Trust women

Both of these things are true: 1) Forced-birther advocates are often misogynist in intent; 2) Forced-birther advocates are simultaneously also transphobic in impact. When arguing in favour of laws that infantilize people making decisions about what to do with their pregnancies, the rhetoric is often laced with the belief that (cis) women are flighty and thoughtless, and thus can’t make decisions for their own body. Unsurprisingly research has shown this to correlate with a variety of other misogynist beliefs.

In reality, the struggle over abortion goes back to Dr. Tiller’s slogan. The question is whether or not women can be trusted to make decisions for themselves like adults, or whether they should be relegated to second-class status, stripped of the right to bodily autonomy. Recent research, published over the past month, highlights how central this question is to the abortion debate and demonstrates that despite widespread skepticism about women’s basic decision-making capacity on the right, women are highly competent when it comes to knowing what they need and quite capable of taking control of their lives — if they are allowed to.

“The polling data that exists on abortion is so one-dimensional,” Tresa Undem, a researcher for the polling firm PerryUndem, told Salon. So Undem conducted focus groups and polling meant to go deeper, and find out what people really think about women who get abortions. What she found out was that, among those who oppose abortion, there’s a widespread belief the women who have abortions are unintelligent, irresponsible and thoughtless.

Anti-abortion respondents also seemed to believe that men understood abortion better than women. When asked whether men whose partner was having an abortion understood that it was ending a potential life, 51 percent of abortion opponents said yes. But when asked if women getting abortions understood the procedure, only 36 percent of anti-choicers agreed that a woman knows what she is doing. Abortion foes were also more likely to say they were more comfortable when women were housewives instead of seeking careers.

Very little forced-birth rhetoric reckons with the existence of transmasculine people–often the trick is to roll transmascs into “women,” and proceed from there with the similar beliefs plus added transphobia. Read more here.

-Shiv

We warned you

Although I am reluctant to signal boost the New York Times for their particularly egregious role in excusing Trump’s incompetence, they’ve published a piece by Lindy West that’s too good to pass by.

Content warning for descriptions of sexual assault:

“All rape is an exercise in power,” Brownmiller wrote in 1975, “but some rapists have an edge that is more than physical.” Sometimes, the 1975 text suggests, rapists “operate within an emotional setting or within a dependent relationship that provides a hierarchical, authoritarian structure of its own that weakens a victim’s resistance, distorts her perspective and confounds her will.” “Against Our Will” has been available in American libraries since its publication, which was in 1975.

Ansari would have been 7 or 8 years old in 1991 when a feminist group at Antioch College fought to establish the school’s Sexual Offense Prevention Policy (informally the “Antioch rules” or, more commonly, the “infamous Antioch rules”) requiring affirmative and sustained consent throughout all sexual encounters, and he was 10 when “Saturday Night Live” mocked the Antioch rules in a sketch that cast Shannen Doherty as a “Victimization Studies” major.

Also in 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailing repeated sexual harassment at the hands of her boss, Clarence Thomas, who is still on the Supreme Court. Like Ansari, I, too, was 8 in 1991, and I vividly recall my mother explaining sexual harassment to me in the living room of my childhood home: “For example, a man might say, ‘I have a big penis, and I bet you’d like me to —’ well, you know.” She cut off, disgusted.

Read more here.

-Shiv

What’s next after #MeToo

Although it is a step forward that survivors are feeling they can come forward to name their perpetrators, there is a reason we were so hesitant in the first place. None of that has necessarily budged after the #MeToo social media campaign, started by Tarana Burke in 2006.

Scores of women have felt rawdisheartened, and fatigued by the #MeToo news cycle over the past months for the obvious reason that these are transmissions of suffering and for many, reminders of exclusion. But the relentless news coverage is further disconcerting because these tales of horror are making some companies a lot of money, often by allowing one writer to dismiss and denigrate accusers in the same pages where another writer first broke the allegations.

So the perception of widespread insatiability that has so many conservatives and even liberals lamenting the fall of “due process” is not entirely off the mark. We harpies do indeed want more, much more. Even the handful of prominent men’s professional casualties isn’t quelling our appetite for revolution, which is misconstrued by some as a senseless, hysterical lust for vengeance. If anything, this growing parade of superficially disgraced figures only deepens our aggrievement: again, not by driving us to indiscriminate bloodletting, but by further whetting the craving for true change. Throw another famous gasbag into the fires of public disapproval—hell, throw them all in a fire—and see if we care. We will not be distracted or placated. A scab has been torn away and underneath is not a nearly-healed wound but a puncture so deep it drives down to the bone.

If this past year taught us anything, it was how profoundly every system one might have hoped to improve with mere reform, every institution one might have trusted to “do the right thing,” every politician who’d been positioned as a beacon of integrity, will never come to our rescue. Parity and justice and restitution are not priorities of our existing structures because those structures were designed to maintain hierarchies that make justice and parity and restitution impossible. This means that “the task ahead for women…is immense,” as Jo Livingstone writes: “It’s nothing less than a utopian project.”

You don’t get utopia by tweaking who stars in what Netflix show, or by kicking a handful of .01%-ers off the metaphorical island. The restless women of 2018 did not come seeking cosmetic corrections. We are ready for razing and remaking. Here, then, is an attempt to clear away some of the clutter so we can move on to the work most urgently at hand.

While it is important we feel ready to name the wrongdoing that occurs in our lives, we are still at incredible risk from structural problems that have yet to change. Discussed more here.

-Shiv

Oil up the guillotine

All this ink spilled hand-wringing over the minimum wage and not a single inch of column space dedicated to executives signing off seven figure bonuses for themselves. I have no patience for those kinds of thinkpieces. But this is more like it.

[Read more…]

Ending cash bail

Or, “ending extortion by law enforcement,” if you want a less whitewashed description. A stunning proportion of America’s incarcerated population has yet to even go to trial because of the practice of cash bail, penalizing poor people doubly for being unable to post their own bounty. Such incarceration disrupts their employment, which feeds back into their original problem of not being able to afford bail. The cruelty inherent in the logic of this system is a feature rather than a bug for those with authoritarian (and white supremacist) inclinations, but there is plenty of work to end the practice.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning 2.24 million out of the world’s total of 10.2 million incarcerated people as of 2013, according to the International Center for Prison Studies. The ICPS also reports that, in 2013, 480,000 people were held in U.S. jails before even being tried for their charges. The system of cash bail targets poor people who can’t afford their bail, and several major insurance companies make billions in profits from the cash bail system.

Critics of the cash bail system point to research demonstrating that cash bail discriminates against the poor, and especially poor people of color. According to a 2015 report from the Vera Institute of Justice, two in five people held in America’s jails are behind bars because they cannot afford their bail. The report also notes that 75 percent of people in jail are accused of non-violent crimes, such as shoplifting or minor traffic offenses. There’s also evidence of profound racial bias within the cash bail system. The Vera Institute reports that black Americans are jailed at almost four times the rate of their white counterparts.

While the statistics for cash bail are staggering, the cruelest injustices of this system become clear in the context of real people’s lives.

The article is relevant for any jurisdiction that still engages in the practice, even if the United States is its specific context. Read more here.

-Shiv

Sabotage the institution, then blame it for poor performance

A cornerstone of Conservative policymaking is to create the conditions for failure, then use the ensuing failure as justification for further cuts. Nowhere is this more apparent than the shameless gutting of British healthcare infrastructure, ordered by billionaires who pitch their thievery under the rhetoric of “tightening our belts,” while themselves flying out to private healthcare providers knowing full well how abysmal the public system is.

Throw their sales pitch back in their face.

In 2013, the NHS said it had a £30 billion funding gap, and the Tory response to this was to provide £8 billion in extra funding and require the NHS to find the other £22 billion in cuts. To this day, the government claims it has fully funded the NHS, by requiring it to find its own cuts. It gave the NHS a hacksaw, told it to choose a limb to amputate, and tells everyone else it saved its life by not shooting it in the head. But everyone else is not fooled. Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the health think tank the Nuffield Trust, said in 2016 that “the NHS has never experienced this level of austerity for this long a period.”

The Conservative government response to this latest crisis has been predictably shite. The NHS minister Philip Dunne caused outrage when he said “There are seats available in most hospitals where beds are not available,” in response to a question from a Labour MP about patients sleeping on the floor. May planned to demote Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a cabinet reshuffle this week. Instead, after he “argued strongly with the prime minister that he should be allowed to stay in his role,” she not only relented but expanded his brief to include social care, too.

Presumably, the logic behind this is that the NHS crisis is really a social care crisis, too. “Bed-blocking,” where elderly patients who have been treated can’t leave hospitals because they have no arrangements for care when they leave, is a rising problem. In January 2017, the Telegraph reported that bed-blocking had risen 42 percent in one year, with 193,680 “bed days” lost in November 2016.

-Shiv

Who gets to be a brave survivor?

Rape culture has many strongholds, and one that stands out is incarceration. Because of the naive perception that incarcerated people have done something wrong (most plea bargain and are never proven guilty in court), many people will excuse prison conditions as being “part of the punishment.” [Content Notice for extreme sexual violence at this link] We see this in how sexual assault is weaponized as a consequence for high-profile offenders like Brock Turner–despite the fact that survivors ourselves often object to this.

I’ve quoted the less gorey details here:

When Tarana Burke started the Me Too movement, she hoped it would elevate the voices of survivors of sexual abuse—especially the voices of women of color. Although Burke’s Me Too has molded into a viral movement and hashtag, made famous mostly by celebrities and those who have access to platforms like Twitter, the survivors whose abusers are actually facing consequences are still mostly white women with resources and power. Some women with privilege are attempting to be better allies to those often erased from these conversations, by putting money behind their words, but some members of marginalized groups, like people in prison who’ve experienced abuse while incarcerated, have no voice.

The public seems to care less about the stories of incarcerated survivors than others, as Victoria Law has reported, and does not work as hard to end their abuse or the normalization of abuse in prisons. The result is a culture of sexual violence so extreme that speaking out could put prison abuse survivors in serious danger. The mainstream Me Too movement as cultural effort falls short for them.

Reporting sexual abuse can always put a survivor in danger, but in prison that threat is elevated because survivors are either detained alongside their abusers or their abuser is the one who holds the key to their cell.

“We’ve seen the power wielded by an abusive person like Harvey Weinstein,” said Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, communications director for Just Detention International, a nonprofit whose mission is to end sexual abuse in detention centers worldwide. “But for inmates, the stakes are raised, because even if they could participate in these hashtags, then their personal safety would be very much at risk.” Often that means their stories go untold and do not receive the kind of attention necessary for real change.

You can read the rest here, though again, content notice for graphic violence.

-Shiv

More plaintiffs in the brutality lawsuit stemming from J20 arrests

It’s been one year since the mass arrest at Trump’s inauguration. 240 people were rounded up by police for their proximity to half a dozen vandals–some 1,800 charges would be pressed against 230 defendants, 194 of which are going to trial. While the first six defendants were acquitted of all charges in December last year, there remain dozens of trials yet to go, and any of them can secure the precedent that would further empower prosecutors to smash activist movements. The second trial group had their second round of procedural hearings on the 18th.

Coinciding with this criminal litigation is a competing police brutality and false arrest lawsuit by the ACLU. During the first trial Police Commander Keith DeVille admitted the Metropolitan Police Department’s liability “would be limited” in the event of convictions stemming from the J20 protests.

Now a mother, Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, and her child have joined the brutality lawsuit. [Content Notice: This link has footage and descriptions of police brutality]

We left early in the morning and bought day-long Metro passes. They were special inauguration passes with a picture of Donald Trump on them. A. thought these would be good for his memory box. But the memory we left D.C. with that January day felt much more sinister.

After we spent a few hours protesting, I learned that a friend was being detained. When we got to the location, people had gathered across from where a large group of protestors had been cornered by police. A. stood on the base of a lamp post so he could wave to the people he knew. He chanted “Let them go!” gleefully with other protesters. We talked with friends. We shared some of the snacks I had packed in my backpack. We were there for more than half an hour without incident.

But then, without warning, everything changed.

Colour me stunned that another 188 people are going to trial over 1,550 charges pressed during an arrest we’re not even sure is legal because they walked past a broken window.

Read more about the events that day and the lawsuit here.

-Shiv

It’s that bad

Intelligence agencies are (unsurprisingly) cagey about their activities. Every time we get a chance to peek under the mask, we learn more about how bad it is. The Liberals, who inherited Conservative policy that characterizes environmentalists and indigenous activists (there is plenty of overlap) as a domestic terrorist threat, have done little more than spew hot air, keeping the worst of the human rights violations from Conservative policy.

This is what that looks like.

The records detailing monitoring of individual activists and leaders speak to a larger pattern of surveillance against non-violent dissent, Indigenous-led social movements and their allies. As APTN reported in relation to the documents referring to Thomas-Muller, RCMP records also listed a number of groups as “involved persons,” including “the Defenders of the Land, Direct Action in Canada for Climate Justice, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, Ruckus Society, Global Justice Ecology Project, Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, the Indigenous Action Movement and the Wet’suwet’en Direct Action Camp.” In 2014, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed complaints against both the RCMP and CSIS, alleging unlawful surveillance against opponents of Northern Gateway that included many of the same organizations. While the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP launched an independent investigation, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) (the body responsible for CSIS oversight) instead held a series of secret hearings. They issued a decision in 2015, but barred the BCCLA from speaking about the outcome. The BCCLA has since applied for judicial review of this decision.

Just last month, documents obtained by VICE News demonstrate that the RCMP surveilled Indigenous activists who constructed a Tipi on Parliament Hill as part of Idle No More’s Unsettling Canada 150, a campaign coinciding with 150 years since Canadian confederation. Idle No More has come under government scrutiny on other occasions: in 2015 documents obtained by APTN confirmed that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND, now INAC) shared information about peaceful protests led by the group with Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and passed on information about meetings between government and First Nations leaders to the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and others.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Man, I just cannot imagine why anyone would want to exclude cops from Pride

It’s almost like their reputation precedes them or something. Oh, right, the reputation comes from the mouths of undesirables, so it goes unremarked.

CW: Abuse, sexual assault, misogyny.

A female sergeant with nearly 20 years on the force is coming forward with claims of sexual harassment and discrimination within the Toronto Police Service, allegations detailed in a recent complaint filed to the Human Rights Tribunal on Ontario.

Sgt. Jessica McInnis, a 43-year-old officer who has earned accolades since joining the Toronto Police Service in 1998, alleges she was subjected to a “steady barrage of unsolicited sexist, sexual, harassing and obscene messages” by Det. Mark Morris, her former police partner and co-leader of their Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) team, at downtown’s 14 Division.

The CIB tackles a range of crimes within the division, including thefts and suspicious deaths.

“I hope you don’t call the (Special Investigations Unit) on my (sic) when we do the nasty,” Morris texted her on Nov. 27, 2015 according to the claim, a message sent after Morris caught wind that the SIU, Ontario’s police watchdog, was probing sexual assault allegations against a colleague.

“Remember if I slapped that ass it’s not a sexual assault if I say nice game. That’s what we do in sports,” he added, according to the claim.

Sounds like the sort of person I’d trust with my safety. You?

-Shiv