Notes and Comment Blog


How about Pippi Longstocking?

Nov 5th, 2016 11:21 am | By

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini at Sister-hood on Wonder Woman and the UN.

For those of us who ever feel conflicted about the United Nations, the past month has been an exercise in managing absurd cognitive dissonance. First, on October 21 2016, the United Nations announced that the 1940s comic book heroine, Wonder Woman would be its new mascot for promoting the empowerment of women and girls.  The news naturally sent serious women around the world into a collective swirl, and then a reach for their golden lassoes, to capture the attention of an institution that seems perpetually tone deaf on the issue of basic equality and respect for half the world’s population. It also prompted female staff at the UN to protest in silence, through literally turning their backs on the occasion. Then, on October 25th the UN Security Council held its annual open debate on the groundbreaking ‘Women, peace and security agenda’, now in its 16th year of existence – still full of promise, and yet barely realized.

So what’s going on?

The story so far: In the age of Trumpism, just weeks after women’s rights activists globally were disappointed to learn that a woman was not selected to head the UN, hard on the heels of a year when the outgoing UN Secretary General appointed men to 96% of the senior jobs in the system, some folks at the UN thought having Wonder Woman as the icon for gender equality for the global organization was a good idea. Not so much.

Here are a few reasons why not: First off, the UN is a post-war institution, dedicated to ending the scourge of war and, by extension, violence. It is an institution founded on diplomacy and the principle of negotiating differences, not vilification and use of force.  Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a product of the World War II propaganda of superheroes that fight ‘evil’, using violence in the name of ‘good’.

That’s a point I overlooked. Wonder Woman is a Trump-style “hero” – a bully. That too is not empowerment. The real heroes, Naraghi-Anderlini points out, are the ones brave enough to be non-violent.

We did not fight for women’s equal rights to fight, die and kill alongside men. We fought so that neither women nor men had to live through the horrors of war. We fought so that women peacemakers could have equal space with the militias and politicians at the tables where the future of peace and security in their countries is determined. We fought to end the wars that exist, and to prevent future wars. 9/11 changed the course of history, but the spirit and vision of 1325 shouldn’t get lost in the fog of perpetual war and hyper militarization.

So the choice of Wonder Woman kicking, punching and lassoing her opponents is downright offensive and simplistic.

Herein lies the irony: just ten days ago, Marvel comics unveiled a new digital comic with Syrian mothers as the story’s heroines. So we are living in an age where institutions dealing in fiction recognize and revere contemporary facts, but institutions dealing in reality are stuck in an imaginary past.

Second, if we need a mythical figure, how about Shehrzad of the 1001 Nights? She used her words, wit and imagination to save the lives of women and turn a despotic king into a compassionate wise ruler. She is recognized across many countries and cultures – still relevant across time, and far more representative of an iconic and emancipated woman than Wonder Woman. Or, as one long-time UN staffer suggested, if its fictional figures, why not Pippi Longstocking? She was strong, creative, and definitely no pin-up girl.

Others have already commented on the sartorial faux pas of selecting Wonder Woman. But there is a political and security dimension to this choice. Women are already fighting the backlash of conservative forces that believe their struggle for rights or voice in political spaces is a ‘western agenda’ designed to undermine their power structures. Having a female figure in a low-cut bustier/corset covered in the American flag is just adding ammunition. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the kitsch Lynda Carter TV shows and comic books too. But Wonder Woman is clearly the figment of some 1940s male comic strip illustrator’s imagination.

Other than that, great choice.



UDHR

Nov 5th, 2016 11:02 am | By

Here’s a wonder woman if you like.

 



The epitome of a pin-up girl

Nov 5th, 2016 10:51 am | By

More coverage (so to speak) of Wonder Woman as the UN’s ambassador for women’s empowerment.

Somini Sengupta at the NY Times reported on a petition asking the UN please not to.

More than 600 United Nations staff members have signed an online petition calling on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a professed feminist, to reconsider the appointment of the fictitious superhero as its ambassador for women’s empowerment.

More than 600 people who work for the UN itself have signed. It seems a little surprising that whoever had this bright idea couldn’t have seen the problems with it. Let’s read the petition:

On 21 October 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations decided that the new Honorary Ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be Wonder Woman, a fictional character, the rights to which are owned by DC Comics, a for-profit entertainment corporation.

Since that date, over 16,000 people have expressed their concern with this appointment.
Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a “pin-up” girl. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. It appears that this character will be promoted as the face of sustainable development goal 5 for the United Nations at large.

At a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nation’s agenda, including the “He for She” campaign, this appointment is more than surprising. It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls.

Is that a “shallow” argument? I don’t think so. I don’t think a fantasy woman who is painted as an exaggeratedly and consciously sexy figure is any kind of ambassador for empowerment. Here’s a news flash: looking hot or sexy or seductive is not empowering. It’s passive. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, end of story – but it certainly is to say it’s a bad fit with a campaign that’s explicitly about empowerment. The message an image like that sends is that women are of no interest or importance unless they’re sexy, indeed sexier than nearly all real women on earth. It sends the message that women have to be sexy first of all, and any other talents they may have come a distant second, so distant that you can’t tell what they are. It sends the message that women have to arouse men before they do anything else, and thus that men are the people who really count while women are an afterthought who should go away unless they’re fantasy-level sexy. It does not send the message that women can be scientists and judges and farmers and anything else they aspire to.

The message the United Nations is sending to the world with this appointment is extremely disappointing. The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all round the world should look up to.

Having strong (living, breathing) female role models is a critical aspect of the goal of empowerment of women and girls. If the United Nations would like a list of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role, we could surely be able to come up with a list from which the Secretary-General could choose.

Since 2007, the Secretary-General has launched campaign after campaign under the banner of the empowerment of women and girls. However, the United Nations cannot on the one hand claim that “providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large,” and on the other, award this key ambassadorial role to Wonder Woman, relegating the importance of the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to the previous appointment of fictional characters for ambassadorial positions, such as Tinkerbell (Ambassador of Green) and Winnie the Pooh (Ambassador of Friendship).

In other words it looks as if the UN is trivializing the issue, and the UN shouldn’t do that.

Back to the Times:

Privately, several United Nations officials have expressed concern about the choice of a comic-book character. Publicly, its leaders have described the decision as a creative way to reach younger audiences, in advance of a new Hollywood film starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman…

Women’s advocates inside and outside the United Nations say the selection of Wonder Woman is particularly ill timed because the United Nations this month rejected seven female candidates for secretary general. The next leader will be António Guterres of Portugal, even though many had hoped a woman would take the helm for the first time.

Raimonda Murmokaite, the permanent representative of Lithuania, reacted to the news of Wonder Woman’s appointment by asking on Twitter why “real life women” could not be selected.

Anne Marie Goetz, an academic and a former adviser to the United Nations who had campaigned for a woman to be secretary general, called the choice “disgusting” and wrote on Twitter that Wonder Woman should use her “lasso of truth” to expose the United Nations’ “hypocrisy.”

I suppose they couldn’t find a woman with big enough tits to be Secretary-General.



Another blasphemy march

Nov 5th, 2016 9:39 am | By

Meanwhile in Jakarta

Tens of thousands of Indonesians marched in Jakarta on Friday, demanding that the city’s first Christian governor in decades be jailed for blasphemy. The rally was a show of strength by conservative Islamic groups, who were offended by his earlier remarks about the Quran and want to weaken him as he runs for re-election.

I guess that’s one thing we can be grateful for in the US: Trump doesn’t call his enemies blasphemers.

The governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and the first Christian in nearly 50 years to govern Jakarta, capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

He has been a political target of some Islamic organizations since taking office in 2014. Some of those groups seized on comments he made in September to a group of fishermen, in which he lightheartedly cited a Quran verse that warns against taking Christians and Jews as friends.

His comments circulated on social media, and hard-liners accused him of blasphemy, which is a criminal offense in Indonesia, and pressured the police to investigate. Mr. Basuki has repeatedly apologized to Muslims who were offended by his remark, but he has rejected calls to withdraw from the election for governor in February, which he is heavily favored to win.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia. Worth noting.

“Precisely because religion and ethnicity are as such not electoral factors, Ahok’s opponents have to up the game,” said Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, who closely follows Indonesian politics. “Instead of claiming that Ahok shouldn’t be governor because he’s a Christian — which hasn’t worked — they try to portray him as a blasphemist who violated the law.”

The reason, said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta organization that promotes religious tolerance, is simple but desperate: an effort to force the governor out of the race, which will go to a second round if none of the three candidates gets 50 percent of the vote.

So it is, if they’re right, a cynical ploy – but the ploy wouldn’t be possible if “blasphemy” were not an issue.

Protesters on Friday, many of whom had arrived in groups from neighboring West Java, chanted, “Hang Ahok, hang the traitor,” and, “Cut off a hand and foot and deport him.”

Maybe they didn’t get the memo about the cynical ploy – or maybe they were just giving a good performance.



Yes or no

Nov 5th, 2016 9:19 am | By

A guy on Facebook yesterday posted video of something a lot of my friends have been passionately discussing: a few minutes from the Parliamentary inquiry into Sharia courts on Monday, in which Bradford MP Naz Shah interrupts Maryam Namazie’s testimony to demand a yes or no answer to a misleading question and then simply attacks her for her views. It’s pretty horrifying.



The most unforgivable of activists

Nov 4th, 2016 5:24 pm | By

Marina S. has an excellent response to Juno Dawson’s Glamour column.

So, Glamour went there. It printed a piece in which women are called “TERF”.

It was inevitable that the word “TERF” would become mainstream. The feminists slammed with this “description” are the most unforgivable of activists: women who stand for women, as women, and women only. Women without a modifier, women as members of no class other than their own, women as completely divorced from any political association with men.

The Left, she says, allows a certain amount of feminism, but only if it’s the male-friendly kind. Radical feminism refuses to be male-friendly, because it’s about women, not men.

That a “women’s” magazine (in reality, a publication whose aim and purpose is to inform the subordinate class about the terms on which its subordination is to be carried out) should be among the first mainstream media organs to legitimise a word that is used as a cover for lurid fantasies about inflicting snuff-like violence on these insubordinate, obstinate, monstrous women who continue to insist that “women” means something and that women matter, is not surprising. It’s not even ironic. It’s completely predictable.

Women’s magazines exist to tell us what we are not allowed to be. Fat. Hairy. Ugly. Old. Ambitious. That a women’s magazine should take it upon itself to thickly hint that one additional thing we are not allowed to be is partisans for our own political class – that we are not, in fact, allowed to insist that we are members of a political class that really exists and has a right to organise and agitate on its own behalf – is one hundred percent in accordance with the mission statement of such a publication. In a world in which it has become socially gauche to tell women outright that feminism will be stigmatised and punished, a workaround has been found: narrow the definition of permissible feminism down such as to exclude almost all serious political activity, then call women who don’t conform names.

Also shun them, expel them, tell everyone else to shun them, tell lies about them, pretend they’re violent, pretend they’re murderous.



Trump lawyer babbles

Nov 4th, 2016 4:22 pm | By

Trump and his campaign have been hit with a restraining order. Common Dreams has the story.

A federal judge in Ohio on Friday granted a temporary restraining order against the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, as well as his longtime adviser Roger Stone, to prohibit attempts to harass voters in the crucial swing state.

The case, brought by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is just one currently being weighed by numerous states alleging that representatives of the Republican Party and the Trump campaign are engaging in illegal voter intimidation efforts.

According to Cleveland.com, U.S. District Judge James Gwin “said he will order the restraining order against Trump’s campaign and Stone,” who runs the controversial “Stop the Steal” organization, which is recruiting so-called “Vote Protector Exit Pollers” for election day. Gwin “did not order it against the Ohio Republican Party, saying there was not enough evidence to show that a restraining order against it was needed.”

Recruiting people to intimidate voters is not so much controversial as illegal.

Throughout his presidential campaign, the GOP nominee has repeatedly called on his supporters to help ensure “ballot security” on election day.

Attorney Subodh Chandra, who documented Friday’s hearing on Twitter, noted that during the trial Gwin referenced these statements, insinuating that they were inciting aggressive poll-watching.

Stone was reportedly ordered to testify during a similar hearing in Nevada on Friday.

Ahead of the trials, Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at University of California Irvine and blogger with the Election Law Blog, who has been following the case, said that “the lawsuits have already borne fruit by getting the campaign on the record with its plans and promises not to intimidate voters.”

Hasen wrote at Slate on Friday:

In an important development on Thursday afternoon, the Trump campaign in response to the lawsuits sent an email to Nevada campaign workers describing for them what constitutes illegal harassment and what constitutes good behavior. By getting Trump on the record promising not to harass voters with its “ballot security” activities, the Democrats have significantly lessened the chances of Trump-driven voter intimidation on Election Day.

Trump is such a bully it takes a court order to restrain him.

Notes and References

  1. (Subodh Chandra []


More hatred and violence

Nov 4th, 2016 11:28 am | By

The New York Times reports on communal violence in Bangladesh.

Crowds of Muslims attacked Hindu homes and temples in eastern Bangladesh this week, raising concerns that the authorities are not taking steps to curb rising religious tensions.

Attacks on Hindus are not unusual in Bangladesh, but it is rare to see multiple crowds targeting temples in an organized way as they did on Sunday and Monday. The country’s human rights commission has initiated an inquiry into the episodes, which the panel’s chairman says appear to have been coordinated.

On Saturday, an Islamic group in Nasirnagar organized a protest against a Facebook post it found offensive. The post included an image of the Hindu god Shiva appearing at a Muslim holy site in the Saudi city of Mecca.

A Facebook post. Ffs.

The crowd demanded that the young Hindu man who created the image be put to death. Nevertheless, the group was given permission to hold a rally the next day, and mosque loudspeakers were used to mobilize an even larger group, said Anjan Kumar Deb, the vice chairman of Nasirnagar subdistrict.

On Sunday, hundreds of Muslims entered a Hindu neighborhood, where they ransacked 15 temples and the homes of more than 100 families, Mr. Deb said. He said that the mob “used long, hard sticks and locally made sharp weapons” to assault Hindus they found there, and that at least 20 people, including a priest, were wounded.

Because one guy did a Facebook post. Can human beings not grow up?!

The Hindu youth who is believed to have posted the controversial image was arrested on Saturday.

Of course he was.

Hindus make up about 11 percent of the population of Bangladesh, where Muslims constitute the majority, according to government statistics.

Kazi Reazul Hoque, the head of the country’s human rights commission, said local officials made a “gross mistake” by allowing the crowd to regroup Sunday morning. Bangladeshi newspapers offered similar criticism. The Daily Star, in an editorial on Wednesday, called the government’s inaction “baffling.”

“Has the government lost confidence that the majority of the people of this country, although religious, believe in a pluralistic society?” the editorial asked.

Bangladesh is a tragedy.



Poking the hornets’ nest

Nov 4th, 2016 10:55 am | By

Glamour UK published a startling piece of garbage by Juno Dawson, who was called James Dawson until a year ago. The title, calculated to annoy (indeed, to insult) is “Call yourself a feminist?” I don’t much want newly-minted women telling me I’m not a feminist, thanks.

The subhead is equally calculated to annoy and insult:

Our transgender columnist Juno Dawson’s here to see if you really pass the test

No thank you. It’s not up to Juno Dawson to decide that.

And then the column itself is pure shite.

One of things I love about GLAMOUR Magazine is how it supports women’s choices. Indeed there is a whole section called Hey, It’s OK…because, when things are your choice, and if they’re not hurting anyone else, it is OK. Women are sometimes made to feel guilty about their choices in a way that men are not – you shouldn’t eat that, wear that, think that, do that, say that.

I’m getting beyond tired of having brand new women lecturing me about women and feminism. I also don’t like shit writing, and that is shit writing.

What I also love about GLAMOUR is that, since 2001, it has encouraged women to feel confident about their choices while rarely using the word ‘feminism’. That was because, back then, feminism was something of a dirty word. It was a word that felt militant, angry, unconstructive and, frankly, unglamorous.

A steeply downward path, here. One, feminism is not about “feeling confident about choices.” Two, avoiding the word “feminism” is not a plus, especially for a putative “women’s” magazine. Three…oh dear what a shame that feminism sounded militant and angry. It should have sounded fluffy and seductive! And as for being unglamorous – what was feminism thinking?!

It’s interesting and non-random that Dawson doesn’t seem to notice that there could possibly be reasons for the fact that the word feminism “felt militant, angry, unconstructive and, frankly, unglamorous” to one James Dawson, reasons other than a simple equation of that “feeling” with a fact about the world. Maybe James Dawson had that feeling because feminism wasn’t all about James Dawson. Lots of men do feel that way.

Fifteen years later, thanks to a rebranding – although by no means a retooling – feminism is mercifully ‘in’ again. Caitlin Moran; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Beyoncé, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and many, many more stars are proudly reclaiming the label. The goals of feminism are the same as they always were: social, political and economic equality between genders.

Jesus god. No, the goal of feminism has never been “equality between genders.” It’s about ending the system that makes men as a class dominant over the subordinate class that is women. And rebranding and being “in” again is just fatuous garbage. Juno Dawson has no business instructing anyone about feminism.

When I visit high schools with my novels, I always encourage teenage girls to call themselves feminists because I believe all girls need feminism. They need it to safeguard the rights they already have and those inequalities still not fought.

Oops. Can’t write. No editor, apparently. Can’t remember the beginning of the sentence all the way to its end.

Greer is not the first, nor will she be the last, TERF: a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. A subgroup of feminists who steadfastly believe me – and other trans women – are not women.

Who believe me are not women. This is a professional writer! We can assume Glamour paid actual money for this crap.

It’s all this bad; I need to jump ahead to spare us all boredom.

It’s frustrating that trans women, including myself, constantly have to defend ourselves. I feel perpetually on the back-foot, constantly grovelling, almost apologetic for my inclusion in womanhood. I can only speak for myself, but by being a woman, I don’t feel I’m holding back cisgender (not-trans) women or taking anything away from them. I don’t think my choice to initiate a medical transition impacts on the choices of any other women.

True enough, but writing this column? That’s another story, innit.



Guest post: Women beyond belief

Nov 4th, 2016 9:53 am | By

Guest post by Karen L. Garst, who has compiled a collection of essays titled Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion, available in print and electronic formats. It has been reviewed by Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, Peter Boghossian, Sikivu Hutchinson and other atheist authors. Visit Dr. Garst’s blog at www.faithlessfeminist.com to pre-order the book.

“But at the end of the day, I kept coming back to one simple realization:
I fundamentally did not believe that one religion (Christianity) could tell
another religion (Hinduism) that it was wrong, that its deities did not exist,
that its moral compass was askew, that the beliefs of its people—while
noble—did not coincide with the lord-and-savior Jesus Christ and his
father-in-heaven God, and therefore could not possibly be valid. To me,
Hinduism embraced beliefs and morals and a lifestyle that was so much
more relatable and beautiful than anything Christianity, even in the Seventh
Day Adventist form, had ever taught me. The thought of discounting all
of it to adhere to a religion that I was essentially born into by way of my
geographic location was completely backward. I couldn’t get over the
notion that devout faith to one religion obliterates the ability to believe
in another, despite the fact that so many millions of Hindus formulated
their realities and structured their (in my opinion much more meritorious)
belief systems based on those religious principles.” Taylor Duty

Taylor Duty was raised in a secular family but attended Seventh Day Adventist Camps as a youth. Her reflection comes after a trip to India with her mother. She is one of 22 authors who wrote an essay about her journey away from religion.

I became incensed when the U. S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014. This decision said that because of its religious views, Hobby Lobby, a craft store, would not be obligated to follow the dictates of the Affordable Care Act and provide certain forms of birth control to its employees. “Will we never end the fight for women’s reproductive rights?” I wondered. Once again, religion has influenced the laws of our land. Politicians cite their religion in supporting restrictions on abortion, banning funding for Planned Parenthood, and a host of other issues that are against women.

The first leaders of the New Atheism movement that arose after 9/11 were men: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. They came with backgrounds of science and philosophy. They launched a renewed effort to show people how destructive religion can be and how all Abrahamic religions are based upon an Iron Age mythology, borrowing from other mythologies of the time.

I want to add a focus on women and the role this mythology has played in the culture of many countries to denigrate and subordinate women. Religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality, and more and more women atheists are speaking out. As we all know, if women leave the churches, they will collapse.



The number of Americans who would rather elect a rapist than a female human being

Nov 4th, 2016 9:16 am | By

Sady Doyle, like so many of us, is sick to death of this fucking election.

I am tired of the lingering hangover of the Democratic primary, tired of what this conversation has shown me about the seemingly well-meaning, “progressive” men in my life. I am tired of seeing the damage that even the mildest, wimpiest, plaid-shirt-clad beardy-bro can do when he’s been given license to stop taking sexism seriously, and therefore stopped worrying that he might get somebody hurt.

I’m tired of the hurt. I’m tired of hearing from women who’ve been run off Twitter by harassment and death threats and doxing because they dared to express an opinion about a Presidential election. I am tired of arguing that their pain matters, that the attacks on them matter. I am tired of living in a world where a state Democratic Party chairwoman can record her death threats and post them on the internet, a world where that woman needs a bodyguard to visit the goddamn bathroom, and where feminists are asked to prove that this series of events is, in fact, a bad thing.

It’s interesting how we get it from all directions, isn’t it. I think women are unique that way. I suppose it’s because everybody hates Mommy or some such thing.

Doyle is tired of explaining it, too.

I’m tired of having to explain why it’s sexist for men to tell me how to do my feminism “right,” why they shouldn’t impose their self-declared authority on my liberation. I’m tired of explaining why barring women’s access to public life, penalizing their public voices through tactics like harassment and intimidation, is integral to the functioning of patriarchy. I’m tired of explaining why demonizing powerful women — calling Hillary Clinton a murderer, a criminal, a hag, a witch, a bitch, etc — is a tactic as old as witch-burning. I’m tired of explaining why “likability” is a trap designed to make women worry more about other people’s feelings than they do about their own lives — and why no powerful woman will ever be “likable,” because the only “likable” thing she can do is give away her power. I’m tired of reading shitty divide-and-conquer thinkpieces about the catfight between “old” feminists (evil, capitalist, wear pantsuits, loathe the young and wish to feast on their economically disempowered flesh) and “young” feminists (hot, cool, hip, fun, down with male power because they understand these silly identity-politics struggles don’t get us anywhere and sometimes men are just smarter, am I right, girls?) and I am supremely tired of looking at that thinkpiece, and others like it, and seeing a male fucking byline on it.

I get that a lot. Just the other day, on Twitter – some guy, explaining women and feminism to me for tweet after tweet after tweet. I let him go on for a couple of days because I was curious to see how far he would push it. Once it became apparent that the answer was open-ended, I stopped letting him go on.

Now at least people believe her about sexism, but at what a price.

After spending a goddamn year arguing about whether sexism even existed, let alone whether it influenced people’s votes, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy now depends on beating a guy who is sexism incarnate — the big, orange, pussy-grabbing monster who grew to Tokyo-stomping size while we were arguing the finer points of progressive self-identification. A racist. A con man. A fascist. A joke. An alleged rapist. An alleged wife-beater. An alleged sexual harasser. After all that arguing about sexism and its impact, in the end, we just had to point at Donald fucking Trump and let people draw their own conclusions.

Truth. There has been a gruesome kind of schadenfreude in the news items about Trump, because they do demonstrate how casual and taken for granted it can be.

But the larger truth is that the whole thing is deeply insulting.

It isn’t just an insult to Hillary Clinton that she wound up facing Trump. It’s an insult to all women; it’s confirmation of our darkest suspicions about sexism, that while women are killing ourselves to do better and be smarter and work harder, while we’re building resumes, accumulating qualifications, going to classes, applying for extra credit, the only thing all that excellence does, at the end of the day, is to put us on equal footing with some male idiot who’s done precisely none of the work. It isn’t fun, realizing that the most qualified candidate in modern history is considered roughly equivalent to a barely literate game-show host with no government experience, just because she’s female. It doesn’t feel good, knowing that even Hillary Clinton has to stand there and get screamed at by some Twitter troll, just because she’s trying to get a job.

It is not fun, was not fun, has never been and could never be fun, spending nearly two years “debating” my own humanity through the lens of the biggest news story in the country. It has not been fun realizing that this matter was up for debate. I mean: By my count, Donald Trump currently has twelve standing allegations of sexual assault. Now, thanks to the magic of modern polling, I can see exactly how many of my countrymen don’t give a shit. According to FiveThirtyEight, the number of Americans who would rather elect a rapist than a female human being stands at around 45 percent.

And it’s only going to get worse.

In one scenario, Trump will win, and we’ll be governed by a man who is more vocal and unapologetic than most about believing women to be subhumans and second-class citizens. The sexism will flow down in terms of restrictive policies, cultural backlash, anti-choice and anti-female Supreme Court Justices, the incalculable harm done to younger generations by seeing misogyny legitimized and modeled by the most powerful man in the country. Or, Clinton will win, and she won’t have Trump to run against any longer — meaning that the sexism, “progressive” and otherwise, will come back every time someone gets frustrated with her or wants to delegitimize her, and we’ll have to argue about whether it exists or matters all over again.

I keep thinking it will take centuries, and then remembering that global warming means we don’t have centuries.



An unlikely source

Nov 3rd, 2016 5:27 pm | By

Melania Trump has returned to campaigning for her owner husband. She’s chosen a theme: bullying. She’s against it.

Melania Trump returned from political exile on Thursday by making a rather eyebrow-raising claim: as first lady, she would combat bullying. That anti-bullying campaign, however, likely wouldn’t extend to her husband.

“Our culture has gotten too mean and too violent,” the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a crowd here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. “It is never OK when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground and it is unacceptable when it’s done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.”

If she really thinks that, she made a very bad marital choice. She’s married to the worst public bully I’ve ever seen in action – the.very.worst.

She’s been away until now, Eliot Nelson notes.

Her absence made the peculiar focus of her address all the more perplexing. Her husband has become infamous for his bullying ― both online and in person ― of virtually anyone who appears to oppose him. In fact, the National Education Association recently began a campaign to raise awareness of a “Trump effect,” in which children feel emboldened by the candidate’s behavior to engage in bullying.

The link under infamous for bullying is to that NY Times collection of his bullying tweets. I’m sure you remember just how extensive it is.

“We’ve seen this already,” Melania Trump said Thursday. “As adults, many of us are able to handle mean words, even lies.” (This very week, a social media campaign, #ImWithTur, has sprung up as a defense of NBC News reporter Katy Tur, whom the Republican nominee singled out for mockery during a speech in Miami on Wednesday.)

Trump also bemoaned that children are often picked on for their “looks or intelligence” ― even though her husband frequently attacks people based on those characteristics.

She’d probably better stay away from him for a few days.



Coming up roses

Nov 3rd, 2016 4:38 pm | By

Marc Fisher at the Washington Post ponders how Trump deals with his failures.

When Donald Trump loses, he lashes out, assigns blame and does whatever it takes to make a defeat look like a win. When that isn’t plausible, he pronounces the system rigged — victory wasn’t possible because someone put in the fix.

It’s what makes him great. I mean terrible. It’s what makes him terrible. I mean it’s one of the many things that make him terrible.

Trump calls defeats “blips.” Losing the race for the most powerful job on the planet is no one’s idea of a blip, and if that happens, Trump is highly unlikely to slip away and accept life as a historical footnote, as Michael Dukakis did; to live out his golden years as a respected elder statesman, as Bob Dole has done; or to consider some other form of government service, as John Kerry did.

Well that’s because he’s terrible. Huge ego, huge vanity, no humility, no respect for people who aren’t Donald Trump.

In the final month of the campaign — even as he has contended that he will win — Trump has repeatedly said that a loss would be the fault of leaders of his party, the news media, pollsters, career politicians and federal investigators. At his final debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump refused to say he would accept the result of the election as legitimate. For more than a week after that, he added almost daily to the list of institutions he said were rigged against him: special interests, Clinton donors, big media companies, “global financial powers.” (That line of rhetoric grew less heated this past week, after FBI Director James B. Comey focused the nation’s attention back on Clinton’s emails, and Trump even suggested that things might not be as rigged as he’d said.)

It’s almost as if the whole thing is a colossal vanity project and nothing else.

Losing politicians rarely distance themselves from defeat this way. Traditionally, if they want to maintain their credibility so they can try again in another election, they eat crow, accept the wisdom of the voters and show a modicum of grace toward their victorious opponents. Trump’s approach is one psychologists say they see more often in sports, where defeated athletes sometimes immediately guarantee that they will demolish whomever just beat them, or in business, where executives with an unusually inflated sense of self-worth tend to blame failures on others.

It’s also something you see more in terrible people.

Trump’s classmates, neighbors, teachers and friends from New York in the 1950s are united in their recollections of a kid who had a powerful aversion to defeat — and a tendency to blast others when he lost. In sixth grade in Queens, his neighbor Jeff Bier said, he loaned young Donald his favorite bat during a baseball game at school, but when Trump failed to get a hit, he smashed Bier’s bat on the pavement, cracking the wood. Trump did not apologize, Bier said.

Terrible even at age 12.

In 1990, Bruce Nobles, president of the short-lived Trump Shuttle, told his boss that women were avoiding the airline because of the owner’s behavior toward women. “They don’t like what they’re reading about you in the paper,” Nobles told Trump. According to Nobles, the owner laughed and replied, “Yeah, but the guys love it.” (Bankers forced the sale of the airline in 1992; Trump blamed a weak economy.)

And not the fact that he’s terrible.

Over and over, moments that looked like defeat have become something else in Trump’s telling. In 1975, after the federal government sued Trump and his father, alleging that their real estate company systematically mistreated blacks and other minorities who wanted to rent apartments from them, the Trumps settled the case, signing a consent order that barred them from discriminating. Trump contended in an interview years later that the Justice Department suit “wasn’t a case against us. There were many, many landlords that were sued under that case.” The suit was filed solely against the Trumps and their company.

He’s a terrible liar.



Vigilante voter intimidation

Nov 3rd, 2016 10:25 am | By

Trump people are due in court to answer charges related to voter intimidation.

A federal judge Tuesday ordered representatives from the Donald Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party to appear at a hearing in his courtroom Wednesday afternoon in a lawsuit filed by Nevada Democrats accusing them of the engaging in voter intimidation tactics.

U.S. District Judge Richard Franklin Boulware also ordered the Trump campaign and state party to turn over any training materials they provided to “poll watchers, poll observers, exit pollsters or any other similarly tasked individuals.”

At the hearing, the Trump campaign and the Nevada GOP should be prepared to respond to the motion for a temporary restraining order that the Democrats requested in the lawsuit, the judge’s order said.

The Nevada Democratic Party’s lawsuit was filed along with lawsuits from three other Democratic state parties against their GOP counterparts and the Trump campaign in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona. They allege that the Trump campaign and the state Republican parties have violated the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act, with an approach to elections monitoring that Democrats described as “vigilante voter intimidation.” Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative and former Trump adviser, was also named in the complaints, as was the group he is affiliated with, Stop the Steal, for its poll watcher recruitment efforts.

Good.



Vive la laïcité

Nov 3rd, 2016 6:22 am | By

Maryam received a Prix international de la Laïcité yesterday in Paris. She posted her acceptance speech on Facebook:

I am truly honoured to have been awarded the International Secularism (Laïcité) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November. The wonderful Malek Boutih won the National Prix and Étienne-Émile Baulieu the Scientific Prize for 2016. Here is my acceptance speech in English.

Thank you for this wonderful honour. I am so glad to have the support of so many present here, including my husband and son, as well as my Muslim parents.

We live in an age where totalitarianism is masked as divine righteousness, theocrats legitimised, dissent vilified and victims blamed for their own murder.

This is a time where “solidarity” is no longer an act of defending revolutionaries but fascists; where there is always support for Islamist projects like Sharia courts, the burqa, gender segregation, apostasy and blasphemy laws – whether de jure or de facto – but never for those who refuse to be silenced, erased and “disappeared”.

It’s a time when “progressive” all too often means protecting regressive identity politics, which homogenises entire communities and societies, and deems theocrats as the sole legitimate arbiters and gatekeepers of “community” values.

It’s a politics of betrayal – devoid of class struggle and political ideals – which sees any dissent through Islamist eyes and immediately labels it “Islamophobic” and blasphemous.

We are called “aggressive apostates”, “fundamentalist secularists”, “native informants”, “inflammatory”. We are accused of violating the “safe spaces” of Islamists on universities and even “inciting hatred”.

Don’t believe it. That is the Islamist narrative.

In the world today, it is we who are being slaughtered not the other way round.

In their world everyone dies yet we are accused of being “offensive” – as if cartoons and apostasy are worse than murder.

Islamists discriminate against, shun, flog, imprison, terrorise, abduct, and slaughter but somehow it is always the victim whose “provocation” is to blame – whether it’s Charlie Hebdo or Avijit Roy…

Laicite is not a theoretical discussion for ivory tower academics and champagne socialists. It’s a matter of life and death for many of us:
• The likes of Asia Bibi in Pakistan facing execution for blasphemy
• Young ex-Muslims (Islam’s Non Believers) in Britain facing a life-time of shunning
• The likes of Afsana Lachaux whose rights violations in a discriminatory Sharia court in the Middle East have been upheld by French courts due to bilateral agreements
• Human Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi given a 16 year prison sentence for opposing executions; Jafar Azimzadeh sentenced to 11 years for labour organising; or dual nationals used as pawns such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff as well as Siamak and Baquer Namazi in Iran
• Blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing about religion and politics and on and on and on…

“Secularism is the solution”, is a graffiti Raif Badawi saw scrawled in a Saudi prison lavatory. Yet we are told that secularism is a neo-colonialist demand by so-called “anti-colonialists” whose worldview always coincides with the ruling elite, including in former colonies, and never the dissenters. Those “anti-fascists” who are only anti-some fascists, some of the time. Those who are “anti-racist” as long as we do not venture outside the pigeonholes that we are meant to live and be buried in; (if we dissent, though, they are at the forefront of insisting on racist cultural relativism and “different” rights for “different” people). The so-called progressives who condemn us to living lives within the confines of Islam whilst the sky has no limits for them…

They cannot begin to understand that no one needs Laicite more than those who live, struggle and die under the boot of the religious-Right.

And this includes the innumerable voting with their very feet and dying as we speak to seek refuge in secular societies, including the women, men and children of Calais, who deserve the basic human right to asylum and protection, not vilification and criminalisation.

And it includes believers. The right to religion must have a corresponding right to be free from religion to have any real meaning.

The historical battle that we are faced with today is not a clash of civilisations as the vile far-Right says in order to promote what is fundamentally white and often Christian identity politics. Rather, it’s a clash between theocrats on the one hand and secularists and universalists on the other – across real or imagined communities, borders and boundaries -and including many Muslims and migrants.

Secularism is not French or Western or Eastern; it’s universal.

It must be unequivocally and unashamedly defended against this era’s totalitarianism.

Today more than ever, we need Laïcité and we need it now.

Our very lives depend on it.

Thank you.

I’m proud to know her.



No gurlz

Nov 2nd, 2016 6:02 pm | By

So the pope got chatty on the plane back from Sweden, where he’d gone to celebrate the anniversary of the Reformation, so have a good laugh about that before we proceed.

A journalist for the Catholic News Agency was there to catch the pearls of wisdom as he dropped them. The hot news flash is that he said the church isn’t budging its shiny little ass on the question of women priests. That’s still a big No and always will be, the affable theocrat said.

During a press conference Tuesday aboard the papal plane from Sweden to Rome, Pope Francis said the issue of women priests has been clearly decided, while also clarifying the essential role of women in the Catholic Church.

Oh yes rush to get that in there, lest we think he doesn’t like us. Of course he likes us! We’re so soft and sweet and cuddly and kind of soothing after a hard day chasing choir boys. He likes us, he just thinks we’re second rate. You understand.

After stating that the issue of female ordination is closed, the Pope added that women are very important to the Church, specifically from a “Marian dimension.”

Of course. A “Marian dimension,” meaning a soft and cuddly and vastly less important dimension. Meaning having nothing whatever to do with any kind of power or making any rules, such as for instance that women can’t be priests. Only men are fit to make rules saying that only men can be priests. It’s very lucky that it works out that way, isn’t it.

“In Catholic ecclesiology there are two dimensions to think about,” he said. “The Petrine dimension, which is from the Apostle Peter, and the Apostolic College, which is the pastoral activity of the bishops, as well as the Marian dimension, which is the feminine dimension of the Church.”

Pointing out that the Holy Mother Church “is a woman,” Francis said that the “spousal mystery” of the Church as the spouse of Christ can help us to understand these two dimensions.

Oh go choke on a biscuit, Frank.



No longer a lock

Nov 2nd, 2016 4:30 pm | By

Jeff Sharlet wrote a powerful public post on Facebook a few hours ago. It’s a “why we have to vote for Trump anyway” post but one that doesn’t minimize the things we dislike about Clinton – on the contrary it goes into some detail on them, via his own investigative journalism.

I’m so tired of Hillary Clinton posts, but I’m going to write one anyway. This is directed at my friends and acquaintances who, like me, are very critical of Clinton’s corporate centrism, cronyism, elitism, and militarism: Please consider voting for her anyway, even if you live in a “safe state.” Clinton is probably going to win, but it’s no longer a lock. Trump has a narrow but real potential path to victory. He also has the potential for great harm if he loses, which is why even though I live in Vermont, I’m voting for Hillary. The margin must be big, because the margin isn’t Hillary’s victory — everyone understands that millions are voting against Trump — it’ll be Trumpism’s defeat.

My track record as a critic of Hillary and Clintonism in general is pretty good. In 2007, Kathryn Joyce and I teamed up to write a sharply critical story on Clinton’s deep-rooted corporatism and affiliations with a fundamentalist movement known as The Fellowship. She wouldn’t speak to us — her infamous press secretary, Philippe Reines, cursed and screamed at me just for asking, the most unpleasant encounter I’ve had in my years of Washington reporting — but we interviewed many significant figures from her life, read nearly every published thing she ever wrote, and reviewed the entire history. The portrait that emerged was about what most critics would expect — lip service for progressivism combined with a penchant for “compromises” nobody but the far right asked her to make. Most telling, to me, was her collaboration with then-Senator Sam Brownback, as conservative as they come, and the late ideologue Chuck Colson on an effort to unnecessarily water down a human trafficking bill to suit the demands of the religious right — to the extent that many NGOs and activists in the field saw the bill as an attack on their work. Bad stuff.

I teamed up with Kathryn again to write a piece for Religion Dispatches on Hillary’s surprising backroom dealing on abortion — again, what’s sometimes described as “centrist” seemed to reflect the kind of purely political triangulation that has always made Clintonism antagonistic to the left. I followed that up with an expansion on the two articles for my bestselling book The Family. The work got some attention: NBC Nightly News did a lead segment on it in 2008, and much of the progressive press picked up on it, while conservatives — and Hillary partisans — attacked Kathryn and [me] for suggesting that she’s anything less than the reincarnation of Dorothy Day.

That triangulation shit is why I went so thoroughly off Bill Clinton and have stayed off ever since.

I offer this history in the hopes of convincing you that I’m not another Hillary partisan trying to bully you into abandoning your Jill Stein vote, or your plan not to vote at all, for the sake of yet one more exercise in the democracy-destroying and soul-crushing exercise of lesser-evilism.

The thing is, as a writer on religion who has spent time with real killers and the worst bigots, I take the term “evil” pretty seriously. I don’t think Hillary is evil. I think she’s one more entry in a long tradition of neoliberal American imperialist politics. That’s bad! Very, very bad. But evil? No. Hell, I don’t even know for sure if Trump is evil — that might require a more expansive imagination than he possesses — but after studying the American right for decades and publishing two books about it, after traveling around with the Trumpers for a NYT Magazine story in the spring, I believe I can say with certainty that yes, Trumpism is evil. The real deal. The thing that must be stopped.

Yeah.

I do kind of think Trump is evil, though I don’t know for sure he is. But that’s an unnecessarily high standard. I think he is for good reason: because he is so prolifically, eagerly, consistently mean and vindictive and abusive, and so extremely impoverished in anything that tends the other way. There are a million stories of his cruelty and bullying, and zero stories of his kindness or generosity. We can see him raging and bullying as often as we turn on the news, and we cannot see him being kind or even polite. He comes across as a startlingly horrible human being. That’s probably as close to evil as you can get. Do I think he could be a Hitler in the right circumstances? Hell yes, in a heartbeat.

And yes, Trumpism must be stopped.

I’ve filled in most of my ballot; drop box tomorrow.



UN Ambassador Wonder Woman

Nov 2nd, 2016 3:18 pm | By

I was startled by the part where Suzanne Moore said Wonder Woman has been named a UN ambassador so I followed her link.

“This is the most fun the UN has had, I’m pretty sure right?” Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment said at a ceremony appointing Wonder Woman as the United Nations’ honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. The ceremony was meant to honor the fight for gender equality and the 75th anniversary of the character.

Pause to stare in amazement.

How insulting is that? What, because the empowerment of women and girls is so trivial and such a joke that a comic book character might as well be ambassador for it?

Also…

Image result for wonder woman

Not really about empowerment, or women and girls? Sexual fantasy rather than empowerment? The male gaze as opposed to the empowered woman or girl? Hello? Can anyone hear me?

t was announced that Wonder Woman would become an honorary ambassador earlier this month, in support of the UN’s sustainable development goal number five – “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The sustainable development goals were adopted by the UN in 2015 and hope to fulfill their agenda by 2030.

The news was met with both praise and criticism, and a petition was created by “Concerned United Nations staff members” asking the UN secretary general to reconsider. It mentioned concerns over her “overtly sexualized image” that is not “culturally encompassing or sensitive”.

And it’s also not about empowerment. It’s about the passive, powerless non-action of being looked at. It’s about being so unreal that only a comic can represent you.

Protesters entered the chamber at the start of the event, and stood with their backs turned and their fists raised. They walked out of the event about halfway through, but three women stood outside for a few minutes to speak about their actions.

Though they didn’t intend to speak about their protest to the media, one, who was asked if the Guardian could mention her remarks anonymously, said she wished a real person had been chosen for the role of ambassador.

“For something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, somebody who can travel, somebody who can champion these rights, somebody who is able to have an opinion, somebody that can be interviewed, somebody that can stand up in front of 192 member states and say this is what we would like you to do,” she said.

In other words an actual female human being, not a two-dimensional stylized drawing.

Also, it’s a commercial product. The UN presumably wouldn’t make a Mercedes SUV or Blue Goose Vodka an ambassador, so why make a comic book character one?

The ceremony on Friday featured famous guests, actors Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot who have both brought the character to life on screen, Patty Jenkins, the director of the forthcoming Wonder Woman film, and Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, which owns the character. The audience was full of Girl Scouts and young women and men, all in Wonder Woman T-shirts given out at the event. Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics, and Phil Jimenez, a comic artist who has drawn Wonder Woman, were also there.

Cristina Gallach, UN under secretary general for communications and public information, attended on behalf of the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. She seemed to explain the choice of Wonder Woman in her remarks. “I don’t need to tell you Wonder Woman is an icon,” she said. “She has been known for justice, peace and equality and we are very pleased that this character will help us reach new audiences with essential messages about empowerment and equality.”

Nelson, who spoke next, commemorated the character’s long history in the DC Comics universe. Wonder Woman made her first appearance in All-Star Comics #8 back in 1941. The character soon got her own series and has been constantly transformed during her long history, with her origin story and costume specifics tweaked over the years.

As part of the yearlong campaign, DC Comics is developing a Wonder Woman comic that “tells the story of empowerment, peace, justice and equality” that will be available worldwide and in multiple languages, Nelson said.

Of course it is. How kind of the UN to give it such an advertising boost. Not so kind to women and girls though.



The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it

Nov 2nd, 2016 2:47 pm | By

Suzanne Moore is delighted that Bono won a Woman of the Year award. Ok maybe delighted isn’t exactly the right word.

Bono’s peers have given him all sorts: from a knighthood (honorary knight commander of the British empire) to a Philadelphia liberty medal, but according to the doublethink of Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, giving awards to actual women at the actual women of the year ceremony “might be an outdated way of looking at things. There are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days.”

Finally, men doing things for women! It’s what the struggle has been all about. Give that man a round of applause for “babysitting” his own children. A medal and a paper hat for any man who thinks things should be better for girls!

And not just any medal and paper hat, but a medal and paper hat with “For a woman” on it! Women have grabbed up all the awards for far too long, and it’s about damn time men started winning some of the awards for women of the Minute, Hour, Day, Week.

Bono has basically irritated everyone by hanging out with popes and presidents but maybe his heart is in the right place even if his taxes are not. Maybe he could be offered a daft award and do the right thing: decline to line up with the likes of US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles; or Nadia Murad, the Yazidi woman who got away from Isis; or Emily Doe, the student who was raped by Brock Turner and wrote a shattering letter about her experience. He could have politely declined but carried on his work on HIV, as so many of his colleagues do. He could have said that poverty is a key feminist issue and passed the prize on to one of the many brilliant female campaigners. But no, he said he is very grateful because this is a chance to say: “The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women.”

Oh that’s such an outdated way of looking at things, saying it should be along with women. Fuck no. The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it period, all by themselves. Get the fucking stupid helpless incompetent talkative bitchy women out of it, and the battle for gender equality will be won in a week or less.

Bono is not alone in this patronising attitude. Most of the male voices on the left continue to see gender as some kind of afterthought and are not interested in the bodily politics of flesh and blood and women. The new UN ambassador for women is Wonder Woman, a bleedin’ cartoon. Everyone fell over themselves to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner’s womanhood, ignoring her dubious politics. The misogyny around Hillary Clinton is unmissable. The one bit of sexual politics that the “radicals” embrace is often a denial of biological difference. Yet some of the most hard-won campaigns have been around rape, FGM, sexual violence, childbirth and HIV, where women’s experience is absolutely embodied.

Alongside this strange disappearance of womenhood has been the rolling back of tokenism: the assumption that everything is already a level playing field. Where many used to feel a public discussion should involve more than just white men, we are back to a position where it is now permissible to have all-male panels and comedy shows.

It’s the up to date thing.



Not to be mocked

Nov 2nd, 2016 1:05 pm | By

Stephen Evans at the National Secular Society on the punishment of Louis Smith.

The very public castigation of the British gymnast is illustrative of the troubling return of blasphemy. As the former Strictly Come Dancing winner has discovered – and to his immense cost – Britain’s bourgeoning ‘culture of offence’ is ensuring that any action deemed likely to offend religious sensibilities, but particularly Muslim sensibilities, is strictly taboo.

The ‘offending’ footage, published by The Sun, shows him with fellow gymnast Luke Carson drunkenly goofing around yelling “Allahu Akbar” and mocking aspects of Islamic belief.

Condemnation came swiftly from Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation, who asserted “our faith is not to be mocked” and called on Smith to “apologise immediately”.

Or else what? One wonders. Because Mohammed Shafiq has form when it comes to whipping up hostility against people lawfully exercising their right to free expression. Back in 2014 when Maajid Nawaz tweeted a Jesus & Mo cartoon with a message saying he wasn’t offended by the depiction of Mohammad, Shafiq threatened to “notify all Muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries.”

Mohammed Shafiq is a bully, and public policy should not be shaped by bullies.

However well-intentioned, over-reactions like those we’ve seen this week to Louis Smith’s mockery of religion have a disastrously chilling effect on free speech. It plays into the hands of the Islamic world’s professional offence takers who would like nothing more than to see all criticism of Islam silenced once and for all.

So let’s everybody stop doing that.

Marina Hyde at the Guardian on the same subject.

Perhaps, like me, you imagined gymnastics to be much as other sports, even if you do hold almost similar reservations about sports with human judges as you do about sports in which you can drink a pint while playing.

Leaving those debates for another column (a column which I myself have written at least twice), sports are commonly agreed to be competitive physical activities. Capable of being inspiring, certainly, and frequently places where great spirit and whatnot is on display. But above all: sports. Not established value systems, and certainly not a forum for creating pseudo‑case law on free speech. To pretend otherwise is a dangerous category mistake.

It’s not up to sporting organizations to impose blasphemy laws on their members.

It goes without saying that there is an even higher authority for their actions – namely, UK Sport, the high‑performance agency whose rulebook states that athletes may be ineligible for funding if they are “derogatory about a person’s disability, gender, pregnancy or maternity, race, sexuality, marital status, beliefs or age (this is not an exhaustive list)”.

Isn’t it? Because once it put “beliefs” in, it pretty much covered any possible base. What if an athlete was of the belief that The Life of Brian was an excellent movie, or that Father Ted was hilarious? Naturally, something tells me mocking mass would be rather less frowned upon than mocking the call to prayer. But why on earth can’t athletes be derogatory about people’s beliefs?

Because some Beliefs are Sacred, and Sacred Beliefs must be protected from the profane mockery of mere human beings, especially mere human beings with large biceps.

As for British Gymnastics, it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near learning any useful lessons – but then, it takes its lead from the benighted fools at UK Sport, who bang on about the privilege of representing a country at the same time as cravenly denying that country’s essential freedoms. In many ways, it’s an old hypocrisy. Governing bodies have long come down like a ton of bricks on any athlete who gets political – yet I can scarcely think of anything more absurdly political than British Gymnastics operating a blasphemy law.

Maybe I’ll blaspheme about gymnastics for awhile. Gymnastics is silly. Gymnastics forgot where it put its keys. Gymnastics wears its underpants on its head. Gymnastics butters no parsnips.