Notes and Comment Blog

But who put them on TV in the first place?

Jun 4th, 2015 4:47 pm | By

Jill Filipovic has a brilliant piece on the Duggars’ interview.

What viewers got was a long defense of the Duggar parents, a minimization of Josh’s crimes, and a fuller illustration of why a misogynist “purity culture” is bad for girls, boys, and sexual assault victims in particular. What the Duggars proved is that their own self-interest in gaining status, influence, and money outweighed the needs of their own daughters — and that Michelle and Jim Bob aren’t just kooky religious extremists, but parents capable of remarkable manipulation and cruelty.

Nobody’s a kooky religious extremist; that’s not a thing. Religious extremism is too destructive and terrible to be kooky.

Josh comes to his parents to say he’s molested his sisters in their bedroom. They don’t do much beyond feel “devastated” (that word comes up a lot in the interview), watch him closely, and tell him not to do it again. He does it again, this time on the couch. They feel devastated. They watch him closely and tell him not to do it again. He does it again, this time under their clothes. At some point he also molests a babysitter. They feel devastated.

After the third time, they decide to get Josh “help” — which doesn’t involve actual trained professionals or licensed therapists, but rather a Christian friend who needed some help with home repairs. Josh goes there, he comes home, his parents take him to the police station, a cop (who is now serving a 56-year sentence for child pornography) gives him a stern talking-to, Josh asks for forgiveness, and everyone moves on. To a reality TV show where the family makes thousands with every episode.

I had to follow that link. The 2009 estimate:

Networks usually won’t disclose the deals they make with individual families. But according to reality producer Terence Michael, the general rule of thumb is that reality-show families earn about 10 percent of a show’s per-episode budget. So, if TLC budgets about $250,000 to $400,000 per episode—and Michael suspects it does—that would mean $25,000 to $40,000 in the Duggars’ pockets for four or five days’ work, which is roughly how long it takes to film a typical episode.

2009. It seems safe to assume it’s a good deal more than that now.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story, though, isn’t that the Duggar parents gave Josh three strikes against his sisters before taking any action; it wasn’t that they never actually got him (or, it seems, the girls he molested) professional help from a licensed therapist. The most disturbing part of the story wasn’t even captured on Fox at all. What should disgust us the most — and permanently remove the Duggars from both television and their gilded moral high horse — is how they raised their kids in the aftermath of the abuse.

Key to the Duggar philosophy is sexual purity. In order to be a good, desirable, moral, and honorable person, you must remain “pure” until marriage. Purity is especially important for girls. To not be “pure” is to be, obviously, soiled, dirty, undesirable. While girls have the responsibility to guard their purity, men, who are always authority figures over women, are in charge of controlling and surveilling the girls to make sure they stay in line.

That’s what Josh was doing, but his hand kept slipping.

Compounding the sexual abuse and then the raising of their girls to believe that sexual touch sullies them was the Duggar parents’ decision to put the whole family on TV and turn their then 16 kids into a cash cow.

“They’ve been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago,” Michelle Duggar told Megyn Kelly about her daughters, “because they honestly they didn’t even understand or know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it. In our hearts before God, we haven’t been keeping secrets. We have been protecting those who honestly should be protected. And now what’s happened is they’ve been victimized.”

Now, Michelle says, the Duggar daughters have been victimized — not when their brother was sneaking into their bedrooms to molest them or when he was molesting them on the couch or when their parents never actually got him professional help. It’s now that the story is public. And surely this is awful and traumatizing for them. Surely they do feel victimized.

But who put them on TV in the first place? Who turned them into public figures? Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar invited cameras into their home to put their family in the public eye, both so they could make money and so they could spread their religious beliefs…

Yes but they didn’t have an agenda. The media have an agenda, and the gay people and the liberals and the trans people who want to invade all the rest rooms – they have an agenda, but the Duggars don’t, so it turns out the Duggars are still Great Christian Examples.

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

Rerun: Turn the other what?

Jun 4th, 2015 4:14 pm | By

I wrote this post on March 27, 2010. For some reason it feels peculiarly relevant again today.

The LA Times notices that the pope has a problem. The problem is that instead of just saying ‘We did a terrible terrible terrible thing, and we did it for decade upon decade,’ the Vatican is lashing out at 1) news outlets that report the terrible things the church has been doing and 2) other institutions that do terrible things. This is infantile and disgusting, and it is unworthy of an institution that (to repeat a point I’ve made a few hundred times) purports to have a higher and better morality than anyone else. It is unworthy because it persists in caring more about the self than the object of the terrible actions. This fact all by itself shows that they are if anything morally worse than the majority of reasonably good people. There’s a reason for that. The reason is this: if you become convinced – if you have good reason to realize – that you have caused appalling harm and suffering to another sentient being, then the only thing you should be feeling about that is agonized repentance. That’s all there is to it. Your angushed empathy and regret should simply inundate all self-concerned feelings, blotting them out of your awareness. This is all the more true if you’re a huge powerful age-encrusted institution that is able to command deference and obedience – right down to literal kneeling – from millions of people and even from heads of state, and the sentient beings are underage, small, weak, and defenseless. You should be grinding your head into the dirt with remorse, in the intervals of doing everything you can to repair the damage to your victims. The last thing you should be doing is even thinking about how all this will affect you. Yet the church is doing exactly that. It’s not surprising, but it damn well is shocking.

Earlier in the week, New York’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, used his blog to dismiss the New York Times’ reports and defend the pontiff’s record by arguing that authorities outside the church also are culpable…Sadly, this latest everybody-is-responsible-so-nobody-is-to-blame defense is of a piece with a little-noticed section of Benedict’s letter to the Irish church in which he seemed to blame the crisis, in part, on “new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.”

Ah – it wasn’t little noticed around here. I noticed it, I can tell you. Jumped right on it, I did.

Behold the archbishop of New York, if you can bear to. He certainly has no problem forgetting all about the powerless victims of his powerful church, nor any hesitation about talking like a petulant nine-year-old rebuked for punching a smaller child. Moral squalor at its finest.

What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”: How about these, for example?

– “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;

– “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;

And so on and so on and so on, through Judges, Police, Lawyers, District Attorneys, Therapists, and Parole Officers. There’s Love for you, there’s Charity, there’s Agapē. There’s compassion, there’s generosity, there’s giving the shirt also. Yes we did it but so did all those other people so why don’t you yell at them too? Beautiful.

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

A less than ideal candidate for president then

Jun 4th, 2015 11:29 am | By

Via Dave Silverman:


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

When they are hiding in your back yard

Jun 4th, 2015 11:04 am | By

Josh Spokes made an invention.

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

God’s principles

Jun 4th, 2015 11:02 am | By

USA Today reports a bit from the Duggars’ interview that shows how completely they still don’t get it – perhaps how incapable they are of ever getting it, because they don’t get the underlying basic point.

Kelly also pressed them on the widespread criticism that they lectured others about sin while covering up their own sins.

“Everybody has things in their past in their families,” Michelle said. “Our son violated God’s principles, and it was terrible what Josh did, it was inexcusable but it was not unforgivable,” added Jim Bob.

See it? They think it’s about “God’s principles.” It’s not. It’s about the well-being of the girls Josh molested – it’s about the harm he did to them. It’s about human beings, not god. Morality is about human beings, not god. The Duggars are probably incapable of ever understanding that.

The Duggars’ interview with Kelly was their first public discussion of the scandal that has deeply damaged their show, their children, their pious image and their conservative GOP politics since InTouch magazine published a story May 21 based on police reports obtained under a Freedom of Information request to Arkansas authorities.

But the interview totally turned that around.

Just kidding.


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

Michelle Duggar says there’s an agenda

Jun 4th, 2015 10:19 am | By

Did you see the Duggars’ interview? I only caught the last 15 minutes (will watch it all eventually, obvs) but that was bad enough – jaw-droppingly disgusting. Michelle bleating away in that self-consciously meek little voice about people who have “an agenda” and how terrible they are.

Kevin Fallon at the Daily Beast has some highlights.

Megyn Kelly may not have wagged a finger at them or damned them to hell, the way so many of us wished she would have. But she did ask them tough, responsible, and necessary questions.

She asked why they protected a son who was harming their daughters. She asked for details that would refute the accusations that they covered his misdeeds up. She asked them if they were hypocrites. She asked specifically about Michelle’s comparing transgender women to child molesters. And Michelle stood by it. “It’s common sense,” she said, proving that she has no blessed idea what “common sense” is.

More, she thinks people accusing them of hypocrisy have an unholy ax to grind.

“Everyone of us has done something wrong. That’s why Jesus came,” she said. “This is more about—there’s an agenda. There are people who are purposing to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”

Oozing big crocodile tears she said that, while JimBob patted her back consolingly. They were both just a steaming mass of self-pity.

Is it possible to pick just one jaw-dropping, blood-boiling, unfathomable quote from this interview? Oh, there are dozens of them (and counting).

Certainly a frontrunner for the top prize would be when Michelle maintained that her daughters are being more abused by the press in the wake of the uncovering of Josh’s scandal than they were by Josh as children. “They’ve been victimized more by what happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago,” she said.

Yup, that was a doozy.

At the end Fox played a teaser for the interview with two of the girls that will be aired tomorrow, and they are taking the same line. It’s the press coverage that is the wrong done to them. They’ve been coached well – their whole lives they’ve been coached well.

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

Atena Farghadani

Jun 4th, 2015 9:55 am | By

Speaking of cartoons and satire…

An Iranian artist has just been sentenced to 12-plus years in prison for drawing cartoons of parliament as animals.

[Atena] Farghadani, a 28-year-old Iranian artist and activist, rendered visual judgment last year, lampooning members of her nation’s parliament over their vote to restrict contraception and ban certain birth-control methods — just one of her works satirizing the government. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court has now announced that it is rendering its own brand of judgment.

The artist’s crimes include “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system,” according to Amnesty International.

Yeah, see, insulting members of parliament shouldn’t be a crime, and neither should objecting to the system. That’s the first thing that should be wide-open to criticism including insult, not the last.

Farghadani, a former fine-arts student who has expressed her opinions prominently through provocative works, was arrested last August and held for months. She was released for several weeks late last year before being rearrested after she spoke out about her mistreatment at the hands of guards. After her second incarceration, in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, she went on a hunger strike in February, reportedly suffered a heart attack and at one point lost consciousness. (Amnesty International details her timeline here, including her attempts to draw in prison by using flattened paper cups as her canvas.)

One political cartoonist particularly knowledgeable about her plight is Iranian American artist Nikahang Kowsar. Now a CRNI board member based in the Washington area, Kowsar was jailed in his native Iran 15 years ago for his cartoons critical of the country’s leaders.

“Atena is being punished for something many of us have been doing in Iran: drawing politicians as animals, without naming them,” Kowsar tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Of course, I drew a crocodile and made a name that rhymed with the name of powerful Ayatollah, and caused a national security crisis in 2000. What Atena drew was just an innocent take on what the parliamentarians are doing, and based on the Iranian culture, monkeys are considered the followers and imitators, [and] cows are the stupid ones.

“Many members of the Iranian parliament are just following the leaders without any thoughts.”




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

The thin line satire walks

Jun 3rd, 2015 4:08 pm | By

Jen reminded us of that New Yorker cartoon, so I thought I’d take a look back. Mother Jones, July 13 2008.

Weren’t we just having a discussion here on the Riff about the thin line satire walks, between being the opposite of a thing and an endorsement of a thing? Well, brace yourselves, because the New Yorker has jumped right into the middle of that argument with a cover that made my jaw actually drop.

The July 21st issue features a be-turbaned Barack and an afroed, gun-toting Michelle Obama, celebrating their arrival in the White House with a good old terrorist fist-bump. They’ve also apparently done a little redecorating, tacking up a portrait of Osama bin Laden and tossing an American flag into the fireplace for good measure. The illustration, called “The Politics of Fear,” is described in a New Yorker press release as satirizing the “scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election”; as the Huffington Post put it: “all that’s missing is a token sprig of arugula.”


I think at the time it seemed like handing the Republicans a gift.

Satire is hard.


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

Les articles de Charlie Hebdo relève de la satire et non de la haine

Jun 3rd, 2015 12:13 pm | By

And now with extra added Le Figaro and Slate France.

Malheureusement Slate France called me Olivia, but oh well. Ce n’est pas au sujet de moi Ce n’est pas à mon sujet.

From Le Figaro:

Jennifer Cody Epstein a fait partie des écrivains anglo-saxons qui se sont opposés à la remise du prix Courage et liberté d’expression au journal satirique français lors du gala organisé par l’association littéraire PEN. Un choix qu’elle déplore aujourd’hui.

Jennifer Cody Epstein regrette amèrement le choix qu’elle a fait il y a quelques semaines. La romancière américaine a fait partie des 204 auteurs anglo-saxons qui ont signé la lettre ouverte qui stipulait leur opposition à la remise du prix Courage et liberté d’expression à Charlie Hebdo, par l’association mondiale littéraire PEN (Manhattan).

Aujourd’hui, elle reconnaît avoir eu tort: «Ce fut une erreur de remettre en question la liberté d’expression. Les articles de Charlie Hebdo relève de la satire et non de la haine» a-t-elle écrit dans une lettre adressée à ses collègues écrivains…

Un repentir salué par Salman Rushdie , l’ancien président du PEN American Center: «Respect à Jennifer Cody Epstein pour son acte honorable d’avoir admis son erreur à propos de Charlie Hebdo», a-t-il écrit sur son compte Twitter. L’auteur des Versets sataniques avait traité de «lâches» ses confrères écrivains opposés au prix, accusant ces derniers d’être «à la recherche d’une personnalité».


Le 6 mai dernier, Gérard Biard, le rédacteur en chef de Charlie Hebdo, se rendait sur scène lors d’un gala, à New York, pour recevoir le prix PEN, sous une standing ovation.

Mais si la salle semblait d’accord avec ce choix, un peu plus de 200 écrivains s’y étaient opposés en signant une lettre où ils s’en dissociaient. Dans cette lettre, publiée par The Intercept, s’ils insistaient sur la tragédie des événements du 7 janvier, ils expliquaient que pour eux, le PEN Club «ne fait pas seulement part de son soutien à la liberté d’expression [avec ce prix], mais il valorise également le sélection de contenus offensants: des contenus qui intensifient les sentiments anti-islam, anti-Maghreb et anti-arabes déjà très présents dans le monde occidental».

Aujourd’hui, l’une de ces 204 signataires estime qu’elle a eu tort de se joindre à cette plainte.

Sur son blog, Olivia Benson a repris la lettre qu’a envoyée Jennifer Cody Epstein aux organisateurs de la pétition:

«Au cours de la dernière semaine, je me suis retrouvée à […] me poser de nombreuses questions, et j’en suis arrivée à la conclusion que ma décision –même si elle était bien intentionnée– était mal informée et (pour être honnête) mauvaise. […]

Then Olivia Benson went out and collared a perp.

Le geste a été salué par l’écrivain Salman Rushdie, a remarqué, de son côté, le Guardian. L’auteur des Versets sataniques, qui avait défendu Charlie Hebdo face à ces accusations, estime qu’elle fait une chose honorable en admettant son erreur à propos de Charlie Hebd, et se demande si d’autres vont la suivre.

It’s excellent that this story is spreading.

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

But now you’re a woman

Jun 3rd, 2015 10:43 am | By

And someone else saying it; Jon Stewart this time.

Yet another reason to mourn Jon Stewart’s imminent departure from The Daily Show: On Tuesday night, Stewart tore apart the media’s coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover for focusing on her looks.

After a montage of anchors noting how momentous Jenner’s debut is—which Stewart praised—the Daily Show host launched right into this: “It’s really heartening to see not only is everyone willing to accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman.” Cue another montage, this time marked by cries of “All I can say is, ‘Wow!’”; “She’s hot!”; and “I’m jealous!”

My point exactly.

“You see, Caitlyn,” Stewart said, “when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen. But now you’re a woman—and your looks are the only thing we care about. Which brings us to Phase 2 of your transition: Comparative F–kability.” Anchors discuss whether Caitlyn is hotter than Jessica Lange, ex-wife Kris Jenner, and step-daughter Kim Kardashian.

Wait what? Step-daughter? Kim Kardashian? Is that a joke? If it’s not a joke I clearly don’t keep up with reality tv enough. I admit it: I prefer “Chopped” to the various Real Housewives one and the Kardashian ones. I don’t actually know who the Kardashians are, apart from people-on-reality-tv.

But anyway – yes – that was my point. Why is it all about her looks and fuckability? Why does woman=beautiful or not-beautiful hence pathetic?

If you answer that question, please do it without using the word “duh.” Thank you.

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

The timeliness

Jun 3rd, 2015 10:20 am | By

I love the new Jesus and Mo – those “timely” revelations are so…funny and disgusting, both at once.


The Patreon.


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

Guest post: There is no longer much excuse for being uninformed on this

Jun 3rd, 2015 9:14 am | By

Originally a comment by Robert McLiam Wilson on Jennifer Cody Epstein’s letter to the anti-Charlie Hebdo faction.

Ophelia, You are right to warn generously about Frenchy Charlie’s overly literal translation of ‘con’. All such words are nightmarishly difficult to translate. The register of the same word can vary wildly depending on context. Might I amiably suggest that ‘jerks’ is a touch mild and that ‘assholes’ might be an even better solution.

I write for Charlie Hebdo. I am their only English speaking contributor. This whole episode has been painful and deeply dismaying. Thus, J Cody Epstein’s retraction is to be warmly welcomed. And I feel it is futile and unhelpful to see it as mealy mouthed or conditional. Apologising sincerely is just about the hardest thing there is. I felt she did it with some grace.

As for those who insist on their wrong-headed view on the Taubira cartoon, there are two things to say. Firstly, Christiane Taubira is an almost terrifyingly impressive and daunting women. She’s a real warrior. She definitely does not need ANYONE’s protection.

And secondly, we have passed the point, I fear, where information and explanation can achieve much. There is no longer much excuse for being uninformed on this. If you continue to slander the living and the dead at Charlie Hebdo (that almost TEDIOUSLY anti-racist publication), then it is perhaps not because you are ignorant of the truth but rather because the truth is inconvenient to you.

Truth’s like that sometimes.

I was very encouraged by what you wrote and the general tenor of the literate and rounded comments. I hate to say something so…mean-spirited. But I can’t help noticing that all the funny people are on only one side of this particular garden fence.

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

So much more than beautiful women

Jun 3rd, 2015 8:21 am | By

Laverne Cox has thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover photo and its reception.

[I]n a Tumblr post that went live shortly after midnight Tuesday, Cox warned the trans experience is much more than a dramatic physical transformation and only celebrating the women for their beauty can be inherently harmful to the trans cause.

“What I think [people praising Cox’s beauty] meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards,” Cox wrote.

Cox hopes transgender role models like Jenner and herself can be seen as so much more than beautiful women.

Oh looky there – that was exactly my point.

“I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them.”

Failing to see these women as holistic individuals runs the risk of fetishizing them, Cox wrote:

“Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have for her. Her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly. These things are beyond beautiful to me.”

Trans people are no less complicated, complete human beings than anyone else.

That too was my point. I think women should be seen as complicated, complete human beings just as men are, and of course that means trans women too.

It’s so much more than a magazine cover. The trans experience consists of a lot more than conforming to “cisnormative beauty standards.” Jenner and Cox are unusually privileged in resources and public support. Other trans men and women might not have the ability to transform themselves physically the way these two women have.

“Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards,” Cox wrote. Furthermore, some trans men and women may simply not want cisnormative conformity. “More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody” [these standards].

Just what Meredith Talusan wrote yesterday.

While Cox and Jenner’s photoshoots and media attention are to be celebrated, tweeting pictures of them and commenting on the beauty of their transformation must not be confused with fighting for the trans cause. Public acceptance is a huge part of it, but truly embracing and supporting transgender people is so much more than praising someone for their (cisnormative) beauty.

And not just more than. I think making such a point of praising someone for their (cisnormative) beauty makes life harder for people who don’t have (cisnormative) beauty.

Of course, you can say well that’s life, tough shit – beauty is beauty and people are always going to worship it, so deal. Lots of people do say that. But I don’t. I think we can be more thoughtful than that.

H/t Kausik.

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

The first to admit

Jun 2nd, 2015 5:00 pm | By

Hey, looka this: the Guardian reports on Jennifer Cody Epstein’s letter.

[I]n a move praised by The Satanic Verses novelist Salman Rushdie, who has thrown his weight behind PEN and Charlie Hebdo since the start of the controversy, Epstein has asked for her name to be removed from the petition.

“The 1st protester to admit she was completely wrong,” tweeted Rushdie on Sunday. “Respect to Jennifer Cody Epstein for doing the honourable thing & admitting she made a mistake about #CharlieHebdo. Will others follow her?”

It’s true, he did.


He shared it on Facebook, too.

The Guardian again (Alison Flood is the reporter):

In a letter to her fellow signatories published in full by the writer Ophelia Benson on Free Thought Blogs, Epstein wrote that she was “misinformed and (quite frankly) wrong” when she made her decision to add her name to the list.

Flood quotes extensively from the letter, which is good – that’s why I was given permission to publish it: to get the word out. Salman helped with that!

H/t Mr Fancy Pants

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

Guest post: Corporations stealing public domain music to copyright it

Jun 2nd, 2015 4:43 pm | By

Originally a comment by Jafafa Hots on IS cannot destroy these.

They may not be able to destroy public domain art, but US corporations are sure trying.

I have put up YouTube videos backed with public domain music. Every one has had a copyright claim filed against it despite the music being pre-1923, all of it acquired by me from public domain archives. One had three separate entities attempt to claim ownership of it.

I currently have one appeal under review, has been for a couple of weeks, where a company is claiming the rights to a song, “I Didn’t Raise My Son to be a Soldier,” recorded by the Peerless Quartet in 1914 – over 100 years ago. This is routine. These companies literally are downloading public domain works, adding them to their catalogs and claiming ownership, knowing that most people won’t dispute it.

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

Respecting the respected academics

Jun 2nd, 2015 12:58 pm | By

More on that all-male panel about women in comics, because it’s so absurd / grotesque / annoying. Jin Zhao reports:

“This is happening at #DCC2015. Let’s see how this ALL MALE panel about women in comics goes #noneofthismakesanysense,” an attendee, Christy, tweeted.

As the panel proceeded, she tweeted that the all male panel gave a “lecture” on early female characters in comics “in relation to men.” At some point, one of the panelist said “because girls get bored with comics easily,” she tweeted.

Comics are more of a guy thing.

Then there was the “it’s a historical panel” defense.

Comic Alliance‘s Janelle Asselin argued that the defense was a weak one.

“There are a lot of problems to unpack here, with probably the worst being that a convention representative thinks it’s okay to have only men speaking for and about women simply because a panel wasn’t about current women in comics, diversity, or bias,” she wrote.

Asselin also pointed out that it was written in the description of the panel that introducing attendees to women attending the convention was on its agenda, which an all-male panel failed to do.

Also at least one of the “respected academics” was maybe…not so much.

At the same time, the organizers “neglected to invite the foremost authority on the history of women in comics, Trina Robbins, despite the fact that she was a guest of the convention.” wrote Asselin.

Oh. Um…

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

Hiding in plain sight

Jun 2nd, 2015 12:06 pm | By

How do you get more women in _______? Where are all the women in ________? I dunno, let’s discuss it. Let’s discuss it on a panel at a convention.

The past few years have seen a lot of discussion (and a lot of misogynist backlash) about improving women’s experience of “geek” spaces such as video gaming, sci-fi conventions, and comics. So it was especially puzzling to see that Denver ComicCon, one of the biggest comic conventions in the country, convened a panel called Women in Comics that had no actual women sitting onstage.

Let’s discuss that on a panel at a convention! One with no women on it!

Sometimes I wonder if women are just plain cryptic, like chameleons and stick insects. “Just could not find a single one, after months of searching!”

Amanda Marcotte continues:

When Janelle Asselin of Comics Alliance asked about the omission, Denver ComicCon emphasized the historical aspects of the panel:

[I]t was a panel that took an historical view of women characters in comic books rather than the current role of women creators in the industry or diversity in comics — of which DCC has many with appropriately diverse panels. The Women in Comics panel was a submitted panel that featured respected academics on the subject.

Oh well, if it’s respected academics talking about us in our involuntary absence, that’s ok then.

There’s a lot of connections between the sexist boys’ club of the comics past and the sexist boys’ club of comics present. Perhaps a woman might be able to employ a little personal experience to help draw those historical connections. Plenty of people happen to be history experts and female at the same time. As Asselin notes, one such woman—Trina Robbins, a preeminent historian of women in comics—was even at this year’s convention. Well, at least there’s a new submission for the endlessly funny “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” Tumblr.

Totally worth it.

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

How difficult and expensive it is to be a certain kind of pretty

Jun 2nd, 2015 11:40 am | By

A friend drew this Comment is Free piece by Meredith Talusan to my attention.

When I heard that Caitlyn Jenner debuted her new name, her upcoming Vanity Fair cover and a new Twitter account, I went online to welcome her. Then I noticed a trend on my Twitter feed: people – including feminists, people of color, queers and transgender folk – commenting on how beautiful she looks. While I welcome all the positive affirmation of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity, it’s important to not forget how the forces of economic privilege and beauty standards affect most trans women. And, though all women are subject to conventional beauty standards, the ability and even necessity to adhere to them is rife with even more tension for trans women.

Of course it is. So wouldn’t it be nice to do our best to erode that necessity? To keep trying to nudge the world into realizing and accepting that not all women are gorgeous, and that gorgeous is not all any woman is?

Jenner’s womanhood and the beauty for which she went through many trials to gain certainly shape the person that she is, but it’s vital to ask ourselves whether our acceptance and celebration of her humanity is partially predicated on that beauty. If we accept her in part because she fits into our understanding of the gender binary, then we’re celebrating not just her transition but her economic privilege and her allegiance to a beauty standard that, for non-trans, cisgender women, may mean being more desired or liked, but for trans women is often an insurmountable barrier to being considered women at all.

That’s not worded well. The beauty standard emphatically does not mean, for non-trans, cisgender women, being more desired or liked. It can mean that for the women who succeed in meeting the standard – but at the same time it can create even more hostility. And as for women who don’t succeed in meeting the standard, and/or don’t want to and don’t try – nope, it doesn’t mean being more desired or liked for them, for sure.

But having said that, yes of course for trans women it can be an insurmountable barrier to being considered women at all. There are many reasons to stop treating beauty as a requirement and duty for women, and that’s one of them.

The way in which socially progressive, cisgender people – who are otherwise critical of conventional beauty standards and economic privilege – give themselves permission to talk about trans women in aesthetic terms reveals a certain truth that sometimes feels insurmountable to trans people: affirming trans women’s attractiveness also often affirms our sometimes-limited understanding of the gender binary.

Exfuckingactly. That’s what I was talking about yesterday. People who know better than to reduce cis women to their looks fall all over themselves to do that to Jenner, and I would like to know why.

In Jenner’s case, there’s little doubt that she desires to be complimented for her attractiveness, and it’s hard to fault people for giving her that. But there’s a fine line between complimenting Jenner and considering her beauty a condition of her womanhood, and that line does not escape other trans women. As my friend Lilith Gütler wrote on Facebook: “I’m sorry, it’s hard to be ‘proud’ of someone who has had the financial means to achieve unrealistic goals for girls like us”. She then explained how painful it is to see someone spend as much money as Jenner did to look good, while Gütler has been unable to put together enough funds for the sexual reassignment surgery of which she’s dreamt for many years. Her understanding of the economic conditions required to transition with such aplomb were echoed by a number of other trans women on my social media feeds, even those who celebrate her visibility: we all know too well how difficult and expensive it is to be a certain kind of pretty.

And how oppressive and claustrophobic it is to be expected to.

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

Bouquets for CFI

Jun 1st, 2015 12:03 pm | By

Ed has a post on what’s been going on with Taslima lately and who did what to help and what should happen in the future.

I am very happy to announce that Taslima Nasrin, whose life was threatened by the same people behind the brutal murder of at least three Bangladeshi bloggers in recent months, is now safely in the United States and out of harm’s way. I want to share with you how this happened because a lot of people need to be thanked and it provides a great example of humanists coming together to help someone in need.

On May 5th, the night before I was leading a civics/lobby day for CFI Michigan, I got an email from Taslima that included a link to this news report from India about the direct threat made on her life by the same people who murdered Avijit Roy and two other atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. She had been living in India, a few hundred miles from where those murders took place.


When I got this email, I was on my way to Lansing to meet with Michael De Dora, head of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, who was helping lead the lobby day. Michael and I had talked a few times in the past year or so about the need for some sort of program that would help get atheists who are at great risk, primarily in Muslim countries, to the West where they could be safe. We both agreed that it would be best if one of the big atheist/humanist groups would do it.

So they combined forces, and gave their thumbs a damn good workout, and got things going.

The need was for

a fundraiser to pay for Taslima’s flight to the U.S., set her up with a place to stay and provide for a few months to pay the bills while she establishes a life in this country.

Ron Lindsay and CFI stepped up to the plate.

I got an email back from Ron Lindsay saying that he would check with his staff to see if they could handle all of that.

At the same time, Michael was also communicating with Ron (literally, we were sitting in the same House office building cafeteria, both texting and emailing back and forth) and he told him that he would handle all of the logistics if necessary — whatever it would take to make sure Taslima was safe. By the end of that incredibly busy day, Ron had emailed back and said that the staff had “eagerly embraced” the opportunity to make this happen and that the amazing Debbie Goddard and Martina Fern, the new development director who was also in Lansing with us, had agreed to oversee the whole thing.

FTB’s PhysioProf said that he had hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles and would be happy to use them to get the plane ticket.

And he did.

A few words about Taslima, if you don’t know who she is. Taslima is a renaissance woman — a poet, novelist, physician and activist for atheism, humanism and feminism. That activism got her exiled from her native Bangladesh more than 20 years ago and put a high price on her head from Muslim extremists. She lived in Europe after being exiled, but settled in India in 2004. Alas, that was temporary as she was chased out of Kolkata and had to move to New Delhi.

She has spent the last 20+ years moving and hiding, never feeling truly safe, but the danger to her life has never been higher than it is now. Everyone involved in this process has been terrified for her and desperate to get her to where she would no longer have to hide in the shadows or look over her shoulder. Taslima is a beacon of light in the humanist community and a shining example of courage in the face of barbarism and brutality. And we now have the opportunity to help her build a new life free from the constant threats. I hope that all who can afford to do so will help us do that. You can donate here.

The people mentioned above deserve enormous gratitude. I want to personally thank Ron Lindsay and CFI for stepping up and making this possible, especially Michael De Dora, Debbie Goddard and Martina Fern. And I’d like to thank that PhysioProf guy, who may come off as gruff but is a deeply caring and compassionate person.

I second and third and fourth that.

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

Guest post: Better still if you brought yours back from the Holy Land

Jun 1st, 2015 11:06 am | By

Originally a comment by Charles Freeman on The Shroud of Turin continues to sell tickets.

The article has given rise to a lot of interest and outside the authenticists’ websites very positive. For those who read the original to the end, you will see I never argue that the Shroud was a fake. There were hundreds of thousands of painted linens around in the medieval period and they were widely used in churches, especially during Lent when opulent altars and statues were traditionally covered up.

If you were a forger hoping to get away with a burial shroud you would stick to the gospel sources and certainly not add images. The most successful shroud relics in the medieval period were single cloths WITHOUT images – better still if you brought yours back from the Holy Land.

The Quem Queritis Easter ceremony when they held up a cloth from a makeshift ‘tomb’ to show that Christ had risen is the best fit explanation for the origins of the Shroud. We know that the linen was often painted and a single sheet.

I have never seen anyone except David Roehmer put forward this second century Gnostic theory – so I don’t know what historical or scientific work he is relying on.

When you wanted to paint a linen in medieval times, you gessoed it on the surface and once it was sealed then you painted on top. Some of the few surviving examples are vastly more sophisticated than the Shroud ever was. The trouble was that the painted surface easily disintegrated although the Shroud seems to have kept pretty intact until the nineteenth century. The present discoloration of the linen appears to be the result of centuries of the weave being overlain by the gesso and paint. It is only a surface disoloration – presumably the gesso stopped the images penetrating further – and the varying thicknesses of the original paint left a sort of negative image behind. It is all too often assumed that the images left today are the images that were originally created and all kinds of ingenious methods, from laser beams to scorches, have been devised to recreate them – but you would have to seal and paint the linen according to the medieval manuals and leave it in place for several centuries and then when it disintegrated we would probably have similar images. See you in 500 years time!

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