Notes and Comment Blog

Left and right, unite and fight…women

May 30th, 2013 2:17 pm | By

Katha Pollitt on El Salvador’s way with pregnant women.

Since 1998, El Salvador has had a complete no-exceptions ban on abortion,  promoted by the country’s powerful Catholic Church and passed with the votes of  legislators from the former left-wing movement FMLN—because if there’s one thing  right and left agree on, it’s that women’s lives are less important than  achieving political power. (Daniel Ortega made the same move in Nicaragua in a  successful bid for church support.)

There’s nothing quite like being thrown overboard by people you thought were allies. The cold water comes as such a shock…

Since the ban, the Central American Women’s network reports that over 600  Salvadoran women have been imprisoned for having abortions, including  miscarriages and stillbirths suspected of being the result of abortion. A word  to the wise: when US abortion opponents insist they would never put women on  trial for terminating a pregnancy, be skeptical.

Oh, I am.

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

Texas passes law approving winter holidays

May 30th, 2013 12:23 pm | By


Well that’s what it says.

After a good amount of hoopla, Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to quietly sign legislation allowing public schools to celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays plainly and explicitly without fear of lawsuits.

Why would he do it noisily? Do governors usually shout and scream while signing legislation?

Anyway, whatever. I’m not convinced there is much fear of lawsuits over celebrating Christmas and other winter holidays, but if you say so.

Naturally, not everyone in the Lone Star State is enthused about the the “Merry Christmas Bill” becoming law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has opposed the legislation.

“We hope administrators and teachers remain mindful that it is of utmost importance that it’s parents who teach their children about matters of faith, not public schools” said ACLU spokesman Tom Hargis, according to Austin FOX affiliate KTBC.

Hargis added that the ACLU will surely keep a close eye on Christmas festivities in public schools next school year.

Oh hahaha nobody cares what they say. Civil liberties indeed – who wants civil liberties?!

Aron Ra, Texas director of a group called American Atheists, strongly criticized Rep. Bohac as the bill was percolating through the Texas legislature, according to the Dallas Observer.

I like that “a group called American Atheists” – as if it were so obscure no one had ever heard of it. I don’t think that’s the case.

He wants teachers to randomly be able to proselytize their religious beliefs by being able to put up religious displays in their classrooms, unrestricted, without any fear of litigation.” Ra said. “But what happens when it’s not a Christian that’s doing it? What happens when it’s a pagan trying to do solstice or Saturnalia? They’re using the same damn tree and they can cite where it came from.”

Ra has also argued that the bill will marginalize students who aren’t Christian — an issue he sees as a huge problem even in the absence of the “Merry Christmas Bill.”

Ra’s organization, American Atheists, was established in 1963 and bills itself as “the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion.”

Damn right. That’s why I’m a member.


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

Meet skeptixx

May 30th, 2013 9:53 am | By

Ah. I did a little more exploring in the comments to see where we’ve heard from “Skep tickle/skeptixx” before. It’s interesting.

The first (that I’ve found) was one last October, in the post I did on the pathetic “parody” of Jesus and Mo that is “Peezus and O.” “skeptixx” popped in to say

Funny!  Thanks the for the link to their source; I’m enjoying looking through them all.

Don’t lose hope, Ophelia – maybe you’ll “get” to say something in the next one…

Yup that’s our “Skep tickle” – that’s her sneering contempt in a nutshell.

She was much more prolific on a post I did about the horrific Delhi rape and the broader subject of hatred of women. The two are, in fact, connected, and hatred of women is, in fact, an important subject. Pitchguest and other pit creeps showed up to scream that I was making it all about me, again, and “skeptixx” joined in with energy.


Are you seriously trying to draw a comparison between a brutal, fatal, physical attack and criticisms of your [fill in the blank, including skepticism] as a blogger???

Get a grip.  It really isn’t about you and your self-absorbed concerns.

Not to mention that you seem to be revising history as you go:

In spite of all the stupid lies the hate-campaigners keep recycling about me that I’m so stupid and scaredy and radfem that I see innocent emails from supporters as threats for no earthly reason (the prediction that I might be shot is never mentioned), I actually don’t spook easily.

You don’t, hunh.  “Certain people should be ‘shot’” ring a bell?

Alice did the reality check:

Hey Ophelia – I looked at this, and it actually *is* a reference to vaccinations. She and other pro-vaxxers at TAM were signing a Jenny McCarthy poster. Check out the other pics in that album.

And you replied:

Vaccination. That didn’t even occur to me. Are these people making me a little paranoid? Looks that way.

How about actually discussing what approaches might actually help achieve a goal of actually preventing rapes?  And, pro tip, coddling your precious ego isn’t one of those approaches.


Your rapier intellect has skewered my arguments, Sally Strange!  How could I ever have thought:

1)  That Ophelia’s post, purportedly about “An iron rod in the woman’s body”, being >50% about herself…would suggest self-absorption on her part?

2)  That quoting the portion of Ophelia’s post about the “prediction that [she] might be shot” then linking back to her prior post in which she expressed concern about what she saw as a threat that she (?) might be shot, and quoting the portion in which it was revealed that it was just a play on words in Harriet Hall’s signature on an anti-vaxx poster, which others also signed, after which Ophelia admitted that maybe she was a little paranoid….would be help show that, at least in that example, Ophelia did react in a “scaredy” fashion, directly contradicting her claim that it’s a “stupid lie” to use “scaredy” to describe her?

3)  That skeptics acting like skeptics – you know, actually investigating people’s claims, comparing statements from now with those from the recent past, calling out things like false equivalence…would be welcomed at a “freethought” site?

4)  That a regular poster at FtB such as yourself, presumably one who considers himself or herself to be a feminist (though in fact I do not know your history or self-description)…would, apparently simply because I’m critiquing Ophelia’s statements, assume I’m male?

5)  That working for the past 20 years in women’s health, as I have, which has in fact meant not only using the bathrooms there and not only reading the pamphlets but in fact choosing which ones we’ll post, oh and also screening women for risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) and treating women who have been victims of IPV…would teach me a darned thing about IPV?  (Which the attack in India was not; that was stranger violence.)

Silly me.  I stand corrected (not).

Oh look – she “doxxed” herself in that last item.


Mmm, I think I’ve seen this pattern before: form a circle, ignore the substance of the comments you don’t like, and start flinging ad hominems.  Tribalism for the win!  :)

Tribalism is it. What does she call the pit, then? Generous liberal internationalist universalism?


Tell you what.  Anyone who is seriously interested in trying to prevent rape, how ’bout taking a look at this 2011 summary from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (US):  Rape Prevention and Risk Reduction: Review of the Research Literature for Practitioners (or another similar resource if you know of one), then go ahead and propose some practical approaches.  You can use the writing skills you learned in 4th grade if that’s where you learned them, or you can bring subsequent education to bear if applicable.

The studies mentioned in it are probably from the US & other western countries; if you can find any literature that might be more pertinent to India, please do present it.

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence may not know what they’re talking about, though; I don’t see that they list,  among the measures shown to reduce the risk of rape, any of the following: avoidance of signing anti-vax posters with puns involving the word “shoot” in case someone might misinterpret it, or photoshopping people’s heads onto posters (which I’ve never done, but I understand some people have done, and I admit to occasionally having laughed at), or creating parody twitter accounts, or even skeptically questioning people’s claims.


@Stacy #30   Hahaha.  In a half-assed effort not to actually have to try to address the real-life problem, Stacy insults someone on-line.

@Sassafras #29:  That’s helpful.  I had heard about that one but hadn’t previously seen that post.  But seriously??  That’s a “prediction that [she] might get shot”?

Did you see the line that actually referred to some risk of her being “shot” in these communications which purportedly were warning her to stay safe?

I’m happy that PZ was not shot (gun or uppants camera) at GAC, but that gives me scant reassurance that you will *not* be shot either way in Las Vegas.

“Prediction” is “a statement of what will happen in the future.”  This is not a prediction.  This seems like someone trying to get Ophelia freaked out with what frankly looks like either tongue-in-cheek warnings, or paranoid warnings from someone who overheard a few words and made assumptions about what it meant.  And it worked; it freaked her out.  She believed enough not to go to TAM, yet she elected not to tell the police?

Yeah, I can see how that is analogous to a woman (and to a lesser degree her male friend) being savagely assaulted by strangers on a bus in India, and how it helps prevent situations like that from occurring in the future.


Mmm.  Insults supplanting evidence-based arguments, or at least that’s what it looks like.

I don’t usually frequent FtB, in part because it’s so painful to see supposed skeptics acting like this.

But anyway, since we’re here, let’s recap a bit, shall we?

Bad Jim #33:  “No iron rod perforating a woman’s intestines could ever be as important as their most precious treasured grievances.”

- I hope that makes you feel better to say & think, m’dear.  If you’ve done some important work in women’s rights, women’s health, etc, I’d love to hear about it.

Ophelia in opening post: “It creeps me the fuck out that open boastful misogyny has become so popular and mainstream lately. I think it’s strange that the vocal boastful misogynists don’t worry about this.  … I think it’s strange that so many people think it’s good to foster a climate of ragey hatred.”

- Oh, she’s not talking about her own experiences?  My bad.  It sure sounded like it.  Whose experiences is she talking about, then?  And her claim that “open boastful misogyny has become so popular and mainstream lately” – does she mean universally, or does she mean directed at herwomen she knows?  Does she mean since Elevatorgate, or is she talking about a different time frame?

Let’s move on.  So, what do you all propose to reduce rape?

Ophelia #2: “Rapists need to stop attacking women.”

- Great idea.  How do you propose taking steps to achieve that?  Like, exactly what steps would you propose?  What has been tried so far, and what evidence is there that it works?

Rodney Nelson #11 “We need to change the rape culture found throughout the world. We need to make rape as socially, as politically and as morally unacceptable as murder is.”

- Just an aside, the woman in India was raped and murdered (though the murder occurred as part of the rape; hard to know how she & her friend would have fared if rape were considered unacceptable by her attackers but other crimes were still on the table).

- “Change the rape culture found throughout the world.”  Presumably, one might go to the countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape to learn what the secrets to their success are, right?  (Understanding that under-reporting seriously impacts the official rates of this crime.)  So, you could try a site like this (hey, look!  I can use Google!): Rapes (per capita) by country to find Egypt, Armenia, and Azerbaijan as the 3 with the lowest (reported) rates.  Canada and Japan also have low rates.

- Of course, to find out where your efforts could best be used, you’d want to look at the top of the list.  Congo isn’t on this list but in 2012 was said to have the highest rate in the world.  Lesotho is at the top here, followed distantly by New Zealand, Belgium, and Iceland.  So you’ll want to pack your back & off you go to the Congo, Lesotho, New Zealand, Belgium, and Iceland, to start implementing the changes you think will work!  (Whether or not you stop by Egypt, Armenia, and Azerbaijan on the way to take notes.)

SallyStrange #19 As for what will actually help bring down rape rates?   Well, according to research, the most successful rapists are repeat rapists who use drugs, alcohol, and threats of violence (rather than actual violence) to rape. They usually rape acquaintances too. Why? Because … everyone … thinks that date rape isn’t really rape because the woman must have secretly been “asking for it.” That means no more victim blaming, like Abdul was doing here. You can help out by criticizing Abdul*, who is actively working AGAINST decreasing rape rates, rather than attacking Ophelia, who is working FOR decreasing rape rates.

*Abdul Alhazred  #1 proposes arming women & repeats this in #6.  (His prison rape bit was weird.)

- All right, so we can help out by criticizing someone who is proposing deterrence by arming women.  That’s the first practical step mentioned so far.  Even if we extend it to criticizing everyone who proposes this step – presumably a relatively small number of people – how has that actually helped?

- Oh, and we can stop making any critical comments about Ophelia’s posts, because that is counterproductive (and might end up raising rape rates?  Hmm)

What did that awful slimy troll skeptixx suggest in this thread, related to rape rates? #16  “How about actually discussing what approaches might actually help achieve a goal of actually preventing rapes?”

-  Well, we have an answer as above: attack Abdul!  That’ll apparently feel useful, even if it does fuck-all to actually reduce anyone’s risk of rape.

#28 “Anyone who is seriously interested in trying to prevent rape, how ’bout taking a look at this 2011 summary from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (US): Rape Prevention and Risk Reduction: Review of the Research Literature for Practitioners (or another similar resource if you know of one), then go ahead and propose some practical approaches. …if you can find any literature that might be more pertinent to India, please do present it.”


I don’t suppose anyone is interested in listing the 3 general approaches to rape prevention, and for extra credit describing the potential upsides and downsides of each, and what evidence there is to support the efficacy of each general approach?


How would that make you self-righteous?  Wouldn’t it be something to celebrate?  I mean, isn’t the goal to actually help bring about changes in the world (understanding that most change occurs gradually, over years, through the efforts of many people)?

Don’t worry, there’s probably still time.  Perhaps there’s some volunteer work you could do that would help move society in this direction.  If you’re male (as your ‘nym suggests), how about joining forces with a group like this one: ?  Maybe going into high schools to talk to adolescent males, help instill an understanding of rape culture and practical tips to combat the messages they get from society.

Or, no less involved but on a more individual level, maybe being a Big Brother to a boy who might benefit from your positive influence.

It’s cool that she lectures us on how to do good things while she does good things by whipping up frothing rage at me at the slime pit. She’s an example to us all.




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


May 29th, 2013 6:03 pm | By


El Salvador’s Supreme Court has said no. No abortion for Beatriz; she has to die, because she’s pregnant.

Beatriz is carrying an anencephalic fetus, which means it has no brain and is only expected to survive at maximum a few hours after birth, even if she carries it to full term.

Beatriz has lupus, worsened by a kidney malfunction, and it is very dangerous for her to be pregnant.

“The doctors are saying it’s very critical because the lupus may be reactivated and if the lupus is reactivated it is very dangerous for her health,” [her lawyer] added.

She is now 26-weeks pregnant, and every day it becomes more risky for her to be pregnant and have an abortion at such a late stage.

Bastards. Fiends. Demons.

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

Look at them all

May 29th, 2013 5:26 pm | By

A small thing, but annoying. People who say “I completely condemn any harassment and abuse” – and then follow up quickly with a much more detailed and enthusiastic condemnation of whatever it is that you, the object of abuse and harassment, might possibly decide to say at some point in the future if your nerves are shredded and there is no lemonade in the fridge.

One thing that’s annoying about that is the fact that the people who say it never actually seem to do this condemning of harassment and abuse out loud. Or in public. Or in places where people who are engaging in harassment and abuse might potentially see it. Or in places where people who are engaging in harassment and abuse would for certain see it. These people-who-say seem to say it to themselves, and then swell a bit with admiration for their own rectitude and good taste when it comes to hobbies. They never seem to say it anywhere useful when you, the object of abuse and harassment, could use a little backup or support or solidarity.

They seem to want credit for it all the same, though.

You know what? They’re not getting it. I don’t give a fuck if they condemn harassment and abuse inside their own heads. That doesn’t do me one god damn bit of good. If they’re saying it just to get it out of the way before they get down to telling me off for being so harassable and abusable – well -

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


May 29th, 2013 7:05 am | By

About me. Posted on Michael Nugent’s blog yesterday.


No way am I telling you my name

May 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm

How lovely.  Your “healing the rift” effort required a sharing of email addresses at least one of which has been distributed to Ophelia Benson, who, as I type this, is gleefully doxxing an atheist woman who’s not ‘out’ in her real-life community.  Well, she is now.  Revenge for “talking shit” about Ophelia.  And the “talking shit?”  You can go see it for yourself.  The woman asked Ophelia if she really thought Justin Vacula  was attending the conference in Dublin specifically to “stalk her.”

And Ophelia Benson has gotten her revenge.  But that’s nothing.  Earlier this week she refused to take down another woman’s private post which Ophelia had re-posted, even after the woman told her it endangered her life by exposing her private information to her mentally ill and armed ex-husband and begged her to remove it.  Nope, said Ophelia, not taking it down.  That’s the revenge for “talking shit”.   Fortunately Ophelia was shamed into removing it the next day, but what damage was already done?

I’d ask for a refund to the Dublin convention but honestly I don’t know if you’re in on this or not.  Did you set up the whole thing to obtain private information for the doxxers?

So keep my money.  I won’t be attending this or any other conference that welcomes the serial doxxers.  I’m including Myers since he’s been talking about his plans to out a gay man with kids for having the temerity to warn Jen McCreight that she was posting information that identified her location. How horrible of him!  His warning to Jen had all personal info removed.  Her own post didn’t, hence the warning.  And he’s getting the punishment.

These people are vile,  dangerous to woman and dangerous to marginalized men and dangerous to the atheist community.  I didn’t know who the bad guys and good guys were in this so-called “rift” but I sure do now.  Do you?

Annotations. Numbered excerpts followed by my annotations in red.

1) How lovely.  Your “healing the rift” effort required a sharing of email addresses at least one of which has been distributed to Ophelia Benson

No. No email addresses have been “distributed” to me. “Skep tickle” gave me her email address by commenting here – commenting to tell me to “get help” for my “paranoia.”

2) who, as I type this, is gleefully doxxing an atheist woman

No. I was not “doxxing” her. I did not “dox” her. That’s an outright lie.

3) who’s not ‘out’ in her real-life community

Wrong. Yes she is out in her real-life community. She is on the board of an atheist organization in her real-life community, under her real name. That is being out. Number 3 is another outright lie.

4) Well, she is now.  Revenge for “talking shit” about Ophelia.

No. Two more lies. She is not out now, so there is no such revenge. If I had outed her, it still wouldn’t be revenge; it would be denying her the ability to trash me in public with no consequences to her reputation. It would be denying her the ability to protect her reputation in the act of damaging mine.

5) And the “talking shit?”  You can go see it for yourself.  The woman asked Ophelia if she really thought Justin Vacula  was attending the conference in Dublin specifically to “stalk her.”

No. She told me to get help for my paranoia. It’s right here.

Please get some professional psychological help.  I’m serious.  Paranoia seems to be consuming you.

That’s the whole of her first comment. Under the circumstances – two years of nonstop harassment by her friends at the slime pit – that’s a deliberately offensive provocation.

6) Earlier this week she refused to take down another woman’s private post which Ophelia had re-posted

No. It was not a private post. It was a tweet. I didn’t re-post it; I did a screen grab of it and posted that, on a page where I document a tiny sample of the harassment I get. The tweet was about me, obviously. Katie Graham (the tweeter in question) made her Twitter account private long after that.

7) even after the woman told her it endangered her life by exposing her private information

No. The tweet exposed no private information at all, and Graham was commenting here as Graham (while the name on her tweet was just some random initials). Graham’s comment here itself gave private information that the tweet did not expose. The tweet exposed nothing.

8) to her mentally ill and armed ex-husband

No. She mentioned her mentally ill mother, and then mentioned a gun. She didn’t say her mother was armed.

9)  and begged her to remove it

No. She peremptorily asked if I was going to remove it, now that she had made her account private (which I, not surprisingly, hadn’t known).

10) Nope, said Ophelia, not taking it down.  That’s the revenge for “talking shit”.

No. It wasn’t revenge. I didn’t like being more or less ordered to remove the tweet in this way, and she gave no explanation whatever of how the tweet could have anything to do with her mother or anyone else finding her or harming her, and I could see for myself that it contained no information about her at all – not her name, not her location, nothing.

11) Fortunately Ophelia was shamed into removing it the next day, but what damage was already done?

No. I was not shamed. After a short exchange she apologized for being so peremptory and explained that having made her account private she simply wanted to see that tweet gone. Fine; I took it down. No damage whatsoever was done. The tweet contained no information about her at all.

11 lies in two paragraphs. That’s an impressive count.

I emailed Nugent to tell him about the comment full of lies. So far he’s done nothing about it.

Update: He did remove it not long after I posted this.

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

To push the pope and the bishops

May 29th, 2013 5:58 am | By

The New York Times reports on the Whistleblowers.

Although they know they could face repercussions, they have banded together to push the new pope to clean house and the American bishops to enforce the zero-tolerance policies they adopted more than a decade ago.

The group began organizing quietly nine months ago without the knowledge of their superiors or their peers, and plan to make their campaign public this week. Most in the steering group of 12 have blown the whistle on abusers in the past, and three are canon lawyers who once handled abuse cases on the church’s behalf. Four say they were sexually abused as children.

The story links to a 2002 Times article that Sister Sally Butler mentioned in that On the Media story, and that I made a note to look for. It’s about the abusing priests that she knew in Brooklyn.

The nuns say they have made their allegations public because they resent the diocese’s secrecy and what they consider its inadequate action. The diocese said it handled everything fairly, that it had no responsibility to inform the nuns, and that it wanted to contact the victim, but that he never came forward. And following its policy and the usual practice in other dioceses, it did not contact law enforcement officials involving reports of abuse long ago.

The case, and others, shows the tension between church officials who say they are handling the cases fairly and conscientiously, and victims and others who say the church is mostly interested in keeping the abuses quiet.

Statute of limitations; that’s all they care about, Butler told Gladstone.

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

They asked about the statute of limitations

May 28th, 2013 5:28 pm | By

The other day On the Media had a segment talking to a Catholic nun, Sally Butler, who is part of a group who founded Whistleblowers. Guess what that’s about.

It was interesting, what she said. The three priests she and the other nuns worked with, in housing projects in Brooklyn, all molested the children. She thought Bishop Daly would take care of it, but no; to this day she has never met him. They got to see an underling of the bishop’s, Otto Garcia.

Butler: And we discovered that he and his lawyers were not at all alarmed, or surprised.

Brooke Gladstone: They asked about the statute of limitations.

Butler: [with emphasis] All they cared about: the dates. And that was a shock to us; we couldn’t believe it.

They went back, with the mother of two boys who were molested. One of them, in an attempt to stop the abuse, set a fire – and the priest sent them both to reform school and she never got her kids back. You can hear Gladstone gasp at that point.

The bishops would like to dismiss the whole thing because they provided therapy.

The new policy on child welfare - they pay attention to it according to their own whim. They don’t answer to anyone but the pope.

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

To protect their chastity

May 28th, 2013 3:42 pm | By

Via Mona Eltahawy on Twitter – a Saudi writer urges Tweeps to sexually harass women to make them go the hell back home where they belong.

A Saudi writer has urged his Twitter followers to sexually molest women hired to work as cashiers in big grocery stores, the latest backlash from conservatives who want to roll back limited social and economic reforms launched in the world’s leading oil exporter.

Abdullah Mohamed al-Dawood, who writes self-help books including one called The Joy of Life, has stirred fierce debate this week via the internet microblogging service with the use of the hashtag #harass-female-cashiers, to press for Saudi women to be forced to stay at home to protect their chastity.

That’s great, isn’t it? Assault them so that they will stay home to avoid being assaulted. The alternative of course would be to not assault them, which would have the same effect and would allow women to leave home and do things and be useful – but apparently Abdullah Mohamed al-Dawood didn’t think of that.

It’s quite similar to what I get told. (But much worse. Yes I know. It’s much worse. But the logic is the same and the motivation is the same and they both suck. Ok?) If you don’t like being harassed you should just stop writing. Well, that would be one way of dealing with it, but it would mean stopping writing, and I don’t fucking want to. It’s possible that Saudi women, like me, want to choose for themselves whether they go out or stay home, rather than being forced into it by people who torment them.

#harass-female-cashiers #harass-female-bloggers #harass-female-writers



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

It’s voluntary, but don’t you dare

May 28th, 2013 12:27 pm | By

Chris Moos pointed me to an article in the Guardian yesterday on the complications of trying to make policy on gender segregation.

Following the March event that upset some students at UCL, the university banned the IERA from campus. The vice-provost, Rex Knight, points to the form of words agreed by UCL that is now sent to anyone wishing to book rooms on campus. While enforced segregation will not be permitted, UCL states that “it is acceptable for individuals attending  events to choose to sit with members of their own gender. If individuals attending an event wish to segregate themselves on a voluntary basis, it is not acceptable for other members of the audience to compel them to mix, and to do so may constitute harassment.”

But that is enforced segregation. It means that other members of the audience are not allowed to sit in a segregated area, so hey presto, there is your enforced segregation again. You can’t do both. You can’t say it’s voluntary but then in the next breath say that other members of the audience have to stay away. The statement tries to pretend otherwise by phrasing that as “to compel them to mix” but that’s not honest. It’s not about grabbing someone’s arm to try to compel her to sit elsewhere, it’s about sitting in a “segregated” area. Naughty UCL to be so cagey about it.

There’s also the social pressure aspect, as Muslim student Razana Abdul makes clear.

This might sound like a reasonable compromise, but Abdul points out that voluntary self-segregation has serious limitations, most importantly for Muslim women like herself who may feel it is impossible to go against the flow. “If you don’t want to be segregated, there’s social pressure. I do actually regret not standing up and going and sitting in the men’s section as a form of protest.” For mixed groups [at the UCL event] there were just two rows in a huge auditorium made available for “couples”. Abdul says anyone choosing to sit there would have been very obviously rejecting the “norm” being imposed. “We’d look like the evil ones, choosing to sit there in the middle,” she explains.

Universities, she says, are anxious not to “discriminate against Muslim people’s practices, but this is a minority of Muslims. I’m a Muslim, an Asian woman, and I felt intimidated.”

But then the Islamists come back with the opposite objection.

It’s a good point, agrees Knight, but it is a view that university senior management has to hold in balance with others. “I was contacted by other female Muslim students who said they’d felt very upset that some male students had tried to sit with them,” he says. “One would hope that common sense and good behaviour would prevail. We are making our view clear to organisers that no pressure should be made to ‘voluntarily’ segregate.”

I think that upsetness is bullshit. Those students are at a university. They must have to sit with men all the time. London isn’t Jeddah, and women in London and at a major London university just don’t have the ability to stay away from men at all times. Making a fuss about it at one event looks like bullshit; theocratic bullshit.

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

Multiculturalism v child protection

May 28th, 2013 11:53 am | By

If you’re in London June 11 there’s a thing you can go to. (Funny how much I advertise events in London, isn’t it. I don’t know – I have contacts there. I see stuff.)

Multiculturalism and Child Protection – Sharia Law and Other Failures

London School of Economics, STC.S75 in St. Clement’s Building, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE at 6 p.m.

Anne-Marie Waters and Baroness Cox will be speaking about their newest report on the state of children’s rights in Britain. The talk is going to be chaired by Professor Eileen Munro, CBE and review the effects of state multiculturalism on the matter of child protection in Britain.

Anne-Marie Waters and Baroness Cox say that the report will show that a multicultural approach, adopted by local authorities and other public authorities, to child protection is placing children in danger and creating parallel …societies.  Furthermore, the talk is going to topicalise sharia tribunals and their increasing authority in the issue of child custody, questioning the impact this has, and is likely to have, on the equal protection of children regardless of race or ethnicity.

Anne Marie Waters is spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign. She campaigns against Sharia and religious Laws as she believes they represent a sacrifice of the rights of women in the name of legal and cultural relativism. She is a council member and campaigner for the National Secular Society, and campaigns more broadly for gender and race equality. She also writes and speaks on the importance of trade unionism, democracy, and Government and public sector accountability.

Baroness Cox is a cross-bench member in the House of Lords. She also is the founder and CEO of an organisation called the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART). She has campaigned for humanitarian causes, particularly relating to disability, women’s rights and children’s rights.

Eileen Munro is currently Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In June 2010, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, asked Professor Munro to conduct an independent review to improve child protection in England. Her final report was published in May 2011 and contained fifteen recommendations, all of which were subsequently accepted by the government. For services to children and families, Professor Munro received a CBE in the New Year’s Honours 2012.

Please find more information on this event on the LSE public events page.

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

Why a nym

May 28th, 2013 10:44 am | By

Objection, your honor.

Yesterday, when lecturing me on how I should put up with the bullying she and her friends dish out every day, “Skep tickle” replied to my objection that it’s easy for her because she hides behind a nym.

Some people on both “sides” of “the rift” do know my RL name and where I live, for what that’s worth.  I maintain semi-anonymity because of my job, as do many atheists, including (presumably) some of your regular commenters.

That implies that she hides behind a nym because she’s an atheist. That’s not true. She’s on the board of an atheist group under her own name.

So why does she hide behind a nym then? Well it’s obvious, isn’t it. She hides her identity when she’s engaging in harassment and bullying, and she does that because she doesn’t want people to know what a vicious hobby she has. She’s ashamed of it, or if she’s not ashamed of it, she at least realizes that other people would think what she does is shameful. I know that’s what I think.

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

A pretty ad for once

May 27th, 2013 6:30 pm | By

Don’t miss the new ad for Surly-Ramics! It’s








on the left.


It’s a piece of art itself, and a very B&W-friendly one.


Click on it to get to Surly-Ramics land, and use the magic word to get a discount.

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

It can’t be done

May 27th, 2013 5:53 pm | By

Chris Moos has a good article at the Huffington Post about gender segregation at UK universities.

Mind you, I disagree with him on one thing.

While there should be agreement on the fact that it is the right of students to voluntarily self-segregate, it is also clear there is no right of any campus group to force students to segregate, either by creating social pressure on students by advertising the events as “strictly segregated”, signposting “male” and “female” entrances and seating areas, or by verbally and physically enforcing segregation on the audience, as it occurred at UCL in March, as reported by the Guardian. Worryingly, this widely publicised case where students were refused entry through the “female entrance”, and subsequently intimidated and manhandled when they refused to comply is omitted from the discussion.

I disagree with the first clause. You can’t really have a “right” to self-segregate without segregating others, so there really is no such right. Segregation is from certain others, so it’s not a “self” thing.

He expands on the idea later.

Whether or not students want to segregate, in a liberal and democratic society the right to practising one’s faith stops where one starts imposing it on others. Contrary to what some assert, there is no right of the religiously observant to impose their sensibilities on others. For those who agree to segregate voluntarily, there is no need for advertisement, signposting, social pressure, intimidation or violence. Of course, if the segregation in these 40 cases had indeed been voluntary and agreed-upon by all attendees, the organisers would not have needed to promote or enforce it in the first place.

How could you do that though? How could you get all attendees to agree to segregate, and how could you do it without the risk of pressuring them? Imagine trying that with race. “Do you all agree to separate into white seats and black seats?” It’s not on. “Do you all agree to separate into believer seats and infidel seats?” Also not on. If those aren’t on, it’s not clear why the gender version should or could be on.

No I don’t think so; I don’t think the idea can or should be salvaged. People can sit where they choose to, within reason – but that naturally means that other people can’t tell them where to sit. People can get up and move if they don’t like someone who sits near them, but that’s all they can do. Self-segregation is an oxymoron, unless it just means staying home.

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

In this state because of our clergy

May 27th, 2013 4:24 pm | By

All right, a nice story for a change.

Two former Birmingham students have defied death threats to make legal history by becoming the first Muslim lesbian couple to get married in a civil ceremony in the UK.

Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, from Pakistan, tied the knot at a registration office in front of their solicitors and two Pakistani friends earlier this month.

Great. Two people who want to be together are together. A happy thing. I like happy things.

According to Pakistani law, same-sex sexual acts are illegal and go against Islamic teachings.

Those who flout the law are often targeted and in the most extreme cases homosexuals have been murdered.

The country does not have civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of a person’s sexuality and same-sex marriages and civil unions in Pakistan have no legal recognition.

But the potential threat to their lives didn’t stop Ms Kausar and Ms Kamar from going ahead with their marriage at Leeds Registry Office.

Wearing a traditional white bridal dress, the couple told the Registrar that they had known each other for around three years after moving to Birmingham from Pakistan on student visas.

I’m sure in actuality they wore two dresses, one each. The two of them crowding into one dress – now that would be wicked.

Ms Kausar, a master’s degree holder in economics from Punjab University, and her new partner both came to the UK to study business and health care management.

Ms Kausar, originally from Lahore, said: “This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives.

“The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach and we are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society which was once a tolerant society and respected individuals freedoms.”

And that is so dreadfully sad. It’s so easy for a country to fall off a cliff, and it can happen so quickly.

I hope they get to stay and will be very happy. I hope Birmingham becomes a mecca (so to speak) for liberal Muslims.

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

Threatened with disciplinary action

May 27th, 2013 3:58 pm | By

The ANU student newspaper has a response.

As many of you will be aware, the “Advice from Religion” infographic on the back page of Woroni, Edition 5 2013, caused a flurry of activity.  However, what you might not know is that over the course of a week, the Woroni board was twice summoned to the Chancelry, individually threatened with disciplinary action along with the authors of the piece, and informed that Woroni’s funding allocation could be compromised.

Threatened with disciplinary action…for what? It would help if we knew more about the cartoon, but so far I don’t.

As editors of a student publication, we have grown accustomed to receiving heated feedback from students and staff. However, in this instance the extent of interference with Woroni by the Chancelry was unprecedented.

The day following publication, the entire Woroni board was asked to attend a meeting with members of the ANU Chancelry, including Richard Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience). The Chancelry wished to discuss the Woroni board’s response to a formal complaint submitted by the International Students Department.

In a later statement to Woroni, the Chancelry maintained that the article breached the “University rules” and the Australian Press Council Principles. Furthermore, the Chancelry commented that the “the University has a large international footprint and is mindful of maintaining its reputation of providing a welcoming environment for a diverse student and academic population.”

Meaning…what? That cartoons about Islam are especially insulting to foreign students? But if so, is that true? More so than cartoons about Catholicism for instance? And if it is true, is it really grounds for discipline and deletion? It sounds dubious.

The Chancelry’s position is that the piece posed a threat to the ANU’s reputation and security. “[I]n a world of social media, [there is] potential for material such as the article in question to gain attention and traction in the broader world and potentially harm the interests of the University and the university community.”

“This was most clearly demonstrated by the Jyllands- Posten cartoon controversy … and violent protests in Sydney on September 15 last year,” the Chancelry told Woroni.

In light of these concerns, the Chancelry asked for an apology and an official public retraction of the piece.

Ah. Now we know where we are. The mention of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons clarifies. We’re in the realm of violence and intimidation.

The J-P cartoons were not substantively insulting (except possibly to a long-dead “prophet”). The “controversy” about them was worked up by Islamist clerics. We’re in the realm of preventive caution in the face of violence. That’s a very bad reason to punish students who did nothing wrong.

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

Amid concerns of offence

May 27th, 2013 1:19 pm | By

Another week, another cartoon about Islam yanked from a student newspaper.

A cartoon satirising Islam has been pulled from the internet by editors of  the Australian National University student newspaper, amid concerns of offence  and potential for violent backlash.

The Woroni student newspaper originally published the cartoon on  April 18 as part of its “Advice from Religion” infographic, the fifth in a  series previously featuring Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism.

ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young said editors retracted the cartoon two days after  it was posted online following a formal complaint to university management.

So…cartoons about Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism, okay. Cartoon about Islam, not okay.

Speaking on ABC Radio on Monday, Mr Young said there was also concern about  the potential for a violent backlash because of the graphic, which appeared on  the backpage of the paper.

“There have been a number of cases internationally of satirical cartoons  about the Koran which can have some very unfortunate side effects,” he said.

So…violence and intimidation work.


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

The source and certainty

May 27th, 2013 12:07 pm | By

Desmond Clarke, an emeritus professor of philosophy at University College Cork, explains why religious moral certainty is out of place in discussions of abortion law. In particular, he says that

those who are absolutely certain about their ethical views – which are evidently not shared by many others – should reflect on the source and certainty of their convictions.

Those who do so reflect and do so independently of religion tend to bump up against some version of the harm principle. First do no harm. That’s the core of the little list I drew up the other day – don’t do genocide, don’t push children into traffic, that kind of thing. There are complications, but my point was that you can make the claims short enough and obvious enough that it’s difficult to be skeptical about them – at least I think it is. Except for people with broken empathy, which is why I made an exception for psychopaths.

Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke recently about Catholics “putting faith into practice” and not leaving “our faith ‘outside the room’” when they discuss legislation. No one can argue with faith. The history of religions shows that sects have held the most irrational and misogynistic beliefs, and have attributed them to a god.

And attributing them to a god means getting to go around the normal inhibitions on violence and cruelty, and doing so with a clear conscience.

Of course, non-religious people have held equally implausible beliefs, but they cannot protect them from examination by appealing to faith.

I’m not sure we know that. I’m not sure it’s true that non-religious people really have held equally implausible beliefs.

But that’s a quibble. It’s the second part that matters. That’s the point we ended Does God Hate Women? with – that that’s how religion makes misogyny much harder to address and get rid of – it sanctifies it and shields it.

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


May 27th, 2013 10:54 am | By

Jason added the tool that makes tweets big and readable, so I’m going to try it out. I’ll do a vanity tweet, because I’m so vain.

"Backlash happens when you're making progress, not when you're nowhere." @ at #wiscfi
A Room Of Her Own

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


May 27th, 2013 9:21 am | By

Send Justin Vacula to Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin

Justin Vacula — Skeptic Ink Network writer, speaker, atheist and church/state activist, and host of Brave Hero Radio – seeks to attend conference in Dublin.

He’s raised more than enough already.

So this is how it’s to be. I can’t go anywhere now without being followed by a dedicated harasser.



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