I henceforth declare Jordan Peterson beyond parody

Bill C-16 came and passed, and now that Jordan Peterson has no steam for his conspiratorial ramblings about trans people, he’s taken a totally and completely unexpected turn to advocating for domestic violence.

University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson went on a “little tirade” about “female insanity” and what he thinks is “undermining the masculine power of the culture” in a “fatal” way.

Peterson is a controversial U of T psychologist who has been making headlines for the last year over his refusal to recognize students’ use of gender-neutral pronouns.

Since then, Peterson has become a cult figure in corners of Canada’s conservative movement and the online alt-right, making an appearance at last year’s Manning Centre conference in Ottawa where he celebrated disgraced Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulous, as well as crowdsourcing funds with the help of Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant, testifying at a Senate committee on human rights legislation and even inspiring policies adopted by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

A pedophile apologist, a thrice-libelous leaking ass-pimple, and a reboot of Harper’s software in marginally younger hardware. What unbiased company he keeps.

We’re going to disgest Peterson in brief nuggets here:

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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

Coerced into assimilation

Content notice: anti-fat discrimination.

Trans people being rejected healthcare options for specious reasons is just the background radiation we live in. Kiva Bay, however, has a more detailed report on how fat trans folks are seen as “less real” because of their weight, and how this links to their healthcare service denials.

Fat transgender people face significant barriers to medical transition, including HRT and GRS, often in the form of surgeons who refuse to work on them, or doctors who feel they won’t make “proper” men and women. For this reason, transgender people have the highest rates of eating disorders, even higher than cishet women, yet another life-threatening danger.

In their essay No Apology: Shared Struggles in Fat and Transgender Law, Dylan Vade and Sondra Solovay explain how fat and transgender people are coerced by the legal system to assimilate to cisnormative standards: “When attempting to overcome these barriers by using the legal system, not only are fat and transgender people expected to share a goal of assimilation, but they are coerced into reinforcing fat-phobic and transgender-phobic norms in to secure basic legal rights enjoyed by their non-fat and non-transgender peers. This is a cruel cycle: oppression necessitates the legal intervention, yet the person must participate in that very oppression to receive legal protection.” They go on to explain, “Winning cases generally adopt a legal posture that reinforces societal prejudices. Cases that challenge societal prejudices generally lose.” They illustrate this with two cases of fat discrimination in California, John R. of Berkeley and Toni C. of Santa Cruz.

Both were seeking damages for weight related discrimination in the workplace. John R., who talked about his fatness like it was a problem he could not cure, won his case. Toni C., who was unapologetic about her fatness, did not. Toni rejected a medicalized view of her fatness, and her argument was entirely unapologetic. Refusing to locate the problem on her own body, locating it instead in a fat hating society, Toni lost her case.

Read more here.

-Shiv

These shitbirds are legion

Holly Wood champions her coining of the term “shit-toweling” to describe the facile arguments mass-flung at anyone who dares to speak of discrimination. I like it a lot:

This behavior coming from men is what I’ve decided to call shit-toweling. Shit-toweling describes the practice of trivializing or otherwise diminishing the compounded suffering that women and other marginalized groups experience over the course of their lives. Most typically, shit toweling is done by white men in an effort to defend a member of their own in-group from having to face accountability for reprehensible actions towards marginalized others. While there are many ways to shit-towel, the aim is always to discredit and silence feminist critique.

When men try to stifle women’s right to grievance with bad-faith arguments so badly construed that it insults everyone’s intelligence, it is the emotional equivalent of when a man wipes his ass with a towel and then flings it in your face. An example of shit-toweling would be a man trying to defend male privilege by insisting that those who criticize male privilege aren’t themselves being inclusive…

These shitbirds are legion. They wildly outnumber the minority of men stupid enough to risk their entire career by hitting send on a company-wide misogynistic diatribe. At breakneck speed, these men trip over themselves to defend the first amendment rights of professed shitbags as if Google has any civic obligation whatsoever to retain socially hostile staff. Last time I checked, software engineers have not yet organized for the collective right to academic freedom. Their opinions are not protected speech. They can be terminated at will. Especially if what the things that employee says jeopardize a company’s ability to retain and recruit new talent. While women’s discomfort is obvious, I know from having lots of friends in this world that there are plenty of male engineers who would also have an issue with working alongside an outed bigot and chauvinist.

The shit-toweling continued all day as men in other industries would go on defending this kind of antisocial workplace behavior as if professed sexism and racism are things any company that employs human beings should continue to tolerate in 2017.

Fuck the shitbird legion.

-Shiv

There’s no sexism in tech

Nothing to see here, folks:

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Now now, let’s be rational about this

-Shiv

Against public marriage proposals

I’m a bit mixed on the notion of marriage. There’s a lot tangled up in that word: The legalities, how every legal system in the world (that I’m aware of) privileges a spouse over an acquaintance in multiple sectors of society, how estates can be combined or divided, how taxation can be collected as an entity rather than individuals. But there’s also the ceremony, how some folks spend an absurd amount on their wedding, something which I find difficult to stomach knowing how many resources are out there just barely scraping by who fill vital community functions.

Today, I’ll just signal boost one particular position–public marriage proposals are a shitty idea.

Recently, I had the abject misfortune to find myself part of a captive audience to a public proposal. I veered between burning mortification, obsessive checking that the woman was in fact definitely happy about this, and fury because I really needed a wee and this public proposal was going on right in front of my route to the toilet.

Public proposals have been discussed a lot in feminist circles, often viewed as coerciverooted in insecurity, and not giving the person being proposed to a decent chance to say no. In short, they’re not romantic, they’re manipulative. This additional social pressure, with all eyes on you, makes it incredibly difficult to refuse, especially if the relationship you’re in already has overtones of coercive control. If you’re on TV, on a crowded street, on a packed aeroplane, you know that everyone is expecting you to say “yes” so everyone can feel good–and for women in particular this is the sort of situation where we’re socialised to avoid letting everyone down.

And of course, it’s almost always women being proposed to by men. You may have the odd same-sex couple or woman proposing to a man, and these are so remarkable they appear all over the bloody news (thus furthering the pressure).

Public proposals are, in short, dire. I don’t believe in carceral measures for massive social problems, but if I did, I’d make public proposals punishable by death.

(I gather from the rest of the blag that Stavvers is mostly joking.)

However, what I want to talk about is wider: the notion of the proposal itself. This, too, is unnecessary and actually rather weird when we drill down into it. Many couples, when deciding to get married, deploy the following format: one partner “pops the question” to the other, with a little bit of pomp and ceremony, perhaps kneeling and a bit of jewellery. The words uttered are usually a variation on the theme of “will you marry me?”, and the proposee will then say either yes or no.

Getting married is a major life decision, and yet it is the only major life decision I can think of which involves a bizarre ritual in making the decision. We do not buy a ring while figuring out whether to go to university or not. We do not book a fancy restaurant to have a think about buying a house. We do not get down on one knee when deciding if we want to have children. We do not put a cute little question in a fortune cookie when working through the various treatment options for an illness.

Read more about Stavver’s opinion here.

-Shiv

 

Forced birthers are the “extreme position”

I’ve taken to call the self-styled pro-“life” position as “forced birth,” mostly to confront the brass tacks of their policy: It boils down to forcing birth. Forced birth elements tend to be well practiced in exaggeration and frivolous accusation as tools to manipulate discourse–my position is considered “extremist” because I view a person as the sole sovereign over the occurrences in their own body, full stop, no ifs ands or buts. Rather bizarrely, the label “extreme” seems to be seldom given to forced-birthers, despite the implications of their policy, yet I am often called the same for thinking that “my body, my choice” is a reasonable thesis statement.

Taryn De Vere takes it from there (Content Notice for some seriously disturbing institutionalized misogyny):

Giving a Heil Hitler salute during a pro “Life” protest is an extremist action.

Keeping a clinically dead woman alive (against the wishes of her grieving family) because she has an nonviable fetus in her uterus is an extremist action.

Angrily abusing women who had to travel abroad to access abortion services after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis is an extreme action.

Pushing the head of a frightened child with Downs Syndrome towards counter-protesters is an extremist action.

Allowing women to die rather than give them a life-saving abortion is extremist.

Threatening to cut the throat of an elected representative is extreme (especially for someone who says they are pro “life”).

She has plenty more examples. Read them here.

-Shiv

It was hard-fought for by Northern Irish pro-choice activists

I was surprised to learn a couple years ago that the United Kingdom’s supposedly National Health Service could be overridden by a local ordinance. Northern Irish residents, despite being British citizens, were being denied NHS coverage for abortions that the NHS provided to any other British citizen, simply because Northern Ireland as a region is still living in the bronze age when it comes to reproductive freedom laws.

I am pleased to see this will no longer be the case.  The Guardian reports on all the complexities:

The government has announced a major concession to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in Great Britain, in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion at a vote on the Queen’s speech.

(Par for the course, Conservatives need to have a political knife at their throats to advance on human rights law.)

Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. It was due to be voted on this afternoon.

And Philip Hammond told the Commons that the government would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.

Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there.

In a letter to MPs outlining the new funding, the education secretary and equalities minister, Justine Greening, hinted she had personal sympathy with the issue. She wrote: “As minister for women and equalities, I share the concerns of many colleagues about the experience of women from Northern Ireland obtaining an abortion through the NHS in England.”

She added: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen. This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which has direct implications for equality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland.”

Greening said that the Equalities Office would fund the payments for the terminations with additional funding for health services. “This will mean no English health service user is disadvantaged as a result of this change,” she wrote. “Funding for the services will be made available through the government Equalities Office, allowing the Department of Health to commission services in England for those from Northern Ireland.

Regardless of the circumstances, I am happy for Northern Irish residents. However, the coverage will not include travel costs, as I understand the Northern Irish government will still refuse to supply the service. This means the prior problem of poor women being unable to access appropriate care remains.

The Guardian also reported on its live coverage of the government’s concession a fracture in the Tories–seven of them defecting to stand with Labour & co. on the issue of reproductive freedom. This is a serious development considering the last election delivered no majority parties. The Tories have been trying to set for a “confidence & supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, a far-right fundamentalist party, but even those negotiations seem to be deteriorating.

If we’re lucky, this is a sign that Labour might be able to punch above its weight again in the future.

-Shiv

Sexism & racism in astronomy

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein has a fantastic essay on Medium up exploring all the various statistics that have been collected on researchers themselves in the field of astronomy:

But ultimately in a world where people who are professional data gatherers and interpreters seem to reject an overwhelming amount of evidence that women (and others) experience systemic and individualized gender discrimination (Tsang 2013; Brinkworth et al. 2016), there is a lot of value in a study that asks the simple question: how do women-lead paper’s citation numbers in astronomy compare with those of men-lead papers? The question is not insignificant, given the way that citation number is used in hiring. The next question is: does this represent a systemic bias against women? If the answer is yes, then it becomes clear that while the non-human objects that we study in astrophysics may be doing their operational calculations objectively, we scientists have some way to go before human structures do the same.

Indeed, Caplar et al. find that papers written by women receive about 10% fewer citations than comparable papers by men. The metaphorical playing field, as we call it in American English, is not level. Since citation numbers are used for hiring, fellowships, and granting, this means that the average woman publishing in astronomy may be starting out with a 10% deficit compared to male applicants for the same programs and jobs. This puts in stark relief the debates about affirmative action — or the rather loaded term “positive discrimination” as they call it in the UK — and whether women should be given extra consideration simply because of their gender. If white men start with a systemic 10% leg up, isn’t it negative discrimination not to affirmatively promote people who are not white men?

Of course, for those of us who work in Women’s Studies and the interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society Studies (STSS), the result is not surprising. Although one might hardly know it from the increasingly popular “diversity and inclusion” discourse in physics and astronomy, STSS has produced intellectual work for decades that tackles the ways in which gender and sex hierarchies and discrimination are deeply embedded in the human production of scientific knowledge. In such works, it is standard to begin with an intersectional analysis (Harding 2011). As defined in Vivian May’s excellent 2015 book, intersectionality “approaches lived identities as interlaced and systems of oppression as enmeshed and mutually reinforcing: one aspect of identity and/or form of inequality is not treated as separable or subordinate” (May 2015) Intersectionality articulates a critical framework for data analysis: the way sexism and racism (among other forms of discrimination) can combine in the life of a woman of color cannot be disaggregated separately into “the sexist stuff” and “the racist stuff,” and the power associated with one’s social positioning with respect to systemic discrimination matters.

This work compliments the fundamental view that science and society co-construct (Jasanoff and Kim 2015; Subramaniam 2014) and not just in discussions of gender. This is in academic parlance a matter for “Science Studies 101,” but quite absent in mainstream discussions by scientists about science and society. (Cheng 2017) In other words, it is no surprise to those of us in STSS that as we excavate data that reflects women’s experiences in astronomy — and science in general — that we are finding that scientific communities mirror the sexism and racism of the broader society in which they exist. Noting that astronomers like Cassini and Huygens played a role in deploying research programs that helped improve the efficiency of shipping enslaved Africans to the Caribbean and their low-cost work product to Europe, it is evident from this and many other examples, that science can be a tool of the oppressor by aiding those who are engaging in oppressive practices such as slavery. (McClellan, 2010) By the same token, the invention of Pasteurization revolutionized public health and changed lives for the better. Science and society are processes working in tandem with each other, unified not (yet) by a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe but rather by humans.

That bit about science and society co-constructing is of vital importance–while people oppose my work for a large variety of reasons, a misguided invocation of “science” is often one of them. This argument fails to comprehend that scientific analysis may neglect a subject because the scientists themselves neglect the subject, to say nothing of how any work in any field may also be subject to interference from outside scientific communities. With respects to gender variance specifically, it also ignores the fact that we have data these days, and that a reasonable analysis ought to account for it.

-Shiv

 

Linkspam: Menstrual hygiene day

Menstrual hygiene day was technically May 28th, but as usual I was too busy faffing about in my bubble to notice until recently. Have a belated linkspam about the politics and practicalities of menstruation:

In summary: Most patriarchies have highly dysfunctional relationships with menstruation, which is itself a confluence of multiple factors. Thus, those raised in these attitudes and those who do not stop to interrogate said attitudes often continue the practice of singling out menstruation as a unique “moral failing,” despite the fact that there is nothing empirically to separate it from other bodily functions.

-Shiv