Guest post: Some trust their sources so slavishly

Originally a comment by Stewart on I did say.

More seriously trying to understand it, there is probably a mixture of things going on, none of which is Ophelia holding unpleasant views she refuses to discuss, but one of which is Ophelia reacting with completely justifiable exasperation at people launching unceasing attacks at her (some of a truly vile and literally – in that word’s original meaning – dehumanising character, throwing the very idea of discussion or arguments out the window) for views she doesn’t hold.

Perhaps some trust their sources so slavishly that they feel it unnecessary to read what Ophelia has actually written; there are others who are deliberately egging them on. Others still have sunk so deep into a morass of jargon that they will follow anyone who seems to be trendy (which is what most jargon is really all about). [Read more…]

I did say

I guess what I need to do is just re-post this every few hours for the next who knows how long. “This” is the post I wrote to clarify why I refused to answer a yes-or-no question and what my view is. (It took me more than one word. That’s why I don’t answer yes-or-no questions, except for very simple factual ones like “do you murder people?”) It seems I need to re-post it a few hundred times because people keep accusing me of things I very explicitly reject in that post (and then calling me paranoid and narcissistic when I notice).

So here it is. Get used to it – you’ll be seeing a lot of it.


Ok. It’s too late for this (but then it probably always was), because there are a lot of people just hell-bent on spotting a TERF in the bushes and not changing their view no matter what; the well is thoroughly poisoned and is going to stay that way. The poisoner oolon, who went to Pharyngula to work up the troops against me yesterday, is one such; that dude wants scalps, period.

But there are, I’m told, people who are just plain hurt and upset, especially trans people, and I don’t want to hurt people. Therefore I’ll try to clarify what I meant by refusing to answer yes or no.

(It’s like Bill Clinton and “is” – that was treated as a joke, but there actually is more than one meaning to “is.” Rumsfeld and his unknown unknowns were also treated as a joke, but he too was quite right – it’s only a pity he didn’t take the unknown unknowns a lot more seriously.)

There’s a difference, for instance, between an ontological is and a political is.

The more I think about the ontology of gender, the less I think I understand it. It’s slippery. That makes it impossible to answer yes/no questions about it.

But politically? Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

Do I get that trans people are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

I have thoughts and questions about gender, broadly speaking; gender as it affects all of us, and women in particular. I don’t think those thoughts are transphobic.

It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone

Gee, I wonder what this could possibly be about. This post at Skepchick: Release The Scotsman: Responsible Use of Fallacies.

There’s a trend when it comes to talking to people about the negative elements of communities they’re involved in. When people don’t double down and simply deny that there are nasty folks in their community, they like to play the “well they’re not a REAL feminist/atheist/kinky person/purple people eater.” This is known as the No True Scotsman fallacy, and it’s annoyingly common.

Understandably, few people like to be called out on using fallacies, so a typical response to getting called out is something like “Well I still don’t like them and I don’t want them around so they don’t count to me.” I often find myself responding to No True Scotsman call outs by saying “I know they’re technically part of feminism/atheism/people on Tumblr, but I really don’t condone what they’re doing and I have no desire to be associated with them. I don’t know why you’re talking to me about what they did, I hate it as much as you do.”


That’s so contorted it’s hard to follow. Olivia (the author) seems to be going to a lot of trouble to avoid saying what she’s talking about; maybe that’s why it’s hard to follow.

I think what she’s saying is: it’s a pain when there is Someone Terrible in our group, so what we do is, we say the Somone Terrible isn’t a real member of our group, aka not a True Scotsman. Olivia seems to be saying that’s a bad thing to do; she frowns on it. We have to bite the bullet and say how Terrible the Someone Terrible is. We have to own it.

But that’s kind of bullshit. All of us have to collect our folks when they’re doing inappropriate shit, and if we want to avoid Scotsman accusations we have to be willing to recognize that even the people we hate can be and often are parts of the movements that we are part of.

I think I’m on the right track. I think she’s saying we have to be honest about the fact that even people we hate – like this Someone Terrible – are part of our movement. We have to “collect” them when they’re doing inappropriate shit.

What are the behaviors someone has to do in order to be responsible towards the shitty members of their groups? Are there times that it isn’t fair to use No True Scotsman just because someone is trying to distance themselves from other members of their movements?

That part is very opaque. It’s about shitty people who somehow are in your groups, and…no, I can’t figure out the second sentence at all. Who is distancing from whom? I think she lost the thread there. Not a very good writer. Is that what she means by being shitty?

No you are not personally responsible for every other person in your movements. But if you want to distance yourself from the shitty elements, you have to do actual work. Meaning you actually have to distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.” You also have to take actions. If the person is behaving in a shitty manner towards trans people, step up and say “I 100% believe that trans women are women.” Use preferred pronouns, don’t make trans identities the butt of jokes, and call out those who are doing the opposite. Essentially, do your own work and be a good ally or activist by calling out bad behavior when you see it*.

Ohhh, now I think I see where we are. She’s saying everybody has to step up and shit on me, the Notorious Terrible Person of the week month year. Don’t just sit there; don’t look away; don’t talk about something else; don’t ask what the fuck you mean; step up and distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.”

If you are doing your own work, if you are stepping up to the plate to try to improve your movement and community, if you are denouncing the awful actions of the shitty people in your movement, then and only then do you get to say “I did my best to change that part of feminism/atheism/etc. Those are not my people. I am not associated with them and I have made that clear.”

It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and make your own positions clear.

Right on! Preach it, sister! Denounce those awful actions of shitty people (i.e. me)! Do it! It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and shit on that awful person the way all the other good people are.

It’s best not to say her name though. That way you can…uh…

Guest post by Josh Spokes: To do work that only actual thinking can do

I’ve noticed something. I’ve complained before about the elevation of stock phrases to do work that only actual thinking can do (I’m not the only one). “Intent isn’t magic” is one of the biggest offenders. It’s like the proverbial “attractive nuisance,” the open swimming pool in the yard that begs toddlers to fall in and drown.

“Intent isn’t magic”, for too many people, has morphed into “intent is irrelevant and has no explanatory power for human interactions.” They don’t say that in those words, but that is the effect.

Except it doesn’t work. Intent matters a lot. A huge lot. We make all kinds of decisions based on what we believe other people are likely to do. Intent is the difference between a person who knocks you over on the bus and laughs, and the person who knocks you over on the bus then profusely apologizes and helps you pick up your groceries. [Read more…]

Dude knows best

The Independent has an article defending Amnesty International’s plan to make sex work a human right, written by a man.

Can denying people the choice to decide what they do with their own bodies – or specifically when they consent to sex – ever be an advancement of their human rights?

That’s what a sensationalist campaign led by radical feminists is claiming.

Um…I’m getting increasingly tired of seeing the constant use of “radical feminist” as an unquestioned pejorative. I’m getting increasingly disgusted by this nonstop campaign against radical feminism. Tepid feminism is useless – the problem isn’t small enough for that.

They are protesting against Amnesty’s leaked proposal that consenting sex work should be decriminalised, and, bizarrely, the Your Sister campaign has garnered the support of a number of Hollywood A-listers, including Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Lena Dunham and Meryl Streep.

Perhaps the latter’s experience of playing Fantine, a sex worker, in Les Miserables made her feel like she had a glimpse of the reality of life as a sex worker. As far as representations of sex work go, that film’s all-singing, all-dancing portrayal of early 19th century Paris is perhaps more accurate than the ludicrous distortion its star now finds herself attached to.

Well that’s remarkably condescending, coming from a young man. How much can he know about what sex work is like for a woman?

Sources of beauty and unity

This is from early June, but I missed it and it’s a beautiful idea.

Over several decades of political instability and strife, Karachi’s walls have become a battleground covered with bullet holes, slurs, threats, and various messages of hate.

There are photos of dirty grey walls covered in writing.

A group of Karachiites started a campaign called “I Am Karachi” to reclaim public spaces by promoting arts, sports, culture and dialogue. Their newest aim is to reclaim the city’s walls and bring back its positive general environment.

There are photos of bright colorful walls that will knock your socks off. [Read more…]

A proposal to recognize prostitution as a human right

We’ve heard enough about TERFs for one while, let’s move on to the shouts about SWERFs by way of refreshment. Human rights lawyer Jessica Neuwirth in the Guardian explains:

Has Amnesty International been hijacked by proponents of the global sex trade? When the human rights nonprofit convenes its International Council Meeting next week in Dublin, delegates from around the world will be asked to vote on a proposal to recognize prostitution as a human right.

Amnesty is arguing that prostitution is a matter of free choice, a stance heavily promoted by the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry. The group is putting forth the view that sex work is compatible with the principle of gender equality and nondiscrimination, as if it were a job like any other. [Read more…]

The lawnmower betrothal

A Republican Congressional representative from Iowa, Steve King, holds a strange belief.

Rep. Steve King, R-IA, told an audience while introducing GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee that the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling means that now people can marry lawnmowers, journalist Matt Taibbi reported.

Iowa Rep. Steve King, introducing Huckabee, said gay marriage ruling now means “you can marry my lawnmower.”

[Read more…]

Given what we know

Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter:

Caroline CriadoPerez ‏@CCriadoPerez Jul 29
Given what we know about the women murdered by Jack the Ripper, it is absolutely ludicrous and actually offensive to call them “sex workers”

These were not “empowered” women exercising their “choices” who just loved expressing their sexual freedom. They were desperate and poor.

And they ended up disembowelled in the streets of East London. That was not because people didn’t respect their “agency”. It was because a misogynistic man murdered them.

Seems plausible to me.


It never hurts to remind ourselves of the fundamental attribution error.

Wotcha mean “attribution”?

In social psychologyattribution is the process of inferring the causes of events or behaviors. In real life, attribution is something we all do every day, usually without any awareness of the underlying processes and biases that lead to our inferences.

For example, over the course of a typical day you probably make numerous attributions about your own behavior as well as that of the people around you.

And the dogs around you.

If you do something crappy, it’s because that person over there did something crappy x2 to you.

If that person over there does something crappy, it’s because that person is a crap.

See? You have reasons, they have bad natures.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

[Read more…]