Seneca Falls: 170 Years Ago This Weekend

One hundred seventy years ago this weekend (July 19-20, 1848), a group of 68 women and 32 men (or thereabouts*1) signed the Declaration of Sentiments at the climax of The Seneca Falls Convention. The document paralleled the Declaration of Independence in form, style, and tone. This wasn’t an accident: when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her great work A Vindication of the Rights of Men, she herself was paralleling in language (such as the use of “sublime”) and in many of the arguments Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke. Though she made truly novel arguments as well, and many of them, one line of critique in AVRM was that Burke’s traditionalism and conservatism betray his own goals. In short, she thought he wrote of aspiring to ideals that the tactics and policies he advocated would make difficult or impossible to achieve.

The attendees of The Seneca Falls Convention felt much the same way about the founders of the United States of America. While they, like Wollstonecraft two generations before, were willing to part dramatically with the thinking of prominent patriarchal men, again like Wollstonecraft they sought to use the ideals and rhetoric of those patriarchs to gain something like a common understanding of what a nation and a society should be, then used their own arguments to show that current social and political policies undermined those goals.

They also paralleled the abolitionist activism of the time: largely because they were the abolitionist movement. TSFC came about because Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attended London’s World Anti-Slavery Convention but were refused the ability to participate on the basis of gender.*2 The attendees of TSFC itself were largely Quakers and (almost?) entirely abolitionists. The natal feminist movement, then, was a subset of the anti-racist Abolitionist movement. As that mother movement made frequent rhetorical use of references to the Declaration of Independence, from today’s historical position we can another reason why something of the form of the Declaration of Sentiments was nearly inevitable.

Lucretia Mott was probably the best known organizer speaking globally, but Stanton was likely the best known and/or best respected in the Seneca County/Finger Lakes area. Stanton, as a non-Quaker, was also important in broadening the attendance beyond the local Quaker community which perhaps boosted the national importance of TSFC by ensuring it could not be dismissed as a sectarian activity relevant only to a minority religion. Together with their families – Mott’s sister Martha Coffin Wright was a stationmaster on the underground railroad and a respected activist in her own right, and Mott’s and Stanton’s husbands, both prominent abolitionists – the M’Clintock family and a woman named Jane Hunt, they were able to generate momentum for the conference quite quickly. It drew mainly locals, despite being advertised by Frederick Douglass in his national abolitionist paper, the North Star, and a few other outlets beyond the Finger Lakes area. But with Mott, Stanton, and Douglass in attendance, it did not lack for star power.

Many things that we would not now find controversial were debated seriously at the conference. In the crafting of the Declaration of Sentiments, Mott herself argued against including a women’s suffrage provision. Eventually, however, the arguments that this was to be an aspirational document and also that it would piss off the patriarchs with or without a suffrage provision convinced Mott and any other doubters. In the end, they produced this:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going upon the false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.

He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education—all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.

He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.

He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation,—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf.We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.

Firmly relying upon the final triumph of the Right and the True, we do this day affix our signatures to this declaration.

I think it is useful, from time to time, to revisit this document to see exactly what we have and have not achieved over the last 170 years. If you have any thoughts on any of these provisions, I’d love to see them below. Over the rest of the summer, I plan to produce periodic posts contemplating one of these provisions at a time. Your comments might just help me decide which provisions need attention, and if I use any of your observations, I’ll certainly credit you.

 

*1: We can, of course, not access information about the gender identity of those involved, but we can say that 68 persons were assigned to the gender role woman and 32 to the gender role man.

*2: They knew going in that they would be initially excluded, but there was to be a resolution allowing women to fully participate. The resolution failed and Mott and Stanton were left having traveled across the Atlantic only to be turned away at the door – presumably because they already had too many people working to end slavery and had to turn away half.

Sir David Attenborough’s Real Name: Boaty McBoatface

Well, it’s happened: Boaty McBoatface has slipped into the water. Though the shipwrights still have a good deal of work to do over the next few months before the ship is ready for its first polar voyage, this is still an important step, and a good excuse to bring up again the wonderful moniker the ship almost had before the fuddy-duddies declared the name Sir David Attenborough to be the winner despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. We can only hope that this works out better for the UK than a similar voting travesty has been working out for the USA.

I’ve Been Gone A Few Days

Part of it is the normal cycle of health stuff & part is that a friend needs some help right about now & the last part is that I’m teaching myself to bake sourdough bread from scratch. That wasn’t time consuming when I was just feeding the sourdough starter a couple times a day for a week, but the actual bread making is quite time consuming. I’d upload a picture, but WordPress hasn’t been letting me do that for the past few days and I don’t quite have time to figure out what’s wrong.

I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule soon, though! See y’all then.

 

The Incivility Spreads

As you probably know, the staff of Maryland-based Capital Gazette were victims of a shooting attack, not to say mass murder or even terrorism (we much prefer “targeted attack”). CNN’s Anderson Cooper had two of the surviving victims on his show 360, both Gazette journalists, one named Selene San Felice the other Phil Davis. Both made important statements, but in response to the myriad thoughts and prayers sent in the direction of her and her surviving colleagues, the man and the woman who had just witnessed someone killed before their eyes had some pretty uncivil things to say:

Selene San Felice: I’ve heard that President Trump sends his prayers. … We need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was under that desk. I want your prayers but I want something else.

Phil Davis: … I was praying when he started reloading that shotgun that there weren’t going to be more bodies. And you know what? If we’re going to have a position in society where all we can offer each other is prayer then where are we?

San Felice: This is going to be a story for how many days? Less than a week? People will forget about us after a week unless, y’known, we keep tweeting. I don’t really care about tweeting right now. … I don’t know what I want right now, right? but I’m gunna need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers. Because it’s…. Our whole lives have been shattered. And so, thanks for your prayers but I couldn’t give a f*ck about them if there’s nothing else.

While Fox News and conservatives generally are going to give San Felice and Davis a lecture about how their incivility caused their colleagues murders in yet another proof of the dictum pre hoc ergo propter hoc, lets give San Felice and Davis something different than blame, something better than lectures, something more than just thoughts and prayers.

If you’re a US citizen living anywhere or anyone living legally in the US, call your House Rep and your Senators and express yourself on what you think are appropriate government (and especially legislative) responses to mass murder.

 

 

Will You Fucking Stop With This Silver Lining Shit?

So many people are suddenly writing pieces about how overturning Planned Parenthood v Casey (which is, in fact, the controlling precedent on abortion now), queer marriage, and anti-discrimination laws are a losing strategy for the GOP to put a shiny, happy face on the transformation of SCOTUS.

NO. If you’re tempted to go with this reaction, stop it right the fuck now. We do not sit back and let the Republicans enact hostility and hatred. It’s not even that there’s no truth in the position. Yes, inevitably conservative families will see relatives die. Yes, the 80% of people that support the right to have an abortion in at least some cases do constitute a large majority. Yes, if the 33% who believe that abortion should be legal in most cases and the 24% who believe that it should be legal in at least some cases could truly hurt the GOP if they voted to repudiate the fuckers.

But the implied argument is this: Ireland voted in abortion restrictions with Amendment 8 in 1983, sure, but after 35 years, innumerable hardships, and an uncounted number of deaths Ireland got the sympathetic victim of its anti-abortion policies that allowed them to overturn the provisions in 2018. These things don’t last, they’re saying. We’ll have our Savita Halappanavar, they’re saying. That makes everything okay, they’re saying.

Jesus Fried Chicken, NO!

The fact that we will inevitably have our Savita Halappanavars is exactly what makes this NOT OKAY.

Yes, the GOP has been sowing the seeds of its own destruction for decades now.

Yes, the GOP enjoyed the freedom to vote for abortion restrictions that would never be enforceable, and thus used abortion bills to rally its base while the democratic base remained unenthused because democrats never bothered to stand up and fight, relying on the courts to do their work instead.

Yes, that means that individual GOP members of state legislatures are going to have to make more consequential decisions than they have in the past, they’re going to have to face a higher likelihood of accountability than they have in the past.

THAT DOESN’T MAKE THE LIVES OF WOMEN THE GOP WILL END INTO ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES.

IT DOESN’T MAKE THE LIVES OF TRANS FOLK WHOM THE GOP MIGHT KILL INTO ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES.*1

NONE OF THIS IS OKAY.

THERE IS NO SILVER LINING.

 


*1: I’m well aware that people of other genders may very well die too, but given the total numbers of deaths expected, I don’t feel as comfortable saying that people of other genders are guaranteed to die, whereas demographically the deaths of women are guaranteed.

We’re All Dead

I’m going to be writing about this over and over again, so get used to it, but this is merely the first announcement so it will be short:

Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States is retiring. We already have a court dominated by republican picks. As a “centrist” Kennedy is far to the right of where we were until Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall. The center of the court has been pushed and pushed, and now after the Senate republicans stole the seat that was Obama’s to nominate and fill, Trump will nominate his second justice.

Abortion will be illegal in a huge number of states within 3 months of the end of the next SCOTUS term. Just fucking watch.

We. Are. All. Dead.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wins

A while back Mano posted about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a younger woman running against an establishment Democrat (also the 20-year incumbent) in the NY-14th’s primary. For a number of reasons her candidacy was considered a minor referendum on the DNC’s willingness to run away from its base in selecting and supporting candidates.

Ocasio-Cortez was given little chance of winning, but win she did. The real questions now are, will the DNC take any lesson away from the loss of Rep. Joseph Crowley in this primary, and if so, what will they learn? Vox’s commentary on the race concludes with this bit:

[Read more…]

What Constitutes A Tool? Orca Are Freuding Amazing Edition

So, apparently some folks have known about this for a long time, but I just came across a reference to orca gathering together several members of a pod who then swim, dive, and surge synchronously to produce a wave displacing several tons of water.

Why would they do that? Well, it turns out it’s a good way for orca to wash prey animals who rest on ice floes – mainly seals – off the safety of their floating islands and into the open water where the orca can eat them.

Here’s one video which culminates in three orca using the strategy:

 

However, there are others. I came across a 45 minute TV program that would be inconvenient to use in demonstrating the tactic. Still if you’re willing to scan through and find it, you can see five orca swimming, diving, & surging synchronously to form a massive wave. While synchronized action isn’t unusual in the animal kingdom (think of birds migrating in V formations or schools of fish turning in near-unison among other things), this involves not only planning, but very possibly also either communicating a plan to one’s companions or, even more spectacularly, a theory of mind where the means to communicate a plan are absent, but other orca recognize what one orca is attempting to achieve in the future, then thinking about how to enhance the success of that other animal’s plan. Thinking from that other animal’s perspective, if that’s what’s happening, is a stupendous intellectual feat.

It would not be the only time one can see theory of mind operating in non-human animals, but the operation of theory of mind is rare.

And yet, the thing that completely disarms me intellectually is the thought that in this instance, the very water in which they swim has probably been rendered into a tool, which would challenge the very definition of the word. Wikipedia’s discussion of tool use by animals has a brief discussion of the difficulties inherent in defining “tool”. The first example they present, though, is sufficient to the point:

The external employment of an unattached or manipulable attached environmental object to alter more efficiently the form, position, or condition of another object, another organism, or the user itself, when the user holds and directly manipulates the tool during or prior to use and is responsible for the proper and effective orientation of the tool.

Is the seawater an “environmental object” or the orca’s environment itself? I’m not sure, but this is an incredible bit of cooperative hunting a raises a great many questions about orca, their intelligence, and even the nature of tool use itself.