No to Anti-Semitism, No to Islamophobia

“ATTENTION: PLEASE refrain from using anti-semitic language when expressing support for Palestine and Palestinians. It is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable and I will call you out on it. The Palestinian cause invites ALL who stand for justice and equality and all who want to be on the right side of history including American Jews. They have been some of our closest and most loyal allies and the last thing we need is to alienate people by using the same tactics and hateful rhetoric that is used against us. Let’s learn from history. Stay focused, stay principled – your cause is pure, your cause is just. No need to contaminate it with misguided hate.”

Photo of Linda Sarsour on the Brooklyn Bridge

Linda Sarsour
Director, Arab American Association of New York

An Intersex Mayor in Australia

Tony Briffa, mayor of Hobson's Bay, Australia
Hobson’s Bay has elected a new mayor, Tony Briffa. This interests me because Briffa is open about being intersex.

He tells his story in depth on his website. In part, he writes:

I feel very comfortable having accepted my true nature. I am not male or female, but both. I am grateful for the years I lived as a woman and the insight and experiences it gave me. I am still “Antoinette” and have now also incorporated and accepted my male (“Anthony” or “Tony”) side. I feel whole. I’ll continue to live as Tony but I feel I am now at a point in my life where I can celebrate being different.

He also provides a long list of links relating to media surrounding his journey. He discusses the mistreatment that the medical status quo visited upon him as an infant:

They diagnosed me with an intersex condition called “Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome” and the treatment paradigm – likely elsewhere in the world – dictated that I was to be raised as a girl, any male physical attributes had to be surgically removed if possible, and I was not to be told the truth about my condition.

Doctors castrated him, told his parents to raise him as a girl, and to never reveal the truth to him. Some doctoring.

[I] lived as a woman until I learned the truth about my condition and sought to find out who I would have been had the medical profession not sought to “normalise” me.

This (mis)treatment is common for babies born intersex. Western medicine has a pathological need to force cultural beliefs about gender onto non-conforming infants’ bodies. THE GENDER BINARY MUST BE MAINTAINED AT ALL COSTS! Even if that cost is medically-unnecessary infant genital mutilation.

To learn more about what happens to intersex babies and children, I recommend the website of the Intersex Society of North America. Their definition of intersex is quite good.

Freedom Waves: the Latest Aid Boats to Gaza

I haven’t seen too much media coverage about the latest aid boats trying to reach Gaza, but check this out. Two boats, the Canadian boat Tahrir and the Irish boat Saoirse left from a harbor in Turkey to bring medical aid to Gaza as part of an action called ‘Freedom Waves‘. They were, of course, violently intercepted by Israeli ships.

The violent nature of Israel’s takeover of the Tahrir and Saoirse became more apparent with a statement released mid-Sunday by Fintan Lane, the National Coordinator of the Irish Ship Saoirse, in a hurried phone call made from an Israeli prison. “The whole takeover [of the Saoirse by Israeli naval authorities] took about three hours”, claims Lane. “It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows. I was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sank. The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life.”

Egyptian Connects the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street

Interesting thoughts from an Egyptian man who attended the Billionaire’s March yesterday. The Billionaire’s March was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and included visits to five billionaires’ homes: Rupert Murdoch, David Koch, Howard Milstein, Jamie Dimon, and John Paulson.

Mustafa Ibrahim, 23, an engineer marched on the “Billionaire’s Tour” during a visit to New York from Cairo, where he said he was arrested during a popular uprising this year which toppled Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“It’s pretty much the same thing as Egypt,” Ibrahim said. “The problem is the rich keep getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.”

Alternet describes the Billionaire’s March as “getting enthusiastic responses from onlookers–in particular the doormen at the buildings en route.”

Look out billionaires, your own servants openly root for your comeuppance!

Psychologizing Ireland’s Confrontation with the Vatican over Child Abuse

Ireland has long allowed itself to be a bit of a theocracy, ruled in part from afar by the Vatican. Why a country would allow its social policy to be so thoroughly controlled by a distant clique of elderly (mostly white) men, supposedly celibate but obsessed with sex, is beyond me, but it happened.

But, and I am honestly surprised to discover this, it turns out Ireland had a line. A line the Vatican should not have crossed. And it took decades, it took an international outcry, and it took thousands of cases of abuse, but finally, finally Ireland is starting to say ‘no’ to child abuse veiled by religion.

The Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy have a long and cherished tradition of sexual abuse of children. Priests and other authority figures have for centuries cultivated situations in which they manipulated the religious faith of believers into trusting them with their children, and then sexually assaulted the children. The Church has been well aware of this at the highest levels, and instead of moving to stop the abuse, it has moved to shelter it. It has shuffled abusers around to prevent exposure, it has frustrated private and public investigations, and it has intimidated survivors into silence. This pattern of behavior makes it clear that this order of “celibate” men is intent on preserving the tradition of child sex abuse, because if the intention were otherwise, the actions would reflect as much. Child sex abuse seems to have been considered a bit of a privilege for those Church leaders who found themselves so inclined.

But the Church’s own rhetoric around sexual morality (for others, not priests) may have led to this confrontation with Ireland’s leadership. The Church’s hierarchy of family-less, supposedly non-sexual men also have a centuries-long tradition of dictating the sexual behavior of others. They have preached many strange things about sexuality, but a major message has been that of the primacy of the nuclear family.

Decades of “family” messaging have encouraged heavily Catholic cultures to idealize and worship the perfect family unit: father, mother and children. And children are the only reason to have sex- any sex that is absent the intent to procreate is sinful. So CHILDREN!!! are very important. This is supported by lots of cute pictures of Jesus hanging out with children and the frequent repetition of Bible verses discussing children. There are also lots of cultural messages in general about the importance of children, and, reflecting the general fear of sex, the need to protect children from any knowledge of sexuality to keep them on the pure, narrow, straight path to heterosexual marriage.

BOOM! CONFLICT! The Vatican cherishes the sexually repressed family unit and encourages the cult of sexually-innocent childhood, yet also cherishes its ingrained tradition of child sex abuse. After years of being barraged with overwhelming evidence of this contradiction, finally Irish society decided to take a stand. And they choose to stand against child abuse. Though this seems like an obvious conclusion to make and so basic that it hardly merits praise, it is actually much more commendable than you would think given their deeply-held tradition of respecting Catholic authority, even to the detriment of their own sovereignty as a nation. And generally speaking, sexual abuse of the weak by the strong is condoned by societies worldwide, and so a Prime Minister taking the time to publicly rebuke it and form real measures to combat it, as Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently did, is really a sight to behold.

From the New York Times:

“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.

…“The rape and torture of children were downplayed, or ‘managed,’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution — its power, its standing and its reputation.” Instead of listening with humility to the heartbreaking evidence of “humiliation and betrayal,” he said, “the Vatican’s response was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

Naturally, the Vatican and its vassals reacted grumpily to this attack on what they believe is their right and privilege. It withdrew its ambassador to Ireland and had the gumption to claim that the reports of sexual abuse were “unsubstantiated” and that Kenny’s concern with their abuse was “excessive”. There was concern that we are all forgetting about the true victims: the poor, so often wrongly accused priests.

[Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos] warned against “obsessive” pursuit of accused priests by bishops because of the damage it can do to the priests, whose souls, he said, were “at the center of the affair.”

Rarely is the right of powerful men to sexually abuse others challenged so publicly. It’s almost fun to watch the Vatican & co. squirm with indignation at this attack upon their sexual privileges. Thanks for that Ireland.

Read the entire, hilariously/depressingly-horrible official Vatican response to Kenny’s remarks and the Cloyne Report.

Read the Cloyne Report.

The Exciting Times V.9

More Hispanics Identifying Themselves as Indians

“Hispanic is not a race, ” said [activist and blogger Carlos A.] Quiroz, whose ancestors were the Quechua people, of the Central Andes. “Hispanic is not a culture. Hispanic is an invention by some people who wanted to erase the identity of indigenous communities in America.”

Sarah Nyakuoth William

Sarah Nyakuoth William

South Sudan war widow: ‘I will have a country at last’
On the occasion of South Sudan’s independence from the Republic of Sudan, Sarah Nyakuoth William said, “I knew we’d get here in the end, but I didn’t know if I would ever see the day. Finally the day is here. I’m happy, happy for the future for my children, and all of South Sudan.”

No “boys” and “girls” at gender-neutral preschool in Sweden

At the “Egalia” preschool [in Stockholm], staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

Kansas Sued Over Nonsensical Abortion Clinic Guidelines
…which seem oddly more intended to prevent women from accessing abortion than making abortion safer. Huh, how about that.

Under the new requirements, the three remaining clinics in the state would have to make enormous structural changes to their buildings and obtain new certifications in just two weeks or face possible closure.

Lawsuit pending!

NYPD Celebrates Gay Pride by Raiding a Gay Bar Minutes After Gay Marriage Victory
The Eagle patron Christopher J. Borras said, “I find interesting the timing. I would just like to know from the police: `Why did they do that?’ To me, it is a blatant sign of intimidation and harassment, I mean, 42 years after the Stonewall riots and we still have to live in fear of the police disturbing our quiet enjoyment of life?”

Nepal Census Now Offers 3 Gender Options

Good job Nepal!

“We had to put in a lot of pressure to have the third gender counted in the census,” said gender minority rights activist Sunil Babu Pant.

“It was only after we said that we would go to court that the officials agreed to include the third gender as a category.”

If the case had gone to court, it would likely have been upheld thanks to a landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling that directed the state to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and decriminalize “unnatural sex.”

It also decreed the issue of citizenship certificates that clearly indicate an individual’s choice of gender identity.

…Among those happy to stand up and be counted in the third gender category is Dilu Buduja, 35. “I was born as a girl, but as I grew up I felt I was a boy. Today I totally feel like a man,” he said.

So I’m not entirely clear on who claims third gender status. Do people who are assigned one gender at birth but later realize they are a different gender (what Westerners would call trans people) consider themselves third gender? Do LGB people also consider themselves third gender? So many questions…

Kathmandu Pride!

Kathmandu Pride!

The Exciting Times V.8

Former PA Senator Rick Santorum, while burnishing his anti-abortion credentials, recently uttered the following:

“The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that human life is not a person then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.”

India Gay Pride

India’s Gay Magazines!

SHOCKER: Financial Crisis Was Avoidable

No Evidence that Unions Caused Post-Christmas NYC Slowdown
The only thing revealed so far is that Councilman Daniel J. Halloran is really fucking weird.

Sexual Assault & the Super Bowl

The number of NFL teams still in the running toward becoming America’s Next Top Big Tackley Dudes has been narrowed down to two, and both teams contain players with serious sexual assault allegations. What’s a fan to do?

Food speculation: ‘People die from hunger while banks make a killing on food’

It’s not just bad harvests and climate change – it’s also speculators that are behind record prices. And it’s the planet’s poorest who pay.

Massive Public Outrage

Demonstrators celebrate the exile of Ben Ali

Photo from the New Statesman

The Tunisian people have risen up to oust a corrupt, violent autocrat, forcing him to abdicate power and flee the country! Amazing!

From the AP:

The shakeup was certain to have repercussions in the Arab world and beyond — as a sign that even a leader as entrenched and powerful as Ben Ali could be brought down by massive public outrage.

France Is Fucking Up

You will find the following video disturbing, if you are disturbed by the sight of policemen beating women and dragging their babies.

This video shows a police attack against immigrant women and children in France who were protesting for access to shelter. They had been camping out in a public space. (The video won’t imbed for some reason. Curse you WordPress!)

Notice how the newscaster frames the story, giving caveat after caveat to caution the viewer not to get too riled up. It was totally justified to beat unarmed women and children who are protesting for housing! The public order was at stake, and come on, these people are simply immigrants of color ruining the French way of life.

Two takes on this video:

Renee at Womanist Musings: It takes Courage to be a Brown/Black Mother in this World

BFP at Flip Flopping Joy: Mama

If you want to throw up in your mouth, read the disgusting comments following the NYTimes coverage. Basically, these homeless women, and not the police, are the ones who used brutality and harmed the children. So the NYT commenters would have it.

Female Czech MPs LOVE to Be Objectified

In the Czech Republic’s last general election, it elected a record number of women to parliament, 44. To celebrate that fact, a new-ish party, the Public Affairs Party, created a calendar featuring pictures of their winning candidates in sexual poses.

Calendar photo of Karolina Peake.

Karolina Peake, recently elected to the Czech Parliament.

That’s right: to celebrate the gains women are making in Czech politics, the Public Affairs Party decided to promote sexual objectification of their candidates. Some “gain”.

“Women’s political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren’t afraid of being sexy?” said Marketa Reedova, Public Affair’s 42-year-old candidate for the Prague mayor’s office.

Indeed. I too was having trouble accepting these women’s elections because I assumed they were afraid of being sexy, so I can see where Ms. Reedova is coming from. So let us now address the obvious question: are male Czech MPs afraid of being sexy? If not, why is there no calendar of male MPs in sexual poses and revealing clothing?

I like how the Telegraph, where I discovered this article, uses the word “glamour” as a euphemism for sexual objectification. To wit:

Public Affairs has previously used glamour to highlight its strong female presence. During the election campaign four of the women who appear in the calendar posed for a billboard poster wearing black swim suits.

Yeah… “glamour”.

Here’s another nice euphemistic tidbit from the Telegraph:

As further evidence that few in the Czech Republic have qualms over spicing the world of politics with touch of glamour and sex appeal, in the days after the election the glossy women’s magazine “Ona” (She in English) encouraged readers to vote for “Miss Parliament”, asking them to choose their favourite female MP.

“Spice”, “touch of glamour”, “sex appeal”. By what miscarriage of thought power have the Czechs been convinced that conceptions of powerful women must be gift-wrapped in male-gaze-oriented sexuality?

My point with this critique is not that these female Czech MPs are “too sexy”. It is this seemingly reflexive need to package female politicians as sexually-desirable for men, with no commensurate impulse to similarly sexualize male politicians.

Now, why would this difference exist? Oh right—sexism. And to make it okay, the Telegraph couches it as something these women want to do. Raunch-feminist empowerment! Yet they fail to make mention of the different standards to which male politicians are held, which seems to be the bigger picture issue here. Basically, the Telegraph is using Czech sexual double standards as a vehicle to sexually titillate its readers under the cover of a political news story. Again, it is not the existence of sexuality which I am critiquing, but the starkly different treatment male and female politicans’ sexuality receives.

The reflexive need by patriarchal societies to sexualize any and all women who enter the public sphere is an old and well-discussed issue. But thanks to the Czechs, we have to have all the same conversations about it over again.

Boring, but necessary.

This Rule About Not Killing People Is SO ANNOYING

You know that Rolling Stone article that got General McChrystal fired? I was interested in the attitude of some of the soldiers interviewed.

The quotes that grabbed my attention:

One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”


“Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on,” says [Staff Sgt. Kennith] Hicks, who has served three tours of combat.

I get that soldiers in combat zone feel very insecure about their safety, for a good and obvious reason. I get that seeing a friend be killed by “the enemy” is extremely emotional and difficult and creates feelings of revenge.

But we are still talking about human beings, whose country we are intruding upon. How hard is it to refrain from murder? When civilians are killed, I define that as murder. Why? Because it can be avoided. And should be avoided at all costs. We shouldn’t be occupying any countries at all, but since reality is that we are, our motto must be “first, do no harm.” Otherwise we need to get the fuck out.

Saudi Women Fighting Back Against Religious Police

Don’t trivialize it by calling it a “trend”, but it looks like some women are getting a little sick of the paternal faux-piety of the morality police, aka the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

In the first incident, according to the Saudi Gazette, a young couple “appeared to be acting in an inappropriate manner” in an amusement park. A commission member who spotted them suspected they were not married or related and were therefore breaking the law. As the commission member approached them, the young man collapsed – presumably out of shock or fright – but the woman showered him with punches. He was taken to a medical centre to be treated for bruises. In the second incident, which the LA Times calls an unprecedented outburst, a woman caught in “illegal seclusion” with a man shot at the religious police when questioned.

Some other interesting signs of change:

Princess Basma bint Saud, “a social activist and a prominent supporter of women’s issues in Saudi Arabia”, published a strong critique of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

King Abdallah appeared in a photograph with forty women with naked faces! “Most observers took it as a pointed message from the royals on the subject of men mixing with women…”

Earlier this month Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah declared that women could teach boys’ primary school classes.

Mecca cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi publicly “declared that nothing in Islam bans men and women from mixing in public places like schools and offices.”

Last December Saudi journalist Nadine Al Bedair published the article Me and My Four Husbands, a tongue in cheek critique of sexism and unequal polygamy laws.

In 2009 Nora Al Fayez became the first female deputy minister in the Saudi government.

Secret American Preparations for MORE Wars?

Ah, state secrets. I am suspicious of them.

From the New York Times:

The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

Apparently these measures are an expansion of Bush’s “clandestine military activities”, to make them more “long term”. Nice. Remind me what is so great about Obama?

For extra fun, the secret directive says these activities are to…

“prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces…

AWESOME! Now we can finally have that war with Iran that W all but promised us. Bring back Rummy! Why would Obama want to hide joyous tidings like this?