You are not funny. You are not clever. And you are not excused.

US military veterans have written to Fox News to tell it that a sexist joke one of its hosts told was not cute. That’s good; let’s have more of that.

During Wednesday’s broadcast of “The Five,” co-hosts Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld ridiculed Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female UAE pilot and F-16 squadron commander leading airstrikes against ISIS.

“Problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn’t park it,” Gutfeld said. “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” Bolling followed up.

No. [Read more...]

Women in particular

There’s always the “it’s just part of life, get over it” defense. Being groped or plied with drinks or raped is just what happens if you’re female and young.

Rosie Millard makes that [cough] argument in the Independent. She starts off reasonably enough by saying that squeezing a woman’s breasts probably doesn’t merit a prison sentence. But then she veers off into full-on “deal with it” mode.

Yet in many people’s eyes, Dave Lee Travis – another name from the 1970s whose fame surrounded him like a blinding cloud – will have “got away” with it, as if his actions were as repugnant and evil as those of Clifford, Harris and Savile. The unnamed victim of the assault, who said she was paralysed with fear at the time, has spoken of her luck in being able to get on with the rest of her life after the event – the event being having your breasts squeezed for 15 seconds, backstage at The Mrs Merton Show. Hello? If such things really caused deep trauma, half the female population of the UK would be in long-term therapy. Women get their breasts squeezed. They get their bottoms pinched. Without asking for it. It is not particularly exciting, but it is part of life. Get over it.

Um, no?

Those are two different things. A jail sentence for breast-squeezing is one thing and treating unrequested unwanted breast-squeezing as part of life that you have to get over is quite another. Physical molestation, even minor varieties, shouldn’t be taken as normal and just part of the price of being female.

I have worked in television shows similar to Mrs Merton; this sort of thing happened all the time, so much so that it was almost funny. While I was working on one show years ago, one of the executive producers was so used to it that he devised a simple slogan to yell at us humble researchers: “Look, loves, don’t fuck the turns!” Because you know, the turns would turn up and they would, well… hope to have favours granted. Again, I am not referring to or indeed excusing sexual assault. I am pointing out that there was, and probably always will be, a certain amount of irresponsible behaviour in the entertainment world, whether from Radio 1 DJs or anyone else, and women in particular have to negotiate it as they see fit.

But that’s not ok. Dumping an extra burden on “women in particular” is not ok. Treating women as there for the fucking is not ok.

Closing ranks

Adam Lee has a post about the obfuscations and denial about Michael Shermer by some Big Names (he more politely calls them prominent individuals) in atheoskepticism.

One is Randi, because of what he told Mark Oppenheimer – you know, that whole thing about how Shermer’s a naughty boy, and if there had been any actual violence then somebody would have done something, but as it is it’s just a matter of getting drunk and boys doing what boys do, but hey if he gets many more such reports he might possibly ask Shermer to show up less often. [Read more...]

Horror of the female

Prepare to be gut-wrenched.

Elana Sztokman was just in the US for a ten day book tour for the publication of her book, The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom. Then she got on the plane for the 11 hour trip back to Israel.

The plane took off 20 minutes late because an ultra-Orthodox man was negotiating with passengers so as not to have to sit next to a woman—me—on the 11-hour flight. [Read more...]

The more demeaning the commentary about women, the more popular it would be

Eric Michael Johnson, who writes the Primate Diaries column for Slate, takes a primatologist look at the culture of online misogyny. He starts with “the Fappening”: a 4chan gathering to celebrate the hacking of those celebrity naked photos.

While some reveled in a shared orgasmic intensity, others tried to be as descriptively misogynistic as possible, to the delight of lurking males. The more dehumanizing and demeaning the commentary about women, the more popular it would be, as demonstrated through the upvote feature on the website. [Read more...]

Rote learning

A madrassa in Kenya has been closed down.

The school in Machakos, about 65km (40 miles) from the capital, was targeted after local youths were detained on suspicion of joining Somali militants.

It is the first Kenyan madrassa to be closed because of allegedly extremist teachings. A police chief warned that others could follow.

Madrassas aren’t really “schools” in the normal sense, as I understand it. They train children to memorize the Koran in Arabic, whether or not they understand the language, and they don’t teach anything else. That’s not really a school.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told the BBC the decision had been taken to close the Daarul-Irashad centre, which opened in 1997, on the advice of the police’s CID, anti-terror and intelligence units.

The recent arrest in the Machakos area of 21 young men suspected of being recruited for al-Shabab first raised suspicions, he said.

The police then profiled suspects arrested in other terror crackdowns and found that others had passed through that madrassa, the spokesman said.

Memorizing a holy book isn’t an education.


More barley

A happy piece of news for a change. Three Irish students have won a global science research competition at the GoogleScience Fair 2014 in San Francisco. Also, they’re all girls. Girls, I tell you!

Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork were named the grand prize winner in the 15 to 16-year-old age category for a project which examined the use of natural bacteria to increase crop output. [Read more...]

A great way to make a movement

So Katha’s article is online now, so I can point to it. She talked to me when she was working on it.

Here’s a great way to make a movement: have your most famous and powerful public figures obsess over Henry Higgins’s famous question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Why aren’t they more into critical thinking, argument, logic? more rational? Why do they accuse a man of sexual harassment when he’s just trying to chat them up in an elevator at 4 in the morning? Why do they get drunk and then accuse men of rape? Then, having alienated a huge number of actual and potential members, to whom you sound arrogant, vain, sexist and clueless, look around and wonder, Gee, where are the women? They must be even less rational than we thought!

[Read more...]

More globality

The Secular “Global Institute” has added a new fellow. He’s in Australia, so that’s a huge boost for this absurd little institute’s claim to be “global” when it’s actually almost entirely American.

They’ve been filling out the website, too. There’s a Newsletter page, with news stories on it. One news story on that page is titled Roundup of Recent Activities, Honors, and Events of Our SGI Famous Team. Yes really; I’m not making it up; that’s actually the title.

We are pleased to report that many SGI Fellows and communicators have made the news and are engaged in spreading secularism to our growing non-religious brothers and sisters worldwide.

[Read more...]