Minorities, once again, being pushed out of universities

It probably won’t surprise anyone that the same institution employing an intellectually bankrupt conman has, under the guise of future “budget cuts,” pre-emptively laid off university staff that just so happen to specialize in services increasing access to campus for marginalized students. (emphasis added)

At the same time, as these actions are garnering the majority of headlines and attention, a dangerous change has also been taking place behind the scenes, at the university’s undergraduate student union (the UTSU). This organization supports many student-funded services — including the LGBTOUT, the Center for Women and Trans People, the Students for Barrier-Free Access, and the social and environmental justice group OPIRG-Toronto — that women and minorities rely upon for equal access to the post-secondary experience. And yet, of late, it has worked to systematically dismantle these services.

The story of how this has happened provides a case study in the nefarious, underground ways far-right ideology is infiltrating campuses.

Like many campus organizations, the UTSU has long been considered a progressive organization. But echoing a rightward shift happening more broadly, the current slate of elected officials ran on a decidedly conservative platform, revolving around reducing “overspending,” freezing fee increases, and helping students find jobs.

Now, using deceptively neutral-sounding language, these officials are pushing policy shifts that are threatening the services of marginalized students.

Under the guise of “student choice” over where fees go, for example, the UTSU tried in April to reduce requirements for defunding its student services. Officials posited that, out of 44,000 members, only 250 student signatures should be needed to initiate a defunding vote, a reduction in threshold of about 95%.

It is not difficult to imagine how policies like these could be exploited. While it’s challenging to get 5,000 students to come out against LGBT rights, getting 250 is relatively trivial and only requires a listserv announcement in any conservative network. Even if the subsequent vote fails, the petition can still be recycled year after year to strip resources from marginalized students: Campaigning to urge students to vote in support is expensive for service groups, and imposes an energy tax on marginalized students forced to defend their presence on campus.

I already pay a tax to defend my presence in everyday life. As much as I’d love to return to school, I won’t as long as it requires paying administrators to say I should be prepared to litigate my own value to bad faith shit-weasels.

Read more about how segregation is being revived under new labels here.

-Shiv

The High and Holy Church of Both Sides preaches on gender variance

Crip Dyke has a stupendous analysis on the trainwreck calling itself “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion.” Like Crip, I was made aware of the piece through Trav at Bi Any Means, as well as their article for Splice Today Also like Crip, I thought Trav was a bit mild when they describe the piece as “missing the mark.” Crip goes into detail about the blinkered arrogance required to style oneself rational whilst equivocating trans feminists and anti-trans hatemongers. Content notice for trans-antagonistic nonsense quoted & characterized by Crip for the purposes of criticism:

Take, for example, their second premise. They don’t actually quote anyone saying the things they suggest are believed by one “extreme” side. I have no doubt that they could find such quotes if they wanted, but it still would not help them because they simply and utterly fail to show any evidence that they understand why there is such a divide between people who believe that some people are deluded about their genders and others believe the first group are horribly wrong.

Consider the feminists among those who belong (as much as anyone belongs) to anti-trans* faction described by the authors. While there are those who, more or less, would describe trans*-asserted gender identities as false (very few use “delusion”) do so because they believe that gender is sex and sex is gender. To produce sperm is to be male biologically, and I don’t know of any trans* persons who would contest that. The question is whether this is all that it takes to make one a man. There are trans* advocates (yes on freethoughblogs, even) who use the word female to describe trans* women and male to describe trans* men, but this is a considered position. It’s not an inability to understand that some people are born with uteruses. It’s stressing that the social relationships are primary and, since most of the time we don’t know what someone else’s genitals look like and nearly all the time we don’t have first hand chances to examine another’s chromosomes or genome, “male” should be used in a way similar to how “men” is used. It’s a position that is in part a reaction to the victimization of trans* people by non-trans* folk, and it does flow out of reasoning that finds past definitions of male and female inadequate, but it’s not a delusion.

What is on display is a disagreement about definitions, about what words mean and what they communicate (intentionally or not). You could find the most extreme anti-trans* feminists and the most extreme pro-trans* activists and if you got them to adopt a single definition for the purposes of communicating for a day, no one in the room would have trouble actually using the definition correctly. This isn’t about how trans* people are initially perceived. It’s about how they are categorized and how the socially-constructed categories of man and woman and male and female and trans (and many others) are defined. It’s about how people think these words are best used. Frankly, I’ve met many a trans*-exclusive radical feminist who demonstrated more knowledge of these important issues than Pluckrose and Lindsay, so I’m not sure what the authors use to justify thinking they have anything to contribute if they are not more informed than at least one of the factions that they consider to be ruining the possibilities for fruitful communication.

As I said in Crip’s thread: *chef finger kisses.*

Read more of Crip here or Trav here (or here).

Lastly the “High and Holy Church of Both Sides” is a term coined by American political commentator driftglass, who is, to put it mildly, exasperated with the Beltway’s capacity to equivocate Republican crimes against humanity with Democrat incompetence. I thought comparing “stop killing me” to “I want trans people to die” would be an apt application of the concept.

-Shiv

Edit October 17: I format html like a profeshunal.

A Jewish guy cut me off in traffic and now I’m a Nazi

GamerGate reached its zenith long before I began writing in earnest. I was fortunate to not be a direct target due to the lack of any public profile. Even so, it was obvious to me that it was not a movement with any clear or coherent claims about “ethics in games journalism” so much as it was directionless rage at the existence of anyone not cis, heterosexual, white, able-bodied, and/or a man, particularly in gaming spaces. Despite this, I was, at the time, surprised to learn that the movement and its posterboys had actual apologists claiming arguments as asinine as “you not being a doormat is why Nazis exist.” The title of this post was supposed to be a parody of centrists… I didn’t expect them to be so disconnected that they’d actually make that argument.

This was before I noticed the utter moral vacuity that is political centrism, and if I’m honest, seeing otherwise respected pundits bat for these sadistic, nihilistic shitheels would be the first of many steps damaging my enthusiasm for representative politics altogether. It would also be the start of my descent into the rabbit hole where I found out that every atrocious crime against humanity in history has its defenders.

Of course, to this day, mentioning GamerGate inevitably results in trolls flooding my Twitter feed and getting caught in my comments filter (I daren’t publish such filth). To this day they are stalking every mention of their movement. I wasn’t even a concerted target of their harassment and I figured out, like three years ago, what was really motivating them. Then “news” of alt-right posterboy Milo Yiannopoulos’ connections with white supremacists broke out and all these centrist pundits have the fucking chutzpah to act surprised.

I guess folks still aren’t listening.

GamerGate wasn’t new, it was an escalation and formal marshaling of longstanding forces (one can’t even say they were dormant, just disorganized). Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon saw the terroristic power of GamerGaters’ rage against something as simple as a gay videogame character, and it’s no wonder they set about trying to harness it for ever more consequential ends. What’s gobsmacking about Bernstein’s report is that it took incontrovertible proof that Yiannopoulos did things like use Nazi-themed passwords for his emails, and literally sent one of his most famous articles to actual neo-Nazis for line edits, for some people to go “oh, maybe we should’ve listened” (never mind that evidence of Yiannopoulos’ history of Nazi sympathy has been out there for a long time).

More grating still are people who actually worked with Yiannopoulos because they saw him as useful to their “anti-PC” crusade, now trying to cover their asses. There was a furious alacrity to Cathy Young publishing an article at Forward that pretends to be a mea culpa, at once saying she “take[s] full responsibility” for “enabling” Yiannopoulos, and then trying to find a way to blame her “PC Police” bugbear for him as well. “If people who gave Yiannopoulos a pass on bad behavior (myself included) were his enablers,” she wrote, “so was the politically correct culture that fueled his ascent.”

If everyone is to blame, then no one is. Which, one suspects, is rather the point of her writing this.

If you think you won’t pull out your hair, watch the shameless attempts at damage control by the pundits who profited off calling GamerGate targets hysterical.

-Shiv

When they start babbling about thought police

One of the many reasons I have difficulty assuming right-wing commentators engage in good faith is the abundance of projection I see in their accusations. Universities, often maligned as bastions of “thought policing” and “safe spaces” (that’s a bad thing?), are now being targeted by right-wing harassment campaigns for saying something they don’t like.

This time, the outrage machine geared up as it often does, with a minor conservative media outlet — in this case, the Daily Caller — chopping my tweets up into a misleading mishmash that transformed a nuanced diagnosis of white male frustration into an attack on white people in general. When the Daily Caller posted the article to Facebook, moreover, the intention was clearly to incite: “Absolutely unforgiveable” (sic) read the post, which by now has been shared nearly 2,000 times and commented upon more than 3,000 times.

Hate mail and death threats began to roll in. “I will beat your skull in till there is no tomorrow.” “Soon all you p‑‑‑‑‑s will get exactly what you deserve.” “Do the world a favor, and kill yourself … I’ll help you find death sooner than later.” One called me a “pig f‑‑‑er like Obama,” adding homophobic slurs for good measure. Many called me a “cuck” — a favorite racial and sexual insult of the alt-right — while others urged me to move to North Korea or Venezuela. One “love note from a WHITE American” wrongly identified me as a “greasy South American a‑‑hole.”

From there, the contagion was rapid, with Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart News and even Milo Yiannopoulos’s own website running their own cribbed copies of the same story. Then came FrontPagethe Blazethe College Fix and the campus mercenaries at Turning Point. Soon, the manufactured story had hit the conspiratorial fringes of Infowars and online forums across the right: from “blue lives matter” to those preparing for the inevitable rapture.

Read more here.

-Shiv

A root of TERFism

I’ve been contemplating writing a review of Sheila Jeffreys’ published conspiracy theory, Gender Hurts, in order to educate on the roots of some academic/feminist trans-antagonism. I hadn’t entirely recovered from the migraine since the first time I read it, so it was a project I was not looking forward to. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that somebody else has done this work for me. Roz Kaveney writes at Glamourous Rags:

Language is, for Jeffreys, something to be used carefully to deny the existence of choices of which she disapproves. For example, she uses ‘prostitute’ only as a passive transitive verb, because she is of the opinion that no sex worker has any autonomy. She refers to ‘transgenderism’ as if it were an ideology rather than a complex of needs and choices, and has turned ‘transgender’ into a verb. She prides herself on always using the pronouns she regards as correct rather than those trans people have chosen for themselves; she explains at length that this is a matter of principle, rather than mere childish rudeness. At the same time, she regards the adoption of the value-free term cis to denote anyone not trans as a vile and insulting piece of abuse.

Jeffreys is very keen to deny personal animus, though her grasp of strict truth is often lacking. She talks of a conference she was to speak at being banned from the C onway Hall, rather than of its organizers having been reminded that they needed to observe the hall’s regulations about hate speech and declined to do so. She cites this occasion as evidence of a ‘McCarthyite’ conspiracy to silence her, as she does the existence of a number of mildly successful trans journalists – all of whom mostly write on other matters. (Sheila Jeffreys remains, of course, a tenured academic in spite of this cabal.) She also denies that she is guilty of hate speech in spite of a passage in which she claims that the genitals of trans women who have had surgery stink.

This passage is worth commenting on because she relies on a Dutch study of the bacterial flora of those private parts (Weyers 2000), but both distorts its results and fails to criticize its protocols. Tge Weyers study notes occasional unpleasant discharges in a fifth of its population – because it relies on literature for its comparison of flora, the study is mute on the frequency of such discharges in cis women. The protocol also asked its subjects not to wash their genitals for three days and did not consider the effect of this on the degree to which faecal bacteria were present – nor does Jeffreys. The study does, however notice that lesbian trans women had a flora closer to the cis norm – Jeffreys does not mention this correlation, for whatever reason.

Read more of Roz’s review here.

-Shiv

Arresting the press is only bad when Russia does it

Considering the stakes of the J20 prosecution, I find it odd that more corporate media outlets aren’t covering it. In addition to the prosecutor’s arguments taking a sledgehammer to American civil rights, there are still two journalists among the accused. For a press circuit that warned of Trump’s threats against the press, why isn’t the issue getting more coverage?

For over two years, many in corporate media have been trumpeting the looming threat to a free press posed by Donald Trump. “Would President Trump Kill Freedom of the Press?” Slate (3/14/16) wondered in the midst of the primaries; after the election, the New York Times (1/13/17) warned of “Donald Trump’s Dangerous Attacks on the Press,” and the Atlantic (2/20/17) declared it “ A Dangerous Time for the Press and the Presidency.”

It’s strange, then, that the attack on the press that kicked off the Trump administration—the arrest and subsequent threatening of two journalists with 70 years in prison—has been met with total silence from most of these same outlets. Aaron Cantú, Santa Fe Reporter staff writer and editor at the New Inquiry (and a contributor to FAIR.org), and professional photographer Alexei Wood are both facing decades in prison for the act of covering the January 20 unrest in DC—charged with felony rioting for little more than being in the proximity of window-breaking and brick-throwing. (Prosecutors initially brought and then dropped felony charges against six other reporters, though how their cases differ from Cantú and Wood’s is unclear.)

ACLU lawyer Scott Michelman insists that these arrests “punish journalists for being near the action” and will “inevitably chill freedom of the press and, with it, First Amendment rights not only of the journalists themselves, but of all of us.”

Read more here.

-Shiv

Our bodies are not ours

The premise of pro-discrimination laws is that not only can another person unilaterally dictate where you can be with your body and what you can do with it, but that they should do so. North Carolina’s House Bill 2 is one such example:

Although House Bill 2 (HB2), or “The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” is known as “The Bathroom Bill,” it is about so much more than bathrooms. In February 2016, thanks to the efforts of local queer and trans community organizers, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a nondiscrimination ordinance extending legal protections to LGBTQ people. By law, Charlotte businesses could no longer deny someone service or a job because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The ordinance also granted transgender people the right to use public bathrooms marked for the gender of their choice. While the new law itself did not include any protections against many of the systemic barriers trans women of color face – like discriminatory access to housing and medical care – conservative rich white state officials clapped back.

Almost overnight, North Carolina then-governor Pat McCrory and his cronies in his legislature began drafting a state bill to shut down the nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, and prevent future anti-discrimination bills from arising on the local level across the state. HB2 had five points:

(1) Transgender people must use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity.
(2) City governments cannot pass laws protecting LGBTQ people from job discrimination or from being denied service because they are queer or trans.
(3) City governments cannot pass laws protecting working people under 18.
(4) All pre-existing laws passed by city governments protecting LGBTQ people, as well as local laws about worker wages and benefits no longer exist.
(5) People can no longer sue for any type of discrimination on the state level.

Through these five points, HB2 attacked LGBTQ people and annihilated all workers’ and marginalized people’s rights. With one law, North Carolina’s state government granted businesses and employees the right to discriminate against people. Most people in our cities had no idea. To most, it was simply “The Bathroom Bill” because Governor McCrory, as well as local, state, and national news sources built traction for HB2 by marketing it on their hatred of (and fascination with) trans people, in particular trans women of color.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

Please don’t treat Trump like an outlier

Remember that even after the Trump days are over that he is a symptom, not the disease.

It’s not just that Trump often participated in this culture before he was a politician, but that memes showing violence against women have in many ways been synonymous with social media since its inception. Directing hate towards women is one of the primary ways in which a lot of men use social networks everyday. This anti-women culture online is by no means the result of Trump’s tweets; rather, his election directly reflects the fact that misogyny was and is the status quo in this country — online and off.

So while there should be outrage about the president encouraging the dehumanization of women online, something he has done consistently throughout his short political career, it’s worth wondering why many men insist on viewing Trump’s need for dominance as an outlier, as something special, rather than asking why these memes are so prominent on Twitter in the first place. Years after #GamerGate made national headlines, after countlesswomen have told their stories of social media abuse, why do so many men still struggle to admit this is a ubiquitous problem?

The truth is Trump is not normalizing misogyny online —we already did that for him.

Read more by Imran Siddiquee here.

-Shiv

Did you need a “safe file”?

When I’m hosting a seminar on gender questioning, gender variant, and transgender youth, probably the one item met with the greatest degree of shock is the concept of the “safe file.” Parents supporting their children–that is, not subjecting them to discipline or psychological torture–in their gender questioning process are often met with specious accusations of abuse. The “logic” is that gender variance doesn’t exist, so any child exhibiting it (or even thinking about it) must be, by definition, an abused child. The safe file is the parents’ one stop shop for all their documents proving the child’s health and, if relevant, their gender dysphoria diagnosis, and it’s necessary to argue to the State that you are, in fact, doing what the medical consensus says supports your child best. It’s only necessary because the bigots take their “won’t anybody think of the children” shriek to meatspace, and report these families to children’s services.

Now, it would be bad enough to report someone for not torturing their kid, but the scary part is that family court has occasionally concurred. An Alberta family judge ruled that a parent’s custody was contingent on ruthlessly policing what their child wore, and this ruling was not overturned for half a year, and only came after the mother was unjustly stripped of custody. Mermaids UK has also covered British examples where single-mothers following the medical consensus had their custody stripped under arguments as ridiculous as “your child can’t be a trans girl, he likes Spongebob,” and explicitly mandated conversion therapy should the child ever question their gender again.

[Read more…]

The same “freeze peach” crowd uses libel accusations to silence? Say it ain’t so

Dr. Brooke Magnanti is a researcher who used to do sex work to get her through school. She was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to turn her written experiences of said work into published materials, which soon earned her a bestselling author status. Of course, to the rabid anti-sex-work lobby, this would not do, and they managed to damage Magnanti’s prospects by harassing her both online and through frivolous libel lawsuits.

I remembered seeing a tweet from @Popehat from a few years ago. Someone had maliciously bought the account thousands of followers; this is something people do so they can report the account for the fakes, and try to get them kicked off Twitter. I DM’d a couple of people with experience of both being the target of online harassment and of communicating with Twitter. The response was unanimous: someone is trying to get you banned. Lock your account and start deleting the fake followers.

With a book set to come out on the 25th, I was between a rock and a hard place. Publishers increasingly expect authors to use social media presence to publicise their work to readers. My publisher likes that social media is embedded in my writing and that I engage with a lot of people online – without the Internet, I would never have become a writer at all. Should I lock the account and be unable to promote the book widely, or unlock it and risk a ban? I decided to go quiet, and see what happened. The day of my book release came and went.

By Friday night the Twitter follower count was touching 40k with no sign of slowing. I didn’t have much choice anymore. I locked the account and started blocking the bots and declining the hundreds of follow requests from fakes coming in. This is an ongoing effort. If you have recently followed me and find yourself blocked, I apologise — there are going to be some false positives in this process.

I don’t know when it will stop. I hope it tops out at 5k, which is soon. A bit of Googling shows anyone can buy 5,000 followers for anyone else and for as little as $10. I hope someone isn’t spending much more than that, and that they have better things to spend their money on. Books maybe.

The timing of this bothers me. I would be tempted to think it was a coincidence, someone winding me up for no particular reason. But considering that feminist charity Eaves For Women slapped my book The Sex Myth with a libel threat on the day it was released, getting it pulled from shelves nationwide, it is sometimes hard to believe in coincidences.

Read more here.

(By the way, the same women harassing Magnanti are also the same TERFs trying to harass me from the UK)

-Shiv