Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: It was a tuck

We watched the notorious movie last night, including the infamous closing scene with Rudy Giuliani.

Sorry to disappoint you, but yeah, he was just tucking in his shirt.

It was still stupid and inappropriate, just not as scandalous as everyone was imagining. Giuliani was smarming it up with a pretty reporter, smirking and flattering her. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, except for the condescension and DEAR GOD GIULIANI SHOULD NEVER SMILE. He looks like a creepy skull.

He is then invited into her bedroom for a drink. And he took her up on it! Extremely unprofessional and sleazy! I’ve done many interviews in hotel rooms, and if at the end I was invited to go into the bedroom for a drink (never happened, my interviewers were professional too), I would have said, “No thank you, I’ve got to go” or, if we wanted to continue the conversation, I’d have suggested that we meet in the bar in a few minutes.

Then there was a scene where the two of them were fumbling around removing each other’s microphones. Unprofessional again; yes, you thread the wire from the lavalier mic under your shirt to the transmitter, but it’s not a big production. A reporter would find this part of her daily routine, while a guy like Giuliani has done this a thousand times. He wouldn’t need assistance, and neither would she. I’ve done it a hundred times, usually standing up on a stage, sometimes right in front of everyone. It doesn’t involve taking off my pants.

It does, however, sometimes involve unbuttoning a shirt, and then tucking it back in. That’s what I saw Giuliani doing. It wasn’t a big deal at all.

Also, remember, there was a cameraperson recording it all. What Sacha Baron Cohen caught on film was a creepy politician being condescending and unprofessional, nothing more. It was disappointing, actually, and was simply some unflattering editing of an already unpleasant character who thinks he’s attractive and endearing, when he just gets more repulsive the harder he tries.

The attention that bit is given also detracts from the rest of the movie. The truly horrifying parts where when he got his audience of good ol’ salt-of-the-earth Americans to go along with his prompts: an audience of rednecks grinning like feral hyenas as he gets them to sing along to a bad tune he was making about gassing their political opponents to death; the casual and easily elicited antisemitism; the QAnon fans babbling their conspiracy theories; the weird debutante ball where the Southern gentlemen were locked in rigid politeness as Borat’s daughter does a fertility dance celebrating her menses, and the most they do is hiss, “call her an Uber”.

As is usual in a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, the real freaks we should pay attention to are ourselves, not the clown with a funny accent capering on the stage. Borat couldn’t make Giuliani more of a spectacle than he routinely does to himself on Fox News every day, so I thought that bit fell rather flat.

Also, it was an out-loud, unapologetic feminist movie. Let’s not forget that in all the noise about the final setup.

Ask the women — it’s a power move

Yet again, high profile men are flashing their genitals at unwilling onlookers, and yet again, other men are trying to ask us to show sympathy, and understand that men have normal, human sexual needs. I know that! But maybe we should be listening to the women on this matter.

I’m sure most of you know that famous lawyer and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin exposed himself during a Zoom call. A business-related Zoom call to do some kind of election simulation. With multiple people on it, including women. And he was rubbing one out right there.

I don’t care that he says he thought he had muted himself and wasn’t visible to anyone else. To be really honest, I don’t even believe him. Regardless, though, one should not be jacking off during a business meeting, particularly where video connections are involved. There’s just no excuse. You shouldn’t wank your junk under a conference room table during a meeting; you shouldn’t rub one out during a video call either. It’s unprofessional, gross and like I said before, abusive.

Now it seems he’s lost positions at the New Yorker and CNN at the very least, and I’m glad. If you can’t wait until after the Zoom call to do your business, you have no business doing public business and making a mint off of it. Crawl back to your hole.

But the really shocking thing was how many other guys—mostly other white guys because who sticks together better than white men?—defending him. Saying how those of us complaining are shaming men for having needs and shaming the act of masturbation.

Yeah, we’ve got needs, I’ve got needs, masturbation is perfectly normal and healthy. But this behavior is not an expression of healthy sexual desire. Louis CK was getting off on domination games — he was forcing women to witness him, and that was the thrill, the power and intimidation. Ask the women and they know — the joy for the perp is making women to submit. Power!

I get a taste of that too. I get a fair bit of hate mail, written by guys who loudly despise me, and one of the most common things they do is send me gay porn. I don’t get as many dick pics as many women do, but the point is that I know they are not sending me these photos as an expression of healthy sexual desire. They send them as a threat, as an expression of their power. It’s not an expression of the psychology of courtship of sexuality.

Women have been telling you that for years. They aren’t turned on by flashers. You can’t defend flashers with the claim that they’re just fulfilling sexual needs.

How dare a corporation cater to a market segment that isn’t mine?

Oreo has come out with rainbow colored cookies. I hear the commercial is positive and heartwarming and appreciative of the LGBT community, but I haven’t seen it, so I’ll just have to trust the buzz.

That’s nice, but I’m not in the market for cookies myself. If I were, I’d probably like them, although they do look a bit garish. The one thing I wouldn’t do is regard them as a sign of the collapse of civilization. But then, I’m not Rod Dreher.

At least there’s a sensible take on that.

Yes, Rod sees a corporate decision to monetize apparent support for queer people and their hetero friends and family as a totalitarian act of revolution (???) because his movement demands that adherents be mad about something at all times.

But that something can’t be anything a normal person would get mad about. Normal people look at this and think “Where can I get some?” or perhaps “Yuck, Oreos.” They do not think totalitarianism or revolution because even if they are assholes, they aren’t assholes who have nothing better to do except Be Mad.

As an aside, I’m still torn by corporatized queerness. Yes, I know that this is driven by the desire to increase revenue and the production or sale of rainbow colored items is no guarantee that a company treats its own queer employees with respect. But, I’m old enough to remember the before times so I still think it is nifty.

Also, it makes dimwits like Rod beclown themselves, and that’s never a bad thing.

There are lots of things that are not marketed for me: sports video games, bass fishing boats, accordions, toupees, MAGA hats. They’re fine. You want one, go ahead, but please don’t pretend the people making those products love you personally. I’ll just shrug and move on.

One exception: if you’re trying to sell me on the weird religious opinions of a conservative dingleberry, I’ll say “Yuck, Dreher” and cuss you out.

Today, I picked on the bad science of TERFs some more

They’re a cult, I tell you.

By the way, I’m still struggling with audio. I decided to just try a straightforward camera mic, since I’ve been having those annoying cancellation issues with my fancy condenser mic. I don’t like the results much. When the quality is low enough that even I can tell, it’s not doing the job. Next time I’ll experiment with a lavalier mic and see how that turns out.

The problem was compounded by the roaring loud windstorm that was howling outside all day. Someday I’ll understand audio.

Also, I’m kind of hating my hair. How can I be a YouTube star with clown hair?

The arrogance of TERFs

The Royal Society of Biology is celebrating Biology Week 2020, and some random TERFy twit saw it as an opportunity to declare that sex is determined at conception, observed at or before birth and is immutable, none of which is universally true. I’m particularly annoyed at the claim that sex is determined at conception. To a real biologist, “determination” is a specific term with a specific definition — “The normal process by which a less specialized cell develops or matures to become more distinct in form and function” — and sex is most definitely not determined at conception, but emerges progressively over time, requiring many genes and many cellular interactions to reach its final state. In humans, the process isn’t even complete at adolescence!

So take note of how the Royal Society of Biology responds to that TERFy intrusion.

“Please take your transphobia out of our hashtag please. BYE”. Hah.

You know, you can disagree with the consensus of biologists. You can disagree with the major scientific societies. You can disagree with the big name biology journals. But when you do that, you can no longer assert that biology, as a generic institution, supports your claims. To be honest, you have to admit to dissenting from biology, and then you’re likely to make gross errors of fact, as @TriciaFasman did with her claim that sex is determined at conception.

Yet they persist, and there’s Ms Fasman lecturing the Royal Society of Biology on biology to defend a fantasy author’s misconceptions about biology. Sweet. I’m used to TERFs hectoring me about their bogus understanding of biology, but wow, here’s one self-righteously wagging a finger at a whole scientific society. The arrogance is impressive.

But hey, if you really think fantasy authors have more authority in biology than, you know, biologists, you can always find that Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are saying the words “trans rights”, and they’re both far better writers than Rowling.

(Seriously, TERFs, if you try to comment here that you’ve got the backing of biology supporting your claims, I’m going to laugh at you and swing the banhammer, just as I do with racists and creationists who pretend that biology supports their fuckwittery. It doesn’t.)

Old drama, and TERFs revisiting

I seem to have recently stirred up the TERFs, who have been making the usual TERFy accusations, including this one.

Apparently, the only reason I support trans rights is that if I don’t, the all-powerful Trans Lobby will rise up and cancel me and cast me into the outer darkness for all eternity. There are just a few little problems with that imaginary scenario. For one, my accuser says she was one of my “gaggle of blog subscribers”, and I wasn’t so protective of her views at all, since I drove her away.

She canceled me! Oh, nooooo! Appeasing my readers is all I live for, as everyone knows.

Her complaints caught the eye of the one of our “best bloggers” to whom I gave “the witch treatment”. Ophelia Benson had a few things to say about that.

He didn’t defend me. He refrained from joining the other bloggers in trashing me, for a time, but he sure as hell didn’t defend me. He privately begged me to stay, while doing nothing to defend me in public.

Then, in the end, he broke down and did a post saying I needed to “own” my mistakes.

Also, I wasn’t dismissed. I left. That “her dismissal” is a lie. He may have forgotten by now, but the fact is I left.

I will most definitely accept that final correction: before Ophelia could be dismissed, she stomped off in a huff, in the same way that Richard Carrier was not kicked out, but eagerly left the network before we could investigate the accusations against him. They both knew the inevitable conclusion would disclose that he was a harasser, and she was a TERF, and neither are acceptable around these here parts.

But I disagree with the claim that I didn’t defend her, or that it wasn’t public. How else did it happen that I antagonized so many good people in the lead-up to her departure? I struggled with that. She was one of our best bloggers, writing frequently and well, and I was in total denial that such a good progressive feminist could also be hateful towards trans people — I defended her, but did not defend her repulsive views, and kept hoping that reason would bring her around. It did not. She turned out to be far more rigid in her beliefs than I expected, and thus her departure was just a matter of time, and a question of whether she’d leave willingly or we’d kick her out.

Finally, though, it seems to be an article of faith among internet TERFs that I’m held hostage by immense numbers of trans people who give me clicks, and that is the only reason I argue for trans rights. That’s nonsense. If I wanted blog hits, it would be far more profitable to cater to the mobs of cis bigots, who far outnumber the tiny minority of trans individuals. The reason I support trans people is more nefarious than that: I’m a biologist, steeped in the dogmas of biology, which state that sex determination and expression are far more complicated than most people can imagine, and that there are more possible outcomes of the process than just two, and that humans are much more socially and functionally diverse than can be encompassed in a mere two categories, as if we were primitive ants with two castes. I held those views since long before I became aware that TERFs actually exist and think that they understand biology.

That’s particularly galling. All weekend long I was getting indignant messages from TERFs telling me that I don’t understand biology and that real biologists agree that sex is a discrete binary. It’s a bit like being harassed by flat-earthers trying to tell me that a globe violates all the principles of physics, or by creationists confident that more and more True Biologists are abandoning the theory of evolution every day. These are claims that are contradicted by reality and by the experts in the fields, yet they persist in their delusion, and no amount of arguing will convince them otherwise.

I should know that by now, but I have my own delusions.

A nasty little list — the JK Rowling fan club

There is a petition going around in support of awful transphobe JK Rowling. It’s remarkably stupid.

We are a group of writers, actors, directors, musicians, producers, comedians and artists who wish to speak in support of JK Rowling. She has been subjected to an onslaught of abuse that highlights an insidious authoritarian and misogynistic trend in social media. Rowling has consistently shown herself to be an honourable and compassionate person and the appalling hashtag #RIPJKRowling is just the latest example of hate speech directed against her and other women that Twitter and other platforms enable and implicitly endorse.

We are signing this letter in the hope that if more people stand up against the targeting of women online, we might at least make it less acceptable to engage in it or profit from it.

We wish JK Rowling well and stand in solidarity with her.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the petition might be. It’s not urging any changes or action. It just wants everyone to stand on one side of a line in support of transphobia and a ridiculously wealthy writer.

It wants to stop people from profiting by disagreeing with JK Rowling, which is not a thing. Nobody is getting rich from pointing out her ugly ideas.

I don’t see how saying “Eww, ick, I won’t buy her books anymore” is authoritarian. It’s also not authoritarian if I look at that list of over 7000 signatories and think “What a bunch of assholes” and think poorly of them for their association.

Rowling has not been “honourable and compassionate” — she’s been a pious bigot — and if you regard standing in solidarity with a bigot is a commendable position, think again.

But yes, please, do go sign that useless petition if you agree with it. I love it when horrible people drop the mask and slap a clear label on their forehead.

Man, the UK is a weird place, where this flavor of prejudice is still socially approved. It’s bad when an American can say Britain is even worse than we are.

TERFs go home

Sophie Lewis has published an opinion piece in the NY Times that I thought was an interesting explanation of the trans-Atlantic divide, How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans. There is a surprising split between British and American feminism.

If the idea that transphobic harassment could be “feminist” bewilders you, you are not alone. In the United States, my adoptive home, the most visible contemporary opponents of transgender rights are right-wing evangelicals, who have little good to say about feminism. In Britain, where I used to live, the situation is different.

There, the most vocal trans-exclusionary voices are, ostensibly, “feminist” ones, and anti-trans lobbying is a mainstream activity. Case in point: Ms. Parker told the podcast “Feminist Current” that she’d changed her thinking on trans women after spending time on Mumsnet, a site where parents exchange tips on toilet training and how to get their children to eat vegetables. If such a place sounds benign, consider the words of British writer Edie Miller: “Mumsnet is to British transphobia,” she wrote “what 4Chan is to American fascism.”

Ouch. Mumsnet gets burned. But yes, I keep hearing about this “mumsnet” phenomenon, where Graham Linehan was holding court, although I’ve never even glanced at the forum myself. What I did learn about first-hand was the strange involvement of British skepticism in ant-trans activity.

Ms. Parker and Ms. Long may not know it, but they’re likely influenced by the legacy of the British “Skepticism” movement of the 1990s and early 2000s, which mobilized against the perceived spread of postmodernism in English universities as well as homeopathy and so-called “junk science.” Hence, the impulse among TERFs to proclaim their “no-nonsense” character; witness the billboard Ms. Parker paid to have put up last fall dryly defining a woman as an “adult human female.” Such a posture positions queer theory and activism as individualistic, narcissistic and thus somehow fundamentally un-British.
It’s also worth noting that the obsession with supposed “biological realities” of people like Ms. Parker is part of a long tradition of British feminism interacting with colonialism and empire. Imperial Britain imposed policies to enforce heterosexuality and the gender binary, while simultaneously constructing the racial “other” as not only fundamentally different, but freighted with sexual menace; from there, it’s not a big leap to see sexual menace in any sort of “other,” and “biological realities” as essential and immutable. (Significantly, many Irish feminists have rejected Britain’s TERFism, citing their experience of colonialism explicitly as part of the reason.)

Been there, done that. We had an ugly influx of British “skeptics” here, demonizing trans folk, who got banned hard. See Why I banned Andy Lewis, Maria Maclachlan, and Alan Henness — apparently those were well-known names in UK skepticism, and hoo boy, were some people on the other side of the pond shocked that I would ban such highly esteemed individuals. From my perspective, they were just total asshats, and slapping the self-proclaimed label of “skeptic” on them wasn’t enough to rescue them.

Mark Siddall becomes famous for something! Not for what he would have intended

The AMNH cracks down on a harasser.

I don’t know the guy, and hadn’t heard anything about his behavior until now — the whisper networks are pretty good at the ‘whisper’ part and focus their messages on the people who need to hear them for their own defense, which is not me. I’m not at all privy to the man’s actions, but for an institution as staid and conservative as the AMNH to fire someone they once featured in a children’s video says something awful was going on. They have typically been thorough in covering up problems (not a good look), but we are starting to hear from the people he harassed.

There are big questions here, though. He’s been a problem for many, many years, and nothing was done — he was allowed to take on women as students. I don’t know whether to be surprised or groan at the familiarity of it all. The larger and more prestigious the institution, the more likely there will be some people in the upper ranks who practice denial. What that means then is that the problem festers, and eventually there has to be a big ugly break after years of peoples’ lives and careers are ruined.

You can learn more about this mess at Balter’s Blog.

Over the last 24 hours, a number of Siddall’s victims and their allies (including people the victims have told) have taken to social media to briefly describe their experiences with him. A key, widely shared demand is that the museum engage in full disclosure of how and why Siddall was allowed to traumatize colleagues for so many years. That means disclosing who knew, when and what they knew, and what they did or did not do about it. Perhaps will take some lawsuits from survivors to pry that information loose, but the museum would be better off doing its own, fully transparent, inquiry now, and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps even a fully independent inquiry would be necessary to get at the truth.

The AMNH is evidently hoping that getting rid of Siddall after all these years, with a minimal internal announcement to museum staff, is enough to show that they take harassment seriously. Bullshit. My sources say that the museum administration was fully aware–right up to the top ranks–of Siddall’s behavior all this time, but that the HR department was used as a shield to deflect all complaints. They got away with this for years. We still don’t know what the actual findings were in the investigation of Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example; and the only time that the museum has shown any transparency was in the case of disgraced human origins curator and sexual predator Brian Richmond. Why? Because Science magazine already had the whole story.

This is what happens if you’re not swift to respond and transparent about how you handle the accusations — someone is going to sink their teeth into the story and guilt will shift from the bad guy who was abusing people to all of the bad guys who are sheltering the culprit. Perhaps you too are an amoral exploiter who has risen in the ranks of the administration, and I can’t possibly reach you with appeals to morality and goodness; but can I appeal to your selfishness? The bad guys will eventually be exposed, and then you are going to be in the crosshairs…and you’re going to deserve it.

What is your problem, fellow men?

The Alaska Attorney General, Kevin Clarkson, has resigned. He’s a Republican and a religious zealot, so you can guess why: harassment of a woman employee. It’s so predictable at this point.

He wasn’t saying anything explicit, and that’s his defense.

“I engaged in a series of text messages with this employee over approximately one month. The topics of these texts ranged from food, to movies, to books, to family, and all were conversational and positive, were reciprocal, and were, I believed, mutual. I sent her pictures of food that I cooked from time to time. These texts included invitations for this person and her children to come to my home to share a meal, which she politely declined. All of these texts were ‘G’ rated. In our texts we exchanged mutual endearments in words and emojis. On several occasions, this person initiated a friendly hug when I came to her work place, and I reflexively gave her a peck on top of her head.”

That’s sweet, except he sent 588 such texts in a single month, and they were rather too informal to be considered professional. Also, why does he keep commenting on her appearance?

The text messages began in March and continued for 27 days, the Daily News reported. In the texts, Clarkson invited the woman to his home 18 times. He sent her 56 kissing face emoji. He invited her to drink wine with him. He called her “beautiful” and “sweet lady.” And after they had not seen each other for a while told her, “you owe me a number of hugs.”

After the woman asked Clarkson to respect professional boundaries, he replied “OK I won’t bother you more,” the Daily News reported. He told her he had enjoyed talking to her and called the hugs that they had shared “pretty darn special.”

Then he sent her 200 more text messages, the newspaper reported.

I think her case was made at “200 text messages after being asked to stop”. Boundaries, fellow men, boundaries. Learn to respect them.