Notes and Comment Blog

Going up

Apr 5th, 2016 2:52 pm | By

A NASA photo of a space shuttle leaving earth’s atmosphere:

Men complain based on religious beliefs, and women are forced to move

Apr 5th, 2016 11:55 am | By

Nick Little – director of legal affairs and VP at CFI – casts a cold eye on this business of airlines making women change their seats when men afflicted with religious misogyny refuse to sit next to women. He starts with Renee Rabinowitz, and then proceeds to the general.

This isn’t an isolated event. This scene is being played out repeatedly at multiple airports, and on multiple airlines. Men complain based on religious beliefs, and women are forced to move. When men are denied this “accommodation” they have protested, stood in the aisles, and refused to allow the plane to take off. So the airlines have kowtowed to their demands, and the men have gotten their way. The offending and offensive woman has been taken elsewhere in the plane, where, presumably, she should be grateful that she can sit without having curtains drawn around her.

Beyond even the ridiculous notion that sitting next to a woman on a flight, be she 18 or 81, should somehow tempt you into sin, there’s what is to me a stunning problem in this story. HE had the problem with his seat assignment, yet the airline’s policy was to ask HER to move to a different seat. If it’s his problem, if he is seeking the special treatment, why shouldn’t he be the one to move? Yet the default solution is that where a man is unhappy with the actions (or existence) of a woman, it should be up to the woman to change. The problem is no longer his irrational fear of sitting next to her, it is her very existence in a seat next to him.

Making the woman move just accepts that idea, and also makes her deal with the inconvenience of it. Doing that just endorses the idea that women are a contaminant and a nuisance, and get to share public facilities only on sufferance. Oh all right, you can fly on airplanes if you insist, but you can’t force anyone to sit next to you. If anyone doesn’t want to sit next to you, you have to move. Bitch.

The airline has multiple choices in this situation. It could, at the very least, require the adjustment to be made by the complaining male passenger. It could (and should) require any seat requests to be made in advance of boarding, when the ticket is purchased. That way a woman is not publicly accused of being unclean, and unfit to share a row of seats with a pious man.

Good line? Round of applause?

But El Al, and other airlines do none of these. They bow to the pressure, and they require women to bear the burden, and to make the change

The airlines concerned aren’t the only villains of this story. The United States government regulates air travel and airports in this country. It strikes me as inconceivable that an airline would be permitted to operate in the United States if it treated people of color in this fashion – if a white passenger was allowed to complain that he didn’t feel like sitting next to a black person, and that the airline should move the black person to a different part of the plane. For that reason, on behalf of CFI, I wrote today to Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration, asking what the policy of the government is on this issue, and how women’s rights to respect and equal treatment can be protected in U.S. airports. You can find the text of the letter here. I’ll let you know what response I get.

It’s a terrific letter. I’m looking forward to the response (unless it’s a “thank you for concern now fuck off” response).

Oxymoron in chief

Apr 5th, 2016 11:07 am | By

So this is one of the funnier headlines I’ve seen in some time:

The President of Transparency International Chile Resigns After Being Named in the Panama Papers


The head of global corruption watchdog Transparency International’s Chile branch resigned on Monday, after his name appeared in a data leak from a Panamanian law firm detailing thousands of offshore companies — now being dubbed the Panama Papers.

“Gonzalo Delaveau resigned as President of Transparency Chile, which has been accepted by the board of directors,” the agency said on Twitter.

Although Delaveau has not directly been accused of unlawful practices, Reuters reports that he was linked to at least five offshore firms by the leak.

See, “unlawful” is not the only issue here. Transparency is not solely a legal issue, and the problems with offshore corporations are not solely legal issues. The law doesn’t cover all of morality, to put it mildly.


Apr 5th, 2016 9:54 am | By

Georgina Kenyon at the BBC magazine on Robert Proctor and agnotology.

She starts with the well-known tobacco industry memo that said “Doubt is our product.”

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

I do think there should be a special kind of hell for people who do that – a figurative hell, to be sure, but one with very nasty figurative tortures, like being forced to watch deceitful advertisements for several hundred years without a break.

“I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power… and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.

“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.”

The 1969 memo and the tactics used by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology, Proctor says. “Ignorance is not just the not-yet-known, it’s also a political ploy, a deliberate creation by powerful agents who want you ‘not to know’.”

And they want you not to know so that you will spend money on their product and make them richer, while you make yourself both poorer and more ignorant. Special kind of hell, I tell you.

Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

And there’s Holocaust denial. Deborah Lipstadt and Richard Evans have done brilliant work on this branch of agnotology. For Irving’s libel suit against Lipstadt and Penguin, Evans researched Irving’s work and was able to document a massive amount of systematic falsification of evidence. That there is agnotology.

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Or from Twitter.

Too bad for her she lived in Belfast

Apr 4th, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Northern Ireland as a little outpost of Catholic woman-hatred, even though it’s officially not Catholic as it’s part of the UK.

A woman bought drugs for a home abortion after failing to raise enough money to travel to England for a termination, a court heard on Monday.

A barrister for the woman told Belfast Crown Court that had his client lived in any other region of the UK, she would “not have found herself before the courts”.

She was in court because she was on trial, because Northern Ireland isn’t as free of Catholic dogma as it might like you to think.

She bought drugs online and then miscarried, in July 2014. She was 19 then.

The male foetus, which was between 10 and 12 weeks, was later found in the bin of a house she shared with two other people.

She appeared in court today where she pleaded guilty to two charges – namely procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and of supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Handing the woman a three-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years, Judge David McFarland spoke of the difference in legislation surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland, compared to England, Scotland and Wales.

A very large difference, clearly.

Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said that on July 20, 2014 police were contacted by the woman’s housemates and were made aware that she had bought drugs online which had induced a miscarriage on July 12.

When officers arrived at the rented accommodation in south Belfast, they conducted a search and located various items – including a foetus which was located in a black bag in the household bin.

A subsequent post-mortem confirmed that the male foetus was between ten to 12 weeks and was the woman’s biological son.

Mrs McKay said that when the woman moved into the house in May 2014, she told her two housemates that she was pregnant but that she was trying to raise the money to travel to England for a termination.

She clearly wasn’t expecting them to call the police.

The day after she miscarried

her housemates found both blood-stained items and the foetus in the bin. One housemate described the foetus as a “wee baby” around four inches long.

Mrs McKay said at this point the housemates were in a dilemma about what to do and were “taken aback by the seemingly blase attitude” adopted by the woman. Around a week later, they contacted the PSNI.

That will teach her to be “blasé” about terminating a pregnancy at ten weeks. Good thing she had roommates to rat her out.

Acknowledging that as a UK citizen the woman could legally have travelled to England for a termination, Judge McFarland said that the advice given by the clinic “without knowledge of her background and details was perhaps inappropriate”.

He also said that while there are agencies in Northern Ireland that give advice on such issues “unfortunately they are part of a polarised debate that can be part of a more toxic debate”.

What a nasty mess.

Attacks with acid were also common

Apr 4th, 2016 4:48 pm | By

The BBC says “honor” murders are on the rise in Pakistan.

Nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives who believed they had dishonoured their families, the country’s independent Human Rights Commission says.

In its annual report the commission said 900 more women suffered sexual violence and nearly 800 took, or tried to take, their own lives.

Of course those are the ones they know about. It’s very unlikely that they know about all the ones there are.

“The predominant causes of these killings in 2015 were domestic disputes, alleged illicit relations and exercising the right of choice in marriage,” the report said.

Most of the 1,096 victims were shot, the report said, but attacks with acid were also common.

The primary cause is the fact that women aren’t considered full human beings with all the rights that full human beings should have. Women wouldn’t be slaughtered for such footling reasons if they were seen as valuable.

In February, Punjab, the country’s largest province, passed a landmark lawcriminalising all forms of violence against women.

However, more than 30 religious groups, including all the mainstream Islamic political parties, have threatened to launch protests if the law is not repealed.

In other words they want women killed for stupid trivial reasons. They overvalue Allah and Allah’s prophet, and they undervalue women. That’s what religion can do to people.

Religious groups have equated women’s rights campaigns with promotion of obscenity. They say the new Punjab law will increase the divorce rate and destroy the country’s traditional family system.

The one that allows the murder of girls and women by their fathers and uncles and brothers.

“I could only see her eyes but they were full of rage”

Apr 4th, 2016 4:30 pm | By

Meet Hibo Wardere:

Hibo Wardere, 46, who fled Somalia’s civil war at the age of 18 having suffered FGM aged six, has made it her life’s work to educate and speak frankly about the brutal surgery which affects 200 million women in 30 countries.

Mrs Wardere, a teaching assistant who visits [London] schools to educate children about the procedure, has written a book about her one-woman fight to wipe out FGM in her lifetime.


But the Somalian’s outspoken approach and refusal to sugar-coat the  topic with young children has made her the target of attacks.

She said: “I had a scary confrontation on the 257 bus in Walthamstow. A woman with a full niqab recognised me and ran at me screaming my name and snarling, ‘You came to my child’s school, you told her FGM was abuse.’

“I could only see her eyes but they were full of rage. She was so angry she had to be dragged off the bus, but I was jumping for joy inside because that meant a child had confronted their parent.”

She’s brave.

Cut: One Woman’s Fight against FGM in Britain Today comes out on Thursday.

And everyone else is a mixed bag of broken biscuits

Apr 4th, 2016 10:41 am | By

Samantha Rea on why it’s not cool to erase women:

Last week on Twitter, a representative for the Green Party gave a shout-out for the Young Greens Women Twitter account, directing “non-male” members to give them a follow.

I – along with many others – objected to this phrasing, on the grounds that women exist in their own right, not in relation to men. Referring to women as “non-male,” positions men as the defining group, and women as “other.” It’s like saying that men are Coca Cola and women are the supermarket budget brand – or men are filet steak and women are a bargain bag of offal.

Or men are normal and women are some bizarre aberration, or men are the majority and women are some weird tiny minority exception.

When she expressed her dissent on Twitter, kind people explained to her.

“Maybe they were trying to be non-binary,” suggested one. Another proposed that: “Maybe they were trying to take gender fluidity into account – non-males might be a wider group than just women.”

Without meaning to, their explanations simply reiterated the binary I was objecting to in the first place: “male” juxtaposed with “non-male”; male presented as the polished paradigm of the human species, and everyone else lumped together as “other.” It’s like saying men are a box of Duchy Originals, and everyone else is a mixed bag of broken biscuits.

Plus there’s the fact that if we stop talking about women, that’s the end of feminism, and we’d rather feminism didn’t end yet, thanks.

But this wasn’t the only aspect of the responses that bothered me. It was the implication that there are “women” and there are “non-binary people” (who can be chucked together with women, in the broken biscuits bag). There seems to be a lot of confusion at the moment surrounding words like sex, gender, and non-binary – so, armed with a handy MSc in Gender, let me see if I can help clear this up.

Sex is biology. Gender is culture.

Gender is an idea of how men and women should behave. It’s a stereotype that’s dictated by society, and it bears no innate relation to sex (biology). In other words, it’s a cultural construction.

If someone identifies as non-binary, it generally means they reject the gender stereotype that’s associated with their sex. But actually, by this definition, we’re all prone to being non-binary, because none of us rigidly adheres to the stereotypes associated with our sex.

Me? I swear like a navvy who’s tarmacked his testicles, and when I blow my nose, it sounds like an elephant’s calling for back-up. I wear a dress maybe 10 per cent of the time, and I have never cleaned my oven. I handed back the only engagement ring anyone gave me, and I’ve never bought Cosmo. Do I identify as non-binary? No, I’m a woman – and like most women (and men) I simply don’t conform to all the stereotypes associated with my sex.

That, exactly. I don’t identify as non-binary either, even though I am de facto non-binary – but then as Samantha says, who isn’t? I don’t identify that way because I am in fact a woman and I simply don’t conform to all the stereotypes associated with my sex, and I really don’t think we should be plucking out all such women from the category “women” because then how could we possibly unite and fight?

The suggestion that there are ‘women’ and ‘non-binaries’ implies that while non-binary people reject these gender stereotypes, women (and men) happily accept and adhere to them.

And we don’t. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t. The stereotypes are not our doing, and we reject them – and we’re still women.

It’s important to remember that when women were denied the vote, they were denied it because they were biologically women – regardless of their gender identity or whether they were gender-conforming.

So political parties, please: if you want women to support you, don’t refer to us as “non-male.”

Women fought for the vote – we’ve had it less than a hundred years, and it wasn’t easily won. The women in the suffrage movement didn’t go on hunger strike for today’s political parties to sweep us aside as “non-male.” They fought for “Votes for Women.”

Remember when the cool non-conforming thing was to be Goth? So sweet, so innocent, so healthy. I miss that.

Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor

Apr 4th, 2016 9:47 am | By

There’s a cardinal at the Vatican who is making a nice little racket out of being a cardinal at the Vatican. Barry Duke at the Freethinker has details:

Funds designated for sick children were allegedly diverted to pay for costly renovations to the apartment of the Vatican’s former Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 81.

Children’s hospital cash funded cardinal’s plush apartment

I do like to see a cardinal in shades, don’t you? It’s so Pythonesque, with a dash of Mafioso.

According to estimates published in the Italian press, each of the bedrooms has its own private bathroom, and the kitchen facilities are befitting a banquet hall. Bertone spent $22,000 on eight independent sharable audio programmes and audio controls with LCD display for each environment.

Let me guess – the kitchen has granite or marble countertops, and a restaurant-quality stove with six burners, and a fridge the size of a garage, and two dishwashers. There’s a standard in these things.

Bertone – who served in the Vatican’s No 2 position as Secretary of State from 2006 until Pope Francis retired him in 2013 – decided to combine two vacant Vatican-owned rooftop apartments for himself and his three service nuns at an estimated cost of around half a million euro, which was discounted by 50 percent, according to official estimates published by the Italian newspaper Il Tempo.

But despite the considerable savings, the renovations were apparently paid for twice, meaning the discount was likely down to creative – or corrupt – accounting, which is being investigated by a Vatican Tribunal that opened a criminal dossier into the matter last week.

I’m sure he’s doing all this nest-lining at someone else’s expense in a very spiritual way. Amen, etc etc.

It’s empowering to brush your teeth

Apr 3rd, 2016 5:57 pm | By

No, it’s not “empowering” in the 21st century US for women to post selfies of themselves. The default situation isn’t that women aren’t allowed to post selfies of themselves. The default situation isn’t that they’re locked up in harems with no phones to take selfies with and no internet to share the selfies with. Women aren’t lying on their backs thrashing their arms and legs helplessly like June bugs.

The “power” to post selfies on the internet isn’t in and of itself a power that will get women anywhere. Women in the US aren’t in such a helpless, restricted, spied on, imprisoned state that the ability to post a selfie is a triumphant access to power and freedom. It’s ludicrous to say it is.

Granted for a minority of women it can be – women in Quiverfull or right-wing Muslim families, who really are restricted and spied on. But for most women, the “power” to post selfies is like the “power” to go to Safeway for orange juice. It’s trivial, and it’s rather insulting to call it “empowering.”

I guess I could look at that as reason for optimism. Feminism is very far from having won the battle, but at least we’re not in such a pathetic state that being able to post selfies qualifies as genuine empowerment. You might as well tell us it’s empowering to be able to put our own shoes on.

The Panama Papers

Apr 3rd, 2016 5:10 pm | By

We’ll be learning some details of how rich people avoid taxes by using offshore tax havens, via the Panama Papers. The Guardian is one of a group of news outlets that have access to the papers.

The hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities has been revealed by an unprecedented leak of millions of documents that show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

The Guardian, working with global partners, will set out details from the first tranche of what are being called “the Panama Papers”. Journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5m files leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm.

The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Guardian and the BBC.

Though there is nothing unlawful about using offshore companies, the files raise fundamental questions about the ethics of such tax havens – and the revelations are likely to provoke urgent calls for reforms of a system that critics say is arcane and open to abuse.

Why isn’t it illegal? Why are tax havens legal? I’ve never understood it.

What we need to know:

What is Mossack Fonseca?
It is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management.
Where is it based?
The firm is Panamanian but runs a worldwide operation. Its website boasts of a global network with 600 people working in 42 countries. It has franchises around the world, where separately owned affiliates sign up new customers and have exclusive rights to use its brand. Mossack Fonseca operates in tax havensincluding Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, and in the British crown dependencies Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

It gets to that why question:

Are all people who use offshore structures crooks?
No. Using offshore structures is entirely legal. There are many legitimate reasons for doing so. Business people in countries such as Russia and Ukraine typically put their assets offshore to defend them from “raids” by criminals, and to get around hard currency restrictions. Others use offshore for reasons of inheritance and estate planning.

Oh, well, as long as they’re used to get around hard currency restrictions, that’s fine then. Eh?

Are some people who use offshore structures crooks?
Yes. In a speech last year in Singapore, David Cameron said “the corrupt, criminals and money launderers” take advantage of anonymous company structures. The government is trying to do something about this. It wants to set up a central register that will reveal the beneficial owners of offshore companies. From June, UK companies will have to reveal their “significant” owners for the first time.

This should run for awhile.

You can hear people screaming

Apr 3rd, 2016 4:08 pm | By

A horror in Molenbeek yesterday:

Shocking footage has emerged of a woman being mown down by a car in the Brussels district of Molenbeek during a far-right rally. Police later arrested the driver, who is said to be a local man.

In the footage, a white Audi A1 that had broken through a police roadblock hits the woman, who appears to be wearing a black Muslim headscarf, while she is crossing the road. She rolls across the bonnet of the vehicle and falls onto the floor, while the vehicle speeds down the street.

The woman suffered multiple fractures and head injuries.

Police arrested two suspected far-right activists carrying Molotov cocktails and weapons in the district of Saturday, as they struggled to close down an anti-Islam protest that had been banned by authorities, reported RBTF. Minor clashes between police and local youths were also reported. Anti-fascist protesters were also arrested in the city’s Place de la Bourse.

The fascists are rubbing their hands with glee.


Threats from fanatics

Apr 3rd, 2016 3:34 pm | By

In the no good deed goes unpunished department

A prominent human rights lawyer has said he received death threats after calling for unity within Scotland’s Muslim community. Aamer Anwar said he was taking the threats from “fanatics” extremely seriously and that police were investigating.

Anwar chaired an event at Glasgow central mosque last week calling for unity and condemning violence and extremism after the killing of the shopkeeper Asad Shah and the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Lahore.

So naturally he got death threats, because what could be more horrifying and terrible than condemning violence and saying let’s not kill each other?

Anwar said: “Having been a campaigner for human rights for over 25 years, I have grown used to the bile and hatred directed at me, sadly that is par for the course.

“On occasion when I have had my life seriously threatened, I have informed the police but have always chosen to keep it private. On this occasion I could no longer remain silent, because of a small minority who believe they can silence me by creating a climate of fear.”

He said “abuse and hatred” had been whipped up on social media over the last few weeks, and that he had received calls in the middle of the night.

Because he campaigns for human rights.

“It is a terrifying and deeply lonely place to be when you say goodbye to your children and wonder if it is for the last time, but the death of Asad Shah should be a wakeup call to our community that we must not be silenced.

“Our so-called community leaders must do much more. They have avoided tacking hatred to preserve their status and that is deeply shameful and hypocritical.”

Anwar has taken on a number of high-profile cases, including representing the families of the Fife man Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody, and the murdered Indian waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar.

He does good things, so he gets death threats. That’s the world we live in.

They are not about female inclusion. They are about female exclusion.

Apr 3rd, 2016 12:15 pm | By

A friend brought my attention to an article at Mamamia about Kim Kardashian and “empowerment.”

Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski posted a joint topless nude selfie on Instagram this morning and we’re all meant to sit back, have a look at the black stripe over their boobs, their middle fingers in the air and that omnipresent bathroom mirror and say, “Oh, Thank God for female empowerment. How empowering. Just look at those two women empower. I need to get me some of these empowerment black strip things. Thank you Kimmy, you have made me see the empowerment light.”

Last time Kim K did this she tweeted that, “It’s so important that we let women express their sexuality and share their bodies.”

If it has to do with a woman and we put the words empowering, liberation and control in there, it’s all totally okay. Don’t go putting shade on that empowering female parade by “judging” Kimmy for getting her gear off.

If you dare judge a woman who is exercising her God given nude empowerment you simply don’t get it. Just look at what Kim K said to Bette Midler when she questioned the last nude selfie:

It was rude, ageist and probably worst of all humorless, but totally okay because Kim has better boobs than Bette. And Kim’s boobs are empowered. And Kim is nude so she definitely knows what she is talking about.

That’s the thing, isn’t it, or at least one of them. Kim Kardashian posting selfies of herself looking gorgeous is not so much “empowering” as it is competitive. “Empowering” would be average women, in all our dumpiness or scrawniness or bulgyness or flatness, posting selfies. Gorgeous women saying look how gorgeous I am is just more of the same old thing – women treating themselves as commodities for inspection because that’s the way the larger world treats them, and triumphing over other women in the process. I suppose you can call that “empowering” if you want to, but it seems pretty silly.

In this Instagram snap are two international celebrities who have both got a lot of things to sell – products, movies, themselves mainly. They have had $100,000s of dollars invested into the way they look (from cosmetic and surgical procedures to stylists, clothes, hair, eyebrows, everything and anything). And the way they look is largely dictated to by what men find attractive. So all that control over their bodies? Men are pulling the levers at the very start of the chain. They have personal trainers and dietitians, they starve their bodies and pump certain parts up, maybe because it makes them feel good, but most probably because their bodies need to look a certain way so they can market themselves and earn more money.

Which works for them, but that’s no reason for the rest of us to treat it as a branch of feminism because “empowering.”

Yeah, that equals empowerment to me. Two privileged women in LA (BTW: who have more clothes than some department stores) whose life success has been based on what they look like, topless in a bathroom, with nothing to wear, giving the world the finger.

Send them to gender studies at Oxford University STAT. They have so much to contribute to the discourse. Or, more importantly for gender studies and feminism, let’s send them into the bedrooms of young women across the world to talk about the power of their bodies. The power of all sorts of different shaped, differently used, amazing bodies that will never be perfect but could get you on a basketball team or to work, the beach, to a party with really, really good friends where you laugh and talk even though you are four whole kilograms bigger than you think you should be and your eyebrows aren’t perfect, and your skin isn’t flawless and your stomach isn’t flat and your arms don’t look good without sleeves.

Oh, that’s right, they are in their bedrooms already. Telling our daughters how empowering it is to look exactly like they do and take a nude selfie while you are at it.

Kim’s nude selfies are not about feminism. They are not about liberation or empowerment. They are not about female inclusion. They are about female exclusion. They are about selling the Kardashians. They are about celebrating the “right” type of body – thin, flat stomachs, big boobs kind of like a blow up Barbie.

Of course they are. They’re saying “Don’t you wish you looked like us? You poor sad flabby ordinary women?” What’s “empowering” about that?

They are about screwing with the minds of young women who look at them (because they can’t help but look, they are everywhere, all the time) and think so that is what female liberation looks like.

Kim K’s nude selfie will get attention, it will get clicks, it will allow the Kardashians to keep charging advertisers $200,000 to $400,000 for one Instagram post alone.  It will keep a woman’s value stuck in that awfully fragile and mean and energy sucking world of how they look, not who they are as people.

Vive la Kardashians. They are taking women, one “empowering” selfie at a time, to the very worst place inside herself.

That’s not empowerment. That’s two, very privileged, mean girls in a bathroom taking pictures of themselves and giving the world the finger.

Wait, aren’t they giving the finger to patriarchy?

Hahahahaha just kidding.


Apr 2nd, 2016 6:25 pm | By

Protests against the plan to ban all abortion in Poland:

Numerous cities in Poland will be protesting tomorrow against a legislative project completely banning abortions.

Right now, abortion in Poland is illegal except in the following three cases: when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest; when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger; or when the fetus is severely damaged. This is already one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

There is a new legislative project that aims to restrict this law even further, making abortion completely illegal. This means that:

– Rape survivors and children will be forced to give birth.

– Women that might die due to their pregnancy will have no way to legally terminate it.

– A miscarriage might be punished with a sentence, as fetal murder will enter the criminal code.

– The state will have the right to bypass a person’s constitutional rights to protect unborn children.

– Since prenatal testing is connected to a very small risk of miscarriage, it will be banned and doctors performing it might face criminal charges.

– The morning-after pill will be categorized as an early abortion tool and thus completely banned (same with IUDs).

People are outraged. The current law, misleadingly called acompromise, was passed in the early nineties to gain political support from the Catholic Church. The new legislative project has full support from the Catholic Church, whose priests are obliged to read a special letter of support during mass tomorrow. Once again, women will be denied basic rights to their bodies, pushed to seek dangerous methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies (clothes hangers, injecting chemicals into their vaginas, punches, etc.).

There are protests in over 15 Polish cities. Ten thousand people are expected to protest in front of Sejm (the Polish Parliament building in Warsaw). The list of cities joining the Sunday protest is growing:





Gorzów Wielkopolski: new!








Oslo: 2:00 p.m. Polish Ambassy Oslo, Olav Kyrres Plass 1 new!







Zielona Góra: new!

Article in Polish / Artykuł po polsku:

Priests have been asked to read out a letter from the bishops’ conference

Apr 2nd, 2016 5:55 pm | By

Poland is looking to impose a complete ban on abortions.

The Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, said she backs moves towards a total ban on abortion, in a sign the nationalist government may be set to turn its attention to the nuclear family.

A campaign against abortion is due to be launched this Sunday in the country’s Roman Catholic churches. Priests have been asked to read out a letter from the bishops’ conference calling for Poland’s existing, limited abortion rights to be scrapped.

After mass on church steps, anti-abortion group Fundacja Pro will gather petition signatures for a citizen’s parliamentary bill calling for a total ban.

That’s right, women – no escape for you. Not if you’re raped, not if your pregnancy is threatening your life, not if you have an incomplete miscarriage and develop a raging infection – no abortion for you. The priests said so. The celibate men who will never be forced to give birth to a baby have said you have to be subject to being forced to give birth to a baby. The priests are in charge, and you’re just machines for the manufacture of babies.

Poland already strictly limits access to abortion. A 1993 law grants it up to the 25th week from conception, but only on the condition that the woman’s life is in danger, the pregnancy is the result of criminally proven rape or incest, or the foetus is “seriously malformed”.

The bishops’ letter, signed on Wednesday, calls the current law a compromise, adding: “The life of every person is protected by the fifth of the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not kill. Therefore the position of Catholics in this regard is clear and unchanging.’’

Except of course that a fetus isn’t a person in that sense.

Monika Płatek, a prominent member of Poland’s Women’s Congress, said the prime minister’s view illustrated the influence of the church on the ruling Law & Justice party.

“The bishops do not care if a woman dies. Szydło is a puppet. The abortion ban was the condition of the church’s support for Law & Justice. The move is typical of an arbitrary state that uses support for moral ideas to take total control.

“We saw it under Hitler and Ceaușescu and now we are seeing it under Law & Justice,’’ said Płatek, a professor of law at the University of Warsaw.

Authoritarians and god-botherers can just never get enough of grinding women into the dirt.

How dare anyone appear to question

Apr 2nd, 2016 5:01 pm | By

And more of the same ridiculous idea that saying X is not Y is denying X’s right to define her own Xality. The Guardian purses its lips and frowns and says Ian McEwan has been a naughty naughty boy.


Booker-winning author appears to question people’s right to decide their own gender

No he doesn’t. He questions his (McEwan’s) obligation to believe whatever people tell him. People have every right to decide all sorts of things, an infinite number of things; it doesn’t follow that we all have a corresponding duty to believe or endorse or repeat or praise whatever they’ve decided.

Campaigners have criticised author Ian McEwan for comments that appeared to question the right of transgender people to choose their gender.

No, they didn’t appear to do that. See above.

In a speech to the Royal Institution, the Booker prize-winning writer asked whether factors such as biology and social norms limited our ability to adopt a different gender.

“The self, like a consumer desirable, may be plucked from the shelves of a personal identity supermarket, a ready-to-wear little black number,” McEwan said. “For example, some men in full possession of a penis are now identifying as women and demanding entry to women-only colleges, and the right to change in women’s dressing rooms.”

People can identify however they like. That doesn’t mean they can control how we receive their identification. A scruffy white guy age 20 can identify as Barack Obama; if he sits next to me on the bus and tells me he’s Barack Obama, I don’t have to take his word for it.

In a Q&A after his speech, one woman asked McEwan, 67, to clarify what she called his offensive remarks, the Times reported (paywall). “Call me old-fashioned, but I tend to think of people with penises as men,” he said. “But I know they enter a difficult world when they become transsexuals and they tell us they are women, they become women, but it’s interesting when you hear the conflict between feminists now and people in this group.

“It’s quite a bitter conflict. Spaces are put aside, women are wanting to put spaces aside like colleges or changing rooms, and find from another side a radical discussion coming their way saying men who want to feel like it can come in there too. I think it’s really difficult. And I think there is sweeping through American [university] campuses a kind of strange sense of victimhood and a sense of purposeful identities that we can’t actually all of us agree with. Of course sex and race are different, but they also have a biological basis. It makes a difference whether you have an X or Y chromosome.”

It makes a difference where you grew up. It makes a difference who your parents were. (If they weren’t the same as Obama’s parents, there goes your identification as Obama.) It makes a difference where you lived as a child…and so on. Identify how you like, but if the facts don’t support your identification, that’s not the fault of all the people who aren’t you.

Stonewall condemned McEwan’s “uninformed views” as “extremely sad”. In a statement it said: “The complexity of gender identity extends beyond genitalia. Trans people need and deserve acceptance and equality. This sort of commentary doesn’t just denigrate the trans experience, it denies its very existence, and that’s especially hurtful for a group of people who have spent their lives fighting to be heard and understood.”

No, that’s exactly what it doesn’t do. It does not deny the existence of the trans experience. It’s dishonest to say it does.

Misogyny illustrated

Apr 2nd, 2016 3:51 pm | By

Warning – this is very bad.

Gulalai Ismail shared a post on Facebook.

Because we as a society are so much obsessed with commoditisation of women’s bodies that killing a girl is “normal” using myth of “virginity”.

Oh and yes, now let’s deny early age marriages in Pakistan.

17 Years Old Girl Killed On Her Wedding Night In Jacobabad Sindh For Not Proven Virgin

The Express Tribune in Pakistan reports the story, though it says the claim about virginity is not confirmed.

A bride was allegedly strangled to the death by her husband on the night of their wedding in a suspected case of ‘honour killing’, Jacobabad police said on Saturday.

During the day, an alleged picture of the deceased bride made rounds on social media and suggested that the young girl was killed by her husband for “not being a virgin”. However, this piece of information could not be verified.

Khanzadi, daughter of Lal Mohammad Lashari, married her cousin Qalandar Bux Khokhar the night before her lifeless body was found in her bedroom in ADC Colony. The suspect, her husband, remains on the run.

If you train people to hate women, this is what you get.

“Something I never thought about until I was on the receiving end of it”

Apr 2nd, 2016 12:20 pm | By

In October 2014 Meghan Stabler wrote in the Huffington Post about being named Working Mother of the Year.

What is remarkable is the staggering inequality we working mothers face. The reality of the workplace for women in 2014 is stark; I know because I’ve seen both sides. I started my career as a male, and as long as I presented as such, I found that my views and opinions were widely respected. But since transitioning to my true, authentic self, I’ve come to recognize the gender-stereotypical male dominance in meetings and work in general, something I never thought about until I was on the receiving end of it.

Ah – isn’t that interesting. It’s helpful of her to admit it.

That admission is exactly why we pesky radical feminists say that if you grow up presenting as male and you never think about the gender-stereotypical male dominance in meetings and work in general, then in that sense you did not grow up a girl or woman. That’s why we say growing up with male privilege does make a difference, a difference that matters, and that’s why we say trans women who grow up that way shouldn’t be talking over us or correcting us, let alone bullying and dogpiling and shunning us.

Live as a woman by all means, present as a woman, identify as a woman, hang out with women as a woman – but do not tell us that growing up presenting as male makes no difference. That’s not for you to say.

He struck his wife and threw tins of cat food at her

Apr 2nd, 2016 11:17 am | By

The Guardian reports on an arranged marriage that turned out to be enslavement.

A man who treated his wife as a slave and subjected her to an existence of “violence, intimidation, aggression and misery” has been jailed following a pioneering trial which saw him become the first Briton convicted of forcing their spouse into domestic servitude.

Prosecutors and police said they hoped the case of Safraz Ahmed, a 34-year-old mechanic from south London who abused, demeaned and taunted Sumara Iram over a two-year period, could see more potential victims come forward.

Ahmed subjected Iram to “physical and mental torture” after she came to the UK from Pakistan in late 2012 for an arranged marriage into which she entered willingly and with initially high hopes, Woolwich crown court was told.

He struck his wife, threw tins of cat food at her, sent streams of abusive and demeaning text messages, and once told her to jump in front of a vehicle or into a river, the judge, Christopher Hehir, was told.

Iram says she wasn’t allowed to leave the house alone or to make friends.

I cooked, I cleaned, I washed, I ironed, looked after other people’s children and when things were not to the liking of the family I was punished by beatings. I felt that there was only one purpose of my life and that was to serve this family.

Of course that’s always been what many people have understood marriage to mean.

Ahmed admitted enforced domestic servitude, for which he was jailed for two years, and assault causing actual bodily harm for breaking her nose, for which he received an eight-month term. The sentences will run concurrently, meaning he could be free within 12 months, less than half the time that Iram lived under his control.

And no broken nose.

Ahmed had once hit his wife for, as he viewed it, failing to tend properly to his sister, the court heard. If the family told her to “stand on one leg” she should do it without question, she said.

Iram came to police attention in February 2014 after neighbours saw her outside the family home in just a dress and flip-flops, before her husband dragged her back inside by her hair.

Officers realised she had a broken nose and black eye and arrested Ahmed, but they released him the next day when Iram signed a document asking for him to be freed, saying she was not under pressure.

Following the conviction police accepted they could have removed Iram then, sparing her another 18 months with her husband.

Not to mention her husband’s family, who must have helped him keep her prisoner.

Polly Harrar, the founder of the Sharan Project, which helps victims of forced marriages from south Asian communites, said the conviction suggested there were large numbers of victims living similarly restricted lives in the UK.

“This case will open the door to more prosecutions,” she said. “This woman was restricted in terms of going outside the home. She was brought here to be a slave in effect. This is just the tip of an iceberg. We have dealt with many similar cases. This case is really good for raising awareness of the problem.”

Up to a point. I wonder if Iram is worried about retribution when he gets out in a year.

H/t Barry Duke