Notes and Comment Blog

God has made her female

Mar 27th, 2014 11:24 am | By

A Christian “school” kicks out an eight-year-old girl because she doesn’t dress or act girly enough. Literally. Word for word. They said she defied “biblical standards.” Oh right, all those parts of the bible that say girls have to wear dresses; I remember those. Geraldine 7:4 was it? Mirabella 22:15? Angelina 9:7?

“You’re probably aware that Timberlake Christian School is a religious, Bible believing institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment,” a letter from Timberlake Christian School’s principal said.

According to WSET, the letter said that school rules said that students could be banned for “condoning sexual immorality, practicing a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”

“We believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education,” the principal wrote.

How exactly does the principal know that any particular kind of dress or behavior “follows suit” with Sunnie’s identity as female? What does he think he’s talking about? Does he seriously think “God” demands that girls were early 21st century US dresses in order to conform with their gender identity? How does he know “God” doesn’t for instance prefer Elizabethan dress, codpieces and farthingales and all? How does he know “God” doesn’t prefer simple tunics for both sexes? How does he know “God” gives a shit either way?


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

Until people are free to come and go as they please

Mar 27th, 2014 10:47 am | By

Maryam considers the question of who gets to speak for British Muslims. Her answer is no one and everyone.

She says there’s been a huge fuss about the fact that Maajid Nawaz included her in the brief film he made for Newsnight.

In the programme I explained why I define myself as an ex-Muslim. It is not enough for me to call myself an atheist when I receive death threats for leaving Islam. Calling myself ex-Muslim is a public challenge to Islam, Islamism and its death penalty for apostates. Until people are free to come and go as they please and without fear, there is a political necessity to label myself in this way.

Of course it made sense to include her in the film. Vyckie Garrison and Libby Anne have a lot to tell us about the Quiverfull version of Christianity, and ex-Muslims have a lot to tell us about being Muslim. The experience of exes is highly relevant to understanding religions, and all the more so when they are categories who are disadvantaged by those religions.

The point of the programme though is not that I represent the “Muslim community” but that regressive self-appointed imams and Islamist organisations do not necessarily do so. This is an important point that is often ignored in the media and by Government.

There is no homogeneous “Muslim community”. The “community” includes feminists, gay rights activists and those deemed apostates. Muslim does not equate Islamist; Muslim does not equate support for stonings, amputations, gender segregation and women’s inequality.

After all, people’s ethnicity, religion, gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, identity… do not define them; it is their politics and choices that do.

Well I would say both do, but I know what she means – it’s the things we’ve chosen that we really want to represent us, portray us, be what people associate with us.

I have just as much a stake in this debate as anyone else – Muslim or not – because to a large extent my life depends on it. As Islamists tell me all the time, no one is allowed to leave Islam and doing so especially publicly goes beyond the matter of apostasy to a matter of treason. This is they say is deserving of capital punishment in all countries.

You’re not allowed to leave Islam and you’re especially not allowed to talk and write about why you left Islam – it’s all or nothing; permanent or treasonous; total commitment or total crime. A nightmare.

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

Theory of attention

Mar 26th, 2014 5:32 pm | By

An article in Psychology Today – psychology for people who know nothing about psychology (like me), or more politely for the wider public – describes research that suggests that dogs have a rudimentary Theory of Mind, or one piece of a TOM.

Experimenters tested whether dogs beg more (or less) from people who (they can see) can’t see them or from people who can. It was the second. This of course causes not the faintest surprise in anyone who’s spent any time with dogs. Of course dogs cue in on human attention. I make eye contact with dogs in the street. I smile at them. They react. And these are stranger dogs. Of course dogs pay attention to human attention, including their line of sight.

And so the experiments confirmed.

Stanley Coren sums up:

Over all these results suggest that dogs do have a strongly entrenched, perhaps genetic, predisposition to try to “read the mind” of humans, at least at the level of understanding that humans must pay attention to them if they are going to be able to get them to respond. Wolves can learn this, at least at a low level for the most obvious of cues (when an individual has their back turned) but not for the more subtle cues, such as the familiar situation where a human is looking at a book and thus not attending to what is going on in front of them.

Or when she is looking at a computer screen and thus is not attending to the dog. Cooper starts awake when I put my reading glasses down on the desk. Yes, he knows from attention all right.

So, can dogs read your mind? Well they certainly seem to have a theory of mind and they are trying to figure out what you are thinking so that they can communicate with you and get a bit more of what they want out of life.

But do they have an elaborate enough theory of mind that they think about the feral cat outside who might be hungry and thus might want some of their food? Do they have an elaborate enough theory of mind that they then decide to leave some of their precious food behind for that possibly hungry cat outside who might come inside and eat it?

Uh, no.

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

Guest post: Children have a right to a diversity of opinion and experience

Mar 26th, 2014 4:46 pm | By

Originally a comment by Seth on Like the lights being turned off.

Recently I spoke with a friend of mine who happens to be a Muslim woman; she does not wear hijab, though every few years she struggles with the urge to cover her hair, because some part of her feels it’s essential to her religion. But she told me something curious about some of the ‘cultural’ reasons for wearing the niqab, which arguably predate the invention of Islam; basically, some Muslim women take to the full-body veil because they feel they are ‘too beautiful’ to go through their daily lives without sexual harassment from all of the men around them.

Thus we see in microcosm something that Christopher Hitchens condemned for religion in general; it is at once the height of abjection and servility, combined with the quintessence of arrogance and solipsism. Men are the favoured of God, entitled to all of the power and property and respect, but they are base animals who cannot be expected to control themselves if they see the curve of a woman’s chin; it’s the wretched woman’s fault for putting herself in ‘civilised’ company, distracting from the business of the day, for being too beautiful and perfect a creature to do anything but be admired in the home of the man who owns her. This utter debasement of men and women (with its concomitant erasure of non-cis, non-heterosexuals) is present in all of the major religions, but it is rarely so blunt and transparent as we find in Islam.

I am glad that I live in a country where a woman can wear the niqab if she chooses…but I’m much more concerned with providing women the space and freedom to take it off if they choose, as well. I wish there were women’s shelters designed specifically to accommodate women and their children fleeing religiously-inspired abuse (no matter what religion), spaces for women to take refuge away from the patriarchs who seek to enforce their control by force. And I believe that all children must attend a public, secular school, where they interact at least a few hours a day with kids of every gender, kids whose parents aren’t the same religion, or colour, or economic status. Children have a right to a diversity of opinion and experience, a right that trumps any self-proclaimed right of parents to cloister them into only one worldview. These measures are by no means sufficient conditions for the dismantling of sexism inherent in religion, but I believe they (or something like them) are necessary.


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

Free the rats

Mar 26th, 2014 4:01 pm | By

In the argument about whether dogs are likely to leave some of their dinner for a stray cat who might come into the house later to eat it (let alone whether the dog knows the cat is pregnant and is feeding her because she’s pregnant…), someone linked to this interesting research that seems to show that rats can do altruism.

In the new study, Mason, Bartal and University of Chicago colleague Jean Decetyplaced pairs of rats in Plexiglass pens. One rat was trapped in a cage in the middle of the pen, whereas the other rat was free to run around. Most free rats circled their imprisoned peer, gnawing at the cage and sticking their paws, noses and whiskers through any openings. After a week of trial and error, 23 of the 30 rats in the experiment learned to open the cage and free their peers by head-butting the cage door or leaning their full weight against the door until it tipped over. (The door could only be opened from the outside.) At first the rats were startled by the noise of the toppling door. Eventually, however, they stopped showing surprise, which suggests that they fully intended to push the door aside. Further, the rodents showed no interest in opening empty cages or in those containing toy rats, indicating that a break out was their genuine goal.

In this first set of experiments, most rats seemed quite willing to help their peers, but Mason wanted to give them a tougher test. She placed rats in a Plexiglass pen with two cages: in one was another rat, in the other was a pile of five milk chocolate chips—a favorite snack of these particular rodents. The unrestricted rats could easily have eaten the chocolate themselves before freeing their peers or been so distracted by the sweets that they would neglect their imprisoned friends. Instead, most of the rats opened both cages and shared in the chocolate chip feast.

That’s pretty cool.

Mason’s new study is one of the most recent in a series of experiments changing how scientists think about empathy and altruism in the animal kingdom. At first, most people agreed that true altruism was a uniquely human characteristic requiring an awareness of one’s actions as selfless. Now it seems that many animals have evolved instincts to help others, even at a cost to themselves, and that we inherited these same instincts. “The bottom line is that helping an individual in distress is part of our biology,” Mason says. “It’s not something that develops or doesn’t develop because of culture.”

It’s a mammal thing. Oxytocin. Caring.

In earlier work, McGill University psychologist Jeffrey Mogil and his colleagues showed that mice recognize their peers’ pain—what researchers call “emotional contagion”—and spend more time with suffering cage mates. His team also developed a scale to measure pain expressed on the faces of mice.

Mogil was impressed with Mason’s study, but had some questions about the findings. “This is surprising because it’s not clear what the motivation for the prosocial behavior is, although the prosocial behavior is clearly there,” says Mogil. Both Mogil and Mason point out that because trapped rats squeak out alarm calls now and then, which stress out any fellows that hear them, the rats opening the doors might be trying to silence their peers. Mason thinks the alarm calls aren’t frequent enough to motivate the rats, but Mogil is not so sure.

So it could be just “stop making that noise.” Or it could be freedom, freedom, freedom.

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

For the mommy cat

Mar 26th, 2014 3:30 pm | By

This story is hugely popular on Facebook, and it’s a sweet story, but it seems extremely implausible to me. But I seem to be alone in that. I’m curious what you savagely skeptical people think.

My mother’s friend adopted this lovely dog after he was abandoned by his previous family. His name is Shaun.

Shaun had always been very good at eating all his food. Every last bit that was, he ate it.

One day he started leaving a little bit behind. He wouldn’t eat everything, no matter what. He always left a little behind.

Every morning when my mother’s friend checked Shaun’s bowl, the food was gone. That was very strange, because Shaun always spent the night by her side.

One night she decided to investigate the food situation. She waited quietly by the food bowl and then, in the middle of the night, a cat came through the window and ate the remaining food. She noticed the cat was actually pregnant.

She realized that Shaun had been saving his food for the mommy cat. A week or so later the cat came into her house and gave birth to six little kittens.

Shaun took care of them as if they were his own babies. My mother’s friend adopted the cat too (her name is Meow) and they took care of the kittens until they all found loving homes.

Nowadays, Meow and Shaun live happily together as a family and they each have their own bowls of food.

It’s the “She realized that Shaun had been saving his food for the mommy cat” bit that I don’t believe. I don’t think she did realize that, and I have a very hard time believing Shaun was doing any such thing.

What about you?

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

Sorry, the seal has gone missing

Mar 26th, 2014 11:59 am | By

Creeping Refusal to Serve for Bad Invidious Reasons strikes again – a notary at a New Jersey bank yesterday refused to notarize some documents for Amanda Knief and Dave Silverman for, the notary said, “personal reasons.”

Photo: BREAKING: An important message from American Atheists Managing Director, Amanda Knief:</p>
<p>I was just refused service -- because I am an atheist. It was embarrassing, humiliating, and pissed me off. </p>
<p>A notary at a local bank, where I have gone more than a dozen times to have work documents signed, asked me to explain what we were having notarized. The documents were charitable organizations registrations for American Atheists in several states. So I told her what AA is about. She looked down, then looked at me and [American Atheists President] Dave Silverman and said she couldn't sign the documents because of "personal reasons" and went to find another notary who was eating his lunch to come do the authentications. </p>
<p>I have been called names, threatened, hated on and all manner of ridiculed because of my atheist activism, but I think sitting in a bank and having another professional refuse to do business with me because I am an atheist was the worst slight I have ever received. </p>
<p>In New Jersey, notaries are not required to abide by any code of conduct or ethics that prevents them from refusing service to people based on "personal reasons." Even though we had a valid, legal document and valid, legal identification--she was legally able to refuse me service. </p>
<p>Time to write legislation that won't let this happen to anyone else. Fuck this.</p>
<p>The bank is question was the TD Bank in Cranford, New Jersey (where American Atheists national headquarters is located). </p>
<p>This is completely unacceptable, and far from over.</p>
<p>- Your friends at American Atheists</p>
<p>---<br />
Become a member at<br />
Support the cause at<br />
Follow us at<br />
Subscribe to our quarterly magazine at</p>
<p>And subscribe to our NEW YouTube channel at</p>
<p>And our NEW Instagram feed at</p>
<p>Register for the 2014 National Convention at

Via American Atheists:

BREAKING: An important message from American Atheists Managing Director, Amanda Knief:


I was just refused service — because I am an atheist. It was embarrassing, humiliating, and pissed me off.

A notary at a local bank, where I have gone more than a dozen times to have work documents signed, asked me to explain what we were having notarized. The documents were charitable organizations registrations for American Atheists in several states. So I told her what AA is about. She looked down, then looked at me and [American Atheists President] Dave Silverman and said she couldn’t sign the documents because of “personal reasons” and went to find another notary who was eating his lunch to come do the authentications. 

I have been called names, threatened, hated on and all manner of ridiculed because of my atheist activism, but I think sitting in a bank and having another professional refuse to do business with me because I am an atheist was the worst slight I have ever received.

In New Jersey, notaries are not required to abide by any code of conduct or ethics that prevents them from refusing service to people based on “personal reasons.” Even though we had a valid, legal document and valid, legal identification–she was legally able to refuse me service.

Time to write legislation that won’t let this happen to anyone else. Fuck this.


The bank is question was the TD Bank in Cranford, New Jersey (where American Atheists national headquarters is located).

This is completely unacceptable, and far from over.

- Your friends at American Atheists

Become a member at

Support the cause at

Follow us at

Subscribe to our quarterly magazine at



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

Like the lights being turned off

Mar 26th, 2014 11:33 am | By

More to chew on – Mehdi Hasan talks to Mona Eltahawy in front of an audience in Oxford.

A few pull quotes from Mona:

I’ve been a feminist since I was 19.

Moving to Saudi Arabia as a young girl was like the lights being turned off.

I consider the niqab an erasure of women.

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

Firm to the principles

Mar 26th, 2014 11:04 am | By

Chris Moos updates us on the situation with gender segregation at UK universities. It hasn’t noticeably improved.

Worryingly even some elected student officials go so far as to openly advocate segregation. Joe Killen, welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths Students’ Union opposes bans on segregation based on an alleged “importance of segregation in political movements.” The Women’s Officer of King’s College London Students’ Union, Shaheen Sattar, who is also a National Union of Students delegate, has gone as far as demanding that “gender segregation should be respected, if not tolerated, in institutions of higher education“, as it was “firm to the principles of Islam”.

What else should be respected because it’s “firm to the principles of Islam”? Stoning? Marrying off girls at the age of 9? Mandatory hijab?

At my own university, the London School of Economics, the picture is hardly different. Despite the claims of the Students’ Union that segregation would “not be allowed“, the Islamic Society regularly holds segregated ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ circles’. This is institutionally endorsed by the LSE, who recently inaugurated new Islamic prayer rooms, next to a ‘multi-faith’ room for all other religious students, encouraging segregation with the provision of exclusive ‘male’ and ‘female’ Islamic prayer rooms.

Notice how the most conservative version of Islam is treated as if it were the only version.

Now, some Muslim scholars suggest that the provision of separate male and female praying spaces in mosques is desirable, whereas others, like the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, do not. In fact, there are numerous examples of Muslims drawing on traditional and progressive Islamic schools of thought, like theInclusive Mosque Initiative, who actively challengesegregation and encourage the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ people into acts of worship. As a place of progressivism and learning, it is hardly understandable why LSE would give its explicit endorsement to the segregation of prayer rooms to the detriment of existing egalitarian approaches within Islam, thereby side-lining progressive Muslims.

Then Chris points out a truly revolting example of cultural cringe in the form of a chaplain at Keele University.

LSE and UCL are not the only universities implicitly or explicitly condoning or enforcing gender segregation. An even more worrying example of official endorsement of gender segregation can be found at the University of Keele. On the Facebook page, students can be found discussing an event involving several religious speakers. As one of the student expresses that the Muslim speaker had displayed a “backwards mind-set” by saying that the cutting off of hands as corporal punishment was justified, and that men and women were different so must be treated as such, the university chaplain Reverend James Stewart takes it on himself to retort: “He said cutting off hands was acceptable as a punishment ONLY ONCE certain very specific, very extreme criteria were met. […] It’s a cultural, not a “backward” mind-set.” In the ensuing discussion, several students then go on to express discomfort about the fact that the event was ostensibly gender segregated. In what becomes clear in the following exchange, the university administration, in the form of Reverend Steward, does not only dismiss the concerns of the students, but actively defends gender segregation:

Some cultures find it easier to stay within their gender groups, is all. […] They [Muslim women] are used to it, and feel protected in their gender roles. It does not impede their enjoyment of the event, but enhances it, as if they were more intermingled the sisters would have felt uncomfortable […] Sitting separate is not “wrong” and I will defend women to go separately if they feel more comfortable to do so […] “Many cultures do this – Sikhs in Gurdwara, many Churches in the past in the west, and now in the East. It isn’t Islam telling them to do this, but their cultural inheritance. It does not abuse or disempower the women in any way, but rather the opposite. Maybe it challenges our Western expectations of what “equality” looks like, but to them it feels like being respected and valued for being a woman.

Right, and slaves in Mississippi were treated very well by their owners.

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

Where does that money go if they’re not paying for writers?

Mar 25th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Oh looky here, what do you know…From an article titled Scabs: Academics and Others Who Write for Free by Yasmin Nair.

I want to return to a thread I introduced in that earlier piece with much greater force: That those who write for free or very little simply because they can afford to are scabs.  This would include not just academics with tenured or tenure-track positions, but adjuncts, professionals (like paid activists and organisers), as well as, really, just about anyone who writes for places like GuernicaThe Huffington Post,open, and The Rumpus (and this is a very, very tiny list).*

Guernica and openDemocracy are both 501(c)3s. Where, in the case of the former, does that money go if they’re not paying for writers like Tariq Ali, and guest editors like Clair Messud? Their labour is provided gratis, as a symbol of their entrance into the upper echelons of the writing world.

OpenDemocracy’s funders include The Open Society, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tides Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Apparently, not one of these highly reputable funders thinks it’s a problem that a publishing organisation asks for money but can’t be bothered to even pay the writers without whom it simply would not exist.  

Ah. Oh.

Well, fortunately, it turns out I’m not a scab, because I refused to treat the article I wrote at their request for free as a “draft” and their “editorial suggestions” as commands I had to obey despite not working for them and not being, you know, paid. I gather that means they won’t be publishing it, although I don’t know for sure, because they didn’t reply to my reply.

Which itself is interesting. Not only do they not pay despite all those funders, they’re fucking rude besides. I suspect that the fact that they don’t pay causes them (ah this is so obvious) to view writers with contempt. “We don’t even pay you, you’re not even worth being paid, so why the hell should we be minimally polite? Why should we answer your outrageous email in which you dare to refuse to do any more work for zero dollars? Who do you think you are? Out of our sight, peasant.”

I might as well share my reply with you.

No, sorry. Way too much additional work for an unpaid article. In any case I’m not interested in writing to someone else’s recipe; I don’t see the point. I tried to make it approximately what you asked for, but if you want something that specific and tailored…I don’t see why you don’t just use an algorithm. I don’t see the point of soliciting writers because you like their work and then trying to make them follow your particular recipe.

If I’d known about the funding from The Open Society, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tides Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and apparently others, I would have been much much ruder.

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

That voice tended to be male, middle-aged, and mostly conservative

Mar 25th, 2014 4:52 pm | By

Watching that Newsnight segment again. One thing Maajid says in his film:

The media rightly sought to hear from the Muslim voice. But that voice tended to be male, middle-aged, and mostly conservative.

Then there’s a clip from Citizen Khan, then Adil Ray explains about Citizen Khan. I want Adil Ray for my new best friend. In the clip a guy asks Citizen Khan what he does and CK says “I’m a leader of the community.” Guy asks what that entails, exactly, and CK says “I lead the community.” I love that, because I’ve been putting “community leader” in scare quotes for years. If only the BBC would learn how idiotic that idea is.

He introduces us to Dr Mohammed Fahim of South Woodford mosque, and notes that he recognizes that those who shout the loudest are those who dominate the debate:

Unfortunately Muslims are not used to discuss or to respect the other opinion. It is either my way or the highway.

Then Maajid says another thing I’ve been saying for years:

There’s an increasing number of Muslims who use their faith identity to advance a progressive agenda, yet we seldom hear from them.

Why do we seldom hear from them? Why is it always the anti-progressive ones who dominate the coverage and the debate?

Why didn’t the BBC invite any of them to talk on Newsnight instead of Mo Ansar and Mehdi Hasan? Why not Omar Kuddus whom Maajid talks to after he says we seldom hear from them. Why not Sara Khan whom he talks to after that? Why not Gita Sahgal, Tehmina Kazi, Maryam Namazie?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, he does talk to Maryam in this film.

More, BBC. More progressives, less of people like Hasan and Ansar.

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

Equal friendly time

Mar 25th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Hemant Mehta – the “friendly” atheist – has a post about a creationist complaining about not getting equal time with Cosmos. Mehta is scornful.

Of course, Faulkner has this crazy idea that Creationism and evolution are deserving of equal time even though only evolution is backed up by the evidence… and considering how little time is allocated to legitimate science programming these days, we should be seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson making the argument for equal time, not a Creationist.

Tell you what: I’m sure Cosmos will give you equal time on the show as soon as pastors start giving equal time to atheists in church. That makes just as much sense as whatever Faulkner said.

Or as soon as atheist bloggers start giving equal time to pseudo-secularists who campaign against abortion rights? While refusing to give equal time to atheists who defend abortion rights?

With friends like these…

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

The full Paxo

Mar 25th, 2014 1:25 pm | By

Ah good, there’s a longer version on YouTube.

This time, they actually show the cartoon. The one they made a big show of refusing to show in January, thus drawing even more opprobrium (and threats) down on Maajid.

Update: 5 minutes in he talks to Maryam.

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

Why is it that we don’t see

Mar 25th, 2014 1:12 pm | By

Oh dear god. At 8 minutes in, Jeremy Paxman asks, slowly and with deliberation because all three of the dudes suddenly stop shouting over each other to let Paxo have the floor – he asks, I say:

Why is it that we don’t see a broader range of Muslim spokesmen?

Why?? Because the BBC doesn’t invite them!

The BBC does invite Maryam occasionally, but not nearly often enough. It doesn’t invite any women often enough, especially not ex-Muslim women, secularist women, atheist women, liberal Muslim women.

The BBC should invite Maajid back and invite Tehmina Kazi and Maryam Namazie and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to talk with him. The discussion would be far more interesting and productive, and less shouty.

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

Offended that they might be offended

Mar 25th, 2014 12:54 pm | By

Wo, here’s a gem – Maajid Nawaz, Mehdi Hasan and Mo Ansar going at it on Newsnight last night, with Jeremy Paxman presiding. The subject is That Tweet, the one about Jeus and Mo.

I’m four minutes in, and Mehdi Hasan has just said to Maajid, ”You have a long history of offending people in the Muslim community in a gratuitous manner.”

Mo Ansar said he doesn’t himself find the cartoon offensive. He’s meta-offended. What he finds offensive is Maajid tweeting something that other people would find offensive. It’s meta and pre-emptive. Also ridiculous – as Maajid points out to Mehdi H, some people are offended by campaigns against racism.

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

Little dresses wouldn’t be practical

Mar 25th, 2014 12:28 pm | By

Ok we allow women to do most things now, in Our Great Mercy, but there are limits. Women can’t be pope. Women can’t be intellectually active atheists. Women can’t be wait staff at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague.

The Nuclear Security Summit is in its second day in The Hague and has brought leaders from 53 countries together to discuss ways of combating nuclear terrorism. The catering company responsible for feeding the leaders and delegates has made a controversial staffing decision: No female serving staff are working in the plenary room where the main talks are being held. Instead, only men over 25 have been given the privilege of serving the working lunches at the World Forum. 

Gee, that is a new one. I thought serving food was one of the things women were allowed to do. Maybe it’s like cooking versus cheffing? Women are expected to do all the cooking, but men are expected to do all the cheffing. It’s easy to see why, when it’s lined up like that – cooking is something anyone can do, so women have to do it, while cheffing is skilled, so only men can do it. That’s how things are arranged. It’s not 100% accurate but by god it is simple and quick.

According to Dutch national newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad,the director of the catering company, Hans van der Linde, was looking to create a “uniform” look amongst his staff. They quote him justifying his decision in the following manner: “If 20 gentlemen are serving and three platinum blonde ladies, then that spoils the image.

“The personnel needs to act in as reserved a manner as possible, and you can’t achieve that by adding a couple of pretty, conspicuous ladies to the mix,” he added.

No, quite right. All women are platinum blonde and all are pretty and conspicuous, so obviously that is a very adequate and sensible reason for excluding them from the job of serving lunch.

In addition to the desire for uniformity, there may be other factors at play, says Jean-Paul Weijers, director of the Protocolbureau that is also involved in the summit. He believes that the decision for all-male staff within the main meeting area could be an attempt to prevent the world leaders from getting distracted. “Everything is taken into consideration when organising such an important gathering. That includes things like this.”

In addition, he says that the fact that there are world leaders from the Muslim world present may have influenced the decision making. “They understand that in the West there are different standards, but The Netherlands is a small country that is used to adapting quickly to bigger countries.”

Also very reasonable and adequate. There are many people – by which of course we mean men – who don’t want women around. It’s right and just for the Netherlands to take this natural desire into account, and exclude women from serving lunch.

In an attempt to clarify himself, van der Linde spoke to Radio 1 about keeping his female employees out of the plenary sessions. He denied ever mentioning hair colour, and told the station that he had initially come up with “the creative idea to only employ ladies to serve the world leaders, and to have them do that in little Delft Blue dresses.” His idea was apparently rejected by the ministry of Foreign Affairs, who made it clear that a more sober appearance would be appropriate. Van der Linde added: “We also have to go up a very steep flight of stairs, so little dresses wouldn’t be practical, as you wouldn’t be able to lift your legs high enough”.

You see, it just can’t be done. Van der Linde tried, he tried hard, but it can’t be done. You have them wear little Delft Blue dresses and then they can’t get up the stairs because they can’t lift their legs high enough. No matter what you try, women always have something wrong with them that makes the whole thing impossible.

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

Philosophy and science

Mar 24th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Dan Dennett and Massimo Pigliucci talk to Laurence Krauss.

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

These women need a good slap round the face

Mar 24th, 2014 5:21 pm | By

I hadn’t heard about this guy Stewart Green, a parliamentary assistant to a Tory MP, who jotted a few notes about feminists on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.

What’d he say? That he wished the Tories had more of them, and more women as well?

Not quite.

Green told his Facebook friends he was “sick to the back tooth” of “wretched women MPs who seem to be constantly going on about there not being enough women in frontline politics”.

He added: “This country has been a gradual decline southwards towards the dogs ever since we started cow-towing to the cretinous pseudo-equality demand of these whinging [sic] imbeciles.”

Breath of fresh air, isn’t it? After all this jumping when women say jump, and giving all the power and status and money away to them the minute they demanded it?

In another post last year, Green described an incident in which he offered a seat to a woman on a bus but was refused.

Referring to the woman as a “fat ginger b****,” he added: “I am absolutely sick and tired of this feminism nonsense. It really has gone too far.

“Quite a few of these women need a good slap round the face.”

Well quite – how dare fat ginger bitches ride on buses.

Maybe Stewart Green could start a new career as a “controversial” speaker at Skeptic events.



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

Hellbound Swedish vacuum cleaners

Mar 24th, 2014 5:07 pm | By

Louis Theroux looks back on the accomplishments of Fred Phelps. Theroux knows more about the Phelps family than most people, because he did two BBC documentaries about them.

An eternity in hell is the fate of anyone who doesn’t get baptised into the WBC and travel the country waving hate-filled placards at political events, colleges and places associated – even in the most tortuously oblique way – with tolerance of homosexuality.

While I was with them, they had a regular local picket of a hardware store that sold Swedish vacuum cleaners. The Swedish government had imprisoned a pastor for homophobic preaching, and for the WBC that made the store a legitimate target for a ritualised Biblical smackdown. For the newcomer, these pickets were bizarre, not simply because of the venom of the signs, but also because they clashed with the banality of the family interaction. For the Phelpses, it was another day at the office – there was a water-cooler ambience of chit-chat. Meanwhile, everyone, even the youngest child, was carrying placards saying: “Thank God for 9/11″, “Your Pastor is a Whore” and “Fag Sweden”.

Fag Sweden and its Fag Vacuum Cleaners sold in the Fag Hardware Store. It totally makes sense if you look at it just the right way.

There is no question that their caravan of religious bigotry has made life miserable for thousands of people, many of them vulnerable mourners hoping to pay tribute to recently departed loved ones…

But the WBC also made life miserable for themselves and inflicted a distorted and poisonous view of the world on the youngest members of their own family, holding over their heads the threat that any deviation or failure of commitment (not going to a picket or socialising with outsiders) would result in a lifetime of banishment. Ex-members – of whom there are quite a few – can have no contact with the church.

Fred’s children, Theroux says, are nice people. The picketing is a performance as opposed to an expression of their character. But Fred was a different story.

Pastor Phelps was a different story: he was a hater by instinct.

I’m proud to say he took against me from the moment we met. I asked him how many children he had. He disliked this question – I think he found me trivial. The interview was cut short. Over subsequent days, we continued filming but I hardly saw him. I had the feeling he was hiding from me. We eventually crossed paths again, in church one Sunday after his sermon on the subject of America’s coming tribulations, in which he bellowed: “You’re going to eat your babies!” One-to-one, Gramps still had the remnants of a folksy, plainspoken charm, but underneath was a bitter contempt for humanity in general and me specifically. I asked him how he could possibly know that the WBC members were the only people bound for heaven. “I can’t talk to you – you’re just too dumb,” he said.

Poor guy – he probably would have been happier and more fulfilled as a hater on the Internet.

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

Jazz paws

Mar 24th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

I’ve been so grumpy today…

From @CuteOverloads

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