Notes and Comment Blog


Apr 1st, 2016 5:41 pm | By

The Huffington Post published a string of photos of the aftermath of the Lahore bombing. There are no gory ones, but there are many anguished faces.


A woman weeps for her injured family members as she tries to speak to security at a local hospital in Lahore.

Arif Ali/Getty Images

A Pakistani family brings an injured child to the hospital in Lahore on March 27, 2016.

The flight attendant pressed her further

Apr 1st, 2016 3:20 pm | By

Yet another man on yet another flight to Israel makes a woman change her seat because he doesn’t want a filthy whorey woman sitting next to him.

A retired lawyer who fled the Nazis as a child is suing the Israeli national airline El Al for alleged discrimination after being asked to move on a plane when an ultra-Orthodox Jew objected to sitting next to a woman.

Renee Rabinowitz, 81, is being supported by the Israel Religious Action Center, which has campaigned against ultra-Orthodox efforts to enforce the segregation of men and women and to have images of women removed from public hoardings.

You don’t get to “object to” sitting next to people in public accommodations unless they’re something along the lines of roaring drunk or covered in vomit. You don’t get to “object to” sitting next to them simply because they’re a category of human you consider beneath you. That shit needs to stop.

On 2 December last year, Rabinowitz settled into her business class seat on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv following a visit to the US to see family. Her seat was one of a pair separated by a screen.

Shortly before the plane doors closed, a passenger who had been allocated the window seat next to Rabinowitz boarded. The middle-aged man, who was wearing ultra-Orthodox garb, called a flight attendant and spoke to him in Hebrew.

Rabinowitz said the flight attendant then offered Rabinowitz what he described as a better seat, one of the central row of three nearer the first class cabin. “I didn’t understand. It wasn’t a better seat,” she said.

Seeing as how she lives in Israel, I bet she did understand, all too well.

She said she initially declined to move, but the flight attendant pressed her further and as the plane was close to taking off, she felt she had no alternative. Using her walking stick, Rabinowitz followed him to the front of the business class section.

“I asked the flight attendant point blank if the man sitting next to me had asked me to be moved, and unabashedly he said yes.”

So it’s that taken for granted that women are filthy and unacceptable.

Back home in Jerusalem, Rabinowitz attended a public meeting at which Anat Hoffman, IRAC’s executive director, spoke about the organisation’s successful campaign to end gender segregation on Israel’s public buses at the demand of the ultra-Orthodox. Since IRAC won a court case on the issue, buses carry prominent notices informing passengers they may sit where they wish.

“Anat said they wanted to launch a similar action in the air. Afterwards I told her what had happened to me,” said Rabinowitz.

Hoffman said: “We kept hearing from women, both Israelis and tourists, that they had been asked to move seats on planes. We were looking for a good case to take up, and then Renee walked in. She’s 81, and a Holocaust survivor – and she was humiliated by Israel’s national airline.”

It’s not a good look, is it. “Excuse me, ma’am, and sorry about the Holocaust and everything, but this gentleman here can’t bear to have you sitting next to him, so I have to ask you to move.” The irony is breath-taking.

IRAC is awaiting El Al’s formal statement of defence, which must be submitted within 30 days of the lawsuit being filed. But in a letter to Rabinowitz’s lawyer, the company insisted there was no gender discrimination on El Al flights.

It said it had investigated the incident, and found that the flight attendant had dealt with Rabinowitz politely and sensitively, making it clear that Rabinowitz was not obliged to move. As a gesture of goodwill, El Al offered Rabinowitz a $200 (£140) voucher towards her next flight. “The money is not the important issue here, it’s the principle,” said Rabinowitz.

That’s even more insulting. Calling it “polite” and “sensitive” to make someone move just because the passenger next to her dislikes the category of human she is is incredibly insulting…especially, sorry to labor the point, from one Jew to another Jew. Offering her a voucher for an offensively small amount is insult 3.

Hoffman described El Al’s acquiescence to demands to move women passengers as “one more way that ultra-Orthodox extremists get away with demands that have nothing to do with Judaism. Humiliating women can in no way qualify as a religious act. It is simply not acceptable.”

In a statement, El Al said it maintained “the highest levels of equal treatment and respect for all passengers. Our employees in the air, on the ground, in Israel and around the globe do all possible to listen to and provide solutions to the concerns or requests from our customers whatever they might be, including seating requests on the airplane.”

So if someone asked to sit next to a gentile? Would El Al employees do all possible to listen to and provide solutions to the request?

Salma’s every movement is policed

Apr 1st, 2016 2:44 pm | By

Shaheen Hashmat reviews a BBC 3 drama that was broadcast the other night (and alas as usual is not available outside the UK), Murdered by my Father.

The recently aired BBC 3 drama Murdered by my Father is an incredibly powerful depiction of the circumstances in which ‘honour’-based violence takes place. Screenwriter Vinay Patel developed the story following detailed consultation with specialist support charity IKWRO (the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation), among others. We learn that London teenager Salma (Kiran Sonia Sawar) is betrothed from an early age to the son of her father’s business associate Haroon (Salman Akhtar), and despite trying hard to honour her father’s wishes, her love for Imi (Mawaan Rizwan) makes it impossible for her to reconcile the idea of getting married to anyone else. Though she and her widower father Shahzad (played by Adeel Akhtar) share a warm relationship to begin with, his control on Salma’s life tightens considerably as the pressure on him increases to force her into line and ‘protect his reputation’.

Haroon tells her she’s Westernized, her school alerts her father to her absences from school, her father moves up the date of the wedding – the walls close in.

We see Salma’s despair as she is torn between her father’s emotional blackmail and the desire to live her own life. After running away to safety, Salma is tricked into coming back to the house, where her father strangles and suffocates her to death.

It sounds so Jacobean, but it’s real and it’s contemporary.

Patel has done a fantastic job of conveying the social backdrop to this very specific type of violence. We know that Salma previously tried to break up with Imi, but she was unable to resist getting back together with him. When his sister catches him looking at her at a wedding, she warns him to leave her alone, saying, “I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to tell mum why her darling puthar got his head kicked in at a wedding.” She recognises the threat to both of them. In fact Salma’s every movement is policed by everyone from the nosy neighbours to her own little brother, who isn’t even a teenager himself.

She’s perpetually afraid.

Many victims are indeed betrothed to each other from a young age in order to strengthen family ties, which in this instance are broken when Haroon tells Salma’s father that he’d rather keep the business in his own family than associate with someone who has ‘shamed’ them in the way they say he has for failing to make Salma comply. The impact of stigma from the community on ‘honour’ abusers is depicted in a particularly intense manner in the scene where Salma’s father is beaten by Haroon. Although much less dramatic, I too recall in this personal blog post the moment my own father is told he should be ashamed for raising a daughter like me.  The dynamic between Salma and her father is also spot on, from the initial pleading and tense compromises to outright threats. Many abusers do indeed imprison their victims to isolate them and prevent them from having any contact with the outside world.

The one thing Hasheen doesn’t like is the ending, in which the father kills himself.

There is no way that Shahzad would have killed himself after killing his daughter. Men who murder in the name of ‘honour’ are revered and celebrated within the communities from which they spring. Even in jail they are treated like heroes. Deeyah Khan’s Banaz: A Love Story demonstrates how killers will even gloat about what they’ve done as they recall the gory details to an eager audience. Shahzad would have served his time comfortably and re-entered a community that would mostly have welcomed him back with open arms.

The Shafia family are appealing their sentences.

Babies for sale cheap

Apr 1st, 2016 12:18 pm | By

Now for Julie Bindel’s article on Gujarat surrogacy clinics.

Having heard many stories about how commonplace outsourcing pregnancy and reproduction is, I am in India to investigate the country’s “rent-a-womb” industry.

As a feminist campaigner against sexual abuse of women, and in particular the sex trade, I feel sick at the idea of wombs for rent. Sitting in the clinic, seeing smartly dressed women come in to access fertility services, all I could think about was how desperate a woman must be to carry a child for money. I know from other campaigners against womb trafficking that many surrogates are coerced by abusive husbands and pimps.

In fact how could that not be the case? We know abusive husbands and pimps exist in India, and how would they not coerce the women in their power to turn their ability to gestate into piles of cash?

I decided to visit four clinics in Gujarat,one of India’s most religious states – known as the country’s surrogacy capital – posing as a woman interested in hiring a surrogate and egg donor to gain access to those providing the services. I wanted to be able to speak from experience about the human rights abuses that result from the practice, and to become more involved in the international campaign to abolish it.

I was told it is common practice to plant embryos in two or more surrogates and to perform abortions if more than one pregnancy takes hold. Similarly, if several embryos are implanted in one surrogate and a multiple pregnancy occurs, unwanted foetuses will often be aborted.

Approximately 12,000 foreigners come to India each year to hire surrogates, many of them from the UK.

Why India? Why not hire surrogates at home?

Because India has a lot of poor people, that’s why. Because the price is a fifth of what it would be at home. Because it’s a perfect setup for rich pale people to exploit very poor brown women.

I have heard several stories of women being forced or coerced into surrogacy by husbands or even pimps, and ask Mehta if she is aware of this happening.

“Without the husbands’ [of the surrogates] consent we don’t do surrogacy. We don’t give all the money before the delivery. We take from you but we hand it over to her once she hands over the child to you. We give her in instalments so she will also take care she will deliver the baby no problem.”

Mehta said they try to avoid the women forming bonds with the baby by giving them drugs to stop lactation. “She will not produce milk at all and she will not be shown the baby.”

Some of the women sell their breast milk, extracted by a pump at the clinic and delivered to the commissioning parents. Others agree to be paid to directly breastfeed the baby, despite the likelihood of bonding.

Ah well, the market will sort all that out.

Amin hands me some photographs of potential surrogates, while explaining the fees for egg donation – “caucasian donors £2,500 to £3,000, Indian donor £1,000”.

The surrogates remain at home during their pregnancy and are monitored daily. “I don’t allow the women to live in surrogacy house,” says Amin. “The husband is the better watchman I feel. He is involved in the programme – he knows how to take care of his woman. Outside, if she’s alone she will have many friends and [it will be] difficult for me to control. Even if I put them in a hostel I never know what is going on there.”

I ask if the women ever experience domestic violence during pregnancy.

“Rarely, but we have seen it,” says Amin. “Last year we heard a surrogate’s husband was beating her. She came crying to us so we put her up. After the child was born we sent her back.”

According to Amin, the surrogates she hires are middle class or upper class. “Recently we [hired] three Brahmin [a high caste] girls, all educated. We have about 25% of that class. About 85% [of all surrogates] are quite well off.” I suspect this is a lie. Research by pressure group Stop Surrogacy Now shows that, aside from rare cases, it is the poorest women from the lowest castes who become surrogate mothers.

But this isn’t exploitation, at all. How could anyone possibly think it is?


Trousers in flames

Apr 1st, 2016 7:24 am | By

Sometimes the dishonesty is hard to believe.

The tweet:

Alison Phipps @alisonphipps
Seeing Indian surrogates described as ‘wombs for rent’ by British feminists seems deeply objectifying and disrespectful to me.

What Julie Bindel actually wrote:

Having heard many stories about how commonplace outsourcing pregnancy and reproduction is, I am in India to investigate the country’s “rent-a-womb” industry.

As a feminist campaigner against sexual abuse of women, and in particular the sex trade, I feel sick at the idea of wombs for rent. Sitting in the clinic, seeing smartly dressed women come in to access fertility services, all I could think about was how desperate a woman must be to carry a child for money. I know from other campaigners against womb trafficking that many surrogates are coerced by abusive husbands and pimps. Watching the smiling receptionist fill out forms on behalf of prospective commissioning parents, I could only wonder at the misery and pain experienced by the women who will end up being viewed as nothing but a vessel.

Alison Phipps is an academic. It is not possible that she misunderstood what Julie so plainly wrote there.

This is not my Left. I repudiate it. I sow salt in its fields.

A proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim

Apr 1st, 2016 6:25 am | By

The Tories have imposed a new contract on junior doctors in the NHS, much to their fury. Now there’s been a government “equality analysis” that says the new contract is bad for women but that’s ok because don’t be silly who even needs a because.

The Independent has the details:

Junior doctors are outraged over an equality analysis which appears to condone the new contract having an “indirect adverse impact on women”.

The analysis, published by the Department of Health, reads: “We consider that the payments proposed are fair and that any indirect adverse effect on women is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”

It also says: “Whilst this may disadvantage lone parents (who are disproportionately female) due to the increased cost of paid childcare in the evenings and weekend, in some cases this may actually benefit other women, for example where individuals have partners, it may be easier to make informal, unpaid childcare arrangements in the evening and weekends than it is during the week due to the increased availability of partners and wider family networks at weekends and in the evenings.”

Aka them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose. It will be bad for single mothers, in the way things always are bad for single mothers, because it’s more difficult and more expensive to be a single parent than it is to be a pair, but that’s ok because it will be good for the people for whom it’s already better. Tory social justice in a nutshell. “Look on the bright side: it will make the already prosperous more prosperous!”

Rachel Clarke in the Indy:

Yesterday, the Government published its equality impact assessment of the new junior doctor contract. Until now, female doctors’ salaries have kept pace with men’s because small annual pay awards prevent part-time doctors, of whom the vast majority are women, earning less than their full-time colleagues over time. But the new contract strips these safeguards away.

Now, as doctors progress through their training, we will see ever-widening gender pay gaps in medicine. Incredibly for a government ostensibly so committed to gender equality, the Department of Health hasn’t even tried to hide the discrimination at the heart of its new contract. Instead, it states in its assessment that: “Any adverse effect on women is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end.”

Aka yes it’s bad for women but it gets us what we want so that’s fine.

A recent study by the statistics agency, Eurostat, found that the UK has the sixth largest pay gap between men and women in the European Union. Our gender pay gap means that, for every pound a man in Britain earns, on average a woman will still only receive 80 pence. That equates to us working for free for 57 days of the year.

When my five-year old daughter grows up she wants to be a doctor like mummy. The government claims to support such aspirations. Nicky Morgan, Minister for Women, pledges “to inspire young women and girls so that they can compete with the best in the world for the top jobs – and see that their hard work will pay off.” Except, that is, when it doesn’t suit Number 10.

And except when it’s actual money as opposed to words in speeches.

Sex & Obscenity in the Bible

Mar 31st, 2016 5:36 pm | By

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation: Colorado school district censors FFRF pamphlets

On Friday, April 1, Delta County School District employees are scheduled to place Freedom From Religion Foundation literature, along with material from the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers and The Satanic Temple, in schools for students to take. The School District has complained about two FFRF pamphlets: “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible” and “What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?” Both of them are being limited to just the local high schools.

The School District objects to the cartoon cover of “An X-Rated Book,” which shows a bible groping a young woman.

“It is inappropriate in a school setting; we would not allow any of the high school students to wear or otherwise display such a cartoon,” says School District Attorney Andrew Clay. “Why would we allow them to carry it in the building? It may also qualify as hate literature, demeaning women.”

Delta County School District officials are misconstruing the cover.

“The School District misses the point entirely,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The cover image is a feminist cartoon whose message is that the bible itself demeans women.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel also dismisses the School District’s argument.

“The idea that that the pamphlet qualifies as hate literature is absurd, and if you’re banning it on those grounds, then the district must ban the bible too,” he says. “If you actually examine the pamphlet, you will see that it is comprised almost entirely of bible quotes. There is absolutely no way for the district to exclude the pamphlet and allow the bible to be distributed.”

This gets to the larger point of why FFRF is insisting that it be allowed to dispense its literature. In spite of repeated FFRF requests, the Delta County School District has refused to stop the Gideons from passively distributing bibles in the local public schools. Since the School District has told FFRF that it will keep on giving the Gideons access, FFRF is making sure other perspectives get heard, too.

“The school has no ability to censor any materials based on their viewpoint once it opens a forum,” says Seidel. “That is why open forums in public schools are such a bad idea. If you want to open a forum, you do not get to determine what is acceptable and not.”

As a compromise, FFRF has put stickers over the cover of “An X-Rated Book,” stating “censored by order of Delta County Schools.” The organization is of the view that the attempt at censorship will likely backfire, since students are more likely to take “forbidden fruit.”

The School District has also limited the distribution of “What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?” to local high schools, since it deems the cover to be a “pornographic picture.”

“Albrecht Dürer’s famous depiction of Adam and Eve in Paradise can be called many things, but it is not pornography,” Seidel responds. “Dürer completed this engraving in 1504, and it is one of the most technically precise woodcuttings in all of art history. It has been displayed in the world’s foremost museums and is a staple of most art history classes. The idea that this picture is somehow pornographic is, to be frank, absurd.”

The other brochures and booklets such as “Why Women Need Freedom From Religion” and “Top 10 Public School State-Church Violations and How to Stop Them” are also being distributed to local middle schools.

In all their objections, Delta County School District officials are missing the forest for the trees.

“We do not think schools should be a battleground for religious ideas,” Seidel wrote in a March 3 letter to the district. “But when schools allow the Gideons to prey on children, their message of eternal damnation for any who don’t believe in their God must be countered.”

The Delta County School District has brought this divisive controversy upon itself. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nontheistic organization with more than 23,000 members nationwide, including almost 700 in Colorado.

See more here.



The policers

Mar 31st, 2016 5:17 pm | By

Shaista Gohir wonders why Muslims are policing other Muslims in a way that used not to be the case.

Muslims who express views regarded as too moderate and therefore against their narrative (and according to them against Islam), are often bullied and smeared including incitement of hatred. Many Muslims have been subjected to such aggressive behaviour regularly through social media. The Online trolls who go after Muslim men and women in this manner are often connected to each other and sometimes operate in packs. Muslims like myself are also regularly referred to in derogatory terms such as ‘House Muslims,’ (derived from the term House Negro)‘Uncle Toms,’ and ‘Sell Outs.’ It is used to dehumanise any Muslim who disagrees with their worldview. They are portrayed as traitors pandering to the interests of White people, especially those in media and government. This is arrogant, dangerous and also bigoted rhetoric. Contrary to what they may believe and want, Muslims are diverse in their religious and political views and can think for themselves and engage with people in power on their own terms. We are a part of British society and should be engaging on every level and not shouting and whinging from the margins.

These bigots can disagree and move on but they don’t. They want to harass in an attempt to silence and shut alternatives voices down. They want to enforce one religious and / or political ideology. They will stop at nothing to achieve their aim including accusing Muslims of changing Islam and refusing to accept that Muslims are diverse and believe in different interpretations. This deliberate tactic now being employed against British Muslim is a sinister one because the consequences of implying that someone is a heretic or is committing blasphemy can be fatal.

And the bullies and harassers know that very well.

Unfortunately I am now on this hit list of Muslims to target. After being trolled on Twitter recently, an anonymously written article appeared online criticising a number of Muslims. Interestingly the article was called, Deformist Subversions: British Islam Architects and Shaista Gohir. It is clear the intention of this piece is to promote that we (and especially me) are distorting Islam. I have even been given my own Islam and it is called Gohir’s Islam. The next step can easily be accusing me of heresy and blasphemy or hope that others will do that after reading the article. Perhaps the author wants to remain anonymous to avoid responsibility of any consequences from this article.

We know what happens to those deemed as heretics and blasphemers in some Muslim countries.

No thinking allowed.

“So you don’t feel like a boy or girl?”

Mar 31st, 2016 4:18 pm | By

This piece in Esquire is drawing a lot of hilarity on Twitter. It’s a helpful article explaining what “non-binary gender” is for people who have been living in a locked trunk for the past few years. It’s by Sam Escobar, who is non-binary themself (they use “they/them” for their pronouns).

So non-binary.

They (Sam Escobar) start by explaining that people ask them (Sam Escobar) a lot of silly questions once they (Sam Escobar) tell them (the people) they (Sam Escobar) are non-binary. They (the people) even ask them (Sam Escobar) about their (Sam Escobar’s) crotch.

Yes, even in New York. Yes, even among seemingly “progressive” people. And it stems from the fact that most people you meet simply do not know much about non-binary gender identities. It usually goes like this:

“So you don’t feel like a boy or girl?”


“But you wear makeup.”


“But you’re not a woman.”



I have had this exact conversation at least once a week, every week since coming out publicly in November. It’s not one I mind; it just gets repetitive, and occasionally a little insulting if the conversation leads to questions like, “So you’re just trying to be different?” With trans visibility increasing more quickly than ever, non-binary gender identity is coming into focus, too.

No, it’s not. People like Sam Escobar are yammering about it more, but it’s not coming into focus, because it was never out. It’s a self-flattering fiction that everybody else except the oh so special people like Sam Escobar is binary. Nobody is binary. This idea that the Muggles totally identify with their “assigned gender” while the wizards alone see through all that is just a new way to perform Being Better Than Everyone Else in public.

On Tuesday, The New York Times Magazine published a brief etymology of the words “they” and “them” as pronouns for people who identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, gender-noncomforming, and other genders. The piece is another stride in acknowledging those who do not feel they fit on the current male/female binary—and another piece in the growing conversation surrounding gender in society.

What was that little thing called feminism that had to do with a lot of women saying we don’t feel we fit on the current male/female binary and we don’t much like being expected to do all the domestic work while also working full time thanks very much? Oh that was just some boring thing the boring old Wrong Wave did back around the time of Downton Abbey, and not remotely as hip as what the hip people are doing now.

As someone who identifies with gender-neutral pronouns, I was amped to see the Times bring the discussion onto the radar of readers who may not know there are even people out there who don’t identify as male or female. I’ve been out for four months, but I’ve known I’m not cisgender for the last five or so years (probably longer, if I’m honest, depending on how you interpret some odd childhood habits).

And it goes on like that, filling us in on exactly how special they (Sam Escobar) and their (Sam Escobar’s) friends are and how tragically clueless and conformist everyone else is, especially women.

A model for cool, liberated, feminist men

Mar 31st, 2016 1:06 pm | By

Howard Levitt, an expert in employment law, says Jian Ghomeshi won’t be working in broadcasting again.

Before his fall, Jian Ghomeshi was a model for cool, liberated, feminist men. That image was left in tatters when he was fired from the CBC and the resulting stories quickly reached public attention.

The question now being roundly asked is whether he will be able to return to the CBC after last week’s acquittal? The simple answer is no. In my crisis management work, I look at the prospect of rehabilitation from the perspective of the client’s perceived image before the infraction.

A public figure or executive can be rehabilitated only if the person’s “infraction” is not inconsistent with their public image.

Levitt gives a couple of examples of politicians who got in trouble with driving and alcohol but carried on in their careers unscathed, contrasted with one who got public outrage.

Why the difference? The offences committed by Lévesque and Klein were not inconsistent with what the public already believed about them. Campbell, on the other hand, was seen as someone who thought he was better than everyone else. The public was delighted to see him get his comeuppance.

That doesn’t seem like an ideal arrangement. All you have to do to get away with being an asshole is be widely seen as an asshole already. Hmm.

Anyway, he says Ghomeshi was seen as hip and lefty and feminist, and that won’t work any more. Again, that seems odd to me, because surely it’s pretty well-known that lots of hip lefty men who consider themselves feminists actually act like sexist assholes – isn’t it? And surely it’s also pretty well-known that lots of hip employers and organizations turn a blind eye to gross sexism in their hip popular star employees – isn’t it? Bill Cosby anyone?

But there is the little matter of other CBC employees. That part seems less odd.

He was fired because his sexual practices were antithetical to the CBC’s (and his own) brand and would cause the broadcaster considerable market damage if he had remained. The law permits employers to fire for cause employees who commit acts fundamentally antithetical to their brand.

It is noteworthy that, while this criminal trial (and the upcoming one), advanced quickly, we have heard nothing from his union, which has the exclusive right to represent Ghomeshi in any dismissal case. I suspect — though I have no inside knowledge — that the union has not taken the case and will not.

For one thing, it would put the union in conflict with other members who may not wish their funds to be used to prosecute Ghomeshi’s case and may even be testifying against him. That is largely the union’s choice, for which Ghomeshi would have little effective recourse if it decided not to.

Those non-male employees could be the ultimate barrier.

Be inclusive, don’t mention women

Mar 31st, 2016 10:15 am | By

The latest in Ways to Erase Women:

There are no women any more, only non-males. There are still men though, of course. That’s not going to change. [laughs merrily at the very idea]

Young Greens Women (ooh they’d better change that title pretty fast) came up with a response:

Except of women. There’s no need to be inclusive of women, because women sit at the top of the cis privilege tree, gobbling up all the resources and respect and power. The only way to practice truly completely purely correct intersectional feminism is to delete the word “women” from your vocabulary.

A water bottle

Mar 31st, 2016 4:25 am | By

An incident in India, via the Times of India:

BHOPAL: In a case of extreme brutality, a Jabalpur youth was allegedly tied to the window grille of a Mumbai-bound train and thrashed by three youths for drinking water from their bottle.

A video of the incident that took place on the Patliputra-Lokmanya Tilak Terminal (12142) train on March 25 went viral on Tuesday. Police ordered a probe into the matter after studying the footage.

Sumit Kachi, who was travelling to Mumbai, boarded the train in Jabalpur on March 24. While on the train, he drank water from a bottle belonging to co-travellers Vicky, Ravi and Balram, all from Patna.

The trio allegedly tied him to window grille of the coach and whipped him with their belts whenever the train stopped, throughout the 245km journey from Jabalpur to Itarsi. The youth was ultimately rescued by vendors at Itarsi railway station on March 25 and taken to the police station.

The ToI doesn’t say it, but I gather from Facebook discussions that what’s going on here is untouchability…and indeed it’s hard to make sense of it otherwise.

H/t Nirmukta

Self-objectification as empowerment

Mar 30th, 2016 4:31 pm | By

Peggy Orenstein was on Fresh Air yesterday; it was a great conversation.

Author Peggy Orenstein says that when it comes to sexuality, girls today are receiving mixed messages. Girls hear that “they’re supposed to be sexy, they’re supposed to perform sexually for boys,” Orenstein tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken.”

While researching her new book, Girls & Sex, Orenstein spoke with more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 about their attitudes and early experiences with the full range of physical intimacy.

She says that pop culture and pornography sexualize young women by creating undue pressure to look and act sexy. These pressures affect both the sexual expectations that girls put on themselves and the expectations boys project onto them.

Orenstein adds that girls she spoke to were often navigating between being considered “slutty” or a “prude,” and that their own desires were often lost in the shuffle. Girls, Orenstein says, are being taught to please their partners without regard to their own desires.

Astonishing, isn’t it, when we already live in a world where equality between women and men is firmly established?

I jest, of course.

There’s a transcript.

GROSS: So if the princess was the pop-culture symbol that you were concerned about when your daughter was very young, what would you say is the pop-culture symbol now that concerns you now that your daughter is reaching her teens? And are there any particular pop stars or celebrities that you’re concerned are offering an image that girls are trying to emulate and maybe it’s not a great idea?

ORENSTEIN: You know, there are great pop stars and there are pop stars that I have concerns about. And one of the kind of fun things about doing the reporting with this book was arguing back and forth with the girls about whether the kind of image of hot that was being sold to them was transgressive or whether it was liberating. And I guess, you know, right now I’d say the person who embodies that and who drives the older generation that I guess I’m part of – crazy – is Kim Kardashian. And it was really interesting to me to watch the recent release she did on International Women’s Day of her nude selfies. I don’t know if you paid attention to that. But what was interesting to me was that there was this argument over whether Kim was a feminist or Kim was a slut. And I kept watching that and thinking, you know, why are those the only two options? And she would talk about – in her defense she would say, I’m proud of my body and I’m expressing my sexuality. And those two lines were lines that I heard from girls a lot. And I was really taken by them because I kept thinking – you know, when a girl would show me a picture of herself dressed in the crop top and the – I started calling it the sorority girl uniform, the crop top and the little skirt and the high heels – and she would say, I’m proud of my body. And then a few minutes later she would say but if she gained a few pounds she would no longer want to dress like that because she’d be afraid that if she went to a party that some boys would called her what she said was, you know, the fat girl. And I started thinking, well, proud of your body but who gets to be proud of which body under what circumstances? And how liberating is it if humiliation lurks right around the corner? And that idea of hot, that idea that we [are] our bodies and that how our bodies look to other people is more important than how they feel to ourselves is something that an earlier generation might have protested against. But today’s generation is sold that as a form of personal empowerment and confidence. But because it’s so disconnected from actual feeling within their body, I found that often for girls the confidence came off with their clothes.

I just cannot, for the life of me, see how thinking how our bodies look to other people is more important than how they feel to ourselves is empowering. Cannot do it. Being needy isn’t empowering. Seeking constant validation isn’t empowering. Being an object for others to look at isn’t empowering.

GROSS: Your book opens after the introduction with clothing and school. And there’s a scene where the dean of a high school is telling the girl students not to dress in short shorts and tank tops or cropped tops and that they had to dress with more self-respect and wear clothes that their grandmothers would be comfortable with…


GROSS: …When it comes to dressing for school. And you were talking to a girl – a girl’s telling you this story. You weren’t there when it happened. She’s telling you the story. And she’s telling you about how she stood up in the auditorium and objected to what the dean said. What were her grounds for objection?

ORENSTEIN: Yeah, so that’s Camilla (ph), and she stood up and she – because she had learned in this very school system – this was a very liberal school system – to be an upstander. So she went up in front of the whole auditorium and said, I’m a 12th-grader, and I think what you just said is not OK and it’s extremely sexist and it’s promoting rape culture and if I want to wear a tank top and shorts because it’s hot, I should be able to do that. And that has, you know, no correlation with how much respect I hold for myself, and you’re just blaming the victim. Everybody cheered in the auditorium, and then she, you know, dropped the mic and she headed back to her seat. And he said, thank you, Camilla, I totally agree, but there’s a time and a place for that kind of clothing. And she was so furious because she said, look, it doesn’t matter what I wear to school. I’m going to get cat-called no matter what. It doesn’t matter what I wear. When I get up to sharpen a pencil, I’m going to get a comment on my butt. And, you know, I cannot help my body type. This is who I am, and you don’t see boys having to deal with this. Boys aren’t walking down the hall with girls going, hey, boy, nice calves, you know? This is something – she said it’s distracting to me to be cat-called. That really affected me, and I thought, you know, we have to teach boys that it is not their right to say things about girls’ bodies, to say things about girls’ clothing, it is not their right to touch girls. And if we don’t start teaching them at that level, how can we expect them not to feel entitlement, you know, down the road at something more extreme?

GROSS: So I don’t mean to sound prudish here, but at the same time, there’s a certain type of clothing that is designed to be provocative. Like, that’s the point of it.


GROSS: Like, if you want to stay cool in hot weather, you could just wear a sleeveless shirt. It doesn’t have to show a lot of cleavage, it doesn’t have to show your naval with a piercing on it.

ORENSTEIN: Right, I agree. And that’s why you have to ask, you know, what is it that girls are being sold and why are they being sold this? So it’s a kind of – it’s complicated and it’s both sides. So she, for instance, went to school one day, she told me just right before we spoke, wearing a bustier. And she was thinking, oh, I look hot today. I’m going to have a great day. Which right there I thought, you know, well, why is that your measure of a great day? And then she goes into school and she realizes, uh-oh, everybody’s looking at me and everybody’s cat-calling – although she changed it. She was talking about herself in the first person and suddenly she shifted and said everybody’s looking at you, everybody’s making comments. And I thought, isn’t that interesting that when she gets to that objectified point, she starts seeing herself from the outside too.

It’s complicated, but it’s also wanting to have it both ways. Apparently Camilla wants not to be cat-called, but she also wants to wear a bustier to school thinking, oh, I look hot today. You can’t really do both, at least I’ve never been able to figure out how anyone can do that. If you wear a bustier in order to look hot – don’t you want to be cat-called? Or at least stared at with mute longing?

GROSS: I want to get back to, like, pop-culture symbols and what they’re teaching girls. You know, in so much pop music today, the girl stars or young women stars or women stars are wearing, you know, basically S and M fetish garb. You know, like…


GROSS: Yeah, like, you know, bustiers or, you know, really tight leather revealing things with, like, high boots. I mean, they might as well have a whip, you know what I mean?


GROSS: It’s just like the dominatrix look. And shouldn’t you be able to, like, be a good musician and not dress like you’re a dominatrix? Give me some guidance of how to talk about that without sounding like you’re a total prude who is not aware of what pop culture means because I just think there has to be a way of talking about this without…


GROSS: Yeah.

ORENSTEIN: It’s really hard, right? It’s really complicated, and it’s designed that way. It’s designed to make you sound old and out of touch and prude and your daughter feel like she’s expressing some kind of liberation and confidence. And when you say, like, can’t you just be a musician? Even when you look back 20, 30 years at musicians in the ’80s – like, if you look at Joan Jett or you look at – they’re pretty clothed. I mean, it’s pretty interesting that they’re still, you know, you think of them as having been very sexy stars but – you know, Annie Lennox, whatever – they had a broader range. And we do still have, you know, now Lorde or Adele or there – you know, there’s a few stars like that. But I think what’s hard about it is that this idea of hot – and that’s what they’re selling – is so narrow and so commercialized and so linked with porn, frankly. And it says over and over that first and foremost, you are your body. And first and foremost, you are presenting that body in a way that is sexually appealing to others. And I think one of the big disconnects, and I was exploring this in Cinderella too – “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” – that when girls are constantly acting out sexy from a really young age, they don’t connect that to their actual sexual development from the inside. And the risk is that that disconnect becomes permanent. And we do know over and over that, you know, self-objectification, self-sexualization is really unhealthy for girls. You know, there’s research stretching back for decades that shows that affects them cognitively. It affects their mental health. And we know too that even in the sexual realm, that girls who are self-objectifyng, girls who are constantly conscious of their bodies, actually report less pleasure, less (unintelligible), less ability to talk to their partners than girls that are not. So they’re really being sold a bill of goods to a great degree. And I don’t think that that’s prude to say because, you know, if you’re interested in their sexual pleasure and you’re interested in their expressing power, they’re not going to get there that way.

I don’t think I’d heard that word “self-0bjectification” before and I think it’s very useful. What she says sounds right to me. It sounds right if only because one can’t do everything, and if you’re spending a lot of your time and energy on looking hot to other people, you’re not spending it on other things, things which might be more broadly rewarding.

GROSS: So when you think about the sexual climate that you lived in when you became a teenager and you compare that to the climate your daughter is entering as she’s about to turn 13, how do they compare? Do you think the issues are any different? Do you think the pressures are any different?

ORENSTEIN: It’s so interesting. I mean, on one hand I want to say if they’re not, why aren’t they? When so much has changed for girls in the public realm, where so much has changed for them educationally, where so much has changed in their professional aspirations, why hasn’t much more changed in the private realm? At the same time, there’s a weird way where I feel I came of age in this kind of post-our-bodies-our-selves time. There was, among a certain population that I was part of, a sort of sense political duty that we deserved equality in the bedroom and a sense among the boys that we were with that they were in it with us. I feel that that – for that same kind of demographic has really not, you know, completely transformed -obviously, that’s still there – but has changed a lot. And I think a lot of it is because we’ve had a much more aggressive and much more relentless popular culture and porn culture that tells girls that they’re supposed to be sexy, that they’re supposed to perform sexuality for boys, but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken of.

That. I think it’s depressing as fuck.

There has to be some form of punishment

Mar 30th, 2016 3:40 pm | By

What was that about Trump’s hatred of women?

The NY Times has more:

Donald J. Trump, pressed Wednesday on his support for a ban on abortion and what it would mean in practice, said that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Those whores. No punishment for men, of course, who have absolutely nothing to do with it.

He took it back hours later after everyone yelled at him.

Mr. Trump made the comments in a town-hall-style forum with the MSNBC host Chris Matthews that was prerecorded for broadcast Wednesday night. Mr. Matthews pressed Mr. Trump on his support for criminalizing abortion, asking him how he would enforce such a ban.

He tried to dodge the question at first, then he coughed up an answer.

“I am pro-life,” Mr. Trump said after a few attempts. Asked how an abortion ban would be put in place, he said, “You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places. But you have to ban it.”

Ah that’s a great idea – because that way far more women will die, and that’s punishment, isn’t it.

Finally, Mr. Matthews asked Mr. Trump, “You’re about to be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no?”

Mr. Trump responded: “The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.”

“Ten days?” Mr. Matthews asked. “Ten years?”

Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t know,” adding, “It’s a very complicated position.”

Nah. Just punish the sluts, because that’s the important thing.

“Not only is this an unhinged position far from where the American people are, but it is sure to endanger women were he to become president,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has endorsed Mrs. Clinton. “Everywhere abortion is illegal, the number of abortions don’t go down. But the number of injuries and deaths go up.”

Alluding to Tuesday’s arrest of Mr. Trump’s campaign manager on a charge of battery against a female journalist, Ms. Hogue added, “It’s appalling that in a week where Trump has blamed the victim of violence at the hands of his campaign manager, he would offer to be the leader to inflict more violence on women whether through forcing us back into the back alley or punishing us for making our own health care decisions.”

Look, the guy just doesn’t like women. Is that so terribly wrong?

They were sitting having snacks

Mar 30th, 2016 10:47 am | By

CNN tells us about one family plunged into grief by the Lahore bombing.

Jamat-ul-Ahrar says it was targeting Christians, but most of the victims were Muslim. Among them were a young couple who had been married just four months.

Naveed Ashraf’s mother was beside herself with loss. Her son has married just months before, and the newlyweds — both Muslim — were visiting the park with two of Naveed’s sisters.
“I entrusted them in God’s hands, now they are with God,” she said.
It was the first time his new wife, Shawana, had visited the popular spot in Lahore, one of Pakistan’s most moderate, cosmopolitan cities.
They both died in the bombing, suffering shrapnel wounds to the head and neck that poured blood, soaking their clothes, hair and faces.

Shrapnel – because the bomb, remember, was packed with ball bearings. The ones in Brussels were packed with nails.

One of Naveed’s sisters was wounded in the leg by shrapnel.

Moments before the attack, video was taken of the Ashraf family. They were sitting having snacks close to a food stand when the bombers struck.

In the aftermath, the family searched for them at the park. They found them, broken and bloodied, at the city’s Sheikh Zayed Hospital. On the way there they had helped other victims, one family in a stream of volunteers loading the injured into cars, on to motorbikes, anything that could carry them.

The sisters were covered in cloth lying side by side. One had been helped there by strangers, two men that carried her listless body — men she now calls “brothers.”

Despite her own injuries, her sister had searched for help to get her brother to hospital.

“Oh my lion son! I might as well be dead! I don’t want to act like this, but I can help it. He was my lion, my big, strong son. Oh, my son was soaked in blood,” his mother cried.

No price is to great to establish the khilāfa.

Sex trafficking in America

Mar 30th, 2016 7:57 am | By

Trafficking right here in the USofA, land of the free – the BBC runs the story of Shandra Woworuntu, who thought she was signing up for a job in a hotel in the US.

She had a job in a bank but then the Asian financial crisis hit and she lost her job.

So to support my three-year-old daughter I started to look for work overseas. That was when I saw an ad in a newspaper for work in the hospitality industry in big hotels in the US, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. I picked the US, and applied.

The requirement was that I could speak a little English and pay a fee of 30m Indonesian rupiahs (in 2001, about $2,700). There was a lengthy recruitment process, with lots of interviews. Among other things they asked me to walk up and down and smile. “Customer service is the key to this job,” I was told.

She arrived at JFK with four other women, and the guy who met them took her passport and all her other documents. Then there was a change of cars and drivers, then another, then another.

The fourth driver had a gun. He forced us to get in his car and took us to a house in Brooklyn, then rapped on the door, calling “Mama-san! New girl!”

By this time I was freaking out, because I knew “Mama-san” meant the madam of a brothel. But by this time, because of the gun, there was no escape.

The door swung open and I saw a little girl, perhaps 12 or 13, lying on the ground screaming as a group of men took turns to kick her. Blood poured from her nose and she was howling, screaming in pain. One of the men grinned and started fooling around with a baseball bat in front of me, as if in warning.

And just like that, she was enslaved. There was always a man with a gun nearby, so they couldn’t escape.

The traffickers were Indonesian, Taiwanese, Malaysian Chinese and American. Only two of them spoke English – mostly, they would just use body language, shoves, and crude words. One thing that especially confused and terrified me that night, and that continued to weigh on me in the weeks that followed, was that one of the men had a police badge. To this day I don’t know if he was a real policeman.

They told me I owed them $30,000 and I would pay off the debt $100 at a time by serving men. Over the following weeks and months, I was taken up and down Interstate 95, to different brothels, apartment buildings, hotels and casinos on the East Coast. I was rarely two days in the same place, and I never knew where I was or where I was going.

Is she a SWERF to say all this? Is she whorephobic to talk about it?

I remember the first time I was ushered into a casino hotel room, I thought perhaps I would be able to make a run for it when I came out. But my trafficker was waiting for me in the corridor. He showed me into the next room. And the next one. Forty-five minutes in each room, night after night after night, the trafficker always waiting on the other side of the door.

Because I was compliant, I was not beaten by my traffickers, but the customers were very violent. Some of them looked like they were members of the Asian mafia, but there were also white guys, black guys, and Hispanic guys. There were old men and young university students. I was their property for 45 minutes and I had to do what they said or they hurt me.

What I endured was difficult and painful. Physically, I was weak. The traffickers only fed me plain rice soup with a few pickles, and I was often high on drugs. The constant threat of violence, and the need to stay on high alert, was also very exhausting.

There’s a great deal more. Then one day an escort got careless and she was able to run away down the street. She went to the police and they told her to go away, she went to the Indonesian consulate, they did nothing. She lived on the streets and told people her story. Finally one guy believed her and got the cops to listen to her.

He had spoken to the FBI, and the FBI had phoned the police precinct. We were to go that minute to the station, where the officers would try to help me.

So Eddy drove me there, and two detectives questioned me at length. I showed them my diary with details of the location of the brothels, and the books of matches from the casinos where I had been forced to work. They phoned the airline and immigration, and they found that my story checked out.

“OK,” they said in the end. “Are you ready to go?”

“Go where?” I asked.

“To pick up your friends,” they replied.

So she directed them to that brothel in Brooklyn.

It was just like a scene from a movie, except instead of watching it on TV I was looking out of the window of a parked car. Outside the brothel, there were undercover police pretending to be homeless people – I remember one of them pushing a shopping trolley. Then there were detectives, armed police and a Swat team with sniper rifles lurking nearby.

I can enjoy it now, but at the time I was very tense, and worried that the police would enter the building and find that nothing was happening there that night. Would they think I was lying? Would I go to jail, instead of my persecutors?

A police officer dressed as a customer pressed the buzzer to the brothel. I saw Johnny appear in the doorway, and, after a brief discussion, swing open the metal grille. He was instantly forced back into the blackness. Within seconds, the whole team of police had swept up the steps and into the building. Not a single shot was fired.

An hour passed. Then I was told I could get out of the car and approach the building. They had covered one of the windows with paper and cut a hole in it for me to look through. In this way, I identified Johnny and the girls working in the brothel without being seen. There were three women there, Nina among them.

Let me tell you that when I saw those women emerge from the building, naked except for towels wrapped around them, it was the greatest moment of my life. Giving birth is a miracle, yes, but nothing compares to the emotions I experienced as my friends gained their freedom. In the flashing blue and red lights of the police cars, we were dancing, yelling, screaming for joy!

Johnny and two other men were convicted.

She works to help victims of trafficking, but there are obstacles.

We urgently need to educate Americans about this subject. Looking back on my own experiences, I think all those casino and hotel workers must have known what was going on. And that brothel in Brooklyn was in a residential area – did the neighbours never stop to ask why an endless stream of men came to the house, night and day?

The problem is that people see trafficked women as prostitutes, and they see prostitutes not as victims, but criminals. And in cities, people turn a blind eye to all sorts of criminality.

We might start by putting men who pay for sex in jail. After that brothel in Brooklyn was raided many sex buyers were interviewed, but all were later released.

Nowadays, men who are caught in the act are sent to a one-day session called John School. It’s not really punishment, but it teaches them how to identify children in brothels, and women being coerced into sex work. Good – but not good enough. I think men who pay for sex with trafficked women or men should have their names put on a public list, just like they do for child abusers and sexual predators.

“Intersectional” feminists please note.

The breadth and vitriol of the attack

Mar 29th, 2016 5:50 pm | By

The petition to Rabble to fire Meghan Murphy (the content of which is Sheila Sampath’s ignorant and dishonest post) shows this as the first comment, signed by Sarah Hunt:

Feminism has a long history of racist, classist, colonial wrongdoings that have, in recent years, been recognized as exclusionary and oppressive. Racism, transphobia and anti-sex work rhetoric have no place in a supposedly forward-thinking feminist organization. I am appalled by the kinds of violent attacks that MM has initiated against sex workers, trans women and women of color through her columns and on social media. I stand in solidarity with the grassroots individuals and groups who initiated this campaign to end Rabble’s complicity in MM’s hateful actions.

Emphasis mine. Violent attacks!! As if Meghan Murphy had been beating up and killing sex workers, trans women and women of color.

Rabble didn’t dump her though, but it also didn’t tell off the people who were accusing her of violence and racism. A large group of feminists and feminist organizations published its own open letter to Rabble, defending Murphy in strong terms.

We, the undersigned, wish to express our deep dissatisfaction with rabble’s response to the recent attacks on Meghan Murphy.

In past weeks, Meghan Murphy has become the target of a vicious and focused attack that we believe is aimed not only at her — as the most visible voice of a set of feminist principles with which we broadly agree — but at women in general and feminists specifically.

This attack — sparked by an article at Playboy magazine and a petition inspired by the Men’s Rights Movement and women who are known for their promotion of the sex industry — focuses nominally on a brief piece written by Murphy in response to nude photos published of a trans woman named Laverne Cox. Her piece criticized the notion that the publication of highly sexualized, pornographic photographs of a woman or trans woman is “empowering.” We see no fair basis upon which the piece can be characterized as “transphobic.” Moreover, the definition of “transphobia” is, like its partner in discourse, “whorephobia,” a subject of debate. For those of us who still adhere to democratic standards and principles of fair journalism, it is disturbing to see critique converted to “phobia/personal attack” resulting in an end to rational discussion.

You know what? I too think it’s ludicrous and self-indulgent to think (or pretend to think) that appearing in porny photos is “empowering” for women…but I guess I don’t need to say that, do I, since the depth of my depravity was so thoroughly plumbed at Freethought Blogs last summer.

Given that there is no reasonable argument that Murphy’s article discriminates against or is disrespectful to trans people, it is our belief that the breadth and vitriol of the attack on her and the ideas she articulates is rooted in a broader attempt to marginalize and inevitably silence women and feminists who agree with her political views — and ours.

Indeed. There’s a lot of that around.

As evidenced by her work at Feminist Current and at rabble, Murphy has taken a principled, feminist position in opposition to the institutionalization of women’s oppression and exploitation through prostitution and in support of the goal of the abolition of prostitution beginning with the criminalization of the men in charge of the prostitution industry — pimps and traffickers — and the consumers of women’s bodies — johns.

There has been, and is, deep division across many constituencies with respect to this issue, accompanied by a concerted effort from the sex industry and those on the sex industry bandwagon — often including women — to attack, smear, stalk, harass and threaten any woman — or man — who threatens the flow of cash streaming from women’s backs into the pockets of exploiters. In our view rabble has consistently supported, published and given wide berth to these voices at the expense of reasoned argument, debate and discussion, rather than articulate a principled stand on the issue.

The one ray of light at rabble on feminist issues and prostitution is Meghan Murphy. Unlike many in the pro-prostitution, anti-feminist, and transactivist movements, Murphy depends on analysis and reasoned argument in articles she has written at Feminist Current and rabble. Her detractors have failed to actually engage with the arguments Murphy makes. Instead they favour vicious, personal attacks and astroturfing. These attacks now threaten her employment and career, not only at rabble, but elsewhere.

As women and feminists who depend on Murphy’s integrity as a journalist and her ability to think and write analytically and lucidly, this is of deep concern to us. We support her and we vehemently oppose the effort to silence her public voice.

And they’re not pleased that Rabble did so little to support Meghan Murphy (ah how familiar that sounds, too).

While it may not be possible for rabble to take a principled position on each and every issue, we, your readers, demand that at the very least you provide an environment wherein reasoned discussion is encouraged and ad hominem attack is not tolerated.

Many of the blog and opinion pieces you have sponsored have not met that basic expectation. Personal attack against certain voices appears to be encouraged, thus legitimizing the kind of vicious campaign levelled against Meghan Murphy and her supporters. By not taking a firm stand and making a clear statement in support of Murphy’s journalism, published in your own digital pages and appreciated by a broad spectrum of women, feminists, and male supporters of feminist principles, you are implicated in the current witch hunt. rabble thus harms not only Meghan Murphy both personally and professionally, but also stifles public discussion of complex and difficult issues that are simply not covered adequately in mainstream media.

It’s all so familiar.

Fire everyone the intersectionalists dislike

Mar 29th, 2016 4:46 pm | By

Following links from one article to another article I followed yet another and found myself reading a horrifically mindless and dishonest open letter to a website “demanding” that it ditch Meghan Murphy. It’s dated May 1 2015 and it’s written by one Sheila Sampath, whose vocabulary is almost entirely made up of jargon plus lies. I think I remember some mumblings about it last year, but I don’t think I investigated further. It’s a sterling sample of the worst kind of self-consciously (and self-admiringly) “intersectional” politics de nos jours.

Editor’s note: below is an open letter to To sign the petition, demanding they end their association with Meghan Murphy as editor and columnist, click here.

Open Letter to the Editors of,

We are feminists, grassroots community groups and organizations that support intersectional feminism.

As if all other feminists are anti-intersectional feminists, and think women’s issues are the only issues that matter. That’s bullshit. The faction of the left that loudly calls itself intersectional does not have a monopoly on giving a shit about race, class, poverty, homophobia, disability and all the other issues that intersect with feminism. That label implies that they do, and they don’t.

We are concerned about your ongoing relationship with Meghan Murphy as one of your editors. Murphy has been publishing material that dehumanizes and disrespects women with different experiences and perspectives than hers for many years, in particular Black women, women in the sex industry and trans women.

Liars. No she hasn’t. They disagree with her, but that’s not the same thing. She doesn’t dehumanize anyone, and that’s a vile accusation. They make that pretty obvious when they try to offer examples of Murphy doing what they accuse her of.

By allowing Murphy to continue as an editor at you are giving a platform to her hate and we are writing to demand that you end your association with her as editor and columnist.

It’s not “hate” – that’s another ugly accusation and a lie. And who do they think they are, “demanding” that anyone shun her?

Recently, Murphy published a piece about Laverne Cox’s decision to pose nude for a US women’s magazine. In her piece, Murphy attacks for Cox for attempting to achieve a “‘perfect’ body as defined by a patriarchal/porn culture, through plastic surgery, and then presenting it as a sexualized object for public consumption” and later mocks her and other trans women for “spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of ‘woman,’ as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.”

So what? That’s her view, and it shouldn’t be a forbidden view. It’s not as if there is no patriarchal/porn culture, it’s not as if some women don’t try to meet the expectations of that culture, it’s not as if it’s outrageous to object to both. There’s certainly nothing dehumanizing about it, nor is it hate.

Laverne Cox is not a cartoonish version of a woman. She is a woman, a Black trans woman who is changing history by defining her own beauty and lovability in the public sphere.

That’s their view. Murphy has a different view. Why is that a reason for them to demand that dump Murphy?

For years, Murphy’s racism and attacks on women who trade/sell sex or are trans have been tolerated or supported and published by Rabble, including this article where she pits Black women against each other, calling another Black trans woman (Janet Mock) “selfish” for using glamour to feel powerful–and again maligning a Black trans woman’s decisions about her body.

“Murphy’s racism” nothing – that’s just more ugly abuse.

This is not a question of free speech, it is a question of offering active support to bigots. For example, Rabble would not employ right wing christian fundamentalists for their opinions as their stance clearly undermines the dignity and humanity of communities they are not a part of. The same is the case for Murphy. She is a white, cis, non sex working person who writes with contempt about communities that she is not a member of. It is unjust of Rabble to financially support her bigotry. Rabble is stronger and more relevant when it publishes the voices of those who are directly impacted by the issues they cover. Doing otherwise has made Rabble unsafe for many members of marginalized populations who write from a place of personal experience.

Is that anti-intellectual enough?

People like that make me embarrassed to be on the left.

A collection of writings of exited women

Mar 29th, 2016 12:26 pm | By

Rebecca Mott on the tip of an iceberg:

To speak top being prostituted is to enter the heart of hell, but constantly being told it not as bad as you say.

But I know and remember the cold dead eyes of punters and sex trade profiteers – I know with every cell of my body that all violence done to the prostituted is pre-planned and done with a sense of entitlement.

There is and has never been accidental violence done to the prostituted – and the vast majority of this violence is done by men who are very ordinary, often non-violent outside of prostitution, and will be outwardly classed as good men.

But put a punter in a room, give a punter the entitlement to pick the street prostituted, let rich punters own escorts/girlfriend experience, say saunas are for sex, open up strip clubs on the high street – and you are saying violence to the prostituted is our norm as long we cannot see it’s reality.

Is that “sex-negative”? Is it “whorephobic”? Not that I can see.

I [am] proud to be in a new book – “Prostitution Narrative: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade” edited by Caroline Norma & Melinda Tankard Reist, published by Spinifex.

This is a collection of writings of exited women mainly from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, UK and USA – all speaking to the realities of what it is and was to be prostituted.

Our voices cut through the lies and myths of the sex work lobby – our voices are just a small part of centuries of the prostituted screaming for justice, wanting to explain our hellish conditions and fighting for justice.

I believe I am lucky to live in the beginning of the prostituted being allow to speak our realities in our own language – not the constant translation of those who support the status quo of the sex trade.

Is she the enemy? Is she a “SWERF”? Not that I can see.

Sahil and Aman John

Mar 29th, 2016 11:02 am | By

CNN tells us about some of the children who were killed in Lahore on Sunday.

It was a treat for passing their exams.

Twelve-year-old Sahil and his cousin Aman John, 13, had been studying hard for weeks. Their parents had promised them an Easter weekend trip to a popular park, with amusement rides, a lake and a zoo, in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

But the family outing ended in tragedy, according to CNN affiliate GEO News. Sahil and Aman John died in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, where a suspected suicide bomb blast killed 72 people Sunday.

Seventeen of those killed were children.

Sahil and Aman John were among the children confirmed to have died. Two other children in their party were injured.

“My son was hurt here,” Aman John’s father told GEO News, pointing to the back of his neck.

“My nephew Sahil was also hurt right there. It’s just that the bleeding wouldn’t stop.”

Crowds of mourners surrounded the body of Aman John as his coffin was brought to his neighborhood in Lahore, where a memorial was held in a church. He was buried in a Christian cemetery.

“He was a brilliant student, and this isn’t just one family’s loss,” one of the mourners said.

“It’s a loss to our people, to our entire nation.”

Aman John, 13, was killed in the suicide attack at the Lahore park.

That’s Aman John.