Notes and Comment Blog

When in doubt, throw the slut in jail

Apr 14th, 2016 4:48 pm | By

Hard to read without grinding one’s teeth in rage: women in San Salvador spent years in prison for having miscarriages.

The case of Guadalupe Vásquez, who was imprisoned for more than seven years after losing the baby she conceived when she was raped at the age of 17, is to be examined by a panel of experts in the first People’s Tribunal to focus on El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion law.

Vásquez, who was sentenced to 30 years for murder in 2008, was pardoned and freed last year after the supreme court ruled her conviction was unsafe. Her case is one of three that will come under renewed scrutiny this weekend following a dogged campaign by reproductive rights campaigners and relatives of women unfairly convicted under anti-abortion legislation.

Raped. At age 17. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

I can never get used to how much women are hated.

The campaigners aim to maintain the women’s plight in the public’s consciousness and put pressure on the authorities to decriminalise abortion, ending the imprisonments that have blighted the lives of Vásquez and many other Salvadoran mothers.

“I lost my youth in prison for a crime I didn’t commit,” says Vásquez, a devout Catholic who had been looking forward to motherhood, despite her ordeal at the hands of an older man who threatened to hurt her if she reported the crime.

“I wanted my baby, I don’t know why she died or what happened to her; her body was never returned to my family.”

El Salvador banned abortion in all circumstances in 1998. It is one of six states (including the Holy See) where there are no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her health or life is at risk, or if the foetus is seriously deformed. Convictions related to abortion are shockingly commonplace in the country.

According to research by the Salvadoran Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, more than 250 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2014, of whom 147 were prosecuted and 49 convicted – 26 for murder and 23 for abortion. The vast majority were like Vásquez: young, poor single women who lost their baby after an obstetric complication.

The population of El Salvador was 6.34 million in 2013.

I can’t bear to quote any more, it’s too infuriating. Read on.

“But, if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?”

Apr 14th, 2016 12:37 pm | By

An editorial in the Dhaka Tribune:

Asked about the murder of Jagannath University Masters student Nazimuddin Samad, the home minister told BBC Bangla: “We need to see whether he used to write objectionable things on blogs.”

No, no, no.

It is almost impossible to quantify how wrong-headed and self-defeating this approach is.

The point is not what Nazim may or may not have written. The point is that he has been slaughtered in public in cold blood.

It’s stomach-turning that a high government official apparently thinks writing “objectionable things” on blogs is a valid reason to murder the writer.

The minister’s unwise and ill-judged comment, by implying the victim may in some way have been responsible for his fate, only gives comfort to the perpetrators and raise doubts about how serious the government is in trying to catch those behind the series of targeted killings that has blighted the face of the nation.

For the minister to further claim that law enforcers have solved all the previous murders and say “the masterminds have been arrested or identified” — in stark contradiction to the facts — reduces his credibility to zero.

The “or identified” is interesting, since it could mean the law enforcers know who they are and have no intention of doing anything about it.

His remarks are worse than complacent.

Not only do they divert attention from the over-riding need to catch and punish the killers, they also feed into the mind-set that such a crime can be justified and that people need to watch what they say or write or suffer the consequences.

It bears repetition: It does not matter what anyone says or writes. It is never acceptable to kill someone for his or her words.

The home minister would do well to understand and internalise this basic truth, and act accordingly.

His regrettable statements suggest that this elementary premise of both human rights and of law enforcement is beyond him, calling into question his fitness for the office he holds.

Exactly so, hence my finding his comment stomach-turning. Its reminiscent of law enforcement in Mississippi in 1964, when sheriffs knew perfectly well who had killed the civil rights workers, and looked on in approval.

And today Sheikh Hasina said people who dispute religion deserve what they get, thus putting an even bigger target on their backs:

Hasina said it is not at all acceptable to write something hurting religious sentiments of others. ‘We perform our religious rituals. But, if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?’

She said nowadays it has become a fashion to write something against religion as part of free thinking. ‘But, I consider such writings as not free thinking but filthy words. Why anyone would write such things? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions. This is a characteristic fault, expression of distorted or filthy mindset. I hope no one would write such filthy things.’

Mentioning that as being a Muslim she follows the religious rituals and it hurts her seeing such filthy words against any religion, the Prime Minister questioned why the government would take responsibility in case of any untoward incident for such writings. ‘Everyone should maintain decency. Otherwise in case of any uncivilised attitude, the government wouldn’t take the responsibility.’

That is absolutely appalling.

About the killing out of vengeance for such writings, she said Islam does not permit it and Almighty Allah does not bestow the duty of trial on them.

‘But, if anyone doesn’t abide by the guidance of Almighty Allah and his prophet and thus kill people, it is ‘Shirk’. I hope no one would indulge in such act,’ she added.

But it’s not the government’s problem if they do. That’s basically a green light to go out and kill all the atheists and secularists.

H/t Nick Little and Michael De Dora

As an example of deep cultural misogyny and persistent patriarchy

Apr 14th, 2016 12:11 pm | By

Soraya Chemaly wrote a public Facebook post linking to a news story from Seattle about a woman murdered and cut into pieces and left in a recycling bin. Some of you don’t do Facebook and I wouldn’t want you to miss what Soraya said.

I don’t have time to write about this at the moment, but this awful story is the perfect example of how complicit media are in refusing to face misogyny in our own culture. If this crime had happened in India it would be plastered all over front [pages] as an example of deep cultural misogyny and persistent patriarchy. In the case of the brutal Delhi rape several years ago an analysis of the NYT and the Times of India showed that the dominant theme in the NYT was to reference patriarchy and women’s oppression within India, ie, “The brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi this month has cast a cold light on how badly India treats its women.” This was happening almost simultaneously with the Steubenville rape news coming to light. In that case, the first two dozen articles focused on the dangers of social media and mainly made no, or minimal mention a culture of violence, or traditions, etc. Steubenville was covered in “Sports,” with related discussions, and the Delhi rape in “Asian and Pacific News” as a matter of national difference, etc. Even when the conversation about football culture, status and rape began, it was often tied to local problems with the economy, etc. Women of color as survivors or targets of sexual violence, noted researchers, get minimal coverage when they live in the US, but maximal coverage when they are depicted in terms of the inferiority of men in other countries. In this case, like so other gender-based hate crimes, this one will probably be blamed on technology (social media! online dating dangers, etc.) or this man’s mental instability.

The link between a macho culture around the more violent sports and violence against women right here in the US doesn’t get nearly enough coverage.

You’ll have magical experiences and stories to tell for a lifetime

Apr 14th, 2016 11:32 am | By

Let’s have a bit of comic relief – let’s drop in on the “Secular Policy Institute” again. I’d forgotten about them…I think I’d vaguely assumed they’d gone to ground after that embarrassing thing where they announced a fancy expensive conference in DC that then apparently never took place. But no, they’re still there and still engaged in empty boasting. Look at the page where they attempt to recruit interns.


Say what? Any organization in the world? Just like that? How would that work exactly? How would interning for a self-styled “institute” that doesn’t actually do anything other than brag about itself provide “the insider shortcut” to your dream job? At [your pick of] any organization in the world?

Well Johnny Monsarrat explains that for you – yes, the Johnny Monsarrat who promoted the Secular Policy “Institute” by emailing people about it and then shouting abusively at them when they didn’t respond with awed enthusiasm.

I’m Johnny Monsarrat, and I was once an intern for Edwina Rogers. Now I’m her Alliance Director at the Secular Policy Institute and run the volunteer and intern programs too.

Just my interview with Edwina two years ago changed my life. I had just flown into Washington DC. Edwina met me at her office but was on her way out to a meeting. Could I come along? Then we could talk after.

Sure, okay, I said. We arrived at an office building, and in the elevator up, she said, “Just watch Grover and how he conducts the meeting. You’ll learn something.”

Grover, I thought… Grover Norquist? The American tax reform heavyweight? This wasn’t just any meeting. Edwina had nonchalantly brought me to the super exclusive weekly insider coordinating meeting of Washington DC’s top Republicans. I felt like James Bond infiltrating a secret society. Amongst 40 of the most famous political operators in town, I was the only liberal, the only guy with long hair, and the only guy wearing blue jeans. And there were donuts.

Working with the Secular Policy Institute is like being bolted into a roller coaster that is duct taped to a Moon rocket, heading for Fame, Glory, and Power. You will have the experience of your life working with us.

Fame, Glory, and Power? Capital letter Fame, Glory, and Power?

How? Where? By what mechanism?

There’s this whole middle thing missing in their work, always. It’s the row of question marks in that meme, the one that ends with “Profit!”

  1. Secular Policy Institute
  2. ???????
  3. Fame, Glory, and Power!!!

They really need to work on that second item.

The Secular Policy Institute is the organization with the philosophy, momentum, and executive power to make a genuine difference. We are more successful than other secular groups because:

Waaaaait wait wait wait – before you tell us why, tell us in what way you are more successful than other secular groups. Or in fact if that’s too high a bar, just tell us in what way you are successful at all.

So, the because:

  • We are true professionals. Unlike many secular groups, we don’t want to settle for amateur anything. We emulate best practices of major organizations like the AARP, NRA, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, and American Cancer Society.

No, I don’t believe that at all. I think you’re quite amazingly amateurish. All this empty boasting looks extremely amateurish to me. Admittedly, I’m not a professional institute-haver myself, but as an outsider, I look at your boasting and the word “professional” is not what springs to mind.

  • We are focused. Unlike many secular groups, we aren’t vague about our plans. We take on giant, world-changing projects that inspire donors and volunteers, such as promoting an Indian rationalist’s guide to Hindu scripture and raising money for the world’s first atheist orphanage in Uganda.

No, I don’t believe that either. What happened about that conference, if you’re so focused? I could never find a word about it after the date when it was supposed to take place. You promoted it when you had only two speakers lined up, and then you went quiet about it. That’s not focus. And those two projects sound fine but other secular groups do that kind of thing too, and when they talk about it, they talk about the projects themselves, they don’t brag about the projects simply as advertisements for the groups.

Ah still doing that, are you. No, you’re not, and it’s not a thing you should be saying anyway. It’s hierarchical and revolting. Also, if you’re going to be talking about your Fellows, you should be talking about the many Fellows who left your “Institute” last year. Updating to add: including Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Lawrence Krauss. The ones you are still claiming as part of your world’s biggest think tank. The group of big names (also including Rebecca Goldstein and Daniel Dennett) left last June. It’s now April. I have to say it: I don’t think this is carelessness, I think you’re lying. I think you’re knowingly telling the blatant lie that people who left your “institute” ten months ago are still part of it.

  • We organize everyone. We are the world’s biggest secular coalition. Like the Bill Gates Foundation, we talent scout the best projects from our coalition groups and maximize their impact with management coaching, funding, promotion, access to our Fellows, and our contacts in media and government worldwide.

No, you don’t. You know how I know? You don’t organize me! Black swan! Of course you don’t “organize everyone” – what a ludicrous claim. That’s more of that amateurishness: making grotesquely inflated claims that are obviously false.

Then there’s a lot more nonsense about what you get by working for them for nothing – including this jaw-dropper:

  • Keys to the World. Success should be about who you are, not who you know. But it doesn’t hurt to have the hair-raisingly large network of Secular Policy Institute connections on your side. If you give us your time, we will put you in front of any VIP decision-maker in the world for your next job. You will have more than our recommendation. You will have a game-changing, almost unfair advantage over every other applicant. We will make you a star because we believe strongly in meritocracy and investing in people. But we also know the power of having friends in high places — and we want you to go high and be one of those friends!

Can you believe it? They claim they will “put you in front of any VIP decision-maker in the world for your next job”!! Really?!! Heads of state, CEOs, diplomats, the pope, the top people at universities, NGOs, the UN, hospitals, research labs? What complete barefaced nonsense! And then the scummy creepy power-worship and fame-crawling and high places-ogling.

  • Steer the Secular Movement. The Secular Policy Institute is unlocking the potential of dozens of interest groups that just need a boost, some direction, some funding, or some management training. Together we are building a heavy impact. Your voice will be heard by the most important leaders of our cause. You will set the agenda. You become the kingmaker. Help us decide which groups deserve our full attention and resources. Help us shape the shared set of goals that our coalition is based on.

Right. As an intern. As an intern, your voice will be heard by the most important leaders of our cause. You will set the agenda. You become the kingmaker.


  • Adventure. Go backstage at one of our world class events and meet the celebrities. Join us meeting politicians and presenting your plan for legal reform. It’s the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t discount the serendipity of working long hard hours with idealistic yet practical people. You’ll have magical experiences and stories to tell for a lifetime.

Oh for fuck’s sake. They’re not celebrities. They’re academics and intellectuals, who are never celebrities. Some of them have some celebrity among secularist intellectuals, but that’s all you can say. And you don’t need to spend months working for a pretend-institute just to meet them; it’s not that difficult. And there is no “backstage.” It’s not Hollywood and it’s not Broadway; there is no backstage.

As part of our intern program, you don’t start at the basement. You immediately become one of our executives. You sit next to Edwina and send out emails in her name…

Ooooooooooooh now there’s a treat! Do we get to wrap her presents in dollar bills?

Lordy. What a shower.

*Updating to add: And that’s not even true: the three named are not among the Fellows any more, nor are they among the Advocates or on the Advisory Board.

There are several ways to die, but this will be the worst way

Apr 14th, 2016 10:11 am | By

Vice has a new documentary about the war on women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Huffington Post has details:

In a new documentary for Vice, filmmaker correspondent Isobel Yeung shines a light on the ongoing human rights abuses Afghan women endure on a daily basis, despite domestic and foreign promises to improve their quality of life. 

In a hidden shelter discreetly operating to support women fleeing violence, Yeung spoke to a pair of 17- and 18-year-old women who are sisters-in-law and had escaped an abusive family.

“[My husband] would beat me as if he wanted to break my arms and knees,” explained the younger girl, who said she had attempted suicide by poison at least twice since getting married at age 12.

Since being married off, that is. She didn’t “get married” – that’s something adults do of their own free will. She was twelve. Twelve.

She said they ran away to the shelter together after her father-in-law brutally beat them both when she denied him sex.

“They are looking for us everywhere,” the teens told Yeung. “And once they get us out of here, they won’t let us live. There are several ways to die, but this will be the worst way.”

The two young women were discovered by their family six weeks later, Vice reports.

The article doesn’t say whether they’ve been killed yet or not.

While the country initially made headway — a new constitution approved in 2004 enshrined basic rights for women, including access to education, and the government adopted the Elimination of Violence Against Women law, or EVAW, in 2009 — the demand for gender equality still faces opposition.

Parliament, for example, refused to ratify EVAW, and its implementation has remained “slow and uneven,” according to the United Nations.

Without the effective enforcement of laws like EVAW, women remain vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. Married Afghan women can actually be jailed and punished for being raped by men, which is considered a “moral crime” akin to adultery.

Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, a prominent Afghan legislator, strongly opposed EVAW in Parliament, claiming it contradicts Islamic values. “The EVAW law will destroy Afghan families and our way of life,” he told Yeung in an interview.

That interview is part of the documentary, and I saw that part last night. It’s so disgusting it’s hard to watch. He radiates contempt for Yeung throughout, and at the end he just tells her, rudely, “Stop talking now” – and then goes on to sneer a threat at her.

When Yeung asked him about rape, he said there are two different kinds: “There is a kind of rape you have and another kind we have in Islam.”

He then proceeded to interrupt Yeung, abruptly ending the interview with one final thought: “Maybe I should give you to an Afghan man to take your nose off.”

He smirks when he says it, as if it’s a funny joke.

But before that, there’s an infuriating bit where she asks him why the law against violence against women is bad for the family, and he has a tantrum, shouting that there is no evidence, there are no bruises. And before that part he rudely ignores one of her questions and tells her to ask another. His loathing of women is horribly obvious. He sits in front of a lot of handsome leatherbound books, presumably all saying that Islam is absolute and true and no one must ever dispute a word of it.


VICE correspondent Isobel Yeung interviews Afghan parliament member Nazir Ahmad Hanafi.

She is a mystic emissary from Planet Gender

Apr 13th, 2016 5:05 pm | By

Speaking of the agonies of female puberty – Glosswitch has an astonishing post on the subject titled The right way for women to disappear.

I am not at home in the body I have. I’ve never got over the desire to tell people, the first time I meet them, that this isn’t the real me. The real me is thin, breastless, narrow-hipped. This version of me is a poor compromise, a pathetic accommodation. I look like a woman but actually I identify as a human being.

I relate to that. I don’t experience it as sharply as Glossy does, but it fits nevertheless.

Womanhood, I had decided, was not for me. I sought to roll back puberty and remain stuck in time. The medical profession said no, you must go forward. And so I did, but it hurt because the world I went into remained one in which femaleness and personhood are not always permitted to co-exist.

And I relate to that. Puberty was just…not good. Alienating. Weird-feeling. And that’s despite having gone to a tiny all-girls’ school, so no taunting or leering from boys during the school day, which must make it so much worse.

This is one of the reasons why I am a feminist. I do not identify as a woman but it remains the social class into which, by virtue of having a female body, I have been shoved. I do not think I am the problem. I do not think my body is the problem. Still, as this body still confines me – as it is me – it remains a site of personal struggle.

It hadn’t been that for me until this business of “cis privilege” appeared over the horizon. Once that was on the table, the struggle was re-engaged.

For a long time I have felt a parallel can be made between eating disorders and gender confirmation surgery as forms of self-harming body modification. It’s not a comparison I make lightly, just for the hell of it. Indeed, every time I’ve made it, I’ve had to put up with the ritual public Shaming of the TERF, alongside the trivialisation of a condition which led to several long-term hospitalisations against the “realness” of true gender dysphoria. It’s been suggested to me that anorexia is an attempt to “express your feels” as opposed to the real suffering of “having a skin that metaphorically itches all the time” (as if anyone who’s ever had anorexia would not understand that!). A piece I wrote about theinappropriateness of positioning female body hatred within the context of “cis-ness” got me to Level 2 on the Blockbot. According to the official narrative, anorexia is at best mental illness, at worst vanity; transness, on the other hand, is politically radical, unquestionably authentic and quite incomprehensible to “the cis”.

The “politically radical” is the most absurd part. It’s the very opposite of politically radical – it’s reactionary. Just ask the mullahs in Iran.

A woman who starves puberty into remission is sick, so sick you can section her, decree her officially incapable of knowing what her own body needs.  One who drugs puberty into remission is not sick; she is, on the contrary, a mystic emissary from Planet Gender.

Why? How did that happen? Who put what in the water supply?

Writing in the New Republic, Phoebe Maltz Bovey contends that “there’s a profound difference between a cisgender woman’s unease with traditional femininity and a trans man’s discomfort with having been assigned the wrong gender.”:

I have no wish to trivialize the body image (and reproduction-related, and sexual-violence-related) concerns that many cis women face. But all things being equal, it’s clear that the latter complaint is a bigger deal than the former.

No, it isn’t. Clear is just what it isn’t. That’s a shockingly glib dismissal of all of feminism (aka “a cisgender woman’s unease with traditional femininity”) just to win a round of the Oppression Olympics.

One person’s being assigned the wrong gender is another person’s being forced to occupy the wrong social construct. If I believed gender was purely a matter of inner identity, I would declare myself not to be a woman in a heartbeat. The fact that I don’t do this reveals nothing about my own personal discomfort. It is because I do not believe “reproduction-related and sexual-violence-related concerns” are mere “added extras” to the sexism cocktail. I see them as fundamental to how gender operates as a class system and on that basis, I couldn’t identify out of womanhood if I tried (because I have tried. I tried so hard it almost killed me).

It won’t work to tell all women to identify out of womanhood, so it would be great if people would stop belittling and waving away feminism.

Women like me are told that the political framing of our own dysphoria makes us dangerous and evil. Women who take a different tack are permitted to exit womanhood only if they leave their politics at the door.

That’s the crux, isn’t it. This isn’t a medical issue or a psychological issue, it’s a political one. It’s political all the way down.

“Run by Zionists”

Apr 13th, 2016 4:06 pm | By

CST (which I had to look hard to discover stands for Community Security Trust) on anti-Semitism and Dilly Hussain.

Antisemitism comes in lots of different guises. It can be blatant, subtle or hidden. It can invent new antisemitic charges, or rely on a reservoir of old antisemitic language and images. Or, sometimes, it just swaps the word “Zionist” for “Jew”, in the naïve hope that doing so will change an antisemitic statement into a political one.

This is what appears to have happened in an online campaign against Tell MAMA, an organisation that works to combat anti-Muslim hatred. CST’s relationship with Tell MAMA is no secret. We advised its Director, Fiyaz Mughal, before and after he set it up and CST’s former Chief Executive, Richard Benson, is now one of its two co-chairs.

As the post points out, an example of Jews and Muslims working together instead of quarreling.

Some people, though, seem to dislike this approach to anti-racism. One of them is Muhammad Dilwar Hussain (better known as Dilly Hussain) of the Islamist blog, 5 Pillars. Hussain is angry because Fiyaz Mughal criticised the use of the racially-loaded phrases “Uncle Tom” and “House Muslim” by another Muslim journalist, Channel 4’s Assed Baig.

As part of his public criticism of Fiyaz Mughal, Hussain has tweeted that Tell MAMA is, in his words, “run by Zionists who support murder of children” and that it supposedly has “militant Zionist patrons and trustees”.

Dilly Hussain tweets a lot of horrible things, as we saw just the other day.

Hussain has written a longer Facebook post in which he attacks Tell MAMA because he believes “their board of trustees and patrons are infested with hardcore Zionists.”

It’s a public post; he writes a lot of public posts.

So the use of “coconut”, “Uncle Tom”, “choc-ice”, and calling those who are in cahoots with the current neocon government as “sell-outs” are deemed “racist”.

Who decides that the above terms are “racist”? Some crappy anonymous right-wing blog, Daily Mail and…Tell Mama?

I wouldn’t exactly call them racist, but they’re certainly likely to be illiberal, and they certainly are here. The issue isn’t race in the first place, it’s theocracy versus liberalism (secularism, equality, human rights). It’s not “selling out” or being an “Uncle Tom” to prefer liberalism to Islamism. It’s far-right and fascist to prefer Islamism to liberalism. Islamism is not part of the left and it’s not an anti-racist movement. Dilly Hussain is using the vocabulary of anti-racism activists to attack liberals. That’s not exactly racist but it is bullshit.

Back to the CST post:

This is not the first time that Tell MAMA has been attacked for working with CST. The Muslim lobbying group MEND did so previously. Their Chief Executive at the time, Sufyan Ismail, also swapped the word “Zionist” for “Jewish”, warning a Muslim audience in Greater Manchester not to work with Tell MAMA because they had a “pro-Zionist pretty much heading it”. Ismail also said that the “Israeli lobby” had lost a vote in Parliament for the first time in 300 years. Again, this only made sense if he meant “Israeli” as a synonym for “Jew”.

No surprise that MEND’s Azad Ali has tweeted a link to this latest attack on Tell MAMA.

This language reflects a more serious problem with antisemitic conspiracy theories in parts of British Muslim life. A new opinion poll by ICM shows that antisemitic attitudes are much more common amongst British Muslims than in the population as a whole.

And Dilly Hussain is doing his bit to help that trend along.

But is it really a “model”?

Apr 13th, 2016 1:51 pm | By

Big news from Loch Ness:

A 30ft (9m) model of the Loch Ness Monster built in 1969 for a Sherlock Holmes movie has been found almost 50 years after it sank in the loch.

The beast was created for the Billy Wilder-directed The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Sir Robert Stephens and Sir Christopher Lee.

It has been seen for the first time in images captured by an underwater robot.

Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine said the shape, measurements and location pointed to the object being the prop.

Ok. But then look at one of the images the underwater robot captured:

Scan of lost Nessie prop

Kongsberg Maritime

How do they know that’s not the monster?

The robot, operated by Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, is being used to investigate what lies in the depths of Loch Ness.

Yes but is it doing so with its mind already made up that anything it finds is not the monster?

Mr Shine added: “We can confidently say that this is the model because of where it was found, the shape – there is the neck and no humps – and from the measurements.”

The model was floated out to a place in the loch where only a few months earlier claims of sighting of Nessie had been made.

Well there you go. What makes them so sure it’s not Nessie taking a very long very motionless nap?

Just you

Apr 13th, 2016 10:50 am | By

This is hilarious – one of the Orbiters talks about the virtues of “cutting people some goddamn slack now and then.”

It’s a post about a tv cartoon show and especially one episode. I know nothing of the show so I make no comment on that aspect. It’s the lack of self-awareness that is so riotous.

[S]o much going on with this episode! At least three major themes: learning to accept other’s imperfections, learning that different social arenas have different rules, and gender fluidity.

Learning to accept [an]other’s imperfections – !! From a blogger at The Orbit! The blog network that just shat on a longstanding friend for a very minor putative transgression two years ago that she apologized for at the time – someone on that network has the gall to talk about accepting other people’s imperfections. It’s hilarious but also sickening.

What the gems have to learn — Garnet and Pearl, anyway — is to cut people some goddamn slack now and then.

Yes, cutting people some goddamn slack now and then is a good idea. That’s all the more true when

  • the people are longstanding friends
  • the putative wrongdoing is very minor if it’s wrong at all
  • the people apologized and planned to do better going forward
  • it was two years ago
  • it was two years ago
  • it was two years ago

But The Orbit didn’t do that. The Orbit did the opposite of that – treated a very minor, debatable wrongdoing from a long time ago as such a horrifying outrage that it merited outright public shunning.

That’s what I still can barely believe, I guess – that they not only agreed to stop offering Amy’s jewelry as rewards for pledges, they also named and shamed her, and repudiated her, in public, for all the world to see.

But hey, by all means cut people some goddamn slack now and then – yourself, at least, and maybe your spouse, and maybe…well no just yourself. You’re the one who counts, after all.

Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz

Apr 13th, 2016 9:30 am | By

I hadn’t heard of Shugs & Fats before but now I have, and they sound amazing.

Growing up, comics Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz never dreamed that they would one day co-star in a sketch-comedy series about two women in Brooklyn.

“Being onstage was something that I could’ve never imagined,” Manzoor, who grew up in a Pakistani-Muslim community in London, tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “The only time I thought I was going to be onstage was as a bride; that’s how Pakistani women were on stages.”

But now, in the Web series Shugs & Fats, Manzoor and Vaz (who grew up in India) play immigrant roommates whom they describe as “walking the line between hipsters and hijabis.” Manzoor is Shugufta “Shugs”, a 20-year-old enthusiastic millennial, while Vaz is her distant relative Fatima, also known as Fats.

“[Fats] is in her mid-40s,” Vaz says. “She’s got these very conservative views about marriage and that’s what she keeps trying to put on Shugs all the time.”

Though Vaz is not Muslim and Manzoor is no longer a practicing Muslim, their characters in the show are Muslims who wear hijabs. Manzoor says the hijabs are a visual reminder of the challenges the characters face as they try to reconcile their cultural and religious beliefs with speed dating, catcalls and other aspects of life in Brooklyn.

It’s a great interview; I recommend listening.

From the transcript:

GROSS: So there’s a sketch where Shugs gets her period. And Radhika, do you want to describe what your character does in response?

VAZ: Sure. You know, that really comes from experience that I’ve had first-hand in India because it’s – you know, in the Hindu culture if a woman has her period, she doesn’t go into any kind of place of worship; she doesn’t go into the kitchen; she doesn’t come in contact with – you know, depending on how conservative your family is – to this day and even in cities – the fact is a lot of this stuff is still very much to taken into consideration. So it was something that we both wanted to do. And I think the idea of a woman having her period just – a lot of people know – it’s such a normal thing. But oh my God, it’s made into such a big thing. We have to keep it so secret and all of that – so Fats, obviously, coming very much from that point of view.

The moment Shugs comes out complaining about having, you know – oh, I got my period and my stomach hurts, Fats just quarantines her. She wants – so we’ve taken it to an absurd level of, you know, you have your period, you’ve got to be quarantined. So we have – do not cross the line – you know, police tape and, you know, the episode has hazmat suits and all kinds of – it’s like a – you know, it’s like she’s disposing of a bomb, basically.

So, tell us about puberty.

GROSS: Nadia, when you were growing up in [the UK], being raised by Pakistani Muslim parents, was there a dividing line in the amount of freedom that you were allowed as a girl versus as a young woman? And if so, what was the dividing line?

MANZOOR: A lot of the conflict that came as a result of me growing up was a lot about how I presented myself physically in comparison to my twin brother. So as I started to hit puberty, I became very aware that I had ankles and wrists. And those were always supposed to be covered.

I wasn’t supposed to show the contours of my body, so wearing tight-fitted clothing was a total no-no. I wasn’t supposed to be forward with men or look men in the eyes, not shake men’s hands. And my sexuality really became the forefront of my awareness and existence, which is very different to when I was a young kid. Growing up with my brother being allowed to, you know, run around in the mud and go on BMX tracks and just be a kid and be free, it really started to hit me when I hit puberty. And it was the dividing line was really around my sexuality.

[Shudder] Puberty is so horrible for girls. That’s when you realize how the world sees you, and how it differs from the way you see yourself. You’re not allowed to run around and be free and just be a person any more – you’re not just yourself any more, you’re what people see.

GROSS: So what did that do in terms of how you felt about your own body and about your sexuality?

MANZOOR: You know, I definitely – I think it made me much more self-conscious of my body, frankly. I – you know, walking down the street, I was always very aware of the male gaze or people looking at me and always trying to cover that. And as a result, I think it really affected my confidence.

Honestly I think that’s true of all girls, not just girls in modesty cultures. There are degrees, certainly, but girls are doomed to self-consciousness. In “the West” there’s bound to be a huge amount of self-consciousness coming from the opposite direction: the pressure to be hot, to be sexy, to be gorgeous, to be “empowered” through “owning” your “sexuality” which actually means your hotness in the eyes of the consumer. Manzoor says that at the end of that segment of the conversation.

And, you know, I think that’s typical of just, you know, women in general of how beauty is supposed to be the number-one standard of how we’re measured and because I think that was just reinforced in my home context and in the, you know, cultural context of just beauty.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

Birubala Rabha

Apr 12th, 2016 6:09 pm | By

The BBC on witch hunts in India, and a woman who campaigns against them.

Witch hunts have been reported from Assam, one of India’s most ethnically diverse states, for decades now.

Last year, the home ministry informed the parliament that at least 77 people – mostly women – were killed and 60 others injured in “witch hunting incidents” in Assam since 2010. Last year, in a particularly grisly incident, a feted athlete was branded a witch, tied up and severely beaten. (More than 2,000 ‘witchcraft murders’ have taken place in India since 2000)

Women are often branded witches to help relatives and neighbours grab their land and property, to settle personal grudges, or for denying sexual favours.

In tribal villages where superstition is rife and the public health system is in a shambles, quacks and shamans thrive and conspire with locals to blame women for crop failures, illnesses and natural calamities. Single women, widows or old couples are the main targets.

For the last 15 years, Ms Rabha, a slight and diminutive woman with big-rimmed spectacles and a girlish laugh, has been leading a courageous campaign against witch-hunting.

Travelling extensively and braving attacks and ridicule, the indefatigable 66-year-old crusader has spoken at meetings, held awareness camps, and taught school lessons about the dastardly practice. She has stormed police stations and lobbied authorities demanding protection for the victims.

In the past decade, Ms Rabha has rescued some 35 women branded as witches. Her relentless campaign spurred the Assam government last year to bring what many say is India’s toughest anti-witch hunting law.

That’s a woman who’s making a difference.

She talks to people in a village:

“Women have to fight against superstitions, women have to be vigilant. When you become sick go to a doctor, not a quack. Don’t have blind belief in rituals and worships. Worship your gods but don’t hate others in the name of your gods. Women can sometimes be their own worst enemy,” she tells the crowd.

The crowd, mainly women, listen intently.

Many have been victims themselves. They tell stories of how witch hunting has now even become a lucrative extortion industry, a far cry from old tribal beliefs such as the world is full of disembodied spirits “as a tree is full of leaves”.

Three years ago, Ms Rabha reached Majuli, the world’s largest river island, to find that 35 women had been branded as witches.

Later she discovered that they had been made to pay a hefty amount to the local quack for a ceremony to get “rid of the devil” or leave the village. “We went to the police, invoked the law, and saved the women. Then we found out this was a money making racket run by the local quack.”

Get rid of women you dislike and make some money. Who could resist?

H/t Mary Ellen

Conversations about crosswords and cricket were respectful

Apr 12th, 2016 11:05 am | By

The Guardian took a look at comments on the Guardian, and found what we all knew.

New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about.

Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.

And the 10 regular writers who got the least abuse? All men.

Imagine my complete lack of surprise.

We also found that some subjects attracted more abusive or disruptive comments than others. Conversations about crosswords, cricket, horse racing and jazz were respectful; discussions about the Israel/Palestine conflict were not. Articles about feminism attracted very high levels of blocked comments. And so did rape.

Again – I could not be less surprised.

Mind you, it used to surprise me that feminism was so very unpopular at the Guardian, but it doesn’t any more.

At its most extreme, online abuse takes the form of threats to kill, rape or maim. Thankfully, such abuse was extremely rare on the Guardian – and when it did appear it was immediately blocked and the commenter banned.

Less extreme “author abuse” – demeaning and insulting speech targeted at the writer of the article or another comment – is much more common on all online news sites, and it formed a significant proportion of the comments that were blocked on the Guardian site, too.

Here are some examples: a female journalist reports on a demonstration outside an abortion clinic, and a reader responds, “You are so ugly that if you got pregnant I would drive you to the abortion clinic myself”; a British Muslim writes about her experiences of Islamophobia and is told to “marry an ISIS fighter and then see how you like that!”; a black correspondent is called “a racist who hates white people” when he reports the news that another black American has been shot by the police.

Familiar to anyone who has spent 15 minutes reading comments online.

“Dismissive trolling” was blocked too – comments such as “Calm down, dear”, which mocked or otherwise dismissed the author or other readers rather than engaged with the piece itself.

Is that kind of thing said to men much? Especially white men? I don’t think so.

Oh calm down, dear.

The clear prejudice towards heterosexual men

Apr 12th, 2016 10:22 am | By

This looks like a delayed April Fools joke but apparently isn’t. Neil Lyndon at the Telegraph is aggrieved that some people think prostitutes aren’t the guilty party when it comes to the sex trade.

This unusual approach to criminal responsibility – reversing legal tendencies that have developed for decades in the West to protect the customer – will be the obvious, logical outcome of France’s latest regulations governing prostitution.

Interesting point: he thinks the sex trade should be a matter of consumer protection rather than worker protection. So I guess if a punter finds a prostitute insufficiently hot when naked, he can file a consumer complaint?

What is obvious, however, is the clear prejudice towards heterosexual men which underpins the thinking of the legislators. In their minds, the woman offering sex for sale must be innocent because the man – purely by dint of being a man – is guilty.

That’s sexism, you see. Unfair to men! Men are the oppressed sex! Women should give away sex to all men who ask, for free, the whores!

Struggling for air under the suffocating ideological blanket of feminist generalisation which these authorities are casting over the subject, we might ask whether they think all prostitution involves “a known violence” against all women? Does all prostitution involve “exploitation and abuse”? Should all women be protected and all men prosecuted?

If you like a paradox, you will relish seeing these representatives of a movement that claims to liberate women and to celebrate their sexual freedoms refuse to countenance the possibility that a woman might freely and voluntarily enter into this transaction (despite the unanimity with which prostitutes and their representative bodies tell such figures to butt out and mind their own business).

Oh no, that’s not true – of course we know that some women “freely and voluntarily enter into this transaction” – we just say that they’re the privileged few and that laws shouldn’t be based on how the privileged few see the matter. And it’s far from true that prostitutes unanimously “tell such figures to butt out and mind their own business.” It would be convenient for pimps if that were true, but it’s not.

But then he goes on to use the nonce-word “hen-headed” as a pejorative, so I don’t think I’ll bother paying any more attention to him.

Let us now talk of famous phallocrats

Apr 11th, 2016 5:09 pm | By

A friend posted that 1997 David Foster Wallace piece on Updike on Facebook, and what a gem it is.

[N]o U.S. novelist has mapped the solipsist’s terrain better than John Updike, whose rise in the 60’s and 70’s established him as both chronicler and voice of probably the single most self-absorbed generation since Louis XIV.

That is what eventually put me off Updike – the fact that he was always writing about himself. And the fact that he didn’t seem to realize that women existed, except as things for having sex with.

His friends, especially his women friends, did not like Updike, at all.

[I]t’s Mr. Updike in particular they seem to hate. And not merely his books, for some reason-mention the poor man himself and you have to jump back:

“Just a penis with a thesaurus.”

“Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?”

“Makes misogyny seem literary the same way Limbaugh makes fascism seem funny.”

These are actual-trust me-quotations, and I’ve heard even worse ones, and they’re all usually accompanied by the sort of facial expression where you can tell there’s not going to be any profit in arguing or talking about the esthetic pleasure of Mr. Updike’s prose. None of the other famous phallocrats of his generation – not Mailer, not Frederick Exley or Charles Bukowski or even the Samuel Delany of Hogg – excites such violent dislike.

I wonder if that’s because you’d think he would know better. He seemed thoughtful and non-macho, so shouldn’t that kind of writer be able to avoid the commonplace blindness about women? I think that’s how I felt about it, at least. Mailer, meh, what do you expect, but Updike? But misogyny is way more pervasive than that. It took me a long time to understand how pervasive (and I still probably don’t fully understand it).

Updike, for example, has for years been constructing protagonists who are basically all the same guy (see for example Rabbit Angstrom, Dick Maple, Piet Hanema, Henry Bech, Rev. Tom Marshfield, Roger’s Version ‘s “Uncle Nunc”) and who are all clearly stand-ins for the author himself. They always live in either Pennsylvania or New England, are unhappily married/divorced, are roughly Mr. Updike’s age. Always either the narrator or the point-of-view character, they all have the author’s astounding perceptual gifts; they all think and speak in the same effortlessly lush, synesthetic way Mr. Updike does. They are also always incorrigibly narcissistic, philandering, self-contemptuous, self-pitying … and deeply alone, alone the way only a solipsist can be alone. They never belong to any sort of larger unit or community or cause. Though usually family men, they never really love anybody – and, though always heterosexual to the point of satyriasis, they especially don’t love women.

Those characters palled in the end.

Maybe the only thing the reader ends up appreciating about Ben Turnbull is that he’s such a broad caricature of an Updike protagonist that he helps us figure out what’s been so unpleasant and frustrating about this gifted author’s recent characters. It’s not that Turnbull is stupid-he can quote Kierkegaard and Pascal on angst and allude to the deaths of Schubert and Mozart and distinguish between a sinistrorse and a dextrorse Polygonum vine, etc. It’s that he persists in the bizarre adolescent idea that getting to have sex with whomever one wants whenever one wants is a cure for ontological despair. And so, it appears, does Mr. Updike-he makes it plain that he views the narrator’s impotence as catastrophic, as the ultimate symbol of death itself, and he clearly wants us to mourn it as much as Turnbull does. I’m not especially offended by this attitude; I mostly just don’t get it. Erect or flaccid, Ben Turnbull’s unhappiness is obvious right from the book’s first page. But it never once occurs to him that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.

That’s always the first place to look.

H/t Cam

A stack of leaflets

Apr 11th, 2016 10:19 am | By

From the Telegraph:

A stack of leaflets calling for the killing of a sect of Muslims have been found at south London mosque, it was reported today.

The flyers, uncovered in Stockwell Green mosque, are said to have labelled Ahmadi Muslims apostates, claiming they deserved to die if they refuse to convert to mainstream Islam.

They call for those who refuse to convert to mainstream Islam within three days to face a death penalty.

Which random guys are apparently willing to carry out on a voluntary basis. A return ticket from Bradford to Glasgow and the job’s done.

Ahmadis are known for their non-violence and interfaith concerns. But the sect is banned by the constitution of  Pakistan from referring to themselves as Muslims.

Members have become targets of sectarian violence there and some fear that could spread to the UK, encouraged by organisations like Khatme Nabuwwat, which has previously been linked to the mosque.

The BBC reported that the leaflets, written in English, were authored by Yusuf Ludhianvi and were found arranged in piles on a desk next to a shoe-rack, the usual place to display literature in mosques.

Allah is merciful.

Makes the whole world blind

Apr 11th, 2016 10:07 am | By

The Beeb reports another manifestation of religious zeal:

An Australian prisoner who supports the so-called Islamic State has allegedly used a knife to carve a slogan on to his cellmate’s head.

Reports said the Islamic State mantra “e4e”, standing for “an eye for an eye”, was carved into the man’s head.

An inquiry will examine how the high-risk attacker, 18, came to be housed with his 40-year-old cellmate.

The guy with the carved-up head was a minimum security prisoner; the carver was maximum security.

The 40-year-old man was admitted to Port Macquarie Base Hospital in a critical condition, but was now stable, a hospital spokesperson told the BBC.

Police have charged Hraichie with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and intentionally choking a person.

Allah is merciful.


Please be kind to each other

Apr 11th, 2016 9:47 am | By

Oh hey, I think I see where the “discussion” that led to the shunning of Surly Amy took place. I’d assumed it was on The Orbit, and there was no way I was going to look for it there, but it seems to have happened on The Orbit’s Facebook wall, where it’s a doddle to read posts by visitors.

So unless there’s another parallel discussion on The Orbit, this is where the Aggrieved ordered the Orbit to shun Amy and The Orbit said okay.

It’s a public post, by the way.

Emily Titon‎ to The Orbit
March 30 at 11:29pm ·

I would love to support the Orbit, because some of my most favorite bloggers are on it. But I can’t, not in good conscience, because I have learned that also on The Orbit is someone who was not only ableist but doubled down on their ableism when called out on it – in a pretty spectacular fashion. I have included a link below for reference. Amy Roth hurt a lot of people, and dismissed disabled people, and seeing her and especially the very thing that was ableist in the first place, the thing she was first talked to about – being a part of what is supposed to be an awesome and amazing social justice place – as an award for supporting, no less, and without having ever seen a true apology from Amy, or any sort of a resolution or affirmation that what she did was harmful – it just doesn’t make The Orbit seem very good or very safe.

There are many comments supporting this ludicrous claim.

America Madeleine YamaguchiI am extremely concerned about this as wellm

America did a followup post to say so.

Chris Hall I’m really not sure what the problem is. Amy Davis Roth doesn’t have a blog on The Orbit.
Uh oh uh oh – Chris Hall is in trouble now.

Emily Titon Ah. My mistake then.

But The Orbit shouldn’t be using her creations as rewards though, either, IMO; as you will see at the link, they are the same things that were at the center of things and were ableist. By using them as rewards, it seems to me that The Orbit either was unaware of this and now is and can choose to act or not, or they knew, but didn’t see it as a problem.

It’s a problem when works by someone who is unrepentantly oppressive are being promoted on a social justice site, because that implies that they think or that she is concerned with social justice. Which, if she was, she would have sincerely apologized, and because her apology was sincere, she would not have used the same ableist things as rewards. Or The Orbit would not have used her creations as rewards because that is holding them and her out as good for social justice.

That that shouldn’t happen unless and until she apologizes sincerely for her ableism and works to correct it going forward.

America Madeleine Yamaguchi She is participating in the Kickstarter by providing several rewards.
Kassiane Alexandra S. Anyone partnering in any way with someone so wantonly, knowingly, & unrelentingly bigoted is unsafe by association.
Mox Sapphire The offer and distribution of those rewards promotes her reputation. The Orbit is signaling their support and approval of her.
Alyssa Hillary The rewards from her on the Kickstarter indicates approval. This does not fly.
Neeley Fluke Any official word from The Orbit yet?
Kassiane Alexandra S. Approximately “tough shit but don’t say we don’t care about ableism”

Emily Titon Thus proving you right so far.

I am hoping they will do better. I know they can.

Kassiane Alexandra S. I hate being so often right. I’d love to be proven wrong.
Emily Titon I would love for that to happen too.
The Orbit All,
We have heard your concerns and your criticisms and we are currently deliberating on the best way to address them. As we are a collective, it will take some time to craft an appropriate response because all members of The Orbit get a say in situations like this. Please rest assured that we have heard your concerns and though the decision making process may appear slow, we are working to resolve this issue.
Ronja Addams-Moring Update appreciated — best of luck with the discussions and please be kind to each other.
Ahhh, isn’t that sweet? Please be kind to each other. Don’t be kind to Amy, because she is obviously Pure Evil, but do be kind to each other, because we are all on the same side here, the side of Pure Goodness. Except of course when we have to Call You Out, when you become temporarily Besmirched, much to our concern and dismay (and a wee touch of contempt), but that rights itself as soon as you do what we tell you to do.

Ronja Addams-Moring Adding myself to the “official” head count of concerned people. Also: April 2nd is almost upon us, so if any of you have time, reposting articles and memes against Lighting It Up Blue would be very valuable. I’ll add a few links into replies.

Added: I’m neurodivergent and cognitively disabled: ADHD + dyslexia + PTSD.Like · Reply · 2 · March 31 at 11:58pm · Edited

Ronja Addams-Moring Come to think of it: if people are comfortable doing so (seeing as this is a public thread), please add to your comment if you are cognitively or developmentally disabled or if you are commenting because you want to ally. I have personally seen at least two dozen neurodivergent people (I am including what are usually called “mental illnesses” in the ND definition) commenting on this topic in various FB threads, and I think it is important to note and take into account that this is NOT a case of “allies-dominated overkill”.
Oh god no. Obviously not.
Marc Godin I don’t consider myself disabled (but do sometimes identify as neurodivergent for anxiety, depression, and addiction issues) and I’m adding my voice in support of reconsidering using surlyramics as a thank you for donating. I’m really concerned that she was considered at all, with my understanding that her history was known to the decision-makers. Others have listed the reasons why, and those who’ve been most hurt by her should be who we are listening to here.
America Madeleine Yamaguchi I am neurodivergent. I also consider myself disabled. I am not able to get government benefits, nor do I need them while still under my parents’ roof, but I’m not sure what is going to happen once I lose my parents insurance next year. I definitely am limited in what I can do every day, so “ableism was made up by 4chan trolls” is not a welcome sentiment.
Emily Titon It’s a disgusting and dangerous sentiment. Grrr.
And that’s all it took.

“Listen to sex workers” – until they exit, then tell them to shut up

Apr 10th, 2016 4:55 pm | By

Meghan Murphy on Australia’s first abolitionist conference, and the harassment that greeted it.

A campaign headed up by Vixen, a pro-prostitution advocacy group in Australia, attempted to shut down Australia’s first abolitionist conference (which doubles as the Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade book launch), but failed.

Over the past week, the #RMIT2016 hashtag was overrun by prostitution fans and anti-feminists who claimed that, somehow, hosting voices of survivors and feminists who opposed the sex industry equated to “silencing” and “hate.” Vixen encouraged supporters to harass RMIT University, via Twitter and email, into shutting down the conference, though University representatives refused to comment publicly (because, why?). Feminists were called “cunts” by online protesters and one young woman suggested RMIT University be burned to the ground, as though simply speaking out against a racist, exploitative, abusive industry like prostitution deserves arson in response.

Because why? Do people think – like Amnesty International – that access to prostitutes is a human right? Do they think pimps are the defenders of human rights and abolitionists are the destroyers of human rights? Do they think access to female bodies is a human right?

Murphy includes a lot of tweets from the conference. Here’s a zinger:

Another shunning

Apr 10th, 2016 12:14 pm | By

Remember last summer when things got all sharp and spiky at Freethought blogs so I left there and came back here? After that everything calmed down at FTB and went back to collegial harmony and love.

Hahaha no it didn’t. That’s why we saw the debut of The Orbit on March 15, a new blog formed from a bunch of former FTB ones and some new ones.

It took only three weeks. Three weeks! Even I, who know their way with dissenters so intimately, thought it would take way longer than that. Only three weeks before the first schism: an update to their fundraiser on April 6:

We Made a Mistake, and We Apologize

When The Orbit launched, we offered a number of rewards on our (ongoing) Kickstarter, including Surly-Ramics jewelry. As readers may or may not know, there was controversy two years ago—involving, among others, Surly-Ramics creator Amy Davis Roth—regarding ableist language and responses to criticism. There remains significant disagreement among disability activists about these events: some accepted Amy’s apology and subsequent actions, while others are still dissatisfied with her reaction when criticized. (For details, see the linked post, written by one participant.

Many Orbit bloggers, who have different relationships (or lack thereof) with Amy and Surly-Ramics, are ourselves disabled and engaged in disability advocacy to different extents. While some now feel comfortable promoting Amy’s work, others differ, and individual bloggers will continue drawing their own lines. As a network, however, we recognize offering Surly-Ramics was a mistake, both because no consensus existed on our network and because doing so without explanation cast doubt on disability rights’ importance to us. We apologize for that mistake.

While preparing to launch our site, we did a lot of things in a hurry. This decision was made quickly, and we now realize we should have given ourselves more time to reach the fully informed consensus The Orbit aims to operate under. In the absence of this consensus, we are no longer offering the Surly-Ramics through our Kickstarter. Although we remain contractually bound to provide the jewelry to any donors who requested it, Surly-Ramics are now marked “sold out”. In their place, we’re offering poster prints by Orbit blogger and disability activist Ania Bula. (Any existing backers who would rather receive a print as a reward can change their pledge any time before the Kickstarter closes.)

In addition, we’re now examining our decision-making process to stop situations like this from arising in the future and looking at ways to respond to criticism more quickly. While we can’t promise never to make another mistake, we aim to make as few as possible, especially where marginalized people are concerned. We hope anyone hurt by this one can accept our apology, though we recognize they retain the right not to.

So that’s Surly Amy thrown under the bus, and then run over a few times for good luck. That’s Surly Amy’s jewelry thrown back in her face. That’s Surly Amy’s art rejected in favor of that of Ania Bula, which is not (to put it gently) as good. This despite the fact that several of the Orbit people have long been friends of Amy’s, in some cases fairly close friends.

What a horrible set of people.

It was all up for grabs, and how they grabbed it

Apr 10th, 2016 11:13 am | By

First there’s the headline. You just have to laugh.

John Colapinto Revives the Male-Centric Literary Sex Novel

Say what? Revives it? Since when is it moribund?

Then there’s the author: Steven Kurutz. So men think there aren’t enough male-centric sex novels around. Ok…

Then there’s the article.

There was a time when the great American male novelists took delight in writing about sex…Sex was freedom, sex was adventure, sex was a good time, sex was pain, sex was life. Masturbation, threesomes, pedophilia, extramarital flings, one-night romps: It was all up for grabs, and how they grabbed it.

Good old “it.” No need to ask an it how it feels about any of this. Also, what is pedophilia doing in there? Is Steven Kurutz a Catholic bishop? Raping children is a crime. It’s not kink, it’s a crime.

In these more tentative times, male literary novelists tend to shy away from such strong stuff. And when these creatures of the workshop do manage to summon up the courage to test their descriptive powers against the most basic of human drives and activities, it is often to chronicle male sexual hesitation, confusion or inadequacy.

Still no mention of the non-male people who are often involved in all this “strong stuff.” Apparently they have no say, being its.

John Colapinto wrote a novel with, apparently, a lot of sex in it. 41 publishers said no thank you. Kurutz tells us nothing about the quality of the novel, but assumes without argument (let alone demonstration) that the no thank yous were all because the novel is too sex for them.

An editor at Grove Atlantic, writing to the author’s agent, called the manuscript “gripping,” only to add, “There were worries that it might be a bit challenging to publish.” An editor at Simon & Schuster said that although the novel was absorbing and perceptive, “It’s not a world or a story I want to live in and explore.” An editor at Gallery Books put it like this: “The subject matter is too tricky.”

It’s far from obvious that the Simon & Schuster editor, for instance, didn’t simply dislike the novel, as opposed to shying away from all the sex.

One of the protagonists of “Undone,” Dez, has a fetish for teenage girls. His latest catch, or victim, is a 17-year-old high school student named Chloe.

Hello. If by “catch, or victim” he means sex partner, that’s statutory rape.

But by exploring heterosexual male lust, Mr. Colapinto has written the kind of novel that has gone way out of fashion. The classics of the genre — “Portnoy’s Complaint” (Roth), “An American Dream” (Mailer) and “Couples” (Updike), among them — are many decades old.

I grew up on Roth and Updike, and even then their misogyny and failure to grasp that women are fully people put me off. I don’t lament the decline (if it even is a decline) of that kind of writing. (Martin Amis, by the way, is one who still does a fine line in women-oblivious writing.)

Publishers of literary fiction, perhaps afraid to alienate their biggest customers — women, who read more than men — aren’t exactly rushing to release the next male-written sexually provocative novel.

He got so close to the obvious, yet he never noticed. Why would that kind of writing alienate women? It’s not the sex part, it’s the male-centric part. We get enough of that in the world, we don’t need even more of it in novels.

Many critics and civilian readers would say — and have said — good riddance to priapic literature. In a 1997 essay, ostensibly a review of the late-period Updike novel “Toward the End of Time,” David Foster Wallace slammed the previous generation of “phallocrats” for its sex-obsessed narcissism. He mocked the protagonist of the Updike book for giving voice to such pronouncements as “I want women to be dirty” and expressed disgust for the author’s description of a 13-year-old girl’s breasts (“shallow taut cones tipped with honeysuckle-berry nipples”).

What had once been an act of literary daring had grown stale, Wallace argued, and Updike was misguided in clinging to the “bizarre adolescent idea that getting to have sex with whomever one wants is a cure for ontological despair.”

Well quite. Yet Kurutz, even after quoting that, still doesn’t seem to get it.

Mr. Colapinto, who has a wife and a teenage son, travels in educated, liberal circles that have internalized several waves of feminism. His son has not read the entirety of “Undone,” he said, and his wife, who only recently did, “had her concerns.” (“I’m insane,” Mr. Colapinto added, laughing.) But he set out to write a “dangerous” novel, he said, in the belief that “inappropriate lust” made for a worthwhile topic.

He even mentions feminism, and still doesn’t get it.

Male-centric journalism is still flourishing, I promise you.