Watch for the award-winning feminist filmmaker's new documentary

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Identity in Conflict: What Omar Mateen May Have in Common with Geert Wilders

Pondering the increasingly paradoxical information coming out about the Orlando shooter reminded me of something I read a while back about Geert Wilders (which I unfortunately can't locate at the moment). This article had argued that the virulence of Wilders's anti-Muslim position arises from his having a divided identity resulting from his own immigrant background (his mother is Dutch Indonesian), resulting in insecurity about his own belonging in Dutch society.

Omar Mateen may have faced something similar, with even more of an element of double bind: encountering hostility from other Americans because of his Muslim-ness, and at the same time struggling with a sexual identity that he'd been taught to see as antithetical to his ethnic and religious heritage. The experience of Islamophobia might only have intensified his sense of guilt over his same-sex attractions, seeing these feelings as betrayals of an identity especially in need of defense.

I suspect he made no serious plans to evade police after committing his crime. His self-loathing was likely such that he felt he deserved to die anyway.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Tip: Don't Get Your Health Advice the Same Place You Get Your Waffles

It's evidently too much to expect that someone as set in his ways as uncritically-thinking Joe Sbaraglia, who writes "The Waffleman" column for the Philadelphia Public Record, would mend his ways after a couple of nudges. I've previously written him a couple times when he repeated false rumors, especially ones of a medical nature, but he just keeps at it. This time I've directly written the editor:

Dear editor:

Please stop allowing Joe Sbaraglia to repeat unsubstantiated, and sometimes downright false, health claims in your newspaper.

In his latest column, he cites a long list of purported benefits of bananas, introducing them with the statement, "The following material comes from Snopes.com." It's dismaying that someone who presumably knows the purpose of that website -- to clear up which rumors are true and which aren't --  doesn't grasp that people who are capable of passing on information without fact-checking it first, will likewise fail to check whether the information actually comes from Snopes. It'd be easy enough for him to do so himself, yet he evidently doesn't, since many of the claims he repeated either are not to be found on that site, or are pronounced false there.

Such carelessness is perhaps harmless enough where so-called "fun facts" are concerned, but it's absolutely irresponsible to repeat, or to publish, false information about medicine and health.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Trump's New Appellation

I have a new name for Donald Trump: the Dark Side of the Farce.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

An Anal SJW in the Philadelphia Gay News

Some remarks in PGN's latest "Family Portrait" illustrate the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy of some "social justice warriors."

I have no issue with much of what Jayme Campbell says in the interview, but this really stuck in my craw:

A gender-based example [of a microaggression] might be when people complain, "It's just really hard for me to get your pronouns right because you don't look like a boy (or girl)." So you're saying I don't deserve respect because I don't meet your idea of what a boy or girl should look like?

No, you idiot, it doesn't mean that at all.

A few years ago, I inadvertently misgendered a trans woman friend while in conversation with her and others. Immediately realizing what I'd done, I felt acutely embarrassed and apologized. Obviously, the reason I felt embarrassed was that I do respect her. But respecting her didn't magically negate my conditioning from infancy to gender people based on their appearance.

I didn't say something like what Campbell cites because I didn't want to sound like I was making excuses -- but if I had said it, it would have been true. And what it would have meant was not that I didn't respect her, but that I felt embarrassment over my error and, for that reason, a need to explain myself.

To do as Campbell does here -- take a statement that actually reflects a person's regret over their mistake and instead call it an "aggression" -- is really quite abusive.

Monday, May 09, 2016

No, Mark, Bernie Isn't Ralph: a letter to the Philadelphia Gay News

I'm increasingly struck by how fuzzy Mark Segal's thinking often is. There's no comparison between Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader.

Nader is called a spoiler because, running as a third-party candidate, he competed for votes that might otherwise have gone to either Bush or Gore. Bernie not only isn't doing this; he's promised he won't.

In fact, as socialist Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, who spearheaded the $15 living wage movement, has pointed out in an online petition, Bernie could run as an independent and still not be a spoiler, by simply bypassing "close" states like Pennsylvania. In this way, if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination and turn that party into one that reflects his progressive, anti-corporatist values, he could garner millions of volunteers, votes, and federal matching funds to launch one that does, without aiding Trump in any way.

Meanwhile, for Bernie to try and "make up" before the convention by diluting his agenda would simply serve to demobilize his movement and foreclose the chance for the kind of progressive realignment that his candidacy makes possible. By the same token, it would also demobilize those forces that would be needed to help elect Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee. This would be a lose-lose for everyone but Trump.

TAL's Doubly Wrongheaded Disclaimer

The guest host on the latest This American Life introduced one of the segments in a profoundly misleading and potentially hazardous way, thanks to his thinking's being warped by erotophobic ageism. I wrote him as follows:

You opened this piece with a disclaimer that managed to be wrongheaded in two opposite ways simultaneously, by saying it "acknowledges the existence of sex, and it's probably wrong for young children."

On one hand, you thereby suggested that the mention of sex made it wrong for young children, despite zero evidence that there's any age before which hearing about sex is apt to cause problems. I would refer you to this brief filed by sex researchers and others in opposition to the misnamed Child Online "Protection" Act: http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/ashcroft.pdf.

On the other hand, the same wording implied that the mention of sex was the ONLY reason the piece might be "wrong for children." In fact, it was less about sex than it was about genital mutilation, a violent, bloody, and painful human rights violation. There's considerable reason to think young children might be traumatized by hearing about this, yet your mention of only sex in the disclaimer gave no clue. Had I any children, I'd naturally have assumed (as in fact I did) that the line about children reflected only the mention of sex, and that I consequently had nothing to worry about. And then my children might have had nightmares.
I might have added that the disclaimer before a segment of Snap Judgment concerning suicide, also on NPR a couple hours later, was by contrast perfect in its general applicability: "Sensitive listeners and people with small children should be advised that this broadcast does traverse some dark territory."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This Metaphor Is Bad for Our Health

In a solicitation from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, I found a reminder of an irritating practice of theirs that I'd always meant to comment on. I've just done so now in an email to them as follows:

I'm writing to express my disapproval of your use of the phrase "food porn." Clearly you are trying to convey the concept of food that tastes good but isn't good for you. Trouble is, that's not true of porn itself.

Despite generations of attempts to scientifically prove the "common sense"* that porn is bad for us, such evidence is essentially nonexistent, and sometimes it suggests just the opposite. Here, for instance, is a court brief debunking the idea that it's "harmful to minors":
http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/ashcroft.pdf

And here's a study refuting the idea that the availability of porn lowers women's status: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3812808?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

This isn't a merely "academic" question. These false notions about porn have been used to justify restrictive laws and customs which, so far from protecting people, may well contribute to psychosexual problems and leave children more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, as discussed by Judith Levine in her book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex.

*"What many people refer to as common sense is nothing more than a collection of prejudices accumulated before the age of eighteen." -- Albert Einstein

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thanks, Senator Haywood!

Today I was pleased to read that my state senator, Art Haywood, has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. I just left a message on his website thanking him.