Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Gender Wage Gap Lie

Gender pay gap: The familiar line that “women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar” simply isn’t accurate. - Slate Magazine:
"The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them. But the 91 percent statistic suggests a much more complicated set of problems. Is it that women are choosing lower-paying professions or that our country values women’s professions less? And why do women work fewer hours? Is this all discrimination or, as economist Claudia Goldin likes to say, also a result of “rational choices” women make about how they want to conduct their lives."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hit & Miss, Take 2

Just finished watching the sixth and last episode of Hit & Miss. I gave it four stars at Netflix. What Netflix doesn't let me say is that's five stars for acting, directing, photography, and small moments between the characters, but three stars for several weaknesses in the story arcs.

Doing my best to hide spoilers, here are my main complaints:

1. The Big Bad is all bad. We never have a reason to understand why his wife, son, or lover can stand to be around him.

2. The assassin varies her weapons too much. I expect a successful assassin to stick to a basic, simple technique, but Mia mixes them up. I suppose it's to the writer's credit that a job nearly goes bad when she uses a pistol for what should've been done with a rifle, but there's no reason why she shouldn't have had a rifle or gotten close with a pistol. In another hit, she doesn't use a gun when her pistol with a silencer would've been more plausible.

3. A character hangs around, seeming to have no purpose but to resolve a particular plot thread, then does.

4. The series doesn't exactly end. Reading about it, it's clear the producers hoped for more seasons, but the network talks as if one was all they planned. You might think the final moment is clever—you can imagine a reasonable resolution from there—but I think too many threads are left dangling for the never-to-be Season Two.

My recommendation is to watch the first two episodes. Then if you want to continue, go ahead, knowing that the series will not become as good as it could've, but still deserved a second season. All the actors are grand, and Chloé Sevigny deserves a reward from someone for doing so very many things well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race

When Class Became More Important to a Child's Education Than Race - Sarah Garland - The Atlantic

an observation about cultural appropriation and genetic determinism

In the comments at On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People, Specular said:
You can't have this one both ways: either pop music created by non-dominant cultures is open to enjoyment and emulation by people outside that culture, or it is off limits to anyone not from that background and we therefor can't complain about limited sales and/or industry recognition. It's like when the folks over at Queerty complain that hipsters "stole" camp from gay people. It's not "progressive" in any sense, it's straight up genetic determinism and IMO not something to be proud of.

A hard fact for anyone concerned about rape convictions and false accusations

From Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial | National Institute of Justice:
Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the
sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where
results could be obtained (primarily by State and
local law enforcement), the primary suspect has
been excluded by forensic DNA testing.
Specifically, FBI officials report that out of
roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989,
about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive (usually
insufficient high molecular weight DNA to do
testing), about 2,000 tests have excluded the
primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or
included the primary suspect.1 The fact that these
percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and
that the National Institute of Justice's informal
survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly
similar 26-percent exclusion rate, strongly
suggests that postarrest and postconviction DNA
exonerations are tied to some strong, underlying
systemic problems that generate erroneous
accusations and convictions.

It must be stressed that the sexual assault
referrals made to the FBI ordinarily involve cases
where (1) identity is at issue (there is no consent
defense), (2) the non-DNA evidence linking the
suspect to the crime is eyewitness identification,
(3) the suspects have been arrested or indicted
based on non-DNA evidence, and (4) the biological
evidence (sperm) has been recovered from a place
(vaginal/rectal/oral swabs or underwear) that makes
DNA results on the issue of identity virtually

It is, of course, possible that some of the FBI's
sexual assault exclusions have included false
negatives. False negatives could occur, for
example, because of (1) laboratory error; (2)
situations where the victim of the assault conceals
the existence of a consensual sexual partner within
48 hours of the incident and the accused suspect
did not ejaculate (if the suspect ejaculated, the
DNA should be identified along with the undisclosed
sexual partner); or (3) multiple assailant sexual
assault cases where none of the apprehended
suspects ejaculated (the FBI counts the exclusion
of all multiple suspects in a case as just one
exclusion). Nonetheless, even with these caveats,
it is still plain that forensic DNA testing is
prospectively exonerating a substantial number of
innocent individuals who would have otherwise stood
trial, frequently facing the difficult task of
refuting mistaken eyewitness identification by a
truthful crime victim who would rightly deserve
juror sympathy.
Recommended: The Innocence Project - DNA Exonerations Nationwide

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)

George Carlin said,
They'll say, "you can't joke about rape. Rape's not funny." I say, "fuck you, I think it's hilarious. How do you like that?" I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. See, hey why do you think they call him "Porky," eh? I know what you're going to say. "Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky. Porky couldn't help himself, he got a hard- on, he got horney, he lost control, he went out of his mind." A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it's the woman's fault. They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, "she had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt." These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers. Don't seem fair to me. Don't seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke.
If I was going to keep arguing that fantasists should not write about rape, I would use Carlin's example of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. The humor comes from the inappropriateness of rape in a funny-animal universe. It's like zombies eating the cast of Glee or Superman saving the day in Game of Thrones: it's funny because the choice is artistically incongruous with the kind of story that was being told.

But now I'm arguing the other side. I completely agree when he says, "You can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke." One of my favorite quotes is from Terence, the Roman playwright who had been a slave: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. ("I am human; nothing human is alien to me.") Artists should never restrict their subjects.

Rape has been a subject in fantastical stories since The Epic of Gilgamesh. It's a brutal thing that men and women do to other men and women, so it has to be one of the things that humans write about. The challenge is to avoid the snares that catch too many writers:

1. The degree of trauma suffered by people who have been raped varies enormously, but no one shrugs it off.

2. Rape is a human problem. If a story implies that all rapists are male and their targets are female, its characters are not human. What's sexist about the Red Sonja trope is not that the female hero is raped; it's that none of her male equivalents suffer the same injustice.

I've written fantasy stories about rape and sexual abuse. I wanted to create some sympathy for a villain in my first novel, Cats Have No Lord, so, knowing that about ten percent of abused children go on to become abusers, I made her one of the broken who tries to break others. I wrote "Dream Catcher" for Terri Windling's The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors. I can't remember just now whether it's explicit that any of the characters in my Bordertown novels have been raped, but Bordertown is a setting where all the elements of dark fantasy may occur. That includes rape.


Midori Snyder's The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey

Kate Harding | 15 Rape Jokes That Work

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shetterly, you hypocrite, you wrote a story about rape!

"Dream Catcher", a story I wrote for Terri Windling's The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, is free online.

Discussing Why fantasists should not write about rape has inspired me to write the other side, so in the next day or so, I'll share a new post titled "Why fantasists should write about rape."

Say I contradict myself, and I'll quote Walt Whitman. I'm not contradicting something I've said often: all rules in art are only suggestions.

ETA: Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hit & Miss

Just saw the first episode of Hit & Miss, a smart and touching show about a pre-operative transsexual assassin. I was skeptical when I heard Chloé Sevigny was the star, but I read a little about it, saw the reviews were good, and liked this quote about Sevigny's prosthetic penis: "I cried every time they put it on me. I’ve always been very comfortable being a girl, so it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that someone could feel so uncomfortable in their own skin."

If you've known any trans folk, I suspect you'll agree that she gives an impressive performance. If the rest of the season is as good as the first episode, it's a great shame there are only six of these.

the internet's best short videos about class

Additions to this list are very much welcome!

socialist Bible verse of the day: James 2:5-6

James 2.5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

Brother Will sez: If you're wondering what that kingdom is, it's the world.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why fantasists should not write about rape

The woman who is raped and then becomes a hero is a fantasy cliché that many readers have hated since it became famous with Red Sonja. For decades, I've felt there was something wrong with it, but I've only recently known what it is.

Fantasists who write about rape are suffering from a failure of imagination. If you want a rape in your story, write naturalistic fiction. If you're writing fantasy, find a fantastical equivalent of rape that conveys the powerlessness and degradation of rape. Write about someone hypnotized, compelled, possessed, or otherwise supernaturally forced into doing anything they would not do of their free will.

Fantasy is the literature of literalized metaphor. What would be metaphors in naturalistic fiction—where a train can come at a character like a dragon or a capitalist can drain a community like a vampire or a down-and-out bum can make a comeback like a superhero—are treated as literally true in fantasy. But the symbolism remains: Any fantastical weapon is a metaphor for power, any fantastical obstacle is a metaphor for the difficulties we face in the real world, and any fantastical aid is a metaphor for the things that help us make it through our days. Tolkien might swear on ten thousand Bibles that Lord of the Rings is only a story and not an allegory, but it's a story about people dealing with a power the corrupts those who use it. The metaphors of fantasy may be denied, but they cannot be escaped.

But where is the metaphor in rape? In fantasy, something as mundane as rape is a failure of imagination.

Related: about rape in fantasy and fact

ETA: Someone was upset by my choice of "mundane". I was using it in the sense of the opposite of fantastical, like this dictionary definition: "of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one". Fantastical literature has fantasy in it; mundane literature does not. That doesn't mean one's better than the other, just that they provide different possibilities for writers. If you're going to write fantasy, use it to do what isn't possible in any other genre.

ETA 2: Elsewhere, I said:
War is a metaphor for social conflict. Sword fighting is a metaphor for conflict between individuals. But what is rape a metaphor for? 
I can’t speak to Patricia Brigg’s books. I haven’t read them. But I do believe there are exceptions to every principle, so if people have written well in fantasy about the consequences of rape, more power to them. 
And I must stress that I’m not objecting to writing about rape—I fully believe no subject is taboo. I’m saying that rape is the least imaginative choice that a fantasy writer can make. 
ETA 3Shetterly, you hypocrite, you wrote a story about rape!

ETA 4: Why fantasists should write about rape (a response to Why fantasists should not write about rape)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

C. S. Lewis on moral busybodies, aka do-gooders or social justice warriors

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." —C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First African American on a presidential ticket in the 20th century: James W. Ford (Communist Party USA)

James W. Ford - WikipediaMark Solomon notes that this was part of a broader campaign:
"In 1932 the CP ran dozens of black candidates in every region for everything from alderman and mayor to lieutenant governor and governor to member of Congress. All the Party candidates stressed the issues of unemployment insurance and racial equality. Getting elected was not a serious goal. Campaigns were 'mass actions,' political sounding boards; in Ford's words, they were a means 'to mobilize workers in the struggle for their immediate needs.' When asked about chances for the Party's black candidates, Ford replied, 'The Communist Party is not stupid; we know that better than 4 million Negroes in this country cannot vote...and besides this, there is a great anti-Negro sentiment which the Party goes up against when it puts forth Negroes as their candidates.'"
The Communist Party USA won more votes with Ford on the ticket than in any other race:

1924William Z. FosterBenjamin Gitlow38,669 (0.13%)
1928William Z. FosterBenjamin Gitlow48,551 (0.13%)
1932William Z. FosterJames W. Ford103,307 (0.26%)
1936Earl BrowderJames W. Ford79,315 (0.17%)
1940Earl BrowderJames W. Ford48,557 (0.10%)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

when black folks lynched a white man

From TWO VIRGINIA LYNCHINGS - Whites Hang Negro and Blacks Dispatch His White Comrade. Killing of the White Man May Lead to a Race War -- Negroes Said to be Armed. -
EMPORIA, VIRGINIA - Saturday - March 24, 1900. Two lynchings have taken place in this county today. Walter Cotton, a negro, the confessed murderer of two men, Justice of the Peace Saunders and a man named Welton, was hanged and riddled with bullets by the indignant white citizens of Emporia at 12 o'clock noon. A few minutes later a telegram was received from Greensville, stating that O'Grady, a white man, who was with Cotton at the time of the murders, had been lynched by the colored people of that town.

The score now is even - one negro lynched by the whites and one white man lynched by the negroes. Great excitement has resulted, and because the State troops have been withdrawn to Richmond, more serious outbreaks against law and order may be expected.

The action of the negroes of Greensville in lynching a white man has aroused the entire county, and the neighboring towns are aflame. The whites are talking of proceeding to Greensville and dealing with the negroes there according to the rules of the South, and the negroes are said to be armed and prepared for any attack that may come from the whites.

State troops were sent here from Richmond by Governor Tyler on the demand of Judge W. Samuel Goodwin, to whom the whites had made their threat of lynching the negro. Major Hutchins was in command of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. This morning he wired Governor Tyler for more troops, but before they were started, he wired back, saying they would not be needed, the Sheriff having said he could handle the mob without military aid.

Meanwhile the people of Emporia held a mass meeting in the Judge's office, and passed resolutions protesting against the presence of the troops, although it was acknowledged that the lynching would take place as soon as the troops were gotten rid of. The order for withdrawing the troops was signed by the Judge and Sheriff.

The troops left for Richmond at 11:25 o'clock. In less than an hour the negro's body was swinging from a tree in the Courthouse yard, riddled with bullets.
There's a rather different account at History Engine:
In the summer of 1900 Brandt O'Grady, an Irish immigrant was hanged along side Walter Cotton, a ginger colored negro, by a mob of angry Virginians at the Greensville County courthouse. The hanging was in retaliation for the brutal murder of several white individuals around Greensville County, including the 1898 murder of Charles Wyatt, a storeowner from Portsmouth, Virginia. After escaping from jail in Portsmouth, O'Grady and Cotton terrorized Greensville County, executing robberies and the violent murder of a farmer. The duo was eventually captured in Norfolk and was sent to the Emporia jail. Several days later the growing mob of whites and blacks stormed the jail with chants of Lynch [Cotton] Hang [Cotton] String up the man who killed our friends Upon storming the jail, the mob pulled Cotton from his shackles and hanged him from the Cherry tree in the corner of the courthouse yard. After Cotton's lifeless body hung from the tree like a scarecrow blacks who had witnessed the lynching turned on the whites and demanded the subsequent lynching of O'Grady. You have lynched the Negro, now lynch the white man. The biracial crowd then turned on the jail pulling Mr. O'Grady from his cell and hanging him on the Cherry tree next to the lifeless body of Walter Cotton.The violent lynching of a black man for the murder of a successful white businessman such as Charles Wyatt was not uncommon at the end of the nineteenth century. However the lynching of Walter Cotton is one of the rare instances in southern history were the participants of the lynching were of both black and white racial identity.
For Walter Cotton is a poem by Rudolph Lewis that's rather nice. How historically accurate it is, I haven't a clue, but Lewis tried; in the Responses, which I highly recommend, he answers a great granddaughter of a man who Cotton was found guilty of murdering, saying, "My intent was to tell the story of Walter Cotton, Outlaw, from his perspective retaining the integrity of his life. The story is more or less as I found it in the Emporia library. I made every attempt to tell the story with the known facts as objectively as I could." Lewis's decision to present Cotton as not entirely guilty is reasonable: some people who were lynched were later proven innocent; some had committed the crimes that provoked mob justice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

if lynching was racist, bullets were, too—plus the taxi test; or the ignorance of Oprah and Forrest Whitaker

I had wanted to see The Butler, but I want to see it less now, because the ignorance of its creators is impressive.

Oprah Winfrey said of the word "nigger", "I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree." According to the Tuskegee Institute count of lynchings between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 black people were lynched, and 1,297 white people were lynched. Which is 4,743 too many, but far from millions.

Lynching became disproportionately racial after the Civil War, but it took longer to become racial in some places. LYNCHING notes,
In the first phase of lynching in Oklahoma, 1885 through 1907, most victims were whites, punished primarily as rustlers, "highwaymen," or robbers. In those years, 106 individuals were lynched for suspected criminal activities. While 1892 was the peak year nationally, 1893-95 were the peak in the Twin Territories, with cattle/horse theft and robbery the main offenses. The 106 victims included 71 whites, 17 blacks, 14 Indians, 1 Chinese, and 3 of unknown race.
Forrest Whitaker said, "I can’t even get a taxi [in New York]. I send my [white] assistant out to get a taxi because I can’t." Most rich people send their assistants to get taxis simply because they can. I did some research in Is it harder for black people to get a taxi in the US? or About the Taxi Test and found that actual racist decisions by taxi drivers are between 1% and 4%, and probably closer to 1%, which means that yes, it is statistically harder for a black person to get a taxi, and this is wrong, but it's hardly a justification for sending your flunky out to get your cab.

When I was young and lived in New York, I didn't wear expensive clothes. I often saw business folk of all colors getting picked up before me. People who assume racism should always consider other prejudices may be at work. Just as some people see race as a marker of class, other people see age, and everyone sees expensive suits.

ETA: Yes, this post was partly inspired by the memory of the furor over Amanda Palmer being ironic about the Klan: what's declared taboo is made sacred.

ETA 2: If I was doing an essay about lynching, I would point out that the most famous fictions about lynching, The Virginian and The Ox-Bow Incident, are about lynching white people.

W.E.B. DuBois on class, race, and the obligations of privileged black folks

"so long as American labor is more conscious of color and race than it is of the fundamental economic needs of the whole laboring class, just so long the development of labor solidarity is impossible." —W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Nucleus of Class Consciousness"

"Some years ago I used the phrase "The Talented Tenth," meaning leadership of the Negro race in America by a trained few. … Very gradually as the philosophy of Karl Marx and many of his successors seeped into my understanding, I tried to apply this doctrine with regard to Negroes. My Talented Tenth must be more than talented, and work not simply as individuals. Its passport to leadership was not alone learning but expert knowledge of modern economics as it affected American Negroes; and in addition to this and fundamental, would be its willingness to sacrifice and plan for such economic revolution in industry and just distribution of wealth, as would make the rise of our group possible." W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Talented Tenth"

"I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race." —W.E.B. Du Bois, preface to The Souls of Black Folk, Jubilee Edition (1953, 50th Anniversary)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A simple question for N. K. Jemisin and Vox Day—and any anti-racist or scientific sub-speciesist who wishes to answer

ETA: I noticed this is being discussed at MetaFilter's "there is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo". Since I can't answer there, I'm going to quote relevant things from there and answer them in the comments on this post.

What do you want, besides book sales? You both have strongly-held beliefs, Critical Race Theory and Human Biodiversity, but you're both silent about the practical application of those beliefs.

Vox Day, you say:
I have repeatedly pointed out that the existence of different human sub-species and/or races does not make those different sub-species and/or races any less validly human. A dog is a dog whether it is a Bichon Frise or a Great Dane. A man is a man whether he is Yoruba or Prussian. My basic argument on race and civilization can be most accurately summarized as the observation that if you wish to pull a sled, you would be well advised to select Siberian huskies rather than chihuahuas or pit bulls.
If people with your beliefs were in power, what changes would there be? Legal segregation of the races as you understand them? A ban on miscegenation? Breeding programs to increase the virtues you see in the different human races, stronger blacks and smarter Asians to serve the more "alpha" whites?

N. K. Jemisin, you say:
We’re seeing growing challenges to hierarchies, to orthodoxies, to every level of “the way it’s always been done”. I agree with Theodore Beale about one thing: this is about the future we want to see — for science fiction/fantasy, for American society, for human civilization.
If people with your beliefs were in power, what changes would there be? Reparations for all African-Americans? Reparations only for the African-Americans who were not slave-owners? Better schools reserved for black folks? Racial quotas for public office? For jobs? Publishing quotas for book covers or main characters or authors? Mandatory sensitivity training in public schools?

I'll point out that class mobility for all Americans is awful, and, as noted in Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America:
"Relatively speaking, racial differences controlling for class are decreasing while class differences controlling for race are increasing in America," he said. "Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven't gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like nonwhite folks who haven't finished high school.""
If you do nothing but ask whites to be constantly aware of their "white privilege", the wealth gap will continue to grow and poverty in the US will continue to look like it does now: twice as many white folks in poverty as black, but statistically more black folks in poverty than white. Just as noblesse oblige did not improve life for most commoners, privilege theory does not improve life for poor or middle-class folks of any hue.

Now, being a socialist, I have answers:

1. Discard the idea of race, one of humanity's most foolish notions. Fortunately, it's only a few hundred years old and not part of human nature; we can toss it in history's trash pile along with feudalism and bloodletting and so many other ideas that seemed good at the time.

2. Turn the US from capitalism to socialism. It's time to share the wealth so no one will be economically dependent on anyone else.

What are your answers?

Related: on Vox Day and N. K. Jemisin, the feuding heirs of Racial Realism, and a note about respect

ETA: Vox Day responds: Mailvox: answering a simple question

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Problem with Privilege Theory

(Revised 11/5/16)

In the histories of the Civil Rights Movement, the word “privilege” rarely occurs. In the 1960s, most of us simply believed the majority had rights, the rich had privileges, and minorities were oppressed. We wanted to end oppression and privilege so everyone would have the same rights.

For most of my life, a privilege was a special treatment for a tiny minority, contest winners and rich people. Which makes sense—”privilege” comes from the Latin for “private law”, meaning the privileged play by different rules than the public.

The idea of white privilege began early in the 20th century with W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois, a socialist, saw white skin privilege as a symptom of a greater problem. From his preface to the 50th anniversary edition of The Souls of Black Folk:
I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen.”
But the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois’s “Checking Your Privilege 101” defines privilege as “an unearned advantage that a dominant group has over marginalized groups.” Their examples range from race and gender to “able-bodied privilege” (the “privilege” of not being disabled) and “life on the outside privilege” (the “privilege” of not being behind bars). To Privilege Theorists, a dominant group is a large social group—usually, the majority. US dominant groups include white people (77.9% of the population), men (49.2%), straight people (95%), people who are not obese (73.5%), people who are not behind bars (approx. 99%)...

When Kimberlé Crenshaw coined “intersectionality” to give Critical Race Theorists and middle class feminists an umbrella to work together, the result was the simplistic worldview of Privilege Theory: There are no rights. Everyone’s either privileged or oppressed, so those who are not oppressed are privileged.

Rev. Thandeka points out the flaw in that logic in “Why Anti-Racism Will Fail”: “Imagine that business and government leaders decreed that all left-handed people must have their left hand amputated. Special police forces and armies are established to find such persons and oversee the procedure. University professors and theologians begin to write tracts to justify this new policy. Soon right-handed persons begin to think of themselves as having right-hand privilege. The actual content of this privilege, of course, is negative: it’s the privilege of not having one’s left hand cut off. The privilege, in short, is the avoidance of being tortured by the ruling elite. To speak of such a privilege—if we must call it that—is not to speak of power but rather of powerlessness in the midst of a pervasive system of abuse—and to admit that the best we can do in the face of injustice is duck and thus avoid being a target.”

Privilege Theory follows the binary logic of identitarianism: women vs. men, people of color vs. white people, GLBTQ people vs. straight people, Muslims vs. Christians… The model for privilege theory is fundamentally racial, because it centers on groups that cannot change for biological reasons or do not wish to change for cultural reasons.

Though Privilege Theorists try to fit class into their model, they miss how awkwardly it fits:

1. The class divide is not binary. Under feudalism and capitalism, there are middle classes whose allegiance is usually with the ruling class but sometimes aligns with the working class’s.

2. Class in capitalism is tribal, not racial: gain capital and you become a capitalist; lose capital and you join the working class.

3. Poor people do not want to preserve their social identity; they want to escape it.

Privilege Theorists complain that the “privileged” rarely notice their privilege. The flaw is not with the “privileged” but with the theory: Where white people are a majority, they don’t notice white privilege for the same reason Thais don’t notice Thai privilege in Thailand. Being part of a major group is not a privilege. Being treated better than a major group is a privilege.

In the US’s most recent social struggle, the fight for GLBTQ rights, no one argues that serving in the military or getting married are privileges. We argue that they are human rights which every human deserves—and that continues to be the winning argument.

Monday, August 12, 2013

cunt vs. nigger

I've long thought that people who object to genital-based insults for women should not use genital-based insults for men. I mentioned this to a female friend, who said "cunt" was the most insulting word in English and that, unlike penis-inspired insults, it's never complementary. To which I noted that all of the penis-inspired insults continue to be fighting words. The difference between "cunt" and words like "dickhead" is one of degree, not kind. Arguing that it's okay to use one and not the other is like saying you shouldn't call black people "niggers" but it's fine to call Mexicans "greasers".

Today, I've been googling "cunt" (and yes, I am sufficiently immature to think that's a funny turn of phrase). The wikipedia entry mentioned something in a footnote that gave me pause: John Ayto, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Slang, wrote:
Ethnic slurs are regarded as the taboo ... Nigger is far more taboo than fuck or even cunt. I think if a politician were to be heard off-camera saying fuck, it would be trivial, but if he said nigger, that would be the end of his career.
I've always admired people who claim words rather than let their opponents keep them since I learned about suffragists adopting "suffragette". I love the people who're reclaiming "cunt". From A Fascinating History of the "C Word":
Minaj seems to be on a personal mission to reclaim the word; she recently told a French TV show that “I’m a bad bitch, I’m a cunt” is her personal motto. As an introductory statement of self-mythology in a male-dominated industry, it’s a preemptive strike against detractors, not unlike another Minaj quote, this one from “Moment 4 Life”: “Shout-out to my haters/ Sorry that you couldn’t faze me.”

Elsewhere, Barbados-born pop star Rihanna caught tabloid flack in 2011 when she was photographed wearing a necklace that spelled out “cunt”—to church. Rhianna had been criticized previously for using the word rather liberally on Twitter. In an interview with British Vogue, she explained: “That word is so offensive to everyone in the world except for Bajans. When I first came here, I was saying it like nothing, like, ‘Hey, cunt,’ until my makeup artist finally had to tell me to stop. I just never knew.” Banks, too, has said that before “212” she was unfamiliar with the word’s taboo nature. “I didn’t know it was that offensive,” she said. “I feel like ‘cunt’ means so feminine—like a gay guy says, ‘That’s so cunt. That’s so feminine. That’s so good.’ It’s in the vein of, like, voguing.”

Banks is right: For at least two decades, in the queer subculture centered around voguing, drag houses, and ball culture, “cunt” (and its variant, “kunt”) has been used as a slang term meant to describe something beautiful, delicate, and soft. Recently, underground rappers like Cakes Da Killa and Antonio Blair have begun to use “cunt”/“kunt” to describe the music they make: a gritty-yet-glossy, sexually charged microgenre of queer rap. (A search on Soundcloud for tracks tagged “kunt” yields more than 500 unique results.) In music and in life, queering “cunt” expands and redefines the word’s meaning once again—it becomes an embrace of the liberating notion that one needn’t have a biological cunt to be feminine or female. Banks has repeatedly noted ball culture’s influence on her music and style, which means that the most famous lines of “212” showcase a young artist not responding to the word’s derogatory meaning so much as sidestepping it completely; “212” is perhaps the first example of the queer definition of “cunt” going mainstream.
Recommended: Taboo For Who? - Features - The F-Word

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It doesn't look like Oprah was the victim of racism

From Switzerland Apologizes to Oprah for Treating Her Like a Pre-makeover Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman | Vanity Fair:
The owner of the luxury-goods shop, which has since been outed as Trois Pommes, is not in agreement, however. “This is an absolute classic misunderstanding,” Trudie Goetz told Reuters today. To CNN, she clarified, “Mrs. Oprah said she just wanted to look at the bag, she didn’t want it taken down, and because my sales assistant felt a little embarrassed about the price, she quickly said that she also had the model in other materials such as ostrich and suede, which weren’t so expensive. . . This had nothing whatsoever to do with racism.” In case anyone was wondering how the offending saleswoman was doing, Goetz added, “She feels very bad because she feels the way it’s being represented is very unfair.”
And another point from the article, emphasis mine: "Even more shocking than the fact that the Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive treatment is apparently still a rampant elitist epidemic in Switzerland, and that $38,000 purses—accessories used to carry loose change, hair ties, and gum—exist at all, is the fact that someone on this planet did not recognize Oprah."

Note to anti-racists: Even the most racist capitalists know there are rich black people, and they like to take their money. If the clerk had screwed up, the employer would've fired her by now, because shops that sell $38,000 purses don't like to offend anyone who might have $38,000 to spend on a purse.

James Webb: Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege

James Webb: Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege - "In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks' average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%."

Friday, August 9, 2013

A bit about outrage junkies. Also, Hitler.

Just posted this on Facebook:
Outraged people really love to be outraged. A guy was writing on Facebook about an outrage du jour in scifi fandom, so I mentioned the time a few US Nazis wanted to march in Skokie: They were so politically insignificant that they needed the ACLU to defend their First Amendment rights, yet people reacted as if they were a viable threat to anything other than good taste. The Nazis were undoubtedly flattered.

The person writing about the fannish incident reacted with the equivalent of "OMG! You brought up Nazis!"

Life is too short for enduring outrage junkies. I think he's the first Facebooker I've unfriended.

If you're curious about the Skokie incident: When the Nazis Came to Skokie
I've noticed before that some people, in identitarian terms, "privilege" Hitler and the Nazis by making them taboo. See: What's declared taboo is made sacred, plus What's wrong with Harvard?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

an update on the Tawana Brawley story

Tawana Brawley starts paying man she falsely accused of rape in 1987 -

I was one of the people who believed her: I assumed a black woman wouldn't lie about being raped by white men. When the truth came out, I realized my assumptions were both racist and sexist. Everyone deserves the presumption of innocence.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

a cool fact about the US Civil War that snobbish historians won't tell you

From 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart:
Although it is often said today that half the U.S. Army resigned in 1861 to join the Confederacy, this is untrue. Very few enlisted men in peacetime came from the South. Only twenty-six privates out of all sixteen thousand ended up defecting to the rebels—compared to more than three hundred out of the thousand or so men in the officer corps.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brendan O’Neill on trolls and moral panic

The hysteria over trolls is a classic moral panic | Brendan O’Neill | spiked:
To understand why virtually the entire British media and significant chunks of the political class have become weirdly obsessed with small numbers of trolls who fire vile insults at women, you could do worse than dip back into the late, great Stanley Cohen’s 1972 book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics. An indispensable guide to the modern era’s malarial-like social scares, which come and go like waves of a fever, Cohen’s book popularised the term ‘moral panic’. A moral panic occurs, he said, when ‘a condition, episode, person or group of persons become defined as a threat to societal values and interests’. A moral crusade, fuelled by ‘media sensationalism’, is then launched against these allegedly threatening ‘deviants’, he said, until they loom large in the public mind as ‘folk devils’ whose behaviour poses a threat to public safety or moral norms. In the past, Teddy Boys, football hooligans and drug-taking yoof were elevated to the status of folk devils; today, it’s internet trolls.

Monday, August 5, 2013

more evidence that anti-racism training is a deadend

Riley Cooper racial slur: How does racial sensitivity training work? - Slate Magazine:
Although the numbers may have changed in recent years, a 1998 survey suggested that only 2 percent of diversity trainers have a relevant degree. 
Does racial sensitivity training actually work? It’s difficult to say. A 2007 study of 829 companies that use diversity training suggested that the sessions make virtually no difference in the number of minorities hired or promoted into management positions. (Employing a manager of diversity or a diversity task force produces far better results.) There are also troubling anecdotes, like the Texaco executives who were taped referring to employees as “black jelly beans” who were “glued to the bottom of the bag” after seeing jelly beans used in a diversity training session.
It's more evidence that if you don't understand the problem, you can't find the solution—something an Australian study of anti-racism programs found two decades ago. Perhaps the whole thing's been nothing but huckstering ever since Derrick Bell and his buddies came up with their capitalist-friendly approach to fighting racism rather than poverty. It certainly pays well for the academics who promote it—and they get to enjoy their class privileges at the same time. That's a win-win, eh?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dear Reader,

Emma has been away this week, teaching writing at Hamline University, so I've been catching up on things, most of which I'll kindly not record here. But this might be interesting:

The coolest thing I saw in Zumba this week was a muslim woman in a hijab, long skirt, sparkling vest, and loose jacket who danced like Tina Turner (or maybe like Angela Bassett) to Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary":

(Insert here my usual frustration that Bassett didn't get to play Storm in the X-Men movies.)

Monday and today, I went to the free Zumba class at Powderhorn Park, where most of the dancers are Hispanic. On Thursday, I went to the Y, where we haven't had as many muslim dancers lately because of Ramadan, but the muslims who do show are heroes—would you dance at the end of a day of fasting? There's still a nice mix of white and black folks at the Y, mostly women because it's the YW not YM and guys tend to be funny about dancing, but there are a few men who are braver than I was at their age. I'm beginning to think of dance classes as my church. When I die, one of my regrets will be that I did not dance more. But I'm trying to make up for that now.

I missed one of my favorite classes, Wednesday's hip-hop-oriented flashmob class at the Y, because I drove to Northfield (Hamline's summer writing program is held at St. Olaf's for reasons that I'm sure are good) to hear Emma and the other writing teachers read, then hit the bar and talked thisanthatantotherthing, which was a pleasure. Emma's fellow writers are Marilyn Hanson and Toi Derricotte, who're fine company, and Wells Tower, who is undoubtedly fine company, but I didn't get to talk with him. All of their readings were grand.

Then Ellen Klages visited, so I was not alone this entire week.

Tonight, I invented an easy meal-out-of-cans: canned crab (half-price on close-out!), a can of mushroom soup, a dash of pepper, garlic, and cayenne. Also, some spinach which was frozen, but canned would do well, I'm sure. I cut up some stale french bread and stirred that in. C'est le nomtastique.

Tomorrow, I fetch my beloved. Life is good.

yr. pal,


Bonus: Tina Turner and Beyoncé: "Proud Mary" at the Grammys