Some good news: Self ID is coming to Germany!

I’m not going to waste many words on the shortcomings of our current government. Sometimes you could think the libertarians had won and absolute majority and weren’t just the most junior of the three partners, but while their youth is turning more and more pro fascist, the current leaders still have some classic liberal values.

Ages ago, our constitutional court declared the “Transsexuellengesetz” (transsexuals law) of 1981 to be unconstitutional some while ago, because it’s frankly menschenverachtend (that’s a German word you need : despising humans and humanity. Stronger than inhumane), but the ruling conservatives had blocked any sensible attempts to reform it, so up to this date trans people still needed to have their actual gender validated by psychiatrists, who got to poke their nose into people’s most intimate things like masturbation habits. Yes, if you’re wondering what that tells you about somebody being trans or not, you’re not alone. And trans people had to pay out of pocket for that particular privilege.

The proposed new process is as easy and streamlined as I believe it to be possible for Germany: You go to the registry office, declare your gender, pay a small fee, have it changed. This can only be done once a year.

Of course, transphobes are frothing at their mouths, wailing about how men will now just enter the women’s sauna. Somebody smartly pointed out on Twitter, why that is nonsense. Let’s take our hypothetical cis male pervert who wants to spy on the ladies in the women’s sauna. He goes to the registry office to change his gender. Congratulations, she’s female now. Her name changes and all her official documents. Her employer is informed, if she’s married, so is her spouse, her health insurance is informed, every doctor she visits has her listed as female. Only when she comes to the sauna, the owners tell her to fuck off, it’s a private business. So she sues the sauna. She spends a lot of money on this, probably raising a lot of media attention, all the time being gendered female. Does that sound a realistic scenario for some cis dude who wants to harass women? I mean, there’s enough mixed saunas around.

Let’s say she wins in court and the sauna has to let her use the women’s sauna. Does he now get to harass the ladies there? No, because harassing people is illegal for women, too. Something many terves don’t seem to understand, since they spend so much time doing it.

Karen Should Not be Used as an Insult

It is not racist, It is not ableist, yet I still think that it should not be used as an insult, not by people who care about doing just by others.

In my opinion, there are several reasons that make ableist and racist insults not OK. One of them is obviously the long and painful history behind these words. This connects with the punching down when a dominant group uses words describing members of a group that is subjugated or discriminated against as insults, thus perpetuating negative stereotypes. These two of course do not apply to the word Karen. There is no long history of discriminatory/derogatory use and there is no punching down against a persecuted minority.

But there are more reasons that do apply, and to me, they are enough for me to conclude the statement in the title.

The first of those is the broad brush that paints people with certain characteristics as being all the same. You might see it as me arguing “not all white women are Karens” but that is not the case. I am arguing that not all Karens are Karens.

That continues on to the second argument – associating completely irrelevant, innocuous characteristics of a group of people with negative characteristics of some members of that group. Like connecting skin color with low intelligence or propensity to criminal behavior. Or like associating an ordinary, everyday name of some people of a certain group with being an obnoxious, self-righteous, and entitled asshole. Not the same thing, but in my opinion similar enough.

The third argument that I wish to mention is the association of characteristics that any given person has little to no power of changing with negative character flaws. Associating black skin with thuggery does not differ from associating someone’s name with assholery in principle, it only differs in degree and some context.

And lastly, I cannot of course speak for everyone, but my name and its derivative nickname that my close friends use, are very personal things to me. I could not and would not change it. I know people who changed names (trans people), but they never felt the connection with their given name that I feel with mine for reasons that are well beyond the scope of this short article. I would not take it well if my name – which by sheer coincidence differs from Karen in one single letter despite coming from entirely different etymological roots – became a meme and subsequently an insult. Even if there is only one white woman named Karen who is not a selfish, entitled, and racist asshole, I think it is still too unjust to her to use her personal name as an insult. And statistically speaking, it is unlikely there is only one.

I might not be right in this, but you won’t hear or read me using Karen as a go-to term for white asshole women. I will use the longer descriptive terms on an individual basis where and when they are relevant unless and until I am convinced that my reasoning here is ronk.

Leftists Gone Bad

I am a subscriber of a number of leftist YouTube channels, but over time I have also unsubscribed from one rather quickly. Because I have realized that the author very carefully curates an untrue vision of history, and his audience is all for it.

I am not going to link to the channel in question because I do not wish to direct any traffic to it. They might have changed their tune and the way they run their channel and its comment sections since. I do not know. I do not care. I am not one of those who hold a grudge and hate-watch/hate-read (more on that later too). So I am only going to give you the gist of the situation. You are free to not believe any of it if you are inclined to distrust my word.

The channel got my attention with a video about scientific racism, which was rather good. I have watched several other videos of theirs that were recommended via the algorithm, and those were about world hunger and poverty and they were good too. So I subscribed and next time when I got a video recommended, I watched it. And I was rather taken aback. It was an entirely uncritical piece about pre-WW2 USSR, singing the praises of the regime, how it gave people education and lifted people from poverty, etc. I have briefly pointed in the comment section that whilst the regime did have positive sides for some people, it also had a rather ugly underbelly. And as examples, I have pointed out the Holodomor and the Genocide of Crimean Tatars since these two examples spring most readily to my mind.

Shortly after that comment, I have unsubscribed from the YouTuber and I have disabled any notification regarding that comment section. Because I have been immediately dogpiled by people who either outright denied that the two above-mentioned atrocities happened at all, or they were blaming them on the people who were their targets. They did not even bother with whataboutism and went straight to denial and victim-blaming! This was my first experience with “Tankies“. I had several more encounters since then, and I sometimes get these vibes even in comments here on FtB, although thankfully not as explicit and overt (and maybe I am being too sensitive about this issue, having lived behind the Iron Curtain?).

That is one example of lefties gone bad – people who refuse to learn from history and are willing, nay, eager, to repeat its mistakes. They are no better than the Holocaust deniers and neo-nazis on the right. We must not forget that many of the things that today are leftist issues – like LGBTQ rights and environmentalism – were most emphatically NOT seen as leftist in that regime. And sure, USSR was not racist towards black people the way the USA was at the time, but it is easy to proclaim you are not a racist towards a minority that is all but non-existent in your country. There were more than a few cases of systemic racism within the former Eastern bloc too.

These and many others are the main reasons why many people here in CZ are reluctant to actually call themselves leftists, or vote openly leftist parties, even though when asked about specific policies they most definitively are leftist. The existence of leftist extremism is real and it serves no useful purpose to deny it and the harm it has done and keeps doing to progress.

The second example about which I wish to say just a little bit is the case of Lindsay Ellis. I have not watched her videos regularly and I was not a subscriber. But I did watch her videos about transphobia last year and they were good. So I was surprised to learn that in December last year she has given up on YouTube – which was her job – and has claimed to be canceled by the left. I have looked into it as much as my time has allowed  – which included watching her video Mask Off in several sessions (it is very long) – and I have concluded that she was indeed canceled, and unlike J. K. Rowling, it was over a triviality that was misinterpreted and totally blown out of proportions.

There seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the internet who obsessively hate-watch and hate-read people they dislike and hoard anything that might be interpreted unfavorably by the purist left to have ready-prepared lists of transgressions to dump on the internet in case their favorite hate target gets in the spotlight by putting a foot wrong. I know for a fact that there were such people reading Affinity for example, and Slymyepiters are a rather famous example of these people with regard to Pharyngula. I must say that I find it rather creepy when someone has a ready-to-go list of someone’s years-long deleted tweets/video clips etc. I also find it disconcerting that there seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the left who immediately jump to the least-favorable interpretation of something taken out of context and gleefully join a dogpile with the intent to hound someone off the internet without bothering to first get the facts right and/or consider that people might 1) just make mistakes and/or 2) change over time so a “transgression” from a decade ago might not be indicative or relevant to who they are today, even if not stripped of proper context and interpretation.

I really do not know what to make of it all, but today I was re-reading Terry Pratchetts’ Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum and the following quote seemed really appropriate:

The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.

Women Educators on YouTube – Classicist – Lady of the Library

I haven’t watched more of her videos than this one, they do not seem to be exactly what would interest me. But this one did interest me and it was informative. Until recently, I did not know there are conspiracists who deny the existence of well-documented and researched history (apart from Nazi Holocaust deniers that is, I knew about those). Apparently historians – just like climate scientists, physicians, physicists and biologists – are engaging in yuuge conspiracies all the time.

It makes me despair, really. The world seems to have no shortage of proud, loud, outspoken, and self-confident ignoramuses.

No, Heather, hating your spouse is not normal

I’ve noticed this phenomenon before: women, often self declared feminists, write about their fundamental unhappiness in their heterosexual marriages. They then often try to reason that this is normal and inevitable. It’s no wonder these women are also often deeply transphobic, as they need to pin the source of their suffering down to some weird “biology” instead of either discussing social issues or, heavens forbid, personal issues, especially of themselves.

Heather starts by making a trivial observation that most people in any long term relationship, whether romantic or not, will agree with:

After 15 years of marriage, you start to see your mate clearly, free of your own projections and misperceptions. This is not necessarily a good thing.

The Austrian author Robert Musil once remarked that a good friend is somebody you actually can’t stand. Because in any deep relationship, you are allowed to show the signs that are not pretty. You’re allowed to have bad days, be a flawed human being, and leave the toothpaste unscrewed. I think we can all agree that the better you know somebody, the more intimate your relationship becomes, the better you get to know all their character flaws. But they also get to know yours, so that’s ok. Had Heather written an open ed about all those little quirks and compromises that make up a relationship, her article would have been equally unoriginal as uncontroversial. But Heather didn’t stop there, Heather decided to air all the dirty laundry on a husband she seems to be still married to. Did I say “dirty laundry”? Because this is how she describes her husband the first time that we meet him in the text:

When encountering my husband, Bill, in our shared habitat, I sometimes experience him as a tangled hill of dirty laundry. “Who left this here?” I ask myself, and then the laundry gets up to fetch itself a cup of coffee.

This is not an illusion; it’s clarity. Until Bill has enough coffee, he lies in a jumble on the couch, listening to the coffee maker, waiting for it to usher him from the land of the undead. He is exactly the same as a heap of laundry: smelly, inert, almost sentient but not quite.

If I ever write about somebody I claim to love like this, please whack me over the head and take away my internet because holy shit. Throughout the whole article I’m wondering if Bill knew about this before it was published and how he’s feeling, because this is simply cruel. Oh sure, she then writes a full three lines about his positive aspects before descending again into a diatribe about how aweful living with him is. She comes to this, in her view universal conclusion: Because her husband makes sounds like a normal human being (can you imagine, the guy sneezes!):

This is why surviving a marriage requires turning down the volume on your spouse so you can barely hear what they’re saying.

First note the phrasing. It’s not “for a marriage to survive”, it’s “surviving a marriage” as if that relationship was a life threatening ordeal. But maybe, just maybe, no longer speaking and listening to your partner is what makes your marriage such a miserable place to be in. I’m not going to give marriage counselling here, but I actually do enjoy talking to my husband and listening to him. We’re each others emotional support system. we chat and we vent, we give advice and support. It wasn’t something that can naturally to either of us. Or maybe it did and my parents beat it out of me, I don’t know, but to us, this is what sharing our lives means, and when we’re done with the talking, we can take comfort in each others presence. Any partner would be justifiably upset if their love declared them only barely bearable. Yet the author doesn’t see anything troublesome about her paragraphs over paragraphs on how horrible her spouse is (mind you, I haven’t read anything that would make me think that Bill is actually a bad guy. His major crime seems to be existing in proximity to his wife):

Do I hate my husband? Oh for sure, yes, definitely. I don’t know anyone who’s been married more than seven years who flinches at this concept. A spouse is a blessing and a curse wrapped into one. How could it be otherwise? How is hatred not the natural outcome of sleeping so close to another human for years?

See, it’s that overgeneralising I talked about at the very start of this post. Whoever objects to this is quickly dismissed:

“Well, speak for yourself. I don’t hate my husband,” one of you holier-than-thou marrieds might announce, folding your hands primly in your lap. Do you think I can’t see your left eye twitching ever so slightly, as you resolve to never let each little irritation add up and move into your conscious mind like a plastic bag floating out to sea and then joining the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

You. Cannot. Not. Hate. Your. Spouse.

Because if you could, then the problem would be Heather and Bill and their marriage. If you could, then maybe this wasn’t some fate you cannot escape, some martyrdom you are destined to experience, but some very mundane issues that arise in most relationships that you can work on. Bill leaves his dirty socks around? Do talk to each other. Bill keeps forgetting to pay the bills? Find a solution that works and hopefully doesn’t risk your mortgage. Or if you find out that you cannot resolve the issues, do get a divorce. But Heather isn’t interested in solutions, she’s interested in telling us how bad she has it, taking us on a family trip to Australia, where her husband comes from.

She tells us about all the things she did on the journey and how travelling around the globe with kids isn’t exactly fun. And yes, I’m wondering: Where’s Bill? It sounds like a typical situation of how women are often burdened with organising trips, doing emotional labour, caring for the children, putting up a brave face. And if that’s the issue, that again isn’t an intrinsic problem of being married to a guy. It’s a social problem and a relationship problem. And it’s not easy to navigate those issues in a relationship. But I’m 100% sure that venting in an international newspaper isn’t going to solve the problem. Though, I must admit that by now I’m already considering her such an unreliable narrator that I’m wondering how much of this is her own doing. Take this part, for example:

Who engages in the 105th hour of an ongoing discussion about Bill’s Bad Knee, which includes speculation, revised imaginary diagnoses, and in-depth analysis of a level of pain that she herself would file under Not Worth Mentioning at All, Ever, Not Even for a Second?

Whose fault is it exactly that she isn’t able to voice that she’s in pain? Whose fault is it that Bill is comfortable saying “I have a medical issue and I need some rest” while she’s soldiering on? Again we have gender stereotypes but also a blank refusal to acknowledge them as well as a blank refusal to take responsibility. I get the impression that she is one of those people who love to complain, but never change anything that would take away the basis of the complaint. Because she sure loves to complain a lot:

And when we arrive at that island in the Great Barrier Reef, the one populated at this time of year by thousands of birds, birds squawking and cawing and clucking and screeching, birds every two feet, bird droppings covering literally every inch of ground, who makes up a game where the first person to get hit by flying bird poop wins an ice cream cone?

Can you believe it? There are birds. In nature. Who allowed that?

Who says it’s OK for one kid not to snorkel? Who says it’s OK for both kids to snorkel without her, since she gets seasick? Who goes snorkeling anyway because both kids want Mommy there, since Daddy will ignore them because he’s super-jacked to snorkel the hell out of the Great Barrier Reef? Who asks the snorkeling guide if she’d be better off in the boat if she’s starting to feel queasy?

Again, this is not a sentence chiselled into stone. It’s a relationship dynamic. It’s one you easily fall into when you’re a woman married to a man. It’s something you can change. Unless your dude is actively endangering the children, in which case I want to know why you’re married to the guy and had not just one, but two children with him, he can take care of them. Don’t just let him, make him. FFS, talk to him! Does Bill actually know that you’re feeling terrible? Or is it another one of those “Not Worth Mentioning” things (except in a national newspaper)? Or do you expect him to read your mind, Heather? Yes, that’s exactly what Heather expects. After enlightening us that her issues with snorkelling aren’t actually her issues, but universally acknowledged truths, she tells us this gem:

And then who gets sick, as predicted, but doesn’t say a single word about it, even as a wave of colorful fish swarms the scene and everyone marvels and wonders why they suddenly appeared, like magic?

Let’s recap this: She went out for an activity the rest of the family enjoyed, but she found out made her sick. Instead of talking to her husband and telling him to please take care of the children, she plays the martyr and goes snorkelling with her children. This makes her sick and miserable. She still doesn’t tell anybody, but probably keeps on smiling. And then it’s obviously everybody else’s fault. Can’t they see what a great warrior she is?

I’ve been feeling ill since we arrived on the ferry. There is no air-conditioning and there are no screens on the windows because we are now honorable eco-warrior vacationers. I have a cut on my finger that I’m pretty sure is infected. I’ve been battling insomnia for over a year. But I don’t say a word about how bad I feel. You don’t believe me, but it’s true! Thanks to writing an advice column for years. I have evolved, unlike my spouse. I am so good, so thoughtful, so generous.

No, Heather, instead of talking to your family like normal people do, arranging time for you to wind down, probably going to a doctor to get something for the insomnia or that infected cut, you write about how you feel in the New York Times. How will your children feel about this? Do they know you basically described them as ungrateful brats instead of children who are basically behaving like children do? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The victim thing. The thing where the family needs to feel bad about how you are unable to have some boundaries and voice your needs.

Finally, I break.

“You ALL need to make less noise!” I announce. “And you,” I say to the big one, “you’re the worst of all. You can’t hear a noise without making another noise!”

At first they all start making noises at once. So I raise my voice. “No,” I tell them. “I can’t fix this anymore! I am broken!”

“It’s true, but …”

“I’m sorry, Mommy.”

But I can’t stop. “Who could stand this? I need a break! Go have breakfast without me!”

My family exits guiltily.

I’m sure that at this point the family is equally confused as well as feeling guilty without even knowing why, and while I can sympathise with being burned out and overwhelmed and completely at the end of your tether, I cannot sympathise with what she’s doing here. She has repeatedly told us that she didn’t say anything before. She simply swallowed all the big and little things. She didn’t say “no”, she didn’t set a boundary. She gave everyone around her the idea that Mommy was fine and enjoying herself. But again, that’s a Heather problem, not a world problem. I can understand being stressed out. I can understand an overload. I can understand being frustrated when you just spent lots of time and money on something and now your kids aren’t ohhhhing and ahhhhing (usually because they’re suffering from overload as well), but bickering. But it’s not ok to guilt trip your family. Because all they’re learning now is that mommy can snap at any moment without any previous warning. And that’s abusive.

When that outburst is over, Heather muses again how hatred is intrinsic to marriage. And sure, change is needed in their relationship, she clearly sees that. Bill needs to change! Because, and now I suggest you sit down before you read on:

During these talks, I encourage Bill to be more like me: Give up control. Relax. Let these birds make their noises, and they’ll quiet down quickly. When you treat them like they’re doing it wrong, it only gets worse.

Is this satire? Because I remember reading whole paragraphs about how horrible the birds are and how she needs to organise and smooth out every single obstacle that appeared. How can you write that whole text and then think that this describes you? Apparently the author has written a whole book on marriage, to be released come February, and I suppose they gave her this open ed as a promo. I can also imagine this book becoming a bestseller among a certain demographic: White middle class women in the UK and the US, who find out that the dream they were promised hasn’t come true. The promise of equality often only worked to the extend that they have their careers, but once the children arrive, their liberal husbands unconsciously mutate into their own fathers. I always say that women have changed a lot in the last 50 years, men have not (yes, I know, not all women/men). This leads to clashes, tension, unhappiness. But the solution isn’t to claim some natural order in your dissatisfaction. The solution to your husband refusing to do care work isn’t to hire a nanny and a cleaner, so you can have your liberated dream of kids and career. The solution is especially not to abuse your family in the New York Times.

Reproductive Injustice: Adding insult to injury

CN: Descriptions of periods, medical procedures, etc. But hey, if half the world can deal with this, the other half should at least know about it.

I have heavy periods. And I really mean heavy. Like the bottom is falling out. An average period is 60 ml of liquid. My mens cup holds 48 ml and I can fill that three times in an hour when it’s a bad one. Add the cramps, the migraine and the iron deficiency that goes with it and I was fed up. This is clearly an issue that affects my life and my health, so I decided that something needs to be done and that the something is an IUD. IUDs have a great success rate at reducing periods, up to not having any at all (my ob gyn mentioned this as a side effect: “But then you may not hay any periods” as if I knew any cis woman who was happy having hers). Sounds like a medical solution to a medical problem, right?

Nope, nope, nope. As a side effect, the IUD also works as contraception and we can’t have the sluts having sex without at least paying heavy money for it. That would be absurd. Because people afab need to suffer for the very fact that they have a certain biology and they are not allowed to offset the suffering by having fun sexy times. As a society we’d rather have them suffer even without fun sexy times or when they’re using a different method of birth control before we help women and others with uteri to not suffer*.

So I had to pay private for my IUD. With insertion it was 350€ and from what I know this is even cheap compared to the USA. I’m not poor, I could pay, but a poor woman can’t. This would be 75% of what a person on welfare gets a month, and the fact that with any luck this will last me five years doesn’t change that. I’m still angry about it.

So to recap, I have a medical problem, there’s a highly effective therapy, but because I get birth control as a side effect, it’s not covered by health insurance. Fuck the patriarchy.

*And if you get m,ore offended by my wording than the fact that this is happening, kindly fuck off.

Women Educators on YouTube – Architect – Belinda Carr

This Hempwood product sounds interesting. I actually think that with a bit of tinkering and upscaling of the production, it could become cheap enough to be a viable material for large-scale construction. Definitely, it could replace for example wooden OSB plates for walling. And since the fibers run lengthwise, it could also definitively be used for making load-bearing beams.

Completely independently of this – this spring I was actually really thinking about growing Hemp in my garden for fuel, but although it is legal to grow technical hemp on a patch of land up to 100 sqm, the costs of seeds are prohibitive and there is a risk of cross-pollination with someone’s illegally grown weed so producing my own seeds for future poses risks of accidentally creating hybrids whose THC levels are above the legal limit. It is not worth the potential hassle of discussions with the police. My only hope there is that hemp gets finally legalized for personal use. Until then, I will try and grow hazels, poplars, and willows on my unused land to try and reduce my personal carbon footprint.

Edit: my PC glitched out and the article was initially published with nonsensical title.

Women Artisans on YouTube – Woodworker – Ashley Harwood

I haven’t watched any other of her videos yet, and I must say that I do not like her choice of accompanying music very much*, but her handiwork is beautiful.

  • I do in fact enjoy woodturning videos most when they only have the sound of the lathe and the chisel crunching the wood. I do not know why.

Children, Accessibility, and being an entitled ass

This post was brought to you by my brother in law, so it might get ranty.

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely support people being child free. Honestly, I don’t know anybody working in education and with families who isn’t a strong supporter of contraception, family planning and thinking long and hard about whether being a parent is something that you should do.

I’m also the first to admit that children are not smallish adults, but have certain characteristics beyond age and height that make them different from adults. It’s something that makes people who like working with children enjoy their company, it is something that makes parenting an amazing journey, and it’s something that makes others not enjoy either of these things.

Nevertheless, children are people, they are part of society, they should have their needs met and accommodated. There are very few spaces where children don’t belong, and those are for their own protection, say a Shisha bar. For the rest of spaces: think about how this space can be made child friendly. Many restaurants already do this: they have a children’s menu, they have play corners (one of our favourite Asian buffet places has a whole room), and if you think about it, it’s a smart move, because children will only grow up to value a sit down meal in a nice restaurant if they learn how to behave there while young.

But there’s another level of accessibility and that is for parents. We’ve talked about this before: If you organise something, say a sceptics’ conference or something like that, think about how you can provide childcare. Because if not, overwhelmingly women will be unable to attend your event. I mean, you can go full Sam Harris and blame your sciency manly vibes that scare off fragile little damsels, or you can ask yourselves: what can we do to make sure parents can attend?

Which gets me to a different level, which is private life. And of course you get to set all sorts of boundaries  here, but you also have to live with the consequences. There’s a plethora of “Am I The Asshole” posts on Reddit where somebody decides to have a child free wedding and is then super offended when the parents in their lives decline, especially when it’s their siblings. Sorry, but weddings are expensive, and getting childcare on top of it costs a lot of money, the people who are usually watching your children are probably at the wedding as well (Hey mum, could you watch our kids while we go to your daughter’s wedding?), not to mention trusting some babysitter enough to leave them for several days. And, yes, let’s face it, parents do take this shit personal. Their children are pretty important people in their lives and if you frame their existence as a complete nuisance and burden to everyone who is even just in the same room, they might decide that your friendship isn’t worth it.

Which gets me to my brother in law. He is and has always been super entitled. He’s 11 years younger than my husband and didn’t grow up so much with a sibling than with a third overindulgent parent and he’s used to the whole family catering to him. The last two times he moved, my husband of course helped him, which meant driving a few hundred kilometres each time. I can’t remember even being reimbursed for the fuel, and I especially can’t remember him lifting a single finger when we moved. Because those are services he thinks his family has to provide.

Now he has invited us to his birthday. Come on, Giliell, you say. You said he was super entitled, but now he’s inviting you, that’s nice! Only… Well, remember the couple of hundred kilometres? Going there means spending the night. Spending the night means getting hotel rooms. For the great honour of being invited to his birthday he already expects us to spend a few hundred €. He lives in the Black Forest. Hotels ain’t cheap there. And well, we would have coughed that up, if not for the original subject of this post. We’re still in a raging global pandemic, the little one isn’t vaccinated yet, and sleeping in a hotel with her is totally out of the question for us. So we asked him, could the children stay with him for the night? I mean, his flat is bigger than our house, he has a guest room where his parents are staying, and a living room, and a studio, and a fucking library, but he doesn’t have space for his nieces. He really doesn’t want them to be in his space, because you never know. It’s not like we asked them to watch two toddlers who would paint the walls with his acrylics, or tear the pages from his books. They’re two well behaved teens who basically just want the Wifi password and food. Also his parents, who are watching the kids regularly, are also there. But nooooo, he’s afraid for his precious belongings. Which is totally reasonable in his eyes. Yet our fear for our kid is totally irrational, you know? Guess who’s currently being made out to be unreasonable…

“The silent majority agrees with me”, gender critical edition

Open letters are a time honoured form of activism. They allow individuals to connect over a single and very specific issue and raise awareness for that cause. They are, of course, also problematic in a way, since they usually are initiated by people who already have some influence and publicity, because nobody publishes an open letter signed by 40 noobs with a blog and a 50 people Twitter account, so they’re usually a tool of academia, authors, or various kinds of celebrities. At least you need a couple of celebrities to boost your idea.

The latest round of “gender critical”, aka transphobic open letter seems to have suffered from a certain lack of celebrity endorsement, which is why they decided to simply sign the names of dead women to their cause. “Come on, Giliell”, I hear you say, “nobody would be that dishonest”. But go, look for yourselves: Here it is.

The letter itself is the usual transphobic whining about trans women taking things from cis women, like all those shiny Olympic medals trans women have so far failed to win. The novel “Detransition, Baby”, by Torres Peters, has been listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The usual suspects are all up in arms because a literary prize that was founded to celebrate women’s often  undervalued contributions to fiction has dared to list a novel by a trans woman, and this is of course another instance of a “trans identified male” taking things from “biological women”, just like in sports. Only that of course they always try to base their bigotry on biology, claiming that anybody amab has intrinsic and immutable advantages over anybody afab. Does this mean they’re indirectly claiming that women cannot write and therefore need some protected prizes where they don’t have to compete with men?*

But let’s not get sidetracked from the incredible dishonesty of “the dead agree with me via ouija board”. Among the “supporters” of the letter you’ll find Emily Dickinson, Daphne du Maurier and Mary Anne Evans, aka George Elliot. Why they couldn’t get the Transphobe in Chief, the woman writer who publishes under her initials, a male pseudonym of a guy who tortured gay people, and who singlehandedly invented women back in the 1990s to sign their letter, I don’t know. Now, we all like to claim great woman of the past as our forbearers, brand ourselves as their heirs, but a simple fact is that we have no idea what their opinion on many things was or would have been. Who knows what Rosa Luxemburg would have thought about gay marriage? For a couple of other issues we do know their positions and they are horrible, especially with regards to race. Is it possible that these people would have agreed with them? Sure. Does that mean anything? Not unless you declare them infallible. Now, given that many transphobes are also terribly racist and homophobe, they probably consider that a feature, not a bug, since they happily outsource critical thinking.

It is, of course, also possible that those women would have told them to stuff it. It happens time again with modern authors who they suppose agree with their bigotry, like Margret Atwood. And after all, it is pretty unimportant. Those women are long dead, and while celebrities sure can help or hinder a cause, their opinion does not magically make a position right or wrong. Human rights are not determined by Grammy nominations or book prizes. There’s a hell lot of horrible people with book prizes or Nobel prizes. In the end that’s just an argument from second hand authority and you learn back in grade 10 that those are not actually arguments at all. By the end of the day it’s just another episode of transphobes (if you read the list you will indeed find familiar names) being terrible, and none of them sees any issue with this.

*Just to make this clear: I’m very fond of things like Women’s Prize for Fiction. We don’t have a level playing field and authors don’t get published by sole merit of their writing. Until we have a level playing field we do need Women’s Prizes, Black Literature Prizes, Queer Literature Prizes etc.

The Art of …

… ageing body positivity in portraiture, by Joan Semmel

The pictures are below the fold because they are nudes and are NSFW. They are unusual because they portray the ageing female body in a positive light. The story is from HuffPost, and the artist describes her work thusly,

“I painted in layers so that the evidence of age would not be erased by virtuoso paint handling. The sensuality of the flesh permeates these paintings, a sensuality that is not confined to youth. I had entered into a relationship with artist John Hardy, with whom I lived for 21 years before he passed away in 2014. These late years were empowering and rewarding in every sense, something I hoped to communicate through my work.

“The issues of the body from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting, have been at the core of my concerns. The carnal nature of paint has seemed to me a perfect metaphor, the specifics of image, a necessary elaboration. The last 45 years of work, I think, reveal my ongoing interest in both process and relevance.”

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