Notes and Comment Blog

The best disinfectant

Sep 10th, 2014 11:08 am | By

Phil Plait writes about Surly Amy’s art installation at CFI-Los Angeles in Slate today.

For having the temerity to say that women should have equal rights, opportunities, and treatment as men, she gets a tsunami of hatred, venom, death threats, rape threats, and more. It would be enough to break down hardened people, and it has. But not Amy. She manages to not only deal with this horrifying onslaught but also turn it into art.

I mean that literally. With the help of several other atheist and skeptical women, Amy has created an exhibit called A Woman’s Room Online: a free-standing 8×10 foot room that is being installed in the L.A. Center for Inquiry office. It will look superficially much like any office in which a woman might work, with the usual accoutrements.

But each object will be covered with messages these women have received on Twitter, Facebook, and email. Real messages, actual things sent to them that are the vilest, most hateful examples of the worst humanity has to offer.

I was invited to contribute to the exhibit but I didn’t, for various reasons, but it’s a brilliant idea.

Phil has seen some of the pieces, and been horrified by them.

The words are hard to read, so difficult to imagine an actual human sending them to another human. They run the range from self-satisfied and arrogant to graphic and explicit threats against body and life. Sexism and misogyny had been brewing in the atheist and skeptical movements for some time but exploded when Rebecca Watson brought attention to them, and people were further polarized after Richard Dawkins made his “Muslima” comments in response. That was years ago, and things are no better … as we’ve also seen in so many other online communities as well.

Perhaps sunlight is the best disinfectant, and art has a way of focusing that light. Over at Skepchick, Amy herself wrote a description of her installation, and I strongly encourage you to read it.

I think this is an important piece of art. I suspect a lot of people really don’t have any idea just how much filth women (not only feminists, but just women on the Internet guilty of Posting While Female) have to slog through every day just to exist online. It’s horrifying—and sadly, used as a way to shut women up; read Amanda Marcotte’s recent post about this.

The more sunlight the better.

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

Kansas City here she comes

Sep 9th, 2014 4:51 pm | By

Well it sounds like something from the Onion, but the Standard is a real paper. A flight from LA to NY had to make an unscheduled landing in Kansas City in order to boot off a passenger who wouldn’t stop singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Well, yeah. Five hours of that? That would be baaaaaaaaaaaad.

The domestic service from Los Angeles to New York was diverted to Kansas City so marshals could remove the woman from the plane because she kept singing the song repeatedly.

The singing began shortly after the flight took off, but around halfway through it became too much for fellow passengers and staff to bear.

The woman was filmed being escorted from the plane, in handcuffs, still belting out the 1992 number one hit.

It would be too much to bear, definitely.

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

It’s time to change the outlook

Sep 9th, 2014 4:09 pm | By

The Detroit Free Press reports on the protest in support of Barbara Webb.

More than 100 people attended Sunday’s nearly two-hour rally.

“We value human diversity,” said Amanda Ruud McVety, 29, of Birmingham, a 2002 Marian graduate who helped organize the rally to coincide with morning masses at nearby St. Regis Catholic Church. “It’s time to show that — through actions and through words. It’s time we look at (homosexuals) as equals and not shame them for who they are.”

Another Marian alum, 2001 graduate Rachel Chapman Kopera, started the Facebook page, “I Stand With Barb Webb,” which had more than 3,300 members as of Sunday afternoon. A petition on also asks for Marian administration to support LGBT students and staff.

McVety said the firing of Webb goes against the social-justice teachings instilled in Marian students.

I wonder if the administration of the school is more liberal (and more feminist) than the local bishop, and felt it had to fire Webb to avoid surveillance and intrusion by the reactionary male hierarchy.

Amber Mazza Cunnings, a 2001 Marian graduate, said the movement is about bringing light to a social injustice she said the school teaches its students to confront.

“Marian teaches us about social justice in profound ways,” said Mazza Cunnings of Farmington Hills. “This is a human rights issue. There’s a mother and a child involved. (Standing up for them) is what we were taught to do.”

Brigid Johnson, 17, a senior at Marian, said the teacher’s absence was not explained to students. Teachers have told students they are forbidden to speak about it, she said.

How’s that working out for them?

Webb told the Free Press last week that her termination letter did not give a reason for her dismissal, but previous conversations with administrators pointed to a morality clause allowing firing over public conduct of “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith.”

She said she found out she was pregnant in June and told the administration in July. She said the school’s administration gave her the choice in August between resigning with health insurance benefits that would continue into the spring, as long as she did not discuss what happened or being fired.

She said she chose to be fired.

On Sunday morning, she said she was overwhelmed with the support she has received from the community, and is hopeful the students at Marian benefit from the situation.

“It’s not about me anymore,” she said. “Really, it never was. It’s time for the students at Marian to have an outlet. There’s no (Gay-Straight Alliance) club for students to express themselves. It’s time to change the outlook for the future.”

I’m Facebook friends with her now so I’ve been looking at her wall, and it’s full of really quite beautiful stuff – friends and relatives rallying round, little nephews and nieces around a table making posters for the protest, former students saying what a great teacher she was. A great bunch of people; the school will obviously be the loser here.


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

Unfire that pregnant teacher

Sep 9th, 2014 3:23 pm | By

There’s a petition you can sign urging Marian High School to unfire Barbara Webb.

STAND WITH BARB WEBB! We demand that Marian High School rethinks its policies and support LGBT staff and students

Barb Webb was recently forced to resign as a teacher at Marian High School in Michigan because she is pregnant and starting a family with her female partner. Webb was a well-loved teacher at the school – having been a chemistry teacher and volley ball coach for 9 years. There has been outrage from students, parents and alumni at a school that prides itself in ‘enabling young women to value human diversity and live responsible lives and inspiring its students to ‘Empower, Explore, Excel’

Webb told school officials that she was pregnant and hoped to work out some kind of maternity leave arrangement (or leave of absence) as her contract prohibited her from being public with anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine. Marian denied her the request for leave. She was asked to resign or her employment would be terminated.

We call on Marian High School and Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) to rethink their policies and start supporting LGBT staff and students.

Love is Love in all its forms – at a time when Barb Webb should be preparing for motherhood and the beautiful journey starting a family – we want to show our support and solidarity and ask Marian High School to never make this mistake again. Help Marian make the right decision. This is a human rights issue and every act of justice that we take can collectively get us one step closer to equality!

Pope Francis: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” We must always consider the person. September 2013.


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

How to ask rape survey questions

Sep 9th, 2014 12:41 pm | By

The deniers and minimizers are starting to succeed in training me to see deniers and minimizers where they aren’t. Like in this tweet from The New Republic:

The numbers on how many women are raped each year might be off by more than 88%:

I assumed they meant what Sommers would mean by tweeting that. Wrong. By “off” they meant too low, while Sommers of course always means too high.

The article by Claire Groden:

The recent CDC report, based on surveys conducted in 2011, found that almost one in five women (and 1.7 percent of men) have been raped in their lifetimes. In a single year, 1.6 percent of women reported experiences that are considered rapealmost two million cases. But the NCVS report recorded just 243,800 cases of rape or sexual assault in that year, 12 percent of the CDC findings. Meanwhile, a report compiled by the FBI, which only documents cases that were brought to police, shows only 83,425 rapes that year.

Why the big disparities? Different goals, and different kinds of questions.

This difference made the CDC’s survey broader, especially in the case of victims who were under the influence during the attack. The CDC counted alcohol- and drug-facilitated rape, asking if the respondents had ever experienced various sex acts while “drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.” But, as Scott Berkowitz at RAINN, the Rape and Incest Abuse National Network, pointed out, not all of those 1.2 million cases in 2011 would be considered rape by the Department of Justice. Due to the survey question’s phrasing, a person who had been drunkbut still considered herself capable of giving consentmight have answered yes to that question. A CDC spokesperson clarified that being unable to consent is key to the CDC’s definition of rape. 

That’s confusing. There’s a note at the end of the article saying a clarification by the CDC had been added, and that last sentence must be the clarification, which seems to be saying the opposite of what the previous sentence says. The interpolated “but still considered herself capable of giving consent” confuses the issue. Anyway…Groden seems to be saying that the CDC survey includes women who maybe sort of consented but were drunk or high.

Still, the CDC numbers are a reminder of how many sexual assaults and rapes go unreported. The total number of rapes reported to police in 2011 was 83,425far lower than either the NCVS or CDC numbers. If the 2011 CDC estimatealmost two million people casesall fit the legal definition of rape, that would mean only 4 percent were reported to the police. Even excluding alcohol- and drug-facilitated rapes, the 716,000 counts of completed or attempted penetration recorded by the CDC still add up to more than eight times the cases recorded by the FBI and almost three times as many as the Department of Justice. While finding an indisputable number of rape victims seems to be a Holy Grail, the CDC report certainly reveals that the most widely accepted estimates aren’t high enough.

Many rapes don’t get reported; many rapes don’t get counted. Imagine my lack of surprise.

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

An effort to put women back in their “place”

Sep 9th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

Soraya Chemaly explains some reasons Cathy Young is wrong to say that men get harassed online more than women do.

In addition to the difficulty of comparing data sets of varying size and depth, however, comparing male versus female online “harassment” is problematic for many reasons.

First, as Young points out, women’s harassment is more likely to be gender-based and that has specific, discriminatory harms rooted in our history. The study pointed out that the harassment targeted at men is not because they are men, as is clearly more frequently the case with women. It’s defining because a lot of harassment is an effort to put women, because they are women, back in their “place.”

It seems silly having to explain this. People who have a better spot on the hierarchy ladder are not as harmed by harassment as people who have a worse spot are, because harassment is itself a power move – a ladder spot enforcer.

For girls and women, harassment is not just about “un-pleasantries.” It’s often about men asserting dominance, silencing, and frequently, scaring and punishing them.

Rape and death threats made by strangers are also common, however. They coexist online with violent sexist, racist commentary on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and the sharing of gifs, images, jokes and memes depicting gross violence against women as “humor.” The “humor” can sometimes spill over into aggressive cyber mob attacks, which, as Citron explains in her book, disproportionately target women and people of color. These mobs include hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, systematically harassing their targets. #Slanegirl, a trending global public shaming of a teenage girl filmed performing fellatio is one example. Attacks on public figures like Anita Sarkeesian or Caroline Criado-Perez can take on surreal qualities whose effects can’t be underestimated—either on the individual attacked or on the environment.

Well actually they can be underestimated, by people like Cathy Young and Christina Hoff Sommers (who enthusiastically hyped Young’s article), but they shouldn’t be.

The harassment men experience also lacks broader, resonant symbolism. Women are more frequently targeted with gendered slurs and pornographic photo manipulation because the objectification and dehumanization of women is central to normalizing violence against us. Philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Rae Langton describe in detail how this works: women are thought of and portrayed as things for the use of others. Interchangeable; violable; silent and lacking in agency.

Women take online harassment more seriously not because we are hysterics, but because we reasonably have to. There is no gender equivalence in terms of the denigrating, hostile and sometimes exceedingly dangerous environmental effect that misogyny has, online or off. It has a long history and cannot be isolated from actual violence that we adapt to avoiding every day. The fact that that violence has always suppressed women’s free speech is only now becoming too obvious to ignore.

Despite the best efforts of the Cathy Youngs of the world.

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

Stand by your man

Sep 9th, 2014 10:38 am | By

So now Janay Rice is saying she’s pissed off at all these meddling people who got her husband kicked out of the NFL. She did a post on Instagram saying so:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!

Well, of course it has – that’s a lot of money thrown away.

Sorry, but it can’t be helped. The law can’t give big athletic guys an exemption so that they can keep drawing those big salaries for playing football, and football teams and their league absolutely should not turn a blind eye to domestic violence so that they can keep the talented players. Nope nope nope.

Imagine if it were their daughter he’d punched in the head – should the NFL just ignore that and try to cover it up when reporters ask about it? No it should not.

The guy did what he did. That’s not the public’s fault, it’s not journalism’s fault, it’s not his wife’s fault.

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

Women and girls, regardless of background

Sep 9th, 2014 9:44 am | By

Irshad Manji made a meme out of a sentence from that statement by British Muslims for Secular Democracy that a group of supporters (including me) signed last week, and that the Independent published.

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

“Failure is not getting knocked down, it’s not getting up.”

Sep 8th, 2014 5:39 pm | By

Ok so catching up on the Ray Rice thing, which I didn’t follow before – I just watched the “apology” video. It’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen.

First he apologizes to the bosses, the fans, the kids – “everyone that was affected by this situation that me and my wife were in.”


Situation? They were in? He punched her in the head and knocked her out.

That’s a terrible beginning, and it doesn’t get one bit better. He goes on that way for six and a half minutes. It’s all about him. He talks about generalities without ever actually admitting to what he did, without ever mentioning it, without ever saying the words, and using “we” and “us” the whole time as if both of them had punched Janay Palmer in the head.

When you’ve seen this thing happen with me and my wife. People asked questions about what happened. Sometimes in life you will fail, but – I won’t call myself a failure. Failure is not getting knocked down, it’s not getting up.

He actually said that. Dude, you’re not the one who got knocked down, she is, and she was knocked down by you. To the floor. You dragged her out of the elevator and dropped her face-down on the floor outside.

Me and Janay wish we could take back 30 seconds of our life.

No. Just the one. Just Ray Rice, not the woman he punched unconscious.

People told him “You’ll get through it.” He chokes up. “One thing you gave me is trust.” He gets all maudlin and emotional…about himself. It’s disgusting.

  • “I’m working on our relationship. I have Janay’s best interests.”
  • “Just wanted to thank my supporters.”
  • “Showing us a better way. Bringing us together.”
  • “We were able to get through this. To let y’all know – we’re still the same people.”
  • “I think my wife has something to say – we were in this together.”

And what does she say? “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night.” She does deeply regret being so annoying that he was forced to punch her in the head and knock her out.

I’m just fucking gobsmacked and disgusted and enraged.

You know what? One of the things we’re constantly told when we wonder why schools and universities spend so much money and time on football is that it builds character and wonderful social skills.


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

A year in jail, $225,000; a year in school, $8,000

Sep 8th, 2014 4:32 pm | By

The library came up with that book I told you about last June, Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down the House, about the US’s horrendous and out of step with other developed countries way of dealing with juvenile offenders by throwing them in jail for years. I’ll share some items.

On average, we spend $88,000 per year to incarcerate a young person in a state facility – more than eight times the $10, 652 we invest in her education. In many states, this gap is even wider. In California, for example, the cost of a year in a youth prison reached a high of $225,000, while education spending dipped to less than $8,000. [p 6]

And what’s the payoff? Children turned into repeat criminals. Locking children up does nothing to rehabilitate them and does much to wreck them.

…for as long as we have locked children away in the name of rehabilitating them, the evidence has mounted that this approach is a failure on all fronts. Sky-high recidivism rates… – higher than 80 percent in some states – indicate that whatever is taking place inside our juvenile correctional facilities, no one is actually being “corrected.” [p 7]

It doesn’t just fail to correct, it succeeds in criminalizing.

In fact, multiple studies have shown that putting youth behind bars not only fails to enhance public safety, it does just the opposite, driving low-level delinquents deeper into criminality and increasing the likelihood that they will wind up behind bars again and again. [p 7]

What does work, Bernstein is convinced, is a consistent relationship with at least one trusted adult. Prison isn’t the place to find that.

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

Reader, she married him

Sep 8th, 2014 12:40 pm | By

So, this guy? Ray Rice, this guy who plays football for the Baltimore Ravens? The one who punched his girl friend so hard he knocked her out, and was suspended by his team* the NFL for the whoppingly punitive two games?

Today a new video was released that shows the actual knockout punch, and the team has now fired him.

Before all they had was a video showing him dragging her unconscious body off an elevator and dumping her on the floor just outside it.

I don’t quite understand why the first video wasn’t enough.

Within hours of the video’s appearance on, Rice’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, tweeted, “The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of RB Ray Rice this afternoon.”

The video shows Janay Palmer, now Rice’s wife, being hit in the face in the elevator. Palmer then lunges at the running back before he delivers a blow that knocks her out. When the elevator doors open, Rice drags Palmer’s body outside, leaving her face down on the floor, her legs still inside the elevator.

The clip sparked outrage from fellow football players, coaches and fans, and many called for the NFL to cut Rice sooner. Herm Edwards, a former coach for the New York Jets, said he would have taken action before the video was released.

The most depressing part of the story is that Janay Palmer went ahead and married him.

*Thanks to Nick Little, Leo Buzalsky and others who corrected my howler.

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

Penis Home Road

Sep 8th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Raw Story reports that Mars Hill church is shrinking operations as more people learn what a pathetic patriarchal mess it is.

An August profile of Driscoll published by The New York Times explained that he had been accused “of plagiarizing, of inappropriately using church funds and of consolidating power to such a degree that it has become difficult for anyone to challenge or even question him.”

A month earlier, it was revealed that Driscoll had posted hundreds of inflammatory Internet comments almost 15 years ago.

Although the media focused on his comments about the U.S. being a “pussified nation,” bloggers who followed Driscoll closely argued that his views on women and sex were the larger problem.

Hello? Calling the US “a pussified nation” is itself a view on women that is a problem.

On Monday, “Love, Joe, Feminism” blogger Libby Anne pointed out one of the more disturbing notions from Driscoll’s Internet trolling days.

Well then let’s go to the source, and while we’re at it get the name of her blog right – it’s “Love, Joy, Feminism.” Joe isn’t part of the story. Take it away Libby Anne:

Things have been getting worse and worse for Mark Driscoll in recent weeks. But what I want to point out for a moment is one of Driscoll’s posts from 2001, when he was posting to a church message board under the name William Wallace II. I have rarely seen an evangelical man assert male superiority and prominence this directly.

The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while.

While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.

You  you you – notice that Driscoll assumes that women aren’t reading. Does he think they can’t read?

Yes, really. Men’s penises are on loan from God, and women were created to be “homes” for men’s penises. So much for any claims of men and women being “equal before God.” No, men were created by God and loaned penises. Women were then created by God to be penis homes.

Therefore, if you are single you must remember that your penis is homeless and needs a home. But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not. And, though women other than your wife may look like a home, to rest there would be breaking into another man’s home. And, if you look at a man it is quite obvious that what a homeless man does not need is another man without a home.

Notice that all women are portrayed as another man’s penis home, whether or not they are married. This squares with what I was taught—every woman is some man’s future wife, and that man owns her body even before they meet.

Penis home! It all seems like such a lot of effort for such a trivial thing. You’d think God could have just built the home around the penis, so that the two were always united and the penis was always happy, instead of forcing men to have to put up with a whole entire human being that talks and argues and walks around independently. It’s as if we couldn’t have just mittens, we had to drag a sheep around with us all winter.

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

Outside the Catholic way

Sep 8th, 2014 10:40 am | By

A Catholic school near Detroit has fired a teacher for doing something it considers ooky a sin.

A Detroit-area teacher says she was fired from her post at a private Catholic all-girls high school after she and her lesbian partner announced they were expecting a child through non-traditional means.

So it turns out the Catholic church isn’t so “pro-life” after all, at least according to this school. It disapproves of the future existence of this expected child, disapproves enough to fire the mother from her job at its school. Homophobia trumps “pro-life” it seems.

Hundreds of supporters for Barb Webb, a teacher at Marian High School in suburban Bloomfield Hills, rallied on Sunday at the school after she posted on Facebook that she had been forced from her job after she become pregnant “outside the Catholic way.”

Webb said she was asked late last month to choose between resigning or being fired, but decided against leaving voluntarily although she said the school had offered healthcare for the remainder of the school year had she chosen to resign. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.

Well let’s see the protests roll out. It will do the school good.

School officials could not immediately be reached on Sunday for comment about the firing, which comes as legal decisions favoring gay marriage continue to mount in the United States.

Nearly 30 state and federal courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

A U.S. court of appeals is due to rule on same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee this month.

A Facebook group in support of the teacher, “I Stand With Barb Webb,” grew to more than 3,200 members shortly after its inception last week when Webb’s post went viral. Current and former students and parents have urged the school to reverse its decision.

Go on, Marian High School. Do the right thing. Don’t be evil.

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

Sommers Watch

Sep 8th, 2014 10:16 am | By

Oh the hell with it, it’s just going to have to be a recurring, updatable thing.

The insult-tweets of the former philosopher, now American Enterprise Institute hack, Christina Hoff Sommers.


Oh goody, she does a Dear Muslima.

Sexism in US: Some video games use damsel-in-distress tropes.Sexism in Iran:

She sent that out a couple of hours after RTing her source:

Retweeted by Christina H. Sommers
Jack @SkipTerrio · 18h
For the edification of the 3rd wave #feminist mob, this is what an ACTUAL #patriarchy looks like: …

Jim Lippard objected.

.@CHSommers Therefore… ? Beheading is worse than a migraine, therefore no one should complain about or treat migraines?

Sommers informed him that the subject wasn’t migraines.

Bad analogy . The endangered damsel trope is not a migraine. It’s a reverie enjoyed by millions of people: Men, women and children.

That’s the kind of thing that makes me twitch with fury – the smug, determined mindlessness of it. How much attention do you have to pay to understand that a popular “reverie” is not automatically harmless just because it’s enjoyed by millions? Lots of very popular fantasies are woven into thought-structures that are harmful to subordinated people! The fact that many people enjoy such fantasies does not magically render them harmless.

Or, as Jim put it:

.@CHSommers Some people still like lawn jockeys & Confederate flags, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right to criticize them.

But again, Sommers explains:

Another false analogy .Not saying damsel trope is good BECAUSE people like it–saying its harmless, so leave those who like it alone.

Cool, except that there’s no reason to think it is harmless.


Now it gets meta.

A few minutes ago.

Oh my! An alarmed critic has created “Sommers Watch” to monitor my tweets.Don’t miss the comments.

I told her I’m not alarmed but disgusted.

Her fans are telling me I’m bullying her. Well, I might be, if she were a nobody and if she were not being so free with the insults. But she’s not a nobody:

  • She’s a Name anti-feminist
  • She has a gig at the American Enterprise Institute
  • She appears on mainstream (as well as less mainstream) media regularly
  • Her tweets get shared by Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker
  • She has 12 thousand-plus followers

And we already know she’s free with the insults. So no, I don’t think I’m bullying her.


Three hours ago.

@GoodJKnight I don’t think @maddoxrules disagrees. But attacking genres that millions of men (and lots of women) love is hardly inclusive.

We have to like everything that already is, and label all attempts to improve them “attacking.” We have to defend the popular and bend all our efforts to making the unpopular even more unpopular.


An hour ago.

The gender warriors made a huge tactical error when they went after the gamers. Wrong group to irritate.

Spoken like a true bully. “Wrong group to irritate” because they’re many and noisy and mostly pseudonymous and not inhibited about threats and harassment. How ugly of Sommers to gloat about it. (And “the gender warriors” of course knew all that, but were brave enough to proceed anyway. How squalid of Sommers to pretend it was just a stupid mistake.)

Imagine saying something similar about the Little Rock Nine or the Freedom Summer campaigners in Mississippi in 1964. “The civil rights workers made a huge tactical error when they went after the Mississippi white supremacists. Wrong group to irritate.”

The next in the pair.

College deans, news editors, politicians–ran for cover when gender hardliners made strident demands. Gamers–male & female–fighting back.

The word “strident” is a sexist dog-whistle. Sommers can’t possibly be unaware of that. She’s doing this crap deliberately. It’s ugly stuff.


An hour ago.

Shows like Oprah & The View make no effort to be male inclusive. They privilege female perspective.Where are the haranguing gender bloggers?

Two hours ago.

Excellent discussion of college rape panic & how males are treated like monsters and females
–fragile maidens.

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

Noxious to the Constitution

Sep 7th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

Mark Joseph Stern reports that Judge Richard Posner’s ruling striking down Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s gay marriage bans is a masterpiece of wit and logic.

Ironically, by writing an opinion so fixated on the facts at hand, Posner may have actually written the one gay marriage ruling that the Supreme Court takes to heartOther, more legacy-minded judges have attempted to sketch out a revised framework for constitutional marriage equality, granting gay people heightened judicial scrutiny and declaring marriage a fundamental right. But Posner isn’t interested in making new law: The statutes before him are so irrational, so senseless and unreasonable, that they’re noxious to the U.S. Constitution under almost any interpretation of the equal protection clause.

That will probably surprise no one who has read Posner’s book Sex and Reason. It’s still good to know, though.

Posner’s opinion largely follows the points he made during his forceful, trenchant, deeply empathetic questioning at oral arguments. To his mind, there’s no question that gays constitute a “suspect class”—that is, a group of people with an immutable characteristic who have historically faced discrimination. Refreshingly, Posner performs a review of “the leading scientific theories” about homosexuality to illustrate that being gay isn’t a choice. (Compare this with Justice Antonin Scalia’s gay rights dissents, in which he suggests that there’s no such thing as a gay orientation at all and that “gay” people are just disturbed individuals performing debauched sex acts.)

In some way, on some subjects – and this is one – libertarian legal theorists are very much preferable to Catholic ones.

Posner’s opinion largely follows the points he made during his forceful, trenchant, deeply empathetic questioning at oral arguments. To his mind, there’s no question that gays constitute a “suspect class”—that is, a group of people with an immutable characteristic who have historically faced discrimination. Refreshingly, Posner performs a review of “the leading scientific theories” about homosexuality to illustrate that being gay isn’t a choice. (Compare this with Justice Antonin Scalia’s gay rights dissents, in which he suggests that there’s no such thing as a gay orientation at all and that “gay” people are just disturbed individuals performing debauched sex acts.)

This review is actually unnecessary, since both Indiana and Wisconsin conceded that gay people are born that way. But it serves to reinforce Posner’s analytical framework—basically, that a state can’t disadvantage a suspect class of people without a rational basis. Note that low bar: Not a compelling interest, or even a substantial one. If the states could only prove a rational interest in excluding gay people from marriage, their laws would pass constitutional muster.

He invited them to do that, and they couldn’t. Surprise, surprise – what could that rational interest possibly be?

It’s clear from his opinion that Posner has rifled through the states’ extensive briefs to find an answer to this question—and come up short. There is simply no harm, Posner writes, “tangible, secular, material—physical or financial, or … focused and direct” done to anybody by permitting gay marriage. Conservative Christians may be offended, but “there is no way they are going to be hurt by it in a way that the law would take cognizance of.” A lot of people, after all, objected to interracial marriage in 1967—but that didn’t stop the court from invalidating anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia.

In his opinion, Posner makes these points with trenchant humor. But beneath his droll wit lies a moral seriousness that gay marriage opponents, even those on the high court, will be unable to shrug off. The modern arguments against gay marriage may be breathtakingly silly—but by mocking them, we ignore the profound harms that marriage bans inflict on gay people and their families. By placing these families at the center of his analysis, Posner restores the equal protection clause to its rightful place as the safeguard for all whom the state seeks to harm unjustly. His message for those who hope to demean gay people and their children is clear: Not on my watch.

Very satisfying.



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

From bit-shuffling to caring

Sep 7th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

Metaphors aren’t just decoration, they’re more like the foundationMichael Chorost explains in the CHE.

[I]n their 1980 book, Metaphors We Live By, the linguist George Lakoff (at the University of California at Berkeley) and the philosopher Mark Johnson (now at the University of Oregon) revolutionized linguistics by showing that metaphor is actually a fundamental constituent of language. For example, they showed that in the seemingly literal statement “He’s out of sight,” the visual field is metaphorized as a container that holds things. The visual field isn’t really a container, of course; one simply sees objects or not. But the container metaphor is so ubiquitous that it wasn’t even recognized as a metaphor until Lakoff and Johnson pointed it out.

From such examples they argued that ordinary language is saturated with metaphors. Our eyes point to where we’re going, so we tend to speak of future time as being “ahead” of us. When things increase, they tend to go up relative to us, so we tend to speak of stocks “rising” instead of getting more expensive. “Our ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical in nature,” they wrote.

I’ve noticed the time one often. I don’t think I could think of it any other way however hard I tried.

Researchers are exploring all this with fMRI studies.

If cognition is embodied, that raises problems for artificial intelligence. Since computers don’t have bodies, let alone sensations, what are the implications of these findings for their becoming conscious—that is, achieving strong AI? Lakoff is uncompromising: “It kills it.” Of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity thesis, he says, “I don’t believe it for a second.” Computers can run models of neural processes, he says, but absent bodily experience, those models will never actually be conscious.

Some think the problem could be solved with sensors and actuators, others think it would be silly to replicate human physical limitations.

What’s emerging from these studies isn’t just a theory of language or of metaphor. It’s a nascent theory of consciousness. Any algorithmic system faces the problem of bootstrapping itself from computing to knowing, from bit-shuffling to caring. Igniting previously stored memories of bodily experiences seems to be one way of getting there.

That interests me – the difference between bit-shuffling and caring. It seems to me to be a big difference.


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

Guest post: Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf

Sep 7th, 2014 3:59 pm | By

It’s Sunday afternoon, so why not have a spot of Walden, courtesy of Henry David Thoreau and Project Gutenberg.

From Chapter One, “Economy.”

I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

What I have heard of Bramins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders “until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach”; or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars—even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra’s head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man’s life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

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

Guest post: Sometimes the incentives ran all the way up to murder

Sep 7th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freedmen’s Patrol on Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery.

Before I get into this, I want to alert readers that I’m going to quote a period description of brutality, including sexualized violence, against a young slave girl. It also includes the use of precisely the racial slur one would expect. If this would traumatize the reader, please skip the comment and continue your day. I don’t want to bring that kind of upset on anybody. I apologize for any distress caused. I don’t really want to write this myself, but I think that what the Economist is denying deserves to be seen.

It’s horrific to think about, but sometimes the incentives ran all the way up to murder. If a planter could get more out of the slave before working the slave to death than paid to buy the slave, then the planter could just buy a new one and repeat the process. This isn’t a prominent feature of American slavery, though it did happen and slaves who had been disabled or otherwise could no longer produce as they once had could be sold to someone on the cheap who would finish the job. Things tended to be rougher the further South and West one went in the South. Sugar plantations were notorious for going through slaves at a great clip. The American sugar industry was marginal compared to cotton, but down in the Caribbean sugar generated so much profit that it made perfect economic sense to work slaves to death in the very dangerous sugar factories and then just buy new slaves off the boats.

That’s aside the benefit an owner might realize from terrorizing his (they were almost always male, given how property law and the patriarchy worked) other slaves by feats of grotesque and conspicuous brutality. Most slaves resisted their enslavement in part by shirking when they could, by studied “misunderstanding” of orders, by “mistakenly” breaking tools, etc. Doing that always involved weighing it against the risk of retaliation and the likely severity. Punishments like this one were intended by owners not just to deter the “guilty” party but also to set the example of what would come. I’m sorry for the following, it’s extremely graphic and includes violence against a young girl. I draw it from William W. Freehling’s The Road to Disunion, Volume 1: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854. A typical plantation might have a beating like this (39 lashes, by the way) two or three times a week.

Also, this is the really, really bad part. I’m sorry, but it happened despite what The Economist would have one believe. Trigger warnings for sexualized violence and racial slurs.

As Frederick Law Olmstead described “the severest corporeal punishment I witnessed at the South, “a slave girl named Sall was ordered to pull up her clothes and lie on her back, private parts exposed. The overseer flogged her “with the rawhide, across her naked loins and thighs.” Sall “shrunk away from him, not rising, but writhing, groveling, and screaming, “‘Oh don’t sir! Oh plerase stop, master! please sir! oh, that’s enough master! oh Lord! oh master, master, of God, master, do stop! oh God, master, oh God, master!”

After “strokes had ceased” and “choking, sobbing, spasmodic groans only were heard, “Olmstead asked if it was “necessary to punish her so severely.’ … ‘O yes sir,” answered the lasher, laughing at the Yankee’s innocence. Northerners ‘have no idea how lazy these niggers are …”They’d never do any work at all if they were not afraid of being whipped.”

Olmstead was a visitor, a stranger in the South. They did this quite comfortably where he could see. Imagine what happened in private.

FP’s blog is here.

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

Driven out

Sep 7th, 2014 11:50 am | By

Last Monday Jenn Frank wrote a piece for The Guardian about “a hot trend among a vocal minority of gamers right now: the harassment of women developers and critics.” She summarized what’s been happening to Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.

Yes, it’s been quite a banner season for the collective of self-identifying core gamers who gather on forums to muster shared fury. Now they feel they are at war with a group of left-leaning games writers and developers who they refer to as “social justice warriors” – this is effectively anyone who has ever questioned the patriarchal nature of the games industry or the limited, often objectifying depiction of women. Because, you know, games are fine as they are thanks.

It’s so familiar – in fact “familiar” isn’t even the right word; it’s not so much familiar as exactly the same thing. I’m surprised these angry gamers don’t call Sarkeesian and Quinn “rage bloggers” or “FTBullies” or “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed.”

Crucially, a good troll knows how to attack a woman’s “professionalism” – particularly if you’ve never read, watched or played anything she has produced. Your method is to undermine her credibility and devalue her work by hardly discussing it – and maybe discussing her full sexual history instead.

Your goal – if you, too, are keen on suspicion and hate – is total alienation, making your target feel impossibly hopeless and alone by way of attacking her friends, colleagues or anyone who has ever written anything positive about her.

Because war is war! A cherished way of life is at stake, so there must be no prisoners, no neutrals, no non-combatants, and no survivors. Feminists criticizing the depiction of women in games are obviously such a terrifying existential threat that only Total Thermonuclear War will do.

…if you really want to help ruin the games industry, it helps to have money on your hateful side. For instance, you might launch a successful online campaign to fund a documentary exploring how tech culture has been “hijacked” by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors”.

All the while, bullies of the games industry, do insist that your efforts to totally ruin a woman’s life and career are founded in “transparency”, “ethics” and “integrity”. Do suggest, at every turn, that “games journalism” has not yet fully acknowledged your campaign of terror because of an industry-wide “cover-up”.

Be careful not to concede that anyone writing about said campaign may also fear retaliation. Certainly we do. In fostering this culture of terror, you can ensure the majority is silent – that it won’t speak out against the harm you are doing.

Well how else are they going to prevail?

So guess what happened after that. Can you?

David Futrelle has the details.

Congratulations, assholes! You did it! Your threats and harassment have driven game journalist/designer Jenn Frank and game designer/media critic Mattie Brice to leave the gaming world.

Frank, an award-winning writer and sometime game designer, came to the attention of the misogynist mob after writing a brief opinion piece for The Guardian decrying the widespread and vicious harassment of women in gaming. In addition to writing about the harassment she’s gotten — including someone trying to hack into her email account — she (as you might expect) also highlighted the misogynistic rage directed at feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian and indie game designer Zoe Quinn.

The new rule seems to be that any woman who writes about online harassment will herself be harassed, and in this case it didn’t take long.

It took a couple of days. By Wednesday night she’d had enough.

This proves that there is no misogyny problem in the gaming industry. Right? Right?

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

Clerics jumped in

Sep 7th, 2014 9:54 am | By

Another depressing/enraging story out of India – a woman is repeatedly raped by her husband’s father while the husband is working in Dubai, and clerics want to reward the rapist and punish the woman.

The 28-year-old victim alleged that her husband has been working in Dubai for the last two years and her father-in-law has been sexually assaulting her at gun point since 2013.

She remained silent because he used to threaten to kill her. He also video recorded his act and threatened to make it public if she opened her mouth.

When she told her husband about it, he blamed her for making a false allegation against his father.

She told her parents, and they advised her to go to the cops.

She created ruffles in the local administration and the Muslim community on Thursday by moving an application before District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma to arrest her father-in-law and allow her to abort her seven-month pregnancy.

After the application by the victim, clerics jumped into the case and declared that the husband of the victim will be treated as her son.

Avoiding any comment against the father-in-law who repeatedly raped and blackmailed the victim, Maulana Mohammad Nazar of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said: “As per the Sharia law, the baby in her womb is her husband’s brother. Her husband must divorce her, even if his father looked at his wife with lust.”

In other words the whole thing has to do with men and relationships between men. The woman is just a cipher with a pleasurable hole between her legs. The father, the husband, the “baby” all matter, while the woman is a mere object, like a broom or an urn.

H/t Kausik

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