Notes and Comment Blog

Deep divisions in the literary world

Aug 1st, 2015 10:34 am | By

Salman Rushdie talked to L’Express the other day; the Guardian shares some highlights in translation.

Salman Rushdie believes that if The Satanic Verses had been published today, the members of the literary elite who rounded on Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the French satirical magazine winning a PEN prize for courage would not have defended him.

I think he’s quite right. Things have moved on since the fatwa, and not in a good way. The very awfulness of theocratic Islamism (that’s a tautology, but people get confused about what Islamism is) has helped to make it harder to resist theocratic Islamism. The thinking goes: Islamists do terrible things, and that makes people be horrible to Muslims in general, so we have to redouble our efforts to stand up for Muslims in general, which means we have to hide or deny or minimize or obfuscate the reality of theocratic Islamism.

You can understand the reasoning for each part, but where it ends up is a mess.

Speaking about the decision by PEN’s American branch to award Charlie Hebdo with a freedom of expression courage award in May, which led to more than 200 writers putting their names to a letter protesting the decision for valorising “material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the western world”, Rushdie said the conflict had left “deep divisions” in the literary world. He would never have imagined that writers such as Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey and Junot Díaz “would have taken this attitude”, and he had written to one of the key dissenters, Teju Cole, about the situation, he revealed.

“[Cole] replied with a bizarre letter: ‘My dear Salman, dear big brother, everything I know I learned it at your feet,’” Rushdie said. “But his reply was mostly full of false claims: Teju assured me that he would never have taken this part against The Satanic Verses because, in my case, it was to do with an accusation of blasphemy, but in the case of Charlie Hebdo, it was about the alleged racism of the magazine against the Muslim minority.”

Rushdie told L’Express that he disagreed, saying that the 12 people murdered at Charlie Hebdo’s offices were killed because their words were seen as blasphemous. “It’s exactly the same thing,” he said. “I’ve since had the feeling that, if the attacks against The Satanic Verses had taken place today, these people would not have defended me, and would have used the same arguments against me, accusing me of insulting an ethnic and cultural minority.”

Quite; they would. They do, some of them. Remember the stink when Rushdie got his K? There were a lot of those accusations then.

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

It’s about the magnesium

Aug 1st, 2015 10:06 am | By

Aw shucks, as so often happens, once you look it up it’s not quite as fatuous as it looked.

Stonemill explains:

Thank you to all of our customers who have provided feedback on the recently launched Men’s and Women’s Wellbeing breads. We’ve had many positive comments about these new breads, but have also had some customers express concern about the gender-specific labelling.

As background, our intention when creating the Wellbeing breads was to support the unique and different nutrient needs of men and women. We worked under the guidance of a registered dietitian to identify the specific nutrients men and women require on a daily basis and what they may fall short on. For example, Health Canada indicates that up to 50% percent of men fall short of magnesium, while 80% of women may not get enough calcium. Therefore the Wellbeing bread for women was enhanced with calcium and for men with magnesium. Since bread is a staple food in many diets, we felt it was a smart place to add more nutritional value.

We now fully understand that while our intention was focused on nutrition, we appreciate and respect our customer concerns over the marketing of the product and have therefore decided to remove any gender-specific labelling. These highly nutritious products will still be available to you, but with new labelling.

Ok. Honestly though, you’d think someone in their marketing department or their customer relations department or their what color shall we make the labels department would have realized how silly it looks to add gender to bread.

I demand unisex bread for all. The bread’s preferred pronouns are they / fzzms.

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

Butterflies and Wheels 2015-08-01 09:54:28

Aug 1st, 2015 9:54 am | By

No, no, no, no…this can’t be real…

Sarah Nyberg ‏@srhbutts 21 hours ago
that tragic feeling when you’re at the grocery store but they’re all out of your gender’s bread

Embedded image permalink

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

He’s not biting

Aug 1st, 2015 8:14 am | By

Wow. A new low every day.

Marian Melby’s blog. Post by HJ Hornbeck.

I’m currently away, with only a scattered internet connection.

If you’re looking for M.A. Melby, you have the wrong extension. Please hang up and try again.

If you’re a blogger in the middle of a meltdown over accusations of transphobia, I spotted that post of yours thanks to a commenter. Nice troll, but I’m not biting.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t approved your comment or made one myself, technical reasons are conspiring to prevent it. About all I can do from here is write or edit blog posts, and only then when I catch a spare moment and/or build up sufficient outrage.

For all other inquiries, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

…. Oh wait. Hmmm. Maybe try carrier pigeon?



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

Rosetta and Philae awesomeness

Jul 31st, 2015 5:09 pm | By

StevoR left us some treats in the Withdrawing Room:

Rosetta and Philae awesomeness :

Stick with that first photo – its an animation with some pretty impressive reality in it.

Plus :

Also a good radio segment on Pluto, Kepler 452b ad more here as well :

Hope these are interesting & informative for folks here.


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

Guest post: A puerile game for puerile minds with puerile wants

Jul 31st, 2015 4:02 pm | By

Guest post by Bruce Everett

CN: Talk of spousal murder. And Nazis.

You know what I’d do if I were compulsively obsessed to fine-parse the ideas and beliefs of a certain group of people in order to find them guilty-by-association? I’d start looking for links to the works of Louis Althusser – because while the work of Althusser may have been picked up and expanded upon by some feminists, the guy strangled his wife to death. (And let’s not forget debate over his supposed turn towards neo-conservatism in his later years).

Then I’d start looking for links to Heidegger… because, well… Godwin’s Law. The work of Heidegger, and its derivatives (i.e. a lot of Left Bank philosophy) do turn up in theory in the Humanities, and not at all infrequently. It’s also become increasingly clear in recent years that no, his work isn’t entirely disentangled from the the politics of his friends in the jack-booted Halloween costumes.

It’s really easy to play this game. I have no intention of playing it. It’s a puerile game for puerile minds with puerile wants.

It’s not that these things can’t be discussed, or that they’re not relevant. And it’s not that Anglophone philosophers don’t deserve criticism along similar lines to the mentioned Continentals (e.g. see Locke and slavery).

But the fact that you can draw associations between philosophers of dubious character, with not a few bad ideas, and some of the ideas of the person in the same conversation as you, at base tells you nothing at all about the character of the person you’re presently engaged with.

The selective application of this kind of fine-parsing risks making a person a hypocrite. Applying it universally to imply guilt results in absurd results – suddenly throngs of feminists become misogynists, and some of the most dedicated anti-racist academics become Nazi sympathisers. This is obviously silly.

It’s a lack of consideration of this kind of thing that increasingly has me wondering just how much of the theory being invoked by some people has actually been read and comprehended, and just how seriously it’s being taken.

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

This is what we’ve come to

Jul 31st, 2015 3:47 pm | By

This is a comment that I deleted, by someone using the nym “Leum” who won’t be commenting here again.

I find it quite staggering.

And this time this stuff is coming from supposed allies. Progressives. People of the left.

This is what the people whipping up the hatred of me are fomenting:


Leum @58

Do you think Ophelia is not physically safe for a trans woman to be around?

Full disclosure: I am a cis male. I have the same reservations as Ophelia about a “yes” answer. I have spent some time in the company of a trans woman and felt no desire to attack her, physically or emotionally.

Since I’m a) not a trans woman and b) have not been able to follow how everything that’s been said by everyone in this discussion, I don’t really feel comfortable answering that question beyond saying that as an amab nonbinary person I would have no problem with, say, eating dinner with Ophelia. It’s also important to recognize that physical safety means more than “this person won’t directly attack me.” There are indirect forms of attack, primarily political in nature, that were actually initiated by cis feminists (a lot of the requirements for medical transition were first promulgated by cis radical feminists).

To my knowledge, Ophelia doesn’t support political violence against trans women, but since literally everyone in a transmisogynist society (including trans women) will manifest transmisogyny at times, it wouldn’t surprise me if she unknowingly supported (or failed to oppose) some policy that physically harms trans women.

In other words, yes, Leum does think I’m dangerous to trans women.

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

How the women got in that situation in the first place

Jul 31st, 2015 12:04 pm | By
Hey kids, let’s have a museum of women’s history! What shall we put in it? Pause for thought I know! Jack the Ripper!
A museum originally billed as a celebration of east London women has been branded a “sick joke” after it was unveiled to be devoted to the crimes of Jack the Ripper.
Hey, come on, he killed women didn’t he. That makes him part of women’s history – the most important part, probably. What have women ever done?

The team behind the project had promised to transform a disused Victorian building into the ‘Museum of Women’s History’ featuring images of suffragettes and other campaigners.

“It’s like some sort of sick joke,” said a resident who lives near the Cable Street site.

“You propose a museum celebrating the achievements of women and then it turns out to be a museum celebrating London’s most notorious murderer of women.”

Well being murdered is so feminine, you see. It’s passive, it’s weak, it’s being a victim, and it’s not what the woman wants. Perfect score!

The Ripper was the title given to the man behind a series of barbarous and unsolved murders of sex workers in London’s East End between 1888 and 1891.

He has never been definitively identified, and killed 11 women before he disappeared.

He sounds kind of cozy, now, like something you tell stories about over the fire on winter evenings. He doesn’t sound like those psychopaths who like to watch women bleed to death.

The original museum scheme was given the go ahead last year after plans were submitted on behalf of former Google Diversity Chief Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe.

As part of the application, architects wrote: “Our vision is to create a world class museum that celebrates the historic, current and future contribution of the women of the East End.

That’s the part that’s really pissing people off, I think. It’s fraudulent. It’s getting planning permission by making a fraudulent claim. It’s like saying you want to create a vegetarian restaurant and instead opening a slaughterhouse.

According to the Evening Standard newspaper, Mr Palmer-Edgecumbe admitted the plan to do a museum about social history of women had been scrapped to develop a project with “a more interesting angle” from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper.

“It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place,” he said.

Ah yes – the situation they “got into” by being WHORES.

You couldn’t make it up.

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

Just to satisfy his own dirty ego

Jul 31st, 2015 11:30 am | By

Oh god what an unbearable story. Be warned: this is an unbearable story.

A young woman has spoken of her “living hell” as her abusive ex-husband was jailed for life with a minimum of 28 years for shooting her mother as an act of revenge.

Tariq Rana, 31, travelled from his home in Wolverhampton to Pakistan intent on tracking down relatives of his 28-year-old wife Ayesha Riaz, who split up with him a year after their arranged marriage.

So for that he killed her mother. For a wound to his precious ego, he killed the mother of the woman who didn’t like being married to him. I like my ego as much as the next person, but I don’t kill people to avenge slights to it.

He shot his mother-in-law, Ghulam Asia, at her house in Lahore with an unnamed accomplice, dressed as a delivery man.

The pair rang the doorbell and when Asia, 49, went to the gate to sign for the delivery, Rana shot her twice at short range.

Fifteen minutes later, he texted his sister in the UK, saying: “Yeah I shot the bitch fully I think she expired.”

He then made a series of angry and aggressive telephone calls to Riaz’s brothers, threatening to kill them all unless she came back to him.

I begin to get some idea of why she left him.

I wonder whose idea it was to arrange that marriage, and whose idea it was to choose him as the husband.

On Friday, the victim’s family sat in the Old Bailey behind a screen obscured from the dock, as Riaz’s emotional victim impact statement was read out on her behalf.

In it, she said: “Words cannot begin to describe the way it feels knowing my mother has been killed by my ex-husband. Not a day passes where I do not regret marrying him and becoming a victim of his physical abuse.”

She said that the family lived in fear that he would attempt to kill us all to the point where they were even too scared to open the door.

She told how her sisters in Pakistan had been devastated by the “ghastly crime” and the family home had been sold because they could not bear to stay.

She said: “They watched their mother covered in blood and dying in front of their eyes on the doorstep of their home. It was not her time to go. This incident has become a nightmare.”

They were left in a “living hell”, she added: “Just to satisfy his own dirty ego, Tariq Rana has killed the mother of six children. Now we will spend the rest of our lives feeling afraid and vulnerable.”

It’s an unbearable story.

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

In a country teeming with IT graduates

Jul 31st, 2015 10:38 am | By

Nimisha Jaiswal points out that witches are not a form of cosplay in India.

Last week, a mob of 200 people in the Indian state of Assam dragged a 65-year-old woman out of her house, stripped her and beheaded her with a machete. They did so because a self-proclaimed “goddess,” who asked them to gather at a local temple, proclaimed that the woman was a witch and would bring bad luck and illness to the village.

People hate old women.

In a country teeming with IT graduates and higher-education institutes, such attacks are sadly and strangely common. Ninety people in Assam, a majority of them of them women, lost their lives in the last six years because they were branded as witches. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,097 murders between 2000 and 2012 were committed when the victims were accused of practicing witchcraft.

It’s not clear if that’s in Assam or all of India, but it’s a large number in either case. 2,097 horrific events.

Earlier this year, a woman in the state of Odisha was force-fed human excrement for practicing witchcraft. Last October in Assam, hundreds tied up an athlete in a fishing net and tortured her for being a witch. She had represented Assam in several national meets, and won a gold medal for javelin. In 2011, a mother and daughter in Assam were accused of witchcraft, and raped as punishment.

Non-governmental and social organizations, some founded by victims of witch-hunting themselves, have been working on raising awareness against these beliefs. Brothers, an organization that promotes development in Assam, has worked on in areas where such superstitions are rampant, and has assisted in rescuing and providing medical services to victims. Over the last few years, the organization has also initiated its own awareness campaigns against beliefs in witchcraft.

“People who make these accusations know the victim is not a ‘witch,’ but they do so because of political rivalries, property disputes or personal feuds,” said Dibyajyoti Saikia, the general secretary of Brothers. “The superstitious believe that the witch may have reduced crop production in the village, spread illnesses, or caused a death.”

Because crop failures, diseases, and death never happen unless witches cause them to happen.

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

Of course you saw it

Jul 31st, 2015 8:22 am | By

I can’t figure out what I think about this. I just go on a parade of “on the other hands” that never end up at a settled opinion. I do that a lot. I’m not very good at resolving ambivalence. That’s a problem when you have to make a decision – when you’re a judge, for instance – but I don’t think it’s entirely bad when you’re just thinking. It’s not always terrible to see merit on both (or several) sides of an issue. One of the things that annoys me most about the current campaign to expel me from the Community of Good People is the fervent loathing of ambivalence.

The “this” is the prosecution and conviction of Oskar Gröning for crimes against humanity.

Oskar Gröning is a 94-year old German who came to public attention ten years ago when he appeared in a BBC documentary to refute Holocaust deniers; as a former member of the SS, he verified the existence of the Auschwitz gas chambers.  Gröning, a trained bank clerk, had joined the SS as a 20-year old in September 1942; he was assigned to remove the luggage from the loading ramps of the train station at the Auschwitz- Birkenau camp and to count the bank notes in the luggage and send them to the Reich security office in Berlin.  Gröning was not accused of any violence against those incarcerated.

I happen to have seen part of a documentary about Auschwitz on one of the cable channels the other night, that incorporated parts of that BBC documentary in which Gröning appeared. First there was a bit in which an interviewer asked him if he felt guilt for his involvement, and he said no, on the grounds that he was just a cog. Callous, I thought. But then later there was another bit, in which the narrator explained that Gröning had gone public to talk about his role in order to counter the Holocaust deniers. That changed the picture somewhat.

And I just don’t know. On the one hand it was Nazi Germany. On the other hand he joined the SS. On the other hand it was more than 70 years ago. On the other hand it was Auschwitz. On the other hand what good is revenge? On the other hand I think Bill Cosby should still be accountable. On the other hand Gröning is 94. On the other hand what about the victims, very much including the survivors? And so on.

Although Poland wanted to try Gröning after the war for suspicion of war crimes at Auschwitz, the Americans closed down the pursuit of low-ranking Nazis because it interfered with their priorities of rebuilding of Germany and fighting Communism in Europe.  Between 1945 and 2005, 172,294 people were investigated for war crimes in Germany; 6,656 were convicted.  Sixty-five hundred Auschwitz guards have stood trial, and up until this trial, there were only 49 convictions; only a handful served prison terms.

That seems all wrong. Then again is punishment anything other than revenge?

For many decades, the German legal system would not prosecute former members of the SS or concentration camp guards unless there was evidence that linked them directly to the mass killings of the Holocaust.  The situation changed with Germany’s 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian guard at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland; the court ruled that Demjanjuk had aided and abetted mass murder just by working at a concentration camp.  Demjanjuk died in 2012, before his appeal could be heard; but from then on, an individual’s employment at a concentration camp could be considered adequate to pursue a war crimes conviction at this court.

It almost seems like a cynical game. “Well we’ll leave you alone for six decades or so, but then we’re coming after you.”

At the start of Gröning’s April, 2015 trial for complicity in the deaths of 300,000 Holocaust victims,     he stated: “This moral guilt I acknowledge here, before the victims, with regret and humility;” it was up to the court to decide his legal guilt.  The trial raised the issue of whether those who did not personally participate in the Nazi machine’s killings were still guilty of the crimes.  Prosecutors argued that Gröning’s actions as a bookkeeper make him criminally complicit in the regime responsible for mass murder.

I do think cogs are complicit. I think we’re all complicit in all sorts of things – living off the cheap labor of other people, for example. But complicit is one thing and deserving punishment is another. There’s also the fact that he was 21 when he joined the SS; he’s now 94. He’s not the same person.

The twelve-week trial in Germany ended on July 15, 2015 when Gröning was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews and he was sentenced to four years in prison.  Judge Frank Kompisch delivered the verdict, making it plain that every German had a choice about how far to go along with the Nazi government.  The judge said that while Gröning had not been directly involved in the killings he had been an integral cog in the machine of the Auschwitz extermination apparatus…. “a machinery designed entirely for the killing of humans” that was “inhumane and all but unbearable for the human psyche”.  To join the SS and take “a safe desk job” at Auschwitz “was your decision.” he said, ”but it was not because you were unfree.”   “Mr Gröning, don’t tell me you did not see the suffering, of course you saw it.”   The verdict will be appealed.

Saying he saw it is why he came forward in the first place. He came forward to tell the deniers that he had been at Auschwitz, he had seen the gas chambers, he knew it had happened – he was there. (That was in the documentary I saw.) He took a risk by doing it.

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

A culture of rampant male sexual entitlement

Jul 30th, 2015 4:55 pm | By

Glosswitch says sex education should include teaching boys not to be sexist. That seems reasonable.

I am a mother of sons and the thought of them growing up within a culture of rampant male sexual entitlement terrifies me. Right now they are six and seven – still innocent, still able to see their female peers as fellow humans – but as adolescence approaches, I fear that a deluge of misogyny will engulf them as they encounter the adult world and so-called “normal” attitudes to sex.

I am very much in favour of them being granted access to as much accurate, open-minded sex education as possible. Nonetheless, I doubt such teaching will ever be effective as long as we are in denial about the real problem: the widespread, culturally sanctioned dehumanisation of women as the price for male sexual gratification.

There is no point in explaining consent to boys, as though it is some peculiarly complex social exchange. It isn’t. What confuses them is the fact that our pornified, misogynist culture treats female bodies as soulless objects. They witness this everywhere: on TV, in the news, online, on the streets, in the words of their peers and elders.

Isn’t that just being sex-positive?

[S]tudent unions and fem socs across the land will organise consent classes for male students while condemning all criticism of the sex industry as “whorephobic.” The inconsistency escapes them. They haven’t noticed that, as Dworkin pointed out thirty years ago, male-dominated right-wing moralists are no more bothered by the exploitation of women’s bodies than left-wing sexual libertarians. They’d much rather put their energy into policing women’s access to abortion than men’s access to torture porn, just as left-wing warriors for sexual justice would rather spend their time attacking anti-porn feminists instead of asking how, and why, men across the world learn to treat women as objects into which you insert other objects, again and again, perhaps until they die.

Let me tweak that a little: left-wing warriors for sexual justice would rather spend their time attacking anti-porn feminists and women who try to talk about how we think about gender.

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

The language of gender identity

Jul 30th, 2015 10:23 am | By

At Slate, a piece titled Why I’m Still a Butch Lesbian.

Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart says she first started wearing what she calls “men’s clothing” a few years ago.

(Me, I would just call them clothes. I wear jeans – black ones when I need to clean up – and T shirts or turtlenecks, sweatshirts or sweaters. I don’t think of them as men’s clothes. Then again I don’t wear neckties – I guess I do think of them as men’s clothes. Why? Well…uh…I guess because I don’t wear them. Is this a little bit circular?)

VVU felt as if she’d been wearing an uncomfortable, ill-fitting costume her whole life, until she started wearing “men’s clothing.”

As I adjusted to this new information, it was hard not to notice that many of the people who shared my preference for the men’s section and my subtly masculine mannerisms had gone a step further and stopped identifying as women entirely. At times, it almost seemed as if, by not throwing my lot in with these pronoun creators and binary-rejecters, I might be just a little bit behind the times—a little square, uncool, perhaps even cis-sexist. Facebook has more than 50 possible gender identifiers. So why have I, a female-bodied person who wears men’s clothing, decided to stick with the increasingly old-fashioned “butch lesbian woman”?

Because why not?

In part, it’s because the language of gender identity has always been a bit bewildering to me—I’ve felt hungry, happy, gassy, and anxious, but never male or female. Even so, it has been tempting to interpret my experience in ways that separated it from that of other women. This is especially true because cis-gendered women have a distinct tendency to define themselves in ways that don’t include me. I hear women throw out things like, “As women, we all know how important it is to feel pretty,” or “We, as women, are naturally more tender and nurturing,” statements that never seem to include women like me. Not only do I dislike feeling pretty and prefer arguing to nurturing, I don’t even particularly like eating chocolate. Popular culture, and women themselves, often imply that I lack many of the most essential qualities of womanhood.

Me, I see that far more in popular culture than I do in women themselves. Maybe I just know all the wrong women, but I don’t think I know any who would say something as dipshit as “As women, we all know how important it is to feel pretty.” Pop culture on the other hand – dear god it’s all over it.

So in the past I’ve been quite tempted by the idea that perhaps I’m not a woman after all. I mean, I’m masculine in all sorts of ways—I am ambitious, logical, aggressive, strong, and highly competitive. And I’m certainly not silly, frivolous, dainty, weak, or overly emotional … Oh dear. That’s where I run into a major problem, isn’t it? When I start listing traits of mine that I’d call masculine, they’re always positive. They’re points of pride. Whereas when I list traits I lack that I’d call feminine, they’re negatives. It seems I can’t consider my own masculinity or lack of femininity without relying on some of the worst and most pernicious sex-based stereotypes. This suggests to me that the enterprise itself is suspect.

Exactly. There have to be women who have those traits that are put in the “masculine” box so that other women can feel “normal” and acceptable having them. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but it’s what I would like to happen. (Does the same apply to traits like silly and weak? No. Those aren’t qualities to aspire to. If women are generally seen as being that…we need to keep on struggling.)

As girls grow up, they are bombarded by rules and restrictions governing the ways that they can be. I know I was—otherwise I wouldn’t have been a fully grown adult before I started wearing clothes that I found comfortable. These gendered rules confine girls’ choices and constrain their self-expression. Perhaps one day the gender binary will be dismantled totally, and we’ll all stop limiting our children by bringing them up as either males or females. But, in the meantime, gender continues to be one of the first things children learn to recognize about themselves and others, and for that reason I think it’s important to keep the boundaries of what can and can’t potentially be male or female propped open as wide as possible. It’s wonderful that people who feel uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth are gaining strength and visibility. But, it’s just as important that young people, girls and boys and genderqueers alike, can have as many examples as possible of men and women who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. I like to think I’m doing my part for that by living as an aggressive, competitive, logical, and strong butch woman.

That’s how I think about the subject too.

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

Guest post: Duggars got bank

Jul 30th, 2015 9:06 am | By

Originally a comment by TGuerrant on Fresh quality content.

As timgueguen said (and despite the common elements in our nyms we are not the same person), the Duggars have a real estate business that Jim Bob took over from his mother, and they’ve parlayed it into a portfolio of income-generating commercial real estate, including a cell tower.

Jim Bob also ran a used car lot and a towing business – a good pairing. A used car lot arranges high-interest loans for buyers with lousy credit (profitable), the cash down payment made before the car’s driven off the lot usually covers the dealer’s costs, any payments the buyer makes are profit, and if a buyer fails to make the payments, the tow truck’s perfect for repo’ing the car, which can then be re-sold. It may not have the summer-in-the-Hamptons cache of a hedge fund, but it’s a pretty shrewd small business strategy.

The Duggars set up their eldest son, Joshua, with a used car lot of his own that floundered and got sold to a chain at the time he headed off for his short-lived career as a fundie activist in Washington. The second son, John-David, got the towing business, but wanted to become a pilot. Hence, Duggar Aviation (yes, really) now owns two planes available for charter, and a another son is training to be a pilot, too. The Duggars have set these enterprises and others up as a series of small LLCs, so if one fails, it doesn’t take down the others, and base the businesses’ administration in the same little home office to keep overhead minimal.

Jim Bob and Michelle aren’t big on formal education, you will have noticed. While home schooling lets them control what their children can even *begin* to think about and keeps them tied tightly to their parents, there seems to be an additional motivation for choosing a curriculum that leaves their kids pretty much unprepared for college: Why pay for education in the hopes that someone will give you a job because of it when you can just invest directly in making your own job?

Long before they got the show on TLC, Jim Bob and Michelle did pretty well for themselves without college degrees in an economically depressed part of the country. She, too, had a real estate license. They did scrimp to cover the costs of the huge family they chose to have – and I’ve read accounts that say they accepted government assistance at one or more points along the way – but when Jim Bob first ran for the state legislature, he was able to finance his campaign out of his own pocket.

It was a later (failed) campaign for the U.S. Senate that got the family noticed by the national media and led to Figure 8 Films pitching a documentary about them to TLC, a special that morphed into a regular show (said to have provided the family with $25k-$40k an episode).

The family has since contributed generously to the campaigns of others, spending about $67,800 since 2000 on 38 candidates, mainly Arkansas legislative candidates, but also candidates running in North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Almost half that sum – $30,700 – was spent in 2014 alone, according to records in the database. Their favorite candidates seem to be Baptist pastors with no political experience and no hope of winning. They’ve put their money where their mouths are, quite a respectable thing within the fundamentalist community, and must have a lot of favors out there to call in.

So they’re not suddenly broke now, no, though losing the show and the opportunities it generated like book sales and speaking engagements has to have been a serious blow. While I’m sure the Duggars want to continue their video careers to preserve their influence in the fundie world, to make money, and to satisfy what looks to be fairly profound narcissistic needs, it also looks like they’re going to use this new business they’ve learned about – video production – to establish enterprises for some of their sons and sons-in-law, just as they set up a car lot for Joshua and a charter plane service for John-David.

Joshua, before he went to Washington, was already touting his experience with video production, and it may be that he, especially, is considering behind-the-scenes work to support his family. His disgrace doesn’t register as strongly within the fundamentalist community as it does with the family’s detractors since fundie brimstone’s hurled at outsiders, not at the forgiven-by-Jesus privileged within, but he’s no longer fit to serve as a political front man.

I doubt that soliciting contributions or “love offerings” strikes them as begging. It’s just business – and a way to make lemonade out of the lemons of the current scandal.

Rather than sneering at them, I just look forward to future scandals.

Thanks to PZ Myers, for instance, I’ve learned that Jim Bob is buddies with Kent Hovind, the tax cheat recently released from federal prison on probation. Before his sovereign citizen pretenses got him jailed, Hovind was the erratic, charismatic creator of the silly Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park in Pensacola, Florida. When Hovind was released, Jim Bob had his son fly him down to greet his “like minded” friend and escort him home.

Maybe when Jim Bob posted that “like minded” comment on Instagram, he meant he and Hovind are young earthers. But I’d enjoy it more if Jim Bob’s destined to appear in court as a sovereign citizen, too. C’mon, Jimbo, give us a new kind of show, this time co-starring 19 IRS auditors and counting!

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

What Salty Current said

Jul 29th, 2015 5:23 pm | By

What Salty Current said on Alex Gabriel’s “smoke / fire” post from last month, a post which was kicked back to life a few days ago by the odious “sonofrojblake,” whom I finally banned from commenting here because he’s so odious.

This is the whole comment, because it’s good.


@Salty Current (#59): Including trans women in your definition of women doesn’t require you to ‘accept unproblematically a gender binary with whatever associated qualities anyone might attach to it’.

If you’ve been experiencing the oppressive aspects of the category “woman” and its associated beliefs for your entire life, writing for years prior questioning and challenging the category and its definitions, and (in Ophelia’s case) feeling very ambivalent about what it means to identify yourself in those categorical terms, it does. I’m really very angry about what looks like a total dismissal of our very real interest, as people harmed by these categories, in continuing to question and challenge them – in continuing to want to talk about gender in a critical way; like not immediately ceasing that aspect of our fight against oppression because some people demand it is done to exclude trans people from the great benefits of womanhood. People’s refusing to acknowledge the difference between this continued questioning and challenging of gender categories, in form and substance, and denying people’s rights, including the rights to self-identify and to have that identification be recognized and respected, is troubling. There is a difference between saying “I accept these categories and belong to one, and I won’t allow those people into it” and “I recognize and respect everyone’s self-identification and rights, but I want to continue to challenge the received categories which I and others have experienced as oppressive,” and it’s essential that it be recognized.


Maybe there is a lesson in that somewhere too.

I think there is, and it’s a lesson for you. Your history suggests that you seem to have a very individualistic focus and to be less adept at recognizing harmful or evil social dynamics. IIRC, you had far less experience with the pit than did those to whom you were insistently defending them, and I told you that more than once at the time. The point, as we tried to explain to you, wasn’t that their individual motives – the site and the collective behavior was harmful (which isn’t to excuse any of them individually, and many were and are capable of individual evil acts).

What’s happening now with Ophelia is very similar in form to the pitters’ actions against her then. Again, people’s individual motives aren’t the point: some are willfully malicious towards her, some are trying to sow divisiveness among social-justice atheists, some hate FTB and everything associated with it, and many believe they’re defenders of trans people and fighting the good fight. The practices, though, are familiar: setting yourselves up as a group to prosecute an individual, quote-mining, misrepresenting, projecting things into their statements or actions, spreading and repeating rumors and false stories without links, uncritically accepting claims about the person’s alleged bad behavior from questionable sources, looking for guilt by association, monitoring them closely on social media and compiling public dossiers to present your case to the jury (who are yourselves), encouraging others to join in, personalizing arguments and instead of reading arguments as arguments mining them for clues of bad intent, reading in the most uncharitable fashion possible, gathering on whatever sites will host you (if one blogger puts an end to it, you can always go to another) to endlessly rehearse their supposed misdeeds, providing threads for others to talk about their suspicions, ignoring or abiding some of the nastier tweets and comments, denying that there’s any such dynamic going on, dismissing the person’s feeling collectively attacked or besieged, presenting their statements and responses as though they weren’t made in that hostile context,…

I know many of you don’t see it this way and think you’re on the side of the angels, but it’s evil and harmful and cruel collective behavior that gets us nowhere. But for the lack of caricatures and derisive nicknames, much of what you’ve been doing is indistinguishable from the pit’s targeted attacks. I hope you’ll think about that. I don’t think any of you would want to be subjected to this yourselves.

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

Beyond doubt

Jul 29th, 2015 4:49 pm | By

Jesus and Mo explain about blasphemy.


You can support J and M via Patreon.

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

Fresh quality content

Jul 29th, 2015 10:36 am | By

The Duggars are asking for money.

On the conservative clan’s official YouTube page, Duggar Studios, the family asks for supporters to contribute funds so the kids can create “fresh quality content” on their video site.

“Every contribution is helpful, big or small,” they claim.

However, the videos, featuring the children playing basketball and going to the dentist, don’t seem to require much of a budget.

Also, clips are only uploaded to the account once every few months.

The former reality stars have a history of money grubbing.

MORE: Josh Duggar’s Bizarre Sex Abuse Recovery Program Revealed

Daughter Jill, 23, and husband Deryck Dillard, 26, recently faced criticism when they asked fans for financial donations for their first long-term mission trip— but refused to divulge details on how the money would be spent.

The money would be spent FOR GOD, obviously.

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

Is it an iconoclast? Or just a pain in the ass?

Jul 29th, 2015 9:41 am | By

Another good comment by John Horstman on how we think about gender, this time on Heina’s post distancing herself from me.

The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.

This is simply incorrect. There is a massive amount of scholarship questioning the validity of gendering organizational schemata at all, for cis, trans, genderqueer, and any other sort of people.

Butler’s Gender Trouble is a widely-known example, and it is decried as transphobic by the same crowd that’s going after Ophelia for pointing out that gender is a social construct and that our individual understandings of it are socially mediated. This despite the fact that the book spends most of its time deconstructing gender as a normative category for cisgendered people. I dispute the categorical assertion that cis women “are” women (or cis men “are” men) as any sort of essential aspect of existence. So does Kate Bornstein: go read Gender Outlaw, which contains an essay questioning how anyone could ever legitimately claim to feel “like a man” or “like a woman” divorced from a social context that determines what those categories mean in the first place. Or read David Valentine’s Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, which explores how unstable gender categorizations are in practice, with many of his interview subjects describing themselves using what would normatively be considered mutually-exclusively categorizations, to the point that any claim of essential meaning for any gendered identity categories becomes absurd.

And this is an incredibly important point because every single time I get dragged into this debate with gender-essentialist trans activists, what’s actually at issue has exactly zero to do with trans rights or marginalization and everything to do with a few people insisting that a discredited model of gender as a social system be adopted by everybody. You don’t get to hijack an entire discipline of study becasue you internalized a descriptive categorization as an essential aspect of your own identity (and this applies to cisgendered people as well as transgendered people – you simply can’t extrapolate to everyone or the total functioning of a social system from your own experience). Being trans doesn’t somehow make someone never wrong about how social systems (including gender) operate or not an asshole; the social-identity essentialists are just as wrong as the biological essentialists who insist that trans people are delusional, and their imperious demands are just as unacceptable.

Heina says yes but most people do believe in gender as a category, and that it’s self-absorbed to suggest we do away with something so important to most people.

I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s fine to suggest we do away even with things that are important to most people. It’s the “to suggest” part that’s crucial here – suggesting is a very non-violent thing to do. (Granted, by the same token, it can be a very passive-aggressive thing to do. Ain’t that just like life.) Suggesting that we do away with some unquestioned custom or category has always been the job of the world’s rebels and iconoclasts and pains in the ass. Most of the suggestions are worthless, but not all.

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

The clouds on the horizon

Jul 28th, 2015 3:33 pm | By

One from last Saturday, that I missed because there’s a lot. I’m missing most of it, I promise you. I hear reports, but I don’t see most of it.

It’s on Melby’s blog. Melby is one of the worst. The post is by H J Hornbeck. It starts on a friendly note, to soften you up.

It was about a year ago, I think, that I walked up to Ophelia Benson and said she was my favorite blogger on FtB. I adore her writing style, which feels like a conversation between old friends, and her frequent posts on international news were a breath of fresh air.

Even as those words were escaping my lips, though, I could see clouds on the horizon. I got burned by a TERF comic she once posted, which led me to do some research into Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism. The glib summary is “lesbians freaking out over potential penis,” which is surprisingly accurate.

Bam! the trap snaps shut on your paw.

It wasn’t a “TERF comic.” It was a comic done by someone who is (I’m told, and I take their word for it, which judging by the last few weeks may be a mistake) a TERF. Not a TERF comic but a comic posted by a TERF. In other words I did not knowingly post a TERF comic – the content wasn’t about trans issues.

So right at the outset he’s poisoned the well – he’s been dishonest. I did not post a TERF comic.

More worrying to me was what Benson didn’t do: learn from the situation. I saw no evidence she took a step back and reconsidered, on the contrary she went stony silent and refused to be pigeonholed. I brushed this off, but pinned a mental note in case it happened again.

Oh my god, I refused to be pigeonholed! Can you imagine?!

Take a step back and reconsider what? I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s easy to post good stuff by people who also do crappy things. It’s not something worth dragging people over the coals for. It’s not an issue. It’s an accident. Move on.

It did.

There’s a tension between the idea that gender is socially constructed and we get to shape it any way we want to, and the idea that it’s firmly binary and we are one or the other with no overlap or shaping allowed. This whole thing is just riddled with tensions, and it’s not transphobic to try to think about them.

It’s only in hindsight that can I explicity see the TERF influence.

Ahhhhhh now that’s a telling phrase. Maybe in “hindsight” he’s not seeing it, but constructing it or imagining it or projecting it. Maybe he’s reasoning backward from all these frantic claims by frothingly rabid Watchers, and deciding there is “TERF influence” simply because he’s been told it so many times. Point and hiss.

We also do not get to shape our constructs arbitrarily if we hope to use them as explanations. The tension is not from the interplay of constructs and reality, it’s from the misunderstanding of constructs in order to hide your bigotry.

That’s nice. That’s charming. That’s pleasant. Based on nothing so far, he’s decided I’m a bigot.

There’s a lot more ugly shit but that’s a good enough sample.

This will end at some point. I’ll talk about other things as soon as people let me.

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

Guest post: Has the world been made safer and more welcoming for trans people by this clusterfuck?

Jul 28th, 2015 3:11 pm | By

Originally a comment by sambarge on Acrimonious divorce.

M.A. Melby: Thanks. I see that now and I recall it in the thread on the drag performers being banned from the Glasgow Pride.

It didn’t sit well with me then but the response has been disproportionate and unhelpful. I like the description “clusterfuck” and I’m going to stick with it.

Demanding that Ophelia answer a question that she sees more nuanced than others, castigating and slandering her on other blogs and social media, and encouraging other bloggers and commenters to join in is pathetic. All of these acts are typical of why I could never feel quite comfortable on FtB. This sort of bullshit happens all the time. Pharyngula is the worst, of course, but it looks like PZ has put an end to the social threads and those folks are making plans to start their own thread of clusterfuck elsewhere.

And to what end? Has the world been made safer and more welcoming for trans people by this clusterfuck? I submit that the threat to the life and happiness of trans people isn’t feminists having nuanced discussions on what gender means. The sort of people that would hurt, isolate, and condemn trans people aren’t asking themselves: “What does ‘being a woman/man’ even mean? Is it constructed or innate? If it’s innate what aspects are and which are social? What affect does race, class or sexual orientation have on constructions of gender?” That was not the internal dialogue of Michelle Duggar as she recorded a message that warned parents that men would dress as women to get into public restrooms and rape their daughters. That is not the internal dialogue of a man beating a trans sex worker to death because he just got sucked off by a “she-male” and what if his friends find out and call him gay.

I’ll tell you what the end has been: a whole lot of clusterfucking and no improvement in the understanding of gender or the lives of trans people, with a side of fetishizing the continued, disproportionate victimization of trans people.

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