Notes and Comment Blog

She could always take a bus

Apr 22nd, 2016 12:08 pm | By

An ad for a cab company in India:

What do those words mean?

Apr 22nd, 2016 10:56 am | By

Vox breathlessly tells us that an American dictionary has added two new Socially Approved words.

Big news for LGBTQ folks: On Wednesday, Merriam-Webster announced that it added the words “cisgender” and “genderqueer” to its unabridged dictionary.

What do those words mean? Here are Merriam-Webster’s definitions:

  • Cisgender: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.
  • Genderqueer: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.

But what does “gender identity” mean?

I don’t call myself nonbinary or genderfluid or genderqueer, nor do I claim to be a trans man. On the other hand I do point out that I perhaps am in some sense nonbinary or genderfluid or genderqueer, but also that so are most people, or even all people, since nobody can fit all the stereotypes for any one gender 100 percent of the time.

But I don’t call myself a trans man. Is that all it take to be “cis”? If that’s all it takes, then I’m cis…but the trouble with that is that the way “cis” is used in discourse, that’s absolutely not all it takes. “Cis” is used in discourse to mean “conforming to one’s assigned gender” at best, and “totally fine with all the stereotypes about one’s assigned gender” at worst. Neither of those remotely applies to me…and again, that’s true of most people.

So what does “gender identity” mean? Does it mean just not calling yourself trans? Or is it much thicker than that, meaning a whole bunch of related things, not all of which are compatible with each other?

Usually, it means the second – and that’s the problem. I have no issue with agreeing that I don’t call myself trans anything, but I have a lot of issues with claims that I have a “gender identity” and that it can be meaningfully summed up with the word “woman.”

Vox goes on to draw a fatuous conclusion from the new definitions:

The additions reflect how society is expanding its discussions over gender identity, gender expression, and transgender issues: As conversations about gender broaden, the vocabulary used in these conversations is set to change, too.

I don’t think the conversations about gender do broaden, most of them; I think they narrow. I think way too many people are making a cult of “gender identity” and that that reverses the healthy trend set off by the return of feminism in the 1970s to make “gender identity” less important instead of more so.

Historically fortunate

Apr 21st, 2016 5:09 pm | By

Lionel Shriver experienced being female as an imposition as a child, in much the way I did and most or perhaps all women I know did.

But I was historically fortunate. By the time I entered university in 1974, a revolution was well under way. As I understood it, “women’s liberation” meant that the frilly cookie-cutter template of femininity had been chucked out. Being female was no longer defined in terms of skirts, high heels, and homemaking. Men and women were equal. Both sexes were just people. We had entered the post-gender world.

And then we turned around and went right back into Gender World, and to make it all the more excruciating, this time we did it in the delusion that it was the progressive thing to do. Well I didn’t, but much of the libertarian left did.

We have entered instead an oppressively gendered world, in which identity is more bound up in one’s sex than ever before. (Note: dictionary definitions regard gender and sex as interchangeable, and I will, too.) As Jemima Lewis wrote in the Daily Telegraph in March: “You can be agender, bi-gender, cisgender, demigender, graygender, intergender, genderless, genderqueer or third gender—but by God, you will accept a label.” The gay and lesbian world having gone so mainstream as to become a big bore, western media has moved on to an enthrallment with trans-genderism bizarrely out of proportion to the statistical rarity of true gender dysphoria—though children and people generally being so suggestible, the condition will doubtless grow more common. Facebook has extended its gender options beyond the 71 it reached a year ago (thrillingly, two options in this dizzying smorgasbord of self-definition are “Man” and “Woman”). Users are now allowed to infinitely customise their profiles. As the Facebook Diversity Team published, “Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own. As before, you can add up to 10 gender terms…”

As Rebecca Reilly-Cooper likes to say, gender is not personality.

Gender is not personality.

In this would-be enlightened age, in which primary schools hold “Transgender Days” the way they used to sponsor bake sales, we urge children to see their genders as flexible, and to choose to be boys or girls or something in-between. But what does it mean to decide you’re a boy or a girl? In presenting this choice, we reverse all that progress on gender-neutral toys, inexorably reinforcing the hoariest, more threadbare versions of male and female. A boy is rough and boisterous and aggressive and plays with trucks. A girl is soft and quiet and sensitive and plays with dolls. Once again, in some dozen faddish television documentaries I have seen about trans children, it often comes down to clothes. A little boy knows he wants to be a girl because he wants to wear a dress.

Just eliminate the middleman (or the middletranswoman or the middlegenderfluidperson). A little boy wants to wear a dress. Boom, job done; no need for switching anything, no need to tell everyone about switching anything, just put on the fucking dress and get on with life.

Sex is no longer a fact. It is a choice. Which is all very well, except the conceit that sex-change surgeons operate under is that a self has a gender. The gendered self can be born into the wrong body, so that in transforming the physical signifiers of sex, doctors make body and self match.

But does the self have a gender? Are men and women male and female in their very souls? Or in reconfiguring the body, are we not primarily tinkering with how other people react to us? Isn’t plastic surgery predominantly an act of social manipulation?


There are no very souls. The self isn’t stable and it isn’t a thing – it’s a process, and there’s no need to make it “match” anything.

Self, in the contemporary view, is a construct, full stop. It is no longer made of elements we are stuck with, but is wholly a made thing. Thus when comparisons were drawn last year between transsexuals and Rachel Dolezal, president of a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, who was masquerading as black because she felt like an African-American, the parallel didn’t require much of a leap (even if most American black people rejected the comparison). We are, apparently, whoever we think we are. And we are within our rights to demand that our peers get with the programme.

Except that in fact that isn’t true – we don’t get to transition to just anything and everything. Rachel Dolezal is an outcast, and white people are not welcome to start announcing they’re coming out as Sioux or Maori or Nigerian.

I was a tomboy as a kid, and scrabbled in the dirt with my brothers playing with model cars and making toy trains crash spectacularly from a height. I shunned Barbies and detested baby dolls. I reviled dresses, spurning lace and flounces for jeans and flannel shirts. At 15, I changed my name from Margaret to Lionel. Were I to have grown up 50, 60 years later, it’s entirely possible that my parents would have taken me to see a therapist and put me on hormone therapy.

I’m glad they didn’t. Not because being a woman is so swell, but because being either a woman or a man doesn’t matter that much to me. I certainly experience myself as female in relation to other people. But alone in a room, falling asleep, hiking by myself in the woods, writing at my computer, thinking—I do not experience myself first and foremost as a woman. I do not walk around all day contemplating labias and breasts and ovaries, much less determining to get my nails done or to make an appointment for highlights. For me, my very self has no gender. While obviously I can only testify to my own experience of being a person—to my knowledge, I’ve only been this one—I cannot imagine that I alone enjoy such a self-perception. If selfhood is real and not a neurological illusion, it transcends gender.

That describes my experience too – but other people have a different experience. For some people, their sex does feel like a core aspect of the self. But then our whole sense of the self is riddled with illusions, especially illusions of continuity. The illusions are useful, but they’re not so useful that they make self-obsession a good thing.

The very fact that this essay will seem incendiary (and save the conniption fits; I’m not on social media and never read online comments) is testimony to how gender has grown destructively hyper-significant. We’re in the process of taking a giant cultural step backwards. The women’s liberation movement of my adolescence advocated a release from gender roles, and now we are entrenching them—pigeonholing ourselves with picayune precision on a continuum of gender identity, as if arriving at the right relationship to cliché is tantamount to self-knowledge. But I do not want my epitaph to read, “She was a she.” I am a writer, a cook, a sculptor, a tennis player. A big mouth, a hot head, a cut-up and a ham. A woman, yes, there’s no denying the fact of it. But that detail is incidental—and way down the list.

And thank god for that, really. People who talk endlessly about being either one are incredibly tedious, or worse than tedious. Yeah yeah, you have two thumbs and a sex, now let’s talk about something interesting.

“Why have you so visibly brought your hair forward towards your face?”

Apr 21st, 2016 12:31 pm | By

The International Business Times gives us an account of what it’s actually like to be a teenage girl stopped and abused by the new undercover police in Tehran:

In the video, the teenager said: “As two young students, today my friend and me have decided to go shopping for new shoes for school and we also decided to see the new line of school supplies. So we headed for the bazaar.

“As we approached bazaar, we saw two Fati-Commandoes. They were specifically waiting at the entrance of the bazaar. In order not to be noticed by them, we decided to go by the parking.

“In the meantime, we decided to conceal our hair that was sticking out of the headscarf and tried to clear the make-up that we were wearing. Much to our chagrin, they ended up seeing us and they confronted us quite badly. One of them shouted: “Why are you playing hide-and-seek with us? Come here.’ They took us [towards the entrance] by force.”

By force – because of their makeup and headscarves. Imagine going to Safeway for some tomatoes and getting shoved around by cops who didn’t like your sweatshirt. Now imagine that at age 12.

The pair apologised, telling the female officers they would pay more attention to how they dressed in future, the teenager explained, adding: “One of those Fati-Commandoes asked her: “Why have you so visibly brought your hair forward towards your face?”

“I intervened by telling them: ‘Well, I don’t think my friend should be scolded like that. She is only 12 years old and she is a bit young to face such harsh verbal attacks. She is not even in pursuit of looking attractive − she is just a minor”.

“However, they seemed to have no intention of giving up. They took us towards a man, who was presumably associated with the Morality Police as well. As I came face-to-face with him, he shouted: ‘You, girl! What kind of an appearance is that?'”

The girls were also reportedly threatened with detention, with one of the morality police telling them: “Let’s imprison them so that we can make an example of them. They will never dare to come out dressed like this,” adding: “My daughter, you should retain your chastity, your purity.”

All this, all this shoving and threatening and shouting and terrorizing, over what two teenage girls are wearing on their heads.

As with so many things, I suspect hidden motives. I suspect the bullshit about chastity and purity is just a thin veil – a hijab in fact – for contempt and hatred of women. The religion teaches them to hate women and then gives them pretexts for putting their hatred into practice. Oh boy, a chance to humiliate women in public. The women cops have it just as badly.


More hijab police

Apr 21st, 2016 11:38 am | By

The BBC on priorities in Iran:

Outraged Iranians have taken to social media to condemn the decision to deploy 7,000 undercover police officers in Tehran to monitor the observance of the Islamic dress code.

7,000 spies to police something that should be nothing to do with the police in the first place – that’s some brilliant staff allocation. They should deploy another 7000 to monitor how people brush their teeth.

Tehran’s police chief announced on Monday that the role of the new unit is to:

  • Report women for the improper wearing of the hijab (and to ensure a woman’s veil covers her in public as required)
  • Report anyone who harasses women
  • Report anyone who plays loud music in their cars and violates traffic rules

Confused, aren’t they. Nobody should be harassing anybody. That could be a police matter. “Improper” wearing of the hijab? Not a thing. Not a real category. Not an issue. Not anyone else’s business. Not important. Not relevant to anything that matters. Not remotely in any way a matter for any police and policing.

The 7,000 officers will look out for violations of the above offences and text details of the incidents to the morality police to follow up. The subsequent warning could be verbal – or lead to arrests and fines.

Because women are livestock, and have no rights.

Some women fear that it could even backfire and lead to further pestering from strangers. In the past, vigilantes linked to the paramilitary forces of Basij, have sometimes carried out street patrols to enforce hijab and prevent “un-Islamic” behaviour.

Well of course it could. I don’t know why the Beeb says “even”; of course it could. Make it legal and socially acceptable to harass women over what they wear on their heads and you’ve declared open season on them.

Why fear women so much I wonder, said Facebook user “Judith Sugden-Smith”. The 7,000 “could be employed in constructive, productive jobs beneficial to society.”

“We wish they hired 700 people (10% of the 7,000) to fight against the widespread problems of corruption, bribery and smuggling said a post on the popular Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom”. The page advocates an end to compulsory hijab.

According to the mind-set of the authorities…not wearing the hijab is a worse offence than embezzlement“.

One message of support for the new unit came from user “Kiyan Aylia”. The user called on the morality police to “arrest these ladies without hijab and also their husbands because they are supporting them”. Then “clean my Iran of these [people] by sending them in exile to the West. Let them enjoy their life there,” Kiyan Aylia said.

Be careful what you wish for.


The new prez

Apr 20th, 2016 6:32 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz on Malia Bouattia, newly elected president of the NUS.

The words below are not mine. But because of their gravity, it is important that you read them in full.

“The notion of resistance has been perhaps washed out of our understanding of how colonised people will obtain their physical emancipation…With mainstream, Zionist-led media outlets …resistance is presented as an act of terrorism.

“But instead of us remembering that this has always been the case throughout struggles against white supremacy, it’s become an accepted discourse among too many…

“Internalised Islamophobia has also enabled our obsession with convincing non-Muslims of our non-violent and peaceful nature, so we’re taking things a step further and dangerously condemning the resistance, branding groups and individuals as terrorists to disassociate from them, but at the same time supporting their liberation which is a very strange contradiction.

“There’s a need to change how we think about these things. After all, the alternative to resistance is what we’ve been observing over the last 20 years or so, which is ‘peace talks’… essentially the strengthening of the colonial project.

“To consider that Palestine will be free only by means of fundraising, non-violent protest and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is problematic… My issue is that whilst at time it’s tactically used, or presented as the non-violent option, it can be misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people…

“We also need to remember the Palestinians on the ground… who are actively sustaining the fight and the resistance against occupation and perhaps there’s a need to …take orders if we are to really show some form of solidarity”.

These words are from a chilling speech, given in a calm and deliberated style, at a “Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution” event in September 2014 by Malia Bouattia, the new president of the National Union of Students (NUS). Ms Bouattia was speaking in her official capacity as NUS’s Black Student’s Officer.

The Union of Jewish Students is naturally alarmed at her new role as President of the NUS.
So should we all be.

There’s more.

Along with such regressive-Left apologia for jihadism, predictably antisemitism has been rearing its head among the student body. In 2011 Ms Bouattia co-authored a blog which lists a “large Jewish society” – by which she now insists she meant “Zionists” – as being one of the challenges at Birmingham University. But she even considers the UK government’s beleaguered Prevent strategy against extremism to be a result of the ‘Zionist lobby’.

Her bid for president was endorsed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), a group that has been banned by the NUS since 2004 after publishing material on its website originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, as well as their own post entitled “Take your holocaust, roll it nice and tight and shove it up your (be creative)!” MPACUK’s endorsement of her candidacy would be less concerning if she hadn’t appeared to welcome it, by replying “Thank you :-))”.

It’s all so hideously depressing.

Know who’s facing constant attacks, Ted?

Apr 20th, 2016 6:09 pm | By

Elizabeth Warren:

Yesterday, Ted Cruz sent a campaign fundraising email whining about the “significant sacrifice” he’s made to run for President. He whined about facing constant attacks, nonexistent family time, his limited health and sleep, and having no personal time.

Are you kidding me? We’re supposed to pity him because trying to be the leader of the free world is hard?! I’ve got two words for you, Ted: Boo hoo.

Know whose health is limited? Workers with no paid leave who can’t stay at home when they fall ill or have to care for sick kids. Know whose sleep is limited? Working parents who do everything they can to save money but stay up at night worrying about how do get their kids through college without getting crushed by debt. Know who gets no personal time? People who work two minimum wage jobs to support their families. Know who gets no family time? Moms with unfair schedules who drop their kids off at daycare and drive halfway across town only to find their work hours have been cancelled.

And Ted Cruz? He opposes mandatory paid family and medical leave and calls it “free stuff.” He voted against student loan refinancing. He’s says the minimum wage is “bad policy” and he’s done nothing to try and help workers struggling with unfair work schedules.

And know who’s facing constant attacks, Ted? Hardworking American immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, women. They’re facing the GOP’s constant attacks. They’re facing YOUR constant attacks.

Working people are working more and getting paid less. They can’t save. Some face mistreatment and discrimination. They can’t take time off work for illnesses or to spend time with family. But they don’t whine. They don’t throw tantrums or try to shut down their workplace because they don’t get their way — and then turn around and demand promotions.

Senator Cruz — you chose to run for President. Working people don’t get a choice. Maybe you should spend less time complaining about your “significant sacrifices” — and more time trying to do something about theirs.

I wish there were more like her.


A collective movement of we’ve had it up to here!

Apr 20th, 2016 6:02 pm | By

Students at Paris’s Sciences-Po decided to throw a party for the hijab, but hardly anyone showed up.

The international campaign to get college students and non-Muslim women to wear Islamic veils as a demonstration of solidarity hit trouble at elite Paris university Sciences-Po when fewer than a dozen donned head and neck coverings on a “Hijab Day” that attracted more polemics than participants.

Liberal feminists and secularism defenders, alarmed at what they saw as another attempt to impose a highly conservative interpretation of Islam on secular educational institutions, condemned the protest as an “insult” to women who are forced to wear hijabs in Iran and parts of the Arab-Muslim world. The extreme right National Front, meanwhile, tried to exploit the divisions to inflame racism.

Fewer than a dozen – so, eleven? Eight? Four?

Organizer Lily, who would only give her first name to French journalists said “Hijab Day” was a “collective movement of we’ve had it up to here! We support women who wear the veil and we are in solidarity with them.”

Had what up to here? Those terrible rebellious women who don’t wear hijab? Do you support women who don’t wear it? Are you in solidarity with them?

Hijab Day was promoted by Sciences-Po campus society Salaam, an Islam “reflection” group that has been questioned for inviting conservative and radical Muslim identities to speak. Salaam guests have included Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is frequently decried in France for his refusal to condemn stoning of women, and his celebrations of Sharia law. Another guest has been the publisher of a Salafist, or extremist Saudi Wahaabist Islam news site called Al-Kanz.

In short, the group is what you’d expect – a fan of theocratic reactionaries.

Sonia Mabrouk, a French-Tunisian broadcast journalist tweeted a widely-shared remark: “When I think of all the women’s daily fight for freedom and choice in countries like Tunisia, this Hijab Day is an insult”.

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher asked whether there would next be a “Sharia day, or stoning or slavery day?”

Investigative journalist  and author Caroline Fourest shared a video of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser from 1956, when he mocked the Muslim Brotherhood’s pressuring him to oblige women to wear hijabs “just to refresh the memory of those who think that Muslims have always been veiled, or that it is a traditional or even “natural” emblem, rather than … being to do with the rise of (Muslim) Brothers in Egypt, or fascination with the Iranian revolution of 1979.”

It’s to do with the rise and rise of reactionary theocracy.

“Yes we can willingly give in to a trend that assigns women the duty of ‘decency.’ We can willingly show solidarity with a conservative revolution. But don’t come and say to us that it is a trend that is anodine or modernist,” Fourest, a specialist on far right Catholic fundamentalists and Islamist extremists wrote.

I suppose it’s Catholicismophobic to say that.

Hijab Days and “solidarity shows” are becoming common in U.S. universities too. Muslim reformers and journalists Asra Nomani, who has contributed to Women in the World, and Hala Arafa have implored women to stop sporting the hijab as a sign of religious solidarity. They say conservative Islamists and regimes like Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan, Iran and Islamic State are trying to impose the veil as a “sixth pillar of Islam” when there is no Koranic requirement it be worn, and when the word “hijab” doesn’t even mean headscarf in Arabic but curtain, hiding, obstructing or isolating.

Let’s not celebrate the hiding, obstructing and isolating of women, shall we?

“It suggests some lives are more important than others”

Apr 20th, 2016 5:36 pm | By

The NUS has lit up the Twitters again.

The National Union of Students caused widespread outrage on Wednesday after students applauded motions not to commemorate the Holocaust, because doing so isn’t ‘inclusive’.

Inclusive of – ? Nazis? Hitler’s memory? People who hate Jews? People who love genocide?

The motion to remember the Holocaust did end up passing, but what is this idea that commemorating it isn’t inclusive? Are the applauding students worried about the feelings of people who like to see whole populations wiped out?

An amendment to a motion combating anti-Semitism on campuses argued that “education is vital”.

They said the NUS should organise campuses into creating events on Holocause Memorial Day.

Darta Kaleja, from Chester University, shocked many by speaking against the amendment.

She told the conference: “I am against the NUS ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides and prioritising others.

“It suggests some lives are more important than others.

“When during my education was I taught about the genocides in Tibet or Rwanda?

“It is important to commemorate all of them.”

If no part of her education told her about the genocide in Rwanda, that’s shocking – but it’s not a reason to oppose commemorating the very large genocide perpetrated by the Nazis.


Folding money

Apr 20th, 2016 5:13 pm | By

Well it’s about time. Jackson is out, Tubman is in.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew on Wednesday announced the most sweeping and historically symbolic makeover of American currency in a century, proposing to replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, and to add women and civil rights leaders to the $5 and $10 notes.

Mr. Lew may have reneged on a commitment he made last year to make a woman the face of the $10 bill, opting instead to keep Alexander Hamilton, to the delight of a fan base swollen with enthusiasm over a Broadway rap musical named after and based on the life of the first Treasury secretary.

Good god – is that why? Because there’s a Broadway musical about him? Are we that dense?

Tubman, an African-American and a Union spy during the Civil War, would bump Jackson — a white man known as much for his persecution of Native Americans as for his war heroics and advocacy for the common man — to the back of the $20, in some reduced image along with the White House. Tubman would be the first woman so honored on paper currency since Martha Washington’s portrait briefly graced the $1 silver certificate in the late 19th century.

Trail of Tears, you know. Jackson was the guy who kicked the Cherokees off all that fertile land in the Southeast and in exchange gave them some nice arid plains in Oklahoma. Of course he made them walk there. Lots died on the journey.

The picture of the Treasury building on the back of the $10 bill would be replaced with a depiction of a 1913 march in support of women’s right to vote that ended at the building, along with portraits of five suffrage leaders: Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, who in more recent years was on an unpopular $1 coin until minting ceased.

On the flip side of the $5 bill, the Lincoln Memorial would remain, but as the backdrop for the 1939 performance there of Marian Anderson, the African-American classical singer, after she was barred from singing at the segregated Constitution Hall nearby. Sharing space on the rear would be images of Eleanor Roosevelt, who arranged Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial performance, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1963 delivered his “I have a dream” speech from its steps.

That’s really kind of exciting.

Before you leave

Apr 20th, 2016 4:14 pm | By

Amnesty International has sent a letter to Obama urging him to put human rights on the table at his meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on April 21.

In particular, I urge you to address repression of freedom of expression and the abusive use of criminal justice systems in the name of security, and violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the Yemen conflict. In recent years, GCC leaders have aggressively stifled dissent, often under the pretext of ‘national security.’

Last year you told the New York Times that you believed the GCC’s greatest security threat stems from the dissatisfaction of their populations, including from a sense that there is no political outlet for grievances. This meeting is an opportunity for you to convey directly to the leaders of the GCC states the paramount importance of respect for human rights.

Attached to the letter is a list of prisoners of conscience and more detailed information about human rights abuses in the GCC states.

Key human rights concerns in the GCC states include:

  •  The criminalization of peaceful expression, association and assembly, and the arrest, trial and imprisonment of those expressing opinions at variance with dominant social and political views, including those that criticize government policies or leaders’ conduct or state sanctioned/tolerated corruption;
  •  The harassment, intimidation and prosecution of human rights defenders, including those who work with international human rights bodies such as the UN or international human rights organizations, in order to marginalise, isolate and silence them; the creation of obstacles in the form of withholding of state papers such as ‘no objection [to work] certificates;’ the imposition of travel bans and other state-sanctioned measures;
  •  The practice of enforced disappearance of those arrested on often vaguely-formulated accusations relating to ‘national security;’ and their detention in unknown locations for prolonged periods of time, beyond the reach of law, prior to charging them;
  • The use of unfair trial procedures marked by arbitrary arrest; limited or complete denial of access to family and independent legal representation of one’s choice; limited time to prepare a defense on charges that often do not meet minimum international standards for what constitutes a criminal offence, whether in respect to defamation or in relation to ‘national security;’
  •  The use of torture and other ill-treatment in pre and post-trial detention, sometimes in order to secure “confessions” which are then used as a basis for convictions; implementation of corporal judicial punishments such as flogging which violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment;
  •  The failure to independently and effectively investigate human rights violations by state authorities and to hold accountable those responsible;
  •  The implementation of new counter-terrorism and cyber-crime laws that restrict fundamental rights to peaceful expression, association and assembly and which pave the way for the harassment, prosecution and imprisonment of political activists and human rights defenders in the name of ‘security;’
  •  The stripping of nationality and expulsion for politically motivated reasons in contravention of international human rights laws;
  •  Discrimination against women in law and practice, particularly in relation to family matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance, and inadequate protection against sexual and other violence;
  •  Discrimination against minority communities such as the Shia community in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, who face entrenched discrimination that limits their access to state services and employment; and
  •  The widespread exploitation of migrant workers, despite labor laws which should provide protection against such abuse. The kafala (“sponsorship”) system of employment in place across the region facilitates human rights violations including forced labor and human trafficking.

That’s quite a list. And that’s only halfway through the document. Read the rest.

Another great Anglo delicacy

Apr 20th, 2016 11:41 am | By

Finally, at last, a supermarket that has one of those “ethnic” aisles for the most neglected group of all.

The Sedano’s Supermarket chain has launched new ethnic food aisles in 25 of its Miami locations as part of a strategy to target the growing segment of White millennials moving to Miami’s urban core.

Products featured in the new “Anglo” aisles include almond milk, brussels sprouts, goji berries, kombucha, gluten-free crackers, and assortments of artisanal jams sold in mason jars.

The food of my people! Recognized!

Actually sprouts are the only ones of those things I eat, but ethnically speaking, that would be my aisle.

(Is it a sign that I’m a tedious pedant that I roll my eyes whenever I see that “Ethnic” label on a supermarket aisle? That I snarl to myself, “You do realize that applies to everyone or else no one, right?”?)

“South Florida is a community of immigrants,” said Carlos Perez-Santiago, a Sedano’s spokesperson. “We are proud to provide our newly arrived Anglo neighbors with food from their homeland.”

At a recent opening in Little Havana, local resident Andrea Figueroa, 55, wandered into the new aisle and was delighted with the interesting foreign offerings.

“There are so many amazing, exotic foods to sample,” Ms. Figureoa said as she examined a can of beets. “These Smucker’s Uncrustable are unbelievable! Who would’ve thought to put grape jelly in an empanada? Another great Anglo delicacy.”

Who thought grape jelly was good in the first place? Who wants sugar in salad dressing? Who wants sugar in everything without exception, no matter how savory? Who puts too many raisins in too many things?

The revolution

Apr 20th, 2016 11:15 am | By

This again.

A public post by Amanda Marcotte:

Helpful “socialist” sends me friendly messages to persuade me to vote Sanders. (And probably because he friended me.) Edited to add the‪#‎NotAllSandersVoters‬ caveat. Just not going to let these guys harass me in private, thinking no one will know what they did.

Charles W. Belser

How diod a stupid counter-revolutionary motherfucker like you get on my “friends” list? Don’t you EVER post anything on any of my pages again, you ignorant cunt.

A comment:

This is what I received from Charles W. Belser last Thu 8:48pm
“Go back to sucking Hillary’s cock, bitch and stay off my pages. What will you do when the revolutionaries come for you? Don’t worry about it–you’re just another dried-up menopausal loser. They’ll have no interest in a nothing like you.”

So that’s what people mean by “Bernie Bros.”

Like most other games he plays

Apr 19th, 2016 3:00 pm | By

Oh no, look out, look out – a popular video game is making it so that players can’t choose the sex of their characters. You know what that means – sometimes a man gets stuck with a female character! Ewwwwww.

Rust is a popular first-person survival video game where you start out completely naked, left to a barren environment to build yourself tools, weapons, and a home as other players try to do the same — and potentially try to kill you and steal your stuff. It’s a tense game, one in which your friends can suddenly turn against you and basically ruin everything you worked for just for their own personal gain.

But it’s not the betrayal and tension that has gamers upset with Rust. Instead, it’s a new feature recently added to the game, which has 500,000 players each week, by developer Garry Newman: Your character’s gender and race are now randomized. So even if you’re a white man in real life, you now may be forced to play a black woman.

Some men aren’t happy. Well of course they’re not! Women are weak and stupid.

Men, particularly white men, are not happy. Newman explained the situation in the Guardian, characterizing the reaction to the change as “extreme”:

For race, this seems to be a regional thing. For example, most complaints about being black in the game have generally been from Russian players. With gender it seems to be more of a geography-free complaint.

Here’s one of the many messages we’ve received from disgruntled male players: “Why won’t you give the player base an option to choose their gender? I just want to play the game and have a connection to the character like most other games I play. Not have some political movement shoved down my throat because you make the connection we can’t choose our gender in reality so let’s make it like that in game too.”

Oh, honey. That’s so touching. Try being a woman sometime, just for a few hours. Check out all the tv shows and movies that have no characters a woman can “have a connection” with. I’m told the same thing applies to most games. Pause for a moment and remember that not all human beings are men. Take your time, we can wait.

[T]hese same complaints from male, white gamers would very likely fall on deaf ears if they were made by another group — by, say, a black, Hispanic, or female gamer. After all, originally, everyone on Rust was forced to play a bald white man — and there was no similar uproar.

Because default male. We get tired of having to create an uproar about every damn thing, so we don’t. So default male goes on default maleing.

Hot and spicy

Apr 19th, 2016 11:56 am | By

Sometimes it just collapses into total absurdity and all one can do is laugh.

Like this ad for takeout fried chicken in Australia for example:

Oh no. No no no.

Yes but what does she think of the fried chicken?

Anyway the ad was posted to Twitter and Twitter did what Twitter does do.

The ad was immediately criticized as everything from simply inappropriate to downright misogynistic. One critic even wrote that the ad had “set women back 50 years” according to Australian news site

Possibly a slight exaggeration, given everything else that’s going on, but whatever.

The fried chicken people apologized and deleted the tweet.

“We are very sorry for our earlier tweet on H&S – we didn’t mean to offend and removed it when we realised we’d made an error in judgment,” the company tweeted.

In a statement to, the company further explained, “this was a genuine tweet to launch KFC’s new Hot & Spicy chicken products next week. It was not intended to offend and we’ve removed the image.”


The really funny part, to me, is that there are people full of solemn outrage about the apology. It’s the end of free speech and it’s all the fault of feminists or social justice warriors or the next door neighbors, choose one.

Both sent their apologies at the last minute

Apr 19th, 2016 10:32 am | By

A religious group organizes a campaign against [religious?] extremism, and the invited Muslim groups don’t attend.

Ahmadi Muslims in Scotland have launched an anti-extremism campaign following the death of the Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, despite the failure of other prominent Muslims to attend the event.

Representatives of the Glasgow Central Mosque and the Muslim Council of Scotland were invited to attend the launch alongside other faith groups, but the Guardian understands that both sent their apologies at the last minute.

The event’s organiser Ahmed Owusu-Konadu said: “We are undertaking this campaign as part of our stand on the rejection of all forms of extremism and as a message of solidarity with all who have been its victims, including Asad Shah, and others in Paris, Turkey, Brussels, Pakistan, Nigeria.”

Abdul Abid, president of the Ahmadiyya community in Scotland, admitted he was disappointed that other Muslim leaders had not attended the launch. Representatives of Glasgow’s Sikh and Jewish communities and the Church of Scotland’s inter-faith group were all present, alongside local politicians, representatives of Police Scotland and Glasgow’s lord provost.

The choice of victims hints that it’s Islamist extremism that the campaign is addressing. It’s sad that representatives of the Glasgow Central Mosque and the Muslim Council of Scotland failed to grab the opportunity to distance their branch of Islam from the Islamist branch.

Abid said: “We are not asking them to stand united in faith with us but to stand united against extremism. If Glasgow Central Mosque is against extremism, they should be here today.”

And you would think they would want to, because why would they want to stand united with Islamists?

Police Scotland are investigating alleged links between the head of religious events at Glasgow Central Mosque and a banned sectarian group in Pakistan. A recent BBC investigation claimed that Sabir Ali was president of Sipah-e-Sahaba, a militant political party that has accepted responsibility for deadly sectarian attacks against Shia Muslims and Ahmadiyya minorities in Pakistan, and was banned by the Home Office in 2001.

Following Shah’s death, Aamer Anwar, one of Scotland’s most outspoken Muslim reformers, helped to broker a unique event where representatives of Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi and Pakistani Christian communities shared a platform for the first time, and vowed to stand shoulder to shoulder against extremism.

At the time, Anwar said: “A very small minority of the community may think it’s OK to meddle in the cesspit of violent extremist politics in Pakistan, but we are united in saying that we do not want to import sectarian violence that has caused so much division and so much bloodshed to our community or to our streets.”

He has since received death threats himself, which are under investigation by the police.

Because life just isn’t fun enough without violence and bloodshed every few days.

No hurry

Apr 18th, 2016 5:51 pm | By

Zahira Patel notes that ten years after the murder of Banaz Mahmod honor killings haven’t gone away.

Working in the legal sector has also brought to light for me just how difficult it has become for victims of domestic violence to secure legal aid since the changes introduced by LASPO (The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012), which came into effect in 2013. As a result of these changes, a third of domestic violence victims are unable to provide the required evidence to secure legal aid, according to a Parliamentary watchdog report. Further, in 2014, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) released a damning report which concluded that “only 8 out of 43 forces respond well to domestic violence.” This report was followed by a subsequent investigation last year into the effectiveness of police responses to ‘honour’ based violence. Unsurprisingly, the report concluded that  just 3 of the 43 forces were fully effective in their response, despite the fact “that no force in England and Wales can afford to say: ‘It doesn’t happen here’.”

It is clear: ten years after the murder of Banaz, we are still failing to safeguard victims of abuse and violence. How many more have to die before we demand adequate funding to safeguard all victims?

Well they’re only women, you know.

If they hadn’t acted

Apr 18th, 2016 3:07 pm | By

Joshua Hammer at the Wall Street Journal tells us about a guy in Timbuktu who did a lot to keep the city’s libraries, books and manuscripts out of the hands of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The story begins in April 2012, when [Abdel Kader] Haidara returned home from a business trip to learn that the weak Malian army had collapsed and that nearly 1,000 Islamist fighters from one of al Qaeda’s African affiliates, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, had occupied his city. He encountered looters, gunfire and black flags flying from government buildings, and he feared that the city’s dozens of libraries and repositories—home to hundreds of thousands of rare Arabic manuscripts—would be pillaged.

He has quite a book collection himself.

Mr. Haidara knew that many of the works in the city’s repositories were ancient examples of the reasoned discourse and intellectual inquiry that the jihadists, with their intolerance and rigid views of Islam, wanted to destroy. The manuscripts, he thought, would inevitably become a target.

They are people of One Book. People of One Book tend to be very dangerous.

He met with other librarians and archivists and suggested a plan to store books with individual families around the city, so that they wouldn’t be all together for ease of destruction.

And then he gave up his own interests for the sake of saving the archives.

Months earlier, the Ford Foundation office in Lagos, Nigeria, had given Mr. Haidara a $12,000 grant to study English at Oxford in the fall and winter of 2012. The money had been wired to a savings account. He emailed the foundation and asked for authorization to reallocate the funds to protect the manuscripts from the hands of Timbuktu’s occupiers. The money was released in three days. Mr. Haidara recruited his nephew, and they reached out to archivists, secretaries, Timbuktu tour guides and a half-dozen of Mr. Haidara’s relatives.

The result was a heist worthy of “Ocean’s Eleven.” They bought metal and wooden trunks at a rate of between 50 and 80 a day, made more containers out of oil barrels and located safe houses around the city and beyond. They organized a small army of packers who worked silently in the dark and arranged for the trunks to be carried by donkey to their hiding places.

Over the course of eight months, the operation came to involve hundreds of packers, drivers and couriers. They smuggled the manuscripts out of Timbuktu by road and by river, past jihadist checkpoints and, in government territory, suspicious Malian troops. By the time French troops invaded the north in January 2013, the radicals had managed to destroy only 4,000 of Timbuktu’s nearly 400,000 ancient manuscripts. “If we hadn’t acted,” Mr. Haidara told me later, “I’m almost 100% certain that many, many others would have been burned.”

Thank you, Mr Haidara and fellow rescuers. Thank you on behalf of humanity at large, and Mali and Malians. Well done.

Carefully researched and closely analyzed

Apr 18th, 2016 2:52 pm | By

The University of Washington (which is up the road from me) Q Center has a glossary of terms.

A note about these definitions: Each of these definitions has been carefully researched
and closely analyzed from theoretical and practical perspectives for cultural sensitivity,
common usage, and general appropriateness.

There’s something odd here. Look.

Gay – 1. Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are
attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Not all men who
engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should
be used with caution.

Lesbian – Term used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically,
erotically, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people.

Notice a certain…asymmetry?


Apr 18th, 2016 11:28 am | By

Green Party Women has been answering questions on that terrible post today, and answering them so cluelessly it’s clear they haven’t understood a word anyone said.

Their reply to Magdalen Berns for instance.

Magdalen Berns As a lesbian, I am particularly offended by the implicit homophobia and misogyny underlying your baseless assertion that womanhood is somehow a gender; it’s as if you believe female people somehow choose to be subjected to sex-based oppression and that you’re saying women who don’t present themselves in a stereotypically “feminine” way are not “actual women”, but “non-males”. I hope the Scottish Greens don’t win a single seat in the Holyrood elections this May as a direct result of your disgraceful disregard for the humanity of 51% of the population.

Green Party Women Magdalen Berns Thank you for your feedback, and very sorry for any confusion – as per the statement above, GPW would like to reassure our sisters that we by no means intend to erase women’s identities by forcing members to define relation to men. “Non-male” and “women” are not synonymous – it was used in this instance as an umbrella term for women PLUS non-binary individuals for example. We certainly do not believe that women who present in a way that isn’t stereotypically feminine are not women, and we believe all individual’s affirmed gender as valid :)

Or Ellen Pasternack Murray’s:

Ellen Pasternack Murray Not sure why a self described ~~women’s group~~ should be erasing women in order to include people who don’t even consider themselves to be women.

Green Party Women Hi Ellen, very sorry to see this, and thank you for the support you have given the party up till now. We very much want to reassure our members that the term non-male was used in the context of reserving spaces for marginalised/oppressed groups withinour political structure. The Green Party Women’s group remains the group in the party for women, and we do not believe that the terms “non-male” and “woman” are synonymous

But it doesn’t. The Green Party Women’s group doesn’t remain the group in the party for women, because it’s expanded it to include other groups, including ones that explicitly do not “identify as” women.

And Victoria Smith:

How do you understand the structural oppression of someone who is non-binary? Many feminists would argue that everyone is non-binary if what we are aiming to capture is some “inner essence” beyond gender as a social hierarchy. But you seem to have decided that people who see gender in terms of inner identity rather than class and choose to access a particular vocabulary to describe it are more marginalised than “binary” women – even, one assumes, if these people present as and are taken to be men. How does this marginalisation function? Whom does it benefit? It just strikes me that this is all coming close to not really thinking sexism exists as a meaningful axis of oppression. Instead you see your role as offering succour to anyone and everyone who feels a bit bad about gender. But that’s not politics and it’s not going to liberate anyone.

Green Party Women Hi Victoria Smith, apologies for any confusion, GPW strongly believe that sexism exists as a meaningful axis of oppression. As part of the wider party, we respect and support individual’s affirmed identities, whether that is non-binary, or as women or men. GPW remains the group for women in the party :)

And it just goes on like that, the same reply pasted in in multiple places, complete with smiley.