Remember: Nice guys can do bad things and sex workers are people

So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.

Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.

A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.

He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.

What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.

Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.

Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen? [Read more...]

Women: wearing revealing clothes summon dark forces, please beware!

To give some background, Hannah Graham is an 18-year-old University of Virginia student who’s been missing for some time. The police have a suspect:

Charlottesville police named 32-year-old Jesse Matthew a suspect in the disappearance, and he was detained in Texas on Wednesday after he also disappeared for a short time. So far, he has refused to talk with investigators about what he might know about Graham, whom he was seen with the night she disappeared. Police have released little else about what led them to name him as their prime suspect. (NBC News)

It’s horrible story. I will never be a parent, but I have loved ones and have lost loved ones. I can’t imagine the pain the parents must be going through.

Hannah Graham’s parents addressed the public for the first time Sunday when they appeared at a news conference to ask for information about their missing daughter. John Graham spoke lovingly of his 18-year-old daughter. His wife Sue stood by his side.

John Graham asked anyone who had information into the whereabouts of Hannah Graham daughter, a second-year University of Virginia student, to come forward.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” John Graham said. “We need to find out what happened to Hannah to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.” (Wtvr)

My sympathies go out to these unfortunate people. I would say, “no doubt we all feel this way”, except someone called Debbie Schlussel is being a totally awesome human being about this entire situation. It’s hard to read this. But here we go. [Read more...]

In which I make the case against comment sections cos I hate free speech

In the Guardian I made the case. I did! At least according to some commenters.

Yup. Free speech is bad and by removing comment sections I can magically prevent everyone in the world ever having conversations, silence their dissent and such. Did you know before comment sections, no writers or thinkers or people were ever told they were wrong? Yes! Criticism never happened in alternate ways, such as in-depth discussions, letters, and so on.

No. Only comment sections.

I had no idea that shutting off comment sections meant shutting off people’s internet access and ability to start their own blogs, use forums, etc. But as I hate free speech and am a dictator, I am obviously glad. Anyway, I have to go sit on my thrown made of the silent screams of my critics which I will never ever hear ever again because I am all-powerful and none shall ever oppose me.

 

Celebrity hacks and victim-blaming: Responding to 3 common claims

Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities have had (nude) photos stolen. I noticed three, of many, recurring responses, mostly it seems from my fellow men dictating what women should do with their bodies. Cos, yeah: of course.

Others have said these things more eloquently. But here’s some responses to claims about celebrity privacy violations – i.e. nude photo leaks – that we need to keep reinforcing.

  1. “Who cares?”

Celebrities may be annoying to many; celebrity culture itself is to me largely horrible. Celebrities are not necessarily talented, merely people with a large audience. However, the key here is “people” – not monsters. Presumably we want a better world for people – thus if bad things happen to people, we should defend and support them. This isn’t about whether they themselves actually notice – but it does mean setting up an environment that reacts appropriately to when women have their photos leaked and aren’t berated as “sluts“; it’s about reinforcing a space, like the Internet, that doesn’t spread stolen information from people because they’re “hot”. After all, women who are not celebrities at all, have the same thing happen to them. [Read more...]

So you see a racist Tweet…

How should we respond to awful posts on social media? Spoiler alert: I don’t know, but I think we can do better – overall – if we don’t always reply quickly, grounding our responses with what is best for others. Not what feels right at that moment. In my latest post for TBD, I use the example of a Tweet that directly targets people like me – “foreign-named”, darker skinned, etc. – and reflect on what I’d actually like to see more of.

Spoiler: It’s not abusive messages sent to the random kid who made the racist Tweet.

Read it at The Daily Beast

On mocking people’s physical appearance & the ethics of humour

I wrote a post, for Big Think, about why we should be hesitant about mocking other people’s physical appearance. I’m uncertain whether we should never do it: I think that, maybe, we do it too much or don’t reflect before doing it enough. I certainly know I’m hesitant about laughing at or making jokes about someone’s physical appearance.

Humour isn’t equal in its target, in its approach, in its ethical basis. Humour isn’t something that gets moral immunity just because it makes us or an audience feel good. Perhaps that’s why people sometimes can’t understand why some take jokes as statements of hate or mockery or derision: “Hey, it’s just a joke!”. Describing something as a joke doesn’t dismiss it from its moral impact.

I’m sensitive to claims of offence: I don’t think offence is a sufficient argument for not doing something, nor, indeed, is it even an argument. It’s, at its base, an expression of disgust or dislike. But adults know that disgust isn’t enough to make rulings on: just because we dislike something is no reason to legislate or command others to cease it. I hate celebrity culture and obsession over the minute details of strange people’s lives, but I’d never want a law that says no one ever is allowed to write about it.

However, as I tried to stress in the piece, just because people sound the same when they react to their god being mocked and their face being mocked doesn’t mean that each response is justified the same. I argued it’s myopic and, indeed, bullying to dismiss everyone’s concerns under the banner of “(merely) offended parties” – as if everyone who responds to all forms of mockery is equally wrong just because they seem the same.

And the corollary is the same: Those (like myself) saying be mindful of what you say because it effects people are not on the same moral ground as those demanding we censor all books that offend a few hypersensitive Muslims.

I want to grudgingly highlight two comments which are emblematic of many comments I’ve seen for some time, from Big Think’s Facebook page.

This argument is the same as censorship

Of course, the Internet, as always is intent on proving that people hate reading and are determined to be as nasty, as unreflective about their impact on others, as possible. You know, until the law steps in or something.

For example, this fellow said in response to my article:

Look at that again and allow me to emphasise the hyperbole: “ANYTIME ANYONE is told “You really shouldn’t say that” it STIFLES ANY free expression”.

What does “free expression” mean to this individual? The ability to mock who he wants? Well no one is stopping him, essentially. It’s his choice to do so. My article argues you should choose – you know, utilise your freedom – to pick the moral path (or what I’ve argued is the moral path). You can choose to ignore me, you can choose to make grand declarations about concepts you haven’t defined on Facebook without argument. You can choose all these things.

This individual – as with many – remarkably manage to equate/confuse “please consider your actions, because we’re fallible and we could be wrong and here’s an argument why…” with “I am the Hand of Justice and Thou Art Wrong. If thou Transgress these here Laws, Thou will be Punish’d Most Harsh’dly!”

I don’t know how people manage to read bloggers and opinion writers as being dictatorships. No one forced you to read, no one forced you to choose to ignore. But for goodness’ sake, realise you have merely articulated your free choice – your CHOICE – to ignore the argument I provided.

If anything, it is those who say “arguments equal censorship” who are damaging to free speech; one of the most effective ways to bring about censorship is to declare opinions you don’t like as being antithetical to “freedom” – instead of acknowledging arguments are part of the very thing free expression is meant to defend.

Stop whining and be strong like me

In my piece, I stressed that we are not all equally strong or capable of dealing with criticism. Again: this doesn’t mean we give in just because someone is offended or hurt. But there’s a difference between mocking ideas and god and a harmless person’s face. There are also good reasons to be able to mock god – but I can’t think of any arguing it’s good or moral or a duty to mock harmless people’s physical appearance. Even if they were such arguments, they wouldn’t be the same and I doubt as potent as the one’s arguing for humour as a tool to undermine sanctity.

But, regardless, a Strong Man just can’t understand why others aren’t like him. We’re just a bunch of wussies, you see. As I quote after, please note [sic] for everything.

1. “you make fun of something that is different, its [sic] normal.”

And we all know we just give into what’s normal, hey bubbah? What’s all this reflecting on whether what’s “normal” is also what’s right or what could be “better”? So silly.

2. stop being little baby’s [sic] about it and get over it.

I’m glad I didn’t point out why this statement might sometimes be worse than the initial insult. That would’ve been embarrassing.

3. “oh no some random guy i don’t know who probably smokes and has 2 bastard kids he doesn’t care for just said my nose is big”.. BIG DEAL!! and yet people get offended by the dumbest smallest comment..

Oh no, some random guy on Facebook I don’t know said I should get over “it”!

4. GROW SOME SKIN!! ARE YOU GOING TO CRY YOUR WHILE [sic] LIFE BECAUSE SOMEONE THINKS YOUR NOSE IS BIG?

How do I “grow some skin”? In a jar? Do you have the recipe? I should’ve just made my post a recipe for skin-growth so all those weak fools who spend the whole life feeling and “looking” different can just ignore them because, luckily, we are all equally strong and “manly”, eh?

5. being different you should be proud of your uniqueness and despite having a large nose or a fat ass you should be proud of what you have that others dont. like a good job, or being a good person..

Yes, all people who have deep-seated issues about their appearance have good jobs because psychological problems means it’s easy for them get great jobs… oh wait. No. It’s not. And do good people tell other people to get over themselves? Or do they say, hey, maybe sometimes people have a good reason to not feel insulted? Maybe the world shouldn’t be a shit place with shit people making others feel shit? I don’t know. I haven’t grown that skin yet so I could be seeing things weirdly with my weak eyes and big feet that I’m so proud of.

6. we are creating a pansy world where kids and adults will be offended and cry over being called a stupid head or ugly face.. i mean really.. we’re f*ing adults here.. grow up..

“Pansy”? Well, if I told you that’s not a nice word, would you say I should get over it? Or would you care about combating a world that stigmatises gay people and realise that words have an impact; that showing you don’t care about the words you use means you don’t actually care about making a tiny, small change in your life that means more to others than you? Gods forbid you make a tiny reflective free choice to not use words – a virtual non-effort on your part – because it benefits people who probably are not you, but who face stigma and hatred everyday for just being who they are.

But what do I know, eh? We should be able to say and do whatever we want and people need to get over it, because we live in an equal world  and no one is oppressed and society treats everyone like a heterosexual, married, man who wants kids and is in a successful job. (Hopefully ones that also can spell.)

SO GET OVER IT PANSIES, STOP TRYING TO TAKE AWAY MY FREE SPEECH AND LEARN TO TAKE AN INSULT. WE’RE ADULTS HERE AND, THEREFORE, ALL EQUAL.

In which I yell at kids to get off my lawn (apparently)

I started writing some lighter pieces for a South African women’s site. In my latest, I list some things I think we need to stop saying – in cyber- and meatspace – such as “That’s just your opinion”, “Just saying”, etc, and why.

I’ve already thought of more, such as discussions of the weather and hating plotholes in narrative fiction. I want to develop this latter one into a longer post though.

Any others I’ve left out or that you disagree with?

Many think I’m grumpy for this list, which is strange: I think I justified my reasons. It’s not me being irritated with humans, etc. – that factor is irrelevant (even if true).

(I should inform you that the site is notorious for awful comments, ranking alongside YouTube in terms of toxicity levels. Luckily, it requires magical Facebook powers to comment so I’m unable to.)

I wrote a letter to Straight Male Gamer

And it allowed me to convey what I keep trying to say in other ways.

This isn’t solely about games but the dismissal of those who are not what John Scalzi calls “the lowest difficulty setting” in life: the straight (white) dude.

The frustration can turn turn to apathy and giving up. I don’t want to do that, which is why I often try alternate ways of conveying my arguments.

White Knight MANifesto

Our plans have been revealed and thus, as Communications Director for the Male Order Brides of the Great FemiNazi Movement, it is my duty to communicate our new rules, as your “freedom” is relinquished from your dirty manhands.

ARTICLE I.

I.         The PCB (Pearl Clutching Brigade) is monitoring all social media, 24/7, in an effort to maintain constant outrage. We need outrage to power our war machines we’ve dubbed Common Decency, Empathy and Conduct. Any and all rape jokes, any and all pictures or details of indecently dressed women, will be targeted, shut down and censored. [Read more...]