Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Murphy the conservative

On Meghan Murphy's post about banning porn there is a rather interesting comment:

Lillian says:  (

Under the Harper Conservative government in Canada, there was a similar argument advanced in regard to online surveillance, by saying that if you were against this proposed legislation, you were advocating child pornography. This is where there is common ground between the far right conservatives and those who are abolishonist anti-porn advocates. One can be fervently anti-porn, and not be an abolishonist. The analogy of murder laws has been used here, but there have been murder laws for millennia and they have almost always had wide support. There is not clear and wide support for the criminalization of most forms of porn. And some people think there is a big difference between what they deem as more violent and abusive porn, and what they believe are less harmful kinds of porn. In my view, while I might be able to discern what others see as a difference, I think that the vast majority of all porn is a type of violence and subjugation of women in general. Under different definitions, there have been rape laws for millennia too. How effective have these laws been as an effective deterant on rape and murder? Indeed, the death penalty has not been shown to be a deterant to murder. But porn is not murder, nor is it the same thing as rape, even while it shares many of its violent characteristics. Criminalization (banning) is not an effective tool in regard to eliminating porn and its harmful effects on women or men.

Meghan Murphy Says:

OH REALLY?? REALLY? The Harper government wanted to ban sexist, violent pornography in order to advance gender equality??? Bullshit. The abolitionist movement applies to prostitution, for the record. There is widespread support for the ban in Iceland. Porn is not murder, but it is a human rights issue. The comparison was not to show that porn is the same as murder and you’re breaking comment policy rules (check the ‘say things that are true’ rule) so I’m giving you a warning. And yes, laws against murder and rape are a deterrent. Not the death penalty, no one is arguing for the death penalty (But, surprise! Derail!). Porn participates in, perpetuates, sexualizes, creates, and advocates for a rape culture.

So much to parse here.

Murphy's response:
  1. Does not deny that Harper's policy agrees with her views, but implies he has other nefarious goals (Maybe he wants to collect all the porn they find?) or somehow isn't a true believer in the cause despite doing exactly what she wants.
  2. Inserts some pedantic correction about what "abolitionist" applies to.
  3. Denies comparing porn to murder, rape, and slavery when the entire point of Murphy's article was that porn can be dealt with in the same way and we'd soon see porn with just as much derision.
  4. Accuses the commenter of derailing after writing an article touching on nearly every social ill there is.
  5. Restates tired "rape culture" line that is perfectly unverifiable and nonsensical.

Murphy later replies again to Lillian:

Meghan Murphy Says: (

You’re not being vilified, Lillian. You keep repeating the same thing over and over again and it’s annoying. You also exaggerate, by saying you are being harassed by other commenters when you clearly are not. You also put a lot of effort into derailing the last thread, so excuse my skepticism/sarcasm re: your intentions.

Is there a little bit of hypocrisy here?

Murphy would have to work hard to be any less persuasive.

Can we ban porn?

Meghan Murphy wrote an article titled: You want proof that criminalization works? Look no further than the feminist movement

Quoting Murphy:
In the article, Ruth Rosen points to various male “behaviours” like rape that, while once were viewed simply as “custom” were redefined, thanks to the feminist movement, as crimes.

In the feminist reality, sex crimes simply wouldn't be crimes today without people like Andrea Dworkin.

Ignoring for a moment that many Abrahamic religions have gone as far as to say many forms of adultery are punishable by death, let alone buying sex.

Not so long ago, you may or may not recall that there was no such thing as rape in marriage. Husbands were entitled to sex, with or without the consent of their wives. Not so long ago, date rape was common, unnamed, and completely acceptable. There were no conversations about consent when it came to sex. It simply wasn’t relevant.

While attitudes towards marital rape have indeed changed, it's hard to imagine a time where date rape was acceptable.

In the days before widely available contraception, was date rape "unnamed" and completely acceptable?

Quite a picture this paints. While it can be said that more conservative political philosophies are less sympathetic towards rape victims, it's another thing entirely to suggest that self-described feminists were the only ones that found date rape objectionable.

In any case, this "feminism is about making things illegal" mantra is all lead up to talking about porn:

Lately the issue of banning pornography has been a hot(ter) topic of debate due to the fact that Iceland is considering banning online pornography. Tracy McVeigh noted, in her article for The Observer, that Iceland, one of the most progressive countries in the world, ranking in first place in Global Gender Gap Report 2012, that the ban is widely supported among police, health professionals, educators and lawyers.

Some simple math here - in terms of population, there are currently 1000 Icelands in the United States alone.

It would be a bigger deal if the Birmingham, Alabama metro area decided to ban Playboy and Penthouse.

Of course, if they did that, they would be the crrrrazy conservatives and not the enlightened feminist progressives!

Murphy counters the allegation that she's conservative, by simply stating she's not conservative:
Iceland guy: "We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech" 
In other words, this is a feminist initiative.
Now, talk of bans or of criminalization of things like pornography often lead to people to say things like: “FREE SPEECH!” “RIGHTS!” “CENSORSHIP!” But these people are stupid.
We live in what is commonly known as “a society”. Within said “society” we tend to rely on things we call “laws” in order to help us function in a way that is conducive to living in said “society”. This isn’t to say that all laws are necessarily good laws and, often, criminalization targets the marginalized in disgusting and oppressive ways.
This is not the case for feminist laws that prevent men from abusing women.
Murphy's line of reasoning is: "You might think this about free speech, but this is about laws and civil society!"

Which is an interesting argument, since free speech is codified into law, as it is a pre-requisite for civil society.

Let’s reflect on some of the behaviours we’ve criminalized in our society: murder, rape, domestic abuse, animal cruelty, advocating genocide, and creating, buying, or selling child pornography. There are other behaviours we’ve criminalized that are silly, like doing certain kinds of drugs, but that’s a whole other political can of worms.

Let's think about this for a moment.

Murphy has accepted, in the case of drug policy, that incarceration and criminalization does not work.

Why doesn't she apply the same logic to sex work and pornography?

The issue seems to be her categorization.

The categories:
  1. Consuming drugs is human behavior that is going to exist regardless of the law; as people sort of work that way. It is sort of like eating too much chocolate.
  2. Consuming porn is human error and can be corrected by the criminal justice system; there is no respectable excuse for doing it. It is sort of like murdering your family.
That seems to be the groupings Murphy has created.

The point is that, as a society, we support the censorship of things we believe are deeply harmful to individuals and to society as a whole.

At this point it's clear that Murphy doesn't understand the extent of free speech laws in the United States. And perhaps several other countries.

Nor does Murphy really grasp libel laws.

This article is criticizing Murphy. This may be deeply harmful to Murphy as an individual.

The law does not care. This is not hate speech. This is not libel.

There is no need to share “information” that encourages and perpetuates and supports the oppression of women. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would count as some kind of hate speech. Pornography encourages and perpetuates and supports both rape culture (so, violence against women) and the oppression of women.
True freedom and true freedom of speech would exist in a society without systemic oppression. In a world wherein male violence against women is an epidemic, it is not reasonable to say that we live in a free society. It is also not reasonable to defend behaviours that perpetuate oppression and violence on account of “freedom” and “freedom of speech”. Those who argue this are stupid, narrow-minded jerks who’ve spent too long eating American freedom fries and only care about “rights” in as much as those “rights” provide them with access to the sex/money/power they believe they were born entitled to.

What decade is Murphy arguing in? The 1970s?

In Murphy's mind, porn is a thing that Hugh Hefner creates to make money.

Meanwhile everyone that has consumed porn in the past five years will tell you the following:
  1. There isn't a bottomless pit of money in porn
  2. Porn isn't always created by corporations
Murphy would do well to surf the many naughty parts of the internet with user-submitted content.

Much like the anti-abortion crowd, Murphy hasn't put ten seconds thought into actually writing the law that would define pornography, let alone prescribe punishments.

To those who argue that it’s impossible to ban pornography because it’s so popular, universal, or “normal”, well, so was marital rape at one time. So was smoking in hospitals. So was owning slaves.

Now the slavery card. Next up: you know who loves Jenna Jameson? Adolf Hitler!

Now, pornography is not “good” for society and it isn’t “good” for women (it isn’t even “good” for men!). Because of the Internet, it’s readily available to children which means that this generation and all those that follow learn that women are to be fucked and to be humiliated and to be degraded from the beginning. Pornography shapes and will shape their worldview.

Instead of invoking Godwin's law, Murphy has instead chosen to give us a heartfelt think of the children.

It is important to consider how products may impact minors. That is why it is already illegal to sell pornography to minors.

Murphy is suggesting that minors are viewing porn even though it is illegal for them to do so.

There is a great irony here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Turkey: Progressive Feminist Paradise?

Much has been said about objectification and the feminist utopia.

When is someone going to stop talking and get us there?

Turns out Turkey is moving in... some... direction.

At issue: Turks Debate Modest Dress Set for Takeoff

First things first - sure, 1970s flight attendant uniforms now seem ridiculous on dolls let alone grown women.

However, perhaps making women look like walking rectangles is going a little too far in the other direction.

The way forward might be to allow for variation in dress rather than one-style-fits-them-all.

The comments on the article are funny:

"oldgreymare" from Seattle writes:

Too bad there are so many political ramifications surrounding the proposed new dress standards. If the motive was simply to promote female modesty rather than Islamic subjugation of women, I would wholeheartedly support it. Western cultures in particular sorely need a dose of modesty in women's clothing, including a return to skirts. Baring one's body is not liberation for women, but merely a perpetuation of the objectification of the female form.  
What is especially odd about this is that women flight attendants on U.S. airlines dress almost this conservatively. Their skirts may be a bit shorter than the Turkish sample, but their chests are covered as are most of their arms. When they wear pants, they are respectably loose.

Lisa from Los Angeles adds:
I think they are elegant and functional. Time to stop treating women as objects. Note: I love to wear a short skirt in the appropriate venue. A place of business, such as an airplane, is not an appropriate venue for wearing revealing clothing that limits the employee's movements. Flight attendants are not runway models, they are there to ensure the safety of the passengers and to provide a valuable service. They also need to ensure that their authority is not undermined by a message that they are just there to look attractive to the passengers. Their attire should be appropriate for the job and should convey their positions of authority. 

It is quite strange that what is found to be objectifying is that a uniform is attractive, not that a uniform exists. If you want people to appear like interchangeable cogs, then make them all wear the same things!

The battle against tight pants continues...

Race, gender, age: The Onion shows your biases

The funniest tweet of the Oscars showing goes to The Onion:
Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?
Some would say that the tweet is about how cruel, heartless, and shallow reviews are when speaking about people on the red carpet.

That was probably the intention of the author of the tweet.

However lots of the Twitter-verse thought it was mostly insulting Wallis, a nine-year old black girl from Louisiana.

The Onion later apologized for the tweet.

What is the funniest part of all this? The reaction on Twitter gives away what issues many think of first!

The reaction touches on a number of issues - race, gender, age.

Here is Ophelia Benson's reaction:

Meanwhile the Onion shows how it’s done, while live-tweeting the Oscars, by calling a nine-year-old girl a cunt. Well why not after all? She’s a girl. Hey if you object to that you must be a PROFESSIONAL VICTIM. Quit SCOURING THE INTERNET TO FIND SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.
Rebecca Watson tweets:
(If you're not familiar with the shit thrown at 9-year old Quvenzhané Wallis last night, here ya go [...]

There are many examples of other (predominantly white) feminists on Twitter being mad about the c-word being used to describe a nine year old girl. Many of them don't even mention her race directly.

However there was another opinion voiced from many others on Twitter:

@bretech2 tweets:
I'm sick of young African American girls who have achieved success being put down in media. GABBY, Ms. Q WALLIS this is a pattern @TheOnion
@graceishuman (re-)tweets:
RT @so_treu: email @TheOnion and tell them what you think about their racist misogyny: [...]
@deluxvixens tweets:
Let's also be clear: deciding that black women of any age exist to be the targets of abuse did not start w/ @TheOnion.
@Carnegro tweets:
In light of The Onion comment about Quevenzhane, please respect the myriad of reasons that Black women are upset by the comment.

More tweets:
RT @reallovepunk: This whole The Onion attack on a 9 year old black girl is exactly why I wrote this: [...] via @EBONYmag
@will83_swat writes:
I wonder who is more disrespectful to black women; african american men or the onion?

@8DAZE adds:
In light of this Onion comment and all the other disrespect, when do African people decide to detach from this racist mainstream America?

One group of Tweeters emphasized age/gender, while for some race/gender became the greater points of contention. Was the c-word tweet more racist than misogynist?

The Tweet of the day goes to @eddieb2 :

Uh oh. @onion apologized! What will we rant about for the rest of the day before we turn around and talk bad about Honey Boo Boo?

 Seems to put things in perspective.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Female blogging pioneers or tokens?

Ophelia Benson has picked up on Amanda Marcotte's blog post and gives it a 10/10 for style.

Benson's post: The Special Lady Who Is Better Than All Other Ladies Because She Is One Of The Guys

In it, Benson describes Marcotte's writing as a 'brilliant post on the peril of being a pioneer'.

It is true - somehow in their world Harriet Hall would be a female pioneer for being a surgeon, physician and member of the armed forces if she didn't think herself so special for having accomplished something.

The hugely funny part is Benson immediately jumps on Marcotte's train of self-congratulation.

But first, she dismisses points without actually refuting them:

And however much I respect people for being pioneers, I’m not going to let that substitute for a good argument. I think Hall’s claims are mistaken and that she does a terrible job of backing them up with argument. The fact that she was a pioneer doesn’t change that. (I find I can no longer honestly say I admire her for the pioneering, because she has been so persistently and immovably unpleasant and vindictive, and so incapable of admitting any error.)
Where are your refutations of Hall's points, Ophelia? Are they on the margins of your blog? Hidden in the comments? Where?

Further, have you ever apologized for anything or admitted error in anything you've written?

Ophelia Benson, as @OpheliaBenson, is an always-on Twitter machine. And what we've seen from Twitter machines is that they are simply an endless spew of consciousness and are bound to say stupid things.

Would Benson admitted any wrongdoing if Hall would?

The past teaches us that Benson would not.

Now back to the part where Benson is a pioneer:
It’s something to watch for. Hard. As I’ve mentioned, I used to feel that way a bit, because B&W [her blog, Butterflies & Wheels] seemed like a pioneer, not least because most of the commenters were male. Marcotte has been there.
She quotes Marcotte:
So I threw myself into the project of linking women, doing panels on “women in blogging”, promoting women’s work, highlighting smaller blogs written by women, etc. The story is a lot more complex than that, but this post is getting a little long already, so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just say that in the end, women banding together and helping each other out paid off way more than trying to grab the Token Lady spot; the thrill of being one of the guys can’t hold a candle to the pleasure of living in a world where women actually get respect.
And Benson adds:
And a world packed with women who get respect because they are terrific bloggers and/or writers. 

A few things need to be cleared up here.

Ophelia Benson and Amanda Marcotte, in their role as bloggers, were never even close to being unique females in a male-dominated field of expertise.

One could imagine having read enough Marcotte's history of online content that one could be lead to believe they had something to do with HTTP or perhaps Woz stole their ideas.

The reality is, as was pointed out in the previous post, they were pioneering in the same sense Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are pioneers.

The icing on the sexist cake is that the last vestige of a patriarchal time they are faced with is the fact that one of their favorite publishers, FreeThoughtBlogs, is basically run by two men - Ed Brayton and PZ Myers. And the latter is by far the most popular entity on the site.

Marcotte's publisher, Raw Story, is owned by two men. In 2008, she campaigned for John Edwards. Perhaps Hillary Clinton was too female or too honest a candidate.

"I would be a bitch like Harriet if I hadn't..."

The ultimate ad-hominem argument isn't that Marcotte and Benson are suggesting that Harriet Hall is a vengeful bitch.

No, the most ridiculous aspect of this is that they keep repeating that they understand why Hall is a bitch, and they've overcome the temptation.

The unholy trinity of Watson, Benson and Marcotte paint a picture where the act of being a spiteful, evil person is similar to a cupcake sitting on a table and they're all better people for not partaking.

It's absurd.

Marcotte, Benson and Watson make themselves tokens.

Let's look at this sentence from Marcotte: 
So I threw myself into the project of linking women, doing panels on “women in blogging”, promoting women’s work, highlighting smaller blogs written by women, etc. The story is a lot more complex than that, but this post is getting a little long already, so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just say that in the end, women banding together and helping each other out paid off way more than trying to grab the Token Lady spot
Then consider Watson manages a group named Skepchick. Once upon a time, it had actually put said "chicks" in calendars.

And that all three are speaking at a conference labeled "Women in Secularism". (WIS)

Given all this, we are still being told to believe that Harriet Hall is flaunting her womanhood for her own benefit. It is Harriet Hall that is making herself to be the special lady.

One would think that by attending WIS you are becoming a token because the basis of WIS is that you probably are already a token within the community. Is it not a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Is it not every time one describe themselves as a "grrl gamer" or "skepchick" it is implied that women as a general rule are not into games or skepticism?

With their labels and repetitious criticism of Harriet Hall, what the WIS crew has done is developed an audience and driven some page views.

Wake me when their rhetoric manages to convince a single female to walk the path of Harriet Hall.

Amanda Marcotte writes vindictive nonsense

Amanda Marcotte has added her two cents about Harriet Hall's excellent article.

Those unfamiliar with Marcotte can spend a moment and read her Wikipedia page. It contains an index of ridiculous things she's said, as well as the following endorsement:

Jill Filipovic of AlterNet described [Marcotte's book] as a "how-to manual for feminist-minded women to take on a sexist society and have a good laugh along the way."

Focus is put on this sentence as it is one of the few parts of the page that doesn't speak of Marcotte being patently ridiculous. It is a line where Marcotte is endorsed by another "feminist" heavyweight, Filipovic, who's own thoughts on sex work and fashion week have been discussed on this blog.

Back to Marcotte's take on Harriet Hall. It is entitled: "Defending One’s Position As The Token Looks Bad, Like An Unwashed T-Shirt"

Right out of the gate, Marcotte is repeating an allegation made by Watson:

Hall’s behavior reeks of trying to preserve the privileges of the token. It’s not even subtle, since she literally wore a T-shirt three days in a row (gross) to protest Skepchick’s efforts at improving female attendance at conferences.

So much wrong with this right here.

Marcotte is linking to Benson's blog for the "three days in a row" comment

The original statement appeared in Watson's comment on Hall's post, yet the link Marcotte uses points to Ophelia's blog, which has a peanut gallery of commenters that repeat the "three days" allegation over and over again.

The Skepchick-witch-hunt-o-sphere has its shallow, unverified talking points and will be repeating them!

It is hypocritical douchebaggery to criticize Hall's appearance

Every other day of the week, Watson is complaining about being objectified.

Filipovic admits that fashion week conveys a lot of awful female body images.

But as soon as Hall is not on board, she gets criticized for how often she may have changed clothes when being away from home for a weekend.

Stay classy, Skepchicks!

It is a lie that Skepchick was working to improve female attendance at conferences.

There is no evidence to suggest that Skepchick was working to improve female attendance at TAM.

Watson & Company:

  1. Thinks harassment policies can control behavior of people outside of the event
  2. Continually repeat allegations that TAM and other conferences are somehow "unsafe"
  3. Inject themselves as ambassadors to some female nation without a vote

No female has ever been convinced to go to TAM or any other skeptics event.

To underline how ridiculous Marcotte's assertion is, simply watch and read how Skepchick handles their own events. Do you really think Watson or Marcotte know the first thing about inclusivity?

Marcotte's post gets worse:

Why? Well, it’s not a given that if someone is used to being one of the few or even lone woman in a group of men that her instinct is to kick down doors and try to get more women involved. On the contrary! It might end up reinforcing a belief that men are braver/smarter/more logical/etc. for ego-flattering reasons. If you’re the lone woman, you can tell yourself, “Most women aren’t cut out to play with the big boys, but I’m the exception. I’m spectacular!” Admitting that there might not be more women because of institutional bias and discrimination—and working to get more women into the game—would mean you lose your place as the Special Lady Who Is Better Than All Other Ladies Because She Is One Of The Guys.

Since Hall does not completely buy into Marcotte's view of sex/gender in the workplace, Hall must then simply love all the attention.

Yes, attention seeking.

Describing Marcotte's and Watson's attention seeking as "professional victimhood" would unleash a torrent of denials.

However they do not find it the least bit ridiculous to brand Hall as an attention seeking "token".

Director of CFI-DC, Melody Hensley, has objected to the portrayal of her and her friends being "overly emotional" yet this gang doesn't have a problem casting Hall as a crazy old coot that just loves being fawned over by men while undermining her female peers.

It would be a wonder if these women are ready to suggest that for every Anita Sarkeesian there is a "token" female gamer that just does it to be "one of the guys". Or maybe Sarkeesian is herself a "token" female game critic?

Enter Marcotte, the hero.
When I first got into political blogging, there weren’t very many women in the mix.  A lot has changed in the past few years. Now women tend to be leaders in online innovation, mostly because the belief that computers are too “tech-y” for women has given way to new stereotypes about women being phone-and-laptop-obsessed (which has its own problems, but at least doesn’t make women feel like they’re weirdoes if they like being on computers)  and because new controls make it easier for women to manage the inevitable barrage of harassment from easily threatened men that is part of being a woman online. But back then, women were surprisingly scare, especially in the most prominent blogs, to the point where it was a joke how every three months, a male blogger would ponderously wonder why women don’t like blogging.
Turns out women do like blogging! But to get to the equal state we’re in now, we had to set aside stereotypes about what women can or will be capable of. We also had to make targeted appeals to women—which was tremendously helped, like it or not, with woman and feminist-specific blogs and conferences—and bloggers had to be conscientious about including women in their links and in their discourse, at least until it became second nature. This strategy works very well. Now, if anything, blogging is considered something of a woman’s medium. No blog gets parodied more on TV than Jezebel, for instance. Not that I’m worried about the men, who continue to do just fine at blogging and seem, I will say, mostly content (at least on the left) to share the spotlight with women.
I confess, in the early days, the temptation to not participate in all this and instead to enjoy being one of the few women in a sea of men was strong.


So, women:

  1. Are 70% of those earning Ph.Ds in English (that's over 2:1!) Also higher PhD count overall.
  2. Outnumber men in every social network. (and on FB, in every age group)
  3. Are the entire business plan of sites like Pinterest and Etsy

... and yet they had to be coaxed by Amanda Marcotte into blogging?


Even on male-majority reddit, the subreddit devoted to women's topics has more subscribers than the "evil" men's rights sub.

Marcotte earned a degree in English literature, and if you believe what she says, the rest of the females in her class were dullards that didn't want their writings to show up on the internet.

In some demented form, Marcotte outlines a way she could have put her feet up and been the "token" woman political blogger and enjoyed all the attention from males.

Would it be the right time to point out that Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin were both on the New York Times Bestseller list before Marcotte even started to blog?

It turns out that Michelle Malkin started her self-titled blog the same year that Marcotte started blogging.


Could it be that Michelle Malkin is Amanda Marcotte's fault?

Thanks, Amanda.

PZ and "Negro"

Filed under why PZ should stop tweeting and why Twitter is terrible generally, is this tweet:

I think you meant "Negro". Or some other slang term.RT @danielwaddell17: @ElevatorGATE Crommunist is ignorant stupid bigoted cunt #ftbullies

This is provided without much context, because that is precisely as much context as Twitter provides.

Presumably, PZ Myers is suggesting one of three things:
  1. That the source of original the Tweet is secretly racist.
  2. That the word "Negro" is a preferable analogue to what was said.
  3. Something else entirely. (?)
The suggestion is a good example of the content of a set of words changing entirely depending on the source of the message.

Twitter is a terrible way to communicate.

Harriet Hall wins the day

Harriet Hall wrote a piece called Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

As expected, it received a lot of criticism from the Atheism+ / Skepchick crowd.

Hall responds: I Am Not Your Enemy: An Open Letter to My Feminist Critics

A quote of note:

He wants to dictate how I use language, yet he uses the word queer, a term most people in the LGBT community consider offensive. He insults me by saying I am ignorant of what gender means. He condescendingly explains androgen insensitivity syndrome to me, as if I hadn’t learned about it in medical school 45 years ago.

Ah. What is truly queer (as in weird) is how strange the language police can be. But more on that later.

Hall shows that she's in the major leagues by eliciting a response from Rebecca Watson.

Watson comments:

Hi Harriet,
I won’t bother commenting on the sex/gender argument, as Will is more than capable of handling that. I will echo a few other commenters and point out that your “queer” statement doesn’t do you any favors in convincing anyone that your knowledge of these topics is anything close to approaching Will’s.
You didn’t mention me as a person included amongst your feminist critics, but I suspect many people reading this will assume I’m in there somewhere, possible because your t-shirt at TAM did directly call out my website and you’ve mentioned that incident specifically in your post. So, I figured I’d respond briefly because I’ve never really discussed it publicly and never talked with you about it at all.
When you made your “I am not a Skepchick” shirt, I did consider writing a blog post about it. Then I changed my mind and I composed an email to you in which I explained my feelings on the subject, since you seemed confused by the reaction you received. I pointed out that no one to my knowledge had ever called you a Skepchick, and I had never asked you to become a contributor to the network. I then used an analogy in which I pointed out that if a physician like Steve Novella went to the effort to create a CafePress shirt that read something like “I am not a SkepDoc. I am a skeptic,” you would be confused, a little hurt, and, when he wore it three days in a row, concerned for his personal hygiene. Your hurt feelings would be completely understandable, especially if he did this following a year in which you received a nonstop avalanche of insults, slurs, rape threats, and death threats from skeptics.
So I wrote the email, tinkered with it for a few days, and eventually I deleted it without sending. The reason was that after reflecting on it for so long, I came to the realization that while a week prior I held an immense amount of respect for you, I suddenly had lost that respect so completely that I had no interest in getting it back. I realized I was stressing out over someone who was so proud of an immature t-shirt she made that she wore it for an entire weekend. I realized that anyone who needs an explanation of why that was silly and hurtful doesn’t actually deserve an explanation, and they certainly don’t deserve real estate in my head. So I let others argue over it while I moved on to more interesting things.
I’m writing all this to you now because I want to be sure that you know that I do not think of you as my enemy. In fact, I don’t really think of you at all. The most one could say is that when you are occasionally brought to my attention, as happened with Will’s recent posts, I simply think of you as ill-informed on social issues.
So, having now spent ten precious minutes on the subject, it’s once again time for me to move on to more interesting things.

A few takeaways:

Watson claims the high ground for those that refrain from comment

For the first time in recorded history, Watson has ceased to share her feelings on the internet and thinks that this is now the respectable way to go about one's affairs.

While Watson is above sending a private email about her concerns about Hall, she's not above publicly writing her off ("lost that respect so completely") and calling her literally unclean.

It is a reminder of Watson's "I'm going to wind down this debate by stating I'm not buying any Dawkins books ever again" speech which is now claimed to not have been a call for boycott. Watson calms fires by dumping napalm on everybody.

Here we have a group of people that will go to a comic-con dressed as Ewoks criticizing Hall for an "immature" t-shirt.

However passive aggressive Hall's t-shirt could have seemed, it would pale in comparison to the vomit of text Watson has supplied here.

Watson admits Skepchick's "activism" is uninteresting and pointless

The entire maelstrom here is a furnace stoked by Skepchick and those that hold it in high regard, but she cannot devote more than ten minutes to the endeavor of defending the content that appears there.

Skepchick/Atheism+ would claim feminism with their familiarity with the word "chick"

Watson cannot even comprehend a reality where "chick" is a gendered term that Hall is offended by.

In Watson's world, Hall never had any room to object to the word "chick" or criticize gendered conferences.

Hall, in their eyes, wasn't acting against an organization she found offensive, she was being mean to her female comrades. In Melody Hensley terms, she's a "chill girl" or "sister punisher" instead of someone that can share her own feelings.

Skepchick/Atheism+ would claim LGBT activism with their familiarity with the word "queer"

Presumably Will R and those on the Atheism+ forums are fine with the "queer" label.

It is understandable that people that don't understand Hall's argument against "chick" also think that "queer" is an acceptable term.

It boggles the mind to discover that "Queereka" exists and is a site for... queer skeptics.

Now, explaining why the terms "chick", "queer" or "cisgender" are like fingernails on a chalkboard  to some people would take far too long.

The bottom line - people like Watson and Will R:
  • Respond to dissent with open hostility, condescension, ad-hominem arguments, and putting words in your mouth
  • Use words many people don't like ("chick", "queer")
  • Cannot understand why people don't find their facile branding appealing (it's "queer" and "eureka", get it?)
  • Claim other organizations are not inclusive

Simply disconnected from reality.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reading Stephanie Zvan's blog

One can get so caught up with addressing the ridiculous assertions and arguments made by PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson that one forgets that some good content can exist on FreeThoughtBlogs.

It seems fair to call attention to a few posts by Stephanie Zvan - one is A Federal John DNA Database, in which she cites Melissa Gira Grant's article on the subject.

Zvan is generally critical of the notion that the ol' crush-the-clients mantra might not pay dividends.

Another great post is Nothing Changes When You Add Sex.

The article:
  • Is very level-headed
  • Does not draw ridiculous stereotypes of gender roles
  • Does not segue into a critique of vague social issues
  • Does not even remotely try to prescribe what is appropriate behavior in a hypothetical scenario
  • Does not drop the f-bomb
  • Is rather convincing

The rest of Zvan's work may or may not align with these descriptions. However it is clear that the Zvan put a lot of thought into the post and meant for it to be convincing instead of merely controversial.

This may be why Zvan does not have as many Twitter followers as Watson and PZ.

Now, if Zvan would apply the level of scrutiny she applies to DJ Grothe to a one Melody Hensley, we would have a winner.

Melody writes, in response to Radford:

Nice group of friends you have on your Facebook, Ben. Calling people that disagree with you ‘professional victims’. That’s what that anti-feminists and MRAs do. That’s what my harassers have done to me. Yet you don’t correct your friends. Your friends call us over-emotional and mock us. No, Ben… You wrote another horrible blog that many people would consider sexist and you won’t own up to it.
 Chill girls and sister punishers isn’t sexist, it’s calling out the sexism of other women 

If equitable, Zvan would reply as she did to DJ:
So yes, you, Melody, as Executive Director at Center for Inquiry-DC, have a problem. That problem is that you, Melody, insist on acting as a private individual in public matters.
Maybe not an exact map, but the result is more or less the same. Apparently JREF needs social media managers and publicists for a sober second thought to keep-in-the-crazy in order to avoid Zvan's criticism.

Meanwhile, those managing Women in Secularism can participate in whatever online drama they want to.

Fallout for the organization at large be damned.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Women in Secularism: Christina Hoff Sommers

In preparation for the Women in Secularism conference this May, this series reflects on some great women in secularism.

Today's Woman in Secularism: Christina Hoff Sommers

The author of The War Against Boys and Who Stole Feminism? describes herself as agnostic.

Some quotes:

"Women currently earn more than 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and more than half of Ph.Ds, and projections from the Department of Education indicate that these “college degree gaps” in favor of women will increase in the future. Today, about 50 percent of M.D.s and biology Ph.D.s are awarded to women. More than two-thirds of the doctoral degrees for psychology, veterinary medicine, and health professions go to women. If statistical disparity is evidence of discrimination, then there should be a congressional investigation into why men are scarcer than hens’ teeth in fields such as sociology, health professions, and education."

Quoted from Against STEMinars. Also: V-Day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Myers and Benson want more rape

Once upon a time Eve Ensler wrote a sort-of-poem:

I am over rape. 
I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don't have a sense of humor, and women don't have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don't think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot. 
I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages. 
I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

English is a funny language. As you can see, Ensler does not mean "over" in the sense that she is indifferent about rape.

For someone that has read more than a single line of the piece, it is obvious over is meant in the sense that one has absolutely lost all patience for the object.

For example, "I am over chocolate cake" means the speaker simply cannot stomach it any longer.

Fast forward a bit, Ben Radford writes an article for CFI titled "Over it"

The piece is written in a similar manner:

I am over rape.
I join mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, and lovers in condemning rape and all manner of violence against women.
I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo and elsewhere around the world still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.
I am over the 100 innocent women attacked, disfigured, and killed by their husbands and boyfriends in Pakistan each year in acid attacks.  
I am over the hypocrisy of a prominent feminist anti-rape activist like Eve Ensler writing a play describing "a good rape." There is no such thing as "a good rape." All rape is bad. It is never deserved, nor asked for, nor good; it is always bad and wrong. Always. 
I am over "don't drop the soap" comments, and people who think that anyone raped in prison deserves it as part of their punishment.  
I am over the fact that Native American women face far higher rates of sexual abuse than White women, yet receive little concern or attention-including from rape advocacy groups. 
I am over the wanton slinging of labels like "misogynist" and "sexist" and "sister hater" and "gender traitor" and "rape apologist" to people who dare criticize feminists. Plenty of feminists disagree with each other.
I am over blaming TV, movies, magazines, and video games for real-life violence-including violence against women. Just as sexy clothes do not cause rape, violent and sexual images do not cause rape; rapists cause rape.
I am over the simplistic idea that women are raped by heteronormative, hegemonic patriarchies instead of by criminals.
I am over people mistaking dancing for social justice or activism; real change comes from funding social services for victims of rape and domestic violence, family services, and so on.

Radford accepts the same premise that Ensler puts forward, the fact that rape is bad.
Radford however continues on to criticize Ensler and online slactivism.
Who would this enrage?
Online slactivists like Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers.
Ophelia writes an article titled "He is over the". (What's the deal with this title anyways?)
Regarding the "wanton slinging" of feminist mud, Ophelia replies:
What “wanton slinging”? And notice the list, cited as if they’re all on a level. Notice that the last three are nouns for people but the first two can be adjectives as well as nouns. Notice that calling a claim or a remark “sexist” is not the same thing as calling the person who makes the remark a sexist. Notice the generality; notice that we can’t be sure what people he has in mind; notice the sloppy lazy angry…well, wanton slinging.
Benson here is doing a shameless dodge, as she is a relentless mudslinger. She often stops short of calling specific people "misogynists", but it is readily apparent she's out to destroy reputations with baseless accusations and guilty-by-association descriptions of reality.
Here it seems good to remind people that PZ has compared his critics to mass murders.
As for Radford's statement regarding video games, Ophelia responds:
Wo, I did not know that. I totally thought violent images could actually rape people. I’ve been so confused.
This is skillful backpedaling from a person that thinks Twitter posts leads to acid attacks.

It is self-serving remembering of events to state "But hey, I never said anything about video games!" when one's blog blasts Anne of Green Gables for being too sexy.

PZ picks up the scent of a debate he can distort, and Free Thought Blogs Reading Comprehension Team creates an article titled:

"You don’t get to be “over” rape"

The implication here, given the context created by Eve Ensler, is that PZ thinks you must always be able to stomach more rape.

It's questionable that he even bothered to read what Ensler or Radford wrote. Myers has been known to entirely disregard a central argument and be carried away by the peanut gallery coverage - in this case, the person in the peanut gallery that brought all this to his attention is Ophelia Benson.

In his criticism of Radford, PZ writes that he is also critical of One Billion Rising for reasons that Natalie Gyte states so well:
The primary problem with One Billion Rising is its refusal to name the root cause of women's inequality; its outright refusal to point the finger at a patriarchal system which cultivates masculinity and which uses the control and subjugation of women's bodies as an outlet for that machoism.
PZ then continues to accept Radford's statement that the statistic citing one billion female victims of violence aren't necessarily victims of rape, domestic abuse or even gendered violence.

In this case, PZ brands this adherence to the facts "hyperskepticism".

PZ continues:
One billion women have been victims of “homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse,” confirmed by statistics that Radford cites. One billion women. Radford’s hyperskepticism is so fierce that he objects to Ensler using 3 general words — raped, beaten, violated — instead of 26 more specific words, but is willing to overlook the horrific truth that she is correct and one billion women will suffer for their sex in their lifetime.
PZ cites statistics almost as well as he crafted the title to his article.

PZ ignores several issues:
  • The data does not show that the violence happens simply because they are women
  • The data does not show that the perpetrators are entirely male
  • The data does not even try to make comparisons to males
  • Just what is "economic abuse"?
The aggregate seems to lump in pay equity issues with violent rape and homicide.

In this dataset, "psychological abuse" could be a Tweet in Ophelia Benson's general direction, and her victimhood would be as solid as if the event were a murder or forced sex in the Congo.

In this scenario, PZ Myers is taking the Antoine Dodson approach to rape statistics - it's happening to everyone, all the time, and if you have any doubt about that then you must be a wife beater.

You can never be "over" rape. You must be always ready for some more!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nordic model does not work

This is not at all related to fashion week. Instead, this has to do with the study cited by Meghan Murphy in this article.

Remember this comment from Murphy?

A Norwegian study looking at rates of violence against prostituted women under the Nordic model was recently released in English. It showed that, since 2008, reports of rape and other forms of physical violence against prostituted women has decreased. 

Turns out that is completely false.

Read this post for a thorough debunking of Murphy's math.

The short version:
  • The studies done are not comparable because the questions asked were different (this is surveys 101, people)
  • Murphy's rape comparison ignores things counted as "sex not agreed to". Sounds like rape.
  • If you read values like Murphy, threats with a weapon actually went up.
Also of note - Murphy actually reached out to the author to say that the analysis was not hers, but Samantha Berg's.

So at some point, Murphy was actually made aware that the analysis was quite shallow.

The question is, did she know this only after writing her post about sex work, or does she continue to cite bogus numbers just to try to win fans?

Feminist fashion week?

Turns out that Jill Filipovic, while not criticizing sex work, is defending fashion week.

Filipovic has an obvious click-bait article in the Guardian titled "The feminist case for Fashion Week"

Just like her other writings, she starts out seeing things from both sides:
It's New York fashion week, and there's a lot to hate about it. The crash diets. The extremely skinny, disturbingly young runway models who are held up as "ideal", and all the ways they're exploited. Then there's the extravagant cost of the clothing, where a shopper may drop in one trip what many Americans make in a month.
What's not to hate is the creativity, the art and the women whose shopping sustains the industry.
Displays of pure consumption to signal social and economic status are not exactly progressive, but it's hypocritical to single out women for being shallow in their wardrobe spending. Men spend money on things that are just as unnecessary and just as intended to signal class and social tribe. For men, items like bespoke suits, fancy cars or innumerable electronics somehow signal a James Bond image, not a shallow one. 

Here she's simply made her own value judgments and projected them on the rest of us. Who sees every man in a suit as James Bond, and not simply a try-hard?

In Filipovic's mind, the man with the stereo system that turns it up real loud and demands you witness its fidelity is a respected member of society and not just an asshole neighbour.

Moving on...

While it's a common assumption that women simply have more clothing items in their closets than men, that also reflects social necessity. Women can be (and are) fired for not being attractive enough, for not wearing enough make-up, for being too attractive or for not putting out the right "look". And being attractive isn't just about whether or not your face is pretty; it's about how you signal your social class and your sexual availability. 
OK, so females face more expectations regarding appearance.


A terrible argument in support of sex work would be "men's social class is based on their sexual experiences, so really the sex industry is a result of expectations placed upon men. All of this is actually a lot of work and quite unfair."

Similarly, it is a terrible argument to say "women's social class is based on their attractiveness, so really this fashion stuff is a result of expectations placed upon women. All of this is actually a lot of work and quite unfair."

While being an attractive man is beneficial in the job market, being an attractive woman is beneficial only if you're in a traditionally female career. Otherwise, even pretty women face job discrimination. 

It is funny how stating "being an attractive man is beneficial in the job market" is somehow a slam-dunk no-citation-needed statement when speaking about an industry that practically only employs attractive women to market their items.

The article that Filipovic speaks to biases in professions where being too attractive might mean you might not "look the part". It's an important to be aware of biases, but this is by no means scientific evidence that it's difficult to be pretty.

There are of course some extremely talented women who excel at perusing the aisles of thrift stores and second-hand shops, and who balance loving fashion with a dedication to social justice (no sweatshop labor) and the environment (recycled clothing). My friend Kate Goldwater, the owner of New York's AuH2O boutique, is one of them. But stores like hers aren't nearly as ubiquitous as designer shops, and women who work in places that demand business wear usually can't get away with only rocking vintage and thrifted finds. And unlike men, women can't recycle through the same three high-end suits and be considered "well-dressed".

Somewhere in that paragraph was something about sweatshops, then it transitioned into a rant about needing more than three outfits.

[...] There are racial elements to this as well. Some companies, like retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, have reportedly favored hiring employees with "all-American" good looks. Black women have long been told that natural hair or braids aren't "professional" (meaning they should have to spend money and time chemically straightening their hair to fit someone else's aesthetic ideal). 

Conservative muslim males are expected to shave their beards if they want to have a career in retail. They have to spend time and money, and discard their religious sensibilities.

Filipovic does not care because she's both racist and Islamophobic. </sarcarsm>

Fashion is also fun, at least for some of us. While I'm the first person to object to the social expectation that women be visually pleasing creatures, as long as I'm in that jail, I'm gonna take joy where I can get it.  

Any appearances of posing an objective argument are now gone.

"Fashion week is good because it's fun, dammit!"

That's the central issue though, isn't it? That fashion is a thing girls enjoy, and so therefore it must be silly and stupid. There's nothing that makes an afternoon of shopping any sillier than an afternoon watching football; there's nothing inherently less useful about a handbag than a new video game. But because fashion and clothes are stereotypically feminine pursuits and sports are stereotypically masculine, fashion is frivolous and sports are awesome. Women who spend money on themselves are self-involved. Men who do are either dapper or early adapters of the gadget du jour or just "that guy with the boat".

If you have to say Fashion Week is no worse than the NFL, you're in trouble.

NFL players:
  • Suffer several major concussions, also often during their teenage years
  • Are subject to performance enhancing drug abuse
  • May have shorter lifespans than the average American male
This is on people's radar as frivolous entertainment causing damage to real people.

Men, in fact, spend more money on consumer products than women. They spend $11 a day more on average, and they're less likely to be the kind of smart shopper who compares prices and returns items they don't like. But men aren't considered frivolous spenders, because the connotations of the very word "frivolity" are feminine.

The article Filipovic links to happens to mention that men make more money than women as well.

In an article about pay equity, Filipovic would use that same source to say that things are unfair in terms of the wage discrepancy.

But now, allowing our ignorance in just presenting an absolute value ($11) without any context in relation to one's salary, Filipovic can try to convince us that there is double standard in how we see spending between genders.

This is simply lazy analysis.

Men are also the ones enjoying the lion's share of the money and the fame for women's "shallow" interest in fashion. They outnumber female designers and they get more recognition. The New York Times noted in 2005 that The Council of Fashion Designers of America had given its prestigious annual award to young talent to 29 men and eight women. While male designers have taken home the Womenswear Award 13 out of 18 years, a woman has never won the CDFA Menswear award.

Filipovic seemingly puts words in the mouth of men that would have won the award. Would any of these men describe fans of fashion as "shallow"?

The system that keeps women out of top tier positions, even in industries that largely cater to and are supported by women, is worthy of condemnation. And I won't argue with critics of mindless consumerism. But for all of its faults, the fashion industry creates wearable art, and its designers display laudable ingenuity, creativity and commitment to aesthetic pleasure.

So I hope Fashion Week naysayers were also turning their noses up at last weekend's money-drenched Superbowl, even the best fashion shows don't cost $126,666 per second or $4m a spot like Superbowl ads. And for everything you can say about fashion being a mindless endeavor, at least it doesn't require its players to literally destroy their brains in order to succeed.

Here is a reiteration of "at least it's not stupid as football! Ha!"

The article, in sum:
  • High expectations are put on the appearance of women, so there
  • Sweatshops exist, but they are creating joy
  • Football is stupid
No rational person is truly offended by fashion week. If it's what floats your boat, fine.

Everyone should however be insulted by these truly ugly arguments thoughts thrown together in bizarre order being marked as a "feminist case" for anything.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sex work in the feminist utopia

A reader (thanks!) pointed out on the previous post that there was a mix up between Meghan Murphy and Jill Filipovic. The article had responded to Murphy's response, but not Filipovic's.

Filipovic wrote her own response to Melissa Gira Grant's article - "The War on Sex Workers"

Filipovic titles her work, "Supporting Sex Workers’ Rights, Opposing the Buying of Sex"

You may be wondering, how does that work?

Down to Filipovic's arguments:
I am an anti-sex-trafficking feminist. I think sex work is incredibly problematic. And I also support the rights of sex workers. I think you can do all those things at once.
Okay. Let's table that.

The problem seems to be one of philosophy vs. practicality, and what should dictate policy. My view is basically that sex work wouldn’t exist in the feminist utopia.
Since when should utopian visions be in the policy driver's seat?

In utopian education, kids would be autodidacts we could just place in front of information. Right? Then we should be leaning towards firing all teachers.
Because sex wouldn’t be this commodified thing that some people (mostly woman) have and other people (mostly men) get. Sex would be a fun thing, a collaborative thing, always entered into freely and enthusiastically and without coercion. While that view would leave room for some types of sex work — sexually explicit performance, for example, if that performance were no longer primarily a looking-at-women’s-bodies-as-stand-ins-for-sex thing, which is what it mostly is today — it doesn’t leave room for offering money in exchange for sex, especially as we see it now, with men being the primary consumers and sex being seen as something you can buy.

Try to wrap your head around a sexually explicit performance that is not "primarily a looking-at-women’s-bodies-as-stand-ins-for-sex thing."

(For the record, it also doesn’t leave room for offering other things — social status, commitment, ongoing financial support, etc — in exchange for sex, which would nix a whole lot of “traditional marriages”).

In a feminist utopia, it would seem, sex must be completely divorced from even the appearance of occurring within a transaction.

None of that means that I think what sex workers of any stripe do is unethical or immoral or bad. I don’t think there would be McDonalds or Wal-Mart in the feminist utopia either; it doesn’t mean that in the here and now I don’t want to see the workers there have a full range of workplace protections and rights.

Keep this in mind - she's making no judgments against sex workers. More on this later.

And that I think is where we lose each other, and why I often feel like I can’t find a comfortable place in these debates. I tend to “side” with the pro-sex-worker voices, because they’re promoting the kinds of things that are necessary in the here and now to protect women and to promote the voices and needs of women who are too often silenced or ignored. I see the anti-sex-work side simply promoting criminalization, which doesn’t work. I see them casting the net of trafficking a bit too widely, and using that buzzword to fight against hard-won victories like the distribution of safer sex supplies to sex-work-heavy areas.
That makes a lot of sense.

[...] Part of the problem is that the net of trafficking as been cast so widely that in response, sex worker advocates have cast a similar too-wide net — arguing that sex work is a job like any other, that every job is coercive, etc etc. [...] But it’s not that simple. All choices are constrained, and certainly people who work in slaughterhouses or at clothing factories for 16 hours a day are coerced into that employment. But from a birdseye feminist view — from a sex-positive view — sex work is different because it’s commodifying something that should ideally be a basic pleasure, entered into entirely freely and at will.  

At this point, her entire argument seems to amount to "sex work is special because sex should be special." 

You can find just as many people having sentimental feelings about family farms, microbreweries, and mom-and-pop retailers. But Filipovic is probably sentimental about all of these things as well, so it's difficult to say she's inconsistent.

She then moves to quote Audicia Ray:

During the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and the sex wars of the 1980s and 1990s, the struggle to define sex positivity with respect to sex work served a purpose. To say that not all people have a horrendous experience of the sex industry, and that many sex workers value sexuality and see themselves as complex sexual beings as well as sex educators was an important statement to make, and one that had not been spoken before. However, it is essential to put this statement in historical context. To continue making the statement that many sex workers have a good experience of the sex industry without also including those whose experiences are negative and making space for them to speak up reveals a deep doubt about the validity of the sex positive argument. If we believe in the positive power of sexuality, we must also examine what happens when people’s lives are infused with sex negativity, and we must listen and support people with this experience in sharing their personal truths.
If we put aside our attachment to the sex positive construction of sex work, we will certainly hear things that will be hard to sit with. But for sex positivity to be a useful framework, one that encourages the pursuit of social justice, it must also engage with the ugly pieces of sexuality, and not in a simplistically reactive way. Otherwise, the concept of being a sex positive sex worker is a self-serving marketing practice, in which the enjoyment of sexuality is being sold as a product to both workers and our clients.
The argument seems to be sex-positive arguments in support of those that are capable of consenting to sex work belong in the 1980s, and suddenly now if we only listen we'd hear about people with bad stories about prostitution. How incredibly surprising.

All of that said, the reality here today is that there are millions of people working in the sex trade. And while a small percentage are relatively privileged and fairly compensated, most aren’t. And most sex workers face very real barriers to basic rights like bodily autonomy, workplace safety, and freedom from violence. [...] what serves a 14-year-old in a Cambodian brothel whose clients are mostly middle-aged white guys from Europe and the U.S. is not the same as what serves a 22-year-old in New York advertising on Craig’s List. Just like what serves a steelworker in a U.S. auto plant is not the same as what serves a Pakistani migrant doing construction in Dubai.

...No shit?
There are lots of other things I want to write about here — the colonization aspect to many areas of the sex industry, and what it means that the international sex work hubs involve white men going on sex tours so they can sleep with (often underage) women and girls (and often boys) of color; or the fact that in the relatively wealthy northern European cities where sex work is common (Amsterdam, Hamburg) you don’t see many of the beneficiaries of those welfare states doing sex work, and instead large proportions of the sex workers there are migrants from Eastern Europe. When you’re talking about sex for money, you can’t take money and international economics out of it. As I’m troubled by the exploitation of brown labor here in the United States, and by the gross mistreatment of migrant workers from the global south in much of the global north, I’m troubled by the migration of sexual labor and what it says about who “deserves” sex and who provides it.  

What does this mean?

The picture being painted is that rich white boys are literally f__king the world.

Instead of seeing the demographics of sex work as a function of its criminality, Filipovic presents it as white johns simply having an insatiable, disgusting need to abuse women of color.

In Filipovic's world, the regulated market does not allow an opportunity to replace coercive transactions with sober, open-eyed consensual ones.

To believe that, you would have to believe that if presented a choice between buying clean cocaine from Wal-Mart and cocaine smuggled in someone's ass, the American consumer would always choose the ass-balloons.

I’m troubled by the lack of focus on johns, because while I don’t think it’s immoral or unethical to exchange sex for money, I do think it’s immoral and unethical to buy sex.
Here Filipovic restates her idea that the seller is essentially blameless.

In what reality is a seller never at fault?

Use your imagination.

A sex worker soliciting a minor.

A sex worker soliciting a drunk/drugged person.

A sex worker soliciting a married person.

It would be a moderately safe bet that Filipovic thinks someone selling bullets bears some responsibility on the results. Filipovic also believes that sex is an act that is unique. It is a puzzle how selling sex can not be put under the microscope on its own.

I think it speaks to a view of human sexuality (and women’s bodies in particular, although of course there are men who pay for sex with men and boys) as purchasable; it belies a buyer’s view of himself as entitled to sex as a thing, instead of a party to a mutually pleasurable experience.

In short, it makes Filipovic queasy.

But those are different posts. Here, I want to talk about the friction between one feminist ideal of sex as collaborative and enthusiastically consensual, and the here-and-now necessities of advocating for all women and centering the voices of the women who know best what they need. We can do two things at once, can’t we? Push for a world where sex isn’t commodified, while still recognizing that today it is commodified and sex workers, like all workers, deserve to live lives free of violence and social ostracization, and deserve basic workplace protections? Labor movements do this every day — I’m personally a fan of capitalist marketplaces because I don’t think there’s a better system out there, but I also know that capitalism is man-made, and it’s what we make it. We can respond to the basics of supply and demand while not giving corporations outsized power; while building a social safety net; and while instituting physical, legal and financial protections for workers. We can critique the forces that establish patters of exploited migrant labor while advocating for the rights of migrant laborers. Can’t we?

Nothing hammers it home like detailing what you "want to talk about" in your concluding paragraph!

Filipovic is trying to find a middle ground, but has done a horrible job at defining what that could be. The article demonizes clients to no end, while describing sex workers as either morally unquestionable or complete victims.

In the "feminist utopia", no male feels the need to pay for companionship. All couplings are "enthusiastically consensual" which means no monies nor favors were exchanged during courtship.

Everyone will find themselves in a long term, happy monogamous relationship and employment entirely based on their intellect.

It would be a great place, and if Filipovic is to be believed the only dial that needs to be turned is the behavior of affluent white males of a specific age range.

But let's not put them in jail. That would be absurd, right?!

Let's perhaps just publish their names and berate their choices without doing any serious analysis of their situation.

Then, let's nudge 'sexually explicit performance' like pornography out of the public sphere, using the half-baked idea that since it is sort-of like prostitution the relationship between the two must be symbiotic.

Here's the facts that Filipovic conveniently ignores - the existing law is already solidly in the camp of the prohibitionists. It is already all the heavy-handedness she wants, and then some.

Filipovic inserts some talk about utopia as if to say 'let's not be too sex-positive, or too pro-sex-work, just in case legislators go crazy tomorrow and make it a free for all!'.

It is not time for two camps to compromise.

It is time for people to create realistic policy proposals that would in some way legitimize sex work.

We may write laws, or fiction.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

No war on sex workers?

Melissa Gira Grant wrote an excellent piece called The War on Sex Workers, which details how feminists and conservatives have teamed-up to come down hard on prostitution and essentially get a lot of sex workers into loads of trouble.

Meghan Murphy wrote a rebuttal, titled "There is no feminist war on sex workers".

How does Murphy intend to show there is no war on sex workers?

A quote:
This “war on women” is not imperceptible. In fact, one of the ways in which this ‘war’ is glaringly obvious, is in the fact that the sex industry is a gendered one. Women make up the vast majority of prostitutes (statistics say approximately 80 per cent) and, beyond that, women of colour are overrepresented. In Vancouver, B.C.’s notorious Downtown Eastside, Canada’s so-called ‘poorest postal code,’ where at least 60 women went missing over about 20 years, 70 per cent of prostitutes are First Nations women. Considering that First Nations people make up about 2 per cent of the total population in Vancouver and 10% of the population on the Downtown Eastside, this number is significant. 
It doesn’t take involvement in the sex trade to know that prostitution and violence against women in prostitution is the result of a very effective combination of racism, poverty, and patriarchy. 
Agustin muddies things further by stating that “there is nothing inherently male about exchanging money for sex,” as though this has been argued. “By whom?” one might ask. Indeed this is what feminists have been arguing for decades – that there is nothing ‘inherent’ or ‘natural’ about men buying sex from prostitutes, rather it is a product of our unequal culture and male power. 
By ignoring feminist perspectives on sex work and erasing the gendered nature of the industry; by focusing only on the ‘work’ aspect of sex work, women and the feminist movement are done a huge disservice, as is the reader, who is left with a completely confused and inaccurate understanding of the reality of the industry as well as the discourse. 
Maynard claims that this case is one led by marginalized women, in doing so, erasing the fact that First Nations women’s groups across Canada support the abolitionist movement and have made the point numerous times that the prostitution of Indigenous women is as a direct result of colonization
In her piece, Maynard conveniently ignores the fact that the Bedford case is not, in fact, a ‘sex worker-led’ case, but rather was initiated by a white man, Alan Young, whose interest in terms of winning this case is not to decriminalize street prostitution but rather to legalize brothels. With the knowledge that the most marginalized women tend to be the ones working in street prostitution and that these women would likely not be offered the ‘privilege’ of working inside any legal brothel, the argument that, somehow, this case is fighting for the rights of marginalized women is simply not true. 
Penny writes: “In reality, sex work isn’t stigmatised because it is dangerous. Sex work is dangerous because it is stigmatised.” But she’s wrong. Sex work is dangerous because of those who commit violent acts against prostitutes — that is, men. 
A Norwegian study looking at rates of violence against prostituted women under the Nordic model was recently released in English. It showed that, since 2008, reports of rape and other forms of physical violence against prostituted women has decreased. 
These women deserve more than inaccurate and meaningless labels like ‘anti-sex’ or ‘prohibitionist’. These feminists don’t hold prostituted women in judgment; they are women who want the abuse, the rapes, the beatings, and the murders to end. I believe those who call themselves ‘sex worker rights advocates’ or ‘sex worker allies’ want this as well. I have no interest in creating unnecessary or dishonest divisions.
In these snippets we see Murphy's arguments. There is no war on sex workers there is a war on women, apparently.

What arguments does she pose?
  1. Prostitution is bad because it is gendered
  2. Prostitution is bad because many prostitutes are ethnic minorities
  3. Prostitution is bad because many prostitutes are poor
  4. Prostitution is bad because many women die
None of these points address the argument that all of these ills are caused by the illegality of prostitution. But she really wants the reader to think merely the existence of Robert Pickton is an argument for her side, which it is not.

The fact that women suffer many of the ills of prostitution has no basis on whether or not it should be legal.

The holes in her logic surface when she says prostitution is a result of colonization. Really?

Assume for a moment that colonization is related to racism and discrepancies in wealth, which in turn causes poverty, which in turn forces many to participate in prostitution. (Thailand comes to mind)

This is fine except it puts the cart before the horse.

The textile industry is full of impoverished women. Is that a sufficient argument against the textile industry? Hardly.

One could make the argument that a legal, regulated market would be populated by healthy, wealthy sex workers.

Why does Murphy think legalization can't work?
  1. Legal brothels wouldn't accept dingy street workers and addicts
  2. Prostitution is dangerous because men (sex is somehow inherently violent)
  3. Rape would be hard to distinguish because of the legal transaction made (he "paid" for her)
She points at the Nordic model because of a decrease in reported rapes. (Nordic model = john is a criminal, prostitute is not)

What statistic does she leave out? Incarceration of problematic johns, which could have happened in either a legalization approach as well as the Nordic model.

She also doesn't explain how a Robert Pickton situation is impossible in the Nordic model.

Why would a client submit to be tracked in any way in the Nordic model? Sex work would remain dangerous, because dangerous clients are indistinguishable from everyone else - every client would want to remain as anonymous as possible.

Further, reported rape under the Nordic model is a bad metric because clients simply wouldn't buy the services of a prostitute that had a long history of bringing people to court.

Nordic model aside, let's address her point that a legal system wouldn't accommodate street workers and addicts.

It's absolutely correct - it won't, and it shouldn't. Street workers and addicts might find prostitution less profitable under a legal model, and would be forced into other jobs or the social safety net.

Murphy would essentially argue against textile-making robots, for they might not accommodate existing sweat shop employees. A bizarre argument.

Then on to the idea that sex work is dangerous because men. Do we really have to take that point seriously? Murphy essentially treats whatever segment of males willing to purchase sex as one monolithic block of psychopaths.

On the topic of rape - consent is definitely more easily proven when participants in sex have exchanged money.

But how is this any different than the complex issue of marital rape?

How does a wife prove that a husband has raped her?

He "paid" for her simply changes to he "married" her.

Maybe Murphy should be seeking to end demand for marriage.

Anne of Green Gables is too sexy!

The latest disaster in the Twitter-feminist world is Anne of Green Gables.

Anne, in some book that nobody bought, is not ginger. She's blonde and attractive, which is like shitting in the cereal of every half-assed "social justice" advocate out there.

Here is how Ophelia Benson covered the story: "Anne of Titty Gables" was the title. How classy.

Ok seriously now, I’ve been seeing outraged tweets about Anne of Green Gables with blonde?!!%* hair for a couple of days so I finally decided wtf and looked into it. I mean wtf, people – blonde hair? Hello? Her first conversation with Matthew, with her dreamy hope that her hair can be considered “auburn”? Her explosion of fury at Mrs Rachel Lynde for calling her homely and saying her hair was red as carrots? Her war with Gilbert after he called her Carrots? It’s half the damn book!
I waggishly suggested that it had also been retitled Anne of Coney Island, but now that I’ve looked into it, the time for waggishness is over.
Behold the new Anne.
Uh…different book, folks. I don’t know what book, but sure as hell not Anne of Green Gables. 
Kelseigh Nieforth comments:
Okay, as a born Maritimer, this is friggin’ offensive as hell. Certainly it’s an insult to those of us who grew up with the stories, and the author as well. Pretty much misses the whole point of the character.
So... apparently anybody that doesn't look Irish/Scot enough can go away? Real inclusive here.

NateHevens writes:
You know, I hear a lot about how there’s prejudice against those with red hair. There was a time when I never would have believed it. But then I actually started meeting and hanging out with people who naturally have red hair, and wow… it’s real. I’ve seen it first-hand.
This appears to be another facet of that. I guarantee you I can figure out the mindset of the idiots behind this:
You know, nobody likes red heads. All the [pornstars/models/societal ideals of the perfect woman] are blonde. Let’s make her blonde.
I’d be willing to bet money that their thought-process was something like that… I’d be willing to bet a lot, in fact.
Anne of Green Gables has red hair. Period. Don’t fucking change that.

Then Ophelia adds:

She has red hair and she’s not a pouty poochy seductive type who lounges around with her hand in her hair posing for an ad for the local bordello. 

Okay, let's get this straight Ophelia & etc - red heads get picked on unfairly, yet blondes look like whores.

Can you believe this nonsense?

Tell me, is Megan Fellows not attractive? Is Hannah Endicotte-Douglas ugly?

Now they'll say the actors that played Anne before did so in their younger years, and their complexion and hair color fit the book a lot better.

Boo-hoo. The real reason they hate the photo is it's a pouty blonde "bimbo" that is holding her hair up and it makes them crazy.

Just for a moment wonder why they aren't trashing the tale for depicting an orphan being pretty much bound to distinctly feminine roles, such as receiving B.A. and not a STEM degree, and becoming a schoolteacher instead of the King of Norway. Somehow in this picture being physically attractive is the last straw.

Who should be the next Anne of Green Gables?

Zoe Saldana.

If you disagree, you're racist, ageist and perhaps Ophelia Benson.