Notes and Comment Blog

An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s

Sep 10th, 2015 12:38 pm | By

Last year glosswitch wrote 9 reasons why “cis” isn’t working.

1 Cis is not a necessary alternative to trans

Many people find it hard to see what is wrong with this statement:

anyone not trans is cis

But what if someone said this:

“anyone not Muslim is Christian”

It doesn’t make any sense, does it? The fact that being a Muslim is predicated on having a religious belief does not mean that anyone who is not a Muslim must have a different religious belief, let alone one specified by you.

She’s framing “cis” as a belief about gender, part of a belief system about gender. The point is, not everyone buys into that belief system. We don’t have to, and many of us don’t. It’s not our belief system.

There is quite clearly something missing: the space for people who do not wish to be defined by these belief systems at all. In the case of the former statement, that would be a huge number of feminists, with good reason.

I am not religious. I don’t define myself as an atheist any more than I define myself as a “not believer in fairies”. I just don’t wish to define myself in relation to religion in any way, shape or form. Does it mean I don’t believe Muslims are Muslims? Of course not. Similarly, does not identifying as cis mean I don’t believe trans people are trans? Clearly not. Nor does it mean that I am agender (I am female and I am a woman. Gender does not come into it). An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s. On the other hand, the demand that someone actively endorses your worldview by declaring themselves a believer or risk being deemed a bigot and subjected to ongoing threats and abuse … well, what would you call that?

An absence of belief is not the erasure of someone else’s.

That’s such an important point.

2 It’s morally unacceptable to demand that another person swears allegiance to a belief system they experience as harmful

This is what is being done when feminists who do not believe in gender as anything other than a construct are ordered to identify as cis. It is not merely unfair; it is cruel, a cruelty which is intensified when the consequences of not submitting are to be declared a hateful bigot and a TERF.

And expelled and ostracized from all decent society.

3 Individuals should have the freedom to identify with any gender – or none

This is linked to the previous two points and it is that basic: to be cisgendered has no meaning to someone who does not experience themselves as gendered in any way other than by the gaze of others.

That. It’s nothing to do with stuffing a sock down your jeans, it’s to do with who you are to yourself as opposed to the gaze of others.

In a recent piece for the Guardian, Fred McConnell described gender as “one’s innate sense of self”. I don’t know what this means. This does not mean I am deficient or ignorant. It means I don’t think that’s what gender is. Hence when McConell says “cisgender […] refers to those whose sex and gender do match” I am 100% sure that I am not cis. I don’t experience this matching but nor do I experience a sense of allegiance with any other gender construct.

My “star sign” is Aries, but that means nothing to me, and it wouldn’t mean any more to say my “star sign” is Leo. There is no match between my sense of myself and any star sign, because I don’t believe in astrology.

4 Trans women should not depend on non-trans women for self-definition

Why the hell should they even want to? My not-cis-ness says nothing about your trans-ness. You don’t need me as a foil to offer validation. You are your own person.

And I’m my own person. I reject the claim that my sex and gender match, but that doesn’t mean I think nobody is either cis or trans.

There’s a lot more.

There was an anomaly in her pants

Sep 10th, 2015 10:52 am | By

Bring plenty of paper towels to mop the tears of laughter.

A courageous story from April 2014 of a person who is vaguely genderfuck and took on the eternal issue of how to wear a sock down your jeans while boarding a plane. Told by: Batshua bat Yehonatan.

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking more about presenting as genderfuck in my non-work time; namely, I’ve been thinking about packing.

For anyone who doesn’t know me, let me make this clear. I am terrible at true genderfuck. Nobody is going to mistake me for a 14-year-old boy or an androgyne. I am, shall we say, rather well-endowed and I do not bind.

I’d been thinking for a while about what would happen if I got a patdown while packing, and whether or not it would flag me as a security risk or cause me to miss my flight. I don’t currently own a packer, so I’ve been packing with a wool sock which makes me feel rather … like I’m overcompensating, although my close friends swear it’s more subtle than I think.

Tricky. Try a smaller sock? One of those socks for just the foot, with no leg part? Or a small silk scarf? Or a mitten?

As my combination Passover and Spring Break trip to visit my folks neared, I considered the possibility that I might want to pack on my travel day because darnit, it’s my right to present as whatever gender I want. However, as a person who always chooses to opt-out for patdown, I knew this could cause problems.

I’m confused now. Is she presenting as a person who always chooses to opt-out for patdown? Or is she identifying as that? Or is she expressing as that?

So anyway, she tried to ask the TSA about it, and, astonishingly, did not get an immediate clear reply. They were very nice about it but they didn’t know how to respond to her question.

I believe it was a Tuesday when I started the journey of reaching out to the Bradley Airport TSA guy, who is super nice and friendly and helpful. We played phone tag a bit due to his schedule, my schedule, and the crappy reception I have in the town where I serve.

Ultimately, I explained to him my situation: I am legally female, as masculine as I can dress, nobody would mistake me for anything other than a butch chick, but I prefer to pack as a way of expressing my gender. I chose to use the word “androgynous” rather than “genderfuck”, because I feel like “genderfuck” is an excessively provocative word to use with uninitiated cisgender folks who might be your allies. I let him know that I would, as I always have, prefer to opt-out and get a patdown and I realized that getting a patdown while packing might cause undue alarm and I wanted to know how best this could be handled so that nobody freaked out and I didn’t miss my flight.

He told me nobody had ever asked him about this situation before, and he provided a few options, including: having a female do the patdown, having a male do the patdown, or having my patdown split between a female officer and a male officer.  I said I was used to having a female do the patdown and was fine with that, but it was exciting to have options offered to me!

I was surprised to find out that even though my flight was on Friday, not even a whole week away, he had plenty of lead time to arrange things for me.  I was assigned a TSA Passenger Support Specialist and we set an appointment for a time for me to meet her at the security checkpoint. He also gave me the work cell number of the Transportation Security Manager for Bradley in case I showed up extra early or ran late.

I’m so pleased to read that. I’m so pleased that all this trouble was taken to accommodate a special person with a sock down her jeans.

After I checked in with my airline and dropped my bag off at X-Ray, I was met by my TSA Passenger Support Specialist, who took me right through to the head of the Pre✔︎ line. I joked that I should have gender issues more often.

I don’t get the joke. I’ve just made a note to put a sock down my pants any time I have to fly in the future.

The head of the Bradley TSA had warned me that since people perceived as women don’t generally have bulges in their pants, I would need to disclose my “anomaly” and it might warrant further screening. Because I was identifying as nonbinary, the transgender policy doesn’t currently cover me.

Well that’s a fucking outrage. Congress should get on that right away, and make it so that genderfuck people are covered by the transgender policy at airports. This violent oppression of the genderfuck community has gone on long enough.

Before commencing the patdown, I had literally announced “There is an anomaly in my pants”.  I found out that technically my sock does count as a prosthetic, but since I’m not identifying as a trans man, again, they have to check my “anomaly”.

[interlude for about 5 minutes of hysterical laughter]

So I went to get a private patdown with my TSA Passenger Support Specialist and another female TSA agent.  The procedure is the same as a regular opt-out patdown, but because there was an anomaly in my pants, I had to have a second patdown, known as a resolution patdown. They swabbed my TSA Passenger Support Specialist’s gloves for residue, and they had to x-ray my sock. Then the other officer did the resolution patdown where they patted vertically and horizontally over the front of my groin to ensure I wasn’t hiding anything else in there. They were totally respectful and non-creepy about the whole thing. I felt pretty fucking empowered.

I feel  pretty fucking empowered just reading about it!

After I was done, the Transportation Security Manager gave me an official TSA comment/complaint card as well as his business card. He reminded me that if I preferred, I could always check my packer and put it in after I pass through the security checkpoint. I agreed and pointed out that for some people, the wait in the security checkpoint line without packing would be extremely emotionally uncomfortable for them, and so I figured it was worth trying it out to see what it was like for all the people who might want to do this but are afraid to ask.

It must be horrendously emotionally uncomfortable to be genderfuck but not trans, and so not covered by the transgender policy, and be separated from your sock for ten minutes. It’s making me weep to think of it.

Batshua is a genderqueer gray-asexual panromantic polyamorous person. They are a neuroatypical, chronically ill, invisibly-disabled Jewish pagan living in rural western Massachusetts. Ze recently started identifying as more strongly genderfuck than previously and has been experimenting with various forms of presentation. She doesn’t generally consider herself an activist, but he got the idea in his head to pack while flying home for Passover this spring. Batshua generally doesn’t care what kind of pronouns are used as long as they refer to sentient beings.

So use all the pronouns. The ultimate in genderfuck.

One isn’t wearing a tie?

Sep 10th, 2015 10:08 am | By

Via Planned Parenthood on Facebook:


Guest post: If we could knock down these ridiculous cultural preconceptions

Sep 9th, 2015 6:09 pm | By

Originally a comment by MrFancyPants on The “Men’s & motor” area.

David Evans@1:

I think some men as well as women are likely to be put off by the idea that intellectual brilliance is what is needed in science.



In Japan they teach that science and math take lots of hard work.


The notion of the “brilliant scientist” infuriates me. I have long maintained that anyone of reasonable intelligence and drive can make useful and important advances in the sciences if they make the effort of learning the background well, and putting in the (large amount of) effort that is required. It takes years to pick up the background and years of toil to start making the advances, but almost anyone can do it. Sure, if you’re lazy, or unwilling to think, or prone towards intellectual dishonesty, or clinging to dogma, then you probably cannot do it.

The Brilliant Scientist Up On The Pedestal Of Veneration is one of the bricks in the wall that is used to keep women out. “Girls aren’t good at math”, “brilliance is beyond average people”, etc. etc. yada yada yada. It’s horseshit.

I am the very epitome of an average person. Average in talent and intelligence, that is. I’m privileged to be male and white, but I’m still average. And yet even I, through hard work (plus the cultural expectation that I’m somehow better at STEM cuz white and male) have made modest advances in my field.

People who are neither white, nor male, nor “brilliant” work just as hard, and could do just as well in their science careers, if we could knock down these ridiculous cultural preconceptions.

Snap, gulp

Sep 9th, 2015 5:03 pm | By

Bad news – National Geographic is being devoured by Fox.

The 127-year-old nonprofit National Geographic Society has struck a $725 million deal that gives 21st Century Fox a majority stake in National Geographic magazine and other media properties, expanding an existing TV partnership.

The agreement announced Wednesday will give the company controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s family a 73 percent stake in the new National Geographic Partners venture. The society retains 27 percent ownership. The move shifts the longtime nonprofit flagship magazine into a for-profit venture.

What could possibly go wrong?

Besides everything?

However, some observers are worried about the future of National Geographic’s educational mission in media if control is turned over to commercial interests.

Christopher Palmer, an environmental filmmaker and professor at American University, said Fox and National Geographic would seem to be incompatible to most people.

“Many people feel the National Geographic Channel has become more sensational and think that it’s due to the Foxification of the channel, and now Fox is taking over all these other media properties including the iconic National Geographic magazine,” he said. “So the question is: will National Geographic maintain its very high standards in the future under this new arrangement?”

It seems vanishingly unlikely that they will.

The “Men’s & motor” area

Sep 9th, 2015 3:46 pm | By

Gender policing? What gender policing? I can’t imagine what that could possibly be.

A supermarket has apologised after copies of a science magazine were displayed in the men’s interest section of its news stand.

A biology graduate complained to Morrisons after the weekly New Scientist magazine was moved to the “Men’s & motor” area of the rack at the Woohouse Land store in Leeds.

No science for women. Women are too pink and fluffy and frothy to be interested in science. Women are interested only in bride magazines and how to arrange your hair magazines. Everything else is over their heads.

Writing in a Facebook post seen by The Tab student newspaper, former Leeds student Sophie Anam said that the display gave a negative message to girls.

That science isn’t for them? But is that really a negative message, if you truly think about it? Women are so much happier and more content with their lot if people don’t encourage them to think they can do things like science and engineering and politics.

The supermarket sparked further controversy when it responded to Ms Anam: “this magazine has been placed under this section is that it is a generally a men’s general interest magazine.”

No. No, it really isn’t. Sarcasm aside, that’s a staggeringly insulting thing to say. Half, remember? We’re not some funny little fringe group, we’re half. No, we’re not mentally children.

Embedded image permalink

Sophia Anam on Twitter

The good news is that Morrisons pulled itself together and said the sign was a mistake.

The incident occurred in a climate of concern that women are underrepresented and put off from careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Stem) because of societal pressures.

Despite the constantly reiterated insistence of Christina Hoff Sommers that all that has been fixed now.

Women currently make up around 12.8 per cent of the Stem workforce, according to the campaign group Women in Science and Engineering (Wise).

The figure was compounded by a recent study which found that women are less likely to become scientists and engineers because they are taught to believe that such professions require innate intellectual brilliance rather than hard work.

So let’s do better, shall we?

Will it be Oreos or Grayling?

Sep 9th, 2015 11:25 am | By

I watched a little of Stephen Colbert’s first Tonight show last night, and didn’t like it. I wanted to like it, I expected to like it, but I didn’t.

But Megan Garber at the Atlantic did.

…part of why politics has become so polarized, while we’re at it, is likely that we’ve come to see the workings of government as things that exist separately from the rest of our lives. The sociologist Pablo Boczkowski talks about the reluctance many people have to talk about politics in a work environment, where such discussions can create unnecessary acrimony; instead, we silo ourselves, discussing the issues of the day, for the most part, with people we know will pretty much agree with us.

That’s not a good thing, for people or for democracy. And Colbert’s latest debut suggested that late-night comedy might actually play a role in fixing it. The guest list for Colbert’s upcoming shows includes—along with the actors and comics you’d expect—Stephen Breyer, Bernie Sanders, and Ban Ki-moon. Those guests, my colleague David Sims noted, are “surprisingly highbrow.” They are also surprisingly political. And intellectual. They are the guests not traditionally of Letterman and Kimmel and Fallon, but of Charlie Rose. And that may well be meaningful. The Colbert Report, after all, was notable not just for its satire, but for its intellectualism: It introduced its audience to authors and thinkers who might not get an airing on typical late-night, or for that matter typical news, shows.

Well now that’s true. It had A C Grayling on, twice. That kind of thing is why I wanted and expected to like Colbert’s Tonight show, but in practice I just found it hyper and tedious. Watching him scarf all those Oreos made me feel queasy.

The Late Show’s debut suggested that Colbert might carry on that tradition, expanding it to a wider audience. It suggested a proposition that, until last night, seemed as absurd as it is simple: that late-night comedy, aired on a large network, can be funny and smart at the same time.

Well, I hope so, but that’s not what I saw.

But stop the T in odd words

Sep 9th, 2015 9:48 am | By

Speaking of dialects and geography and markers…Author of Jesus and Mo asked an intriguing question on Twitter the other day.

Has anyone in UK noticed the “inconsistent glottal stop” is a thing? Eg person will speak normally but stop the T in odd words…

Eg “strategy”, “creative” – but even then not always. Strikes me as incredibly pretentious and annoying.

I think I have, yes. A similar thing I know I’ve noticed many times is inconsistency about the intrusive R. You know the intrusive R, right? As in: Indier and China; North Koreaer and China [which of course sounds like North Career and China]; drawring room; Arabeller is in the drawring room. It’s mostly a UK thing but also a Boston and environs thing.

Some BBC presenters make an effort to avoid it. You can tell they’re having to make an effort because there are weird little hitches where they pause in order to avoid the R, hitches that don’t happen in the speech of people who don’t have an intrusive R to avoid. The ones that seem oddest to me are the ones where there is in fact an r but it’s at the end of a word, so a non-rhotic dialect like that of most of the UK wouldn’t pronounce it if the word stood on its own or before a word with a consonant. You with me?

Like: I am here. I am here to pick up a package. I am here in the room.

The one that seems odd to me is the careful pause after “here” in the last one – “I am heah. in the room” – when saying “I am here in the room” wouldn’t be an intrusive R since the R is actually there.

It seems like a really disturbed relationship with the letter R. Inserting them where they aren’t, or carefully avoiding them where they are.

But I’m equally weird about the glottal stop. I replied to Author’s tweets to tell my poignant little story of The Glottal Stop and Me.

I grew up not far from Trenton, New Jersey. I grew up pronouncing it with a glottal stop – Tren’on. Then one fateful day my mother, who was a language nerd just as I am (and a writer and editor), mentioned to me her dislike of that particular local glottal stop, which I hadn’t been aware of until that moment. Now I don’t know how to say the word – Trenton sounds pretentious and finicky, and Tren’on sounds like a grunt. I’ve probably never said it unselfconsciously since that day.

I’ll be in the drawring room with a cold compress on my head.

Or sister

Sep 9th, 2015 8:31 am | By

A couple of minutes from The Life of Brian.

(I really need to see that again; it’s been way too long since I did.)

Talk geography

Sep 8th, 2015 5:14 pm | By

Have a fun quiz in the New York Times. It offers to say where you’re from based on your answers to 25 dialect questions.

It’s a little tricky if like me you have a habit of picking up bits of dialect from all over – but it’s not too tricky if you’re aware that you do that and can correct for it. I carefully gave the answers that were what I grew up with, not necessarily what I say now – and at the end there I was on the map. Good fun.

The exploratory mindset

Sep 8th, 2015 4:29 pm | By

An interesting post from July that I didn’t see at the time – by Joel Nowak –

So I am watching this thing play out on “Free Thought” Blogs where a blogger is being harassed and bullied to the point where she may well leave the site because a pro-trans activist who was “monitoring her” saw her post this thread to a facebook gender critical group about how questions such as “Do you believe trans women are women, yes or no?” may be overly simplistic and “anti-thought”. I do not know this blogger but I feel for her predicament. For simply starting this discussion, not even on Free Thought Blogs, members there are accusing her of a “thought crime” and demanding that she be expelled from the community immediately. Those demanding her expulsion are insisting that of course all transwomen are women. Fair enough … however I do have something to say here.

I am still trying to sort things out for myself, but part of my lived experience was that I was for a long period of my life a transwoman who identified as female.

And then he changed.

It was also something that, in my case, I outgrew because I realized that how I defined myself and how I came to understand the roles of sex and gender in my life had changed as I grew older. One thing I realized for myself, and this is very important for MY identity today, is that I was NEVER female in any way. I am male. I always was and I always will be. Now I know that by my saying that a lot of people will say “Ok this was a guy who just believed he was a transwoman and was mistaken.” Ok, you can think that if you want, but I assure you I WAS a transwoman. It is actually uncomfortable for me to say this, especially since I am doing the guy thing right now, but that is part of who I am and I can’t really be in denial about it.

This is one example – just one of many – of why I decline to answer “yes or no” questions unless they are such simple questions that it’s not a problem. What he says there is complicated. How we think of ourselves is complicated, and it’s subject to change over time. It’s a mistake to be absolutist and doctrinaire about it.

And I also think that is why I get a little peeved when I see all of this identity policing going on. When I see people like this current blogger getting beaten down for asking a fair question I am watching the same forces at work that make it hard for me to try to explore my own identity. Through intimidation it becomes yet another source of shame, scaring me back into my shell … almost.

See? See? This is what I mean, it’s what I’ve meant all along and still mean. We get to explore. We all get to explore, cis as well as trans, trans as well as cis. What the fools at Purethought Blogs did to me does not foster a climate friendly to exploration.

My journey has been real. I won’t let anyone define what sex I am or have been at various stages of my life based on their notion of political correctness. I am male and always have been … no matter what surgeries, legal name changes or social changes I have been through over the years. This is how I define myself. This is my right. You can define yourself as you please.  That is absolutely your right as well (and you too should defend it!) However, people should not be punished for asking questions based on honest and respectful  intellectual curiosity. That usually ends up pretty poorly for all of us.

Exactly so.

Fascism in action

Sep 8th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

Wow. The Guardian:

A camera operator for a Hungarian nationalist television channel closely linked to the country’s far-right Jobbik party has been filmed kicking two refugee children and tripping up a man at the border hotspot of Rőszke on Tuesday.

Petra László of N1TV was filming a group of refugees running away from police officers, when a man carrying a child in his arms ran in front of her. László stuck her leg out in front of the man, causing him to fall on the child he was carrying. He turned back and remonstrated with László, who continued filming.

Sure enough:

Watch closely – at 4 seconds you can see her kick a girl, but it’s over in a flash. The tripping of the guy carrying a child is slower and more in the open.

Image result for Petra Laszlo

Hungary’s leading news website Index had also caught László kicking a young girl and boy.

N1TV said László had been dismissed due to “unacceptable behaviour”. The channel’s editor in chief Szabolcs Kisberk said in a statement posted on the station’s website: “The camerawoman’s employment has today been terminated with immediate effect, the case is now closed for us.”

Hate campaigns are not harmless; they do their work.

Not a slur

Sep 8th, 2015 12:41 pm | By
Not a slur

Careful thinking.


Sabine ‏@ThatSabineGirl 21 hours ago
The sheer privilege of an oppressor class whining that they don’t like the word those they oppress use to describe them. It’s incredible.

And no, cis/trans is not a binary, no more than skin colour, sexuality, or gender is.

So…it’s not a binary, but we have no right to say it doesn’t describe us. Ok…

There’s more of that careful thinking.

Cis people are SO FUCKING WHINY.

Cis. Cis cis cis cis cis CIS CIS CIS. YOU ARE CIS. And more importantly, you treat trans people like dirt and you need to stop.

Really? We all treat trans people like dirt? I don’t think that has been shown.

You’re cis. Deal with it. Like we have to deal with being trans, only you have a position of normality & a load of privilege to soften blow.

Hint: Oppressor’s feelings on what word those they oppress use to describe their oppressor class: NOT IMPORTANT

But “their oppressor class” is what’s in dispute.

Having privilege along a certain axis is not the same thing as oppressing people along that axis. It’s not the same thing at all. The difference is pretty important.

Being cis merely means you aren’t trans. It’s not a slur, it’s not an identity forced on you, it’s just a word which means ‘not trans’.

If it’s just a word which means ‘not trans’ then what sense does it make to say cis people “treat trans people like dirt”? How can it not be a slur if it means “an oppressor class” that “treats trans people like dirt”?

It can’t. Sabine is energetically using the word “cis” as a slur while energetically denying that it’s a slur. That’s incoherent.

These things matter.

Reorganize the worries

Sep 8th, 2015 11:22 am | By

Kim Davis is (or soon will be) out of jail, and her deputies are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis freed on Tuesday, five days after he held Davis in contempt and sent her to a Kentucky jail amid an escalating standoff over marriage licenses.

Davis was jailed at the Carter County Detention Center on Thursday after she refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples. The following day, her deputies began issuing licenses in her absence.

Five of the six clerks who work under Davis swore under oath that they could comply with the court’s order to issue marriage licenses. In a status report filed to Bunning’s court Tuesday, the couples who had filed suit against Davis after she first denied them marriage licenses said they were able to obtain them.

So there you go. All Davis has to do is stand back and let the deputies do the job. If she doesn’t, the court will consider appropriate sanctions.

I hope she won’t worry too much about Jesus crying heartbrokenly about the same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky getting married.

What would be even better than that, though, would be if she did start worrying more about Jesus’s terrible priorities, and by extension, hers. It would be a good thing if she started to wonder why she objects so much to same-sex couples getting married when she could be worrying about things that actually are bad instead. If you’re going to worry, why not worry about refugees drowning in the Mediterranean? Why not worry about the women enslaved by Boko Haram and IS? Why not worry about climate change? Why not worry about human and/or animal suffering instead of something that causes no suffering or harm to anyone?

Guest post: The overwhelming reaction to the ban

Sep 7th, 2015 4:20 pm | By

Originally a comment by Rob on Currently being pulled from libraries, schools and bookshops.

Part of the problem here is that giving a book designed to be read by teens an R18 classification is a de facto ban. Having spent far too much time on the comments section of one of our main newspaper publishers yesterday I can conform that the overwhelming reaction to the ban has been that it is a bad thing, driven by conservative Christians out of step with modern NZ society. The commonality from the few commentators supporting the ban seemed to be “think of the 10 year olds” and “the author is old, writing about teen sex and therefore a pervert” and “these comments all confirm Christians are persecuted”.

Frankly I was shocked when I saw the headline yesterday. I couldn’t have told you when the last time a book was banned in NZ was. The last time I remember any significant debate about it I was in my teens, which makes it well over 30 mumble years. The last time I remember any real debate about the purpose of even having censors in this day and age there was actually quite a good bit of journalism where they interviewed the then chief censor. He explained how the work was carried out, the standards of assessment and how the censors work. They also showed a brief clip from a hard core porno while the censor explained the rationale for banning the dvd. In that case there was no overarching narrative, no examination of motives or consequences, absolutely nothing that might be regarded as art or social commentary. It was a fuck movie in which a girl of indeterminate age (but almost certainly too young) was coerced into doing something she did not want to do. The atmosphere was threatening, unsafe and the girl was either the best actress I have ever seen or she was clearly scared out of her wits. In short it was abusive and degrading. Quite different from the run of the mill ‘reluctance’ of much commercial porn. To the NZ censors sexual violence in the absence of some kind of meaningful social commentary or narrative that justifies its use is a no no.

In the author’s words, the book is really about bullying. The sex and drugs is simply window dressing to try and get the teen (boy) audience to read the book to expose them to the bigger message. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on how well integrated the theme is, but given that it has won a reasonable award it is probably fairly well done.

My real problem in all this is the role of the classification board. These people are not professionals like the censors. they are private citizens. Some are nominated by interest groups. Some nominate themselves. They are appointed by a Government Minister. In this case the professional censor(s) and the lay board are clearly at odds and the head of the board has used his power to enact the temporary ban. In my view it is an abuse of power, but one that was always likely given the structure of the system. This is certainly a view shared by others, see more here. Don Mathieson QC is apparently known to have conservative social values.


Sep 7th, 2015 3:41 pm | By

A strange conversation, or constellation of conversations, on Twitter this morning.

It started with a piece Alice Dreger wrote yesterday, How to Be An Ally to Cis-Women. She tweeted a link to it. Later she retweeted and commented on a reaction to her piece.

Alice Dreger ‏@AliceDreger 7h7 hours ago
Alice Dreger retweeted Zoé S.
I commit “structural violence” by asking we be allowed to talk/joke/write/sing about the bodies we were born with.

Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi
I’m so aghast at @AliceDreger’s list. But at this point, she and others are far too invested in structural violence to believe otherwise.

Too invested in structural violence? What can Zoé S mean by that? I wondered, so I looked at the whole long string of tweets about Alice Dreger’s piece. It’s full of that kind of thing.

Like this one:

Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi 7 hours ago
Trans women don’t need to be an ally to us cis women because it isn’t incumbent upon them to CODDLE VIOLENT OPPRESSORS.

What VIOLENT OPPRESSORS? Why is Zoé S claiming that cis women are VIOLENT OPPRESSORS? What can she possibly mean by saying that?

Why are so many people, including cis women, so enraged at cis women? Why are they claiming we are VIOLENT OPPRESSORS?

And this:

Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi 7 hours ago

Fellow cis women, be lucky that “TERF” is all you’re being called: violent patriarchal transmisogynistic abusive gatekeeper comes to mind.

And this:

Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi 7 hours ago

I don’t have any well-reasoned thing to say anymore. Just shut up with this violent understanding of sex & gender, leave trans women alone.

What is a “violent understanding of sex & gender”?

And this:

Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi 7 hours ago

We cis women owe our trans sisters OUR support because we are directly responsible for the state & interpersonal structures abusing them.

How? How are we directly responsible for that?

Maybe the answer is depressingly simple – we’re not, but it’s easy to rage and shout at cis women on Twitter while it’s much more difficult to do anything about state & interpersonal structures.

It’s easy, yes, but is it productive and useful? No, it’s not. It creates hostility where there doesn’t need to be any. Trans people need much better allies than this.

Mr President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed

Sep 7th, 2015 2:41 pm | By

I watched Dr Strangelove again last night, for the first time in way too long – I don’t know why I haven’t stirred my stumps to watch it before.

It holds up amazingly (except it doesn’t amaze me at all).

The performances Kubrick elicited from Peter Sellers and Sterling Hayden and above all George C Scott make my hair stand on end – as does the writing, as does the cinematography. General Jack D Ripper filmed from below, shadowy and mad.

This is perhaps my favorite scene.

Does everybody worship?

Sep 7th, 2015 12:48 pm | By

A Twitter conversation between Irshad Manji and Salman Rushdie.

Irshad ‏@IrshadManji
There’s no such thing as #atheism. Everybody worships. Our only choice is what to worship. ~ David Foster Wallace:

Salman Rushdie ‏@SalmanRushdie Sep 6

Wrong. Sorry. Just wrong.

.@SalmanRushdie “Just wrong”? Such absolutism has a name: dogma.

Well, no, not unless that were the sum total of the reply at all times and in all media. As a reply on Twitter it doesn’t amount to dogma.

And announcing that “everybody worships” is pretty dogmatic anyway. No, everybody doesn’t worship. I don’t think I do anything that could be called worship, for example. Worship is a specifically religious word, naming a religious emotion and attitude, and I’m pretty sure I avoid and repudiate it.

The required balance

Sep 7th, 2015 11:59 am | By

I want to take a more extended look at that gloating statement from “Family First.” The scare quotes are because it’s really from Bob McCoskrie, just as statements from “The Catholic League” are always really from Bill Donohue.

Family First NZ has successfully applied for an Interim Restriction Order on the book Into The River by Ted Dawe – a book laced with detailed descriptions of sex acts, coarse language and scenes of drug-taking. The book came to public attention after it took top prize in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Award organisers hastily sent “explicit content” stickers to booksellers after the book’s win. The latest decision of the Censor will also now be reviewed by the Board of Review.

“In a strongly worded Order, the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review Dr Don Mathieson QC has accepted the concerns of Family First and the hundreds of families who wrote directly to the Censor’s office to protest the content, themes and availability of the book,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The Order says that the classification of Into the River under the Act is a matter of wide public concern, that it was debatable and a matter of independent public interest whether the Chief Censor acted lawfully, and that it was highly arguable whether the Classification Office had reached the correct conclusion.”

They’re pissed off that the “Chief Censor” (what a title!) lifted an age restriction on the book. They want that mofo restricted, dammit.

“The Censor has tried to argue that freedom of expression was not taken in to consideration by the Board and that this freedom trumps the protection of young people. It is preposterous and down-right insulting for the Censor to suggest that the Board failed to achieve the required balance between the rights of the public have to be protected from the injurious impact of material deemed objectionable to young persons and children and the competing right that such persons have access to this material.”

There are rights of the public to be protected from the injurious impact of material deemed objectionable to young persons? I don’t think there are, you know – I think those are “rights” that Bob McCoskrie made up. Those rights bear a disquieting resemblance to the “right” of people in Bangladesh and India and Pakistan to be protected from the injurious impact of material deemed to “hurt religious sentiments.” There is no “right” to be protected from things you think are oooky.

“The author and his supporters in the Library service are focused on the ‘rights’ of adults to write this sort of offensive material under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’. But the Bill of Rights states that ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom to access information’ considerations do not automatically trump the laws that were written to allow censorship to be applied to protect the public good.”

Does it? Really? Or is that just something Bob McCoskrie made up again. It sounds made up.

“We are also aware that the Censor has received over 400 emails of complaint about their latest decision from concerned kiwi parents. Their desire to protect their children must also be respected.”

Family First is now preparing their submission for the Film and Literature Board of Review. The 400+ complaints made to the Censor will form part of their submission.

Bullies on the march. Lock up your books.

Currently being pulled from libraries, schools and bookshops

Sep 7th, 2015 11:16 am | By

The Guardian has more details on the banning of Philip Dawe’s book Into the River.

Ted Dawe’s Into the River has been banned from sale or supply by the Film and Literature Board of Review (FLBR) after a complaint from conservative lobby group Family First.

It is currently being pulled from libraries, schools and bookshops around the country.

Family First objected to sexually explicit content, drug use and the use of a slang term for female genitalia.

Pussy? Cunt? Probably not twat, in New Zealand. Minge?

Whatever – using slang words for the genitalia is just that. There’s nothing wrong with it. Using them as epithets is another matter (a distinction that is lost on surprisingly many people), but it’s still not a reason to ban a book.

And it’s not just banned from sale, it’s being pulled from libraries and schools – which is a whole other level of shocking. What’s the matter with them?

Into the River won the New Zealand Post Children’s Book award in 2013 and is aimed at a teenage, largely male audience. Dawe said this audience was hard to reach.

“I have taught in secondary schools for the past forty years. Much of this time has been spent encouraging boys to read. Part of the challenge was to find books that ‘spoke’ to them. This meant books about issues that were relevant to them and written in a style that was authentic,” he said.

“There are many issues that young adults can not take to other people. They want to do their own thinking about them. There is no better, no more private medium for this than the novel.

“In this relatively safe context the teenager can navigate through issues such as race, sexual orientation, body issues, class discrimination and bullying and harassment. They can test their responses against the main characters and calibrate the differences without the need to discuss.”

But Family First doesn’t want them to think about those things. I guess FF wants them to think about family, and nothing else.