Teacher’s Corner: Sacrificing our kids to Covid

Remember when last year large parts of Europe, who thanks to quick and strict measures got relatively well through the first Covid wave shook their heads in horror at Trump’s science denial and his complete refusal to act? Well, now it’s time for the rest of you to have some pity on us. Germany has been on varying stages of pseudo-lockdown since October. With the second wave peaking around Christmas and over 1.000 deaths a day ion January, it happened exactly what scientists said would happen: the second wave hit hard, in all areas, and since our politicians refused to act quickly, it got a lot worse than it had to be. From that point on we’ve been in an unbearable state: Our private life is severely restricted. At some part it was illegal for Mr and me to enter my parents’ house at the same time when bringing them groceries. But there are zero restrictions on workplaces, and schools reopened three weeks before the Easter holidays, but at least only with half size classes and rotation. And we keep going…

One of the ways we’re measuring the spread of Covid is the 7 days incidence value. I’m not sure if that is used everywhere, so let me quickly explain: It tells you how many people on average got Covid during the last 7 days out of 100.000 and is seen as a key value, together with the R-value (how many people does one person infect). Last year, an incidence above 50 meant that an area was a high risk area. With the new mutants, especially the highly contagious British variant B117, some time in February our politicians decided that we needed to get below 35, which was a goal supported by scientists. then they noticed that we won’t reach 35 until we implement some really strict measures, especially in offices and factories, and they abandoned the goal. and much like in the USA, each Ministerpräsident*in decided they knew better, usually by implementing less measures than they actually agreed on.

Schools and daycare have always been central in these discussions. under the guise of “child welfare” they are kept open to the last possible minute, when actually the issue is that we provide “free” childcare so mum and dad can go working and catch Covid in an open plan office. Don’t get me wrong, this school year basically didn’t happen in terms of learning. I’m fully aware of the many issues that come with closing down schools, in terms of learning, in terms of providing structure, in terms of child welfare. I’m also fully aware of the alternatives and they are worse. they are literally killing our children and their parents.

At the start of the pandemic we saw huge infection rates and deaths among the elderly, and people, mostly politicians, claimed that children didn’t get Covid, and if they did, they weren’t infectious. Once they could no longer deny that children do get Covid, the next lies were that it’s harmless for children (7% get Long Covid!) and that they also didn’t catch it in school, but at home. I don’t know how this must have felt for the two of my colleagues whose children did catch it at school and one of whom infected his mum who has been in  hospital or a couple of months now. It makes me fucking angry. All those bullshit lies are crumbling down, of course, so the new idea is to simply ignore children and families.

The new plan of the federal government is that the “all is well” incidence is 100, which is already three times the number we agreed on at the start of the year. But for schools to close down completely, the number must be 200. If you now say “that’s horrible, that’ll kill people”, I’m afraid I haven’t even hit you with the worst of it. As said before, that number is calculated on 100.000 inhabitants, but 100.000 regardless of how many people are already vaccinated. Even those who only received one shot are largely removed from the battle field as long as they keep up with the rest of the measures. This means that currently the number in Germany is actually per 80.000 unvaccinated people. Therefore an incidence of 100 is actually more like 120. With vaccination finally progressing, this will shift more and more. Now, who’s the largest group that currently has a zero percent vaccination rate and has to meet many people every day? Yep, children and adolescents, and it’s already showing:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This shows the incidence of kids between 5 and 14, the deeper the blue, the higher the incidence value. In my county, that incidence is 421, while the overall incidence is “just” 183 and doesn’t trigger any measures now and will not trigger any measures should the federal “emergency break*” be enacted. By the end of summer, an incidence just below hundred over all age groups could mean 600-800 among school kids. Of course they carry the virus home and many parents will also be in the last group to be vaccinated as they tend to be younger and healthier. With the wild type, isolation within the home was often good enough to protect the other family members. With B117, if one person gets it, everybody in the family gets it, thus putting kids and parents at risk. Some of those parents will die, just like it happened in New York, where thousands of kids lost a parent. And all of this is done in the name of “child welfare”.

Oh, and our government has asked us all to put a candle in the window to honour the Covid deaths. maybe they shouldn’t ask us to set things on fire right now?

How to Catch Chess Cheaters With Statistics

Mano has recently mentioned a little kerfuffle in the online chess community involving an American International Master Levy Rozman and an Indonesian cheater Dadang Subur, who was banned o chess.com shortly after a match between the two raised the suspicion of Levy Rozman and he (and possibly a lot of people who watch his twitch streams) reported him as a suspected cheater. Chess.com evaluated the situation and banned the suspected cheater, thus turning him from suspected cheater to confirmed cheater.

Chess.com guards the tools they are using to evaluate whether someone is cheating or not pretty closely so cheaters cannot learn how to circumvent them, which is understandable. It is also a bit annoying for someone who likes to make statistical analyses of their own, like me. I cannot know the tools they use, neither do I have the access to their data, but that does not stop me from speculating. And today I would like to share one of those speculations on the off-chance that there are more people who like this kind of stuff around here.

In the comment section at Mano’s, I have speculated a bit:

They have probably several criteria to look at, and here is my guess at what they are:

1. The time between moves. Experienced players can play memorized opening moves within a fraction of a second. If someone consistently has a high rating and takes a long time to make beginning moves, it is an indicator of engine use.

2. Distribution of times the moves take during a game. I have not made a proper analysis, but my guess based on looking at my own games would be that they should conform to a Weibull distribution.

3. The length of winning-losing streaks. These should probably be pretty randomly long. Consistent patterns of extremely long winning streaks and no losing streaks are a bit suspicious.

4. The win/loss ratio. The site does a fairly good job at pairing people of similar strength, so it should be about 50/50. Even when your ELO is going up. I have gained 300 ELO over half a year and I do have circa 50/50 win to lose ratio.

5. Game accuracy and consistency. It is possible, even for weak players like me, to get accuracy over 90%, or even an occasional perfect game without mistakes and blunders. But a streak of twenty nearly flawless games is unlikely, even for titled players.

6. Rating growth speed. Titled players can send in their certificate and they get assigned rating accordingly, they do not need to start at the basic rating like everyone else. For an untitled player, the faster they gain rating, the more suspicious it is.

From all these, points 1 and 2 are relatively easy to check with just a few games, so I did that. I have downloaded ten of my games, ten games from Magnus Carlsen, and twenty games from one cheater whom I have recently played. My and cheater’s games were all 10 minutes games with no time increment, Magnus Carlsen’s games were, unfortunately, ten and fifteen minutes games with 2 seconds increments, so I had to cut those at fifty moves. But for the purpose of this demonstration, it is sufficient. And why twenty games from the cheater? Because he was an intermittent cheater. He had long winning streaks of nearly perfect games and then long losing streaks of crappy ones with one occasional win by the skin of his teeth. And while it is easy to get a long losing streak of crappy games (I should know), getting one long streak of nearly perfect wins is not very plausible – unless you are Magnus Carlsen, that is.

So the first picture that I would like to share is a so-called dotplot of move times in these games.

On the x-axis are the times in seconds and each dot represents up to ten moves. With the most simple of statistical analyses, the so-called “Lookandsee analysis” one can already see some discrepancies. Both the world champion and I have a very similar distribution of times, with most times being in the range up to ten seconds, with the peak at the category 0 seconds (moves shorter than 1 sec). For the cheater, who had about the same ELO as me, it is different in both his OK games and his fraudulent ones.

In his OK games, he too made a lot of moves in fifteen seconds or less, but he was much slower, with a peak at five seconds category. That indicates the cheater was taking a lot more time than he should even for easy moves, as befits someone who is currently trying to punch way above his weight class.

In his fraudulent games, this becomes even more profound. Almost no moves are made faster than five seconds (and those are usually the first moves of the game) and most take between ten to fifteen seconds.

If the moves were adhering to a normal distribution, there would be a number of easy-to-make visualization tools and statistical tests available. Alas, they do not. I have speculated that they will have Weibull distribution, which was speculation based on the fact that they have a lower limit (0 seconds) and an upper limit (duration of the game, also 10 minutes). As it turns out, Lognormal distribution is even better fit, although Weibull did fit occasionally too.

In a probability plot, if the fit is good the dots should be distributed along with the straight diagonal line and between the curved lines of the same color, which they mostly, although not perfectly, are.

You might say that AD (Anderson-Darling) values say otherwise, and they do, they are a bit high. The p-value also is too low for a good fit for those tests where it could be calculated. But that is in part a problem with these statistical tests, which generally do not work very well with grainy data. And here we have all times rounded to 0.1 seconds, so it is very grainy at the lower end, where, coincidentally, most of the data is. I could transform the data, but it was a lot of work as it is and I am sure I am losing some readers already. So take my word for it that both Lognormal and Weibull distributions are reasonable approximations.

So as a last picture, let us look at a histogram with an overlaid best-fit lognormal curve.

I am sure that chess.com has software solutions to dig through the data of suspected cheaters and to dredge up comparisons similar to these for all the points that I have mentioned. There probably are some correlations between move time and its quality with regard to the situation on the board etc.

All in all, I do believe that when someone is banned on chess.com for cheating that they were indeed cheating. And there are things that cheaters will probably never be able to fool. The example here is, I think, one of them.

In order to cheat, either the cheater or their assistant must go through the loop of inputting the moves into a computer, waiting for the algorithm to spit out the answer and then inputting the answer to the game. This inevitably prolongs the time. So to keep the move times consistent with those of an honest player might be the most difficult, if not impossible, hurdle for these scumbags.

Won’t Sombody Think of the Children? Bullshit “ethics” on Covid vaccination

One of the few things that are currently giving people hope is the fact that within a year, we got a couple of working vaccines for Covid and the distribution is now rolling out. Being smart we also know that this a) is doing shit right now, b) will take time, c) is fraught with ethical dilemmas.

With only few doses available right now, societies struggle with the question of whom to vaccinate first, and it’s not an easy one. Because no matter how you decide, there will always be people in the group you vaccinate first who would have recovered with little problem, and there will always people in the group you vaccinate later who will die, and since we cannot reliable predict who is who on an individual level, we can only do so on group membership.

And yes, many of us will wish for a place further up in the queue. I was devastated when I heard that in Germany teachers were pushed back to the end of the line, while also being expected to continue full in person teaching (we’re currently back to homeschooling, let’s see for how long), usually with some bullshit arguments about children losing out. More on that later. As this discussion continues, the NYT Magazine published a debate on “Whom to Save First”. Absolute trigger warning for absolute ableism and casual racism for that article. And if you are on blood pressure medication, make sure you only read it after you’ve taken yours because it made me really angry and took me like three turns to read to the end.

The people in the discussion are:

  • Ngozi Ezike, an internist and pediatrician
  • Gregg Gonsalves , a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and an AIDS and global health activist.
  • Juliette Kayyem is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she is the faculty chairwoman of the Security and Global Health program
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee is a professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher.
  • Peter Singer is a bioethics professor at Princeton
  • Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, who moderated the discussion

Tell me if you spot the problem right away. Our line up includes 4 doctors and researchers, which is a good idea when talking about the data, the predictions about the effects, questions about logistics, etc. These are also the parts of the discussion that I found more interesting, and while they also raised good ethical points (like what about the prison population, who are basically sitting ducks for the virus), they also only represent one group involved in that discussion and affected by the decisions. As always, science and logic can give us data and predictions, it cannot tell us what is right and what is wrong.

That leaves us with exactly one ethicist, and I’m going to use that term lightly here, which is Peter Singer. In case you haven’t heard of him before, I’m sorry to have done that to you now, but here’s a good overview on why many people, especially in the disabled community absolutely abhor Singer. Questions around ableism and eugenics have been at the forefront of the discussions about Covid since the start, as it is a disease that kills predominantly elderly people or people with chronic conditions, with lots of people claiming that we shouldn’t all have to drastically change our lives just because of those people. So why, on a discussion on a subject that predominantly affects old and disabled people would you only invite an ethicist who doesn’t think they’re worth saving anyway and no disabled person to advocate for the rights and lives of disabled people? (Hint: it’s because of ableism).

So let’s get to the meat of the matter. About all countries seem to have decided on two groups to vaccinate first: The very old and infirm, especially in nursing homes and hospitals, and health care workers and all those involved in the care of the first group. Most people would agree with that order: protect those most likely to die and with a high risk of catching it, and protect those with a high risk of infection <i>and</i> a high risk of transmitting the disease to very vulnerable people*. Now, normally you’d have to search the Republican party or whatever is your local equivalent to find somebody who’d begrudge granny her vaccine, but if you are nominally a leftist and still hate old and disabled people, here’s Peter Singer for you:

The objective that we should aim for is to reduce years of life lost. I know a lot of people are talking just about saving lives. But I do think that it’s different whether somebody dies at 90 or 50 or a younger age still. So, in my view, that’s what we should be looking at.

Yes, you read that correctly: A human life is not a human life. A human life is valued according to the numbers of years that person still has to live happily (From Singer’s other writing you will know that he thinks he knows when a life is worth living, so the years to live of a disabled person count automatically less than the years to live of an able bodied person). So preventing death in one 50 yo should probably count as much (or even more, since many of those years will be “happy”) as preventing death in 7 octogenarians. You think I’m cynical and dishonest in making up calculations where human lives are reduced to mere numbers, strawmanning poor Singer? Look at what he says when another participant gently pushes back:

The basis for the British government’s plan is, of course, to treat those who are at the highest risk of dying and thus to minimize the number of deaths. But it is also important to consider what your life would be like if you don’t die.

It might still be that we should protect 90-year-olds first, based on data suggesting that 90-plus are at eight times the risk of dying from the virus as people around 70, whereas their life-expectancy difference is roughly something like four and a half years as against 15 years for 70-year-olds. If that’s correct, then the higher risk to the 90-year-olds outweighs the difference in life expectancy.

No, we shouldn’t vaccinate granny first because she’s at high risk of horribly suffocating while totally at the mercy of her caregivers, we should vaccinate her because there’s some bullshit calculation about life expectancy. Singer does not place any value on the individual life, their individual suffering, it’s just a question of “years saved”, though he also has quite some opinions on the worth of any year of life lived according to some “objective” white dude metrics:

But even there I would make some exceptions. I don’t know whether the public-health systems are going to be able to do this or whether the political leaders are able to accept it, but if we are talking about everybody in an elderly-care home getting vaccinated, I think we should ask questions about the quality of their lives.

Now, end of life discussions, questions about assisted suicide are difficult, fraught with emotions, and anybody who ever had a loved one slowly wither away and basically die over a prolonged period of time knows that those are not easy questions, that you will deal with complicated emotions and that yes, indeed, you may see death as a mercy in the end. What treatment to give to a person who cannot make the decision themself and which to withhold is difficult and heartbreaking, which is why everybody should discuss those matters beforehand and have them written down. But Singer doesn’t want to explore those moral questions, as they are questions that relate to bodily autonomy and individual freedom. He wants to seem all Vulcan and just place some objective value on people’s lives and then calculate their worth.

Ironically, he goes then on and argues that if we cannot ask people directly, it would be immoral to just vaccinate them because they cannot consent:

If a patient is not capable of expressing a view on whether or not to receive treatment — and that includes vaccination — families should be consulted, and they should make the call. We shouldn’t just go through nursing homes and automatically vaccinate those who are not capable of giving consent.

What is it now, Peter? Do we suddenly have to ask difficult questions about consent? And if so, why the hell do you assume that those people would consent to ending their lives in a most horrible manner? Because all I know so far about ICU Covid treatment is that once you’re at that point, everything is horrible and has been for a while. Suffocating is generally considered a very cruel death,a s your whole body is still fighting. I can imagine what Singer’s “solution” would be, and no, thank you, I think that one Hadamar is enough.

Now that Singer has established that we really shouldn’t vaccinate all those old and disabled people, the discussion moves to who we should vaccinate and why. Spoilers: It’s not because people who are getting sick from Covid are suffering and still possibly dying and having long term effects. No, for Singer it’s all about how you getting Covid is going to inconvenience others:

Setting priorities in this phase should depend on the impact on essential services. For services in which workers are mostly young, and even if they get the virus they’re not likely to have severe symptoms, and they will not be absent from work or will be absent only briefly, then maybe you don’t have to vaccinate them first. But if we have essential services that are really being set back by the fact that people are getting the virus — for example, if we’re at risk of not having enough truck drivers to deliver the vaccine — that would be a reason to give these workers high priority.

He completely dismisses the massive suffering caused by Covid, the long term risks, and of course the impact on families and communities. If they’re young, just let them get sick (for example retail workers), because they will only miss a few days of work. Because the most important thing in your life is going to work. Bazelon argues along the same line:

That makes me think of teachers. The service of in-person schools has been cut off in parts of the country for 10 months now. This has come at a huge cost to kids, in terms of learning loss and social and emotional development. Some vulnerable kids aren’t in school at all. Children generally have borne a greater share of the burden of the virus than we often talk about.

Teachers are not valued as people. Our health and wellbeing is completely unimportant. What matters is that we go to school and work, in a good attempt of appealing “won’t somebody think of the children???”. Yes, I do think of the children. That’s my fucking job. But children are also wonderful argument killers. Once you invoked children, your opponent can only lose, because we all know that children (at least the able bodied) are the ultimate cause worthy of protection (unless you should feed them). the same people who generally won’t give a fuck about public education, the state of schools and the welfare of vulnerable kids have suddenly discovered them as a group to advocate for, and whose needs magically align with their own ideas.

Kayyem agrees, saying the quiet part loud:

Education is critical infrastructure. We didn’t designate it as such, as we did with electricity and water or the food-supply chain. But it turns out that a society cannot move, literally cannot flow, if parents are at home because of kids. The economic impact has been huge. And on the other side of this pandemic, the long-term impact for kids who were already behind is disastrous.

Actually it’s about parents being able to go to work and make money for people who are already rich. Yes, throw in some lines about kids who were already behind. Unless you can show me your work on how you fought for disadvantaged kids before Covid, I’m going to call it crocodile tears. While I absolutely do think, for absolutely selfish reasons, that teachers should be right behind very vulnerable people when it comes to the vaccine, I’m not going to claim that this is to mostly benefit disadvantaged kids. the best you can do for disadvantaged kids is to massively invest in child welfare and social services. I think we should get the vaccine because we are in a high risk environment and I don’t want to fucking die.

Here’s how I know that they don’t actually care about kids. Bazelon picks up Singer’s line about “years of life saved” and goes on about the long-term effect on children:

In thinking in terms of years of life saved, research suggests that children who fall behind because of elementary-school closures are likely to have shorter life expectancies, on average.

You know what, lady? You could fix that. And 8 years old who misses out on primary school does have a lot of time to catch up. You could support those kids, their schools, their families. Shorter life expectancies are not a natural force. They are something society can absolutely do something about, but that would require more than giving their underpaid, overworked teachers in crumbling buildings a Covid jab.

There’s some interesting talk about logistics etc. in the middle (and suddenly there’s other people doing the talking…) until we get to another big issue: the world-wide distribution of the vaccine: The affluent north is buying up all the available vaccine, while also blocking the global south from just replicating the vaccines by Moderna etc. There’s some casual racism about how we cannot trust the Indian and Chinese vaccines, but hey, there’s testing, and then the ethicist Singer drops the following:

According to 1DaySooner, which advocates for volunteers, nearly 40,000 are willing to take part. If you can give people a vaccine and then deliberately expose them to the virus, you get results much faster. And you can study the antibody responses and the immune responses, because you can house volunteers in a residential quarantine facility where they’d be available for that kind of testing. I recognize that they don’t have the representative demographics that you would want, but these trials do offer the possibility of getting much speedier results.

Yes, Peter, experimenting on humans is completely cool. “But they are volunteers”, they say, ignoring the fact that people are desperate. Here we have a world renowned ethicist claiming that infecting people with a potentially deadly disease is ok. Somehow all the doctors in that discussion just gloss over it? Did they not get it, or did they do the thing where you will bush over such things because how can you even start such a discussion? Singer goes on to abuse people with little voice for themselves in his arguments, repeating the idea that people should be able buy access to the vaccine if in return others could get some benefits:

Singer: The economist Richard Thaler wrote in The Times recently about letting celebrities and wealthy people jump the vaccination queue by bidding for spots at an auction. That would show they wanted to get the vaccine, which would help encourage other people to get immunized. And Thaler thought the money could go to people who are suffering because, for example, the virus cost them their jobs. My idea is that instead of dollars, people should bid on sending units of vaccine to the Global South.

Mukherjee: Peter, what if you could jump the queue, and get 10 doses of vaccine for your friends and family, if you contribute 5,000 or 10,000 or 500,000 doses for the Global South. Would you be open to such an option?

Singer: Yes, I would be, I think. Clearly, for a utilitarian like me, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.

Let’s look at what is proposed here: Singer isn’t asked to forego his vaccine. He isn’t ask to decide whether his child or grandchild should get the vaccine or a woman in a sweatshop. No, the terrible moral dilemma is to get the vaccine for those he loves AND sending vaccine doses to the Global South as a good White Saviour. The cost in this scenario is entirely paid by other people, presumably those in assisted living facilities. That’s the best version of the trolley problem ever, isn’t it?

While others in the discussion ask for solutions that lead to more vaccines being produced, i.e. ignoring patents etc, Singer never ever touches the idea that we could just not do this based on profit. His idea isn’t about producing more doses so the whole planet can be vaccinated, but about keeping the vaccine a rare and highly profitable good that is then distributed more equally, with rich people getting a chance to feel good about it. this shows that Singer doesn’t even take his own philosophy seriously. If it ever were about the greatest amount of happiness, then he’d have to address wealth distribution, both within industrialised nations as well as in the world. But he doesn’t. In his philosophy, which claims to look at humanity more as a whole, he is still displaying a Libertarian individualism, and for all his pseudo Vulcan objectivity, it turns out that somehow he always comes out on top…

Now having written this and therefore read that article a couple of times, I’m cranky: So please, won’t somebody think of my children who now have a cranky mum and please never ever suggest I should listen to Singer on any subject ever again?

*We still don’t know if the vaccine will also stop you from transmitting Covid, but hopes are high.

It’s September Fun, Fun, Fun(d raising)

Freethought Blogs is creatively trying to raise funds to pay off the sizeable legal bills incurred in the fight against the SLAPP suit brought by Richard Carrier. SLAPP claims are nuisance suits, intended to shut down free speech by making it expensive, so even though we “won,” we still have large legal bills to pay off.

That’s where you, Dear Reader, can help. We need your donations, and we’re prepared to earn them! We’re hosting a series of events, The Carnival of Curiosity, beginning on Friday, September 25 and running through the weekend of Sept. 26 & 27. You can click the link above or on the large banner on the top left side panel to see the schedule of events, and we’re sure that you’ll find something that interests you. It’s going to be a full weekend of festive fun, and any donation is helpful. If you’d like to contribute, you can do so at PayPal.me/freethoughtblogs.

In addition to the Carnival of Curiosity, several bloggers are having auctions with all proceeds going to the fundraiser.

  • Iris at Death to Squirrels is auctioning off a chance to interview her or be interviewed by her.
  • Marcus at Stderr is auctioning 4 of his beautiful art pieces.
  • William at The Bolingbrook Babbler is auctioning a PDF collection of Babbler articles from his pre-Freethought Blog days that looks deliciously interesting. He is also planning to read an excerpt from his in-progress book  The Rift: A Bolingbrook Babbler Story if donations reach $200.00, and if donations get to $500.00, he will read it live.
  • TD Walker at Freethinking Ahead is auctioning a half-hour creative coaching session via Zoom.

Doesn’t all that look like fun? You bet it does, and we want you to join us and make a donation if possible. More events may be added, so be sure to check for future announcements.

People who Menstruate: Or why the transphobic insistence on “women” is both creepy and wrong

As you have all heard by now, beloved children’s book author who wrote a whole series without any gay characters but a whole industry of rape drugs has firmly put her foot into her mouth over the weekend  by throwing a hissy fit over the term “people who menstruate”:

‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?

 

Now, there’s two immediate and obvious points: First of all, the article does actually use the word “women”, as one sort of people who are affected by menstruation and need access to hygiene. Second, there’s a pandemic going on, her own government failing its people so badly that now the number of daily deaths in the UK are greater than in all 27 EU countries combined and a world on its feet to protest racism and police brutality but you have to scroll a long way down on her Twitter feed to find one single Tweet about Breonna Taylor. If the phrase “people who menstruate” gets more outrage from you than the killing of black people and your whole population being failed by the government we see you in your socially distant and probably well protected mansion. That’s not even the dog that didn’t bark but a whole pack of wolves that has suddenly gone silent.

I’ll explore the misogyny of this argument from a cis perspective. Others have written more and better from the perspective of trans men and non binary folks and I’ll leave some links below. Check out their words, they know better.

But now for the larger point: Transphobes like Rowling insist that people who menstruate are to be classified as women. While most of them will gracefully allow that not all women menstruate (though I have seen the occasional transphobe insist that post-menopausal women are no longer women), they insist that all people who menstruate are women, adult human females (long ee as in bee), to use their favourite “definition”.

If you know me you will probably guess already where I’m going. The crowd who insists that their definition of “woman” is pure science and absolutely rooted in nature starts out with the word “adult”. Can they please define what adult means? Here’s a little story: my mum got married at 18, only back then you became an adult at 21 and therefore my grandparents basically signed over their guardianship to my dad, which is creepy as fuck if you think about it. But in the year my mother turned 21, the age was lowered to 18, which poses a few interesting questions:

Was my mother a child bride between the ages of 18 and 21, but then became retroactively not a child bride when the age of adulthood was lowered? If we change the legal definition of “adult”, does that change the biological reality? Obviously not, so what unchangeable definition of adult do transphobes use? Given that they insist that all who menstruate are women, and declare that’s “basic biology”, the only other option is the onset of menarche. We have that creepy notion in a lot of popular culture. We call it “becoming a woman” when a girl has her first period. And for ages that has been and often still is the point at which a girl is considered old enough to get married and have children. I was never a big fan of Game of Thrones and got bored somewhere in the second or third season, but I remember that one scene where Sansa Stark wakes up in some bloody sheets and now everybody is excited because that means she can now marry the king and have his babies. Except for the poor girl, of course, who is terrified at the prospect of being raped by a psychopath.

Insisting that people who menstruate are all “women” means to include literal children as young as nine or ten into that category, declaring them adults. Again transphobes take the worst and oldest definition of “woman” as “baby making machines” and run with it, declaring their nonsense to be “rooted in science and biology”, just as men have always done. They reinforce the notion that girls become “mature” at an early age and that fertility is some defining element of womanhood. In short, they reinforce ideas that leave girls vulnerable to sexual predators and without protection from a society that declares them responsible for their own rapes. Of course, Cis Feminist transphobes will be abhorred by those ideas. They will be genuinely upset when a judge says a thirteen years old girl looked very mature, what should that poor adult man have done? Or declare that a teacher didn’t abuse his position of power because that girl dressed very sexy, but in fact they are sharing the same cis sexist and heteronormative mindset that dictates that cruel realty of cis girls’ lives and bodies. Yet they are too invested in hurting the small percentage of people who menstruate who are not cis for them to actually and adequately support the huge percentage of cis girls who menstruate and whom they claim to protect from the evil trans cabal.

 

Links:

Twitter thread from Jay Hulme about transphobic assault for being a trans man on his period

Article by a non-binary activist on their first period and that fucked up notion as a gate to “womanhood” I mentioned above 

Article about an initiative in Australia that provides period products for homeless people and that had to cope with backlash for being inclusive. Yes, those people prefer to actually attack a young cis woman who started her own fucking charity in her teens, jeopardizing said charity and thereby access to period products for poor cis girls and women just to hurt trans folks.

 

 

British Feminism: I Want ma Nanny and ma Cleaner!!!!

The state of British mainstream feminism has long been abysmal. All the major players seem to be massive transphobes, there’s court cases about people’s desire to abuse trans people and overall it has the feeling that they’re actually just in favour of them not being bothered by anything than a movement for women from all backgrounds and histories. And never was that White Feminist Approach demonstrated better than this week, when Owen Jones gently suggested that if you have a cleaner, you should pay them to stay at home, because the UK is only second to the US when it comes to Covid 19, with packed public transport posing a major risk for commuters. In case you don’t know who he is, Owen Jones is a British labour activist, a gay dude (this will be important later), a journalist, an antifascist and if that wasn’t bad enough, his major crime is being an ally to trans people. This turned into a furious row on Twitter with the who is who of White British Feminism* descending on him like it was judgement day with at least two published articles to follow.

Twitter screenshot

 

Owen Jones: Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so: if someone can afford a cleaner, they should be paying them to stay at home and doing their own cleaning – they ‘ve certainly got the time to do it, otherwise they are a shockingly selfish human being.

Sarah Ditum: I don’t have more time in lockdown, I have less because I’m sharing my workspace with two teens and and another adult. There’s more dirt, because of the more people [sic]. the cleaning is killing me and this is a bad take.

 

Now, if Ditum had stopped after the first sentence she might have had a point: Corona parents are terribly stressed out because suddenly you’re a teacher for different age groups, have to cook all the meals the family would usually have at school/work and all of that while doing your job in home office. And there are good and valuable conversations about care work and the roll back on gender roles right now. Sarah isn’t part of them. Presumably exhaustion from cleaning. I don’t want to sound like supermummy, but I have two kids and a job as well and my husband is away during the week and so far cleaning hasn’t killed me. Mostly because I ignore it. It’s ok, I chose the flooring with having “how well does it hide dirt” in mind (very well).

Owen suggests that she might actually do something about the division of care work in her home:

Owen Jones: Get your teenagers to clean – we operated a rota system growing up to distribute daily household chores – and don’t force mostly low paid women to risk their health or even lives because that’s extremely selfish behaviour?

Sarah Ditum: Get my teenagers to clean? Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so

Remember, this is somebody who regularly claims that parents are making their children trans because, well, who knows. And hey, I kind of agree, making my teen do her chores certainly doesn’t have a fun tax added, but I’m in the business of raising competent adults who can look after themselves so yes, she still has to empty the dishwasher. We have a sort of clock with their pics on it. Occasionally my husband threatens to take the laundry that hasn’t been put away back to his place and he only washes whatever is in the hamper. But not Sarah Ditum’s poor children (what happened to the husband?)! I think I met a couple of Sarahs in parent teacher talks.

Me: Your son doesn’t do his tasks, only does what he wants and gets very angry when he’s reprimanded.

Mother: He’s never like this at home!

Me: What chores does he have to do at home?

Mother: Chores? My son doesn’t have to do any chores!

If that wasn’t bad enough, her pal Janice Turner chimes in:

 

Twitter screenshot

Owen Jones: I have a twin sister and two elder brothers: we were all expected to do housework from the age of 11, using a daily rota system dividing up chores. I don’t understand why teenagers cannot be expected to do this?

Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? It’s not like those “we used to hop 15 miles through the snow on one foot” pieces of commentary, just a simple memory from a not too long ago childhood. You’re a family, you stick together, you live together, you take responsibility. Apparently for Janice Turner, mother to two teenage sons and supposedly married to a full grown ass man suggesting that your teens do chores is misogyny:

Janice Turner: Free online parenting and household management classes from a childless mansplainer. Mothers thank you for your service, Owen.

Now, apart from the homophobic dog whistle about a “childless man”, mothers are invoked. Welcome to the cult of true motherhood, as evidenced in the next tweet.

Janice Turner: Be great if Owen addressed the reason most families have cleaners. Not lazy bitches “with time on their hands” or crap mothers who won’t draw up rotas for teenage kids. But men. Men don’t do their share. Instead of hating on women tell the dude to pick up a fucking mop.

You mean like Mr. Ditum and Mr. Turner? Because both women are married to afaict able bodied men who are perfectly capable of picking up a fucking mop, as are their teenagers, three of them being of the male persuasion. When are they supposed to learn how to pick up a mop? But as I said, that’s work. Getting a teenager to do something is no task for the lilly-livered, I can tell you, nor is it to have those complicated conversations about the division of housework with your male partner. Turner’s solution: Make another woman come in and do it. That’s how your teenage sons learn responsibility and equality. Because according to her, most families have cleaners. Probably even her cleaner. While she is cleaning other people’s houses, somebody else is cleaning hers. Actually it’s just a big fucking pyramid scheme where we pass around the same 100 bucks to pay each other to clean our houses. This goes well past “middle class privilege” and takes it well into “colonial times erasure of all women who are not part of the ruling class” territory.  It reminds me of the heroines of Jane Austen novels (I love Jane Austen novels): they struggle with financial hardship and consider themselves poor because they can only employ two or three servants.

Caroline Criado Perez, another UK feminist (her dad was the CEO of Safeway, if you need to guess her economic background), teetering on the brink of an epiphany:

Twitter screenshot

Right, where’s the Mr Ditum, Mr Ditum junior, Mr Turner, Mr Turner junior and Mr Turner junior shaped gap in the analysis?

You’d think it couldn’t get any worse, would you? I’m sorry…

Twitter screenshot

Again, Owen Jones agrees: men should pick up the tab instead of making other women risk their lives. Reasonable, or????

Owen Jones: Men should be shamed into doing their fair share of housework: couldn’t agree more.

But forcing largely low paid women, who also have to juggle their low paid work with unpaid household labour –  to risk the health and lives of themselves and their families is disgraceful.

Janice Turner: No one is “forcing” them. People are making arrangementsso their cleaners are safe, providing gloves, anti-bac and staying out of the house whilst they are there. Believe it or not[,] many people, even cleaners, actually want to return to work. It makes them feel useful and normal.

I’m sorry if your jaw is hurting from the impact with the floor, but I did kinda warn you. Remember these people are also huge SWERFS (Sex Work Excluding (Radical) Feminists) who claim that all sex workers are forced into sex work and in need of rescue. When it’s their carpets, suddenly economic force is no longer a thing. Also, Janice, antibacterial shit isn’t any good when talking about a virus. But that’s just the running up to the “Arbeit macht frei” finale at the end of the tweet. Didn’t you know, people who employ cleaners aren’t exploiting usually racialised labour. No, they’re actually doing those women a favour because what sense of worth would they have without the approval of a white woman who keeps mispronouncing their name?

Also, you’re not staying out of the house for the benefit of the cleaner, you’re doing it because that person just had to commute to your place which potentially exposed them to Covid 19.

But we’re still missing some players. Here I present Julie Bindel with an especially interesting take:

Twitter screenshot

Julie Bindel: I can only assume that abny male socialist giving instructions to women about the ethics of having a cleaner chooses not to consume pornography. After all, the women abused in the porn trade have their exploited ‘labour’ to the most extreme degree. [sic]

 

Julie Bindel is a political lesbian, aka somebody who is not actually that much into women but just not into men, who claims that bisexuality is a fake hobby for straight women, and who is here accusing a gay man of exploiting women in the production of porn he may or may not watch. It can’t get any more bizarre than this. Maybe it’s her own apparently confused ideas about sexual orientation that are showing. Does she think that gay men are actually political homosexuals because while they actually fancy women they just don’t want to have any kind of relationship with them because they’re secretly all MGTOW misogynists?

I’ve taken you on quite ride, and it should have a worthy finale, so here it is:

Twitter screenshot

 

Sarah Ditum: Yep that would be a good way to deal with this, if I had a cleaner. But I don’t, I’m just knackered and deeply irritated by Owen’s presumption that everyone has a bunch of free time at the moment

Plot twist: Sarah Ditum doesn’t have a cleaner, but she is willing to lay down the lives of other people’s cleaners for your right to a clean kitchen. But she has since gone on (presumably well paid) record stating that she will get one as soon as she can, because she really doesn’t want to negotiate housework with her household, who are simultaneously grown ass adults and teenagers and who still leave peanutbutter smudges on door handles like toddlers. But instead of calling that piggy back, she’d rather yell at some other woman to clean up that mess.

 

*There are decent British feminists worth that name, somehow they don’t seem to get that many columns and newspaper slots…

 

 

** The author of this text has written it while repeatedly helping her kid with her homework, doing a WhatsApp English class and making the kid empty the dishwasher. Don’t you fucking dare to accuse me of not knowing how busy these times are.

The intrinsic link between misogyny and white supremacy

On the thread about the recent right wing terrorist attack in Germany, we had a slight disagreement about the role of misogyny in that particular attack.  I decided to give that an extra post for several reasons. For one I didn’t want to get into that discussion on that thread, when we are all in basic agreement about the fascist nature of that attack. For another I don’t want to play “oppression olympics”, making this attack on young migrants some sort of white women’s woe. And finally I think it’s important to talk about these matters in a more general way, to raise awareness about the links between misogyny, white supremacy and how the former is a “gateway drug” for the latter.

The terrorist attack in Hanau shows many similarities to other recent right wing terrorist attacks: El Paso, Christchurch, Halle. The terrorist talked openly about their murder fantasies, they talked about exterminating groups of people, they tried to broadcast their attacks for maximum effect. And they were also misogynists. Sorry that the link is in German, I hope Google translate is passable. This is no coincidence. White supremacists are by nature concerned with two things:

  1. Making white babies themselves with good white women. The Hanau terrorist detailed how he “suffered” from not being able to find a good white woman (claiming that some Deep State organisation prevented him from doing so). this is a common thread among many right wingers. It’s not a bad joke when you say sexually frustrated men are a risk group. There’s a very clear correlation between a lack of women and right wing success in East Germany.  In those rural areas with few opportunities women tend to leave. They are better educated and also work in professions that are needed everywhere. They leave behind men who we tend to call “Wendeverlierer”, the losers of the reunification: They lost their jobs or didn’t find a job in an area that they deem worthwhile. Even now that many of them do have a job, there’s still no woman who dreams of living in a dying small town in the middle of nowhere.

These men usually have very “traditional views” on relationships and family life. They’re stuck somewhere in the 1960s (interestingly in the 1960s of West Germany) while the women are in the 2020s. It’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy when they talk about missing things many of us take as ordinary things: a partner, a family, an intact personal support system, until you remember that they also think they are owed these things by women and that it’s feminism and the immigrants’ fault that they’re not getting it. Which links up to #2

  1. Keeping other men from making babies with the white women they deem their property. The fear of “miscegenation” is strong with them as you can see in these covers from one of the bigger German right wing magazines (I’m sorry you’ll have to open the thing in twitter to see the full pics. Or don’t. They’re racist as fuck):

Men of colour are painted as both sexual predators from whom the white women must be protected, as well as a threat to white men’s access to white women. Especially young muslim men are their object of hatred: They are presumed to have more patriarchal views and societies, they are able to live the life those white men think they are owed, and on top of that they have to pay lip service denouncing those men in order to maintain the mainstream narrative of our societies being superior because “we” “respect” women. It’s quite telling how those who pre 2015 told women they need to dress modestly are now vigorously defending miniskirts.

Young male refugees present an additional danger. Not only do they tilt the gender balance some more, they also embody a lot of the stereotypes those men base their value on. Those young men have often seen war and violence. They had to prove themselves and make it against terrible odds. They are fighters and survivors. In short, they em,body everything those dudes think that men should be and they are not. As we know those men don’t even need to be anywhere close. At the height of the racist Pegida demonstrations there were five protestors for every Muslim in Saxony.

The “men of colour as a threat” is of course also an angle that gets white women attracted to far right groups, though so far they have constantly lower support among women than among men.

I hope these two points demonstrate why white supremacists are also always misogynists. They want a clear hierarchical structure with them at the top and they cannot get this without doing what men everywhere have done for millenia: controlling the fertility of women and others capable of having children. You will not find a white supremacist who is not a misogynist, or one who isn’t against abortion on demand (they aren’t against all abortions, though, let’s remember the recent eugenics debates).

Lastly I would like to come back to something I mentioned at the top: misogyny as a gateway drug. Now I have to formulate this carefully because I don’t want this to come off wrong: In many parts of society it is more acceptable to say misogynist shit than it is to say racist or antisemitic shit. I’m not talking about attitudes, just about the “saying it out loud” part. While many centrist people will quickly shush their own for talking favourably about Hitler, it hardly ever happens when some dude complains about women not fucking them. Or women having a career. German has it’s own horrible word for mothers who do not dedicate 24/7 to their kids: We are “Rabenmütter” raven mothers (which proves they know just as much about ravens as about anybody else). Attitudes like “women are naturally better with children” and “a child needs his mother” are widespread and can act as a gateway into the right wing mindset. A guy who feels lonely can easily get sucked into the world of right wing conspiracies, finally finding the culpable for his own personal woes.

Right Wing Terrorism: I’d like to mourn , but I’m too angry

As you may have heard already, there was a right wing terrorist attack in the German city of Hanau. The terrorist killed 9 people, mostly Kurds in two hookah lounges, went home, killed his mother and then himself. His manifesto is the typical mix of racism, incel misogyny and conspiracy theories. This attack only comes a few days after police arrested a right wing terrorist network that had planned attacks on mosques, trying to start a civil war.

It also comes after a couple of weeks into a political crisis started without need by the German liberals and Conservatives in Thuringia who voted together with the far right AfD for a liberal candidate for the Ministerpräsident. The discussions afterwards were endless rehashes of the bullshit horseshoe theory, as if the Left candidate who’d governed Thuringia for the last 5 years was the illegitimate son of Mao and Stalin, when at best he would have passed as a Social Democrat in poor light in the 1980s.

We’ve had the murder of a conservative(!) mayor by Nazis last year, we’ve had an antisemitic terrorist attack in Halle last year, when only a sturdy door prevented a massacre. Yes, right wing terrorism is a growing threat in Germany, yet still our politicians act like it isn’t. Even when talking about the horrible terrorist attack last night, the former leader of the Social Democrats (that’s Labour for the Brits) had this to say on Twitter:

“The enemy of democracy stands on the right [6 words in the original tweet]: It’s undeniable that left wing scatterbrains beat up police officers, set fire to cars and dumpsters and cause lots of monetary damage time after time. All of this is bad and mustn’t be played down [30 words]. #hanau”

That’s 9 words on right wing terrorism that just killed 10 innocent people, 30 words on “left wing terrorism” that causes damage against property. That’s equating burning dumpsters with dead Kurds. That’s zero words of condolence for the survivors, for the friends and family of the victims. That’s zero words towards our fellow citizens, friends, family, neighbours who are afraid to go to a café, a lounge, a Döner take away, a mosque because they have to fear for their lives because racists think they should be dead because of their skin colour, looks, ethnic origin or religion.

That’s contemptible, and Gabriel’s tweet is just the tip of the iceberg.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families, to all racially marginalised people in Germany who again not only have to see how their own get murdered, but also how those in charge play down right wing terrorism and compare them to dumpsters.

Teacher’s Corner: She did what?

Many things happened since the last Teacher’s Corner. I don’t always have the time or energy or emotional strength to post about them, because mostly they involve vulnerable kids in difficult situations. Today’s story is a different one. It’s one about a good kid from a good family (whatever that means) and a serious WTF moment.

Some of the boys in grade seven told me today that their classmate J (home sick) has my WhatsApp number. I was like “yeah, you’re kidding”. I thought they tried to provoke me, with J being at home and not there to defend himself, but then they went on describing my profile image in detail, and while “you with your family” may still be part of cold reading, “with some blue box around you” really isn’t.

I went straight to the phone to call his parents because I had no clue where he could have gotten hold of my private mobile number. the father cleared up the matter: two years ago we had a charity run through the local woods and as part of our volunteer group, his mum had access to my phone number. She’d then passed it on to her darling teenage son “in case of an emergency”* and left it at that.

Now I can only hope that he just bragged about it without sharing it. I’d hate it if I’d have to get a new number. But I know why “dual sim” was another criterion for the new phone.

Just in case any parents ever wonder why teachers are sometimes “like that”. Even if you are the nicest, most trustworthy people, your fellow parents have ruined it for good.

History Rhymes – the Betrayal of Kurds

In my country, the Munich Agreement is still perceived as one of the most important lessons of history – the lesson being that western allies are not to be relied upon and that meeting the demands of fascist authoritarians only leads to further demands.

The recent betrayal of Kurds by the USA, via their imbecilic and barely literate president, has many similarities. And many more will follow, including mass graves.

The behavior of Turks, as I observed it on Twitter – before turning away in disgust – is jingoistic and racist, celebrating the violence being perpetrated and cheering the prospect of Kurds being driven into the desert. It drives home another similarity – Turks see Kurds just as Germans saw Slavs prior to WW2 – as lesser, as subhuman, as beings not worthy of consideration. Racism towards Kurds is, at this moment, one of the most prominent and defining features of being a “true Turk”.

Turkish persistent denial of the Armenian genocide is a stain on the country’s reputation and now they are starting another one. And the USA, the self-appointed world policeman, just watches and supplies weapons. Turkey is in NATO after all.

Legal Defense Fundraiser: Get your Pretties, part 3

 

Last, but definitely not the least. Please see this post for how this all works. The exception here is that this will be an auction. So what are you bidding on? A necklace and matching earrings made to your specifications. The images are therefore just samples of what I can do for you. Thanks to Marcus I now have a wide range of different woods to work with, as well as other material from moss over algae to withered bones. If you want to bid on this, just send an email to our usual address: affinitysubmissions @ gmail.com (without the space) and tag it with “defense fund”. I’ll frequently update you to the current highest bid. This will run until the 10th of September, 12:00 blog time. The starting bid is 20$, should two people offer the same amount, the first person will win.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Necklace

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved
One of the matching earrings

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Mermaid necklace 1

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Mermaid necklace 2

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Mermaid earrings

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Wood and resin necklace and earrings

 

Feel free to browse through the other posts tagged “resin” and yell, eh comment if there’s something you like.

 

Legal Defense Fundraiser: Get your Pretties, part 2

Part two of the fundraiser. Please see this post for how this all works.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

All the Bird in the Sky, necklace 15$. This will come with silver coloured necklace that is attached to the sides. The item is about 3″ across. The unicorn is not part of this as my sister snatched it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Pine cone in resin, $10. Turquoise and gold, about 2″ across.

bottle

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Bottled sea. The item you’ll receive may vary from the pic. It comes with a hook and jumpring so you can attach it to a necklace. I’m getting a lot of interest when wearing these.

Legal Defense Fundraiser: Get your Pretties, part 1

As you all know, our friends and colleagues are still being sued and while it looks good for them in the legal sense, the cost of defending themselves against this nonsense is prohibitive, so they all need a bit of help. So here’s your chance to do good for yourself and our friends and get some pretties. After all it’s almost Christmas anyway and if you celebrate you can never get your gifts too early. I’m therefore going to sell some of my resin art. All items are handcrafted and made with love as a secret ingredient. Every piece is unique, so make sure to get your favourites quick.

Here’s how this is going. I will sell most things for a fixed and really affordable price. Unless specified, that price will not include a chain or leather cord unless specified, because it wouldn’t make sense. I’d just have to add the cost to the price and then you’d end up with what I have, not what you want. The price will also not include postage. I’ll calculate postage once I know where you live and then tell you the amount. I’ll ship from Germany, which is reasonable, even to the USA, compared to the other way around. Which is good for me, since I’ll donate the shipping. that means you buy an item, I tell you the total (price plus shipping rounded to the next dollar), you donate to the go fund me and mail me your receipt. Please use our regular email address for this: affinitysubmissions @ gmail.com. Just remove the space around the @. Then I’ll ship your items. Feel free to ask questions if I didn’t express myself clearly.

So, let’s move to the goodies. All of them are about 1″ in diameter. If they’re missing a cap, that’ll be added, as well as a jump ring. They are all 5$ each. For more pretties please see part 2 and part 3.

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved