Notes and Comment Blog

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.

Take it back

Mar 29th, 2016 10:34 am | By

From the Advocate:

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will soon rescind an antigay executive order issued by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal, Deadline Hollywood reports.

“As far as Jindal’s religious liberty order, the governor intends to rescind it in the near future,” Edwards’s press secretary, Shauna Sanford, said in response to a Deadline inquiry today in the wake of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of a so-called religious liberty bill that would have allowed discrimination against LGBT people based on religious objections.


There should be a standard label for bills of that kind – a “God hates fags” bill perhaps.

Jindal, a Republican who once sought his party’s presidential nomination, last year issued the Marriage and Conscience Order, which bars the state from taking punitive action against an individual, business, or nonprofit group acting in accordance with a “religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” While the order says this should “not be construed to authorize any act of discrimination,” it was designed to protect those with antigay views — for instance, business owners who don’t want to provide goods or services for same-sex couples’ weddings.

It has to be a religious belief, you see, because there is no other basis for such a belief. Nobody has been able to come up with a convincing secular reason for saying ew, no, no same-sex marriage, that’s gross – so they have to make it a religious belief. In religious belief the arbitrary is not seen as the arbitrary but as pious or sacred. It’s the one veil they have to cover their gut-level hatreds. The free exercise clause makes it work for them.

Guest post: It is never the hierarchy that commit suicide

Mar 28th, 2016 5:14 pm | By

Originally a comment by tiggerthewing on A short distance from the children’s playground.

This is what religion does – fills someone with so much hate that they’ll kill themselves in dreadful ways in order to kill innocent people, just to deprive others of freedom or rights.

It is never the hierarchy that commit suicide, however.

Why can’t the fanatics see that? Why don’t they question? If it really is what god wants, why aren’t the clerics blowing themselves up? “Oh, I’m not worthy to kill myself – I’ll make the sacrifice to stay alive and maintain all this horrible, horrible Earthly power, and let you get all the posthumous glory!” Seriously? Does no one see that, if self-sacrifice were really the ultimate expression of holiness, the people at the top would be clambering over one another to give everything up?

History has shown the following to be true, over and over and over again:

  • when you keep most people poor, and desperate, and somehow – against all the evidence – manage to persuade them that the source of the problem isn’t you and your cronies, who are actually the only people trying to help them get to some mythical heaven or promised land;
  • when you persuade them that this horrible existence you have imposed on them is the fault of even more poor and desperate people wanting a few rights;
  • when you tell them that there is a supernatural entity who wants them, and them alone, to spend eternity in paradise, just as long as you, the intermediary, keep communicating with that entity – and that those people over there are trying to send them to hell…

then you can have wealth, and power, and no-one will threaten your security. Indeed, they will hand over their last possessions and even fight to the death to ensure you keep your wealth and power.

There is a good reason that atheists are the most hated grouping.

It isn’t just the situation with the religious in the near, middle, and far East. Look at the way the American Dream is worshipped in the USA, and the way poor White people are perpetrating violence on other poor people who aren’t as white as them, whilst adoring obscenely wealthy people like Trump. Or the way that the obscenely wealthy politicians in European countries are managing to shift blame for the poverty created by greedy bankers onto migrants and refugees.

Divide and conquer. Divide and conquer.

Where are your citations

Mar 28th, 2016 4:53 pm | By

Editing to add: People tweeted at me to tell me Julian Vigo is a woman, so I’m correcting.

Julian Vigo’s piece on online horribleness is rather diffuse and overlong, but it makes good points.

She starts with Jesse Singal’s article in New York mag “How the Fight Over Transgender Kids Got a Leading Sex Researcher Fired” and the Twitter abuse he got after it appeared.

And no matter where you stand on the subject of transgenderism and children — a very controversial subject to be certain — the conscious misrepresentations of Singal’s meticulously researched 11,000 word article are as denigrative as they are exploitative of a social media that allows for critique to pass through 140 characters.

You see what I mean about diffuse: that’s not the best wording I’ve ever seen. But we get her drift.

After several years of watching a series of attacks on people who write coherent and considerate pieces on gender, I have grown accustomed to the almost textbook responses to attentive criticism and water-tight journalism: from the fabrication of outright slander, claiming ideas that are in complete contradistinction to what the author has written, insinuating that the reader’s PTSD has been triggered, accusing one’s interlocutor of being wealthy and white (even when this is not the case), to charging those who do not follow a specific belief system are complicit with the murder — even genocide — of transgender persons.

Or not even complicit – just plain commit it. One unhinged rhetorician (that I know of; maybe there were others I didn’t see) said online that I have trans people’s blood on my hands. Really said that.

But critiquing theory is not the only object of silencing around transgender politics, for it would seem that anyone who is not on board with Caitlyn Jenner’s courage and beauty must automatically be a transphobe. It becomes painfully clear that a vast majority of Singal’s detractors had not even read his article and instead moved to troll the Twitter sphere often writing .@jessesingal with the full stop which guarantees that the harassing tweets will be seen by all of Singal’s followers on Twitter…

No, it doesn’t guarantee that; far from it. I certainly don’t see everything that’s tweeted that way to everyone I follow – that would be thousands of tweets every day, and I spend very little time on Twitter. It guarantees that the harassing tweets will be in their feed, that’s all. But anyway, the point is that it’s an extra level of bullying, and I agree with that.

…often writing .@jessesingal with the full stop which guarantees that the harassing tweets will be seen by all of Singal’s followers on Twitter thus bringing the discussion from the bilateral to the polylateral, or rather a massive pile-on par excellence.

It amuses me that it’s Zinnia Jones who demanded where his citations are when his article is loaded with them.

In addition to the defamatory comments made against his person in social media, later the same week, publications such as Feministing took aim at Singal with much the same recklessness and illiteracy of Twitter. And such articles often instigate the Twitter pile-ons which like the Feministing article elide the research and facts demonstrated and rely on emotionalised arguments which negate facts. Intimidation tactics which insinuate slurs such as “transphobe,” “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), and “bigot” are all familiar measures to shut down dialogue and to tarnish the public image of individuals through these and other trolling tactics. And Singal was no exception to these methods as one writer states that Singal “certainly seems to be somewhat uncomfortable with trans people existing at all.” Any cursory reading of Singal’s article would simply not give this impression at all, no matter where you stand on the issue of transgenderism and children.

But they feel that he is, and that’s all that counts.

The events surrounding Singal’s publication reminded me of Twitter attacks I faced in 2013 when I published an article chronicling the assault on gender critical feminists in CounterPunch. After the publication of this piece, I was Twitter trolled and threatened (as well as my editor and both our children). Thereafter came a libellous piece co-published by Jacobin and Salon which commits similar acts of wilful misinterpretation, hyperbole and outright lies (ie. that my article was “about whether a group of people should exist” and that both CounterPunch and I do not regard trans as “human beings”). My article made no such allusion either directly or circuitously.

And Salon and Jacobin blew him off when he objected.

But hey, why publish properly researched facts when you can invoke vitriol through offensive epithets (ie. TERF), thinly veiled threats, labelling a reputable leftist publication and myself as part of a “hate group,” while taking part in the ongoing “oppression Olympics” of truthiness that social media and mainstream publishing currently foment? It appears that allowing for the healthy discussion about gender — a topic that affects everyone in societies throughout the world — is considered anathema to the mandate of certain allegedly leftist publications.

Ya think? Of course it is. Gender is held to be the property of trans people and trans people only; people who are not trans are therefore “cis” and “cis” people have “cis privilege” and that disqualifies them from talking about gender. “Cis” people are not oppressed by gender, only trans people are, so only trans people get to analyze gender. Only the right trans people that is – not ones like Miranda Yardley, who I guess must be honorary “cis” people.

So imagine the irony when one of Jacobin’s editors, Connor Kilpatrick, after linking to Singal’s article on Twitter, was called out through very similar language with which Jacobin had smeared CounterPunch and me three years ago. Watching Kilpatrick’s surprise regarding the caustic reaction to his tweet and The Week’s Ryan Cooper comparing such cyber trolling to a witch hunt made me wonder where some of these men had been over the last several years. Then it hit me: it took men being attacked for there to be any sizeable discussion about or backlash against what has been and continues today to be intellectual bullying, cyber trolling, and vast misrepresentations, to include calumny and generous doses of misogyny. To be fair, when I first read Singal’s article, I wrote him to ask if he was being harassed to which Singal astutely noted: “I’m a male so I only get a tiny fraction of the harassment women do.” For most, however, that women have been the usual victims of these tactics seemed to have had little to no effect on the public perception of slurs like “TERF,” “transphobe,” or the notion that by being gender critical one is somehow murdering people with words. Indeed, it is an unhappy coincidence that such exceptions only demonstrate how sexist the practices of publishing academic or scientific debate has been in recent years, as many of these male writers were at the very least spared rape threats.

Yeah. Well, that’s all part of the cis privilege that we cis women get.

While there is some perfunctory satisfaction in knowing that a publication which went out of its way to publish a hack piece about CounterPunch and me is now being categorised as “transphobic” and as forming part of a “transphobic circle-jerk,” I am nonetheless concerned that ostensibly leftist editors of publications such as Jacobin do not understand how this sort of linguistic blowback functions. And worse, that these publications by censoring content, unwittingly contribute to the anti-intellectualism at the heart of any movement whose ethos rides uniquely on epithets and acronyms.

Bingo. The anti-intellectualism is a scandal.

Twitterbating cries of transphobia in response to articulate and respectful publications constitute, like trigger warnings, a means to stifle discussion about an issue which actually affects us all — gender. Unless we intend to ask that journalists and scholars write endlessly boring articles about “courage” and red carpet moments, we must adopt thicker skin when it comes to accepting that on the subject of gender, everyone has a horse in this race.

Lordy, she does mix her metaphors – but anyway, yes, we need to be able to talk freely about gender because it affects all of us. Silencing people who take a critical approach to the subject is not useful or pro-intellectual or fair or anything else good that I can think of.

The Nellie, a small sailboat

Mar 28th, 2016 3:43 pm | By


No no no no no.

SparkNotes, which is one of those embarrassing American things that help people pass English tests by translating literature into the vocabulary of Sports Illustrated – SparkNotes, I say, has translated Heart of Darkness that way, and they should be arrested. Perhaps flogged. I don’t approve of flogging, but I might have to make an exception.



The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.


The Nellie, a small sailboat, was anchored in the river. There was no wind and the only thing to do was sit and wait for the tide to change before heading down the river and out to sea.


Look. Here’s the thing. Conrad wasn’t just sharing some facts. He wasn’t just telling a quick story before the brandy and cigars. The language he used is what he was doing. The language matters. That abortion up there is like drawing some stick figures with labels under them and saying there’s Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride or Gaugin’s Nave Nave Moe.

Don’t translate Conrad into Sports Illustrated. Just don’t do it.

Just what’s needed

Mar 28th, 2016 2:54 pm | By

There was a peace vigil in Brussels yesterday. It was confronted by a gang of fascists shouting about immigrants. Deutsche Welle reports:

Riot police backed by water cannon vehicles were called to the Place de la Bourse-Beursplein in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, on Sunday to keep right-wing groups away from demonstrators wanting to show solidarity following the deadly attacks on Tuesday.

Black-clad protesters shouting slogans against immigrants and the jihadist “Islamic State” group faced off with police in front of the city’s stock exchange building, where a group of other demonstrators had gathered to mourn the victims of the attacks.

Complete with Nazi salutes:

Brüssel Hooligans Rechtsradikale Demonstration Ausschreitungen

The Independent says they singled out Muslim women for abuse:

Muslim women were confronted and intimidated by right-wing protesters disrupted a peace vigil dedicated to victims of the Brussels attacks.

The women were singled out by members of a group of 400 demonstrators at an initially peaceful gathering held to remember the victims of last week’s terror attacks in the Belgian capital.

This is why we can’t have nice things.


Genuine solidarity

Mar 28th, 2016 12:04 pm | By

Tehmina Kazi has a brilliant article on the murder of Asad Shah and what needs to happen about sectarian hate crime.

It is unbearable to think that someone who reached out to others, no matter what their background, has been extinguished by a mindset that was the antithesis of everything he stood for. Mr Shah was one of those newsagents who would go the extra mile for every customer. Not only did he remember everyone’s names, but he would send people Christmas cards or Eid cards, depending on their religion. He took an interest in people’s lives, be they young, old, black, brown or white.

Two vigils were organised for him — one with 500 people, including Nicola Sturgeon, in attendance — in a testament to how loved he was.

But some people don’t like that kind of thing. They prefer hatred and rage.

Tehmina points out that there’s been no statement from MEND or MPACUK.

Glasgow Central Mosque put out a long statement, which decried the murder as “abhorrent and unacceptable” and said it would “stand shoulder to shoulder with all communities to eradicate this intolerance from society.”

However, this statement appeared to gloss over Whatsapp messages recentlyposted by their most senior imam, Maulana Habib Ur Rahman. Referring to the Pakistani Government’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri — who had killed anti-blasphemy law campaigner Salman Taseer in 2011 — Rahman said: “I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.”

That kind of thinking is working out so well in Pakistan at this moment.

If a group expects to be taken seriously in its attempts to bring communities together, it must abandon supremacist ideologies insofar as they discriminate against others, or lead to hate crimes against others. As a general rule, the ethic of reciprocity must guide us here: it is all well and good to advocate for the human rights of one’s own community, but what we really need is empathetic advocacy work, where campaigners get to grips with the struggles that other communities face, and offer genuine solidarity instead of meaningless platitudes.

As several Muslim groups did after the floods in the north of England a few weeks ago.

South of the border, The Muslim Council of Britain has condemned the killing, adding that “there is no place for hatred of this kind.” While this sounds encouraging at first, their own initiatives have not been as inclusive of different sects as one would hope. In 2014, they announced a “Historic Intrafaith Unity Statement” which solicited signatures from various Muslim groups, in an attempt to forge common ground. But as the blogger John Sargeant pointed out, Ahmadi Muslims — both Lahoris and the larger Rabwah branch — were conspicuous by their absence.

Furthermore, Muslim media outlets like 5 Pillars (who claim to be promoting “normative” Islam) previously described the Ahmadi Baitul Futuh mosque in Morden as a “temple,” when it was engulfed in flames during a suspected arson attack in September 2015. The site’s Deputy Editor, Dilly Hussain, tweeted in 2014, “I’ve known monkeys that have a more legitimate claim to Islam than Ahmadis.”

Ugly ugly stuff, and dangerous.

What I would really like to see is a statement from groups like the MCB, which unequivocally and unambiguously defends the right of Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims. I would also like to see religious leaders from both sects express a more positive approach to Sunni-Ahmadi marriages, which are — anecdotally — still discouraged.

In short a liberal, tolerant, generous approach, instead of a theocratic, hate-filled, narrow approach. Be less like Dilly Hussain and more like Asad Shah.

MWNUK statement

Mar 28th, 2016 10:37 am | By

Muslim Women’s Network UK has a statement on the murder of Asad Shah.

We at Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) are shocked at the brutal murder of Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah, which was carried out by another Muslim. This murder sadly highlights the rising religious bigotry within our own communities.

Muslim Extremists seek to not only polarise different communities but also try and bring discord within their own communities.  Some religious zealots will castigate anyone who does not share their version of Islam. Muslims in Britain are from different ethnic backgrounds and are diverse in their perspectives and practice of Islam. They come from all walks of life, are from different denominations of Islam and are from across the religious spectrum. An individual’s belief is his or her own personal concern.  No one should be bullied or have to fear for their safety when expressing their views.

MWNUK Chair, Shaista Gohir said: “The rise in religious sectarianism abroad is starting to have an impact in Britain’s Muslim communities.  For example, extremists are exploiting these to cause tensions between the minority Shia community and the dominant Sunni groups. Hate speech against the Ahmadiyyah community is also not uncommon.  It appears that such hate speech has now spilled over into violence with the murder of Asad Shah who was from this community.  Such incitement of hatred is not acceptable and must be robustly challenged.  Muslims cannot demand rights for themselves while at the same time displaying bigotry towards other minority groups.”

In recent weeks a few imams in the UK have acted irresponsibly by glorifying the actions of Mumtaz Qadri who murdered Pakistani politician Salman Taseer because he stood up against the persecution of Christians. Instead of hailing this man as a hero and martyr, they should be condemning the murder. This not only promotes intolerance but also sends the wrong message that it is acceptable to take the law into ones own hands and punish Muslims who disagree with your religious beliefs.  These faith leaders should also be challenged and organisations that they are associated with should show leadership and take action.

A member of the public has set up a support page for Mr. Shah’s family and more than £50000 has been raised so far.  You can also make a donation here.  If you or anyone you know is being subjected to hatred, bullying and intimidation, you can call our helpline for advice on 0800 999 5786 / 0303 999 5786.  Anyone who fears for their safety should contact the police immediately.


Mar 28th, 2016 8:09 am | By

A tweet by Jeremy Bowen:

A short distance from the children’s playground

Mar 28th, 2016 7:55 am | By

A Taliban splinter group says it did the Lahore bombing that killed more than 70 people (and more of the injured are expected to die).

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it had targeted Christians celebrating Easter, though police have said they are still investigating the claim.

There were scenes of carnage as parents searched for children amid the debris.

What a glowing advertisement for a religion: We Blow Up Children.

M Ilyas Khan of BBC News Islamabad offers analysis:

The bombing of the amusement park on Easter Sunday was the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan since the 2013 Peshawar church bombing that killed more than 80 people.

But many believe there may be a wider context to the latest attack – 27 March was the deadline set by an alliance of more than 30 religious groups for the provincial government of Punjab to withdraw a new women’s rights law they oppose.

Ah, I see – so on the deadline a “religious group” aims its bomb at women and children playing in a park. “If the government won’t take your rights away, we’ll do it by killing you. Let’s see your fancy ‘rights’ now, bitches.”

And supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, a police guard executed last month for the 2011 killing of a provincial governor who advocated reform of the blasphemy laws, have also launched protests. They brought forward the customary 40th day mourning for Qadri by 13 days to coincide with 27 March and several thousand have now occupied a high-security zone in Islamabad to press demands which include the implementation of Sharia law.

God’s fascists taking over bit by bit.

The explosion, believed to have been carried out by one suicide bomber, hit the main gate to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in the early evening, a short distance from the children’s playground.

Officials said the device had been packed with ball bearings.

Read that slowly. Think about it.

The reactionary left on FGM

Mar 27th, 2016 12:06 pm | By

Sarah Peace on the so-leftwing-it’s-rightwing idea that it’s colonialist to oppose FGM.

I was to find out that my brazen anti-FGM stance is ‘regurgitating the hideous colonial project that imposed itself on the rest of the world on a civilizing mission to rescue the women of the third world from its savage men’. The rationale I am told, is that even as a Nigerian born woman, I cannot speak for other less privileged Nigerian women, how much less, a white woman on behalf of ethnic minorities.

It was at Goldsmiths University that I came to witness this betrayal first hand, which ascribes brutality onto people from other places as part of culture but fashions itself so self-righteously.

Goldsmiths – well of course it was.

Goldsmiths, very much like SOAS seems to be the hotbed of this double standard reinforced by some academics and propagated by a faction of student activists. In December 2015, the feminist and LGBT societies at Goldsmiths left even their own members baffled by their decision to extend ‘solidarity’ to the Islamic society, whose members disrupted human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie’s lecture. They had deemed Namazie a ‘notorious Islamophobe’, for referring to the veil as ‘bin bags’. During the lecture, Namazie backed up her statement and reinforced the importance of continued opposition against traditions such as FGM which are an affront to women’s rights.

When probed on the matter, a representative of the Goldsmiths LGBT society responded that as a white person, she “cannot condemn FGM because of my colonial past.” Is this putative desire to carry the burdens of the past squarely on one’s shoulders echoed among feminists?

Some of them, yes. I wrote a furious post in 2008 about some on the Women’s Studies mailing list.

Back to Sarah Peace:

Germaine Greer once argued that attempts to outlaw FGM amounted to ‘an attack on cultural identity’, stating: “one man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation.” Greer was widely condemned, almost unanimously. Nearly 20 years on, some fields of study in academia including critical race and gender theory are reawakening the same argument albeit from a postcolonial perspective – the difference now being that a generation of ethnic minority students have themselves, bought into this defeating narrative. The narrative becomes upturned, and any cause that contravenes the ugly history of colonialism is one they would sign up to, regardless of the implications.

This pattern of taking an apologetic stance is increasingly expressed on the far-reaching left, reinforcing the idea that concerns of gender based violence become a separate issue to feminism if the perpetrator is brown or black. The issue is deemed as ‘their own problem’, inherent to their culture, which should be left to them.

Rather the way the Final Solution was the Jews’ own problem which should have been left to them, I suppose.

It is possible that lecturers are finding it increasingly difficult to swim against the wave of regressive thought endemic to courses in humanities, nevertheless students should be presented with the plural sides of the debate. There was no mention of African feminists who have dedicated their lives to banishing FGM, such as the [late] Ghanaian activist Efua Dorkenoo, who worked tirelessly for 30 years and pioneered the global movement to end the practice, along with Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi, a vocal abolitionist. In the diaspora, campaigners of African heritage include Mona Eltahawy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Amal Farah, Nahla Mahmoud, Bogaletch Gebre, Alishba Zarmeen, Jaha Dukureh, Hibo Wardere, Salimata Knight, Mona Walter,Sainab Abdi, Leyla Hussein, Nimko Ali and many others too numerous to list.

Unlike veiling, FGM is not a category to which we can apply surplus doses of cultural relativism or justification by brandishing theories of orientalism and notions of colonial resistance. If we truly stand for universal human rights, we must demand better from our institutions.

Universal human rights of course are what lefties of the Goldsmiths type don’t stand for, and that’s what makes them so right wing under the left wing makeup.

A scientific fraud continues to occupy a spotlight

Mar 27th, 2016 10:29 am | By

The Andrew Wakefield “documentary” is no longer part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

In a statement, Robert De Niro, a founder of the festival, wrote: “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

I don’t know what that “an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family” shit is supposed to mean. That’s an annoying thing to say, and I wish he’d left it out. Vaccination is personal to everyone, and it’s also impersonal to everyone. It’s not Special to the family of Robert DeNiro, and his being a movie star doesn’t make it so. Vaccination is a very public issue, and people who start thinking of it as “deeply personal” are likely to go on to think of it as something they get to opt out of, because they’re so special…while they depend on other, not-special people to go on vaccinating so that the no-vaxxers can still benefit from herd immunity.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said on Saturday that he believed “the entire board as well as Mr. De Niro have learned a lot in the last several days.”

“My hat is off to them for listening, thinking about it, discussing it and responding,” he said.

Nevertheless, Dr. Schaffner said, it was troubling for scientists that a film promoting “discredited ideas” got so close to a forum as prestigious as the Tribeca Film Festival.

For scientists and also for all the rest of us, who prefer not to see a measles epidemic thanks very much. And yeah – it’s good that they pulled it but they shouldn’t have included it in the first place.

“It gave these fraudulent ideas a face and a position and an energy that many of us thought they didn’t deserve,” he said. “We’re all for ongoing reasonable debate and discussion, but these are ideas that have been proven to be incorrect many, many, many times over the past 15 years.”

And they’re harmful. They’re not just wrong, they’re harmful. Measles can kill.

People pointed out that the film’s presence on the schedule gave it credibility, and now Wakefield can play the “banned by BigPharma” card.

Doctors and infectious disease experts also spoke out. “Unless the Tribeca Film Festival plans to definitively unmask Andrew Wakefield, it will be yet another disheartening chapter where a scientific fraud continues to occupy a spotlight,” Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said in an interview on Friday.

As the criticism mounted on Friday, Mr. De Niro defended the film, saying that he and his wife, Grace Hightower, have a child with autism and that “we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”

Sigh. They’ve been openly discussed and examined, Bob. People with the right kind of knowledge have found that Wakefield committed fraud in that discredited study. It’s a technical subject, and technical subjects, unlike political and ethical ones, don’t need public discussion to get things right. The discussion and examination happened years ago, the findings were published, there is no need to keep discussing.

Most of the dead and injured are women and children

Mar 27th, 2016 9:45 am | By

This hour it’s the turn of Lahore, Pakistan. The BBC reports:

An explosion in the Pakistani city of Lahore has killed at least 50 people and injured dozens more, officials say.

The blast was in a large park in the south-west of the city, where many people had gathered late on Sunday.

The Beeb’s reporter Shaimaa Khalil says speculation is the target was Christians out for the Easter weekend.

Most of the dead and injured are women and children, a senior local police officer told Reuters news agency.

One eyewitness said there was chaos, with a stampede breaking out and children separated from their parents in the rush to escape.

Another told local media of pools of blood and scattered body parts in the park.

Most of the dead and injured are women and children.

So many stand on the sidelines

Mar 26th, 2016 3:07 pm | By

Alice Dreger on Twitter:

This is not a healthy intellectual climate. A political movement that can demonize and lie about an academic of Alice Dreger’s caliber is not going to lead us to a better world.

He represents the possibility of a return to patriarchy

Mar 26th, 2016 11:24 am | By

Franklin Foer at Slate argues that Donald Trump’s actual core ideology is misogyny.

Trump wants us to know all about his sex life. He doesn’t regard sex as a private activity. It’s something he broadcasts to demonstrate his dominance, of both women and men. In his view, treating women like meat is a necessary precondition for winning, and winning is all that matters in his world. By winning, Trump means asserting superiority. And since life is a zero-sum game, superiority can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.

To tell the truth, I resent having to pay any attention at all to Donald Trump. I never have before, and I’m annoyed that I have to now. I don’t see why a real estate hustler thinks he’s qualified to be president in the first place, and I don’t see why he doesn’t have even the minimal conscientiousness it would take to realize he should be qualified for the job before trying to get it, and it pisses me off that his lacks force the rest of us to pay attention to him. What a ludicrous infantile setup.

This was a view etched in Trump from an early age. He was the archetypal brat. His father, himself a successful real estate developer, endlessly expressed a belief in his son’s greatness. “You are a king,” his father would tell Donald, according to his biographer Michael D’Antonio.

Sounds like that guy on Twitter who’s always saying he’s THE KING.

Trump considers himself such a virile example of masculinity that he’s qualified to serve as the ultimate arbiter of femininity. He relishes judging women on the basis of their looks, which he seems to believe amounts to the sum of their character. Walking out of his meeting with the Washington Post editorial board this week, he paused topronounce editor Karen Attiah “beautiful.” When he owned the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, he would screen all the contestants. His nominal reason for taking on this role was to make sure that his lackeys weren’t neglecting any beauties. His real motive was to humiliate the women. He would ask a contestant to name which of her competitors she found “hot.” If he didn’t consider a woman up to his standards, he would direct her to stand with her fellow “discards.”

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Humiliating women by decrying their ugliness is an almost recreational pastime for Trump. When the New York Times columnist Gail Collins described him as a “financially embittered thousandaire,” he sent her a copy of the column with her picture circled. “The Face of a Dog!” he scrawled over her visage. This is the tack he took with Carly Fiorina, when he described her facial appearance as essentially disqualifying her from the presidency. It’s the method he’s used to denounce Cher, Bette Midler, Angelina Jolie, and Rosie O’Donnell—“fat ass,” “slob, “extremely unattractive,” etc.—when they had the temerity to criticize him. The joy he takes in humiliating women is not something he even bothers to disguise. He told the journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, “My favorite part [of the movie Pulp Fiction] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” Or as he elegantly summed up his view to New York magazine in the early ’90s, “Women, you have to treat them like shit.”

Of course he doesn’t bother to disguise it. That kind of thing is massively popular. We didn’t know that until Twitter came along, but now we do.

This is one reason that evangelicals, both men and women, gravitate to Trump, despite his obvious lack of interest in religion and blatantly loose morals. He represents the possibility of a return to patriarchy, to a time when men were men, and didn’t have to apologize for it. While he celebrates his own sexuality, he believes that female sexuality has spun out of control and needs to be contained. The best example of this view is a reality show called Lady or a Tramp, which Trump developed for Fox but never aired. The premise of the show was that Trump would take “girls in love with the party life” and send them off for a “stern course” on manners. “We are all sick and tired of the glamorization of these out-of-control young women,” he told Variety, “so I have taken it upon myself to do something about it.”

While boasting about how much “pussy” he “gets” – from earlier in the piece:

When Tucker Carlson once mocked him on air, Trump called the pundit and left a voicemail: “It’s true you have better hair than I do. But I get more pussy than you do.”

Manly men get lots of pussy; women who have sex are out-of-control tramps.

I hope I can forget all about Donald Trump soon.