Creepy dudes on ice

They’re everywhere. The NSF has released a horrifying report on sexual harassment and assault at US Antarctic program — there are a large number of military personnel, contractors, and researchers who converge on Antarctic bases for long periods of time, with their ability to escape the place limited. It’s a The Thing situation, except instead of a shapeshifting alien, it’s horny drunk dudes groping anything without a beard. And you aren’t allowed to use a flamethrower on them!

Women are a significant proportion of the Antarctic population, with 140 out of 440 respondents to a survey (peak population total at all sites is about 1600). A huge fraction of the women think harassment and assault are serious problems in the Antarctic, which, whoa, speaks to courage of the women who go there to do science.

This is supposedly a professional environment, but working there is going to subject you to all kinds of degrading behavior. I am astounded that women still go there to work, and also surprised that an epidemic like that is allowed to continue. That persistence might be explained by another datum.

Only 23% of leadership (defined by older, higher salaries, and higher-status
positions) agree or strongly agree that sexual assault is a problem and 40% agree
that sexual harassment is a problem.

Leadership is grossly out of touch or in denial. Read the whole, long report to see multiple examples of the seriousness of the problem. Beautiful, isolated research stations seem to be a magnet for assholes.

Should, maybe, NSF provide all women working in these research stations a flamethrower?

Chaya Raichik is willing to blow up children’s hospitals “in the name of the children”

I find conservatives’ obsession with gender affirmation therapy to be disturbing and bizarre. This Libs of TikTok fanatic, Chaya Raichik, has been haranguing hospital help lines in an effort to get incriminating sound bites for her sensationalist channel. And she succeeded!

Last Friday, Libs of TikTok’s founder Chaya Raichik posted an audio recording of her discussion with hospital telephone operators who said that “a 16-year-old trans boy would be eligible for a hysterectomy at the hospital’s gender development clinic,” The Washington Post reported.

One operator told Raichik that a 16-year-old child would be “in the clear” to receive the operation. A second operator told her that “all different type[s] of age groups” come in for the operation and that “kids” younger than 16 have come in for the procedure.

Yeah, no. Transgender groups are on tenterhooks right now, aware that the mob is ready to rampage and kill, and are scrupulous about avoiding doing anything irreversible to a minor, no matter how much the child may desire it. I don’t believe that they got a revelation from an informed expert at the hospital — they badgered a person who probably primarily handles appointment scheduling to say something wrong. You might want to instead base your opinions on what pediatricians and ethicists say:

One of the most complicated ethical issues that arises in children’s hospitals today is the issue of whether it is ever permissible to perform a procedure for a minor that will result in permanent sterilization. In most cases, the answer is no. The availability of good, safe, long-acting contraception allows surgical options to be postponed when the primary goal of such surgical options is to prevent pregnancy. But what if a minor has congenital urogenital anomalies or other medical conditions for which the best treatment is a hysterectomy? In those cases, the primary goal of therapy is not to prevent pregnancy. Instead, sterility is an unfortunate side effect of a medically indicated treatment. Should that side effect preclude the provision of a therapy that is otherwise medically appropriate? We present a case that raises these issues, and asked experts in law, bioethics, community advocacy, and gynecology to respond. They discuss whether the best option is to proceed with the surgery or to cautiously delay making a decision to give the teenager more time to carefully consider all of the options.

It’s just not done. You can find people who claim it is done — Raichik and her collection of freaks included — but the hospital has denied it and they have nothing but an uninformed claim by someone who is not a medical expert.

The recording, made by Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik, features two telephone operators at the renowned D.C. medical facility stating — in response to Raichik’s questions — that a 16-year-old trans boy would be eligible for a hysterectomy at the hospital’s gender development clinic. Children’s has not disputed the authenticity of the recording but said the employees provided inaccurate information.

“None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients,” hospital spokeswoman Ariana Ahmadi Perez said. “We do not and have never performed gender-affirming hysterectomies for anyone under the age of 18.”

Now the hospital is flooded with threats. Some human beings seem to favor an opportunity, even a false opportunity, to exercise some self-righteous violence. I think it’s less about protecting children and more about venting some aggression and believing they are heroic…by screaming at a children’s hospital.

Children’s National Hospital has been inundated with threatening emails and phone calls after an influential right-wing Twitter account published a recording that falsely suggested the hospital is performing hysterectomies on transgender children, a hospital spokeswoman said. The torrent of harassment was accompanied by social media posts suggesting that Children’s be bombed and its doctors placed in a woodchipper.

Chaya Raichik has been suspended from Twitter temporarily for spreading misinformation. Not banned, mind you, despite her long history of vicious rumor-mongering. We’re going to have to wait for one of her followers to throw a doctor in a woodchipper before that happens.

Oh, Twitter. Forever pretending to be ethical, forever failing before the siren call of profitable traffic.

Women who don’t want babies are DENYING BIOLOGY!

Here we go again: Jerry Coyne is flogging another dead dichotomous horse. All it takes is for anyone to say that sex isn’t binary, and he charges in over all those people who demonstrate that it really isn’t so simple to say it is too! Now it’s the NY Times, which published an op-ed titled, The Maternal Instinct is a Myth that Men Created. Dr Coyne is not alone — it set the racist and misogynist internet on fire (Go ahead! Google it! I sure see a lot of links I wouldn’t post anywhere.) How dare the NY Times question the purity of women?

Let’s take a look at that article first. I didn’t find it at all objectionable, but then, I am an SJW soy-boy. It points out that simplistic notions of a maternal instinct are invalid — some women are uninterested in, or even repelled, by the idea of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child (and some men, obviously, are thrilled with the joys of parenthood). It can’t be a simple matter of inheriting a chromosome that makes you want babies — there’s a complex continuum of maternal behavior, and it’s not only exhibited by people with two X chromosomes, or a vagina, or certain hormones, or whatever excuse conservatives have been making for an intrinsic female nature for the last century. There’s a peculiar impulse that makes some human beings want to cast everything in a black/white light, though.

The myth of maternal instinct places a primacy on biological mothers, suggesting the routes to parenthood fall into two categories: “natural” and “other.” It sustains outdated ideas about masculinity that teaches fathers that they are secondary — assistants, babysitters — and encourages mothers to see them that way, too. It undermines the rights and recognition of same-sex couples and transgender and nonbinary parents, whose ability to care for their children is often questioned.

That’s the message: human behavior isn’t binary. The idea of everything about people being the product of simple either/or switches has failed. And if you want to know how such a notion has taken over, we ask, “Cui bono?” It’s men who benefit from enforcing this arrangement.

Coyne doesn’t like that, and he has a rather silly argument against it. It first relies on typological thinking — the average defines the individual.

But to claim that women don’t have a greater desire than men to care for offspring, or have a greater emotional affinity towards offspring, is to deny biology, and evolution in particular. (I freely admit that many men love their kids deeply, and that some men care for them as much or more as do mothers, but I’m talking about averages here, not anecdotes.)

Women (aggregate noun) have greater desire (uniformly, it appears) to care for offspring. OK, what about people who don’t? Are they not women? We’ve seen this flavor of argument before from people who want to claim that some universal characteristic is an unambiguous and unmistakeable marker for sexual identity. Yeah, some AFAB women have wombs. So? Why should that one character define the totality of the person, and why should its absence likewise define other people?

I’m not impressed by his argument — it’s basically the idea that animal females can have babies, therefore we get to associate a whole lot of culturally determined other attributes on them — but I was amused by one thing. He sorta half-assedly cites Sarah Blaffer Hrdy to support his ideas.

UPDATE: In a comment below, Randolph Nesse, one of the founders of “Darwinian medicine,” cites a book I’d forgotten:

If only everyone interested in this topic could read “Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species”, Sarah Hrdy’s 2020 book on the topic. And if only the NY Times would review such excellent science books so people would know about them! I am tempted to send Conaboy a copy.

Hrdy is a highly respected anthropologist, and you can order her book by clicking on this screenshot:

I highly doubt that Hrdy sees maternal instincts as pure social constructs designed to hold women down. I’m going to read it, and I hope Conaboy does, too. Then we can expect her to retract her article (LOL).

He hasn’t read it? I’ve read it. It’s a very good book. It doesn’t support his binary reductionism, though, and nobody sees human behavior as pure social constructs — that’s a Pinkerish straw man. She asks hard questions and comes up with complex answers that are entirely compatible with evolutionary theory, but don’t support the kind of binary reductionism Coyne is peddling. She writes, for instance:

Is a mother born instinctively nurturing? (“She is a motherly type,” I’ve sometimes heard it said.) Does something inside her change during pregnancy that makes her maternal? (“Before the baby was born, her nesting instinct really got going.”) Is the increased responsiveness due to stimulation from the infant? (“She just fell in love with her new baby.”) Is a female gradually primed to be a mother by experiences?

For mice at least, the answer to these questions is: all of the above. “Instinctive” is a reasonable way to describe her maternal behavior, as long as it is understood that mother mammals do not necessarily exhibit automatic, full-blown commitment to infants immediately after birth. Rather, her “maternal instinct” unfolds gradually, in “baby steps” in which infants, too, are implicated.

Nature cannot be compartmentalized from nurture, yet something about human imaginations predisposes us to dichotomize the world that way. Nature versus Nurture, innate or acquired. The persistence, decade after decade, of a nonexistent dichotomy puzzles me.

Me, too.

Here’s one of her conclusions.

Rather than some magical “essence of mother,” what makes a mother is that she is (invariably) at the scene, hormonally primed, sensitive to infant signals, and related to the baby. These factors lower her threshold for giving of herself to satisfy the infant’s needs. Once her milk comes in, the mother’s urge to nurture grows stronger still. Furthermore, compared to the father (who also shares at least half of his genes with this infant by common descent), there is a good chance that this infant represents a higher proportion of her reproductive prospects than of his (though not necessarily, if she has several, and this is the only child he ever sires). These factors make the mother the likeliest candidate to become the primary caretaker. But they do not constitute an unyielding prescription.

Well, that neatly answers what Coyne considers to be his definitive point: How do we explain the fact that, across the animal kingdom, when members of only one sex do most of the childrearing, it’s almost invariably the females? Consider it explained without resorting to a universal maternal instinct driving all women’s behavior. Your idea of what a woman is supposed to be and do is not an “unyielding prescription,” it’s neither a “should” nor a “must,” yet that’s how most of these authoritarian thinkers use the concept.

Maybe it would help to treat women as individuals and people first, rather than as avatars of a sex?

As we all know, women don’t win

The next phase of the misogynists’ process has begun. Going after trans women was just the entry point for recruiting all the conservative normies; now it’s time to go after the cis women. Ladies, you better not be too good at sports!

After one competitor “outclassed” the rest of the field in a girls’ state-level competition last year, the parents of the competitors who placed second and third lodged a complaint with the Utah High School Activities Association calling into question the winner’s gender.

David Spatafore, the UHSAA’s legislative representative, addressing the Utah Legislature’s Education Interim Committee on Wednesday, said the association — without informing the student or family members about the inquiry — asked the student’s school to investigate.

The school examined the students’ enrollment records.

“The school went back to kindergarten and she’d always been a female,” he said.

And if she hadn’t been, what would they do? Would that make it okay to target a student for investigation?

Women aren’t allowed to run too fast or play too hard or score too many points, lest they be accused of not being women. There’s another sin they must not commit.

Spatafore said the association has received other complaints, some that said “that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough.”

Having your makeup on point and your hair prettily styled is now mandatory for all female competitors.

And for Jesus’ sake, don’t win! That would be so unladylike!

There’s no such thing as a good boss

I was suspicious (just because I’m always suspicious of good stories), but ultimately I was fooled. This Seattle CEO, Dan Price, was doing wonderful things — he slashed his own salary to $70,000, he gave all his employees a uniform raise to $70,000, he seemed to be doing all the right stuff to be a fair and just employer.

Of course it all fell apart. It turns out he was an egotistical glory hound who was doing it all to get laudatory tweets and followers. “He is definitely obsessed with how seemingly you can just become famous,” And women. He wanted lots of women. He divorced his wife.

Mr. Price told media outlets that his divorce several years earlier was amicable. But his former wife, Kristie Colón, had given a TEDx talk in October 2015 in which she described their relationship as abusive.

“He got mad at me for ignoring him and grabbed me and shook me again,” Ms. Colón read from her old journal. “He started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face.” She recalled once locking herself in a car, “afraid he was going to body-slam me into the ground again or waterboard me in our upstairs bathroom like he had done before.”

His activities on the dating scene were less than savory.

Mr. Price messaged Serena Jowers, a fitness coach near Seattle, in December 2020, after she liked some of his posts on Instagram. On their third date, Ms. Jowers said, he pulled up videos on Pornhub, to show her what he liked. After she resisted watching pornography, he pressured her into having sex, she said. She realized he was touching her with only one hand, then saw him holding his phone. He was recording them.

Ms. Jowers jumped up and grabbed the nearest blanket, yelled at him, and fled, she said. The next morning she texted him, saying the filming made her feel like she was not in control of her own body. “I want you to delete any video/pics you took,” she wrote.

“I’ll do that,” he immediately texted back. Three other women, two of whom he also first messaged on social media, also told me that they learned Mr. Price secretly filmed them.

Porn sites are not a good place to learn about sex, and surreptitiously recording an encounter is more than a red flag. Then there were multiple other reports.

In January, they had dinner at a restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, where she said they discussed politics. What happened next was detailed in interviews, a police report and text messages.

As the restaurant closed, her Uber app wasn’t working, and Mr. Price suggested they stay warm in his Tesla as she downloaded it again.

Sitting in the front seats, he tried to kiss her and grabbed her throat, she told the police.

“He did not let go of my throat right away,” she recalled.

“After I rejected him,” she said, “he transformed.”

Ms. Hayne called her boyfriend, pretending he was her brother, and asked him to rush and get her. Mr. Price sped north, driving her to a Park N Ride.

She was scared because he was “very drunk,” the police report said.

“Hurryyyyyyy,” she texted her boyfriend.

Mr. Price raced up to the top floor of the parking lot, drove the car in doughnut circles and pulled into a spot, she told the police. He reached over to kiss her and grabbed her throat again, his hand pulsing in and out “for minutes,” the police report said.

“SQUEEZING HARD,” she would text a friend the next morning.

And then, he let go. “I’m too drunk,” Ms. Hayne recalled him saying, as he went into the back seat to pass out.

Well, now he’s front page news in the New York Times. He definitely figured out how to become famous.

Still?

In my talk yesterday I briefly mentioned this digit length nonsense, the idea that you can tell men from women by the relative length of their index finger (women are supposed to have longer index fingers than men). I only gave a brief overview of the fallacious idea because I wrote about it over ten years ago and also brought it up at a conference before, and of course everyone remembers everything I ever wrote or said, right? But then today, I spotted this in the wild:

Oh no! It’s real! There are anti-trans inquisitors who think they can reliably diagnose sex by looking at your fingers! I guess I need to repeat myself more.

The nose knows

The latest gender critical outrage: the Women’s March logo has 3 profiles, and one of them doesn’t look feminine enough. It must be a man, baby!

There are no women on planet Earth who have a face anything like the one on that alien creature on the left! As we all know, you can reliably determine the sex of an individual from the shape of their nose. Or something. It’s biology, man.

Oh, here’s a fun game! I found a page of cameo portraits of Victorian ladies, with lots of photos of Victorian…uh, women. I’m not sure anymore. According to the GCs, the British empire must have been built by brave men who kept a trans woman at home, since there are a lot of deviations from the dainty feminine ideal there.

They’re all quite lovely — these were intended to be flattering portraits of their subjects — but I’m sure the GCs could pull out their calipers and determine that the majority were men in wigs.

Also, biology would tell you that not only is there a tremendous amount of variation in human facial features, but human perception is finely tuned to recognize those variations.

Does Jesse Singal still get writing gigs?

He’s a creep.

At least, no publisher ought to commission him to write about trans issues. There’s just so much information damning him as an untrustworthy actor.

This tweet bugs me.

When anyone talks about “biological” sex or “biological” males or “biological” females, it throws up a red flag for me. What does that mean? They don’t say; there are all these unstated assumptions behind it. I have to guess that what they mean is something about penises and vaginas and chromosomes and hormones, but those are all less absolutely deterministic than they imagine. Singal is a guy who writes about sex and gender a lot, so how can he be so casual and sloppy with his words?

And then I learn he’s part of a cabal of cis journalists who coordinate their agenda behind the scenes. Singal, of course is chatting away there.

Singal posted these messages in the discussion forum of a closed listserv he belongs to, hosted on Google Groups. The listserv, per its “About” page, aims to provide an “off-the-record discussion forum for left-of-center journalists, authors, academics and wonks.” It has been around for at least eight years (I found discussion posts dating back as far as 2010), and has just over 400 members (403 at the time of this writing). These members include New York Times best-selling authors, Ivy League academics, magazine editors, and other public intellectuals—in short, a lot of important people who influence public discourse through their written work. They use the listserv’s forum to discuss current events, news from their respective fields, articles they’ve read, articles they’ve written, and other topics of public importance. There are a number of threads about trans stuff, and they read like a greatest hits of the past decade of trans-related cultural anxieties: whether Chelsea Manning would pose a threat in a women’s prison; Janet Mock’s contentious 2014 interview with Piers Morgan and the “Twitter mob” she inspired; Elinor Burkett’s New York Times piece about Caitlyn Jenner and womanhood; comparisons between Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal; erasure of the word “vagina”; saying “pregnant people” vs. “pregnant women”; and a number of Jesse Singal’s articles over the past few years.

None of these discussions brought trans voices to the table because the group has never had any out trans members, at least as far as I can tell. “I really wish we had some trans people on this list, it’s a real void we have,” posted an award-winning investigative journalist in a thread about Singal temporarily leaving Twitter last December. “I’m not interested in sharing this list or any other space with someone who is going to insist on nullifying and erasing my existence and experience as female,” a prominent futurist in progressive news media wrote back. The exchange demonstrates two different means of excluding trans people from the discussion: passive exclusion (empty calls for inclusion that don’t lead to action) and active exclusion (we must keep them out). At the time of this exchange, the listserv had existed for nearly a decade. If the group’s members really wanted to bring trans people to the table, they could have done so at any point. The fact that they never did suggests that the group’s members—400 prominent, influential figures in academia, media, and publishing—would rather keep trans people at a safe, anthropological remove where they can talk about trans people without speaking to trans people directly. A less generous reading of this exclusion would say that they don’t see us as potential intellectual equals and, thus, don’t read our work.

Awww, how sweet — they sure would like to have some trans members, unless they somehow “nullify” cis people’s experience of their sex. I’ve met other men and women, cis and trans, and none of them have ever made me question my identity. Someone needs to get out more!

The final nail in the coffin ought to be this lengthy and thorough deconstruction of Singal’s devious anti-trans history. Here’s just a taste:

One reason we can confidently assert that Singal is distorting the narrative (whether consciously or in accordance with his own biases) is because he did consult people capable of fact-checking him for the article—he simply didn’t use their input. Singal interviewed multiple trans women for the piece, including trans writers Julia Serano and Parker Molloy, but their comments appear to have had little impact on the final draft. After it was published, both writers spoke out about several inaccuracies of fact and framing. They had addressed these points in their interviews and were ignored. Molloy’s response offers a nuanced critique of Singal’s pro-GIC arguments; Serano’s rebuttal contains crucial historical context about “how both ‘gay conversion’ and [Zucker’s style of] ‘gender reparative’ therapies share the exact same strategy of coercing gender non-conforming children to behave in a more normative manner.”

That interview was, it appears, the earliest contact between Singal and Serano, and he did not take her criticisms well. According to her, he lied about her views on transition to outrage his Twitter fan base. This would become an example of an alleged pattern of behavior by Singal. First, he is critiqued by trans people or allies. He misrepresents their positions to incite backlash online, or simply screenshots or quote tweets them to direct harassment their way. Trans writer Emily VanDerWerff said her experience with being misrepresented and harassed included “death threats, rape threats, invitations to commit suicide, [and] constant misgendering.” Singal contacts critics, threatening to sue. He contacts their employers. He sends them abusive emails. When someone reports a fact about him that he finds unflattering or releases a critique he doesn’t like, he frivolously threatens to sue and demands publications issue corrections—then howls about not getting them on Twitter. At this point, it’s a little bit of a joke on trans Twitter that every trans writer or academic, no matter how minor, is eventually subject to a Singal meltdown and volley of threats.

Singal’s behavior is unprofessional, to say the least. Julia Serano, when targeted by Singal, felt she had to temporarily leave social media for her safety. Another one of Singal’s trans targets was fired after he repeatedly contacted her boss. Singal’s habit of consistently and viciously attacking his critics poisons the well; it deflects any chance of real criticism, since it allows him to claim that any given critic simply personally dislikes him. He has, of course, helped ensure that this is the case by treating them poorly. This bad behavior extends beyond minor Twitter slap fights—it’s also a means of warping the conversation, punishing and dismissing dissenting voices before they can even speak. Leveling threats and directing abuse at sources and experts in this way goes beyond mere unprofessionalism—for a journalist, it’s genuinely unethical.

I think it’s clear that anything Singal writes on trans issues is biased, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Yet he still gets published in high-profile magazines! What do you think: do publishers and editors not realize how awful he is on these topics, or they’re all just awful people who share his ugly views?