Notes and Comment Blog

Our power lies in organization

Sep 12th, 2015 11:57 am | By

The Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies, had the power fist back in the teens of the 20th century.

Image result for iww one big union


Image result for iww one big union

See what they did there?

Image result for iww fist

Image result for iww fist

It’s not appropriation for any left-wing movement to use the fist. What would be appropriation would be for right-wing movements to use it, or for WalMart or CocaCola to use it for advertising, as I’m sure they have.

The men look like everybody else

Sep 12th, 2015 11:42 am | By

Were you wondering about Kim Davis’s fashion choices and religious affiliation? Sojourners provides some background.

Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk jailed for five days for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, identifies as an Apostolic Christian and attends Solid Rock Apostolic Church in Morehead, Ky.

What’s an Apostolic Christian?

Pentecostalism is a Christian movement that emphasizes a personal experience of God, including the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The movement grew out of the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in California and takes its name from Pentecost, when early Christians first received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the ability to heal and prophesy.

Apostolic Pentecostals then split from the rest of the movement in 1916 over a disagreement about the nature of the Trinity.

Does any of that matter? No.

Q: OK, well, what’s with the long hair and skirts?

A: Apostolic Pentecostals are the strictest of all the Pentecostal groups, according to Synan. Like most Pentecostals, they do not use alcohol or tobacco. They generally don’t watch TV or movies either. Women who are Apostolic Pentecostals also wear long dresses, and they don’t cut their hair or wear makeup. It’s called “external holiness,” he said, and it’s meant to separate its followers from the rest of the world in the way they look and act — although, he noted, men who are Apostolic Pentecostals look “like everybody else.”

That’s familiar. The men can wear jeans and T shirts, but the women have to dress like some kind of parody Pioneer Lady Trudging Through The Plains. Jesus said so.

And the same-sex marriage thing?

The general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, the largest and most influential Apostolic Pentecostal denomination, issued a statement earlier this year in response to the Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriages. In his statement, he defines God’s plan for marriage as “the union of one man and one woman who make a lifelong commitment,” and encourages Christians to “defend the freedoms of speech, press, association, and religion.”

In other words, it’s Some Guy. It’s not baby Jesus, it’s not the bible, it’s Some Guy.

And because Some Guy issued a statement, a county clerk thinks she gets to ignore a Supreme Court ruling. It makes me tired.

Naming the waves

Sep 12th, 2015 11:08 am | By

A reader has been asking me about the second and third waves of feminism, and my energetic agreement with Meghan Murphy’s rebuke of knee-jerk disdain for the second wave. The reader was wondering about my insistence that the third wave did not invent intersectionality, because he had read in many places that it had – that is, that 2 wave just didn’t know from intersectionality until 3 wave came along.

Nope. 2 wave was aware of the issue of being too white and middle class all along. There were huge arguments and splits over the issue all along. There were huge arguments over lesbians’ place in the movement all along.

That’s not to say that 2 wave was brilliant at it or that it got nothing wrong, it’s just to say that it wasn’t clueless about it, and it didn’t have to wait for 1980 or 2010 to realize that race and class matter. (It was a bit slow on the sexual orientation part – it was weirdly squicked by lesbians.)

So this primer on intersectionality from Routledge seems off the mark to me.

Second-wave feminism is associated with the women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. While seeing themselves as inheritors of the politics of the first wave which focused primarily on legal obstacles to women’s rights, second-wave feminists began concentrating on less “official” barriers to gender equality, addressing issues like sexuality, reproductive rights, women’s roles and labor in the home, and patriarchal culture. Finally, what is called third-wave feminism is generally associated with feminist politics and movements that began in the 1980s and continue on to today. Third-wave feminism emerged out of a critique of the politics of the second wave, as many feminists felt that earlier generations had over-generalized the experiences of white, middle-class, heterosexual women and ignored (and even suppressed) the viewpoints of women of color, the poor, gay, lesbian, and transgender people, and women from the non-Western world. Third-wave feminists have critiqued essential or universal notions of womanhood, and focus on issues of racism, homophobia, and Eurocentrism as part of their feminist agenda.

Ennnnnnnh…yes and no. Yes some 2 wavers ignored all those viewpoints, but not all did, and the issue was much discussed. These things are cumulative, so feminism does a better job of it now, but there’s no reason to assume that 2 wave feminists just suddenly froze solid in 1980 while everyone else progressed. Guess what: 2 wave feminists are part of 3 wave feminism, too. There was no break in between. There was a break of sorts between 1 and 2, but not between 2 and 3. Feminism never went underground between 2 and 3 the way it did during the 30s and 40s and 50s, so 2 and 3 are basically the same movement.

Feminist social theory has influenced and been influenced by the agendas and struggles of each of these waves. “First-wave” theorists like Mary Wollstonecraft and Susan B. Anthony were influential for their focus on how women’s lack of legal rights contributed to their social demotion, exclusion, and suffering. “Second-wave” theorists like Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin were prominent for their focus on women’s sexuality, reproduction, and the social consequences of living in a patriarchal culture. And “third-wave” theorists like Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak are significant for critiquing the idea of a universal experience of womanhood and drawing attention to the sexually, economically, and racially excluded.

If you’re lumping Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin together as essentially similar theorists, you’re doing something wrong.

Guest post: There is no impunity for mass murder

Sep 12th, 2015 9:31 am | By

Guest post by Mary Scully. Originally a public post on Facebook, reposted here by permission.

These people are carrying coffins with the remains of some of the 45,000 people “disappeared” during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war between 1960 and 1996. Successive right-wing governments led by former generals directly implicated in the disappearances and murders of 200,000 indigenous Mayans have rebuffed political pressure to exhume and identify those murdered and dumped in mass graves. Exhumations have been going on since 1996 but as of two years ago, less than 1,000 skeletons had been recovered.

Photo by James Rodriguez

All were killed by soldiers and allied paramilitaries trying to wipe out a guerrilla movement using scorched earth military tactics that swept up everyone in its path–not just students, trade union and political activists, but women out shopping for food, children walking to school, people working in fields. According to forensic anthropologists leading the exhumations, victims were often buried with blindfolds, with hands and feet bound, had broken bones, and were often naked. Interrogation at military bases included rape, torture, extrajudicial execution, and secret burial often right near the bases. Many were hurled from helicopters into the sea or volcanic craters.

Because successive presidents of Guatemala have been the generals directly involved in executing the scorched earth civil war, there has been no justice. Former president Efrain Rios Montt was prosecuted in 2013 and has essentially walked on the charges. President Otto Pérez Molina just resigned and was arrested not for his role in genocide but for customs fraud and bribery.

The exhumation process is a gruesome one because the skeletons of most are piled in mass graves and are not identifiable so DNA testing must be done for grieving family members to properly bury and honor their beloved. Most of the clandestine cemeteries are on still active military bases–some which fly the UN flag and where in fact Guatemalan military and police officials stationed there wear the distinctive blue helmet of the UN. Many of the bases of course–then and now–are operated by US military officials and bankrolled by the Pentagon.

Family members continue to demand justice. There’s a political accounting to be made here and exposing the political use of mass disappearance is part of the process of bringing all the guilty parties to justice and of course of exposing and prosecuting all who were involved–including within the UN and Pentagon. There is no impunity for mass murder. As the family members and human rights activists in Guatemala chant, “No Amnesty, No Pardon.”

Suddenly, a naval vessel appeared in the distance

Sep 11th, 2015 6:08 pm | By

Intersectional 5th wave non-appropriative inclusive postcolonialist genderfuck Lord of the Flies, by Joe Keohane in The New Yorker.

“Excuse me,” Roger began, “remind us again why you get to interrupt us even if you don’t have the conch?”

“Because I’m the chief,” Ralph said. “I was chosen.”

“By whom?”

“By you.”

“I didn’t vote for you,” Roger said, with a frown.

“We had a vote. The majority rules.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant—the majority,” Jack scoffed. The littluns tittered. “If anything, that means you have even less of a right to interrupt than we do!” Jack faced the others. “If you agree with me, wiggle your fingers.”

They wiggled their fingers.

“Look, I’m trying to get us rescued by the grownups,” Ralph said, gesturing toward a plane that had been circling the island for some time, and now seemed to be flying away.

“You are speaking from a position of privilege,” Jack said, “so you have no right to criticize us or tell us what to do.”

“Uh-uh,” Piggy interjected. “My auntie is a constitutional-law professor at Staffordshire. She says that … ”

Oops. I doubt they have constitutional law professors in the UK, on account of not having a constitution.

Suddenly, a naval vessel appeared in the distance. A dinghy dropped into the sea; a small team of sailors climbed into it and paddled toward the island. The boys regarded them warily as they landed on the beach.

“Are you the boys who need to be rescued?” an officer shouted.

“Why is he screaming at us?” Percival cried. “I feel very unsafe!”

“Some of us identify as gender-questioning,” Jack called back to the officer. “And we reject your Eurocentric imposition of the jungle-rescue narrative.”

“No, please! Save us!” Ralph yelled, rushing to the officer. “Save us!”

“Er, see, here’s the thing,” the officer said, backing away. “I’m going to have to radio back to my supervisors to make sure I’m following the proper protocols for dealing with self-identified indigenous populations before I can do anything.”

They stared at him. He shrugged. “Or else we’ll just get killed on Twitter.”

So off they sailed, and all the boys got eaten.

H/t Stewart

It’s not cool and fun and sexy

Sep 11th, 2015 5:40 pm | By

Meghan Murphy has a sockdolager of a piece explaining that no feminism isn’t anything and everything but rather is something particular and substantive, so no you’re not a feminist just because you wear stilettos or have a platinum card. She offers 9 items that actually do make you a feminist, a better feminist than people who lack them.

First is being a woman.

There are male feminists of course, and since we need all the feminists we can get, maybe especially among men, I think it’s important to emphasize that, but her point is that men don’t fully get the female experience.

2) Understanding that feminism is not a feeling or an identity, but a political movement

And a set of ideas and claims.

If you think that objectifying women or street harassment or male entitlement or gender stereotypes or sexualizing violence against women is good and ok, you aren’t a feminist. Taking a selfie orgetting married or wearing stilettos or making a bunch of money does not equate to feminism (yet feminists are allowed to do these things! See how that works?) because feminism isn’t about you as an individual feeling personally “good” or empowered in the moment. You can feel empowered, but that doesn’t necessary produce feminism. Similarly, feeling “good” [does] not equate to empowerment. Empowerment, in the context of feminism, means social empowerment for a group of marginalized people (in this case, women). This is why, for example, posing nude and feeling sexy in a fashion or porn magazine might feel good for the individual doing it (they will receive positive reinforcement, feel attractive, profit financially, etc.) but does not constitute “empowerment” as it does not lift up women as a class.

Number 3, stop being anti-intellectual.

There is no activism without ideology. Ideology is the body of ideas that frames a political movement. We need that, otherwise how the fuck do we know what we’re doing? (What’s that? We’re just taking selfies and shouting intersectionality at each other on Twitter? Good then. Fuck ideology. Fuck movements. Fuck yeah.)

That. That’s why I abruptly jumped off the train between stops. I’m not interested in a politics that’s all formulas – check your privilege! intent isn’t magic! my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit! – and no thought. Formulas are ok for some limited purposes, but that’s all. Shouting intersectionality at each other on Twitter doesn’t cut it.

4 is about that too.

5) Not being ageist

At what point did ageism become acceptable in feminism? Oh right. The third wave… Ok, so we understand that rebellious teenagers want to “Your not my real mom!” *slams door* their elders, but we are not rebellious teenagers. We are adults. And if you are a feminist it is unacceptable to make “second wave” an insult. That is some woman-hating, anti-feminist, ageist garbage and if you want to pull that shit, congratulations, you’re doing patriarchy. Keep your ignorance and keep perpetuating sexist notions that women who are no longer youthful are silly, old-fashioned, prudish fuddy-duddies, clutching their pearls all the way to the old folks home, where they can stick to Bingo, but know that you’re no feminist. Older movement women know more than you do and we aren’t going anywhere without them.

Cough cough cough.

There are a lot of “feminists” out there who decidedly do make “second wave” an insult – usually while shouting something that second wavers originated 45 years ago. We’re not your mommies, we’re not Miss Marple, we’re not old dears with bundles of knitting. Get a fucking clue.

6) Not accusing feminists of hating sex and men like it’s a bad thing

Women are allowed to hate men and sex. Hating men and sex is perfectly natural. Men and sex with men has been a source of trauma for countless women, over centuries. It is also perfectly natural to love particular men and to enjoy having sex. None of these realities are things that should be used by feminists to insult, attack, or dismiss other feminists. By accusing feminists who challenge male violence of “hating sex” or “hating men” you are reinforcing heteronormative garbage and feeding into stereotypes that say feminists are just angry because they aren’t getting fucked enough. These tropes are connected to rape culture — it is the idea that men can fuck women into passivity or fuck them straight. It is the idea that only fuckable women are “real” women. It is the idea that women need men in order to be whole beings and to matter — that they only exist in relation to men. These are anti-feminist ideas.

And 7, 8, 9, too. Read it all, then read it again.

In the vegan food scene

Sep 11th, 2015 4:05 pm | By

Women at the University of Toronto: look out.

The University of Toronto has increased its campus police presence following violent online threats against women and feminists — though a Toronto Police investigation has not identified a “credible threat.”

The university warned students and staff about the threats on Thursday, although critics say it hasn’t done enough to inform those at risk about the specific nature of the threats.

The threats were posted in the comments section of the site BlogTO on September 5th.

The University of Toronto warned its students, faculty and staff about the threats on Thursday and said it’s working with the Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police to find out who is behind the anonymous threats, made by someone using the screen name “KillFeminists.”

The Toronto police cyber crime unit is investigating the threats. No credible threat has been identified so far, but the investigation will continue.

Campus security has also increased patrols, the university said.

“We take these threats very seriously and want to ensure that we have a safe campus community,” U of T said in its memo.

David Futrelle has a screengrab of the threats via Twitter.


They were just talking about vegan food.

Know your history

Sep 11th, 2015 1:45 pm | By

Nope. Wrong. Incorrect. Not true.


this symbol does not represent mainstream feminism

Ohhhhhhhh yes it does.

That symbol goes back to the 60s – it was the radical salute, including but not limited to the black power salute.

this is the symbol for black feminism, that black feminists have created and been using for decades to represent our struggle against anti-black misogyny, hence the combination of the black power fist and the symbol for womanhood.

No, it isn’t. It’s the symbol for in your face feminism, including black and Hispanic and lesbian feminism, but not limited to any of them.

so stop tattooing yourself with this symbol and selling overpriced patches and pins on etsy, you are appropriating and profiting off the work of black feminists.


No, the symbol is not limited to black feminists, it never has been.

She felt she had to defend herself

Sep 11th, 2015 1:03 pm | By

Petra Laszlo says she’s not as bad as all that, despite that thing about kicking the young girl and the other thing about tripping a man who was carrying a child, whom he fell on when Laszlo tripped him.

Petra Laszlo said in a letter to the Magyar Nemzet newspaper (in Hungarian) that “something snapped” in her as migrants broke through a police cordon.

She said that she reacted out of panic and felt she had to “defend herself”.

Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

Ms Laszlo said: “I do not deserve the political witch-hunts against me, nor the smears or the death threats.”

Nobody deserves smears or death threats. But people don’t deserve to be kicked or tripped while fleeing for their lives, either.


She was sacked by Hungary’s N1TV station, which is affiliated to the far-right Jobbik party.

The station said in a statement that she had shown “unacceptable behaviour”.


That seems accurate.

They would be better off

Sep 11th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Another bit of history I didn’t know about (or, if I did, forgot). I should make a section for those in In Focus. Yesterday on Fresh Air, America’s Forgotten History Of Mexican-American ‘Repatriation.’

Donald Trump has proposed immigration reform that would include building a wall on the Mexican border, paid for by Mexico, and calls for the mass deportation of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. The deportation plan has echoes of a largely forgotten chapter of American history when, in the 1930s, during the Depression, about a million people were forced out of the U.S. across the border into Mexico. It wasn’t called deportation. It was euphemistically referred to as repatriation, returning people to their native country. But about 60 percent of the people in the Mexican repatriation drive were actually U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. Perhaps the most widely cited book on the subject was co-written by my guest, Francisco Balderrama. The book is called “Decade Of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation In The 1930s.”

Gee. Does that sound like anything? Yes, it sounds like the internment of Japanese-Americans in the following decade.

It also sounds like the relationship that Nazi Germany had with German Jews.

It makes my blood run cold.


Francisco Balderrama, welcome to FRESH AIR. Would you give us an overview of the scope of the mass deportations or the repatriation of the 1930s? Like, how many people were affected? And of those people, how many of them were actually American citizens?

FRANCISCO BALDERRAMA: Well, conservatively, we’re talking about over 1 million Mexican nationals and American citizens of Mexican descent from throughout the United States, from the American Southwest to the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest to the South, even Alaska included. This occurred on a number of different levels through a formal deportation campaign at the federal government, then also efforts by major industries as well as efforts on the local and state level. Conservatively, we are able to estimate that 60 percent of them were U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

One million, at least. 600 thousand were citizens.

There was no federal deportation act. There was Hoover’s attorney general, who “instituted a program of deportations” – and I don’t know what that means. I don’t know how the federal AG can deport people just by instituting a program, so that’s something I need to learn more about. But there were also corporations.

And at the same time, U.S. Steel, Ford Motor Company, Southern Pacific Railroad said to their Mexican workers, you would be better off in Mexico with your own people. At the same time that that’s occurring, differing counties on the county level in some cases the state level, then decide to cut relief cost – their target at Mexican families.

Welfare, that is – which was very very minimal.

BALDERRAMA: Yes, yes, at that time it’s called – or charities at that time as well. Now, there was the development of a deportation desk from LA County relief agencies going out and recruiting Mexicans to go to Mexico. And they called it the deportation desk. Now, LA legal counsel says you can’t do that. That’s the responsibility, that’s the duty of the federal government. So they backed up and said, well, we’re not going to call it deportation. We’re going to call it repatriation. And repatriation carries connotations that it’s voluntary, that people are making their own decision without pressure to return to the country of their nationality. But most obviously, how voluntary is it if you have deportation raids by the federal government during the Hoover administration and people are disappearing on the streets? How voluntary is it if you have county agents knocking on people’s doors telling people oh, you would be better off in Mexico and here are your train tickets? You should be ready to go in two weeks.

Yup, sounds like the internments all right, except for the unofficial quality of the coercion.

And holy shit, what a horror.

GROSS: So what were some of the ways that Mexicans in the U.S. were pressured to leave?

BALDERRAMA: Well, they were pressured by county agents, sometimes from relief agencies knocking on their door and telling Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales that you would be better off in Mexico where you can be with your own people and speak your own language. We have arranged for train tickets. You can take so many boxes or suitcases with you. Would you please show up at the train station in two weeks? And sometimes it extended beyond those that were on relief. Sometimes families that did have individuals that were working maybe limited time, which was very common during the Great Depression, but scaring them and telling them well, I don’t know how long you’re going to keep that job. Maybe you better just go to Mexico because you’re liable to lose that particular job. And I think another factor is just waking up and looking at the newspaper, seeing that there’s raids. Here in Los Angeles, we had the very famous Placita raid, in which a part of Downtown Los Angeles is cornered off, and there’s banner headlines saying, deportation of Mexicans – not distinguishing between those with papers and not distinguishing those that are American citizens but always just referring to Mexicans and deportation of Mexicans and not making any of those distinctions. Those are the pressures that this population lived with.

This crap about “you would be better off in Mexico where you can be with your own people and speak your own language” – what is that? Well obviously it’s just gangsterish bullshit, but it’s gruesome anyway, pretending to be caring and daring to contradict the choices other people make about their lives. What do you bet that during the boom in the twenties corporations were actively recruiting labor from Mexico? Then in the bust it’s all “oh hey you’d be better off back down there where we don’t have to count you in the unemployment stats any more.”

Strange that this isn’t better known, isn’t it…

GROSS: I didn’t learn about the mass deportations of the 1930s until I was led to it by reading about Donald Trump’s plan to deport Mexicans who are not here legally. How come – I don’t know if you can really answer this. I’m sure you cannot. But how come I didn’t know about it, and how come so many people I know didn’t know about it either? How come this wasn’t in the history books I read in school?

BALDERRAMA: Well, for some 40 years or so in Chicano studies history classes, it’s been taught. But nobody knew the impact that it had in terms of the United States as well as in Mexico. When we did “Decade Of Betrayal” – first came out in the 1990s – it was talked about as a book of revelation. And in 2003, California Sen. Joe Dunn read the book, and he shared your same sentiments. He had never heard about it. He was disgusted to learn about it. He wanted to give it attention. And we had hearings in Sacramento. In short, what occurred is the state of California has issued an apology. The LA Plaza Museum has an historical monument memorializing what happened to American citizens of Mexican descent. And AB-146, sponsored by Cristina Garcia of the State Assembly, has just been passed and is now at the governor’s desk to teach about the deportations.

I too am disgusted to learn about it.

Playing soldiers

Sep 10th, 2015 6:20 pm | By

Well that’s not at all alarming.

The Oath Keepers, an armed, camouflage-wearing volunteer militia famous for hunkering down at Bundy Ranch, now say they have “boots on the ground” to protect Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who they believe was denied her right to a jury trial.

Even if they’re right, it’s not their job to “protect” her. Volunteer militias aren’t a thing, and civilian  “boots on the ground” are certainly not a thing. Nobody wants their boots on any ground; they need to stay home and watch tv.

“People should consider her under our protection,” Rhodes says in the teleconference. “We’ll make sure that our people are keeping a close eye on the situation and we’re going have boots on the ground to keep watch regardless, because this judge needs to understand that he’s not going be able to just go grab this lady whenever he feels like it.”

But, no. “Under our protection” isn’t a thing when it’s just some random guys meddling with a legal process. Nobody cares what kind of eye they keep on the situation, because they’re not the boss of anything. This judge doesn’t “need” to understand something just because they say so, and they don’t get to tell him what he’s going to be able to do. They’re just some guys. They’re like a gang. They don’t have any authority. Authority comes with accountability, and they don’t have either one. They need to stay home.

Contempt of court is not a criminal charge or civil complaint that results in a jury trial or hearings. It’s punishment for dismissing court authority, disobeying court orders or impeding the ability of the court to perform its function, according to Contempt is determined by the judge overseeing the case. Fines or brief jail time are common sanctions.

In Davis case, she was slapped with a class action lawsuit by same-sex and straight couples who could not get married at the Rowan County Clerk’s Office as a result of Davis’ actions. Davis lost the case and was ordered to begin issuing marriage licenses. She filed all possible appeals and lost, yet still refused to issue marriage licenses, resulting in the contempt ruling.

The Oath Keepers do not seem to be aware of this key aspect of Davis’ case, however. On theirwebsite, they say, “No one man should have that kind of power in his hands alone to decide guilt and impose a sentence of indefinite detention.”

They want to be a militia but they don’t even bother to learn the basic facts of the case.

“Now we see the rise of an imperial judiciary that not only legislates from the bench but is attempting to expand their ‘contempt’ power to likewise swallow up our Bill of Rights and circumvent jury trial,” Rhodes wrote. “Both methods are used to allow the powerful office holder to merely point his finger and have his opponent thrown behind bars without a grand jury indictment and without being found guilty by a jury of their peers. No innocent until proven guilty before a jury. Just ‘guilty’ because the leader says so. That is a dictatorship, whether done by a president or by a judge.”

They need to watch more tv shows about lawyers.

The Oath Keepers have a history of intervening when the federal government tries to enforce laws the group disagrees with. The group was involved in an armed standoff with federal agents in 2013 while guarding Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was illegally grazing cattle.

And they got away with it, too, because white guys with guns are no threat to anyone at all whatsoever.

Good job, Alabama

Sep 10th, 2015 1:25 pm | By

Alabama public schools get to have real science teaching!

The state Board of Education voted unanimously today to replace old standards that some teachers say were behind the times the moment they were approved.

As evidence, they point to their students’ biology textbooks, many of which currently come with warning stickers that call evolution “a controversial theory.” The state’s old science standards say students should “wrestle with the unresolved problems still faced” by evolution.

“You might not accept it, but that doesn’t change the fact,” says science teacher Ryan Reardon, who isn’t a fan of the old standards. “Talking about evolution in a classroom is controversial, but there is no controversy about how all the organisms on the planet are related to each other.”

Reardon teaches at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate, one of the nation’s best public schools. He also helps write textbooks, and he and other science educators say Alabama’s old standards were dated and thin on evolution. Not so the new standards, which call it “established scientific knowledge.”

“We were really pleased to see that,” says Minda Berbeco, program director for the National Center for Science Education. She praises the shift to what she calls “a really positive, pro-science perspective.”

Well done Alabama! Well done science educators who spoke to the Board of Education and edited the draft standards.

Perhaps the biggest change in the new standards comes in a third area — the “doing of science” itself. There’s more focus on hands-on exploration, unifying concepts like cause and effect or structure and function, and a favorite of Reardon’s: data analysis.

“I’m [going to] let the data smack [them] in the face,” Reardon says of his students. “I’m [going to] ask them what that suggests, and then I’m [going to] ask [them] what the ramifications are.”

This may be the biggest selling point with teachers.

“So with the new standards, students are [going to] be able to experience science and not just solely learn about it from a textbook, lecture or a worksheet,” said Alabama’s Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Brown, at a recent public hearing.

Educators hope the emphasis on process and thinking will help kids better grasp all subjects, politicized or not.

Speaking of education, could I ask NPR to stop writing its stories with the dialogue in the vernacular? There’s no good reason to do that, and plenty of good reasons not to.

An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s

Sep 10th, 2015 12:38 pm | By

Last year glosswitch wrote 9 reasons why “cis” isn’t working.

1 Cis is not a necessary alternative to trans

Many people find it hard to see what is wrong with this statement:

anyone not trans is cis

But what if someone said this:

“anyone not Muslim is Christian”

It doesn’t make any sense, does it? The fact that being a Muslim is predicated on having a religious belief does not mean that anyone who is not a Muslim must have a different religious belief, let alone one specified by you.

She’s framing “cis” as a belief about gender, part of a belief system about gender. The point is, not everyone buys into that belief system. We don’t have to, and many of us don’t. It’s not our belief system.

There is quite clearly something missing: the space for people who do not wish to be defined by these belief systems at all. In the case of the former statement, that would be a huge number of feminists, with good reason.

I am not religious. I don’t define myself as an atheist any more than I define myself as a “not believer in fairies”. I just don’t wish to define myself in relation to religion in any way, shape or form. Does it mean I don’t believe Muslims are Muslims? Of course not. Similarly, does not identifying as cis mean I don’t believe trans people are trans? Clearly not. Nor does it mean that I am agender (I am female and I am a woman. Gender does not come into it). An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s. On the other hand, the demand that someone actively endorses your worldview by declaring themselves a believer or risk being deemed a bigot and subjected to ongoing threats and abuse … well, what would you call that?

An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s.

That’s such an important point.

2 It’s morally unacceptable to demand that another person swears allegiance to a belief system they experience as harmful

This is what is being done when feminists who do not believe in gender as anything other than a construct are ordered to identify as cis. It is not merely unfair; it is cruel, a cruelty which is intensified when the consequences of not submitting are to be declared a hateful bigot and a TERF.

And expelled and ostracized from all decent society.

3 Individuals should have the freedom to identify with any gender – or none

This is linked to the previous two points and it is that basic: to be cisgendered has no meaning to someone who does not experience themselves as gendered in any way other than by the gaze of others.

That. It’s nothing to do with stuffing a sock down your jeans, it’s to do with who you are to yourself as opposed to the gaze of others.

In a recent piece for the Guardian, Fred McConnell described gender as “one’s innate sense of self”. I don’t know what this means. This does not mean I am deficient or ignorant. It means I don’t think that’s what gender is. Hence when McConell says “cisgender […] refers to those whose sex and gender do match” I am 100% sure that I am not cis. I don’t experience this matching but nor do I experience a sense of allegiance with any other gender construct.

My “star sign” is Aries, but that means nothing to me, and it wouldn’t mean any more to say my “star sign” is Leo. There is no match between my sense of myself and any star sign, because I don’t believe in astrology.

4 Trans women should not depend on non-trans women for self-definition

Why the hell should they even want to? My not-cis-ness says nothing about your trans-ness. You don’t need me as a foil to offer validation. You are your own person.

And I’m my own person. I reject the claim that my sex and gender match, but that doesn’t mean I think nobody is either cis or trans.

There’s a lot more.

There was an anomaly in her pants

Sep 10th, 2015 10:52 am | By

Bring plenty of paper towels to mop the tears of laughter.

A courageous story from April 2014 of a person who is vaguely genderfuck and took on the eternal issue of how to wear a sock down your jeans while boarding a plane. Told by: Batshua bat Yehonatan.

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking more about presenting as genderfuck in my non-work time; namely, I’ve been thinking about packing.

For anyone who doesn’t know me, let me make this clear. I am terrible at true genderfuck. Nobody is going to mistake me for a 14-year-old boy or an androgyne. I am, shall we say, rather well-endowed and I do not bind.

I’d been thinking for a while about what would happen if I got a patdown while packing, and whether or not it would flag me as a security risk or cause me to miss my flight. I don’t currently own a packer, so I’ve been packing with a wool sock which makes me feel rather … like I’m overcompensating, although my close friends swear it’s more subtle than I think.

Tricky. Try a smaller sock? One of those socks for just the foot, with no leg part? Or a small silk scarf? Or a mitten?

As my combination Passover and Spring Break trip to visit my folks neared, I considered the possibility that I might want to pack on my travel day because darnit, it’s my right to present as whatever gender I want. However, as a person who always chooses to opt-out for patdown, I knew this could cause problems.

I’m confused now. Is she presenting as a person who always chooses to opt-out for patdown? Or is she identifying as that? Or is she expressing as that?

So anyway, she tried to ask the TSA about it, and, astonishingly, did not get an immediate clear reply. They were very nice about it but they didn’t know how to respond to her question.

I believe it was a Tuesday when I started the journey of reaching out to the Bradley Airport TSA guy, who is super nice and friendly and helpful. We played phone tag a bit due to his schedule, my schedule, and the crappy reception I have in the town where I serve.

Ultimately, I explained to him my situation: I am legally female, as masculine as I can dress, nobody would mistake me for anything other than a butch chick, but I prefer to pack as a way of expressing my gender. I chose to use the word “androgynous” rather than “genderfuck”, because I feel like “genderfuck” is an excessively provocative word to use with uninitiated cisgender folks who might be your allies. I let him know that I would, as I always have, prefer to opt-out and get a patdown and I realized that getting a patdown while packing might cause undue alarm and I wanted to know how best this could be handled so that nobody freaked out and I didn’t miss my flight.

He told me nobody had ever asked him about this situation before, and he provided a few options, including: having a female do the patdown, having a male do the patdown, or having my patdown split between a female officer and a male officer.  I said I was used to having a female do the patdown and was fine with that, but it was exciting to have options offered to me!

I was surprised to find out that even though my flight was on Friday, not even a whole week away, he had plenty of lead time to arrange things for me.  I was assigned a TSA Passenger Support Specialist and we set an appointment for a time for me to meet her at the security checkpoint. He also gave me the work cell number of the Transportation Security Manager for Bradley in case I showed up extra early or ran late.

I’m so pleased to read that. I’m so pleased that all this trouble was taken to accommodate a special person with a sock down her jeans.

After I checked in with my airline and dropped my bag off at X-Ray, I was met by my TSA Passenger Support Specialist, who took me right through to the head of the Pre✔︎ line. I joked that I should have gender issues more often.

I don’t get the joke. I’ve just made a note to put a sock down my pants any time I have to fly in the future.

The head of the Bradley TSA had warned me that since people perceived as women don’t generally have bulges in their pants, I would need to disclose my “anomaly” and it might warrant further screening. Because I was identifying as nonbinary, the transgender policy doesn’t currently cover me.

Well that’s a fucking outrage. Congress should get on that right away, and make it so that genderfuck people are covered by the transgender policy at airports. This violent oppression of the genderfuck community has gone on long enough.

Before commencing the patdown, I had literally announced “There is an anomaly in my pants”.  I found out that technically my sock does count as a prosthetic, but since I’m not identifying as a trans man, again, they have to check my “anomaly”.

[interlude for about 5 minutes of hysterical laughter]

So I went to get a private patdown with my TSA Passenger Support Specialist and another female TSA agent.  The procedure is the same as a regular opt-out patdown, but because there was an anomaly in my pants, I had to have a second patdown, known as a resolution patdown. They swabbed my TSA Passenger Support Specialist’s gloves for residue, and they had to x-ray my sock. Then the other officer did the resolution patdown where they patted vertically and horizontally over the front of my groin to ensure I wasn’t hiding anything else in there. They were totally respectful and non-creepy about the whole thing. I felt pretty fucking empowered.

I feel  pretty fucking empowered just reading about it!

After I was done, the Transportation Security Manager gave me an official TSA comment/complaint card as well as his business card. He reminded me that if I preferred, I could always check my packer and put it in after I pass through the security checkpoint. I agreed and pointed out that for some people, the wait in the security checkpoint line without packing would be extremely emotionally uncomfortable for them, and so I figured it was worth trying it out to see what it was like for all the people who might want to do this but are afraid to ask.

It must be horrendously emotionally uncomfortable to be genderfuck but not trans, and so not covered by the transgender policy, and be separated from your sock for ten minutes. It’s making me weep to think of it.

Batshua is a genderqueer gray-asexual panromantic polyamorous person. They are a neuroatypical, chronically ill, invisibly-disabled Jewish pagan living in rural western Massachusetts. Ze recently started identifying as more strongly genderfuck than previously and has been experimenting with various forms of presentation. She doesn’t generally consider herself an activist, but he got the idea in his head to pack while flying home for Passover this spring. Batshua generally doesn’t care what kind of pronouns are used as long as they refer to sentient beings.

So use all the pronouns. The ultimate in genderfuck.

One isn’t wearing a tie?

Sep 10th, 2015 10:08 am | By

Via Planned Parenthood on Facebook:


Guest post: If we could knock down these ridiculous cultural preconceptions

Sep 9th, 2015 6:09 pm | By

Originally a comment by James Garnett on The “Men’s & motor” area.

David Evans@1:

I think some men as well as women are likely to be put off by the idea that intellectual brilliance is what is needed in science.



In Japan they teach that science and math take lots of hard work.


The notion of the “brilliant scientist” infuriates me. I have long maintained that anyone of reasonable intelligence and drive can make useful and important advances in the sciences if they make the effort of learning the background well, and putting in the (large amount of) effort that is required. It takes years to pick up the background and years of toil to start making the advances, but almost anyone can do it. Sure, if you’re lazy, or unwilling to think, or prone towards intellectual dishonesty, or clinging to dogma, then you probably cannot do it.

The Brilliant Scientist Up On The Pedestal Of Veneration is one of the bricks in the wall that is used to keep women out. “Girls aren’t good at math”, “brilliance is beyond average people”, etc. etc. yada yada yada. It’s horseshit.

I am the very epitome of an average person. Average in talent and intelligence, that is. I’m privileged to be male and white, but I’m still average. And yet even I, through hard work (plus the cultural expectation that I’m somehow better at STEM cuz white and male) have made modest advances in my field.

People who are neither white, nor male, nor “brilliant” work just as hard, and could do just as well in their science careers, if we could knock down these ridiculous cultural preconceptions.

Snap, gulp

Sep 9th, 2015 5:03 pm | By

Bad news – National Geographic is being devoured by Fox.

The 127-year-old nonprofit National Geographic Society has struck a $725 million deal that gives 21st Century Fox a majority stake in National Geographic magazine and other media properties, expanding an existing TV partnership.

The agreement announced Wednesday will give the company controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s family a 73 percent stake in the new National Geographic Partners venture. The society retains 27 percent ownership. The move shifts the longtime nonprofit flagship magazine into a for-profit venture.

What could possibly go wrong?

Besides everything?

However, some observers are worried about the future of National Geographic’s educational mission in media if control is turned over to commercial interests.

Christopher Palmer, an environmental filmmaker and professor at American University, said Fox and National Geographic would seem to be incompatible to most people.

“Many people feel the National Geographic Channel has become more sensational and think that it’s due to the Foxification of the channel, and now Fox is taking over all these other media properties including the iconic National Geographic magazine,” he said. “So the question is: will National Geographic maintain its very high standards in the future under this new arrangement?”

It seems vanishingly unlikely that they will.

The “Men’s & motor” area

Sep 9th, 2015 3:46 pm | By

Gender policing? What gender policing? I can’t imagine what that could possibly be.

A supermarket has apologised after copies of a science magazine were displayed in the men’s interest section of its news stand.

A biology graduate complained to Morrisons after the weekly New Scientist magazine was moved to the “Men’s & motor” area of the rack at the Woohouse Land store in Leeds.

No science for women. Women are too pink and fluffy and frothy to be interested in science. Women are interested only in bride magazines and how to arrange your hair magazines. Everything else is over their heads.

Writing in a Facebook post seen by The Tab student newspaper, former Leeds student Sophie Anam said that the display gave a negative message to girls.

That science isn’t for them? But is that really a negative message, if you truly think about it? Women are so much happier and more content with their lot if people don’t encourage them to think they can do things like science and engineering and politics.

The supermarket sparked further controversy when it responded to Ms Anam: “this magazine has been placed under this section is that it is a generally a men’s general interest magazine.”

No. No, it really isn’t. Sarcasm aside, that’s a staggeringly insulting thing to say. Half, remember? We’re not some funny little fringe group, we’re half. No, we’re not mentally children.

Embedded image permalink

Sophia Anam on Twitter

The good news is that Morrisons pulled itself together and said the sign was a mistake.

The incident occurred in a climate of concern that women are underrepresented and put off from careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Stem) because of societal pressures.

Despite the constantly reiterated insistence of Christina Hoff Sommers that all that has been fixed now.

Women currently make up around 12.8 per cent of the Stem workforce, according to the campaign group Women in Science and Engineering (Wise).

The figure was compounded by a recent study which found that women are less likely to become scientists and engineers because they are taught to believe that such professions require innate intellectual brilliance rather than hard work.

So let’s do better, shall we?

Will it be Oreos or Grayling?

Sep 9th, 2015 11:25 am | By

I watched a little of Stephen Colbert’s first Tonight show last night, and didn’t like it. I wanted to like it, I expected to like it, but I didn’t.

But Megan Garber at the Atlantic did.

…part of why politics has become so polarized, while we’re at it, is likely that we’ve come to see the workings of government as things that exist separately from the rest of our lives. The sociologist Pablo Boczkowski talks about the reluctance many people have to talk about politics in a work environment, where such discussions can create unnecessary acrimony; instead, we silo ourselves, discussing the issues of the day, for the most part, with people we know will pretty much agree with us.

That’s not a good thing, for people or for democracy. And Colbert’s latest debut suggested that late-night comedy might actually play a role in fixing it. The guest list for Colbert’s upcoming shows includes—along with the actors and comics you’d expect—Stephen Breyer, Bernie Sanders, and Ban Ki-moon. Those guests, my colleague David Sims noted, are “surprisingly highbrow.” They are also surprisingly political. And intellectual. They are the guests not traditionally of Letterman and Kimmel and Fallon, but of Charlie Rose. And that may well be meaningful. The Colbert Report, after all, was notable not just for its satire, but for its intellectualism: It introduced its audience to authors and thinkers who might not get an airing on typical late-night, or for that matter typical news, shows.

Well now that’s true. It had A C Grayling on, twice. That kind of thing is why I wanted and expected to like Colbert’s Tonight show, but in practice I just found it hyper and tedious. Watching him scarf all those Oreos made me feel queasy.

The Late Show’s debut suggested that Colbert might carry on that tradition, expanding it to a wider audience. It suggested a proposition that, until last night, seemed as absurd as it is simple: that late-night comedy, aired on a large network, can be funny and smart at the same time.

Well, I hope so, but that’s not what I saw.

But stop the T in odd words

Sep 9th, 2015 9:48 am | By

Speaking of dialects and geography and markers…Author of Jesus and Mo asked an intriguing question on Twitter the other day.

Has anyone in UK noticed the “inconsistent glottal stop” is a thing? Eg person will speak normally but stop the T in odd words…

Eg “strategy”, “creative” – but even then not always. Strikes me as incredibly pretentious and annoying.

I think I have, yes. A similar thing I know I’ve noticed many times is inconsistency about the intrusive R. You know the intrusive R, right? As in: Indier and China; North Koreaer and China [which of course sounds like North Career and China]; drawring room; Arabeller is in the drawring room. It’s mostly a UK thing but also a Boston and environs thing.

Some BBC presenters make an effort to avoid it. You can tell they’re having to make an effort because there are weird little hitches where they pause in order to avoid the R, hitches that don’t happen in the speech of people who don’t have an intrusive R to avoid. The ones that seem oddest to me are the ones where there is in fact an r but it’s at the end of a word, so a non-rhotic dialect like that of most of the UK wouldn’t pronounce it if the word stood on its own or before a word with a consonant. You with me?

Like: I am here. I am here to pick up a package. I am here in the room.

The one that seems odd to me is the careful pause after “here” in the last one – “I am heah. in the room” – when saying “I am here in the room” wouldn’t be an intrusive R since the R is actually there.

It seems like a really disturbed relationship with the letter R. Inserting them where they aren’t, or carefully avoiding them where they are.

But I’m equally weird about the glottal stop. I replied to Author’s tweets to tell my poignant little story of The Glottal Stop and Me.

I grew up not far from Trenton, New Jersey. I grew up pronouncing it with a glottal stop – Tren’on. Then one fateful day my mother, who was a language nerd just as I am (and a writer and editor), mentioned to me her dislike of that particular local glottal stop, which I hadn’t been aware of until that moment. Now I don’t know how to say the word – Trenton sounds pretentious and finicky, and Tren’on sounds like a grunt. I’ve probably never said it unselfconsciously since that day.

I’ll be in the drawring room with a cold compress on my head.