Notes and Comment Blog

They tried, but it wasn’t possible

May 17th, 2016 11:19 am | By

Brazil’s coup has restored power to its natural owners, white men.

Most Brazilians backed Rousseff’s impeachment but in one of the world’s biggest racial and cultural melting pots, where more than half the 200 million people identify themselves as black or mixed, the makeup of Temer’s government raised alarm.

Leftists, minorities and many lower-income Brazilians fear that a deep economic recession, and the spending cuts that the new government says are essential to spur a recovery, could mean rolling back progressive policies.

“The rallying cry right now is the economy and that can become an excuse to scrap anything related to matters of inclusion, equality or culture,” says Esther Solano, a sociologist at the Federal University of São Paulo.

She points to one of the first decisions by Temer: to fold a ministry of women, racial equality and human rights into the far-bigger ministry of justice, led by a man.

That sounds familiar – never mind women’s rights, we want human rights. All lives matter. I don’t see color.

Aides say the new Cabinet was selected quickly from the ranks of parties who would support the new government. “We tried to look for women,” said Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s new chief of staff, “but it wasn’t possible.”

That’s what they all say.


Lutar sempre, temer jamais

May 16th, 2016 4:34 pm | By

From teleSUR English on Facebook:

Women are rising up against the sexist coup government in Brazil! Tens of thousands of, mostly, women took to the streets in at least 5 major cities across Brazil to express outrage over the coup government of Michel Temer that announced very sexist and neoliberal plans after ousting the left-wing female President Dilma Rousseff.

Led by women student groups, feminist organizations and trade unions, people of all age groups and ethnicities in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, San Salvador, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre blocked traffic and shouted slogans including “Temer coup-monger” and “Out with Temer” against the newly-installed conservative leader.

In the very first hours after being installed, the new coup government swore in 22 cabinet minister, all of them white and male, the first time since the 1970s that no women have been in the cabinet. Rousseff had 15 female minister during her government.

Also the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights were shut down, in a country that is dealing with severe problems of sexism, racism and human rights violations.

Protester Gabriella: “This is the answer to the government, who tries to tear up our constitution and propose such a giant step backwards for women, minorities and social programs. And it’s only the beginning. We say: no step back!”

Protester Raissa: “The most chauvinistic government since the military dictatorship will feel the power of women. We will not shut up. We will not bow down. If they thought they buried us, they were wrong. We are seeds that will be giving fruit for the entire country. Today we occupy the streets, tomorrow we take back the government.”

41 additional cases of sexual violence by peacekeepers

May 16th, 2016 4:03 pm | By

A press statement April 13 by AIDS-free World’s Code Blue Campaign:

April 13, 2016 — AIDS-Free World has received leaked information that 41 additional cases of sexual violence by peacekeepers have been documented by MINUSCA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), following interviews with victims in Dekoa, a remote town in the country’s Kemo prefecture. In an April 7th code cable, MINUSCA informed UN headquarters that an “integrated team” sent to Dekoa from March 25th to April 4th interviewed 59 women and girls. While some were on a list of 98 victims who reported sexual abuse to UNICEF last month, the team documented 41 new cases never previously reported.

The code cable to UN headquarters was sent during the visit to CAR of UN Special Coordinator Jane Holl Lute. On April 8th, the mission issued a video of Ms. Lute discussing top priorities: “…Third, we have to publicly come forward and say what do we know about this behavior when it occurs.”

When it occurs? Ms. Lute had the information of these 41 new cases when the video was made. Where is the transparency? It’s quite a commentary on the way in which the UN works when the coordinator becomes the lead dissembler.

At the daily press briefing on April 7th, the day New York headquarters received the cable, Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told journalists who requested further details regarding over 100 reports of sexual abuse in CAR disclosed by Code Blue on March 30, 2016, “We’ve been providing updates on that in recent days, as you’re aware.  I don’t have any update for you today, but as we get more information from our peacekeeping and field support counterparts, we’ll certainly relay those on to you.”

When media pressed the UN for details again this past Monday, April 11th, Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said, “…we hope to share more details with you as soon as we can.  Obviously, you know, we’ve had preliminary work done.  OIOS [the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services] will be going there on the ground.  The difficulties… the logistical difficulties in the area also cannot be understated.  From what I’m told, there’s electricity about two hours a day.  It’s… The only communications are sat[elite] phones, so the communications with the teams on the ground are a little challenging as well. But we’re trying to harvest as much… as many numbers as we can for you and to try to bring a little clarity as to where we are on the number of allegations. […] As to the assessment, I don’t have any more numbers to share with you.  I think what I said… and I hope I said it clearly… is that OIOS would be sending an expanded team of about 10 people to the area.”

These exercises in evasion, after the cable had been received, are deeply disappointing.  It’s clear that the culture of suppression of information is still alive and well at UN headquarters.

AIDS-Free World wants to emphasize that many critical details are not in our possession. Only the UN can provide them. How many times have the same women and girls been interviewed, knowing the trauma that is induced by repetitive interviewing? What legal basis does the UN have to conduct these interviews? Of what, exactly, does any psycho-social counselling and medical assistance consist? How many of the women and girls so far interviewed once, twice, or three times by UN staff have received what Ms. Lute describes as “emergency” assistance? Have the local police authorities been informed? To what extent are they involved in the investigation of these criminal acts?

MINUSCA’s April 7, 2016 code cable to headquarters (which our sources quoted, but did not send to us in its original form) stated that the team was deployed “to carry out a prel[iminary] investigation into allegation of sexual violence by UN and non-UN international military forces” and was composed of personnel from MINUSCA’s human rights division, UNFPA (the Population Fund), UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund) and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). The ‘integrated team’ did not include professional investigators from the UN’s independent Office of Internal Oversight Services.

If the UN, which is not authorized to conduct criminal investigations, is sending “integrated teams” and OIOS investigators to interview victims and witnesses, gather information and preserve evidence, are they acting alone, or in conjunction with—and at the request of—authorized law enforcement personnel from France, Gabon, Burundi, and any other governments whose troops have been identified so far?

Details provided in the April 7th cable:

All of the alleged victims were women and girls.

…allegations show that food, including rations, and money was exchanged for sex, often with promises of marriage.

…numerous allegations of rapes – when victims went to collect water or when they approached international forces to sell fruit (a pattern of raping closely reminiscent of Darfur)

…justice system in Dekoa is nonexistent.

The Code Blue campaign sees the UN’s ad hoc responses to ever-growing reports of sexual violence as improvised and dangerously unprofessional. Droves of women and girls who’ve come forward in the past month are being subjected to a chaotic grab-bag of bits and pieces of UN activities, slapped together by the MINUSCA mission without adequate headquarters leadership or oversight, thought, planning, protocols, guidelines, or clear channels of communication.

Whatever the UN’s intentions, the organization may well be compounding victims’ trauma irreversibly through this round-robin of “preliminary” interviews, conducted over and over again, and with no real justice, protection, or support in sight.

With every new piece of sordid information it becomes clear that the UN itself is clearly unable to handle sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. There is no plan, and there is absolutely no leadership. We are persuaded that the only answer is to take management of sexual exploitation and abuse reports out of the hands of the United Nations Secretariat entirely, and place it in the hands of an external, expert oversight panel, chosen from and responsible to the Member States. When the panel, over the course of two to three years, working in real time, has cleaned up the morass of sexual exploitation and abuse, in every particular, then and only then can the responsibility be returned to the UN.

They’re having a nice day and their male buddies are landing jobs

May 16th, 2016 12:48 pm | By

The Guardian asked readers to share their experiences of sex discrimination in film making.

Conscious and unconscious bias is alive and well in our business. And much is to do with how “talent” is evaluated. Because of the belief in the auteur, a conceptthat has infected the film space but particularly public funding, women have been at a disadvantage – auteurs are generally men and if you can’t see it, not only can’t you be it, but no one will let you be it either. The way women’s work is assessed and their talent rated doesn’t cut it, because they’re being measured against a male paradigm.
Mia Bays, film producer, 44

Of course – because only men are complicated and interesting enough to be auteurs. Only men are clever enough and thoughtful enough and original enough. Only men contain multitudes. Women are simple, one-dimensional, conformist, dull creatures – nurturing, friendly, but not auteur-like.

There are lots of talented women out there who simply aren’t being given the chance to make work and become role models – and the UK industry as a whole rarely seems to get excited about women who do break through. I have had people walk away from me mid conversation at film events when I told them I, a woman, was making a feature length film and even though my film has been successful I can’t even get on the next rung of the ladder. I have many female friends who left for the US, and are making films with US money and backing as they never had any interest here, which shouldn’t have to happen.
Amy Mathieson, director/producer, 30

And then there’s the boys’ club mentality.

Sadly, the results of the recent study are not surprising, and the problem of gender-bias does not exist only in our industry. It is a part of a larger problem – a systemic, ingrained and institutionalized one. I am not able to explain the lack of female writer and directors concisely, but will offer that the continued comfort level and ‘boys club’ mentality is one that is rewarded time and again by executives, audiences and finance entities – so what is the motivation to change? When one can point to a successful outing by a female writer or director, it is largely ignored.
Jenna Ricker, writer and director, 40

Is it unconscious bias, or indifference?

My charitable explanation for this epidemic is that an unconscious bias may be taking place with those in power. My less charitable explanation is that those in power are fully aware of the sexism, but don’t feel like addressing it because they’re having a nice day and their male buddies are landing jobs – so ‘who cares?’
Caitlin McCarthy, screenwriter

There’s more.

Cut out of the picture

May 16th, 2016 12:25 pm | By

Another entry for the “to the surprise of no one” file – very few British films are written or directed by women.

A report commissioned by Directors UK found that between 2005 and 2014 just 13.6% of British films were directed by women and only 14.6% of those had a female screenwriter, as a result of “unconscious, systemic bias”.

The damning report concluded that the problem of gender inequality had remained almost unchanged in those 10 years, revealing that in 2005, 11.5% of UK films had a female director, which only increased to 11.9% in 2014.

We know. How do we know? We see the movies, and the advertising for the movies, and the reviews of the movies.

Beryl Richards, the chair of Directors UK, emphasised how the “problematic” lack of progress – and in some areas even a regression – meant that a radical move was needed to force the industry to become more less inherently sexist.

Richards believes introducing a 50-50 gender parity target for films funded by bodies such as the BFI, Creative England, Creative Scotland, Northern Ireland Screen, Ffilm Cymru Wales and Film London – which collectively finance a fifth of British films – is a “the only way we will break the vicious cycle, where public money is going to a narrow, privileged few”.

Public funding of movies isn’t a thing in the US. We belong – voluntarily or not – to the Church of The Market Is Never Wrong, so we let the market decide whether or not the bosses think men will pay money to see movies written and directed by women. The market has decided that the bosses think men will never ever do that, and that there’s no need to count women because they go to the movies as the guest of a man so they don’t get to pick what to see.

The report, titled Cut Out of the Picture, illustrated that despite an equal split of men and women studying film, and subsequently entering the film industry, women dropped off at every level, particularly as budgets got higher.

The data reveals that 27% of short films – a starting point for most film-makers – were directed by women, but as budgets rose nearer £500,000, this fell to 16%, and when they rose to between £1m and £10m, just 12% had women at the helm. When it came to blockbusters with £30m-plus budgets, only 3.3% had been directed by women since 2005.

But wait. That’s not because the bosses refuse to hire them, is it? Surely it’s because they’re not good enough, or because they want to have many babies instead? Isn’t it?

Sarah Gavron, director of Suffragette and Brick Lane, said she had been waiting for things to change since she left film school in 2000, but in vain. “It was only when I started seeing films directed by women that I felt I could dare to try to direct,” said Gavron. “Role models are key to developing and encouraging the next generation of film makers.

“Film of course influences our culture which is why it is vital to have diversity and more gender equality both in front of and behind the camera. We need to work to shift this imbalance, and it seems the only way to do this is to be radical, rather than waiting for something to change.”

We’ve been waiting for several generations now, and still film continues to influence our culture in such a way that most people seem to think women are a tiny insignificant minority who can be safely ignored. If life is like the movies, then women just aren’t around, so why pay attention to them?

The report revealed how the “systemic” difficulty in climbing the directorial ladder also meant female directors direct fewer films in their career and are less likely to receive a second, third or fourth directing job.

“Collectively, these findings paint a picture of an industry where female directors are limited in their ability to become directors and their career progression once they do. They are limited in the number of films they can direct as well as the budget and genre of the films they do,” concluded the report.

It’s self-perpetuating. They can’t direct a first film, so then they don’t have a track record so they go on being unable to direct a first film. Career over.

Judicial discretion

May 15th, 2016 4:28 pm | By

News from Saudi Arabia: women there face flogging and imprisonment if they check their husband’s phone without his permission.

The offence would be prosecuted as a violation of privacy because it is not covered in the country’s Islamic laws, senior lawyer Mohammad al-Temyat has said.

Well it wouldn’t be, would it. There weren’t phones to check when Mo wrote the Koran – which is reason number 4 billion whatever whatever for why we shouldn’t take a very old book as something we’re not allowed to change or dispute or throw away. Mo didn’t know everything, including phones and secularism and feminism and human rights, so he shouldn’t be set up as an infallible authority on all things.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Al-Temyat said he worked with the government only on a voluntary basis, providing legal advice.

He described the law on checking someone’s phone as Ta’zir offence, coming under judicial discretion because it has no definition or prescribed punishment under Islam.

He said: “I would like to clarify that this subject involves the husband and the wife and it is a Ta’zir offence so it is possible that there is a flogging, a fine, imprisonment, just signing a pledge or even nothing.”

Right. When in doubt, suggest a flogging, especially when it’s a woman doing something a man doesn’t like.

Then again

May 15th, 2016 3:34 pm | By

Also on Twitter:

Roya Boroumand ‏@RoyaBoroumand May 13

Absurd: An exciting soccer day in #Iran without women in the stadium. 40 yrs ago, they played in the stadium.

H/t Maryam


May 15th, 2016 3:24 pm | By

Tavaana on Twitter:

Tavaana توانا ‏ @Tavaana May 13
Persepolis women’s #volleyball team, 1970. #Iran: a country where pictures from the past look like the future!


May 15th, 2016 11:44 am | By

Bangladesh yesterday:

Police in Bangladesh say a 75-year-old Buddhist monk has been hacked to death in the south-eastern district of Bandarban.

An official said the monk’s body was found inside a Buddhist temple.

It is the latest in a spate of murders of religious minorities, secular activists and academics.

It’s ideological cleansing.

Police said Maung Shue U Chak appeared to have been attacked by at least four people at the temple in Baishari, 350km (220 miles) south-east of the capital Dhaka.

His killing follows the murder of two prominent gay activists, a law student and a university professor in April.

In February a Hindu priest was beheaded in northern Bangladesh.

In other news

Locals in presence of a local MP punished a Hindu headmaster of a school in Narayanganj on Friday for allegedly making offensive comments about religion while meting out corporal punishment to a student of the school on May 8.

Principal Shyamal Kanti Bhakta of Piyar Sattar Latif High School in the district’s Bandar area told BBC Bangla service that the locals were provoked by the false accusations of him making disparaging statements about religion.

According to the BBC report, Shyamal was beaten up by a mob. He was then rescued by police and taken into safe custody, Abul Kalam, officer-in-charge of Bandar Police Station, told the BBC.

Purity über alles.

H/t Taslima

When many of the women collapsed

May 14th, 2016 6:19 pm | By

More from the piece on prostitution in Germany by Manuela Schon at Feminist Current. There’s a section on…prostitution in the educational system.

Pro Familia, a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), is an organization that advises schools in their sex education materials. Among the material they recommended for teenagers is a book called, “Sexualpädagogik der Vielfalt (which loosely translates to “Sexual Pedagogy of Diversity”). This text includes suggestions and material for projects in which students are asked to name sex positions and to “modernize a brothel.” In small groups they are to discuss what “services” a “Freudenhaus der sexuellen Lebenslust” (which  loosely translates to “pleasure house of sexual lust for life”) should offer.

Those who protested this kind of content being introduced into curriculum were accused of being “reactionary,” “conservative,” and “prudish.

Members of the teachers’ union (GEW) in the state of Hessen were offered advanced teacher training courses between 2006 and 2015, taught by a pro-decriminalization lobby group called “Dona Carmen.” Teachers could collect professional training credits by participating. (Last year, the general assembly decided to eliminate these courses from the education program.)

The normalization of prostitution in Germany, even among school-aged children, has lead to young men celebrating their high school graduation (called “Abitur”) together in brothels. Here, it’s no big deal that boys as young as 16 go to their local prostitution apartment to buy sex (something I see on a regular basis in my own neighbourhood).

This isn’t liberated sex education, please notice, all about mutual pleasure and consent – it’s about prostitution in brothels. It’s pleasure for the john, and no one else.

The next section is about the hunt for bargains.

“Geiz ist geil” is a phrase commonly used in German ads and marketing campaigns, meaning, “greed is hot” or “greed is good.” Unsurprisingly, this idea — that the public should try to get everything as cheaply as possible — is transferred to the prostitution market as well. Women are sold as products, so, as products, they should be as cheap as possible. Brothel owners fall over themselves trying to offer the best bargain:

"New girls in the Caligula brothel in Berlin. The absolute sex killer offer."

Attention, K-Mart shoppers: you can poke her for 20 minutes for 20 Euro. It’s cheaper than going to the movies!

A flat-rate brothel chain called “Pussy Club” made headlines when, on its opening day on June 5, 2009, 1,700 men lined up to get in. The long lineups outside women’s rooms lasted until closing time when many of the women collapsed from exhaustion, pain, injuries, and infections, including painful rashes and fungal infections that spread from their genitals down their legs. It was shut down a year later for human trafficking.

Flat-rate brothels are very common in Germany, as well as “tabuslos,” meaning “no taboos.” In practice, this translates to “everything without any protection.” As a result, STDs are on the rise in Germany (HIV rates have gone up after several years of stagnation), and it’s common for married men to infect their wives.

Competing for customers means that brothel chains like the Pascha in Cologne offer gambling games with the chance of winning a free hookup. A brothel in Berlin gives customers a “collection card” like coffee shops do — five visits will grant you a 50 per cent rebate, and your 11th visit is free.

Women as cut-price meat. This is the glorious utopia of decriminalizing the sex trade.

Things he wouldn’t have said to a man

May 14th, 2016 5:22 pm | By

The New York Times reports on the feminist side of Donald Trump.

Hahahahaha no just kidding, of course.

Mr. Trump was not just fixated on the appearance of the women around him. He possessed an almost compulsive need to talk about it.

Inside the Trump Organization, the company that manages his various businesses, he occasionally interrupted routine discussions of business to opine on women’s figures. Ms. Res, his construction executive, remembered a meeting in which she and Mr. Trump interviewed an architect for a project in the Los Angeles area. Out of the blue, she said, Mr. Trump evaluated the fitness of women in Marina del Rey, Calif. “They take care of their asses,” he said.

“The architect and I didn’t know where he was coming from,” Ms. Res said. Years later, after she had gained a significant amount of weight, Ms. Res endured a stinging workplace observation about her own body from Mr. Trump. “ ‘You like your candy,’ ” she recalled him telling her. “It was him reminding me that I was overweight.”

Mr. Trump frequently sought assurances — at times from strangers — that the women in his life were beautiful. During the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant, he sat in the audience as his teenage daughter, Ivanka, helped to host the event from onstage. He turned to Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee, Miss Universe at the time, and asked for her opinion of his daughter’s body.

“ ‘Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?’ ” Ms. Lee recalled him saying. ‘I was like, ‘Really?’ That’s just weird. She was 16. That’s creepy.”


May 14th, 2016 12:44 pm | By

From Feminist Current, legalized pimping in Germany:

A flat-rate brothel chain called “Pussy Club” made headlines when, on its opening day on June 5, 2009, 1,700 men lined up to get in. The long lineups outside women’s rooms lasted until closing time when many of the women collapsed from exhaustion, pain, injuries, and infections, including painful rashes and fungal infections that spread from their genitals down their legs. It was shut down a year later for human trafficking.

Flat-rate brothels are very common in Germany, as well as “tabuslos,” meaning “no taboos.” In practice, this translates to “everything without any protection.” As a result, STDs are on the rise in Germany (HIV rates have gone up after several years of stagnation), and it’s common for married men to infect their wives.

Competing for customers means that brothel chains like the Pascha in Cologne offer gambling games with the chance of winning a free hookup. A brothel in Berlin gives customers a “collection card” like coffee shops do — five visits will grant you a 50 per cent rebate, and your 11th visit is free.

Sounds like a paradise of female empowerment, doesn’t it?

Check out the advertising:

That one’s on a freeway overpass. There are lots more in the post.


The risks

May 14th, 2016 12:35 pm | By

From Science Daily a year ago:

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that high-heeled-shoe-related injuries doubled between 2002 and 2012. The findings were published online May 12 in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Injuries, and the frequency and severity of those injuries were sufficient to make the investigators suggest that wearing the appropriate shoes for the appropriate occasion and being aware of one’s surroundings are good ideas.

“Although high-heeled shoes might be stylish, from a health standpoint, it would be worthwhile for those interested in wearing high-heeled shoes to understand the risks and the potential harm that precarious activities in high-heeled shoes can cause,” said lead investigator Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., vice chair and professor of the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health.

In addition to discomfort in the lower leg, ankle and foot, research has indicated that walking in high-heeled shoes has been shown to significantly reduce ankle muscle movement, step length, total range of movement and balance control. Many studies have documented that the long-term use of high heels alters the neuromechanics of walking and places greater strain on the muscles and tendons of the lower legs, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders later in life.

McGwin’s team looked at data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of injuries associated with wearing high heels seen in hospital emergency departments between 2002 and 2012. There were 123,355 high-heel-related injuries seen during that period. The peak year for injuries was 2011, with more than 19,000. People between the ages of 20 and 29 were most likely to suffer an injury, followed by the 30-39 age group.

“Some historians suggest that high-heeled shoes have been around for nearly 300 years, and that medical professionals have been warning wearers about the dangers of such shoes for the same amount of time,” McGwin said. “While previous studies have confirmed that high heels are associated with lower extremity discomfort and musculoskeletal issues, there is very little information on the nature and frequency of these injuries, or which age groups were most affected.”

The vast majority of the injuries — more than 80 percent — were to the ankle or foot, with just under 20 percent involving the knee, trunk, shoulder, or head and neck. More than half were strains or sprains, with fractures accounting for 19 percent of all injuries. While white females as a group had the largest number of heel-related injuries, the rate of injury for black females was twice that of whites.

“Our findings also suggest that high-heel-related injuries have increased over time, with the rate of injury nearly doubling from 2002 to 2012,” McGwin said. “We also noted that nearly half the injuries occurred in the home, which really supports the idea of wearing the right footwear for the right occasion and setting. Also, to reduce the time of exposure, we recommend that those wearing heels be aware of how often and for how long they wear them.”

Co-authors on the study are Justin Xavier Moore, MPH, Department of Surgery; Brice Lambert, MSPH, departments of Epidemiology and Emergency Medicine; and Gabrielle P. Jenkins, MSPH, Department of Epidemiology.

No one should ever be required to wear them.


May 14th, 2016 12:04 pm | By

It’s Saturday, so have a treat. Art and colors on Facebook:

He is reducing being a woman down to make-up and sparkly shoes

May 14th, 2016 11:30 am | By

Janice Turner wrote a piece at the Times titled The trans lobby peddles a pink and blue world. I expect that will get her added to The Index if she’s not there already, but it’s true.

A friend of hers commented that he thought she was gender fluid, and she was taken aback.

I’d never thought about my gender identity before. It hadn’t occurred to me that not being a “girly” girl meant I wasn’t 100 per cent woman. The point, I’ve always believed, is to expand the categories “man” and “woman”, to tear down pink and blue prisons. So a little girl can like trucks, spacemen, getting dirty and still be a girl; a boy can put on nail polish, play with dolls and be no less a boy.

Same here – and I still see this as the progressive approach. Why? Because it makes more room for everyone, men as well as women. Prisons are prisons; nobody wants to live in them.

We should, Turner says, oppose “a view of gender, spun off the trans movement, that is as conservative as the Mad Men 1950s.” Eddie Izzard used to say “These aren’t women’s clothes, they’re my clothes.” Now he says, “Being a transgender guy, I do like my nails.”

Men, I’ve found, can’t understand why this enrages women. Why are feminist ladies so mean to Eddie? Well, because he’s no longer saying “I’m a bloke who likes pretty nails”. He has declared: “Because I like pretty nails I am female.” He is reducing being a woman down to make-up and sparkly shoes.

And guess what: we don’t like being reduced down to that.

At heart the trans lobby upholds the same nonsense that underpins porn and men’s mags and the Tea Party right: that men are muscly hunks and women are passive pink fem-bots. To feel you are neither doesn’t make you gender fluid — or any of the other 72 crazy gender categories on Facebook — it just makes you human.

It’s not special, it’s not trans-anything, it’s just human.

Guest post: Where religion comes in to it

May 14th, 2016 10:47 am | By

Originally a comment by Steamshovelmama on Faithful and regular worshippers, a post about a council-funded bus service that refused to pick up a student because he’s not Catholic.

OK, I’ve found some more out about this.

The parents of the boy in question have chosen to send him to Holy Trinity Academy (yes, bloody academy status, thank you David Cameron) rather than to one of the geographically nearest schools. Because that has been their choice, the local council expects the parents to arrange and fund school journeys. Where the geographically nearest school has been accepted it is the local council’s role to ensure that journey is safe and affordable – for instance some pupils may be eligible for a free bus pass and the council must ensure there are safe road crossing places etc.

Where religion comes in to it – and I really don’t agree with this at all – is that if a parent wishes their child to go to a school of their faith and the nearest one of those is not the nearest school then a local council may have a policy that accepts the right of the parent to have faith appropriate education and will then subsidise transport. Apparently Telford and Wrekin local council do indeed have this policy.

The central government Equality Act requires that local authorities do not discriminate on grounds of belief but this act, apparently, does not apply to school transport. And there was a Joint Committee on Human Rights that actually scrutinised this legislation and who warned that this kind of issue might occur. (Headed by MP Harriet Harman, 4 Labour MPs, 6 Conservative, 1 Liberal Democrat and 1 cross bench – 6 from the Lords and 6 from the Commons).

Time to lobby my local MP – who is, unfortunately, a socially conservative (Labour Party) old duffer who has been in his safe seat for years. Last time I lobbied him was on the gay marriage question and I was distinctly unimpressed by his answer…

It’s about demonstrating who is in charge in that space

May 14th, 2016 9:37 am | By

Rose Hackman writes in the Guardian that a major part of the emotional labor women are forced to do is the de-escalation of incidents of harassment.

Years later, I realized the abuse was less in the act I had been subjected to, and more in my learned silence. De-escalation had been my trick, to the detriment of my agency.

A blog entry from last fall put this into words for me. It made me realise [w]hat women around me had been doing for years: de-escalating situations caused by men, with the burden of minimising incidents being placed squarely on our shoulders.

Occurrences could be as mundane as a street catcall, as infuriating as a sexist comment at work, or as troubling as an unwelcome physical touch. Occurrences also include compliments we have to decipher (just nice, or suggesting an expression of male ownership over our bodies?).

To the initial weight of having to deal with those acts of dominance is the added mental drain of having to evaluate how best to deal with it and not risk a violent backlash. De-escalating is just another form of the “emotional work” women provide with little recognition of its ongoing exertion and toll.

That time the surly guy angrily told me to smile as I was walking past his house with my mind elsewhere? It occurs to me that was an act of rebellion against that duty of de-escalation thing. I knew that at the time. There was a little pause where I debated whether to ignore him or to do what I wanted to do, which was to demand why the fuck he had said that. The normal thing to do would have been to ignore it. I’d ignored it many times, all my life. I doubtless would have ignored it that time too if he’d been “friendly” or “jokey” as opposed to aggressive and hostile. His hostility did me the favor of making the dominance unmistakable, and worth rejecting.

For Hanna Rusin, a 29-year-old fashion industry worker based in New York, gendered micro- and macro-aggressions are a “vast, vast” part of her everyday life.

She recalls, off the top of her head, scarring incidents including being stalked by a man who was her neighbor for six years and being followed home by a policeman after he asked to see her ID on the subway. She also remembers unwelcome attention growing up – comments and physical contact in private settings – but being taught to dismiss it.

“In a more intimate setting, it’s more subtle. If you say something, you’re a troublemaker,” Rusin says. “If you would go to your mother, they would just say, ‘This is how they are, they’re just drunk old men, ignore them.’ Women don’t even notice that it’s happening to them until they hear someone else talk about it. And then they are like, wait, is this what this is?”

Ignore them. Ignore it. Ignore ignore ignore. That will be easier in the moment, and nothing will ever change.

Nichole Thomas, a 26-year-old attorney, says the sexism she feels in her male-dominated law office is understated but very real. When she was at an office outing recently, she noticed every time a junior male colleague spoke, his point was uplifted and highlighted by other men, including higher-ranking men. Women did not receive the same treatment.

The way in which Thomas has decided to deal with what she is sure are expressions of sexism at work? De-escalating by taking it in her stride and not letting it affect her work performance. “I would never say anything at all to anybody. I notice it in that moment and then I forget about it. I try and not think about it every day.”

It’s everyday sexism, that happens every day, but it’s crucial to avoid thinking about it every day.

When [another woman] tries to explain the toll of such experiences to men, she says it is so exhausting she feels “it’s not even worth the effort half the time”.

“They don’t get it. It’s just not a reality for them.”

Hardikar, the health worker, adds: “There is a construct within masculinity that teaches them that they have the right to exert power over any space … It’s about demonstrating who is in charge in that space. I am sure that it’s subconscious, but it is learned and it is taught.”

And it is performed, and it is noticed or ignored, every every day.

By this point, the baby had sunken eyes

May 13th, 2016 5:39 pm | By

A horror story from the Sydney Morning Herald: a woman got advice from a “naturopath” on how to treat her infant’s eczema.

Over the next two months, police allege Ms Bodnar convinced the mother she could cure her baby’s eczema and made her feel guilty for using steroid creams for her son’s condition.

Ms Bodnar, a former nurse and midwife, convinced the mother it was best to use nothing to allow the baby’s skin to breathe.

She also advised her to go on a “raw only diet” to alkaline her milk to her breast-feeding baby, which would “help heal him faster by eliminating the toxins out of his body”, police allege.

Yeah that’s not a thing, it’s just word salad.

The mother stopped going to the dermatologist and ate nothing but raw fruits, vegetables and seeds.

The baby boy came down with a fever in May 2015, and Ms Bodnar told the mother to go on a water only diet, police allege.

“You’re not allowed to eat anything if you want to see him better,” she allegedly advised the mother.

Police say that the mother was feeling pressure and could not just drink water, so she ate only watermelon for three days.

She felt guilty as she thought she was poisoning her child but felt constantly tired.

When both mother and baby started losing weight, Ms Bodnar assured them it was normal and the baby was fat and needed to lose some weight.

The mother noticed the baby was getting lethargic.

Ms Bodnar allegedly made the mother feel guilty that she didn’t care about his health and was giving up too easily by wanting to give him solid food.

When the baby started vomiting, Ms Bodnar told the mother to stay on a water-only diet and “increased temperature means increased vitality”.

The mother took the baby to hospital after going to a doctor in May 2015.

By this point, the baby had sunken eyes, infected eczema, dehydration and severe failure to thrive.

The baby would have died in a few days had he not been taken to hospital, police said.

Police alleged that, as a result of Ms Bodnar’s treatment, the baby nearly died and might have long-term developmental problems.

All because a “naturopath” was playing at being a real doctor.

It’s enough to make you scream.

H/t Kausik

Being and becoming

May 13th, 2016 3:46 pm | By

Chris has an epiphany.

An individual Bishop in his diocese

May 13th, 2016 3:24 pm | By

About Sister Carol Keehan again, the President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association who put out an evasive (to put it politely) statement on the ACLU / MergerWatch report on the mess of Catholic hospitals. I did a follow-up post about her pointing out she’s not all bad, because she supported the health care bill despite opposition from the bishops. But a reader reminded us I’d been harsh about her before, which prompted me to look it up, and here’s the press release dated January 31, 2011:

WASHINGTON (January 31, 2011)—In response to questions raised about the authority of the local bishop in the interpretation and implementation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), conversations have taken place among Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA); Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, who is a member of the CHA Board of Directors. Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, episcopal liaison to the CHA, was also part of the consultation. Following those conversations, Sister Keehan and Archbishop Dolan exchanged letters to underscore the agreement evident in their conversations.

In her January 18 letter, Sister Keehan affirmed to Archbishop Dolan CHA’s acknowledgement of the role of the local bishop as the authoritative interpreter of the ERDs in such Catholic facilities. In a January 26 response, Archbishop Dolan thanked Sister Keehan for making clear that CHA and the bishops share this understanding of the Church’s teaching.

In other words she affirmed the right of Catholic bishops to meddle in health care. She did so in the context of the bishop of Phoenix’s effort to get a hospital and the network of hospitals it belonged to to agree in writing never again to perform an abortion like the one performed at St Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix to save the life of a pregnant woman. So, in short, she affirmed the right of bishops to tell hospitals not to save the lives of women.

Here’s her letter to the horrible Timothy Dolan:

Dear Archbishop Dolan:

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with Bishop Lynch and me about CHA’s position regarding the ethical and religious directives. I was pleased to hear of your appreciation of the role of Catholic hospitals in providing the healing ministry of Jesus to our country.

I was happy to have the opportunity to assure you that publicly and privately, CHA has always said to sponsors, governing board members, manager and clinicians that an individual Bishop in his diocese is the authoritative interpreter of the ERDs. We explain that a Bishop has a right to interpret the ERDs and also to develop his own ethical and religious directives if he chooses.

CHA has a sincere desire to work with the Church and individual Bishops to understand as clearly as possible, clinical issues and bring the majesty of the Church’s teaching to that. We are absolutely convinced that the teaching of the Church, in combination with a clear understanding of the clinical situation serves the people of God very well. CHA has consistently worked to help its members and others have a general understanding of the ethical and religious directives, while at the same time, noting that the local bishop is the authoritative interpreter in that diocese of the directives.

Thank you for your efforts and your support of Catholic healthcare.

Sister Carol Keehan, DC
President and Chief Executive Officer

Lots of nice pious words, in which to agree among themselves that a pregnant woman who goes to one of their hospitals and needs an abortion because her pregnancy is killing her is shit out of luck.

The woman in Phoenix, never forget, had three small children.