Notes and Comment Blog

What appears to be a coordinated attack

Oct 31st, 2015 11:47 am | By

The IHEU has more details.

In what now appears to be a coordinated attack, at least one person has been killed and three people have been injured, in two attacks on publishing houses in Dhaka, Bangladesh this afternoon.

First, three men, all secular bloggers, one also a publisher and another also a poet, were attacked at Shuddho-Shor, a publishing house for progressive and secular books in the Lalmatia neighborhood of Dhaka. The attackers were armed with machetes and firearms, and it is likely the publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul, who had received direct death threats from Islamists unhappy with output, was the primary target. The six or so attackers appear to have tricked their way in representing themselves as book-buyers.

Second, this was followed by a further attack against Jagriti publishing house in the Shahbag neighborhood. The publisher Faysal Arefin Dipon is reported to have been killed. Jagriti publishes on a broad range of topics, and had published Avijit Roy’s Philosophy of Disbelief, first published by Shuddho-Shor.

Those attacked at Shuddho-Shor were rushed to hospital.  Tareq Rahim, the poet, is the most critically injured from the Shuddho-Shor attack, according to accounts from the hospital. The publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul may also be in critical condition. Ranadipam Basu posted to his Facebook immediately after the  attack, confirming he is alive and breaking the news.

And they have a photo of gut-wrenching relevance –

Ahmed Rashid Tutul (centre) at his publishing house book stall at the Dhaka International Book Fair, 26 February 2015. This is the night Avijit Roy (right) was murdered, and Roy's wife Rafida Ahmed (left) was seriously injured.

Ahmed Rashid Tutul (centre) at his publishing house book stall at the Dhaka International Book Fair, 26 February 2015. This is the night Avijit Roy (right) was murdered, and Roy’s wife Rafida Ahmed (left) was seriously injured.

The IHEU goes on:

Ahmed Rashid Tutul is the courageous publisher of books including the works of murdered author on science and Humanism, Avijit Roy. The publishing house, Shuddho-Shor (শুদ্ধস্বর‌), meaning “Pure Voice”, is popular among progressive, secular writers and readers, and has continued to publish despite receiving numerous direct threats against the lives of those working there.

On the night that Avijit Roy was murdered, Ahmed Rashid Tutul hosted a book publication ceremony with Avijit Roy and a number of others in front of the Shuddo-Shor stall at the annual book fair that takes place in Dhaka, Capital of Bangladesh.

Ahmed has been working on new books to be published at next year’s book fair, including a book on atheism.

As my friend Tasneem Khalil said to me on Twitter – And this WILL go on and on…

Oh no no no no

Oct 31st, 2015 11:17 am | By

The BBC reports terrible news from Bangladesh:

A Bangladeshi publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the capital Dhaka in the second attack of its kind on Saturday, police say.

Faisal Arefin Dipon, 43, was killed at his office in the city centre, hours after another publisher and two secular writers were injured in an attack.

They are the latest victims in a series of deadly attacks on secularists since blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by suspected Islamists in February.

Both publishers published Roy’s work.

I can only swear and swear and swear.

Earlier on Saturday, armed men burst into the offices of publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul.

They stabbed Mr Tutul and two writers who were with him, locked them in an office and fled the scene, police said.

The three men were rushed to hospital, and at least one of them is in a critical condition.

The two writers were named by police as Ranadeep Basu and Tareque Rahim.

It’s a horror.



Would you rather be the author or one of the characters?

Oct 31st, 2015 11:10 am | By

Here’s my column for the Freethinker for this month. It’s another wallop at that idea that religion alone can give people [a sense of] meaning.

The most obvious flaw is that it’s not at all clear how God does a better job of providing “meaning” than anything else does. How is that even supposed to work? How exactly is it more meaningful to be a character in a story someone else creates rather than the protagonist of the story you create? How, that is, is that more meaningful to us, as opposed to the people who administer the story?

It’s easy to see why priests and mullahs find that story rich with meaning: it makes them important characters, who shape and guard and share the story. But that would apply to anyone who came up with a colourful fantasy about super-humans in the sky who have a Plan for human beings. They’re like rival screenwriters and producers, competing for whose story gets to be a film or television series that grabs the imagination of millions.

And we’re the audience. It seems quite a lot more meaningful to be ourselves the authors and producers and show runners, wouldn’t you say?

Boys get blocks, girls get jewelry

Oct 30th, 2015 4:50 pm | By

Happy gendered Halloween, girls and boys. (Did you see what I did there? I put girls first. That’s very rebellious of me. Girls are supposed to come second. It’s boys and girls, not girls and boys. Isn’t that funny?)

The New York Times has such a fun scary story about how gendered everything is in kidworld, and how badly it fucks everything up. All that work we did, undone by marketers. Oh well – I guess we’ll just have to do it all over again! Or you will, because I’ll be dead by then, and your grandchildren will, if the glaciers haven’t all melted yet.

A web search for Halloween costumes of scientists produces only boys wearing lab coats and goggles. A search for nursing costumes turns up girls in skirts with stethoscopes. Cats and cupcakes are also girls, while sharks and astronauts are boys.

The same gender division exists not just in toys — blue toolboxes and trucks for boys, pink play kitchens and dolls for girls — but also in nearly every other children’s product, including baby blankets, diapers and toothbrushes.

These distinctions have long-term effects on children’s notions of gender roles, social scientists say. Costumes, toys and many other environmental cues can influence the subjects children choose to study, the jobs they pursue and the roles they play at home and in society.

But marketers being the enlightened people they are, that won’t mean girls are shunted into nursing while boys go into science…

…oh wait.

“If you drop the gender marketing, rather than narrowing a set of interests based on gender, it widens the possibility for the child to pursue interests that he or she cares about and has a talent for,” saidCarol J. Auster, a sociologist at Franklin and Marshall College who studies gender, work and leisure. “Way down the road, it allows a grown man or woman to pursue an occupation that is well matched with their talents or skills.”

But but but but gender is our favorite thing. If you drop gender marketing, that deprives us of all the joy and excitement of gender. Gender is fabulous!

…toys are more strictly gendered today than they were 50 years ago, when adult gender roles were much more separate, according to research by Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist at the University of California, Davis.

Until the 1960s, girls’ toys focused on homemaking and boys’ on work in the industrial economy, she found. That changed significantly with the rise of the feminist movement of the 1970s. But in the 1990s, gendered toys returned with a vengeance, resulting in the action heroes and princesses available today.

In the Sears catalog ads of 1975, according to Ms. Sweet, just 2 percent of toys were marked as girls’ or boys’; on the Disney Store website in 2012, according to a study in which Ms. Auster was a co-author, all toys were labeled that way.

All of them.

But at least they’re careful to make sure the girls get toys that don’t just train them in passivity, right?

Boys’ toys and costumes tend to be associated with action or destruction: objects that move, characters that save the day and animals that prey. Girls’ toys and costumes are more passive: objects to be looked at, characters that are rescued and animals that are docile or pretty.

In the 2012 study analyzing toys on the Disney Store website, girls’ toys were mostly pastel and related to caretaking or beauty, like dolls and jewelry. Boys’ toys had mostly bold colors and related to action and building, like cars and blocks.


It’s impossible to disentangle all the elements that shape children’s notions of gender roles or to separate nature from nurture, and no major longitudinal studies have been done. But researchers say drawing clear distinctions between genders a significant role in pushing children down particular paths and creating stereotypes.

Lynn Liben of Penn State University and Lacey Hilliard of Tufts University studied preschool students. In some of the classrooms, teachers made no distinctions between boys and girls. In others, teachers differentiated between them, such as asking them to line up separately.

After two weeks, the children in the group where distinctions were made were much more likely to hold stereotypical beliefs about whether men and women should be in traditionally male or female occupations, and spent much less time playing with peers of the opposite sex. Even saying “boys and girls” instead of “children” had the effect.

And everything does say “boys and girls” (in that order); every damn thing, all the time.


Oct 30th, 2015 4:06 pm | By

There’s this:

And there’s this:

Notice anything?

The male figure is standing straight, hands in fists.

The female figure is at an angle, head tilted, one foot partly off the floor, one knee bent, palms outward.

Now this – a photo of women scientists who are spending eight days in an experimental capsule at Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems,

the latest in a lengthy series of tests carried out by institute specialists studying the effects on human physiology and emotions during life among the stars.

Well no, not among the stars. Outside earth’s atmosphere, but still 93 million miles from the nearest star. Anyway, the photo:

What on earth? They’re adult scientists, not teenage cheerleaders. Why are they bending their knees and pointing their toes and tilting their heads and simpering?

They did press conferences at which people asked them how they would survive eight days without makeup.

The wacky world of gender.

Women are bearing the brunt

Oct 30th, 2015 3:11 pm | By

Eaves Charity is closing down as of today.

Eaves has been a member of the End Violence Against Women campaign – an unprecedented coalition of individuals and organisations set up in 2005 who are calling on the government, public bodies and others to take concerted action to end violence against women.

But Eaves has been operational since 1977 and is particularly known for its specialist services for helping and supporting women victims of violence.

These include the Poppy project, the London Exiting Advocacy and the Alice project.

The Poppy project has supported some 2000 women victims of trafficking since its inception and helped 45 women bring their traffickers to justice, obtaining combined sentence of 423 years.

The London Exiting Advocacy (LEA) project for women exiting prostitution was linked to unique primary research with 114 women and a specialist exiting prostitution training programme.

The Alice project has averted homelessness for 294 women this year – women with multiple and complex disadvantages including no recourse to public funds, mental health, benefit “sanctions”, child custody, needing access to foodbanks and transport and basic welfare etc.

Why are they closing? Not enough funds.

Cuts, reductions and closures have of course hit a whole range of non-governmental organisations, however, there is much evidence to suggest that women are bearing the brunt.

Fair Deal for Women found that it is women who have paid off 79 per cent of the deficit to date.

It is more likely to be women in low-paid, insecure, part-time and public sector work, it is more likely to be women with caring responsibilities who may have to top up their incomes or rely exclusively on benefits and it is more likely to be women who need to rely on public, voluntary sector and specialist services.

Yet these are precisely the areas being cut.

I guess they should have thought of that before they decided to be women.

We see girls who are bleeding heavily

Oct 30th, 2015 10:50 am | By

From the Independent: IS is shutting down gynecology clinics in Raqqa, clinics which are more than ever needed because IS is also raping little girls. A one-two punch.

Isis is believed to have ordered the closure of all women’s clinics supervised by male doctors in its Syrian heartlands in its latest assault on the rights of women.

A culture of rape, forced marriages for child brides, the persecution of doctors and the exclusive use of medicines for militants have resulted in a crisis for women’s health under Isis’s brutal regime.

According to activists, Isis has drastically restricted the work of male gynaecologists in accordance with its leaders’ belief that men and women should be kept apart at all costs.

That women and men should be kept apart at all costs and that men should get all the good things while women make do with the crumbs, if there are any.

Earlier this year, doctors in Isis’s Libyan territories reported a dramatic increase in cases of miscarriages and STDs among young women, as girls are forced into unions with fighters.

One gynaecologist told The Times in May that girls taken in to clinics were often so young they had no real sense of what was happening to them. “We see girls who are bleeding heavily from their genital area. Some of them don’t know what sex is — they come into the clinic playing with their dolls.”

That’s why IS likes them – tiny holes, you see. Tiny holes that bleed heavily after rape.

God hates little girls.

By thinking more like men

Oct 30th, 2015 10:12 am | By

Oy. Seen on Twitter

Embedded image permalink

I match 3 items under “you have a male brain if” and only 1 under “you have a female brain if.” I must be trans!

Or wait, maybe the list is bullshit.



Oct 30th, 2015 9:48 am | By

At the Saudi embassy in Oslo today:

Ensaf reports that Raif was not flogged today – which is a big relief after the news that the flogging was going to resume. But that’s only this week…

Family members found the child lying unconscious and bleeding

Oct 29th, 2015 1:36 pm | By

News from Delhi:

Two young girls – a toddler and a 5-year-old – have been raped in separate attacks in New Delhi, police said Saturday, in the latest incidents of sexual violence against girls and women in India.

A 2 1/2-year-old girl who was playing outside her home was raped in a west Delhi suburb Friday evening, said Delhi Police deputy superintendent Pushpendra Kumar. Family members found the child lying unconscious and bleeding in a park three hours after she went missing during a power outage in the neighborhood.

Two and a half years old, grabbed and penetrated, then thrown aside in a park like so much garbage.

The rapes occurred a week after a 4-year-old girl was found dumped near a railway track after being raped and slashed with a blade.

A series of recent attacks has renewed public fury and horror over India’s inability to halt chronic violence against women and girls.

That is gender as hierarchy.


More threats

Oct 29th, 2015 11:50 am | By

Reporters Without Borders last week:

Reporters Without Borders condemns the threats against news media and bloggers contained in a email that was sent to a score of Bangladeshi print and broadcast media outlets on 19 October, and calls on the authorities to take concrete measures to protect all those targeted.

Sent by Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a militant Islamist group that has claimed the murders of four bloggers this year, and signed by a person identifying himself as ABT spokesman Abdullah bin Salim, the Bengali-language email constituted a clear threat to all media that fail to adhere strictly to Islamic law.

The email included a demand for news media to fire all female employees and to refrain from publishing any ads that show women or any photos that include a woman not wearing a burqa.

This isn’t “high ideals” or any kind of altruism, even a distorted kind. This is just power-crazed theocratic men doing their best to stamp women and secularists and atheists into submission or death.

Imran H. Sarker, one of Bangladesh’s most popular bloggers, with about a million followers on social networks, received similar death threats on 17 October from a Facebook account apparently linked to the Islamic State.

All of the bloggers murdered since the start of 2015 – Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Das,Niloy Neel and Avijit Roy, the founder of theMukto-Mona discussion website – criticized religious fundamentalism and advocated tolerance, free speech and freedom of thought in their blogs.

And they can’t allow that.

Update: bdnews24 reports that a rival group faked the threatening emails.

The media was threatened in an e-mail by none other than the leaders of an Awami Ulama League faction that used the name of banned militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team, its rival group alleges.

A faction led by Ilias Hossain bin Helali and Delowar Hossain made the claim at a press briefing on Wednesday.

It said “truth will be unveiled” if leaders of its rival faction, led by Aktar Hossain and Abul Hasan, were interrogated.

But Hasan rejected the allegations.

“The charges are false,” he told in his reaction. “Helali is running a snide campaign against us as we speak of Bangabandhu, the Awami League and the Ulama League.”

Charge and counter-charge; totally unclear who is telling the truth.

The Sakharov prize

Oct 29th, 2015 11:34 am | By

Take that, Saudi theocrats: Raif Badawi has won the Sakharov prize.

The announcement was greeted on Thursday with a standing ovation at the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, but will be seen by Saudi Arabia as another diplomatic slight at a time when its domestic and international policies are coming under growing criticism.

What do you mean “but”? That’s an “and.”

Martin Schulz, the European parliament president, said: “I urge the king of Saudi Arabia to free him [Badawi], so he can accept the prize.”

And be free, and not be flogged, and be with Ensaf and their children again.

Named after the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the award was created in 1988 to honour people and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Let him go.

Yell at little kids and call them frauds

Oct 28th, 2015 3:42 pm | By

Jonathan Rosenberg has a cartoon. The protagonist looks kind of familiar…

you’re not wrong, walter, you’re just an asshole

You can support the cartoonist on Patreon.


What Greer stands accused of is thoughtcrime

Oct 28th, 2015 1:07 pm | By

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper makes an important point about the campaign to no-platform Germaine Greer:

Greer said nothing about what rights trans people ought to have or how they ought to be treated, and certainly nothing that could plausibly be interpreted as an incitement to violence. Believing that trans women are men is neither an incitement to violence, nor is it dehumanising, unless you also happen to think that men deserve violence and are not human. So the two main offences she is accused of are ones she openly admits to: not believing that transgender women are women, and not believing that transphobia – prejudice and bigotry towards transgender people – exists.

Both of these offences are solely concerned with the propositional content of Greer’s beliefs. That is, the objection is that she believes things that her opponents believe to be false, and that these beliefs are, for reasons that are never properly articulated, “dangerous”. So what Greer stands accused of is, essentially, thoughtcrime. She is guilty of holding the wrong thoughts, of believing the wrong things, of entertaining ideas and defining concepts in ways that diverge from some doctrine to which all decent people are supposed to subscribe. One must believe that trans women are women, and one must believe that trans people are subject to forms of prejudice and discrimination that others are not, and if you do not hold those beliefs, then you are by definition dangerous, a potential threat to others, and must be silenced. The possibility of reasonable disagreement on these issues is ruled out, ex hypothesi.

I’ve been noticing this for a long time, and not with pleasure. I’ve never tried to excavate and repair the beliefs of for instance the people who spend all their free time harassing feminists on Twitter. They could fake basic decency as opposed to believing in it, and the result for everyone else would be the same.

We all do try to influence each other’s beliefs by arguing or questioning or shouting, but that’s not the same kind of thing as punishing people for having Wrong Beliefs.

The response to Greer and her alleged transphobia is just one example of a creeping trend among social justice activists of an identitarian persuasion: a tendency towards ideological totalism, the attempt to determine not only what policies and actions are acceptable, but what thoughts and beliefs are, too. Contemporary identity-based social justice activism is increasingly displaying the kinds of totalising and authoritarian tactics that we usually associate with cults or quasi-religious movements which aim to control the thoughts and inner lives of their members. The doctrine of “gender identity” – the idea that people possess an essential inner gender that is independent both of their sexed body and of the social reality of being treated as a person with such a body – has rapidly been elevated to the status of quasi-religious belief, such that those who do not subscribe to it are seen as not only mistaken and misguided, but dangerous and threatening, and must therefore be silenced.

Even those who aren’t sure whether they subscribe to it or not are seen as dangerous and threatening and to be silenced.

She compares the methods and reactions of the belief-policers to “many, if not all, of the features of thought control identified by Robert Jay Lifton in his classic study of indoctrination in Chinese re-education camps” including

  • Demands for purity – dividing the world sharply into pure and impure, good and evil, believer and nonbeliever. There are people who believe that trans women are women, and there are transphobic bigots who “deny trans people’s right to exist”. No intermediate position is possible.
  • A cult of confession – individuals are required to reveal their sins and transgressions in order to be redeemed. As a non-trans person, the only way to secure one’s status as an ally is to confess to one’s “cis privilege” and to engage in repeated, performative privilege checking. (My own personal experience of this came when I publicly stated that I do not accept the label “cisgender”, which resulted in my being accused of the chillingly Orwellian-sounding crime of “privilege denial”).
  • Loading the language – the use of thought-terminating clichés and complex and ever changing terminological rules. Just try to critically examine the soundbite “trans women are women” and see how fast the accusations of prejudice and bigotry come flying in. This is a phrase intended to stop you asking difficult questions.

That all sounds so grindingly familiar to me.

It’s not healthy. Boot my antiquated butt all you want, but this situation is not healthy.

Often the face of evil

Oct 28th, 2015 12:40 pm | By

NPR asks an always-timely question: Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?

Because everybody* hates old women.

Typecasting is one explanation. “What do we have? Nags, witches, evil stepmothers, cannibals, ogres. It’s quite dreadful,” says Maria Tatar, who teaches a course on folklore and mythology at Harvard. Still, Tatar is quick to point out that old women are also powerful — they’re often the ones who can work magic.

Well, “powerful” until they’re killed at the end. Not a particularly desirable brand of power.

Tatar says old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother. “Children do have a way of splitting the mother figure into … the evil mother — who’s always making rules and regulations, policing your behavior, getting angry at youand then the benevolent nurturer — the one who is giving and protects you, makes sure that you survive.”

Veronique Tadjo, a writer who grew up in the Ivory Coast, thinks there’s a fear of female power in general. She says a common figure in African folk tales is the old witch who destroys people’s souls. As Tadjo explains, “She’s usually a solitary woman. She’s already marginal. She’s angry at something — at life, or whatever — and she will ‘eat’ — that’s the expression — people’s souls, in the sense that she’s going to possess people and then they die a terrible death. And everybody knows it’s the witch; it’s the old woman.”

As I’ve mentioned, we’re seeing a lot of that in the commentary on Germaine Greer. Even PZ – whom I would have expected to know better – went there:

My personal feeling is that Greer really is saying hateful crap, and my sentiment favors booting her antiquated butt off the campus.

Boot all the antiquated females butts off everything. Get them out of public life. They’re the face (and butt) of evil, so get rid of them.

*Everybody in the Anglophone world, that is.

Guest post: With my personhood totally stripped from me

Oct 28th, 2015 11:01 am | By

Originally a comment by iknlast on Preserving the sanctity of the big tent.

Make a new twitter account using a man’s name. Choose a picture not of a person but one with masculine bent. Use that account at least a week, but longer is better.

My son actually tried this experiment in reverse. He gamed as a woman. And as a man in the same setting at a different time. His results were predictable, and eye-opening, even to someone like my son who was already fairly enlightened about the issue. The amount of hate he got was intense – and he wasn’t even talking about feminism or the rights of women, he was just playing a game as a woman.

If people really want to know when I feel like a woman, it is when being met with blistering contempt, bored indifference, or violent hostility toward some activity I am performing or some argument I am making. I feel it in my classroom when I have my students draw a picture of a typical scientist, and they all draw men (beards are required to be a scientist, apparently), even though there is a woman standing in front of them, a trained scientist who has published scientific research, and is in the process of teaching them about science. At those times, I actually do feel like a woman, with my personhood totally stripped from me.

Preserving the sanctity of the big tent

Oct 27th, 2015 6:33 pm | By

Chris Kluwe gives SZSW hell.

This week, you announced a decision so mind-numbingly shameful, it’s a wonder that the collective spleens of everyone involved didn’t spontaneously combust from the overload of self-loathing. I speak, of course, of your Neville Chamberlain-esque choice to cancel a panel on harassment in online spaces, featuring Katherine Cross, Caroline Sinders, and Randi Harper, due to (and I can’t believe I have to type this) overwhelming harassment from those opposed to said panel — i.e., Gamergate (a group you conveniently allowed to have their own panel without following any of the listed application rules, in a fascinating display of fear-profiteering that would make Dick Cheney blush).

Then, you inexplicably tried to justify the unjustifiable, with one of the most mealy-mouthed, corporate nothing speak emails I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading; all in the hopes that this would somehow explain your craven actions.

Behold that email:

On the one hand, we are an event that prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas. On the other hand, preserving the sanctity of that big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful — so that people can agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place. We have already received numerous threats of violence regarding this panel, so a civil and respectful environment seems unlikely in March in Austin. For this reason, we have also canceled other sessions at the 2016 event that focused on the GamerGate controversy. We are strong believers in community at SXSW — and a healthy community sometimes requires strong management. Preserving the sanctity of the big tent is more important than preserving any particular session.

That’s quite something, isn’t it. “Preserving the sanctity of the big tent” is so important it’s worth letting harassers harass them out of holding a panel. What about the women the harassers have been harassing for more than a year? Oh who cares about them – they don’t belong in the big tent.

First off, the panel was not on Gamergate, did not mention Gamergate, and the only tangential relation it had with Gamergate was that the odorous denizens of that particular hashtag have made it their mission to try and ruin the lives of the women involved in the panel (among others). The fact you felt the need to connect it to Gamergate shows quite clearly where the pressure to silence these voices came from.

Second, and perhaps more pertinently, you run a festival that features A-list celebrities and tech magnates worth collective billions, superstar athletes, and some of the biggest music acts in the world, and you’re telling me you can’t provide security for a panel of three women? That it’s beyond your resources to hire any sort of police presence when you shut down entire sections of Austin at a time? That the unceasing vitriol these brave individuals face on a daily basis is just too much for your tender feelings to deal with, when you’ve experienced the merest fraction of that torrent of filth they’re forced to endure?

And then he gets really angry.

It’s great stuff.

“We can’t talk about threats, due to threats”

Oct 27th, 2015 6:15 pm | By

NBC News reports:

The popular South by Southwest festival said it was cancelling two panel discussions about harassment and the online gaming community due to threats of violence.

The decision prompted some big digital media companies, including BuzzFeed and Vox Media to withdraw from the festival — known as SXSW — in protest.

The festival — known as SXSW — said it had hoped that hosting the two panels “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” would lead to a “valuable exchange of ideas.”

However, it said SXSW had received “numerous threats of on-site violence” related to the programs in the week since the March 2016 SXSW Interactive event panels were announced. It did not detail the nature of the threats.

Who would be doing that? The harassers, or the people they harass? Any bets?

The Opening Gaming Society said the “disheartening” move to cancel the panel came “as a shock.” It said that SXSW had been in touch to explain the decision — which came after receiving countless emails, phone calls and social-media messages about the panels.

“SXSW feels that both the organization and its staff have been under siege from all sides and from all parties since they announced the panels,” it said in a statement urging gamers not to attack the festival over its decision. “They want to encourage open discussions, but they don’t want to fuel a vicious online war between two sides who are extremely opposed to one another.”

Oh christ, it’s “both of you stop it” all over again. It’s not a war and it’s not two sides – it’s harassment and threats.

How pathetic.

Those fiends

Oct 27th, 2015 5:41 pm | By

Terrible awful horrifying news from Ensaf Haidar:

I was informed by an informed source, that the Saudi authorities have given the green light to the resumption of Raif Badawi’s flogging. The informed source also said that the flogging will resume soon but will be administered inside the prison.

It is worth mentioning that the same source had warned me of Raif’s pending flogging at the beginning of January 2015 and his warning was confirmed, as Raif was flogged on 9th January.

While I do not understand this decision especially as Raif’s case is still being reviewed by the supreme court according to a senior source in the Saudi Ministry of Justice and according to the statement of UK Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood, who told the House of Commons in July that my husband’s case was still being examined by Saudi judges.

I call on his Majesty King Salman to gracefully end my husband’s ordeal and to pardon him. I also appeal to his Majesty to allow him to be deported to Canada to be reunited with his family and children, who have been deprived of their father for more than four years.

I take this opportunity to remind Mr. Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister, of his promise to support Raif badawi and ensure his release. I plead with him to give Raif a White Passport to enable him to be reunited with his family in Canada.



A politer way of saying “witch”

Oct 27th, 2015 11:25 am | By

Helen Lewis has a brilliant piece at the New Statesman about the attempt to no-platform Germaine Greer. Read every word.

It’s interesting that it is Greer’s views on gender that are the flashpoint, because she has been flat wrong about many things in her career – FGM, for example, which she has defended given its “cultural” element – without anything like the same backlash. Put simply, trans issues are the new dividing line for progressive activism; the way for younger activists to kick against their foremothers in the feminist movement.

And by god they do, with loathing and contempt.

Think about that for a second. Young feminist women – not all, obviously, but depressingly many – loathe and scorn old feminist women.

Well what does that say about the prospects for feminism? Feminism isn’t going to work if it applies only to young women, you know. If even feminist women hate old feminist women, then what hope is there that misogyny will ever fade away? If misogyny is that available and that pervasive and that irresistible…what hope is there?

I’m not sure there is much.

With gay marriage now legal in America, there is also the sense among online social justice communities that trans rights are “the new civil rights frontier” (as Time magazine wrote next to a photo of Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox). Social media has acted like an accelerant on this fire: sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post’s LGBT section offer uplifting tales of transgender children’s achievements and famous adults coming out, alternating with occasional three-minute hates for “TERFs” (trans exclusionary radical feminists), a group who are said to be inciting violence against trans women by refusing to accept them as women. Sharing such articles has become a badge of progressive correctness. The word “TERF” is sprayed around like confetti, with very little understanding of what it means. I’ve been called a TERF, even though I think trans women are women and absolutely have a place in feminism. I think it’s become a politer way of saying “witch”.

And what is a “witch”? An evil old woman that we have a license to hate. We see her plastered against utility poles and trees everywhere at this time of year, having ridden her broomstick into one and crashed. All women are future old women, and we all hate old women, so how can we agree with feminism? We all reserve the right to hate women, dammit.


Trans  activists, tired of being treated as objects of curiousity, fear or pity by outsiders, have decided to seize control of the discourse and develop their own ways of talking about how they feel. This is understandable, but it also means that everyone is constantly making mistakes. This would be OK – in everyday life, people slip up and get corrected, and the world keeps turning – but because it’s happening in the crucible of social media, where women’s opinions carry a higher cost, censure for those mistakes is distributed unfairly. There are phrases that a man could say – “female socialisation” springs to mind – with no comeback, but would be read as Deep TERF Code coming from a feminist’s mouth. I’ve lost count of the number of times that male friends have expressed surprise that their normally quiet, polite Twitter experience suddenly turns into a hornet’s nest if they chat with me about a controversial divide in feminism.

It’s not men who get demonized and hounded out, it’s women. It wasn’t two men that Improbable Joe “warned” me about on Twitter DM, it was two women – Helen Lewis being one of them. There are no outcries or “warnings” about TEMRAs – as far as I know TEMRA isn’t even a thing.

Even trans people who do not have the “correct” opinions feel worried about broaching the subject; I know a group of “gender critical” trans women who are castigated regularly as “TERF tokens” and “Uncle Toms”. (Putting paid to the flatulent piety so often circulated on social media: “Why don’t you just listen to trans people?” Because it turns out, O Wise One, that minority groups are not homogenous.)

Ok so it has to be “Why don’t you just listen to the right trans people?”

In my Pollyanna-ish way, I hope that all of these questions can be resolved with respectful negotiation; but there will have to be compromises between competing interests. It’s not – as many people on Twitter seem to believe – as simple as identifying the group you feel is most fashionably oppressed and sprinting to shout: “Solidarity!” And God save us from all the progressive men who will never face the sharp end of such questions – who have never had to think about rape shelter policy, for example – using this issue to show how right-on they are. Come on, feminists, they chirrup without self-awareness. Stop being so uptight!

Be like us: not talking over the marginalized!

But here is a list of things which can get you called a TERF, if you are a woman with a public profile: a) believing that biological sex is different from gender, ie that the penis is a male sex organ, even when attached to someone who identifies as a woman; b) believing that being raised as a boy gives you a different experience of life to anyone raised as a girl; c) believing that you need to transition using surgery or hormones to be trans (a recent Buzzfeed piece was headlined “This Trans Women Kept Her Beard And Couldn’t Be Happier”) d) believing that someone who transitions at 45 has not “always been female”.

I’d argue that those positions are far removed from the hateful, discriminatory behaviour and speech which most of us would accept is transphobic. And it is entirely possible that some or all of them will seem completely outdated in 50 years as our ideas about sex and gender move on. But they don’t seem to me to be in themselves vile or beyond the pale.

From the trans perspective, I can understand the feelings that the gains the movement has recently made are both recent and fragile, and the desire to set the terms of the debate after so long being treated as objects of pity or ridicule. After all, the challenges of transition are a daily task for many people, not a theoretical debate. But the subject has become part of a society-wide conversation; to move on, it must be something that ordinary people, outside the charmed circle who know that trans no longer takes an asterisk, can have an opinion on.

It also needs to be something that’s not a pretext for attacking feminist women.

This battle against Germaine Greer is driven, at least in part, by sexism. After all, the world is full of academics with bad opinions, happily going about their business. Richard Dawkins, for example, is obsessed with proving that a teenage Muslim American boy suspended for bringing a clock to school should not be an object of pity and is instead a cunning hoaxer. David Starkey went on an extraordinary rant on Newsnight a few years ago about how “whites had become black” (i.e. were getting involved in street violence). No one is trying to ban him from talking to British universities.

The same students who tried to stop Julie Bindel from talking about free speech (the irony) at Manchester university this autumn did not simultaneously attack her fellow speaker Milo Yiannopolous, even though his views on transgender people are more extreme than hers. (He believes they are mentally ill and should be denied surgery.) Brendan O’Neill writes almost weekly on the Spectator website that transgender politics is “hocus pocus”. Where’s the NUS motion condemning him?

Exactly. Why is it women? Why is it feminist women? Why is it people who see themselves as progressives leading the charge?

It is ironic that this debate has focused around the idea of accepting trans women as women, because it also seems to me that we have a problem accepting non-trans women as fully human – a mixture of good and bad, wrong and right. Because, of course, Germaine Greer wasn’t even booked to talk about trans issues at Cardiff: the title of her lecture was “Women and Power in the 20th Century”. As with other feminists, it is assumed that her bad opinions on one subject render her persona non grata on everything else.

Tell me about it.

But in better news – she has an update at the end:

Cardiff University have been in touch to say they have subsequently spoken to Greer’s representatives, and the event is still scheduled to go ahead next month.