Notes and Comment Blog

He got very angry when he saw two men kissing

Jun 12th, 2016 10:29 am | By

The BBC is live updating the news from Orlando.

These are the main points from the second press briefing by officials in Orlando:

  • 50 people killed, up from 20, making the Pulse nightclub attack the worst mass shooting in recent US history
  • New death toll came after investigators were able to gain better access to the building – they had to ensure it was clear of devices
  • 53 people were injured, many critically

Officials are saying the death toll will go up.

NBC news say they have spoken to the father of the suspected gunman by phone.

The man said: “We are saying we are apologising for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.

“This had nothing to do with religion.”

He added his son “got very angry when he saw two men kissing” months before in Miami.

Seek not to come between the dragon and his wroth.

A man reaps what he sows

Jun 12th, 2016 9:56 am | By

So what does the lieutenant governor of Texas do? He composes a “reap what you sow” tweet and shares it with the sinful world.

This tweet was sent out from Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's account hours after a mass shooting an LGBT nightclub in Florida. Click the gallery to see some responses.

At precisely 7 a.m. Sunday Dan Patrick tweeted a photo with the words of Galatians 6:7. The verse reads, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

That’s so horrific in so many ways. One, he’s a high official in a state government – the largest state in the country in fact, with a population of 27 million. Two, he’s saying the victims had it coming. Three, he’s citing “God.” Four, he’s more than hinting that the reason the victims had it coming is because God hates fags. Five, it’s cruel cruel cruel cruel, and wicked and bad and evil. The bad immoral wicked person in this story is not the one who is not heterosexual, it’s the fanatical sadist state official.

Allen Blakemore with Patrick’s office told the Dallas Morning News that the tweet was prescheduled and not a reaction to the shooting, noting, “This was certainly not done with any fore knowledge of the events of the day.”

Another verse was tweeted from the account 30 minutes later, this time from Psalm 37:39, which reads, “The Salvation of the righteous come from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble.”

State officials should keep their bible snippets to themselves.


Jun 12th, 2016 9:36 am | By

Our Paris November 2015: 50 people killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters.

The shooter had an assault weapon.

Before Sunday, the deadliest shootings in U.S. history were at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, with 32 and 27 killed.

The three worst, in less than a decade. People think they’re in a movie, and the prize goes to the highest number.

The shooter is not from the Orlando area, Mina said. He has been identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, about 120 miles southeast of Orlando, two law enforcement officials tell CNN.

Orlando authorities said they consider the violence an act of domestic terror. The FBI is involved. While investigators are exploring all angles, they “have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can’t say definitely,” said Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Orlando bureau.

Authorities are also looking into the possibility the attack was a hate crime, a law enforcement source told CNN.

You don’t say.

“It’s just shocking,” said Christopher Hansen, who was inside Pulse. He heard gunshots, “just one after another after another. It could have lasted a whole song,” he said.

Hansen was getting a drink at the bar when he “just saw bodies going down,” he said.

When the shots erupted, he hit the ground, crawling on his elbows and knees, before he spotted a man who had been shot.

“I took my bandana off and shoved it in the hole in his back,” Hansen said, adding that he saw another woman who appeared to be shot in the arm.

The nightclub posted on its Facebook page shortly after the violence began: “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.”

Like the Bataclan.

Pulse describes itself as “the hottest gay bar” in the heart of Orlando. Hours before the shooting, the club urged party-goers to attend its “Latin flavor” event Saturday night.

Jovial, well-dressed crowds heeded the call in an event that turned into a nightmare.

“It was just, bang, bang, bang!” party-goer Hansen said of the gunfire.

Ricardo Negron Almodovar said he was in the club when the shooting started about 2 a.m. He barely escaped.

“People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran,” he posted on the club’s Facebook page.

So very like the Bataclan – a festive fun heathen occasion, turned into a slaughterhouse by fanatics with guns.

(I know, we don’t know yet that he was a fanatic. Maybe he was just in a bad mood.)

The sound of gunshots echoed beyond the club.

Jose Torres was clocking in to work at a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street when he heard them.

“It was something that I never heard before,” Torres said. “I had to run inside the store, and I saw just a lot of people screaming, crying. Just screaming and coming out running like crazy.”

Torres said he ducked into the Dunkin’ Donuts and called 911 as several people dashed out of the club, bleeding. Police and SWAT teams rushed to the scene.

Welcome to nightmare world.

Hipster contempt for women

Jun 11th, 2016 5:59 pm | By

Everyday Sexism continues to flourish.

A casting call for a new project produced by Quentin Tarantino has caused controversy after a Facebook post invited “whores” to apply.

The post, which has since been deleted, appeared on a casting agency page and began: “Casting Whores for Quentin Tarantino project”. The post later requested that all applicants have “natural breasts” and should put the word “whore” in the subject line.

So the question becomes, do they mean actors who want to play prostitutes? Or do they mean women in general, whom they like to call whores? It’s impossible to tell.

The film doesn’t appear on Quentin Tarantino’s IMDb page. His last film The Hateful Eight drew controversy for its abusive treatment of the film’s female character, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Writing for, Laura Bogart referred to it as “hipster misogyny”.

Last year saw Rose McGowan tweet details of a casting call for an Adam Sandler film that asked women to wear clothing that “shows off cleavage” with “push up bras encouraged”. Earlier this year, Twitter user @femscriptintros shared a selection of tweets of the sexist way that women are introduced in scripts.

Ross Putman @femscriptintros
JANE, 28, athletic but sexy. A natural beauty. Most days she wears jeans, and she makes them look good.

JANE (late 20s) sits hunched over a microscope. She’s attractive, but too much of a professional to care about her appearance.

But is she a whore?

“Hi, you don’t know me; you suck”

Jun 11th, 2016 5:30 pm | By
“Hi, you don’t know me; you suck”

There I am, minding my own business as usual, and I see I have a DM on Facebook. I open the DM. It’s from a total stranger who is not a Facebook friend. I have one mutual friend with him. So Facebook is letting total strangers DM us now? I don’t remember agreeing to that.

The stranger’s name is Tony Philpott. Google tells me he’s a successful screenwriter in Dublin.


Dear Ophelia. Just viewed your recent exchange on Atheist Ireland. I have never, ever resorted to an ad hominem response, but having viewed your exposure on such issues I will break my rule. You are a “closed” person. A person without dimension, a person with whom discourse is impossible. The very act of engagement, is, to you, an affront; it is deemed to be an affront to feminism, an affront to you personally. I would dearly love to engage with you, but no matter the validity of my argument – you, and your followers would deem it mansplaining. On that basis, any response, be it critical, or simply in the interest of expanding the dialogue, can only meet with a closed, insular mind.


I don’t know him. I haven’t had any “exchange on Atheist Ireland” – Atheist Ireland is nothing to do with me, I’m not in any groups or circles of Atheist Ireland’s, I’m not in a position to have exchanges on it. I have no idea how Tony Philpott thinks he knows any of that about me.

People are so bizarre.

He is young and still learning

Jun 11th, 2016 4:31 pm | By

Mike Skerrit asks his son what it means when she says stop.

My son is three years old. My daughter is five. They play. My son is strong and sometimes he gets the upper hand and giggles as he sits on top of his sister. She says stop. He won’t. He’s laughing so hard he doesn’t hear her. I come running. “What does it mean when she says stop,” I say. Silence. There is no missing my message. He is upset. “It means stop,” he answers ruefully. “When does it mean stop,” I say. “Stop right now.” “It means stop right now. Always. We don’t keep doing it, we don’t ignore her, we don’t make her say it twice. When she says stop, we stop.” “Okay.”

He is young and still learning. The lesson remains a work in progress. We will probably have to do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. We will continue as long as it takes for him to understand that my message is not only about his sister.

Because where once was urgency there is now desperation. When he grows up, my voice may very well be the only one he hears telling him to stop. It won’t be the judge, who sees a white, blue eyed, handsome young man and decides he can’t go to prison because it just wouldn’t be the right place for him. It won’t be the lawyer, who warns against admitting guilt when guilt is beside the point. It won’t be the media, whose fickle masters don’t click for truth. It won’t be the schools, whose stated, budget-minded goal of providing a safe environment for students cannot be maintained amidst the perception that they do not provide a safe environment for students. It won’t be the coaches, who prize his alpha male qualities and have no use for nor interest in his understanding of right and wrong. It won’t be the peers, who are products of that same sphere of entitlement.

Someday my children will enter a world without shepherds. Just as we must teach our daughters that they are not sheep, we must teach our sons that they are not wolves. That responsibility and entitlement cannot coexist. That self-worth comes from what is earned, not what is taken. That alcohol is neither an alibi nor a key to unlock the basic inviolate rights of others. That accepting rape culture is unacceptable, no matter how many winks and nudges they get.

They will not learn these lessons unless we teach them. Diligently. Emphatically. Lovingly, but angrily if necessary. And, immediately. As in, right now. Today. If they are old enough to make demands, they are old enough to be told no.

For now, my son’s world is his sister. My job is to keep it that way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents taught their sons that? Is that really too much to expect?


Jun 11th, 2016 4:18 pm | By

Peter Walker reports:

Went today to the LaVoy Finicum site on Hwy 395 to see what’s happening. An ongoing source of tension and anger. The memorial has been toned down. William C. Fischer of Idaho and a local friend watch it 24/7 from an adjacent legal (if symbolically problematic…) campsite. They told me they’ll stay until a permanent solution is found. They want the memorial set back off the road with a few parking spaces and a path to access the memorial from the camp. Being set off the road is key: others don’t have to see it. Possibly better than leaving it as a festering source of anger, potential conflict, and recruiting. Would require federal USFS authorization.

They want a “memorial” on public land for a guy who was part of a criminal seizure and occupation of more public land, carried out by heavily armed men who threatened violence for weeks and did tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Why the hell should there be a memorial to him on public land?

Those flags are a joke, given the criminals’ attitude to the actual government of the actual country.

“Don’t tread on me” doesn’t mean “give me the public land.” Get out.



Jun 11th, 2016 12:34 pm | By

Because of this claim in a comment:

Does Elizabeth Warren actually have any Native American ancestry?

If she claimed in public she did, but in reality didn’t, then she lied, didn’t she?

Here is Vox explaining the non-issue:

Trump’s comment may be racist against Native Americans, but he’s using it here to sarcastically suggest that Warren really isn’t Native American. (Which, oddly enough, proves that Trump can also be racist while trying to insult someone for being white.)

Trump is referring to a controversy Warren faced over her ancestry during her 2012 Senate campaign.

Warren says she grew up being told that she had Cherokee heritage. “Everyone on our mother’s side — aunts, uncles, and grandparents — talked openly about their Native American ancestry,” she wrote in her 2014 book, A Fighting Chance. “My brothers and I grew up on stories about our grandfather building one-room schoolhouses and about our grandparents’ courtship and their early lives together in Indian Territory.”

Saying you grow up being told X isn’t the same thing as claiming that X is true. I think we all grew up being told a lot of things that weren’t true. I was told that Santa Claus was real.

This became an issue during her campaign when reports emerged that Harvard had once touted her Native American heritage as proof of its faculty’s diversity. Warren, however, couldn’t produce definitive proof of her Cherokee ancestry, and neither could genealogists.

Big woop. She said she was told it. People get things wrong.

This led to speculation that Warren had been a fake “diversity hire,” or that she had abused the affirmative-action system to gain an advantage over other candidates.

However, as Garance Franke-Ruta reported for the Atlantic in 2012, there’s no evidence that Warren ever used claims of Native American ancestry to help her get a job.

And there is, by contrast, evidence that she did not use claims of Native American ancestry to help her get a job.

While Warren was listed as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Faculty, she had declined to apply as a minority to Rutgers Law School, and had listed herself as “white” while teaching at the University of Texas. The head of the committee that recruited Warren to Harvard also said he had no memory of her Native American heritage ever coming up, and the 1995 Harvard Crimson article reporting on her tenure made no mention of it.

It’s true, Franke-Ruta learned, that Warren wouldn’t meet the criteria to officially qualify as Cherokee. She only claimed to be 1/32 Cherokee, which is too little to qualify for citizenship in two of the three major Cherokee tribes. She also doesn’t have a known direct ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls, which is a strict requirement for membership in the Cherokee Nation, or on the Baker Rolls, a requirement of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

But just because Warren can’t find hard evidence of Native American heritage doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any, Franke-Ruta said — and even if she doesn’t, that wouldn’t make her a liar. Hazy oral histories about Native heritage are especially common in Oklahoma, where Warren grew up, and she would have no particular reason to disbelieve the stories she was told growing up.

Franke-Ruta notes that the shaky reliability of oral history has confounded other public figures — like Madeleine Albright, who didn’t know until reporters discovered it that her own parents had escaped the Holocaust, or Marco Rubio, who mistakenly believed that he was the “son of exiles” from Castro’s Cuba when his parents actually came over before Castro took power.

We don’t always know much about our ancestors, in some cases even our grandparents.

So no – Warren’s saying she was told she had a tiny amount of Cherokee ancestry wasn’t necessarily a lie even if she didn’t in fact have any such ancestry.

Guest post: Withholding food and water from children for 15 hours a day

Jun 11th, 2016 11:26 am | By

Originally a comment by Theo Bromine on Mubarak dehydration month.

I was wondering about the rules for kids, and found the following:

1. Children before the age of seven should be encouraged to fast (without fasting the full day) and to love these acts of worship. They can pretend what it is like to fast for an hour, for example.

2. After seven, it is recommended for the child to fast, but not necessarily for the full day nor everyday. The emphasis on fasting should be increased until the child reaches ten.

3. At ten, the child should be expected to fast.

Other sites quoted scholars saying that a child over 10 “should be made to fast and told to do so. And he should be smacked if he does not do it, so as to train him and make him get used to it, just as he should be made to pray and told to do it.” (Though some of them were quick to point out that the prescribed hitting was just for discipline and not supposed to actually hurt the child.)

Here in Ottawa, it’s 15 hours from sunrise to sunset (and will get longer). If I found that my next-door neighbour decided to withhold food and water from their 10-year-old for 15 hours every day for a month, I think that would properly be considered child abuse. But if they are doing it because their imaginary friend told them to? Somehow that changes everything…

Judges remained sympathetic to white male defendants

Jun 11th, 2016 10:22 am | By

Rape-excusing judges in history

In 1911 California voters passed a measure allowing the recall of judges and added an amendment to the state Constitution giving women the right to vote.

Two years later, newly enfranchised women in San Francisco flexed their political muscles by petitioning for the recall of a police court justice, Charles Weller.

Like his colleagues, Judge Weller heard sexual assault cases and typically set bail at under $500, low enough so that several defendants chose to flee rather than stand trial. Judge Weller sometimes dismissed rape charges on technical grounds — as when a 15-year-old, impregnated by the accused, missed court because she was giving birth.

Why that lazy slut.

No one complained until a year after women gained the vote, when Judge Weller reduced the $3,000 bail set for one Albert Hendricks, witnessed trying to assault two 17-year-olds, to $1,000; a former police commissioner had testified that Hendricks, as a substantial businessman, was unlikely to jump bail.

When Hendricks skipped town, women’s clubs in San Francisco took action. They had been instrumental in a recent campaign to expand statutory rape protection to girls under 18. A Women’s Political League gathered enough signatures to force a recall election. The group accused Judge Weller of abusing judicial power “by extending undue and unreasonable leniency to persons charged with the commission of heinous and vicious offenses.”

Voters agreed, and Weller was out.

But the recall did not make California courts more vigilant about sexual assault, and nationally, judges remained sympathetic to white defendants like Hendricks, while African-American men continued to be disproportionately prosecuted, convicted and executed for rape.

Of course. White men are just misunderstood, or a little impetuous, or temporarily and accidentally drunk. Non-white men on the other hand…

In the 60s Judge Archie Simonson in Madison, Wisconsin was recalled.

He had sentenced a 15-year-old to one year of home supervision after he pleaded no contest in the gang rape of a girl in their high school stairwell. More than the sentence, it was the comments made by Judge Simonson that led to the recall. He claimed that the boys had behaved “normally” in reaction to the revealing clothing worn by girls. When challenged by a female prosecutor who said she found his remark “sexist,” Judge Simonson replied: “You bet it is. I can’t go around walking exposing my genitals like they can the mammary glands.”

There was outrage. NOW got involved. Malvina Reynolds did a song about him.

Leaders of the recall focused on the judge’s remarks, and their effort succeeded. The one woman running to replace Judge Simonson was elected.

These judges gave the impression that they sympathized more with the accused or the convicted assailant than with the female victims. In Judge Persky’s case, considering alcohol consumption a mitigating factor imputed responsibility to the victim, while his desire to protect the assailant from prison invited comparisons to the routine sentencing of nonwhites for rape.

Progress is slow, isn’t it. So very slow.

Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg

Jun 10th, 2016 5:49 pm | By

And then there’s the junior Senator from Georgia, Republican Frank Perdue, at a “Faith and Freedom” conference today.

According to The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff, Republican Senator Frank Perdue jokingly told attendees: “We should pray like Psalm 109:8 says: Let his days be few.”

Christians well acquainted with Psalms 108, know that it is not just a wish for Obama to be out of office, but a call for vengeance upon a rival.

According to the American Standard Bible, Psalm 109:7 begins, “When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, And let his prayer become sin.”

Nah, let’s have the King James, instead.

When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.

12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

Nice people.


In the swamp

Jun 10th, 2016 5:20 pm | By

Trump. He’s not funny, he’s not cute, he’s not a “rebel.” He’s no more cute than Milo Yiannopoulos or the bullies of reddit or Gamergate or any of this trash. Calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” is just trash. He’s trash. He has a trashy mind and mouth and political campaign.

The furor over Trump’s assaults on the impartiality of a Latino judge had just begun to subside when he lobbed two tweets Friday morning responding to Warren, who had lambasted him as a “thin-skinned, racist bully” in a speech the previous evening.

“Pocahontas is at it again!” Trump wrote in one. “Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth.”

Thus demonstrating that he’s not a racist bully at all, I guess.

“He needs to quit using language like that,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Chickasaw tribe and one of two Native Americans in the House. “It’s pejorative , and you know, there’s plenty of things that he can disagree with Elizabeth Warren over, this is not something that should, in my opinion, ever enter the conversation. . . . It’s neither appropriate personally toward her, and frankly, it offends a much larger group of people. So, I wish he would avoid that.”

Yeah calling her “Pocahontas” is not disagreeing with her in any way, it’s just a substanceless racist sneer.

When asked why he persists in calling Warren “Pocahontas” and what he makes of the alarm it has caused among some Republicans, Trump responded bluntly in a statement Friday: “Because she is a nasty person, a terrible U.S. Senator, and it drives her crazy.”

“The Republicans should find it offensive that she scammed the system by faking her heritage, not that I am unafraid to point that out,” he continued in the statement, which was provided by his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks. “Actually, Goofy Elizabeth, her nickname, is far worse.”

He sounds so exactly like the bullying shits one can find all over Twitter and Reddit. Yet he’s the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

There’s something wrong with us.

Walk on stage, walk on stage, walk on stage

Jun 10th, 2016 11:27 am | By

Have a thought-leader explaining his thought-leader process to a rapt audience of thought-leader appreciators.

Self-proclaimed “thought leader” Pat Kelly gives his talk on “thought leadership” at the annual CBC This Is That Talks in Whistler, B.C.

Note the scare-quotes.


Happy fast-defiance!

Jun 10th, 2016 11:04 am | By

Maryam has plans for this matter of forced fasting (and deyhdrating) in Ramadan:


On 24 June, from 17:00-19:00 hours, we will be organising an “eat-in” at the Saudi and Iranian embassies in London in solidarity with those defying fasting rules during Ramadan.

This is hugely important given that there are many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month; many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe. Join us at the ‘eat-in’ if you can.

Alternately, you can upload photos of yourself eating during fasting times or holding signs with messages of solidarity using hashtag: #IWillNotFast #لن_اص= م #روزه خوارى #Ramadan until the= end of Ramadan. Happy fast-defiance!

More details on Facebook.


Evidence on gender stereotyping in ads

Jun 10th, 2016 9:02 am | By

The Advertising Standards Authority puts out a call for evidence on gender stereotypes in advertising.

In recent years, there has been increasing political and public debate on equality issues.  The mocking of women and men in non-stereotypical roles, the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles, and gender-specific marketing to children, as well as concerns regarding objectification, sexualisation and the presentation of an idealised  or unrealistic body image are all issues that have gained considerable public interest.

As a proactive regulator, we want to find out more about these issues and others to ensure we continue to be alive to and in tune with prevailing standards when interpreting and applying the rules. Consequently, we will be doing three things: examining evidence on gender stereotyping in ads, seeking views from a range of stakeholders, and commissioning our own research into public opinion.

We are eager to hear about what stakeholders and the research tell us about gender stereotyping in ads and the impact of such advertising, which will help shape the project as we move forward. In particular, we are keen for people and organisations to send us any research they have on this issue. Evidence can be sent to us at

We are requesting submissions by the end of June to help inform the approach we take to the public research we will be carrying out.  After June, we will still be happy to receive evidence and consider it, but it won’t be able to inform the public research.

The project will report on whether we’re getting it right on gender stereotyping in ads.  If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited we will set out the best way to achieve it.

Search your files!

Another mistake

Jun 10th, 2016 7:56 am | By

That thing I said the other day about how humans are a mistake. One branch of that mistakenness is the taste that some humans have for torture and cruelty as a form of entertainment. Take Andrew Picard, former Etonian, for instance.

Andrew Picard, 18, was found to have more than 2,000 pornographic images of children as young as  two years old, including rape and bestiality. The images were found on his computer at [Eton] after Picard, then 17-years-old, shared the illegal material in an online chat room with an undercover police officer, The Daily Mail reports.

Judge Peter Ross said: “This defendant Andrew Picard was a privileged young man. His family are clearly wealthy enough to send him to school in Eton. Quite how you found your way into this unpleasant world Mr Picard, the world of chatrooms and exchanging this material, is not clear to me.

“Why you did it, doctors and others have sought to explain- the emotional difficulties you had, issues around your sexuality… It has been said that you and your family have suffered deeply as a result of your arrest and public exposure. Your family didn’t deserve that but it is a consequence of this sort of offending.”

“All too often in these courtrooms, we see the internet and chatrooms providing a degree of assumed detachment in terms of what is said and the material that is viewed. Please make no bones about it, these are children, some of them very tiny and they are being abused and tortured simply to provide sexual gratification, mainly, to adult males.

“All over the world, too often in the third world, children [are] being made objects of the most appalling abuse. It forms a currency and you played a part in that. You were seeking to obtain your own sexual gratification.”

That shouldn’t be a thing. Rich men and boys in the rich parts of the world shouldn’t have a taste for looking at the torture and abuse of children.

Guest post: They didn’t even notice

Jun 9th, 2016 6:24 pm | By

Guest post by iknklast.

I have just recently come back from an annual play festival that I’ve attended several times before. I have always enjoyed this festival; it gives me a chance to interact with other playwrights, to attend workshops, and to see new plays that are in the process of development. The coordinators choose the plays from a large pool of submitted work. This year, there were 680 plays submitted, and only 30 were selected. These plays are then given a reading by trained actors, chosen and directed by a trained director, to allow them to hear their works and engage in a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Although this is not in one of the most cosmopolitan cities, it is a very large, popular festival that attracts international submissions. I arrived eagerly. I left depressed.

The playwrights selected this year were mostly young, for the most part under thirty, though there were a few older faces, as well. The plays were in a variety of styles, from realist to totally abstract. There was one thing they had in common, though. Women. No, not plays about women, or for women, but plays that treated women as objects, stereotyped women, or otherwise viewed women in a way that screams of anti-woman culture. The worst of it is that most of these playwrights, and the theatre professionals who selected the plays, apparently did not realize that these plays were so…anti-woman. These ideas have become so normalized in our culture that even people who consider themselves liberal feminists were unable to notice.

The best of them (in terms of women) had women in major, strong, independent roles. So strong, in fact, that in this play, written by a woman, it was considered okay for one woman to call another woman a cunt. Several times. And please do not say anything to me about England. This play was set in Washington state. It was written by someone born and raised in the United States. It is not just the obliviousness of a culture that thinks its okay to insult someone by calling them a part of a woman’s anatomy as long as it is men that you are calling that; no, this is an American woman, calling another woman something designed to denigrate her by pointing out that she has the anatomy (or is the anatomy?) of a woman.

It was all downhill from there. There was the play in which two different characters engaged in slut shaming, telling the third character that she shouldn’t go out in the blouse of her choice because she would “cause” something bad to happen. It wouldn’t happen because the person doing it to her was bad; no, it would happen because a woman chose to wear the wrong clothes, clothes that were fun and attractive and made her feel happy. Since this entire play centered around two women going to meet a man, and they talked about little besides men, I’m not sure in the end it made the play any more sexist. Once again, written by a woman.

Two plays dealt with surrogacy. Neither of these plays questioned the wisdom or ethics of using another woman’s body as an incubator. As long as they were paying for the service, it was perfectly fine to put a woman through a difficult ordeal that lasts for nine months and can be life threatening. Even if it doesn’t lead to death (and most pregnancies don’t anymore, thank goodness), it changes her entire existence at least for that nine months, leaving her feeling sick and altering her activities for the benefit of someone else. One of the plays actually showed some impact on the surrogate, but never quite managed to question whether there was something wrong with using a woman’s body in this manner. The other one didn’t even do that. This was a play about two young men in a same sex relationship who discussed the mother of the child they were adopting as though she were just another appliance, except when they were talking trash about her and her life choices. The entire play was centered around the upheavals and changes that would occur in the lives of the two young men when that child entered their life; no one thought about the changes that were happening in the young woman’s life, and whether she would be okay, except as an afterthought when they happened to run into her at the bus stop while taking the baby home. She was leaving town.

Or the play about the two women who spent the entire play worrying about a man, the brother of one, the boyfriend of another. Oh, yes, that was based on Dostoyevsky, right? So you had to stick with his story, right? No, not really. This was a story about that story, but modernized, set in the 21st century where women are not required to think only about men.

One of the plays said it was going to examine the focus on being pretty and whether what we would do to maintain that was worth it. That sounded promising, until I saw the play, and realized that the character in the play who was beautiful beyond the others was the one who was also considered to have the highest worth. This was not questioned. It was just assumed that she was more valuable not only to her parents, but to the town, to the world, and even, in this magical realism play, to the universe. The girl who tried to save the other girl’s life at the cost of her own, who was also smart and a reader, was considered of extremely low value, even after the heroic act. Everything, from beginning to end, proclaimed the value of the pretty girl.

They did, however, save the “best” for last. This was a play about menopause. And in case you should miss that in the action, the title made sure you knew that. It was written by a young man. It portrayed menopause as a crazy time, a time when a woman was so unable to function as a person that she lost track of where she was most of the time, even losing whole days and whole conversations with people, until she finally turned into a different person altogether. Menopause is presented as mental illness so severe that the women is unable to function, and must be let go by her job because she cannot perform her duties properly. The implications of this are horrendous. We are told that a woman is less valuable during her youth because she might take off at any time to have a baby; and, of course, monthly cramps keep her from doing her work properly for a week, plus the PMS for a week before and a week after which render her basically insane, at least in the popular imagination. Then there is the need for frequent absences to take care of the kids. So, women, if you are past child bearing age, if you are nearing menopause and you thought you didn’t have to worry anymore about your value being questioned, this play comes along to point out that it is really going badly from here. You’ve managed somehow, in spite of yourself, to hold on to that job by the skin of your teeth, in spite of all those crazy days, months of absence from work each year, skipping work to take the kid to the dentist or to dance lessons, and you’ve just settled down to finally be the competent employee your male counterparts have always been. Now, watch out! Here comes menopause, making you even less competent than before! We have it on great authority – a young man. As a woman currently experiencing menopause, I stop and wonder – am I doing it wrong? A bit of a hot flash now and then? No real impairment of my functioning? I remember all those articles I’ve read explaining how menopause really isn’t that big a deal for most women. Some women really have a rough time, but most women come through it without too much horrible disruption. Like most of the other things we supposedly have going on that keep us from functioning, it is quite overhyped. But…then…this play? Oh, well, artistic license. It makes a great story, right? After all, a woman doing what women usually do without much change isn’t really theatrical, so we must take the most dramatic, and then increase the drama several notches. Because it is absolutely necessary to write a play about a woman in menopause, right? Why? Who knows? But you can’t show a woman going through menopause like women go through menopause, because, let’s face it, that’s boring. It’s like ordinary life or something.

Now, I am not saying that authors should not be entitled to write the plays they want to write, or put out the ideas they believe. I am not saying the coordinators should not be entitled to select the plays they want to select. What I’m bothered by is the complete obliviousness on the part of not only the coordinators but the audience, an educated liberal audience that included many women, that these plays were sexist. They didn’t even notice. This is how normalized this sort of thing is in our society. Women have particular roles that are accepted as true. No matter if it really isn’t true, we all know this is how women are. In fact, I have a problem with one person in my own playwriting group who is unable to believe any of the women characters written by the women in the group. Why? Because we write the women we know – strong, independent women who do not waste our lives swooning, crying, or fussing over men. We write women who do things women can do, and don’t feel the need to reach into the bag of stereotypes to make sure our women are acceptable to the males in our group. Oh, wait, not stereotype. That’s archetype – the word that is preferred by people writing stereotypes because it sounds much less obnoxious. But the young women at this conference felt the need to reach into that bag and pull out whatever was handy. The young men were even freer with that; any pretenses at strong independent women were gone. If women showed up in the male-written plays at all, they were women who were unable to do much else besides get pregnant and go crazy.

Theatre people are notorious for being liberals, and for being social justice warriors. This is what they come up with. Is it any wonder that we are seeing the nastiness in so many other, less socially conscious walks of life?

Suck it up

Jun 9th, 2016 4:56 pm | By

In Pakistan and a number of other countries, it’s against the law to drink and eat in public (and “in public” means where anyone can see and report you, so I suspect it means at home too if you have windows). IBTimes reported last June:

The death toll from a weeklong heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, has risen to 1,233, officials told the Associated Press Saturday. Some 65,000 people flooded the city’s hospitals to be treated for heat stroke, and about 1,900 patients were still receiving medical care as the country began to cool off.

Pakistan’s laws forbid people [to drink] and [eat] in public in daylight during Ramadan. As the heat wave has continued — and worsened — some Muslim religious leaders departed from tradition and encouraged followers to break the fast for health reasons.

Of course it’s always that hot in the Arabian Peninsula…


The hot month

Jun 9th, 2016 4:46 pm | By

I’ve heard from a couple of friends of Muslim background who say the dehydration issue is indeed a problem, and generally ignored.

Deutsche Welle reported a year ago:

More than 1,100 people have already died of dehydration in Pakistan’s scorching temperatures. The risk is made worse because devout Muslims don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan.

It’s hot in Pakistan. Over the last few days, it’s been as hot as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade and thousands of people are being treated in hospitals. Most of the more than 1,100 casualties have been recorded in the port city of Karachi, Pakistani health authorities report. Military and civilian aid organizations have set up dozens of temporary camps to care for victims of dehydration, heatstroke and circulatory collapse.

Faithful Muslims are currently observing Ramadan, which literally means “the hot month.” They don’t eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during this time, which puts them especially at risk in the current extreme heat. They are much more likely to suffer from dehydration.

If the body’s fluid levels sink to dangerous lows, it can dry out. “Vessels contract and blood pressure plummets,” Dr. Ulrich Gerth from University Hospital Münster explained. “Blood levels get shaken up because of a lack of electrolytes and important organs don’t get enough blood flow anymore. This can lead to a comatose state and cause irreversible damage.”

But hey, it makes them feel more spiritual.

Until [Ramadan ends], devout believers try to right their fluid balance by drinking copious amounts of water after sundown. But that’s not healthy either. “It’s possible that the body cannot cope with this, depending on its overall condition,” Gerth told DW.

Drinking too much at once can be damaging. It dilutes the body’s electrolytes too much, causing water to be drawn out of cells through their membranes. Gerth says this can lead to cerebral or pulmonary edema in people with existing health conditions.

By now, temperatures in Pakistan have gone down at least a little. And a leading religious scholar in Karachi clarified again that Islam allows the elderly, sick or weak to interrupt fasting in extreme situations.

“People shouldn’t risk their lives for a religious duty,” cleric Mufti Naeem said.

Indeed they shouldn’t, but that means no one should go without water. Water should be excluded from Ramadan altogether.

The situation in Pakistan remains strained, despite the sinking temperatures. Many hospitals are full beyond their capacities and authorities reckon more people will die.

In Karachi, the past week was declared to be “work-free” for everybody, to alleviate the risk a little. But according to Gerth, that was just a drop in the ocean.

“Working less in extreme heat is helpful for sure, but it only mitigates the problem,” he said. “It can’t replace regular hydration.”

God hates human beings.

The ashes were delivered by courier

Jun 9th, 2016 12:31 pm | By

In news from the UN

A woman in Ireland who was forced to choose between carrying her foetus to term, knowing it would not survive, or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a result of Ireland’s legal prohibition of abortion, United Nations experts have found.

The independent experts, from the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee, issued their findings after considering a complaint by the woman, AM, who was told in November 2011 when she was in the 21st week of pregnancy that her foetus had congenital defects, which meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

This meant she had to choose “between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or travelling to another country while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered,” the Committee said in a press release.

AM decided to travel to the United Kingdom for a termination and returned 12 hours after the procedure as she could not afford to stay longer. The UK hospital did not provide any options regarding the foetus’s remains and she had to leave them behind. The ashes were unexpectedly delivered to her three weeks later by courier.

In Ireland, she was denied the bereavement counselling and medical care available to women who miscarry. Such differential treatment, the Committee noted, failed to take into account her medical needs and socio-economic circumstances and constituted discrimination.

And she couldn’t even get adequate information about what to do.

Ireland’s Abortion Information Act allows healthcare providers to give patients information about abortion, including the circumstances under which abortion services can be available in Ireland or overseas. But under the law they are prohibited from, and could be sanctioned for, behaviour that could be interpreted as advocating or promoting the termination of pregnancy. This, according to the Committee, has a chilling effect on health-care providers, who struggle to distinguish “supporting” a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy from “advocating” or “promoting” abortion.

All this because God hates women.