Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

When in doubt, lock up all the women

Feb 6th, 2013 3:41 pm | By

The headstrong survivors of the Magdalene laundries are threatening to go on a hunger strike if the Irish government doesn’t set up a redress board.

Steven O’Riordain, a representative of the Magdalene Survivors Together, has warned  some women will go on hunger strike if the government does not meet their demands.

“There is a possibility that this will happen. Some of the women have said if they do not get proper redress from a state which was responsible for being abandoned in these institutions. Many of them say they are at that age now where they have nothing to lose if the government fails to set up a scheme that will give some compensation for what happened to them,” he said.

In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Irish government to set up an inquiry into the treatment of thousands of women and girls.

It has been estimated that up to 30,000 women passed through the laundries and had to wash clothing and bedding for bodies ranging from the Irish army to hotel groups in the republic without any pay.

Three orders of Catholic nuns – the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd – ran the Magdalene laundries.

Nuns ran these slave camps for “headstrong” girls. How charitable, how merciful, how like a good shepherd. Thank you very much.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Too headstrong

Feb 6th, 2013 3:33 pm | By

John Walsh on the Irish government and the Magdalene laundries.

These were places where “loose girls” or “fallen women” could be packed off to, girls impregnated by their fathers or uncles or the local priest, girls who were considered too flightly or flirtatious or headstrong to be biddable members of society. They could be put to work all day, washing sheets for the military, fed on bread and dripping, forbidden to speak and offered no way out, or any explanation about why they were imprisoned. Half of them were teenagers, doomed to spend their best years in a workhouse, being humiliated by nuns, told they’d offended God and that their parents didn’t want them.

Prisons. Slavery. For girls who were considered too something or other.

Ireland has had a chronic problem of keeping church and state matters apart. Government and church traditionally, if tacitly, support each other – which meant, in the past, the authorities turning a blind eye to abusive priests. The girls sent to the Magdalene Laundries had committed no crime – they were accused of committing sin – but they could be taken by Gardai and locked away in prisons funded by the state.

No wonder the government didn’t want the ghastly business coming into the light. It’s vital Mr Kenny tries to frame some response to the victims’ families beyond feeling sorry for what the victims endured. And the Magdalene report confirms the importance of keeping church and state matters separate – even if, as we’ve seen in this week’s historic Commons vote, the institutions are heading for a fight.

More important to frame a response to the victims than to their families – they’re not all dead, after all.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Another bishop heard from

Feb 6th, 2013 11:30 am | By

A Catholic bishop says Obama is a negation of Lincoln because Lincoln was all “freedom” and Obama hates freedom.

He has chosen to use the bully pulpit not to call upon us all to be nobler and to embrace each child, regardless of origins and circumstances; rather, he has been a proponent of an expediency that is shameful and criminal in the eyes of Almighty God.

The bishop knows that about the eyes of almighty god how? No how. He doesn’t. He just says he does. He may think he does, or he may pretend he does, but either way, he’s wrong.

In my view, those who voted for President Obama bear the responsibility for a step deeper in the culture of death. Under the cover of women’s issues, we now see an assault on religious freedom and personal conscience.

Well that’s an easy dismissal, and a slyly dishonest accusation. “Under the cover of women’s issues”? That’s just a pretext, and really it’s for the sheer fun of ending pregnancies?

No. It’s about women’s need to be able to decide how their lives will go in matters that are physically subject to control. That ain’t no pretext.

I would have hoped that the first African-American president of the United States would have stood on the side of freedom for all. Instead, he stands on the side of political expediency.

“Freedom for all”? By which the bishop means “including freedom for bishops to take away women’s freedom to control their own reproduction.”

That’s not a reasonable understanding of the word, Biship DiMarzio.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A good one-liner

Feb 6th, 2013 11:18 am | By

Mother Jones@MotherJones

Boy Scouts say they need more time to reconsider ban on gay scouts. Wait, isn’t their motto “be prepared”?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Good luck in Somalia

Feb 5th, 2013 2:55 pm | By

A woman in Somalia said she was raped by some security forces, so she has been given a year in jail “for making a false accusation and insulting a government body.”

Judge Ahmed Aden Farah said the woman would not go to jail immediately as she is caring for a young child.

How very generous.

The woman had reported the alleged rape at a police station in Hodan, a district in Mogadishu where many displaced people live.

“We sentence her for offending state institutions by claiming she was raped,” the AFP news agency quotes the judge as saying.

“She will spend one year in prison after finishing the breastfeeding of her baby.”

State institutions in Somalia sure are easily offended, aren’t they.

Last month, the UN special representative on sexual violence, Zainab Hawa Bangura, said the Somali government’s approach to the case did not “serve the interest of justice; it only serves to criminalise victims and undermine freedom
of expression for the press”.

Well the woman can consider herself lucky she wasn’t stoned to death. Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Repairs under way

Feb 5th, 2013 12:11 pm | By

As you may have seen via this comment on A fabulous Manly Meal, Harriet Hall has a long post on Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much. The key point is -

Average Differences Don’t Tell Us Anything About Individuals

The point that often gets overlooked in these discussions is that gender differences are averages for the group. They are irrelevant to a discussion of what jobs any individual woman is qualified for or interested in. And it doesn’t mean we can predict what proportion of men or women will gravitate to any given area of human endeavor.

Precisely. I keep saying exactly that.

But even more interesting than the post, perhaps, is a comment by David Gorski (Orac, you know). It’s the 8th one down – there are no permalinks for comments.

To be fair, in another article Shermer did rather foolishly inflame the issue by calling the issue a “witch hunt” and including a mind-numbingly silly and gratuitous Nazi reference:

It was not one of Shermer’s finer moments, I’m afraid.

Also, to be fair, there is a misogyny problem in the skeptical movement. It’s hard not to come to that conclusion if you spend some time perusing the Slymepit:

We’ve given Gorski a hard time here a few times lately (on and off) for not calling out Shermer’s Nazi reference when he did call out a considerably milder one of mine. (Milder in the sense that I didn’t compare Grothe to Nazis, I compared blaming women for complaining to blaming Jews for complaining in 1936 [i.e. Nazi but pre-Final Solution] Germany.) So there we go: now he has. Fair’s fair.

But what he says about the misogyny problem and the slyme pit is even more striking. Exactly so, and thank you for saying so. Seriously.

Stephanie recorded a lot of examples the other day, ending with one for me.

 acid cunt prune


Geddit? I’m ancient and disgusting, I’m a cunt, and I deserve some acid. Funny stuff.

Yes, we have a misogyny problem in the skeptical movement. If the sane part of the skeptical movement explicitly distances itself from that kind of shit the way David Gorski did, then the problem will become much smaller.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Magdalene laundries

Feb 5th, 2013 10:56 am | By

The report on the Magdalene laundries in Ireland is out.

Between 1922 and 1996 around 10,000 women are known to have entered Magdalen laundries, working for no pay in what were lonely and frightening places.

Senator McAleese and his committee were asked to outline the extent of state involvement and knowledge of the women in these laundries.

In each of the five categories it examined, it found evidence of state involvement. Most notably, 26% of the women who entered the laundries were referred there by the state.

The authorities also inspected the laundries, funded them, and registered the departures and deaths of the women there.

But it found that there was a legal basis for the state’s involvement as many of the women were referred by the courts as a condition of probation, or under supervision after enrolment in industrial schools.

Many but not all. That means that some were there without due process. That means they were unlawfully held prisoner – in an institution the state was partly involved with. It’s incredibly sinister.

The Irish Times presents one personal experience.

Her mother died when she was seven. At 14, her father remarried but she and a younger sister were unwelcome in the new family household, the only home they ever knew. Poverty was her only crime.

She was taken to the Good Shepherd convent in New Ross, her younger sister sent by train to the congregation’s Limerick house. The Good Shepherds managed industrial schools for children at both locations and a reformatory school for girls in Limerick.

But the two sisters were put to work in the Magdalene laundry with its population of adult women workers. For the next five years she washed society’s dirty laundry and received no pay. When she refused to work the nuns cut her hair as punishment. The hair grew back but to this day the loss of her education angers her. To her, it was a prison in all but name. There was no inspector, no child welfare officer. She was abandoned and no one cared.

She wasn’t just abandoned. She was imprisoned and made to do forced labor for no pay. She was kept out of school. She was first abandoned (and rejected) and then imprisoned and enslaved.

…the women’s testimony is compelling. It rebuts government claims that they entered these institutions “voluntarily”. It contradicts the religious orders’ assertion that women were free to come and go as they pleased. Some survivors describe their experience as tantamount to “slavery”, living behind locked doors and barred windows.

They insist, moreover, that members of An Garda Síochána routinely brought women to the laundries and/or returned women who escaped – regardless of whether the State was involved in committing them in the first place, and in the absence of any statutory basis for doing so.

The women’s testimony corroborates historical archives that disclose the transfer into the Magdalene laundries of children from State-funded residential institutions and unmarried mothers from State-licensed mother-and-baby homes.

There is no evidence to suggest the State made certain the release of these women and young girls. Some would remain to live and die behind convent walls.

The Free State was a slave state.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A fabulous “Manly Meal”

Feb 4th, 2013 5:18 pm | By

A Catholic men’s organization invited Dan Barker to debate a Catholic theologian on the topic “Do The Gospels Give Us The Real Jesus?” and he was publicizing it along with them. But then he spotted something he hadn’t noticed before.

On January 29, as I was updating FFRF’s Events page, I went to the AOTM website for details. ( I spotted this note at the bottom of the page announcing my event:

“$12 at the door (The total cost for the night) You will get great appetizers and beverages, hear one of the best inspirational stories you have ever heard about manhood and faith. Do all this while you listen and enjoy a fabulous “Manly Meal”. Men of all creeds and ages are welcome to join in the good humor, food, and fellowship. Priests and seminarians get in free but will not be shown partiality in debate. Fathers are encouraged to bring their minor sons.”

I almost glanced over that paragraph, but the last line caught my eye: “Fathers are encouraged to bring their minor sons.” What?! What about daughters? What about mothers? It was only then that I realized this event was not just organized by men, but it was for men. For men exclusively. (What exactly is a “Manly Meal”?)

So he asked the organizer about it, and the organizer confirmed that it’s men only, and Dan said can you change it for this event and the organizer said no.

So he decided not to do it.

There was no good reason to exclude women from that event. Although I am sure the AOTM club, a private religious organization that meets in a Catholic church, would deny they are causing any harm, it seems clear to me that they are perpetuating the same Old Boys Club mentality espoused by the Pope, their church leaders, and their bible, which demeans women and tells them to “keep silent” in the church that is run by “men only.” I can’t change their minds, but I am sure not going to play along with such bronze-age discrimination.

All that and the Old Boys Club also makes rules that women are (religiously speaking) required to obey, despite having no role in making them.

Good job Dan Barker.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What they don’t get

Feb 4th, 2013 1:15 pm | By

What it’s like to be Rebecca.

She got a message this morning with a link.

The link was to a pornographic MS Paint drawing someone made of me and posted to a Rule 34 porn site under the username “rand0mathe1st.” The image depicts me bound and gagged, covered in semen, with a dildo up my ass. It reads, “Rebecca Watson is an object.” Here’s a link to a censored but still NSFW version that may be disturbing to you if you don’t get this shit sent to you all the time. It’s interesting to think of how much time and energy that person must spend thinking about me, fantasizing about sex with me, and wondering how much one should charge to rape me.

She thinks a lot about sloths, Rebecca adds, but enough to do that kind of thing? She gives it a shot, but it’s too boring. Go see the cute sloth face though.

Usually the troll messages just go into my trash bin and I get on with my day, but I thought the timing of it was too good to not mention. For a start, it handily supports Dr. Heldman’s lecture about objectification, posted below. But also, it should help make it clearer what women like me, like the other Skepchicks, like Stephanie Zvan, like Greta Christina, like Ophelia Benson, deal with on a daily basis.

I want you to think about this the next time you hear Michael Shermer complain that Ophelia Benson’s mild criticism of his words is a “McCarthy-like witch hunt,” or when Paula Kirby complains that she’s being persecuted by feminazis because women are asking for better treatment, or when anyone complains that PZ and others are “Freethought Bullies,” or when anyone complains that I complain too much because once every few months I provide examples of the harassment I receive. Shermer, Kirby, and the others have no idea what it’s like to be hunted and harassed, because “our side,” the people who are speaking out against harassment, don’t do this to them. Michael Shermer isn’t told every day by atheists and skeptics that he’s worth nothing aside from the sexual gratification his body could offer someone. He isn’t told by atheists and skeptics that he deserves to be raped and abused. Atheists and skeptics don’t spend hours drawing images of him in dehumanizing positions. They don’t tell him that they’re going to sexually assault him if they see him at a conference. They don’t tell him he’s too old or fat or ugly to fuck. They aren’t so terrified of what he has to say that they’ll do anything they can to silence him. And they don’t tell him that his disinterest in putting up with any of the former makes him too sensitive to be involved in the atheist or skeptic community.

Instead, they focus on his words and on his arguments and they offer an opposing viewpoint. If that’s what Shermer thinks of as a witch hunt, then a single day of the treatment I get would have him boarding up the windows at Skeptic Magazine faster than you can come up with a bigoted nickname based on his name.

That is the truth.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The timing of everything was carefully executed

Feb 4th, 2013 12:48 pm | By

What it’s like to be a woman in The Industry. What industry? It almost doesn’t matter, does it. This one is the tech industry.

This week – someone decided to upload fake porn pictures of me to the internet – when I say fake I don’t mean my head stuck on someone’s body, but lookalikes or in some cases, just blonde girls with blue eyes and terrible taste in underwear. I digress. This is someone with far too much time on their hands and someone with a definite grudge. I’ve taught myself over the years to take the rough with the smooth and develop a thick skin, I’ve been free of online trouble for a while and rightly or wrongly, I was kind of expecting my run of luck to end. To say it caught me off guard, would be a lie, but to see how low someone would stoop, did. However, it’s amazing how resilient and detached you can be when you know you’ve been that boring your entire life that you’ve never taken nude pictures of yourself.

The interesting thing about what this individual did was show themselves as wanting to try and damage my professional integrity with blatant trolling. It all started a week ago from the date of writing this. I started to receive emails from creepy guys and eventually traced back to a site that various pictures had been posted to. The pictures were uploaded alongside my personal email address, (old) hometown and a screenshot of my Twitter account. There was also an open forum for comments at the bottom, which I’m sure you can imagine the type of things posted there.

Sarah Parmenter wrote that far in August, then shelved the post. Now she continues:

The timing of everything was carefully executed, they knew I was speaking at one of our industry’s best known conferences, ‘An Event Apart’ – they started to try and spam the feed ‘A Feed Apart’ on the day of my talk – they then tried, unsuccessfully, to post to the ‘An Event Apart’ Facebook feed during my talk, they set up a fake Twitter account and tried to at-reply my employers for that conference as well as high-profile twitter users I was associated with, to ensure they knew about the pictures and their existence.

It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it. She still doesn’t know who did it.

There’s many questions around why there aren’t more females speaking in this industry. I can tell you why, they are scared. Everytime I jump on stage, I get comments, either about the way I look, or the fact that I’m the female, the token, the one they have to sit through in order for the males to come back on again. One conference, I even had a guy tweet something derogatory about me not 30 seconds into my talk, only for me to bring up the point he had berated me for not bringing up, not a minute later – which caused him to have to apologise to my face after public backlash. I’ve had one guy come up to me in a bar and say (after explaining he didn’t like my talk)… “no offence, I just don’t relate to girls speaking about the industry at all, I learn better from guys”. I could write a book on inappropriate things that have been said to me at conferences about girls in the industry so much so, it’s become a running joke with fellow speakers. I know other girls who could also chip in a fair few chapters but, underneath the humour sometimes found in these situations, lies a very real problem.

It’s no great secret that girls are a minority in this industry, you only have to look at the queues for the toilets at any conference, however, it’s forgotten that it’s not about female speakers, it’s about finding female speakers who have enough of a thick skin to want to stand up infront of an audience of twitter-trigger-happy males and public speak. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Then ontop – when you finally feel comfortable with speaking, you get put into a big black pot and tarnished with the label “same old face”. This happened to me on my third ever speaking engagement, third? I was tarnished as a “same old face”. Since then it’s become water off a ducks back – I’m not going to let a label stop me from developing and growing my speaking skills, I’m by no means perfect and still have a lot to learn. We should be encouraging anyone who shows an aptitude or love for sharing their knowledge with the community.

Among other things – many, many other things – this is one huge reason it’s such a mistake ever to claim that the reason there are so few women in ___________ is because “it’s more of a guy thing.” It’s a colossal, gigantic, monumental mistake ever to take the absence of women as the outcome of pure uninfluenced inclination. Women are being systematically deliberately forcibly kept out, in a way far more conspiratorial and intentional than I would ever have imagined possible until it started happening to me and to friends of mine and to women like Sarah Parmenter and Helen Lewis and Mary Beard and Anita Sarkeesian and is that enough name to be going on with for now?

Don’t you ever, ever assume that my non-presence in a place means that I’d rather go out for ice cream that day. Never lose sight of the very real possibility that “I” (by “I” I mean all of us) was bullied out, on purpose. Never look at a sea of male faces and assume that all the female ones are contentedly at home making soup.

Via PZ.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Susan on genre and stereotypes

Feb 4th, 2013 11:52 am | By

Susan wrote this as a comment on The romance novelist and the guy with a truck from last month.

This post is especially  relevant to me.  I am a feminist, and here is the great irony in my own life … I have been writing romance novels for 20 years. And I have resisted  the stereotypes almost every step of the way. When I began,  when “strong” female characters were becoming as common as “damsel” characters, I began with women who dressed in jeans and boots and such.  I think I must have had “heroines” who wore skirts and heels, but of course I was basically writing some avatar of myself in both male and female characters, and I stopped wearing skirts and high heels after college (and only wore them before them to special events such as weddings, or to job interviews).

After the first few novels, I increasingly tried to write women who were fully equal to the men, but even in the 90’s there was (and still remains) the expectation that the man will ultimately be the protector/dominant. That expectation became increasingly frustrating to me, to the point that that (along with the expectation of frequent sex scenes) led me to hate the genre. ( I was constantly thinking …. oh, is the heroine “too” strong? Is the hero not strong enough for the readers and my editor?)

I  continued to write in it because I am good at love stories and because it’s my sole way of earning money, but trying to buck the system ultimately led to my being let go and losing 3/4 of my income.  (I might add that my disinterest in loves scenes is not prudishness; I actually enjoy writing “bondage” type sex–which is only appropriate in some novel settings–but I find average sex scenes rather boring compared to other aspects of building a relationship.  And I’ve literally written hundreds of “love” scenes, as they have always been euphemistically called in the genre … though perhaps not now that erotica is so hot.)

Now I have realized that writing romance has almost destroyed my writing soul, and though we will be very tight financially, I will not be writing another romance novel. Instead, I am writing fantasy—my first urban fantasy (based on Norse mythology, set in San Francisco) will be out in July from TOR books.  I loved being able to make the woman protagonist earthy and “masculine” in the way I am, not interested in conforming to gender expectations, and as much or more likely to rescue the male protagonist/love interest as the other way around.  I loved writing my version of mythical Loki as a pansexual trickster who prefers to embody himself as a man but can as easily appear as a woman, who loves sex, and who messes with everyone sexually and emotionally while not being quite the villain he seems to be.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I have had constant conflicts in my mind and heart over writing in a genre I know most fellow feminists probably despise, trying to hit the right buttons for the readers, and keeping my writer’s soul from withering.  It’s been a balancing act that ultimately, after 20 years, hasn’t worked.  And yet though I’m not ashamed of most of what I’ve written, I’ve felt ashamed among feminists to admit what I’ve done for a living.

This is all a rambling way of saying (as I finish what I hope will be my last romance novel forever) that I’m sick of boxes, and of feeling ashamed, and yet not fulfilling/able to fulfill genre expectations well enough to continue a career in the field. I have felt bizarrely alone in this way since I began my career and knew I didn’t fit in with most of the other romance novelists I know. Your post , though not specifically on the subject of romance novels in general, just got me going on things I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time.

It has been a very strange, sometimes rewarding, often painful and confusing way of making a living.  I hope I can make enough money writing fantasy so that I can continue, since that is what my heart truly loves, and where I don’t have to worry if the main female character is often “stronger” in some way or other than the male. And that the men don’t have to be stereotypically “masculine” or the women “feminine” and the characters can be who they are. (And even so, I know I still fall into gender traps without realizing it. All I can do is try!)

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Like many others

Feb 3rd, 2013 4:11 pm | By

Janet Heimlich casts a cold eye on a bishop’s “apology.”

You know what’s coming. We could all write the “apology” in our sleep.

“I wish to acknowledge and apologize for those instances when I made decisions regarding the treatment and disposition of clergy accused of sexual abuse that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken.” Curry added, “Like many others, I have come to a clearer understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse, and I have fully implemented in my pastoral region the archdiocese’s policies and procedures for reporting abuse, screening those who supervise children and abuse prevention training for adults and children.”

Uh huh. In retrospect. In retrospect they appear inadequate or mistaken. As Janet says, that’s no apology.

In retrospect they appear inadequate or mistaken, meaning, they appeared perfectly fine at the time, indeed virtuous and holy, because otherwise I wouldn’t have done them, because I am a bishop. It was all a mistake of perception, like being color blind. It was not at all a failure of empathy or moral alertness or basic consideration for others or recognition of the helplessness of a child in the hands of an adult man with all the weight of the church behind him. No no. Just a mistake, that’s all, like thinking Pluto was a planet.

Like many others, now he has learned better, but he didn’t know then, and that’s not his fault because he was like many others. Only he was also completely different because he was a Catholic priest, so he got to conceal crimes from the police. Janet continues:

The statement is disgraceful and disrespects victims of sexual abuse. The documents that have been released reveal communications between Curry and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who is also Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, in which they discussed ways to conceal cases of molestation from law enforcement. (Mahoney issued a more heartfelt apology to victims on January 21.) One particular case involves a priest who admitted to sexu­ally ab­us­ing 13 boys dur­ing his 36 years in the Los Angeles arch­diocese. Yet, rather than reporting the man to police, Curry said he should be sent to “a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist,” thereby putting “the reports under the protection of privilege.”

But he wants us to think that at the time, like many others, he didn’t know it’s not ok to hide crimes from the police.

But then if he didn’t know, because he was like many others, what becomes of the church’s claim to be better than everyone else? Why didn’t his priesthood make him better than “many others” – isn’t that the whole point of it? If it’s not, why are they always trying to tell everyone what to do?

They’re lying cowardly self-serving placeholders. They let their colleagues and friends make generations of children miserable, and now they pretend they didn’t know any better. They’re contemptible.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Cultural crap

Feb 3rd, 2013 1:58 pm | By

What is “radical feminism”? I see peculiar definitions here and there – or not so much definitions, as ad hoc explanations apparently pulled out of people’s…imaginary reference materials. The definitions or ad hoc explanations are crafted in such a way that they appear to fit feminists the crafters dislike, unless you actually know anything about the feminists in question.

There’s Vacula’s definition for example.

Secular Woman is an organization, launched in June of 2012, which aims to “amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious woman.” I was initially supportive of the organization and helped promote it because I had hoped that this organization would provide a fresh breath of air to the discussion about women’s issues – something much different than what many have already heard from the likes of radical or gender feminists in the secular community who seem to believe that men, ‘the patriarchy,’ and misogyny are responsible for all or most of the problems women face.

Mmm. Yeh. Except we don’t.

Not even close.

A straw definition if ever I saw one. I don’t talk about “the patriarchy” for example; I don’t even talk about it much without the definite article. I also don’t think anything as stupid or crude or off the mark as that. I don’t think even actual radical feminists think anything as stupid as that. Most of the problems all people face are just part of being a mortal animal! There are core human problems and challenges that feminism can’t possibly touch. Feminists aren’t so stupid that we don’t know that.

And even if we improve the definition by specifying social problems or political problems or the problems of being seen as subordinate, they still don’t boil down to making “men, ‘the patriarchy,’ and misogyny” responsible for all of them.

The sources of sexism and misogyny (and no, I do not treat them as identical; that’s a later post) that interest me most are cultural; memes, if you like. Women are responsible for them too! I don’t think there is a cabal of patriarchs running a meme factory that keeps women down. I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.

I do also think it matters. That, I think, is what people mean when they call us “radical feminists” – that we think cultural crap matters. But that’s not radical feminism. Second wave feminism always thought cultural crap matters. All second wave feminism. That was the point of it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Why, I know you

Feb 3rd, 2013 9:45 am | By

So there’s this blob on a wall where some water damage happened, and damned if that blob isn’t the spitting image of The Virgin Mary™ – or rather of the outline of one of those creepy statuette things that are supposed to represent The Virgin Mary™.

It’s cool, too, because on the wall to her right hangs her son on his execution-by-torture device. Idn that pretty? They’re together again, or at least little statue-type deals that are supposed to represent them are together.

(Have you ever noticed that it’s oddly hard not to see dolls and stuffed animals and the like as just a little bit sentient? Because I have. I guess that’s just because the recognition of what is sentient is so deeply rooted and automatic that it’s hard to over-ride it even though you know the fuzzy puppy doll is no more sentient than a brick.)

(This is Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2. There are some System 1 things you can’t not do – one nice example he gives is “think of Paris when you hear the capital of France.”)

(This could explain a lot about the fuss over abortion.)

Veronica points out

It will take more than a miracle for the Catholic Church to placate the thousands of parishioners who are outraged by church closures and who are disgusted with the behaviour of the clergy in the diocese.

Someone should design a really cuddly priest doll.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

In a defeat for misogyny and ignorance

Feb 2nd, 2013 4:57 pm | By

Yo! Breaking news – Malala has indeed been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.


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Another way of saying shut up

Feb 2nd, 2013 4:07 pm | By

Michael Nugent points out a classic example of the special rules by which what would be an utterly normal tone of voice and wording and manner in a man get called “shrill” when it’s a woman speaking. The woman is Senator Ivana Bacik, asking questions at the parliamentary hearings on abortion law. She speaks firmly, and with an edge, but not the least bit “shrilly.” But hey, she’s a woman, and she’s talking firmly and with an edge to men. Must be shrill. Stands to reason.

In an opinion piece titled ‘We can’t be cowed by shrill voices’, editor Michael Kelly wrote:

“Ms Bacik clearly disagrees with the Catholic view that all human life is sacred and that in pregnancy mothers and their unborn child should have an equal right to life. Can’t she disagree politely, however?

A gentleman is one, the old saying goes, who can disagree without being disagreeable. The same surely applies for ladies.

Shrill caricatures have no place in mature debates. It is becoming increasingly difficult in modern Ireland to have a calm and rational debate about things people disagree about.”

He makes her a child, too, and one who has no place in parliamentary hearings (despite the fact that she’s a Senator).

Well maybe Michael Kelly divides humanity into two types: potential priests, and shrill babies.

Senator Bacik speaks at 2:36:

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The X case itself has crossed that line

Feb 2nd, 2013 3:40 pm | By

Here are Michael Nugent and Ivana Bacik responding to abortion law questions at an Irish parliamentary hearing.

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Mary-flavored potato chips

Feb 2nd, 2013 12:33 pm | By

Aw, another innocent marketing decision goes awry.

Sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger has withdrawn a new “Virgin Mary” brand of crisps following religious complaints.

The firm, with about 350 shops in the UK, launched the spicy tomato crisps – based on the non-alcoholic version of a Bloody Mary cocktail – last week.

This prompted complaints, including from Catholic groups, that it was an offensive reference to Jesus’s mother.

A company spokesman said it had noted complainants’ “strength of feeling” and withdrawn the product to avoid offence.

Now look here, Jesus’s mother isn’t the only virgin Mary in the world. How do the complainers know that Pret A Manger didn’t mean their cousin Mary age six? How do they know Pret A Manger meant just that one virgin Mary and not any other virgin Mary?

(I bet I know how Pret A Manger is pronounced, and I bet it’s not prounounced as if it were, you know, French. I bet it’s pronounced PRETTaMONjay. It’s certainly not spelled as if it were French.)

The Reverend Nick Donnelly, deacon of the Diocese of Lancaster and author of Protect the Pope website, was among those who complained to Pret A Manger.

Following the decision to withdraw the crisps, he wrote on the Protect the Pope site: “Clive Schlee and Pret A Manger deserve our unreserved thanks for listening to our concerns as Catholics and for acting so quickly to remove the brand of crisps.

“It seems fitting that Pret A Manger are planning to give any unsold crisps to the homeless.”

He added: “One of the things we need to go away and think about is what this incident tells us about how we defend our faith in the future.

“We’ve been passive for too long in the face of mockery of our faith and discrimination against us as Catholics.”

Yeah? How noisy have you been about child-raping priests? Ireland’s industrial schools? Lies about condoms?

H/t Roger.

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No you may not decide for you

Feb 2nd, 2013 10:40 am | By

The anti-abortion phalanx in Ireland is shouting louder than ever, according to the BBC.

The groups taking part – Youth Defence, Pro Life Ireland and the Catholic organisation, the Iona Institute – testify to the polemical nature of the debate here.

“Keep Your Promise!” they shout – a direct reference to a 2011 election pledge by the main party in Ireland’s coalition not to legislate for abortion.

Nice pledge – a “promise” to keep women enslaved by the physical fact that it’s possible to become pregnant without consent.

Nope, sorry, laydeez, tough shit. God gave you the equipment to become pregnant so if you do become pregnant you don’t get to complain that you didn’t mean to, that you don’t want to bear a child at this time, that it was an accident or coercion. No dice. Your plumbing, your choice; it’s too late to back out now. You should have thought of that before you were born female.

During mass, priests across the country stress the importance of every human being’s right to life from the moment of conception until natural death.

While many Catholics remain devoted to the church’s official position, some of those I spoke to after a service at St Theresa’s Church in Dublin feel conflicted.

“It is unfair of the Catholic religion to impose their views,” said one of the few churchgoers who would talk, stating that she was not in favour of abortion.

“That said, I think the mother has the right to decide,” she added.

During mass, priests across the country talk sanctimonious bullshit, but even some churchgoers manage to maintain a grip on some shred of reasonable practical ethics.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When is World Yellow Star Day?

Feb 1st, 2013 5:37 pm | By

Oh swell, it’s “World Hijab Day.” Whatever the hell that is. It seems kind of early, since it was also “World Hijab Day” back in September, according to Taslima. I wonder when World Chains of Enslavement Day is.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain forum has a page on the subject.

I begrudgingly wore the headscarf until very recently. I started disliking it when I was 13, and my dislike for it got more and more intense until I absolutely fucking hated it by the time I was 17. I didn’t express my feelings towards the hijab, partly because as a Muslim I felt guilty for feeling that way, but mostly because I was too scared that my parents would force me to continue wearing it and view me differently/negatively if I broached the subject.

Absolutely fucking hating it is a good sign.

I’m an ex-muslim and I have to wear it every fucking days. If I don’t, well I might be dead or thrown outside of the house. I don’t want that, because it’s already tensed at home. So I have no choice to wear it every day when I’m in College, when I go to some family friends’ house etc. I’ve been wearing it since I was 12 years old and I’m turning 19 soon. I don’t know when I’ll take it off, but it would be of course after I escape away from my house…. :/

Seven years muffled in a bandage she hates wearing. Horrible.

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