Ideology stomps all over chemistry in a new paper

January 15, 2023 • 12:45 pm

There are two ways I can criticize the uber-woke paper below that was published in from The Journal of Chemical Education (an organ of the American Chemical Society). I could go through it in detail and point out the fallacies and undocumented claims, and note where “progressive” ideology simply overwhelms the science. I could highlight why it’s a bit of hyper-Left propaganda, designed to force students in a Chemistry, Feminism and STEM course to think in a certain way.

Or I could simply mock it as an example of politicized science that is so over the top that it could appear without change in The Onion.

Way #1 would waste a lot of my time, and I’ve gone through this kind of exegesis many times before. Way #2 would bring out the splenetic readers who say that I shouldn’t make fun of dumb papers like this but instead take them apart line by line—that mockery is not an effective weapon.  But it is. Why else would Stanford have remove its list if disapproved words and phrases had not the Wall Street Journal mocked the list? “Mockery makes you look bad,” these jokers would say, “and it’s unintellectual.”

I’m rejecting both ways today in favor of The Third Way: let the paper reveal its own ideology, postmodern craziness, and authoritarianism by just giving quotes. In other words, I’ll let it mock itself.

You can access the paper for free by clicking on the screenshot below, or see the pdf here.

The abstract gives an idea of the purpose of the course: to indoctrinate students in the authors’ brand of feminism, CRT, and other aspects of woke ideology.  It wants to rid chemistry of White Supremacy, for the unquestioned assumption is that chemistry education is riddled with white supremacy. If you read the authors seriously, you’d think that all chemistry teachers put on white robes and burned crosses after school:

ABSTRACT: This article presents an argument on the importance of teaching science with a feminist framework and defines it by acknowledging that all knowledge is historically situated and is influenced by social power and politics. This article presents a pedagogical model for implementing a special topic class on science and feminism for chemistry students at East Carolina University, a rural serving university in North Carolina. We provide the context of developing this class, a curricular model that is presently used (including reading lists, assignments, and student learning outcomes), and qualitative data analysis from online student surveys. The student survey data analysis shows curiosity about the applicability of feminism in science and the development of critical race and gender consciousness and their interaction with science. We present this work as an example of a transformative pedagogical model to dismantle White supremacy in Chemistry.

At the outset they get off on the wrong foot: by asserting that sex is not binary (all bolding is mine):

When scientifically established facts, such as the nonbinary nature of both sex and gender are seen by students of science as a belief, one might ask: Are we being true to scientific knowledge? We use this student comment as a reflection of the subjectivity of how the pedagogical decisions are made in teaching “true science” vs what existing scientific knowledge tells us. This has resulted in the propagation of scientific miseducation for generations.

Sadly, it’s the authors who are miseducated here. Whatever they think, biological sex in vertebrates is binary, and to teach otherwise is the real distortion of education.

They have a new term, too, though I don’t see how it differs from either systemic racism, unconscious bias, or deliberate racism. (The “King’ mentioned, by the way, is not Martin Luther King, Jr.):

King introduced a new term, dysconscious racism, defined as an acceptance of dominant White norms and privileges arising from the uncritical habit of the mind leading to the maintenance of the status quo. In contrast to unconscious bias which has been quoted as involuntary and used in the academy often, King’s idea of dysconcious racism demands a critical analysis of the history of systemic discrimination in the institutions and coming up with effective interventions.

Below is the authoritarianism, breathless in its arrogance. I used to think that it was an exaggeration to compare the radicalization of science with the Lysenko movement in Stalin’s Russia. Now I’m not so sure! We’ve put our feet on that path.  Is there any ideological buzzworda missing in the following paragraph?:

In this article we describe the development, implementation, and student experience from a special topic course in chemistry, Science and Feminism, as a disruptive tool to challenge the status quo in Chemistry. Using Critical Race Theory and intersectional feminism as the framework, this course aimed at creating an intellectual as well as physical space for STEM students at East Carolina University (ECU) where they could explore their identities and how these intersect with the knowledge base and the pedagogy of science by looking at these from historical, political, and feminist lens. The other aim was to shine light, through this process, how scientific epistemology and culture have strong links with capitalism, enslavement, colonization, and exploitation of female-bodied folks. We provide the historical context of teaching this class in our institution, development of the course syllabus, assignments, and evaluations adopted for this course over the past two years as a template for future course development. In the Discussion and Conclusion section, we also provide a short description from qualitative analysis of online student surveys to understand what students thought about the importance of such a STEM course. Finally, this course is intended to produce an affirming space that will allow minoritized students to enter a chemistry class without having to leave their identities at the metaphorical and physical door of STEM classes.

But you’re supposed to leave your identities at the door. Science is science and the pursuit of the truth, and what truths are apprehended, should be independent of the characteristics of the person who does science.

Below is the “all must have prizes” bit.  Sadly, given that there are more candidates for academic jobs than there are jobs, some people aren’t going to make it. Here’s a statement that East Carolina University, where most of the authors come from, put on their website after George Floyd was murdered:

That same year, the Chemistry Department posted an antiracism statement on its Web site, which stated: “…That means we, as a department, must continually self-reflect and ask hard questions of ourselves. Do our pedagogy, assignments, exams, and grading practices help everyone to succeed?”

This means, of course, that if some students don’t succeed, it’s the fault of the teachers. Ergo a new course in which everyone succeeds, and, I suppose, in which there is no ranking of merit.

Here are the four parts of the course, each accompanied by readings from the appropriate propaganda (note: there is NO dissent in the readings, which you can see in the article):

Unit 1 readings (Table 2) focused on introducing students to the history of American feminism and its contribution/effect as felt in STEM epistemology. This unit also comprised of readings that critically looked at the DEI work in the Academy and its connection complicatedness dysconcious racism. As experiential learning, this unit also invited students to think and talk about their individual relationship with the word feminism, STEM culture, and their own identities. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: Science done by a feminist and feminist practice in science are the same thing.

Unit 2 included readings (Table 2) that exposed students to the historical context of pathologizing the pregnant womb and the construction of gynecology as a White male discipline while utilizing Black and Indigenous bodies as experimental subjects. We further explored the development of (Black, Indigenous, and Brown) races as inferior and pathological throughout the development of modern science. As experiential learning, students participated in discussions on their interaction with the medical system as immigrants, women, women of color, and LGBTQIA2S+ individuals. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: Health care providers (doctors, dentists, nurses, PA, PT, and administrators) should be required to learn the history of medical racism, sexism, and homo/transphobia and their legacy as part of their licensing process, and it should be an ongoing training than a onetime one. Students were also suggested to watch the 2017 movie, The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks.

Unit 3 explored the development and interrelationship between quantum mechanics, Marxist materialism, Afro-futurism/pessimism, and postcolonial nationalism. To problematize time as a linear social construct, the Copenhagen interpretation of the collapse of wave-particle duality was utilized. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: past is never dead, it is not even past. The students also had the option of watching the 2020 movie, Antebellum. However, the instructor was flexible on this assignment as some of the African American students did not want to watch it and be triggered. They wrote a reflection on a book on race and gender that they had read.

Unit 4 consisted of reading articles in STEM that used identity (racial/gender/sexuality) as empirical parameters and how that can further propagate the absoluteness of these categories rather than dismantling these constructed realities. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation. There was no debate for this unit as this was close to the semester end.

Besides the reading assignments, there are essays in which students are expected to parrot back the woke pabulum they’ve been fed:

The final assignment was a full paper with an intervention plan that might be implemented in their own institution/department which will enable students to create a STEM identity which acknowledges and respects their personal identity. For 2021 and 2022 classes, the intervention topics that students wrote about were as follows: the importance of all-gender bathrooms in STEM buildings, the importance of teaching how race, gender, sexuality, etc. are created and pathologized by STEM as a medical college course, how to increase accessibility of STEM as a discipline without erasing the lived experiences of URM students, and how the American STEM identity can incorporate the immigrant student/scholar experience.

At this point I wondered if this course had anything to do with science beyond using the “field” (excuse me) as an example of racism and white supremacy. I don’t think so. It’s ideological propaganda, pure and simple, and even worse than the forms dished out in “studies” courses. ‘

There’s a section on “Social Location of the Authors and Their Relation to This Course.” Here’s just a bit:

M.A.R. participated in the special topic chemistry class in Spring 2021 as a biology graduate student. She is a young adult Filipino cis woman who was raised in a middle-class rural town in North Carolina for most of her childhood by immigrant parents.D.M. consulted on the design and delivery of the course as well as the preparation of this manuscript. He is a middle-aged White cis-gendered man who was raised in a suburban Philadelphia family with a diverse set of adopted and foster siblings. He approaches this work largely trained in a Jesuit social ethics tradition and currently serves as a student affairs educator responsible for community engagement, leadership, and DEI experiential programming.

S.B. designed and taught this class as a special topic in chemistry class in Spring 2021 and then in Spring 2022. They are a middle-aged Indian immigrant working in the US higher education. They identify as gender nonconfirming and a brown-immigrant-queer. They were raised in an upper caste and middle-class, college educated family in an urban environment in India and experiences and understands this world from these complex vantage points. These social locations of S.B. also influenced the texts and topics discussed in this course which centered around the historical relationship of Black and Brown and colonized people with modern STEM discipline.

I’m not sure whether this is relevant for teaching propaganda, though it tells us why it’s being taught. It also help establish the authors’ “identity credibility”.

Finally, there’s the obligatory land acknowledgment at the end. It’s a long one!

The authors acknowledge that this article was conceived, researched, and written on Indigenous land and “We acknowledge the Tuscarora people, who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognize their continuing connection to the land, water, and air that Greenville consumes. We pay respect to the eight state-recognized tribes of North Carolina; Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi, Sappony, and Waccamaw-Siouan, all Nations, and their elders past, present, and emerging”.

Does this help the indigenous Americans? I don’t see how. I’m sure the Native Americans would prefer getting the land back than this faux form of “respect.”

To end, I point out what I think is an error. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there was a “Tuskegee airmen” case that falls under the “history of medical racism”. I believe the authors are referring here to the four-decade “Tuskegee syphilis study” ending in 1972. It truly was a dark episode in the history of medical ethics: an experiment in which black men infected with syphilis were left untreated so that the US Public Health Service could observe the effects of untreated disease. These men could have been treated, but weren’t; they weren’t told what they had; and they were promised medical treatment but lied to.  This could not happen today, but it was a horrible, horrible thing to do to these people, and was certainly motivated in part by racism. Below is the conflation of this study with another group associated with Tuskegee:

The syphilis study had nothing to do, as far as I know, with the Tuskegee airmen, a group of black pilots who fought gallantly during WWII, despite the military having been segregated. They were the first black military aviators, and received many plaudits and decorations for their bravery and work. But the group had, as far as I know, nothing to do with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, except that both groups of men were associated in some way with the historically black Tuskegee Institute, which later became Tuskegee University. So much for checking the facts!

The Upshot: This is without doubt the most annoying, misguided, and misplaced paper on science education I’ve read in the last five years. The American Chemical Society should be ashamed of itself.

h/t: Anna

The rancor of the gender wars

September 27, 2022 • 11:15 am

The one ideological area in which I get the most pushback is that comprising transgender and transsexual issues. My concern with the topic has been twofold. First, I have been critical of the assertion of activists’ (and their adherents’) claim that sex is not bimodal in humans (or indeed, in anything), as well as the claim that there aren’t really any evolved differences in male and female behavior (again, not just in humans). To me, this flies in the face of all we know about biology.  But I’ve given reasons for my views and won’t reprise them here.

Second—and again I’ve discussed this at length, adducing evidence, I’ve been worried about and critical of activists’ claims—now echoed by the Biden administration—that transsexual females (born as biological males) should be allowed to compete in most sports against biological women. This is especially worrisome if there’s been no medical intervention (hormone therapy) and if the transitioning occurred after puberty. Others feel differently, and this is a discussable issue that involves biology as well as philosophy.

That’s about it. I’m happy to treat all transsexual people with respect, including accepting that they’re members of the sex they want to be, using the pronouns they want us to use, and, in almost every case, afford them exactly the same rights as non-transsexuals. I certainly don’t want to “erase” them. And yet transsexual activism is so vociferous that even questioning issues of sports, sex differences, or sex bimodality brands one as a “transphobe.” I deny that accusation, as I deny the accusation that J. K. Rowling is a transphobe. And I am appalled at the self-righteousness of those who make flat assertions and are deaf to criticism.

In a recent article in Times Higher Education, Laura Favoro, identified as “a researcher at City, University of London’s Gender & Sexualities Research Centre”, surveyed 50 gender studies academics (all self-identified as “feminists”), trying to suss out the source of the acrimony around gender and transsexuality. Her conclusion, which those of us who have followed the “gender wars” already know, is that discussion on the issue has been severely and deliberately chilled, to the extent that most feminists who disagree with “progressive” ideology keep their mouths shut out of fear. And that fear comes from the rancor heaped on dissenters by “progressives”, who no longer want to debate—or even see the point of debate.  This assuredness and willingness to silence dissidents is a recurring theme in the woke playbook.

The original is here but paywalled (you can read three articles for free), but I also found it archived here. Click below to see if you can access it; if not, go to the archive.

Of the 50 feminists interviewed by Favoro, 14 were “gender critical feminists”, comprising those who see a difference (as do I) between “sex” and “gender”. Favoro adduces a fact I didn’t know:

For them, there is a clear difference between “sex”, which refers to biological categories that are binary and immutable, and “gender”, which describes the roles, behaviours and attributes that a given culture deems appropriate for people by virtue of their sex. Recognising this difference is important because, as well as constraining both sexes, gender serves to justify the subordination of females. This group of academics also noted that their perspective was, until recently, largely shared across feminism, as well as within many academic disciplines.

I admit that I’ve been clueless enough not to know that emphasizing “gender” might lead to pressure on biological women to adopt classical female “gender roles”—something that modern feminists have opposed, or rather favor the right to reject traditional gender roles.

These “gender critical feminists” report significant harassment that has led to self-censorship:

It was clear that the “gender-critical” feminist academics I interviewed had faced negative repercussions for years for expressing their view (now protected in the UK under the Equality Act 2010 following last year’s tribunal ruling that a thinktank researcher, Maya Forstater, had been unlawfully dismissed for tweeting that women could not change their biological sex). Among other experiences, my interviewees described complaints to and by management, attempts to shut down events, no platforming, disinvitations, intimidation, smears and losing career progression opportunities, including being blocked from jobs.

Others spoke about being physically removed from events, alongside receiving torrents of abuse online that even included incitements to murder. One criminology scholar said her experience was “a continuum of hell”, while a law scholar claimed “the impact has been huge [and] is going to last a long time”. Aware of these potential consequences, and citing feelings of fear, isolation and despair, others had decided to “hide in the shadows”.

Those in the earlier stages of their careers said that “it would just be too terrifying” to make their views public due to the threat of being “ostracised…because so much within academia depends on personal connections”, while more experienced colleagues alluded to “self-preservation”. Feared by all was the “horrible backlash” online; one sociologist worried about death and rape threats seen elsewhere stated: “I have children – I’m frightened.”

Favaro also spoke to 20 “trans-inclusive feminists”, who differ from each other in their opinions, but as a group see no sharp line between sex and gender:

For some, “sex” is a construct of oppressive systems, notably Western colonialism. Others argue it is a biological spectrum that can – at least in part – change. For others still, it is both a social fiction and a biological reality. “Gender” is likewise understood in different ways: as socially or discursively constructed (performative model); as an inseparable combination of biological, psychological and social elements (biopsychosocial model); or, to a much lesser extent, as innate subjectivity, evoking notions of sexed brains (psychobiologist model). At times, “gender” is used as a synonym for “gender identity”, usually understood as an internal sense of self as a woman, a man, both, neither or something else, such as “non-binary” – which, among other possibilities, can be “plural” (“like having two or more alter egos or personas”) or “fluid” (changing “over years, months, or the course of the day”), as explained in the 2019 book Gender: A Graphic Guide.

Despite its conceptual diversity, genderism coheres around the push for gender (identity) to replace sex in most – if not all – contexts. Unlike feminism, its political subject is not female people but rather all those subjected to gender oppression – a concept that is redefined to emphasise lack of choice and affirmation relating to gender identity.

This is the viewpoint that I characterize as “progressive”, not because I think it’s connected with any real scientific or moral progress, but because its adherents see themselves as progressive, as being on the side of the angels. And, according to Favor (who’s going to get herself in trouble, even though she’s right), it’s this group that is the most censorious, the most eager to demonize their opponents as “TERFs” and transphobes. Some even reject the idea of debating:

On the issue of “no platforming”, some interviewees ridiculed the idea that gender-critical feminists were victims of it. . .

Others, however, openly embraced the “no debate” position on the basis that gender-critical feminism is “hate speech” or even “rhetorical violence [that] actually does have real-world aims”, equivalent to movements such as fascism and eugenics. One interviewee who identified as a trans woman described the current situation in academia as “a political battle over an institutional space”, clarifying that: “My political bottom line is – I don’t concede to people who are interested in the eradication of me and everyone like me in the world because I consider that a genocidal project.”

This view, together with the belief that “cis women have more power than trans people”, led genderist academics to refrain from forthrightly denouncing some transgender activists’ aggressive tactics towards feminists. These include threats and ideations of extreme violence, which, as well as being pervasive on social media, appear to be increasingly condoned at universities. For example, last year, a London School of Economics postgraduate student conference paper described a scene in which feminists critical of genderism “scream for mercy”. The paper then described the potential threat: “I hold a knife to your throat and spit my transness into your ear”, concluding: “Are you scared? I sure fucking hope so.”

Oy vey is mir! Yet some of these can’t even articulate their own beliefs: 

When asked to describe their arguments, however, she responded: “I don’t know if what I understand or what I think are the issues are the issues, I’ll be honest with you – I stay out of their way.” This remarkable coupling of condemnation and ignorance regarding gender-critical feminism was fairly common among genderist academics. Many readily admitted that they limit their academic engagements, including their reading, to their “echo chambers and bubbles” where, as one journal editor noted, “we all share basically the same perspectives”.

Many genderist academics struggled, or were discomfited, when asked to provide their own definitions of sex, gender and (particularly) gender identity, despite their research and teaching revolving around these very topics. Some acknowledged lack of sufficient reflection, while others explained this peculiar situation by citing concerns over “perpetuating harms” with their words to people who identify as transgender. For others still, the concern related to “sounding Terfy”, or was a reaction to the fact that “there is very little openness to debating certain subjects which are difficult other than being framed as transphobic”.

If you can’t define your terms, you can’t have a debate.  Among this group, Favoro interviewed 12 “genderist” feminists who were also editors of feminist, gender, and sexuality journals. Of course these journals all had the genderist perspective, but, further, all the editors they wouldn’t publish any gender-critical articles.

Finally, Favoro interviewed 16 feminist academics whose views she didn’t know. Many of them mentioned self-censorship because “we are all so afraid”. Others were in the “I’m not gender-critical, but. . . ” class, still raising issues that concern gender-critical feminists—issues like “affirmative care” for gender-dysphoric youth and the elimination of the term “sex.” Here’s a statement from one:

Are there things that I could write? Yes. Do I think that they could make a difference, that they could offer something? Yes. Will I write about it? No. Which tells you all you need to know about the current situation,” said a sociologist. “If I am scared to write about this…then I have no doubt that people who might be more easily classified as Terfs would feel afraid to speak, censored,” she added.

As you see, at least for the time being among this group—and, I think, much more widely—the trans-inclusive feminists have won, shutting down debate and chilling speech because people are afraid of being called TERFs or transphobes. (This resembles the debate about affirmative action and race-related matters, where the silencing adjective is “racist”.)

Favoro claims that she was objective in her approach, and I have no reason to doubt her, for if she had a history of being in one of the two main camps, people would know it and impugn her for producing biased journalism. Yet in the end, she herself becomes afraid for having conducted these interviews. Still, kudos toher for putting down her conclusions, as well as noting that almost all the heavy fire comes from the “progressive” side. But more than that. This side has achieved the dream of many progressives—silencing the other side:

Of course, I fear harms to my career and more for instigating, as interviewees repeatedly put it, “difficult conversations” – not least as an immigrant early career scholar with a family to support. But, at the same time, why would I want to work in academia if I cannot do academic work? Much more terrifying than being hated is being gagged.

A new book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on sexual violence in Europe

April 4, 2020 • 10:30 am

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a new book, her fifth, and the fourth to have a one-word title (the others are The Caged Virgin, Nomad, Infidel, and Heretic, and I’ve read all but the first). The last one, Heretic, was subtitled Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, and was her manifesto not to destroy Islam (which many think is her agenda), but to reform it from within. I wrote about it previously, and thought that while the motivation was good, Muslims would never accept Hirsi Ali’s five suggestions for reforming the faith (example: “Muslims must not take the Qur’an literally”).

If Islam is to be defanged, making the extremist and violence-prone segments go away, it not only has to be from within, but there’s no good program for doing it—even from Hirsi Ali, who spent much of her life as an ardent believer.

And if the last book diminished Hirsi Ali’s reputation as an “Islamophobic” (it didn’t—the SPLC pronounced her, along with Maajid Nawaz, “an anti-Muslim activist” and then withdrew that characterization when sued by Nawaz), this book will restore it. For it’s about those immigrants—many of them Muslim—who commit sexual violence on and harassment of women in Europe. Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon site, or see the HarperCollins publisher’s description here.

The sexual violence committed by immigrants to Europe, and its higher frequency among male Muslim immigrants, is an issue that, it seems, most European countries would rather keep under wraps, because it looks “Islamophobic” to both highlight it and, especially, to connect it with the misogyny endemic in much of Islam.  “Grooming gangs” of young Muslims are reported on in the British press, but the ethnic/religious connection has stalled both investigations of the crimes as well as their highlighting by journalists. Of course there are many rapists and harassers who aren’t Muslims, or are non-Muslims from East Asia, but it’s ridiculous to avoid discussing how religion (which is largely equivalent to “culture” for many Muslims) might feed into sexual violence. How can you deal with such crimes without understanding their source? But then, of course, there’s the hard problem of “what do we do with this understanding?”  That’s above my pay grade.

These are the issues that Hirsi Ali apparently deals with in Prey. Here’s HarperCollins‘s summary of the book, which I’ve excerpted (their emphasis):

Why are so few people talking about the eruption of sexual violence and harassment in Europe’s cities? Because almost no one in a position of power wants to admit that the problem is linked to the arrival of several million migrants—most of them young men—from Muslim-majority countries.

In Prey, the best-selling author of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, presents startling statistics, criminal cases and personal testimony. She shows that, after a period when sexual violence in western Europe barely increased, after 2014 it surged. In Germany “offences against sexual self-determination” in 2018 were 36% above their 2014 level. Nearly two-fifths of the suspects were non-German. Asylum seekers were suspects in 11% of all reported rapes and sexual harassment cases in Austria in 2017, despite making up less than 1% of the total population.

This violence isn’t a figment of alt-right propaganda, Hirsi Ali insists, even if neo-Nazis exaggerate it. It’s a real problem that Europe—and the world—cannot continue to ignore.

Hirsi Ali explains why so many young Muslim men who arrive in Europe engage in sexual harassment and violence. She traces the roots of sexual violence in the Muslim world, from institutionalized polygamy to the lack of legal and religious protections for women.

A refugee herself, Hirsi Ali is not against immigration. . . Deeply researched and featuring fresh and often shocking revelations, Prey uncovers a sexual assault and harassment crisis in Europe which is turning the clock on women’s rights much further back than #MeToo has advanced it.

I’ll read it, as I’ve read most of her books, but be aware that this book is going to be excoriated for simply highlighting the problem, which everyone recognizes is a problem.  It’s ironic that the publisher mentions #MeToo here, for that underscores the double standards of liberal societies when dealing with feminism and Islam. Islamic doctrine is explicitly anti-feminist, and, in the thesis of this book, has devalued women to the extent that it leads to both sexual harassment and rape, just as it leads to the oppression of women in most Muslim counties. So we have a clash of underdogs—underdogs whose defense is a classic virtue of liberalism. In this case it’s Islam versus feminism. In America, the UK, and the rest of Europe, the Left seems to have decided that, as “people of color”, Muslims are more oppressed than women, and so, as Hirsi Ali insists, this has exacerbated the oppression of women in the West.

I’ll report on the book after I’ve read it.

h/t Enrico

Two pieces on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the new allegations against him

June 4, 2019 • 10:45 am

It is curious that the accusations of sexual misconduct committed by Martin Luther King, Jr., recently published in Standpoint by his biographer, the distinguished civil rights historian David Garrow, have largely been ignored by the mainstream press. I think it’s because the press doesn’t know how to respond to accusations of rape-enabling and abuse of women by someone as distinguished as Dr. King—someone who did more than anyone else to bring civil rights to African Americans in the last century. Given the cognitive dissonance among the Authoritarian Left when two of their values collide (another example is feminism vs. Islamic misogyny), I wondered if King would be given more of a pass than others because of his accomplishments. Although the accusations against King are still under legal seal until 2027, many have been deemed guilty by allegations as unsubstantiated as those against Dr. King.

My own take so far is to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, hoping I’m around when the evidence is unsealed, and to recognize that earlier evidence already showed King to be a serial philanderer. He was imperfect—maybe criminally so—but his legacy, his actions, and his writings still mark him as one of the most accomplished figures in American history. But so was Thomas Jefferson, who held slaves. Even now, at my alma mater The College of William and Mary, Jefferson’s statue is regularly being defaced. Lately we’ve seen the demonization of people like Dr. Seuss as well as Gandhi, whose statues have been taken down in South Africa. Somehow people haven’t yet come to terms with how we regard historical figures who have done bad things by modern lights. But clearly such judgments must balance good versus bad, recognize the complex nature of humans, and should have nothing to do with someone’s race.

The New York Times has finally come to grips with the accusations about King, but only in an op-ed by one person, Barbara Ransby. [Note added in proof: they just published another piece on King that I haven’t yet read.] Ransby is a professor of history, gender and women’s studies and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of “Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement,” “Eslanda” and “Making All Black Lives Matter.” You can read her piece below:

The piece is not really a defense of King so much as an attack on those who accept, even tentatively, that King might have been a far worse sexual predator than we know. We can rule out many on the Right who seem to glorify in these revelations, as they really don’t like what King did. But Ransby, while properly pointing out that the evidence isn’t dispositive, attacks the FBI for its attempt to depose and terrorize King (true, but it’s still possible that the transcripts are right), and even Garrow for publishing unverified information. She gives more credibility to the testimony of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, as they were recounting their own stories rather than digging out someone else’s, as did Garrow.  And Garrow, who has impeccable credentials and no a priori animus against King, is criticized for wanting public attention,  for seeming to “want his own Me first spotlight by getting out in front of an unsubstantiated story” by telling the stories of women who can’t tell the stories themselves. That’s a bit unfair: many of the women are dead and even Garrow thinks that we need to wait before revising our judgment of King as a man (see below). Her subheading implies that Garrow is a “historical peeping Tom”.

Finally, Ransby brings in “resurgent white nationalism” to buttress King’s historical legacy, which stands untarnished to all rational people, and the racist way in which King’s “black sexuality” was described by the FBI. Probably true, but again irrelevant to the questions about his character. After all, it was King who talked about judging a man by “the content of his character.”

To be fair, Ransby does say, and I agree, that we need to wait until 2027 before we begin the painful process of evaluation:

If in 2027 when the full F.B.I. tapes are released there is credible and corroborated evidence that a sexual assault occurred and Dr. King was somehow involved, we will have to confront that relevant and reprehensible information head-on. But we are not there.

Indeed, but Ransby’s piece still looks a bit tendentious. King’s historical accomplishments are secure, though the man was imperfect and may have even been a malefactor, but neither she nor Garrow know the truth, and there’s no need to discredit Garrow and the FBI (which of course did do pretty awful things) in advance of the tapes’ release.

Politico has what I see as the most reasoned take about this whole issue, more so than Ransby’s piece (click on screenshot):

An excerpt of their piece (my emphasis):

The reports are full of erotic details and include revealing handwritten marginalia. But to the uninitiated, the written reports that Garrow cites are hard to interpret. They can’t be checked against the original surveillance tapes, which remain sealed, according to a judge’s order, until 2027. It’s hard to tell from a glance who precisely authored them, for what purpose they were drafted or what information they’re based on. It is Garrow’s decades of expertise in reviewing and analyzing FBI materials about King that gives these startling revelations their weight. Garrow has explained that while not all FBI claims are to be believed, these sorts of summaries of surveillance intercepts are unlikely to have been fabricated or manipulated.

And Garrow’s overall assessment is measured. Nowhere does he renounce the esteem for King that can be seen in his three important books on the minister’s life. Rather, he proposes that the possibility King tolerated or abetted a rape “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.” Garrow concludes with a call to preserve the recordings on which the FBI reports are based, so that we can learn more when they’re scheduled to be opened eight years from now.

. . .the Washington Post’s “Retropolis” blog, which declares Garrow’s article to be “irresponsible.” The thrust of the article is to insinuate that the FBI reports aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, and so Garrow shouldn’t have published them. But while the Post piece quotes some respected historians (including friends of mine) rightly noting that the FBI documents may not be entirely reliable—not least because of Hoover’s vendetta against King—it avoids the obvious, if painful, corollary that they may well be accurate to a significant degree. We should at least allow the possibility that the accusations are true.

That’s why it’s a mistake to discount Garrow’s article wholesale. Any historian who came across a new cache of documents related to a longstanding area of research would feel compelled to explore it—and, if those materials shed new light on the subject, to publish them.

. . .King’s greatness is such that he has weathered these disclosures. The rape charges are of course graver, but they don’t negate the historic achievements for which he has long been properly celebrated.

Even if the ugliest charges against King are bolstered by additional evidence, that doesn’t mean we should talk about renaming Martin Luther King Day, tearing down statues of him, or stripping him of his Nobel Prize. In recent years, we’ve had altogether too much wrecking-ball history—history that takes public or private flaws or failings as reason to cast extraordinary men and women out of our political or artistic pantheons. Historians know that even the most admirable figures from our past were flawed, mortal beings—bad parents or bad spouses, capable of violence or cruelty, beholden to sexist or racist ideas, venal or megalomaniac, dishonest or predatory. Awareness of these qualities doesn’t mean despising figures once held up as heroes. Rather, it gives us a more complete and nuanced picture of the people who shaped our world.

Garrow acted responsibly, I think. He put the tentative evidence out there, alerting historians to what he found and what needs to be examined in eight years. He is a reporter, neither an accuser nor a jury.

Until we know the real evidence, we should neither discount nor accept wholesale Garrow’s claims. And we should balance King’s private behavior against his accomplishments as a leader. But that standard should go for everyone, including Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi.

h/t: cesar

Everyday Feminism promotes astrology

December 1, 2018 • 10:15 am

Is it mansplaining if I advise feminists to not link their movement to astrology? I don’t think so, as it’s good advice. Of course, the Everyday Feminism site is beyond the pale, and I really should stop looking at it because their extreme form of Authoritarian and Prescriptive Leftism makes me dyspeptic. (Sample articles on view include “6 signs that you might not really respect your transgender loved one,” “7 reasons why white people should not wear black hairstyles,” “Think it’s #NotAllMen? These 4 facts prove you’re just plain wrong”, and the perennial favorite “10 things every intersectional feminist should ask on a first date.”)  The site loves prescriptive listicles, especially those that make you feel bad about yourself for sexism, racism, ableism, and every -ism there is. Then, to cure you, they offer, for a fee, courses like “Healing from Internalized Whiteness“.

Now reader Su, who, being more masochistic than I, actually subscribes to their newsletter, sent me their latest appeal for money/defense of woo. It’s for an “astrology as healing” course (of course all the readers are wounded), and costs just $34. But that’s $34 down the drain, as well as your rationality if you take any advice based solely on your astrology sign. Below is the ad they sent in their newsletter.

It’s quite defensive, but note that it doesn’t address the strong evidence that astrology is bunk (see here, for instance). Rather, they say, “Astrology might not be for everybody”, even while admitting that it’s not a substitute for science-based healthcare. And note the victimology: “You’re not a terrible person for drawing meaning from astrology!” Well, true, but you’re an irrational person!

Here are some of the details from the course site, which clearly assert that you can be healed from astrology—especially if you concentrate on the Moon and Venus. Now I’m not denying that people might find solace in this stuff insofar as it uses psychological helping techniques. But that’s a misguided way to help—like religion. You could do the same thing without convincing people that their birth signs actually mean something.

(Emphases are theirs.)

Everyone takes care of themselves differently. Perhaps you feel secure in a hot tub, secluded and completely unplugged. Maybe singing union songs in a passionate crowd or feeding your friends and family is the thing you need to feel safe and connected to your community.

All of this is reflected in your birth chart. Digging into your natal horoscope (a two-dimensional map of the sky at the moment of your birth) can both affirm what you’ve always known about yourself and reveal aspects of your personality that remain a mystery.

In this workshop, we’ll take our understanding of the language of the stars to the next level while focusing on considering our safety, our joy, and our wellness. Because astrology is absolutely healing work!

The well of astrological study is deep and the ways in are infinite. There’s so much to learn, and it can be a lifelong pursuit.

So, in this course, we’ll be going over the basics while focusing on the moon and Venus — both are introverted and concerned with nurturing our inner selves.

Why is Everyday Feminism charging people for courses based on bunk? See below:


Iranian women arrested and imprisoned for removing hijab, posting pictures of dancing

July 17, 2018 • 11:00 am

Can we hope that Iran, now in turmoil over many things, will try to stabilize itself by allowing its women simple human decency? In the last few weeks, two women have been arrested for removing their headscarves (20 years in jail!) or for posting pictures on social media of themselves dancing.  These are religious offenses, and are deemed such because they inspire the lust of men. (Women, of course bear full responsibility for whatever men do when engorged with uncontrollable lust.)

The first detainee, Shaparak Shajarizadeh (click on screenshot below) was apparently sentenced to two decades in stir for removing the hijab in protest of its compulsory wearing, and for “waving a white flag of peace in the street.” (White Wednesdays, in which women wear clothing of that color, are part of women’s protest against Iranian oppression.) Note that the story was not verified by Iranian authorities.


And here’s a story from the Guardian (click on screenshot, also see story in the July 9 New York Times) about a woman being arrested for posting an Instagram video (see below) of herself dancing.

This innocuous video was deemed dangerous enough to warrant the arrest of Maedeh Hojabri:

From the story about Hojabri New York Times, which described on July 9 the kind of public morality shaming that women like Hojabri are subjected to.

Like many teenage girls, Maedeh Hojabri liked to dance in her bedroom, record it and post clips to Instagram.

But Ms. Hojabri lives in Iran, where women are not allowed to dance, at least not in public. The 19-year-old was quietly arrested in May and her page was taken down, leaving her 600,000 followers wondering where she had gone.

The answer came last Tuesday on state television, when some of her fans recognized a blurred image of Ms. Hojabri on a show called “Wrong Path.”There she sobbingly admitted that dancing is a crime and that her family had been unaware she had videos of herself dancing in her bedroom to Western songs like “Bonbon,” by Era Istrefi.

Whatever the authorities’ intent, the public shaming of Ms. Hojabri and the arrest of others who have not been identified have created a backlash in a society already seething over a bad economy, corruption and a lack of personal freedoms.]

But there are signs that not just Iranian women are supporting the freedom to dress without veiling and to dance in public, but Iranians in general. As the Times notes,

Last week the judiciary warned that Instagram, which has 24 million users in Iran, might be closed because of its “unwanted content.” Ms. Hojabri, and other internet celebrities like her are called “antlers” by hard-liners for the way they stand out on Instagram.

But the public seems squarely on the side of Ms. Hojabri. “Really what is the result of broadcasting such confessions?” one Twitter user, Mohsen Bayatzanjani, wrote, using special software to gain access to Twitter, which is also banned in Iran. “What kind of audience would be satisfied? For whom would it serve as a lesson, seriously?”

Western feminists shy away from these kinds of violations, so that hijabis are often viewed as heroes though many of them are unwilling victims of Islamic morality. This represents the victory of skin pigmentation (Muslims are perceived as “oppressed brown people”, though many are lighter than I am and they’re hardly oppressed in places like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia) over feminism. The hierarchy of oppression is clear—skin color > sex—but why Muslim women in their own countries are seen as immune to oppression, or ignored by Western feminists, defies rational analysis. You won’t find a post like this one on most of the feminist websites.

In the meantime, however, Iranian women themselves know what’s going on, and are dancing in public in support of Hojabri. I am saddened but also heartened by this video of Iranian women dancing. If you want a running account of oppression, including both men and women, just go to #Iran.

A similar sentiment from the British gay activist Peter Tatchell:

Northeastern U. professor: It’s okay for women to hate all men

June 11, 2018 • 11:00 am

No! Not the Washington Post, too! Well, judging by this op-ed by Suzanna Danuta Walters, identified as “a professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University [and] editor of the gender studies journal Signs,” it’s okay to hate all men, and, further, to ask them to stop running for office and let women take over.

Of course the Washington Post should publish diverse opinions in its editorial section, but this one is pure bigotry—bigotry disguised as feminism. Imagine if the headline were something like “Why can’t we hate white people?” or “Why can’t we hate Jews?”, which, of course, are implicit views of some extremist black movements like the Nation of Islam or anti-Semitic groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. But nobody would publish articles with such titles! When it’s women, though, it’s okay to call for a general hatred of men. Why isn’t that bigotry?

Click on the screenshot to read Walters’s hate-filled piece.

Now of course there is considerable justification to hate the sin rather than the sinner, and the sin is sexism against women. There’s no doubt that women have been hard done by, oppressed (more so overseas than in the U.S.), neglected, kept from having the opportunities or recognition that they deserve, and in general not allowed to “hold up half the sky.” And there’s no doubt that that oppression comes almost entirely from men.

The attitude that women are inferior was pervasive not so long ago, but it’s changing, and it’s changing because women are demanding their rights. Yet people like me, who generally see themselves as pro-feminism—I’ve defined feminism for me as the view that women should be treated as moral and legal equals, and should from the outset be afforded exactly the same opportunities as men—aren’t necessarily on board with those who see sexism everywhere, who conflate unequal outcomes with sexism, or deliberately look for sexism where it might not exist. After all, if by virtue of your Y chromosome you’re automatically placed in a class with monsters like Harvey Weinstein (whose photo illustrates the article), you’re going to be a bit resistant to the message!

I call myself a feminist in the sense above, but I cannot share Dr. Walters’s hatred of men as a class. For one thing, I think sexism and “the patriarchy” are indeed rooted in biology, whether in the greater strength of men that allows them power over women, or in the fact that women are the childbearers, and therefore are often seen as assuming that role naturally and are unsuited for other roles.  Those biological differences have been transformed into sexism as a worldview, but how else can you explain, save through evolutionary differences, the fact that men originally relegated women to roles as breeders and homemakers, and kept them from power? Walters, though, seems to see sexism as having other roots: in some inherent evil in men that is completely independent of biology. She starts like this:

It’s not that Eric Schneiderman (the now-former New York attorney general accused of abuse by multiple women) pushed me over the edge. My edge has been crossed for a long time, before President Trump, before Harvey Weinstein, before “mansplaining” and “incels.” Before live-streaming sexual assaults and red pill men’s groups and rape camps as a tool of war and the deadening banality of male prerogative.

Seen in this indisputably true context, it seems logical to hate men. I can’t lie, I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms. I’ve rankled at the “but we don’t hate men” protestations of generations of would-be feminists and found the “men are not the problem, this system is” obfuscation too precious by half.

Well, you could make the same argument, as many have for years, about whites and Jews. Whites are responsible for most (but not all) slavery, and they are responsible for oppressing blacks right up to the present day. Is it then not “logical” for blacks to hate all whites? And indeed, some of them do; just browse the Internet. As for Jews, there are many who entertain the idea that Jews hold the levers of power everywhere, controlling banking, the media, and even Hollywood. And we’re not even talking about the “apartheid state” of Israel. Is it not then logical for everyone to hate Jews, too?

I doubt it. Because there are some good people among whites and Jews, as there are among men, and a blanket condemnation of those groups is just another form of bigotry—just like condemning all Muslims because we don’t agree with the beliefs of some of them.

Here’s where Walters argues that sexism has no roots in biology (my emphasis):

But, of course, the criticisms of this blanket condemnation of men — from transnational feminists who decry such glib universalism to U.S. women of color who demand an intersectional perspective — are mostly on the mark. These critics rightly insist on an analysis of male power as institutional, not narrowly personal or individual or biologically based in male bodies. Growing movements to challenge a masculinity built on domination and violence and to engage boys and men in feminism are both gratifying and necessary. Please continue.

Male power may be rife in institutions, but it’s not, at least in the U.S., “institutionalized” in the sense that the government or the law makes women unequal. It doesn’t. Sexism may be pervasive, but it’s not institutionalized. More important, I think sexism is, at the root, based on biology. If it is not, is it just an accident that men oppress women rather than the other way around? (Of course, I am not justifying sexism because of evolved biological differences. My own view, which I’ve expressed frequently, is that those differences are irrelevant to the moral and legal equality of women, and their right to be treated like everyone else.)

Walters goes on to recount the many injustices women experience—”underrepresentation” in high-paying jobs (she takes this as prima facie evidence for sexism, though preference may play a role), sexual assaults and harassment, unequal responsibility for children, and so on. These are undeniable, but, as Steve Pinker has shown, they’re disappearing, and they’re not just disappearing because of women. Many men have realized the nature of these injustices, and are also helping efface them. But to Walters, it’s easier to just hate all men and fight for women’s equality rather than to bother with those apparently rare men who are sympathetic to women’s equality. Not only that, but Walters calls for men to give up political power, apparently asking for a government and economy run solely by women. “Don’t run for office,” she says.  “Don’t be in charge of anything.” Is that for now, or forever? She doesn’t say. But her whole tone is sexist against men, and it this tone that is unproductive. Read this:

So, in this moment, here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men? For all the power of #MeToo and #TimesUp and the women’s marches, only a relatively few men have been called to task, and I’ve yet to see a mass wave of prosecutions or even serious recognition of wrongdoing. On the contrary, cries of “witch hunt” and the plotted resurrection of celebrity offenders came quick on the heels of the outcry over endemic sexual harassment and violence. But we’re not supposed to hate them because . . . #NotAllMen. I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it’s time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts.

The world has little place for feminist anger. Women are supposed to support, not condemn, offer succor not dismissal. We’re supposed to feel more empathy for your fear of being called a harasser than we are for the women harassed. [JAC: who ever said that?] We are told he’s with us and #NotHim. But, truly, if he were with us, wouldn’t this all have ended a long time ago? If he really were with us, wouldn’t he reckon that one good way to change structural violence and inequity would be to refuse the power that comes with it?

So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.

Well, I’m not going to respond petulantly by saying, “Okay, I’m no longer a feminist since it includes unhinged loons like Walters.” That’s equally unproductive.  What we need to do is recognize that views like hers are just as sexist, bigoted, hateful, and extremist as the views she decries. Most important, Walters’s path is the wrong way to have the two sexes live on a basis of equality and comity. South Africa was healed not by stirring up post-apartheid blacks to hate all whites, but by a Truth and Reconciliation movement. That was based on hating the sin but forgiving the sinner. Walters might take a lesson from that. After all, how many men will voluntarily admit that they deserve to be hated, pushed aside, and demonized like Harvey Weinstein?



Masih Alinejad talks about “My Stealthy Freedom”, “White Wednesdays”, and other travails of women in Iran

May 31, 2018 • 11:00 am

Reader J. J. sent me a link to a National Public Radio interview which, if you have a spare half-hour, will both make you angry (at the oppression of women in Iran and what happens to those who protest), but also happy (at the cheerful and optimistic personality of the subject). But let me just copy J. J.’s email, adding a few comments and links:

Perhaps other followers of WEIT have already sent you the link to today’s “Fresh Air”, but in case not, it’s here.

Terry Gross interviews the exiled Iranian journalist, Masih Alinejad, who started “My Stealthy Freedom” campaign on twitter, against compulsory hijab [JAC: She also started the White Wednesdays campaign in which Iranian women wear white one day a week to protest oppression], and who has just published her memoir, The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran. Given the nature of her campaign, the import of the title is obvious.  I’m listening right now and must get back to it because I don’t want to miss a second, but I can listen again online. You absolutely must listen from the very beginning to the end (it’s just over 30 min).  She is is amazing.  What a rebuke to Sarsour and all those odious pseudo-feminists with their through-the-looking-glass morals and ethics and sense of freedom (not to mention fashion). She starts off with her experiences wearing the hijab, and goes on from there.

Yes, this is definitely worth a listen. Alinejad, though she’s suffered exile, the inability to see her beloved mother, and the disapprobation of her strict Islamic father (she now lives in the U.S.), not to mention arrest and death threats that continue, is relentlessly upbeat throughout. She’s also a wonderful singer, and gives us two examples of songs. (I didn’t realize that women aren’t allowed to sing in Iran.)

No doubt she’ll be written off as a “native informant” by over-the-top defenders of Islam like Khaled A. Beydoun (if you want to see an unhinged hit job on people like Maajid Nawaz, Asra Nomani, and other reformist Muslims, see Beydoun’s new Guardian article), but to me she’s a hero. As I said yesterday, some people just carp about oppression to flaunt their moral bona fides, but Alinejad has sacrificed her country, her family, and her safety by standing up for women’s rights.  Why aren’t people like Linda Sarsour using her as a role model instead of bigots like Louis Farrakhan? Well, you know the answer to that one.

Here’s Alinejad singing in her car.

More on #MeToo #TimesUp, and schisms within feminism

January 18, 2018 • 12:00 pm

I suppose the fracturing of feminism that’s the byproduct of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements—both creating a tsunami of pushback against the misuse of power—was inevitable. For what is considered “consent” varies widely among people, and feelings are running high. I strongly support the calling-out of anyone who uses their power to prey sexually on others, and the reporting, firing, or jailing of those who violate employer’s norms or the law.  But given the present political climate, I think one could have predicted that a bit of the baby got thrown out with the bathwater. Here are a few pieces about current disputes about these issues. (I’m not writing about the justified accusations against people like Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, as discussions of those are amply available on the Internet.)

If there’s a writer who should be a feminist icon, it’s Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, many of whose works deal with women oppressed by patriarchy. She wrote, for instance, The Handmaid’s Tale, something of a feminist must-read (it was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize). Yet she’s now been damned by many feminists because she signed an open letter to the University of British Columbia (UBC), which decried UBC for its climate of secrecy around the case of Steven Galloway, former Chair of the Creative Writing Program. Accused of sexual assault, Galloway was cleared after a judge’s inquiry, but was fired anyway. The letter simply calls for fairness and openness toward Galloway, and for an independent investigation of how UBC handled Galloway’s case.

That was enough to damn Atwood in the eyes of many women, and she voices her distress in a new article in the Globe and Mail, “Am I a bad feminist?” Her answer is “yes, to many ‘good’ feminists.  An excerpt:

The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won’t be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

Yesterday I wrote about the Aziz Ansari affair, which began with a piece published on Babe by Katie Way, recounting the sexual liaison that a woman called “Grace” had with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. Columnist Bari Weiss in the New York Times wrote a column defending Ansari against charges of sexual predation, claiming that while he was guilty of being boorish, he could not be expected to pick up “nonverbal cues.” An excerpt from Weiss’s piece:

There is a useful term for what this woman [“Grace”] experienced on her night with Mr. Ansari. It’s called “bad sex.” It sucks.

The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued as if they’re in a pornographic film, and one in which girls and young women are empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want. The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches. That’s somewhere I, for one, don’t want to go.

A related piece, by Elizabeth Breunig in the Washington Post, is not as powerful but does add—and I agree—that we need to have a public conversation about sex, which differs from other forms of human interaction that have well defined and widely understood rules of etiquette. Breunig implicitly criticizes both Ansari, for lacking the empathy to see his date was uncomfortable, and Grace, for not having the temerity to just leave the apartment and the situation:

Instead, we ought to appreciate that sex is a domain so intimate and personal that more harm can be done than in most social situations, and that given that heightened capacity for harm, we should expect people to operate with greater conscientiousness, concern and care in that domain than in others. If you are still hanging around your tired host’s home long after the party is over, excuse yourself and leave — don’t wait for them to order you out or call the police. If you are kissing someone and they’re barely responsive — if they say, as Ansari’s partner did, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you” — then get their coat for them and call it a night. Ansari didn’t commit a crime. But cruelty isn’t restricted to criminal acts. In all domains of life, but especially where it comes to sex, we must insist that people consider one another’s interior lives, feelings, personhood, dignity.

I also posted a video by HLN and former CNN Anchor Ashleigh Banfield (here), strongly criticizing both Grace and Katie Way for the Babe piece. I’ve never seen a news anchor so publicly exercised, even mentioning the term “blue balls”, but Banfield was plenty angry. Some of her words from that video:

“But what you [Grace] have done in my opinion is appalling. You went to the press with the story of a bad date and potentially destroyed this man’s career. . . And now here is where I am going to claim victim. You have chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades: a movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I too have struggled with over the last thirty years in broadcasting.”

After hearing this, Katie Way invited to appear on television, refused and wrote a nasty email about Banfield. A piece in MEDIAite by Lawrence Bonk (?): “Ashleigh Banfield fires back after getting insulting email from writer of Aziz Ansari piece.“, gives Way’s gratuitiously nasty email response. Here it is in full (originally from Business Insider):

It’s an unequivocal no from me. The way your colleague Ashleigh (?), someone I’m certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of, by the way, ripped into my source directly was one of the lowest, most despicable things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Shame on her. Shame on HLN. Ashleigh could have “talked” to me. She could have “talked” to my editor or my publication. But instead, she targeted a 23-year-old woman in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life, someone she’s never f—— met before, for a little attention. I hope the ratings were worth it! I hope the ~500 RTs on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick bad highlights second-wave feminist has-been feel really relevant for a little while. She DISGUSTS me, and I hope when she has more distance from the moment she has enough of a conscience left to feel remotely ashamed — doubt it, but still. Must be nice to piggyback off of the fact that another woman was brave enough to speak up and add another dimension to the societal conversation about sexual assault. Grace wouldn’t know how that feels, because she struck out into this alone, because she’s the bravest person I’ve ever met. I would NEVER go on your network. I would never even watch your network. No woman my age would ever watch your network. I will remember this for the rest of my career — I’m 22 and so far, not too shabby! And I will laugh the day you fold. If you could let Ashleigh know I said this, and that she is no-holds-barred the reason, it’d be a real treat for me.


Banfield responds here (her response begins 50 seconds in):

Banfield, who applauded the #MeToo movement in her video yesterday, is certainly a feminist, but, like Atwood, wants both compassion in sexual encounters as well as legal and professional punishment of those who violate the law in those encounters.

Finally, and I’ll just drop this in passing, there’s yet another controversy involving Catherine Deneuve, who, along with others, signed an open letter (which could have been clearer) decrying the infantilization of women they discern in regarding every come-on as sexual harassment. It’s too long to go over this one, so, if you want to see the ire it’s aroused, read the Quillette essay by Ulysse Pasquier, “Catherine Deneuve, #MeToo, and the fracturing within feminism.

Jeff Tayler profiles Inna Shevchenko

January 2, 2018 • 10:30 am

Several times I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Inna Shevchenko, Ukrainian head of the feminist organization FEMEN. Morally and philosophically, she’s years ahead of her age (only 27)—as well as of Authoritarian Leftists and feminists twice her age. She’s also been jailed, physically assaulted, and had her life threatened at gunpoint for protesting against patriarchal religion and sexism in Ukraine and Belarus.

Inna is ignored or criticized by some Leftists because she strongly attacks the anti-woman bigotry of Islam, and so she’s simply written off as an “Islamophobe.” But her protests (usually involving nudity) aren’t just against Islam, but against all religions and states that turn women into second-class citizens. The nudity thing I have mixed feelings about, for while it brings attention to FEMEN’s causes, it does so by attracting attention to women’s bare breasts.  On the other hand, I can understand this tactic, and of course Inna and the women who do this regularly get beaten up and jailed for it.

Inna now lives as a refugee in Paris (pursuing a master’s degree in political science), and is always in fear of her life, for that’s the upshot when you repeatedly criticize Islam and once helped edit an issue of Charlie Hebdo. Having met Inna and heard her speak, I’m a big admirer.

So is Jeff Tayler, Atlantic correspondent and author who’s put a new article up on Quillette, “Femen’s Inna Shevchenko: Fear of causing offense has cost too many innocent lives.” It’s a profile of Inna as well as an interview, and here you hear a young woman speaking with a wisdom that has yet to trickle down to the Authoritarian Left or those feminists who refuse to discuss or even mention the crippling sexism of Islam (see here and here).

Here are a few excerpts from Tayler’s piece. Jeff also links to two videos about Inna (one a full-length movie in French), and be aware that there are topless women, so don’t watch the clips at work.

When it comes to Islam’s relation to terrorism and women’s rights, the betrayal by many so-called liberals has really stung [Shevchenko]. “So many on the left – in English they’re called regressive leftists, but here we call them Islamogauchistes — have ceded to manipulations by Islamists. For these leftists, “communautairisme” – ethnic identity politics, roughly, a negation of the French ideal of égalité – “has become like a new faith.” She takes a deep breath. “When you see so many who should be supporting you give in to manipulation by your enemy, you just despair. There’s this argument out there that to criticize Islam is considered racist. This is toxic for public debate. I don’t have any problem with being called an Islamophobe. I am indeed a religio-phobe. It’s not a crime to be afraid of religion. To be afraid of religion as a woman is normal.”

She categorizes the regressive left’s stance on Islam as “insulting toward the Muslim community. It suggests that all believers are a homogenous group of people. Because of the regressive left’s outcry and hysteria, moderate Muslims like Maajid Nawaz and ex-Muslims like Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have to struggle to be heard.”

How does she feel when regressive leftists tell her that her stance on Islam is “offensive?”

“It’s a sign that someone is trying to deprive me of my right to free speech and impose censorship on me. It’s a sign that they’ve given up their own right to freedom of expression because of a wish for comfort and a fear of being called racist. They’ve given up the common fight and gone over to the side of the Islamists. But the right to free speech is the most precious right, the foundation for all other freedoms.”

. . . She reserves intense scorn for those liberals who urge against criticizing Islam because this would, in their view, amount to helping the “narrative” about Muslims advanced by Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen, and other right-wing leaders. Such “liberals,” she says, are really proposing “to give up on the defense of women’s rights, to give up on the security and well-being of little girls, to give up our fundamental right of freedom of speech, to give up even our right to our own lifestyles and to dress the way we want and to laugh loud in the street, and all this just so as not to be associated with opinions of the far right! For me, this is no solution – this is cowardice and really dangerous. It will leave xenophobes as the only critics of Islam and give the stage to the far right. But this isn’t a question for the far right. It’s a question for society as a whole. When I hear liberals talking this way, I understand that they and the Islamists want the same thing: the silencing of progressive voices. If you try to silence these voices, you become an ally of Islamism.”

. . . I ask Shevchenko how she evaluates the struggle with Islamist terrorism in Europe and the United States. Her response is scathing:

“It took [the authorities] two years to even name the enemy, to even use the term ‘Islamic terrorism.’ They were afraid to associate terrorism with Islam, and oh God, that they might offend anyone! They needed so many deaths of innocent people in bars or café terraces here in Paris, before they would even name the enemy. This was a huge failure, an unjustifiable failure that cost so many lives. And it took so many horrible terrorist attacks in Europe for countries to even begin sharing intelligence. But we have to fight not particular people with guns, but the ideas that lead them to take up their guns; we have to go to the root of the problem and challenge these ideas better. We can’t be afraid of naming these ideas or laughing at them. Charlie Hebdo does this, and look at what happened to them. They’re still being threatened. We see how Europe and the United States are failing in fighting fundamentalist ideas, in challenging Islam as a set of dogmas. After all, again, it’s not a question of guys with guns, but of guys with dogmas in their heads, dogmas that lead them to pick up their guns.”

A related piece by Jeff on Islamophobia appeared in Quillette about a year ago, and bears reading again: “Free speech and terrorism—Whatever you do, don’t mention Islam!”

Here’s a TEDx video of Inna: