Thursday, January 22, 2015

Please Don't Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation

Once upon a time, a man wrote a story primarily about his ex-girlfriend - let's call her "Zoe Flynn". The story was filled of allegations against several parties. The story was one of betrayal, hypocrisy and even some insinuation that some sex-for-favors happened within the indie game industry.

It was a tale to be read many different ways, and one with several aspects disputed by Flynn. The details of this particular story are not relevant to repeat, as the crucial point is that the story was one of the catalysts of the drama that is "#GamerGate".

For many "feminist" activists, #GamerGate was not at all confusing. It was obvious - a sordid online misogynist pile-on trying to tear down women that loves to pretend to be anything else. #GamerGate was just all the people that hated Anita Sarkeesian deciding to also find the time to hate Flynn, gaming blogs, and feminism generally. Simple.

Long before any #GamerGate nonsense, social media had its tribes. Despite it being quite a source of controversy, we don't need to believe that #GamerGate is an event that fractured many communities. Chances are that all one's social media connections moved lock-step into a pro-#GamerGate, anti-#GamerGate, or ambivalent camp.

Two people that had little to do with gaming and each other are Milo Yiannopoulos and Shanley Kane. It's likely both of them spend more time in a word processor than a first-person shooter. That their relationship has anything at all to do with gaming drama is interesting.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Shanley is an outspoken critic of the technology industry, is an advocate for women in tech and publishes a quarterly journal on the subject. Milo is a columnist. To be entirely reductionist, they have the same job - write something moderately interesting about the topic of the day.

Milo, from disagreement or dislike, decided his topic was Shanley. In December, Milo published a profile of Shanley - which everyone that knows Shanley knows she does not particularly enjoy. In January, Milo followed up with a more revealing story, in which it was alleged that Shanley dated a well known internet troll with which she shared racist humor and some sexually submissive inclinations.

Shanley later confirmed the relationship and problematic past opinions, but held that the troll in question was a manipulative liar that she broke up with - a claim that no reasonable person doubts as the poor character of her ex-boyfriend has been confirmed by many witnesses. Further, Shanley labelled the interest in this aspect of her life "kink shaming".

Shortly afterwards, Shanley blamed the Linux community for a doxxing that happened about the same time:

Last Thursday, I criticized the Linux community for continuing to support and center a leader with a years-long, documented history of unrepentant abusive behavior, someone who has actively and systematically nurtured a hostile, homogeneous technical community, and someone who has long actively chased people from marginalized groups out of open source. 
The retaliation has been terrifying.

Apparently the doxxer was not Milo writing the story, not the ex-boyfriend filling in the details, but people retaliating on behalf of "the Linux community". The Linux community is to be the part of the triune Godhead of harassment that was ultimately the source of the dox.

The timeline of events is Shanley apparently trash talked Linux on Thursday, posted Milo's phone number on Twitter on Friday, and Milo posted the account of her ex-boyfriend on Saturday.

It sounds like a game of Clue, except Shanley is here to tell us it was definitely Linus Torvalds with a candlestick in the conservatory. To dial up the weirdness, the same day Shanley fingered the Linux community, her former business partner and co-founder of Model View Culture posted an account of her own fallout with Shanley:

I left Model View Culture because working with Shanley felt like I was in an abusive relationship.
[...]
But as the business grew, my relationship with Shanley deteriorated. Each day I dreaded having to interact with her. I had trouble squaring that dread with how much I loved the work I was doing and the company’s vision, and for several months I tried everything to make it work. But eventually I was able to see many of the things I was experiencing - such as yelling, excuses that the yelling was just because she needed me so much, her demands that I isolate myself from my friends - as classic abuser tactics. I woke up one morning with the bone-deep realization that I could no longer work with her. 
Shanley has since erased me from Model View Culture’s history. Fighting erasure of work is a feminist issue, and also one that Shanley is aware of and has specifically addressed in the past. Yet the publication did not announce that I had left, and quietly took me off the about page, though it has continued to refer to itself as “we.” Shanley credits herself as “Founder” not “co-founder.” In telling the story of founding the company in press, she does not mention that I was there unless specifically asked about it.
[...]
I decided to write this disclosing my own experiences with Shanley because the feminist conversation about tech right now feels like “You’re either with Shanley or you’re with [Shanley's ex-boyfriend].” And I think there should be room for a third option: You support diversity in tech and the work Model View Culture has done, but you are allowed to have doubts about Shanley's sincerity or track record of abusive behavior.

Indeed, if the Model View Culture publication is good at anything, it is erasure. Not only did MVC erase a founder, but it unceremoniously erased the writings of a one Dana McCallum, once a feminist and transgender activist that is now most famous for pleading guilty to domestic violence charges. McCallum was once a listed Model View Culture author, but now no trace of McCallum exists on the site.

As bizarre and outrageous as all this nonsense is, it might not be the best drama of late.

For it turns out that another semi-famous social media personality, Holly Fisher, is facing her own critics. Fisher is famous for doing her very best to be the embodiment of everything American "progressives" are said to despise. Vocally pro-gun, pro-Bible, pro-abortion restrictions and anti-Obama, Fisher is perhaps what Sarah Palin would be if Palin had a lower profile and was more ready to engage random people on Twitter.

The source of drama in the Fisher story is her admission that she had an affair. The admission may have come after some relatively unknown idiot appeared to want to publish the details. The incident is particularly problematic in conservative circles, as her husband is a doubly sympathetic figure due to his service in the military - seems he was at one point deployed overseas. The other man in the picture is a Tea Party activist.

The steamy setting romance this pro-life advocate had, according to her traitorous conservative pals, was apparently a “Restoring the Dream” event, a "Faith & Freedom" conference, and on election night 2014. (No word yet on whether or not "Faith & Freedom" conferences have acceptable and inclusive harassment policies.)

Shanley Kane and Holly Fisher are two very different women, yet their response to their similar predicament can be summarized in the same phrase - "this is basically none of your business". One does not need to subscribe to any particular brand of feminist ideals to imagine that there may be a double standard in play - all the people revealing the embarrassing details are men, and the individuals embarrassed and scandalized are women. Just another example of misogynistic slut shaming.

Yet it isn't quite so simple. The men in these stories are not embarrassed as they were either invisible or already considered creepy. To speak of the men these two women chose to hook up with would be to first learn their names or give them an ounce of respect which they could forfeit. The men are nobodies.

In what version of reality does a feminist critic of a male-dominated tech industry think it's not the least bit relevant that she dated a particularly wicked internet troll? It is somewhat difficult to hold men accountable for "microaggressions" while dating a man that is a macro-asshole.

Similarly, what kind of booze is in the punchbowl at an adulterous "Faith & Freedom" conference? One may as well do lines of cocaine at a rehab clinic. Did the red hot rendezvous happen in a hotel room, or in the 15 minute break between the family values and abstinence-only education seminars?

Relationships matter. We know this as nobody is quite in the mood to discuss hiking the Appalachian trail or the meaning of "is". It turns out women are also capable of having a relationship built on secrets that when revealed undermines trust their followers held for them.

Luckily for some, the subject of women's preferences is a third rail for feminism. Speaking of any affinity a gender may have to even the most innocent of behaviors is quite taboo. Any realistic discussion about women's sexuality might lead to gender essentialism or "victim blaming" - both of which are tragedies to be avoided at all costs. We live in a world where Jian Ghomeshi can still find a date and Charles Manson can still find a wife but it remains not one's place to question the logic.

Consider the possibility that every woman activist that would like to see empowerment in the workplace may currently be dating a man that the very image of what it is to be a toxic, misogynist colleague. Also possible is that every self-identified fan of "personal responsibility" and our brave men in uniform may actually spend their free time being fed Plan B by buttoned-up political desk jockeys.

It's taken for granted that some number of the "men's rights" activists ranting and raving about child custody made at least a few relationship mistakes. Having a crazy ex-wife does not put one in a position to speak objectively about the merits of feminism.

It's simply time to take the same calculus that we apply to these "activist" men and apply them to our "activist" women. A safe assumption is that every popular social media personality is hypocritical, depressed and manipulative until proven otherwise. Taking their soap box seriously is a bad idea.

Human beings can be transparent, honest and consistent. The world's in trouble, there's no communication.

On the other hand, a girl can do what she wants to do and that's what I'm gonna do.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Debating Islam In Circles

It's happened again. A group of terrorists, Islamists, jihadis - whatever the preferred term is - has murdered a number of people. As always, the killings were sloppy, barbaric and indefensible.

However, in a morbid way one hopeful thing about these new Islamist murders is that they were somewhat specific. The primary targets were cartoonists that had insulted the prophet. The following hostage crisis was at a kosher supermarket.

It is a glimpse into the sadistic mind of the Islamic terrorist when they stray from the formula of an indiscriminate public transit bombing or beheading of the nearest journalist. When Islamists kill indiscriminately it can be construed by some as an attack on a citizens of a government involved in foreign wars. Some talking heads will try to tell the west that the building disappeared or the train exploded because of some foreign policy squabble.

But when the Islamists specifically reach out to murder the people they're most angry with - cartoonists and jews - it's clear that there is nothing resembling "rational" motives related to wars or poverty. It's clearly an ideological and personal bigotry against people who do not follow their brand of religion. A homicidal desire to make people who disrespect their dogma disappear.

What follows these attacks is typically an outpouring of anti-Islam sentiment. Much of it is not the most refined, compelling or educated critiques - Godwin's law is proven true several times.

Then comes the reaction to the reaction. For as much as people fear Islamist murders, people fear "Islamophobic" reprisal attacks. The type of person that appears most likely to make this fear a reality is the stereotypical American "nutjob". Too much ammunition, an incredible lack of mental health treatment, and a person perhaps dumb enough to believe there exists an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in a Sikh temple.

It is a rational fear - white men shoot up post offices and elementary schools, it is not a stretch of the imagination they're capable of flipping their lid and attacking a mosque.

But this fear is often tied to a massive false equivalency - the idea that the mostly-secular west is somehow due to go insane. Islamists are seen as a "safe" version of insane. The real worry is that everyone else is going to release pent up anger and something incredibly bad will happen. Some people actually do view global politics as if they were in a group therapy anger management session full of generally friendly people. It's the first world viewing itself in the lens of the most first world problems.

Shia Twelvers are a minority in Islam. They are often victims of the worst of Sunni Islamist violence.  It would be surprising to find any Shia muslims on the list of perpetrators of the attacks in France. One of the beliefs of the Twelvers is happens to be that the Madhi will return and make everything good again.

Regardless of the odds of any messianic story coming true, the lives of the majority of ordinary "muslims" in the west is more controlled by the belief that there is a chance that a neo-Timothy McVeigh or Anders Brevik will return and lay waste to everything they hold dear in this life. Nothing can be said to alleviate this concern, just as muslims themselves cannot say anything to assuage the fears of those worried about more Islamist violence.

The result is very cyclic and pointless discussion.

Muslims kill cartoonists, but not all muslims are terrorists.

Racists criticize Islam, but not all critics are racist.

Both statements can be understood to be true without much thought so it's confusing that each sentence is a rallying cry for entirely different perspectives.

Friends of Islam and critics of Islam. If one had to choose to be in one group or the other, it seems preferable to be in the group denying subtle racist tendencies than to be in the group defending a religion with a questionable history.

The "not all muslims are terrorists" red herring is to put Islam and muslims within a shield of low expectations. It's as if muslims can exist in modern society and be generally pleasant in every day conversation, they've won a seat at the table of modernity.

Compare this to how we treat every other ideology beholden to a deity. Mormons are on the cusp of being unfit for political office due to their unwavering opposition to gay marriage. For a number of "reasons", to mention their abuses most euphemistically, Catholics are not running very many schools anymore. Anglicans and other European churches define how comfort causes indifference and lack of vision. Evangelicals are evil incarnate - anti-choice, pro-gun, anti-poor, pro-Republican...

Hands off the ordinary muslim. He's got a job, minds his own business and does not drink. A model citizen of our times!

"He's religious and conservative, but it's alright - he's Arab/Persian/Pakistani/Indonesian/North African/etc... and you know how they are."

The condescension in some is that western college educated people are clever and responsible enough to have mutable religious beliefs. Bonus points in flexibility are awarded to wealthy peers and those that spent time in liberal arts programs. All the "underprivileged" are thought to be stuck. In fact, it appears some think it a "white privilege" to be clever enough to change one's mind.

Indeed, it is a white privilege to be an apostate. But not because white people are smarter than everyone else, but because privileged people support systems that make it difficult for nonwhites to be anything but a part of their religious and cultural track. Whites are thought to be the free agents of religion, everyone else is still on contract.

Recall that a lot western leaders for better or worse thought reservations for Native Americans was a decent idea. Further, many colonial adventures ended with borders that reflected a white man's conclusions of what made up a society and nation state.

Borders do not mean what they used to, but a certain population of concerned, self-appointed, entitled white people are still defining the parameters of interaction. White people, religious or not, are to be respectful of Muhammad. In return, muslims are to be on-side in matters concerning the battle these "enlightened" white people are fighting with what the white people define as their common enemies.

It fits to a formula. The more adherents and the less social success, the more secular people will feel a moral obligation to place absolutely outrageous behavior "in context". Respect will be paid to any ideology, either as a form of self-preservation, the firm belief that a "clash of civilizations" will meet a violent end or the wishful idea that everything popular must have some redeeming qualities.

Ultimately the conversation is one that wealthy secular people are having with themselves. Muslim majority societies are not all the same, but they generally sum to be an alien world that the rest of the humanity is not excited to be a part of. The debate is reduced to strategy about how to change it. Some people want to launch the photon torpedoes, others want to put the "noble savages" in a multicultural time capsule, others see the solution as coordinating a worldwide charm offensive.

In western cities many seem to believe muslims are a minority like any other, but this simply is not true. Regardless whether they share a smile or a frown, people wish for overtly religious people of all stripes to dial it down. It is bigotry to desire society to modify its skin color, gender or sexuality. The same rule cannot be made for religion. It is rather offensive to even pretend the concerns exist on the same plane.

Islam harbors one of the largest groups of people still believing in a medieval view of monotheism. More embarrassing is that the "progressive" wing of the faith makes the cultural norms of the Victorian era seem delightfully inspired and forward-looking.

Despite what many say to the contrary, Islam can be blamed for its bad apples. But the true failure of faith is that its best apples are not sweet. It should not be controversial to not like them apples.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Expensive Margaritas Will Stop Campus Rape

Imagine being a nineteen year old woman (currently those born in '95 do qualify) attending a university in the United States of America. You have a lot on your mind, but at the moment you're looking to unwind and have some fun.

Obviously alcohol is the answer - as using America's favorite drug in the company of friends has long been established as a decent way to create an enjoyable day.

There's a problem, however - consumption of alcohol at this age is not legal. Acquisition of the alcohol must happen illegally. Consumption of the alcohol must happen in an unsanctioned location. Fortunately these restrictions are not insurmountable, as all you need is a connection to someone a few years older than you that is also willing to break the law with you.

The stereotypical story is that those most eager to make this connection and take this risk have motives beyond a simple cash transaction. There simply is not a lot of people trying to make a quick profit by selling alcohol to underage drinkers out of the trunk of a car. More motivated are those that may desire the potential customer's affection more than their money.

It's so taken for granted that it's already a plot device in many films referencing college life in America - one or more eager heterosexual men will acquire amazing amounts of cheap beer in the hopes that women without inhibitions will later appear. It's the Field of Dreams scenario with much less work involved. It's also a scenario that shares elements with many accounts of campus rape.

It's easy to see where the problems arise. The authorities provide no oversight at any point. Quid pro quo transactions between intoxicated parties. House parties with private locked rooms mere steps away from the liquor. Alcohol acquisition and consumption exist as some sort of risque taboo, subject to "macho" contests - the most accessible extreme sport to an ever more sedentary population. There are many reasons to think that this environment created to break one law is entirely capable of breaking a few more. Further, those that do face assault at these venues are blamed for their own victimhood as they chose to attend what they knew was an illegal event.

The solution is simple. Let adult women go to the bar. 

You may vote, you may drive, you may star in porn films. It's probably the right time for one to be able to buy an overpriced cocktail at a nondescript pub. No more rumors about what is happening at what frat/sorority house, no more pleading with older men and women to sell you booze and then leave you alone.


Pictured: Freedom and equality before the law

Of course, this does not mean one does not face the threat of being a victim of a sexual assault as a student. There is not a lot of data to suggest that a licensed establishment is always a safer establishment, as there are not agencies that currently collect great data about campus events that try their best to not be recorded by the government.

In fact, it may increase the chances of being assaulted by greatly increasing the chances of being assaulted by someone who is not a student. In that case, "campus sexual assault" may be ended as a matter of category. If the offender is a high school dropout, what would compel them to be put in front of a campus sexual assault tribunal?

The solution then has the possibility of "working" in at least one of two ways:
  1. Changing incentives may reduce opportunities for perpetrators 
  2. The nature of perpetrators may change
Obviously the ideal is that the number of assaults decreases, however the plan also exposes the absurdity of the current approach to campus sexual assault. If more interactions can be pushed into extracurricular activities, then the universities can avoid more responsibility.

Is a university responsible for spring break? What oversight is given a student enrolled in online classes? What happens when internships become a larger part of education, as they should?

The fastest way to end campus rape is to end the campus. There is no reason that adult students need to be treated differently based on age. There is no reason that the student population needs to be insulated from humanity that exists off campus. There is no reason to run a campus as a special part of the city, governed by unintelligible faculty and incompetent student unions.

There would still exist room for universities to do the right thing - no victim should have to sit through a lecture opposite their student rapist. And faculty members should face a lot more scrutiny.

The greater point is the discussion extends far beyond campus. Perhaps we can discuss what happens to young adults that do not exist within the eye of contemporary progressive concern because they are not attending college to begin with.

As long as college remains a trumped-up boarding school for the moderately wealthy, we are always going to be subjected to concerned parents and imaginative graduates writing opinion pieces about the dangers of their young adult daycare.

Now, go get that margarita.

Blended, if you must.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Nobody Cares About Your Sexuality

Sexuality matters. How could it not?

Indeed, sexual orientation and sexual preferences define a great deal of modern life. In the majority of the world, sexuality is coded deeply into legal and cultural practices. Sexuality determines who you may marry. Often a consequence of marriage law but not always, sexuality will determine one's taxes, immigration status, health insurance and the mechanics of death.

Law aside, one's sexuality determines one's place in a culture. Products, messages and services are often built upon assumptions about sexuality. If outside the "norm", everything from ad campaigns to dating services will not care much about your existence. More importantly, sexuality determines how well you may relate to another's experiences and this plays a large role in which social circles one is included in. All the seemingly boring details, from Facebook profile pictures (hint: they're always from a wedding) to conversations at at baby shower are impacted by sexual orientation. The sum of these changes is considerable.

Luckily for us, a world is being built where sexuality does not matter all that much. Arguments about same-sex marriage continue and extremely judgmental societies exist, but the trend is set. Of all the world's problems, it is hard to imagine that a decade from now the world will be concerned with someone not being a heterosexual. Heterosexuality, long the champion of the unplanned pregnancy, may actually be viewed as a liability.

Now, to witness a culture shift from a different vantage point, let's move to a topic unrelated to same-sex attraction.

Let's talk about an ongoing news story in Canada.

Jian Ghomeshi is a former CBC radio host that was about as popular as one can get while hosting a CBC radio show. Ghomeshi has a major in political science and minor in history and women's studies and has interviewed a great number of people - even feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

All this made it rather shocking when Ghomeshi was accused of sexual assault. Even more strange was how many came to learn of the allegations - Ghomeshi's own Facebook page.

Ghomeshi posted: (emphasis added)

Dear everyone,
I am writing today because I want you to be the first to know some news.
This has been the hardest time of my life. I am reeling from the loss of my father. I am in deep personal pain and worried about my mom. And now my world has been rocked by so much more.
Today, I was fired from the CBC.
For almost 8 years I have been the host of a show I co-created on CBC called Q. It has been my pride and joy. My fantastic team on Q are super-talented and have helped build something beautiful.
I have always operated on the principle of doing my best to maintain a dignity and a commitment to openness and truth, both on and off the air. I have conducted major interviews, supported Canadian talent, and spoken out loudly in my audio essays about ideas, issues, and my love for this country. All of that is available for anyone to hear or watch. I have known, of course, that not everyone always agrees with my opinions or my style, but I’ve never been anything but honest. I have doggedly defended the CBC and embraced public broadcasting. This is a brand I’ve been honoured to help grow.
All this has now changed.
Today I was fired from the company where I’ve been working for almost 14 years – stripped from my show, barred from the building and separated from my colleagues. I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision. But I am not going to do that. Because that would be untrue. Because I’ve been fired. And because I’ve done nothing wrong.
I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer.
As friends and family of mine, you are owed the truth.
I have commenced legal proceedings against the CBC, what’s important to me is that you know what happened and why.
Forgive me if what follows may be shocking to some.
I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.
About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do. I have never discussed my private life before. Sexual preferences are a human right.
Despite a strong connection between us it became clear to me that our on-and-off dating was unlikely to grow into a larger relationship and I ended things in the beginning of this year. She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others.
After this, in the early spring there began a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety.
It came to light that a woman had begun anonymously reaching out to people that I had dated (via Facebook) to tell them she had been a victim of abusive relations with me. In other words, someone was reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious. I learned – through one of my friends who got in contact with this person – that someone had rifled through my phone on one occasion and taken down the names of any woman I had seemed to have been dating in recent years. This person had begun methodically contacting them to try to build a story against me. Increasingly, female friends and ex-girlfriends of mine told me about these attempts to smear me.
Someone also began colluding with a freelance writer who was known not to be a fan of mine and, together, they set out to try to find corroborators to build a case to defame me. She found some sympathetic ears by painting herself as a victim and turned this into a campaign. The writer boldly started contacting my friends, acquaintances and even work colleagues – all of whom came to me to tell me this was happening and all of whom recognized it as a trumped up way to attack me and undermine my reputation. Everyone contacted would ask the same question, if I had engaged in non-consensual behavior why was the place to address this the media?
The writer tried to peddle the story and, at one point, a major Canadian media publication did due diligence but never printed a story. One assumes they recognized these attempts to recast my sexual behaviour were fabrications. Still, the spectre of mud being flung onto the Internet where online outrage can demonize someone before facts can refute false allegations has been what I’ve had to live with.
And this leads us to today and this moment. I’ve lived with the threat that this stuff would be thrown out there to defame me. And I would sue. But it would do the reputational damage to me it was intended to do (the ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations). But with me bringing it to light, in the coming days you will prospectively hear about how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie. But it will be salacious gossip in a world driven by a hunger for “scandal”. And there will be those who choose to believe it and to hate me or to laugh at me. And there will be an attempt to pile on. And there will be the claim that there are a few women involved (those who colluded with my ex) in an attempt to show a “pattern of behaviour”. And it will be based in lies but damage will be done. But I am telling you this story in the hopes that the truth will, finally, conquer all.
I have been open with the CBC about this since these categorically untrue allegations ramped up. I have never believed it was anyone’s business what I do in my private affairs but I wanted my bosses to be aware that this attempt to smear me was out there. CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months. On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. I did this in good faith and because I know, as I have always known, that I have nothing to hide. This when the CBC decided to fire me.
CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. In fact, they later said to me and my team that there is no question in their minds that there has always been consent. They said they’re not concerned about the legal side. But then they said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC. They said that I was being dismissed for “the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out.” To recap, I am being fired in my prime from the show I love and built and threw myself into for years because of what I do in my private life.
Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life. But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.
And so, with no formal allegations, no formal complaints, no complaints, not one, to the HR department at the CBC (they told us they’d done a thorough check and were satisfied), and no charges, I have lost my job based on a campaign of vengeance. Two weeks after the death of my beautiful father I have been fired from the CBC because of what I do in my private life.
I have loved the CBC. The Q team are the best group of people in the land. My colleagues and producers and on-air talent at the CBC are unparalleled in being some of the best in the business. I have always tried to be a good soldier and do a good job for my country. I am still in shock. But I am telling this story to you so the truth is heard. And to bring an end to the nightmare.

After this came out, a number of other women came forward with similar stories to tell about Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi has since deleted his Facebook page and Twitter account.

Guilt or innocence aside - the details are now before a court - Ghomeshi's defense speaks volumes about how sexual preferences are treated today.

Ghomeshi's message may be tailored to a specific audience - that is, liberal minded Canadians. The proliferation of the letter U, the references to the sacred bedroom of the nation and even the word "dominion". Ghomeshi either needs his message to resonate with his listeners or his worldview is such that he actually views himself as a crucial part of the Canadian landscape.

The message that is understandable beyond Canada's borders is that a 47 year old man is defending himself by stating that he gets off by putting women half his age in a chokehold. In addition, these women have not been "romantically" involved with him for a very long time and are said to actually enjoy the experience.

This is peculiar. This is not a rumor about heartthrob actor or singer being gay. This is not another politician merely having an affair. This may even be more scandalous than a pastor being a meth user.

Ghomeshi is stating that there was consent while accepting that nothing much about the situation would have appeared that way. As accepting as modern society may be at times, BDSM is not yet typical conversation at dinner parties. Nobody is in a hurry to have many sadomasochist friends.

What does it mean when "Yes, I beat her and she loved it!" is a defense? Of course, the "traditional" view of the family has always been in favor of the occasional wife beating, but there was no open acceptance of either party being sexually aroused during the punishment. The idea that this is could be something consenting adults do for fun is rather taboo.

Society may be inching towards absolute indifference towards sexual preferences. As long as some parameters of consent are present, nobody cares about your sexuality. If we've created a culture that could possibly find whips and blood an everyday choice, then practically everything adults could with one another is absolutely mundane.

Within this it's important to point out that sexuality and gender are related but separate issues. Gender expression always accompanies us and should be respected by others, while sexuality in many contexts must remain private as a matter of respect for others.

One related concern may be that of biphobia. Conquering biphobia seems to be positioned as a logical next step after homophobia finally ends. People are mistrustful of same-sex attraction and also mistrustful of bisexual attraction.

Yet maybe this is the natural order of things. Conservatives were wrong and are wrong to say that one man and one woman is "natural". Far more natural than attraction to the opposite sex is attraction to oneself.

Nobody cares about your sexuality.

The things people care about, in order:

  1. If they are into you
  2. If you are into them in the way they want you to be
  3. Any issue that could possibly interfere with #1 and #2

Advertising a sexual preference, such as a same sex attraction, BDSM, or whatever else, puts at risk another's ability to service that desire. Nobody wants an itemized list of things that arouse you, unless there is a good chance that there is significant overlap in desires.

People are always going to mistrust a sexual preference that does not point directly at them. People will only respect desires not in their favor insofar as one is able to suppress them. People desire to be valued more than they desire diversity in others.

If sexual preference is built to be a large part of one's identity, witnessing disappointment will be a large part of life as one is continually invalidating the narcissistic tendencies of others. Nobody wants to know that you're into all the attributes that they do not have. More comfortable a conversation would be speaking about television or the weather.

Are you a bisexual BDSM fan looking for a polyamorous relationship? Fantastic, just do not put that on a business card. Also, if you wish to maintain a relationship with someone not into all of the above, then perhaps use every opportunity to be quiet about those aspects of your sexuality. If that cannot be done, then move on unless you're interested in the dangerous game of sowing jealousy as a strategy to reap affection.

Men like Ghomeshi do the world a strange favor when they show that heterosexuality is not a monolith. Despite how feminism may discuss it, the "male gaze" is not entirely uniform. There is not a singular flavor of "straight man" that is manipulating how we see the world. Immaculate supermodels may fetch a lot of attention from straight men, but we may expect the variation in fantasy to be more complex than the stereotypical view of the straight man.

This warrants discussion, but let's not pretend that anyone is particularly interested in what you're into. The default assumption ought to be that everyone is going to mildly irritated to listen to your preferences - not because we're all a bunch of Bible/Quran/Torah lovers, but because we're all big on ourselves and our own preferences.

Forcefully proclaiming to not be into Beyoncé or One Direction takes a lot of courage. Hopefully we can ensure discussions of sexual preference are not as toxic as talking about the Video Music Awards while accepting that not everyone is going to fully appreciate your perspective.

As for Ghomeshi, he's eating some humble pie.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Centers for Dick Control

In these modern times, it is easy to be under the impression that society has left behind strange, unnecessary, medieval medical procedures and is enveloped in the warm glow of evidence based healthcare.

This assumption is manifest when we come to learn that vaccines are thought by some to be a plot by western governments to control the population.

What utter absurdity! Those that have a respectable science-based outlook on the world know that vaccines are not mind control serums! Enlightened folks know better - smart people understand that what vaccines really do is cause autism. Right?

While not a uniquely an American problem, it is perhaps not an accident that the wealthy nation that seems to have the largest appetite for fantasy (or appetite generally) has made some of the furthest departures from reality when it comes to health and wellness.

The United States does happen to be the nation that did grant Dr Oz a career, for goodness sake.

Another way the United States is exceptional in a bad way is the practice of routine male infant circumcision. Most of the well fed world does not see the purpose in male circumcision. Circumcision is an oddity that is only widespread in the United States and various muslim countries.

On occasion, American health agencies have a moment of clarity to wonder what Americans could possibly be gaining by maintaining their phobia of infant foreskins.

The latest organization to look at the issue is the Centers for Disease Control, which published a document titled "Recommendations for Providers Counseling Male Patients and Parents Regarding Male Circumcision and the Prevention of HIV Infection, STIs, and other Health Outcomes" (accompanied by a backgrounder document)

The American psychosis that is the need to have some medical reason - any medical reason - to cut foreskin is baked right into the paper's title.

Let's circumcise the absurdities in this document.

HIV hysteria 

The document speaks about how studies in Africa showed that cutting off the foreskin of an adult male lowered his chances of contracting HIV by some measurable amount. Of course, this is making the rounds as people that have cut their boys need something to feel happy about.

"Circumcise your infant son now so he will be one of the ones still standing after the HIV pandemic strikes several decades from now!" or so the propaganda goes.

It is stupid, and the CDC document underlines just how silly things really are. In addition to a lengthy discussion of the multitude of HIV prevention techniques that actually work, the CDC instructs:

Although it is biologically plausible that male circumcision could benefit MSM during insertive sex, no definitive data exist. Currently, there are no study results from RCTs including large enough numbers of MSM and results from observational studies are not conclusive among MSM overall or among MSM who practice exclusively insertive anal sex. For example, some epidemiologic data suggest that male circumcision provides partial protection for the insertive partner during penile-anal sex while other studies do not. In contrast, male circumcision provides no biologically plausible HIV risk-reduction benefit for the anal-receptive partner and receptive anal intercourse carries a substantially higher risk for acquisition of HIV than insertive anal sex.

In short - if your son is gay, all bets are off. He'll be in a high risk population and potentially be doing some high risk things. If a parent chooses to circumcise their son for the marginal reduction in HIV transmission risk, they make the choice with the assumption that their son's sex life does not extend beyond repeated insertions of a condomless penis into a vagina.

It cannot be argued that it is ethical to remove a choice from an infant and needlessly perform a surgery early based on silly assumptions about choices later in life.


Reduction of nonexistent risks

Among other things, the document refers to reduction of risk in infant risk of UTIs and penile cancer.

What is an infant male's risk of UTI? 0.07%.

What is a male's risk of penile cancer? 1 in 1,400.

Stop the presses.


Your cut penis might look funny

Hidden within the "risks of circumcision" section for people willing to scroll to the very bottom of the damn document:
For adult male circumcision performed by clinicians, the rate of adverse events is between 2% and 4%, with pain, bleeding, infection and unsatisfactory post-surgical appearance most commonly reported. 
This is saying somewhere between 1 in 40 or 1 in 30 adults that undergo the procedure have some sort of issue with it. Apparently a common problem is that their penis looks unsatisfactory.

Unsatisfactory looking penis. This is where the numbers must come together, as one can imagine that it is difficult to acquire a sexually transmitted infection with an unsatisfactory looking penis.

It is said that infant circumcision has less reported ill effects (0.04%). Maybe the procedure is safer at a younger age. Then again, perhaps infants have less to report about phallus appearance, for some reason...


Money, Money, Money

Under the "positives" of infant circumcision the following is given:

Neonatal male circumcision is, safer, and heals more rapidly than circumcision performed on older boys, adolescent males, and men, and is less expensive

Buy now before the prices go up! It's natural to give the CDC the benefit of the doubt as they are not in the business of selling used cars.

However maybe someone should take up a career in car sales, for the background analysis of expense they used is quite absurd:

In a cost-effectiveness study of male circumcision at different ages in Rwanda, an African country with an adult HIV prevalence of 3%, infant male circumcision was found to be less expensive than adolescent and adult male circumcision (US$15 instead of US$59 per procedure) and cost-saving despite a delay in realization of savings from infant circumcision. 

Let's be clear - the United States is not Rwanda.

While this is obvious, in bizarre way we do not even need to look at recent history or any unrelated comparison to make this argument. We already know what circumcision cost is in the United States - NPR, another source of concern and worry, has already lost its mind about circumcision cost.

The NPR article spoke about infant male circumcision costing about a thousand dollars in the state of Alaska. As shown by its geography, Alaska is an outlier - in Alaska, presumably every procedure is cheaper when deferred to adolescence as older people would find it cheaper to seek care in other states.

However let's assume infant boy exists in an "average" state and assume the procedure costs around $500. To conclude that the procedure will be more expensive later, one needs to make the following assumptions:

  • The return on investment on the $500 will not result in an amount higher than the circumcision price 10-14 years from now (early adolescence)
  • Technology will not force the cost of the procedure to go down
  • No other factors will impact total cost (e.g. more than a decade later, the young male will still not be able to arrange his own transportation to the medical practitioner)
  • No other deflationary pressures exist (e.g. absolutely no positive health care reforms)
For many reasons, it's natural for medical practitioners to want to do stuff sooner rather than later, but there is not an economic argument to be made when a patient will not need substantially more work done later. It turns out adolescent males do not have considerably more foreskin to deal with.

The economics of infant circumcision is a clear win only for the person performing the surgery. Left entirely unaddressed in the CDC literature is the open secret that no right-minded sober adolescent male is going to sign up to be circumcised. Circumcision as it exists today is a money maker, and it relies on undermining consent in the most reprehensible ways.

To round out a tale of marginal improvements to embellished risks with a half-assed analysis of what routine infant male circumcision actually costs the nation is incredibly negligent. 

Like many other discussions of circumcision, the most troubling pieces of this "evidenced" counsel is what is not actually on the pages. Each new review of male circumcision is lengthy, but uninspired. Proofread, but not serious. Evidenced, but not logical. Clinical, but not honest.

Luckily, you have an opportunity to tell "the man" your thoughts by submitting a formal comment about the CDC notice.

January 15, 2015 is the cut off date.

Get typing - for if we know anything it is that these people love to cut things off early.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second-rate Feminism failed Jackie

If one has not read the news in some time, one may have missed the ongoing discussion surrounding a poorly executed article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The story consists primarily of the experiences of a woman named Jackie.

Several details of the story were challenged, and Rolling Stone (and Sabrina Erderly) provided woefully unsatisfactory responses and revealed that story development was rather slipshod in a number of ways.

The result is that Rolling Stone gave Jackie's story a platform without bothering to fix several things that may have been simple errors of memory. Now readers are left wondering if Jackie can be at all credible. Several believe it could all be a hoax.

If it were not a hoax and Jackie's story (or something similarly terrible) was true, then Jackie is twofold a victim. Once having been subject to horrific sexual assault, then again when being subjected to a nation thinking she is a compulsive liar that is unbalanced enough to falsely accuse someone of rape.

The ongoing argument on Twitter is one of good versus evil - presumably those that believe Jackie are strong proud feminists, while those that think there is no way that most of a fraternity is guilty of rape are victim blaming misogynists that further abuse survivors with their cold disbelief.

The thing is, bad feminism is what created skepticism.

Let's go over some cases:

These are some examples people point out as hoaxes. The details of some of the cases were so alarming that it's easy to suggest that they were obvious fantasy - and then use this methodology to dismiss the allegations that appeared in Rolling Stone.

But let's add two cases - that of the Central Park Five and the Norfolk Four - to the list. In these cases, it is undeniable that a crime occurred, but the persons put in prison were either proven to be or likely to be innocent.

What is interesting is that modern "feminism" discusses all of these plausible scenarios in precisely the same way - condemnation of the crime, public shaming of the suspects, and prolific discussion about violence against women and factors in our culture that allows such violence to propagate.

This is all well and good - until it comes time that just a handful of high profile cases turn out to be hoaxes. The world turns inside out - suddenly it is the men that were abused by the allegation. "Feminism" loses its words, incapable of making a display of sympathy that does not seem contrived. Artists of activist opinion even go as far as to reinforce their previous support of the accuser-now-perpetrator, citing belief in "victims" without question is what will bring more reports forward. 

Forget the lives of all the other people involved, what is important is some grandiose realization of a culture where women feel unafraid to bring a perpetrator to court. Apparently what is going to bring victims to the police station is knowing that an online cabal of unconditional belief will be immediately created to ruin the perpetrator on social media.

The problem is that "feminism" has scuttled its credibility. It rests at zero. One simply cannot bet on the wrong horse several times and then pretend it never happened - or more perversely, that it did not matter anyways. Duke lacrosse players did not get a grovelling apology from all the bloggers that thought they were gang rapists. Those that put forward that Conor Oberst was guilty have not bought his newest album as recompense. Even basic elements of justice are out of reach - people that are entirely innocent of charges rarely receive something as simple as the title of "victim" when the subject is discussed.

Put simply, nobody believes a rape allegation lifted by "feminism" as it's now taken for granted that it is propaganda that ignores the humanity of the accused. People assume that feminist activism is blindly supporting Jackie as that is the role that this "feminism" has created for itself.

In the case of the UVA allegations, the damaging nature of this brand of feminism is the reason the Rolling Stone article exists in the first place. Sabrina Erderly essentially wrote the Rolling Stone equivalent of a Tumblr post - a long credulous narrative from one perspective of questionable veracity.

Blind faith both published the article and had already created the legion of skeptics (and trolls) ready to take it down. 

Terrible "feminist" rhetoric failed Jackie.

It need not be this way.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Are you co-opting Ferguson?

On August 9, 2014, a white police officer shot and killed a young black man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis. The shooting, as can be expected, has led to a great deal of protest and controversy.

A number of people have brought their own perspectives to the discussion -

Several young women involved in organizing the Ferguson protests have described similar encounters with a gender barrier: men bowling them over at meetings or not inviting them to help make decisions. The media, they said, also tended to focus on the guys, who sometimes delivered more inflammatory sound bites — about, say, the likelihood of a riot.
[...] 
Other women similarly refused to back down after early skirmishes with their male counterparts. They organized their own demonstrations, contributing to the complicated mesh of establishment and start-up activist groups that took to the streets in the chaotic, early weeks after the shooting.
“There are some who still think God only speaks in baritone, and that leaders only speak in baritone,” said Traci Blackmon, a pastor in the Ferguson-adjoining city of Florissant, who said that her fellow clergy tend to be men. “We still teach our males to be dominant, domineering.”
Meanwhile, girls are taught to be nurturing and collaborative, said Blackmon, one of six women who have been appointed to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s 16-member Ferguson Commission to examine the aftermath of the shooting. “There is a socialization that creates certain forms of leadership.”
[...] 
Over the months, he said, the protests have become a “women-led movement. ... They're stronger, smarter, sober. A lot of guys are saying, 'I can't be up there [on the front lines], because I've got warrants.' The women don't make excuses.”
[...]
“When it comes to being a black woman, you deal with the oppression of both race and gender,” Richardson said. “You can't turn one off. I will always be black and a woman. ... Black lives matter, trans lives matter, women's lives matter. I'm standing for all of black lives.”

Then there is "Why Ferguson Should Matter to Asian-Americans":
Michael Brown’s death has several parallels in Asian-American history. The first to come to mind may be the story of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American killed in 1982 by a Chrysler plant superintendent and his stepson, both white, both uncharged in a racially-motivated murder; like Brown, Chin unified his community to demand protection under the law. However, most direct parallels have often had one distinct dissimilarity to Ferguson: they have not spurred widespread resistance, nor have they engraved a visible legacy.
There is the story of Kuanchang Kao, an intoxicated Chinese-American fatally shot in 1997 by police threatened by his “martial arts” moves. There is Cau Bich Tran, a Vietnamese-American killed in 2003 after holding a vegetable peeler, which police thought was a cleaver. There is Fong Lee, a Hmong-American shot to death in 2006 by police who believed he was carrying a gun. None of the three cases resulted in criminal charges against the police or in public campaigns that turned the victim’s memory into a commitment to seek justice. One op-ed even declared how little America learned from Tran’s slaying.
[...]
As with Ferguson, it’s easy to say the Civil Rights movement was entirely black and white, when in reality there were many moments of interplay between African-American and Asian-American activism. Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama worked alongside Malcolm X until he was assassinated in front of her.
And Asian writers again:

[...] We are outraged by the state violence against young black and brown men and the less noticed but equally distressing state violence against black and brown women. We are dissatisfied with an unjust system and dominant culture that continues to craft false narratives around our African American, Latino, and Native American brothers and sisters – similar to the construction of false narratives about Asian Americans.
The myth of the model minority, for example, has sought to pit us against each other, even though some of us have a long history of mutual support and collaboration across racial lines. We can’t overstate this: the rich, productive, complicated relationships across boundaries among Asian, Latino, and African-American people are too often poorly represented or entirely erased. It may not appear in the official record, but we squabble and we love. The evidence of this suppressed history very often finds its way into the poems, novels, talk-stories, plays, kitchen gossip, and movies that we are making – works of art that are often ignored or dismissed.

And how the situation connects with muslims: (Note: a search did not find any evidence that Michael Brown was muslim)
It’s never been exactly cozy between American Muslims and African Americans. But with Ferguson—and Gaza—that’s changing. [...] The Muslim-American community of which I’m part hasn’t been great in standing up with and for African Americans. [...] Other Palestinians, including a doctor, even offered advice via Twitter to the protesters in Ferguson on how to deal with the tear gas being fired at them based on their own experiences with Israeli security forces.

There are plenty of reasons to be quite happy with this diverse discussion. Different groups coming together in solidarity so that none is left fighting battles alone. A large army to solve large problems.

On the other hand, perhaps this is just a bunch of barnacles attaching themselves to an issue and derailing conversations that need to take place. Or merely a capitalist response to any tragedy, as anyone paid for their analysis or opinions would be leaving money on the table if they found themselves unable to write a piece with "Ferguson" in the title.

As everyone adds their own idea of how Ferguson fits into issues close to their heart, what is drown out is in-depth analysis of specifics of the situation. Breadth, not depth. Attention scatters. But that could be the point.

A simple truth is that young black men do not form a demographic that collects much sympathy. Concern and attention are abound - but this may be sourced more often from fear than caring. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the death in Ferguson is illustrative of what is primarily an issue African American men are dealing with. In adding "voices", perhaps some groups in some sense see themselves as lending their legitimacy to black men and humanizing them.

It's just a shame that the writing could not lend a little more light to the issues faced black men.

We can speak about Gaza - and absolutely should, as the conflict rages on. But let's not allow anyone to think that African Americans are somehow the junior when it comes dealing with complex social problems.

And the extension into contemporary "religious discrimination" in America may also not be desirable. It may be a cynical assessment of intentions, but getting dirty looks at the airport, being mocked as a Mormon or being ignored as an atheist does not mean that one is granted special insight into what life in St Louis is like.

As an example of the sort of thing that may be unhelpful, let's reread the piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

Several young women involved in organizing the Ferguson protests have described similar encounters with a gender barrier: men bowling them over at meetings or not inviting them to help make decisions. The media, they said, also tended to focus on the guys, who sometimes delivered more inflammatory sound bites — about, say, the likelihood of a riot. [...] “We still teach our males to be dominant, domineering.”

While it's admirable that the paragraph has the familiar essential qualifier of not all men, the injury is dealt. It spells it out - having women speak is better as black men are more prone to dramatic allusions to violence.

And this is coming from the team said to be in support of black men.

Maybe it is true. Perhaps black men are not fantastic ambassadors of their cause. Maybe this even fits the protest narrative - it's difficult to expect absolute civility from a group that is hassled by police and subject to extremely low expectations from society.

This possibility is left unmentioned by the article however, as it thanks women for their bravery, level-headedness and good nature. Women are a gem in a world in which men are simply brought up wrong.

Sugar and spice and everything nice.

If one finds nothing much lacking in how the dialogue speaks of black men or deflects from them, then one should at least find much lacking in this text. For this article is co-opting Ferguson, using it as a springboard to address what one opinionated armchair activist feels about other opinionated armchair activists.

This article does not discuss:

  • Voter engagement
  • Police hiring practices
  • Economic problems
  • The drug war
  • Urban planning
  • Education funding
  • Family norms
  • Overemphasis on incarceration 
  • ... and so on ...

Trying to piece a lot of possible factors together in a meaningful and evidenced manner takes work. Creating a hypothesis about what has happened and back it up with facts. What could be more boring and exhausting?

Tell a story, share sympathies flavored with your own worldview, get those page views and move on.

Anything more would be effort.