Notes and Comment Blog

Thought leadering again

Aug 22nd, 2015 4:06 pm | By

Meanwhile Dawkins is still at it, generously calling people stupid on the basis of nothing in particular. I forget if I mentioned that he did that in the onstage interview he did at CFI’s conference in June. He referred to someone or some group as an idiot or idiots. I flinched, I scowled, I wished he would stop doing that. But he hasn’t.

Today it was a girl of 16 – one who did a colossally wrong and bad thing, but stupidity isn’t the only explanation for teenagers who do colossally wrong and bad things.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 14 hours ago
If a girl as manifestly stupid as this gets good grades at school, is it time we examined our grading system?

She’s 16. People of that age have bad judgement. Their brains haven’t fully developed yet, and won’t until they’re 25. That doesn’t mean they’re “stupid” and it doesn’t mean they can’t be academically brilliant. Lots of people on Twitter tried to explain that to Dawkins, but he wasn’t having it.

The judge in the Independent article knows better:

B was one of a number of intelligent young girls within the London borough of Tower Hamlets  who had “seduced by the belief that travelling to Syria to become what are known as jihadi brides is a somewhat romantic and honourable path for them and their families,” Mr Justice Hayden said. The reality on the ground “holds only exploitation, degradation and death”, he said. “In other words, these children with whose future I have been concerned have been at risk of really serious harm, and as such the state is properly obligated to protect them.”

There was no reason to believe B would not achieve her ambition of becoming a doctor after achieving outstanding GCSE results, he said. But only a “safe and neutral environment” free from the “powerful and pernicious influences” of jihadi propaganda could now protect the teenager’s well-being.

It’s not that the grading system is broken, it’s that it doesn’t measure the mental faculties it takes to be unimpressed by IS.

I’m sure Dawkins knows Maajid Nawaz. Does he think Maajid is stupid? Surely not. You do the math.

He said a follow-up thing later that’s just wrong on the facts in addition to lacking insight.

@Egoch You seriously think @Ayaan, at 16, would have run away to become a “Jihadi bride”?

Well she did go through a Muslim Brotherhood phase, so yes, I think that’s entirely possible.

Go away and learn how to

oh never mind.

Officers were asked to look into the ‘Dames on the Run’ race

Aug 22nd, 2015 10:16 am | By

From the Telegraph:

A charity fun run that invited men to dress up as women is being investigated by police after a transgender charity claimed the dress code constituted a hate crime.

Officers were asked to look into the ‘Dames on the Run’ race – where men run dressed as women to raise funds for a children’s hospice – by a transsexual support group.

Chrysalis Transsexual Support Groups say the five kilometre run, organised by Derian House Children’s Hospice, in Chorley, Lancashire, is “dehumanising”.

Dehumanizing? It’s dehumanizing to wear clothes that are perceived as being for the “opposite” sex? So have I spent my entire life dehumanizing, because I hate skirts and never wear them?

Have we gone full circle now, such that it’s “a hate crime” to wear the “wrong” clothes for one’s assigned or not-assigned gender? Are we now going to start bashing men who dress too girly? Are we going to police how well people match their clothes to their official gender with more rigor than we’ve seen since about 1890?

Steph Holmes, of Chrysalis, said: “We get enough confusion with the word transgender, which mixes us up with transvestites.

“Transvestites certainly don’t dress for comic purposes and I don’t get up in the morning and think ‘what can I put on today to give people a laugh?’

“This race pokes fun at cross-dressing and, by association, us, reducing us to objects to be laughed at.

“Dehumanising us this way gives carte blanche to those that would do us physical harm, much like the gay bashers of old.

“It’s a small step from ridicule to persecution. The current stats suggest a 34 per cent chance of beaten up, raped or killed for being trans. We do not need to give the bigots any more ammunition.”

Is that true? Does a fun run in which some men dress in what are considered “women’s clothes” give ammunition to bigots? Does it cause persecution of trans people? Does it give carte blanche to people who would beat up or kill trans people?

I don’t see the connection, myself.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “As a children’s hospice, we deal with highly sensitive and emotive issues all the time and would never have considered organising a fundraising event that might cause upset or offence.

“Dames on the Run was conceived as a fun event, drawing on the much-loved Pantomime Dame character that is part of our theatrical heritage and supported by hundreds of thousands of people in every year.”

It’s true. The pantomime Dame is a real thing there. I’ve always found it somewhat sexist, in a mild sort of way, but also just theatrical and music hall-ish and quirky and not worth worrying about.

But sexism – meh, who cares about that, it’s only women. But when it’s trans women? That’s totally different.



Aug 22nd, 2015 9:27 am | By

I’ve noticed a Thing about myself, that’s probably a Thing about everyone’s self (because I ain’t special) – it’s that I shed my previous selves rather thoroughly and as it were callously, while thinking of my current self as the real self. I sometimes notice myself doing this and realize that my current self will be shed just as ruthlessly in the future, and I laugh a little.

NPR confirms that it is indeed a Thing about everyone’s self.

No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they’ll be tomorrow.

That’s according to fresh research that suggests that people generally fail to appreciate how much their personality and values will change in the years ahead — even though they recognize that they have changed in the past.

That is how it works. Looking back you know that it’s past, it’s stale, it’s been replaced. Looking forward you see nothing, because it’s not there yet. You’re perched on the front edge of the locomotive; everything behind you is the known behind-you, while what’s up ahead is…up ahead. The correct self is always the current self.

Daniel Gilbert, a psychology researcher at Harvard University who did this study with two colleagues, says that he’s no exception to this rule.

“I have this deep sense that although I will physically age — I’ll have even less hair than I do and probably a few more pounds — that by and large the core of me, my identity, my values, my personality, my deepest preferences, are not going to change from here on out,” says Gilbert, who is 55.

He realized that this feeling was kind of odd, given that he knows he’s changed in the past. He wondered if this feeling was an illusion, and if it was one that other people shared: “Is it really the case that we all think that development is a process that’s brought us to this particular moment in time, but now we’re pretty much done?”

It is an illusion, like an optical illusion. (That is, that’s what it feels like to me. Gilbert is the one who did the research, not me.) It’s an illusion born of the fact that the past is behind and known while the future is ahead and unknown.

Gilbert says he doesn’t yet know why people have what he and his colleagues call the “end of history illusion.”

One possibility is that it’s just really, really hard to imagine a different, future version of yourself. Or maybe people just like themselves the way they are now, and don’t like the idea of some unknown change to come.

That fits too. It’s odd…when I said I shed my previous selves as it were callously, I had in mind a kind of contempt I have for my previous selves – for being so clueless compared to my new and improved self now. It’s hilarious, really…we must all be Dale Carnegies, assuming every day in every way we get better and better.

Just think how marvelous I will be tomorrow!

Concerned members of the blogging and activist community of Bangladesh and internationally

Aug 21st, 2015 4:17 pm | By

I signed this: IHEU Joint open letter to Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh.


To Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid,

We, concerned members of the blogging and activist community of Bangladesh and internationally, along with representatives of human rights organisations and other civil society organisations and supporters, wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the institutional attack on Bangladeshi citizens who profess humanist, atheist or secularist views.

In the last two years, five bloggers (variously identifying as humanist, rationalist, atheist, and variously writing about science, humanist values, against Islamist extremism, or in favour of human rights and justice) have been murdered, hacked to death by assailants acting for fundamentalist militant groups (according to their own claims of responsibility). These victims are: Ahmed Rajib Haider, the science author Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Niladri Chatterjee (pen name Niloy Neel). Four of these murders have occurred since February this year. In other cases, individuals like Jafar Munshi and Anjali Devi have been killed for alleged or perceived acts of ‘defamation of religion’, such as refusing to enforce hijab on students. And since 2013, supporters of the Shahbag movement and the war crimes justice process (the accused being Islamist leaders) have also been brutally murdered by similar Islamist entities. The victims include: Ashraful Alam, Arif Raihan Deep, Nurul Islam Faruki, Jagat Jyoti Talukder, Jakaria Babu.

The murderers and their ideological supporters are of course to be condemned and must be brought to justice.

In addition, instead of helping to confront this outrageous injustice, political and state institutions have begun blaming the victims themselves and making matters worse.

Following the murder of Niladri Chatterjee on 7 August, the Inspector General of Police engaged in victim-blaming, called for self-censorship, and threatened bloggers — the very people who are being murdered — with legal action under the current quasi-blasphemy law. Meanwhile, despite some counter-terrorism operations, the police have comprehensively failed to disrupt the networks that are ordering or carrying out these cowardly attacks. Even with two of the killers caught at the scene (after the murder of Washiqur Rahman) and claims of responsibility made openly on social media and via news outlets, still the attacks go on, and the extremists behind the killings remain at large. Instead of calling for vigilance and evidence against the murderers from the general public, police have instead encouraged the public to report alleged atheistic writings.

Faced with fresh death threats against numerous named Shahbag activists and others branded “enemies of Islam” in the week after the most recent murder, a police spokesperson told those threatened merely to “lodge police complaints” if they thought they were being followed! This is a grossly inadequate, highly negligent response to what is evidently a most serious and potentially fatal threat.

A number of Islamist groups, including Awami Olama League which isclosely associated with your own Awami League party, have made new demands of death penalties for all atheist bloggers and activists, echoing the rhetoric of Islamist extremists in other parties. Obviously, this demand represents a gross violation of the rights of the non-religious to freedom of thought, and against freedom of expression generally and must be firmly and explicitly rejected.

Furthermore, your Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, headed by Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu, on their 9 August 2015 meeting decided “to declare Atheist authors as criminals”, thereby making them subject to prosecution, and intelligence agencies have been asked to monitor blogs to find those atheist writers. Even under the current law, such a mass arrest of people who profess non-religious views in their online communications would represent a grave violation of the international human rights obligations to which Bangladesh is committed. The Home Minister in a separate speech was seen repeating the same warning message.

These institutions and officials of the state through their current stances — demonising free expression, while appeasing murderous extremists — are destroying Bangladesh’s claim to be a democratic state that upholds the human rights of all citizens. To criminalize the expression of “anything that may hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or beliefs” (as the Inspector General of Police puts it) means in practice that fundamentalists and extremists can say and do anything they want, while anyone who stands for democracy, free expression, rationalism, justice, and human rights would be reduced to silence.

This is a recipe for a theocratic state in thrall to the most extremist members of society. People must be able to discuss and debate religion and politics, beliefs and practices. If they cannot, then injustice, fear and violence will reign.

To fail to confront and refute these oppressive and illiberal tendencies now, will mark the beginning of the end of Bangladesh as a free and democratic country.

We implore you to:

  • ensure the safety and security of those individuals whose lives are threatened by Islamist extremists, including the witnesses and family members
  • instruct the police to find the killers, not to harass or blame the victims
  • disassociate yourself publicly from those who call for death penalties against non-religious Bangladeshis, and ensure using your executive authority that individuals within your party membership maintain the same standard of respect for freedom of conscience and expression
  • work decisively for legal reform to repeal Section 295A of the Penal Code and section 57 of the ICT Act of 2006, in order to bring the legal system of Bangladesh in line with the  spirit and values of freedom of expression and ‘of conscience’ as enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and as per obligations under the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is party.

You can see the signatories under the open letter in English and Bangla. I see Maryam Namazie there, and Michael De Dora, and Roy Brown, and Roy Speckhardt, and Russell Blackford, and Udo Schuklenk; PZ Myers, Peter Tatchell, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, Taslima of course, Tarek Fatah, Veronica Abbass, Andrew Copson, Ani Zonneveld, Austin Dacey, Brian Engler…and many many more.

Innate gender identity

Aug 21st, 2015 3:07 pm | By

So, this comment on Thinking as a value has been scratching at me all day, so I’m going to argue with it even though it will probably mean repeating things I’ve said about six times before.

Identifying as something in the gender and sexuality sense of the term is in reference to an innate gender identity and an innate sexuality that is immutable with regards to external force even if the experience of them can be internally fluid (see people who have fluid sexuality or are genderfluid).

I don’t believe in innate gender identity unless as a label for a way some people feel. I don’t believe in it as a universal description of how people relate to their own gender.

As such, “identifying as” is often a shorthand to describe quickly this innate phenomenon in gender and sexuality as these are often invisible states of being from an outside perspective.

Sadly, much like “theory” the popular usage of identity clouds the issue and makes it seem part of a spectrum of personal identities one may have that refer to an individual’s community, work, or social behaviors (“I identify as a nerd”, “I identify as a scientist”, “I identify as a feminist”).

Well that is one valid way to use the word. Amartya Sen uses it that way throughout Identity and Violence, for instance.

And this is an especially easy mistake for many people who are cis-identified to make as they can largely ignore their innate gender identity in the same way someone who is straight can ignore their sexuality or someone who is white can ignore their race.

Ok this is where we part company. You are using it as a universal description of how people relate to their own gender. I say no: it’s not universal. The analogy doesn’t work. Yes, white people can ignore their race, but that’s not because they’re overlooking the “fact” that whiteness is their innate racial identity – it’s because their whiteness is the default, and they’re not penalized for it. That’s a different thing. Privilege isn’t the same as innate identity. I have white skin privilege, absolutely…but that privilege is contingent, not innate.

As such, there is little disconnect or need to focus on the innate nature of gender, and this especially becomes true as gender is also a term that popularly gets universalized to not only mean innate gender identity, but also a basket of gender norms and expectations that not all individuals who are cis may be comfortable with.

Well some scholars – perhaps most or all scholars – say that is what gender means – the basket of gender norms and expectations.

And it can be hard to separate that out and see gender identity separate from that conflation when one’s own experience of gender is being perfectly comfortable with gender identity, but having a lot of uncomfortable interactions with expected gender roles.

And this is the part where I get pissed off. Don’t tell me my “experience of gender is being perfectly comfortable with gender identity.” Just stop telling me that. It’s not. That is not my experience. You can tell me what your experience is all day long, but you can’t tell me what mine is. I’ve never been “perfectly comfortable” with my putative gender identity.

They think that we are being given “too much knowledge”

Aug 21st, 2015 11:52 am | By

Here’s an item from the Malala Fund

I am Rita and I am from Adjokatsekope (Ada) in Ghana. My mother is a fishmonger and my father is a fisherman. We have five girls and two boys in my family. Only one other sister of mine has gone to school.

I study at the MGCubed program. Math is my favorite subject because I find it easy to understand through my new teachers on satellite! I also help my grandmother sell soap at her shop after school and on weekends. Because I have a better understanding of math from my lessons, I feel more comfortable when I am helping my grandmother at her shop.

She’s learning computer skills too.

After school I also attend the Wonder Women workshops where we learn about things like personal hygiene, dangers of using dirty water and child rights. This is where I learned about sexual health and preventing pregnancy, which was never discussed in school before.

Learning about sexual health is important because girls in my community are being forced to leave school early because of teenage pregnancy. It’s a real problem in our communities since girls don’t receive the right information or any information at all about these issues.

Yeah. That’s right at the top of the list – don’t get pregnant at an early age.

Educating girls is very important because it gives us direction and focus as young women. It also helps us avoid unnecessary situations that might hold us back in life — like getting pregnant while in school. Girls need education to help them see their importance in the community.

This is why I attend school and the Wonder Women workshops. While some people think girls education is good, others don’t like it. They think that we are being given “too much knowledge.” Now that we are going to school and studying, we know when we are being taken advantage of and we can stand up for ourselves. But some people are not happy about this because they believe that women belong in the kitchen.

When I grow up, I want to be a nurse. I haven’t been to a hospital before, but my grandmother tells me it is a good profession! I am happy with my progress and my elders are happy, too.

Go for it, Rita!

A shining light

Aug 21st, 2015 11:06 am | By

Now for some good news for a change – Malala rocked her GCSEs. 6A*s and 4As.

The 18-year-old, who now attends Edgbaston High School in Birmingham, did particularly well in the sciences, with top A* grades in biology, chemistry and physics – as well as in religious studies.

She also scored As in history, geography, English language and English literature.

English isn’t even her first language, yet she did all that.

Here’s an item from the Malala Fund on Twitter:

Embedded image permalink

“Education doesn’t alienate you, it allows you to become a shining light for your community.”

Angeline Murimirwa




“We still define human rights in the country in the context of Islam and the Shariah”

Aug 21st, 2015 9:42 am | By

International Business Times reports:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual human rights are not guaranteed, nor will they be upheld in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said at an international Islamic moderation seminar 2015 in Bangi, Selangor that his administration will do its best to uphold human rights but only within the confines of Islam.

This is in line with the Islamic teaching of balance and moderation (wasatiyyah), he said, adding that Muslim Malaysia cannot defend the more “extreme aspect of human rights”, citing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual rights for example.

Of course. That’s the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. You can have human rights but only so far as they comply with sharia. I wrote a whole chapter on that in Does God Hate Women?

If you haven’t read the Cairo Declaration, I recommend doing so.

“Although universal human rights have been defined, we still define human rights in the country in the context of Islam and the Shariah,” he said, according to the Malay Mail.

“Even though it is difficult to defend internationally, we must defend our definition of human rights,” the website Malaysiakini said.

“And even if we cannot defend human rights at an international level, we must defend it in the Islamic context,” he told the seminar.

Islam trumps universal human rights. Sharia trumps universal human rights. The Cairo Declaration trumps universal human rights.

Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson later told a news conference that he was shocked by Najib’s promise to uphold human rights only within the Islamic context saying that Kuala Lumpur should withdraw from the United Nations if the government was not serious about upholding human rights for all.

Is the Cairo Declaration news to Phil Robertson? It can’t be; he must know all about it. But then his surprise seems odd. Malaysia is far from the only country that considers itself bound by the Cairo Declaration.

In lock-step with a hive mind

Aug 21st, 2015 9:03 am | By

Aron and Lilandra are leaving Freethought Blogs.

Aron explains that it’s not an acrimonious divorce.

We had considered moving the blog a couple years ago, but I didn’t want to do it then because that’s when FtB was under attack.  I thought it would look like we were bowing, or cowering to criticism of anyone who blogs at FtB.  I also stayed because I could use myself as an example against the absurdly stupid stereotypes people tried to pin on this group back then.  I often pointed out that, if everyone on this network is required to work in lock-step with a hive mind, as so many outsiders have alleged, then why am I still tolerated whenever I publicly disagree with so many of my associates on this network?  That strategy must have worked because I haven’t heard any such criticisms in quite a while now.

I don’t know the answer to his question. I don’t know why he is still tolerated whenever he publicly disagrees with so many of his associates on that network. I don’t know why he is still tolerated and I’m not. I do know, though, that it’s not because bloggers on the network never do push anyone out over a disagreement.

Ironically, Lilandra herself helped them push me out. I don’t know if she did it inadvertently or on purpose or some of both. (You know how you can do things without fully consciously planning out the consequences, right?) She decided it would be a good idea to start a discussion of me on the back channel, with my name in the subject line and everything. Ed very quickly said that would not be a good idea at all and please stop right now, but it was too late. The discussion went ahead anyway, and went as well as might be expected.

So, Aron is only partly right. I think it’s true that most people on the network are not required to work in lock-step with a hive mind. But some are. Or, at least, I was.

Or if you heard stories about Cosby

Aug 20th, 2015 4:32 pm | By

Larry Wilmore was on Fresh Air yesterday. He used to be the “senior black correspondent” for the Daily Show and now he does The Nightly Show (and Jon Stewart is gone, tragically).

I recommend listening to it, but there’s also a transcript. In one bit they played a clip of Wilmore on his show talking about the Confederate flag.

GROSS: …This is about the Confederate flag and the controversy about whether it should have been, you know, this was before it was officially taken down in Charleston, S.C. so there was still the controversy about whether it should be taken down.


GROSS: So here’s your take on that. It’s kind of like an editorial that you were calling For the Record. So here’s Larry Wilmore on “The Nightly Show.”


WILMORE: OK, for the record, the Confederate flag – it’s not a proud symbol of tradition or heritage. It’s a symbol of oppression and intimidation. That’s not my opinion, that’s an objective fact. On March 21, 1861, the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, stated that the Confederate government was based on the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man. That speech is now called the “Cornerstone Speech” because that idea is the cornerstone of the Confederacy. You don’t get clearer than that.


WILMORE: Now, some people say that Southern states should fly the Confederate flag because it’s a symbol of their heritage. But if we flew every flag from our past, why aren’t we flying the Union Jack in front of the White House?




WILMORE: And for the record, South Carolina, you don’t get to make the heritage argument because the stars and bars hasn’t been flying over the state house since the Civil War. It went up in 1961 to mark the centennial of the Civil War and, coincidentally, right around when the black people started with the wanting of the civil rights. In 1961, it was a reminder to black people that they should know their place. It has always been used as a symbol of intimidation and terror, and that’s what it remains today. In fact, because displaying the swastika is illegal across much of Europe, skinheads and neo-Nazis often adopt the Confederate flag in its place. It’s such a racist symbol that it does double duty as the backup racist symbol for another racist symbol.


WILMORE: That’s crazy. OK, so for the record, I get it that plenty of honorable people have fuzzy feelings about the Confederate flag, but that’s irrelevant. Their nostalgia will never trump the people who see it as a symbol of hate. And for a state to fly this flag, that hate is the message they send to their people. So for the record, does there really have to be a debate on whether or not you should take it down? Just take it down. You won’t get in trouble.


WILMORE: Just do it. Do it right now. Go ahead. Seriously, take it down now.

And then they talked about Bill Cosby.

GROSS: So one of your real issues is Bill Cosby. You do not miss an opportunity (laughter)…


GROSS: …To go after Cosby. And to exemplify that, we’re going to play a piece that you did on the Voting Rights Act…


GROSS: …And on voting restrictions in which you still manage (laughter) to try to drive to Cosby. So here’s Larry Wilmore.


WILMORE: Let me just remind you of why we have the Voting Rights Act. Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson, who I’ve got to say is definitely one of my top five Lyndons…


WILMORE: …Passed the VRA which prohibited any and all discriminatory voting policies. So no more literacy tests, no more poll tax, right? So what’s changed? Well, in this case, they’re not so much trying to revise history, as they are trying to revive history.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The new rules reduced early voting to 10 days from 17, eliminated same-day registration, ended a program to preregister high school students and banned out of precinct voting.

WILMORE: They’re making voting [expletive] than Bill Cosby at a sleep clinic.


WILMORE: That’s right [expletive], I haven’t forgotten about you. I have not forgotten about you.


WILMORE: By the way, three more women came out against you yesterday, you sick bastard, all right? I got a Google alert on this [expletive], all right? In fact, the only reason I did this whole piece – the only reason I talked about Jeb and Hillary and the Voting Rights Act, the only reason why I woke up this morning, showered, put my deodorant on, tied my tie, spent an hour doing my hair, the only reason – the only reason I’m here tonight was so I could get to that joke and call you out. And let me just say, worth it.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is in the interview.

GROSS: So I – you’re hardly alone in being angry at Cosby.


GROSS: But you seem to have, like, a special anger. And it made me wonder, like, do you know him from TV circles ’cause he used to…


GROSS: You know, you’ve written sitcoms. It wouldn’t have surprised me if you worked with Cosby….

WILMORE: No, never did.

GROSS: …Or if you heard stories about Cosby.

WILMORE: Yep, that I have.

It was that bit. The transcript isn’t quite accurate – he actually said “yep yep yep” quickly. No, didn’t know him, no, didn’t work with him, yepyepyep heard stories. Yep. Just like Shermer. Everyone had heard the stories.

GROSS: …Or if you heard stories about Cosby.

WILMORE: Yep, that I have.

GROSS: You have? You’d heard about that in the past?

WILMORE: Yep, yep, yep. I think the thing that makes me the most – well, there’s certain – several things about that that make me angry – the period of time that these things have happened over, the fact that these women have these allegations but people could care less. It was like, who cares about what women have to say, you know? You know, the whole idea of a powerful man being able to shut up all these women is so abhorrent to me. That issue was what really drove me first is the idea that a powerful man can just shut women up, you know? That’s what started this whole thing. It had nothing even to do with the fact of liking Cosby or not liking Cosby. It was that simple issue. But yep – so that’s the part of it that really drove me on it.

Damn right. You know, the whole idea of a powerful man being able to shut up all these women is so abhorrent to me. That.

And it’s funny because, you know, I’ve never thought of myself as any advocate for anything. But I remember about 10 or 11 years ago, I joined the – I was on the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America. I just wanted – I thought, you know what? I’ve had a good career as a writer, I should really give back, you know? But I thought, I mean, I’m not particularly passionate about anything. But I realized many times when you show up for something, you find where your passions are, even if you don’t know it. And it was fascinating to me, I realized how passionate I was about so many issues and I didn’t even know it because the issues presented themselves to me and I had to declare where I stood, right? So I ended up fighting a lot for writers in certain situations – under-represented writers, women in certain situations. And I didn’t even know how much of a feminist I was. And I realized oh, my god, I was raised by a single mom who had to raise six kids. I have three sisters. Larry, you’ve been a feminist your whole life, you really didn’t know it until you’ve been presented with these issues. And it was the Cosby issue that made me realize how much I really cared about women’s issues and how much I realize it’s important for me to be an advocate for issues that aren’t necessarily my own – to be an ally for issues.

Now that’s where the word “ally” is useful and meaningful.

When you see them

Aug 20th, 2015 12:22 pm | By

One of the most peculiar accusations against me in Stephanie Zvan’s long, clotted, incoherent, pointlessly cryptic list of accusations (pointlessly because she said at the very end that she was talking about me so why all the “they” and “them” in the list of accusations?) was this one –

When you see them repeatedly deride feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions?

The question behind all the “when you” accusations was “what’s a blogger to do” – so apparently she thinks she ought to “do” something about my putative attitude to feminine-identified clothing, grooming, and verbal expressions. Why? Why would she have a duty to “do” something about that? What business is it of hers? Who asked her? Why would she need to take action on that, even assuming her heavily loaded description is accurate?

I could come up with a long list of Irritating Things About Stephanie Zvan if I wanted to, but why would I? It would be boring, just for one thing. It would also look…kind of…how shall I put this…horrible. Publishing a long, clotted, incoherent list of all the things you Don’t Like About Susan is just a dopy, embarrassing, childish, trashy thing to do. But I could if I wanted to, so neener, Mr Salteena said peevishly.

But the accusation about deriding all the things that are “feminine-identified” stuck in my mind and makes me curious. What the fuck is that even supposed to mean. Am I supposed to be “femmephobic” now, is that the idea? So I Googled femmephobia. One of the first items is an article by J. Bryan Lowder in Slate last March about a gay actor named Russell Tovey.

After a stimulating meditation on the actor’s newly fleshed-out physique, reporter Tom Lamont gets Tovey talking about his journey as a gay man, especially as it developed after a homophobic attack (triggered, Tovey reasons, by his wearing a cardigan) 10 years ago, which left him with a scar. Tovey’s story is harrowing, and the trauma he experienced must be taken seriously. That said, his processing of that trauma through damaging femmephobic rhetoric—the kind that values traditionally masculine-performing gay men above their more effeminate brothers—is a problem.

Ah, that – yes I’m aware of that, and it sucks.

If that were the end of the comments, I don’t think we’d be seeing so much outrage from gay writers and fans online. It’s this next bit, focused on Tovey’s early career and schooling, that is really drawing ire:

I was so envious of everyone who went to Sylvia Young Theatre School. I wanted to go but my dad flat-out refused. He thought I’d become some tapdancing freak without qualifications. And he was right in a way. I’m glad I didn’t go. That might have changed … I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.

*clutches head*

What’s wrong with being able to relax, prance around, sing in the street?

The more men who do that the better, that’s what I say.

But then relaxing, prancing around, singing in the street – those are all good things. (Ceteris paribus – singing in the street is not so cool at 4 a.m., but you know what I mean so just behave yourselves.) Some “female-identified” practices are not such good things, in my view, and I think feminists are allowed to be critical of them. Footbinding used to be a “female-identified” practice in China and I don’t think it’s femmephobic to disapprove of footbinding. FGM is a “female-identified” practice in many places now; I frown on it; I don’t consider that femmephobic.

But it’s nice that Stephanie Zvan got all that out of her system, at least.

They want women to join them

Aug 20th, 2015 11:15 am | By

Frank Gardner at the BBC takes a look at the role of women in Islamic State.

IS has big plans for Muslim women who migrate to their territory to play a key role in building the so-called caliphate.

“They want women to join them,” says Dr Katherine Brown, an expert in Islamic Studies at King’s College London.

“They see women as the corner stones of the new state and they want citizens.

“What is really interesting is that people talk of IS as being a death cult, but that is the opposite of what they are trying to create… they want to create a new state… and they very much want women to join that as part of this utopian politics.”

Their what?


Dystopian, I call it.

Ok, you can translate it as “good place” or “nowhere place”…but the “nowhere” part still implies that it’s nowhere because it’s ideal and humans have never managed to do ideal yet. The idea of utopia is what you come up with when you sit down to think about what would be the best possible arrangement for everyone assuming no constraints imposed by reality.

This isn’t that. This is just the same old shit only more so – it’s fanatically patriarchal men arranging things to their liking with no regard for the needs and concerns of people who aren’t fanatically patriarchal men. That’s not utopia.

That utopia includes a treatise published in Arabic in February, setting out a code of conduct that harks back 1,400 years.

It is aimed primarily at Arab women in the Gulf states and the wider Middle East and includes passages that are incomprehensible to most people in the West:

“It is considered legitimate for a girl to be married at the age of nine. Most pure girls will be married by 16 or 17, while they are still young and active,” the treatise says.

Not utopia.

Researchers say that many of those women who make it across the Turkish border into IS-controlled territory end up frustrated by the roles they are assigned.

Unmarried women are kept in a safe house, usually with others who speak their language and given religious indoctrination and Arabic classes while a husband is found for them as quickly as possible.

Any thoughts of taking part in battles and wielding a Kalashnikov on the frontline are soon dashed. But some join the Khansaa Brigades, a women-only vigilante force that patrols cities like Raqqa and Mosul enforcing strict Islamist rules.

“They’ve been known to carry out harsh punishments like beatings and whipping someone for not wearing the right clothing,” says Dr Katherine Brown.

They have also been known to put animal trap clamps on a women’s breasts because they have been breastfeeding in public, she says.

See? Not utopia.

If only his sisters had been more giving

Aug 19th, 2015 5:17 pm | By

Oh, Josh Duggar. You’re really not what you’ve been pretending all this time at all, are you. Nope.

In 2013, conservative reality TV star Josh Duggar—of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame—was named the executive director of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group in D.C. which seeks “to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.” During that time, he also maintained a paid account on Ashley Madison, a web site created for the express purpose of cheating on your spouse.

Well Josh Duggar thinks of marriage and family as including the daddy’s other playmates. It’s traditional.

Someone using a credit card belonging to a Joshua J. Duggar, with a billing address that matches the home in Fayetteville, Arkansas owned by his grandmother Mary—a home that was consistently shown on their now-cancelled TV show, and in which Anna Duggar gave birth to her first child—paid a total of $986.76 for two different monthly Ashley Madison subscriptions from February of 2013 until May of 2015.

According to the data, Josh Duggar was paying Ashley Madison in order to find an extramarital partner for the following acts:

“Conventional Sex,” Experimenting with Sex Toys,” One-Night Stands,” “Open to Experimentation,” “Gentleness,” “Good With Your Hands,” Sensual Massage,” “Extended Foreplay/Teasing,” “Bubble Bath for 2,” “Likes to Give Oral Sex,” “Likes to Receive Oral Sex,” “Someone I Can Teach,” “Someone Who Can Teach Me,” “Kissing,” “Cuddling & Hugging,” “Sharing Fantasies,” “Sex Talk.”

And here are the turn-ons that he offered up in service of finding a compatible person other than his wife with which to engage in those acts:

“A Professional/Well Groomed,” “Stylish/Classy,” “Casual Jeans/T-shirt Type,” “Muscular/Fit Body,” ”Petite Figure,” “Tall Height,” “Short Height,” “Long Hair,””Short Hair,” “Girl Next Door,” “Naughty Girl,” “Sense of Humor,” “Imagination,” “Creative and Adventurous,” “Relaxed and Easy Going,” “Aggressive/Take Charge Nature,” “Confidence,” “Discretion/Secrecy,” “A Good Listener,” “Good Personal Hygiene,” “Average Sex Drive,” “High Sex Drive,” “Dislikes Routine,” “Has a Secret Love Nest,” “Disease Free,” “Drug Free,” and “Natural Breasts.”

I think that’s admirable! It shows he likes all the things!

In July 2014*, he seems to have started a second account that was linked to his home in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where he spent his time lobbying against causes like same-sex marriage.


Oh, Josh Duggar. What a cynical piece of shit you are.

Unconditional acceptance

Aug 19th, 2015 12:15 pm | By

That post in which Derrick Jensen responded to Oregon State’s no-platforming of a talk of his –

The issue was apparently that he has said cis women shouldn’t have to share “sleeping and bathing” space with males and by “males” he seems to mean trans women.

I’m a founding member of an organization called Deep Green Resistance. Given that gold standard studies show that 25 percent of all women in this culture are raped within their lifetimes, and another 19 percent fend off rape attempts, and given that many members of this organization have themselves been sexually assaulted, and given that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by males, the women of this organization decided that when we have conferences, they wanted for their sleeping and bathing spaces to be for females only. That’s it. That’s the beef of those who identify as transgender and their allies. The issue was not mentioned in the book of that same name. This was the sole issue: are women allowed to bathe and sleep and organize and gather free from males?

I of course agree with them. Given that we live in the midst of a rape culture, where at the very least a significant minority of women have had males attempt to sexually assault them, I don’t understand why any group of women should be forced–against their will–to allow males into their most vulnerable spaces.

Quite possibly the issue is more that he says “males” when he means trans women.

Also I don’t understand why it’s an issue, because who shares sleeping and bathing spaces anyway? I don’t want anyone of any gender anywhere near me in my sleeping and bathing spaces. But maybe the DGR does budget conferences and people share rooms. (Ick.)

His larger subject though is no-platforming as such. One of his fundamental themes is the distinction between disrespect and disagreement.

You deplatformed me because you say I disrespect those who identify as transgender. You are both scholars, both at a major university. I respectfully ask both of you to find any place in any of my books or articles where I have disrespected those who identify as transgender, where I have committed the sort of hate speech that would cause one to be deplatformed from a university committed to open discourse and discussing the most difficult issues of our time. This is not a rhetorical request. Please do look, and see what you will find. And let’s be clear: I mean disrespect, not disagreement. I would hope that when speaking to two scholars at an institution of higher education I would not have to detail the difference between disrespect and disagreement. Generally, unless participating in some form of fundamentalism, people understand that disagreement does not equal disrespect. The understanding that disagreement does not equal disrespect is in fact a necessary part of living in a pluralistic society. That understanding should be central to any institution of higher education. Sadly it is not central, and is becoming less central by the day.

To be honest I would say it is disrespect to call trans women “males.” I would say that is disrespect more than disagreement, although it may be based in disagreement about what the criteria are or should be for saying who is male and who isn’t.

But the distinction is still an important one, even if the execution of the distinction-making isn’t always good.

You wrote: “Honestly, we had not been tracking this issue closely. We realize that the issue is a small blip in the entirety of your body of work.”

My response: Approximately 7000 words out of probably 5 million published, or .14 percent, or only 14 words out of every ten thousand (I can guarantee I use swear words more often than that), and even those written only after I began receiving death threats. It’s less than a blip. It would be like disagreeing with eleven words out of this entire missive I’m sending you. And that “blip” is not disrespectful, but simple disagreement. Why am I not allowed to disagree with an ideology? When did slavish agreement with the philosophers Michel Foucault and Judith Butler become a precondition not only for speaking at a university, but for even being considered to be respectful?

You wrote: “But it is a big deal here at OSU, where unconditional acceptance and respect for everyone is a value, and for us this includes transgendered people.”

My response: You are both scholars. Please name one place in any of my books or the two published essays I mentioned where I disrespect those who identify as trans. Once again, not disagree, but disrespect. Once again, this is not rhetorical. Disagreement is not disrespect.

The two can overlap, though. The two can be present together. I understand his point, believe me, but it’s not the case that disagreement precludes disrespect (and vice versa).

I think part of the problem is that a terrible rhetorical coup has taken place in Academia, and that in this case we seem to be confusing “unconditional acceptance” with “adherence to an ideology” and “disrespect” with “political disagreement.” That is a rhetorical coup because it makes discourse impossible. Those who perpetuate or support this confusion have made it–and you are going along with this–impossible to talk about the subject (or, clearly, any subject, including the murder of the planet), because any disagreement on that particular subject is immediately labeled as a lack of acceptance and as disrespect (and the person who disagreed is deluged with rape and death threats, and blacklisting: the irony of the recipient of these threats and blacklisting then being accused of a lack of acceptance and of disrespect does not escape me). As someone to whom honest discourse is as vital as my own heart, I cannot tell you how much I resent the manipulation of discourse such that mere disagreement with an ideology–any ideology—is silenced as disrespect.

Further, what do you mean by “unconditional acceptance”? Can someone skip every class and do no homework without you flunking them? Do you have to unconditionally accept them and pass them? Or can you unconditionally accept them as human beings but still have a specific metric for whether you allow them to pass the class? Can someone attend school without either having a scholarship or paying tuition? Or would they eventually be removed from campus? Is there a metric for whether the school allows someone to take classes and to be called a student? Can everyone be on the basketball team? Or can some students be unconditionally accepted by everyone involved but still be excluded from the basketball team, and not be called members of the varsity basketball team? Can anyone attend graduation and walk across the stage and receive a diploma, or are there some metrics in place such that some people are unconditionally accepted by everyone involved but are excluded from receiving a diploma and being called graduates? Are military veterans allowed to organize with others who share their experience, or can anyone join every one of their organizations? Can military veterans (or African-Americans, or American Indians, or Mexican-Americans, or for that matter physics majors or members of a sorority) unconditionally accept other students as human beings but not allow them into their organizations, or more to the point, their most intimate spaces? And as for yourself, if a student wanted to shower with you, would you have to accept that, else you’d be risking failing to unconditionally accept that student? Or are you allowed to have boundaries? Likewise would a student be forced to shower with you? Or is the student allowed to have that boundary? Why can I not unconditionally accept those males who identify as trans, yet not wish for them to be allowed to shower with women who don’t want to shower with them? Everyone else is allowed to define boundaries: why are these women the only ones who can’t say no? I don’t understand why believing that women are allowed to have boundaries says anything about whether I do or don’t accept people.

How about if all of us get to have the boundary of showering and sleeping alone if that’s what we prefer? That would solve this silly issue at a stroke. Make all restrooms unisex with stalls, give everyone privacy, problem solved.

Cancel all the things

Aug 19th, 2015 10:33 am | By

You read about one no-platforming and learn of another, so you read about that one and learn of another, so –

– it may be that the loop goes on forever.

I was reading Derrick Jensen’s response to his no-platforming, and found a generalized reference to another:

I’m not alone. All over the world women and their male allies routinely get blacklisted and much worse over this issue. An entire conference in the UK had to be canceled after death and rape threats against the owners of the venue–who were bystanders in this: they merely owned the venue–because one of the presenters believes that women should be allowed to have their own spaces.

So I tried Google, and found a story in the Camden New Journal from May 2013:

A COMMUNITY centre has abandoned plans to host a controversial “radical feminism” conference amid fears for public ­safety.

The London Irish Centre, in Camden Town, said it did not have the “manpower” to deal with the RadFem conference after receiving threatening phone calls over its initial decision to accept the booking. It has contacted police and warned activists not to turn up in June.

There have been angry debates online about the nature of the conference, the tone of which has raised alarm.

While RadFem campaigners insist it should go ahead at the Camden Square building, demonstrators, including those who label themselves “men’s rights activists”, say the conference must be stopped.

In one of the more bizarre points of debate, some men’s rights activists claim RadFem wants to reduce the male population of the United Kingdom to just 10 per cent.

But it wasn’t just MRAs, in fact MRAs may have just latched onto the “debate” to hitch a ride.

There have been vociferous debates about RadFem’s decisions not to allow transgender women into their groups, with some members claiming they are men trying to infiltrate their work. The centre said it could not risk being unable to “safeguard the area” around Camden Square.

The centre’s decision follows a controversy at Conway Hall, in Holborn, last year when a booking for the conference was torn up because of “issues around discrimination and equality legislation”.

So then I had to Google for that one. It was July 2012:

In consultation with the organisers of RadFem 2012 and our legal advisors, Conway Hall has decided not to allow the booking in July 2012 to proceed. This is because it does not conform to our Terms and Conditions for hiring rooms at Conway Hall. In addition, we are not satisfied it conforms with the Equality Act (2010), or reflects our ethos regarding issues of discrimination.

We had sought assurances that the organisers would allow access to all, in order to enable the event to proceed at the venue. We also expressed concern that particular speakers would need to be made aware that whilst welcoming progressive thinking and debate, Conway Hall seeks to uphold inclusivity in respect of both legal obligations and as a principle.

In the absence of the assurances we sought, the event in its proposed form could not proceed at Conway Hall*.

That said, we recognise the breadth of debate to be had amongst the feminist and transgender communities and it is our sincere hope that there will be constructive and positive dialogue on these matters going forward.

In response to Sheila Jeffreys’ online Guardian article in their ‘Comment is free’ section, dated 29th May 2012, we would like it to be known that Conway Hall has in the past made clear that speakers / attendees at events for other hirers will not be permitted where we have felt that these individuals have expressed and may express (on our premises) views which conflict with our ethos, principles, and culture; the reference to David Irving was simply one of the examples given.

Related: The Scarlett Alliance in Tasmania has failed in their campaign to have visiting Professor Sheila Jeffreys banned from speaking at a Staff Seminar at the University of Tasmania Law School and a Public Forum at the Friends Meeting House in Hobart.

See what I mean? It could go on forever and ever…

The heroism of Khaled al-Asaad

Aug 19th, 2015 9:40 am | By

The Guardian has more information on the murder of Khaled al-Asaad in Palmyra – it has the why of it. The god-loving murderers killed him because he refused to tell them where the antiquities are buried.

Asaad had been held for over a month before being murdered. Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said he had learned from a Syrian source that the archaeologist had been interrogated by Isis about the location of treasures from Palmyra and had been executed when he refused to cooperate.

Hell and damn. What a brave man – a lion of Syria. What a brave, hideous sacrifice.

Palmyra-based activists circulated an unverified, gruesome image on social media of Asaad’s beheaded body, tied to a pole on a street in the city.

A board in front of the body set out the charges against him, which accused him of loyalty to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, maintaining contact with senior regime intelligence and security officials and managing Palmyra’s collection of “idols”.

Isis, which follows a puritanical interpretation of Islam, considers maintaining such ancient statues to be apostasy.

According to Syrian state news agency Sana and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Asaad was beheaded in front of dozens of people on Tuesday in a square outside the town’s museum. His body was then taken to Palmyra’s archaeological site and hung from one of the Roman columns.

He was irreplaceable. Everyone is irreplaceable, and he was irreplaceable in some special ways.

Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official who ran the country’s science and conservation labs and knew Asaad personally, said the “irreplaceable” scholar was involved in early excavations of Palmyra and the restoration of parts of the city.

“He was a fixture, you can’t write about Palmyra’s history or anything to do with Palmyrian work without mentioning Khaled Asaad,” he said. “It’s like you can’t talk about Egyptology without talking about Howard Carter.”

He added: “He had a huge repository of knowledge on the site, and that’s going to be missed. He knew every nook and cranny. That kind of knowledge is irreplaceable, you can’t just buy a book and read it and then have that.

“There’s a certain personal dimension to that knowledge that comes from only having lived that and been so closely involved in it and that’s lost to us forever. We don’t have that anymore.”

He played a part in removing the antiquities to protect them from IS, and that made him a marked man.

Historian Tom Holland said the news was distressing. “For anyone interested in the study of the ancient world, it comes as – to put it mildly – a shock to realise that ideologues exist who regard the curating of antiquities and the attendance of international conferences on archaeology as capital offences.”

God hates people who think.

50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra

Aug 19th, 2015 9:00 am | By

Horrific news from Palmyra.

Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded an antiquities scholar in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Tuesday.

IS, whose insurgents control swathes of Syria and Iraq, captured Palmyra in central Syria from government forces in May, but are not known to have damaged its monumental Roman-era ruins despite their reputation for destroying artifacts they view as idolatrous under their puritanical interpretation of Islam.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said the family of Khaled Asaad had informed him that the 82-year-old scholar who worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra was executed by Islamic State on Tuesday.

All their murders are horrific, but there’s an extra dimension to it when they murder people for doing good things like preserving and curating antiquities.

Asaad had been detained and interrogated for over a month by the ultra-radical Sunni Muslim militants, he told Reuters.

Abdulkarim said Asaad was known for several scholarly works published in international archaeological journals on Palmyra, which in antiquity flourished as an important trading hub along the Silk Road.

He also worked over the past few decades with U.S., French, German and Swiss archeological missions on excavations and research in Palmyra’s famed 2,000-year-old ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site including Roman tombs and the Temple of Bel.

And for that they murdered him and then hung his headless body on a pillar.

These people love their fantasy “god” and they hate human beings.


Guest post: Identity is everything

Aug 19th, 2015 8:43 am | By

Guest post by Josh Spokes

Thoughts on the conversations left-leaning 20-somethings are having lately about what’s being called “identity” and “identifying as”. This is an important conversation, but it’s vastly under-theorized. It’s not at all clear what “identity” and “identifying as” truly means. These are issues that those of us who are decades older struggled with and still struggle with – to the surprise of many younger people, who invented queer theory and social justice back in 2011.

Preemptive note: None of these thoughts imply, or mean to imply, that any class of people  is not “real.” Because of the recent controversy over how we discuss transgender issues, readers will likely take this essay to be primarily about transgender people specifically. It is not. Nor do I believe that transgender people are “less real” or more obligated to justify their existence than any other “identity” category, such as cis, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.


  1. Identity is everything. How you feel is what you are.
  2. Feeling that you “identify” as something makes you that something. But it is never explained what it means to be X, Y, or Z. Asking for an explanation is an act of discursive violence.
  3. Other people—say, gay men or lesbians—are obliged to accept you in every way, and to give you the same deference, affirmation, and social capital we would give to any other member of our group. No matter what. If you say you’re queer, even if you’ve lived your entire public life as a straight person, maybe even traded on that power, then you are a queer.
  4. It’s gross and oppressive to allow considerations of a person’s actual experiences to inform how we feel about them. For example, it’s unacceptable to note out loud that some of the shared characteristics of being a butch woman include things like experiencing discrimination and harassment. That might lead a newcomer to believe that members of the group don’t see the newcomer in exactly the same way as they see themselves and others with their shared experience. That is oppressive.
  5. If you feel oppressed, you are oppressed.
  6. If you say you feel oppressed that triggers a social obligation on those around you to accept that without further discussion.
  7. The only reason that older people bristle at these is because we’re venal and we’d rather see others suffer the abuse we’ve received. It’s very shallow of us, and is motivated only by base impulses to see our younger friends go through the hazing we went through.
  8. We have no legitimate epistemic, political, or cultural reasons to fail to completely accept, affirm, and applaud all comers. While newcomers operate from a position of curiosity and good faith, we older people are only self-centered. Our motivations are suspect, and they are entirely focused on preserving our personal status at the cost of others.


Too many pro-choice people are way too quiet

Aug 18th, 2015 5:51 pm | By

Katha Pollitt points out that all those women who’ve had abortions and moved on need to stop being so quiet about it.

We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.

The stigma is what makes it so vulnerable.

The second reason we’re stuck in a defensive mode is that too many pro-choice people are way too quiet. According to the Guttmacher Institute,nearly one in three women will have had at least one abortion by the time she reaches menopause. I suspect most of those women had someone who helped them, too — a husband or boyfriend, a friend, a parent. Where are those people? The couple who decided two kids were enough, the grad student who didn’t want to be tied for life to an ex-boyfriend, the woman barely getting by on a fast-food job? Why don’t we hear more from them?

Maybe it’s the stigma?

I think I detect a circle here.

It’s not that they think they did something wrong: A recent study published in the journal PLOS One finds that more than 95 percent of women felt the abortion was the right decision, both immediately after the procedure and three years later. They’ve been shamed into silence by stigma. Abortion opponents are delighted to fill that silence with testimony from their own ranks: the tiny minority of women who say they’re plagued by regret, rape victims glad they chose to continue their pregnancies, women who rejected their doctor’s advice to end a pregnancy and — look at these adorable baby pictures! — everything turned out fine.

Make no mistake: Those voices are heard in high places. In his 2007 Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy specifically mentioned the “unexceptionable” likelihood that a woman might come to regret her choice. That women need to be protected from decisions they might feel bad about later — not that there was any evidence supporting this notion — is now a legal precedent.

I wonder about the women who regret having that baby they didn’t want to have and couldn’t afford.

It is understandable that women who have ended pregnancies just wanted to move on. Why should they define themselves publicly by one private decision, perhaps made long ago? I’ll tell you why: because the pro-choice movement cannot flourish if the mass of women it serves — that one in three — look on as if the struggle has nothing to do with them. Without the voices and support of millions of ordinary women behind them, providers and advocates can be too easily dismissed as ideologues out of touch with the American people.

Women aren’t the only ones who need to speak up. Where are the men grateful not to be forced into fatherhood? Where are the doctors who object to the way anti-abortion lawmakers are interfering with the practice of medicine?

All hiding from the stigma.

What a mess.


When reading is not complicity

Aug 18th, 2015 4:45 pm | By

I don’t read exclusively things I already agree with. I read a range of things. I read some things I disagree with. I read some things I strongly disagree with.

Reading things one disagrees with isn’t the same thing as complicity with those things one disagrees with. Reading something ≠ complicity.

There are so many reasons for reading – they might even be infinite. One reads for information – for ideas – for inspiration – for pleasure – out of curiosity – for understanding – for getting a sense of different views on a subject.

That’s only a fraction of possible reasons for reading.

There’s something oddly cargo-cultish about thinking reading something is complicity with that something.

I read that site about Christian domestic discipline. That’s not complicity with goddy violence. I read stuff the Duggars write; that’s not complicity with the Duggars. I read press releases by IS; that’s not complicity with IS.

I hope that’s clear enough.