Notes and Comment Blog


‘Non-binary’ is not an alternative identity to ‘woman’

Apr 17th, 2016 4:10 pm | By

Continuing our suddenly regular feature, Comments On Bonkers Green Party Women Posts on Facebook, I give you some comments from the post that explains to us slow women that the group for women has to include non-binary genders and other gender identities, including those that say they are not women and resent being called women.

  • As a lesbian, I am particularly offended by the implicit homophobia and misogyny underlying your baseless assertion that womanhood is somehow a gender; it’s as if you believe female people somehow choose to be subjected to sex-based oppression and that you’re saying women who don’t present themselves in a stereotypically “feminine” way are not “actual women”, but “non-males”. I hope the Scottish Greens don’t win a single seat in the Holyrood elections this May as a direct result of your disgraceful disregard for the humanity of 51% of the population.
  • Since the focus is on gender balance: I’m interested to know what the committee’s position is on All Women Shortlists? And if in favour, would you also be in favour of renaming them All Non-Man Shortlists, and allowing male people who identify as non-binary to stand?
  • Not sure why a self described ~~women’s group~~ should be erasing women in order to include people who don’t even consider themselves to be women.
  • ‘Non-binary’ is not an alternative identity to ‘woman’. It’s an alternative philosophy to feminism, which sees all people as non-binary. Saying ‘I don’t consider myself to be female’ to me sounds a lot like ‘I’m not like other girls’
  • I take it trans men, being men, are not included in the group of people you recognise as oppressed by gender?
  • Basic politics fail. You don’t stand for what you are NOT. You stand for what you ARE (Green, Women, it’s right there in the name). You can’t win votes this way. You can lose them, though.
  • The final paragraph is so loaded- ‘those that stand against sex workers’ rights’. I presume you mean End Demand..which most definitely promotes sex worker safety. However, this straw-non-non-man is an attempt to caricature those who disagree with your position as exclusive at best and bastards at worst. Arguing against being defined against the oppressing group is not a ‘disagreement on terminology etc’, it’s a fundamental tenet of feminism. One thing did ring true- your statements, including this one, do tend to be incoherent.
  • Well done, Green Party: you just lost my vote.

    You are supposed to be the Green Party WOMEN group. If the Green Party wants to support other marginalised groups, fine: you can do that. You can’t do that by re-defining ‘women’ as ‘non-men’.

    I strongly support everyone’s right to live as they want. Male and female gender stereotypes are discriminatory and soul-destroying and have resulted in mental and physical harm to generations of women.

    I reject these stereotypes with everything I am. The are unfair to men and women. They artificially limit the wonderful scope of every individual’s capacity and personality.

    Without these stereotypes, the term ‘non-binary’ has no meaning.

    I am a woman, because of my female biology and the gendered socialisations I have experienced since birth. I am not the same as someone born biologically male, someone raised male, who identifies with the female-gendered stereotypes I reject. You want to represent the specific interests of groups such as these, who undoubtedly suffer discrimination and need support? Fine. Good. But DON’T abandon women in the process. Or women such as me will abandon you.

Just a small sample.



Green Party Women explain

Apr 17th, 2016 2:39 pm | By

Green Party Women on Facebook:

A recent issue, taken out of context of its intent, has arisen and caused quite a stir. As a result, the committee of Green Party Women would like to reassure our sisters that we by no means intend to erase women’s identities by forcing members to define [in] relation to men. “Non-male” and “women” are not synonymous.

However, Green Party Women are happy with uses of the term “non-male” as an umbrella term when gender balance practices are conducted. This umbrella term groups together all who face gendered oppression; women, transgender women and individuals of non-binary or no genders. We all deserve to be recognised and included.

For too long, marginalised women have been excluded from most women’s movements and circles. As a group we affirm that trans women are women, and that non-binary genders and other gender identities experience oppression and deserve respect. After all, we are part of a political party, The Green Party, which has a proud history of inclusivity.

We stand alongside our sister group, Young Greens Women, on the events that unfolded recently and apologise for any misunderstandings caused through incoherent statements on our part. We have since removed any posts that are not clear enough on this emotive issue, as some have left stances open to too much interpretation.

There will always be members who are anti-choice, anti-sex worker rights, disagree with terminology etc, as women are not a homogeneous group and occasionally members will disagree with each other. However, it is our duty to look out for and campaign with the most marginalised women in our society, and we would like to assure members that we remain committed to do so.

Green Party Women Committee

‪#‎greenpartyfeminism‬

Sure, “non-binary genders and other gender identities” deserve respect. Everyone deserves respect. But how does that mean that non-binary genders and other gender identities need to be included in women’s groups even if they’re not in any way women? As I’ve asked before, why is it always women who have to move over?

Also, I dislike that dogwhistle “anti-sex worker rights” in the last paragraph. People who oppose full unregulated decriminalization are not anti-sex worker rights. On the contrary. I’m very sick of that calumny being thrown around.



Sheikh Hasina to the killers: have fun

Apr 17th, 2016 11:03 am | By

More on Sheikh Hasina’s view of the freelance murders of atheists in Bangladesh, which is basically “go right ahead, we approve.”

In a recent exchange with the ruling awami league supporters and active leaders, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has brazenly supported the machete wielding killers of Bangladesh atheist bloggers who have already hacked to death at least seven atheist bloggers and publishers of free thinking writers. Many of the bloggers had been hacked to death in open daylight on the streets of Dhaka the capital while the police had been reluctant or incompetent to arrest anyone responsible. The wording of the premier who has been the chief executive of the government since the questionable one party election in earlier 2014, has effectively given the killers a green signal that they can carry on their business and the government will not interfere. “Everyone has to hold their tongue, has to maintain a level of decency in what they write. If they write something provocative and something bad happens, the government will not take responsibility.”

So, that’s blunt. Nobody can say that’s not clear enough. If a murderer murders you for writing something “provocative,” you had it coming and the murderer will not be rebuked.

Talking with the similar minded party workers and leaders the questionably elected premier also opened up and frankly expressed her thought about the recent happenings in the countries webspere.

She was quoted as saying, “If someone writes filthy things about my religion, why should we tolerate it? ”

The premier also said, “Recently it has become a fashion to call someone a freethinker who says nasty things about religion. I do not see any free thinking here. All I see is filth.”

“Why would they write such nasty things”, she asked. “I obey the commandments of my religion, if someone writes bad things about the person whom I obey as my prophet; it would not be acceptable to me. Those who do this only make their filthy mind known to the world” said the premier elected in an election widely viewed as a sham.

Well there you go. She may not have meant a word of it; she may have said it to mollify the religious maniacs in Bangladesh, out of fear or ambition or both; it doesn’t matter. She put into words the thing that makes religion so dangerous and so destructive of all human projects. She treats the make-believe “commandments of her religion” as if they were both real and binding. They are neither. Laws are human things, contingent and temporal, and they must be subject to change. The result of treating them as sacred and immutable is what we see here – a head of state telling religious fanatics to go ahead and murder dissenters.



Seen but unnoticed

Apr 16th, 2016 4:12 pm | By

Deborah Cameron wrote about default male today, in the wake of Green Party Women’s “non-men.”

The idea behind substituting ‘non-men’ for ‘women’ was to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary people. It will be news to nobody that this is a contentious issue in contemporary feminist politics. But whatever position you take on the issue itself, ‘non-men’ remains problematic from a linguistic point of view. It cannot easily be made to function as an inclusive, feminist or non-sexist term, because it repeats the most basic and ubiquitous of all sexist linguistic gestures: treating men as the default human beings while relegating women to what the radical feminist linguist Julia Penelope dubbed ‘negative semantic space’. ‘Non-men’ defines a subordinated group in relation to the dominant group, ‘men’: consequently it ends up, in today’s jargon, ‘centring’ the dominant group, even if that isn’t the intention.

She then discusses a study that found Disney princess movies had given more dialogue to the female characters in the past than they do now.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with the ‘default male’ principle, the answer is, quite a lot. According to the researchers, what’s mainly driving the trend for male characters to dominate the dialogue isn’t primarily a change in how much the central female characters speak. It has more to do with the move (first made in TheLittleMermaid) to Broadway musical-style ensemble casts featuring more supporting characters–the majority of them, as it turns out, male. In Karen Eisenhauer’s view, what’s behind the imbalance is an unconscious form of male bias:

My best guess is that it’s carelessness, because we’re so trained to think that male is the norm. So when you want to add a shopkeeper, that shopkeeper is a man. Or you add a guard, that guard is a man.

Ahhh yes, the generic male in addition to the default male. Everybody’s male except for a few aberrant females, whom you have to explain and who thus distract from everything.

It isn’t just the people at Disney who display this ingrained tendency to imagine the prototypical representative of a category like ‘shopkeeper’ or ‘guard’ as a man rather than a woman. We all do it. We only have a female prototype for roles which are very heavily stereotyped as female (like ‘secretary’ or ‘witch’). By contrast, the tendency to assume that a ‘generic’ X will be male doesn’t just apply to the most stereotypically male roles (like ‘drill sergeant’ or ‘construction worker’), it applies to any role that isn’t almost exclusively reserved for women.

And not just humans, either; people do this to animals. Any random animal or bird is a “he,” because…well because it would be weird if it were a she. When I worked at the zoo I heard people referring to Nina the gorilla as “he” – including when she had her infant actually on the nipple. People always called the elephants he, when all four of them were female.

Then Cameron goes on to an extremely interesting analysis of a couple of cartoons and why it’s hard to get away from default male without ruining the cartoon. I can’t summarize it so you have to read it and look at the cartoons.

These are not overtly sexist cartoons. They aren’t making a point about women, or male-female relations; the women (where there are any) aren’t being mocked or belittled or objectified. Yet I’ve been arguing that they are, in fact, examples of low-level sexism. What they exemplify is the kind of pattern ethnomethodologists call ‘seen but unnoticed’: like the background noise in a coffee shop, we tune it out so we can concentrate on the important stuff in the foreground. I tuned it out: they all made me laugh. But should feminists be so willing to tune it out?

When we criticise sexist representations, or look for alternatives to them, we are typically—and understandably—most concerned about what’s in the foreground. Our first question when choosing books or films for children, for instance, will often be whether there’s a ‘strong’ female central character, someone active and resourceful who doesn’t just waft about looking pretty. Contemporary producers often share that concern. In the case of Disney princess films, as Karen Eisenhauer notes,

If you watch the behind-the-scenes documentaries, there’s so much explicit discourse on what the princess is going to be like, and always it’s a feminist discourse in some way. They want her to be powerful.

The trouble is, as she also says, that this kind of discussion ‘never, ever seems to have gone beyond the princess’. Concerns about sexism and stereotyping do not extend to the depiction of the larger social world which forms the backdrop to the central character’s story.

We have to worry about the princess (or the warrior or artist or whatever she is) and everyone else – the crowds, the people on the bus, the shopkeepers, the chorus.

Social change only really succeeds when new ways of thinking, speaking and acting become normalized, taken for granted and treated as unremarkable. To put it another way, when the background changes. When we stop needing extra time to process a sentence that refers to the boss as ‘she’. When we don’t think ‘hey, a woman!’ if it’s a female voice that addresses us from the flight-deck. When the minor characters in stories and jokes—generic shopkeepers, guard dogs, stone-age people or space aliens—are as likely to be female as male, and no one thinks anything of it. When no-one is a ‘non-man’—or more importantly, a non-person.

Yes.

 



Get a grip and stop promoting the erasure of women as policy

Apr 16th, 2016 11:54 am | By

More comments on the Green Party Women post

  • I’m so encouraged by the political intelligence in this thread. 🍾A tiny number of people subscribe to this women erasing nonsense. If the Greens don’t want to become a political irrelevance they’d do well to remember that simple fact.
  • I’m a floating left-wing voter – I’m nowhere near 100% happy with WEP, Labour, Lib Dem or Greens, but my vote has to go somewhere. Well done for ensuring it won’t be here.
  • Women are not “non-men” – this is Handmaid’s Tale stuff. Get a grip and stop promoting the erasure of women as policy – if you’re bothered about keeping and attracting voters, that is.
  • Are Green Party Women happy with the term ‘non white’, too, to describe people of all black and minority ethnic heritages?
    No? Good. Nor should you be happy with ‘non men’.
  • I know lots of men who classify themselves as feminists, I know transgender individuals who have fought for the right to be called women, I’ve never ever heard anyone campaign to be a ‘non-man’.
  • What about women? Male as default marginalises women everywhere.
    When do women get to exist in our own right, as opposed to as in the shadow of men?
    So profoundly disappointed by a party that has done this to women while pretending to care about marginalisation.
  • As a Green Party Not-Man, I’m not sure I like “not-man”. Can we go with something more all encompassing please, I’d like to put forward “other” or better still “alien”
  • Non-men? Is this April Fools Day? My cat is therefore a non-dog. My sofa is a non-table. My TV is a non-radio… and YOU are non-sensible. Furthermore you’ll be making a laughing stock of the entire Party and all it represents by persisting with this bloody stupid idea. Regards, a woman.

Me, I identify as a non-cheetah. Might as well go with an elegant sprinter to not be.



Out in the bitter cold

Apr 16th, 2016 10:30 am | By

Green Party Women did a public post on April 4:

Green Party Women, as a whole, are happy with terms such as ‘non-men’ to be used to describe women, including transgender women, and non-binary people as a collective term. This is to avoid further marginalising certain groups of women, particularly those who have been excluded from women’s movements for far too long.

That’s incoherent. Women are women. People who aren’t women aren’t women. It’s incoherent (or so self-evident as to be meaningless) to say people who aren’t women are being excluded from women’s movements. Non-binary people say they are neither women nor men. It’s not women (or men) who exclude them, they exclude themselves.

Be that as it may – three hours ago Green Party Women (i.e. someone speaking for them) left a follow-up comment, probably in response to Caroline’s tweets yesterday and the Indy article:

This morning I have been out in the bitter cold supporting a pro choice demo blockading a catholic church that planned a picket of a local clinic. I was there as a greenpartywomen and with women and men. The demo was organised and led by (people who presented as) women. Possibly there were people who are trans or gender fluid or identified differently in some other way there, they were invisible (to me). We were on the side of the less powerful against the more powerful and we were successful there. I support “avoiding further marginalising certain groups of women, particularly those who have been excluded from women’s movements for far too long.”

There are many many many furious comments. So many. A sample:

  • You can support who and what you like. Just do it under your own name, not under the name of “green party women”. I am a green party woman (not a non-man) and you do NOT speak for me.
  • By defining women as anything other than ‘women’ you are contributing to the oppression and marginalisation of women. You are removing power from women and handing it over gladly to whoever finds it useful to deny us our voice.
  • Can you please advise why a women’s group (that’s your name) should feel obliged to include people who are not women. Thanks.
  • Everyone agrees with avoiding marginalising women. What we disagree with is that that can be in any way achieved by calling women “non-men”.
  • I am sorry you were out in the cold this morning, but you had better get used to it, as calling women ‘non men’, is going to result in the Green Party staying there for good.
  • There’s trying to be understanding and aware, and avoiding offensive terminology, and there’s being a numpty.
    This kind of thing could make the Greens a laughing stock. Makes me wonder if you’re an agent provocateur.
    Yrs, a ‘non-cat, dog, or indeed budgerigar’
  • I don’t give a toss what you were doing this morning. I do, as a GP member care that you are misrepresenting our views to the general public. You are doing something dangerous. You will lose us votes. You are losing us members. And you are doing this with no mandate. So wind your neck in, issue an apology. Explain this is your own personal gibberish and quit trying to destroy the reputation of the party.
  • Many of us have worked hard for years to help turn the Party into an electable organization. This vapid, ill-conceived crap is dragging us backwards. Please, I implore you. Take this post down and issue an explanation that you do NOT speak for Green Women and absolutely no – ‘most’ women do not think they are ‘non men’.
  • You shouldn’t be happy. Women are not “non-men” and it makes no sense to describe us as such. Is this Green Party Non-Men? Women are not “non-men” and it’s hugely damaging to define us by what we are not. This sort of nonsense is precisely why male is the default, and you are absolutely making it worse.
  • Why would anyone who does not believe themselves to be a woman think they ought to be included in the women’s movement, anyway? The clue is in the name. It’s a movement for the liberation of women. If you’re not a woman, why would you think it appropriate to demand that that movement include you and centre your interests?
  • Not to state the bleedin’ obvious, but what business does anyone describing themselves as non-binary, or even the ridiculous “non-man”, have in a Women’s party?! It makes as much sense as complaining that a vegetarian society isn’t inclusive of meat eaters.
  • This is genuinely the stupidest thing I’ve seen in a while from a ‘progressive’ group. If you want to be inclusive of gender identity there is a handy word called ‘people’ that would suffice. Otherwise, ‘woman’ is a perfectly good word for anyone who identifies as one. Whoever has done this should apologise to all the women you just offended by defining their existence in relation to men.
  • I would be quite interested to meet the 2 or even 3 green party women who are happy to be defined as “not default human”. This is a ridiculous state of affairs, it makes the greens sound regressive and frankly ridiculous. I am not “non-male” I am a woman, and, despite a lifetime of assumptions being made about me because of my biology, I am proud to be one. Greens obviously don’t want women like me as part of their voter base. I shall, as a well socialised woman, obey.
  • So votes for women SHOULD have said votes for non-men? I can’t WAIT to read the race policy …..anyone on here non-white?#Iamawomannotanonman
  • I’m a green party member and I am not at all happy about this. By calling us non-men you are marginalising all women. I’ll be cancelling my membership and you have also lost my vote.

That will do for now, but I may post more later. They’re valuable comments – angry but reasoned.



One is not born but rather becomes a non man

Apr 16th, 2016 9:58 am | By

The Greens again. “Non-men” again. The Independent:

Feminists including leading activist Caroline Criado-Perez have attacked an invitation to “non-men” by the young women’s arm of the Green Party.

“Women/non-men who are Young Greens can find and join our Facebook group ‘Young Greens Women’”, they tweeted on 26March.

But on Friday Ms Criado-Perez, who led the campaign to keep a woman on English banknotes and co-founded feminist media website The Women’s Room, called the tweet “the most anti-woman anti-feminist ignorant bullshit I have seen in some time”.

“Women are not “non-men”, she tweeted, urging the Greens to “sort your shit out”. “You do not include people by establishing men as default human,” she added.

Ms Criado-Perez later took to rephrasing well-known feminist texts.

Rewriting Simone de Beauvoir’s famous sentence, she tweeted “one is not born but rather becomes a non man”.

“For most of history, anonymous was a non man”, she added, recasting Virginia Woolf.

Under the hashtag  #greenpartyfeminism, other Twitter users joined in, substituting “non-man” for “woman”, “girl” and “mother” in famous song lyrics.

There’s a lot of good mockery and rage on that hashtag.

Scarlett Brown, PhD gender reseacher at King’s College London, told The Independent: “You can interpret the tweet in two ways. Firstly, that they are emphasising, without even realising it, that we live in a society that defines by not being a man. That’s been a big feminist critique for a long time.”

“It depends on what you determine the slash [between women and non-men] to mean. If you think women and non-men are the same thing, that’s not on. That’s what most of the criticism is about.

“But if you read it as ‘the people we want in our group are women and non-men’, then what they’ve done is include a non-binary category. If that’s the case, that’s an important thing and I fully support that. It’s just they’ve done it clunkily and haphazardly.”

Wait. Why? Why is it an important thing, why does she fully support that? Why are women – and women only – expected to “include” people who say they’re not women? Why are women, and women only, expected to keep redefining themselves every five minutes? Why are women, and women only, under constant relentless pressure to stop organizing as women?

Scarlett Brown doesn’t say.



Top of the heap

Apr 15th, 2016 5:57 pm | By

Jessica Valenti is the woman who gets the most blocked comments at the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

When the Guardian examined the 1.4 million comments that have been blocked by moderators since 1999, they found that eight of the 10 writers receiving the most blocked comments were women, and topping the list was … well, me. Sure, there’s a small part of me that’s proud – I’m No 1! – but the bigger truth is that I’m mostly just exhausted.

I’m tired of laughing it off and rolling my eyes. Because while misspelled threats or entreaties for me to get back in the kitchen are certainly easy to mock, the disdain with which they’re employed is not very funny.

For all the progress women have made, there’s always an online comment section or forum somewhere to remind us that, when given anonymity and a keyboard, some men will use the opportunity to harass and threaten.

“Some” meaning “a lot of.” That’s the part that’s not very funny.

[I]t’s not a coincidence that the articles of mine that attract the most abuse on social media are those about rape, harassment, political representation or everyday examples of sexism. Anything that suggests there’s still work to do for true gender equality sends some men into a rage – a response that mostly serves to prove my point.

If the mere act of writing about women’s issues sets off a stream of harassment and threats, surely we are nowhere near where we need to be.

No, we’re not. It always surprises me, but we’re not.

She points out that other people get interesting conversations on their threads. She would like that too, but it doesn’t happen.

I’m tired of having to explain, over and over again, why the tone of the comments under my pieces is indeed sexist. It’s not just a matter of critique – all writers get that – it’s the way that criticism manifests. Are my male colleagues called cutesy nicknames? Do they have their appearance commented upon?

I’m tired of seeing people call it “criticism” when it’s actually sexist harassment and abuse.

What may be the most difficult – for anyone who faces these kinds of harassment or threats – is that it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Harassers largely go unchecked by social media companies and media platforms; law enforcement agencies still haven’t sorted how to deal with online abusers; and perpetrators are still celebrated as “free speech” warriors.

Oh well, soon climate change will mean we won’t have to worry about that kind of thing.



Sheikha al-Jassem’s turn

Apr 15th, 2016 2:56 pm | By

In case the absurdity of Germany’s charging a comedian with insulting Erdogan isn’t enough for one day, we can turn our attention to Kuwait:

A prominent female academic and human rights activist in Kuwait has been charged with blasphemy.

Sheikha al-Jassem was summoned to the public prosecutor’s office after legal complaints were filed against her over a recent interview she gave on TV.

She asserted that the constitution of Kuwait should be above the Quran and Islamic law in governing the country.

So, you can’t win, can you – not if you think a government should be secular when you live in a theocracy. You can’t say that in a theocracy, because the theocracy defines it as “blasphemy,” and you don’t get to define it another way, because you live in a theocracy. It couldn’t be any more tightly circular. It’s exactly parallel to, in fact it’s really the same thing as, a dictator making it a crime to criticize or make fun of or tease the dictator. This is dictator-god doing the same thing, despite the fact that dictator-god doesn’t exist. Dictator-god doesn’t need to exist for this to work: the clerics and the theocratic legislators and judges will stand in for dictator-god, and act as if dictator-god did exist and did get in a tantrum when humans tried to escape his dictatorial rule. The result is the same: you cannot escape. No one can escape. You’re in a closed system and escape is forbidden.

During the interview, Ms Jassem was asked about radical Islamists who said that religion was more important than the Kuwaiti constitution.

She responded by saying that this was dangerous and that, in her opinion, politics and religion should be kept apart.

Who did the interview? IS? That looks like a trap.

Ms Jassem made reference to the violence across the Middle East and divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. She said that if you just went back to holy books and relied on them, society could not move forward.

Her remarks provoked a storm of attacks against her, spearheaded by Islamist members of Kuwait’s parliament.

“They were terrifying me – everywhere, not just from Kuwait, even from Saudi Arabia,” she told the BBC. “They were talking against me, they were saying bad things, they were ridiculing me. But I’m used to it now.”

Calls were made for Ms Jassem’s dismissal from Kuwait University, where she is a professor of philosophy, and a legal complaint was issued against her.

If you were thinking of going to Kuwait for a holiday, I suggest you reconsider.

The public prosecutor told her that the complainant said he had been psychologically damaged by her remarks.

But Allah is all-powerful. Why be psychologically damaged by such things when Allah is all-powerful? Why not just trust that Allah will see to it that everything is really all right, whatever the appearances may be?



If

Apr 15th, 2016 11:35 am | By

An item that Vanina shared with me on Facebook, via comments on a Sarah Palin article. It has so many layers of meaning…



Erdoğan is a soppy fool with a fase like a pig’s bum

Apr 15th, 2016 11:10 am | By

Apparently Erdoğan gets to tell Merkel to prosecute German citizens for making jokes about Erdoğan. Philip Oltermann in the Guardian:

Angela Merkel has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from Ankara to prosecute a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The German chancellor insisted her government’s decision did not amount to a verdict on whether Jan Böhmermann was guilty or not, but should be understood as a reaffirmation of the judiciary’s independence.

Oh please. The issue is whether such a thing should be prosecuted in the first place, not whether the comedian is “guilty” or not.

“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday.

What personal rights is she talking about? Is she saying Erdoğan has a personal right not to be joked about in Germany? What other rights could be at issue here?

Merkel was left with the final decision on whether Germany’s state prosecutor should start proceedings against Böhmermann after Erdoğan requested the comedian be prosecuted.

Under an obscure section of Germany’s criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government.

Golly. So German law allows for prosecution of insults against organs or representatives of foreign states. Why?

Merkel and other ministers confirmed reports that there had been disagreements on how to handle the Böhmermann affair between ministers within her coalition government.

The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Social Democrat[ic] ministers, including himself and the justice minister Heiko Maas, had been overruled by Merkel in allowing the prosecution to proceed. “It is our view that the prosecution should not have been authorised,” Steinmeier said. “Freedom of the press, freedom of expression and artistic freedom are the highest goods requiring protection in our constitution.”

There are also issues of freedom of information, freedom of inquiry, freedom to hear and see and read. It’s not just that the comedian should be free to “insult” foreign heads of state, it’s also that German citizens should be free to listen to comedians who do that kind of thing. The German people have an interest in this as well as the German performing and writing class.

“I consider this to be the wrong decision,” said Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction. “Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”

(Side bar: There we go, they got it right that time – Social Democratic party, not Social Democrat party.)

Quite so. One wonders why they have a lèse-majesté law on the books at all.

The little-used paragraph of the German legal code that had allowed the Turkish president to request the prosecution is likely to be scrapped in the aftermath of the affair. Merkel said on Friday that she considered the law unnecessary, and that legal steps would be taken towards deleting it from the penal code within the next two years.

Under section 103 of the criminal code, insults against organs or representatives of foreign states are punishable with up to three years in prison, or three months to five years if a court judges the insult to be slanderous.

Several opposition parties, including the Greens and Alternative für Deutschland, had called for the law to be scrapped in the wake of the scandal.

Well good, but in the meantime – how ridiculous to prosecute Böhmermann.

The poem was read in a short clip on a late-night programme screened on the German state broadcaster ZDF at the end of last month. Böhmermann sat in front of a Turkish flag beneath a small, framed portrait of Erdoğan, reading out a poem that accused the Turkish president of, among other things, “repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians”.

The scene was broadcast shortly after it emerged that Turkey had demanded the deletion of a satirical song from a German comedy show, extra3, and Böhmermann’s poem was deliberately framed as a test of the boundaries of satire.

Throughout his reading, the comedian is advised by another comedian impersonating a media lawyer, who tells him this poem is precisely the sort of thing that does not qualify as satire and is therefore illegal.

Definitely. Heads of state should always be immune from criticism and satire. Hail Caesar.



We will have past projects in a few months

Apr 15th, 2016 10:07 am | By
We will have past projects in a few months

I was going to visit the Secular Policy “Institute” just the once, but of course I was underestimating the scope of their absurdity when I thought that. I find I can’t not point out their projects.

One of the categories on their website, between About Us and Coalition, is Projects. Within that category you get Active, Past, and Proposed, along with Submit a.

So we look at Active Projects.

screenshot

Active Projects

Our project program is brand new. We will have active projects soon. Meanwhile, look at our proposed projects!

The end. That’s all there is on the page.

Next we look at Past Projects. (Hey it’s the next item on the drop-down menu. We can’t just jump ahead to proposed projects – that would be cheating.)

screenshot

Past Projects

Our project program is brand new. We will have past projects in a few months. Meanwhile, look at our proposed projects!

Isn’t that impressive? Isn’t it thorough? They not only plan to have projects soon, they also plan to have past projects in a few months!

Of course there is the inconvenient fact that Johnny Monserrat said on the Internships page that they already have projects, and awesome projects at that.

screenshot

The Secular Policy Institute is the organization with the philosophy, momentum, and executive power to make a genuine difference. We are more successful than other secular groups because:

  • We don’t bash religion. Unlike many secular groups, we don’t get shut out of government and media. We can partner with anyone.
  • We are true professionals. Unlike many secular groups, we don’t want to settle for amateur anything. We emulate best practices of major organizations like the AARP, NRA, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, and American Cancer Society.
  • We are focused. Unlike many secular groups, we aren’t vague about our plans. We take on giant, world-changing projects that inspire donors and volunteers, such as promoting an Indian rationalist’s guide to Hindu scripture and raising money for the world’s first atheist orphanage in Uganda.

He said they’re better than other secular groups because they take on giant, world-changing projects, and yet when you go to see what projects they’ve taken on, they tell you they haven’t taken on any yet, but they will, they will, they really will.

It’s almost as if they don’t tell the truth about themselves. I’m sure they would tell us it’s just advertising and self-promotion, where the rules about truth are different…but that’s just what I’m objecting to. A secular campaign group shouldn’t be about advertising and self-promotion.

So in due order we get to the Proposed Projects page.

And what do we find? A long list of other people’s projects. The idea seems to be to help those other people with those projects. That’s fine, it could be great, but it’s not the same as having projects themselves.

Also…I can’t help wondering whether, if people do donate to these other projects via the Secular Policy “Institute,” there will be a percentage shaved off for the Secular Policy “Institute” to keep. If that is the case, it would be better for everyone to donate directly to the other projects, so that they get all the money. In other words is the SPI just inserting itself into the process in order to get a cut? The way grafters always have? I don’t know, but I wonder.

 



When in doubt, throw the slut in jail

Apr 14th, 2016 4:48 pm | By

Hard to read without grinding one’s teeth in rage: women in San Salvador spent years in prison for having miscarriages.

The case of Guadalupe Vásquez, who was imprisoned for more than seven years after losing the baby she conceived when she was raped at the age of 17, is to be examined by a panel of experts in the first People’s Tribunal to focus on El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion law.

Vásquez, who was sentenced to 30 years for murder in 2008, was pardoned and freed last year after the supreme court ruled her conviction was unsafe. Her case is one of three that will come under renewed scrutiny this weekend following a dogged campaign by reproductive rights campaigners and relatives of women unfairly convicted under anti-abortion legislation.

Raped. At age 17. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

I can never get used to how much women are hated.

The campaigners aim to maintain the women’s plight in the public’s consciousness and put pressure on the authorities to decriminalise abortion, ending the imprisonments that have blighted the lives of Vásquez and many other Salvadoran mothers.

“I lost my youth in prison for a crime I didn’t commit,” says Vásquez, a devout Catholic who had been looking forward to motherhood, despite her ordeal at the hands of an older man who threatened to hurt her if she reported the crime.

“I wanted my baby, I don’t know why she died or what happened to her; her body was never returned to my family.”

El Salvador banned abortion in all circumstances in 1998. It is one of six states (including the Holy See) where there are no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her health or life is at risk, or if the foetus is seriously deformed. Convictions related to abortion are shockingly commonplace in the country.

According to research by the Salvadoran Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, more than 250 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2014, of whom 147 were prosecuted and 49 convicted – 26 for murder and 23 for abortion. The vast majority were like Vásquez: young, poor single women who lost their baby after an obstetric complication.

The population of El Salvador was 6.34 million in 2013.

I can’t bear to quote any more, it’s too infuriating. Read on.



“But, if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?”

Apr 14th, 2016 12:37 pm | By

An editorial in the Dhaka Tribune:

Asked about the murder of Jagannath University Masters student Nazimuddin Samad, the home minister told BBC Bangla: “We need to see whether he used to write objectionable things on blogs.”

No, no, no.

It is almost impossible to quantify how wrong-headed and self-defeating this approach is.

The point is not what Nazim may or may not have written. The point is that he has been slaughtered in public in cold blood.

It’s stomach-turning that a high government official apparently thinks writing “objectionable things” on blogs is a valid reason to murder the writer.

The minister’s unwise and ill-judged comment, by implying the victim may in some way have been responsible for his fate, only gives comfort to the perpetrators and raise doubts about how serious the government is in trying to catch those behind the series of targeted killings that has blighted the face of the nation.

For the minister to further claim that law enforcers have solved all the previous murders and say “the masterminds have been arrested or identified” — in stark contradiction to the facts — reduces his credibility to zero.

The “or identified” is interesting, since it could mean the law enforcers know who they are and have no intention of doing anything about it.

His remarks are worse than complacent.

Not only do they divert attention from the over-riding need to catch and punish the killers, they also feed into the mind-set that such a crime can be justified and that people need to watch what they say or write or suffer the consequences.

It bears repetition: It does not matter what anyone says or writes. It is never acceptable to kill someone for his or her words.

The home minister would do well to understand and internalise this basic truth, and act accordingly.

His regrettable statements suggest that this elementary premise of both human rights and of law enforcement is beyond him, calling into question his fitness for the office he holds.

Exactly so, hence my finding his comment stomach-turning. Its reminiscent of law enforcement in Mississippi in 1964, when sheriffs knew perfectly well who had killed the civil rights workers, and looked on in approval.

And today Sheikh Hasina said people who dispute religion deserve what they get, thus putting an even bigger target on their backs:

Hasina said it is not at all acceptable to write something hurting religious sentiments of others. ‘We perform our religious rituals. But, if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?’

She said nowadays it has become a fashion to write something against religion as part of free thinking. ‘But, I consider such writings as not free thinking but filthy words. Why anyone would write such things? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions. This is a characteristic fault, expression of distorted or filthy mindset. I hope no one would write such filthy things.’

Mentioning that as being a Muslim she follows the religious rituals and it hurts her seeing such filthy words against any religion, the Prime Minister questioned why the government would take responsibility in case of any untoward incident for such writings. ‘Everyone should maintain decency. Otherwise in case of any uncivilised attitude, the government wouldn’t take the responsibility.’

That is absolutely appalling.

About the killing out of vengeance for such writings, she said Islam does not permit it and Almighty Allah does not bestow the duty of trial on them.

‘But, if anyone doesn’t abide by the guidance of Almighty Allah and his prophet and thus kill people, it is ‘Shirk’. I hope no one would indulge in such act,’ she added.

But it’s not the government’s problem if they do. That’s basically a green light to go out and kill all the atheists and secularists.

H/t Nick Little and Michael De Dora



As an example of deep cultural misogyny and persistent patriarchy

Apr 14th, 2016 12:11 pm | By

Soraya Chemaly wrote a public Facebook post linking to a news story from Seattle about a woman murdered and cut into pieces and left in a recycling bin. Some of you don’t do Facebook and I wouldn’t want you to miss what Soraya said.

I don’t have time to write about this at the moment, but this awful story is the perfect example of how complicit media are in refusing to face misogyny in our own culture. If this crime had happened in India it would be plastered all over front [pages] as an example of deep cultural misogyny and persistent patriarchy. In the case of the brutal Delhi rape several years ago an analysis of the NYT and the Times of India showed that the dominant theme in the NYT was to reference patriarchy and women’s oppression within India, ie, “The brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi this month has cast a cold light on how badly India treats its women.” This was happening almost simultaneously with the Steubenville rape news coming to light. In that case, the first two dozen articles focused on the dangers of social media and mainly made no, or minimal mention a culture of violence, or traditions, etc. Steubenville was covered in “Sports,” with related discussions, and the Delhi rape in “Asian and Pacific News” as a matter of national difference, etc. Even when the conversation about football culture, status and rape began, it was often tied to local problems with the economy, etc. Women of color as survivors or targets of sexual violence, noted researchers, get minimal coverage when they live in the US, but maximal coverage when they are depicted in terms of the inferiority of men in other countries. In this case, like so other gender-based hate crimes, this one will probably be blamed on technology (social media! online dating dangers, etc.) or this man’s mental instability.

The link between a macho culture around the more violent sports and violence against women right here in the US doesn’t get nearly enough coverage.



You’ll have magical experiences and stories to tell for a lifetime

Apr 14th, 2016 11:32 am | By

Let’s have a bit of comic relief – let’s drop in on the “Secular Policy Institute” again. I’d forgotten about them…I think I’d vaguely assumed they’d gone to ground after that embarrassing thing where they announced a fancy expensive conference in DC that then apparently never took place. But no, they’re still there and still engaged in empty boasting. Look at the page where they attempt to recruit interns.

internships2

Say what? Any organization in the world? Just like that? How would that work exactly? How would interning for a self-styled “institute” that doesn’t actually do anything other than brag about itself provide “the insider shortcut” to your dream job? At [your pick of] any organization in the world?

Well Johnny Monsarrat explains that for you – yes, the Johnny Monsarrat who promoted the Secular Policy “Institute” by emailing people about it and then shouting abusively at them when they didn’t respond with awed enthusiasm.

I’m Johnny Monsarrat, and I was once an intern for Edwina Rogers. Now I’m her Alliance Director at the Secular Policy Institute and run the volunteer and intern programs too.

Just my interview with Edwina two years ago changed my life. I had just flown into Washington DC. Edwina met me at her office but was on her way out to a meeting. Could I come along? Then we could talk after.

Sure, okay, I said. We arrived at an office building, and in the elevator up, she said, “Just watch Grover and how he conducts the meeting. You’ll learn something.”

Grover, I thought… Grover Norquist? The American tax reform heavyweight? This wasn’t just any meeting. Edwina had nonchalantly brought me to the super exclusive weekly insider coordinating meeting of Washington DC’s top Republicans. I felt like James Bond infiltrating a secret society. Amongst 40 of the most famous political operators in town, I was the only liberal, the only guy with long hair, and the only guy wearing blue jeans. And there were donuts.

Working with the Secular Policy Institute is like being bolted into a roller coaster that is duct taped to a Moon rocket, heading for Fame, Glory, and Power. You will have the experience of your life working with us.

Fame, Glory, and Power? Capital letter Fame, Glory, and Power?

How? Where? By what mechanism?

There’s this whole middle thing missing in their work, always. It’s the row of question marks in that meme, the one that ends with “Profit!”

  1. Secular Policy Institute
  2. ???????
  3. Fame, Glory, and Power!!!

They really need to work on that second item.

The Secular Policy Institute is the organization with the philosophy, momentum, and executive power to make a genuine difference. We are more successful than other secular groups because:

Waaaaait wait wait wait – before you tell us why, tell us in what way you are more successful than other secular groups. Or in fact if that’s too high a bar, just tell us in what way you are successful at all.

So, the because:

  • We are true professionals. Unlike many secular groups, we don’t want to settle for amateur anything. We emulate best practices of major organizations like the AARP, NRA, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, and American Cancer Society.

No, I don’t believe that at all. I think you’re quite amazingly amateurish. All this empty boasting looks extremely amateurish to me. Admittedly, I’m not a professional institute-haver myself, but as an outsider, I look at your boasting and the word “professional” is not what springs to mind.

  • We are focused. Unlike many secular groups, we aren’t vague about our plans. We take on giant, world-changing projects that inspire donors and volunteers, such as promoting an Indian rationalist’s guide to Hindu scripture and raising money for the world’s first atheist orphanage in Uganda.

No, I don’t believe that either. What happened about that conference, if you’re so focused? I could never find a word about it after the date when it was supposed to take place. You promoted it when you had only two speakers lined up, and then you went quiet about it. That’s not focus. And those two projects sound fine but other secular groups do that kind of thing too, and when they talk about it, they talk about the projects themselves, they don’t brag about the projects simply as advertisements for the groups.

Ah still doing that, are you. No, you’re not, and it’s not a thing you should be saying anyway. It’s hierarchical and revolting. Also, if you’re going to be talking about your Fellows, you should be talking about the many Fellows who left your “Institute” last year. Updating to add: including Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Lawrence Krauss. The ones you are still claiming as part of your world’s biggest think tank. The group of big names (also including Rebecca Goldstein and Daniel Dennett) left last June. It’s now April. I have to say it: I don’t think this is carelessness, I think you’re lying. I think you’re knowingly telling the blatant lie that people who left your “institute” ten months ago are still part of it.

  • We organize everyone. We are the world’s biggest secular coalition. Like the Bill Gates Foundation, we talent scout the best projects from our coalition groups and maximize their impact with management coaching, funding, promotion, access to our Fellows, and our contacts in media and government worldwide.

No, you don’t. You know how I know? You don’t organize me! Black swan! Of course you don’t “organize everyone” – what a ludicrous claim. That’s more of that amateurishness: making grotesquely inflated claims that are obviously false.

Then there’s a lot more nonsense about what you get by working for them for nothing – including this jaw-dropper:

  • Keys to the World. Success should be about who you are, not who you know. But it doesn’t hurt to have the hair-raisingly large network of Secular Policy Institute connections on your side. If you give us your time, we will put you in front of any VIP decision-maker in the world for your next job. You will have more than our recommendation. You will have a game-changing, almost unfair advantage over every other applicant. We will make you a star because we believe strongly in meritocracy and investing in people. But we also know the power of having friends in high places — and we want you to go high and be one of those friends!

Can you believe it? They claim they will “put you in front of any VIP decision-maker in the world for your next job”!! Really?!! Heads of state, CEOs, diplomats, the pope, the top people at universities, NGOs, the UN, hospitals, research labs? What complete barefaced nonsense! And then the scummy creepy power-worship and fame-crawling and high places-ogling.

  • Steer the Secular Movement. The Secular Policy Institute is unlocking the potential of dozens of interest groups that just need a boost, some direction, some funding, or some management training. Together we are building a heavy impact. Your voice will be heard by the most important leaders of our cause. You will set the agenda. You become the kingmaker. Help us decide which groups deserve our full attention and resources. Help us shape the shared set of goals that our coalition is based on.

Right. As an intern. As an intern, your voice will be heard by the most important leaders of our cause. You will set the agenda. You become the kingmaker.

*snort*

  • Adventure. Go backstage at one of our world class events and meet the celebrities. Join us meeting politicians and presenting your plan for legal reform. It’s the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t discount the serendipity of working long hard hours with idealistic yet practical people. You’ll have magical experiences and stories to tell for a lifetime.

Oh for fuck’s sake. They’re not celebrities. They’re academics and intellectuals, who are never celebrities. Some of them have some celebrity among secularist intellectuals, but that’s all you can say. And you don’t need to spend months working for a pretend-institute just to meet them; it’s not that difficult. And there is no “backstage.” It’s not Hollywood and it’s not Broadway; there is no backstage.

As part of our intern program, you don’t start at the basement. You immediately become one of our executives. You sit next to Edwina and send out emails in her name…

Ooooooooooooh now there’s a treat! Do we get to wrap her presents in dollar bills?

Lordy. What a shower.

*Updating to add: And that’s not even true: the three named are not among the Fellows any more, nor are they among the Advocates or on the Advisory Board.



There are several ways to die, but this will be the worst way

Apr 14th, 2016 10:11 am | By

Vice has a new documentary about the war on women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Huffington Post has details:

In a new documentary for Vice, filmmaker correspondent Isobel Yeung shines a light on the ongoing human rights abuses Afghan women endure on a daily basis, despite domestic and foreign promises to improve their quality of life. 

In a hidden shelter discreetly operating to support women fleeing violence, Yeung spoke to a pair of 17- and 18-year-old women who are sisters-in-law and had escaped an abusive family.

“[My husband] would beat me as if he wanted to break my arms and knees,” explained the younger girl, who said she had attempted suicide by poison at least twice since getting married at age 12.

Since being married off, that is. She didn’t “get married” – that’s something adults do of their own free will. She was twelve. Twelve.

She said they ran away to the shelter together after her father-in-law brutally beat them both when she denied him sex.

“They are looking for us everywhere,” the teens told Yeung. “And once they get us out of here, they won’t let us live. There are several ways to die, but this will be the worst way.”

The two young women were discovered by their family six weeks later, Vice reports.

The article doesn’t say whether they’ve been killed yet or not.

While the country initially made headway — a new constitution approved in 2004 enshrined basic rights for women, including access to education, and the government adopted the Elimination of Violence Against Women law, or EVAW, in 2009 — the demand for gender equality still faces opposition.

Parliament, for example, refused to ratify EVAW, and its implementation has remained “slow and uneven,” according to the United Nations.

Without the effective enforcement of laws like EVAW, women remain vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. Married Afghan women can actually be jailed and punished for being raped by men, which is considered a “moral crime” akin to adultery.

Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, a prominent Afghan legislator, strongly opposed EVAW in Parliament, claiming it contradicts Islamic values. “The EVAW law will destroy Afghan families and our way of life,” he told Yeung in an interview.

That interview is part of the documentary, and I saw that part last night. It’s so disgusting it’s hard to watch. He radiates contempt for Yeung throughout, and at the end he just tells her, rudely, “Stop talking now” – and then goes on to sneer a threat at her.

When Yeung asked him about rape, he said there are two different kinds: “There is a kind of rape you have and another kind we have in Islam.”

He then proceeded to interrupt Yeung, abruptly ending the interview with one final thought: “Maybe I should give you to an Afghan man to take your nose off.”

He smirks when he says it, as if it’s a funny joke.

But before that, there’s an infuriating bit where she asks him why the law against violence against women is bad for the family, and he has a tantrum, shouting that there is no evidence, there are no bruises. And before that part he rudely ignores one of her questions and tells her to ask another. His loathing of women is horribly obvious. He sits in front of a lot of handsome leatherbound books, presumably all saying that Islam is absolute and true and no one must ever dispute a word of it.

VICE/HBO

VICE correspondent Isobel Yeung interviews Afghan parliament member Nazir Ahmad Hanafi.



She is a mystic emissary from Planet Gender

Apr 13th, 2016 5:05 pm | By

Speaking of the agonies of female puberty – Glosswitch has an astonishing post on the subject titled The right way for women to disappear.

I am not at home in the body I have. I’ve never got over the desire to tell people, the first time I meet them, that this isn’t the real me. The real me is thin, breastless, narrow-hipped. This version of me is a poor compromise, a pathetic accommodation. I look like a woman but actually I identify as a human being.

I relate to that. I don’t experience it as sharply as Glossy does, but it fits nevertheless.

Womanhood, I had decided, was not for me. I sought to roll back puberty and remain stuck in time. The medical profession said no, you must go forward. And so I did, but it hurt because the world I went into remained one in which femaleness and personhood are not always permitted to co-exist.

And I relate to that. Puberty was just…not good. Alienating. Weird-feeling. And that’s despite having gone to a tiny all-girls’ school, so no taunting or leering from boys during the school day, which must make it so much worse.

This is one of the reasons why I am a feminist. I do not identify as a woman but it remains the social class into which, by virtue of having a female body, I have been shoved. I do not think I am the problem. I do not think my body is the problem. Still, as this body still confines me – as it is me – it remains a site of personal struggle.

It hadn’t been that for me until this business of “cis privilege” appeared over the horizon. Once that was on the table, the struggle was re-engaged.

For a long time I have felt a parallel can be made between eating disorders and gender confirmation surgery as forms of self-harming body modification. It’s not a comparison I make lightly, just for the hell of it. Indeed, every time I’ve made it, I’ve had to put up with the ritual public Shaming of the TERF, alongside the trivialisation of a condition which led to several long-term hospitalisations against the “realness” of true gender dysphoria. It’s been suggested to me that anorexia is an attempt to “express your feels” as opposed to the real suffering of “having a skin that metaphorically itches all the time” (as if anyone who’s ever had anorexia would not understand that!). A piece I wrote about theinappropriateness of positioning female body hatred within the context of “cis-ness” got me to Level 2 on the Blockbot. According to the official narrative, anorexia is at best mental illness, at worst vanity; transness, on the other hand, is politically radical, unquestionably authentic and quite incomprehensible to “the cis”.

The “politically radical” is the most absurd part. It’s the very opposite of politically radical – it’s reactionary. Just ask the mullahs in Iran.

A woman who starves puberty into remission is sick, so sick you can section her, decree her officially incapable of knowing what her own body needs.  One who drugs puberty into remission is not sick; she is, on the contrary, a mystic emissary from Planet Gender.

Why? How did that happen? Who put what in the water supply?

Writing in the New Republic, Phoebe Maltz Bovey contends that “there’s a profound difference between a cisgender woman’s unease with traditional femininity and a trans man’s discomfort with having been assigned the wrong gender.”:

I have no wish to trivialize the body image (and reproduction-related, and sexual-violence-related) concerns that many cis women face. But all things being equal, it’s clear that the latter complaint is a bigger deal than the former.

No, it isn’t. Clear is just what it isn’t. That’s a shockingly glib dismissal of all of feminism (aka “a cisgender woman’s unease with traditional femininity”) just to win a round of the Oppression Olympics.

One person’s being assigned the wrong gender is another person’s being forced to occupy the wrong social construct. If I believed gender was purely a matter of inner identity, I would declare myself not to be a woman in a heartbeat. The fact that I don’t do this reveals nothing about my own personal discomfort. It is because I do not believe “reproduction-related and sexual-violence-related concerns” are mere “added extras” to the sexism cocktail. I see them as fundamental to how gender operates as a class system and on that basis, I couldn’t identify out of womanhood if I tried (because I have tried. I tried so hard it almost killed me).

It won’t work to tell all women to identify out of womanhood, so it would be great if people would stop belittling and waving away feminism.

Women like me are told that the political framing of our own dysphoria makes us dangerous and evil. Women who take a different tack are permitted to exit womanhood only if they leave their politics at the door.

That’s the crux, isn’t it. This isn’t a medical issue or a psychological issue, it’s a political one. It’s political all the way down.



“Run by Zionists”

Apr 13th, 2016 4:06 pm | By

CST (which I had to look hard to discover stands for Community Security Trust) on anti-Semitism and Dilly Hussain.

Antisemitism comes in lots of different guises. It can be blatant, subtle or hidden. It can invent new antisemitic charges, or rely on a reservoir of old antisemitic language and images. Or, sometimes, it just swaps the word “Zionist” for “Jew”, in the naïve hope that doing so will change an antisemitic statement into a political one.

This is what appears to have happened in an online campaign against Tell MAMA, an organisation that works to combat anti-Muslim hatred. CST’s relationship with Tell MAMA is no secret. We advised its Director, Fiyaz Mughal, before and after he set it up and CST’s former Chief Executive, Richard Benson, is now one of its two co-chairs.

As the post points out, an example of Jews and Muslims working together instead of quarreling.

Some people, though, seem to dislike this approach to anti-racism. One of them is Muhammad Dilwar Hussain (better known as Dilly Hussain) of the Islamist blog, 5 Pillars. Hussain is angry because Fiyaz Mughal criticised the use of the racially-loaded phrases “Uncle Tom” and “House Muslim” by another Muslim journalist, Channel 4’s Assed Baig.

As part of his public criticism of Fiyaz Mughal, Hussain has tweeted that Tell MAMA is, in his words, “run by Zionists who support murder of children” and that it supposedly has “militant Zionist patrons and trustees”.

Dilly Hussain tweets a lot of horrible things, as we saw just the other day.

Hussain has written a longer Facebook post in which he attacks Tell MAMA because he believes “their board of trustees and patrons are infested with hardcore Zionists.”

It’s a public post; he writes a lot of public posts.

So the use of “coconut”, “Uncle Tom”, “choc-ice”, and calling those who are in cahoots with the current neocon government as “sell-outs” are deemed “racist”.

Who decides that the above terms are “racist”? Some crappy anonymous right-wing blog, Daily Mail and…Tell Mama?

I wouldn’t exactly call them racist, but they’re certainly likely to be illiberal, and they certainly are here. The issue isn’t race in the first place, it’s theocracy versus liberalism (secularism, equality, human rights). It’s not “selling out” or being an “Uncle Tom” to prefer liberalism to Islamism. It’s far-right and fascist to prefer Islamism to liberalism. Islamism is not part of the left and it’s not an anti-racist movement. Dilly Hussain is using the vocabulary of anti-racism activists to attack liberals. That’s not exactly racist but it is bullshit.

Back to the CST post:

This is not the first time that Tell MAMA has been attacked for working with CST. The Muslim lobbying group MEND did so previously. Their Chief Executive at the time, Sufyan Ismail, also swapped the word “Zionist” for “Jewish”, warning a Muslim audience in Greater Manchester not to work with Tell MAMA because they had a “pro-Zionist pretty much heading it”. Ismail also said that the “Israeli lobby” had lost a vote in Parliament for the first time in 300 years. Again, this only made sense if he meant “Israeli” as a synonym for “Jew”.

No surprise that MEND’s Azad Ali has tweeted a link to this latest attack on Tell MAMA.

This language reflects a more serious problem with antisemitic conspiracy theories in parts of British Muslim life. A new opinion poll by ICM shows that antisemitic attitudes are much more common amongst British Muslims than in the population as a whole.

And Dilly Hussain is doing his bit to help that trend along.



But is it really a “model”?

Apr 13th, 2016 1:51 pm | By

Big news from Loch Ness:

A 30ft (9m) model of the Loch Ness Monster built in 1969 for a Sherlock Holmes movie has been found almost 50 years after it sank in the loch.

The beast was created for the Billy Wilder-directed The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Sir Robert Stephens and Sir Christopher Lee.

It has been seen for the first time in images captured by an underwater robot.

Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine said the shape, measurements and location pointed to the object being the prop.

Ok. But then look at one of the images the underwater robot captured:

Scan of lost Nessie prop

Kongsberg Maritime

How do they know that’s not the monster?

The robot, operated by Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, is being used to investigate what lies in the depths of Loch Ness.

Yes but is it doing so with its mind already made up that anything it finds is not the monster?

Mr Shine added: “We can confidently say that this is the model because of where it was found, the shape – there is the neck and no humps – and from the measurements.”

The model was floated out to a place in the loch where only a few months earlier claims of sighting of Nessie had been made.

Well there you go. What makes them so sure it’s not Nessie taking a very long very motionless nap?