Notes and Comment Blog

River day

Mar 23rd, 2015 4:51 pm | By

More river graphics.

The Missouri has such an eccentric course. Poor Lewis and Clark, thinking it was just going to flow tidily west into the Pacific and be a super-useful transportation route.

Missouri river basin (Wikimedia Commons)

Missouri river basin (Wikimedia Commons)

West! North! West! North north north north! Westnorthwestnorthwest west west west SOUTH!

And then it breaks into three smaller ones and the Pacific is still way over on the other side of a lot of mountains.

And then look at the comparative volumes. I had NO idea the Ohio was 20 times the size of the other two.


H/t Alex

The Mississippi is really the Ohio. Who knew??

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


Mar 23rd, 2015 4:20 pm | By

I got curious, for some reason I don’t remember, about what causes one river to flow into another, so I did some Google-work and found a big ol’ source on rivers in Virginia. I love this one graphic:

Virginia rivers

(Source: USGS National Atlas)

Rivers rivers everywhere!

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

The greatest threats to women, in his view

Mar 23rd, 2015 1:22 pm | By

Here’s the thing. If you have a conspicuous history of complaining about “American women” objecting to what you consider trivial problems like sexual harassment, it’s silly for you to insist that you’re an “ardent feminist.” You can’t do both, as the saying goes. You can take constant potshots at feminism, or you can be an ardent feminist, but you can’t do both. You can claim you’re an ardent feminist while taking constant potshots at feminism, but it won’t be an honest claim.

Just last November – such a short time ago – Kimberly Winston made clear what a yawning gap there is between the claims to be a passionate feminist and the reality.

Bottom line: He stands by everything he has said — including comments that one form of rape or pedophilia is “worse” than another, and that a drunken woman who is raped might be responsible for her fate.

“I don’t take back anything that I’ve said,” Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. “I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood…”

It isn’t misunderstanding.

Dawkins, however, disagrees. He is, he said, not a misogynist, as some critics have called him, but “a passionate feminist.” The greatest threats to women, in his view, are Islamism and jihadism — and his concern over that sometimes leads him to speak off-the-cuff.

“I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial,” he said.

That right there – that’s what rules out being a passionate or ardent feminist. A man who “gets impatient” with women mildly objecting to unwanted sexual invitations is not an ardent feminist, however convinced he is that he fits the description, and however often he tweets that he is he is he IS.

“And so I occasionally wax a little sarcastic, and I when I have done that, I then have subsequently discovered some truly horrific things, which is that some of the women who were the butt of my sarcasm then became the butt of really horrible or serious threats, which is totally disgusting and I know how horrible that is and that, of course, I absolutely abominate and absolutely repudiate and abhor.”

Years too late.

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

El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power”

Mar 23rd, 2015 12:47 pm | By

Shulevitz ends that op-ed with a story that needs separate treatment, because it’s a whole other issue, and one I have very strong feelings about.

A few weeks ago, Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo, spoke at the University of Chicago, protected by the security guards she has traveled with since supporters of the Islamic State issued death threats against her. During the question-and-answer period, a Muslim student stood up to object to the newspaper’s apparent disrespect for Muslims and to express her dislike of the phrase “I am Charlie.”

Ms. El Rhazoui replied, somewhat irritably, “Being Charlie Hebdo means to die because of a drawing,” and not everyone has the guts to do that (although she didn’t use the word guts). She lives under constant threat, Ms. El Rhazoui said. The student answered that she felt threatened, too.

A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.” In a letter to the editor, the president and the vice president of the University of Chicago French Club, which had sponsored the talk, shot back, saying, “El Rhazoui is an immigrant, a woman, Arab, a human-rights activist who has known exile, and a journalist living in very real fear of death. She was invited to speak precisely because her right to do so is, quite literally, under threat.”

The response of the student in the audience makes me want to punch a wall. She does not “feel threatened, too” – not in the sense that Zineb El Rhazoui does. A number of El Rhazoui’s colleagues and friends were murdered just a few weeks ago, and allies of the murderers have made death threats against her on social media. Zineb El Rhazoui is an ex-Muslim, an apostate, an unbeliever – when she says she lives under constant threat she doesn’t mean people disputing her ideas, she means people who would be happy to shoot her with machine guns.

Those students don’t know they’re born.

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

And a video of frolicking puppies

Mar 23rd, 2015 12:01 pm | By

I saw an oped by Judith Shulevitz being passed around by a lot of AntiSocialJusticeWarriors yesterday, so I’m reading it. It’s about safe spaces and avoiding scary ideas and all that – a familiar enough subject.

If her account is accurate there is some very silly stuff out there, but it’s not clear whether it’s just some patches of eccentricity or a pervasive trend. Still…let’s look at a patch or trend, whichever it is. There was a debate on rape culture at Brown University, for instance.

Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

What? What? These are college students, not toddlers. Bubbles? Play-Doh? Blankets? PUPPIES?

Keep in mind this is presumably provided mostly for female students. Is it not just a tad problematic to infantilize women in that way? It certainly seems problematic to me. If Shulevitz is not exaggerating, that “safe space” seems more like a grotesque insult.

But other examples are more dubious. There was that all-boy debate about rape for example.

At Oxford University’s Christ Church college in November, the college censors (a “censor” being more or less the Oxford equivalent of an undergraduate dean) canceled a debate on abortion after campus feminists threatened to disrupt it because both would-be debaters were men. “I’m relieved the censors have made this decision,” said the treasurer of Christ Church’s student union, who had pressed for the cancellation. “It clearly makes the most sense for the safety — both physical and mental — of the students who live and work in Christ Church.”

That’s at the very least a selective way to report on that incident. I don’t think it was mostly talked about in terms of “safety.” I don’t think the debate should have been canceled once it was scheduled, because bad precedent blah blah, but I do think it was a crappy idea in the first place, and not for reasons of “safety.”

But then there’s the Kaminer one.

Last fall, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, apologized for causing students and faculty to be “hurt” when she failed to object to a racial epithet uttered by a fellow panel member at an alumnae event in New York. The offender was the free-speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, who had been arguing against the use of the euphemism “the n-word” when teaching American history or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In the uproar that followed, the Student Government Association wrote a letter declaring that “if Smith is unsafe for one student, it is unsafe for all students.”

“It’s amazing to me that they can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech, between racism and discussions of racism,” Ms. Kaminer said in an email.

I agree with Kaminer. It’s use v attribution. Yes the full word should be used (that is, attributed) in such discussions. I never say “the c-word” when I’m talking about the use of “cunt” as an epithet for women. The reasons to object to hate-mongering epithets have nothing to do with squeamishness, so yes, skip the euphemisms.

Shulevitz says it’s a small patch but then goes back to treating it as a trend.

Only a few of the students want stronger anti-hate-speech codes. Mostly they ask for things like mandatory training sessions and stricter enforcement of existing rules. Still, it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like.

Maybe, or maybe it’s just one of those seat-of-the-pants things, one of those patterns we detect without really having any idea how pervasive they are or aren’t.

Universities are in a double bind. They’re required by two civil-rights statutes, Title VII and Title IX, to ensure that their campuses don’t create a “hostile environment” for women and other groups subject to harassment. However, universities are not supposed to go too far in suppressing free speech, either. If a university cancels a talk or punishes a professor and a lawsuit ensues, history suggests that the university will lose. But if officials don’t censure or don’t prevent speech that may inflict psychological damage on a member of a protected class, they risk fostering a hostile environment and prompting an investigation. As a result, students who say they feel unsafe are more likely to be heard than students who demand censorship on other grounds.

The theory that vulnerable students should be guaranteed psychological security has roots in a body of legal thought elaborated in the 1980s and 1990s and still read today. Feminist and anti-racist legal scholars argued that the First Amendment should not safeguard language that inflicted emotional injury through racist or sexist stigmatization.

She neglects to mention the issue of stereotype threat, and how the whole “hostile environment” thing feeds into that. It’s tricky, probably insolubly tricky, but there is an issue. People who face constant belittlement from birth to death don’t just rise above that. It would be nice to think they do, but they don’t. You can tell them to try harder, but the trouble is, the trying harder is the threat. The effort expended in trying harder is effort taken away from doing the actual task, so that is a handicap. That’s a reason to try to do away with hostile environments that really has nothing to do with Play-Doh or fluffy feefees.

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

She was accused

Mar 23rd, 2015 11:12 am | By

In Kabul last week:

An Afghan woman who was lynched after being falsely accused of burning the Koran was killed for tackling superstitious practices, witnesses say.

Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a Kabul mob last week, had been arguing with a mullah about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine.

In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and beat her to death.

Some people murdered a woman over a single copy of a particular book. She wouldn’t have burned “the Koran,” by the way, even if she’d done it, which she didn’t. She would at most have burned a Koran. It’s not a scarce book.

Farkhunda, 28, was beaten, hit by bats, stamped on, driven over, and her body dragged by a car before being set on fire.

A policeman who witnessed the incident on Thursday told AP news agency that Farkhunda was arguing with a local mullah. Her father said she had complained about women being encouraged to waste money on the amulets peddled by the mullahs at the shrine.

“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” Mohammed Nadir told AP.

That’s not a reason to beat someone to death. That’s not even a reason to rebuke someone, let alone commit any kind of violence against her.

Shukria, a woman visiting the shrine on Monday, told the BBC that the attack was “not just an attack on Farkhunda, but on all Afghan women. They have killed us all”.

Demonstrators have called for justice and planted a commemorative tree.

The New York Times said she was mentally ill in its March 20 story, but the BBC says

Initial claims that the woman was mentally ill have been contradicted by both a relative and a neighbour, who said she was training to be a teacher.

So that’s one more teacher Afghanistan doesn’t have.

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

Without conditions

Mar 23rd, 2015 10:36 am | By

So this happened. The Irish Independent reports:

Maryam Namazie was due to give a talk to the Society for International Affairs on Monday on ‘Apostasy and the rise of Islam’ but decided to withdraw from the event after college security imposed “certain conditions”.

“I’ve just been informed… that college security (why security?) has claimed that the event would show the college is ‘one-sided’ and would be ‘antagonising’ to Muslim students,” she wrote on her blog.

“I was told that two conditions were required for the event to go ahead; one, that it only be open to students of the college, and two, that there would be a moderator to chair the talk”.

Speaking to, Ms Namazie said she decided against speaking because “such conditions had not been placed on other speakers.”

Last month preacher Sheikh Kamal El Mekki was invited to Trinity College in an event co-hosted by the TCD Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Irish branch of the AlMaghrib Institute.

His visit to the university was controversial because, in the past, the scholar has explained why apostates should get the death penalty and why the punishment of stoning exists for adultery.

And yet no conditions were imposed on his talk, but they were imposed on Maryam’s. Why’s that then? She doesn’t call for anyone’s death. She doesn’t “explain” why people should be killed for having sex or leaving Islam, or for anything else.

“It is unsettling because these people are given free access to a campus, while those who oppose violence and speak out against the violation of rights of non-Muslims and Muslims alike have restrictions placed on them,” said Ms Namazie, who was invited to speak in part because of Mr El Mekki’s lecture.

“No conditions were placed on his talk, nor was there threats to cancel his event over concerns that his position on death for apostates would ‘antagonise’ ex-Muslim and Muslim students who do not support apostasy laws.”

“If you criticise the Islamist movement, which is a far right political movement, you are seen as attacking ordinary Muslims – and this is not the case. Muslims are not a homogenous group. If you criticise the English Defence League, you’re not attacking the English.”

Maryam is working with other societies at TCD to get an (unconditional) invitation to speak there.

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

Reasons not to permit fracking near Chaco Canyon

Mar 22nd, 2015 3:50 pm | By

Una Vida Chaco Canyon rock art, enhanced.

File:Una Vida Chaco Canyon rock art enhanced 2.jpg


Kivas at Pueblo Bonito Chaco Canyon Ruins.

File:Kivas at Pueblo Bonito Chaco Canyon Ruins.JPG


Just leave it alone mkay?

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

That’s right, break all the things

Mar 22nd, 2015 1:22 pm | By

Let’s see, where are some places it wouldn’t be a good idea to subject to fracking. The center of Florence, probably. Machu Picchu. The Great Wall. Giza. Stonehenge. Chaco Canyon.

Oh wait – that last one can’t be right.

The renowned Native astronomical and sacred site of Chaco Canyon and its environs may be in danger from encroaching fracking wells, environmental groups fear.

“They are not thinking about the spirituality of those lands,” said Jemez Pueblo governor Joshua Madalena to theDurango Heraldin New Mexico, referring to the companies that are conducting hydraulic fracturing in the area.

With companies on the verge of investing millions of dollars into fracking enterprises, a group calling itself the Partnership for Responsible Business took journalists and others on an aerial tour of the region to draw attention to the proximity of proposed wells to sacred sites, and the need for unified planning given that the land involved has a hodgepodge of owners.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns 19 percent of the land in question, theDurango Heraldnoted, while the rest is controlled by a mixture of tribal members, tribes and others, BLM field manager Gary Torres told the newspaper. One of the major companies planning to work in the region is Encana, which is aiming to drill 45 to 50 exploratory wells, spokesperson Doug Hock told theDurango Herald. He added that company plus WPX Energy and Logos Resources plan to invest heavily over the next 12 to 18 months.

There’s a petition to tell the BLM to knock it off.

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

A small, grizzled coven of old-school feminists

Mar 22nd, 2015 11:36 am | By

Here’s another “lad” for you: Martin Daubney, who was the other “men are oppressed!!” guy on TBQ – the one who said, hilariously, “the great things men do, when do we ever hear about that??” He was the editor of a lads’ mag for years and years and years and now he’s that guy who edited a lads’ mag for years and years and years and thus an expert in the toxicity of feminism. He did some toxicity of feminism explaining in the Telegraph last November.

Twenty years ago, loaded – the magazine I edited for seven and a half years – was debated in Parliament for its corrosive effect on young men – or “lads” as they had been christened after the magazine’s very first cover line.

Today, we’re in exactly the same boat, as the Home Secretarybans toxic pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering the UK.

What same boat? “Pick-up artist” means “systematic premeditated sexual predator.” Are people supposed to treat that as just another vibrant aspect of human behavior?

And, of course, after much liberal rumination, it was concluded that Blanc’s very existence is propped up by today’s lads, who once again are fast becoming the most vilified sector of British society.

For if you believe Twitter, the liberal press or your more toxic feminists – never a wise idea – you’d think young, white, heterosexual males were the root of all evil in Britain.

Not a bit of it. Young, white, heterosexual males are not automatically lads. The word doesn’t pick out young white heterosexual males but a subset of them that acts a certain way.

It seems hard to imagine now, but thanks to loaded’s huge success – it sold 500,000 mags a month at its peak – by 1997 it felt like practically everybody in the UK was a card-carrying lad, even the girls (affectionately known as ladettes).

The new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was a lad, and his new, top-lad mate Noel Gallagher sniffed Charlie in the bogs at Number Ten during that infamous New Labour election party.

Were they overt unapologetic sexists? Did they publicly express contempt for women? I don’t remember that. Maybe I missed it.

Laddism’s only detractors were a small, grizzled coven of old-school feminists, mostly employed by the Guardian and Independent newspapers. Of course, they protested loudly, as is their wont, but struggled to be heard over the collective popping of corks and blaring of Now That’s What I Call Britpop CDs.

Ah yes, only the ancient witches of ancient feminism objected, and nobody gave a fuck about them, because of course we all hate ancient witches.

But fast forward a mere 17 years and the bovver boot is now firmly on the other foot – and set on revenge.

So it is that in 2014, the most widely hated sub-section of British society aren’t jihadists, child rapists or even politicians, but young, white, heterosexual men who drink too much, make ill-thought-out but usually harmless jokes and occasionally use the word “moist”.

First – why is the bovver boot now firmly on the other foot? What happened? What changed? Are people listening to the ancient witches of ancient feminism now when they weren’t 17 years ago? But if so, why? They’re even more witchy-ancient now, so why would people who hate ancient witches be listening to them more now? What happened in those 17 years to cause the change of foot?

And second, “usually harmless” to whom, according to whom? How does Martin Daubney know with such confidence that those ill-thought-out jokes are usually harmless? As someone who isn’t subject to misogynist contempt, how exactly can he tell?

Because what the lad’s critics fail to recognise is, like acne, being a lad is just another phase the overriding majority of young men grow out of.

More bullshit. The fact that most young men grow out of it is hardly a reason to foster and celebrate it, is it. If we’re supposed to be relieved that most young men grow out of it, why is it “toxic” of us to think they should be discouraged from growing into it in the first place? Many teenagers go through a phase where they have no idea how much alcohol it takes to make them throw up, and they grow out of it; is that a reason to celebrate drinking until you throw up?

…laddism is not some weird brain virus that consumes previously free-thinking men and turns us into misogynistic rape zombies. It’s not like being in the Hitler Youth.

Rather, being a lad is just something to do: a way of making friends at uni, of fitting in at the football, a perhaps unsavoury rite of passage before we grow up, something we dabble with before we realise we actually prefer carp fishing, triathlons, steady relationships, getting on at work, being a dad or watching Countryfile.

Of course it’s not a weird brain virus; it’s a bit of culture, like countless other bits of culture, and it can be encouraged or discouraged, valorized or condemned, wanted or not wanted. We get to choose, we get to say. We don’t have to treat racism or homophobia as some inevitable “phase” people go through or as “just something to do”; why should we treat sexism that way?

Loaded’s original lads were a two-fingered salute to the papoose-wearing, New-Man-cum-castrato the liberal newspapers extolled the virtues of, yet whom hardly any of us wanted to be.

Oh that’s attractive – men who pay attention to their children are castrated.

It’s funny that Daubney thinks he outgrew his laddism.

Every God needs its Satan: an antagonistic force to kick back against. And feminists need lads. What else would they rage about? Without lads, they’d be out of work. They can’t “solve” serious feminist issues like FGM, rape, or equal pay any time soon, so they fritter away energy on minutiae like getting sexist comedian Dapper Laughs sacked, banning Julien Blanc, or making Rosetta scientist Dr Matt Taylor publicly cry after wearing a “laddish” shirt.

Thank you Dear Muslima. I love seeing an anti-feminist man explaining to feminists what the serious feminist issues are, in aid of getting them to shut up about what he considers the frivolous ones.

These hollow, token victories not only make modern, online feminism seem increasingly toxic, petty and anti-man: they further fuel the lad’s persecution complex, add to their anger and drive them to more extreme acts of anonymous Twitter hate.

Yup, and women going outside causes men to rape them.

If we just ignored laddism, it might go away. After all, it almost happened in the noughties. But with a plethora of angry women lambasting lads’ every politically incorrect act on social media, and drawing angry return fire, there’s zero chance of that happening any time soon.

As a fully reformed and rehabilitated former lad, it makes me sigh wistfully.

Nope. Nope nope nope. Not reformed at all, not even a little bit.

By demonising lads and attempting to ban their entertainment – porn, Page 3, the London School of Economics Rugby Club, Dapper Laughs or even Julien Blanc – you perversely make the lifestyle choice just that little bit more attractive. Prohibition has never – and never will – work.

It’s so easy to think of examples where prohibition has indeed worked. He’s not a great thinker, is he. Maybe all that laddism took a toll after all.

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

Another university rugby club

Mar 22nd, 2015 10:14 am | By

And then they discovered that it was a pattern. What a surprise.

The men’s rugby club at the London School of Economics, disbanded this week over a homophobic and misogynistic leaflet distributed to prospective members, had previously been involved in actions including “blacking up” and playing Nazi-themed drinking games, according to the university’s students’ union.

The revelations came as it emerged that another university rugby club, at London Business School (LBS), was dissolved for 12 months last year following complaints about racism and lewd sexism in a leaflet produced to mark a tour of France.

Oh gosh, it’s just lad culture, it’s just banter, what’s everyone getting so worked up about? [insert here reference to women’s underpants getting bunched or twisted or in a knot or otherwise misaligned]

In an email to members to further explain Tuesday’s decision to disband the men’s club for an academic year, the LSE students’ union president, Nona Buckley-Irvine, said an investigation had uncovered “a negative culture within the club that has existed for years”.

I think by “negative” she means “bad” or “harmful” or the like.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Wow wow wow. This is unbelievable. Email from LSE: list of what else the men’s rugby club got up to over the years

It’s a war on bloke culture, I tells ya.

The men’s rugby club at LBS, also part of the University of London, was disbanded last year after it distributed a 50-page tour booklet filled with explicit images of a sexual nature and references to positions such as “torturing Muslims”, “aiding terrorists” and “sweating like a rapist”.

An LBS spokesperson said: “The investigation did uncover a wider cultural issue within the men’s rugby club which was completely out of line with our values. The club opted to take collective responsibility and a decision was taken to disband the men’s rugby club for an academic year.”

War on blokes!

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

Bigotry masked as banter

Mar 22nd, 2015 9:59 am | By

The shutting down of the LSE rugger club came swiftly, after no one copped to writing the leaflet.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Nona Buckley-Irvine, general secretary of LSE students’ union, said the club would be disbanded for the academic year after the flyer handed out at the freshers’ fair on Friday described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”.

The club apologised for the offending booklet, which said “outright homosexual debauchery” would not be tolerated and that women playing sports were “beast-like”. The leaflets were confiscated after uproar among students. The LSE and the students’ union launched an inquiry on Monday.

That’s still this academic year, so they’ll be back next autumn, probably with a good deal more oversight of their publications.

Buckley-Irvine said the sanctions were implemented after no one from the club took responsibility for the derogatory comments, adding: “It is important to note that in our investigations with members, the club was blamed as the body who produced, edited and gave out the booklet. Not one person within the club was willing to take personal responsibility for the booklets. In this case, responsibility does have to fall on to both individuals and the club as a whole, and individuals will be sanctioned separately in addition to this decision concerning the club.”

Buckley-Irvine also spoke out against the derogatory references to “poly” students, referring to former polytechnics which have now been converted into universities.

I went to an all-girls crammer in north Oxford when I was 17. We were told not to date students from the poly in Headington. I’m not even joking; that happened.

On Tuesday the university began an investigation into the incident and also held a women-only meeting to discuss the misogynist comments and wider issues affecting female students. Buckey-Irvine added: “Our actions in disbanding the club demonstrate the seriousness of the situation, and our commitment to challenging cultures that allow misogyny, sexism or homophobia to exist.”

The decision met with approval from fellow students. Lisa Mckenzie tweeted: “Rugby team has been disbanded for misogyny. None of them would own up to their ‘slag’ lit cowardly and misogynistic.”

Dalia Gebrain wrote: “A great stance taken by @LSE against bigotry masked as banter. People dismiss how harmful this culture is.”

“Banter”=hostile work environment.

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

To stare at the crumpet on the treadmills

Mar 22nd, 2015 9:25 am | By

Ok I’m curious about this “banter” nonsense that I was asking about yesterday, via the BBC Big Questions a week ago that started with a segment on “bloke culture.” I’m repulsed by many aspects of this, and one of the main repulsion-sources is the assumption that the natural state of men is loud emphatic unabashed loathing of women, and that rejecting or avoiding that state is an artificial and harmful kind of repression and discipline.

That relies on what Carol Tavris refers to as the hydraulic theory of psychology, in which people are seen as like boilers that need valves to release the pressure so that they don’t explode. But people aren’t like boilers, and raging at hated others isn’t a release valve at all, it’s a way of stoking even more rage and loathing, and passing it on to others.

Promoting systematic hatred of sets of people is not a healthy thing to do. Human beings don’t have a good history with that kind of hatred. Stoking group-hatreds doesn’t end well.

So. What’s “bloke culture”? The same as “lad culture” I assume, so I started with that, and found an item from last October. The rugger club at LSE passed out a leaflet at the freshers’ fair that was an epic festival of misogyny and other hatreds dressed up as “banter” – a leaflet

in which it described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”.

View image on Twitter

It’s odd that the highlighting starts so late, after the bit about “the crumpet” and “is a cunt.”

There are further references to “the perfect hedonistic cocktail of barbarism, beverages and women” while and another section suggested a committee member embodied everything the club holds dear: “debauchery, hedonism and misogyny”.

The men’s rugby club has issued an apology, and says it is organising a workshop for its members, who it says “have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’”.

“Banter” isn’t some magic word that makes it ok to shit on underlings. It doesn’t work like that.

Someone from the club issued a statement.

“The executive committee will cooperate fully with the student union to ensure such behaviour does not take place in the future. As a club, we will be taking steps to ensure that something like this cannot happen again. We have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’ and we are organising a workshop for all our members.”

It is not the first time the LSE student union has hit the headlines. In January 2012, the university investigated allegations that a Nazi-themed drinking game led to a brawl in which a Jewish student’s nose was broken during a skiing trip to Val d’Isère. The trip had been organised by the student union and was attended by 150 students from the university’s athletics union.

Hahaha Nazis haha banter hahahaha it just doesn’t get any funnier than that.

A women-only meeting is being held on Tuesday at the student union to enable female students to talk about the incident and broader concerns affecting women at the LSE. There is growing concern across university campuses around the country about a culture of misogyny and discrimination – known as “lad culture”. A recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey showed more than a third of female students have been subjected to unwanted or inappropriate groping or touching.

Why is it known as “lad culture”? That’s one question I have. That makes it sound ok. Why make it sound ok? Why normalize it? Whose idea was this, anyway?

I see from the links the Guardian provides at the end of the story that the rugger club was shut down – so it’s like Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma. Good outcome, but why is the BBC promoting the kind of thing by burbling about “bloke culture”?

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


Mar 21st, 2015 3:15 pm | By

Hmmmmmmyes. Holding my nose and watching the first twenty minutes of that TBQ, the part devoted to The Tragic Plight of Blokes and Their Excellent Bloke Culture. I’ve paused at 11:45 and may never watch the remaining 8:15 minutes, but I got a look at the dread Milo Yiannopoulos. At 11:10 a woman interrupts him to correct a factual claim, and he blocks her interruption with “Sorry I’m talking about men darling.” Kate Smurthwaite, I’m happy to say, goes ballistic, and the obnoxious presenter makes an obnoxious patronizing quip about oh dear I’m leaving.

Sexism as all a barrel of laughs for the masses, how revolting.


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

Their honour is more important than loving their children

Mar 21st, 2015 12:10 pm | By

This is heartbreaking. Nazim Mahmood jumped to his death from a balcony seven months ago after coming out to his parents. His partner of 13 years, Matthew Ogston, talks to Sarfraz Manzoor.

The two were soon inseparable. Matthew was working as a web designer and Nazim was a medical student. Their families did not know they were gay. After a year they bought a house. It had two bedrooms so their families might assume they were just housemates. “We used to have to keep the window blinds in our front room closed so no one would see us,” says Matthew. “When we walked down the street we made sure there was some distance between us just in case a family member of his spotted us together.”

They grew tired of looking over their shoulders and wanted to stop hiding, so when Nazim was offered a job at a London hospital in 2004 they seized the opportunity to move to the capital. They would be far from their families, in a city where they knew no one and could fashion a new life together. “In London we felt free,” Matthew says. “We didn’t have to worry about bumping into our parents.”

They were happy, but Nazim was sad about the distance from his family.

The following year, Matthew came out to his parents, who were loving and accepting of both of them, but for Nazim, whose family were culturally conservative Muslims, the only strategy was to keep the solid borderlines between the old life in Birmingham and the new life in London.

And then one day he did tell them, and two days later he jumped off that balcony.

Matthew was suicidal himself.

He is convinced that Nazim spoke to him, telling him to set up a foundation to help other young gay men and women driven to depression because of religious homophobia. He had a reason to go on at last.

The Naz and Matt Foundation was announced at a special service held in London for Nazim, two weeks after his funeral. The service featured contributions from a gay Muslim, gay Hindu, a gay vicar, a trainee Rabbi and a lesbian interfaith minister. Matthew has been seeing a psychotherapist but he doubts any counsellor can help to liberate him from the questions that haunt him. “I don’t have answers to the questions I have and I can’t find peace of mind because there are no answers.”

Who does Matthew blame for Nazim’s death? “I blame a community that is so closed minded to allow these bigoted views that make families believe that their honour is more important than loving their children,” he says. “The respect and honour of the family is more important than the happiness of the children they gave birth to. How sick is that?”

The sickest.

They were engaged for three years but didn’t marry. “I have applied to have my name changed by deed poll to the name I would have adopted when we got married,” he says.

Why didn’t they get married? “Naz said it would not feel right to marry without being able to invite his mother,” says Matthew. “He wanted the unconditional love of his mum – that was all he had ever wanted: love and acceptance.”

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

Take thy reward

Mar 21st, 2015 10:55 am | By

I see that Twitter-activist for misogyny rights Milo Yiannopoulos was on that BBC The Big Questions last week, which I would have known yesterday if I had watched all of the segment on Whither Blokes? but I didn’t watch all of it so I didn’t know he was on. It’s bizarre that the BBC gives airtime to people like him, since he’s more a bully and harasser than he is an “activist.”

Anyway he was, and Kate Smurthwaite got new consignments of Twitter misogyny afterwards. One sample:

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Another sample, via Kate:

The oxygen one deserves two appearances.

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

Your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

Mar 21st, 2015 10:28 am | By

Here’s another thing we can sign – a call to political action to Free Raif and Waleed.

So far 12 MPs, 9 MSPs, and 4 members of the House of Lords have signed. Scores of prominent human rights activists, writers, lawyers and journalists have also signed as well as hundreds of others (see below). Please continue to add your name to this statement. Further action will be necessary.

Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar has just written to us about this letter.
“I am very grateful for your action in support of my husband’s freedom– please help me get my husband back. His children need him”

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.

In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.

The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.

But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.

The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.

As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.

We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.

If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.

In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia



Links and instructions for signing are on the page.

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


Mar 20th, 2015 6:07 pm | By

University of North Georgia. College course catalogue. Illustration inside said catalogue.

University of North Georgia continuing education catalog

Interesting choice, especially with the caption.


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

No eclipse for you, children

Mar 20th, 2015 3:33 pm | By

Children at a London primary school were banned from watching the eclipse for “religious and cultural reasons.”

Council officials demanded an explanation from the head of the school in a multi-cultural suburb of west London.

Phil Belman, the father of a seven-year-old girl at North Primary School in Southall, rang the headteacher to express his anger.

My daughter was sent home yesterday to make a pinhole camera for the eclipse.

This morning I heard for religious and cultural reasons the kids were going to be banned from any part in the eclipse.

I was put through to him straight away and he confirmed it, religious and cultural reasons. I said that was totally outrageous. I asked him to elaborate and he refused.

It’s just going back to the dark ages really.

The part about refusing to elaborate is especially annoying. It’s a council school, not a private religious school; what is it doing banning all the students from watching the eclipse? What is it doing refusing to discuss the matter with a parent?

Ealing Council confirmed the pupils were not allowed out of their classrooms but said they were able to see the eclipse on TV screens.

The headmaster, Ivor Johnstone, issued a statement saying he was sorry for any disappointment.

The school made this decision when we became aware of religious and cultural concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly.

Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.

Don’t be sorry for the disappointment; stop banning things for religious reasons; that’s not the school’s job.

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


Mar 20th, 2015 2:57 pm | By

The Big Questions last Sunday – starting 20 minutes in they talk about apostasy. Amal Farah, an ex-Muslim, explains what it can be like to be an ex. Abdullah Al Andalusi bullshits for Britain. Kate Smurthwaite is there too. (The first twenty minutes are devoted to talking about whether Britain has become intolerant of blokes, which was so annoying I skipped ahead after a few minutes, but Kate was doing a good job of replying to the Bloke Representative.)


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