Ed Brayton’s Good Cause

Friend of FtB Ed Brayton is trying to help a victim of domestic violence and her 3 year old child move across the country (Arizona to Michigan) to escape an abuser and reach family members who can help her til she gets on her feet.

Go read his original post, and if you are able and feel inclined, please donate. Moving cross country can be expensive and the “just rough it” strategies for saving money are dramatically less possible when you have a 3 year old child who would have to rough it with you.

Also, anti-domestic violence used to be my field before I went into law, so if you need attention to a particular anti-violence cause or have particular questions related to anti-sexual violence or anti-domestic violence that you want to ask, please feel free to let me know in the comments or even send me an e-mail (though I don’t check this account daily) at my nym, cripdyke, on the google mail domain (.com, of course).

Accountability Is The ONLY Radical Idea: Oh, and look what we have here!

I’ve been saying for years now that accountability is the only radical idea. You can propose single payer health care, you can propose shutting down entire federal agencies, you can propose a post-racial, post-sexual orientation society where everyone gets randomly assigned sex partners for 6 days before sex partners are randomly reassigned for the next 6 days, but nothing about any of those ideas is radical unless there are actual consequences for failing to implement them.

You can have the most hare-brained scheme proposed by the most hairy-eyed word-bomb thrower*1, but hare-brained schemes tend not to get actual implementation, and when things get hard, people will give up unless the consequences for giving up are worse than the consequences for moving forward.

So think about it: which would produce more screaming about radical change, a US president saying that they’re working on a proposal to tighten the laws and increase the penalties for white collar crimes, or a US president restructuring the justice department’s priorities so that no laws are changed, no new crimes are created, but every time a company is found to have committed a crime, the justice department actually sends the people that run the company to jail for conspiracy to commit that crime? ShearsonLehman defrauds investors and profits to the tune of US$12 billion, then negotiates with the feds to reduce the financial penalty down to US$250 million? Okay. That sucks. We’re incentivizing lawbreaking right? But if the top 200 corporate officers each spend a minimum of 12 years in prison, that’s a fuck of a lot more incentive for ShearsonLehman not to break the law going forward than the profit is an incentive to break the law. Also, when fucking EVERYONE involved in the conspiracy goes to jail, you get a fuckload more whistleblowers because they don’t want to be the least powerful person in the conspiracy, with no way to stop the fraud from getting too brazen, but with just as much criminal culpability as the persons at the very top of the corporation. The net result is a hell of a lot more effective than adding new penalties to some dusty book of laws without ever providing a credible threat than any executives will face any consequences at all.

Accountability, then, is the ultimate – and ultimately the only – radical idea. This is also why accountability is as rare as a mountain-dwelling tree wearing a tricorn and denying the existence of the FSM in front of CNN’s cameras on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

But wouldn’t you know it, while NBC isn’t willing to create actual structures of accountability, it appears that they’re actually going ahead with a little accountability mimicry. And not just NBC, but apparently at least one talent agency as well. “What’s that?” you ask. “What is our fair Crip Dyke on about?” It is just this: Megyn Kelly has been mutually dumped by her current talent-rep agency, and while apparently there has been a movement towards separation for a while now, the agency that Kelly was courting for her next monagentous relationship called off the engagement. You want more? Kelly’s ultimate boss, NBC News Chair Andy Lack, has made it clear he’s kicking her to the curb.

“But accountability mimicry?” you say. “Dear Crip Dyke, wouldn’t this be actual accountability?” I understand the inclination to think so, but that’s not exactly likely. If you read the article, NBC has been upset with Kelly about ratings, they’ve been upset about her insensitivity pissing off her guests in ways that created bad publicity for the show, and most of all they’ve been upset because – with notable exceptions during discussions of Kavanaugh and the guys to whom she wants to show actual favoritism – she repeatedly returns to the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace and expresses the opinion that guys should get fired for that shit. Of particular note, she has criticized NBC personalities and the NBC brass – including, yes, Andy Lack – for an environment in which sexual harassment is allowed to flourish. Andy Lack might be particularly upset about that last one because it comes across as actually being true, given all the evidence and shit.

So now when Megyn Kelly decides to rant about how blackface is just a jolly-happy-funtime and can’t we all just agree to let a little racism slide between whites, the outrage among many people around the country is certainly genuine, and the outrage among prominent Black presenters on NBC is probably genuine, but there are good reasons to question whether consequences imposed by management are actually motivated by her racism. This may not be accountability so much as backstabbing, revenge, and an effort to secure impunity for sexual harassers and the managers who enable them.

Nonetheless, I say celebrate. Break open that juice box and take a good, hard suck at that straw, because when people get fired on the pretext of their racism, sooner or later the 300 million people who aren’t following inside politics at the big media companies are going to think that racism is an actual fireable offense. This is a classic example of the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon unintentional performativity. Performativity is a concept most frequently associated with feminist Judith Butler, and is intended to describe acts that create the truths they portray. Someone who has no wife, but who tells your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke, “I take you as my wife,” may very well (if certain preconditions are met) actually gain a wife by saying those words. Performativity is especially important in the Butlerian analysis of gender where a person say, “I am a woman,” far less frequently using actual language as such a person might do by brushing on some eye shadow or donning a dress. And, in performing gender in this way, one may very well become a woman at least for the purposes of how others will treat you on that day. But here’s the thing, if one does that often enough, then one gets treated as a woman with regularity, and in being treated as a woman with regularity, the psychological and sociological traits that adhere to women eventually adhere to the person performing womanhood. At that point, one might be said to have become a woman through performing womanhood and the performativity cycle, though much longer than even a wedding, is finally complete.

In the case of unintentional performativity, one can accidentally initiate this cycle. Of course, it’s not actually peformativity if the performance does not eventually create the reality, so unintentional performativity is not a one-off. It must actually begin or continue a pattern that eventually creates the reality it depicts.

Let me be clear: I do not think that NBC is getting rid of Kelly because of her racism. However, taking advantage of her racism to fire someone that NBC dislikes for other reasons requires making the case that it is reasonable to fire someone for their racism. Moreover, Kelly has a contract which is guaranteed unless she is fired for a sufficiently serious cause. So if NBC really wants to keep their money, and/or if they really want to hurt Kelly (the latter being the more likely motive), they have to make the case that it is not only reasonable to fire someone for a defense of blackface, but that it is unreasonable not to fire someone for such statements.

NBC, then, while clearly anti-accountability judging by the tolerance they showed to Matt Lauer and others, is going to be making the public case that those who use prominent media positions to spread racism must always be fired. We may suspect that an institution like NBC with its history of tolerating sexism and racism has other motives, but in portraying racism as a fireable offense, NBC is making racism a fireable offense.

Make no mistake, this is a feud between different members of the wealthy and powerful, and none of those directly involved actually want accountability for the wealthy and powerful. And yet, what today begins as mere consequence will someday become the outcome of accountability.

Today is a very, very good day.


*1: One of my favorite commenting pseudonyms in the ever!

I’m Convinced: Pineapple Does Not Belong On Pizza. Also? Feminism is better than its defenders argue.

Although what led me to that first conclusion wasn’t Hitler’s Pineapple Pizza rant.

HJ over at Reprobate Spreadsheet has been discussing – in quite helpful details – a number of aspects of the recent Boghossian, Linday & Pluckrose*1 hoax.

But I’ve read a bit about this hoax at quite a number of outlets – not just here at FtB – and one of the things I’ve found to be glaringly omitted amongst the accounts of this hoax is the possibility that the hoax does more to disprove the claims of BLP than it does to support them.

The central claim of B, L & P is that feminists will accept any assertion that claims to be feminist and pays a certain lip service to feminist dogmas (real or imagined). To prove this, BLP borrowed some words, phrases & structures from a certain segment of Mein Kampf and used them to dress up some vague bullshit about how solidarity and single-mindedness win political victories generally, so solidarity and single-mindedness would probably have defeated sexism by now had feminists embraced those two qualities earlier and more universally.

But here’s the thing: I fucking am a feminist, and as a trans* woman who tries very hard to balance harm reduction with eradication, I’m constantly finding feminist opposition to my identity, my views, or both. Seriously, at the extreme margins feminists have disagreed whether it is even possible to do more to dismantle sexism during a lifetime than participating in heterosexual marriages promotes it, and thus whether or not it’s possible for any woman to have a net-positive effect on the feminist cause if ever once that woman gets married to a man. There is “dogma” in feminism, but really only by definition: if you love sexism and want to support it, by definition you can’t be a feminist. Also by definition, to be actually feminist one must believe that sexism deserves opposition. This inevitably leads to certain broad sharing of opinions, but this is a consequence of defining a group of people in ways that they must oppose sexism to be included in the group.

So what about this conclusion: feminists are willing to entertain a wide variety of ideas, even vague, daffy or ill-conceived ones, for long enough to be sure that they’re being rejected for their vagueness, daffiness, or poor conception*2.

Let’s consider for a moment what it would mean if the BLP paper had actually been published but feminists reading the paper wrote new papers opposing the ideas presented, showing (or attempting to show) that reflexive solidarity and true single-mindedness do not lead toward the feminist society most feminists want. In that case, the BLP paper would have played a role in the debate by sparking thought and making a new articulation against a rigid feminist movement once again relevant. It would not have made english-speaking feminist movements more fascist (or fascist at all).

It is not shocking that such bad thinkers as BLP wrote a paper advocating that feminism embrace movement-totalitarianism, a concept that has been rejected in feminism over and over again. It is also not shocking that BLP thought that feminists being willing to publish an idea that has been rejected time and again by movement feminism signals a feminism that is dogmatic.

What is shocking, however, is that no one seems to be pointing out that publishing ideas with which the majority of feminists disagree actually constitutes evidence consistent with the opposite of BLP’s hypothesis.

I strongly suspect, not being a reviewer of this journal article, that the reviewers may very well have thought something like “the benefits of single-mindedness haven’t ever convinced a majority of feminists, and since the general topic has been well covered it might seem appropriate to reject this, but if current feminists are deriving an argument for single-mindedness from important feminist writings, then those current feminists should have their ideas distributed and critiqued so that either they learn better or the current feminist movement has a chance to consider rejected strategies in light of new scholarship.”

Thinking like that, which is entirely consistent with acceptance of the Mein Kampf rework, is antithetical to the BLP hypothesis.

So what did BLP do to enable them to consider and reject that interpretation? Well… nothing.

So the antithesis position can’t yet be said to be proven by BLP’s own study, but the failure of BLP to even consider this explanation of their hoax’s success in getting a few papers published further demonstrates that BLP cannot collectively think themselves out of a paper bag.

I wish that more of the persons writing about BLP’s hoax in the immediate aftermath of their original article (especially but not only the higher-profile articles included in well-funded media outlets) had challenged BLP on this specific point.


*1: Lest anyone think otherwise, I put these in alphabetical order, not knowing whether any of them are more responsible for the approach and/or content of the hoax then others. Partitioning of credit and blame is neither implied nor should it be inferred from this order.

*2: As the right often fails to appreciate, feminists fully support good conception.

No, I Don’t Want Germaine Greer Beaten

Or Andy Lewis or mariamaclachlan or Maria MacLachlan (if those latter two are different people).

Sometimes I despair of getting this world right. I walk a pretty thin line in refusing to condemn self-defense specifically while abhorring violence generally. If we eliminated all violence except that which occurred when someone legitimately thought they were acting in self-defense we would still have far too much violence.

Existentialist radical feminists, the main feminist group from whom the categorical statements about defining women in ways that forever exclude the possibility of trans* self-determination regularly flow, do indeed spread a bunch of bullshit. gmcard, for instance, says that the definition of women has been “people without penises” since time immemorial. This is, decidedly, not true.

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Andy Lewis’ Gendered Gotcha

I rarely do this outside of classrooms, but I’m going to give folks here some definitions that are in common use among people that seriously study gender. Why? In part because Andy Lewis seems to think that there is no coherent definition of gender generally and woman specifically because gender is an inherently incoherent concept while sex is an inherently coherent concept and that to the extent that we use the words gender or woman or man we should use them only in reference to underlying, coherent categories of sex. The Andy Lewises of the world appear to believe that this definitional challenge – and the poor response most people give when asked to meet it – proves the fundamental rightness of an anti-trans*, pro-TERF feminist philosophical position.

[Read more…]

Blackstone, Crip Dyke, & The Next Nomination

William Blackstone once wrote:

all presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously: for the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.

The latter part has been deemed The Blackstone Formulation, being a restatement of a principle of law that goes back much further in time than the 1760 date on which Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England was published. It has reappeared frequently in different times and places, typically reworded slightly but with the numbers rarely changed. What is often lost is that we’re not actually talking here about things like whether a woman should accept a marriage proposal from a man credibly accused of beating the fuck out of his past partners. We’re talking specifically about the criminal law and whether the government is or should be empowered to end or suspend someone’s freedoms, and under what conditions that power can be exercised. The point is to encourage us to think about the consequences of acting under the guise of justice to punish those whose guilt is less than certain.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, I often found myself screaming that the presumption of innocence is not for confirmation hearings. But while the Blackstone formulation helps us understand why we might set a high standard for conviction (beyond reasonable doubt), simply screaming at the internet that the PoI is for criminal trials and not for confirmation hearings doesn’t explain why we should have different standards.

To this end, I want to ask a new question that might help. You can call the this “Crip Dyke’s Question” but the rule being questioned should, I think, clearly be named, “The Lindsey Graham Formulation”:

Is it better to place ten rapists on the Supreme Court than have one innocent man serve his lifetime appointment in honor and privilege on a court of appeal one level below?

Tweet the fuck out of #CripDykesQuestion. Call your senators and ask their staff members this question. Go to debates and use the audience question time (or pre-submission of questions mechanism) to place this question before your senators.

This isn’t too late. This is what we have to do before the next confirmation hearing, and if we want the question to penetrate the public consciousness, we must start now.

NYTimes: Kavanaugh’s nomination would have been defeated if only some survivors stayed silent

So, the NY Times has a theory which is theirs: Julia Swetnick’s sworn statement is responsible for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. From the article:

The Republican senators got into a lengthy conversation about Mr. Avenatti and how he could not be trusted and concluded that Ms. Swetnick’s claims did not add up. Why would she as a college student repeatedly go to high school parties where young women were gang raped? No one came forward to corroborate the allegation, and news reports surfaced about past lawsuits in which Ms. Swetnick’s truthfulness was questioned.

“This was a turning point,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That allegation was so over the top, it created a moment that was scary, quite frankly. But that moment was quickly replaced by disgust.”

… One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement “manna from heaven.” From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it “massively unhelpful.”

So there you have it: don’t go to the wrong parties, if you’re going to be raped, make sure that you have sympathetic witnesses, and if you hire the wrong lawyer, then when justice doesn’t happen, it’s your fault. Of course, they don’t actually identify even one yes vote by someone who would have voted against Kavanaugh if only Swetnick had shut up like a good girl, much less the two that would have been necessary to change the outcome. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is don’t speak up, unless you speak up a little bit, politely, about things that are appropriate dinner table conversation. Otherwise when injustice happens, it’s on you. Because goodness knows that if women were just encouraged to shut the fuck up a little bit harder, we wouldn’t have a perjurer and probable sexual assault perp sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

So if you’re thinking about speaking up about the assault that happened to you, think again: you’re probably just making things worse. Our newspaper of record has said so.

Horrible Jokes

So my best friend and I were having a conversation sparked by that most recent post of mine. We were discussing whether it was acceptable, even as a cathartic joke, to talk about burning (fictional and/or non-specific) people and scattering their ashes on the wind. We concluded that it could be acceptable in some contexts. But that brought up another joke, that was subtly different:

Q: How many men does it take to wallpaper a bedroom?

A: Only one if you slice him thin enough.

Now, my best friend is actually the same person who first told me this joke 20 years ago, so I was a bit surprised to hear her say that this joke was never acceptable. She went so far as to say she should never have told it. On the other hand, I think it’s completely unacceptable to tell such a joke for laughs in any public context you could find in Canada today – and likewise in any public context you could find in the US today – but that when she first heard it in the 1980s the context was sufficiently different that it could be (and was) acceptable in at least some contexts. Where she first heard it was during an ongoing anti-war protest. It was a women-only camp that was set up to protest and to monitor activity related to the Pershing II missiles (nuclear tipped missiles with a range that shifted during development and production, but was ultimately ~1000 miles or 1500-1800 km) designed to be deployed in Europe. Everyone at the camp being seriously committed to non-violence contributed, I believe, to the context that made the joke acceptable in the time and place originally told. It also matters (to me, anyway) that “humor” about violence against women was still not merely acceptable, but financially rewarded. this is, after all, long after “To the moon, Alice,” and still before Andrew Dice Clay would sell out venues to thousands of people eager to hear “jokes” like:

I give [women] what they want. Pull their hair, rap ’em in the head a few times, say all the little things they want to hear, like ‘Fuck, pig, howl, skank.

Emphasis added.

For me, although the discussion at the peace camp wasn’t this context, the joke would also have been acceptable when told in a way that was designed to provoke a reaction (“hey, that ain’t fair to men!”) and then to use that reaction to make society better (“But you accept that unfairness from men comedians … if you interrupt and question this joke, are you going to interrupt and question misogynist jokes?”).

Although there is certainly a wealth of sexist/misogynist humor out there, I think there’s enough of a new social context for us to leverage other arguments or employ other tactics to fight what still exists. There’s simply less need for a “slice ’em thin enough” joke to make the point. While the possibility of telling such jokes for catharsis still exists, I don’t believe that telling them publicly (including in almost any manner using the internet) is necessary for such catharsis. I think it’s good if people don’t tell such jokes for cathartic laughs in private with their best friends, but if people conduct themselves well publicly, I won’t condemn them for using humor privately for reasons such as catharsis that would not be acceptable publicly.*1

I make a distinction between this joke and the “people who make me angry” joke in the previous post because the previous post’s joke targeted “the people that inspire my rage” where “my” is a pronoun standing in for a particular, but fictional, person. Thus the targets are specific, but undefined. The targets of the wallpaper joke are non-specific, but well defined (all men). There’s much more reason and justification, then, for some individuals hearing the wallpaper joke to believe that they devalued, that they are socially or psychologically injured by the joke. Nor do I think it saves the wallpaper joke that men benefit from sexism. It’s arguable, but I think in the 1980s men’s privilege and the context of misogynist humor might very well have saved the joke. Today? No.

What do you think? If told in the comedy club nearest you (as a joke, not dissected for its social meaning and effects and morality), would the wallpaper joke be acceptable? Could it ever possibly be? Would it matter if it was a special event night (e.g. “feminist humor night” where the violence and sexual prejudice of the joke are more likely to be interpreted ironically)? What about the burning/scattering the ashes joke? Would it be acceptable at your local comedy club? Could it ever be?

Although I find the latter much more acceptable than the former, I’d love to hear any disagreement.


*1: The reason I don’t think it’s a good idea even privately is that I think it reinforces certain types of thinking, which then makes harmful actions more likely later when one reenters public space. In theory it’s possible to tell jokes that target people based on gender or race or dis/ability in private while behaving generously and without prejudice in public. In practice, I don’t think it’s possible. But since without telepathy it would be impossible to know about the private jokes and (more importantly) impossible to know exactly what role private jokes played in shaping public behavior, I’d rather focus my criticism on the unacceptable public behavior.