Abortion and responsibility

In the wake of the SCOTUS’s leaked draft on Roe v. Wade, it’s time to post this. Again. 

“When can we talk about abortion and a woman’s personal responsibility?” 

I’m glad you asked. 

We can maybe (and that’s only MAYBE) talk about ‘personal responsibility with regard to the need for safe, legal, accessible abortion when (and ONLY when): 

1. When ALL birth control is fully effective and without harmful side effects. 

The pill, for example, is supposedly  99% effective. That’s assuming ideal conditions; real-life numbers are more like 85-90%.  Efficacy rates for condoms are about the same. More expensive options, which require insurance and access to medical care (both of which anti-choice folks have ALSO tried to decrease!), can be more effective (none are 100%) but often have serious side effects, even if a woman has access to them (see #2). But even assuming ideal conditions, that’s still 1 failure for every 100 women (technically it’s 1 for every 100 times PIV sex occurs, but again, I’m erring on the conservative side). In a country with about 174 million females, let’s say (conservatively) half of whom are sexually active, even assuming ideal conditions and optimal possible efficacy, that’s almost 870,000 potential unwanted pregnancies among women being ‘responsible.’

2. When ALL sexually active people, regardless of gender, have full, unfettered, and free access to contraception.

Currently, anywhere from 75-90% of sexually active women do not have full and free access to contraception, due to poverty, lack of medical care generally, insurance restrictions (many of which were put in place by the same people trying to deny abortion access), etc. And don’t tell me ‘lots of places give out free condoms!’ Sure, a few do. Nowhere near enough, many people don’t know where those places are, many of those places will likely close if this ruling proceeds, and a staggering number of people don’t know how to properly use condoms. Condoms also assume male cooperation, which I hope I don’t have to tell you is often not forthcoming. And ALL of that is assuming there is no social stigma on getting free condoms, particularly for women.

3. When ALL young Americans receive full, factual, science-based sex ed, including how to prevent pregnancy. 

At present roughly half of US teens of both genders do not know how to effectively prevent pregnancy due to the continued support for abstinence-based sex ed, or the widespread lack of accurate, science-based sex ed. This is not a new trend, and it has been exhaustively demonstrated that overall knowledge about sex and pregnancy is dismally low across both genders at all ages. Incidentally, this is also the doing of the same voices trying to make abortion illegal, and make birth control harder to get. Are we seeing a pattern here?)

4. When ALL pregnancies occur due to consensual sex. 

Almost 70,000 women are raped every year. Given our 1/100 efficacy rates (and remember that’s a wildly optimistic estimate, based on ideal conditions, which rape is most certainly not), that’s 7,000 pregnancies a year from rape alone. Keep in mind that rapes are very underreported, so those numbers are likely higher. That’s also not counting incest, ‘stealthing’ (a horrifying but growing trend where men begin intercourse with a condom, but remove it without their partner’s knowledge. Want to tell me how that’s HER lack of ‘personal responsibility?’), and other forms of forced or coerced intercourse. 

So when ALL these things are true—fully effective birth control every time; full, free access; full factual sex ed; and all pregnancies the result of consensual intercourse—we can maybe, MAYBE, talk about personal responsibility. 

However, even assuming all of those are true, lives still change, and circumstances still change. People lose jobs, lose spouses or partners, lose housing, face illnesses, and countless other factors that can change the plans we’ve laid out for ourselves. Not every pregnancy is viable. Not every woman who wants to be pregnant can do so safely. Abusive spouses use pregnancy to control their victims. There are a million reasons a woman who chose not to use protection—or even wanted to become pregnant—could change her mind. And exactly 0 of those reasons are your business. 

The bottom line here is that abortion has little to do with personal responsibility. It has to do with bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is a principle we hold dear, even on the conservative side of things. And it goes back well before the Constitution. It is one of the core principles of the enlightenment and can be found in Locke, Montaigne, and countless others. It is the notion that as individuals, the first and most basic principle of liberty is that we won our physical selves, and no one can compel the use of our person for any purpose.

It’s why we prevent organ harvesting without the prior consent of the deceased, even though it will save lives. And that consent can be given and later revoked at any time, and that revocation must be honored. We don’t say that a person once agreed to have their organs harvested, so they can’t change their minds, either. It’s why we don’t mandate kidney, bone marrow, or tissue donations, even when we know those things will save lives. Hell, it’s why we don’t even make blood donation mandatory, even though we know it saves lives. We don’t even mandate that the person who commits a crime must give blood or tissue to his own victim! What’s more, the lives we know would be saved are full, living, realized, human beings.

This is because we do not, as a nation or a society, find it appropriate to compel the physical person of any individual, even if we know it will directly and immediately save the life of another person.

Unless it’s a pregnant woman. 

Then, it seems, we have no trouble compelling the physical person of an individual, in order to save the life of what is scientifically not even a person at all. (This is also why abortion is not about ‘when life begins’ or whatever; it wouldn’t matter if blastocyst or fetus is composing sonnets the day after fertilization.) If you’re keeping score, by the way, you might have noticed that means in our society, a corpse has more rights to bodily autonomy than a pregnant female. 

If you need receipts, I’m happy to provide them. But until you understand the reality of women’s lives in the present, shut the fuck up about personal responsibility when talking about abortion access.

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To Lead, To Drive, To Do: Why (and How) I Teach

(Originally published December 29, 2018)

Students tend to like solid, concrete, specific answers. Or, more accurately, they like to know, solidly, concretely, and specifically what answers I want from them. They rarely get them, however, and that’s a good thing. Take the Latin verb agere. Our students learn this verb early in their Intro Latin, and it throws them. It throws them because it can mean so many things: to lead, to drive, to do, to plow, to pass time, and a hundred other shaded variations. There is simply not a solid, concrete, specific answer to what the verb means that can be plugged in every time. “But how do we know when it means which thing?” they inevitably complain. That’s the beauty of Latin, though. While it demands meticulous attention to every letter and every syllable, at the same time, it defies specificity precisely because so many words in Latin mean so many things. I tell them they need to look at the rest of the sentence, or even the rest of the passage, to determine what the verb agere is doing in this particular sentence. In other words, students need to look at context to find meaning. They need to infer, interpret, and choose the best meaning in this instance, and in every instance. If there’s a better reason to teach Latin (or any foreign language), I can’t think of one.

That idea, though, isn’t just vital for teaching languages. It is very much at the heart of how I approach teaching at LCA. History students, for example, want to know precise definitions for the ‘terms and concepts’ we study each week, or exactly what will be on the next quiz, verbatim if possible. I don’t give them that, because while memorization is useful in some contexts, it doesn’t lead to real understanding of a topic. I don’t want my students to be able to recite, by rote, ‘three factors that led to the Civil War,’ or ‘Florence was important to the Renaissance because of A, B, and C.’ That isn’t understanding. Like any set of facts crammed into one’s skull for the current test, those will be lost the moment the test is over.

Don’t get me wrong; facts matter. Facts, as we have perhaps never been more aware, matter a great deal. Study of the Civil War will have no meaning whatsoever if you don’t also know when, where, and by whom it was fought. But that’s not enough. There’s a meme floating around the internet that says “Knowledge is knowing Frankenstein wasn’t the monster. Wisdom is understanding that Frankenstein was the monster.” It’s one thing to know the details of the plot (or the historical moment), but something else altogether to understand what they mean. Facts alone don’t make understanding.

Students must, as with the elusive agere, look at the context to find meaning. Having knowledge on which to draw is crucial to being able to establish that context, but the facts themselves are not understanding. Rather than telling me just the names and dates of battles, I want them to tell me why this battle was fought, why it mattered to the people who fought it, and what was important enough to fight for. It’s nowhere near as easy as memorizing key facts they can drill on Quizlet and then plunk them down like prefab houses onto a quiz (and they don’t fail to remind me of that). It takes thought, it takes interpretation, and it even demands they take a stand sometimes. It’s not as easy, but they are much more likely to remember that process and that understanding long after many of those memorized facts have been lost to the next set of data. That is also how they can come out of History class knowing not only something about history, but something about what it means to be human, something about what is important enough to fight for, and maybe even something about themselves.

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Trump and the Blood Libel

Detail of “The Martyrdom of Simon of Trent in Accordance with Jewish Ritual Murder, Giovanni Gasparo” (2020)

I have said before that Trump has intentionally evoked thinly veiled white supremacist rhetoric. I’ll cover a few instances of this before noting what I found most disturbing in his speech from Tulsa.

One example that might easily be missed without context is his comment about the ‘good bloodlines,’ of Henry Ford: “good bloodlines, good bloodlines — if you believe in that stuff, you got good blood.” On the surface, this seems like an odd way to praise someone. But to anyone familiar with the history of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, this is an ominous observation, and when made about Ford, an outright endorsement of white supremacy.

Ford was a notorious anti-Semite, whose views were sufficiently virulent to earn him a by-name mention in Mein Kampf; the only American to earn such a dubious honor. Furthermore, Ford bankrolled the US publication of an anti-Semitic screed known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. While it may sound like the latest Dan Brown fantasy, it is a treatise on racism. Allegedly a medieval manuscript ‘discovered’ in the late 1800s, it purports to reveal the secret plans of a Jewish banking cabal to gain world dominion. Not surprisingly, it was proved to be a fake in 1921, but to Jew-hating whites on both sides to the Atlantic, it was a gospel of the racist. Ford distributed roughly 500,000 copies of the book throughout the 1920s, despite it having been revealed as a forgery in 1921. That is the man Trump is praising, but the use of the term ‘bloodlines’ may still be puzzling.

One group to enthusiastically embrace the fraudulent text of Protocols was a subset of Christianity known in Europe as British Israelism among other names, and which came to the US (thanks in part to Ford’s efforts) and became known as Christian Identity. The core principle of both is that Adam, and his bloodline, tracing down to Jesus, was white. The twelve tribes were white, and the progenitors of the Anglo-Celtic peoples. Whites are the true ‘chosen people’ of god, and other races are not just inferior, but, according to Christian Identity doctrine, the offspring of Eve and the serpent. You could be forgiven for wondering if I had not gotten my history confused with some lurid novel at this point, but I have linked sources below. Most important is that CI is still active today, and has more than a few religious organizations promoting its theology.

That is the meaning of Trump’s bloodline comment about Henry Ford, the man who was instrumental in helping these ideologies to gain a foothold in the US. I can assure you, while his remark may have seemed odd to most of us, there is not a neo-Nazi in this country that did not understand with perfect clarity that Trump was endorsing their views along with one of their fathers in hate, Ford.

However, that is far from Trump’s only dog whistle to an overtly white supremacist ideology. The recent release of a t-shirt by his campaign has been widely criticized for bearing a disturbing resemblance to the Nazi’s Imperial Eagle. He’s also used a red inverted triangle, used by Nazis used to designate political dissidents in concentration camps, leading Facebook to remove ads using the symbol. I won’t belabor those here, but there are references in the links sections below. And of course, his infamous comment in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, claiming there are ‘good people on both sides.’

But his Tulsa speech laid another brick in his foundation of embracing white supremacy. He claimed Biden specifically supported ‘after birth execution,’ referring to the lurid distortion of later-term abortion. But that luridness in Trump’s speech is not new. Adherents at his rallies, in both 2016 and 2020 have repeated that they believe Democrats are not just killing babies. I’ll quote journalist Jeff Sharlet:

“…the first time I heard it at one of these rallies was someone saying, ‘You know what the Democrats are really up to.’ And I had heard all the conspiracy theories. The Pizzagate conspiracy theories about human trafficking, child trafficking. This took it to another level. They said, ‘They’re actually cannibals. They eat children.’ I said, this person must be mentally ill. This person must be fringe. But then I kept encountering that idea again and again. And now that’s moved the whole range of possibilities. So when Trump says plain out Biden supports post-birth execution, he is signaling to that audience that is ready to receive the message that your darkest fears, your most twisted fantasies of what your political enemies are up to, it’s all real.”

“It’s one o’clock in the morning and a very tough, I’ve used the word on occasion, a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away as a traveling salesman or whatever he may do.”

In other words, Trump, as he did in 2016 with his comments about Mexican rapists, is conjuring a villain, and making him the other, a dark-skinned, less than human savage prowling around looking to rape white women. This part has disturbing echoes of the rhetoric of the black man raping a white woman that accounted for too many lynchings in the American south, which continues to this day.

This and his ‘killing babies’ remarks, and the implicit nod to all of his followers’ darkest fantasies, are warped by any metric. Trump has cast out crumbs for his followers along these lines before, as Sharlet mentioned. But oddly for Sharlet, a scholar of religious extremism in the US, he doesn’t note the part that I found most striking, particularly given the examples I’ve listed above. This rhetoric of ‘coming for your women’ and ’killing babies’ evokes another canard of the anti-semitic white supremacist canon: the blood libel.

If you’re not up on your medieval history, the blood libel can be traced back to the 12th C, and became a common trope in the rhetoric that sparked pogroms, or murderous attacks on Jewish communities, down through the centuries. The story was that Jews murder and eat Christian children in a ritual sacrifice; a warped understanding of the Passover seder. Some scholars have theorized there is a displacement at work here, which projects the psychological conflict engendered by a belief in literally eating the flesh of that chubby-cheeked child on Mary’s lap, but I digress. In any case, the blood libel persisted through the Renaissance, and right on into the modern era; though it is a point of history, it is also a point of current events.

A blood libel occurred in New York in the 1920s (right around the time Ford was passing around his copies of Protocols, and the newly reinvigorated KKK was gaining popularity). It is estimated roughly 1,000 pogroms occurred in Russia and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1931. German newspapers reported on blood libels into the 1930s. Pogroms continued against Jews in Europe into the 1950s, and blood libels have been recorded in places like Russia, Algeria, Syria, and Poland, to name a few even the 21st C. In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League had to pressure Facebook to remove pages dedicated to Jewish Ritual Murder. In 2020, renowned Italian artist Giovanni Gaspar unveiled a painting entitled The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento in accordance with Jewish ritual murder. (That’s the image at the top of this essay, and it is disturbing.)

Our history is also our present. While it seems outlandish to the point of tin-foil hattery to most of us, this rhetoric is still very much alive in the white supremacist circles, and those circles are far wider than you might think. These people are our neighbors, co-workers, relatives. And they believe these things, or as Trump put it, in an unmistakable wink. wink, nudge, nudge, “if you believe in that stuff…” They do believe in ‘that stuff,’ and Trump knows it.

Just a few years ago, I took a pair of (unapproved, of course) flyers down from a UofL bulletin board, both emblazoned with a swastika and calling on white women to reject the ‘race mixing’ advances of black men and maintain their retail purity. A related thread of rhetoric in the incel community, populated almost exclusively by white men, revolves around shaming (and threatening) white women who date non-whites. This brings us back around to bloodlines. Trump has spoken dozens of times about his DNA, his genes, how proud he is of his German ancestry. All of these cues, quirky, uninformed, or innocuous as they may seem to us, speak very clearly to those who know to listen for them. Now we need to listen, too, and understand what the man running for a second term in the highest office in the land, is really saying.

REFERENCES:

_______________________________

Ford:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/henryford-antisemitism/https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/22/trump-henry-ford-antisemitism-jews/

Protocols:

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/protocols-of-the-elders-of-zion

https://ischool.uw.edu/podcasts/dtctw/protocols-elders-zion

Christian Identity:

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/christian-identity

https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/christian-identity

https://www.kingidentity.com/doctrine.htm (Warning, this is a primary source, straight from a currently active CI group in the US)

http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/terrorism/n101.xml

British Israelism:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1968.tb01291.x

https://www.theology.edu/journal/volume4/BritishIsraelism.htm

T-shirt:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/karenrobinsonjacobs/2020/07/02/jewish-group-raps-trump-for-nazi-inspired-eagle-on-campaign-t-shirt/#44094eb16a4e

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-election/donald-trump-nazi-tshirt-symbol-campaign-america-first-a9600466.html

Tulsa Rally & other statements:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-abortion/at-anti-abortion-rally-trump-assails-democrats-draws-applause-idUSKBN1ZN152

https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2019/feb/28/donald-trump/fact-checking-donald-trumps-tweet-saying-democrats/

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-s-repeated-use-mexican-rapist-trope-old-racist-colonialism-ncna863451x

Blood libel:

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/glossary-terms/blood-libel

https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/video/power-lie-history-blood-libel

https://www.timesofisrael.com/myth-of-jews-killing-christian-children-persists-says-new-book-on-blood-libel/https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/italian-artist-accused-of-antisemitism-for-new-painting-of-blood-libel-622578

http://www.giovannigasparro.com/sp.php?p=996

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Evolution 101; the gradeschool edition

Because I am so tired of having to explain this over and over, here it is on one handy-dandy spot. Evolution 101. (To all you science folks, I am going for the 3rd grade version, so I know I’m oversimplifying.)

It’s just this easy: Reproduction, Mutation, Selection-An Idiot’s Guide to Evolution. 

1. Reproduction: All organisms reproduce, producing offspring that share DNA from both parents. Something that does not make copies of itself where DNA is transmitted cannot evolve. This means all living things (and possibly some very complex proteins, because they do this with a sort of proto-DNA) can and do evolve.

2. Mutation: Imagine hand-copying a page of writing; sometimes mistakes happen at random. You could copy the same page 100 times and make at least one mistake every time, but only a few times would you make the same mistake. It’s the same with genetic information. (And yes, you could introduce new information; ever found yourself writing down a word you hear in the background while you’re trying to write something down? It’s all the same letters, but grouped in new ways.) Mutations happen in the genetic code with repeated reproduction. That’s mutation.

3. Selection: Some mutations happen to be beneficial, some happen to be harmful, and some make no difference at all.

In most species, more individuals are born than will survive, so an individual that happens to have a mutation, however minor, may have a slightly improved chance of reproducing. Notice that’s MAY, not WILL. Selection is comprised of a lot of different things at once, so no one mutation will make or break a species. Maybe the bird that eats insects has a little bit longer beak, so it can dig out a few more insects, get a little more food, and maybe live longer, and maybe have more offspring. If that only happens once, nothing changes. If the same mutation shows up a few times, and those who have it breed more often, the mutation will turn up more and more often. This takes a LONG time. Similarly, maybe a fish has a weird coloration that just happens to make it harder for predators to see it. It won’t always mean that individual produces more offspring, but over time, since similar mutations occur a few times in every generation, the individuals with a mutation that happens to be beneficial will tend, over time, to reproduce more often, passing on their DNA, with its particular mutation, than those that don’t. That’s selection. 

4. Evolution: Over hundreds of generations, that beneficial trait would become the dominant trait and those without it would either be affected by a different mutation and change in a different way or die out. Either way, once enough divergence occurs that the two varieties can no longer interbreed, it is considered a new species. This process is constant and ongoing, and it is never happening with only one genetic trait at a time. And we do see it happen in real-time – that’s why we have the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the individuals that had some mutation that made them slightly more resistant to antibiotics reproduced more often, and those that didn’t died out.

And that, simply put, is evolution. (And I’m not even a scientist, I’m a medievalist.)

(Incidentally, we live with the results of man-made selection every day. Chihuahuas and Great Danes have each been selectively bred to specific traits. Bananas have been selectively bred to be the fruit we see at the store, which is radically different from what a ‘wild’ banana is. We do this in agriculture all the time. Kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and half a dozen other vegetables were bred from a single species. The only difference is people intentionally selecting, vs. selection happening because of environmental factors.)

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Who Made Whom? The Legacy of Fingerpointing in the Era of Trump

Someone posted this as pushback to the fear and bewilderment at Trump and his ilk, and the rise of fascistic ideology springing up worldwide. I felt the need to reply.

“How did this happen you ask? You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.”

– No, we did not ‘attack’ your freedom of speech. We asked you not to denigrate your fellow Americans, and to treat others with kindness, even if they are different from you. We also pointed out that freedom of speech does not mean that others cannot critique what you say. In other words, it’s not a magic shield from the consequences of being a dick.

“You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.”

– No guns have been taken, gun ownership has not been banned or restricted. But gun violence is still rising, and we need to make sure guns do not fall into the wrong hands. Unless your hands ARE the wrong hands, you should be in support of this.

“You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.”

-Your beliefs were not attacked, and you are still an incredibly visible majority. Your ability to force others to live according to your beliefs has been limited, as is appropriate for a democracy that celebrates religious freedom. And growing numbers of individuals are rejecting your dogma. Perhaps you should be asking yourself why instead of screaming that you are being attacked.

“You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.”

– Our culture carries deeply embedded institutional racism. We need to face it and admit it. Trump’s campaign was rife with racial prejudice and divisiveness which only reinforced that racism. If you embrace that, or choose to overlook it, you are helping that racism to flourish. What else can we call it when your views are the same as those held by racists?

“You created “us” when you constantly called us xenophobic.”

– Our culture also carries deeply embedded institutional hate, fear, and mistrust of foreigners and of global engagement. And we also need to face it and address it. Trump’s campaign was also rife with prejudice and derision of immigrants of other nations, which only reinforced that mistrust. The global society is the reality, other nations will not go away if we hide our heads under a flag, and American diversity is not going to stop. What else can we call it when you continually blame, fear, and denigrate those from other nations?

You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.

– Yes, we did do that. As above, the forces of diversity and globalization are not going away. LGBT people are not going to retreat back into the closet. Non-religion will continue to grow. America will never be a white Christian county. You DO need to get on board, or at least stop fighting the inevitable. Keep your views if you must, but stop trying to force the nation to your will.

You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.

– Health care needs a radical overhaul. Americans spend more per capita on health care than almost any other nation and yet get the least actual care for our dollar than any developed nation. You would never have allowed universal health care, so this was the best solution YOU allowed us to put in place. As to penalizing non-participation, you do realize your uncovered expenses are a massive drain on the public, don’t you? Aren’t you all frothing at the mouth at the thought of paying for other people’s health care? Not having insurance is exactly that: forcing the taxpayers to cover your costs. 

“You created “us” when you lied and said we could keep our insurance plans and our doctors.”

– Talk to the insurance industry, and to your republican state legislature. They stood in the way of the ACA’s success. In states where GOP legislators were not allowed to sabotage it, the CA was a stunning success.

“You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.”

– Liberals didn’t do this. Your union-busting did. Your defense of corporate power did. Your demand for ever cheaper, ever more plentiful junk from Walmart did. And advances in robotics didn’t make those jobs leave, but they made them obsolete. Face it, was are not a manufacturing economy anymore, and we won’t be again.

“You created “us” when you attacked our flag.”

– If you mean the American flag, the right to burn a flag in protest is enshrined in the same freedom of speech you claim has been attacked. If you mean the Confederate flag, that is not your flag. That is the flag of a seditious, slavery-defending, illegitimate rebellion. It is both funny and sad that you fail to see the irony in your defending the right to continue to wave that flag in spite of that rebellion’s defeat 140 years ago, even as you excoriate us for protesting something in the present.

“You created “us” when you took God out of our schools.”

– God has not been taken from schools, nor has prayer been banned. But public schools serve all Americans, regardless of their choice of faith, so schools cannot offer or lead prayers. Individuals can pray all they want. No faith has the right to force students to be indoctrinated. If you want your God formally represented in schools, you need to allow Allah, Shiva, and all other gods in, too. Funny how when presented with Muslim literature or Satanic comic books, you are 100% in favor of keeping religious indoctrination out of schools.

“You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.”

– No, you are the only one confused on this point. Women’s rights ARE feminism.

You created “us” when you began to immasculate [sic] men.

– Perhaps if your ‘masculinity’ was not rooted in oppressing and denigrating women, you would not feel threatened when women push back. Feminists are fighting against the ways that sexism and patriarchy hurt you, too. (And by the way, it’s ‘emasculate.’)

“You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.”

– What does that even mean? What are we, Sparta? We oppose physical abuse, bullying, hate speech, and violence in schools. We decry the arranged marriage of early teens. We fight for all children to be treated with respect and kindness. Why don’t you?

“You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.”

– America was founded on progressive ideals, and on the notion that laws and governance need to change with the people whom they serve. Progressive literally means we make progress, and try to improve how we serve all people. Why are you so deeply afraid of progress? Also, that whole ‘democracy’ thing you claim to defend? Voting for the ideas one believes in would be that.

“You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.”

– What part of your ‘way of life’ was attacked? The part where you beat up gays? That part where you force others to live by your beliefs? The part where you continue to regard women and people of color as inferior beings? The part where you allow industry to destroy our water, air, and future? Perhaps if you dislike being criticized for your way of life, you need to progress into a less destructive, oppressive, provincial, and hateful way of life.

“You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.”

– In what way is the government ‘out of control?’ When it tells you that you need to do your part to protect our world and halt climate change (and no, that one is not a matter of opinion, it’s science. Period. ‘Questioning it’ isn’t skepticism, it’s scientific illiteracy)? When it tells you that science is science, and no, your mythology is not just as legitimate in science classrooms or in serious decisions on policy that will impact the world? When it tells you that no, you can’t force others to live by your religion? When it tells you you cannot discriminate against people whose skin color or sexual orientation you don’t like? When it sets minimum standards that education must reach, to keep our kids competitive in a world that is leaving us in the dust? When it demands that banks and corporations be held responsible for the safety and ethicality of their products and business practices? It’s telling that by ‘out of control’ you mean ‘holding you accountable.’

“You” created “us” the silent majority.

– Silent? FoxNews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Pat Robertson, birtherism, the Confederate flag, Donald Trump. How is it you are ‘silent’ exactly? And let me remind you, your candidate did not win the majority vote. Your majority is coming to an end, and that is exactly what so frightens you that you seek to blame others for your loss of primacy in today’s America.

You created “us” when you began murdering innocent law enforcement officers.

– How did Liberals begin murdering officers? Do you mean when we denounced overreach and abuse by police? When we called for accountability when unarmed civilians are gunned down or beaten to death? Or do you mean when we suggested that the senseless war on drugs has created a police state that is as dangerous for officers as for civilians, all for no good reason?

You created “us” when you took a knee, or stayed seated, or didn’t remove your hat during our National Anthem.

– Remember that freedom of speech you said WE threatened? This would be that. Take a long, hard look at who is trying to suppress whose free speech, and why.

“And we became fed up and we pushed back and spoke up. And we did it with ballots, not bullets.”

– With the help of a deeply gerrymandered system (made so by your representatives), widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement (of blacks especially, another reason we tend to mention racism), and an outdated electoral college that is violating the actual will of the majority of voters. And now, emboldened by the completely unqualified leader you have maneuvered into this position, some of you are acting out on your prejudices and hatred, lashing out at fellow Americans. You have little of which to be proud. We did not create you. You have let your fears, biases, and insecurities define you. YOU made you.

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Musings: Misogyny Masks Racism

Rough musings: Why do I say misogyny masks racism:

-They come from the same place; threatened white male entitlement. Though the conversation about race and gender play out in different arenas, they are essentially the same conversation and tend to intersect when women of color (in particular, black women), enter the fray. Undeserved benefits, special rights, ‘you’re already equal, stop complaining,’ ‘NotAllMen/Whites,’ etc. It’s the same crap from the same people. That’s not to say that gender inequity doesn’t exist in communities of color (intersectionality’s complicated, amirite?), but there is a brand of American racism that is brought to you by the makers of American sexism and vice versa, and they are pumped out of the same factory.

-The anti-HRC narrative is both inherently sexist but is inherently racist, too. I say that for two reasons. One is that the narrative of ‘crooked Hillary’ comes from two places: the GOP and the ‘Berners.’ These two groups are all but indistinguishable in their make-up: overwhelmingly white, majority male, and entitled as fuck. And that narrative is equally laden with racist dog whistles as it is sexism. The second reason is rarely stated explicitly, but is quite obvious; the contempt on the part of both the above groups for women, for PoC, and especially, for WoC as actors on the political stage. Look at your poll numbers: PoC, especially women of color, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary, in the primary and the general. But the ‘berner’ movement scoffed at the notion that non-white voters had any idea what they were talking about, or were able to select the candidate that was in their best interests. (I wrote a piece about that problem during the campaign.) Hell, even Sanders did that, when he refused to meaningfully engage black voters in the south. As far as the Democratic party goes, blacks, Latina, LGBT, and women (though women to a lesser degree, I’ll admit) are in a similar boat – we DRIVE the party and the agenda, but then tend to get left out when the elections are over. 

-There is also the number of Sanders voters that voted for Trump, whose numbers skew hugely toward those who “are much more likely to disagree that whites are advantaged in the US.” In other words, racism drove ostensibly ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ voters to Trump, right alongside sexism. But the conversation about why Hillary lost is focused on sexism (not that Trump isn’t openly called out as racist, and should be). But look at the pushback we see when Trump voters are criticized: it’s much more to protest that they are not racist – you don’t hear anywhere near as much outcry of ‘we are not all sexist,’ in fact they are happy to own their disgust for feminism at the same time as insisting they are not racist. However, it seems that they are, in fact, every bit as racist as they are sexist.

-Feminism is, at its core, fueled by women of color. That’s not me talking, that’s Gloria Steinem, for one, and plenty of others. ‘White feminism’ (or as I like to call it ‘non-fat almond milk fair trade latte with a side of kombucha’ feminism) is HUGELY problematic, particularly given the sheer number of white women (53%) who voted for Trump, many of whom call themselves feminist. If it is the case that true feminism (and I’m using that loosely, not to try and run my own purity test, but white feminism is not part of it) is driven by WoC, then antifeminism is directed at both women and minorities at least equally, though I would argue more-so at WoC, and, as I said starting out, comes from the same exact place of white male fragility, and in most cases by the same people. If a black man and a white woman (or a gay person, for that matter) having equal rights is terrifying to the white male of America today, how much scarier is a black woman?

-Also, white feminists (and this sucks for me to say for obvious reasons) are shit allies on issues of race (and often LGBTQ issues as well; exhibit A: ‘TERFs.’) I have literally spent far more time than I should have trying to explain that, no, talking about white feminism as problematic does not mean all white feminists are racist, or that (for some odd reason) all white women are feminist…  White feminists are quick to screech about first-world, white girl oppression, like breastfeeding at Starbucks or something, while completely ignoring the vastly more complex and dangerous issues non-white-privileged women face.  Which is, of course, racism, or at least passive racism. 

-It is still far less taboo to use bitch, slut, cunt, feminazi, etc, than it is to use the n-word in the mainstream public arena. Rape jokes are still more acceptable than lynching jokes.* Men who complain bitterly about feminism are too often chided with a rueful headshake or moue of distaste. People who complain as bitterly about race still lose their jobs on occasion (if not often enough). But even now, it’s still pretty much verboten to be quite as bitter or hateful about race as it is about gender. The left is complicit here, too, by the way, and I don’t mean just the fauxgressive berner left. I mean the ‘don’t be Islamaphobic, hijabs-are-feminist’ crowd too. People will jump down your throat for critiquing Islam because that’s racist, while cheerfully advocating tolerance of some of the most misogynist rhetoric on earth (though the religious right in the U/S. is poised to give it a run for its money.)

*By the way, I am not saying women ‘have it worse;’ in fact I think the opposite, if not by much. And of course, women of color get the brunt of both inequities. That is, of course, part of the problem. 

Consider GamerGate; the misogynist, rape-threatening, hate-spewing trolls involved got plenty of sympathy and were able to spin the entire thing as women being too sensitive, etc. While I’m not going to claim for a second shit like ‘blue lives’ isn’t also a thing, OPEN racism still gets called out a bit faster than open sexism. Exhibit B: Milo….a man who is both sexist and racist, but gets criticized for his sexism (while still getting speaking gigs right and left), while his racism goes uncommented, because it hides beneath his open sexism.

If this seems contradictory, that’s part of the problem: it is BOTH that sexism is more socially acceptable than racism (if by a narrowing margin, and not in the right direction, sadly), but also that when someone can channel their hate into a public expression of sexism, then that’s all we ever end up talking about; like it’s more titillating or something. 

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America’s Abusive Boyfriend: Why Melania Matters

I know we are all reeling from the constant barrage of outrages coming from the White House and the fully GOP congress. And, like many of you, I have been wrestling with trying to understand the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of Trump’s actions. While certainly the similarities to Hitler’s rise and eventual remodeling of the Reich into his own fascist sandbox are clear and chilling, I think it is a mistake to assume Trump has that much savvy. It may not make much difference in the final analysis, of course, but I think that there is something very different happening in Washington now than in Germany then.

They key to what I think is happening is Melania. Not for herself, of course, she has so little presence as an individual as to almost be a cardboard cutout. But that, is of course, part of what I mean. Laurie Penny’s excellent piece, ‘We should be kind to America’s First Victim — Melania Trump’ though penned in December, makes some incredibly apt points about what we can read about Trump and his character from the interactions between him and his wife.

We already know Trump holds a dim and objectifying view of women. Melania almost never speaks, and the smile that never reaches her eyes is the same one we turn on someone we loathe, but fear to anger even more (you know the one I mean; it’s the smile you give your friend who gets rough and aggressive when he drinks, or the guy who catcalls you on a lonely street). She responds to him as she is expected to, and her visage shifts the moment he looks away. She holds herself stiffly and distantly, with that plastic smile never slipping. He, in turn, behaves as though she is an accessory: time and time again we have seen it. He doesn’t care how she gets from the car to the steps, as long as she shows up and looks perfect. He doesn’t even seem to care that she is there, merely that if she were not it would reflect poorly on him. He thinks no more of her than of his cufflinks.
We all know this couple. He is controlling, domineering, very full of himself, but deeply insecure. She, for whatever reason, is attracted by his seeming strength, protectiveness, and power. At first, he seems like a hero to her, and by the time she realizes who he really is, she’s in too deep. He’s already cut her off from her friends and her support system, already convinced her that she will fail without his help. And when he strikes out at her, with words or fists or draconian limits to her individuality, she rationalizes it: he’s worried about me, he wants to protect me, he knows what’s best. She knows, deep down, that he is an abuser, but she can’t summon the courage to walk away, for a whole host of reasons that he manipulates every chance he gets. You’ve been picturing someone you know as you’ve been reading, haven’t you?
The thing is, abusers never think they are abusers. The believe they are strong, They think that’s how proper, strong men keep their women in line. When they see a more ‘equal’ couple, or a woman with strong opinions, they consider him weak, and her out of line.
What does this have to do with Trump? Everything. We are too busy assuming he has an agenda, that he is founding a fascist dictatorship in flagrant contempt for the rule of law, democracy, and the constitution. We assume he has some sinister vision for the nation, and every move is a step on the way to realizing that vision. But Trump is neither that subtle nor that clever. He is a buffoon, a mobster dressed up because he can, not because he cares (ever notice how poorly his suits fit? He wears them like he wears powers; awkwardly, brashly, like a street thug suddenly rich).
He isn’t suppressing the press and science and communication because he’s a fascist, or because he has thought far enough ahead to consider why he needs them silenced. He’s doing it because he thinks that’s how a president, a ‘real’ president, is supposed to act. He believes ‘they should show him respect?’ He sounds like a damn Corleone. He isn’t defying the law and democracy and the constitution because he has a vision of a new world he wants to found. He is simply, in his mind, being a strong leader. This is why he thinks Obama was weak, and Putin is admirable. Obama couldn’t keep his country in line, but Trump will show this unruly woman, er, nation, who’s boss. Every bit of his language on the campaign trail and since his election have echoed that of an abuser. Don’t take my word for it, look at the resources listed below.
I find it telling that one of the first things Trump did was defund domestic violence programs. It struck me immediately as an odd thing for him to have focused on so quickly. It was never a talking point, unlike so many other things he has denounced, and it has never been a top of mind issue even for the worst of the budget hawks. But I suspect, consciously or not, the existence of programs to help victims of domestic violence triggers him. For abusers, there is no such thing as abuse. If a man abuses, the woman pushed him to it.
While considering matters from this perspective does not offer any comfort in light of the draconian policies he’s enacted, understanding that Trump is simply being Trump may make it easier to remove him, and easier to survive him. We, as a nation, need to find the will to dump our new and abusive boyfriend. Acknowledging that he is, indeed, abusive, may be the critical first step.
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Chiropractic is not Medicine

Because I am sick to death of having this argument and having to find these sources over and over, I’ve assembled them in one place. Bottom line is, sure, you can spend your money however you like, but do NOT, even for a moment, pretend that going to a chiropractor for anything other than back pain (and even then it’s a long shot) is even remotely scientifically valid. It’s not. It’s hooey, hogwash, bunkum, bullshit, quackery, snake oil. It’s right up there with anti-vaxxers, homeopathy, or crystal healing. It’s pure woo, and worse, it’s woo that bilks the gullible out of their money, poses significant risk of letting actual illnesses going undiagnosed and/or untreated, and carries its own risks of damage and injury.

“There is no evidence that chiropractic can deal with anything other than back problems, however, any even then scant controlled clinical evidence is available for that.” – ScienceBase

http://www.sciencebase.com/science-blog/how-does-chiropractic-work

“When [chiropractors] do “chiropractic adjustments” to correct a “subluxation” for other conditions, especially for non-musculoskeletal conditions or “health maintenance,” they are employing a non-scientific belief system that is no longer viable.” – Science Based Medicine

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-end-of-chiropractic/

“Many chiropractors claim that correcting these misalignments (“subluxations”) can restore health and that regular spinal adjustments are essential to maintain it. Neither logic nor scientific evidence supports such a belief. Although spinal manipulation can relieve certain types of back pain, neck pain, and other musculoskeletal symptoms, there is no scientific evidence that it can restore or maintain health.” – Pain Science.org
(also offers an exhaustively referenced summation of the controversy surrounding chiropractic)

https://www.painscience.com/articles/does-chiropractic-work.php

“Most chiropractors do not share the view of health and disease held by health scientists worldwide. Most dispute the idea that germs are the primary cause of infectious diseases, disparage conventional medical practices–particularly drug therapy and surgery—and oppose various scientifically-based public health measures. In short, chiropractic has been anti-science in its philosophy and approach to health care.” – National Council Against Health Fraud, Position Paper on Chiropractic

http://www.ncahf.org/pp/chirop.html

 

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Welcome to the Racist Left

Why Bernie Sanders and his Bernie Bros have become as toxic as Trump.

I recently encountered a disturbingly entitled, condescending, privilege-blinded argument for why so-called ‘progressives*’ are doing everything possible to undermine Hilary’s campaign, even if it means Trump wins. (Warning, this is a bit of a rant.)

In a discussion of the election, I called out a white man (I didn’t go there; he was the one to say “And for the record, I’m a white male, I’ll be just fine under Drumpf”) for being blinded by privilege to the actual consequences to more vulnerable Americans: LGBT, people of color, people of other faiths, women, the poor, etc… In other words, I said that just because *he* could weather that, didn’t mean it wouldn’t do serious, actual harm to others, and forgetting or ignoring that was selfish and entitled. In response, after he mansplained to me that I *really* only support HRC because she’s female, this fellow actually said that “Women and minorities did that to themselves when they voted for a candidate who doesn’t care about their needs and who likely can’t win the general election.” In other words, if women and minorities are too dumb to pick the *right* candidate, as decreed by the straight white male, they deserve to be punished. When I said that was the most outrageously entitled thing I’d ever heard, the reply was “Apparently they aren’t smart enough to pick a candidate. Again, they chose corruption. So really, it’s on them. Has nothing to do with me. I tried to help them. They voted against their own interest. Not me.”

I am stunned, though I suppose I shouldn’t be. I have heard a lot of entitled, privileged, borderline white supremacist rhetoric from the Bernie Bros, but that absolutely takes the cake. It sums up perfectly where the leftist political purists have gone so unbelievably (and yet, so predictably) wrong; the descent of the progressive into the ‘great white savior.’

Screw the more vulnerable people if they are too dumb to do things my way. *I* will undermine the Democratic candidate in any way I can to teach the poor, ignorant slobs a lesson. I mean, wow. Who needs the GOP when the left can produce something like this? As much as I appreciated some of Sander’s ideas, I am seeing pretty clearly that he has done for the left what Trump has done for the right: created a blinkered hoard of evidence proof, selfish, entitled (and frankly, racist and sexist), fanatics who will set the world on fine and to blazes with anyone else. By allowing this toxic rhetoric to fester all along, by not conceding after California, and by dragging this acrimonious wrangling out to the convention for no real reason, Sanders has completely thrown under the bus the people he claimed to want to help. And if he does try to launch a coup at the convention, get used to hearing ‘President Trump.’

* I say ‘so-called progressive’ because while I get that being a progressive means seeking change, even radical change, it doesn’t mean privileged white guys claiming moral and intellectual superiority over minorities in the name of being progressive. That’s a sort of ‘beneficent racism more commonly found in Kipling’s India, or Africa under Imperial rule. Progressives, I have to believe, are not willing to sacrifice OTHERS to get what they want. These ideologues aren’t the ones whose livelihoods, marriages, health care, civil rights, and possibly lives are at stake, and they don’t give a damn about the people who will actually take the risk. That’s not progressive. That’s just self-serving.

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When ‘Women Against Feminism’ Goes Rape Apologist…it isn’t pretty.

*cue the frothing rage*

Below, I have linked to a horrible piece entitled “Feminists want us to define these ugly sexual encounters as rape. Don’t let them” Penned by libertarian Cathy Young, a supporter of Women Against Feminism and frequent critic of campus anti-rape programs, this article is….the most egregiously dismissive and patronizing pieces of garbage I have ever read, though not surprising given the source.

The author says with contempt that “Today, [feminism] not only embraces an absolutist version of ‘no means no,’ in which any hint of reluctance must halt further attempts at sexual intimacy; the movement also insists that only a clear (and sober) ‘yes’ means yes.” That’s right, that is exactly what is demanded, and it’s long overdue. But she thinks this is the problem????

Hell, no lady, the fact that you don’t think consent has to be explicit is the problem. The fact that you dismiss psychological coercion as ‘bad behavior’ is a problem (‘boys will be boys’ much?). The fact that you are OK with ‘no means try harder is the problem. But, oh, no, the author moans, “This isn’t just feminist theory; it’s having an impact in the real world. Consent-education programs on college campuses…are increasingly adopting the ‘yes means yes’ approach.” See? she says, the demand for positive consent is *gasp* becoming the norm! What will all those poor men do if they aren’t allowed to override a woman’s denial by coercion, guilt-tripping, and psychological force!!!

She also, disturbingly, describes instances where she used the same coercion, and laughingly dismisses the notion that she herself perpetrated sexual violence on a male partner. Behold:

“There was the man who told me it was too soon for us to get involved and said, more than once, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this’ the evening we first went to bed. If I were to claim victimhood, I would either have to admit to being a perpetrator as well or fall back on a blatantly sexist double standard.”

News flash, Ms. Young, you ARE a perpetrator. What you describe IS an act of sexual violence. Perhaps it need not be punished to the same degree as an overtly violent rape, but it is NOT OK. It should NOT be enshrined by our culture as OK. The author here relies upon a false sense of extremes – it’s rape, or it’s OK. It’s specifically violent rape, or it’s just bad judgment. No. There is a world of sexual violence that lies between outright assault and consensual sex. Our laws, happily, are just barely beginning to recognize this, a fact which the author laments. (Perhaps she wonders what *she* will do if no longer allowed to override a man’s denial by coercion, guilt-tripping, and psychological force?)

This is a woman who has no idea what consent means, who has allowed (and defends) the violation of her own consent, and who has doubled down on her own violation of another’s consent. Her argument then, seems little more than a justification of her own callousness, with a heavy dollop of ‘boys will be boys-‘style kowtowing to the patriarchy. We have a long way to go…..

Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than this editorial is (unsurprisingly) the comments….men weighing in on the flaws and deception of women, the failure of women to uphold the family unit, the unfairness of women having ALL the control over sex… THIS friends, is why we need feminism, and the more ground feminism gains, the more outrageous its critics look. Case in point.

Article is HERE

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