Notes and Comment Blog

“Why do you dress her like a boy?”

May 12th, 2016 10:53 am | By

This is a bit of gender-enforcement that I hadn’t heard of before – “gender reveal” ceremonies. Say what?

Slate writer Jessica Winter has a toddler, and stranger’s get worked up about her Gender Status.

“Why do you dress her like a boy?” demanded a man in the jewelry section of H&M while my kid—in a red sweatshirt, jeans, and gray-and-purple sneakers—rummaged through a pile of tassled earrings. The man was trying to be polite, but he also seemed affronted by his own confusion—and affronted by me, I suppose, for causing his confusion. “She looks like a boy!” he insisted, repeatedly. The only response I could think of was the shrugging one I gave: “She looks like herself.”

Girls and women have been routinely wearing jeans and sweatshirts for decades, yet still some people think those are clothes for males only?

I offer this anecdote partly as a disclosure that I’m not the intended audience for gender-reveal announcements. This is a genre of prenatal celebration that reached a spectacular apotheosis last week when a Florida couple went viral for firing a rifle at a target packed with explosives and colored chalk, sending up a plume of powder intended to reveal the baby’s sex—blue for boy, in this case. The phenomenon more typically takes form as a gender-reveal party, where the festive theme might be Guns or Glitter? or Rifles or Ruffles? or, because big sticks can take many forms, Baseball or Bows?

On the one hand, decades of feminism; on the other hand, a level of frantic anxiety about Female or Male that is rising to panic levels.

The centerpiece of a gender-reveal party is, of course, a gender-reveal cake, which involves slipping a piece of paper to a trusted baker who will then drop the right food coloring in the batter; at the appointed moment, celebrants cut the cake to find out if it’s blue or pink, i.e., Pistols or Pearls? Gender-reveal cakes can be cute, imaginative, even beautiful, as this PopSugar slideshow attests. Another parenting site, the Stir,has a slideshow of “15 Outrageously Inappropriate Gender-Reveal Cakes,” although if you spend enough time in the gender-reveal universe, these creations might strike you not as outrageous so much as just aggressively direct about the zero-sum nature of the gender binary. Stick or No Stick is the exemplum of the bunch, making barely submerged subtext into carrot-shaped text: A boy has a something, and a girl has a nothing. A boy has a gun, and a girl has a hole. A boy does, and a girl is done to. A boy is an active actor with useful equipment, and a girl is a void with embellishments. It would sound so tiresomely gender studies 101 if these weren’t actual people having actual children right here on my Pinterest boards in 2016.

Ah well that explains it; I don’t do Pinterest so that’s why I’m not aware of this bizarro trend.

A gender reveal will tell a future baby’s loved ones precisely nothing about what is actually important about her first months and years on Earth: her temperament, her response to food, the ease with which she sleeps and self-soothes and explores her expanding world.

And also about her later months and years on earth. Gender is not personality. Sex is not personality. “Gender” just isn’t all that interesting.

Get out the ducking stool

May 11th, 2016 5:37 pm | By

This again. A woman has the unmitigated temerity to have a job as political editor for the BBC – a job that had previously always belonged to a man. Someone draws up a petition to get her fired, and – surprise surprise! – it attracts the usual torrents of sexist abuse. In other news, some grass grew today.

The majority of those signing and supporting the petition expressed concerns about what they saw as biased reporting of the Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn by Kuenssberg. However, some supporters on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC’s first female political editor to go.

Of course they did. It is not possible for people to disagree with a woman in public without the torrents of sexist abuse appearing. (Then of course petitioning to get her fired goes a bit beyond disagreeing with her.)

Prior to the petition being taken down, former Independent on Sunday political editor Jane Merrick told the Guardian that Kuenssberg had faced an extra layer of sexist criticism. “She has been called a whore and a bitch on Twitter,” said Merrick. “Nick Robinson used to be accused of Tory bias but he never experienced this level of nastiness.”

“Of course, not all Corbyn supporters are sexist – far from it – but there is a core of hard-left misogyny that comes out against women when Corbyn is under pressure – such as the abuse against Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. Jeremy Corbyn said back in September he wanted a ‘kinder politics’ so he should condemn these vile attacks against a respected and experienced journalist.”

I don’t think it’s hard-left misogyny, it’s just misogyny. It’s everywhere. It’s considered hip and funny to trash women, so lots and lots of people do it.

Laura Bates knows this.

The petition, which accused Kuenssberg of biased reporting against the Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, attracted abusive and sexist language among some of those supporting it, according to 38 Degrees executive director David Babbs.

While some have tried to argue that the problem is nonexistent, you don’t have to look very far to find evidence of abusive and misogynistic messages being directed at, or about, Kuenssberg.

Posts calling Kuenssberg a bitch, a whore and a slag are not hard to spot on social media. Others refer to her as a cow and a cunt. Some people write that they’d like to kill her. One post included a picture of a scene from Return of the Jedi with Kuenssberg’s face Photoshopped on to that of Princess Leia in the famous gold-bikini scene and David Cameron’s face superimposed on Jabba the Hutt. It describes her as “Cameron’s slave girl”.

She’s a woman. Women are there to be degraded and demonized. Everybody hates women.

The situation calls to mind the recent phenomenon of so-called “Bernie Bros”, which saw some grassroots activists using graphic and abusive misogyny and sexist online memes to attack Hillary Clinton (although this too was vociferously denied by Sanders supporters).

Not to mention the apparent Republican candidate.

This is a problem commonly attributed to the left, but nobody has the monopoly on misogyny – it is sadly too widespread for that. Whether sexism rears its head in the political conversations of stuffy and elite male-only club-rooms or in the feverish urgency of social media crusades and online petitions, the result is often the same: built-in methods to tackle systemic gender inequality don’t figure highly in the resulting campaigns and movements. You don’t have to be deliberately or directly sexist yourself to be part of the problem by attempting to diminish it.

Yes but it’s only women. Everybody hates women.

Extra challenges

May 11th, 2016 4:16 pm | By

Let’s hark back to May 2011, to a Comment is Free piece by Evan Harris on the religious exemptions to the Equalities Act.

The Guardian has reported on those questioning the wisdom of contracting religious groups to deliver key public services. The government’s “big society” initiative – it still seems too unfocused to call it policy – has, as one of its aims, the transfer of the delivery of some public services to voluntary sector providers on a greater scale than is currently the case.

It was envisaged by both this and the previous government that faith groups would be some of the new providers. It seems unjustified to argue against religious organisations providing public services, as it is discriminatory to single out those with a religious ethos for a prohibition on service provision.

Well, no, not if the goal is to keep religion and the state separate. Public services are by definition a state matter; those “with a religious ethos” can provide services via private organizations. It’s fine for religious groups to offer services; it’s not so fine for them to offer public services, i.e. ones funded by taxes.

However, some religious organisations present extra challenges when being considered for the delivery of public services and it would be naive, foolish or perverse to ignore these.

First, they have a special exemption in equality law to discriminate against their employees narrowly on grounds of gender and sexual orientation (for priesthood and leadership roles) and more widely on the basis of religious belief. These exemptions are provided for in the European directive that underpins our anti-discrimination laws in this area. The problem is that the exemptions given in UK law by the last Labour government in the 2003 regulations and then in the 2010 Equality Act are far wider than provided for in the directive.

One of these exemptions is found in schedule 9, paragraph 3 of the 2010 Equality Act, allowing religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of religion in employment, in certain jobs and contexts. The last government faced infraction proceedings from the European Union for failing, unlike all the Catholic Mediterranean states, to properly limit these exemptions.

Like for instance to people doing the actual religious work – clerics, in short. Cooks and cleaners and secretaries shouldn’t have to be orthodox believers to keep their jobs.

What is even more worrying is that staff of an existing secular provider – who make the beds in a hostel, or assist people with benefit claims – will face a faith test when the service and their employment contracts are transferred to a new provider that has a religious ethos. During the passage of the Equality Act, Liberal Democrats (that’s me and Lynne Featherstone, now the equality minister) proposed an amendment that specified that religious tests were not to be permitted when delivering public services. This was vigorously opposed by religious leaders and the government. It was silently opposed by the Tories.

Evan Harris doesn’t say anything about council-run school buses being able to refuse to pick up students who don’t belong to the correct religion. Apparently he didn’t see that one coming.

Faithful and regular worshippers

May 11th, 2016 12:00 pm | By

The British Humanist Association reports something I find completely astonishing.

A pupil in Telford has been told that he cannot ride a council-run bus to school along with his classmates because ‘he’s not Catholic’, it has been reported. The bus serves the Holy Trinity Academy in Priorslee, which was opened in 2015 jointly by the local Roman Catholic and Anglican dioceses, and despite the bus being operated by Telford and Wrekin Council, it is not open to children at the school who are either not religious or belong to a minority religion.

What on earth? The boy attends the school and the bus is run by the council (i.e. it’s public) but he can’t ride on it because he’s not Catholic? That’s grotesque – and punitive and cruel.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has once again called on the exemptions in the Equality Act 2010 allowing for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of school transport to be scrapped.

Speaking about the situation, the father of the boy involved stated that the ‘the bus stops two minutes from the front door’, ‘but he was told that because he’s not Catholic, even though he goes to the school, he can’t use it’. A spokesperson for Telford and Wrekin Council said ‘Transport assistance is offered to pupils who are baptised Catholics and pupils whose families are faithful and regular worshippers in a Church of England Parish Church or other Christian affiliated churches if they live over the three-mile distance criteria for secondary aged pupils.’

Remarkably, discrimination of this kind is entirely legal, as the provision of school transport by local authorities is exempted from equalities legislation. The BHA has previously raised concerns about this exemption with the Department for Education, stating in their response to a 2014 consultation on the issue that ‘Providing one group of parents extra choice over others is unfair, and the nature of the discretionary spending likely causes religious and ethnic segregation’.

That’s just bonkers. It’s especially baffling since UK officialdom just loves to talk about community and cohesion, not to mention community cohesion – do they think this exemption is good for community cohesion? No doubt it unites the Christians against everyone else, but what about the community cohesion of the people of Telford, and the UK in general?

More broadly, why is it the business of government to reward people for being “faithful and regular worshippers”?

It’s an exemption too many.


May 11th, 2016 11:47 am | By

Jesus and Mo last week:


The Patreon.

Mythology rules

May 11th, 2016 11:17 am | By

Julie Bindel on the reality of what prostitution does to women:

It seems that everyone has an opinion on prostitution, but few know very much about it. That is certainly what I found in researching my book on the global sex trade. Mythology, rather than informed opinion, rules.

I am told on a regular basis that criminalising any aspect of the sex trade will “force it underground” – something that does not happen for the simple reason that the punters need to find it. I hide my despair at hearing, for the millionth time, that if men cannot access paid sex they will be forced to find a woman to rape, which is tantamount to arguing that men have no control over their sexual behaviour. And I am informed that decriminalisation will result in almost zero violence towards ‘sex workers’ because it is the police who carry out the vast majority of rapes. Sometimes, those who come out with this rubbish describe themselves as current or former sex workers. The unpalatable truth is that not everyone that earns a living selling sex is expert in what might be the best way to legislate or manage the sex industry. Self-interest and, all too often, self-delusion trumps sense and logic.

The discussion these days is over the Nordic model versus full decriminalization. Several European countries are considering adopting the Nordic model.

“But you are denying sex workers their agency! Sex workers want rights not rescue. It is a choice. The only harm to sex workers is perpetrated by abolitionists and the police. The New Zealand model is the way forward. If you criminalise the client, the sex worker is criminalised by default.”

Those are the standard retorts.

In recent years, despite the increasing numbers of women coming out as ‘survivors’ of the sex trade, the dominant discourse is one of prostitution being about ‘choice’ and ‘agency’ for the women involved. The only human rights abuse in the sex trade, according to the liberals, libertarians and many of those who profit from selling sex, is when men are denied the right to  purchase sex.  The renting of women’s orifices for sexual release is not, on the other hand, considered a violation. The women selling sex, according to this logic, are the victims of pearl-clutching moralists who wish to take away their right to earn a living, rather than of sexual servitude.

The war that rages between feminists such as myself, who seek to abolish the sex trade, and those who see prostitution as a valid choice, is fuelled by the widely held belief that feminist abolitionists wish to ‘rescue fallen women’ and demonise the men who pay for sex.

Which is not unrelated to the widely held belief that feminists in general are prudish humorless boring killjoys.

The battle is currently being fought in the home affairs select committee inquiry on prostitution. Yesterday, Paris Lees and Brooke Magnanti gave evidence to the committee. Both women have sold sex in the past. Both are rabidly opposed to the Nordic model, and, during their evidence, refused to acknowledge the harms of the sex trade. When asked if she had ever witnessed or experienced violence during her time in prostitution, Lees replied: “No, I’ve never been raped – I’m a sex worker, not trafficked”. It’s as though only trafficked women are ever abused by pimps or punters.  I have interviewed 40 sex trade survivors for my book and over 100 previously for other research.  Every single one had suffered multiple rapes. Rape endemic in prostitution is universally documented.

It would be very surprising if it were otherwise. Once it’s for sale, it’s also for taking.

It is a commonly-held assumption that decriminalisation reduces stigma towards the women involved. However, as the same report states: “This appears to have changed little post-decriminalisation. Stigmatisation plays a key role in non-reporting of incidents”.

The women in the sex trade I met on a recent research visit to New Zealand told me the law has not helped them at all. The street-based women said the police are still abusive arseholes, and those in brothels said that as a result of decriminalisation the pimps now have more power and legal rights than the women.

The Nordic model is not perfect. But at least it is visionary and progressive in that it sends out a clear message that women are not commodities to be bought and sold, and that men will not simultaneously combust if they can’t get their rocks off with women they have to pay in order to get their consent. The commonly held and deeply depressing view that demand for prostitution can never be eliminated is as absurd as arguing that the working classes belong in the gutter.

Or that women belong in the kitchen.

Should bosses be able to force women to bind their feet?

May 11th, 2016 9:44 am | By

The BBC asks: Is it legal to force women to wear high heels at work?

If it is it certainly shouldn’t be. High heels are a form of foot-binding, and forced foot-binding should never be legal. People should be strongly discouraged from binding their own feet, and entirely forbidden to bind or demand the binding of anyone else’s.

A 27-year-old woman working for a City firm in London says she was sent home for refusing to wear high heels. But is this legal, fair or healthy?

Nicola Thorp says she was laughed at when she told her bosses that she didn’t want to wear high heels on her first day as a corporate receptionist.

“I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won’t be able to do that in heels,” she told the BBC.

She was wearing flats, and they told her to go buy heels or else go home without pay. She refused and was sent away without pay.

Now Thorp has set up a petition to the government, demanding “women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work”. It has picked up more than 7,000 signatures. The petition says the law as it stands is “outdated and sexist”.

UK employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to “reasonable” dress code demands, says employment law firm Thompsons, as long as they’ve been given enough time to buy the right shoes and clothes. They can set up different codes for men and women, as long as there’s an “equivalent level of smartness”.

“Reasonable” – such a flexible word, so different for the employer versus the worker. No doubt it seems very reasonable to a boss to tell a worker to wear crippling shoes, but it doesn’t necessarily seem reasonable to the worker.

Then there are health concerns. “From the point of view of the foot high heels are a disaster,” said Tony Redmond, a biomechanics expert at Leeds University. “The joints of the feet can be damaged by wearing high heels, and this can cause some forms of arthritis.”

He also warned that regularly wearing heels increases the mechanical wear and tear around the knee joints, which might increase the risk of osteoarthritis. It also puts people with weak lower backs at risk of slipped vertebrae.

Plus they’re narrow and pointy, in keeping with the whole fragile, dainty theme, and that’s bad for the whole front half of the foot.

The College of Podiatry has warned employers not to make women wear high heels at work because they can cause bunions, back problems, ankle sprains and tight calves. It has been worked out that it takes an average of one hour, six minutes and 48 seconds for them to start hurting.

The really nasty ones hurt as soon as you put them on.

Photos of the bloodied feet of a waitress in Canada – who worked a full shift in high heels, part of the company’s dress code – have been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook.

Last year, the Israeli airline El Al established a rule that all female cabin crew had to wear high heels until all passengers were seated.

Simon Pratt, Managing Director at Portico, said Thorp had reported to work with “inappropriate footwear”, saying she had “previously signed the appearance guidelines.” He adds that such guidelines were “common practice within the service sector” but the company were now reviewing them. PwC says it’s in discussions about Portico’s policies. The incident involving Thorp happened last December. She started the petition this week.

It has received more than 20,000 signatures, meaning the government must give a comment. If it gets 100,000, there’s a chance MPs could debate in Parliament whether women should have to wear high heels at work.

What does foot-binding do? It disables women. It makes women less able to run away.


May 10th, 2016 5:09 pm | By

From My Stealthy Freedom:

Her name is Gabriella. She is only two years old. She is a British citizen and went to Iran to visit her grandparents, but her passport was confiscated by the Islamic Republic of Iran after she attempted to return to the UK.

Her mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 37-year-old project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm, was arrested in early April in Tehran by members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport, where she and her daughter, Gabriella, were about to board a flight back to the UK.

So our question is the following: why has the Islamic republic confiscated a two year-old girl’s passport? Why is she banned from leaving Iran and joining her father in the UK while her mother is in solitary confinement in Iran? Isn’t this some kind of hostage-taking? Isn’t this child abuse?

“It is now nearly two months since I saw or held my little girl. I cannot get her back: her passport is confiscated, I have no visa, and I have been advised not to try and go to Iran,” Richard Ratcliffe, Gabriella’s father said.

My Stealthy Freedom campaign advises you all to please share our new hashtag : ‪#‎FreeGabriella‬

Hey it’s only voting rights for half the population

May 10th, 2016 5:03 pm | By

Via @tkingdoll and @ccriadoperez

Horrified that the hospital could get away with this

May 10th, 2016 4:47 pm | By

One story from the ACLU report:

Jennafer and Jason Norris were shocked to learn in 2014 that Jennafer was pregnant after a rare birth control failure. They had recently moved to Rogers, Arkansas, for Jason’s work, and Jennafer had happily returned to the workforce now that her two children were in school. Jennafer did not realize that her contraception had failed and that she was pregnant until she was eight weeks along and experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia, which she recognized from her first two pregnancies. It was mixed news: Jennafer and Jason were excited to expand their family, but very worried about her health.

The pregnancy was difficult from the start. Jennafer spent six weeks on bedrest, making it impossible for her to continue to work. Then, at 30 weeks, her health took a severe downturn. She was admitted to Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas and diagnosed with fast onset of atypical preeclampsia, which caused symptoms ranging from blurred vision to excruciating headaches. Jennafer’s blood pressure was also extraordinarily high, putting her at great risk of a seizure or stroke. Her mother flew to Arkansas to help watch the kids while Jason sat vigil at Jennafer’s hospital bed. Everyone was terrified. Jennafer was scheduled to deliver by C-section, and she requested a tubal ligation at the time of the delivery— for obvious reasons, she could not risk getting pregnant again. But the hospital refused. While Jennafer’s physician was sympathetic, she explained with regret that she was bound by the Catholic hospital’s policy prohibiting sterilization. The only alternative, the hospital staff informed Jennafer, was to be treated at another hospital. The Norrises were outraged: The nearest hospital was 30 minutes away, Jennafer was in horrible pain and so dizzy that she could hardly see, and her medical team had warned her repeatedly that she could have a stroke or seizure at any moment. Jennafer and Jason decided that they could not risk it, and she went ahead with the delivery at the Catholic hospital.

The Norrises are horrified that the hospital could get away with this. As Jason observed, “[i]t’s shocking when a hospital that is open to the public, and takes government funding, can cite their faith as a reason to deny you a necessary medical service.” Jennafer summarized it simply: “They are jeopardizing my life.”

All because the Catholic church has a Special Precious Religious belief about abortion, and feels entitled to impose that belief on anyone it can.

Despite staunch opposition from the U.S. bishops

May 10th, 2016 4:13 pm | By

Damn. Honesty compels me to retort to my own angry post about Sister Carol Keehan’s response to the ACLU report. I had the thought of emailing her to ask how it’s possible for Catholic hospitals to do both: to obey the ERD and perform abortions…and by doing that I found she’s not a heartless episcopal mouthpiece. So in all fairness here’s another view of Carol Keehan:

Sister Keehan, who earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., and a master of science degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, has watched medicine evolve and new policies rise. She has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the mission of providing healthcare to everyone in need, and has been a steadfast advocate of the Affordable Care Act, despite staunch opposition from the U.S. bishops. She worked closely with President Barack Obama on his signature reform law and, due to her support, received one of the president’s 21 pens used to sign the bill.

Plus I just like her face, dammit.

Image result for sister carol keehan

Guest post: Washington is broken. Please elect me to burn it to the ground.

May 10th, 2016 3:45 pm | By

Originally a comment by AJ Milne on One man’s narcissism and divisiveness.

A sort of popular nihilism–this ‘everything is broken, so let’s just get it over with and burn it down’ thing–has showed up quite a lot, of late, among those effectively arguing for electing Trump. Been kinda hard to miss. Got one of those in my immediate circle. Quelle surprise.

What’s also kind of hard to miss is:

1) It’s hardly especially dissonant with lines right-wing politicians especially have been selling for decades, now. It’s a pretty standard campaign. Washington is broken. Please elect me to burn it to the ground. A really hardly exotic GOP playbook prepared the ground for Trump, much as some of them insist they’re so appalled. Only thing he did wrong, I expect, was speak a little too carelessly through the code. And not quite kiss the _right_ asses on the way up. So yes, I expect quite a few of those rats _will_ find a way to make up, however, however much they protested what a disaster he was, up until he clinched it. He really is their kind of animal. And let’s face it: they’ _are_ authoritarian followers, after all. All he has to do is speak in confident, brazen tones, and they’ll quietly roll over, then find some excuse to say ‘he’ll do’. And yes, it _will_ be a lot of ‘Hillary is worse’, and never mind you’d probably more need Mussolini to get all the way there.

2) Speaking of that other ugly old disaster, the same line is pretty much SOP for fascist demagogues in general, too. The bankers have bought the system. Elect me to tear all the rot out. I’ll throw ’em all out, maybe fire a buncha lazy civil servants, bust a few unions, y’know. It’ll all be grand. _You’ll_ be all right, you nice, right-thinking voter supporting me. It’s just those dirty leeches gonna get ground under the boot, not to worry.

I’m not sure I’m gonna go long on analysis, yet, as to why it appeals to people. But it’s pretty clear it does. The whole idea of some king of heaven returning to cleanse a terribly sullied world of corruption with fire seems to get some pretty good mileage, too; I can’t help but wonder if it’s got something in common with that chestnut, too…

… mind, short of really trying to scope out the psychology (again, probably that Authoritarians guy would be helpful; can’t be arsed to look at this moment, but I guess I probably should), it’s not like it’s anything I find at all mystifying. Watch kids flattening sand castles on the beach. A lot of people do like to smash things. Give them a way, however risibly transparent, to claim it’s some kind of necessary protest, a civil duty they’re fulfilling, a violent ‘renovation’ you _must_ get behind if you are at all aware of what a sewer you’ve actually been living in, and oh, my, but it can be an alarming little freak show. Any idiocy, any atrocity, any destructiveness… but now papered over and then fuelled by a grand, self-righteous fervour.

As to the ‘weary nihilist’ pose, I also figure I’m observing it’s long been pretty fashionable, far more defensible, in some circles, to support burning the world down if you are, see, weary and disgusted. If you _admit_ it’s more you kinda like to see things burn, and kinda hope the people you hate will be trapped in the house, this is a little too brazen. See also ‘don’t speak too clearly past the code’. But weary and disgusted? Ah, you poor thing. Let me light the torches for you, there there.

Here’s the reality, the way I see it: the US _does_ have problems. Big ones, absolutely. Major divisions between rich and poor, black and white, and real social and economic mobility just isn’t what’s advertised in The American Dream.

.. and hucksters promising you salvation by burning the whole thing down thrive in that. Macho poseurs, too. Always have. But Trump is no more going to ‘save’ America, given the chance, than Putin could ever ‘save’ Russia. (And it’s no wonder he speaks well of the man; the dissonance if he did otherwise would be a bit much.) As it’s exactly the same awful formula. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ and Putin’s playing off Soviet nostalgia, same old silly game.

What _isn’t_ fashionable, and never has been, with the same set? Looking at what works, at what _is_ progress, slight and maddeningly insufficient as yet though it may be. Accepting your society has flaws, but staying, and working to fix them. Accepting that government is an imperfect but necessary instrument, and contrary to your romantic notions, burning the whole thing down isn’t going to lead to cleansing fire and a new utopia–it’s going to lead to economic and social dysfunction on a scale you probably have to visit Afghanistan truly to appreciate. And fortunate for you, really, that Trump is unlikely quite to have the reach, nor even the twisted ambition, even _were_ he given the position he seeks, to do that much damage quite so quickly as those oddly dreaming of apocalypse not so secretly wish. More likely it will be more a slow, miserable degradation of the social contract, more division, more poverty, more corruption, more cronyism. Pretty much what you’d expect, in short, when you elect a vapid poseur who’s mantra and MO really have always been: make yourself rich; whoever else gets hurt or helps you to their own injury was too stupid or too weak to stop you, so fuck ’em…

Russia, in short, not so much Afghanistan. And I do dearly hope I never have to say ‘well, I _did_ warn you…’

The same nihilistic pose, of course, hates all ‘establishment’ politicians, and this, too, is terribly fashionable..

But let me tell you about ‘establishment’ politicians: the ones who don’t so much deny it are marginally more honest than the rest, and, generally, it’s about as well as you’re ever going to do. Yes, they owe favours, yes, they have friends with more money than you, and they’re probably going to feel some compulsion to care of them. You will have to work to keep them honest, and eventually, you will have to replace them. But bear in mind: they didn’t _start_ by lying to you, selling you an impossible, nihilistic, apocalyptic dream, or a paradise on earth, or tell you they were your saviour, coming from outside to start fires that somehow, oddly, are going to help you. They said: yes, I’m part of the system, imperfect as the system is, I support it. If you’re really lucky, and if you choose reasonably well, they try to make it work a little better for everyone. They aren’t going to put a chicken in every pot, even if they feel compelled to promise it on prime time, they aren’t going to make everything perfect forever. But if they know how to show up to committee meetings, know how to lobby the house, know how things work, you _may_ be ahead, when they’re actually working for you…

So enough with the juvenile moaning, the oh things are so broken so I must break it more bullshit. I expect you probably can fix a few things, if you don’t mind rolling your sleeves. But the torch probably shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for.

The Catholic PR machine lumbers into action

May 10th, 2016 12:37 pm | By

The Catholic Health Association (what a ridiculous oxymoron) has put out a statement responding to the ACLU/MergerWatch report, written by Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO.

A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union and Merger Watch makes claims about how pregnant women are treated in Catholic hospitals. These allegations, some of which have been the subject of since-dismissed lawsuits, are both unsubstantiated and irresponsible. To frighten families with scary, one-sided stories and exaggerated data is grossly disrespectful to the thousands of physicians, midwives and nurses working in Catholic hospitals who are so devoted to their patients and to the care they deliver.

Note that she doesn’t say they’re untrue.

And it’s not in the least disrespectful, because it’s not the doctors and nurses who decide, it’s the bishops and the administrations. I have a lot of disrespect for the bishops. I think the bishops should stay the fuck out of health care, and do more to get child abusing priests away from children.

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services are guidelines by which Catholic hospitals operate – and they are consistent with the delivery of safe, effective medical care. One of the first directives states: “In accord with its mission, Catholic health care should distinguish itself by service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination: the poor; the uninsured and the underinsured; children and the unborn; single parents; the elderly; those with incurable diseases and chemical dependencies; racial minorities; immigrants and refugees.”

That’s not the issue. The issue is for instance directive 45:

45. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation.

But the sister doesn’t want to say that.

The ACLU report focuses in large part on cases in which pregnant women experienced premature rupture of membranes, which is one of the most stressful obstetric events. In this situation, parents want and need to know that every option for saving their baby was exhausted. There is nothing in the Ethical and Religious Directives that prevents the provision of quality clinical care for mothers and infants in these and other obstetric emergencies.

That is what we in the secular world call a lie. See directive 45 again.

45. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation.

Look up Bishop Olmsted St Joseph’s Hospital Phoenix – then tell us again there’s nothing in the ERD that prevents the provision of quality clinical care for mothers – unless she’s not including saving the mother’s life in her understanding of quality clinical care. (But that would be a sly equivocation, and surely the Catholic church is better than that.) (jk)

Catholic hospitals are not only safe for women and their infants but also the choice of so many patients who seek holistic care from a trusted, compassionate provider. Physicians, too, choose Catholic health care—not only for its quality care but also often because of its deep concern for those who are vulnerable.

We are fortunate in this country to have several independent organizations with oversight responsibility for all hospitals. The Joint Commission accredits hospitals across the country and, in each state, a licensing agency does so as well. These organizations have robust standards and ensure compliance with routine inspections. They would not accredit or license a hospital that is unsafe for mothers or infants under any circumstance.

You would think, but sadly, that’s not true either.

The whole statement is carefully evasive about the actual claims in the report, and full of empty declarations meant to mislead. How very very Catholic.

Merging away our rights

May 10th, 2016 11:54 am | By

Judy Stone at Forbes on a new report by the ACLU and MergerWatch on the Catholic takeover of medical services in the US and what that does to women’s right to get medically appropriate care.

A disturbing new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and MergerWatch, “Health Care Denied,” finds that one in six hospitals in the U.S. are operated in accordance with Catholic religious rules, known as the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs).

While perhaps best known for prohibiting abortion, the restrictions go far beyond that, and impact more than reproductive health.

For women, the impact can be deadly.

Abortions are prohibited even if the fetus has no chance of survival and the mother’s life is in danger. Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in Ireland because her physicians would neither terminate her doomed pregnancy to save her life, nor transfer her to a facility that would care of her. Tamesha Means was luckier. She survived. Despite starting to miscarry at 18 weeks’ gestation, she says that Mercy Health in Muskegon, Michigan, sent her home, denying her appropriate care and putting her life at risk. There are similar, less well-known cases here, detailed in the ACLU report. Not providing emergency care is a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requirement for hospitals that receive Medicare funding—and Catholic health systems receive billions in taxpayer dollars.

This shouldn’t be happening. Medical care is secular, and churches should not interfere with it.

In Washington state, data shows that 40% of all hospital beds are in a Catholic hospital. There is no other option for care in entire regions. This is especially true in rural regions, and it is frightening when the only access to healthcare is dictated by someone else’s religious doctrine, rather than medical science.

For example, San Juan Island developed an affiliation with PeaceHealth, a Catholic health system. Now women on the island can’t get necessary reproductive care, a problem on other islands as well. There has been little detail available as to what compromises to patient care and autonomy the University of Washington made when it, too, affiliated with PeaceHealth. Washington’s Swedish Medical Center stopped doing abortions and closed its hospice after making a similar affiliation.

While these reports focused on restricted access to reproductive care, the Catholic directives also may interfere with end-of-life decision-making. Living wills may not be honored if they conflict with the ERDs—but you are likely not to know that before a crisis. Washington state, like Oregon, has a Death With Dignity law which allows “terminally ill adults to request and self-administer lethal medications prescribed by a physician.” But staff may be prohibited from speaking about Death With Dignity options, or from referring patients to organizations that can help provide that option.

They’re determined to get us, the bastards, and they don’t care whether we consent or not. They’re happy to force their filthy religion on us, including when we have no other option and can’t hop up out of the bed. They love their sadistic god and they hate human beings.

I know about these restrictions intimately, in part because I opposed a merger here in Western Maryland between the secular Memorial Hospital and Sacred Heart Hospital, owned by Daughters of Charity.* Part of the plan was to move women’s health to the Catholic facility—which would have meant that women who wanted to have a tubal ligation at the time of delivery would have had to travel a minimum of 1.5 hours over mountain roads to have their baby and surgery. For a safe abortion, I had to refer an indigent patient to Baltimore, three hours away, with no public transportation available. The end-of-life policy was changed to state, “Living wills will not be honored if in conflict with hospital policy”—but no one could tell me what that meant. As in Washington and elsewhere, affiliations or mergers are done behind closed doors and with little to no discussion with the affected community. Patients are often not aware of the restrictions on their care. In fact, despite looking carefully at one hospital’s website, I was unaware that my prospective employer was a Catholic-affiliated hospital until my privileges application asked me to agree to abide by the ERDs. Certainly there was no notice to patients, either, a far more critical issue.

That is simply outrageous.

The Trumps respond graciously

May 9th, 2016 6:02 pm | By

Life in the Time of Trump.

Julia Ioffe has filed a report with the D.C. police department over the anti-Semitic threats that she received — many from apparent Trump supporters — after writing a penetrating profile of Melania Trump in GQ.

The larger “public narrative” here is almost a year old. Since last June, Donald Trump has run a presidential campaign on bigotry, racism, sexism and frat-house insults. The show has attracted the interest and endorsement — surprise! — of white nationalist groups and figures such as David Duke, a former KKK official. At pretty much the same time, Trump has made a vocation of hammering media coverage of his candidacy, pointing with disdain at offending camera operators at his rally, calling the profession disgusting and dishonest and on and on.

Ioffe did an investigative piece on Melania Trump, and Melania Trump complained about it on Facebook.

Hate site the Daily Stormer responded with a story titled, “Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian Kike Julia Ioffe in GQ!” The attacks against Ioffe then started flowing over social media, email and phone. The Erik Wemple Blog cited some examples of the vileness in this post. Several of the blasts came from people who showed signs that they supported Trump. “The Trumps have a record of kind of whistling their followers into action,” the 33-year-old Ioffe told the Erik Wemple Blog.

That’s putting it politely.

Thanks to Ioffe’s pursuit of a criminal case, we may eventually know more about the folks who threatened her. She has also enlisted the Anti-Defamation League in her quest for justice. “I can confirm that we are working with her, and we are doing some research into the individuals involved, but we do not have much else to say at this point,” said Todd Gutnick, vice president, communications, for the organization.

Ioffe herself says the police have launched their investigation and the harassment continues. She doesn’t want to say anything more. Who can blame her?

However things shake out from here, the episode reflects Trump’s unique way of making America great: A fair and thorough story on a potential first lady turns into grist for hate-driven threats. It’s quaint to think back before American started its re-transformation to greatness, when such a story would prompt merely some blowback from PR flacks and perhaps a strongly worded letter from a lawyer. Keep America crappy.

Having Trump as the apparent Republican candidate is like having Thunderfoot or Milo Yianoppoulos as the apparent Republican candidate.

What Pakistan wouldn’t print

May 9th, 2016 5:18 pm | By

Here’s that piece Mona Eltahawy wrote, in the New York Times. It’s about the burden of virginity religion imposes on women, and the frustration of women who don’t want to marry or haven’t yet found someone they want to marry, but don’t want to miss out on sex either.

Remembering my struggles with abstinence and being alone with that, I determined to talk honestly about the sexual frustration of my 20s, how I overcame the initial guilt of disobedience, and how I made my way through that guilt to a positive attitude toward sex.

It has not been easy for my parents to hear their daughter talk so frankly about sex, but it has opened up a world of other women’s experiences. In many non-Western countries, speaking about such things is scorned as “white” or “Western” behavior. But when sex is surrounded by silence and taboo, it is the most vulnerable who are hurt, especially girls and sexual minorities.

It’s just sex. It’s been ringed by taboo and fear because of its connection to pregnancy, but now that there is technology to deal with that, it should be possible to realize it’s just sex. It doesn’t turn you green or make you grow two heads, it doesn’t corrupt your soul, it doesn’t send you to hell. It’s just sex.

Sometimes, I hear the argument that women in the Middle East have enough to worry about simply struggling with literacy and employment. To which my response is: So because someone is poor or can’t read, she shouldn’t have consent and agency, the right to enjoy sex and her own body?

People can do both! That’s another way it’s useful to remember it’s just sex. It doesn’t lure you away from everything else you want to do, or take up every minute of your time, or waste your precious bodily fluids. It’s not a trap or a snare or a pit lined with broken glass. It’s just sex.

The answer to that question is already out there, in places like the blog Adventures From the Bedroom of African Women, founded by the Ghana-based writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, and the Mumbai-based Agents of Ishq, a digital project on sex education and sexual life. These initiatives prove that sex-positive attitudes are not the province only of so-called white feminism. As the writer Mitali Saran put it, in an anthology of Indian women’s writing: “I am not ashamed of being a sexual being.”

My revolution has been to develop from a 29-year-old virgin to the 49-year-old woman who now declares, on any platform I get: It is I who own my body. Not the state, the mosque, the street or my family. And it is my right to have sex whenever, and with whomever, I choose.

A blank space

May 9th, 2016 4:30 pm | By

Pakistan censored a piece that Mona Eltahawy wrote about Muslim women and sex.

Mona Eltahawy, an award-winning Egyptian-American journalist and campaigner for women’s rights, wrote an opinion column, “Sex talk for Muslim women”, that was published by the International New York Times on Friday.

The article was available online in Pakistan, but the newspaper version, which should have been published in the opinion section of the local Express Tribune, was replaced by a blank space.

Eltahawy told AFP that the decision to ban her article was an example of how Pakistan’s authorities think a woman “who claims ownership over her body is dangerous … and must be silenced”.

Of course they do. Women get pregnant; that means they have to be controlled. Women – because they get pregnant – are property owned by men. Women have no thoughts and feelings, they’re just a blank space.

“Where are the stories on women’s sexual frustrations and experiences?” she wrote. “My revolution has been to develop from a 29-year-old virgin to the 49-year-old woman who now declares, on any platform I get: it is I who own my body. Not the state, the mosque, the street or my family. And it is my right to have sex whenever, and with whomever, I choose.”

That’s what they’re afraid of.

Eltahawy said the censorship showed “a woman who disobeys and who openly claims sexual liberation and pleasure is dangerous and must be silenced” and cited a similar backlash faced by the Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy after her documentary about honour killings won an Academy Award.

“So many Pakistanis attacked her for making Pakistan ‘look bad’ and not enough attacked what is actually making Pakistan look bad: men who are ready to kill women for daring to believe they have the right to consent and agency over their bodies.”

Let’s work together on that.

One must wonder if they are always so particular

May 9th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Meet Miriam Ben-Shalom:

Miriam Ben Shalom was a pioneer in the fight against the U.S. military’s policy of excluding lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, she married, had a daughter, and later converted to Judaism. After serving in the Israeli Army, she enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1974, but was dismissed in 1976 when she came out as a lesbian. Ben Shalom fought her dismissal through the courts, winning favorable decisions at the U.S. District Court (1980) and Appeals Court (1987) level. In 1988, she became the first open lesbian reinstated in the U.S. military. However, a new federal Appeals court ruling in 1989 supported the Army’s dismissal of her, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 1990. To keep fighting the ban, Ben Shalom founded Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Veterans of America (now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights). In recognition of her decades of activism, President Obama invited her to the White House in December 2010 when he signed the law repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Quite a pioneer. She was invited to be the Grand Marshall for Milwaukee’s Pride Parade this year. Then she wasn’t.

Amid accusations of transphobia, the grand marshal for the Milwaukee Pride Parade has been stripped of her duties.

Miriam Ben-Shalom was honored to be this year’s grand marshal, but her invitation was revoked.

“They denied me not necessarily because of my own words but because of the words of others that were on my Facebook page that I was engaging in civil dialogue with,” said Ben-Shalom.

In a letter to Ben-Shalom, the parade committee rescinded their invitation, saying in part, “It was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms … it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.”

“Yeah, there were posts like that but they weren’t my posts,” she said. “They were posts from other people. They were not my words.”

Ah but did she excoriate them with fire and holy water? If she didn’t, she’s automatically ruled transphobic. Them’s the rules, folks.

According to parade organizer Brent Holmes, it was more than one part of the post that concerned the committee.

“That was really the start of it,” Holmes said. “And then we starting looking. It was not body modification in particular. It was trans-exclusion.”

In response to the committee’s letter rescinding the invitation, Ben-Shalom wrote back in part, “I believe that gender roles ought to be abolished so that people can just be–without feeling the need to surgically change their bodies to meet binary stereotypes which are artificial and not biological.”

That’s a reasonable thing to think. (I would say that, because it’s what I think too. Nevertheless – I do say it. I can’t see that it’s unreasonable to think that people should feel free to just be, without having to make medical adjustments to match gender stereotypes.) The fact that a reasonable opinion is branded “trans-exclusion” when it’s no such thing is not a sign of a healthy politics.

That story was May 4. On May 5 Miriam wrote a public Facebook post which she asked people to share.\

Here is the original letter:

<<Dear Ms Ben-Shalom,
I am writing you today about our offering of the 2016 Grand Marshal position to you.

The Board of Directors was excited to have an opportunity to acknowledge your many contributions to the LGBT community by offering you the Grand Marshal position for this year’s parade. However, shortly after we offered you the position, it was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms. After considering these posts, it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.

While we fully support a person’s right to express their own beliefs and political opinions, we also feel it is important that our Grand Marshals publicly declared beliefs mesh with those held by the Milwaukee Pride Parade and the Board of Directors. The Grand Marshal is the public face of the Milwauee Pride Parade and thus needs to be someone whose views are compatible with our own.

The Bylaws of the Milwaukee Pride Parade include our mission statement, “To provide an outlet to the citizens of South Eastern Wisconsin in which GLBT individuals and groups can participate in a parade to show their pride.” We are an inclusive organization that seeks to be free of intolerance, and seeks to promote the equality of all members of the community. As such, we feel that we cannot have a Grand Marshal who has publically and repeatedly denigrated transwomen.

We wish to apologize for rescinding our offer of this honor. It is not a step that we take lightly, and it in no way should be considered a denial of the important work you have previously done for the LGBT community. Please understand this was never our intent to lead you on.
The Board of Directors would like to thank you for your understanding of this situation.

The Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors>>


But then they changed their story:

Now they have changed their story–now it is because I am trans exclusionary instead of transphobic:

While that particular post was the initial post which directed our attention to investigate possible issues with your viewpoints it was by no means the deciding factor in the Board’s decision making process. There are numerous other posts of yours in which you personally have shared information which defend and/or endorse your stance of trans exclusion. For any other questions please see our Official Statement on this matter which I have included in this Email.

Brent H.
Pride Parade Coordinator
Milwaukee Pride Parade
P.O. Box 0091
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Having a different view of what gender is is not exclusion. And it certainly should not be a reason for withdrawing an invitation of this kind.

Trans people don’t own the word “gender” – and since not all trans people share the same view of gender, ownership wouldn’t establish the word’s meaning anyway. But trans people don’t own the word, and it’s not exclusionary to have a particular view of gender. We’re all trapped and bullied by gender stereotypes, so it’s just not a good idea to try to forbid radical feminists to argue for their view of gender.

Miriam did another public post the next day.

For public release. In considering the Milwaukee Pride Parade Committee’s change in reasoning about excluding me from the seat of Grand Marshal for initially insisting that I was “transphobic” to now being “Trans exclusionary” in a response sent to me yesterday via email, one must wonder if they are always so particular. In looking at their web site, it is obvious that they have had male Marshals before. Were any of these men exclusionary towards women or other men? As examples, did they belong to any Gay male only club or group? Had they every posted and ads looking for –whatever–but which included statements excluding fat men, Black men, bears, etc. from consideration as a partner or hook-up person? THIS IS EXCLUSIONARY, just as I was harshly judged because I believe that women born of women are entitled to have their events put on for themselves and like -minded women and are entitled to be safe. It seems they were very rigorous with me, but I can’t see that they were as rigorous in looking at the men who have been past Marshals–or the Drag Queens, or anyone else! I , therefore, must conclude that the Milwaukee Pride Parade Committee has a very evident double standard when it comes to how they treat with their “candidates for Parade Marshal.” What is right is right, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I suggest that the Milwaukee Pride Committee is exclusionary in its policies and does not even meet the objectives of its own mission. It looks like they are trying to cover their –gluteus maxima. And it surely looks like they are, by their own thinking, woman born of woman exclusionary and that they do not value women’s lives or women’s culture. Gosh. Who’d have thought?

So much of this nonsense seems to boil down to just another excuse to demonize and exclude – yes, exclude, for real this time – women. When in doubt, demonize and exclude the women, so that the real people can have their fun.

People in Tooting

May 9th, 2016 11:05 am | By

Sadiq Khan said some interesting things about hijab last month.


Khan, who became the first Muslim cabinet minister in Gordon Brown’s government in 2009, warned of an “insidious” development if people thought it was right to treat women differently to men.

In an interview with the London Evening Standard, the frontrunner in next month’s mayoral contest contrasted the way Muslim women dressed when he was growing up in London in the 1970s and 80s with the way many women dressed today.

Khan, 45, said: “When I was younger you didn’t see people in hijabs and niqabs, not even in Pakistan when I visited my family. In London we got on. People dressed the same. What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab [a loose gown] or niqab.”

Anecdotal observation – I lived in London for a big chunk of 1977, and one of the other women in the house did wear a hijab when she went out. I once overheard her explaining (in the communal kitchen) that she wore it because the guy she was going to marry wanted her to. That’s a black swan – it’s not quite true that you didn’t see women in hijabs at all. But it is true that it was far from commonplace.

“There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes. What’s insidious is if people are starting to think it is appropriate to treat women differently or that it has been forced on them. What worries me is children being forced to adopt a lifestyle.”

Yes. Girls being forced to adopt a badge of inferiority, and boys being forced to adopt a contemptuous or disgust-ridden view of girls and women. It’s bad all around. It’s bad to teach children that girls and women are these weird gross special creatures that have to be covered up lest they rot or entice or swallow the world with their ravenous cunts.

He said he had been singled out by extremists – and been given police advice on protection – because of his liberal views, particularly on same-sex marriage. “There are people in Tooting who no longer talk to me because of it. When I was first elected I had all sorts of problems from these extremists. There was a fatwa put out against me. I’m the person with the plan in relation to fighting extremism.”

Mazel tov, London.

Withdrawing room 4

May 8th, 2016 6:21 pm | By

It’s time for a new one.

Anybody seen Train Wreck? I haven’t, but I saw about half an hour of it (starting ten minutes in) last night, expecting to like it and being confounded in that expectation. I didn’t find any of the part I saw remotely funny, and I did find at least three scenes downright ugly as well as not funny – so I stopped watching.

I expected to like it because I’ve liked Amy Schumer in the past, but I didn’t know (until I Googled today) it was directed by Judd Apatow. I can’t stand Judd Apatow.

Jonathan Romney at the Guardian didn’t like it much.

The film slightly suffers from Apatow’s characteristic taste for improv and loose structure, never quite adding up to a coherent whole. The already controversial romcom redemption of Amy’s inner “nice girl” is a big minus. But just as troubling is the way that Amy, who staunchly declares herself indifferent to sport – the ultimate American heresy – is finally made to join in and cheer with everyone else. Enjoyable enough, and certainly not a trainwreck – it just doesn’t quite clear the platform.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker dug deeper:

As in previous Apatow films, the temptations of togetherness eventually drown the siren call of the boudoir. Amy, though informed by Steven, “You’re not nice,” is nice enough to befriend a homeless man outside her apartment; her philandering is not that of a genuine free spirit but of a conscience wrenched out of joint by an equally faithless father (Colin Quinn), who now, as if paying for his sins, suffers from multiple sclerosis and resides in an assisted-living facility. Amy has a sister (Brie Larson), who has a husband and a stepson, and, fiercely though Amy mocks their domestic harmony, they have much to teach her, the end result being a long shot, late in the proceedings, of all four of them gathered for a group hug. And that, as it were, is Amy’s final instruction: “Be happy for me, fuckers.” So much for the promise of the title. “Trainwreck” sticks to the rails.

Train jokes ffs.

Anyway – I was somewhat baffled that anyone could think any of the part I saw was funny. I’m not talking a little funny but not funny enough, I’m talking not funny at all. I’m easily amused, and this thing didn’t raise so much as a smile.