered in red paint.

Curator of the Centre for African Studies Gallery Paul Weinberg asks a member of the Trans Collective to stop the disruption. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

In a statement released a short while ago, the Trans Collective stated that its “role has now evolved into speaking back to RMF and keeping it accountable to its commitment to intersectionality precisely because it is positioned as a black decolonial space.”

So commitment to intersectionality means black decolonizers have to “center” trans issues? It means they can’t talk about their own issue but have to talk about trans issues instead? I’m not seeing the intersection. I’m just seeing one big highway.

Trans Collective complained that only three out of more than 1,000 images that ended up making it onto the exhibition roll featured a trans person’s face.




How on earth could they know that?

Reasonable people know better than to take all assertions on faith

Mar 10th, 2016 5:56 pm | By

Miranda Yardley wrote a piece about the problems with what she calls transgender ideology the other day. It’s a list of “some of the things the things that transgender ideology needs to do so that it may support the lives of women.”

  1. Accept that feminism and other women’s movements do not and should not centre transgender people. At the moment, trans is dominating the discussions, even causing huge ideological rifts, within feminism, yet here in the UK today’s news (22 June) reports hospital statistics showing 632 new cases of Female Genital Mutilation in the West Midlands (apparently girls “are brought to Birmingham to be cut”) from September 2014 to March 2015.

That first item on the list all by itself would do a lot to end the ideological rifts. Have you noticed how no other political movement is expected to do this – to stop talking about its own issues and talk about other people’s instead? Have you noticed that it’s only women who are told to do that? And many women nod enthusiastically and do just that.

Of course seeing it that way relies on thinking that trans women aren’t women in exactly the same way that women are women. The ideology, on the other hand, is that trans women are women in exactly the same way that women are women, and that it’s the worst possible thing not to agree. But then if trans women are women in exactly the same way that women are women, then what does it mean to say feminism should center trans women? This gets us to Miranda’s second item:

2. Accept that innate gender identity is based on ideas with such a tenuous link to observed science it is barely a conjecture. The transgender claim to womanhood (or manhood) is completely dependent on this concept of an innate gender identity, and taking this away strips the movement of its cloak of being a civil rights movement, championing the fight of an oppressed minority, and instead reveals this to be the cross-dressing wolf of men’s rights activism, huffing and puffing at feminism and women.

It also relies on self-description, in other words on bare assertion. That’s a problem. Reasonable people know better than to take all assertions on faith. Reasonable people understand that mere statements are not automatically true just because someone makes them. It’s very far from clear to me why that commonplace and very useful understanding is set aside in the case of “self-identification” by self-declared trans people, very especially trans women. (It’s funny how comparatively quiet trans men are, isn’t it? Or maybe it isn’t, maybe it’s more that it’s completely unsurprising and predictable. Women aren’t raised to think they get to demand all the oxygen in the room.) The idea is that “trans women are women,” end of – but at the same time it’s not that any random schmuck gets to say “I’m a woman” and that’s that. No no – it has to be a trans women. It would be very wrong for a cis man to say “I’m a woman.” But how do they know? How do they know which ones are just saying it and which ones are trans? Or, how do they know that all the ones saying it are in fact trans?

I can’t for the life of me figure that out, and no one has explained it to me.

These two items in conjunction are causing a lot of dissension. It would be nice if we could have reasoned discussions about them, but we can’t, at least not yet.

Dress reform

Mar 10th, 2016 11:23 am | By

Glosswitch writes about school uniforms and stereotype threat and the trousers of power.

There’s a group in the UK, Trousers for All, that campaigns to allow girls to wear trousers as part of their school uniform.

As is the case with so many seemingly trivial points of differentiation between men and women, what matters is not the thing in itself, but what it signifies. If the right to wear trousers had no broader meaning, women would not have had to fight for it, but fight for it they have. Trousers are associated with male privilege and dominance (hence the question “who wears the trousers?”). Female politicians were not permitted to wear them on the US Senate floor until 1993. It was 2013 before an (ultimately rarely used) bylaw requiring women in Paris to ask permission from city authorities before “dressing as men” was finally revoked. Women in Malawi were not permitted to wear trousers at all between 1965 and 1994 and still face threats and attacks for doing so.

And Sudan. Women in Sudan are arrested and flogged for wearing trousers.

This is not about style or gender as play, but power, and it remains the case even if we are discussing something as seemingly minor and mundane as school uniform.

I actually don’t think it is minor. I was born too soon to have been allowed to wear trousers to school, and I badly wanted to. I wore them whenever I could, and school made a huge chunk of time when I couldn’t. I always found skirts dreadfully inhibiting, and I still do. Women in skirts still don’t move as freely and carelessly as people in trousers do. Skirts, like high heels, are a way of tamping down women’s activity and freedom.

Glossy cites another good reason though.

Numerous studies have shown that stereotype threat – a situation in which people feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to negative stereotypes pertaining to their social group – matters a great deal when considering gender and education. Simply being reminded that one is the social construct “boy” or “girl”, as opposed to just “a pupil”, can affect an individual’s perception of his or her own ability and response to particular subject areas (eg “girls are no good at maths”, “boys don’t read books” etc). A school should be the last place where gendered codes which have already been broken down elsewhere are suddenly reintroduced. For a girl to have to wear a skirt in the classroom when she can wear trousers elsewhere sends a very particular message to her. She is not simply a learner; she is a girl-learner, confined by unspoken rules which limit her individual potential and constrain her social interactions.

She’s in that group that’s not allowed to run around freely.

But then what about the other direction? What about letting boys wear skirts? Since I hate skirts my reaction tends to be “why would anyone want to?” But that doesn’t dig deep enough.

What really bothers me, though, is the one-sidedness of the approach. Why just trousers? Why not skirts, too? Why is it that, yet again, whatever the boys are doing is seen as the default thing, to which the girls should necessarily aspire? Why not campaign for no differentiation whatsoever in school uniform requirements?

I think we all know the answer to this. We don’t want to see boys in skirts or dresses, demeaning themselves, being “girly”. Indeed, were we to see a boy in a dress, we’d probably assume he wasn’t a boy at all. The more we broaden our understanding of what it means to be a woman or a girl, the more rigid and entrenched our understanding of boyhood and manhood becomes (even in David Walliams’ The Boy In The Dress, the main character’s continued inclusion in the category “male” seems to be justified by the fact that, dress or no dress, he’s still brilliant at football. Thank God for that!).

I’m all for trousers for all, but let’s have skirts and dresses for all, too. This seems to me far more revolutionary, given that the “no skirts for boys” rule applies far beyond the school gates, and the only reason for its existence seems to be to assuage male anxiety about being a “proper” man. As a fully paid-up member of Team Skirt, I say let’s deal with this nonsense once and for all.

Throw caution to the wind! Relish the freedom of having no superfluous fabric between your thighs! Come on, men. You have nothing to lose but your Corby trouser presses.

Dress your lower half however you want to! Choose the two tubes with the pelvic connector, or choose the bag with a waistband – and soar with the eagles!


Last night in Fayetville

Mar 10th, 2016 10:26 am | By


From the Washington Post:

Multiple videos show a protester at a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina being sucker-punched by a Trump supporter.

The videos, which appeared on social media early Thursday and are shot from different perspectives, show an African American with long hair wearing a white T-shirt leaving the Trump rally as the audience boos. He is being led out of the rally by men in uniforms that read “Sheriff’s Office.” The man extends a middle finger to the audience on his way out.

Then, out of nowhere, the man is punched in the face by a pony-tailed man, who appears to be white, in a cowboy hat, black vest and pink shirt as the crowd begins to cheer. The protester stumbles away, and then is detained by a number of the men in uniforms, who handcuff him while he is on the ground.

The guy who was punched talked to the Post.

Rakeem Jones, the man who was hit, said the punch came out of nowhere.

“Boom, he caught me,” Jones told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out. Now I’m waking up this morning looking at the news and seeing me getting hit again.”

He’d gone to the rally with some friends as a social experiment.

He said the woman with them started shouting once Trump’s speech began.

“She shouted, but at the same time, they were shouting too,” Jones, a 26-year-old inventory associate, said. “Everyone was shouting, too. … No one in our group attempted to get physical.”

Jones blamed the Cumberland County officers escorting him from the rally for failing to protect him — then detaining him instead of the man who attacked him.

Well yes, that seems highly blameworthy. Shouting at a shouty political rally isn’t a crime, while punching people is.

“It’s happening at all these rallies now and they’re letting it ride,” Jones said. “The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging.” He added: “My eye still hurts. It’s just shocking. The shock of it all is starting to set in. It’s like this dude really hit me and they let him get away with it. I was basically in police custody and got hit.”

Well, that’s fascism.

Ronnie C. Rouse, a man who shot one of the videos, was with Jones at the rally.

“We’re definitely anti-Trump,” Rouse told The Post.

Rouse said as soon as Trump’s speech began, someone in the crowd singled out him and his friends, screaming, “You need to get the f— out of there!” Rouse said that his group had not said anything and that the comment was unprovoked. But he said they were almost immediately surrounded by eight Cumberland County sheriff officers, who escorted them out. On the way up the stairs, the attack came.

Rouse, a 32-year-old musician, said he didn’t see the punch but saw the aftermath — his friend “slammed” by officers to the ground and handcuffed. Noting that someone in the crowd shouted, “Go home n—–s,” he said he was taken aback.

Trump is inciting this, and as far as I can tell he’s doing it knowingly and with malice aforethought.

“We’ve been watching all this stuff happen to everyone else,” Rouse said. “This isn’t Biloxi. This isn’t Montgomery. This is Fayetteville. … it’s a well-cultured area.” Noting Fayetteville’s proximity to Fort Bragg, he added: “I wanted to take my 11-year-old child, to give him a touch of what’s happening political-wise. I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve never been more embarrassed to be from here in my life. It’s just appalling.”

Appalling and very very scary.

Trump rallies are getting a reputation for violence by Trump supporters against disruptive protesters. Police in Fayetteville had to form a line separating pro- and anti-Trump groups outside the coliseum.

According to CBS New York, police are investigating at least two alleged assaults at a recent Kentucky rally. One involved a young African American woman who was repeatedly shoved and called “scum.”

Trump himself has not been quick to criticize the violence. After a fight erupted between protesters and police last year in Birmingham, Trump said: “‘Maybe he should have been roughed up.” Of a protester in Nevada last month, Trump said: “I’d like to punch him in the face.” In Kentucky, he said: “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do I’ll defend you in court. … Are Trump rallies the most fun? We’re having a good time.”

Yes, that certainly is not being “quick to criticize the violence.”

Being a woman doesn’t make “being a woman” any easier

Mar 10th, 2016 5:13 am | By

Caitlin Moran explains some things about being a woman for readers of Esquire. Item 3 is menstruation.

3. Periods

We’re still pretty traumatised about our periods, even though we’re now 40. Being a woman doesn’t make “being a woman” any easier. All that womb-shit is nuts. It’s like having an exploding, insane blood-bag of pain up in your business end — nothing really prepares you for when it all kicks off. One day, you’re just a kid on your bike. The next, you’re suddenly having to wedge a tiny Barbie mattress in your knickers, crying while you watch Bergerac, and eating Nurofen Plus like they’re Tic Tacs.

And then deal with the tiny Barbie mattress and wedge in a new one, and repeat many times, and then do it all over again 3.5 weeks later. And dealing with the Barbie mattress is gross, and you’re not feeling good anyway and then you have to deal with gross every few hours, and the gross is coming from you. You’ve become a source of gross stuff, and you never asked to. It’s better when you graduate to tampons, but not all that much better, plus toxic shock syndrome.

Men, imagine if, some time around your 12th birthday, some manner of viscous liquid — let’s say gravy — suddenly appeared in your pants, in the middle of a maths lesson. And then it turned up every month for the next 30 years. You’d be all like “NO!” and “WTF?!?!” and “SRSLY??? THIS????” That’s what we’re like, too. We’re not wise, or in touch with nature, or down with it. We’re just people with a whole load more laundry issues than you. Have you ever tried to scrub blood out of a Premier Inn sheet at 6am, using just travel shampoo and your toothbrush? It’s one of the defining aspects of being a woman.

The things that can go wrong, and do. The opportunities for humiliation and embarrassment. The nuisance of it all. I like Moran’s harsh take on it.

7. Tired

We’re tired. So, so tired. From the moment we grew our tits, we’ve been cat-called in the street; commented on by relatives (“Ooooh, she’s big-boned”; “Well, you’ll be a heart-breaker”) as if we weren’t standing there in front of them, hearing all this. We’ve seen our biggest female role-models and icons shamed in the press, over and over: computers hacked and nude pictures released; sex-tapes released. So we know even success, and money, will not protect us from the humiliation of simply being a woman.

Gloria Steinem and Lands End.


Guest post: Fighting these battles for decades

Mar 9th, 2016 4:52 pm | By

Guest post by Tigger the wing.

I fear that my generation may have been far too indulgent of baby mtf trannies, when I discover them saying things like this:

Reminder to not use vaginas, periods, or slogans like “pussy power” as symbols for feminism!!! don’t exclude women who don’t have vaginas :)

How DARE you! How VERY dare you, you entitled little shits‽

Your grandmothers, mothers, sisters, ftm cousins, and older transwomen, have been fighting these battles for decades before most of you decided that you’d like to wear dresses and make-up. Did you have no idea, when you discovered your feminine internal person, that by joining the underclass you would automatically lose all the privileges that being born with a penis gave you, whether you asked for or expected such or not? And that by privileging those women born with a penis over all the billions of women who weren’t, you are perpetuating the patriarchal constructs that gave all queer people, including trans people like us, such a fucking hard time until feminists fought for us to have rights?

And then you have the sheer unmitigated gall to accuse people who say “Stop trampling over women” of being TERFs or ‘transmisogynistic’?

And to think I mulled over this for two days, because I was worried that my following initial response was too strong to post. And instead, I decided that it wasn’t strong enough. ;)
“Weird, isn’t it, that women who have had their reproductive organs removed, for health reasons for example, have never had a problem with generalised language like that, because they understand that it was never intended to be exclusive.

It was much more important to focus on getting an education and the vote, being allowed to work where one was qualified to work regardless of marital status, being allowed to control one’s own fertility, being paid the same as a man for doing work of equivalent value, being treated as an autonomous being in marriage instead of a sex slave, etc., etc., et bloody cetera.

Has it really come to this, that the struggle to improve the fate of half the human race is going to be derailed by a tiny percentage of trans extremists who think that the fact that they were born with a penis makes them more important, so it should be all about them? Isn’t that the very attitude that feminism was formed to fight against?”

So, go on then – defriend and block me, you snivelling little cowards, too pusillanimous to engage with adults on adult terms, engaging in online slacktivism and faux outrage against manufactured slights. Bloody social justice draft-dodgers and weasels, defending the pore ould patriarchy against those eebil wimminz and their disgusting procreative ways. I’m going to hit my drums, and pretend that it is possible to knock some sense into your dense little brains.


Mar 9th, 2016 4:31 pm | By

The new Jesus and Mo considers a question that I often ask: whence came Mo’s reputation for being such a kind lovely fella?


The Patreon.

Every conservative guy out there believes in everybody’s rights

Mar 9th, 2016 11:41 am | By

The second season of Caitlyn Jenner’s show about Caitlyn Jenner has started, CBS reports.

Don’t expect to see Caitlyn Jenner campaigning for Hillary Clinton anytime soon.

The avowed Republican — who recently expressed interest in working with Ted Cruz on transgender issues — chastised Clinton during the second season premiere of her reality series, “I am Cait.”

“If we’re unfortunate enough to get Hillary as our next president, we need her on our side,” Jenner said during a political discussion featured on the show. “Although she won’t be … she couldn’t care less about women. She only cares about herself.”


One of Jenner’s friend, Jennifer Finney Boylan, then asks her which of Republican would be likely to help the trans rights cause.

“All of them,” Jenner responded. “None of the Republicans [say], ‘Oh, I hate trans people’ or ‘I hate gays.’ They do more, ‘I want a thriving economy so every trans person has a job.'”

Later in the episode, Boylan discussed the defeat of the Houston equal rights ordinance, which she insisted was defeated in large part by anti-LGBT fear-mongering from Republicans, an assertion Jenner refuted.

“I don’t feel like they’re out to get us,” Jenner said. “Every conservative guy out there believes in everybody’s rights.”

She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, is she.

They deserve to be remembered

Mar 9th, 2016 11:00 am | By

CCP has a new petition.

Put a statue of a suffragette in Parliament Square to mark 100 years of female suffrage

Caroline Criado-Perez London, United Kingdom

Why Parliament Square?

There are eleven statues in Parliament Square. Not a single one is of a woman.

There are some great men honoured, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi among them. These are men who fought hard for their democratic and human rights and they deserve to be recognised.

But today is International Women’s Day. And I find myself thinking of others who fought hard for their democratic and human rights. I find myself thinking of the women who defied convention and police batons. Who went out on the streets. Who faced ridicule, imprisonment, violent assault, simply because they believed women were equal to men.

In two years’ time it will be 100 years since those women won their fight and women were first granted the right to vote.

They deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be commemorated at the heart of our democracy. Give them a statue in Parliament Square.

She made a list of the eleven men:

Churchill, Lloyd George, Jan Smutts, Palmerston, the 14th Earl of Derby, Disraeli, Peel, Canning,  Lincoln, Mandela, Gandhi. I have no idea what the 14th Earl of Derby did.

End child marriage now

Mar 9th, 2016 10:47 am | By


If we can’t say women we can’t say feminism

Mar 9th, 2016 10:34 am | By

Why does it matter, saying “women” instead of “people” when we talk about abortion or contraception or pregnancy?

It matters for the same reason we have the word “feminist” at all – because it picks out the fact that women are treated as an inferior caste, whose bodies don’t fully belong to them.

The logic is identical to the logic of “Black Lives Matter” versus “All Lives Matter.” BLM became a slogan because black people are treated as an inferior caste, subject to arbitrary interference and violence by the state. People on the left are well aware that retorting to  “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” is at best a clueless irrelevance and at worst a racist provocation.

Talking about abortion rights in terms of “people” obscures the fact that many people (sic) think it’s ok or even obligatory to boss and control and limit women because they are women – that women are an inherently subordinate group, designated to be obedient to the dominant group. The fact that women and only women get pregnant is the core reason they are treated as an inherently subordinate group: childbearing must be controlled.

Once you start using language to obscure that fact, you lose the ability to name it and analyze it and rebel against it. Sexism becomes completely weird and unfathomable, it becomes random, and the random is not political; it can’t be resisted.

We understand this with no trouble when it comes to issues around race – so why is it so occluded when it comes to sex?

Ammon’s not having fun yet

Mar 8th, 2016 5:59 pm | By

Ammon Bundy has discovered, apparently to his surprise, that being in jail is not much fun.

“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Bundy, his hair cut short and wearing the standard blue jail smock over a pink T-shirt in a visiting room of the Multnomah County Detention Center. “But I don’t regret what we did because I knew it was right.”

It’s funny how delusional people can be – thinking that grabbing public property to use for private gain is some sort of noble cause. Stealing public resources to enrich yourself is not noble.

Bundy said he misses his wife and six children in Idaho — three daughters and three sons ages 1 to 13 — and struggles to maintain contact with them through letters and phone calls.

To pass the time, he takes inspiration from the jailhouse words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. about the importance of civil disobedience, reads passages from Scripture, keeps a journal and tries to respond to the more than 220 people who have sent him letters since his arrest.

There it is again. He’s not King. He’s not like King. He’s not a civil rights activist. He’s not an idealist. He thinks he is, but he’s not.

Bundy said he knew his arrest was a real possibility, but he was surprised when the FBI and state police moved in while they were traveling to John Day to meet with residents there.

Why? Did he think breaking the law over a period of weeks made it not breaking the law? Well maybe he just thought the FBI wasn’t going to do anything, and since that’s what I thought, I can’t very well scorn him for that.

“We were headed with weapons of laptops, projectors and PA systems and they attacked us – literally ambushed us with a standing army,” Bundy said. “Yeah, we were surprised because we were going peacefully to a community meeting. We were legally moving about the country peacefully the way that people should be able to do.”

Yes but it’s the part about not-legally grabbing the federal wildlife refuge and refusing to leave that is what prompted the arrests. You can do legal things while committing crimes, and that won’t wash the criminality off.

While Bundy’s older brother, Ryan Bundy, 43, and their father, Cliven Bundy, are being held in the same jail, they have no contact at all, he said.

He described his father’s arrest as he stepped off a plane in Portland as “vindictive.” Cliven Bundy, 69, faces federal charges for the 2014 standoff near his Nevada ranch when armed militants confronted federal rangers in a dispute over grazing fees.

Yeah so not actually vindictive, but rather arresting him for a bunch of crimes.

His dad had flown all over the country since 2014 and was never bothered before now, he said.

He doesn’t think very clearly, does he.

“I’m grateful for him teaching me to do what is right, no matter what the consequences are,” Ammon Bundy said.

Nope. That’s not what he taught you. He taught you that other thing – to do what is wrong. He taught you to grab other people’s stuff because you want it for yourself. That’s not what is right.

He holds out hope that his side of the story will prevail in court.

“We went into a public building and we did a demonstration,” he said. “I believe that this will be recognized for what it is and we will be able to go home to our families. It will take us some time.”

No, that wasn’t a mere “demonstration.”

What a poltroon.

Attack of the pregnant people

Mar 8th, 2016 5:06 pm | By

This again. A piece by Katie Klabusich on a horrible Tennessee abortion law is undermined by Klabusich’s near-perfect attempt to avoid using the word “women” entirely. I still think erasing women from the abortion issue is politically suicidal and grotesquely insulting.

It starts with the title: Inside The “Fetal Assault Law” Sending Pregnant People To Prison.

And it continues with the text:

Tomorrow, a subcommittee in the Tennessee legislature will consider a bill to permanently extend the most horrific anti-pregnant person law you’ve never heard of.

House Bill (HB) 1660 and the Senate companion (SB 1629) would remove the built-in expiration date of July 1, 2016 for a criminal code provision—dubbed “Tennessee’s Fetal Assault Law” by reproductive justice advocates—that allows the prosecution and subsequent 15-year prison sentence for any pregnant person who ingests an illegal drug.

Nearly 40 advocacy groups focusing on reproductive rights, addiction, and/or criminal justice are calling for the law to sunset, and for the redirection of taxpayer funds being used to imprison sick people who happen to be pregnant at a time when they need treatment.

There are 95 counties in Tennessee and only 33 state-funded abuse agencies equipped to treat pregnant people

The Tea Party wave, “personhood” emphasis within the “pro-life” movement, and the increasing power and prevalence of for-profit prisons have created a perfect storm for more prosecution of pregnant people and those who have recently given birth.

Then there’s a break, where she mars her nearly perfect omission of women:

Unsurprisingly, when these laws are used with broader reach than advertised at their passage, it is women of color—particularly low-income women of color—who are most often prosecuted for fetal assault.

Two mentions of women – but the crime is not repeated.

Amnesty International has gotten involved as well, reinforcing the well-supported claim that jailing and surveilling people while they’re pregnant is a massive invasion of privacy.

The entanglement of health care and law enforcement highlights an important distinction between intention of the law—purportedly to provide care for pregnant people as well as the potential children they’re carrying—and its usage.

The punishment of pregnant people comes into play when overzealous, often ideologically-driven prosecutors and attorneys general use fetal assault/harm laws to advance a “pro-life” agenda.

The symposium attended by more than 250 participants from around the country addressed human and civil rights, bodily autonomy, current available treatment options for pregnant people, recommendations from leading medical professionals, and the impact of the fetal assault law on people’s lives.

  • The criminal justice system is not an effective vehicle to reduce NAS rates or to help pregnant people access appropriate substance use disorder treatment.

Emphasis mine throughout.

How is this not just blatant, shameless erasure? How is this not just “All Lives Matter” or “I don’t see color”? How is this anything but insulting?

Guest post: Everything has one cause rather than many

Mar 8th, 2016 4:36 pm | By

Originally a comment by SAWells on A collective of intellectuals and academics.

I think at root it’s a failure to grasp that there are more than two sides. Some people really do seem to think that every conflict or opposition or disagreement has two sides, a right one and a wrong one; and, critically, that the moment they can identify somebody as being in the wrong, any and all opposition to the Wrong Person makes you right, and any and all agreement with the Wrong Person makes you wrong.

So here, the “collective” have noticed – how perceptive of them! – that racists who hate immigrants for being foreign are wrong. Therefore, absolutely anyone who suggests that anything about immigrants or the countries they come from might not be 100% peachy – is also wrong! How simple life must be.

You can see this kind of thinking all over the place if you look for it. You’ll notice that the “collective” fail to address a single one of the substantive points about the current social politics in Islamic countries; they skip directly to saying the article must be bad, because it suggests that there might be problems, and racists have also said that there are problems, so any suggestion there are problems means you’re siding with racists.

It seems like a rejection of complexity. Everything has two sides rather than many; everything has one cause rather than many; you are either with us or against us.

Women are seen as a source of destabilization

Mar 8th, 2016 12:46 pm | By

The NY Times has a translation of that piece by Kamel Daoud. I’m pretty surprised it caused a fuss, since what he said is hardly very deniable.

ORAN, Algeria — AFTER Tahrir came Cologne. After the square came sex. The Arab revolutions of 2011 aroused enthusiasm at first, but passions have since waned. Those movements have come to look imperfect, even ugly: For one thing, they have failed to touch ideas, culture, religion or social norms, especially the norms relating to sex. Revolution doesn’t mean modernity.

Remember the bitter disappointment of those sexual assaults in Tahrir Square? I certainly do.

The attacks on Western women by Arab migrants in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve evoked the harassment of women in Tahrir Square itself during the heady days of the Egyptian revolution. The reminder has led people in the West to realize that one of the great miseries plaguing much of the so-called Arab world, and the Muslim world more generally, is its sick relationship with women. In some places, women are veiled, stoned and killed; at a minimum, they are blamed for sowing disorder in the ideal society.

That’s a harsh thing to say, certainly, but it’s not false.

Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great. In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization — short skirts trigger earthquakes, some say — and are respected only when defined by a property relationship, as the wife of X or the daughter of Y.

Is that “Islamophobia”? Or is it just reporting?

In some of Allah’s lands, the war on women and on couples has the air of an inquisition. During the summer in Algeria, brigades of Salafists and local youths worked up by the speeches of radical imams and Islamist TV preachers go out to monitor female bodies, especially those of women bathers at the beach. The police hound couples, even married ones, in public spaces. Gardens are off-limits to strolling lovers. Benches are sawed in half to prevent people from sitting close together.

He’s in Algeria. He should be able to write about what he sees around him.

The West has long found comfort in exoticism, which exonerates differences. Orientalism has a way of normalizing cultural variations and of excusing any abuses: Scheherazade, the harem and belly dancing exempted some Westerners from considering the plight of Muslim women. But today, with the latest influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the pathological relationship that some Arab countries have with women is bursting onto the scene in Europe.

What long seemed like the foreign spectacles of faraway places now feels like a clash of cultures playing out on the West’s very soil. Differences once defused by distance and a sense of superiority have become an imminent threat. People in the West are discovering, with anxiety and fear, that sex in the Muslim world is sick, and that the disease is spreading to their own lands.

Maybe that’s the part that got people agitated, those final two paragraphs. Maybe it sounds too much like what Pegida and UKIP say. But are Pegida and UKIP a good enough reason to cover up realities?

A collective of intellectuals and academics

Mar 8th, 2016 12:21 pm | By

The BBC tells us of another round of denunciations:

Kamel Daoud is the Algerian novelist who came within an ace of winning France’s top book award – the Goncourt – last year for his Camus-inspired The Meursault Investigation.

He is also an independent-minded newspaper journalist, who has won as many enemies as friends over the years for his critical articles about the state of his country.

But Kamel Daoud has now announced to the world that he is giving up his newspaper work, and will focus on fiction.

Why? Because of the frenzied reaction to a piece he wrote in Le Monde concerning New Year’s Eve in Cologne.

Let me guess – he’s accused of “Islamophobia”?

The article in question – entitled “Cologne – City of Illusions” – was a two-pronged attack on the cliches triggered by the mass molestations of women.

On the one hand Daoud deplored the far-right “illusion” which treats all immigrants as potential rapists.

But by far the greater part of his anger was directed at the “naive” political left, who in his view deliberately ignore the cultural gulf separating the Arab-Muslim world from Europe.

Or they don’t ignore it but they pretend it’s just a matter of different as opposed to worse – stoning women, not stoning women, it’s all just part of the great tapestry of Culcha.

What Cologne showed, says Daoud, is how sex is “the greatest misery in the world of Allah”.

“So is the [male] refugee ‘savage’? No. But he is different. And giving him papers and a place in a hostel is not enough. It is not just the physical body that needs asylum. It is also the soul that needs to be persuaded to change.

“This Other (the [male] immigrant) comes from a vast, appalling, painful universe – an Arab-Muslim world full of sexual misery, with its sick relationship towards woman, the human body, desire. Merely taking him in is not a cure.”

I added the [male] because French does that but English doesn’t and it makes a difference.

These were strong words, and the reaction came fast.

In an opinion piece also in Le Monde, a collective of intellectuals and academics delivered an excoriating attack on Daoud, whom they accused of “feeding the Islamophobic fantasies of a growing part of the European population.”

That must have been pleasant for him.

Last year Adam Shatz, a leading liberal journalist and editor, wrote a long and favourable profile of Daoud for the New York Times.

But now – regretfully but firmly – he turned against him.

“It is very hard for me to imagine that you truly believe what you have written. This is not the Kamel Daoud that I know,” Shatz wrote in an open letter.

What worried Shatz – like the intellectuals (though he hated their “Soviet”-style public denunciation) – was the link Daoud drew between the events in Cologne and Islam.

“A few years ago we saw similar events at the Puerto Rico Day parade in New York. There too women were molested. But the molesters were not under the influence of Islam, but of alcohol,” he wrote.

That’s interesting, but so what? Both can be true – and also the influences can be combined. Maybe the Cologne abusers were fueled by alcohol as well as (partly or mostly or wholly) religious misogyny, and maybe the New York abusers were fueled by religious misogyny as well as alcohol. Or maybe the difference was absolute, but that doesn’t tell us much – it certainly doesn’t demonstrate that the Cologne abusers were not influenced by religious misogyny.

Daoud says he has had enough.

In an open letter to Shatz (a friend whose criticisms he respects), he denounces the academics and intellectuals who earlier denounced him.

“They do not live in my flesh or in my land, and I find it illegitimate – not to say scandalous – that certain people accuse me of Islamophobia from the safety and comfort of their western cafes.”

And that is his last word.

It’s like well-meaning lefties in the UK accusing Maryam of “Islamophobia” from the safety and comfort of their local pubs.

What are women doing wrong when

Mar 8th, 2016 11:48 am | By

Deborah Cameron on the chronic question do women and men write differently, and if so how much more do women suck at writing?

When people ask questions about male-female differences, they’re rarely motivated just by idle curiosity. They may formulate the question as a neutral inquiry into the facts of a given matter (‘how do men and women do X?’), but often the underlying question is more like ‘why do women have a problem doing X?’, or ‘what are women doing wrong when they do X?’

Aka why can’t women do anything correctly, the way men do it?

In one study of the language of blogs, the researchers found what appeared to be differences between male and female bloggers; but on closer inspection they turned out to be more closely related to the distinction between ‘diary’ blogs, containing the author’s personal reflections, and ‘filter’ or content-sharing blogs, where the author comments on the links s/he recommends. This looked like a gender difference because more women in the sample produced diary blogs, and more men produced content-sharing blogs. Of course that in itself is a gender difference; but it’s not a gender difference in writing style, it’s a gendered preference for different kinds of blogs.

I wonder if women tend to absorb a veiled message from the culture around them that the only thing women really know much about is their own individual selves. If so, that’s tragic. I get a lot of shit from the many tweeters and bloggers who hate me for doing a mostly content-sharing blog, but I think that’s an asinine complaint. I’m interested in a lot of things that aren’t Me, and I share them on my blog – why is that a bad thing? It’s too much interest in the Self that I think is a bad thing.

There used to be a site where you could paste in some text and it would tell you whether a woman or a man wrote it. Most people used it to test their own writing.

Obviously they already knew if they were male or female, so presumably what they were trying to find out was whether their writing was gender-typical. And when the Genie told them it wasn’t (which happened frequently: while I was monitoring it its success rate never got above 68%), their reactions were instructive. Almost no one concluded that there was something wrong with the program, or with the basic idea of gendered writing styles. More commonly they fell to pondering why they, as individuals, did not match the profile for a ‘normal’ male or female writer.

Women who’d been misidentified as men often put this down to being ex-tomboys or geeks who had no truck with ‘girly’ things: none of them seemed offended by being told they wrote like men, and sometimes they appeared to be flattered. Men who were miscategorized as women, by contrast, more often expressed bafflement, annoyance or discomfort. They also got teased by other people in the comments: had they been writing poetry again? Were they secretly gay?

Yep. Being perceived as male or male-like, good; being perceived as the other thing, bad.

These contrasting responses underline the point that gender isn’t just a difference, it’s a hierarchy. As Caroline Criado-Perez notes in her book Do It Like A Woman, to do something ‘like a woman’ usually means to do it badly, or less well than a man would do it. It’s your basic deficit model, in which men set the standard of excellence and whatever women do is somehow deficient, weak and inferior.

Women’s writing, on the face of things, is not an obvious candidate for this treatment. If we consider writing as a basic skill, it’s one on which girls outperform boys from an early age, and if we consider it as an art, it’s one that women have excelled in for centuries. And yet the idea has persisted that men do it better. Only yesterday, I heard a male writer on the radio explaining why he preferred to read other male writers: one of the reasons he gave was that men’s writing gets to the point (while women’s by implication beats endlessly about the bush). Had he ever, I wondered, opened Finnegan’s Wake, or any of the novels of Henry James?

Seriously. Jane Austen? Emily Bronte? Straight to the point, with not a word wasted. Thackeray? Dickens? Not so much.

Abrupt ending.

These women are gone

Mar 8th, 2016 10:31 am | By

The Mirror reports:

A Labour MP stunned MPs today by listing the 120 women who have been killed by men in the last year to mark International Women’s Day.

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips made the moving speech at the beginning of a three hour debate honouring the day, prompting a rare round of applause from the House of Commons benches.


I want to thank Karen Ingala Smith and the Counting Dead Women project. She doesn’t allow these women to be forgotten. She shouts their names so we can do better.

I want to note that as I read each and every woman’s story, the variety of women struck me.

These are not all poor women. These were women of every age. They were teachers, dinner ladies, doctors, dancers and daughters.

Their perpetrators were not feckless drunks, they were respected fathers, city bankers and eminent lawyers.

Violence against women has no one face. We must do better. These women are gone.

Here in this place, we must not let them die in vain. We owe that much to them. We owe them much more than what they got.

Have a safe International Women’s Day.