Dec 1, 2009

'Tis the season to be sexually assaulted, falalalala, lalalaLAH

Yo ladies! Listen Up!

Did you know that drinking alcohol makes you grow a penis? S'truth. According to Gwent Police, a penis might just materialise as if by magic where no penis was invited to be if you "let your hair down". Or so at least one is lead to believe by the fact that the poster and text in question resolutely fail to make any mention of an actual, you know, rapist. Nuh-uh. You get pissed, means you get yourself raped, all by yourself.

A very nice representative from the Gwent force is quoted on the BBC website as saying "When alcohol is involved things can become blurred and confused but there are no grey areas in regards to sex without consent - as far as the police are concerned we treat that as rape." Hmm. Yeeees. Except when it gets left in a pile of paperwork and treated like anything at all, I guess.

Listen, if rape was actually illegal in this country, then the police would arrest rapists (as opposed to letting them off with a caution), the Crown Prosecution would prosecute them, and juries would convict them and sent them to jail. None of which is convincigly the case.

So we can all pretty much draw the conclusion that rape is OK and if it happens to you it's your fault anyway. Ain't it nice of Gwent Police to remind us of the pleasant certainties of life just in time for the holidays? Aww.

ETA: In case you thought that it's only women have to get ready for Rape Season, check out this ad from Lynx. Presumably he shoved her body in the dumpster after he was done, since there's only one pair pf footsteps leaving the scene.

Nov 24, 2009

Deconstructing Diversity

At a departmental update meeting yesterday, our head of operations approvingly commented that we are "ahead of the rest of the region" in meeting the company's diversity targets (which he somewhat haltingly described as "getting more females into jobs" - nuanced!). Considering that bizops is an entry level organisation, and that we have more low grade employees, recent college graduates, and interns than any other function in the region, this is damning with faint praise indeed. Rather than patting ourselves on the back for hiring almost as many women as men (which is only legally required, so no cookie, Large Corporation™) at low pay, we should be looking to see how come it is that they get stuck there. It's not how many female employees you have in the mailroom - it's how many you have in the boardroom.

Anyway, that was kind of funny cause he's a smart guy who I really respect, and he seemed to be genuinely pleased with this in a completely unexamined kind of way. Like the mere fact that women are allowed to do low grade administrative and customer facing roles in an IT giant is major progress. And because I was tickled, it got me thinking about diversity and representation in general.

In a very apropos way, Teh Intrawebs came through with a serious web event on the topic of diversity, inclusion and representation this very past weekend. PZ Meyers, one of (if not The) premier atheist and pro-science bloggers out there, posted an article about the under-representation of voices in the New Atheist movement[1] that do not happen to be attached to the bodies of white males. Now, not only is it certainly true that the most often recognisable faces of "New Atheism" are white and male - Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, AC Grayling, PZ Meyers, Sam Harris - it is also true that women and people of colour are dramatically under represented in the community at a lower level, too. On top of which, and this was actually the trigger for the blog post, the atheist movement lovingly platforms people who are overtly misogynist in many of their views, the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher.

What I find interesting is that while Meyers was concentrating on the former and the latter aspects of the parlous record of diversity of the atheist community, it's the middle one that really took off in response to his post. I've occasionally posted on Pharyngula before, and I've found that one of two things would happen: if I posted on any topic of biology, religion, atheism etc, - in short, on topic - I got either completely ignored or patronized and belittled. If I posted off topic to say that I found a particular post or discussion to be sexist, I would get run out of town by an intimidating brigade of self righteous dudes who knew for a fact that I, as a woman, couldn’t possibly understand sexism as well as they do, esp. with regard to how they're not and I'm just imagining things. In short, textbook online woman-marginalising and feminist-bashing, no different from so many online gaming fora or geeky blogs.

I'd always put that down to lack of diversity, myself; representation of women on atheist blogs is so low, went my train of thought, that other than myself and a few other lonely voices you couldn’t really expect to find too many feminists on even such a popular blog as Pharyngula, regularly generating threads of a thousand posts or more. Well, it turns out I was pretty much completely wrong - in fact there emerged a large number of articulate, well informed, strongly feminist voices, male and female, in support of PZ's call for recommendations for female and PoC atheist thinkers and speakers. And you have to think to yourself, have these people been hiding? Are they new to the blog? Where are they all when PZ posts pornulated images for laughs, or makes off colour jokes about "the trophy wife", or when the commenters in the many lengthy threads on the website exhibit sexism, misogyny or even just obliviousness and crass disregard for the feelings of minority groups?

I'll get to the answer, but by a slightly roundabout route. Amanda Marcotte, partly I think in response to the kerfuffle (I'll tell you about the kerfuffle in a minute), wrote a piece in which she outlines the natural affinity between atheism and feminism as progressive movements and calls for more cooperation and understanding between the two communities - mostly for an increase in open mindedness among the dudely dudes and libertarian asswipes that seem to make up so much of the numbers on the atheist side. In comments, I disagreed:

"[…]I think your generosity to the atheist/sceptic blogosphere crowd is unwarranted. […] There’s a lot of penis inches invested in the cleverer-than-thou stance of New Atheism; as a sub-culture it’s very heavily weighted towards the Smart Guy(tm) crowd, and is rife with antifeminist landmines.

Atheists are different from feminists in that they have an easily recognisable enemy with a face to it, wheras feminists are shadow boxing against a whole social paradigm. They’re not really as much into dismantling religion as a system of oppression as they are into slamming religious people, and too many of them define their identities by that dichotomy to make me comfortable that they’re not just pro-science bigots. That’s not an argument against atheism (I’m still an atheist, Hitchens or no), but I do think that they’re not the natural fellow travelers to feminism that you think they are.

Yes, the other night when someone on a thread there called rape “a mere inconvenience” and dismissed it as “20 seconds and we only have her word for it”, he caught hell. But that was in the 400’s of an almost thousand comment thread, and a lot of horrible shit got under the wire prior to that by not being quite offensive enough to trigger outrage. It wasn’t a bad showing on the whole for the community, but mostly because of the surprising growth in articulate and passionate feminist voices, not because the rank and file are undergowing some sort of growth process."

Which brings us to the kerfuffle. This guy was obviously trolling, spouting off shit so calculatedly offensive that it simply made me guffaw with disbelief to see people engage with him. But boy, did they! Dozens upon dozens of comments poured in, rebutting his ridiculous pro-rape anti-woman sloganeering, telling him to fuck off, calling him every imaginable name under the sun, and generally getting extremely hot under the collar about the whole thing. Now I'm not saying that it's not a good thing for people to be offended when somebody dismisses or belittles rape; it's a great thing, and if I'm honest when I first read what the guy said even I found it shocking. But it was tame stuff compared to what you hear even on Guardian CiF comments threads sometimes, let alone in the darker and more misogynist corners of the internet. Plus, he was an easy target: it's all vey well to say that raping and beating women is wrong wrong wrong, but when it was pointed out to the same community a few motnhs ago that pictures of a crucified mostly naked woman are maybe not the most woman friendly or amusing of images to post on a progressive, liberal blog, they responded mostly with outraged defensiveness.

On top of which, in the very same thread in question, in which wonderful and intelligent things were said, quoted, endorsed and expounded upon, there was also stuff like this:

"Hmmm, this piece isn't up to PZ's usual standards. It must have been ghost authored by a black woman or something."

"Listing women or dark-skinned people whom I agree with simply because they are women or dark skinned is something that stands against true equality."

"So can we all just fucking get over ourselves and move on to solving some of the "REAL" problems facing the world?!!"

"Here's a clue: people who whine about skeptic groups being anti-female anti-not-white haven't got the discipline to be a good skeptic. Skepticism is about thinking, not whining about how the world hates you and how the universe is out to get you."

"I regard the majority of Western feminists as somewhere between cockroach and the crud behind my fridge."

The thread is 1030 comments long at this stage, so you can imagine the above is just a sampling - and a tame sampling at that, because I didn't have the energy to go trawling for the really horrible stuff. If you have the stamina, I recommend you read the actual thing itself (I got as far as about #700 and lost the will to live). Anyway, the point is, while these comments were not as bad as the pro-rape trolling, they were pretty objectionable from a feminist point of view, and while certain people picked up on some of them, they passed off with relatively little rancour. So it's not like the atmosphere in this thread magically transformed the blog into a pro-woman, feminist, safe space kind of thing. Shit still went down, and a lot of it was pretty gross, but - and this is the interesting thing - it didn't shut the feminists up this time. Why? What made this thread different to the Raquel Welch on a cross thread? To the many many pro-evo psych threads? To my first thread on Pharyngula, in which it was loudly asserted to general acclaim that Patriarchy wouldn’t exist if paranoid feminazis didn't see it everywhere?

Greta Christina has a great and probably seminal post on the maleness, whiteness of the atheist movement, on why this is a problem, and on what e can do about it. Read the whole thing, as the saying goes, but to our purposes, she broadly talk about three things that can be done to make the movement more diverse: actively reaching out to non-white male atheists, conciously working to eliminate biases and debunk stereotypes, and active listening and open engagement with criticisms of sexism/racism.

What I think this episode over the weekend proves is that the first one - outreach - is by far and away the most important one. And here's at long last my answer to why all those wonderful smart feminist people came out of the woodwork and defended women's right to be heard within the movement, and the justice of our feelings of marginalisation: because PZ, by asking them to help him reach out to high profile female and PoC atheists, was reaching out to them. All the douchebags in the world trolling in the comments wouldn’t have the force to completely deter and shut down feminists if the owner of the blog, the person with authority, officially signals that their views are welcome.

Which kind of brings us back to diversity and how to create it. Getting warm bodies of the right sex and colour in your club is not a reflection of true diversity; the real metric of the inclusiveness of any group is how comfortable out-group individuals feel operating and expressing themselves within that group. And while educating and disciplining your group members to be more inclusive and less arrogant is always a good thing, if you're a person in a position of authority, there's just no substitute for stanidng up and saying to minorities and outsiders: "you are welcome, we value your contribution, we are listening: tell us what you think".

So, Mr Big Boss, a little less of the "females" and a little less of the "we're close to our diversity target". If you want women and people of colour to believe that you mean it, it might not be a bad idea to ask us what we think you should be doing in the first place.

[1] Let's table the discussion about whether it really is a "movement" for now, and play like the recognisable figureheads of current atheist discourse are "leaders".

Oct 23, 2009

I can has PCC complaint too

On today's Guardian Science Weekly podcast (around minute 30), the presenters read out loud a number of comments that were left by listeners on the web page after last week's podcast.

As part of the podcast concerned the topic of "penisology", a predictable number of the comments had a bawdy tone. Two of the ones read out were directed at last week's presenter of the podcast, Nell Boase.

The first referred to her "giggle" adding "much needed sex appeal" to the podcast, and invited her to look the poster up if she were ever in Vancouver. The second commenter agreed, and added that Ms Boase would make a wonderful "romance novel narrator".

I feel that these comments are not only sexist, objectifying, and down right rude, but that the first one in particular constitutes a case of public (but safely anonymous) sexual harrassement, to which the Guardian is now a party by re-publishing it (without condemnation, and even with the jokey comment that "Nell could not refuse the offer") on a much wider platform than it would have otherwise had.

That the Science Weekly team don't - and should not - exert control over the behaviour of their forum commenters is a given. But to embarrass Ms Boase and legitimise such bullying behaviour by singling the coments out for praise on this week's podcast is not simply inappropriate; it is offensive, and sends the message that far from being valued colleagues and listeners, women are welcome to the otherwise all-male Scence Weekly team only as light sexual relief rather than journalism. To do so on the already sexualised background of the penisology piece, furthermore, creates a hostile, aggressively sexist environment in which female listeners, too, are made to feel threatened and superfluous.

The Guardian newspaper should not be lending its name to such misogynist tactics.

[Under the section asking what part of the code was breached, I put:]

I believe this constitutes sexual harrassement of Ms Boase, as well as a breach of her privacy by her sexuality being discussed in a public forum without her consent or presence.


Join me in slamming the Grauniad for this piece of juvenile violence. Link to the PCC complaint site helpfuly provided. (on a side note: how much are we loving the fact that they had to put a whole separate page in place just for Jan Moir complaints?)

Oct 21, 2009

"Forever young and never forgotten. A man, a friend, a brother, a son, a husband and a hero."

So said Ronan Keating of his friend Stephen Gately, who sadly passed away last week.

Doesn't sound like anything special, unless you know that Stephen was gay, and that Ronan was talking about him having been somebody's "husband" - Andrew Cowles's, in fact - in a church in Ireland.

It's uncomfortable in a way, trying to draw attention to the wider political point here; ghoulish almost, definitely opportunistic. Surely we should be campaigning for gay rights every day, and not just at the time of a tragic death? Guilty as charged: most days, gay rights are sufficiently below my political horizon to barely rate a thought, and I can't pretend that that's OK.

Nevertheless, here we are, so let's talk about marriage for a minute, rather than use some double-Dutch mea culpa to ignore the issue for yet another day.

First off, definitions: the human right in question is not the right to get married itself. Marriage as we have come to understand it – the dress, the rings, the arguments about name changes, the cranky in-laws and the cheap fizzy wine - can cease to be tomorrow, and the systemic problems will remain exactly the same, because the rights denied to those prevented from entering into marriage are the rights that are conferred on married couples.

These are truly prodigious, and mostly economic. Shared property rights, access to deceased spouse’s funds and tax exemptions in case of widowhood, visitation and financial support rights in case of a marriage involving children breaking up, next of kin decision making rights in case of incapacitation, preferential treatment by the immigration authorities, and many more. Frankly, it’s as if the state is bribing people to get married, on which more anon.

It is a self evident violation of the principle of universal human rights to forbid anyone from entering into the voluntary arrangement that will allow them access to these privileges. Kind of like saying “you can take driving lessons, and pay for the test, and pay road tax, but we won’t give you a driving license, because you have size 7 feet”. But people – and I’m not just talking about Jan Moir here – still do object to gay people being accorded equal rights to heterosexuals, and even when the Human Rights act forces rubs their noses in it, they squirm and pretend that it’s not happening if you call it Civil Unions instead.

The usual explanation for this (advanced by Liberals - the “reasons” that gay rights opponents give are too ridiculous to analise seriously) is basically the Eww Factor. Religious and Conservative people are freaked out by Gayness, the theory goes, because they are sexually repressed and easily frightened by change. They can’t sleep at night thinking about all that delicious sodomy and cunnilingus happily going on behind England’s green and pleasant net curtains, so they contort themselves into paroxysms of illogic and hide behind such things as “tradition” and St. Paul (who was a bugger, no pun intended).

I have always found this theory unconvincing, because it’s based on the definition of marriage that religious and conservative people like: partnership, love, family, commitment, apple pie, blah blah blah. On the face of it, yes, it seems illogical to deny people who love each other these things just because there’s one too many willies (or one too few) in the equation, and the right wing / religious bigots are just stupid and inconsistent.

Well… I don’t buy it.

Let’s have a look for a minute about what marriage actually is, with special reference to “between one man and one woman” bit.

Imagine a world in which there is a systemic and society-wide imbalance of power between two groups, and in which there is a given number of tasks that need to be preformed either at individuals’ expense, or at the expense of the state.

Now neatly subdivide all of your available population into groups of two, each pair to include one member of the more privileged and powerful group, and one member of the oppressed group. These people can be peers in all other ways – class background, education etc. – but this one basic power imbalance has to be present in every case.

Then limit the amount of money you give to the performance of certain vital but unglamorous tasks, and limit the overall number of tasks that are supported by the state. People will be put into a position where they absolutely must absorb some of the workload individually.

Which member of the two-person pairings is more likely to be handed the performance of these extra tasks: the privileged, powerful one, or the oppressed, disempowered one?


That’s what marriage is all about, and that is why the state is so damned eager to bribe you to do it: because politically, it is easier to harp on about the joys of motherhood and the sanctity of marriage than to raise taxes for the provision of, say, universal free child care (or even universal parental leave – watch employers kick up a fuss when it’s the half of the workforce they actually pay decent wages to that is liable to be absent for six months at a time). Or a subsidized laundry service.

And that’s why gay marriage I such anathema – because absent the power imbalance inherent in a two sex pairing, it’s economically meaningless. And I’m not saying that Sir Elton getting hitched will mean that overnight women are not picking up socks from the bathroom floor anymore; it’s not going to be anything like that straightforward or linear, but the door has been opened.

But that is the fear from the religious and conservative elements opposed to gay marriage. It is not a coincidence that these are the same elements that are the most misogynistic in their outlook, most committed to the subjugation of women to their – hah! – “natural” roles as providers of free domestic labour, and also by the way tend towards the economically “liberal” (for which read: they don’t want to pay taxes and they don’t care who that deprives of basic services).

There will come a point of critical mass where women will look at gay couples and be able to make a credible argument that it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been for them, because it patently isn’t for same sex couples. Or there will come a time when women who don’t self identify as feminists look at feminist couples and think to themselves that things can obviously be different for them, because they already are for other women.

And to put the final polish on that argument, I present to my rapt audience the new charming companion of Gay Marriage Panic: Feminist Marriage Panic. New York feminist Jessica Valenti recently got married, and such august engines of misogynist oppression as Playboy magazine are getting hot under the collar about it. I can’t link to it I’m afraid – paid subscription only – but here’s a link to the NY Times, with its own brand of snide coverage (I think their thesis is along the lines of she was a feminist only as long as nobody wanted to marry her, but soon changed her mind when and offer was on the table, or something). Gloria Steinem also caught a lot of flack for getting married, with accusations of hypocrisy and insinuations of really just wanting that ring after all.

Anything that violates the basic template of marriage – man on top, woman unpaid domestic support system – is seen as threatening, both economically and socially. And that kind of brings me back to Stephen Gately I guess, and to why even though I think that marriage inequality is a travesty, it's a travesty that is a reflection of, and a part of something bigger. And while I’m totally in favour of any couple being able to celebrate their love publically, what I’m really looking forward to is the day when we just do away with marriage as “two people incarcerated in a private drudgery hell” altogether.

Oct 10, 2009

Fragment: some out of context thoughts on the Primark padded bra thing and young girls' sexuality/sexualisation


I wrote this ages ago as part of a wider rumination on how we panic about the sexualisation of young girls because it might lead them to have sex, and possibly even enjoy it; but we pretend that what we're worried about is pedophiles and sexual predators, because we're so uncomfortable with female sexuality, at any age, that we just assume any expression of it spells disaster. The feminist angle of sexualising and objectifying people, again of any age, never gets a look-in: the underlying assumption is that all female sex is bad and dangerous, so the potential damage to young girld through being sexualised is that they may be introduced into that evil state earlier than is strictly necessary.

Young girls are not binary, digital little femibots. Empowered to listen to their
own feelings and with their agency acknowledged by society, they are able to react differently in different situations, in accordance with their own wishes and depending on the circumstances. Almost like they were, you know, actual people or something.

In other words, if girls are encouraged to explore and acknowledge their real (not performative) sexuality at a young age, rather than being exhorted to suppress it entirely, it does not follow that they will become sexually available to predators, or more vulnerable to abuse. Quite the opposite, in fact.

If girls are taught what pleasure feels like (which we are not, not even as women - there isn't even medical agreement on what an orgasm is, the G Spot veers widely from non existent to all important every few years, and the British Film Council still thinks that female ejaculation is urination), they will be more likely to know what dis-pleasure is when they feel it. If they are allowed to say "yes" when they want to, they will know when the time is to say "no".

At the moment we teach girls that their job is essentially to say "no" until somebody bullies them into changing their minds. We teach them that sex is rape. Not feminists, who never actually made any such claims, but the worthy family focus conservative types who teach them about abstinence and chastity. And when you teach someone that any expression of their sexuality is damaging to their better self, be it with their first love or their creepy middle aged neighbour, how are they to tell the difference between what they experience with one versus the other?

Of course girls can tell the difference, because we're not as stupid as the patriarchy would like; we know perfectly well that kissing the school stud is wonderful while being rubbed up against on a crowded bus is horrible. But we bury both our desires and our misgivings under layers of shame and self-blame. Far from offering any protection, that toxic mixture just means that we sublimate and absorb the abuse that we are left vulnerable to, turning the damage inward.

Oct 6, 2009

A quick summary of the past week's papers

Look, it's actually quite simple.

We don't want young girls getting the HPV vaccine, because they are pure, innocent ingenues who should not be exposed to the possibility of penetration of their delicate pink ladybits by marauding penises. Giving them the idea that letting themselves be fucked[1] is anything short of a heinous offence against society, morality, motherhood, and apple pie, is a crime we will not countenance. If some of them later die of cervical cancer because our dread of women having sex is greater than our concern for their safety, well, that's a sacrifice we're willing to make.

We don't care about Roman Polanski getting the trial and punishment he deserves, on the other hand, because young girls are all brazen, lascivious nymphets. Those of them who have allowed their delicate ladybits to be penetrated by marauding penises are obviously lying, disgusting sluts who like it up the bum, and who like to make up accusations about innocent men, trying to ruin their lives and reputations for no other reason than they belatedly realise and regret their monumental sluttitude.

If young girls weren't such whores in the first place, they wouldn't get cervical cancer. Duh.

[1] What's this you say? Some girls actually enjoy fucking and see it as something they participate in, rather than something shameful and humiliating that is done to them against their better selves? Well, that's obviously an Absurd Liberal Myth. Seriously, who'd believe that? Haha.

Sep 30, 2009

Creation is not Causation

David Cox, in case you don't know who he is, is a film critic for the Guardian. He's a very bad film critic; it's not that he doesn't know enough about film, but that one never gets to find out if he does, because he basically never writes anything about the films he's "reviewing". He just uses them as jumping off points for all kinds of incredibly retrograde screeds.

This week's victim is Creation, the new Paul Bettany flick about Charles Darwin. If I'm honest, first impressions had already not disposed me to try and catch it at the premiere, not that it matters in this case, because Cox says remarkably little about the movie, or even about Darwin.

Instead what he takes away from the film is the realisation that because Darwin was devastated by the loss of his young daughter to illness (surely not something it would take either filmmaking or critical insight to intuit he would be), then that means religious people are happier than atheists. He uses the "fact" that religious people are indeed happier than atheist to support his assertion that it stands to reason that religious people would of course be happier than atheists. Because of evolution. Or because evolution is bad. Something.

Like I said, it's a rubbish piece of writing, and I don't propose to engage with the preposterous and circular claim that having an imaginary schoolmarm in the sky makes you less miserable than knowing where the dinosaurs came from. But Cox also takes the opportunity to get in the following dig at his non-believer colleagues. Even atheists, he claims, don't really believe in evolution, because

"[E]ven some of the Guardian's hyper-rationalist readers balk at the idea that evolutionary biology might play a part in the human mating process. Male promiscuity, they insist, mustn't be linked to natural selection. That would let men off the hook. It must continue to be seen entirely as sinful departure from the path of righteousness."

Well, that's an original criticism. Not. And nobody has ever used it as a straw man against evolution. Er, also Not. But let's assume for the moment that Cox is quoting this in earnest, not as an easy point scoring device against imagined humourless and inconsistent atheists, but because he's genuinely concerned with the apparent gap in rationalist thinking.

OK. There are two ways of responding to the argument that men are predisposed by evolution to be unfaithful (promiscuous is a separate thing): ethically and scientifically. The more common, ethical one, is often deployed by feminists in response to claims that men "can't help" staring at women's chests, objectifying them, seeking status by bedding a large number of attractive women etc.: that just because it's "natural" not only doesn't make it right, but it doesn't even make it logical behaviour. It's "natural", feminists point out, to go to the toilet where and when you please - but you don't do that. It's "natural" to engage in unrestrained violence, to eat raw meat, to have bad teeth and to die in your thirties from malnutrition or disease. But you don't do any of that, either.

In fact the whole of human history has been one long struggle to get as far away from the natural as goddamned possible, thankyouverymuch. The invention of ethics, and the constant updating of them as societies changed and human groups grew and diffused, are part and parcel of this trajectory. To cherry pick a behaviour that the dialectic of your society is coming to regard as unethical and defend it on the grounds of being natural is not only idiotic, it's unethical - because it's an attempt to justify your prejudices by amoral (as opposed to immoral) means, giving yourself a free pass from thinking about the ethical implications of your actions.

The fact that many atheists, whom it is oh-so-clever to accuse of immorality (Cox does), can see this flaw in the male infidelity argument and point it out does not make them weak acolytes of the church of Darwinism. It makes them smarter than you, asshole. Also, better feminists. Hooray for rationalism!

However. The whole natural-is-not-ethical cooky crumbles extremely well, and far be it from me to deny that rhetorical tool to the many clever rationalists, humanists, feminists and plain ole decent folk doing battle against the forces of fuckwittery up and down the Internet, BUT. That only holds if the fact being touted as natural really is, and the claim is essentially true (i.e., the problem is with the interpretation).

In the case of male infidelity though, what always gets under my skin is not the poor understanding of ethics, but the nonexistent understanding of biology. Because the true honest to goodness fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that human males, far from being inherently and immutably promiscuous, are, from an ethological point of view, not nearly promiscuous enough.

Human fathers have by far the largest paternal investment in offspring of any primate. Even the fun loving and peaceable Bonobo dads don't really have terribly much to do with their offspring. Gorillas, chimps, and of course the solitary Orangs pretty much ignore their progeny, while many other species of primate are so oblivious to whose young are whose that when a new alpha male takes over a pack, he kills off all the young and starts his genetic empire from scratch - without reference to how many of those he killed might have been the result of a sneaky shag of his own in his pre-alpha days.

Men, however, not only know and recognise their offspring, they mate in long term pairings with the offsprings' mothers, help provide for future joint children and protect them from resource scarcity or violence, protect and support their mates while they are gestating, tend to share food and shelter in times of scarcity etc. etc. Somewhat tautologically, this must be the best evolutionary strategy for them - human children are vulnerable, human gestation is long and labour is dangerous. A widespread tendency towards paternal involvement ensures more young survive to propagate.

It's also a strategy that is hostile to, or at best neutral towards, male promiscuity. If, in order to best assure the survival of his young, a man needs to invest a lot of his resources in caring for them, then we would expect it to be profitable for him to have them well spaced and one at a time, with one partner at a time. Funnily enough, that's pretty much the system that humanity evolved towards. The promiscuous scattering of seed is not completely ruled out by this system - gambling a few chromosomes on the side is not costing a man terribly much by way of resources - but the high sociability quotient of humans has meant that over the eons mechanisms evolved to curtail that to levels that are supportable within a close knit and not very large group, with little privacy and a high degree of social knowledge about peers.

So biologically the whole "I can be an asshole because Darwin" thing doesn't really stand up. But even more interestingly than that, what gets missed time and time again in even progressive discussion about the links between biology and norms of fidelity is what a strong incentive the paternal involvement thing is to female promiscuity.

Think about it: once a man has made a baby, he can go ahead and make lots more babies straight away. It happens to be in his best interest not to risk making too many though, or they might all die. So once he's knocked up his partner, the best thing he can do is keep it in his pants for a while. She, on the other hand, is gifted by nature with the magic ability to not risk her genetic inheritance on another pregnancy for years after the moment of conception, and so can go out and have plenty of sweet, sweet lovin' with pretty much whomever she likes at no cost. Hmm.

Not to mention the fact that once a man has committed to a child as his own and continued to have sex with its mother, she can still go out and have all the sweet, sweet lovin' she wants with whomever she fancies and pass of the kids as his and he will never know. Not ever. It is positively a woman's Darwinian duty to test-drive a man as provider, and once he's hooked to that important function, go out and solicit as wide a range of Grade A genetic contribution for her future pregnancies. Marry the accountant, cheat with the pool boy: it's not a soap cliché, ladies, it's your natural, biologically driven survival instinct, and you just can't help it, because Darwin. Remember that one in divorce court.

Joking aside, there really is a strong imperative towards promiscuity in many species that form long term bonds. It's been observed in all kinds of animals - birds, canines, and of course humans. In fact the false paternity rate in the UK is something like 4% - and that's in a world with contraception and abortion. Imagine what it used to be like.

When you look at it that way, so much begins to make sense: why patriarchal societies always insist on virginity of the woman at the time of marriage; why female freedom of movement and expression is curtailed, as in the case of purdah or sequestration; why female sexuality veers between being seen as rampant and dangerously voracious (Europe in the Middle Ages, ancient Egypt) and non-existent (Victorian England through to today). The whole Madonna/Whore complex is in this light just a reflection of the fact that men understand that women have both the desire and the capacity for luscious, decadent, exuberant sex with lots of men, and really, really don't want them having that sex with anyone but themselves.

In fact, we have been so successfully indoctrinated into that idea that it doesn't even occur to us to say "hang on, from an evolutionary point of view it makes sense for women to shag around too!" - not because we don't want to engage with evolutionary theory, but because it doesn't even occur to us that women shagging around is something that happens, which it does, and that lends itself to pseudo-scientific evo-psych explanations - which it also does.

But female promiscuity is always discussed in terms of social failure, not science: the ignorant Essex Girl, the working class slag, the booze sodden, violent ladette, the benefits mom expecting "Society" to pay for the offspring of her uncontrolled sexual urges. But what has been punished most severely, most cruelly through the ages is not simply promiscuity, but infidelity in women; and that can only be because a strong deterrent was seen to be needed to an equally strong biological pull.

Not to mention that women actually, you know, enjoy sex. Shh. Don't tell.

So, David Cox, ladies and gentlemen: bad at film reviewing, bad at logic, and bad at science. Still, a hat tip to him for giving me a chance to expound on one of my favourite hobby horses!

Sep 22, 2009

Preventing sexual assault: Tips guaranteed to work!


  1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

  2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

  3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

  4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

  5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

  6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

  7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

  8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

  9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

  10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

OK, OK, this is kind of like an email forward. But it's a good email forward!

Posted by request of Feminist Philosophers, who in turn had nicked it from Feminist Law Professors.

Pass it on!

Sep 20, 2009

Sexism and poverty, II - or how Nick Cohen thinks women should be sent back where they came from, be it Tonga or the kitchen

Nick Cohen over at the Observer hits the perfect anti-progressive sweet spot by finding himself an issue that lends itself to stirring up fear and hatred against the Daily Mail's two favourite villains - immigrants and feminists.

Writing about what the Mail on Friday decided merited its front page - never a good source for material for a Guardian columnist, if you ask me - he lambasts Baroness Scotland for employing a woman who had no legal right to work in the UK, through the attractive medium of taking this one incident as the avatar of a vast, invisible army of illegal immigrants being exploited and abused by "the middle classes" in order to shore up the fragile (because, presumably, undeserved) gains of second wave feminism.

I'd like to be able to address the claim that "the success of women is based on exploitation of women", but frankly it's too much of a whopper to be sensibly deconstructed without making my head explode. It should suffice to point out two facts:

  • Remuneration is not the be all and end all of liberation. Most key components of women's liberation, such as the right to vote, access to health and education etc., are not based on the exploitation of anybody. They are the non-zero-sum result of allowing women to reap some of the benefits of a welfare state. Almost as if they were, like, people, or something. You know what would be liberation? Not talking about domestic service and domestic work as if they are the preserve and responsibility of women alone.

  • The average wage in the UK is £25,000 per annum. That is the average wage - which means that a vast proportion of people earn less than that, and thanks to the pay gap women would tend to earn less still. The simple truth is that most women wouldn't be able to dream of affording full time domestic help, and so if their libearion is based on exploitation, then it is their own exploitation we're talking about, via the second shift.

Speaking of facts, it would be nice to have some from Mr. Cohen, and would support his claim to fearless exposée of the iniquitous Power Couple much better into the bargain. He waves his arms vaguely to outline a shadowy world of exploited domestic labour and cruel, unfeeling, overpaid feminists, but doesn't back his fear finger pointing with any of the following pertinent facts:

  • How many full time domestic workers are there in the UK?
  • What is their average pay?
  • What are their legal rights - be they specific to their situation or the ones available to all British employees?
  • How many of them are non-British?
  • Of those, what is the estimated number of illegals?
  • How many households employ a full time domestic worker?
  • What is the average income of these households?
  • How many of said households are double income, with the woman being in full time high paying employment?

But hey, answering any of those questions would require actual research. Too much like hard work - far easier to bash feminists and wrap it up in a nice bit of immigrant influx paranoia.

Aug 20, 2009

Sexism and poverty

There's a great article in the London Review of Books about the confluence of identity politics and neoliberalism. The basic thesis is one that I find difficult to disagree with: making society more diverse is not the same as making it more equal.

To elaborate: diversity is the word we use to describe the person-profile make up of different groups. So, for example, in Parliament, such and such a percentage of MPs are female, so many are Asian, a certain amount are gay, disabled, etc. The rest are all able bodies white men, who are seen as the default and only complete embodiment of the idea of "human being".

So, diversity is the measure of how close any given group - a company board, a school, a political institution - is in its ethnic, gender and cultural make-up to the whole of the population. Obviously a lack of diversity is near to impossible to defend: unless you turn yourself inside out with sophistry and made up "data" to prove that female, disabled, black or foreign people are somehow naturally stupider than white men, there's no explanation for their lack of representation.

Equality is something a litle different. You get different types of equality: equality of opportunity (beloved of New Labour and other neoliberal movements), equality of outcome (the progressive, socialist ideal), and economic equality, or equality of income or wealth. As it happens, the UK isn't doing too well on any of these scales compared to the rest of Europe, but Michaels concentrates on the interaction between diversity and equality of income.

Specifically, his main argument is that racial/gender equality serves neoliberal profit maximisation interests, and that it has been used as a smoke screen to distract from the wider picture of economic inequality and the social ills occasioned by it. It's a compelling and illuminating argument, and I find it hard to disagree when Michaels says things like:

The focus of [...] outrage [...] is not the fact that some people can afford the chocolates and others can’t, but that the ones who can are mean to the ones who can’t. And this represents something of an innovation in left politics. While everyone has always disapproved of adding insult to injury, it’s traditionally been the right that’s sought to treat the insult as if it were the injury.

I'm not a big fan of classism, or in its more old fashioned name, snobbery; but if I could eliminate either snobbery or poverty, I know which one I'd go for. Where I part ways with Michaels is in his attitude towards sexism and how it interacts with capitalism.

To be fair, though he lumps anti-racism and anti-sexism together for the purposes of making his point, the majority of the article concentrates on race relations and not gender politics; I get an inkling that that is because Michaels realises that his argument vis a vis institutionalised sexism is weak. He concludes:

If the downside of the politics of anti-discrimination is that it now functions to legitimate the increasing disparities not produced by racism or sexism, the upside is the degree to which it makes visible the fact that the increase in those disparities does indeed have nothing to do with racism or sexism.

I'm not a race relations scholar and I leave the question of how economic inequality and racism interact to others. But it is categorically untrue that inequality is not the product of sexism, and the data simply does not support such a breezy dismissal of anti-sexism (put less politely, feminism) as economically toothless identity politics.

According to the Rowntree Foundation's Poverty Website, women are only slightly more likely than men to live in low income households - in other words, to be poor - than men. Among those, single retired women and lone parents are the most likely to do so; luckily however, it is in those two groups that the gap between women and men has been narrowing most quickly. This is good news.

Mysteriously though, a staggering 31% of children are likely to live in low income households; a dramatically higher proportion than either women or men.

Huh? Are kids forming their own little minimum wage communes now, or what?

The answer lies in the fact that these numbers are absolute, not proportional. They are calculated in terms of total income per household, not relative income per household member. Which means that for every 1 single mother with 3 kids living in poverty, there are 3 children living in poverty - and the majority of single parents in the UK are still, despite media scaremongering, mothers.

Breaking the statistic down further, if a man lives in a "household" with an income of less than £10K p.a., or the aforementioned woman with 3 kids lives in a "household" with the same income, he still has 4 times as much real income as any of teh people in her and her children. This example, though, is not very solid - because in reality the woman is highly unlikely to have the same level of income as hte man in the first place.

And that is where sexism comes in. Women still earn approximately 85% of what men do - but for low earning women, those in part time or unstable work who struggle the most to stay above the povery line, the pay gap is an appaling 33%.

So, more women are bringing children up on their own; on average they earn less and have more mouths to feed; and if they can't work full time because some of their children are small, then the two effects are likely to be amplified many times over.

How does this tie back with the economic inequality issue? Well, the one thing that everybody seems to agree on when tlaking about social mobility is that there isn't any. Rich parents are still overwhelmingly more likely to raise rich children. Children who grow up poor are crushingly more likely to spend the rest of their lives in the cycle of poverty. And more children are raised poor because of sexism than anythig else.

Parenting equality, pay equality, status equality between traditional "male" and "female" professions; these are all essential to closing the poverty gap and improving that GINI coefficient. And yes, diversity, too - as we are currently seeing with Harriet Harman and Hillary Clinton, women in power are much more likely to emphasise women's issues than males are. I'm with ya that the left should get its economic priorities right already, and stop pandering to pampered upper middle class paranoiacs; but if you think that means that feminists can hang up their boxing gloves, you're dead on the nose wrong. Because on economic reform and financial equality as on anything else, if men do what they've done, we'll get what we've got. The patriarchy causes poverty, and the patriarchy has to go.

Aug 17, 2009

Boo-hoo for the world, Big Bad Hillary is being mean to it

OMG, y'all, Hillary is so mean! Cause when somebody is asking you what your hubby thinks about your job, you answer, biyatch! What's this getting uppity and sniping back about? She's like, got no empathy, y'all!

See, travelling half way across the world into a war zone to urge the humane treatment of half the population of the world - the half that, in this particular beauty spot, is having their very bodies forcibly penetrated not only by assorted and often ganged up penises, but gun muzzles, razor blades, broken bottles and the AIDS virus - is totally not empatheitc. No, taking time out of your busy State Secretarial schedule to answer rude, fuckwitted questions is empathetic. Bake some cookies already!

Judith Warner at the NYT has a great article up, attacking the trivialisation of Secretary of State Clinton in the US media, and I find echoes of it relevant to the UK; because US issues become British issues so quickly, of course, but also because we've just had our own round of abject trivialisation - of Harriet Harman and her more limited but nevertheless excellent initiative to combat violence against women and girls.

A lot of the commentary I've seen on both topics in the last few weeks tended to focus on the journalistic inanity of this tone of coverage, as well as the potential political implications (e.g. long term undermining of Secretary Clinton could lead to a wider destabilisation both of her mission and of the Obama administration). But that, to me, dismisses the ridicule, obfuscation, misrepresentation and trivialisation of high ranking female political figures as an Aw Shucks side effect of the boys' club that is journalism, and its lazy attitude towards playing into the public's basest prejudices. And to do that is to miss the point.

It's significant that Harriet's fuckability and Hillary's love handles made their respective appearances around the time when both of them were publicizing significant initiatives to improve the lot of women and protect them from violence, cruelty, torture and rape. I was actually surprised when the Mail - a publication that I thought had long lost the power to ever lower itself further in my eyes - didn't ridicule Harman's intiative. It actually got angry about it. It really, really scared and outraged the Mail that government is trying to interfere in the God-given right of upstanding citizens to teach their children on the one hand to beat, and the other to take beatings. Educating children to eschew violence was framed as being fundamentally, invasively evil.

It's the same kind of non-logic that underpins the widespread outrage in the US at the suggestion that people could be given access to better healthcare. Preventing the suffering of others is being read as an unforgivable intrusion into basic democratic liberties. The operative word in this, as in all discussions about welfare reform and the protection of vulnerable groups, is other.

There's a bunch of feminist discourse dealing with "Othering", and a lot of it can be a bit obscure and intimidating to the newcomer. But to put it very plainly, albeit in my own somewhat unqualified words, Othering a person, or a group of people, is the mental process of redrawing your emotional boundaries such that empathy no longer extends to them. If you can place yourself in the shoes of an 8 year old child who has been gang raped and mutilated, or in the shoes of a person dying of cancer because their insurance company won't pay for chemo, and at least somewhat enter into their state of pain, fear, confusion and despair, there's just no way that you won't want to do something to help. At the barest minimum you will not stand in the path of others who wish to help, especially if the help comes at no cost to you.

But doing this is painful; empathy entails at least a tiny psychic wound inflicted by the imagined anguish of the empathees. So to some, the emotionally cogent solution is to imagine that those people - the mass raped, the uninsured, the victims and addicts and punch bags of soceity - don't exist, or can't possibly exist, or possibly do exist but deserve their self-inflicted suffering, or, in the most extreme cases, are simply so alien and un-human as to bear no meaningful relationship to one, possess no hook onto which one can start fastening one's empathy. Women, to go back to the feminist theory bit of this post, are the quintessential "other", which is why when we talk of mass rape in Liberia or family killings in Pakistan we don't talk about human rights - we talk about "women's issues". So insiduous is the othering of women that we quite casually dismiss them from membership of the human race on a daily basis.

There's a trick to this emotional equivalent of placing one's hands over one's ears and shouting "lalala nobody's listening!", and trivilisation by the media is central to it. Concentrating on Secretary Clinton's wardrobe or Mrs Harman's accent starts a feedback loop that, properly nurtured, provides whole swathes of people with the near-mystical ability to believe that the most heinous, the most dehumanising, the most abhorrent and disgusting and appaling outrages against one's fellow human beings aren't really anything to lose much sleep over. Because if Harriet Harman is frivolous, then all of her prattling about spousal abuse and the rape conviction rates is frivolous, too. If Hillary Clinton is frivolous, then little girls in Africa having their insides torn up by bayonettes, being "circumcised" by marauding soldiers before being deemed clean enough to rape, are frivolous too. And shame on these women politicians for wasting our time with them!

That, friends, is real lack of empathy. A couple of tetchy sentences in response to a silly question at a press conference really don't allow Secretary Clinton to aspire to such high achievements.

Aug 14, 2009

Victim blaming - the logical conclusion

(Via Jezebel)

An upmarket hotel in the US is accusing a woman who was raped at gun point in its parking lot of having "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children".

The rapist attacked the woman from behind while she was strapping her two small children into their car seats. He forced her to undress and raped her on the back seat in front of the children. He pointed his gun at the children and threatened to sexually assault one of them.

The rapist was apprehended, tried, and sent to prison for 20 years. Neither judicially nor morally is there any doubt who is 100% responsible for this inhuman violation of another human being's dignity and personhood.

We talk a lot about victim blaming and how prevalent it is in our society, and it's often difficult to explain to people who are blinded by patriarchal assumptions about gender what "victim blaming" actually is, or how, e.g., asking questions like "why did she take him back?" or "why was she walking alone at night?" constitutes victim blaming behaviour in the first place.

But this is an absolutely clear cut case. The Marriott here is totally adamant that the rape was the woman's fault, or at least that she bears a lot of the responsibility for it (presumably they're not deluded enough to claim that she raped herself). They are, explicitly and unashamedly, blaming the victim.

They're not saying "young women are more prone to attack, she should have been more careful", because she was 40 when the rape happened.

They're not saying "she shouldn't have been flirting with him", because this was one of those tiny minority of random stranger rapes.

They're not saying "she shouldn't have been alone in a dangerous neighbourhood", because it happened in their own 4-star garage parking lot.

And yet, when she sued them (for an earth shattering $15,000, no less) for failing to provide adequate security on their premises and for ignoring previous reports about the rapist hovering in the area and harassing women, thereby leaving him free to rape, they turned around and quite clearly stated that it's all her fault for not making "proper use of her senses".

How can this be? How can someone even take precautions against a random crime? How do they propose women parking in their garage "mitigate their damages", as they put it?

Well, presumably, by not brazenly existing in the world while in possession of a vagina.

That is what I'd like people to take away from this: every time you think, or hear someone say "you know, women can do a lot to prevent rape by doing/not doing XYZ", think about this woman, whom a major corporation is lambasting as the author of her own misery.

Because saying "don't drink and flirt with men" and "don't wear short skirts" is bullshit. The rules won't protect you. Long skirts won't protect you. Secured parking lots with guards and cameras won't protect you.

Women don't get themselves raped. Men rape them. Anything that says otherwise is victim blaming.

ETA: Shakesville has a list of emails & URLs where you can contact the hotel chain and its owners to let them know what you think about this shit.

Aug 10, 2009

IVF and other property crimes

On Monday, 20 June, 2005, one Professor Ledger ("a leading UK fertility expert"), via the BBC, warned of a "reproductive time bomb" threatening the UK if women continued to put off having children until their late 30's or early 40's.

Last Sunday, he proclaimed the bomb detonated from the front page of the
Observer. A staggering, frightening, threatening, unsustainable number of women were forced to resort to IVF.

What do you mean, exactly how many? This is a newspaper front page article, people. It's not in the business of reporting actual information.

Anyway, you don't really need to know the numbers[1]. You can tell that this is a serious problem by the seriousness of the solutions Prof. Ledger proposes for it. Four years ago, he was entertaining such wishy-washy ideas as career breaks and financial incentives to enable women to have children earlier in life without jeopardizing their financial futures. Now, however, the situation is so much more severe that the advice of the good doctor is to subject women to an MOT.

An MOT is for cars, not people, you say? Well, where did you get the radical notion that women are people from? What are you, some kind of feminist?

[1] Oh, all right. Here they are:

35 thousand women are estimated to receive IVF treatment each year. That is 0.1 percent of the women in the UK. Obviously, a calamity of epic proportions that is going to overwhelm the NHS despite the fact that 80% of these women pay for it privately. Whatevs, numbers, right?

1.43% of babies are born as a result of IVF. Clearly if we don't do something about to reduce our reliance on it, the population decline will wipe Great Britain off the map and Britannia will no longer rule the clammy North Atlantic waves. If that sounds a little faux-jingoistic to you, then I'm sorry but I don't know how else to treat such patently preposterous alarmism about the fertility rates at the same time as banging the drum for immigration control.

The birth rate in Britain women is just over 2.0 children per woman. That's a pretty respectable replacement rate. At a time when we are being warned of unsustainable population growth through "migration", keeping the population more or less stable sounds like a pretty good idea, no?

What's this I hear you say? Women are machines for making nice white middle class babies? Surely not! Next you'll be suggesting that we limit their rights to terminate pregnancies and generally decide when and how to have children for themselves...
Oh, wait.

The birth rate has been steadily increasing in the last 20 years. It is currently at its highest rate since the early seventies. So is, however, anxiety about the loss of mass control over the female population, and manufactured panic about the decline of "Britishness". Coincidence? You decide.

32.5% of couples with fertility issues have those because there's something wrong with the man. It's the exact same number - 32.5% - for women. In other words, the medical problems are pretty evenly spread across both sexes. But men are not exhorted to submit themselves to the sort of invasion of privacy that women should put up with. Because human rights are for humans, not females. Duh.


As an aside and a general comment on the state of print media, most of the above numbers were present in a graphic side-bar accompanying the print version of the article. So the Observer staff were running a front page that expressly contradicted their own research. That this journalistic FAIL involved a) science and b) women is exactly no surprise to me whatsoever in any way shape or form.

That this appalling piece of regurgitated misogynist propaganda make the inside pages of
The Sheffield Telegraph is, in some ways, almost comfortingly predictable. But the front page of the (self confessed) most liberal Sunday newspaper in the land? "MOTs for women"? You shittin' me, or are all of your brain-enabled editors currently sunning themselves in Tuscany? Fuckwits.

Aug 6, 2009

Hate-mongering tabloid in misogynist shocker

Look, people. Yeah, the Daily Mail seem to have jumped the shark with this one. Yes, their opposition to the monstrous notion that teaching children to avoid violence is ridiculous, and is bordering on evil.

But seriously. Did anyone expect any different?

People are always like "feminists are hysterical, they're overreacting, most of the goals of feminism have been reached, you're jumping at shadows, why do you always have to see sexism everywhere" blah blah blah.

Answer: because it's like, there, mmkay?

People hate women. Lots and lots of people hate women. They think that women deserve to be hit. They think that women deserve to be raped. They think that women should be punished for being so vile as to deserve to be hit and raped by being made to stay with their abusers and carry tehir rapists' babies to term. These people call themselves "proponents of family values", "pro-life activists" and "men's rights activists". Also, quite often, "nice guys".

So somebody at the Mail was on holiday and the temp forgot to keep the language sifficiently coded, allowing the mask of concerned citizenship to slip and show the naked loathing below. Big deal.

You wanna get really mad, check out this "scientists", or maybe I should say Scientist(tm), who thinks that
feminism is illogical, unnecessary, and evil. Cause he gets paid - out of your taxes - to teach this hate speech to young people at the London School of Economics.

Jul 27, 2009

What the fuck is UP with Comic Con, huh?

OK, these people are officially so fucking hateful that they will chop off their own noses and serve them to their own faces with a nice Chianti rather than admit that the human race is twice the size they would like it to be, and comes in more than one regulation model.

they didn't want women to come to the Con at all. The they were like, hey, we can't stop them. But we can complain about it when they do! Now they're all, OK, women are allowed if they wear a thong and allow men to paw at them in public without their consent. Wait, but dudes might not know that pawing is mandatory. I know - we'll give them prizes for doing it[1]!

Female comic fans (of which I am one) are pretty much used to the fact that comic books are essentially a spank bank. Any considerations of character development or plot outline are secondary to how much tits, ass and leg you can show per frame. So what if
Diana Price is an Olympic-grade athlete, accomplished military strategist, and dedicated crime fighter? She can get all that done in a belted onesy, and like it. Be grateful she's not a nineties Garth Ennis invention, or she'd be doing it in a thong. Speaking of, what's with Ennis and the hate fuck recently (totally NSFW)? And yeah -Jean Grey. So she's like a Doctor or something. Big deal. She can wear her skimpy underwear and do her gratuitous lesbian scenes, like a proper comics character!

So yeah, OK, we get it, this shit ain't aimed at us. We are
not the target audience, fine, great, whatever. But ComicCon are so fucking up themselves this year that they did the commercial equivalent of taking out a billboard saying "Recession? What recession? We don't need no stinking pink dollars! Teh Ladeez are for ogling, pawing and avoiding: we don't serve their kind here!"


[1] Contrary to the title of that Jezebel article, the promotion is valid for pictures taken with any Booth Babe - so all women employed by the convention are open to harassment and assault.

Jul 13, 2009

Hey, not bad!

Way to go, Jimmy Carter. I'm not a big fan of arguments from God - whatever camp's opinions they are used to justify - but, religious stuff aside, it's good to see acknowledgement of the fact that Women's rights are human rights (thanks for that phrase, Hillary Clinton), and that the systematic oppression of women is a global human rights crisis, coming from this sort of echelon of politics:

"Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries."