Notes and Comment Blog

The Catholic church’s deep concern for infants

Jun 3rd, 2014 10:20 am | By

Another entry in Ireland’s squalid, hateful, brutal history – the discovery of a mass grave holding the remains of 796 infants and children in County Galway. Yes that’s right – mass grave, holding 796 infants and children. A crime scene, in short; a massive crime scene; a crime scene reminiscent of the crime scene at Robert Pickton’s pig farm.

According to a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday, a mass grave has been located beside a former home for unmarried mothers and babies in County Galway. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to eight hundred babies, buried on the former grounds of the institution known locally as “The Home” in Tuam, north of Galway city, between 1925 and 1961

Run by the Bon Secours nuns, “The Home” housed thousands of unmarried mothers and their “illegitimate” children over those years. 

According to Irish Mail on Sunday the causes of death listed for “as many as 796 children” included “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”

Pause over the corrosive irony of that name - the Bon Secours nuns – the Good Help nuns. The Good Help nuns who took money from the state for “helping” those infants and children, who were so “helped” that they died in large numbers of malnutrition among other things. The Good Help nuns then threw them in a mass grave. That’s some good help all right.

The babies were usually buried without a coffin in a plot that had once housed “a water tank,” the report claims. No memorials were erected, the site was left unmarked and unmourned.

The staggering mortality rate of “The Home” was apparently replicated elsewhere in Ireland.

The Sean Ross Mother and Baby Home, portrayed in the award winning film “Philomena” this year, opened in Roscrea, County Tipperary in 1930. In its first year of operation 60 babies died out of a total of 120, a fifty percent infant mortality rate, more than four times higher than in the general population at the time.

And why? Greed and callous indifference for one, and hateful beliefs for another. The church viewed those children as filthy and degenerate, and treated them according to its sick view of how such people should be treated.

Statistics show a quarter of all babies born outside marriage in the 1930’s in Ireland died before their first birthdays. As observers have remarked elsewhere, these were infant death rates from the 17th century.

In one year alone in the mid 1940’s in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in County Cork, out of the 180 babies born 100 died.

Given the shockingly high mortality rates, it is hard not to conclude that the destabilizing threat these children represented to Irish society and its conservative religious ethos may have contributed to their untimely demise. 

I wouldn’t even try not to conclude that. I think not concluding that would just defend the mindset behind it and the corrupt theocratic power that made it possible.

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

Problem-solving in Abuja

Jun 3rd, 2014 8:54 am | By

Nigeria is working hard to solve the problem of the enslaved schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in April. How? By banning protests in Abuja, that’s how.

Police in Nigeria’s capital have banned all protests planned in support of the more than 200 girls kidnapped in April.

Commissioner Joseph Mbu said the proliferation of such protests “is now posing a serious security threat” to those living around, and driving through, demonstration sites in the capital city of Abuja.

“I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness,” he said in a statement Monday.

The lawlessness of protesting the failure to rescue the schoolgirls, he means. That’s his priority.


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

Freedom to sing

Jun 3rd, 2014 8:45 am | By

How Iranian state television goes about discrediting a woman who has escaped their clutches: it claims she stripped her clothes off on a London street while her son stood watching, and was promptly raped by three men. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it.

Iranian state television aired a report claiming that the Britain-based journalist Masih Alinejad, founder of the “My Stealthy Freedom” social media campaign against mandatory veiling, had been assaulted and raped in London in the presence of her son.

The broadcast described Alinejad as a “nexus of sedition” for her campaign, which has garnered over 430,000 likes on Facebook. Hundreds of Iranian women from inside the country have posted pictures of themselves taking their headscarves off in public.

State television painted the campaign as promoting indecency amongst Iranian women, and alleged that an “unstable” Alinejad had stripped naked on a London street and was shortly thereafter raped by three passersby while her son stood watching. The report also claimed that London’s Metropolitan Police, together with BBC officials, had sought to keep the alleged rape confidential, but that the story emerged on social media sites and generated a broad reaction.

Uh huh.

Alinejad swiftly rebutted the report on her Facebook page–which has 224,000 followers, as opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Facebook page, which is liked by 16,463. She posted that she was in good health and had not endured an attack of any sort.

She also provided a cheerful video of herself singing on a London tube station – Temple, to be exact – while a train arrives, waits, and departs. I find her more credible than Iranian state tv.

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

Oh no, not Hurricane TinkyWinky!

Jun 2nd, 2014 5:12 pm | By

Sometimes the gender nonsense just gets too silly. Shrugging off hurricanes because they have girly names? Really?

According to a recent study by University of Illinois researchers, hurricanes with women’s names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than those with masculine names — not because the feminine-named storms are stronger, but because they are perceived as less threatening and so people are less prepared.

So all over Florida, people hear news reports that Hurricane Shirley is headed straight for them and they just laugh because how hard can a Shirley hit?

The researchers examined human fatality numbers for 92 storms that made landfall in the U.S. between 1950 and 2012, excluding Katrina from 2005 and Audrey from 1957 because together, Shavitt said, they account for 50 percent of all deaths from hurricanes in the U.S. since 1950.

They found that the more feminine the storm’s name in highly damaging storms, the more people it killed.

Shavitt said their numerous experiments included university students as well as volunteers age 18 to 81 who took part in an online nationwide study.

They reported that when people imagined being in a male-named storm they predicted the storm would be more severe than it was for a female-named storm.

Hey here’s an idea – don’t give hurricanes people names at all. Call them things like Hurrican Shark and Hurricane Grizzly Bear and Hurricane Alligator.

At the Hurricane Center, Feltgen said “Whether the name is Sam or Samantha, the deadly impacts of the hurricane – wind, storm surge and inland flooding – must be taken seriously by everyone in the path of the storm in order to protect lives. This includes heeding evacuation orders.”

So don’t domesticate them with cuddly names at all. Whose idea was that, anyway?


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

How much more than 1000?

Jun 2nd, 2014 4:39 pm | By

The Washington Post takes notice of the practice of stoning women and girls to death for doing things like looking at a boy.

Despite creeping modernitysecular condemnation and the fact there’s no reference to stoning in the Koran, honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Pakistani rights group.

They have widespread appeal. Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis support stonings for adultery according to a Pew survey, and only 8 percent oppose it. Even those who chose modernity over Islamic fundamentalism overwhelmingly favor stonings, according to Pew research.

If that statistic is true it seems very unlikely that the figure is only 1000 women murdered for “honor” every year.

Some Islamic fundamentalists think that only through the murder of an offending family member can honor be restored to the rest of the family. Honor killings predominantly affect women — 943 women were killed under such circumstances in 2011 and another 869 in 2013, though not all of them were stoned. Some were just gunned down in cold blood.

So the first sentence was misleading. Journalists have so much trouble being honest about this subject. It’s not “an offending family member”; it’s a female family member who comes under some kind of enraged suspicion.

One man in Punjab province suspected his teenage nieces of having “inappropriate relations” with two boys. So on Jan. 11, he killed both girls, confessed and said he did it for “honor.”

Another teenage girl, living in Sukkur, was allegedly shot dead by her brother while she was doing homework because her brother thought she was sleeping with a man.

One mom and dad allegedly killed their 15-year-old daughter with acid because they said she looked at a boy and they ”feared dishonor.”

“There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle,” her father told BBC. My daughter “turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that; it’s wrong. People talk about us.”

The mother added: “She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

So the mother carried acid with her, ready to throw on her daughter should she look at a boy. What a pretty story.

Those who are stoned in an honor killing are oftentimes accused of committing adultery. Both genders face stonings in Pakistan and across 14 Muslim countries, but women are more frequently the targets.

The reason is rooted in sexual inequality in such countries, where the punishment has survived through some interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, that say adultery is punishable by stoning. In countries such as Iran, where stonings are legal and widespread, men often have significantly more agency than women. If accused of adultery, they may have the means to either hire lawyers or flee. But those options are frequently closed to women.

One 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow faced such a fate. The Somali child claimed she had been raped by three men and told the authorities what had happened. But her report did not spur an investigation into her allegations. Instead, the girl was accused of adultery, buried up to her neck inside a stadium and stoned to death before 1,000 people.

That’s the story I chose for the last pages of Does God Hate Women? I included more details than are mentioned here; they are horrific.



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

The first Tuesday of every month in LA

Jun 2nd, 2014 3:55 pm | By

Look what Amy’s got! The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group, all set up and ready for you to join if you’re in Los Angeles or feel like getting there the first Tuesday of every month.

Why such a group? Well, because it’s needed.

Over the last few years, ever since Richard Dawkins made his now famous snipe at Rebecca, I have  found myself felt pushed out of certain spaces in the skeptic and secular community, online and sometimes in person, simply for remaining an outspoken part of this blog.

Over the years, I have been harassed, talked over and talked down to. I have been threatened, ridiculed, intimidated and lied about. I have been stalked, mocked, Photoshopped and had my home address posted. I have watched dozens of my friends silently walk away from organized skepticism, this network, and movement atheism because of the hostile environment they have witnessed. Some have left out of fear for their safety or privacy concerns and some have left because they simply didn’t feel valued or respected. Many others left because watching and reading about harassment and bullying directed at some of the women just, “isn’t fun.”

And I totally get that. It’s not fun.

Amy’s group? It will be fun.

The group will serve multiple purposes. It will be a meetup group for making new friends and networking and it will also be a safe space that encourages creativity, art, education and positive activism that focuses on issues relating to women.
LAWAAG will meet the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at The Center For Inquiry, Los Angeles. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group will also organize art, activism and outreach projects and work towards building community and support for women without faith.

The first meeting will take place on July 1st at 7pm at CFI West and I’d love to see you there. We already have our first activist art show planned, because one thing you can count on, if I am running a group, is that we will get shit done! And I’d love for more people to get with me, get involved and get active.

I know about that show and it is going to be fantastic.

Read Amy’s post, because it has art in it. I love Amy’s art.

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

Guest post by Marwa Berro: Not a tool to be used to bolster anti-feminism

Jun 2nd, 2014 3:07 pm | By

Now this is a very brief comment, and I don’t usually make guest posts out of single paragraphs – although I don’t really know why, since one of the glories of the blog is No Rules, and I do very short posts myself when I feel like it – but it matters so as many people as possible should see it so this time I am. Originally a comment on A culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success.

As an ex-Muslim woman from the Middle East and a victim of oppressive misogyny at the hands of Islamist power structures, I absolutely condemn continued attempts to use the plight of Muslim women to trivialize harassment and misogyny in the United States. My oppression is not a tool to be used to bolster anti-feminism. Those who hold such opinions, Dawkins included, can kindly fuck off.

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

“While we all want workers to earn more money…”

Jun 2nd, 2014 9:56 am | By

The editorialists at the Providence Journal are worried about low-wage workers coming to eat their brains.

Let us hope Providence City Council members, in seeking to woo some powerful interest groups in an election year, do not inflict even more harm by dramatically hiking the minimum wage. It is expected to take up the matter this month.

My god the defenders of the rich and comfortable do like to turn everything backwards, don’t they. Low-wage workers are “powerful interest groups” now while the people who pay the low wages are their downtrodden helpless victims.

Certainly the activists were out in force last week, clamoring for an ordinance mandating a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Providence for hotel workers, well above the state’s $8.50 minimum, which itself is higher than the federal minimum wage.

How dare they. How dare they clamor. How dare they clamor for a wage they can actually live on in exchange for doing hard work for 8 hours a day. It’s an outrage.

The ordinance would slam into businesses that are vital to the city’s commerce and national reputation: the Dean Hotel, the Hampton Inn Providence, the Hilton Providence, the Hotel Providence, the Omni Providence, the Providence Biltmore, the Providence Courtyard Marriott, the Providence Marriott Downtown, the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel and the Wyndham Garden Providence. 

Thank you for the detailed list of hotels that pay low wages.

While we all want workers to earn more money, such an election-year stunt divorced from economic reality could do serious damage to those workers, as well as the city, the state and local property taxpayers, by slashing tourism and convention business, forcing some hotels to close or lay off workers and reducing tax revenues.

Oh I think you’re telling a whopper there, Comrade Editorial Writer. I don’t think you do want workers to earn more money. I think everything you say after those words shows quite clearly that you don’t want that at all. Skip the silly disclaimer next time. It’s like saying “Not to be politically incorrect but” – all it does is underline the shittiness of what you’re about to say.

What’s your salary, now that you mention it?

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

Whimsical Sudan

Jun 2nd, 2014 8:52 am | By

The reports that Meriam Ibrahim was going to be released from prison were premature, according to the BBC.

Reports on Saturday said a Sudanese official had confirmed that Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth in custody, would be freed in a few days.

But the foreign ministry said on Sunday Ms Ibrahim could only be released after a successful judicial appeal.

Her death sentence has sparked international outrage.

Ms Ibrahim was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, but a judge ruled last month that she should be regarded as Muslim because that had been her father’s faith.

She refused to renounce her Christianity and now faces hanging for apostasy.

It looks almost as if they’re teasing the world – “You think we’re outrageous? We’ll show you outrageous!” Never mind killing people for actually leaving Islam, now it’s killing people for being raised Christian when their fathers were Muslim. How would a state even administer that?

Last Wednesday, Ms Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in her prison cell – the second child from her marriage in 2011 to Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

The court had said Ms Ibrahim would be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before the sentence was carried out.

The court also annulled her Christian marriage and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery because the union was not considered valid under Islamic law.

It’s all do everything retroactively with this guy. She thought she was Christian so she had a Christian marriage but oh no, the court says she started out as a baby Muslim because of Daddy so that Christian marriage turns out to be adultery. It’s all random arbitrary hahaha you can’t possibly predict this so we can punish you no matter WHAT you do type law.

In his interview with the BBC, Mr Wani said he was hoping to continue living in Sudan with his wife and children in the event of her release, but that that might be too difficult.

He also expressed his hope that the court would reconsider the verdict about the annulment of their marriage, which he confirmed he had also appealed against.

Bad idea, I think. Their legal system just looks too capricious for safety.


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

Erased from the medical register

Jun 2nd, 2014 8:35 am | By

Finally, in the UK a doctor is defrocked for helping with FGM.

A doctor has been struck off after a tribunal found he offered advice on arranging a female genital mutilation (FGM) operation.

Birmingham doctor Ali Mao-Aweys was captured on covert recordings discussing the procedure with a journalist posing as a patient.

A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel ruled he should be erased from the medical register.

It’s a step.

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

A culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success

Jun 1st, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Another entry from the anti-feminists teaming up with right-wingers to sneer at women who say yes actually Elliot Rodger was motivated by misogyny, you can tell that by looking at his manifesto and his farewell video.



The link is to The National Review, not exactly a known bastion of skepticism. Let’s see what Heather MacDonald has to say.

Over 77 percent of all U.S. murder victims in 2012 were male; targets of non-lethal shootings are even more disproportionately male. Four of the six homicide victims of Elliot Rodger, the lunatic narcissist who went on a killing spree in Santa Barbara in revenge for female rejection, were male. And yet the feminist industry immediately turned this heartbreaking bloodbath into a symbol of America’s war on women.

“The feminist industry?” As opposed to the conservative industry that employs The National Review? And then, a symbol? No. A reality. The point was that organized hatred of women shaped Rodger’s thinking (such as it was) and that that deserves attention rather than sneers.

the fundamental premise of the feminist analysis of Rodger’s massacre — that the U.S. is “misogynist” — is patently absurd. To the contrary, ours is a culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success. There is not a science faculty or lab in the country that is not under relentless pressure from university administrators and the federal government to hire female professors and researchers, regardless of the lack of competitive candidates and the cost to meritocratic standards.

Why is there such pressure (where there is)? Because the numbers are so bad and because they’ve been getting worse instead of better, and there is a lot of research indicating that women stay away partly because of harassment and sexism and even misogyny. I don’t see our culture as “obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success”: I see it as obsessed with leering at female hotness and raging at female unhotness, along with watching tv shows that present women as neurotic idiots who are always tearing each other apart.

Girls hear a constant message that “strong women can do it all,” including raise children on their own. Any female even remotely in the public realm who is not deeply conscious that she has been the “beneficiary” of the pressure to stock conference panels, media slots, and op-ed pages with females is fooling herself.

Hang on. Which is it? A constant message that strong women can do it all, or a constant message that we’re in the public realm only because of the pressure to stock conference panels, media slots, and op-ed pages with females?

Corporate boards and management seek women with hungry desperation.

And then don’t promote them. Something is keeping the numbers down, at any rate. Maybe it’s just that women are so stupid.

Women “face harassment every day,” a double global-studies and feminist-studies major told the New York TimesThis portrait of a public realm filled with leering, grasping men may have described 1950s Italy and perhaps some Latin American countries today, but it bears no resemblance to contemporary America. Construction workers have largely been tamed. Groping on subways is thankfully rare — and it is committed by perverts. No one condones such behavior. 

No one condones such behavior. Is that a fact?! Ask Pamela Gay if no one condones such behavior.

And then, the cherry on the cake, we get the Dear Muslima.

Here’s a suggestion to offended females: Laugh off such crude manifestations of the unconstrained male sex drive, then put them in perspective. Go to Afghanistan, India, or Nigeria if you want to combat sexual inequality. But don’t pretend that as a gender-studies student in the academic hothouse, you are a brave victim fighting against your own oppression and that of the American sisterhood.

Heather MacDonald and Richard Dawkins must be so grateful to Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria for giving them such a fabulous pretext for telling feminists in their own world to shut up and be grateful.

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

Equality for

Jun 1st, 2014 11:43 am | By

The Canadian Association for Equality turns out to be not exactly what it says on the tin.

CAFE’s attempt to stage an “Equality Day” concert on the Toronto Islands fell apart this week when the proposed venue and sponsors were alerted to the group’s alleged ties to the men’s rights movement, a label applied to a broad spectrum of virulent anti-women ideologies that often blame feminism for male oppression.

The host venue and sponsors pulled out of E-Day Thursday, saying that when CAFE approached them they weren’t fully aware of the nature of the event or the group’s cause.

Gee I wonder how that happened. Could it be the name, maybe? Is the name a little misleading, possibly?

CAFE says it’s committed to improving the “status, health and well-being of boys and men” but is not part of the men’s rights movement. The E-Day debacle has renewed accusations by the group’s critics that it is deliberately wrapping itself in benign language in an attempt to legitimize what it knows is a very controversial mission. No one would object to something called Equality Day, but presumably Equality for Men Day would have raised some red flags.

CAFE plans a scaled down version of E-Day, (less up-with-men jamboree, more leafleting a public space) at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Sunday at noon. The Ride for a Dream event, which combats violence against women, is happening at the same time across the street. We hope to god this is a coincidence.

You mean, because you hope CAFE isn’t actually counter-leafleting an event that combats violence against women? That would be bad, for sure.

Ahead of the event we called the group to ask about its beliefs. The bizarre interview that followed won’t do much to assuage concerns that CAFE is being disingenuous about its activities, or that it is trying to put a female-friendly face on an anti-women agenda.

Because CAFE has made clear that it has a different interpretation of the interview than we do, we’ve posted the audio in full so readers can judge for themselves.

Then we asked about the press release we received from CAFE that said the organization was “working with support from City Councillors [and] MPPs.” This was surprising because CAFE had previously reported it was having difficulty getting councillors on board. On CAFE’s website they report Councillor Gord Perks said, “I have better things to do with my time” when they approached him.
Fong, who said she wrote the press release about E-Day, would not or could not tell us who the councillors and MPPs were. Instead she passed the phone to a man named Justin (at 3:49 of the interview).

Justin declined to give us his last name, saying he was “working behind the scenes as a volunteer” and wasn’t authorized to speak for the group. He too refused to tell us which politicians are backing CAFE. He claimed that supporters have been harassed, bullied, and sometimes stalked and he couldn’t identify them in order to protect their safety.

At that point I paused and wondered – is that Justin Trottier? Is it? Then I realized I might find out if I kept reading instead of wondering.

We put it to Justin that an equally plausible explanation for his refusal to name names would be that CAFE does not in fact have the support of any councillors or MPPs. He agreed that the group’s critics would indeed say that, which was “perfectly fine. They can say lots of things,” he said.
Then he put Fong back on the phone.
As the interview continued, we could hear Justin speaking in the background. It sounded like he was helping Fong answer our questions. We asked her if the man talking was Justin Trottier, a well-known and controversial critic of feminism whose name does not appear on CAFE’s list of officials. She said no.
We asked again if the man was Trottier, and again she said it was not.
Now, we can’t say that Fong was lying about this. But later we compared our interview to recordings of Trottier’s many previous public appearances, and the man Fong assured us was not Justin Trottier sounded like Justin Trottier. A lot.

What a fascinating once-in-a-lifetime coincidence. Isn’t life exciting.

As our interview progressed, a pattern emerged. We would ask a question, the man-who-definitely-wasn’t-Justin-Trottier would say something in the background, and Fong would repeat his words back to us.

We thought this was strange, and we pointed it out. When we said it sounded like Justin was answering for her, Fong appeared to take offence. “He’s not speaking for me,” she said. “I am the writer of the news release and I am the one who put this out there so you can speak to me.”

You know what they need? They need a chatbot, that’s what. They need a Siri.

Then there’s a whole sequence where the journalistic “we” asked about A Voice for Men and Fong said there was no connection, none at all, nope nope nople, and “we” said what about an article on their site touting an AVFM conference, and Fong said first no connection and then we’ll look into it.

When we pressed them on their relationship to the group, Justin told Fong who then told us that CAFE has attended AVFM events.

“We attend events to explain how we’re different from them,” Justin said in the background.

“We attend them just to identify our difference from them,” Fong repeated into the phone.

Justin Trottier will probably be Prime Minister one day.

Update: a sleuth friend uncovered the deeply hidden right out in the open fact that the Denise Fong in the story who passed the phone to Mystery Justin Who Is Totally Not At All Justin Trottier is engaged to…

wait for it

…Justin Trottier.

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

She’s Men’s Rights Attorney Marilyn York

Jun 1st, 2014 10:41 am | By

Oh, so maybe this is the motivation – it’s all niche marketing.

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

“How dare you besmirch the good name of misogyny?!”

May 31st, 2014 6:10 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte takes a jaundiced look at the contorted defenses of misogyny people are being driven to by the inconvenient actions of Elliot Rodger.

I call it the “How dare you besmirch the good name of misogyny?!” gambit. The idea is to deny and deny and deny that Rodger was motivated by misogyny. Which is weird. Since 95-99% of misogynists deny they are misogynists, what’s it to them to admit that he was motivated by misogyny? The only reason I can think to deny he’s a misogynist is that you secretly know damn well you are a misogynist, and you want to deny that your misogynist ideology played any role in the killings.

Well yeah. It’s their misogyny, they don’t want some weirdo like Rodger bursting in to wreck it for them.

Some variations I’ve spotted:

Rich Lowry: “Even without any of that background, it is obvious that Rodger’s final YouTube video and his 140-page manifesto promising to exact vengeance upon the women who spurned him are the ravings of a deranged person; as such, it is the derangement itself, not the content of the ravings, that is most important.” Translation:  Misogyny is clearly blameless here, and the fact that it showed up in Rodger’s rantings should be regarded as utterly irrelevant.

Add to that Jaclyn Glenn and J T Eberhard. Oh and Richard Dawkins, since he thinks Jaclyn Glenn’s revolting video was so “rational.”

Then there was the sub-genre of the “how dare you besmirch the good name of misogyny” gambit, which I call the “just because that guy killed someone doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with misogyny generally” argument. This card was played in response to women pointing out that Rodger’s spree was simply the worst manifestation of a constant drumbeat of male entitlement and anger when it’s thwarted, a combination commonly known as “misogyny”.

Katie Pavlich: “This issue is not about women and I think it’s kind of insulting for women to go on Twitter and talk about how them getting hit on in the bar is equal to being shot in the street, because it’s not.” Translation: Misogyny is utterly blameless and just because this one guy shot someone doesn’t mean anything. Misogynists who enjoy making life hard on women, carry on, so long as you make sure to stop short of violence. (By the way, no one talked about merely being hit on in bars. They talked about being harassed, which means being hit on by a man who is not going to take no for an answer.)

There’s more. It’s all shrewd good stuff.

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

She talks sense faster than most of us can think, says Dawkins

May 31st, 2014 5:32 pm | By

Oy, not another one.

Someone called Jaclyn Glenn, who I’m told is hugely popular among Teh Atheists, did a manic YouTube video echoing the much-echoed complaint about those filthy feminists exploiting that nice Elliot Rodger tragedy for their own filthy selfish self-centered how dare they ends. I could watch only a short bit of it because she’s so annoying. By way of refreshment I found her on Twitter, and lo, only five or six tweets down, who should appear but -


She talks sense faster than most of us can think, says Dawkins, and goes on to call her “the ever rational @JaclynGlenn” while linking to her video – right, because obviously trashing feminism is the epitome of rationality and sense. Or could it be that Dawkins just slaps the label “rational” on any opinion he happens to like? Especially if it’s uttered by a hawt woman? (more…)

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

Guest post by Leo Igwe: Stopping Witch Burning in Kenya?

May 31st, 2014 4:04 pm | By

Last Sunday, a 45 year old woman, Christine Jemeli Koech, was accused of witchcraft. A neighbour claimed that Koech, a mother of six, had been responsible for her child’s illness. A local mob stormed Koech’s house early in the morning while she was asleep. They murdered her and burnt her body. This gruesome practice of lynching continues in the East African country of Kenya.

According to media reports, the neighbour has been arrested but the people who carried out the killing are still at large. Witch burning is common in Kenya and in other parts of the region. Men and women accused of bewitching people are executed by a lynch mob. Some years ago, a graphic video of ‘witches’ being burnt in Kenya was circulated on the internet. It attracted international outrage and condemnation.

It drew the attention of the world to the scale of the problem in Kenya and in other parts of Africa. People in Kenya engage in witch burning with apparent impunity. People who attack and lynch ‘witches’ more often than not get away with their crimes. This has to stop. The government of Kenya needs to take a proactive rather than its current reactive approach to combat the accusation of witchcraft and the burning of witches in their country.

Very often, whenever there is a case of witch killing, the police respond and make some arrests. But afterwards nothing is heard about the case again. The matter just dies away. The government of Kenya needs to send a strong message to families of victims that they can get justice. And to those who may want to indulge in witch burning, Kenya authorities should let them know that they will be made to answer for their crimes. Unless the Kenyan government adopts this ‘riot act’ approach, the savage practice of witch burning may not be brought under control. But the scourge of witch burning is not an issue that can only be addressed through legislation. Education is vital to addressing this problem because people engage in witchcraft accusations as a result of ignorance and a lack of knowledge of reality and how nature works.

So there is an urgent need for public education and enlightenment to reason people in Kenya out of some mistaken notions. People engage in witchcraft accusations because of certain misconceptions about the causes of death and disease.

Witchcraft is an idiom for disease management in many families and communities across Africa. Many people believe diseases are caused by spiritual agents through the occult methods of witchcraft by witches and wizards, and these disease-causing and blood-sucking demons are found within families and neighbourhoods. This is particularly so in rural communities where there are few hospitals or clinics, and among the poor, whether rural or urban, who cannot afford effective medication or treatment.

Local medicine men and women, pastors and mallams worsen the situation. They claim to have powers to identify and cure witchcraft. There is need to expose these charlatans and debunk their paranormal claims. Skeptics and freethinkers in Kenya need to wake up and help make witch hunting history in their country.

So I ask: Can we stop witch burning in Kenya and in other parts of Africa? Yes. We can do so but only by enforcing legislation and providing education.

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

Guest post by Maureen on the comic book definition of madness

May 31st, 2014 12:52 pm | By

Originally a comment on Venn explains.

We may be edging towards something useful here.

We have already dismissed those who just want to say that Rodger was mentally ill therefore we need think about it no more.

What we need to do – and it is going to be difficult with the subject of the discussion dead – is pick apart the important question of whether Elliot Rodger was both mentally ill and also mentally ill in a way which rendered him insane and thus not in control of his actions or with any insight into their effect. This, I understand, is what M’naghten was about but I don’t know enough to say more than that.

There are vast numbers of people who have made the odd visit with a psychiatrist, who have had the odd couple of weeks on diazepam and could sometimes have used the support of a mental health worker – who are more often social workers than medical people. We are the people all around you who have manageable levels of SAD or bi-polar, who have the odd panic attack , who don’t and never will present a threat.

No way are we insane. Part of the problem with mental health stigma is that we are actively discouraged from making that distinction, from acknowledging that mentally and emotionally we all have bad days, better days and good days. Just like everyone else does with their wonky knee or their digestive system. Oh, no. To suit the simplistic worldview we must each be entirely normal – not a useful concept – or totally and permanently dangerous like something in an early Victorian novel. Either or. That is why Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scared the wits out of its first readers, though in the longer term it simply cemented the comic book definition of madness.

There is also the whole question of the etiology of mental illness. I know that Maudsley in London has been doing a lot of work on this, especially on the links between drug dependency, symptoms of what we used to call schizophrenia and the stresses and strains of poverty and detachment from social and geographic roots. It seems to be a very complex chicken and egg puzzle so that the old “born with a brain prone to …” and “it was the drugs wot caused it” explanations no longer work.

The finer points of this are way above my pay grade but is there someone here who could explain better than I have?

The good bit about researching that conundrum is that in inner city South London there is no shortage of live subjects. Mass killers tend to come one or two at a time and in many cases they are delivered to us dead. Not an ideal situation if we are trying work out the interface between political motivation, anger at some section of the population and the tip over from violent fantasy into violent action.

When Anders Behring Breivik was safely in custody the cries from the US to kill him pronto could be heard on this side of the Atlantic. Never mind the guns for a minute but is there something in the American psyche which would rather risk it happening again than understand why it happened this time? With Breivik we may eventually know why. With Rodger we never can but we should not be dissuaded from asking political questions – by the NRA or the Santa Barbara police or by anyone else.


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

The exercise in narcissism

May 31st, 2014 12:42 pm | By

At The Federalist Society, Mollie Hemingway lets us know how much she hates #YesAllWomen. It’s the Federalist Society, so you know what to expect.

Elliot Rodger did what he did.

Social media responded by accepting the murderer’s hate-filled screed as a legitimate point of discourse and the starting point for a massive act of hashtag activism: #YesAllWomen. Traditional media followed suit: the narrative was found. Eleventy billion tweets describing how all women were victims of men spread throughout the U.S. and Europe and the media breathlessly covered the exercise in narcissism. They all agreed it was “powerful.”

Narcissism. That’s the kind of shit that makes me want to stab things. How is it fucking narcissism? I’m not the only woman in the world, so if I talk about issues that affect women, I’m not talking exclusively about myself, now am I. To repeat my questions of a few days ago, was it narcissism to see the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church as a racist attack? And to discuss it as such?

Narcissism would be, perhaps, taking a selfie of yourself crying or fuming, or perhaps tweeting “Never mind Elliot Rodger, what shoes shall I put on?” But talking about misogyny and misogynist culture? I don’t think so.

She goes on to give a list of “the ten most asinine things about #YesAllWomen”; take number 6 for example:

6) It’s A Mockery Of The Real Problems Women Face Throughout The World

As the #YesAllWomen craze spread, a woman was stoned by her family in Pakistan for marrying someone of her choice as opposed to someone of their arrangement. While the #YesAllWomen crowds talked about the unbearable horror of being whistled at on the street, annoyingly being told to smile, and being given gendered McDonald’s toys, more than 200 Nigerian girls remained in slavery to Islamist extremist rebels. While we turn the murder of six into a narcissistic contest of victimhood, a Sudanese Christian woman married to an American Christian man gave birth to a daughter in prison. She awaits her martyrdom for supposedly converting from Islam (because her father, who left her family, had been Muslim).

Oh yay, another Dear Muslima! Just what the world needs. Why? Because we can’t do both; we have to choose one; we can’t discuss both Islamist horrors and homegrown misognyist shooters. Except wait, what, why can’t we? No reason. Just a sneery snotty Dear Muslima from someone who hates feminism.


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

Guest post by latsot on the Princess and pursuit

May 31st, 2014 11:15 am | By

Originally a comment on We are protagonists.

Prince Charming pursues The Princess(*). It is assumed that she wants this – regardless of her words or actions – and will eventually submit. Cinderella runs off at midnight but the prince decides to hunt her down like an animal declaring – without ever asking her – that he’ll marry the woman the slipper fits. If the prince wakes the princess with a kiss, it’s perfectly clear that she should be grateful to the point of *ahem* ‘marriage’. Then there’s the princess who only qualifies for marriage to the prince if she can pee through a dozen mattresses or something (**). He’s always the one setting the conditions and at the same time always assuming that the princess has no say in the matter. The reader is supposed to share that assumption.

Counter-examples? Well, the princess kisses the frog…. but the assumption is still that the princess automatically requires a prince. To the extent of going around kissing frogs. Which she presumably wouldn’t otherwise do.

I’m not convinced the counter-examples you’re thinking of are really counter, but by all means prove me wrong. Maybe it’s Beauty and the Beast? After all, The Beast is characterised and even *named* after his appearance and a person would have to be shallow not to see his inner beauty, right? Except that he *kidnaps* Beauty – who is also named after the one attribute that’s apparently important – until Stockholm Syndrome sets in, after which yet another ‘marriage’ occurs. I haven’t seen the movie but from what I understand, even the fucking candlesticks are complicit in this grooming and eventual rape.

But it’s just possible that fairy tales aren’t representative of literature and culture in general. Are there works of wider literature in which men have been objectified?


Is this relevant to the discussion?


We’re talking about the default. We’re talking about the bias we don’t notice but should. We’re talking about the biases people try to defend by citing (or in your case not even citing) exceptions as pertinent counter-examples.

Objectification in literature isn’t automatically bad. But I think it’s pretty much automatically bad when the bias in fucking fairy tales is indistinguishable from the bias we see in real life, don’t you?

(*) Interesting that the prince gets a name and the princess doesn’t. The prince’s name is about the attributes that are supposedly desirable to the princess. She wants a ‘charming’ prince, does she? She never said so. He told HER she did and his name exemplifies the attributes HE thinks SHE should value.

(**) H/T Terry Pratchett.

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

Today she received the following threat

May 31st, 2014 9:42 am | By

Pamela Gay is being given a hard time again, a worse time than ever in fact.

She frames it as a mistake she made, a mistake in keeping quiet.

On Wednesday, I learned that there are at least two audio recordings of a meeting at a non-profit. In this meeting my mistake was discussed and now there is the chance that audio could go public.

And at this point, if it did, I’d support it because it would mean I could speak the truth frankly without fear of being sued for libel or slander by people with more resources than I have. It might mean that every few months, I wouldn’t have to deal with someone going, “there is this rumor” or getting out of the blue emails saying, “you know…”.

My mistake was not reporting that a drunken man in a prominent role tried to grab my breasts.

I’m writing this blog post to try and get out the truth, to get my story out before the internet gets ahold of this truth and of me, and before I am judged by the court of the blogosphere.

We know that happens. We’ve seen it happen.

This is what happened that night:

Dear friend X went to introduce me to famous person A in a bar at a science fiction convention. Famous Person A was quite intoxicated. Instead of shaking my hand, Famous Person A tried to grab my breasts. Another person I had just met, person B, intervened physically. My friend made excuses for the famous person. Person B became a new friend. There was at least one other witness. I moved on with my con.

There are many reasons I didn’t report it.

She explains the reasons. They all make sense. On the other hand there is fallout, and she has regrets.

The thing is, in all the years since 2008, I’ve had a stream of women coming to me saying, “Me too,” and sometimes they say, “Me too, only it was worse and no one intervened.” I have lived with that guilt – lived with knowing that I did nothing but maybe if I had done something …

And that, too, is a near-universal thing. Then on the other hand there are threats and intimidation. No wonder women sometimes don’t report it.

The only way I thought I could survive was to chew off my dignity. In order to succeed, I thought I had to make no waves and miss no opportunity. I don’t know if I was right or wrong about what would have happened to my career. I know that I am now a woman with a secure enough position to say, “No, more.”

I don’t write this lightly. This is a post that has been maturing inside me for 5 years as I worked to secure my future.

I touched on what happened during my 2011 [typo for 2012 - OB] TAM talk, in which I said: “Here in the skeptics community, we, like every other segment of society, have our share of individuals who, given the right combination of alcohol and proximity will grab tits and ass. I’ve had both body parts randomly and unexpectedly grabbed at in public places by people who attend this conference – not at this conference, but by people at this conference. Just like in astronomy, it’s a combination of the inebriated guys going too far – guys I can handle -  and of men in power being asses.” [link] While there were people in that audience who had successfully touched me without invitation or my desire, because someone intervened in 2008, at least Famous Guy A had only grabbed at me. But he could have done more – I was lucky. And, for the women who have said, “It was more with me,” I have mourned and regretted I didn’t do more. It was in part for them that I gave that talk.

She has written about the punishment she got for that talk.

And then things get truly ugly.

I touched on it again in this blog post when in October, Famous Person A emailed me out of the blue. He wrote, “This is a private email for you only. … I hate to disturb your day, but you should know that there are rumors flying about today generated by a woman named Y accusing me of groping a woman (specifically touching her breast) in public at either 1 or 2, and the rumor is that it is you. Y is posting on [social media] that she was specifically told this by B, who of course did no such thing since it isn’t true. … Thank you for keeping this email private.”

He has shared around my response.

I have PTSD. It’s origins are complex and old. I had put it behind me completely for years and forgot about this demon. But, after my TAM talk in 2012, I went thru a very special form of hell that brought it back. I got help, and it’s under control, but… there are days, and this email created a week of those days. I responded that it happened (including with the description above), ending it with this, “I appreciate you reaching out to me, and understand that you may have been drunk enough to have no memory of this event. If this is the case, I would strongly urge you to consider seeking help.“ He wrote back to me two more times, asking why I had never confronted him, urging me to talk with him on the phone, talking about how this could devastate his family, urging me to remain silent. I wrote back saying I didn’t want to talk.

But he didn’t leave it there.

I’ve since learned that Famous Person A has told people I contacted him out of the blue, saying I wanted to make it clear nothing happened. In other cases, he either forwarded my message or an edited version. I’ve seen parts of my message parroted back at me by people I never sent it to. I kept the bastard’s secret for fear of my career, and now I don’t use his name for fear of his attorneys… but my name?  That is something people are trying to harm.

That’s not yet the worst. It gets worse, and then worse again.

On Wednesday, I got an email indicating that there are recordings of B discussing what happened in his non-profit work place. I was cc’d on a chain of emails that resulted in person B denying my experience. I responded with the same “this is what happened” as above. I’ve gotten pages and pages back. And, person B started cc’ing Famous Person A,a man who is known to be litigious. It was clear these emails wanted me to retract my very simple account of what happened in 2008. I eventually wrote to the board of the non-profit because they need to know. If the audio of the recordings go public they’re going to have one hell of a mess, and … I’ve served on the board of enough non-profits to know that if there is even a perceived possibility of inappropriate behavior by organization members, that member needs dealt with before it effects the membership or organizational mission.

Today I received the following threat from the person I thought was my friend, the person who intervened for me, person B. It was in the context of trying to get me to say nothing ever happened. He wrote, “I will also publicly speak about this as necessary, providing all documentation as necessary, including photos, emails, etc., and contact all relevant employers, as well.” He cc’d Famous Person A.

Let me put that more clearly: someone who once prevented something that has been characterized as a potential sexual assault (that is what grabbing breasts is) threatened me while cc’ing the famous person he once protected me from.

So that’s where that is.

Share this widely if you can. Pamela wants it shared. They have all the power.

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