Open Thread with Royle’s Pika

This month an adorable Ochotona roylei from Tungnath, Rudraprayag district, Uttarkhand state, India features for our Open Thread. Please natter/chatter/vent/rant on anything* you like over the next month or so.

a small and cute rodent-like animal sits on a rock

So, what have you been up to? What would you rather be up to? What’s been awesome/awful?
Reading? Watching? Making? Meeting?
What has [insert awesome inspiration/fave fansquee/guilty pleasure/dastardly ne’er-do-well/threat to all civilised life on the planet du jour] been up to?

* Netiquette footnotes:
* There is no off-topic on our Open Threads, but consider whether your comment would be on-topic on any recent thread and thus better belongs there.
* If your comment touches on topics known to generally result in thread-jacking, you will be expected to take the discussion to #spillover instead of overshadowing the social/circuit-breaking aspects of this thread.

Posted in Life, Politics, Popular Culture, The Cultural Canon | Tagged | 18 Comments

Feministe Book Review 2: The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker

If you are a leftist, a feminist, or an enthusiastic lover of NYC history, the 1909 Shirtwaist Strike is or should be an event of major importance on your historical radar. If, like me, you’re all three, it’s practically one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

In 1909, the mostly immigrant, mostly Jewish and partly Italian, almost entirely female workers in the shirtwaist manufacturing industry went on strike. They were a group that had to fight and advocate for themselves. Established Americans didn’t much care how these immigrant workers were treated, and the labor unions weren’t interested in organizing women–girls, they thought, didn’t have the grit it took to go out on strike and hang tough in the face of deprivation. The exploitation and sexual harassment in the industry was appalling, and after a workers’ meeting at Cooper Union on November 22, 1909, 15,000 women walked off their jobs. Within hours the number had grown to 25,000 (depending on whose numbers you read, the strike has also been known as the “Uprising of the 20,000”). It also spread outside of NYC, as women walked off the job in Chicago, Cleveland, and Rochester. The strike did not end until February 15, 1910. In the meantime, dozens of employers settled, and their employees were able to return to work victorious (the Triangle company held out and never settled; their name was destined to be written in NYC and labor history in letters of fire and blackened bone). The workers put out and sold a special edition of the New York Call, a local newspaper, to spread the word about their situation and demands. They picketed ceaselessly, despite the fact that they were regularly brutalized by cops and antagonized and set on by gangsters and sex workers paid by the shirtwaist bosses. They were sent to the workhouse and came back and picketed again. Amazingly, wealthy women became interested in their cause and came downtown to walk the picket-line alongside of the shirtwaist workers, where they were also attacked and arrested. Of course, this alliance did not last, as the workers did not appreciate the condescending attitudes and stingy contributions to the strike fund of the “mink brigade,” as they were called, and the wealthy women were alarmed and horrified by the heavy socialist bent of many if not most of the workers. Still, there was a brief moment when gender solidarity crossed class lines.

Theresa S. Malkiel, who wrote The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker was one of the socialists. She was a Jewish immigrant who had been one of the workers in this industry before she married out of it (she married a lawyer who also bought and sold real estate). She wrote a pretend diary of a striker who is radicalized by the strike and converts to the socialist cause (at the time it was originally published, I don’t believe that it was known to be fake), and in turn is able to convert her previously unsympathetic boyfriend. If you’re me, which I am, it was practically required reading once I found it.

The edition I read was published by Cornell University Press and has an extensive introduction by Francoise Basch (please forgive me; I don’t know how to do the cedilla under the “c” in Francoise here). It’s a pretty good introduction to the strike, the different streams of history that come together in it, and Malkiel herself. Basch does make some questionable choices, in my view, as when she portrays the strike as largely a failure–dozens of employers settled! Every other source I’ve read portrays it as a success if not a triumph! It demonstrated to the established labor unions that women were indeed tough enough to take on a huge industry and stay true to the cause! What more does Basch want? What strike would she consider successful? But OK, she makes a case. It’s not one I agree with, but it’s a reasonable case. In another place, she goes on and on about why Malkiel made her narrator a “native-born” American rather than a more representative Jewish worker, blathering about how this enables the reader to learn about radicalism along with Mary (the narrator) (Jews were more likely to have already been radicalized prior to immigration), allows her to have her narrator talk about how “noble” the Jewish women were, and tells labor leaders not to give up on the established American workers before finally admitting, in one sentence, that hey, Malkiel just might have been trying to garner sympathy for the strike by circumventing the anti-Semitism of the non-Jewish reader. Y’think?

Nonetheless, Basch establishes the context of the strike and the major players in it, and doesn’t forget to include my favorite piece of the strike lore. When, at the Cooper Union meeting, Clara Lemlich leapt to the stage and called for a strike (depending on the source, she either said “I’m tired of all this talk! Strike, strike, strike!” or “I am tired of listening to speakers….What we are here for is to decide whether we shall or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike shall be declared–now.” I prefer the first version, but I am given to understand she was speaking in Yiddish, so it might just be a matter of translation.):

The Souvenir History of the Strike tells us that “the chairman then cried, ‘Do you mean faith? Will you take the old Jewish oath?’ and up came two thousand right hands, with the prayer, ‘If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither away from the arm I now raise.'” (31)

Anyway, the “diary” itself is fascinating, in my opinion, as Mary learns about the living conditions of her worse-paid immigrant co-workers, becomes a socialist, is arrested, goes to the workhouse, falls out with her family and her boyfriend, and reunites with her boyfriend as he is inspired to become a better socialist sort of person. It’s particularly touching if you have a soft spot for traditional leftist rhetoric, which I do. Mary comes to the realization that the socialist fervor must cross all lines in the interest of class unity, “man, woman, Jew, Gentile, dark and white alike” (137). She also experiences a feminist awakening, rebelling against her father telling her that unions were a good thing but never meant for the ladies, and noting that she and other women were carried under a mother’s heart, just as men were, and “What’s the difference between men and women when it comes to work? I walk under the same sky and tread the same earth as men do” (68).

This awakening to commonality makes the two instances of flat-out racism all the more jarring when they occur; they don’t come until late in the book, after more than one proclamation of the sort I describe above. The first concerns lynching, when the newly converted Jim is deeply upset at the way Mary and the other workers are being treated and says “In the South they put a noose around a man’s neck for insulting a woman. Here we’ve grown so callous and cold-blooded that we take it as a joke” (164). One could argue that this is mere ignorance on Malkiel’s part of what lynching really was, but why should she have been ignorant? Ida B. Wells had been active and on the lecture circuit in NYC, though it’s true she was first speaking in the years just active Malkiel’s immigration to the US, when Malkiel was working in the factories and unionizing her workplace in her spare time, but Wells’s activism continued for decades. Malkiel seems to be making the white feminist move of gesturing toward inclusion without actually paying attention to what black women are saying (though Malkiel would not have qualified as white at the time, of course, which is no excuse for that sort of behavior, anyway).

The next incident occurs just a few pages later and has even less relevance to the plot or the issues of the strike. Mary is on a train to somewhere-or-other for Reasons, and she goes to use the ladies’ room but gets lost:

…[I] landed in the porters’ quarters instead. It gives me a chill even now when I think of the half a dozen dark grinning faces. In anger I rushed back to my seat. (171)

Why is she angry? Why is she chilled? Because black working men have the temerity to smile in their own rooms? It’s a bizarre interlude: it make no difference to the action or plot, and if anything should have been an opportunity for Mary to expand on her previous realization that dark and white makes no difference in the eyes of socialism (obviously, this is untrue, but this is the ideology of the book). Instead, it’s a gratuitous insult. Why is it there? Well, I think it’s there specifically because of those earlier musings on socialist brotherhood. Don’t worry, it’s saying to its white readers. Mary and her Jewish and Italian sistren, they’re good white girls. They’re disgusted by black people. In other words, I think it’s an unconscious move to make sure no white readers are put off by the putative racial equality the book suggests.

Other choices Malkiel makes are interesting as well: Jim, Mary’s beau, becomes a socialist and devoted to the strike despite utter intransigence for the first half of the book. Basch convincingly argues that this is because Malkiel is ultimately a traditionalist when it comes to relations between men and women and doesn’t want readers to think that becoming a socialist means losing the opportunity to wed. I buy that, but I’m still unsure why she chose to have Jim come around rather than to have Mary meet some other nice young socialist man, maybe while she was canvassing the established unions for donations to the strike fund. It’s as though Malkiel is playing out a form of “the divine feminine urging man ever upward” vis-a-vis socialism. Mary’s pure example and steadfastness changes Jim’s heart. The transformation is quasi-divine–she doesn’t give him anything to read and think about, they don’t have a reasoned debate about it. He just one night randomly sees that it’s wrong for children to have to beg in the street (NYC was full of homeless children at the time).

Mary is dismissive of the mink brigade and listens for a while to suffragist speeches before concluding that the class war is more important than the ballot, and the latter will have to wait. Heartwarming, if you’re into it, which I am.

All in all, I’m very glad I read this book; it’s been on my list for a while. If you’re interested in labor history, women’s history, Jewish history, NYC history, it’s work getting a hold of. If you are interested in reading more about the strike, I recommend Triangle, by David von Drehle, which uses it as context for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Posted in Business, Class, Feminism, History, Labor, Literature, Politics, Poverty, Racism | Leave a comment

Super-angry guy shoots up Planned Parenthood for totally unknowable reason

On Friday, a man armed with a long gun and several propane tanks* killed three people and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The shooting guy** said to police, “No more baby parts,” and made rambling, hostile comments about Planned Parenthood, which we can only assume are unrelated to the Planned Parenthood clinic he was shooting up. Indeed, we have absolutely no idea why he committed this horrific crime, and we may never know.

In all seriousness, even if Robert Dear’s motive, in the end, actually were to prove unconnected to Planned Parenthood, the fact remains that workers at Planned Parenthood clinics and other clinics like it are under ongoing threat. (On Twitter, @ClinicEscort has collected 100 threats, bombings, incidents of arson, shootings, stabbings, and acid attacks against Planned Parenthood and other abortion-providing women’s health facilities. I suppose we can argue that motives for the not-terrorists yelling things like “Don’t kill any more babies!” remain unclear.) At the Guardian, Jessica Valenti outlines how violent “pro-life” rhetoric leads to incidents like this one.

Words matter. When we dehumanize people — when we call them demons, monsters, and murderers — we make it easier for others to do them harm. Let’s not pretend that we don’t know that.

How we talk about abortion matters. We know it, and anti-choice extremists and politicians know it. Anti-abortion activists are not making WANTED posters or revealing doctor’s addresses for fun. They’re doing it to harass and intimidate, and they’re doing it knowing the long history of violent fanatics using their rhetoric to justify crimes against providers and clinics.

When people describe abortion as a holocaust, the person who blows up an abortion clinic becomes a hero. When an abortion provider is called a murderer, a baby-killer, the person who kills them is doing so in the righteous defense of the innocent. In his attack on the Colorado clinic, Dear killed three adults and left six children without a parent — but those lives are just collateral when heroic radical “pro-life” guardians of the pre-born are doing so at any cost.

In the last six months, Planned Parenthood has been assailed with unsubstantiated accusations that in providing fetal tissue to researchers, they’re actually “selling baby parts” for a profit. Misleadingly edited hidden-camera videos purport to support these accusations by carefully removing clear evidence that such sales are simply not happening, and others cobble together stock footage to characterize Planned Parenthood as the kind of gruesome, savage organization that a self-appointed (or other-appointed) champion for good would be justified in firebombing. Or shooting up in the name of “no more baby parts.” Because Planned Parenthood is the monster.

No medical professional should be taking their life into their hands just by showing up for work in the morning. But then, there aren’t rogues galleries of cardiologists and dental hygienists with photos and home addresses putting them in the literal crosshairs. It’s time to stop pretending, to the extent that people ever did, that murderers-monsters-butchers-demons is just harmless characterization for dramatic effect. Not when the “murderers” are getting murdered themselves. Not when the “pro-lifers” who strongly, strongly — like, really strongly — condemn shootings and bombings can’t be bothered to take a sip of water before echoing and reinforcing the inflammatory sentiments of the ones with the rifles and the propane tanks.

Y’know. For whatever reason.

*who is almost certainly just a shooter or a gunman and not a terrorist
**who was a 57-year-old, armed white guy who wounded five police officers and actually killed one and is now alive and in custody

Posted in Reproductive Rights, Terrorism | Tagged , | 2 Comments

White men with guns

So, ludlow expressed some confusion over the intent of this post. Here’s the story:

The most embarrassing thing to me about it is that I used the wrong word. Should be “rein.”

The post was originally supposed to be a modest proposal to tag Christian white guys, with the phrase “a modest proposal” in it as a tip-off. But by the time I got done finding all the links I was actually too upset to actually maintain the requisite tone, and it spilled over into just feeling bitter and tired and powerless. So there you go. It’s somewhat facetious, but genuinely upset.

White cis Christian men with guns are simply too big a threat to the rest of us. They gun down black church-goers. They shoot up Planned Parenthood, injuring several cops (and still get taken alive, because apparently that’s not as big a threat as a 12-year-old black kid with a toy gun). They kill people for no discernible reason. When they have badges, and even when they don’t, they kill unarmed black men and women. They kill waitresses for asking them not to smoke. They kill random people because they can’t get laid. They shoot up their schools. They kill their own children and former wives. And then members of that group, that same group, white cis Christian men who are pro-gun, have the balls to publicly question the morality and motives of other people.

And I’m so tired of it. I’m tired of following these news stories. I’m tired of getting minute-by-minute news on Twitter. I’m tired of seeing innocent people turned into hashtags. But if white, Christian, pro-gun, cis men can go on TV and question the integrity of Syrian refugees and US Muslims on the basis of nothing rational whatsoever, if France feels justified using its state of emergency to police environmental groups, then I feel perfectly justified here in calling white Christian men with guns out as the menace they are. Because they exist at the perfect intersection of a number of self-satisfied, entitled, rage-filled streets, and they do these things and then their brethren have the nerve to call the rest of us irrational, emotional, dangerous, subhuman.

And somehow in movies and on TV, we still pretend they’re the good guys. It’s sickening. I’ve always been anti-gun. And I know some regular commenters on this site have always argued strongly for the importance of gun ownership. I’m beginning to think they’re right. Guns aren’t the problem. White cis Christian men having them is the problem.

Fair warning: I’m going to completely wipe any comment accusing me of reverse racism, misandry, cisphobia, or any such imaginary nonsense. I’m tired and angry. You don’t like this characterization? Then reign in the men who keep making the news.

Posted in Crime, Terrorism | 51 Comments

Day of Thanksgiving/Mourning

Tomorrow, many people in the U.S. will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, a sanitized version of a fictionalized account of an encounter between English settlers and the Wampanoag people already living on the land that was being “settled” that was the beginning of centuries of murder, abuse, and outright genocide. And while being thankful for what you have is good, celebrating it by dressing children up in construction-paper feathers and decorating with dried “maize” is a not-good, and in fact bad, way of doing it.

Tomorrow in Plymouth, Massachusetts — home of that first cross-cultural dinner party — a National Day of Mourning, organized by the United American Indians of New England, will draw attention to historical and current attitudes, treatments, and issues facing Native Americans.

The event has happened since the early 1970s, when Frank James, a Wampanoag leader, was barred from giving a speech that portrayed Europeans unfavorably at an event celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a meal with friends and family, and I would say especially for many of us where our families have survived genocide, it’s so important for us to be able to sit down with each other and be grateful that we have food and to enjoy spending time with each other,” said Mahtowin Munro, a co-leader of United American Indians of New England, the group that organizes the event, who has attended every year since the 1980s.

“The real underlying issue is the mythology; there’s a view that we’re this big melting pot country, or there’s a view that the Natives and the Pilgrims lived happily ever after and the Native people just evaporated into the woods or something to make way for the Pilgrims and all of the other aspects of the European invasion,” she continued. “All around the country, schools continue to dress up their children in little Pilgrim and Indian costumes and the Indians welcome the Pilgrims and they all sit down together and everybody says ‘Isn’t that cute, that’s so nice.’ That’s not at all what happened.”

(James was not only not allowed to given his original prepared speech but was, in fact, given a different, far fluffier speech to deliver; he declined to do so and thus was not allowed to speak.)

Following the event, many attendees will stay for a feast planned by the event organizers, and some will go home for Thanksgiving/day-of-giving-thanks dinner with their family.

Ramona Peters, a tribal historic preservation officer for the Mashpee Wampanoag, said that highlighting the horrific treatment of Native Americans won’t stop her tribe from having a celebration to give thanks — something it did long before the Pilgrims arrived and does multiple times each year, not just on the day recognized as Thanksgiving.

The celebration started on the weekend before the holiday, with some Wampanoag going to church dressed in regalia to pray and then to a traditional fire where members of the tribe can gather to give thanks for the season — an event that can last multiple days.

While Peters said that she’s angry at the way that Native Americans were treated, she’s proud that the United States has a holiday to give thanks.

“As far as actually extending friendliness, I don’t want to be embarrassed or ashamed of that as a Wampanoag person,” she said. “It’s part of our culture and we had been that way long before they arrived and we still are.”

Additionally: Oglala Lakota Tim Giago writes about the reality of Thanksgiving for many Native Americans in the Rapid City Journal. Adrienne Keene at Native Appropriations addresses the impact of reducing indigenous cultures into an “Indian” costume. And Julian Brave NoiseCat writes about issues facing Native Americans “beyond mascots and casinos.”

Posted in Holidays & Celebrations, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

REVIEW: The New Order (2014)

After months in development hell, the first instalment of our feminist game review series has arrived! Was it worth the wait, and work? We hope so, but we ask you to judge – after all, we’ll be uploading stuff like this for the next few months, and we’d prefer it not suck. Just be forewarned this first episode involves Nazism, robots, ableist prejudice and Jewish mysticism, with a large helping of assault rifles…


OVERVIEW ► released in Q1 2014, “Wolfenstein: The New Order” portrays an alternate timeline where Nazis won WW2, resulting in a global Nazi empire. upon its release, the game received widespread acclaim not only for its polished gameplay, but also the depth of its narrative and characters. unlike most WW2 games that ignore the role of Nazism and racism, “The New Order” frankly portrays Nazi ideology and its human impact. whilst the hero, B.J., may resemble a typical beefcake male, he works alongside characters from different backgrounds, races and genders. this unexpectedly varied cast helps “The New Order” to engage with themes rarely seen in videogames, such as racism, ableism and anti-Semitism. in an industry often criticised for lazy ideas, “The New Order” shows how giving visibility to traditionally ignored groups can improve gaming.

VISIBILITY ► whilst a white, male hero might not seem too inspired, B.J.’s reaction to Jewish artefacts and Hebrew indicate he too is Jewish, a rarity in games. B.J.’s closest ally is Anya. far from being a sex object, Anya is a former PhD student who becomes a vital part of the underground resistance. female villains such as Nazi officer Frau are also depicted, though the game thankfully avoids the trope of “bad girls” as sexualised seductresses. less depicted are people of colour, due to the game’s Nazi setting. still, such characters have moments that help to individualise their identities. the game also engages with ableism, through the depiction of characters with disabilities and the impact of Nazism on their lives as a result. such characters aren’t window dressing or helpless victims to be rescued. rather, they take significant and active roles in shaping the narrative.

AGENCY ► the game’s narrative revolves around B.J., but his success depends on his allies, most of whom get ample time to shine despite their circumstances. B.J.’s friend Caroline commands the resistance. despite being paraplegic and female, she is depicted as skilled in leading her group to victories. Caroline later uses advanced tech to augment her mobility. but the game makes sure to demonstrate she is as capable before upgrading as after. people of colour are also depicted, albeit with less agency. one character is an African ex-soldier, yet spends half his time literally sitting around. unlike most WW2 games, religion is central to “The New Order”. B.J. realises the Nazis won WW2 by stealing technology from an ancient Jewish sect. though Jews as hoarders of power is an old stereotype, “The New Order” engages it in ways that actually help to humanise its Jewish characters.

PROGRESS ► whilst it excels in depicting characters from different backgrounds, “The New Order” is far from the first game to bring depth to its narrative. “Half-Life 2” from 2004 is one recognisable influence, depicting a dystopia where people from all walks of life must cooperate to resist genocide. “The New Order” makes clear its characters are more than mere tokenism. the game’s ending suggests they will be central to future sequels. the game is also part of a broader trend in gaming today, of including characters with whom women and minority gamers can relate and identify. this marriage of gameplay with compelling narrative is one reason “The New Order” has received over 45 nominations and awards since release. in the end, “The New Order” demonstrates how studios can benefit from having more empowering female and minority roles in their games.

Generally, if a game offers strong commentary on certain issues, we’ll focus more on those strengths than on its flaws. For “Wolfenstein: The New Order”, for instance, we could have criticised the lack of LGBT representation, but since it does a damn fine job with addressing racism and ableism, we focused on those issues instead.

(On the other hand, if a game had no strengths, we wouldn’t hesitate to shred it for failing in every regard, including the LGBT regard.)

For those interested in the behind-the-scenes, we wrote on Tumblr about project decisions we made along the way, driven by YouTube’s hostility as a space for women in general and feminism in particular. For those wondering how that hostility drove our design, here are some relevant bits…

…we knew that despite gaming being a statistically female-dominated hobby… Straight White Boys™ still consider gaming to be their domain… The most common attack levelled at gamer girls who critique games is that girls aren’t “real” gamers – they’re filthy casuals, not hardcore fanatics with the encyclopaedic knowledge of gaming and technology that men enjoy, and thus any insight gamer girls have to offer is illegitimate…

For personal credibility, we made the decision to *not* have an onscreen persona that could be attacked – thus forcing critics to attack us over substance, not style… we don’t do facecams, which means critics have no angle to attack our hair, makeup or other inconsequentialities…

For gaming credibility, we played our games at their highest default difficulties… If you’re female and thinking of delving into YouTube’s gaming sphere, consider doing the same. In fact, we consider this important enough that we developed a companion series, SLOW MOTION KILLS, for the sole purpose of showing off leftover footage demonstrating our gaming prowess…

Oh, right – this review series has a companion series, for haters who question our gamer-ness. To show how elite we are, we crammed all the kills from our footage into a slow-motion montage of French music and bullet ballets. If your younger brother’s sole interest in games is in the carnage, rest assured we’ve covered his needs…

Meanwhile, look out for our next instalment in a few weeks. If you’re curious as to which title we’ll cover next, here’s a hint: crowbar.

Posted in Entertainment, Popular Culture | 9 Comments

Betty Peters hates Common Core, PowerPoint, and “counting up”

Alabama School Board member Betty Peters really, really hates Common Core. Like, a lot. A lot. No, seriously, you really can’t appreciate how much she hates Common Core. And it’s because the homosexualists are trying to make our sons wear outfits, and do math in stupid ways that didn’t get us to the moon, and the SPLC and their PowerPoint presentations full of charts, and we have to stand up for our children.

“I understand Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi are the three Southern states targeted by the radical, left, homosexualists to change our students’ perspective,” Peters said. “We have gone past gay, lesbian and bi-sexual and we’re now into gender fluid spectrum.”


“The Southern Poverty Law Center is going to be developing your children or grandchild or neighbors’ children into little social activists for social justice, as they define it, or else transgender stuff,” Peters said, as she distributed a coloring book sheet with pictures of a variety of clothing items.

“This is part of teaching tolerance for transgenderism to four to eight year olds,” Peters said. “The students are given color crayons and two handouts. They students are supposed to color the photos of the clothes they want to wear.

“You will notice these are called outfits,” Peters said. “I have never asked my son or my husband what ‘outfit’ they are going to wear. This is just crazy. I think all this stuff is mainly written by whacky feminists.[“]


“As I said when I first campaigned and I’ve said it every time since, we need to get back to the basics: Reading, writing and arithmetic from first grade on,” Peters said. “We need to be teaching the ‘c’ part which is Christian values, not Muslim values, not transgender values. We need to be teaching the old Biblical values.[“]


“Our nation has gone to Gomorrah and it’s up to us to turn it around,” she said referring to one of two ancient cities near the Dead Sea that were cited in the Bible as being destroyed by God as a punishment for the wickedness of their inhabitants. “There are enough voters out there who think like we do and we have just got to take our children back.

“Stand up. Don’t be afraid of upsetting the school. The schools cannot exist without students. It’s your responsibility to shield your child and preserve his or her innocence as long as you can,” Peters said. “They’re growing up way too fast and it’s not good.”

Yeah, that’s why Alabama public education ranks 45th in the country, and U.S. students are solidly lukewarm on an international scale: outfits and “counting up.” Won’t someone think of the children?

Posted in Education, Gender, Trans | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Q&A: Why Girls Join ISIS?

In our final instalment, we somehow ended up talking with a 12-year-old about Muslim women’s role in geopolitical affairs. And shockingly, it did not turn out horribly



SKiDROW: Hello, I’m SKiDROW.

TK-576: And I’m TK.

SKiDROW: What are we doing today?

TK-576: You’re recording me talking about myself.

SKiDROW: Yeah, because you say such baffling things that your mates deserve to hear.

TK-576: Well, I like talking when I’m relaxing.

SKiDROW: Killing people in CoD helps you to relax?

TK-576: That, and talking about girls.

SKiDROW: Well, we can talk about girls’ makeup again.

TK-576: Nah, I’d rather we talk about something manly, like zombies or ISIS.

SKiDROW: You think ISIS is manly?

TK-576: It’s definitely a manlier topic than makeup.

SKiDROW: I guess that’s technically true.

TK-576: I just don’t understand how no one’s beaten ISIS.

SKiDROW: Hey, ISIS is popular. Folks around the world keep joining, sometimes even women.

TK-576: Women must have crazy reasons for joining.

SKiDROW: What are those reasons, you think?

TK-576: Well, ISIS does lots of killing. I guess ISIS women are into that kind of stuff.

SKiDROW: Is killing the only thing ISIS does?

TK-576: That’s mostly what I see on TV.

SKiDROW: I’m sure ISIS does other things, like governing the new country they have.

TK-576: ISIS has a country?

SKiDROW: They created a country, the Islamic State.

TK-576: The Islamic State, huh?

SKiDROW: Yeah.

TK-576: That sounds boring. It’s like Montana calling itself the White People State.

SKiDROW: Well, if you got a country, you do have to do the boring job of running it.

TK-576: By killing enemies?

SKiDROW: By making sure stuff like water and electricity work. You don’t only kill people.

TK-576: So if ISIS has a country, women who join ISIS are really moving to a new country.

SKiDROW: They think they’re starting fresh lives in a new society, like early Pilgrims in America.

TK-576: Yeah, if the Pilgrims had assault rifles.

SKiDROW: Well, not all Pilgrims were into ethnic cleansing.

TK-576: So anyway, ISIS women want a new life.

SKiDROW: Yeah, killing is not always their main interest, even if they are moving to a war zone.

TK-576: They must not like their old countries, if they’re fine with moving to a war zone.

SKiDROW: I don’t think folks join ISIS if they like their old countries.

TK-576: What countries are they from that are so crappy?

SKiDROW: A lot of them are from Iraq.

TK-576: Oh, yeah. That place is definitely crappy.

SKiDROW: The way their Shiite leaders keep screwing over the Sunnis probably isn’t helping.

TK-576: Did you just use the S word?

SKiDROW: I said Shiites and Sunnis. They’re like Catholics and Protestants who don’t get along.

TK-576: Yeah, Grandma says Catholics and Protestants love killing each other.

SKiDROW: Well, in Iraq, most leaders are Shiites, since the U.S. military put them in charge.

TK-576: Are they racist against Sunnis?

SKiDROW: After the U.S. left, the Shiite government kicked out thousands of Sunnis, including soldiers.

TK-576: So unemployed soldiers joined ISIS?

SKiDROW: If your country’s army basically fires you, ISIS begins to look like a good alternative.

TK-576: Hmm, I can see that Iraq discriminating against those guys was a bad idea.

SKiDROW: That’s why ISIS is good at killing. They have qualified soldiers leading them.

TK-576: Does ISIS really need women if they’re fighting everyone all the time?

SKiDROW: ISIS needs people. They’re fighting to grow their country, and they need women for that.

TK-576: Imagine if black folks get sick of being killed by police and start their own ISIS.

SKiDROW: Well, if anyone thinks we’re wrong on women and ISIS, leave comments below.

TK-576: Hmm. This was a downer, all this talk of killing.

SKiDROW: Hey, your game’s almost over.

TK-576: Hold on, let me nuke everyone first.

If you found this miniseries to be a cringe-worthy wreck, don’t worry – we’re already moving onto our next project, which we’ll finally have a chance to unveil on Feministe on Saturday. After being stuck in development hell for so long that even our parents were starting to dismiss our project as vapourware, we look forward to being able to show off what we’ve been doing for the past few months.

Stay tuned!

“Q&A” is an on-going effort to bring more original content to Feministe, via conversations with other feminists. If you wish to send hate mail, please direct to the Republican Rape Caucus.

Posted in Religion, Terrorism, War | Tagged | 9 Comments

Speaking of women and pain…

…turns out, anesthesiologists now say yes, women and anyone else giving birth can eat during labor. Apparently, making sure one has access to nutrients when engaging in difficult physical activity can actually be beneficial! Who could have imagined?

It wouldn’t have made any difference to me–when I was lying on the table waiting for my C-section, I threw up everything in my stomach anyway (pity the poor med student who had to hold the bucket for me; oh, fuck that–pity me), because there’s something terrifying about lying down, unable to move, knowing people are about to slice you open and gut you, even if you know it’s for the best of all reasons and they are only trying to help you. And because my situation was high-risk, I don’t know if this would’ve applied to me even if I hadn’t had to have had a C-section, but it’s good to know for regular pregnancy and labor.

The linked press release talks about advances in anesthesia, but also notes those advances are decades old–using epidurals and spinal blocks rather than anesthesia given in a mask over nose and mouth. So, you know, it’s about time the medical wisdom caught up.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Women’s pain, who cares?

This article in the Atlantic, about how medical professionals take women’s pain significantly less seriously than men’s, is interesting. It combines a quite chilling personal story with statistics. For instance, did you know that in the US, men wait an average of 49 minutes before receiving painkiller for acute abdominal pain while women wait an average of 65 minutes? I didn’t. The author also links to this 2001 paper, “The Girl Who Cried Pain,” about systemic sexism in pain management. Apparently, even though evidence suggests that women are more sensitive to pain than men, we’re less likely to be prescribed painkillers and more likely to be prescribed, wait for it, sedatives. Because the ladies, we’re crazy, you know (pejorative association intended)–we make shit up. It’s all in our pretty little heads.

And if it’s like this for white women, well, I’d lay money it’s worse for black women. We know that according to this ABC article and this study at CHoP, black and Latino children receive pain medication significantly less frequently than their white peers reporting the same symptoms. Do we think it’s any better for black and Latino women once they reach adulthood?

There’s nothing virtuous about suffering. There’s no reason to suffer if you don’t have to. But this country is obsessed with people faking pain to get drugs. And as we all know, some of us are considered less trustworthy about our own experiences than others.

Posted in General | 7 Comments

Q&A: Why Girls Wear Leggings?

We tried talking with a younger sibling about something sexism-related, before the sexist conditioning of secondary school could infect his young mind. But perhaps we were too late



SKiDROW: Hello, SKiDROW here.

TK-576: And this is TK.

SKiDROW: How’s the weather outside, mate?

TK-576: According to our window, it’s sunny and nice.

SKiDROW: Yet here we are indoors, killing people in videogames.

TK-576: Well, this is our bonding time, right?

SKiDROW: You got anything you’d like to talk about as we bond over killing?

TK-576: Actually I’ve been wondering why girls wear gym clothes like leggings to school.

SKiDROW: Did you say leggings?

TK-576: I see girls wearing them at school, even when there’s no gym class.

SKiDROW: Well, why do you think girls wear leggings?

TK-576: I don’t know, maybe to keep them warm? Personally I think they look ridiculous.

SKiDROW: I imagine people in general wear clothes because they’re comfortable.

TK-576: Well, you can wear comfortable things that don’t look ridiculous.

SKiDROW: Okay. Why do you think guys wear muscle shirts?

TK-576: Muscle shirts? You mean shirts without sleeves?

SKiDROW: Yeah, I think Americans call them wife-beaters.

TK-576: Well, guys who wear sleeveless muscle shirts are trying to showcase their muscles.

SKiDROW: So when you wear shirts without sleeves, it’s to show off your muscles?

TK-576: Well, no. For me, shirts without sleeves feel cooler on hot days.

SKiDROW: Okay. Guys wear muscle shirts to stay cool. Girls wear leggings to stay warm.

TK-576: Yeah, but shirts and leggings are different.

SKiDROW: How so? Are leggings more distracting?

TK-576: Yes, lots.


TK-576: Leggings make the shapes of girls’ bodies distracting.

SKiDROW: So when Mum wears leggings during yoga, she’s distracting you?

TK-576: No, but when girls at school wear them, they’re distracting.

SKiDROW: Well, aren’t girls just as distracted when guys wear muscle shirts?

TK-576: Girls aren’t as easily distracted, though.

SKiDROW: So when a guy sees girls in leggings, he can’t pay attention to his maths class?

TK-576: Correct, that’s how the world works.

SKiDROW: I’m not sure, mate. That sounds like a double standard.

TK-576: How so?

SKiDROW: Well, you said girls shouldn’t wear leggings because they distract boys.

TK-576: I said it makes their bodies distracting.

SKiDROW: So why are you okay with guys wearing muscle shirts?

TK-576: What do you mean?

SKiDROW: Don’t girls find muscle shirts distracting, the way guys find leggings distracting?

TK-576: I don’t think girls are distracted by guys’ clothing the way guys are distracted by girls’ clothing.

SKiDROW: I’m pretty sure you’ve never met a K-pop fan, then.

TK-576: Oh God, why are you bringing them up?

SKiDROW: Well, girl fans definitely fawn over which male K-pop stars dress the hottest.

TK-576: Okay, some girls are into guys’ clothing, but guys are still more distracted by girls’ clothing

SKiDROW: By your logic, women should avoid going to college, because they cause campus rape.

TK-576: What? How?

SKiDROW: Well, heterosexual guys are likelier to commit rape if girls are around, right?

TK-576: Yeah, what’s your point?

SKiDROW: So by your logic, we should ban girls from college, so they don’t distract guys into raping.

TK-576: Hmm. Yeah, I can see how that logic is racist.

SKiDROW: You mean sexist.

TK-576: You know what I meant.

SKiDROW: Do you see now why blaming girls’ clothing for distracting you is ridiculous?

TK-576: I said their leggings distract guys. I didn’t say they distract me specifically.

SKiDROW: Sure. Anyway, if anyone disagrees with my brother’s logic, leave comments below.

TK-576: I still think leggings are ridiculous. They don’t look thick enough to keep you warm.

SKiDROW: Shouldn’t you pay more attention to who you’re killing in your game?

TK-576: I’m preparing to nuke everyone on this map anyway.

Still trying to comprehend why American parents think boys are preferable to girls.

“Q&A” is an on-going effort to bring more original content to Feministe, via conversations with other feminists. If you wish to send hate mail, please direct to the Republican Rape Caucus.

Posted in Beauty, Body image | Tagged | 8 Comments

Every time Tina Healy comes out to her mom, it’s great

Tina Healy, a disability support worker and an advocate for Gender Diversity Australia, came out as transgender three and a half years ago. But she comes out to her mother every few weeks — her mother has Alzheimer’s, and her dementia started developing two years ago, around the time Healy first came out to her. Healy visits her mother every few weeks, and every time she does, she comes out again, and every time she does, she gets the “same, beautiful” response.

“When I told her I was a woman, she just looked at me and said, ‘Oh, what do you know? I’ve got a beautiful new daughter!” Healy said. “I started to cry, and she pulled me to her shoulder and said ‘Cry it out, dear. Cry it out.’ My partner at the time cried as well.”

Healy added that after crying, her mother, who used to be a “beautiful seamstress,” then said, ‘Well, now you’re going to need some new clothes! What do you need?”

Posted in GLBTQ, Trans | 8 Comments