Equality Michigan Petitions Michfest to End Exclusionary Policy

From The Advocate: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/29/equality-michigan-petitions-michfest-end-exclusionary-policy

A perennial source of controversy, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s ‘womyn born womyn’ intention comes under fire from one of the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organizations.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
July 29 2014

Equality Michigan launched a petition urging organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to put an end to their ‘Womyn Born Womyn’ intention on Monday. The rule, which festival organizers insist is not an official policy, has been described by many as transphobic.

“[W]e reject the premise that transgender women are lesser than, we reject that this belief is a tenant of feminism, and we will no longer respect the ‘intention’ or that ‘leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it’ equates to inclusion,” Equality Michigan wrote in a blog post. “To us, this sounds like the arguments we heard around ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘ — and like that policy, this one just doesn’t work for us.”

Later, the organization calls upon lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to “stand up, even if it is to our own, and make it clear that transgender women deserve to be treated as women in all settings,” and adding, “The time has come, we are drawing a line in the sand, this ‘intention’ can no longer stand.”

The petition calls for an end to the “womyn born womyn” intention, for festival cofounder Lisa Vogel to meet with leaders in the transgender community, for vendors and workshop leaders to publicly voice support for an end to the policy, and for artists and attendees to boycott the festival and instead perform at and support trans-inclusive women’s events. Additionally, the petition calls on performers already committed to this year’s festival to denounce the current policy from the stage, and commit to not participating in future years.

Michfest performer Crystal Bowersox told The Advocate in May that the she believes “in equality for everyone, and I do hope that in the future the Womyn’s Fest will choose to include transgender women. In your heart, in your mind, in your lifestyle, in your body — if you’re a woman, you’re a woman. That’s that.”

Bowersox continued, saying that she remains torn on the issue, and understands the festival’s current stance. She followed this by asking festival management to “open their hearts and minds a little more.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/29/equality-michigan-petitions-michfest-end-exclusionary-policy

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Susan Brownmiller on 3 illegal abortions, for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014

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Right-Wing Backlash Against ‘Smartypants’ Like Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wing-backlash-against-smartypants-neil-degrasse-tyson

Conservative elites delight in tearing down smart, educated people.

By Amanda Marcotte
July 30, 2014

If there’s one belief that binds the disparate factions of the American right together, it’s the belief in American exceptionalism, both for the nation and for individuals. The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature, from the story of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Reagan’s description of America as a “shining city on a hill.” While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.

So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically? There’s a lot of high-falutin’ talk on the right about supporting the strivers, but in practice, the conservative response to someone who tries to stick his head above the crowd is to beat it down with a hammer. Conservatives may think of themselves as lovers of excellence, but in reality, “Who do you think you are?” is swiftly becoming an unofficial right-wing motto.

It’s easy to see why, despite their supposed enthusiasm for excellence, conservative pundits would offer up liberal scientists, journalists, and artists as hate objects for their base. This is a time of economic instability and ordinary people are seeing their fortunes declining. It’s easy to turn that anxiety into rage at people conservative audiences think have easy, charmed lives as coastal elites.

But in doing so, conservative pundits are exploiting their audiences, turning their class-based anger away from the people who are actually causing their economic problems, such as the Wall Street elite, and toward people who may be successful but who are not doing any harm to other Americans and are often trying to help them.  If you can get your audiences to hate journalists and scientists, they won’t hate the wealthy bankers who actually screwed them over.

This was epitomized by the recent National Review story by Charles C. W. Cooke titled “Smarter Than Thou” in which he fussed and whined about “the extraordinarily puffed-up ‘nerd’ culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States.” An illustration of the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson graced the cover, drawn to look self-satisfied, even though deGrasse Tyson hardly gives off that vibe in real life.
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Pope Francis sounds too much like Obama to be honored by Congress, Republican says

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/30/pope-francis-sounds-too-much-like-obama-to-be-honored-by-congress-republican-says/

By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A bipartisan congressional resolution that would honor Pope Francis before his potential appearance in Philadelphia next year may not be acted upon because of Republican worries that the pontiff is perceived as being “too liberal,” The Hill reports.

House Resolution 440 aims to “congratulate Pope Francis on his election and recognize his inspirational statements and actions,” but according to one Republican backer of the legislation, the resolution is dead because Pope Francis is “sounding like Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged.”

Republicans are upset because of comments the Pope made concerning the free market. Last November, for example, Francis published his Evangelii Gandium, in which he noted that “[a]s long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

He also specifically attacked President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic policy, “trickle-down theory,” writing that “[s]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

The resolution states that Pope Francis should be honored for, among other things, being the first pontiff from the Americas, as well as “his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s message.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/30/pope-francis-sounds-too-much-like-obama-to-be-honored-by-congress-republican-says/

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HRC on the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

From HRC: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/michigan-womyns-music-festival

July 30, 2014
by HRC staff

Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, HRC Senior Content Manager

Although I’ve never attended a Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I always loved the idea of a female-centered musical space, where women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds could gather to enjoy the music that shaped so many of our queer/feminist identities. What has never made sense to me or many of my queer feminist friends is Michfest’s attempt to exclude trans women from this celebration.

While the organizers continue to insist that excluding trans women is not an official policy, their “intention” that the festival cater exclusively to “womyn born womyn” serves to further marginalize trans women, denying them access to one of the only exclusively female spaces in our society.

Trans women and ciswomen (another word for non-trans women) suffer under the same patriarchal oppression, similarly restrictive ideas of what it means to be a woman, and the same structural barriers that deny women control of their own lives and bodies. The festival attempts to provide a refuge from this; to exclude some women from this refuge is simply inexcusable.

In 2013, longtime MWMF participants the Indigo Girls brought more widespread attention to the ongoing controversy when they released a statement of solidarity with trans women and vowed not to participate in future festivals until the organizers demonstrated “visible and concrete signs of changing their intention” and creating a “truly ‘safe space’ for womyn.”

As this year’s festival approaches, Equality Michigan has added their voice to the outcry against MWMF’s exclusion of trans women, stating, “We reject the premise that transgender women are lesser than, we reject that this belief is a tenet of feminism, and we will no longer respect the ‘intention’ or that ‘leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it’ equates to inclusion.”

I and my many colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign stand in solidarity with Equality Michigan, the Indigo Girls and the many other proud feminists calling on MichFest to live its mission and provide a place for all women to celebrate.

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New Yorker Shamefully Cites Anti-LGBT ‘Researcher’

From Bilerico: http://www.bilerico.com/2014/07/new_yorker_shamefully_cites_anti-lgbt_researcher.php

By Brynn Tannehill
July 29, 2014

All but lost in Michelle Goldberg’s recent love song to anti-transgender internet trolls in New Yorker magazine was a less-than-skeptical reference to Dr. Ray Blanchard.

While best known for promoting widely discredited and openly mocked anti-transgender theories, he is also a proponent of the idea that homosexuality is a disorder, and he denies that bisexuals exist, or at least that they are any different from heterosexuals.

Dr. Ray Blanchard is a psychologist who specializes in paraphilias. According to his Wikipedia biography, Blanchard is:

“Head of Clinical Sexology Services in the Law and Mental Health Programme of the CAMH, and he serves as a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He served on the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorders and was named to the DSM-5 committee. According to the Web of Science, Blanchard’s scientific articles have been cited more than 1800 times, with an h-index of 27.”

He is also responsible for more harm to the transgender community than any other person in North America — and he’s proud of it.

Anti-Trans Demagoguery

Blanchard openly admits to abusing his position to create a fake diagnosis in the DSM-5, and to resorting to unethical means to push his pet theories. He also believes that homosexuality should never have been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Blanchard developed a theory of a transsexualism typology which groups male-to-female transsexuals into two types: those attracted to men, and those attracted to women. He believes the ones he calls “homosexual transsexuals” are just confused gay men who think it would be easier to live as a straight woman than as a gay man. He also claims that those who are attracted to women are actually paraphiliacs who have let their fetish take over their lives.

Continue reading at:  http://www.bilerico.com/2014/07/new_yorker_shamefully_cites_anti-lgbt_researcher.php

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two articles (plus thoughts on autogynephilia as the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming)

From Julia Serano: http://juliaserano.blogspot.ca/2014/07/two-articles-related-to-femininity-and.html?spref=tw%22

By Julia Serano
Monday, July 28, 2014

Reposted with permission

Two things happened today:

1) I have a new article out on Ms. Magazine blog today called Empowering Femininity, wherein I revisit some of the ideas I initially forwarded in the chapter of Whipping Girl called “Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism.” Check it out!

2) Some of you may be aware of a New Yorker article by Michelle Goldberg that came out today entitled “What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” It is basically about how Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFs) are increasingly becoming marginalized within feminism, and it is mostly written from their perspective (e.g., about ways in which they have been personally attacked or “censored” by trans activists). Let’s just say that it is not the piece that I would have written on the matter.

I do not have the time or energy to write a formal response to the entire piece, but since I am one of the few trans voices included in the article, I feel compelled to make a few points “for the record” as it were:


1) When Goldberg interviewed me for the piece, I talked extensively about TERF attacks on trans people: About the hatefull speech I (and other trans women) regularly receive from TERFs on my Twitter feed, blog comments, etc., and how much of it is of a sexualizing nature. I talked at great length about Cathy Brennan who is notorious for her personal attacks and outing of trans people, her various websites where she engages in smear campaigns against trans women (once again, usually of a sexualizing nature). I mentioned how, after my appearance at a SF Dyke March forum on AGE DIVERSITY AND GENDER FLUIDITY – which was designed to build bridges between trans-positive queer women and those (often of older generations) who are trans unaware, and which resulted in respectful and constructive dialogue on all sides – several TERFs crashed the Facebook page and spewed so much hateful speech that they had to shut the whole thread down.

None of this made it into the story, which will likely lead uninformed readers to presume that trans people are simply mean and out of control, rather than reacting to the transphobia/trans-misogyny/sexualizing comments we constantly face from TERFs.

2) I am very disappointed with the way that the issue of “autogynephilia” was handled in the piece. I understand that Sheila Jeffreys cites the concept in her book in order to engage in a form of transgender slut-shaming (i.e., citing trans women’s sexual histories as a way to entirely dismiss them and their opinions), and that this fact could be relevant to the story. But to have a paragraph detailing Jeffreys’s and Blanchard’s views of “autogynephilia” without any counter argument or mention of the fact that THE THEORY HAS BEEN DISPROVEN here and here and here, or that cisgender women experience analogous sexual fantasies, is downright reckless. When (later on in the piece) Goldberg mentions that Jeffreys paints me out to be an “autogynephile,” I am sure many uninformed readers will believe that to be true, because no counter argument to the concept had even been mentioned.

And Goldberg’s omission here is not for lack of knowing: I discussed my concerns about this matter with Goldberg in two follow up emails – to clear the record, I will paste those emails at the bottom of this blog-post.

3) I would not exactly describe my interactions with MichFest attendees when I attended Camp Trans in 2003 as “cordial.” There were some good, positive interactions, but others were tense and somewhat hostile. I discuss this “mixed bag” of experiences in chapter 2 of my book Excluded.

4) Seriously, can we finally put to rest the “one in 10,000/one in 30,000” people are transsexual statistic. It is ancient and it has been repeatedly debunked.

That’s it. Now here is what I emailed Goldberg regarding “autogynephilia”

++++++++++++++++++
first email:

Hi Michelle,

I mentioned this recent Vice Magazine interview with Blanchard in our phone conversation the other day and said I’d send you the link. Here it is if you’re interested:

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/heres-how-the-guy-who-wrote-the-manual-on-sex-talks-about-sex

Also, I know you said that you will be referring to autogynephilia as “controverial.” I do think that it’s fair to say that multiple lines of research by numerous researchers have shown that while the fantasies are a real phenomenon, Blanchard’s theory (specifically, that there are two “types” of trans women, and that the fantasies drive transsexuality/transition in one group) does not hold true. Also, the two researchers who actually used cisgender female controls in their studies both found that analogous fantasies are experienced by a significant number of cisgender women. 

All this research is summarized in my review:
http://learningtrans.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/serano-agreview-ijt.pdf

and Charles Moser’s review:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20582803

both were published in peer-reviewed journals in 2010.

The evidence is clear that the theory Blanchard created to explain these fantasies, and his assumption that such fantasies are transsexual-specific and cause transsexuality, are both untrue. That may not move you. But I wanted to share that with you, because it concerns me when the term “controversial” is used to give a disproven theory some legitimacy (e.g., as it is in climate change debates).

One last thought: I talked before about how the theory is often used (e.g., by Jeffreys) to sexualize trans women, thereby invalidating us. In my paper, I make the following analogy to illustrate why this is such this problem:

“Many natal women have rape fantasies. It is one thing to respectfully attempt to explore and understand such fantasies. It is an entirely different thing to insist that there are two subtypes of women – those who have rape fantasies and those who do not; to use the label “autoraptophiles” when describing women who have such fantasies and to insist that they are primarily motivated by their desire to be raped; to include “autoraptophilia” as a modifier in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; and to encourage the lay public to actively distinguish between those women who are “autoraptophiles” and those who are not. Such actions would undoubtedly have a severe, negative impact on women (who are already routinely sexualized and marginalized in our culture). Yet, proponents of autogynephilia have argued that transsexual women should be viewed and treated in an analogous manner.” 

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to add.

Best wishes, -julia

++++++++++++++++++

second email: After speaking with the fact checker from the New Yorker, I found that there were several passages from my book Whipping Girl where I discussed certain aspects of my sexual history that were going to be included in the article – I believe that they were meant to show “my side” of the story in relation to Jeffreys painting me out as an “autogynephile.” I am thankful that Goldberg did not include those passages in the final draft. But given that Jeffreys’s views and the specter of “autogynephilia” were raised in her article with regards to me and without any counter argument, I believe that it is worthwhile sharing what I wrote to Goldberg about the potential inclusion of those passages:

Obviously, I haven’t seen the whole article yet. And I understand that, as an interviewee, journalists I speak with will come to their own conclusions, and may portray me in ways that don’t necessarily jibe with how I see myself. And I realize that I am (to a certain extent) a public figure who has put myself out there via what I have written, and that people may use that in ways that I didn’t expect or do not want. So you are obviously free to write what you want. 

But I would like to share an analogy: Imagine a feminist author who writes seriously about gender and society, and whose ideas are well regarded in certain circles. And imagine someone who has very different views about gender and society – perhaps they are a religious conservative, or a men’s rights activists, or an evolutionary psychologist, or whatever. And let’s say that they wrote a book challenging feminism, and their central premise was that feminist women are primarily driven by their sexual desires (rather than out of a sincere concern about gender-based oppression or society). And when taking on this particular feminist woman in their book, they didn’t focus much on the ideas and theories she has forwarded, but instead dissected her sexual history (which maybe she wrote about in the past because, you know, women have sexualities, and gender-based-oppression is designed to make some of us feel ashamed about our sexualities, and sometimes we have to speak openly about our own sexual experiences in order to debunk heteropatriarchal assumptions that others make about our sexualities).

Anyway, imagine all that already happened. And someone outside of the situation decided to write about this controversy for a mainstream publication. How would you prefer that they cover it:

1) Spend a lot of time discussing “both sides” of the woman’s sexual history: describing the religious conservative’s/MRA’s/evolutionary psychologists’s/etc.’s depiction of her sexuality, along with passages of her describing her own sexuality (which, while in her own words, is *more discussion about her sexuality*, and which is not germane to challenging gender-based oppression and other societal issues – the major focus of her work).

or 2) Simply say that, rather than seriously engaging in a debate about the feminist woman’s ideas or theories, the author resorted to sexualizing her instead. And as feminists have shown, this is a tried-and-true method for smearing people’s authenticity and credibility (as I discussed at great length in our last phone conversation). 

You initially asked to interview me about the “tensions between trans activists and some radical feminists” (which I provided my thoughts on over the course of the interview process). I honestly don’t understand how sexual thoughts that I had over twenty years ago (as a young trans person trying to sort out my identity) has any bearing on these tensions, other than the fact that Jeffreys stoops to the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming in her book.   

Anyway, I haven’t seen the whole article yet, so I will reserve judgment on the totality of it until it finally comes out. But I did want to share my concerns about this particular aspect of the article ahead of time. As a woman and a public figure yourself, I’m sure you can understand why having one’s sexual history litigated in the pages of a mainstream magazine might seem troubling (to put it extremely mildly). And if you had/have ever written about your previous sexual experiences in a publication that primarily targeted your own demographic in order to help folks better understand, and not feel ashamed about, their analogous experiences, I imagine that you too might be worried about how those same passages might be misinterpreted by lay audiences if excerpted in a major mainstream publication (especially one your relatives, potential future employers, etc., regularly read).

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Michelle Goldberg Pens Bigoted Trans-Hating Hit Piece for New Yorker Magazine

I am a feminist, just not that kind of feminist.

You see I actually believe in freedom and think there is nothing feminist about the TERFs.

I have Julia Serano’s permission to repost her response to the Goldberg hate screed.

I’m not even going to dignify the original article with a teaser.

It can be found at: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2

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Kitchen Magic | The Cheap Life with Jeff Yeager | AARP

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I Support Israel not the Palestinians

My personal politics defy easy categorization.

Many would like to see me as an ultra Left Winger based on my support for environmental causes, workers rights, feminism and LGBT causes.

That evaluation is spot on.

I am also a militant atheist.

A stone Yankee from the far north mountains of upstate New York I militantly embrace the concept of personal freedom/liberty.

As a woman who survived rape and dealt with it by plunging into the martial arts I champion the rights of women to defend themselves including the use of weapons, most notably knives and handguns.

My embrace of the idea of gun rights causes many on the Left to stereotype me as a Right Winger.

Back in 2001 on September 11 I was stunned and outraged by the murderous terrorist attack upon my country.

I remember the images of the Palestinians dancing for joy in the streets, how they labeled the United States as the great Satan.

I was ostracized by people on the Left for my gut reaction to both this attack and to the Palestinian celebration of the deaths of nearly 3000 American people that resulted from these attacks.

In 2002 I lived on Long Island and often went into New York City for classes and to visit museums.  I had last been in NYC in 1967 so I never saw the World Trade Center.

I avoided going to the site of the attacks, I was already boiling over with anger.

Then one day I went to a free Photoshop seminar.  I took the East Side subway down to the station nearest to where the seminar was being held.

I was early and realized I had never been to that part of NYC so I walked around a little.

I  came upon the church near the foot print of the WTC, the fence with all the grief messages upon it.

Had you asked me what to do at that moment I would have said, “Turn the countries of those who attacked us into glass.”

I understand the gut reactions of the Israelis to the acts of Palestinian terrorism.

I am Polish-American on my father’s side, third generation, close enough to the immigrant experience to feel a connection to family in Poland.  Some three million Catholic Poles died at the hands of the Nazis along with the six million Jewish people.  I feel a certain “Never Again” solidarity, an outrage against the antisemitism too prevalent on the part of so many on the far left.

As a woman and as a member of the LGBT communities I see Israel as the only nation in the Middle East where women and LGBT people have any real rights.  Indeed the only nation in the Middle East where women and LGBT people do not regularly face the grossest violations of their rights as human beings.

I am well aware of Israel’s love of the United States and how it is one of several nations in this world that we can count on as a wholehearted ally.

I have watched the ultra left attack both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren because of their support for Israel.

I do not celebrate the current fighting in the Middle East.

Indeed I wish there would be peace between Israel and its neighbors, there have been far too many deaths to go around.

The stress of nearly 70 years of living with terrorism has grievously harmed the heart and soul of the people of Israel.  But they were not the ones who started the wars.  They built the walls to protect themselves from numerous suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism on the part of the Palestinians.  Israel was not the nation sending those suicide bombers.

Palestinians and their allies including Egypt, Syria and Jordan repeatedly launched attacks upon Israel.

Fortunately the efforts aimed at annihilating Israel were doomed thanks to the courageous IDF.

So I guess I fail the test.

I support Israel and the Israeli people.

Even as I wish for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

If that makes me a Zionist or a supporter of Zionism so be it.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Dilbert McClinton

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Right-Wing Christians Tell Kids ‘Convert or Go to Hell,’ Then Accuse Liberals of Indoctrinating Christian Kids

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/belief/right-wing-christians-tell-kids-convert-or-go-hell-then-accuse-liberals-indoctrinating

It’s evident who is pushing obedience to an ideology.

By Amanda Marcotte
July 23, 2014

For the masochists among us who tune into right-wing media, you soon learn that the all-time favorite fear pundits and preachers love to trot out is that “they” are coming for your children.

Whether it’s liberal college professors supposedly  turning kids to Marxism or gay people who are accused of recruiting, over and over you hear the claim that the children of conservatives are in serious danger of being talked into everything from voting for Democrats to getting gay-married.

It’s a peculiar thing to obsess over, and not just because it suggests conservatives have an unhealthy unwillingness to allow their children to grow up and think for themselves. It’s because the imagined conspiracies of liberals trying to “indoctrinate” kids are total phantoms. A little digging shows that accusations of indoctrination are usually aimed at attempts to educate or simply offer support and acceptance. While there are always a few rigid ideologues who are out to recruit, by and large liberals are, well, liberal: More interested in arguing and engaging than trying to mold young people into unthinking automatons.

But I think I know where conservatives get the idea that other people are sneaking around trying to indoctrinate children into unthinking ideologies. It’s because they themselves are totally guilty of it, both in terms of trying to recruit other people’s children and trying to frighten their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts outside of the ones approved by their own rigid ideologies.

Parents in Portland, Oregon were alarmed to hear that a group calling itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club has been targeting children as young as five for conversion to their form of Christianity. The group pretends to be similar to more liberal and open-minded groups, claiming they are just trying to teach their beliefs but aren’t trying to be coercive. However, it’s hard to believe, in no small part because they admit they run around scaring children by telling them they are “sinners” who are hellbound unless they convert and start trying to convert others.

One mother, Mia Marceau, told the Associated Press about her 8-year-old son’s encounter with the group. “Within a few hours, however, she didn’t like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.” Those kinds of tactics aren’t about encouraging free discourse, but about creating a cult-like mentality that discourages questions and free thought.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/right-wing-christians-tell-kids-convert-or-go-hell-then-accuse-liberals-indoctrinating

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: US must ‘sink lower’ before Congress will opt to protect the planet

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/23/neil-degrasse-tyson-us-must-sink-lower-before-congress-will-opt-to-protect-the-planet/

By Tom Boggioni
Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In an exclusive interview with Salon, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about his role as a scientist, how the media presents scientific breakthroughs, and about how climate change will have to get worse before citizens force their elected representatives to do anything about it.

Tyson explained that he doesn’t see himself as an advocate, but as an educator whose job it is to present “emergent scientific consensus,” in the hope that the public and policy makers will use it to make informed decisions.

“I’m just trying to get people as fully informed as they can be so that they can make the most informed decisions they can based on their own principles or philosophies or mission statement,” Tyson explained. ” What concerns me is that I see people making decisions, particularly decisions that might affect policy or governance, that are partly informed, or misinformed, or under-informed.”

Tyson notes that during the Cold War, physicists actively advocated for specific policies because those policies were directly related to their work in developing nuclear weapons. When it comes to climate change, he would like to see more climate scientists take the lead instead of an astrophysicist like himself just because he’s famous.

“I’m an astrophysicist. But there are people who are climate scientists. I think more climate scientists should step up to the plate and serve that same corresponding role that the physicists played during the Cold War, and if they want, to empower lawmakers and the citizenry to make informed decisions about the future of the country,” he said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/23/neil-degrasse-tyson-us-must-sink-lower-before-congress-will-opt-to-protect-the-planet/

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Why I’m Still a Butch Lesbian

From Slate: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/25/a_butch_lesbian_rejects_a_non_binary_identity.html

By Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart
July 25 2014

I first began wearing men’s clothing a few years ago, because I thought that looking like a lesbian might help me get girls. Once I’d started, I realized almost immediately that I was feeling far more comfortable and confident and that I liked the way I looked in the mirror for the first time in my life. Other people who knew me said I looked more natural, more like my clothing fit my personality. It felt a bit like I’d been wearing an uncomfortable, ill-fitting costume all my life.

As I adjusted to this new information, it was hard not to notice that many of the people who shared my preference for the men’s section and my subtly masculine mannerisms had gone a step further and stopped identifying as women entirely. At times, it almost seemed as if, by not throwing my lot in with these pronoun creators and binary-rejecters, I might be just a little bit behind the times—a little square, uncool, perhaps even cis-sexist. Facebook has more than 50 possible gender indentifiers. So why have I, a female-bodied person who wears men’s clothing, decided to stick with the increasingly old-fashioned “butch lesbian woman”?

In part, it’s because the language of gender identity has always been a bit bewildering to me—I’ve felt hungry, happy, gassy, and anxious, but never male or female. Even so, it has been tempting to interpret my experience in ways that separated it from that of other women. This is especially true because cis-gendered women have a distinct tendency to define themselves in ways that don’t include me. I hear women throw out things like, “As women, we all know how important it is to feel pretty,” or “We, as women, are naturally more tender and nurturing,” statements that never seem to include women like me. Not only do I dislike feeling pretty and prefer arguing to nurturing, I don’t even particularly like eating chocolate. Popular culture, and women themselves, often imply that I lack many of the most essential qualities of womanhood.

So in the past I’ve been quite tempted by the idea that perhaps I’m not a woman after all. I mean, I’m masculine in all sorts of ways—I am ambitious, logical, aggressive, strong, and highly competitive. And I’m certainly not silly, frivolous, dainty, weak, or overly emotional … Oh dear. That’s where I run into a major problem, isn’t it? When I start listing traits of mine that I’d call masculine, they’re always positive. They’re points of pride. Whereas when I list traits I lack that I’d call feminine, they’re negatives. It seems I can’t consider my own masculinity or lack of femininity without relying on some of the worst and most pernicious sex-based stereotypes. This suggests to me that the enterprise itself is suspect.

Continue reading at:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/25/a_butch_lesbian_rejects_a_non_binary_identity.html

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Free & Equal: What It Really Means

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Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/07/21/clueless_rich_kids_on_the_rise_how_millennial_aristocrats_will_destroy_our_future/

Today’s wealthy are far more likely to have inherited their fortunes. Here’s why that’s going to doom our politics


Monday, Jul 21, 2014

Prevailing neoliberal ideology, which perverts capitalism as an economic system into capitalism as an unyielding political ideology, lurks in the shadows of almost every major issue in America, though nowhere is its influence more obvious or profound than in the spiraling rise of income and wealth inequality today.

When Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” was first released in English, it followed the Culture War Playbook to perfection: First came the triumphant plaudits from like-minded thinkers, followed shortly by the hasty rebuttals of their ideological opponents, followed themselves by a torrent of commentary from pundits left and right who skimmed the book before adding their own two cents. Soon, there was the predictable “unskewing” by the right, after which came the fact-checking of the “unskewers” on the left… at which point the whole process had reached its inevitable conclusion. High-traffic angles fully juiced, our treadmill news cycle moved on to the next plank in our bitter, pointless culture clash, what author William Gibson has termed our “cold civil war.”

So it goes.

What’s so interesting about this Kabuki dance is just how few commentators at the time bothered to note that Piketty’s findings were never particularly controversial or groundbreaking. Piketty’s book became such a sensation on the left precisely because it gave weight to what anyone with a pair of eyes in the real world (i.e., not Lower Manhattan, the Washington Beltway, or Silicon Valley) can already plainly see: Wealth inequality grows each and every day, while the middle class keeps getting pummeled by this Glorious Free Enterprise System. What used to be good, stable jobs are converted into temp positions or contract work — automated, downsized or simply eliminated entirely, they’re replaced in the labor market by the worst-paying, most utterly dehumanizing low-wage gigs that our much ballyhooed “job creators” can imagine and implement.

The consequences for our democracy and our economy are perilous and unlikely to be easily remedied.

Whether or not one is generally convinced by Piketty’s thesis that r > g (or more plainly, that capital tends to grow at a faster rate than income without some form of outside intervention), it should be plain that in our system, the stage has been uniquely well-set for the unbridled expansion of wealth that his book describes. When the effective tax rates are lower for capital gains than for the incomes of the less affluent; when political processes are legally corrupted and circumvented for a price; when regulatory agencies are gutted, stalled, or simply staffed with careerists eager to make their way through the revolving door — this is not a political or economic system likely to become less unequal over time.

Will this trend toward inequality continue? According to “U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth,” a recent survey of wealthy Americans that aims to “[shed] light on the direction and purpose of the more than $15 trillion that will be passed across generations in high-net-worth families over the next two decades,” it seems increasingly likely.

The survey, which polled 680 Americans holding at least $3 million in investable assets, unearthed a troubling trend — the birth of a new American aristocracy. As the survey notes, “Nearly three-quarters of those over 69, and 61% of Baby Boomers, were the first generation to accumulate significant wealth. Among the younger Millennial generation, inherited wealth is more common. About two-thirds are from families in which they are the second, third or fourth generation to be wealthy.” Now, it should be noted briefly that this survey relies on self-reporting, which makes these figures somewhat suspect. (More on this in a bit.) But consider two charts: The first shows the highest marginal tax rates on income and capital gains throughout the last hundred years, while the second outlines the estate tax rate during the same period.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/07/21/clueless_rich_kids_on_the_rise_how_millennial_aristocrats_will_destroy_our_future/

 

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Americans Are Leaving Religion Behind and It Scares the Hell Out of the Christian Right

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/americans-are-leaving-religion-behind-and-it-scares-hell-out-christian-right

Conservatives are getting more frantic and repressive by the minute, in response to America’s growing secularism.

By Amanda Marcotte
July 16, 2014

There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the increasing political polarization in America , which is at historically high levels. There are a lot of reasons for it, including changing demographics, women’s growing empowerment, the internet, the economy and cable news. But religion and religious belief plays an important role as well. There’s no way around it: America is quickly becoming two nations, one ruled over by fundamentalist Christians and their supporters and one that is becoming all the more secular over time, looking more and more like western Europe in its relative indifference to religion. And caught in between are a group of liberal Christians that are culturally aligned with secularists and are increasingly and dismayingly seeing the concept of “faith” aligned with a narrow and conservative political worldview.

That this polarization is happening is hard to deny, even if it’s harder to measure that political polarization. The number of Americans who cite “none” when asked about a religious identity is rising rapidly, up to nearly 20% from 15% in 2007, with a third of people under 30 identifying with no religious faith. Two-thirds of the “nones” say they believe in God, suggesting that this is more of a cultural drift towards secularism than some kind of crisis of faith across the country.

But even this may underrepresent how secular our country really is getting, as many people who say they belong to a church don’t really go to church much, if at all. While Americans like to tell pollsters they go to church regularly, in-depth research shows they are lying and many of them blow it off, putting our actual church-going rates at roughly the same level of secular Western Europe.

Even when people identify with a label like “Catholic” or “Methodist”, that doesn’t mean they consider it an important part of their identity in the way that people used to. Take, for instance, the way that weddings have quietly changed in this country. It used to be that you had a wedding in a church, and only people who were eloping got married by someone other than a minister. Now, outside of very religious circles, it’s more common to see weddings on beaches or at country clubs, and very often officiated by friends of the couple rather than clergy. Indeed, state laws are slowly beginning to change to reflect this reality, allowing more flexibility for people to have the secular weddings they increasingly desire.

But of those who remain religious, being affiliated with a fundamentalist or conservative religion is becoming a little more common. The same Pew research that found while all Christian faiths are slowly receding, mainline Protestant churches are shrinking a little faster and have fewer followers, at 15% of the country, than white evangelicals (19%) or Catholics (22%). This comports with other research that finds evangelicals have a bigger piece of the shrinking pie called “Christianity.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/americans-are-leaving-religion-behind-and-it-scares-hell-out-christian-right

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Iraqi jihadists order genital mutilation of four million women and girls

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/24/iraqi-jihadists-order-genital-mutilation-of-four-million-women-and-girls/

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jihadists in Iraq have ordered that all women between the ages of 11 and 46 must undergo female genital mutilation, which could affect up to four million women and girls in the war-ravaged country, a UN official said Thursday.

The UN’s second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, said, “It is a fatwa (or religious edict) from ISIS, we learnt about it this morning. We have no precise numbers.”

The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), took over large swathes of the country last month and has begun imposing its extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam.

Badcock said that if you took UN population figures as a guide, around “four million girls and women could be affected”.

Female genital mutilation is unusual in Iraq and is only practised in “certain isolated pockets of the country”, she added.

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/24/iraqi-jihadists-order-genital-mutilation-of-four-million-women-and-girls/

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Not My Problem

I’m really tired of the banning of words. I’m really over the passive aggressive bullshit about trigger warnings from people who use their ultra sensitivity as a club and a way of demonstrating their superiority.

Yeah I grew up poor, working class and bullied.

Yes I have been raped.  On more than one occasion I have had my life threatened by people who had weapons in hand and were quite capable of murdering me.

I have been subjected to slurs and discrimination.

When I have been knocked down I got up again.  I have grieved for my losses and celebrated my personal victories.

In Texas we call that Cowgirling up.  It means getting back on a horse after having been thrown.

Words are not the problem.  Banning words does nothing to change the reality of discrimination.

It is action with out real results.  Sort of like Occupy.

Directionless wankery.

Activist image polishing and brand building, a way of demonstrating one’s political sensitivity creds.

The following is a post that appeared on Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership:  http://jpfo.org/articles-assd04/not-my-problem.htm

By Susan Callaway, aka Mama Liberty
July 15th, 2014

Not my problem. I’m sure a lot of people would consider that a harsh thing to say, but if you’ll stay with me a bit you should easily see that it is the only real answer to the whole “politically correct” thing sweeping this country and, incidentally, the world.

“You made me mad. You didn’t make me happy. I’m offended.” You can probably add a hundred more such phrases people use to control what you do, say and even what you believe. That’s exactly what happens when a few people can choose any word or object, assign a specific (often NEW and ugly) meaning to it, and then demand that nobody use that word or object because it “makes them feel”… whatever.

Let’s look first at the premise that someone can actually “make” another person FEEL anything. How does that work, exactly? Vulcan mind meld? Is it not a fact that each person simply REACTS to outside stimulus, and the perception of sad, mad, happy, etc. is actually their own response? That response can most certainly be painful, even harmful psychologically in vulnerable people, but the person who supplies the stimulus is not, therefore, actually responsible for the feelings because he/she has no control over what another person perceives or what their response will be. The person with the feelings is actually the responsible person and, to a great extent, chooses the response based on their own beliefs and preferences. History is replete with every kind of race, tribe and ethnic conflict, but none of it can shift true responsibility from the person with the feelings to someone else.

A great many people have lost sight of that fact, and the new privileged classes have managed to politicize their hurt feelings into actual laws, criminalizing the words and actions their feelings and perceptions find objectionable. Criminalization of ordinary words and inanimate objects does not seem like a good path toward a polite and peaceful society. Recent history seems to support the more rational conclusion that attempting to force people to do and say things results in escalating resentment and even hatreds.

But of course, the shoe does not fit at all on the other foot. I think it is clear to most people how many screeds and threats come from the mouths and pens of certain “protected” persons (and those who shill for them) against anyone they perceive as not obeying their demands. Somehow, it is impossible for them to be “racist” or “hateful,” and their written and spoken threats are never seen as damaging to those they say should be caged, murdered or worse.

For some reason, the privileged one believes he/she should be able to dictate how others speak or act, yet totally rejects any limitations on their own behavior. How does that work? If mere words are seriously harmful, why doesn’t that work both ways?

I never have, and never would, deliberately say or do anything intended to harm, insult, demean or harass any other person, always seeking to be courteous and non-threatening. I simply don’t ever intend to have someone else define that for me… especially with threats and violence under color of law. I absolutely refuse to accept any false guilt for speaking my mind, especially when that false guilt is predicated on things my long dead ancestors did, or might have done.

Seems to me that responsibility for “feelings” has to be handed back to the people who actually own it.

 

Regarding “Generation Wars”: some reflections upon reading the recent Jack Halberstam essay

From Whipping Girl:  http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/2014/07/regarding-generation-wars-some.html

By Julia Serano
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jack Halberstam recently published an essay called You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma, and it’s been making waves on the activist internets over the last week. It felt like a bit of a “kitchen sink” article to me, in that it discussed a plethora of different matters (including Monty Python, historical debates between second- and third-wave feminisms, current controversies surrounding the word “tranny,” the recent proliferation of trigger warnings, supposed connections between expressions of trauma and neoliberalism, safe spaces, “It Gets Better” campaigns, and concerns about millennials being hypersensitive) and attempted to weave them into one nice neat coherent narrative. This narrative could be summarized as follows:

queer & trans culture and politics circa the 1990’s was strong, progressive, and fun!

whereas queer & trans culture and politics circa the 2010’s is frail, conservative, and a killjoy.

While Halberstam’s essay made a few points that are certainly worthy of further exploration and discussion, it also overreached in a number of ways, especially in its attempts to shoehorn a potpourri of recent events and trends into the aforementioned overarching narrative. Some concerns that I have about the essay have been addressed by others here and here and here and here (sorry, original posting of that response was here) and here.

I generally do not respond to every essay that I disagree with on the Internet (as that would be a full time job!). But I wanted to add a few thoughts to this discussion because, while the essay in question is uniquely “Halberstamian” in its style and themes, the overarching narrative that holds the piece together is remarkably similar to the one recently forwarded by Andrea James, and resembles recent comments made by RuPaul. Indeed, it seems as if queer and trans folks who came of age around the 1990’s (ostensibly my generation, give or take a few years) are increasingly invoking this as the “go-to” narrative to explain why a younger generation of queer and trans activists behave the way that they do. And I think that the assumptions that prop up this narrative are in dire need of unpacking.

on having to walk uphill, both ways, in a foot of snow, everyday, on your way to school, back when you used to be a kid

I think that a useful place to start is with the “four Yorkshire men” Monty Python sketch that Halberstam invokes as a metaphor for the “hardship competitions…among the triggered generation” (which is to say, how young people today are supposedly constantly complaining about how hurt and oppressed they are by relatively minor things, such as “a cultural event, a painting, a play, a speech, a casual use of slang, a characterization, a caricature and so on”).

Now personally, I always understood that Monty Python sketch as making fun of how people, as they get older, tend to glorify their own past: imagining the hardships they faced as being especially challenging or severe, thereby allowing them to self-conceptualize themselves as being especially resourceful, righteous, cunning, and perseverant for having survived despite overwhelming odds. And this human tendency has historically enabled older generations to outright dismiss younger generations as being misguided, or especially soft (because “they have it so much easier than we did”), and so on.

The notion that queer and trans people of my generation were somehow stoic and resilient, whereas the younger generation of queer and trans people are a bunch of oversensitive crybabies seems to be quite a stretch. I can attest to the fact that we too complained about how oppressed we were, and we often expressed our hurt feelings in public, and we often became outraged about particular language choices or media depictions that we found problematic. The main difference is that we (in glorifying our own past) tend to believe that the causes that we fought for were righteous and justified, whereas the younger generation’s causes and concerns may seem misguided and frivolous to us.

One blatant example of this sort of hypocrisy can be found in RuPaul, who with one hand dismisses concerns of a younger generation of activists who find the word “tranny” problematic, while with the other hand types angry Tweets at people who use the word “faggot” (which he considers to be a “derogatory slur”). The logic here is totally inconsistent. Such actions only make sense if he (and those who agree with him) privileges political stances taken by his own generational cohort over those taken by a newer generation.

Continue reading at:  http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/2014/07/regarding-generation-wars-some.htm

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