White Chivalric Phallacy

[content note: discussion of violent hate crimes, e.g. lynching; quoting white supremacist killers]

On June 17th, a white supremacist murdered 9 black people at a historical black church in Charleston, NC. A survivor of the massacre reported that the killer told the church: “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country.”[1]

So, first of all, let me make it absolutely clear that I categorically repudiate this use of my body as a justification for racist violence. I am hereby publicly stating my rejection of the spurious and racist “protection” from people who are no harm to me, by people who are much more likely to be a danger to my bodily integrity. And I urge white women everywhere to take that very same public stand.

But, as stated in what I believe is the facebook post that started the #NotInMyName / #NotInOurNames hashtags[2], the public rejection of this argument can only be a beginning. We white women need to talk about this; we need to talk about the fact that “raping our women” has been a tool of white, colonialist patriarchy for a very long time[3]. The racial and sexual “purity” of white women, the chivalric protector-role of white men, and the imagined animalistic aggressiveness of non-white men together constitute an important framework for the hierarchies of white patriarchy. When these hierarchies are threatened, anti-black violence in white woman’s name becomes the means to re-establishing them:

Lynching for rape upheld white privilege and underpinned the objectified figure of white women defined as “ours” and protected by “us” from “them” (Fraiman 1994, 73). These beliefs formed what Fraiman (73) calls the white chivalric phallacy: preservation of what masculine supremacy was refigured as protection of white females for white males. […] In this view, interracial sexuality destroyed what it meant to be a man because white masculinity was inextricably linked to race: To be a man was to be a white man who had sole access to, and the duty to protect white women. The lynching and castrating of African American men, founded on the protection of white women, was central to securing white male power and identity and, thereby, reconstructing a hierarchical masculine difference between white and African American men. [4]

Meanwhile in Europe, the same sentiment appears additionally as anti-immigrant xenophobia and islamophobia. Anders Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, was a white supremacist. Part of the extensive copypasta that is his manifesto dealt with the notion of an epidemic of Muslim immigrants raping white women:

The incidence of rapes carried out by Muslim men in Norway against non-Muslim women is many times higher than rapes by non-Muslim men. The rape frequency in e g Oslo per capita is said to more than five times higher than in New York City. And two thirds of these rapes are committed by immigrants even though they still constitute a rather small part of society.
In Brussels, Belgium, gangs of Muslim immigrants harass the natives on a daily basis. We have had several recent cases where native girls have been gang raped by immigrants in the heart of the EU capital. [5]

And let me repeat that this “white chivalric phallacy” is inherent to white colonialist patriarchy. It’s not just fringe elements and “lone wolf” mass murderers; it’s not just something from the history books of Reconstruction in the US. It is found ubiquitously, with not even much of an effort to hide it via dogwhistles. To use one example from the secular/atheist/skeptic community: Pat Condell, a YouTube personality once heartily endorsed by e.g. Richard Dawkins and still disturbingly popular in some atheist/skeptic spaces was one of the voices popularizing the meme of Sweden as the new “rape capital of Europe”[6] far and wide enough that it can still be commonly found in atheist discussions on any vaguely related topics. Similarly, the effects of this white chivalric phallacy are everywhere: George Zimmerman not being convicted of murder[7]; misogynoir and the tolerance of violence against black women[8][9]; the entitlement-and-hate aspect of a lot of MRA/PUA toxicity[10], violence targeted at white women who’d date an “inferior, ugly black boy” over someone like Elliot Rodger who is, after all, “descended from British aristocracy”[11]; et cetera. Silence in the face of all this will let it continue. We need to have an ongoing conversation about how to destroy the white chivalric phallacy instead of being its acquiescent tool.

TL;DR: this was a white patriarchal mass murder. It was textbook “white chivalric phallacy”. White women have a responsibility to stand up and refuse to be used like that; not just as individuals rejecting such violence being done in our names, but as a social class rejecting, uncovering and ultimately deconstructing the systemic role in the oppression of men and women of color assigned to us by white patriarchy. That is solidarity; that is intersectional feminism. Let us not be silent and remain complicit with white patriarchy on this.

– – –

[1]http://www.nbcnews.com/video/church-gunman-reportedly-said-i-have-to-do-it-467402819802

[2]https://www.facebook.com/chelseypenny/posts/10152946111175642

[3]http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2015/06/the_deadly_history_of_they_re_raping_our_women_racists_have_long_defended.html

[4]https://books.google.com/books?id=Ehf_uO7cMfMC&pg=PA89

[5]https://politicalaspects.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/accepting-immigrant-rape/

[6]http://socialistunity.com/the-unacceptable-face-of-secularism/

[7]http://mic.com/articles/55035/what-juror-b37-s-comments-reveal-about-white-womanhood

[8]https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/misogynoir-sexism-and-racism-in-the-lives-of-black-women/

[9]http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/18/charleston-shooter-black-women-white-women-rape

[10]http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2015/05/21/white-supremacists-are-convinced-that-a-nickelodeon-show-about-a-girl-quarterback-is-promoting-race-cuckoldry

[11]http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/racism-played-role-elliot-rodger-murder-spree-experts-article-1.1806390

Intersectional Feminism

Intersectionality – Black Feminists and the Uprooting of Kyriarchy

Intersectionality has become a popular concept in social justice activism in the recent years. Many activists, writers, and others concerned with social justice have incorporated this concept, sometimes as an actual working tool in their repertoire, sometimes merely as a label allowing another easy grab at the “ally” cookie jar. This widespread popularity is a positive development, in that looking at the whole kyriarchy[1] is a necessity when the goal is equality and human rights for everyone, not just for your own little social corner. On the other hand, popularity is also beginning to erase the people who developed the concept and the theoretical framework from which it arose, turning it into from deeply critical social theory into a fashionable buzzword.

Intersectionality is not simply the acknowledgment that other people are oppressed too, and that some people are oppressed in several different ways; it is a theoretical framework meant to uproot the kyriarchy by acknowledging everyone’s participation in the kyriarchy as both its victim and its perpetuator. It is, in that sense, literally radical. Intersectional theory is the creation of black women academics and activists who felt ignored and ill-served by both the anti-racism and the anti-sexism movements; it came about from the need of black women to fight for their rights as black women, instead of having to divide themselves up into single-identity bits in support of movements that never acknowledged the way racism and sexism affected them as genuine representations of those oppressions. While the concept is obviously applicable to intersections other than those of race, class, and gender, that is the intersection it evolved out of, and that intersection still provides the best context for understanding how intersectional analysis manages to address the very core of our social systems, unlike many of the frameworks that preceded it.

The two women most closely associated with creating Intersectionality Theory are Kimberlé Crenshaw, for coining the term, and Patricia Hill Collins, for creating the concept of a Matrix of Domination. Crenshaw is a Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, who has worked within the framework of black feminist legal theory and critical race studies[2]. Her work focuses on the way institutions fail women of color as a result of inadequate framing of race and gender issues. In 1989, she wrote a paper criticizing the “single-axis framework” that dominated anti-discrimination law as well feminist and anti-racist social justice work as a framework that discusses gender and racial injustice only as they apply to privileged members of these groups. According to Crenshaw, this perspective not only erases black women and other groups suffering multiple oppressions from the discussion, it fails even at the single-axis job of properly describing and analyzing gender or race oppression, since it focuses on only a small part of the many ways in which racial and gender oppression manifest in our society[3]. She makes her case by citing three legal cases in which black women had sued because of job discrimination. In these cases, black women were told on the one hand that they must prove their case either as discrimination against all women and discrimination against all black people, and on the other that they were too different from black men and white women to be representative of all women or all black people in discrimination cases[4]. Crenshaw points out that a framework in which e.g. gender discrimination must always work the way it does for white women or else not count cannot adequately deal with the fact that black women sometimes experience discrimination similar to white women; sometimes similar to black men; sometimes as double-discrimination, stacking gender and racial oppression; and sometimes, as an oppression unique to Black women, an oppression that is not simply the sum of other oppressions[5]. It is in that paper that she compared oppression to traffic at an intersection, with violence that could come from any direction or all directions all at once. And it is in that paper that she described the kyriarchy as a house with a basement in which the oppressed are stacked, with those experiencing oppressions on many axes on the very bottom, and those experiencing only one kind of oppression standing on top of them, in reach of the basement-ceiling which is also the ground floor on which the un-oppressed stand; single-axis social justice in that metaphor is a hatch in the basement ceiling, allowing those who are high enough to reach it to climb up to the ground floor, leaving those further down (and therefore unable to reach the hatch) behind[6]. Intersectionality on the other hand is meant to be a ladder which would let everyone climb out, leaving the basement empty.

Patricia Hill Collins is a Sociologist and Social Theorist who wrote a number of influential books on the topic of Intersectionality, among them Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (1990); Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology (2001, with Margaret Andersen); and Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (2004)[7]. It is in the first that she presented the idea of a Matrix of Domination, created by interlocking systems of oppression and maintained, experienced, and/or resisted at multiple levels: the level of our own personal lives; the cultural or community level; and the institutional or systemic level. Collins describes how, because each person is situated in a different location within that matrix, their experience with and knowledge/understanding of the social system will be unique to them; that one of the tools of oppression is the substitution of the dominant perspective and understanding for all other perspectives, erasing and silencing subjugated knowledge and understanding of society; and that resistance to domination has to come from rejecting the dominant narratives as the universal experience of society and instead understanding them as just one of many situated knowledges produced as a result of one’s position in the matrix of domination[8]. Like Crenshaw, Collins also criticized single-axis narratives of oppression in which each person is either the oppressor or the oppressed. She presents the matrix of domination as a system in which people can function as both oppressor and oppressed, and in which systems of racial, class, and gender oppression are always present but not equally salient to each person experiencing them. At the same time, she rejects the idea that oppressions are simply stackable, and points out that playing Oppression Olympics does nothing to undo the systems maintaining the oppressive social systems[9]. Instead, she proposes to focus on the actual means by which the matrix of oppression maintains itself and how racial, gender, and class hierarchies interact within it, by analyzing the three dimensions of the matrix of domination: institutional, symbolic, and individual. The institutional dimension plays out in organizations like universities and social institutions like the education system as a whole, where in general white men still hold the most powerful positions, with white women often occupying assistive or second-tier positions, and women of color largely represented in non-academic job. The symbolic dimension is present in the way we assign concepts into boxes such as “masculine” and “feminine”, and how often these are actually specifically “white, straight, middle class masculinity” and “white, straight, middle class femininity”, and how this ideological sorting of concepts is then used as justifications for why things are the way they are; the individual dimension is the way we ourselves act within the matrix: do we resist them and connect to people who live in very different locations of the matrix, or do we accept the institutional niches and symbolic boxes? How do we manage the differences of power between individuals? etc.[10]

While Crenshaw and Collins are the most prominent black feminists and Intersectionality is generally considered to be their creation, they were not the only or the first to talk critically about the interactions of race and gender and the inadequacy of traditional social justice theories to address them. Toward A New Vision begins with a quote from Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, in which she references yet another scholar when she says “the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationships”[11]. Lorde is also the author of the memorable quote “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”[12] And before ever the term intersectionality was invented, Barbara Smith, feminist author and member of the Combahee River Collective, talked about the “simultaneity of oppressions” which affects black women in unique ways, and which renders white-dominated feminism inadequate to the task of dismantling patriarchy for all women[13]. Meanwhile Crenshaw’s writing refers back to the 19th century, citing in her papers the black feminist scholar Anna J. Cooper, who once wrote “I see two dingy little rooms with, ‘FOR LADIES’ swinging over one and ‘FOR COLORED PEOPLE’ over the other; while wondering under which head I come”[14].

In other words, black feminists have been critically analyzing the multifaceted nature of the kyriarchy for at least a century already by the time the mainstream of social justice activism (white and/or male as it tends to be) even noticed. And now that it has, I see that it has also begun reshaping it, making it once again most useful to those who are most privileged because they are not affected by multiple oppressions. I see it being used in many mainstream social justice spaces in ways that erase the concepts of complicity in the oppression of others with a bland notion of being “in it together”; and that ignore the uniqueness and varying salience of different oppressions to different individuals in favor of universal narratives and claims of one form of domination being the main or root cause of oppression. Just as the great leaders of the social movements are often whitewashed into harmlessness, so Intersectionality is being whitewashed, made palatable to people who cannot stomach the system-shaking implications of radical social justice. This is a disservice to this highly powerful theory, and it is an injustice to the brilliant black women who have created it. Let’s remember and re-learn the roots of Intersectionality and give credit where credit is due. Let’s not weaken its impact and usefulness by trying to cram it by force and distortion into existing social justice narratives, when what it really is is a critique and replacement for single-axis social justice.

– – –

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyriarchy

[2]http://www.aapf.org/kimberle-crenshaw

[3]Crenshaw, Kimberlé. (1989). “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics”. The University of Chicago Legal Forum, Vol. 140, pp. 139-140

[4]Ibid., pp. 141-147

[5]Ibid., p. 149

[6]Ibid., pp. 151-152

[7]http://www.socy.umd.edu/facultyprofile/Collins/Patricia%20Hill

[8]Collins, Patricia Hill (1990). “Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination”. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, pp. 221-238

[9]Collins, P.. (May 24, 1989). “Toward a New Vision: Race, Class, and Gender as Categories of Analysis and Connection.” Integrating Race and Gender into the College Curriculum: A Workshop. p. 6

[10]Ibid., pp.7-14

[11]Lorde, Audre. (1984). “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, pp.114-123. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. p.123

[12]Lorde, Audre. (1982). “Learning from the 60s.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, pp.134-145. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. p. 138

[13]Smith, Barbara (ed.). (1983). “Introduction”. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. New York, NY: Kitchen Table – Women of Color Press. p. xxxiv

[14]Cooper, Anna Julia (1892). A Voice From The South. Xenia, OH: Aldine Printing House. p. 96

PSA for Christian d00ds: DO NOT MARRY US. PLEASE.

[TRIGGER WARNING: domestic violence and abuse. Please note: although this post focuses on abuse perpetrated by men against women within the context of heterosexual relationships, “red flags” for abuse can apply to relationships comprising partners of any gender or orientation. Resources for a diverse range of abuse and sexual assault victims appear at the end of this post.]

__________

Some doucheweasel of the pastor species who dwells in New York City of all places—as if we don’t have enough problems here already with the entitled banksters, murderous cops, Rupert Murdoch’s legions and other assorted pimples on the ass of humanity—has helpfully assembled a list for his fellow brothers-in-Christ entitled 10 WOMEN CHRISTIAN MEN SHOULD NOT MARRY. One might imagine such a list would look something like this:

  1. Rebecca Watson.
  2. Sikivu Hutchison.
  3. Malala Yousafzai.
  4. Annie Laurie Gaylor.
  5. Susan Jacoby.
  6. Lindsay Lohan.
  7. …etc.

Okay, maybe Ms. Lohan is Christian wife material—I have no idea. But this kind of practical, specific advice is NOT, in fact, what is on offer from pastor Stephen Kim of Mustard Seed Church in New York City. No. Instead, we get ten characteristics that, should a Christian man detect in his potential mate, ought to send him running for the hills screaming “I WILL NEVER, EVER MARRY YOU!”

Loyal Readers™ will be unsurprised to learn that yours truly pegs at least nine out of ten of these features—and, depending on the age of my would-be Christian suitor, all ten. But frankly I am worried sick about ladies who might not be as fortunate as I am, and could find themselves accidentally married to a Christian d00d. Because let me tell you, at least according to the pastor, Christian men are terrible: judgmental, controlling, immature, closed-minded, comically insecure—and, less amusingly, display more than a few of the classic red flags of abusers. So I sincerely commend pastor Kim for providing this valuable public service in highlighting ten qualities women urgently need to cultivate in themselves, in order to guard against the dismal fate that is Christian wifehood.

1. The Unbeliever.

The pastor is clear that a Christian d00d marrying a non-Christian woman is strictly forbidden. The key concern here is ostensibly “idolatry,” i.e. the couple and their children turning away from the Christian god to worship other, presumably more fun and interesting gods. But if idolatry were really the concern, atheist women should still be marriageable: as a rule, we do not worship any gods. (Well, except for Lord Shiva, of course. I thought that went without saying.) The fact is, we are never going to skip off into the woods with our little Gaia and Thor in tow for a Wiccan mass and drunken orgy, unless of course the wine being served is a particularly good vintage of Provence rosé. So idolatry cannot be the real reason to warn Christian men away from unbelievers. No, it’s because these d00ds are so painfully insecure that they cower in abject terror at the very thought of an honest conversation about their beliefs. Because of their extreme emotional fragility, they strive to remain at all times inside a tight, self-referential echo chamber: unchallenged, willfully ignorant, incurious and intellectually bankrupt. You know: like a Fox News viewer.

Ladies, just get thyself some pentagram jewelry, and be troubled no more.

pentagram pendant

Amulet pendant, $7.50

Abuse Red Flag

Pathological narcissism: “A narcissist cannot tolerate criticism. This does not just mean that a narcissist will reject or dislike criticism, but that he will escalate and lash out in the face of it.”

__________

2. The Divorcee.

Wedding bandsAccording to pastor Kim, a second marriage is “invalid and adulterous. A divorced woman, therefore, is off limits for a Christian man–unrepentant adultery being a sin that prevents one from obtaining eternal life (1 Cor 6:9).”

Whew! Good thing I am an unrepentant adulterer! But for you unfortunate ladies who are not unrepentant adulterers, fret not. There is a fix: marry a kind, hot foreign d00d who needs a US work visa. (Preferably a wealthy one: apparently these sham marriages can be quite lucrative!) When he gets his green card you divorce him and voilà: you are officially off limits to Christian d00ds.

But really, this objection rings hollow. It sounds an awful lot like the toxic purity culture right wing Christians want to enforce on all of us.

Also: “eternal life?” Why would anyone want that? And even if you did want that, wouldn’t you much rather be a vampire? I know I sure would. Vampires are hot.

Alex Skarsgard

Alex Skarsgard, people. Alex Skarsgard.

Abuse red flag

Jealousy: “Jealous behavior is one of the surest signs that abuse is down the road.”

__________

3. The Older Woman.

Whether you can claim this exemption or not depends on the relative age of the Christian d00d in question. At first I didn’t get what could possibly be the problem here, but then the pastor helpfully ‘splained:

I want to remind you that God intentionally (with good reason!) created Adam before Eve in the First Marriage. Scripture informs us that God created man first chronologically for the sake of authority! Listen:  “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12-13).

Sure, that sounds totally legit.

Abuse Red Flag

Attracted to vulnerability: “abusive men are attracted to women much younger and/or at different developmental and maturity levels than them…He is attracted to the power imbalance in this type of relationship.”

__________

4. The Feminist.

Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Are you instead committed to the political, economic, and social inequality of the sexes? Then ask your doctor whether Christian Marriage® is right for you!

The pastor has some, um, interesting things to say about feminism:

Any woman who tries to usurp her husband’s authority or even claims to be a co-leader with her man is gravely dishonoring the God who created her to be subject and obedient to her husband (Eph 5:22, Col 3:18, 1 Pet 3:1).

Leather Man NYCIt seems to me if this god designed men (though not women) so inadequately that they each require a permanent personal slave, then he should be the one providing those services for the helpless creatures himself. There’s a fantastic shop on Christopher Street that sells the perfect outfits and accoutrements for that sort of thing, FYI.

Abuse Red Flag

Sexist attitude: “Abusers tend to enforce rigid gender roles or believe in the traditional male ‘head of the household’ role.” Also: “gender inequalities increase the risk of violence by men against women and inhibit the ability of those affected to seek protection.” Plus: “Does your partner have strong ideas about the place and position of women vs. men?” Because RUN.

__________

5. The Sexy-Dresser.

LouboutinsWhy yes, thank you, I will indeed show some leg and/or cleavage when I feel like it. Probably not at the grocery store or a funeral, but if it makes me feel happy and confident to wear Those Shoes or That Lipstick I’ma do it. For me. Sadly, our pastor friend does not approve:

The way that a woman is willing to expose herself says much about her heart: “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart” (Proverbs 7:10).  The text in Proverbs explains that a woman will dress in a certain way to catch a certain type of man.  Don’t be that man. 

What type of man pray tell is our harlot attempting to “catch”? The “type” who finds her devastatingly attractive and would dearly love to fuck her? Because clearly these are NOT qualities any woman would want in a long term partner, amirite? (!!!)

Note also the Evil Temptress vs. poor unwitting prey framing. Seems pastor Kim believes men are constitutionally incapable of finding someone sexually attractive and not acting on it. Yet in my experience, men are indeed capable of behaving better than feral dogs. Christian men? I guess not so much. So sex it up, ladies! Wear whatever makes you feel happy and confident! Just be extra careful not to unwittingly snare yourself a Christian d00d—apparently they are THE WORST.

Abuse Red Flag

Jealous accusations: “Has your partner jokingly or seriously complained that you were trying to attract other men/women by the way you walk, dress, or behave?” If so, STFU & Go Away® might be right for him!

__________

6. The Loud-Mouth.

HAHAHAHA! When someone spews harmful bullshit, I speak up (if it’s safe to do so). I consider it the moral duty of a decent human being. As a woman of course, I have been cut off, interrupted, ignored and spoken over by d00ds, in professional and personal contexts, more times than I could even begin to count. Men do these things to establish status and dominance, presumably among other males, since most women think these moves are sure signs of insecure and disrespectful blowhards. Tellingly, even when women are purposefully allotted equal time to speak, the perception is that they’re actually getting far more time than an equal share. Dale Spender, Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill explain this phenomenon:

The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.

In other words, if women talk at all, this may be perceived as ‘too much’ by men who expect them to provide a silent, decorative background in many social contexts.

Men like…pastor Kim, whom you may recall favorably citing 1 Timothy 2 above: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Let me put it this way: the more people like pastor Kim keep talking, the louder I will get. Who knew it was so easy to repel Christian men just by speaking up? Get yourself a bullhorn, ladies, and don’t be afraid to use it.

__________

7. The Child-Hater.

Do not marry a woman who is not willing to have children of her own.  In the Christian worldview, there is absolutely no room for two married, biologically capable, human beings to remain intentionally child-less.

You know, occasionally a friend will remark on my apparent dislike for children. This observation is not accurate: I dislike assholes, and I do not discriminate based on age. If there happens to be a lot of overlap between the two—and in my neighborhood there definitely is—that is not my problem to solve. I am intentionally childless for many reasons I won’t go into here, except to say that as an unrepentant adulterer, I am absolutely overjoyed every single fucking day that I never did spawn with my abusive ex. But the pastor, he no likee:

If you are adverse towards having children, then there’s a simple remedy for that: single-hood.

By which he means celibacy, of course. Hahaha nope. He may not be aware of this, but there’s actually another simple remedy for that: it’s called birth control. So if you suspect your fianmay be a Christian d00d, tell him you hate kids and are having your tubes tied. That should get rid of your problem.

Abuse Red Flag

Reproductive coercion: “coercion by male partners to become pregnant and to control the outcome of a pregnancy — has been associated with a history of both intimate partner physical and sexual violence.”

__________

8. The Wander-Luster. 

There is something very wrong with a girl who regularly needs to be “out of the home.”

Well, yes. A girl needs a safe and supportive home environment—what with being a minor and all.

The constant desire for new experiences, new places, new faces, and new forms of entertainment only serves to clearly manifest the fact that the woman has not found her rest in God. Believe it or not, Scripture speaks repeatedly about such women:  “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home” (Proverbs 7:11).

Translation: a woman’s entire world should be narrowed to her home. Otherwise, Jeezus haz a sad.

Just remember ladies: LOUD & WAYWARD FTW.

Niagra Falls NY —> 4,050 km

Abuse Red Flag

Isolation: “An abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim’s ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being ‘trouble makers.’”

__________

9. The Career Woman.

Modern American society might hate to hear this, but God made men to be the providers and women to be the nurturers of the home (in most instances). It’s okay for a woman to be a doctor, attorney, or any other professional. However, if her career is coming at the expense of her home, then something is wrong.

Ugh, here we go again with the home. The home! The home! I get it: meaningful and fulfilling work is not what a Christian d00d wants for his partner, nor does he want to be a nurturing partner at home. Ew.

The woman ought to be willing (and even desirous–to some extent) to give up her job for the sake of raising her kids in the Lord.  “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander” (1 Tim 5:14).

There’s your solution right there: just don’t give a flying fuck what your enemies—for example, Southern Baptists—say about you.

Abuse Red Flag

Economic abuse: “a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially… Economic abuse in a domestic situation may involve: preventing a spouse from resource acquisition, such as restricting their ability to find employment, maintain or advance their careers, and acquire assets…and when victims are asked why they stay in abusive relationships, ‘lack of income’ is a common response.”

__________

10. The Devotion-less Woman.

Is the woman having a regular, daily devotional time with her God? If she doesn’t love the Lord now, chances are, she won’t love the Lord after marriage.

OMG I loooove Lord Shiva! And I worship him with all my…er, heart! Heart.

You want to marry a girl who has an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Wait, with who now? No, I definitely don’t see myself in a compatible relationship—intimate or otherwise—with a d00d who is a petty little shit to his mom and brothers, and also to fig trees, and who calls a desperate woman and her sick child “dogs”. I mean, I FUCKING LOVE FIGS.

Jesus (not you) has to be the first man in her life.

Okay, that is not going to work out with one of these narcissists for a partner. Trust me on this.

_________

So what have we learned? Christian men are to be studiously avoided, and there are plenty of easy and inexpensive ways to repel them. Also: apparently I am at least ten women in one.

Finally, remember kids: it’s feminists who have little regard for men.

__________

RESOURCES FOR ABUSE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS

Resources for a diverse range of abuse and sexual assault victims – See more at: http://www.secularwoman.org/PSA_for_Christian_d00ds_DO_NOT_MARRY_US_PLEASE.#sthash.Kw9p8VsC.dpuf
Resources for a diverse range of abuse and sexual assault victims – See more at: http://www.secularwoman.org/PSA_for_Christian_d00ds_DO_NOT_MARRY_US_PLEASE.#sthash.Kw9p8VsC.dpuf

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer or phone.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES:

US:  National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)/TTY 1−800−787−3224
UK: Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247.
Australia: 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
Worldwide: International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies, a global list of helplines and crisis centers.

FOR MALE VICTIMS OF ABUSE:
U.S. & Canada: The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women
UK: ManKind Initiative
Australia: One in Three Campaign

RAPE & SEXUAL ASSAULT RESOURCES:

U.S: National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE); National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
International: See here.

RESOURCES FOR MALE VICTIMS OF RAPE & SEXUAL ASSAULT:

MaleSurvivor. (“provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support.”)
One in 6. (“Our mission is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.”)

RESOURCES FOR TRANS* VICTIMS (staffed exclusively by trans volunteers):
Trans Lifeline http://www.translifeline.org/
US: (877) 565-8860
Canada: (877) 330-6366
See also LGBT: stop-homophobia.com

I’m an Atheist… and You Suck!

Here’s my idea for the next atheist billboard:
I'm an atheist...and you suck!

“I’m an atheist…and you suck!“*

No better way to show the true punk rock spirit of the atheist movement. After all, if you aren’t an atheist you know deep down inside we’re cooler than you. We know more and we think better. That’s a true, logical fact.
Does that make us jerks? Maybe so. But that’s why this billboard idea is so genius. We need to circle the wagons against irrationality. Create a circle of “jerks,” if you will.
Whenever I make this suggestion, people laugh or look at me like I have three heads. But those people suck.
Join the circle jerk!
Thanks for letting me finish,
Major Mike
*Apologies to The Meatmen and Matt Groening.

Racism is whites’ problem to solve.

If you follow news about policing, you will already know that American society is by far the most incarcerated in the world, that black and brown people are enormously overpoliced compared to whites and given harsher sentences than whites for the same crimes, and that young black men in particular are killed by police at rates 21 times greater than their white counterparts. Many liberal-minded whites I know seem incapable of grasping the enormity of the injustice of all of that—which may be understandable given that their interactions with police have been generally much different, but is not excusable on those grounds. Of course many less-than-liberal-minded whites are openly defensive and hostile in response to anyone calling this what it is—systemic racism—in favor of all manner of victim-blaming and othering and authoritarianism and bootstrapping narratives that have about as much relation to reality as…well, as all things conservative generally do. This is why as protesters took to the streets in NYC (and across the nation) in response to police violence and the failure to hold accountable the cops who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner, I was heartened to see people of every race among them, especially whites. I say this not to suggest these whites deserve a cookie just for being decent fucking human beings. They don’t. I say it because—and this really cannot be said enough—racism is whites’ problem to solve.

RACISM IS WHITES’ PROBLEM TO SOLVE.

See, there I said it again. And it is true in exactly the same way that street harassment is mens’s problem to solve. (The similarities to misogyny don’t end there, but that’s another post entirely.) It’s a tall order, to be sure, and will take a hell of a lot more than white people demonstrating and marching. The solution to police violence and mass incarceration of people of color does not just lie within the relationships between cops and communities of color—although it certainly lies there, too. It lies with whites interrogating ourselves about our participation in social, cultural and political systems that sustain racism—and committing to fucking doing something about it. Janee Woods wrote recently:

We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily.

People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people.

__________

Here are some images I shot from Greenwich Street on December 4th around 8:00pm as protesters marched West on 11th Street. (Yes people, believe it or not I was actually roused from my bar stool—not by all the NYPD sirens of course, but by the protester chants I heard over them from a block away.)

NYPD blocking greenwich st at 11th

NYPD blocking Greenwich St.
West Village, between Perry & 11th Sts.

protestors 11th & greenwich sts

Protesters at 11th & Greenwich Sts.

protestors "justice"

Protester at 11th & Greenwich Sts.: "JUSTICE"

protestors on 11th st

Protesters at 11th & Greenwich Sts.

woman protestor "Black Lives Matter"

Woman protesting at 11th & Greenwich Sts.: BLACK LIVES MATTER.

USA Today has a fantastic collection of photos from nationwide protests; here are a few from NYC.

Brooklyn Bridge protestors

Brooklyn Bridge.
(Photo: Jason DeCrow, AP)

Grand Central Die-In

Grand Central.
(Photo: Justin Lane, European PressPhoto Agency)

Foley Square "We Can't Breathe"

Foley Square.
(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

__________

Back at the bar, a young woman came in, sat next to me and ordered a drink. We got to talking, as bar people do. She had just turned twenty-one a few days ago, and in a few weeks will be headed for a semester in Paris to study curation. We talked about art and artists (she loves Frida Kahlo) and Europe (she’s never been) and her excitement about the adventures that lie ahead (highly contagious). Eventually she mentioned that she had just been marching with the protesters, and that she was struggling with some guilt over pursuing her dreams overseas while her community was suffering so much here, and yet she said she felt a duty to take advantage of these opportunities for them. She has an autistic brother, 17, who she fears will make an easy target for police violence, not just because of his race but because his disability makes interpersonal communication so difficult for him. She is not wrong about that. I listened for a while, and did not interrupt, until she shared that she was really torn between being a committed activist and “curling up in a ball in bed.” Wait, I said. Those things are not mutually exclusive. And I urged her to curl up in a ball in bed exactly as often as she needed to, to mourn, to rest, to reset. There is no shame in tending to your own garden. We hugged, I wished her well and parted.

paris-bound student protestor

Photo shared with permission; name withheld.

We may well lose her to Paris, and that would be our great loss. Who could blame her? Any future she may have stateside is up to us—all of us.

Earlier that evening, I had posted to Facebook a photo of police helicopters swarming the skies above Manhattan. Later on, I would have a fitful night’s sleep, awakened over and over by the sounds of sirens blazing and helicopters roaring. This is nothing, I reminded myself, compared to the nightmare that will never end for the families and friends of those unjustly killed by police with impunity.

I hope you will get involved, and stay involved. I may well be curling up in a ball in bed today.

The helicopters are still in the skies.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

__________

[a version of this post appeared at perry street palace.]

Invisible Politics

To politicize something means to inject politics into a previously politics-free subject. "Politics" in this context can mean several things. At the most straightforward, it means connecting a thing to electoral or legislative issues, e.g. using the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to talk about the US-Mexico border in order to convince people to vote for conservative candidates and endorse conservative immigration laws. However, in many cases "politics" means something broader: while gay marriage and non-discrimination laws are political in the above sense, many issues relating to gender & sexual minorities have nothing to do with the government; yet trans and gay visibility are seen as inherently "political". Similarly, not all feminism is connected to legislative or electoral efforts, but feminism is similarly considered thoroughly political. In this sense "politics" and "political" tend to relate to the presence of conceptions about how the word does or should work; it is either used synonymously with "ideological" or to refer to the praxis of an ideology. With that broader meaning, politicizing something would mean injecting any amount of ideology into something that was previously completely ideology-free.

The problem with this is that nothing relating to human interaction is ideology-free. There are only ideologies we notice, and those we do not; similarly, there are invisible and visible politics, but nothing social that is truly politics-free.

At this point, I should clarify what "invisible" means here. Things can be invisible because they fly below people's radar, are rarely encountered, or are otherwise hidden; that is not what I'm talking about. Here, invisibility comes from ubiquitousness: people don't think they and people like them have an accent (it's all these other people who do) because they're acclimatized to it so that it has become their default[1]; similarly, certain assumptions about the world are defaults, and thus normalized and not perceived as even existing[2]. These base assumptions tend to connect up to form entire "naturalized" (as in: "that's just the way things are naturally/normally") ideologies[3].

Default worldviews are just as ideological or political as others, but their underlying assumptions are not usually noticed, i.e. they are invisible; thus, these worldviews are thought of as objective or purely reality-based. In contrast, any alternative view or critique of the default will have noticeable (or even explicitly stated) base assumptions, and will thus be viewed as biased, subjective, or ideological. The introduction of such a critique or alternative worldview into a particular social space would therefore be seen as "politicization" of that space. As noted though, they already have politics in them, they're just politics of the status quo, as imperceptible to us the same way our own local accent is; or the way the grammar of one's own language is followed without necessarily explicitly knowing its rules (i.e. the way young children use & understand it). Feminist critique of video games does not "politicize" them; they already had male-centered politics in them (and some games are explicitly about ideologies and politics *coughbioshockcough*). Shining a light on homophobia in sports does not politicize sports; they already had the politics of heteronormativity in them. Criticizing racial underrepresentation in STEM is not politicizing academia; it has already been full of white-privileging politics, and quite explicitly so until very recently. And so on.

The invisibility of dominant ideologies also means any attempt at making them visible first faces a lack of language to describe the issues[4], and later is likely to be attacked as making things up and playing the victim. It is somewhat analogous to what it would be like to be the first person ever to try to describe English grammar: one would have to unmask and name features no one previously even considered might exist. Reactions by others might also be similar: being the first to claim there are specific rules, patterns, and structures to something people learn "naturally" and navigate fairly well without ever learning any rules for would likely result in the grammarian being accused of making up conspiracy theories about shadowy English-designing cabals forcing people to speak according to "rules".

Lastly, that only the non-default worldview is even identified as a worldview (rather than objective truth) works to the advantage of currently dominant worldviews. "Politics" and "ideology" are both terms with negative connotations in our society. Consequently, being able to accuse critics of "politicizing" or "injecting their ideology into" some aspect of culture or society without risking the same accusation is a useful weapon in defense of the status quo. Similarly, one can accuse critics of bias or subjectivity while being able to claim objectivity for the dominant perspective. This is how it is possible for men to say that they have an objective outsider perspective on gender-related issues or how conservative Christians can connect their religion to the Republican party while at the same time claiming that Islam is different than Christianity because Islam is a political ideology.

None of these attacks are accurate. All social things already have politics in them; all people are biased, subjective, and political, whether that's in favor of dominant ideology or a different one; no one is an outside observer to racial, gender, class, or other hierarchies; there are always social structures even when you don't know about them (just like your own language has grammar even if you've never learned any). The status quo is politics, and it's important to point this out.

– – –
 

[1] Esling, J.H. (1998). "Everyone Has an Accent Except Me", in Bauer, L. & Trudgill, P. (Editors). Language Myths, pp.169-175. [book chapter]. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc. Retrieved from here.

[2]Olson, D. (Oct 21, 2014). "S4E7 – #GamerGate", in Folding Ideas. . Retrieved from here, transcript available here.

[3]Wemyss, G. (2009). The Invisible Empire: White Discourse, Tolerance and Belonging. [book]. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. p.10. Retrieved from here.

[4]Solnit, R. (Jun 04, 2014). "Language Matters: How #YesAllWomen Named a Problem With No Name", Yes! Magazine. [web]. Retrieved from here.

Introducing DURP: the Dawkins Unit of Relative Perniciousness

Someone is ANGRY on the Internet! (apologies to xkcd)

 

Richard Dawkins is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

 

What's made him so mad? Petty American Feminists who get angry over nothing.

 

In a recent interview, he found time to remind us that he is a True Feminist:

"I concentrate my attention on that menace [of Islamism and Jihadism's threat to women] and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial."

 

You and me both, Richard. I know I lose a lot of sleep over people who get upset about trivialities.



"I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well. There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me."

 

Indeed. These days, it's hard to find reference to Dawkins anywhere. He would never, say, block atheists he disagreed with from speaking at the Reason Rally for example. That'd be muzzling.

 

Dawkins' frustration isn't new to most of us True Feminists. After all, we've been annoyed for decades about how feminist anger has no sense of proportion. But True Feminists know when to be angry and when not to be hysterical. We know that as long as our sisters are being murdered and threatened overseas we can't focus on trivialities about who groped whom at the water cooler, who stalked whom in an elevator, street harassment, why women don't make as much as men, fewer women in STEM fields, rape, spousal abuse, the list goes on and on.

 

Can't they see how hard we True Feminists are fighting the scourge of sexism overseas? Those Islamist men are so sexist they don't even know how sexist they are!

 

Sing with me… "And we won't come home 'til it's over over therrre…"

 

So while we TFs fight sexism on the beaches, fields, and streets overseas, I'm going to propose something that will help other feminists understand how to scale their anger.

 

In honor of our beleaguered hero, I'm going to propose the Dawkins Unit of Relative Perniciousness (DURP).   

 

I still haven't worked out the details quite yet. (I was too busy this morning fighting for the right of Saudi women to drive.) But things that are low on the DURP scale are less worthy of our time and mental energy. Harassment, glass ceilings, etc. These are things that don't bother me too much. Other things are much higher on the DURP scale are worthy of anger. War, pestilence, famine, prayer in public schools, feminist anger…

 

So, my fellow True Feminists, let's work some more on this DURP scale. What is the measured equivalent of one DURP? Post your suggestions in the comments!

 

Meanwhile, I gotta run to a rally protesting the use of "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. I really can't tell you how important that issue is to me.

 

Thanks for letting me finish,

–MM–




 

Funny times with Forced Birthers.

Jill Filipovic has a good piece up in Cosmopolitan (yes, that Cosmopolitan) entitled Abortion Clinic Protesters: “Sidewalk Counselors” or “Sidewalk Terrorists”? It covers the usual rabid theocrats and misogynist circus clowns, and it documents (as we already know) that these assholes are not driven by “baby killing” per se, they are really railing against women (and others) having non-church sanctioned, non-procreative sex. I have never understood this motivation personally because that is, quite obviously I would think, the best kind of sex to have. Nevertheless, this particular attitude, incomprehensible as it may be, explains why Forced Birthers are also dead set against birth control—which would, you know, actually reduce abortions.

Now maybe this is because I have a terrible fucking head cold, a hacking cough and a fever (OMG! EBOLA!) but for whatever reason I found the clinic protesters interviewed for this article hilarious. Don’t get me wrong—they are as rage-inducing as ever, and I still loathe each and every one of them with the burning fire of ten thousand suns. But this, my friends, is comic gold:

“[Women] had equality,” [demonstrator Fred] Delouis says about the 1950s, before Supreme Court cases legalized contraception and abortion. “But they had to be obedient to their husbands. That’s where equality comes: where the mother stayed home and raised the children in God’s light, and the husband worked, and everything was great. When I grew up, there were no problems.”

Equality, y’all! EVERYTHING was GREAT! And there were NO PROBLEMS…for Fred! LOL!

And Fred just keeps the hits right on coming:

“Society was great before they had abortions,” he says. “Because there wasn’t as much evil in the world.”

Did you know World War II happened after Roe v. Wade? HAHAHA!

“They weren’t murdering God’s babies, which is the most important thing.”

Silly Fred! Abortions are actually helping God murder his babies, because if there’s one thing we all know God loves, it’s murdering his babies! If 50% of pregnancies spontaneously abort, obviously clinics are just doing some of God’s baby murderin’ work for him! You would think Fred would show a little more enthusiasm and gratitude. He can be pretty funny, but I think he’s a little confused.

Then there’s the Death D00d:

Inside the clinic, Deb Fenton, regional director of Central and Western Massachusetts Planned Parenthood, peers out the window, looking for one of the regular protesters who shows up in an Angel of Death costume. “Is the Grim Reaper out there today?” she asks.

Excellent! I want to hang around Grim Reaper d00d while wearing my trademark bloody coat hanger dress—always a big hit at parties. I had been thinking of festooning it with bloody doll parts around the coat hanger anyway, and I feel this would nicely complement the whole “bloody dismembered fetus” theme they’ve got going on their posters and signage. I’ll fit right in! It’ll be a hoot!

Then there’s Ruth:

“I consider my profession having been a mother and a grandmother,” Ruth says, adding that her children agree with her values: two of her daughters got pregnant out of wedlock, one in high school, and both placed their children for adoption.

Oh, Ruth. Priceless!

And the lovely Nancy Clark:

“Abstinence,” Clark says. “It’s possible. I taught my daughters abstinence. It doesn’t mean I’ve been successful with my first two, but I have three more to go.”

Third time’s the charm? Bwahahahaha!

 

Clark says that after marriage, “natural family planning” is the only way to go. And she’s mystified by its lack of popularity:

“You can’t even get Catholics to use it,” she says. “It does work though. Of course, I have nine kids.”

Stop it Nancy! You’re killin’ me!

 

Clark testified in the Supreme Court’s recent clinic buffer zone case—presumably under penalty of perjury—that:

“close personal communication” in a “kind, gentle voice” was her preferred method of approaching women, and that “speaking in a raised voice, shouting or yelling is counterproductive.”

Once the shitheads on the high court struck down the clinic buffer zone law (a unanimous decision, by the way, issued from the safety and comfort of the court’s own 200 foot buffer zone), Clark now enjoys having more options of where she can approach women in a “kind, gentle voice.”

“Instead of yelling from here,” she says, gesturing across the street to the clinic, “I get to yell from over there.”

What a scream! (<—Hahaha. Sometimes I crack myself up.)

Next, meet Father Andrew Beauregard, a Franciscan monk—i.e. a celibate d00d (at least we hope…). He’s here to helpfully ‘splain everything you need to know about wimmenz lives:

“The fullness of being a woman is being a mother.”

And here I thought the fullness of being a woman was me eating too much of Frankie’s pizza. Huh. So I guess the fullness of being a man is being a daddy? Then why the fuck are you here yellin’ at pregnant people instead of making the babies? Dust that thing off and get to work, Father. God needs more babies to murder!

“For a woman to say that she has to have control over her body or over herself in such a way that she can’t be a mother really speaks to a degradation towards women.”

Conversely, compulsory childbirth is in no way degrading to women! I can’t stand it! This guy is a fucking pisser!

Protesters also told Filipovic they had a “save” the week before: that is, they convinced a man (*ahem*) to convince his girlfriend to leave the clinic:

Recounting their “save,” Meija and Pablo say the woman was going to terminate because her boyfriend had another girlfriend and had also fathered children with other women. But, they say, the boyfriend didn’t want the abortion from the beginning and after he promised he would support the baby, she came out of the clinic crying, and they walked away together.

Well that sure sounds like a win for everyone!

“We saw them together,” Pablo says. “That’s the most great thing — to see them together as a family.”

Remember, people, this is all about traditional family values: one d00d, his two girlfriends, plus a bunch of kids he’s had with other women. The MOST GREAT THING. Probably ever! Tee-hee-hee!

There is one thing I don’t get, though: if you’re so content with the choices you’ve made in your own life, what the hell are you doing spending your days harassing and yelling at other people for making choices of their own? I thought this would go without saying, but nine kids just isn’t for everybody. Hell, marriage isn’t for everyone, either. Just ask Father Beauregard about that!

It never occurred to me before, but I’m starting to think maybe they do it for the lulz.

[cross-posted at perry street palace]

 

Andrew Sullivan: FREE SPEECH™ of straight white d00ds dooooomed by evil feminists.

Portrait of Andrew Sullivan

by Iris Vander Pluym
oil on canvas, 30 ft. x 50 ft.
$10 million

[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of sexist, racist and other problematic language.]

Friends, I am sorry to report that FREE SPEECH™ is, for all intents and purposes, dead. And not just in Dawkinsland either, where Richard and his fellow…what's the word?… "rationalists" I believe they call themselves, are at this very moment cowering in abject fear of no exaggeration witch hunts, actual Inquisitions and literal Orwellian Thought Police. As I'm sure we can all imagine, that is exactly what it is like being rebuked for saying factually wrong or long-debunked shit on Twitter—or worse, being informed that you've just said something harmful to people who are not you. Can you even imagine? Thankfully, Dawkins & Co. keep on bravely fighting the good fight for FREE SPEECH™ for all of us, by brilliantly deploying the tried-and-true tactic of repeating rape culture tropes that have plagued sexual assault victims for millennia. THOUGHT EXPERIMENTIN'! BREAKIN' TABOOS! PHILOSOPHIZIN'! 'SPLAININ' LOGIC! If that doesn't make feminists shut the fuck up, surely nothing will. I mean, what is the point of even having FREE SPEECH™ if other people are going to actually criticize things you say?

But this terrifying campaign of violent censorship has now gone far beyond even that. Andrew Sullivan, "conservative-libertarian" columnist, reports with alarm that "The SJWs Now Get To Police Speech On Twitter." For the uninitiated, "SJW" stands for Social Justice Warrior, i.e., a person who advocates for equality and against bigotry and oppression with respect to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. (Believe it or not, SJW is actually meant as derogatory slur.) So what exactly are these jack-booted thugs doing to end FREE SPEECH™ on Twitter?

Well, a group called WAM! (Women, Action & the Media) has just entered into a pilot program in collaboration with Twitter intended to address the epidemic of gender-based harassment and abuse plaguing the platform. The purpose is to "learn about what kind of gendered harassment is happening on Twitter, how that harassment intersects with other kinds of harassment (racist, transphobic, etc.), and which kinds of cases Twitter is prepared (and less prepared) to respond to." WAM! will work with Twitter to track the data and improve their responses. The way it works is pretty straightforward: if you're being harassed on Twitter, you fill out this form on the WAM! site. Once they verify your information, they escalate it a.s.a.p. directly to Twitter, and try to get you a quick resolution. WAM! makes clear right on the form that they can only advocate: they have neither the authority nor the ability to make decisions or take any action on behalf of Twitter.

Just to be clear: we are not talking here about hurt fee-fees because somebody tweeted something mean at me and now I haz a sad. We are talking about relentless threats of violent rape and gruesome death, some credible enough that recently at least three women have been driven from their own homes. We are talking about violations of federal law under 18 U.S. Code § 875(c), which provides that "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." In New York State, we are talking about a class A misdemeanor under § 120.50(3), or depending on the circumstances, possibly a class E or D felony. In a case like Zerlina Maxwell's, we are also talking about a hate crime subject to enhanced sentencing. And more to the point, we are talking about violations of Twitter's own terms of service, which Twitter itself has proven unable to enforce.

This is the FREE SPEECH™ hill that Andrew Sullivan is prepared to die on.

If you think about it, it's actually kind of shitty that a nonprofit like WAM! has to step in and do this work for Twitter (to say nothing of local, state and federal law enforcement). But to Twitter's credit, this certainly represents a step in the right direction, and one with the potential to lead to in-house reforms.

But not for Andrew Sullivan. Oh, no. He is filled with the foreboding sense that this unholy alliance between WAM! and Twitter portends the end of FREE SPEECH™ as we know it. In his mind, "Twitter has empowered leftist feminists to have a censorship field day." And Sullivan does not like these lefty-feminists one bit, no siree! So much so that he imagines—naturally based on no evidence whatsoever—that WAM!s actual Sooper Seekrit Agenda™ is ultimately enforcing "gender quotas for all media businesses, equal representation for women in, say, video-games, gender parity in employment in journalism and in the stories themselves." Gender quotas! LOL! Also: simply stating the demonstrable fact that straight, white males have overwhelmingly dominated public discourse is disparaging straight white males as a group. And sure, WAM! may say their mission is to advocate for the inclusion of more diverse and historically marginalized voices in media, but Andrew Sullivan ain't buying it: "WAM can get to advance their broader ideas about policing the speech of white straight males by this legitimizing alliance with Twitter." WAM!'s real goal, he knows, "is to police and punish others for their alleged sexism." Never mind that, again, WAM! cannot censor anything, anywhere (except their own web site). Twitter is "handing over the censorship tools to a radical activist group bent on social transformation."

Obviously, if these terrible lefty feminist censors are not stopped pronto, next thing you know straight white men will be the ones fleeing their homes in fear for their lives. Just like Richard Dawkins.

Seriously, though, the whole rant is wildly entertaining. "Instead of seeing the web as opening up vast vistas for all sorts of voices to be heard," he writes with comical cluelessness, "they seem to believe it is rigged against female voices." D00d. In case the fourth paragraph of this very blog post did not adequately demonstrate for you that the web is quite clearly "rigged against female voices," a recent Pew research study found that (a) women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of online abuse, (b) 25 percent of young women have been sexually harassed online, and (c) 26 percent have experienced stalking.

And guess what else? Queer women, women of color, trans women and women with other marginalized identities are especially targeted and abused. Sullivan quotes WAM!'s Jaclyn Friedman:

“I see this as a free speech issue,” Friedman said. She said she knew some would see the work WAM does as “censorship,” but that a completely open and unmoderated platform imposes its own form of censorship. It effectively prevents women, especially queer women and women of color, from getting to speak on the service.

Behold, his insightful retort:

How exactly? Does Twitter prevent women of color from using the service? Or is it simply that WAM believes that women cannot possibly handle the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech?

Yes, that must be it: it's feminists who believe women are delicate flowers who cannot possibly handle the "rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech." Like routine rape and death threats, doxxing (releasing private information such as home addresses, phone numbers, employer, etc. in order to get people to harass women offline, too), libel, hate speech, revenge porn and all sorts of other "rough-and-tumble," "uninhibited online speech" Sullivan is apparently so invested in protecting. FREE SPEECH™, y'all.

Then he says:

I can find no reason to oppose a stronger effort by Twitter to prevent individual users from stalking or harassing others –

Okay! That's fantastic. We're all on board, then.

but

Uh-oh…

if merely saying nasty things about someone can be seen as harassment,

It can't. Because that's not actually what the word "harassment" means.

then where on earth does this well-intentioned censorship end? Is it designed to censor only misogyny and not racism?

No, dear. It's designed to curtail harassment and abuse. And it's starting with misogynist harassment and abuse, albeit with an intersectional focus (racism, transphobia, etc.). FYI, the group is called Women, Action & Media.

What about blasphemy?

Let's see. I just tweeted this:

"Jeezus fookin' Christ.
That is all."
[email protected]

I await the terrifying Feminazi Stormtroopers who will be smashing in my door any minute, and dragging me away to be burned at the stake with all the "rationalists."

Of course no one wants to prevent Andrew Sullivan or anyone else from embarrassing themselves on Twitter. I mean, what would we do around here all day without conservatives providing a steady stream of hilarious blog fodder? Unfortunately, how these nefarious evildoers at WAM! will accomplish all of their evildoing by forwarding misogynist harassment complaints to some people at Twitter is left unstated by Sullivan. But I'll definitely be bringing it up at next week's regular meeting of the White-Straight-Man-Hating Social Justice Warriors For Censorship and World Domination™.

[cross-posted at perry street palace.]

Sticks and Stones and Jokes

The belief that words, especially if intended as humorous, cannot cause harm is counterfactual. And because it is counterfactual, it does harm in itself.

First, I’d like to point out that in many cases, even people who make this claim often don’t act as if they believed it: e.g. people who will defend the use of slurs because words are harmless will easily turn around and whine for ages about how being criticized is bullying. That’s not behavior consistent with “words don’t harm”, it’s behavior consistent with a belief that some words don’t cause harm, while others do.

Now, let’s look at the actual idea that words in general cannot cause harm. At the individual level, “verbal aggression, statements intended to humiliate or infantilize, insults, threats of abandonment or institutionalization” are all part of the medical definition of emotional abuse[1], and the CDC includes a number of verbal actions as constituting psychological abuse[2]. At the institutional level, the right to free speech is valued precisely because it is powerful; to believe this power only works for people’s benefit and never to their harm is to succumb to a Just World bias in which the Good Guys always win. In reality, any tool that can be used to threaten and discredit harmful institutions can also be used to prop them up, or else threaten and smear beneficial institutions (see: Fox News; all of it, on any topic. See also: Breitbart, O’Keefe, Rose)[3].

So, words can hurt. How about jokes?

First, use of disparagement humor can be a sign of underlying problems. People high in hostile sexism and men high in benevolent sexism tended to experience more amusement and less aversion in regard to sexist humor[4]. Furthermore, when people feel a valued social identity is being threatened, they will often resort to disparagement humor against a group that’s deemed an acceptable social target for harassment by their immediate social environment[5]. In other words, frequent appearance of disparagement humor in a community can be an indicator for community members holding prejudices against the disparaged group.

Beyond just being an indicator of prejudice, disparagement humor also creates new negative effects. A 2004 paper reviewing some of the literature on disparagement humor noted a number of effects, some in common with non-jokey disparagement, some specific to disparagement in the form of a joke. Reciting prejudiced comments (jokey or not) worsens one’s own attitude towards the group disparaged. Exposure to disparagement humor on the other hand doesn’t seem to affect the prejudices people hold; instead, it seems to affect how/whether people will act on their prejudices. The authors suggest that this happens because the degree to which individuals high in prejudice act on that prejudice depends largely on external cues of prejudice-tolerance, and the presence of disparagement humor creates the impression of such tolerance more easily than non-humorous disparagement or non-disparaging humor; but (of course) only if the joke teller doesn’t receive pushback[6]. Despite the above evidence, the trope that something cannot be harmful because it’s “just a joke” is widespread enough to even make it directly into the title of a paper which tests the “prejudiced norm theory” suggested in the 2004 review. It demonstrates that “[t]he acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability”[7]; thus, sexist men behave in a more sexist fashion than they would otherwise. In one experiment, that meant the sexists gave less money to a women’s organization; in another, it meant they actively took money away from such an organization[8].

Of course, disparagement humor doesn’t just affect the jokesters and bigots; it also affects the people who are being disparaged and/or who reject the bigotry in the joke. For example, disparaging comments, joking or otherwise, can trigger stereotype threat in certain situations[9]. There’s also evidence that exposure to sexist humor triggers negative emotional reactions (e.g. disgust, anger, hostility)in members of the targeted group[10]. In addition, finding oneself in the presence of bigoted humor can, in specific circumstances, actually lessen one’s critical stance towards that bigotry: if one believes oneself to be someone who speaks up against bigotry but then doesn’t act on that self-image, the discrepancy can cause cognitive dissonance. When the discrepancy can be explained by external factors (e.g. reasonable fear of harm to oneself), then the discomfort is the only end-result of experiencing cognitive dissonance. The same is true if there’s an opportunity to plaster over the discomfort by reaffirming a different part of one’s self-image. However, when external explanations are lacking (e.g. one believes there’s no actual harm, and all it takes is growing a thicker skin) and there are no opportunities for (self-)distraction, the cognitive dissonance is resolved instead by trivialization: since one is the sort of person who’d speak up against bigotry yet one didn’t, then the instance mustn’t have been all that bigoted; or maybe speaking up just isn’t that important to fighting bigotry, after all[11].

So what’s the overall picture? Disparagement humor is an indicator for existent prejudice, both in the jokester and the social environment where it appears; it strengthens the prejudice in the jokester; it creates permissiveness for other bigots to act more bigoted; and it may create apathy towards bigotry in previously critical, non-prejudiced audiences as well as discomfort and a hostile climate for the targets of the disparagement humor. And those are just the effects in the few papers I listed (I had to stop going through more literature, or else never finish this essay). Bigoted speech is, in other words, an indicator and partial cause for e.g. the toxic rape culture environments we find in fraternities across the country[12]. That’s not harmless. Bigoted speech hurts, even when it’s a joke.

– – –

[1] McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine (2002). New York, NY, USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. [web]. Retrieved from here.

[2]National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2008). Psychological/Emotional Abuse. [web].

[3]This point shamelessly borrowed from here.

[4]Woodzicka, J. A. & Ford, T.E. (2010). “A framework for thinking about the (not-so-funny) effects of sexist humor”, Europe’s Journal of Psychology, vol. 6(3), pp. 174-195. [pdf]. Retrieved from here.

[5]Pound, L. B. (2008). Jokes are No Laughing Matter: Disparagement Humor and Social Identity Theory. [Master’s thesis]. Retrieved from here.

[6]Ford, T.E. & Ferguson, M.A. (2004). “Social Consequences of Disparagement Humor: A Prejudiced Norm Theory”, Personality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 8(1), pp. 79-94. [pdf]. Retrieved from here.

[7]Western Carolina University (Nov 7, 2007). “Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says”. ScienceDaily. [web]. Retrieved from here.

[8]Ford, T.E., Boxer, C.F., Armstrong, J. & Edel, J.R. (2008). “More Than ‘Just a Joke’: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor”, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 34(2), pp. 159-170. [pdf]. Retrieved from here.

[9]Singletary, S.L., Ruggs, E.N., Hebl, M.R. & Davies, P.G. (2009). Info Sheet: Stereotype Threat: Causes, Effects, & Remedies. [pdf]. Retrieved from here.

[10]LaFrance, M. & Woodzicka, J. A. (1998).”No laughing matter: Women’s verbal and nonverbal reactions to sexist humor”, in Swim, J.K. & Stangor, C. (Editors). Prejudice: The target’s perspective, pp. 61-80. [book chapter]. San Diego, CA, USA: Academic Press. Retrieved from here.

[11]Rasinski, H.M., Geers, A.L. & Czopp, A.M. (2013).”‘I Guess What He Said Wasn’t That Bad’: Dissonance in Nonconfronting Targets of Prejudice”, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 39(7), pp. 856-869. [pdf]. Retrieved from here.

[12]Chemaly, S. (Nov 4, 2014). “Still Think Rape Jokes Are Harmless Fun?” Role Reboot. [web]. Retrieved from here.