Notes and Comment Blog

Silver heart charm and glittery sock

Sep 15th, 2016 12:30 pm | By

It’s everywhere. It’s in shoes – kids’ shoes. (“Ice cream, Mandrake? Children’s ice cream?”) Francesca Cambridge Mallen, chief campaigner for Let Clothes Be Clothes, went shopping for school shoes with her daughter age 8.

Three shoes are available in her size: two pairs are slip-ons which with a knowing look from Grandma we dismiss immediately. After all, these are what Clarks describe as “sophisticated style” which makes me wonder how they could have missed the fact they are selling to kids, not office staff. When my daughter plunges over in a tangle of shoes and playground, I’ll be sure to console her with how classy she looked doing it.

The third pair are the most common style in the girls range, with a bar across the middle. My daughter tries them on, but is not persuaded by the “you’ll wear them in” pitch and points to how the back of the shoe is jabbing her in the heel. “That’s all we have” we’re told with raised hands, but what about the shoes over there I ask, pointing to a huge display of school shoes. Its Clark’s boys section, but aren’t these just shoes too? I get the “oh how quirky” look from a neighbouring parent, but the first pair our of the mysterious backroom are perfect. BINGO.

The back of the shoe is visibly wider with actual padding, despite the sizing being the same. The shoes are enclosed meaning the whole of my daughter’s foot is covered from the elements – a style not offered to girls at all. They are a trainer style, which any podiatrist would swoon at, and as she races past mountains of shoe boxes and meandering children, my daughter is clearly very happy.

Clarks has made it easy for me to go to their website and see what the respective shoes look like.

These girls’ school shoes from our Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, use a classic Mary Jane profile with bow detailing, silver heart charm and glittery sock. Black leather with a glossy trim is teamed with a durable rubber outsole with cleats for added grip, while the padded collar, riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions.

These boys’ school shoes from our new Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, are perfect for being in the playground. Robust black leather, high abrasion band and cleated rubber outsole ensure durability and grip. The double riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions, while the Gloforms character on the heel and sole add fun.

 It could hardly be any more obvious, could it.

Mallen concludes:

At some point in the last 30 years Clark’s have changed their focus from comfortable and practical children’s shoes, to shoes marred by gender stereotypes. Check out the latest Gloforms campaign, the strong and assertive boy characters, ready for action, opposite the dreamy eyed female ones with heart, floral bow or crown. The latest tagline “lasting comfort so kids can be kids” doesn’t seem to apply to girls. Have they tried to kick a football in slip-on flats? Or walked to school in open bar shoes through mud and rain? Have they seen how girls climb, jump, swing and run too? As my daughter says when we leave, maybe its time Clarks went back to school and looked for themselves.

A friend wrote recently about shopping for an infant and finding that nearly all the “girls'” clothes (there were none for just infants or babies) were pink, while “boys'” clothes were in a range of colors.

Why did we even bother?

Guest post: #YesAllMotorists

Sep 15th, 2016 11:07 am | By

Guest post by Josh Spokes.

US culture is actively hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. We have to change the cultural attitudes about cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. It’s very hard to do this because the culture of automobile supremacy is baked into the smallest parts of our daily life and the decisions our public works departments make. Here’s a “small” example of this from my life.

I work in a building next to a four-way, traffic-signaled intersection. It’s a very busy crossing. There are four lanes of traffic on one road, and two on the intersecting road. At this intersection are a number of delis, restaurants, and small retail stores.

I buy my lunch most days from the deli across the road. To get there I have to push a pedestrian crossing signal. The cycle makes walkers wait so long that yesterday, I just gave up:

  1. Press walk signal
  2. Watch the entire traffic cycle repeat at least five times. This means that, starting at the 12 0’clock position, each direction of cars was given its own turn five times. The “hand of the clock” traveled all the way around to 12 o’clock five times, never stopping to let pedestrians cross.
  3. After five minutes (yes, I’m not exaggerating) I turned around and walked back to my office. I had to get in my CAR to travel through the intersection. This is the distance of one block.

I have watched old people, families, and joggers go through this. Once the signal to walk turns on, it gives you 15 seconds to cross a very wide street. Children and the elderly cannot do it. I have to hustle to make it.

Meanwhile, cars take right turns on red and nearly strike pedestrians every day. More and more, cars are honking at pedestrians and each other, enraged that people are allowed to make them have to stop so they have a chance to walk.

I called the city public works dept. The employee was helpful, but clearly in a bind. After explaining to me how the lights are cycled and insisting that they don’t “chip” pedestrians (meaning, the lights don’t treat the pedestrian part of the cycle as dispensable if something goes wrong. Actually, yes, they do. I watch it happen.), he said this.

I’m so glad you called and told me this. You’re the first one I can remember that’s pro-pedestrian this month. For every 10 calls, nine of them are angry drivers accusing us of screwing motorists over. They complain about the ‘long time’ the light gives pedestrians [this is objectively untrue; it’s 15 seconds], and they complain that bicycles are allowed to use the road.

I live in Vermont. We are a state that claims to be environmentally vigilant, that claims to value walkable and bikeable city living. But look at the majority of citizens who call public works. Nearly all of them are furious motorists. Every single navigable space around here is constructed to favor automobiles with the most extraordinary generosity, and damn the safety cost to pedestrians. Yet motorists are angry about us, and about bicyclists, enough to call public works to complain about pedestrians being allowed to cross the road.

I said this was a small example. Don’t be misled. You can be certain the very same calculations are happening in your city’s public works department. In states even more hostile to walking and biking it is certainly worse. The staffer who helped me wanted to help. He wants to make it easier for non-drivers. But he is cornered by ignorant, fulminating automobile drivers.

Do you think his bosses will give him a good review if his decisions are sound and balanced, but they happen to piss off motorists who want to complain? (Hint: no.)

Few of us talk about this much outside those who work in transportation policy. This has to change.

The automobile is a 2-ton, rolling demonstration of typical US entitlement. It’s the most visible and dangerous expression of macho domination of public resources. Its worship encourages aggression from drivers when they are asked to share public resources. The car has made otherwise good people insane.

This guy

Sep 15th, 2016 10:30 am | By

Amanda Marcotte posted this publicly on Facebook:

I never check my message requests, but apparently I should. Do you think I should report this guy, or is public shaming enough?

I looked at his wall and found another screenshot:

I also saw that he’s quite popular in the “atheist community.”

We can at least warn people.

A nightmarish blending of blood and water

Sep 14th, 2016 5:36 pm | By

The Guardian has more on the rivers of blood in Dhaka yesterday.

Poor drainage in the city makes flooding a regular fact of Dhaka life. But the problem is rarely illustrated as vividly as it was on Tuesday, after thousands of sheep, goats and cows were slaughtered.

One of the two holiest events in the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son at God’s request.

You know, that’s a terrible thing to commemorate. One, there’s the willingness to murder the child, and two, there’s the elevation of blind (and indeed horrific) obedience. It’s an abomination.

Authorities in Dhaka said they had established hundreds of designated sacrifice spots in the run-up to the festival to make it easier to clean away blood and animal carcasses.

Or maybe it would be better just not to “sacrifice” animals at all.

But local media said most residents eschewed the special areas, preferring to make sacrifices in their garages or on the streets outside their homes.

The result was a nightmarish blending of blood and water that filled streets and narrow lanes across Dhaka from Tuesday morning.


“I felt I was walking through a post-apocalyptic neighbourhood,” said Atish Saha, a Dhaka-based artist. “To be honest, I was scared. It was an image of mass violence that shouldn’t ever be experienced.”

Particularly jarring was said to be the sight of families, including infants, wading into the flood in celebratory “Eid day” moods. “It made me speechless,” he said.

Yay, blood and slaughter!

She turned to face the crowd

Sep 14th, 2016 4:42 pm | By

Yassmin Abdel-Magied tells us why it was so important for her to walk out on Lionel Shriver’s talk.

As I stood up, my heart began to race. I could feel the eyes of the hundreds of audience members on my back: questioning, querying, judging.

I turned to face the crowd, lifted up my chin and walked down the main aisle, my pace deliberate. “Look back into the audience,” a friend had texted me moments earlier, “and let them see your face.”

The faces around me blurred. As my heels thudded against they grey plastic of the flooring, harmonising with the beat of the adrenaline pumping through my veins, my mind was blank save for one question.

“How is this happening?”

Histrionic much?

Shriver said things Abdel-Magied disagreed with and disliked, but the histrionics make it sound as if she said something frankly evil, and she didn’t.

So what did happen? What did Shriver say in her keynote that could drive a woman who has heard every slur under the sun to discard social convention and make such an obviously political exit?

Nothing. That’s the thing.

On and on it went. Rather than focus on the ultimate question around how we can know an experience we have not had, the argument became a tirade. It became about the fact that a white man should be able to write the experience of a young Nigerian woman and if he sells millions and does a “decent” job — in the eyes of a white woman — he should not be questioned or pilloried in any way. It became about mocking those who ask people to seek permission to use their stories. It became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction.

Again – how does anyone go about asking permission to tell a story about someone from An Other Community? Someone fictional? If you’re to dense to notice that that’s not something anyone can do, because there is no Bureau of Community Permission, and if there were it wouldn’t be able to speak for any particular community anyway. This idea that one should get “a community’s” permission to write about a fictional member of said community is just an absurdity. Shriver made fun of it. No doubt that was annoying to many, but it wasn’t a crime.

It’s not always OK if a white guy writes the story of a Nigerian woman because the actual Nigerian woman can’t get published or reviewed to begin with. It’s not always OK if a straight white woman writes the story of a queer Indigenous man, because when was the last time you heard a queer Indigenous man tell his own story? How is it that said straight white woman will profit from an experience that is not hers, and those with the actual experience never be provided the opportunity?

That’s not how that works. Preventing a white guy from writing the story of a Nigerian woman won’t get a Nigerian woman published. It won’t do anything. Whether or not a Nigerian woman gets published is a separate thing. It’s not like a place on a lifeboat that means someone else drowns. I want to see lots of Nigerian women tell their stories and get published, and yes I would rather read their accounts of Nigerian lives than the accounts of people who don’t know anything about it – but all the same an outsider writing about people doesn’t remove their chance to write about themselves. It’s not necessary and it’s not productive to make a ferocious rule about it, and then pitch fits when someone says the rule is stupid.

Most affirming

Sep 14th, 2016 3:51 pm | By
Most affirming

Whitman-Walker Health posted on Facebook about its “Safer Sex for Trans Bodies” guide, the one that says women have front holes while trans women have vaginas. A woman commented to say it’s misogynistic to call vaginas front holes.

Whitman-Walker Health replied.


Whitman-Walker Health In developing the content of this guide, Whitman-Walker and HRC held focus groups and discussions with members of the transgender community and physicians to identify terms that were used within, and supportive of, the community. We aimed to make the language in the guide most affirming of all different bodies, transition, gender identity, and gender expression. We chose to use “front hole” in the place of “vagina” for that reason. Many trans men and non-binary individuals do not consider themselves “women,” so using the term front hole is not aimed at erasing womanhood, but providing vocabulary for the unique trans experience.

A dishonest reply. They didn’t use “front hole” in the place of “vagina” alone, they used use “front hole” in the place of “vagina” for women and “vagina” for trans women.

Mind you, it would still be misogynist if they had used “front hole” for both…but they didn’t.

Hilarity ensues

Sep 14th, 2016 3:22 pm | By

latsot alerted me to this hateful “prank” item for sale at Amazon:

Prank Pregnancy Test. 2 Testers. ALWAYS TURNS POSITIVE. Play Joke of a Lifetime. The Best April Fool's Day Trick. FUNNY Gag Gadgets Series. DON'T WAIT, GET IT NOW!

Prank Pregnancy Test. 2 Testers. ALWAYS TURNS POSITIVE. Play Joke of a Lifetime. The Best April Fool’s Day Trick. FUNNY Gag Gadgets Series. DON’T WAIT, GET IT NOW!

Price: £24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
In stock.

Junk science

Sep 14th, 2016 12:10 pm | By

The Guardian too is reporting on the criticism of the Science Museum’s pink and blue brains exhibit, and wording it more sharply than Pink News did.

The Science Museum in London is facing criticism for a “junk science” exhibit that asks visitors to test whether they have a blue or pink brain.

Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, an expert on the teenage brain at University College London who has been advising the Science Museum, said the exhibit in its current form was “out of date, to say the least”.

She added: “I saw it recently and was pretty shocked by the misleading message, which doesn’t correspond to the scientific evidence.”

Prof Gina Rippon, of the University of Aston, said: “The stereotyped view of a ‘hard-wired’ link between sex and gender is wrong and potentially harmful as it implies that this is somehow the ‘natural order of things’.”

And that it really is ok that men dominate STEM fields…except ones where the pay and status are low, the way they used to be in coding.

Prof Joe Devlin, a neuroscientist at University College London, said there were well-established differences between the male and female brain, such as hormone levels, and that the male brain was on average larger, in line with body size. But it is not clear how these differences translate, if at all, to differences in cognition.

“That’s where things get really shady,” he said. “I’m worried about that stuff and I’m not sure there’s a good basis for any differences in cognition. The stuff about men being better at spatial things and women being better at language, that just seems like nonsense.”

Rippon agreed: “There are, of course, differences between the brains of men and the brains of women related to reproductive processes. But with respect to the structures and functions of the brain which are related to cognitive processes there really are none.”

Oh well, it’s only the Science Museum.

Guest post: Individual and cultural mana

Sep 14th, 2016 11:38 am | By

Originally two comments by Rob on Without permission.


Cultural appropriation is an interesting one. I know in the US the use of native peoples traditional dress can be a sore point. Using Plains Indians head dress as short hand for all tribes for instance, not to mention using elements of costume inappropriately and/or for commercial gain.

Similarly in NZ there have been issues with the commercial use especially of certain traditional Maori dance/song (the Kamate Haka is an excellent eg) or design motifs without permission. It’s a fair point to consider that in these cases there is a tribal organisation that is empowered to discuss use and licensing. Some things are just utterly insensitive to an entire culture. For example, the printing of the likeness of Maori notables heads onto souvenir tea towels. The head is sacred to Maori (and most polynesians). To use the likeness of the head of a respected person to dry dishes and wipe benches – crikey! Similarly plastic or soap Tiki and making dross out of Pounamu.

In general most Maori tribes seem very happy to share and educate at a personal use level and there is an inevitable bleed of concepts into general usage.

Conflict arises in examples like those discussed in the OP where there is an attempt to exclude a person of a different culture from even attempting to interpret or use general ‘public’ elements of culture. I say go for it in most cases. Roundly criticise and debate when people do a bad or insensitive job. I’m not about to attack Indian (as in India), African or Maori people (for example) for writing music, fiction, or designing clothes that draw on English or Scottish themes.


This is not necessarily a left vs right argument in all cases. When you use the music or design motif, or significant material of a culture in an inappropriate or disrespectful way, or even an appropriate way (unlikely) for commercial use without authorisation, you may in fact cause harm and disadvantage.

Take Ka Mate for instance. Because that was starting to get used inappropriately commercial users all over the world an Act of parliament was passed to control its appropriate use [1]. Some cultures, such as Maori value mana [2] very very highly. The inappropriate use of culturally significant performance, ritual or material reduces both individual and cultural mana.

Tourism and trade is critically important in New Zealand and many Maori tribes are deeply engaged in these activities. They seek to provide high quality and culturally respectful ventures that enhance tribal mana and represent their culture in a good light. Setting up a competing commercial venture deprives the tribe of income that it can use to raise the standard of living of its members. If the competing activity is also of lower quality or misrepresents critical aspects of culture it may also devalue to activity itself. Pounamu (NZ jade) was all too frequently made into low value items, often overseas and thus caused both economic and cultural harm. By treaty settlement any and all pounamu now belongs to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu [3].

Belittling is different again – and is also wrong.

On the other hand Maori have also been more than happy to share their love of good kai [4] with us.

PS: as one of New Zealand’s whiter (in upbringing and propensity to suffer sunburn) individuals, the irony in me representing this view and argument in this context is not lost on me.





The idea of gendered brains

Sep 14th, 2016 11:25 am | By

Hm. Plates shifting just a bit. Maybe. Pink News reports:

The Green Party has hit out at a Science Museum quiz that tells kids they have a “male or female” brain.

Feminist campaigners hit out at London’s Science Museum on Twitter this week, after a woman was taken aback to see ‘girl’ brains coded in pink and ‘boy’ brains blue in the interactive exhibit.

Well yes. I was taken aback by that exhibit too, as were a lot of my friends. We’ve all been a good deal taken aback by this whole claim that there are “girl brains” and “boy brains” because it sounds so very identical to the pseudo-scientific justifications for the subordination of women we could have sworn feminism had been disputing for decades. I have to say that in a scream like the Duchess because how can I say it calmly?

The test, which cites its source as pop-up children’s psychology book ‘The Brain Pack’ by Ron Van Der Meer and A Dudink, claims to be able to tell the difference between the male and female brain.

It says: “Generally males and females are very similar to each other in the way they think. Psychologists have developed tests to show up some differences between the sex[es].”

But campaigners say it reinforces tired stereotypes.

Ya think?


Green Party’s equalities spokesperson Sarah Cope said: “It’s really disappointing to see the Science Museum reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes in this way.

“The idea of gendered brains is dubious science at best, and this kind of sexism – telling girls at a young age that they have feminine brains – is part of the reason why boys still dominate STEM subjects and less than 10% of engineers in the UK are women.”

This is what we keep saying.

Empowerment or objectification?

Sep 14th, 2016 10:53 am | By

The London Abused Women’s Centre [that’s London, Ontario] posted on Facebook Monday morning:

London Abused Women’s Centre withdraws support of the 2016 Take Back the Night

The London Abused Women’s Centre is withdrawing from the Take Back the Night march on September 15, 2016. We are withdrawing because we cannot tolerate an environment that condones violence against women.

Four days prior to Take Back the Night, the Women’s Events Committee posted a request on Facebook for consultation on possibly having a pole-fitness group attend the Take Back the Night gathering. This does not allow proper time for community feedback. Moreover, the consultation was framed in a way where pole-fitness was stated to be “body-positive” and “empowering.” No alternative viewpoint was provided.

Pole-fitness emerged from pole-dancing in strip clubs—where women, whether there by ‘choice’ or not, are sexually objectified by men. They are leered at and groped at by men who view them as objects for their own sexual gratification. Women and girls are also sex-trafficked into strip clubs and other areas of the sex-trade. Pole-fitness cannot be separated from this history and context. The symbol of the pole is one of sexual objectification and violence against women. Thus, while pole-fitness may be empowering for individual women, it is not empowering for women as a whole. It is a reminder that our primary role in this society has been delegated to one where we are an object to be used and abused as men, and others, see fit.

Because of this, hosting a pole-fitness demonstration at a Take Back the Night is antithetical to its purpose. Take Back the Night is supposed to be an event where women demand their right to be free from violence, including sexual violence. It is an event where girls and boys have the opportunity to learn what rights and freedoms girls should have. A pole-fitness demonstration reinforces the daily messages girls receive that their primary purpose is to be sexy and an object for the purpose of pleasing men. This is especially concerning given that young women are at high risk of being both sexually assaulted and sex-trafficked.

The London Abused Women’s Centre does not believe in colluding with messages that support the objectification of women’s bodies and violence against women and thus will not be participating in the 2016 Take Back the Night march.

The pole-dancing community is livid.

Yesterday the Centre posted a follow-up:

From the President of the Board:
The Board of Directors of the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) provides direction to its staff regarding the values, beliefs and principles of the agency.

The Board is committed to ending men’s violence against women by addressing the underlying cause of it; patriarchy. In Canada 50% of girls born today will be abused after their 16th birthday; one in four women is abused by her intimate partner; and every six days a woman is murdered. There are more than 1,000 murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Girls as young as 12 are recruited into the sex trade by pimps and traffickers. Globally, amongst other atrocities, women and girls face female genital
mutilation and forced underage marriage.

The London Abused Women’s Centre recognizes that personal empowerment is important. However, the goal of LAWC is to empower women as a group by ending the oppression they face in their daily lives. It is for this very reason that LAWC believes that no woman is free until all women are free.

The actions taken by the London Abused Women’s Centre are now, and have always been, consistent with benefiting our sisters across the world. As such, the LAWC team did exactly what was expected of them when they spoke out against pole fitness at the Take Back the Night event. It is unfortunate that the Women’s Events Committee chose to minimize our concern around the issue and publicly attack LAWC for its views. This backlash likely contributed to the fear some women feel when asked for input.

The Board of Directors continues to recognize the impact its staff has in shifting the culture for future generations.

The pole-dancing community is still livid.

Without permission

Sep 13th, 2016 6:26 pm | By

The Guardian published Shriver’s talk (uh oh will they get in trouble now?).

I’m afraid the bramble of thorny issues that cluster around “identity politics” has got all too interesting, particularly for people pursuing the occupation I share with many gathered in this hall: fiction writing. Taken to their logical conclusion, ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all…

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

Hang on – what does that mean, “without permission”? It doesn’t mean anything, because how on earth does anyone know whom to ask for “permission” of that kind? Who is in a position to give such “permission”? No one. The fact that Scafidi is a law professor makes that phrase especially absurd. If there’s anything lawyers hate it’s a dangling meaningless requirement like that. (That’s me appropriating the experience of lawyers. I don’t actually know that that’s their top hate. I made that up.)

What does “unauthorised use” mean there? Again, nothing, because how can it? Authorised by whom? Who has the job of authorising people to use “another culture’s cuisine”? Absolutely no one has that job, and the claim is grotesque. We don’t need authorisation or permission to go to a Thai or Ethiopian or Brazilian restaurant to eat some fabulous interesting food. We don’t need authorisation or permission to listen to foreign music (and nearly all music is foreign to all of us, because all cultures have music) or wear foreign clothes or dance foreign dances. That claim is ridiculous and hideously xenophobic, though it doesn’t intend the latter. People in Delhi don’t need my permission to eat McDonald’s french fries, and I don’t need theirs to eat chole masala.

We get closer by sharing.

I do think people get to look askance at appropriation of their religious stuff, because that’s a different kind of thing. There are probably other kinds I’d agree should be done with care and tact if at all. But a sweeping taboo like the one from Susan Scafidi? Forget it.

Under the guise of fiction

Sep 13th, 2016 5:37 pm | By

It sounds so familiar.

Officials in charge of an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker, the American novelist Lionel Shriver, that they censored her on the festival website and publicly disavowed her remarks.

Yikes! What did she say? Was it a Trump-style rant against everyone she could think of? Holocaust denial? A claim that vaccines cause autism?

The event, the Brisbane Writers Festival, which ended Sunday, also hurriedly organized counterprogramming, billed as a “right of reply” for critics of Ms. Shriver, whose speech had belittled the movement against cultural appropriation. They scheduled the rebuttal opposite a session Saturday afternoon in which Ms. Shriver was promoting her new novel, “The Mandibles.”

Oh. She belittled the movement against cultural appropriation. And for that the festival publicly disavowed her remarks. That’s what sounds so familiar – that rush to disavow, to throw under the bus and then drive the bus back and forth over the body a few times…and over what should be a reasonable disagreement.

In the middle of Ms. Shriver’s speech on Thursday night, an Australian writer of Sudanese and Egyptian origin, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, got up and walked out, making live posts on Twitter about her dismay at what she described as “a poisoned package wrapped up in arrogance and delivered with condescension.”

“I have never walked out of a speech,” Ms. Abdel-Magied wrote in a post published on and But Ms. Shriver’s, she added, “became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction.”

But fiction is about the experiences of others. That’s what it does. The result can be obnoxious, it can be incompetent, or it can be brilliant – but it’s not just an Obvious Truth that it should never ever be attempted. I do get why people object to it – it’s the same sort of reason as my reason for loathing James Joyce’s version of the female mind in the last chapter of Ulysses: he hasn’t a clue, yet critics called that chapter the best depiction of the female mind ever yadda yadda. That kind of thing can be infuriating and damaging. But that doesn’t mean it’s Holy Writ that no one is allowed to do it, or that people should be punished for defending it.

The festival’s director, the poet Julie Beveridge, responded to the outrage by organizing the “right of reply” session, inviting as speakers Ms. Abdel-Magied, as well as the Korean-American author Suki Kim, whose best-selling book “Without You, There Is No Us,” was based on her six months working undercover as an English teacher in North Korea.

Ms. Kim complained that books by white male writers on North Korea were better received in some quarters than books like her own. Adam Johnson’s “The Orphan Master’s Son” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013, though Mr. Johnson did not speak Korean and had spent only three days in North Korea, Ms. Kim said. She attributed that acclaim at least partly to racism from institutions dominated by white men.

“The reality is that those from marginalized groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal,” Ms. Abdel-Magied said in her criticism of Ms. Shriver.

There’s a lot of truth in that. (I don’t think it’s wholly true, because it’s easy to think of counter-examples.) But there’s also a danger in ruling out all forms of “appropriation,” such as walling people off from each other into stifling little enclaves.

Ms. Beveridge wrote on the festival’s website, after links to Ms. Shriver’s speech were taken down, “As a festival of writers and thinkers, we take seriously the role we play in providing a platform for meaningful exchange and debate.”

They take seriously the role they play in providing a platform for meaningful exchange and debate, so that’s why they took links to Shriver’s speech down. Hmmmm.

Links to the rebuttal remained in place. Beveridge didn’t respond to the Times’s questions.

Shriver described the festival’s response as “not very professional,” and, at a later appearance at the festival, said she was disturbed by how many of those on the political left had become what she described as censorious and totalitarian in their treatment of artists with whom they disagreed.

Yeah. Again: familiar. All too familiar.

Blood in the streets

Sep 13th, 2016 11:53 am | By

It’s been raining in Dhaka, and it’s Eid, so the streets are full of rainwater mixed with blood and animal waste.

The holy Eid-ul-Azha, the second largest religious festival of Muslims, is being celebrated in Dhaka and elsewhere across the country amid light to moderate rains in the capital and at different places in the country.

The continuous downpour has caused waterlogging at different areas in the capital, resulting in the animal blood and wastes being spread in the water, submerging the streets.

Bulbul Ahsan posted some photos he took:

Not good.


Spilling over into the real world

Sep 13th, 2016 11:32 am | By

The Guardian reports that police in various bits of England and Wales are considering the creation of a category of misogynist hate crime.

The initial success of Nottingham’s crackdown against sexist abuse has drawn national interest after the city’s police revealed that they investigated a case of misogyny every three days during July and August, the first months to see specially trained officers targeting behaviour ranging from street harassment to unwanted physical approaches.

Dave Alton, the hate crime manager for Nottingham police, said: “The number of reports we are receiving is comparable with other, more established, categories of hate crime. We have received numerous reports and have been able to provide a service to women in Nottinghamshire who perhaps wouldn’t have approached us six months ago. The reality is that all of the reports so far have required some form of police action.”

Incidents reported by Nottingham women ranged from verbal harassment to sexual assault. Initial claims from sections of the media that wolf-whistling would be reported by women have proved unfounded. So far, two men have been arrested for public order offences and actual bodily harm in incidents classified as misogynist.

It’s tricky. There are good reasons to resist making everything a crime…but at the same time, relentless street harassment can make life hellish for women.

The force defines misogyny hate crime as “incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”.

The new classification means women can report incidents that might not be considered a crime and the police will investigate.

Last week it was revealed that prosecutions relating to violence against women and girls in England and Wales have reached record levels amid warnings that the increasing use of social media is fuelling the rise. Campaigners believe misogyny is spilling over from the virtual world of the internet into the real world.

It would be very odd if it weren’t. Internet misogyny trains a great many men and boys to have contempt and loathing for women, and there’s no obvious reason that wouldn’t spill over into the real world.

Only one part

Sep 13th, 2016 10:45 am | By

Classics of Mansplaining, entry #whateveritisnow.

You are missing the point.

Walter Holt ‏@walcarpit 24 hours ago Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Methinks you are missing the point @boodleoops @OpheliaBenson Sure women do gestation & labour, but they are only one part of conception.

Very classic, you must admit. A man solemnly telling two adult women that women don’t conceive all by themselves. You don’t say!

Also classic in that it was out of nowhere, i.e. not part of an ongoing conversation but a cold-reply to a tweet. Also classic in that in fact we hadn’t missed the point at all, we were addressing the point.

For refreshment, have Christiane Amanpour on sexism in the coverage of Clinton:

Channel 4 has bought a tent

Sep 13th, 2016 10:17 am | By

Pop culture interlude.

Well phooey. I only just discovered The Great British Bake Off last fall, and now they’re leaving the BBC for Channel 4, plus the two presenters are leaving as a result, and I liked them.

Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc will step down as hosts of The Great British Bake Off when it moves to Channel 4.

The duo have fronted the show since it began on BBC Two in 2010, alongside judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

They said in a statement: “We made no secret of our desire for the show to remain where it was… we’re not going with the dough.”

The statement continued: “The BBC nurtured the show from its infancy and helped give it its distinctive warmth and charm, growing it from an audience of two million to nearly 15 [million] at its peak.

“We’ve had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps.

“We’re not going with the dough. We wish all the future bakers every success.”

The production company that makes it demanded more money than the Beeb wants to pay.

On the news that Giedroyc and Perkins were leaving, former contestant Kate Henry, who was on the show in 2014, told the BBC News channel: “I’m quite sad that future contestants won’t get to experience the joy of Mel and Sue in the tent.

“They really make it a fun experience rather than painfully stressful.”

She said it would be an “utterly different show” if Berry and Hollywood were also to leave.

Richard Burr, a finalist on series five back in 2004, tweeted: “Without Mel and Sue it just isn’t Bake Off. @Channel4 has just bought a tent.”

Also? Channel 4 is a commercial station. Guess what that means.

It is not yet clear what time slot the show will have on Channel 4 or whether it will be cut or extended in length.

“A lot of viewers have been asking if it will be reduced to 42 minutes long with 18 minutes of adverts, or could be extended to one hour and 20 minutes long to make room for advertising,” Bryan said.

“I don’t think they could squeeze everything that happens in an hour into 40 minutes. They could take some things out, like the history bits or some analysis, but they would still have to cut a challenge or scale one of them down quite significantly.”

Hey, so they lose 18 minutes of content for the sake of advertising, so what? So everything, that’s what.

Ah well, I have a lot of back episodes to watch.


Sep 13th, 2016 9:55 am | By

The gall of that man.

With Clinton resting, Trump launched some of his sharpest attacks yet against her. He said in a speech Monday in Baltimore that her “deplorables” comment “disqualifies” her from being president — and that if she does not retract it, “I don’t see how she can credibly campaign any further.”

That disqualifies her – that one word, said one time – but the constant repetition of “Pocahontas” doesn’t disqualify  him? “Mexicans are rapists” doesn’t? “Blood from her wherever” doesn’t? The bankruptcies don’t? The unpaid contractors don’t? The unpaid workers don’t?

Meanwhile, over the weekend the very right-wing governor of Kentucky said some things:

When conservative Christians gathered in Washington, DC, this past weekend for the annual Values Voter Summit, prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump and Mike Pence, delivered a series of tirades against transgender and abortion rights and pledged to defend Christian values from a Hillary Clinton presidency. But it was a speech by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, in which he stated that bloodshed might be necessary if Clinton is elected, that emerged as perhaps the most shocking address from the weekend event.

“Whose blood will be shed?” Bevin said. “It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away.”

Onward Christian soldiers.

Not playing

Sep 13th, 2016 9:29 am | By

A moment at a protest march against same-sex marriage in Ceyela, Mexico.

“At first I thought the child was only playing,” says photographer and journalist Manuel Rodriquez, who captured the exact moment a 12-year-old boy leapt in front of a crowd of 11,000 people protesting the proposed same-sex marriage law in Mexico.

Talking to Regeneración, Rodriquez explains that when he asked the anonymous boy what he was doing, the child responded, “I have an uncle who is gay. And I hate that people hate.”

A 12 year old boy faces down with 11,000 homophobic protestors during a march against marriage equality in Celaya, Mexico.

Just because it’s going to be a dumpster fire

Sep 12th, 2016 5:09 pm | By

GQ talked to five voters who have somehow managed not to decide which is worse, Trump or Clinton. Anonymous “Politics reporter, 42, Washington, D.C.:

I’ve struggled with this the entire election season. Some days I’m really tortured by it, and some days it’s, like, laughable. But I’ve never really felt this way as an adult human. And it’s really—it’s messing with me.

I cannot stomach Hillary Clinton. I just can’t get with her. Maybe because I know too much. I find so much of her world hypocritical, reprehensible. I think the rest of the country sort of gives her a pass, like, “Oh, she’s always been attacked by Republicans, it’s not that big a deal, email shmemail!” But I’m like, “WHAT! This is a huge deal.”

The rest of the country? Apart from the huge segment that has always detested Hillary Clinton, mostly for bad reasons, you mean? If the rest of the country gives her a pass, why has there been so much time wasted on the emails? Why did Matt Lauer burn up half her time talking about the fucking emails and then interrupt her to tell her to hurry up for the whole rest of the interview?

And no, it’s not a huge deal, especially given the fact that Trump has lied and stolen and cheated his way through life.

But he’s not too sure about Trump either. He likes his “blow everything up” approach, but not so much his “saying, “What do you have to lose?” to African-Americans. Like, WHAT? What?”

He wants to vote for him though – because he’ll be so much more fun.

I think I would just have to sort of give in to my chaos theory of Trump and just hope that he surrounds himself with the right people enough that it’s not a total disaster? Or Hillary would have to do a really convincing and honest come-to-Jesus with the media. A real press conference.

I cover this stuff every day. So for me, four years of Trump, selfishly, sounds a lot more enticing, just because it’s going to be a dumpster fire. And a Clinton administration would be more of what we’re seeing now, which is carefully orchestrated speeches, behind-the-scenes Wealthy McWealthysons going in and out of the White House, and really horrible transparency with the press.

So Trump would not be rich people in the White House? Or really horrible transparency with the press? I’ll give him the “carefully orchestrated speeches” part – I agree that Trump’s speeches would not be carefully orchestrated, or thoughtful, or intelligent, however many clever people he found to write them. What I don’t agree with, though, is the idea that ignorant chaotic speeches are preferable to “carefully orchestrated” ones.

I also, of course, disagree sharply with his longing for the dumpster fire.