Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Guest post: Living in the box

Jun 8th, 2015 8:15 am | By

Originally a comment by Seth on We need to talk.

I think Ian Cromwell (, formerly of this very blogging nexus) has made some very cogent analyses of race that can, mutatis mutandis, be appropriated to gender analysis with respect to gender identity and gender expression. To paraphrase Ian, race is a social construct, and as such is equal parts ‘how one sees oneself’ and ‘how one is seen by everyone else’. (There is more involved, to be sure, but Ian’s archives are free for the perusal of the curious.)

Similarly, I think gender can be described as a confluence of ‘how one sees oneself’ and ‘how one is seen by everyone else’. Ophelia, MrFancyPants, and I are more-or-less comfortable with the gross dynamics of how we’re seen by ‘everyone else’ in regards to our genders, though indeed we all have some very strong disagreements of the specific assumptions that come along with that assignation. None of the three of us particularly identify with being men or women very strongly, in the same way that Ophelia and I don’t particularly identify with being white people. We understand that that is how we fall under the social classification system, we acknowledge it, and we don’t feel misidentified when other people look at us and say ‘Oh, there goes a [woman/man/white person]’. (Of course I’m being a bit presumptive, but I think it’s a fairly safe presumption, given my familiarity with Ophelia’s archive; I’m open to correction.)

Indeed, this is the very definition of what it means to be cisgender: when society (aka ‘everyone else’) looks at us and shoves us into a box, we do not grumble about the label on the lid of the box. We don’t feel a fundamental wrongness with the overall shape of the box. We could take or leave it, really. For many people like us (and, indeed, for the three specific people I’ve named here, including myself), we might disagree with the colour of the box, or with some of the other items that get shoved into the box along with us that we’re expected to contort ourselves to accommodate, but the box itself isn’t the issue.

For transgender people, however, the box is very much the issue. When they get shoved into their box, they cannot recognise the shape that it contorts them into. Or, more analytically and less analogously, their self-identification does not match with how ‘everyone else’ identifies them. And, when you know that EVERYONE ELSE is wrong about you in such a fundamental way, when you feel it in the marrow of your bones, it is very, very tempting to build up mental systems wherein your own perception of yourself is the only valid and acceptable perception. The seeming alternative is self-invalidation and self-alienation, wherein you try to conform to the society’s identification of you instead of the truth you know about yourself…and I don’t need to spell out how that tends to work out, I hope.

Currently, some transgender people are staking the claim that their own perception is the only one that should matter in the social construct of gender. To descend into analogy again, they are climbing out of the boxes that other people have shoved them into and are crawling into boxes that they feel more comfortable in. The more comfortable boxes are very important to their self-identity, and their broader mental and emotional health.

One of the goals of modern feminist critique, as I understand (and attempt, in my own inept way, to practice) it, is to liberate everyone from the necessity for the (gendered) boxes entirely. To build a world in which the only relevant box is ‘human’ or even, perhaps, ‘sentient creature’, into which more-or-less everyone should be able to find a corner that fits them well without causing anyone else harm. A world in which people are ‘just folks’, where there isn’t a such thing as ‘people’ as opposed to ‘female people’. The more proximate goal is to make all of the individual boxes more accommodating, looser, so that each person in their own box has freedom to shift around without being packed so tightly by all of the objects (read: gendered expectations) that are also shoved into the box with them. To someone with such goals, the fact that someone else wants to crawl into a box, with all its constricting objects, can be somewhat incomprehensible.

Contrariwise, to someone who’s spent their whole life railing against the confines of their box, it can feel like any criticism of their decision to find a more personally-accommodating box is the same as saying ‘Your ill-fitting box shouldn’t bother you so much! In fact, you should stay in it and make it fit you better, and help all of us eventually destroy the boxes!’ Even if that isn’t what the critic is implying, or even intending to imply. Even worse is the all-too-frequent ‘You aren’t even in the box you think you’re in; you’ve just redecorated your own box, badly, into a parody of what our box is supposed to look like.’

After enough time having to battle those kinds of perceptions, of having your own self-identification invalidated by (almost) everybody, it is not surprising that so many transgender people are not only claiming the fact of their boxes, but championing them, and using what few means are at their disposal to try and reframe the narrative to support their self-identification. At the same time, this seems like an invalidation of literally centuries of work that have gone into deconstructing gender roles.

The boxes need to be destroyed, but that is going to take a lot of hard, long, slogging work. In the doing of that work, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the boxes still exist, and must be made as comfortable as possible for as long as that’s true. I hope there is a way to unite the seemingly-disparate goals of gender critique and transgender activism. Both goals are worthy, and necessary, and I firmly believe the conflicts within them are mainly topical and surmountable.

Trans people are people. One day, “people” will have to be enough for the lot of us. Until then, though, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

We need to talk

Jun 7th, 2015 6:26 pm | By

Jane Clare Jones at Trouble and Strife puts it this way:

Feminism, as a political movement aimed at the liberation of women, has long theorized gender not as an innate essence, but as a hierarchical system enforcing women’s subservience. Characterizing certain personality traits – compliance, nurturance, the desire to be pretty or objectified – as ‘natural’ to women, is, according to feminist analysis, a primary mechanism for maintaining gender hierarchy. As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.

This is not trivial, and it needs to be discussed. But it has been decreed that it cannot be discussed, because to discuss it is to ‘deny the right of trans people to exist.’ Trans ideology collapses the fact that trans people exist into the theory of why trans people exist, and judges anyone who questions the theory to be a transphobic bigot intent on denying the very existence of trans people. Indeed, even those trans women who persist in existing despite subscribing to the feminist critique of gender are denounced by many in their community as self-hating or treacherous. This is argument by non-argument, and it functions to close down discourse by rendering feminism’s long-held analysis of gender unsayable.

Well it doesn’t make it unsayable in general, I think – but it makes it unsayable in a context of discussing trans issues. Maybe cis feminists shouldn’t be discussing trans issues. But then again trans issues are becoming more mainstream – which is a good thing, right? More visibility, thus (eventually, one hopes) more understanding? But the more mainstream the issues are, the more influence they have. That’s why I felt the impulse to do a very brief post asking questions about Jezebel’s commentary on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, certainly – because it was out there.

Undergirded by an appeal to boy-brains and girl-brains, trans ideology’s core commitment is that a person’s gender is nothing other than their gender identity. Gender resides entirely in an individual’s private experience of ‘feeling like’ a man or a woman, and therefore, if an individual declares that they feel like a woman, then they are a woman, and moreover have always been a woman, in exactly the same way as non-trans women have always been women.

Ahhh but that’s just it, you see. I never have straightforwardly “felt like a woman” – and neither have many of the women I know. For all I know none of them have. It’s not like that. It’s much more muddled than that. Most of the time I don’t feel like anything in that way – I just be; I exist. I don’t just straightforwardly identify with being a woman; I never have. I can more easily say I identify with being a feminist than I can with being a woman.

Maybe that itself is cis privilege – not identifying that way because you don’t have to. But it’s not always a privilege, certainly. Much of the time I would rather just be a human. That’s part of the appeal of gender-neutral nyms, isn’t it.

From a feminist perspective what is lost in this account is the entire structure of gender as a system of oppression, a system which functions by identifying a person’s reproductive potential and then socializing women to fulfil the role of a member of the reproductive class. For many non-trans women the idea that the essence of being a woman resides in ‘feeling like’ a woman, is not so much wrong as incomprehensible. Our experience of womanhood is not an internal feeling, but a lifelong process of being subjected to – and revolting against – very specific social sanctions and expectations. Be quiet. Look pretty. Make yourself small. Smile. Don’t be too demanding. Accommodate other people.

Quite. That’s not something women necessarily identify with, or something they “feel like.” It’s something imposed.

I don’t for instance “feel like” the Bravo TV conception of women, which is a series of “Real Housewives” and other brands of wives or girlfriends or other related-to-man categories. That’s not my idea of women and it’s sure as hell not my idea of myself.

But it’s also the case that I don’t feel wrong or not at home or anything like that about my gender, but other people do. People vary. That’s fine.

But we need to be able to talk about it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Blogging is NOT a crime

Jun 7th, 2015 4:54 pm | By

Amnesty International:

URGENT: We’ve just heard that Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has decided to uphold Raif Badawi’s sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison. Let’s remind them that blogging is NOT a crime!


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Terrible news

Jun 7th, 2015 4:42 pm | By

From the Guardian:

The cruel and unjust sentence passed on the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, has been upheld by the supreme court in Riyadh. Hopes that the court might reduce or even commute the sentence, particularly as the holy fast of Ramadan begins next week, have been dashed. The only remaining appeal now is to the Saudi monarch, King Salman. From Quebec, where she has been granted asylum with their children, Mr Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar has said that she fears the public flogging – 50 lashes at a time every Friday after prayers – might resume as soon as this Friday.

I’ve often quarreled with the Guardian, but it gets this one right:

Mr Badawi’s sentence is a brutal exercise in public intimidation. He has challenged Saudi Arabia’s autocratic and religious state, and even though his arguments could not be more carefully and modestly expressed, to hold them at all is incompatible with the regime under which he lives.

So what kind of regime is that?

As this newspaper has argued before, Saudi Arabia ought to be treated as a global pariah. It is a source of a particular strain of jihadist poison, of fanatical preachers, and of young men, like the 9/11 hijackers, who threaten both the west and the whole Middle East by their readiness to fight, often in the cause of Wahhabist Islam. For the past month, a Saudi blockade has been imperilling thousands of innocent Yemenis, and aerial bombardment by Saudi jets is killing scores more. Yet the kingdom continues to be treated with honour by western powers. Britain buys Saudi oil and courts Saudi trade. Even free speech in the UK has been curtailed in order to avoid giving offence to so rich and powerful an ally. Of all the European powers, only Sweden has been prepared to jeopardise relations and its arms trade by taking a stand.

Mr Badawi will never have doubted what a challenge he posed to the kingdom. He will have understood the retribution that it was likely to bring down on his head. It is the kind of courage that demands to be recognised and honoured by everyone who respects human rights. We are and we remain Raif Badawi.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Nail polish

Jun 7th, 2015 10:46 am | By

Elinor Burkett wrote a think piece for today’s New York Times.

She asks if women and men have different brains, and notes that an affirmative answer to that question has been known to elicit heated dissent.

But when Bruce Jenner said much the same thing in an April interview with Diane Sawyer, he was lionized for his bravery, even for his progressivism.

“My brain is much more female than it is male,” he told her, explaining how he knew that he was transgender.

This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup. Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause.

And some doubts or questions or amplifications, from Laverne Cox for instance.

And from Burkett.

A part of me winced.

I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

There’s a tension. I’ve said that before, and I might say it again. There’s a tension between the idea that gender is socially constructed and we get to shape it any way we want to, and the idea that it’s firmly binary and we are one or the other with no overlap or shaping allowed. This whole thing is just riddled with tensions, and it’s not transphobic to try to think about them.

That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.

It has, and that’s one thing that some feminists feel uneasy about. It’s not transphobic or trans-excluding to say that.

Brains are a good place to begin because one thing that science has learned about them is that they’re in fact shaped by experience, cultural and otherwise. The part of the brain that deals with navigation is enlarged in London taxi drivers, as is the region dealing with the movement of the fingers of the left hand in right-handed violinists.

“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girl’s brain’ or ‘that’s a boy’s brain,’ ” Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist at Britain’s Aston University, told The Telegraph last year. The differences between male and female brains are caused by the “drip, drip, drip” of the gendered environment, she said.

Along with a bunch of other drip drip drips. The gendered environment is obviously not the only one, but it’s equally obviously one.

THE drip, drip, drip of Ms. Jenner’s experience included a hefty dose of male privilege few women could possibly imagine. While young “Bruiser,” as Bruce Jenner was called as a child, was being cheered on toward a university athletic scholarship, few female athletes could dare hope for such largess since universities offered little funding for women’s sports. When Mr. Jenner looked for a job to support himself during his training for the 1976 Olympics, he didn’t have to turn to the meager “Help Wanted – Female” ads in the newspapers, and he could get by on the $9,000 he earned annually, unlike young women whose median pay was little more than half that of men. Tall and strong, he never had to figure out how to walk streets safely at night.

Those are realities that shape women’s brains.

By defining womanhood the way he did to Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Jenner and the many advocates for transgender rights who take a similar tack ignore those realities. In the process, they undermine almost a century of hard-fought arguments that the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us. And they undercut our efforts to change the circumstances we grew up with.

In other words, some trans women embrace the very definitions of “woman” that feminists have been trying to shake off for (I would say) well over a century.

The “I was born in the wrong body” rhetoric favored by other trans people doesn’t work any better and is just as offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas. Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.

I have; I have tried to imagine that. It makes me cringe every time. Why would it be so cringe-worthy? Because the young (or old) white man (or woman) would not have had the experience of being seen and treated as a black person.

But that ship has sailed. Fine; I wish it a safe voyage, a safe and happy and scenic voyage. But I would like to go on being able to ask searching questions about gender and the status of women. I would like to go on being able to talk about women.

Even the word “woman” has come under assault by some of the very people who claim the right to be considered women. The hashtags #StandWithTexasWomen, popularized after Wendy Davis, then a state senator, attempted to filibuster the Texas Legislature to prevent passage of a draconian anti-abortion law, and #WeTrustWomen, are also under attack since they, too, are exclusionary.

“Abortion rights and reproductive justice is not a women’s issue,” wrote Emmett Stoffer, one of many self-described transgender persons to blog on the topic. It is “a uterus owner’s issue.” Mr. Stoffer was referring to the possibility that a woman who is taking hormones or undergoing surgery to become a man, or who does not identify as a woman, can still have a uterus, become pregnant and need an abortion.

Accordingly, abortion rights groups are under pressure to modify their mission statements to omit the word woman, as Katha Pollitt recently reported in The Nation. Those who have given in, like the New York Abortion Access Fund, now offer their services to “people” and to “callers.” Fund Texas Women, which covers the travel and hotel expenses of abortion seekers with no nearby clinic, recently changed its name to Fund Texas Choice. “With a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans people who needed to get an abortion but were not women,” the group explains on its website.

I think it’s ok for people who provide services to make sure they’re not accidentally excluding trans people. It’s when we’re talking about (and/or working on) the politics of abortion that I think we really need to go on talking about women, because the politics of abortion is inextricably linked to the subordination of women.

The landscape that’s being mapped and the language that comes with it are impossible to understand and just as hard to navigate. The most theory-bound of the trans activists say that there are no paradoxes here, and that anyone who believes there are is clinging to a binary view of gender that’s hopelessly antiquated. Yet Ms. Jenner and Ms. Manning, to mention just two, expect to be called women even as the abortion providers are being told that using that term is discriminatory. So are those who have transitioned from men the only “legitimate” women left?

Are trans women better (truer) feminists than cis women?

The struggle to move beyond such stereotypes is far from over, and trans activists could be women’s natural allies moving forward. So long as humans produce X and Y chromosomes that lead to the development of penises and vaginas, almost all of us will be “assigned” genders at birth. But what we do with those genders — the roles we assign ourselves, and each other, based on them — is almost entirely mutable.

If that’s the ultimate message of the mainstream of the trans community, we’ll happily, lovingly welcome them to the fight to create space for everyone to express him-, her- or, in gender neutral parlance, hir-self without being coerced by gendered expectations. But undermining women’s identities, and silencing, erasing or renaming our experiences, aren’t necessary to that struggle.

Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.

Nor does the absence of nail polish make a man. I was fascinated by the paraphernalia of Being a Grownup Woman when I was a child, but once I was old enough to start deploying it for real, I got sick of it in a heartbeat. Some women like it; some don’t. Drip, drip, drip.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: One of these flawed money-saving approaches

Jun 7th, 2015 8:34 am | By

Originally a comment by chrislawson on It’s up to individual pharmacists.

As a fellow of the RACGP, I’m extremely proud that they’ve taken this stand after many years of not addressing it. An observation for those of you outside the medical field or Australia (I don’t know how applicable this is in other countries)…

Most pharmacists I know dislike stocking all the natural remedy stuff. The problem is that, much as I love Australia’s socialised medical system, one of its deep flaws is that governments keep trying to save money in the system where it’s easier to make cuts rather than where it’s sensible to make cuts.

One of these flawed money-saving approaches is that the government has completely gutted the payment pharmacists receive for dispensing prescriptions, so instead the pharmacies make their money off their retail sales — which is why our pharmacies are full of dodgy remedies, perfumes, cosmetics, gifts, etc. Australian pharmacies can only just tick over on the income from doing what they’re supposed to do — that is, give people health advice and dispense prescriptions while performing the essential task of checking that the prescription is correct and safe — and the reason why owning a pharmacy is lucrative is that the prescriptions act like a loss-leader that attracts customers into the shop where money can be made from impulse buys.

The allowed markups for PBS medication (that is, most of the drugs that are prescribed in Australia) run like this:

Up to and including $30.00 15%
Between $30.01 and $45.00 $4.50
Between $45.01 and $180.00 10%
Between $180.01 and $450.00 $18.00
Between $450.01 and $1,750.00 4%
Over $1,750.00 $70.00

For prescriptions the pharmacy also gets a dispensing fee of around $7. So while the pharmacy is earning money from this, it’s hardly lucrative, especially since some drugs require refrigeration or other special storage conditions and all of them require extensive record-keeping and frequent audits. I’m not trying to make pharmacy owners seem like poor downtrodden proles as they earn a pretty good income and the markups listed above may not be generous but aren’t subsistence-level either…but the current funding model encourages retail income over professional service income, and I think that’s a mistake.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

And who was that man?

Jun 6th, 2015 6:24 pm | By

Holy crap. Libby Anne did some Google-sleuthing after the Duggar parents’ interview, and she found something pretty…telling.

While Josh initially molested his sisters while they slept, he eventually began molesting them while they were awake, too. Did the family value personal space so little that the girls seriously had no idea this this was inappropriate?

“We pulled him out [of the home], and he went through working with that man.”

What man, pray?

“This man really reached his heart.”

“This man” is convenient shorthand for “I don’t want to tell you who.”

But there were clues.

He was running a little training center in Little Rock Arkansas. And under the roof of that training center, you had Little Rock police department on one side, and you had a prison ministry on the other. And he said Josh would come down there and actually do some construction work with him and he would counsel him and work with him and hopefully get him straightened out.

Did this training center have a name? Presumably it would have, but Jim Bob seems very interested in not mentioning it. Hmm. This is a good bit of information, though—the stuff about the police department, and a prison ministry. I wonder if the google might be any help . . . oh, here we go!

“Gothard’s presence here [in Little Rock] can be tracked to his friendship with former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, whose idea it was for Gothard to create a facility in Little Rock to promote faith-based products. . . . “

Gothard. At least, it certainly looks that way. Libby Anne gives more details, then sums up:

Huh. Strange coincidence. At the time Josh Duggar was sent away, Bill Gothard, founder and head of the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), operated [a] “training center” in Little Rock. This training center ran a prison ministry, leased some of the building to the police department, and maintained something called “Integrity Construction Institute” for young men. [The center would have been run by a Gothard-appointed local director.] Why, I wonder, is Jim Bob so loathe to mention the fact that it was an ATI training center?

Oh right. It’s probably because last year Gothard was forced to step down after it came to light that he had sexually harassed and molested over thirty teenage and young women working at his facilities, and that the IBLP board had known about this and covered for him for decades. Oops. If Jim Bob isn’t willing to be forthright about the fact that Josh was counseled through a ministry run by an active sex offender, I’m really not sure why I should assume he’s being forthright in the rest of his statements.


There’s probably something else, too. If Josh was counseled through ATI as Jim Bob statements in the interview suggest, he would almost certainly have been counseled using ATI materials. You can see some of these materials here. These materials have been floating around the internet ever since the story about Josh broke, and wherever they have been read they have evoked outrage for their heavy victim blaming. This may play a role in Jim Bob’s apparent desire not to mention that the “training center” was an ATI facility.

Also, am I the only one seeing some transparently obvious child labor violations?

Yes but never mind all that. Blame the media.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They just flat out pay for them

Jun 6th, 2015 4:59 pm | By

Quoting a public post by Josh Spokes on Facebook:

Give the gift of a life determined by the person who lives it—fund an abortion today. The National Network of Abortion Funds pays for women to have abortions they couldn’t otherwise afford. That’s right. They don’t “raise awareness,” or “help women with the very difficult life choices that these issues raise,” or any of that happy-pappy bullshit designed to avoid saying “having an abortion is a very good thing if you want one.”

They just flat out pay for them. Please help.

Fund Abortion Now.

You can donate to honor Dr George Tiller if you like.

Donate to honor Dr. George Tiller, killed for helping women

The day that Dr. Tiller was assassinated, the National Network of Abortion Funds received many phone calls and emails from women who had seen Dr. Tiller, from his former colleagues, from his friends, all asking us to do something. We answered by creating the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund to celebrate the legacy and life of this man who believed above all in honoring women’s lives and futures. And on the very next day at the office, we received a donation from Dr. Tiller himself, mailed on the Friday before his death.

Since that day, the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund has been providing assistance to women who face the highest obstacles to abortion care, including those who must travel thousands of miles just to get the care that they need. Through the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund, and through you, Dr. Tiller’s legacy lives on.

Donate to the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund at the National Network for Abortion Funds and show you’re willing to take a stand—no matter how outrageous the attacks become.

Their About page:

Our work

The National Network of Abortion Funds works to make sure that all women and girls can get the abortions they seek. We fight unfair laws while directly helping women who need abortions today.

Our story

In 1993, 22 abortion funds established the National Network of Abortion Funds to create opportunities for the funds to share their work, to learn from each other, and to support each other across the country. Today we have abortion funds in communities throughout the United States and the world.

Our people

At our core, the National Network of Abortion Funds is a dynamic network of grassroots abortion funds and thousands of activists who serve the women living in their communities. Listen to some of their stories here, in partnership with StoryCorps.

Our beliefs

We view the right to abortion as a fundamental human right, essential for women’s equality, health, and dignity.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Even 1,000 times worse

Jun 6th, 2015 12:54 pm | By

I saw about half of the Duggar sisters’ interview on Fox last night, and it was revolting. It turns out that Josh Duggar did nothing wrong and the Duggar parents did nothing wrong, and the real perpetrator here is the wicked secular agenda-driven news media, for reporting on Josh Duggar’s sexual abuse of his younger sisters.

The Washington Post has highlights.

“We are victims,” Dillard tearfully told Kelly in another portion of the interview. Explaining her reaction to the moment when allegations against her brother came to light last month, she said: “They can’t do this to us.”

“I see it as a re-victimization that’s even 1,000 times worse,” Dillard said.

As their parents had in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Dillard and Seewald questioned the legality of how In Touch obtained a police report detailing the allegations. “You can’t FOIA juvenile cases, everybody knows that,” Seewald said.

However, legal experts told The Washington Post on Friday that under Arkansas law, the release of the reports — with the victims’ names and relevant pronouns redacted — was likely within the law.

But because other details were given it was obvious that the sisters were the victims.

I can certainly see why the sisters hate that…but at the same time, I don’t think they should minimize the sexual abuse while maximizing the journalistic intrusion.

In another portion of the interview, Seewald defended her brother’s work at the Family Research Council, which included lobbying against same-sex marriage.

“It’s right to say, ‘Here’s what I believe, here’s my values,’ even if you’ve made stupid mistakes or failures,” Seewald said. “If you’ve had failures in your past, it doesn’t mean you can’t be changed. I think that’s where, I think the real issue is people are making this sound like it happened yesterday.”

Oh, I see. LGBT people are evil, but a boy groping his younger sisters is just stupid mistakes.

Josh Duggar and the other Duggars don’t just say “here’s my values”; they say more and worse than that. They do their best to harm people.

But then I have “an agenda.”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Human Rights Campaign has a sexist work environment

Jun 6th, 2015 11:55 am | By

How ironic…or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s classic rather than ironic. Or both. Being marginalized doesn’t prevent the marginalized from marginalizing others, which is perhaps both ironic and classic. (Yes, that applies to me too. Yes, you alone among mortals are immune. Please sit down now.)

The Human Rights Campaign is a white guys club.

A new internal diversity report reveals the Human Rights Campaign has a sexist work environment where only ‘gay, white, male’ employees advance into leadership positions.

Well you see it’s like this – having a leadership position isn’t a human right.

Bullet dodged!

“As a woman, I feel excluded every day,” says an employee of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization, in an internal diversity report released Wednesday.

The report was compiled by The Pipeline Project, and commissioned by HRC through focus groups and surveys with employees of the company. The report revealed that the organizational structure of HRC perpetuates sexism, while leaders have failed to establish a “real push for diversity,” which has created a “homogenous” leadership culture that is “gay, white, male.”

What could they do? It just turned out that all the really talented people were white and male. What could they possibly do about that??

A third of all staff in the report called HRC’s working environment is “exclusionary.” More than half of multiracial and Latino people, and 83 percent of genderqueer people working at HRC said they feel they are not treated equally based on their identity.

Straight women and lesbians experience sexist treatment from gay men.

Employees surveyed reported experiencing “femophobia,” where “feminine men and women are not considered as important [as more masculine staffers].” Another survey respondent claimed to have witnessed “visible misogyny,” which the staffer described as “cutting women off, [and] only addressing other white men.” The report notes that complaints about sexism and a “good old boy’s club” were cited 32 times in open-ended answers.

Now, working for an organization of that kind is bound to sharpen everyone’s perceptions of such things, so there could be some false positives, so to speak – or some debatable examples, or whatever you want to call them. That’s always possible, and it’s that much more so in organizations whose entire purpose is to do with equal rights and equal treatment. On the other hand if all the people at the top really are pale males, it’s hard to get that part wrong.

At an organization that claims to represent more than 1.5 million members, people of color, transgender staffers, and employees from a lower socioeconomic group claimed they faced institutionalized discrimination that played a part in their salary. Employees at the company claim that “a lot of folks are personally invested in diversity inclusion, but their voices have been smothered or pushed away.”

The report reveals an understanding that the way to succeed and advance in the company is to be a “young white gay male, who socializes with staff and especially senior staff.” Doing so ensures “there is a greater likelihood that you will advance sooner,” claimed one respondent. Another employee quoted in the report said they were discouraged from speaking up about such issues, because “raising concerns is not your job … Concerns are to be tasked by people who are more experienced, less radical, more conservative, more mainstream.”

Well, to some extent, yes. More experience is a valid criterion for many jobs, so you can see how that would play out.

Still, it’s interesting. Physician heal thyself etc etc.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A Vanity Fair cover in every pot

Jun 6th, 2015 10:42 am | By

This is cool.

Trans People Are Creating Their Own Vanity Fair Covers With #MyVanityFairCover.

Laverne Cox recently began a dialogue on her Tumblr concerning the beauty standards surrounding trans women in light of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover.

“It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can,” wrote Cox.

So: more “Vanity Fair” covers.

Call me Crystal.

A lot of people have explained it better than me recently, but a large contingent of the trans community has engaged in a lot of dialogue the past few days, ever since Vanity Fair announced their Caitlyn Jenner’s cover story, most of which revolves around the idea that the world only seems to embrace us if we’re wealthy enough or lucky enough to adhere to white, cisnormative beauty standards. I’ve felt frustrated and useless and overwhelmed by opinions on transgender women and how we’re “supposed” to look if we want to be taken seriously.

But not all of us adhere to those standards. Not all of us want to. Not all of us can. Some of us do, but only out of fear. Some of us do but we aren’t sure why. And whether we fit those standards or not, we’re beautiful, and we all deserve tofeel beautiful, and be acknowledged by the world. Admiration and praise for trans women shouldn’t only come if we fit a narrow definition of beauty. As a good friend of mine said Monday “Where’s my Vanity Fair cover?”

Well, it’s here (in white) and here (in black). Please share these and the hashtag #MyVanityFairCover and show the world the myriad faces of the trans community.

So people did.

Tumblr users didn’t hesitate to create their very own cover images.

“Not all of us can or even want to adhere to western cisnormative beauty standards. This doesn’t make us any less beautiful, or any less valid as women,” writes Nadia.

Call me Nadia.

I’m a 28 year old pansexual, polyamorous, mixed race, Dutch trans woman. Most trans women don’t have millions of dollars and instant access to doctors, hormones and surgeries like Caitlyn Jenner has. And not all of us can or even want to adhere to western cisnormative beauty standards. This doesn’t make us any less beautiful, or any less valid as women. So here’s MY Vanity Fair cover!

One more – the article has several, and no doubt Twitter has even lots.

I think “MyVanityFairCover” is a really cool trend to showcase a variety of trans experiences beyond those of the very white, very wealthy, and very lucky. So, uh, here’s me!

he/him/his pronouns, no hormones or surgery, 20 years old, surviving

Rock on.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s up to individual pharmacists

Jun 6th, 2015 10:06 am | By

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has told GPs to stop prescribing homeopathic remedies and says pharmacists must also stop stocking such products for the same sort of reason they shouldn’t prescribe/stock candy or kale or blueberries as medicine.

The official body for Australian GPs has asked pharmacists to strip their shelves of homeopathic products and warned doctors not to prescribe them because they do nothing.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has formally recommended GPs stop prescribing homeopathic remedies and says pharmacists must also stop stocking such products because there is no evidence they are effective in any way.

The RACGP’s position statement on homeopathy, released on Wednesday, follows recent findings by the National Health and Medical Research Council that homeopathy produces no health benefits over and above a placebo.

Homeopathic “remedies” are shelved in drugstores – at least in this country – next to actual remedies, with nothing at all to indicate that they are just pretend. People who don’t know better have no way of knowing that homeopathic “remedies” are not remedies at all. The whole thing is utterly fraudulent and I have never understood why it’s allowed.

Dr Jones said the lack of evidence about any benefits from homeopathy must prompt doctors and pharmacists to turn their backs on it.

“Given this lack of evidence, it does not make sense for homeopathy products to be prescribed by GPs or sold, recommended or supported by pharmacists,” he said.

RACGP noted all taxpayers were funding homeopathy through the federal government’s private health insurance rebate.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it’s up to individual pharmacists to decide if they’ll stop selling homeopathic remedies branded useless by doctors.

“Branded” useless? As if it’s just an epithet, or insult, or opinion?

And why is it up to individual pharmacists to decide if they’ll stop selling fake medicine labeled as medicine? That’s fraud.

Oh well. Fraudulent sneakers or DVDs or tennis balls can do serious harm, but fraudulent medicine is no big deal.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Indian Atheists

Jun 6th, 2015 9:17 am | By

A bat signal. The Indian Atheists Facebook page has been banned as unsafe. This needs to be reversed.

Sorry, are you trying to promote rationalism and secular humanism in India, you may be unsafe for Facebook.

The Facebook page Indian Atheists is an initiative by the Nirmukta community. Our mission is to bring together a community of Indian Atheists and to build a society based on science, reason and humanistic values.

Yesterday we found that content from this page could not be shared as it has been flagged as unsafe. Facebook policies are such that, in case of an objectionable content, the said post would be removed by Facebook. But we found that no specific post was removed as objectionable. Instead the entire Indian Atheists page has been flagged as unsafe and we are not able to share our posts or tag Indian Atheists in any post, not even as comments in closed groups.

How to protest the ban: tag Indian Atheists in a post or comment; the tag will appear, but then when you try to post Facebook will stop you with a pop-up saying the group is banned, and giving you a place to say THIS IS A MISTAKE YOU BOZOS.

Please take a few seconds to do it. India needs its atheists, and they need their Facebook page.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Archdiocese is busted

Jun 5th, 2015 5:51 pm | By

Never forget, children: priests and bishops are better than the rest of us. They’re holy, good men who follow church teachings and serve God.

Except for the archdiocese of Minneapolis-St Paul, that is.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is facing criminal charges after US officials said church leaders ignored reports that a priest was molesting children.

It’s the archdiocese that’s charged, as a corporation, not people.

Officials alleged that the archdiocese “turned a blind eye” to complaints about priest Curtis Wehmeyer for years.

Wehmeyer, now defrocked, was convicted of molesting two brothers in 2013.

`It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well,” said Ramsey County prosecutor John Choi at a news conference on Friday.

“This organization said it protected children when in reality it did not”, said Mr Choi who called the church’s monitoring program for trouble priests “a sham”.

In other words it told lies, in service of protecting itself while leaving children in its care unprotected. How holy.

Lawyers for the victims accused the church leadership of not acting on “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct”.

Had clergy acted more quickly, Wehmeyer would not have been able to destroy the evidence that he did.

But they did it all ad maiorem dei gloriam.

H/t Deepak Shetty


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If someone says it, then you know it

Jun 5th, 2015 5:14 pm | By

I’ve squandered a lot of time today arguing (hello SIWOTI) with people busy claiming I’m a transphobe or a friend and helper of transphobes or at least someone who doesn’t point and hiss loudly enough when a transphobe walks by – and I was rewarded for my efforts by this staggeringly credulous and illiberal comment:

And you know what? Once someone points out her transmisogyny to you, congratulations. She IS a “known transphobe” to you. You thank them for helping you get yourself together…

After the ellipse there’s a stupid jibe about my getting my feelings hurt, which is not the issue at all.

The issue is the very thing denied by that ridiculous assertion. Oh right, once someone – anyone, everyone, it doesn’t matter who, and don’t you dare ask how that someone knows, or where that someone got the information – “points out her transmisogyny” to me, then I automatically know what that someone just told me, because there is no possibility whatsoever that that someone is wrong, or biased, or malicious, or passing on a claim passed on by forty thousand other people all of whom had no reason to believe it either. Listen up, atheists and skeptics: when someone tells you something, then you know that something, because someone just told you it. Believe what you are told, by anyone, no matter who; it’s the skeptic way.

Honest to fucking christ, what is the matter with people? Why am I supposed to take their word for this kind of shit, especially when they model such godawful epistemic practice themselves? What kind of politics do they think they’re creating, if we’re all just supposed to take everyone’s word for everything?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Almost none of the people involved in the school operations were ever interviewed

Jun 5th, 2015 4:39 pm | By

Originally a comment by Jenora Feuer on The schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches

never speak in your mother tongue to anyone, fellow student or staff, on penalty of a beating.

Yeah, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” was pretty blatantly the point of the system. Forced assimilation and conformity. Utterly destroy any sense of being different and actually deserving of respect. Eradicate the local cultures.

Titles like “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” reek of cover ups,

Well, despite Prime Minister Harper officially apologizing on behalf of the federal government at the time this Commission was set up, his actions in general over the years leave little doubt that he’d be happy if that apology were all he had to do and he could just ignore the results.

The fact that the Commission had no authority to offer amnesty in exchange for testimony meant, unsurprisingly, that almost none of the people involved in the school operations were ever interviewed.

Almost all the people heard from were the victims. (Which in many ways is the way it should have been, but the problem is that the abusers would have been the only ones who would have known about money trails and the like, so actively taking apart any remnants of the system is harder without them.)

It’s also notable that the commission was supposed to have finished last year; but the federal government had to be ordered to hand over some of the documents back in 2013, and going through all that required extending the commission.

As I said, I expect Harper was hoping that the formal apology and setting up the commission would be all he would be required to do, and he could just let the whole thing die in committee.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches…

Jun 5th, 2015 11:18 am | By

About Canada’s residential schools…

The New York Times reports.

OTTAWA — Canada’s former policy of forcibly removing aboriginal children from their families for schooling “can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’ ”

That is the conclusion reached by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after six years of intensive research, including 6,750 interviews. The commission published a summary version on Tuesday of what will ultimately be a multivolume report, documenting widespread physical, cultural and sexual abuse at government-sponsored residential schools that Indian, Inuit and other indigenous children were forced to attend.

The schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches, were in operation for more than a century, from 1883 until the last one closed in 1998.

Oh no oh no oh no – those 11 words make up one of the most sinister phrases you can hear – the schools, financed by the government but run largely by churches. That describes the Irish industrial “schools” too, except that they weren’t even schools, they were prisons.

The commission documented that at least 3,201 students died while attending the schools, many because of mistreatment or neglect, in the first comprehensive tally of such deaths.

The report linked the abuses at the schools, which came to broad public attention over the last four decades, to social, health, economic and emotional problems affecting many indigenous Canadians today. It concluded that although some teachers and administrators at the schools were well intentioned, the overriding motive for the program was economic, not educational.

“The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their lands and resources,” the report said. “If every aboriginal person had been ‘absorbed into the body politic,’ there would be no reserves, no treaties and no aboriginal rights.”

But at least they gave the children a decent education, right?

The research and interviews conducted by the commission detailed a boarding school system that was woefully underfunded, inadequately staffed and largely ineffective at its stated aim of providing useful education.

Some former students interviewed by the commission cited school sports and music and arts programs as bright spots in their lives. But those programs were not generally part of the system, and most former students, even those who were not physically or sexually harmed or neglected, said their daily lives had been heavily regimented and lacked privacy and dignity. At many of the schools, students were addressed and referred to by number as if they were prisoners.

And yet we’re always being told that it’s Christianity that invented the idea of human dignity. Odd, that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jun 5th, 2015 11:03 am | By

I’m afraid.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jun 5th, 2015 11:02 am | By

Josh thought he was making a joke, but it’s real. They’re really here. They’re replacing us while we sleep.

new collection

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Looking fabulous!

Jun 5th, 2015 9:13 am | By

Ok as I’ve mentioned I have reservations about people talking about trans women purely in terms of (a familiar, approved, acceptable, what you might call cisnormative form of) beauty, not least because I think it puts yet more burden on trans women who can’t or don’t want to attain that form of beauty. People on Facebook are saying I’m the worst kind of TERF  as a result. But there are other contexts in which “you are GORGEOUS” seem right even to me.

This tweet by Kadar Sheikhmous gives one such context.

Kurdish women remove dark dress after fleeing #isis west Tel Abyad nr #Kobani.

Oh yeah. That is gorgeous.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)