Notes and Comment Blog

Impure cricket

Nov 8th, 2015 10:46 am | By

An editorial from the Daily Times in Pakistan:

Pakistani society’s deep rooted acceptance of despicable misogynistic behaviour once again came to light recently when a mixed gender group of students at Karachi University (KU) who were playing a casual game of cricket together within the bounds of the university were assaulted for doing so by the activists of the notoriously thuggish fundamentalist Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami. The IJT and its members are a menace across the universities of the country, and they have defaced and perverted these supposed places of learning and critical reflection into fearful places of demagoguery and reactionary backwardness.

Imagine if Mormons or Baptists were doing that on university campuses in the US – assaulting people for playing cricket (or baseball) without segregating by sex.

Interaction between grown adults of the opposite gender is a particular target of their crusading violence and they are emboldened to carry out their disgraceful actions due to the authorities and police in particular turning a blind eye to their actions. For decades this student organisation has carried out its hooliganism with impunity, terrorising students who are legal adults and not beholden to have their behaviour policed according to the precepts of some moralising band of roving fanatical vigilantes.

Imagine living in a place where you were always subject to being policed by some moralising band of roving fanatical violent vigilantes.

In the KU case, eyewitnesses report that the students were merely passing the time while waiting for their conveyances after classes were over, when the bunch of IJT goons took issue with men playing with women and demanded they stop, which resulted in an acrimonious exchange and the aforementioned attack. The attack resulted in injuries to five students, including the female students.

Police arrived and stopped the attack, but the IJT goons were promptly released.

In all likelihood, the police will not prosecute these thugs and as per its past record, deem such an issue a trivial annoyance and sweep it under the carpet. The IJT will continue to operate freely, while rival student organisations have long since been banned, ostensibly to prevent rival student groups’ violence. This state of affairs is shameful and cannot be condemned enough. The police and the university are making a statement by their inaction that they do not see this brand of violent evangelicalism to be problematic and do not consider the participation of women in public life, let alone their right to enjoy regular activities without trauma, a matter of any significance.

Because they’re just women. They don’t matter.

Such assertions are wrong as a matter of science

Nov 7th, 2015 5:04 pm | By

John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the Illinois ACLU, posts about a suburban Chicago school district that refuses to let a trans girl use the girls’ locker room, instead making her use a separate room.

My clients started meeting with the District more than two years ago to explain why their daughter should be treated as a girl at school in all ways, including when using the locker room. As the District has no policy guiding the treatment of transgender students, the parents had to initiate the discussion regarding how the school would treat their daughter in accordance with her gender. They provided medical information regarding her diagnosis with gender dysphoria and her transition to living fully as a girl, including legally changing her name and changing the gender on her passport.

In response to claims by the school that they had not had to deal with transgender students before, the parents brought in representatives from the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance to educate the school administration and staff. The parents made clear to the District that their daughter’s gender and her medical condition is not a choice and that it is essential to her health and her ability to succeed at school that she be treated as a girl, and that means being treated like a girl in all respects including locker room access.

What the District offered was a separate restroom, down a long hallway, where my client has been forced to dress for gym and the athletics she is involved in. The separation serves as a daily reminder that the school does not regard her as a girl or even a human being but as some undifferentiated “other.”

Does it? Does the separation really say (or “serve as a reminder”) that the school does not regard the student as a human being?

I don’t think it does. I think that’s rhetorical inflation.

What our client wants is pretty basic – to be accepted for who she is and treated just like other students. Other students accept her. The school board and administration apparently do not. These adults should remember that many students are unhappy with their bodies – body image issues can be serious in a world filled with unrealistic and often oppressive images of physical beauty particularly for young women and girls. But no other students – no matter how uncomfortable they are with their bodies – are required to hide them. Imagine how it feels for a girl to be told that her body is so unacceptable that she must dress apart from everyone else – even if she might otherwise choose to do so. The message is loud and clear – transgender students should be ashamed of how they look and who they are.

But if these adults should remember that many students are unhappy with their bodies, then that applies to the girls in the locker room in general, not just to the trans girl.

It is upsetting to see the superintendent say that the District is “sensitive” to the needs of transgender students and supportive of them. The District’s actions are the farthest thing from being supportive. You can’t defend discrimination by claiming you’re nice about it. Most damaging, the superintendent asserts that a girl who is transgender has a “male body” and that transgender students are “of the opposite sex” when defending the District’s position. Such assertions are wrong as a matter of science and offensive because they serve to challenge and undermine the very core of a person’s identity.

In what sense are such assertions wrong as a matter of science? What science is it that says a transgender girl has a female body?

And then this business of the very core of a person’s identity…what exactly about that is immune from challenge? What are the criteria? Are there any limits? If people say their identity is something that doesn’t comport with the apparent facts, does the world have to agree in all circumstances no matter what? Or does this new rule apply only to trans gender people? If so, why?

A transgender girl is female. She is a girl through and through – not something in between as the District suggests.

“Through and through” – what does that mean? How does John Knight know?

I don’t think this kind of magical thinking is going to help anyone in the long run.

Punitive tendencies

Nov 7th, 2015 12:44 pm | By

The Guardian reports on A New Study that finds that children from godbothering families are less altruistic than children from non-godbothering families.

Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

I can’t say that that surprises me. I don’t think religion necessarily makes people less altruistic, or that atheism necessarily does the opposite. But I do think there are aspects of religion that pull in that direction, in particular, the focus on a god as opposed to humans (and other animals). Obedience to a god just is not the same thing as concern for humans.

The findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households”.

Older children, usually those with a longer exposure to religion, “exhibit[ed] the greatest negative relations”.

The study also found that “religiosity affects children’s punitive tendencies”. Children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”, it said.

Sure. That’s the obedience to god thing. The god is by its nature a tyrant – a being vastly more powerful than we are, demanding that we obey it – so it’s going to encourage a tyrant-based morality. Obey the tyrant, and judge harshly anyone who doesn’t.

The report was “a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality”, said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.

“It would be interesting to see further research in this area, but we hope this goes some way to undoing the idea that religious ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may express them differently depending on their worldview.”

Well said; not triumphalist. It’s always a mistake to be triumphalist about one New Study.

Macho terrorism

Nov 7th, 2015 10:13 am | By

There was a big rally in Madrid today to protest violence against women.

The rally, organised by feminist groups, was attended by representatives of all the main political parties.

Activists dressed in black [lay] on the ground to remember hundreds of women murdered over the years in what they described as “macho terrorism”.

They said laws against domestic abuse should be extended to include all violence against women.

Isn’t violence against women kind of last century? Kind of second wave? Kind of over?

A survey carried out by the European Union last year estimated that 13 million woman in Europe experienced physical violence in 2013.

But statistics and surveys suggest the problem is less prevalent in Spain than other European countries, our correspondent says.

But he adds that violence against women is high in the public’s conscience in Spain, and the rally has succeeded in reasserting the issue on the political agenda – only six week’s before an unpredictable general election.

Has anyone figured out how many of the women had it coming?

Open season

Nov 6th, 2015 3:57 pm | By

The NSS reports that Turkey is working on treating violence against women more gently, kindly, compassionately – to the perps, that is, not to the women.

Proposals by the Turkish Ministry of Justice to treat sexual harassment and violence against women less severely have drawn widespread condemnation from campaigners.

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) is “deeply concerned” by the draft proposal and has warned that if passed the plans will allow perpetrators of crimes normally punishable by five years’ imprisonment “to engage in negotiations with prosecutors to reduce their sentence to one year, postpone their sentence, do community service or pay money to avoid jail time.”

They note that the proposal “covers a number of crimes that predominantly affect women and girls including molestation, sexual abuse, threats and sex with minors. Victims and survivors will not even be consulted in the negotiations” and they stress a background of hundreds of murders of women in Turkey this year alone.

That will happen when you teach people that this other set of people are inferior. It becomes open season.

The BBC reported earlier this year that there has been a “dramatic rise in violence against women in Turkey”, linked by many to the ideology of the Islamist AKP.

President Erdogan and senior members of his party have made repeated statements about women’s ‘traditional’ role in society. In November 2014 he denied that men and women should be on an “equal footing” and said it was “against nature”.

In July the Turkish deputy prime minister told a female parliamentarian, “Madam be quiet! You as a woman, be quiet!”

And if she won’t – punch her.

In their statement the IKWRO note that “since only January 2015, 285 women have been murdered. Perpetrators of violence against women and girls already face minimal charges and often walk free under the outrageous ‘provocation’ rule, which allows perpetrators to argue that they were provoked by their victims.

And that makes it no big deal to murder them?

God people are terrible.

H/t Bernard Hurley

Out of harm’s way

Nov 6th, 2015 3:38 pm | By

I’m going through the past three years of Jesus and Mo, so I thought you’d enjoy this one:


Ontological bomb-shelter – that’s so exactly right. You can’t see it or talk to it, you can’t get messages from it, you can’t register complaints with it – it’s beyond your reach. Permanently…Except after you’re dead, they say, but then that’s very easy to say, isn’t it – you’re not going to be able to show them wrong. It’s the perfect con, and most people fall for it.

The Patreon is here.

Their purpose is genocide

Nov 6th, 2015 3:06 pm | By
Their purpose is genocide

So this is where we are.


Morgan M Page ‏@morganmpage Nov 4

TERFs are commiting acts of genocide against trans women under the UN’s definition of genocide.

Shivoa Birch ‏@Shivoa Nov 4
Imagine writing a piece telling queer/trans* youth to remember elders & saying “yes, call me a Terf or a Swerf” #ToneDeaf #TransGenocide

Morgan M Page ‏@morganmpage Nov 4
The entire anti-trans radical feminist agenda has always been upfront that their purpose is genocide. We need to start calling it that.


And they accuse other people of inciting hatred.


She reeks of “more Indian than thou”

Nov 6th, 2015 12:07 pm | By

Kavin Senapathy on Vandana Shiva:

Undoubtedly a controversial albeit prominent Indian public figure, the stately, self-proclaimed food activist and feminist rakes in big bucks to rival the incomes of doctors and business moguls, and does so on the premise of benevolence. Shiva’s website, which notes that Time Magazine honored the activist as an environmental “hero” in 2003, describes her as working alongside peasants; images of Shiva posing on Indian farms litter the internet.  Demanding $40,000 a pop and round trip business class air fare from New Delhi for her promotional talks, she has achieved the deplorable yet amazing feat of appropriating her own culture. Though defined in varying ways, the term “cultural appropriation” usually describes the use and adulteration of elements of one culture by another. In Shiva’s case, she has managed to exploit and demean her own culture under the guise of standing up for her countrymen, as a means to advance her anti-biotechnology agenda.

40 k per talk?! Wow. And all she has to do is argue for less productive agriculture in India.

Vandana Shiva’s exotification of the country and India-as-victim messaging does her few favors in the Indian community, while her butchering of science has seen her earn monikers like “Luddite”, “dangerous fabulist” and even part of the “lunatic fringe.”

To me, an Indian-American daughter of immigrants, Shiva’s appropriation of her own culture is among the most obscene, offensive tactics in the activist’s repertoire. She reeks of “more Indian than thou”, which colors her mannerisms and shapes her messaging, effectively endowing her with a je ne sais quoi, leaving many non-Indian westerners accepting her without question as the voice of the Indian David against the Big Bad Biotech Goliath, while others presumably refrain from doubting her seeming authority for fear of appearing racist. A clever tactic, indeed.

This acceptance of Indian thieves of their own culture must stop. Farmers like Narhari Pawar, science advocates like Venkat Aditya, and scientists like Rajini Rao and Balasubramanian Ponnuswami are just a handful of folks fed up with the twisting of their culture by fellow Indians for no more than ideological, non evidence-based agendas. No doubt, they are but a representative sliver of those sharing the sentiment.

I blame the hippies. They bought into that whole “India=spiritual” bullshit, and they passed it on to everyone else.

Strange allies

Nov 6th, 2015 11:18 am | By

Reason (the libertarian website) agrees with the libertarian feminists, of course. Elizabeth Nolan Brown says the usual things:

In a recent interview with Time magazine, feminist icon Gloria Steinem—currently promoting a new travel memoir—says that the biggest threat to reproductive rights today is “patriarchy… the very definition (of which) is that men control women’s bodies in order to control reproduction.”

The way johns do, for instance. But Brown isn’t having any of that, thanks.

It’s a nice sentiment—but alas, Steinem’s concept of human rights and bodily integrity only applies to certain people. Steinem has been an outspoken proponent against sex workers’ right to bodily integrity.

Over the summer, Steinem was one of a group of Hollywood celebrities and high-profile feminists condemning the human-rights group Amnesty International for its support of completely decriminalizalizing prostitution.

Or rather, decriminalizing pimps, brothel owners and johns. They favor the decriminalization of prostitutes aka sex workers. So Steinem isn’t in fact “an outspoken proponent against” (i.e. an opponent of) sex workers’ right to bodily integrity.

In 2014, Steinem said it was wrong to use the term “sex work,” a preferred term of many women who willingly work in the sex trade, because prostitution is merely “commercial rape”—a “body invasion” that is “not like any other work.” Never mind that a lot of grown women choose to be sex workers and do not experience prostitution as commercialized rape; that’s how Steinem sees it, and so pity the poor sex worker who thinks she gets to define her own experience.

But by the same token a lot of grown women and underage girls do not choose to be sex workers; they are forced into it and/or trapped in it. Which group is more likely to have various kinds of privilege that should be checked? I say it’s the group that doesn’t choose. The more options you have (and privilege amounts to more options), the less likely you are to “choose” to be a chicken-processor or a coal miner or a prostitute. The more desperate you are, the more likely you are to do jobs that you wouldn’t touch if you could survive any other way. The fact that some women think prostitution is a fabulous way to get both sex and money is not all that relevant to the desperate ones.

Misogyny in feminists’ clothing

Nov 6th, 2015 10:32 am | By

Jindi Mehat at Feminist Current on liberal (what in the US would be called libertarian) feminism.

She started out as a libertarian feminist herself.

For me, then, and for liberal feminists today, the individual is queen. Any choice a woman makes is, by definition, a feminist choice because choosing is a feminist act. Even choices like pandering to the male gaze or self-objectifying must be applauded. As a result, I often engaged in decidedly unfeminist behaviour while uncritically wrapping myself in a comfortingly progressive label.

The other really important word for this view is “agency.” If you question the “choices” of other women, you’re denying their “agency,” which is “paternalistic,” and thus the opposite of feminism.

It’s a fatuous idea, because feminism is inherently all about questioning choices. All politics is about questioning choices. All critical thinking boils down to questioning choices. If you can’t question choices you can’t do anything but praise the status quo, and what’s the point of that?

Uncritically worshipping individual choices ignores the structures and institutions that support patriarchy. Focusing narrowly on advancing in the public sphere ignores the oppression women face in our homes. More worryingly, refusing to examine the context and impacts of our choices allows men and women to continue reinforcing misogyny and male supremacy while patting themselves on the back and failing to work towards liberation for allwomen in any meaningful way.

Supporting misogynist ideas, behaviours, and structures while declaring yourself a feminist requires a stunning lack of self-awareness and critical thinking, and an intricate set of unquestioned beliefs whose main purpose is to preserve a self-concept that’s allegedly based on beliefs in women’s rights, when in reality, that self-concept is based on an illusion.

Nowhere is this creative ego preservation more evident than in the commonly used catchphrases liberal feminists recite en masse, mostly in response to critical thought and discourse from radical feminists who understand that examining our internalized misogyny, analyzing our choices and beliefs, and dismantling patriarchal institutions is essential work for feminists who are truly dedicated to the liberation of all women.

Unless of course the status quo is already perfect, just as it is.

So she’s doing a series called “Shit Liberal Feminists Say” and this is the first post in that series. First up: Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist (SWERF).

Despite repeated evidence that women in prostitution are largely poor women of colour, many of whom were sexually abused as girlsentered prostitution while underage, and identify lack of housing as their main barrier to leaving prostitution, liberal feminists cling to the romanticized notions of “sex work” depicted in movies like Pretty Woman and, in doing so, literally whitewash reality. For liberal feminists, sex work is inevitable, voluntary, empowering and fun, and women who choose it should be unquestioningly celebrated.

Which is strange, when they are (in my experience) all noisily proud “intersectional” feminists who can check their privilege, or at least tell other people to check their privilege, faster than anyone else on earth. What could smack more of privilege than extrapolating from one’s own joy in “sex work” to conclude it’s like that for everyone? Imagine you’re a prosperous middle-class educated presentable man with an eccentric taste for working in non-unionized chicken processing plants. Would it be reasonable for you to say it’s “paternalistic” for journalists to expose unsafe working conditions in chicken processing plants? (Spoiler: no.)

In contrast, abolitionists see prostitution as male violence, as the sexualized practice of dominance and control over women who are coerced, with money, into sexual activity in which they wouldn’t otherwise participate.

Contrary to liberal feminists, who demonstrably exclude most women in prostitution so they can uphold a uniformly empowery notion of “sex work,” abolitionists don’t exclude any women from our analysis. We acknowledge that some women choose to enter into prostitution. Understanding that patriarchy both limits and shapes women’s choices, abolitionists believe the context of more privileged women’s choices — and the impacts those choices have on marginalized women — must be scrutinized as part of the hard work needed to make sure our movement leaves no woman behind.

But the libertarian view is that that’s just SWERFery, which is not just wrong but evil, and shun-worthy.

Supporting an argument that excludes the majority of women in prostitution, while calling the very women who consider the whole picture “exclusionary,” shows how intellectually vapid and hypocritical so-called liberal feminism is. Just like calling support of prostitution, which exposes the most marginalized among us to increased levels of violence and abuse, a feminist position, this isn’t about women’s liberation, it’s about feeling good and progressive and not having to actually change anything.

Supporting prostitution and screaming “SWERF” at abolitionists isn’t feminism, it’s capitulating to male supremacy and writing marginalized women off as collateral damage. It’s living in a dream world of consequence-free individual choices. It’s refusing to go beyond scratching the surface, and instead hiding behind buzzwords and tepid half-measures while trying to silence women who are willing to dive deep no matter the cost. Screaming SWERF at abolitionists is misogyny in feminists’ clothing, and it’s just some senseless shit that liberal feminists say.

I’ve gotten very familiar with misogyny in feminists’ clothing lately, and I don’t admire it.

“We killed him because he was writing against us”

Nov 5th, 2015 4:44 pm | By

In Pakistan too.

A gunman on a motorbike shot dead a Pakistani journalist in the country’s restive northwest on Tuesday and hours later the Taliban claimed the killing, bringing to 71 the number of journalists and media workers killed in Pakistan since 2002.

Zaman Mehsud, 38, was a journalist working for the Pakistani Urdu newspaper Daily Umet and SANA news agency, and also worked for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

A journalist and a human rights worker. Of course they killed him.

Taliban commander Qari Saif Ullah Saif told Reuters: “We killed him because he was writing against us … we have some other journalists on our hit list in the region, soon we will target them.”

The journalist’s brother Muhammed Aslam wept as he collected the body. “He left five children and a widow,” he said.

At least 67 journalists and media workers were killed between January 2002 and 2014, according to press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. Including Mehsud, another four have been killed this year.

All but one were Pakistanis. The killers have been convicted in only two cases — that of American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and that of Geo reporter Wali Babar.

Shoot the messenger.

The first impulse is to narrow the conversation

Nov 5th, 2015 12:47 pm | By

Katha Pollitt on Germaine Greer and the fatuous attempt to no-platform her and the absurd demand that a feminist be 100% perfect (in the sense of: agrees with me in all particulars) or be banished.

She starts with the fact that Greer has always been all over the place. There’s always plenty to disagree with in what she writes and says. Nobody could agree with everything she says.

Still, when I was invited to interview her a few years ago about Shakespeare’s Wife, her biography of Anne Hathaway, I was delighted. I did not start a petition to have her invitation canceled on the grounds that anyone who approves of cutting off little girls’ clitorises has no place on a podium talking about any subject, even Elizabethan England. I thought: Here’s a woman who has lived a big life and, at 70, has written a book that tries to rescue one of history’s most famous wives from oblivion and misogyny. That’s feminism.

Also, it’s interesting. Being interesting is a virtue. Greer is interesting. Few of her detractors are.

(Do I mean none of them are? Yes, probably. But I haven’t examined them all, so I can’t be sure. On the other hand I can be pretty sure that the kind of person who thinks Greer should be shunned is not interesting. People who are interesting don’t think that way. It’s a crude way to think, and that’s not compatible with interesting thought.)

Then Katha quotes from Rachael Melhuish’s petition.

Where to begin? Violence against trans women is the fault of feminists? I doubt the brutal men who assault and murder trans women have even heard of Greer­­—or are likely to attend her proposed lecture on feminism in the 20th century (which, she says, will not touch on the subject of trans women at all). And if you believe that inviting someone to lecture on campus is an endorsement of their views—even on subjects they’re not lecturing about—it doesn’t sound as if you’re really all that keen on debate. It sounds more like you want the university to invite only people who think like yourself.

Which would be a disaster, because they would all be so unlikely to be interesting.

It’s both unfortunate and bizarre that at a moment when feminism is showing renewed signs of life, the first impulse is to narrow the conversation and throw rotten vegetables at everyone who isn’t singing 100 percent in unison. And did I mention ageism? That prejudice seems to be completely acceptable. A typical tweet: “Germaine Greer is an insane old woman. Just watched the interview, she should be in an old peoples home.”

Feminism doesn’t apply to women over 40. Once you’re past 40 you’re in the wrong wave, and you should be locked up.

In the UK, the National Union of Students has “no-platformed” (attempted to prevent from speaking anywhere) the lesbian feminist writer and activist Julie Bindel for “transphobia” stemming from a 2004 article in The Guardian in which she mocked the notion that having a sex change made someone a woman. (Although she’s apologized for the tone of that piece, it doesn’t matter: She questions the use of sex-reassignment surgery, especially for children, and that’s enough.) Transgender-rights activists argue that trans women are real women, irrespective of their physical attributes, and have always been so. But even if that view prevails, the movement has taken a wrong turn somewhere if Bindel—a decades-long campaigner for lesbian rights and against male violence toward women—is the misogynist, and the feminists include male “allies” screaming at her to shut up.

Tell me about it. All those male “allies” screaming at feminist women to shut up – screaming it in full, throbbing confidence that they’re on the Right Correct Pure side, the social justice side, the intersectional side, the fight privilege side, the listen to marginalized people side. I could compile a list of those fuckers.

Even abortion isn’t as divisive a subject as transgender rights: No one pickets a campus talk by Sister Helen Prejean because she belongs to a church that demands that raped 10-year-olds give birth. You don’t see anyone no-platforming conservatives who support cuts in government programs that devastate poor women and families, or foreign officials representing governments that deny women basic human rights. There’s a virtual standing army of prominent people—people with actual real-world power—who are more intimately connected with the subjection of women than Germaine Greer or Julie Bindel; to say nothing of the numerous people, like the classics scholar Mary Beard and the gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who have supported their campus appearances and found themselves in the same crosshairs.

Strange, isn’t it. Counter-productive. Embarrassing. Narcissism of small differences.

Guest post: Reply to Consumers Union

Nov 5th, 2015 12:11 pm | By

Guest post by Josh Spokes. An email from Consumers Union to members, and his reply.

Policy and Action from Consumer Reports

If you want the right to know, speak out now.

Monsanto is telling Senators you don’t need to know about GMOs in your food. We think you have the right to make up your own mind! Tell your Senators to support GMO labeling.

Take action

Dear Joshua,

If you want the right to know what’s in your food, now is the time to speak out. If you wait, you may forever be kept in the dark.

As you read this, Senators are writing a bill that could determine the fate of GMO food labeling. They will decide whether you get to know that the tortilla chips or breakfast cereals you’re buying and eating are genetically engineered.

Monsanto, DuPont, General Mills, Kellogg’s and other giant industrial food producers are telling Senators that you don’t need to know about GMOs in your food. We think you have the right to make up your own mind. If you agree, act now — once this bill is written it will be tough to change, and the vote will come soon.

Tell your Senators to support mandatory GMO labeling! Don’t let Monsanto keep you in the dark about what you’re eating.

The year-long Congressional fight over GMO labeling has come down to this moment. The House in July passed a horrible industry-backed bill that would ban federal GMO labeling and forever block your state from implementing its own labeling laws.

But if you speak out, your Senators can change this. They can pass their own bill by the end of the year to make sure your choices and rights aren’t taken away. Just as you now know which foods have been frozen or come from concentrate, requiring GMO ingredients on the label simply lets you choose what you want to eat.

And labeling is more important than ever: Now that the weed-killer associated with GMO crops has been designated as possibly causing cancer, don’t you think you have the right to make an informed choice about whether you want to eat GMO foods?

Senators are writing the bill now. Tell them to make sure it doesn’t take away your right to know what’s in your food!

After you act, please share this with others in your network so they can tell their Senators the same thing. And we will be back in touch soon to let you know how the bill turned out and next steps!


Jean Halloran, Consumers Union
Policy and Action from Consumer Reports

Josh’s reply:

As a longtime supporter of Consumers Union I am incredibly disappointed in your support for labeling GMOs. This is not an issue of “consumers’ right to know,” and I don’t think you’re that naive. This is a bogeyman issue that plays on legitimate consumer sentiment and twists it.

Labeling GMOS—which isn’t even honest, since every domesticated crop
is GMO, just not always by direct genetic manipulation—won’t give
consumers any information that will allow them to make any choices that
affect their health or safety. It will, however, give the government
imprimatur to the idea that GMOs are scary, harmful, and only invented
to make Monsanto rich, and that they have no benefits for ordinary
people. Indeed, you make it seem like they’re not only no benefit to
anyone, but that they’re actually a harm.

What is wrong with you on this count? You have always been the most
scrupulous researchers and consumer advocates, weighing evidence and
presenting it so that people can make informed decisions. You’re one of
the most powerful consumer organizations in the country, and everyone in
the US owes you a huge debt for the work you’ve done not only helping us
shop wisely, but holding product manufacturers accountable for dangerous

I suspect you must think that, because your demographic is
overwhelmingly liberal and left (I’m liberal and left, too, and I work
for a nonprofit consumer watchdog organization) that we must all be
scientifically ignorant. That we will support this issue because we
culturally identify with it as part of our NPR/Whole Foods tribe. That’s
insulting, and it’s cynical.

How about spending some of your considerable expertise debunking the
costly and often dangerous “health” bullshit that Whole Foods uses to
bilk gullible consumers out of hundreds of millions of dollars?

Do better. We have a right to expect it from you.

And I’d actually like an explanation for your policy, a well-reasoned
rationale. If you have published this somewhere, I’d be grateful for a

Joshua [Spokes]

After igniting a backlash

Nov 5th, 2015 10:30 am | By

Journalism again treating violent unreasonable reactions to other people’s reasonable actions as “provoked” or “sparked” or “ignited” by the people who did nothing wrong. Charlie Hebdo “sparked” the violence that left nine of them dead; Lars Vilks “set off” outrage; Raif Badawi “triggered” his own ferocious punishment.

This one is the New York Times:

An actress from Iran has gone on the run after igniting a backlash by posting photos of herself on social media showing her not wearing a hijab…

Seriously: journalists need to be more careful with the way they write these stories. She didn’t “ignite” anything.

Sadaf Taherian began posting the controversial photos on Facebook and Instagram over the last two weeks and the response from Iranians was as swift as it was extreme. In an interview with Masih Alinejad, a journalist who runs a Facebook page called “My Stealthy Freedom,” which features photos and videos of Iranian women walking in public with their heads uncovered, Taherian reportedly said she was initially “nervous” about the reaction the images might trigger. Indeed, many Iranians lashed out at Taherian with insults and called her “immoral.”

That’s the way to say it. They lashed out at her; she didn’t do anything to them.

Then, the Iranian government piled on, officially denouncing Taherian as an “offender.” When another popular actress came to Taherian’s defense on social media, a spokesman for Iran’s ministry of culture and lslamic guidance said the two actresses would be barred from acting. “As far as this ministry is concerned, these two individuals are no longer considered to be artists any more and do not have any right to act,” said Hossein Noushabadi. The popular TV show starring Taherian was abruptly pulled from the state television network schedule.

Well, that’s “Islamic guidance” for you.

Insulting the holy cow

Nov 5th, 2015 8:56 am | By

In India: another Muslim killed by a mob because they thought or pretended to think he had been rude to a cow.

[A] Muslim man was beaten to death on Monday by a mob of Hindus who suspected him of stealing a cow, a revered symbol in the Hindu religion. It was the fourth time in six weeks that Hindus had killed Muslims they suspected of slaughtering, stealing or smuggling cows.

This isn’t animal rights; don’t be confused about that. This is about pretending one particular species is “sacred.”

The recent killings are occurring against a backdrop of intensifying political conflict over laws and policies aimed at protecting cows from slaughter and consumption. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., has pushed aggressively to pass state beef bans. The Delhi police, controlled by Mr. Modi’s government, recently descended in force on a canteen after it posted beef on its menu. (It turned out to be buffalo meat.) On Wednesday, the B.J.P. ran campaign ads accusing its opponents of “insulting the holy cow.”

Of insulting the cow – the holy cow. How ridiculous is it possible to get? Mobs in South Asia murder people for insulting a man who died 14 centuries ago, or “the holy cow.”

Several recent cases of violence have involved Hindu nationalist vigilante groups dedicated to protecting cows. The groups, including some with ties to the B.J.P., mobilize members to confront those suspected of slaughtering, eating or stealing cows, sometimes with catastrophic results.

There’s just nothing quite like religious feeling for getting people to commit atrocities.

On Sept. 28, a Muslim family was attacked in a village outside Delhi by a Hindu mob that suspected the family of eating beef, an accusation the family denied. The father, Mohammed Ikhlaq, was killed, and his son seriously wounded. Weeks later, another Hindu mob in the Kashmir Valley in north India threw a homemade bomb at a truck suspected of carrying beef; a young Muslim trucker, most of his body burned, died days later. Then, on Oct. 14, a Muslim man was killed in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh when he was attacked by a group of Hindu activists who suspected him of smuggling cattle for slaughter.

These and other recent outbreaks of violence by Hindu nationalists have provoked a vigorous cultural and political backlash across India. Dozens of leading authors returned India’s highest literary award in protest. Hundreds of scientists, academics, actors and filmmakers have signed petitions or spoken out. On Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress Party and Mr. Modi’s longtime political opponent, led a march in Delhi to condemn “the atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation in the country.”

But Modi and his pals brush all that off as a “manufactured controversy.”

Once queer meant that one could get outside of one’s own identity

Nov 4th, 2015 5:14 pm | By

Suzanne Moore says remember who brung ya.

Everyone now is bisexual, pansexual, agender (without a gender). It’s all so wild. Miley, Cara, various models. Young people are coming out of the closet into a hall of mirrors. For this “coming out” often says my insides feel different to my outsides. Hear me roar. Welcome to the world, friends, for who does not feel like that?

Exactly. This isn’t some hot new thing, it’s just how people are. Granted it is more talked about now, but that doesn’t mean it’s a new invention.

Now that there is a new set of identities for people to pick’n’mix, it would be gracious not to erase those who lived and died with more fixed identities. This is not melodrama, this is history as power. Laurie Penny recently came out as a genderqueer feminist but she differs from many of her genderqueer friends: “I still identify politically as a woman. My identity is more complex than female or male.” This I take for granted. So why does it need to be said? Penny is extremely smart and if she wants to present as a sexual outlaw that’s fine. Try being a “butch dyke” or is that not quite radical enough?

Nah. *yawn* That’s so last year.

The current preoccupation with being on the sexual edge and yes, call me a Terf or a Swerf or my own term Smurf (Some Made-Up Radical Feminist) if you like, but I don’t just check my privilege, I check our history. Because if sex is just something you do rather than something you are, then it is way easier to play with gender. Yet it has become so muddled that every identity must be proclaimed in a hierarchy of grievance. This fragmentation, which is not intersectionality, but rather an increasingly insular discussion about cis-nessmicroaggressions and trigger warnings, runs in horrific parallel to images of women being raped and killed all over the world.

Once, queer meant that one could get outside of one’s own identity. My male gay friends came on abortion marches with me. I went to Aids vigils with them. Even now I see that the fight about reproductive rights for women continues and while places such as Ireland can accept gay marriage and the decriminalisation of drugs, they still won’t decriminalise women’s bodies.

But hey, we’re just cis women, we don’t own feminism.

Self-abnegation gets you negated

Nov 4th, 2015 3:49 pm | By

I saw a very bizarre remark – by a woman – on Twitter today.

Sick and tired of cis & white feminists thinking they own feminism.

Leaving aside the “white” part, the remaining claim is pretty staggering. “How dare women think feminism is about women?!”

What other oppressed class is subject to this kind of bullshit? What other oppressed class gets shouted at for thinking its own liberation movement is not “owned” by someone else?

It’s only women who are willing – in fact eager – to erase themselves this way.

Maybe that’s enough to tell me I’m not a woman after all. I’m not a fucking political masochist.

As the barrage of stones intensifies

Nov 4th, 2015 10:31 am | By

Another woman stoned to death in Afghanistan.

The men surround the woman as she stands in a hole dug into the stony ground, only her head pokes above the surface. Then they begin to pick up rocks and hurl them at her again and again from close range.

Her agonized cries grow louder as the barrage of stones intensifies.

They like that. They like her agonized screams.

The 19-year-old woman, identified as Rokhshana, had been forced to marry against her will and recently fled with another man, said Seema Joyenda, the governor of Ghor province. The couple were caught after two days, and the Taliban leader of the village ordered that Rokhshana be stoned to death for adultery, Joyenda said.

Because men own women, and women don’t own themselves, and women who rebel in any way must be killed by torture.

Attacks on women and disregard for their rights have been widely documented by international organizations in Afghanistan.

“The prevalence of violence against women and harmful practices continues to be of serious concern,” said a report in April by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

A report in the same month by Amnesty Internationalraised concerns about the persecution of women’s rights activists in the country, not only by the Taliban and tribal warlords, but also by government officials.

Women aren’t supposed to have rights. Women are property; property can’t have rights.

The Dalit question

Nov 4th, 2015 10:07 am | By

The Economist tells me something I didn’t know: Jeremy Corbyn is an advocate of justice for Dalits.

Specifically, Mr Corbyn wants British law to prohibit discrimination on grounds of caste, a step which the government seems reluctant to take, and one which some prominent British Hindus adamantly oppose. These opponents insist that the existence of caste discrimination in Britain is unproven, and that outlawing it would be an insult to the Indian community.

Except of course for the Dalit portion of “the Indian community.”

All this matters more than ever because a political battle over the Dalit question may soon come to a head in Britain after simmering for a long time.  Arguments over whether Britain should explicitly outlaw maltreatment on grounds of caste have been in progress since at least 2010 when an Equality Act made it illegal to discriminate (in the treatment of employees and customers, or the provision of state services) on a familiar list of criteria, including race, ethnicity, religion and gender.

In its initial version, the Act said that the government “may” add caste to the catalogue of protected characteristics if the need were to become obvious. Then in April 2013, after some lively debate in both Houses of Parliament, the government reluctantly agreed to a new forms of words, spelling out that it “must” add caste to the list.

But they’re still talking about it, and dragging out the process. Mustn’t rush into these things.

Meena Varma of the Dalit Solidarity Network says she believes that Hindu lobbyists are pressing the government “at the highest level” to drop the idea of legislating against caste discrimination. On the other other hand, the list of people and bodies who still think that Britain should outlaw caste discrimination is also quite impressive; not only Mr Corbyn but Anglican bishops, some respected Liberal Democratic and Conservative peers, the National Secular Society, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Navi Pillay, who till recently was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

So the Labour leader is not alone in his concern for the Dalits, whether in India or Britain. But as he may soon discover, people who speak out for the wretched of the earth can get themselves called all manner of unpleasant things, from neo-colonialist to Orientalist.

Because only a neo-colonialist Orientalist would insult the Indian community by advocating the outlawing of caste discrimination. So Dalits are neo-colonialist Orientalists, so they can safely be forgotten.



Screamed at by the identifarians

Nov 3rd, 2015 5:27 pm | By

Julie Bindel and Rachel Jolley were on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking tonight talking about no-platforming and radical feminism – “not the fun kind that men love, pole dancing your way to liberation,” Julie said.

Their segment starts at 30 minutes.