Open Thread with Painted Snipe

This greater painted snipe watching over his chicks features for this week’s Open Thread. Please natter/chatter/vent/rant on anything* you like over this weekend and throughout the week.

Painted snipe family.jpg
Painted snipe family” by Charles Lam from Hong Kong, China – Dad and Kids. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Caption: Greater Painted Snipe, Rostratula benghalensis with chicks. Saw at the wet lands. Got videos of their relaxing time, dad’s covering,dad’s protection and their food searching time.

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 the Weekly Open Thread, 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 | 24 Comments

No, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts, and here’s why the lie is so toxic.

The anti-choice narrative since Planned Parenthood’s inception has been that PP has been ghoulishly profiting off of abortions, both by dragging in huge amounts of cash for the procedure and (as is currently under discussion) selling baby parts for exorbitant prices. First of all, I have to inject some basic common sense: If you’re hearing rumors that gloriously satisfy your hate-on for an organization while simultaneously sounding like a late-season plot of Charmed, they’re probably not entirely, or even a little bit, valid. “They sell and/or eat dead babies” has been a charge, throughout history, lobbed against the Chinese, Jewish, pagan, and so many other marginalized people, and never substantiated because people don’t do that. Even the people you’d really, really like to paint as monsters.

Anyway.

Recently released hidden-camera video, at the heart of the current attack on Planned Parenthood, would seem to confirm those very accusations. The nine-minute video, purporting to show PP Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola selling fetal tissue to medical research labs, was produced and released by the Center for Medical Progress. (Three more similar videos feature the president of PP’s Medical Directors Council, Mary Gatter, and other current and former PP staff.) Taken on its own, the inflammatory video seems to provide evidence that Planned Parenthood is ruthlessly harvesting body parts on demand and selling them to the highest bidder.

There’s a reason for that. The Center for Medical Progress really, really wants you to take the videos as evidence.

Th[is Particular] Center for Medical Progress

While the Center for Medical Progress, founded in 2013, sounds like a legitimate research-related organization, it’s actually a “group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances” — focusing largely on abortion (although they have 501(c)3 status and solicit donations as a “biomedical charity”). Their main — or, judging from their site, possibly only — ongoing endeavor is their “Human Capital project” purporting to “document[] how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies.” Central to their project is video footage “presented in two formats: 1) as summary videos of specific undercover encounters, and 2) as a multi-part documentary web series, ‘Human Capital[.]'”

A distinction that definitely, absolutely needs to be made: The “Center for Medical Progress” falsifying these videos is not the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. One is devoted to “articulating the importance of medical progress and the connection between free-market institutions and making medical progress both possible and widely available throughout the world”; the other is devoted to painting horns and a goatee on everything related to Planned Parenthood.

Incidentally, during their creation and use of aliases and fake biomedical companies for their sting, the Center’s David Daleiden (former director of research for premier misleadingly-edited-video production company Live Action) and crew appear to have fraudulently acquired a credit card in the name of one of Daleiden’s former grade-school classmates. While, of course, this absolutely doesn’t directly contradict the accusations against Planned Parenthood, it does give you an idea of the Center’s dedication to truthfulness.

The Doctored Videos

That term used by the Center for Medical Progress to describe their work — summary videos — is crucial to the entire discussion, because the undercover footage has been “summarized” much in the way Iron Man could be “summarized” as a conflict between a genius inventor and his career-military friend as the inventor comes to terms with the realities of his involvement in the military-industrial complex: i.e., bullshittily. Footage removed from the nearly three-hour video, and only released in past weeks, completely contradicts the purpose of the released “summary” by specifying in so many words that Planned Parenthood is not making money off of the “sale” of tissue.

FactCheck.org provides access to the edited version of the video, first released by the group, and the unedited version, released later. One main difference? The unedited version makes it clear, repeatedly, that Planned Parenthood clinics are not making a profit from “selling” tissues. Their only goal in taking money during the tissue donation process was to recoup the costs associated with collecting, preserving, and transferring the tissue, so that clinic operations wouldn’t be affected and patients could continue to receive the services they rely on.

At one point in the unedited video (which was also released by the group), Nucatola says: “Affiliates are not looking to make money by doing this. They’re looking to serve their patients and just make it not impact their bottom line.”

Nucatola also says, “No one’s going to see this as a money making thing.” And at another point, she says, “Our goal, like I said, is to give patients the option [to voluntarily donate the tissue -C] without impacting our bottom line. The messaging is this should not be seen as a new revenue stream, because that’s not what it is.”

Media Matters highlights three particularly heinous edits in the first video (and seven more in the three following videos) completely shifting the reality of Planned Parenthood’s service: that tissue is being donated, not sold; and that all tissue donation is done in accordance with all laws and ethical standards, and with the consent of the patient. The 141 minutes cut from the meeting with Nucatola were removed because they were full of the truth.

Why Money Is Associated with Tissue Donation

Medical research is so very important to improving and saving lives that it would be nice to think that tissue donation was done as a matter of pure generosity, with no money changing hands at any point. Unfortunately, that’s just not practical. Regardless of the type of tissue, donation can be expensive for the donor institution. Planned Parenthood is, at their own expense, carefully preserving tissue that would otherwise be discarded, and those are costs they can’t afford to absorb without affecting patient care.

FactCheck.org consulted three different experts in human tissue research — Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s biodepository director Sherilyn J. Sawyer; International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories president (and former NCI Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research deputy director) Jim Vaught; and ASU National Biomarkers Development Alliance chief medical and science officer and former NCI director of biorepositories and biospecimen research Carolyn Compton — about PP’s quoted $30-100 per specimen. They all had the same response: That price is reasonable, or even low, for clinical operations to recoup their costs. Sawyer went so far as to say that “$30-100 probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood].”

In reality, $30-100 probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood]. The costs associated with collection, processing, storage, and inventory and records management for specimens are very high. Most hospitals will provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures (ones no longer needed for clinical purposes, and without identity) for research, and cost recover for their time and effort in the range of $100-500 per case/block. In the realm of tissues for research $30-100 is completely reasonable and normal fee.

And Compton agreed, “‘Profit’ is out of the question, in my mind. I would say that whoever opined about ‘profit’ knows very little about the effort and expense involved in providing human biospecimens for research purposes.”

One quote that the Center for Medical Progress benefits the most from omitting addresses the real importance of recouping the costs associated with donation: “Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.” This, of all statements made in the video, contradicts the Center’s goal of smearing Planned Parenthood as a heartless, money-hungry institution: the reminder that the focus of their work is giving care to people who otherwise would go uncared-for.

The Reality of Fetal Tissue Research

Depending on your feelings about fetal development and pregnancy — and a lot people do have very emotional connections to the subject — the idea of research on fetal tissue might seem macabre. One major criticism of the released video is Nucatola’s matter-of-fact, offhand description of the tissue used in research, and it is disconcerting to watch her scarf down a salad while talking about fetal livers — Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has said that Nucatola has been reprimanded for her tone, and Richards apologized, saying, “Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.” People expect a more solemn, respectful approach to this subject. And, in fact, some researchers who work with fetal tissue have said that they, themselves, have feelings about the source of tissue for their crucial research. In the New York Times, researcher Nathalia Holt describes how they “plan[] [their] experiments, trying not to waste a single drop,” and says that “even with [their] preparations, justifications, and the sheer excitement that accompanied [their] research, the fetal cells brought sadness.”

But Holt also reminds us that cells extracted from tissue from two fetuses in the 1960s are still being used to produce vaccines for hepatitis A, rubella, chicken pox, and shingles; that fetal stem cells have been used to treat spinal cord injuries; and that “progress is being made in the use of stem-cell therapies against cancer, blindness, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, HIV, and diabetes.” Last year, the NIH gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Regardless of your feelings about where the cells come from and how they’re acquired, lives are changed and saved because of the tiniest bit of tissue.

And that knowledge can be a comfort to women and families faced with the loss of a pregnancy. Katie Lyon wrote for Time.com about her abortion at 22 weeks of a very much wanted pregnancy. An ultrasound showed that the fetus had, among many other problems, spina bifida and a tethered spinal cord. After much discussion, and after much consultation with her doctor, they decided to end the pregnancy — “the right decision for us as a family,” she says. And they decided to donate the fetal tissue for medical research.

It was horrible for us to have to end a much-wanted pregnancy, but we made the best of it by donating the fetal tissue for research. We contacted our genetics counselor, who coordinated the donation with a spina bifida research project funded by the National Institutes of Health. We figured that donating the tissue could perhaps spare other families the painful situation we found ourselves in. It was clear to me and my husband that the question of what caused the spina bifida needed to be studied.

I feel fortunate that I had the chance to donate the tissue — I was able to turn my pain into something that could benefit someone else.

I want people who are politicizing the option to donate fetal tissue to think about the implications of removing this option. I want them to think about people suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and sickle cell disease — and to consider those people’s family members who no doubt want their loved ones to live longer, fuller lives.

Why would anyone want to destroy the chance to save another person’s life?

Any tissue donated by Planned Parenthood is with the consent — or at the request — of the patient, because they know how important that generosity can be and how far it can reach.

Why the Lie Matters So Much

It can’t be said enough, because for some reason, some people aren’t grasping it: Planned Parenthood is a source of primary care for millions of people, mostly women, who would otherwise have to go without. It’s estimated that one out of five women in the U.S. will go to Planned Parenthood at some point during her life, and four out of five of its patients live near the poverty line. Ninety-seven percent of procedures performed by Planned Parenthood clinics every year are devoted to making, and keeping, people healthy, regardless of income.

The House of Representatives is currently undertaking an investigation, almost certain to be lengthy and fruitless, based on intentionally misleading videos and the violation of laws that aren’t being violated. And regardless of the outcome, these accusations are going to stick to Planned Parenthood for decades — there’s no shoving “remember when PP sold baby parts?” back in the barn now that the rumors have been released into the wild.

And this afternoon, the Senate will be voting on legislation to pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood — nearly half their budget, in the form of Medicare and Title X funding. It wouldn’t affect abortions provided by Planned Parenthood, which can’t (with very few exceptions) be funded with federal dollars — just the other 97 percent of their services. It would come at the expense of men, women, and children who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer and STD screenings, medical treatment, birth control, well-person care, education, and prenatal care.

It’s about the health and wellbeing of adults and children now, and ones who will benefit from medical breakthroughs in the future, and this group is trying to destroy all of that with four videos that they’ve known were deceptive from the start. And people — bloggers, citizen journalists, social media reactionaries, government officials, people who are primed to believe the worst about Planned Parenthood at any chance they get — are falling for it and spreading the lie. It’s often said that to the anti-choice crowd, living women will always take a back seat to fetuses; it’s rare that we actually get to see that so explicitly in action.

Posted in Class, Health, Law, Medicine, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Spillover #30

A red "Keep Calm" poster with the caption KEEP CALM AND STAY ON TOPICComments on our 29th #spillover thread have closed, so it’s time for a new one. Some reminders:

  1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic. It is intended as a constructive space for tangential discussions which are veering off-topic on other threads. This is part of our blog netiquette, which has the general goal of making it as simple as possible for commenters to find discussions focussed on topics of particular interest without entirely stifling worthwhile tangents of sorta-related or general interest. #spillover is also a space for those ongoing/endless disagreements and 101 issues that just keep on popping up.
  2. Commenters are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and be proactive regarding inevitable thread-drift in long threads: we hope that commenters will cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic responses into #spillover so that each post’s discussion gets room to breathe and tangents can be indulged in a room of their own.

More detailed outline/guidelines were laid out on Spillover #1.
The Moderator Team will enforce topicality where necessary, and off-topic commenters who ignore invitations from others to take their tangents to #spillover are one of the reasons commenters might consider sending the moderators a giraffe alert.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday

Promote yourself. (Or somebody else.)


Netiquette reminders:

  • we expect Content Notes as a courtesy to our readers for problematic content in linked posts and/or their comment threads (a habit of posting only triggering/disparaging links may annoy the Giraffe (you really don’t want to annoy the Giraffe)), Content Notes are not needed if your post title is already descriptive of problematic content.
  • extended discussion of self-promotion links on this thread is counter-productive for the intended signal-boosting –  the idea is for the promoted sites to get more traffic.  If it’s a side-discussion that would be off-topic/unwelcome/distressing on the other site, take it to #spillover after leaving a note on this thread redirecting others there.
Posted in General | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Amnesty International, CATW, a bunch of celebrities, and decriminalization

[Content note: sex trafficking and sexual abuse]

Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Lena Dunham, Emily Blunt, and numerous other celebrities, along with former sex workers and victims of sex trafficking and women’s rights advocates, have signed a letter from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) criticizing a policy currently under discussion within Amnesty International. The policy, which Amnesty plans to introduce at a meeting in Dublin in August, promotes decriminalization of sex work to protect sex workers’ rights, health, and safety. The policy says (in part):

This policy has been developed in recognition of the high rates of human rights abuses and violations that sex workers experience globally. This document identifies the most prominent barriers to the realization of sex workers’ rights and underlines state obligations to address them. This policy should not be considered in isolation from Amnesty International’s existing human rights policies and positions. All of Amnesty’s positions, including those on gender equality, violence against women, non-discrimination, human trafficking, sexual and reproductive rights, access to justice, rights to and at work and the right to adequate housing, apply equally to sex workers as to any other individuals facing human rights abuses. In fighting for the full realisation of sex workers’ rights Amnesty International must both acknowledge and prioritise the issues raised in this document and mainstream the rights of sex workers into other relevant areas of work.

This policy reflects a growing body of research from UN agencies, human rights organisations and social science which indicates that criminalisation, in its varying forms, exposes sex workers to increased risk of human rights abuses. The policy is based on principles of harm reduction and the human rights principles of physical integrity and autonomy.

The policy does not change Amnesty International’s longstanding position that forced labour and human trafficking (including for the purposes of sexual exploitation) constitute serious human rights abuses and must be criminalised. Under international law, states have a range of obligations to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The letter, endorsed by the aforementioned celebrities (who, while not the sole signers, are drawing the most attention), former sex workers and trafficking victims, advocates, and religious and secular organizations, criticizes Amnesty’s proposed policy, saying that decriminalization of sex work results in more, not less, harm to women and will create a “gender apartheid” in which one class of women enjoys the benefits of protection and another class suffers increased abuse. The letter says (in part):

The signatories below represent a wide breadth of national and international human rights advocates, women’s rights organizations, faith-based and secular organizations and concerned individuals, deeply troubled by Amnesty’s proposal to adopt a policy that calls for decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex — the pillars of a $99 billion global sex industry. Most importantly, the signers include courageous survivors of the sex trade whose authority of experience informs us about the inescapable harms the sex trade inflicted on them and guides us toward finding meaningful solutions toward ending these human rights violations.

[…]

We firmly believe and agree with Amnesty that human beings bought and sold in the sex trade, who are mostly women, must not be criminalized in any jurisdiction and that their human rights must be respected and protected to the fullest extent. We also agree that, with the exception of a few countries, governments and law enforcement grievously violate prostituted individuals’ human rights. However, what your “Draft Policy on Sex Work” is incomprehensibly proposing is the wholesale decriminalization off the sex industry, which in effect legalizes pimping, brothel owning and sex buying.

So that’s what they said. (In part.)

As a comfortably well-off, straight, cis, white woman working a 9-to-5 office job in the Deep South, I have no personal knowledge or experience whatsoever in this area. I can’t speak on the issue any more educatedly than, say, Anne Hathaway. Because of that, it’s my job not to speak but to listen to others who do have knowledge and experience.

Many signers of CATW’s letter have that personal knowledge and experience — the former victims of sex trafficking know how bad it can get, and those horrible lived experiences have compelled to speak out, saying that criminalizing sex work is the only way to keep vulnerable people safe. Many other current and former sex workers argue that keeping sex workers safe, preventing trafficking, and enabling both victims of trafficking and voluntary sex workers to leave freely can only happen working within a decriminalized system of laws and regulations. Groups like the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, and individuals who frequently remain nameless for understandable reasons have said that the stigma behind sex work and the lack of state protection have made life worse, not better; more dangerous, not safer; and sex work harder, not easier, to get out of for those who want to.

When Cambodia closed its brothels in 2008 to curb human trafficking, it didn’t end the sex trade, but it did separate workers from health screenings and services — at which point a group of current and former sex workers organized in a volunteer organization to serve those needs. In India, the DMSC organized to eliminate human trafficking and women being forced into sex work, and to rehabilitate women who have been rescued from those circumstances, because the government’s laws and interventions weren’t effective enough. In 2010, a former sex worker and a sex-worker rights advocate spoke to the UN against criminalization in the U.S. on the basis that it leaves sex workers without resources and vulnerable to abuse and violence — including at the hands of the police. In those examples, all criminalizing sex work did was free the governments of social service obligations and leave sex workers and victims of trafficking to fend for themselves. In those environments, it’s current and former sex workers who have had to protect each other, provide services for each other, and help free workers from slavery when no one else is helping.

And the voices, while all valid, don’t always agree, and there’s endless nuance to the issue. CATW’s letter refers to “pimps and brothel owners” as abusers who will continue to profit from still-illegal practices (like trafficking and torture) in a decriminalized environment; many sex workers report being arrested for living in the same apartment or forming their own brothels for safety and protection. CATW’s letter refers to the effects of deregulation (although Amnesty’s policy focuses on decriminalization, which is different) in Germany; many sex workers refer to the positive effects of decriminalization in New Zealand. CATW’s letter mentions the serious long-term physical and psychological harm suffered by trafficked individuals; many sex workers talk about not having access to care when they’re forced underground.

Categories like “trafficked person” and “sex worker” encompass everything from the cam girl at Harvard working for a little bit of drinking money to the six-year-old Ukrainian girl in the back of a truck bound for Amsterdam. And that’s what makes this issue so much bigger than a letter. There’s no looking at a ten-year-old boy in a brothel in Bangkok, a 30-year-old black transgender woman on a street corner in Chicago, and a 20-year-old white woman shooting a poorly produced porno in Burbank, and saying, “All of those people need the same thing.” Boiling it down to names on a petition is like asking Miss Nevada to solve racism in 30 seconds or less — if it were that simple, this would have been solved a long time ago. And I’m not criticizing anyone, Meryl Streep included, for signing what appears to be a very compelling letter. It’s just that for my part, in my position, I feel like there’s so much more to read on the subject than to write.

Here’s more stuff to read (updated periodically):

The full text, and bibliography, of CATW’s letter.

The full text of Amnesty International’s Draft Policy on Sex Work.

At Huffington Post, this list of “8 Things to Know About Amnesty’s Draft Proposal on Sex Work.”

At ThinkProgress, “How LGBT People Would Benefit From The Decriminalization Of Sex Work.”

From Formerly Fundie, with a religious perspective, “‘I Am A Human Trafficking Survivor & Here’s What I Want To Ask Christian Activists’” (first in a series).

From Time, “What the Swedish Model Gets Wrong About Prostitution.”

And from the Health and Human Rights Journal, pretty much the entire bibliography of “Toward a legal framework that promotes and protects sex workers’ health and human rights.”

Posted in Celebrity, Class, Crime, Discrimination, Law, Sex, Sexual Assault, Work | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Quick hit: New York magazine, Bill Cosby, and #TheEmptyChair

[Content note: sexual assault]

The current cover of New York magazine is significant not just for who’s there — 35 of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape — but for who isn’t there — victims of sexual assault who are afraid or ashamed to come forward. Those individuals are represented by an empty chair, including those unspeaking individuals in the “unwelcome sisterhood” of Cosby’s alleged* victims.

But social media discussion surrounding #TheEmptyChair addresses not just those unspoken victims but all victims of sexual assault who feel compelled to stay silent, and the cultural and societal pressures that keep them silent.

Cosby has never been charged with sexual assault and publicly denies the allegations, although in recently unsealed testimony from a 2005 civil trial for his assault of Andrea Constand, he acknowledges that he did, in fact, procure and deploy drugs for the purpose of raping (“having sex with”) women.

The accusers themselves tell their stories — both their experiences with Cosby, and their treatment by the media and society in general — to New York.

*Legally speaking

Posted in Celebrity, Entertainment, Media & Media Literacy, Popular Culture, Sexual Assault | Tagged | 9 Comments

Kids in Public: And Thus Have I Provided You a Definitive List of Rules

[Content note: a topic that’s been discussed to hell and back and yet is being discussed back to hell again because this is my blog and I get to]

It’s happened again. Again. It’s always going to happen, and it’s always going to spur debate: A couple brought a kid to a restaurant, the kid was noisy, there was an exchange of some level of vehemence between the restaurant owner and the parents, and everyone has flipped out. The specifics? Here are the specifics, but it doesn’t really matter, in the end, because no matter the incident, public reactions are always the same: Kids shouldn’t be in public! No, kids should be everywhere! No, kids should be in some places, and now I will list those places! No, kids should be in all places except for the ones I’m about to list! We can all agree that kids suck though, right? No, you suck! I don’t think kids suck, I just don’t like them. How can you say that you don’t like a group of people?! Etc. ad nauseam. Much interesting. Such novel. So not done to death at Feministe already.

To end the debate once and for all, I have taken it upon my (entirely unqualified, self-satisfied) self to compose a comprehensive, binding list of Official Rules for Everyone When Kids Are Out in the World.

Rules for Diners

1. Kids are people. They’re very short people, and they’re people whose brains haven’t finished developing, and they’re people who haven’t entirely learned how to People yet, but they’re people. You don’t get to live in a world free of a particular kind of person. It might be cool, in some certain cases — I would love to live in a world where no one ever wants a car horn that plays “Dixie” — but, in the words of the prophet, you can’t always get what you want.

2. As not-entirely-trained people, kids need the experience of being out in public in order to learn how to People. This is probably, on occasion, going to involve a restaurant that you like. A kid isn’t going to learn how to behave at Applebee’s if they never eat anywhere but McDonald’s. So recognize that, to a reasonable extent, the fussiness you encounter is in the service of having not-fussy dining experiences with this person in the future. Cut them some slack.

3. Have some compassion for parents. (I say “parents,” and I do mean both parents, but who takes the vast majority of the shit when a kid acts up in public? Mom. So especially have some compassion for Mom.) You think it’s bad hearing a screaming baby? Try sitting in the echo chamber that is a vinyl-padded booth with the cuddly little noisemaker. Yes, sometimes parents ignore squalling kids because they want to pretend it isn’t happening, and sometimes they let kids run around and/or make messes because they can’t be bothered to intervene or because, God help me, they think it’s cute. This is not all parents. This is not even most parents. You don’t know if they’re dealing with a kid who wants attention or a kid who has Tourette’s, so don’t give them the immediate shit-eye just because you think they should be able to instantly silence their unhappy child through sheer force of will. Also, don’t start giving them the shit-eye the moment they walk through the door with a kid. You have no way of knowing whether or not the kid is going to be disruptive; for all you know, the kid could be better behaved than you.

4. If you’re going to get pissy about a child’s behavior in a restaurant, yours had better be on freaking point the entire time. You’d better take your cell phone conversations outside, use your Inside Voice, keep your crumbs on the table, and be polite to the waiter. No demanding perfect behavior from a kid if you’re not going to do much better. At least the kid has the excuse that they’re not experienced at being a person yet; you’re supposed to have mastered it by now.

5. Do not, under any circumstances, gripe if you see a parent pulling out a coloring book, an iPad, and/or a bag of Cheerios for their kid. You know what’s happening there? A child is being made happy. And when the child is happy and entertained, your evening is better. You want to demand that a child be quiet and entertained and then gripe about the way it’s done? Really? Go eat at home.

6. Don’t dump someone in a restaurant. Okay, this one has nothing to do with kids, but seriously — I once had a guy take me to a restaurant to break up with me because he figured I’d be less likely to make a noisy scene in public. He was right, because I’m cool, but everyone isn’t as cool as me, and if you want to make an adult have a toddler-style sobbing fit, end a four-year relationship in a room full of strangers and steak.

Rules for Parents

1. If your kid is fussy and can’t be un-fussed within a couple of minutes or so, remove them. Take them to a bathroom, a sidewalk, sit in the car with them for a few minutes, whatever’s convenient (recognizing that nothing is ever actually convenient when you’re dealing with young kids). Bring them back when they’re once again non-fussy. Kids get fussy — it happens. But you’ve signed up to deal with the fuss; your fellow diners haven’t.

2. If you want a night off when you don’t have to actively parent, get a babysitter. Don’t take your kids to a restaurant and let them run all over the place because you want a little bit of Me/Us Time. Running around is for a PlayPlace; sitting quietly (or at least not running around and not kicking people’s seats) is for a grownup restaurant. If your kid doesn’t have enough experience with nicer restaurants — or bars, or hipster coffee shops, or whatever — to be able to follow social norms, you’re not chained to your house, but you are on the clock supervising them and helping them behave appropriately for the setting.

3. You do what you need to do (within reason, of course) to keep your kids occupied and happy. Video games and iPads are perfectly acceptable ways of doing that — with headphones. Diners aren’t complaining about the sounds of squalling kids because they’d rather hear the dulcet tones of Juno’s Piano.

4. If you’re asked to remove your child until they’ve calmed down, do so. It sucks, and it might not be fair, but do it. Even voice your displeasure, calmly and at a low volume, with the manager while you do it, if that’s what you’re feeling, but do it. You can shit-talk that restaurant owner at length later, you can make an angry phone call, you can tear them apart on social media and let Yelp know that the restaurant isn’t! Child! Friendly! and should be boycotted, but again: Everyone wants a pleasant dining environment, and your screaming fit isn’t part of that, any more than your kid’s was.

5. The behavioral standards for kids in a restaurant are the same as the standards for adults in that same restaurant. No shouting. No running around. No spilling food on the floor. No taking food from other people’s plates. No coloring on the walls. No tripping waiters carrying heavy trays. There’s no letting it pass just because they’re a kid — they’re either meeting standards, or they’re learning to meet standards.

6. Your kid is not a person with a disability (exception: kids who have disabilities); they’re a person who hasn’t learned to Person yet. Saying, “What if a deaf person was in here talking really loudly?” as a reason not to teach your kid to modify their volume is not on. A person who can’t help engaging in some non-societally-sanctioned behavior, and one who is able to and is in the process of learning not to do that? Those are two different kinds of people. Think about what you’re saying here: “An autistic person having a negative reaction to the stimuli in their environment is the exact same thing as my kid flipping out because their iPad died, so I’m just going to sit here and finish my cocktail.”

7. As great as it would be, you can’t expect the people around you to automatically help out. It seriously would be nice if we all lived in that kind of a society, and some of us actually do, but it’s not universal. Messages are mixed: Sometimes, we get yelled at for not helping out in some nonspecific way when a kid is upset. Sometimes, we get yelled at for trying to help, because we’re never supposed to speak to or make eye contact with someone else’s kid. Sometimes, the safest thing is to just not engage. If you need help, say so out loud, and chances are there will be someone around willing to help you out. (Be sure to thank them.)

Rules for Restaurant Owners

1. As a restaurateur, you have the responsibility for providing a dining experience that’s pleasant for your guests. That almost always, in a non-Chuck E. Cheese environment, doesn’t include kid-type noisiness. The parent of a noisy kid is a paying customer — as are all of your other paying customers. If someone was talking on a cell phone or playing music loudly, you’d speak to them about being quieter (or should, at least; see Rule 2). Do everyone the courtesy of speaking — politely — to the parent of the noisy chid. And when your staff does it, back them up and don’t throw them under the bus just to appease the customer.

2. Hold adults and kids to the same standards. If your restaurant is quiet enough that a loud-talking toddler is ruining the mood, then be sure to also address the guy talking on his cell phone at the same volume. If your pub is so noisy that the drunks have to yell over each other to be heard, it’s likely that no one will notice a crying kid anyway, except to wonder why the baby is in a loud bar and why their bottle appears to be full of Guinness.

3. Have a coloring page and a handful of crayons, or something, to hand to kids. Seriously, if you have high chairs, you should have something to entertain the kids who sit in them. Maybe it detracts from your image as a super-high-class eatery, but it also improves your chances of having a super-high-class ambiance, and that’s really what matters. Bonus: You get parents saying, “They even had crayons for my kid! They’re so thoughtful,” and if you have to speak with parents about noise, you can say, “Listen, we tried to entertain your kid. What else are we supposed to do?”

4. Be polite. I mean, seriously. I’ve got friends in service, I’ve got friends in restaurants, I’ve worked in customer service, and I know how much of a pain it can be to take customers’ shit and not get to retaliate. Unfortunately, that’s part of the deal. You have the authority, in your own restaurant, to ask a parent to quiet a noisy kid or even, under extreme circumstances, to compel them to leave. Do so calmly and respectfully — even if you don’t feel they deserve your respect. Then go back to your office, close the door, and scream and knock over a chair or something. Think of it this way: You deal politely with the parent of a squalling kid, and you’re the hero who preserved the pleasant dining experience. You get into a shouting match with said parent, and now you’re just contributing to an environment that’s way more unpleasant than one crying kid.

5. Ideally, everyone taking part in the exchange will be a grownup (with the exception, of course, of the kid). But if there’s only one person there who’s going to be a grownup? That’s you. This calls back to Rule 4: Don’t be insulting, don’t be passive aggressive, don’t try to hit back on social media. Calmly explain your side of things when the opportunity arises, no matter how much you want to call someone obscene, all-caps names on Facebook. And then go back to your office and knock over another chair.

The Biggest Rule for Everyone

Remember that at the center of this is a small person who is, at best, semi-responsible for the way they interact with the world. Be a good model for that small person of how a responsible, sensible, compassionate human being behaves. On a plane, realize that the baby doesn’t know how to pop their ears and doesn’t exactly want to cry, and be a little sympathetic. In a restaurant, recognize that your kid might be crying because they’re really, really uncomfortable or unhappy and that the kind thing to do would be to take them home. Remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you — the diner who feels entitled to a silent meal; the parent who wants to go wherever, whenever, under whatever circumstances at all; or even, for that matter, the baby, who is one of 630 million like it in the world and is definitely more important to you than to anyone else around you. You don’t have to be a saint, or a martyr, or some kind of other religious imagery implying patience, since I seem to be on a roll here. Just… don’t be an asshole.

Posted in Parenthood | 30 Comments

Q&A: Avoiding the Friend Zone?

Whether one believes the friend zone is real or not, today’s dating advice should have a positive effect on anyone’s love life. In this week’s episode, we even try to shoot for a bit more maturity, which you can judge in the transcript below…

PROBLEM

according to society, being friends without “benefits” is a purgatory known as the “friend zone”.
lately one geek asked our advice on avoiding this friend zone, when meeting girls he’d like to date.

SOLUTION

at our weekly LAN party, we formulated 5 tips for geeks at risk of such poorly requited love.

JENNIFER H.

“have you been friend-zoned by friends you’ve known for ages? you’re better off with trying strangers.”
“old friends are too accustomed to you as a friend. you should have flirted more from the beginning.”
“next time you meet someone you like, send signals to show you’re open to a relationship. no pressure.”

CIARA M.

“have a nice, friendly personality. contrary to popular belief, most normal women don’t prefer jerks.”
“however, being nice isn’t enough. no one likes guys who act like they’re owed sex for being nice.”
“attractive folks are likeable and admirable. be a good person first, if you’re trying to get laid.”

BRYNNE C.

“being friend-zoned doesn’t mean you’re unattractive. it simply means you’re not her type.”
“it’s politeness, really. she’s friend-zoning you to protect your ego, by not openly rejecting you.”
“it’s not a sign to try harder. avoid pestering her unless you want to look like a predatory plonker.”

KATRINA R.

“i’ve read online that you can dress your way out of the friend zone. that’s so unbelievably stupid.”
“no one’s friend-zoning you over how you dress. well-dressed jerks are still jerks on the outside.”
“if you keep being friend-zoned, maybe your personality needs more work, not your pants.”

MELISSA A.

“to avoid friend-zoning, be honest with yourself. are you really interesting enough to date?”
“if you’re dateable, potential mates will gravitate to you. stop looking all the darn time.”
“in the end, just be the best person you can be. romance and stuff will follow, when you’re ready.”

Have your own suggestions? Post away in the comments.

We’ll do two more of these episodes this summer, for a limited 5-part run – after which we’ll start analysing lessons learned from this project, so we can apply them to our winter project of feminist game reviews. But during the interim downtime, we might allow our younger creatives to try their own ideas around here this summer.

(And by younger, we mean… primary school-aged siblings? Err, 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 Dating, relationships | 62 Comments

Nigeria bans female genital mutilation

[Content note: female genital mutilation (obviously)]

A new ban, passed in May and signed into law by outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, outlaws female genital mutilation in Nigeria. The practice was banned worldwide by the U.N. in 2012 and already outlawed in several states within Nigeria, but the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 represents a nationwide commitment to the ban. The new law also outlaws abandonment of spouse and/or dependents without financial support.

“This is fantastic news and a landmark moment. We are now one step closer to ending this harmful practice,” said UK international development secretary Justine Greening.

As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria’s decision carries significant weight, but it would need to be implemented effectively, said Mary Wandia, FGM programme manager of Equality Now. “With such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favour of women and girls is hugely important,” she said. “We hope, too, that the other African countries which have yet to ban FGM — including Liberia, Sudan and Mali, among others — do so immediately to give all girls a basic level of protection.”

Others stressed that the battle to end FGM in a generation was far from over, saying it was crucial that attitudes, as well as laws, were changed.

“It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Only then will this harmful practice be eliminated,” said Stella Mukasa, director of gender, violence and rights at the International Center for Research on Women, writing in the Guardian.

While passing the law at all is significant and makes a clear statement about the government’s official position on FGM, the biggest steps remain enforcing the law and changing societal attitudes that lead to the procedure in the first place. While a 2013 study by UNICEF set Nigeria’s overall prevalence of FGM at 27 percent — moderately low among African nations that still practice it — a 2012 study showed a prevalence as high as 76 percent in some regions of the country, largely for reasons of traditional practice, superstition, and controlling a girl’s/woman’s sexuality — all attitudes that can be hard to change through health education or application of law in areas where law enforcement is inconsistent. According to the study, community-led efforts tended to be the most successful in reducing or eliminating FGM in an area — particularly efforts led by women who have been victims of FGM themselves and refuse to subject their daughters to such a terrible practice. According to UNICEF, 62 percent of Nigerian girls and women say that FGM should end, and now they have their government’s support in making it happen. Officially, at least.

Note: Discussion of male circumcision is welcome in the spillover thread.

Posted in Gender, Health, Law | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Quick hit: Seventh-Grade Hijabis Ruined Rainbow Day

Rainbow Day was supposed to be a day to show school spirit — a day when each class would wear a color, and they’d all stand in lines to make a rainbow and take a picture of the rainbow, and it was going to be awesome. Not, like, a gay rainbow or anything — rainbows aren’t just for gay pride, they’re also for heavenly covenants and leprechauns and middle-school teachers who owned way too many Lisa Frank school supplies as a kid. The only thing standing in the teacher’s way: four Muslim girls in her class who showed up for Rainbow Day in black hijabs and not the purple clothes they’d been assigned.

How a group of students spoiled my celebration of inclusiveness

I felt sick. Putting them to the side would get them more attention. Sending them indoors would leave them unsupervised. So I let them stay put. I hoped desperately that they would change their minds and smile along with the whole school.

Later, I saw the photo. They had covered their faces.

That night, I cried with surprising vehemence. Was this adolescent rebellion, or had their parents put them up to it? Was it as homophobic as it appeared?

In the end, the rainbow was Photoshopped free of black figures and hung in the hall. The four girls got a stern lecture from the principal. They mumbled excuses about the wind. Calling their parents seemed pointless.

I sat the girls down in my classroom at lunch days later and explained that my idea of a rainbow included them, too. I said I was hurt that they hadn’t come to me with their concerns. Three girls looked down and shifted uncomfortably. Basma smirked. Nonetheless, our talk ended there.

[…]

Every time the girls wore purple clothing afterward (even Basma did), it stung. Upon reflection, I believe the girls’ rejection of Rainbow Day released my long-buried feelings as a friendless 10-year-old. Daydreaming about rainbows had blunted the blows of my bullies. These Muslim girls’ actions had revealed a chink in my rainbow armour.

Happy Rainbow Day! Let us celebrate diversity and inclusiveness by ‘shopping girls out of our class picture for not conforming.

Posted in Education | 10 Comments

Spillover #29

A red "Keep Calm" poster with the caption KEEP CALM AND STAY ON TOPICComments on our 28th #spillover thread have closed, so it’s time for a new one. Some reminders:

  1. #spillover is part of our comment moderation system for keeping other threads on-topic. It is intended as a constructive space for tangential discussions which are veering off-topic on other threads. This is part of our blog netiquette, which has the general goal of making it as simple as possible for commenters to find discussions focussed on topics of particular interest without entirely stifling worthwhile tangents of sorta-related or general interest. #spillover is also a space for those ongoing/endless disagreements and 101 issues that just keep on popping up.
  2. Commenters are encouraged to respect the topic of each post and be proactive regarding inevitable thread-drift in long threads: we hope that commenters will cheerfully volunteer to take off-topic responses into #spillover so that each post’s discussion gets room to breathe and tangents can be indulged in a room of their own.

More detailed outline/guidelines were laid out on Spillover #1.
The Moderator Team will enforce topicality where necessary, and off-topic commenters who ignore invitations from others to take their tangents to #spillover are one of the reasons commenters might consider sending the moderators a giraffe alert.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments

Fifty Shades of Whatever, I Don’t Even Care Anymore, Life Is Meaningless: Grey

[Content note for Fifty Shades of Grey-type consent issues and general awfulness]

In a bid to wring every last cent out of the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon, author E.L. James has released Grey, the story of Fifty Shades of Grey as told from Christian Grey’s perspective. Some readers, both fans of the series and critics, were curious about Christian’s thought process during the original books, since the story we see from Ana’s point of view was so deeply creepy that dear God, there had to be something, something, something redeeming in the backstory to make it more of an edgy, kinky romance and less of an episode of Law & Order: SVU with a private helicopter.

Well, the votes are in, and it’s official: Christian Grey really is a serial killer. Or at least he’s going to be; it’s just a matter of time. We don’t get a smidgen of self-awareness, or consequences for his actions, or the impact of his molestation at 15 by a friend of his mother, or an examination of his childhood trauma outside of the periodic flashback. I’m assuming the flashbacks are meant to make him sympathetic and explain his own abusive behavior toward Anastasia, and possibly take an edge off of the creepiness that defies description and makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Hop on Pop. It succeeds at neither of those things.

The first-person narration, particularly the inner monologue (which is pretty much the lovechild of that guy at the bar who think he’s clever because he can spin everything into a dick joke, and Ryan Phillippe trying to sound slick in Cruel Intentions), eliminates any ambiguity that the Fifty Shades story might be anything other than gross. The stalkiness? Extra stalky when you know exactly how far he went with his background check and GPS tracking. The weird initial interview? Painfully weird when you know that he had a boner the entire time and wanted to “refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop.” The creepy scene at the hardware store? So much creepier when you know that while he’s buying rope and cable ties, he’s thinking, “Maybe I’ll find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun,” and, “Oh, this is going to be fun. You’ll be amazed at what I can do with a few cable ties, baby.”

(All of that notwithstanding, it’s really not that interesting a book — a dead-boring tale of love, lust, BDSM, and a billionaire’s tortured soul. Even the detailed, yet flat and clinical, sex scenes leave you longing for the erotic energy of Ana saying “Argh!” when she gets devirginated.)

The one thing that Grey really has to its credit is that it doesn’t seem nearly the endorsement and romanticization of domestic abuse that Fifty Shades of Grey was. Rather than “Christian is abusive because he loves me so much,” the message we get from Grey (whether James intended it or not) is “Christian is a dangerous person with the power to impose his twisted views on sex and relationships on anyone without consequence, and he should be avoided at all costs.” I honestly can’t see anyone exposed to his inner thoughts thinking, “Now there’s a man I trust to tie me up and blindfold me. Where do I find a guy like that to stick peeled ginger up my butt?” While part of me feels that no one should subject themselves to the pain of reading Grey, another part feels that it should be required reading before picking up the original trilogy. It would change the story entirely.

Because Christian is so much worse than one could have feared just from reading the Fifty Shades books. It’s so bad, y’all.

One upside: For all of her ongoing, willful ignorance of BDSM, James does appear to have spent some time googling the names of expensive things in the hopes of making her super-rich protagonist comes across as super-rich. So if you want to start a drinking game around every time he name-drops Pouilly-Fume, black cod, Bollinger, Gulfstreams, Gaggias, and catamarans, you may get drunk enough to read this book. (Might I recommend a screw-cap bottle of grocery store Chardonnay with a Silly Straw in it.) Final review: gaaah stars out of eeesh.

Excerpts to ruin your day:

“She’s oil on my troubled, deep, dark waters.”

“I’m confused. I want to spank her. But she’s said no.”

“I ask, ‘Are you hungry?’ ‘Not for food,’ she teases. Whoa. She might as well be addressing my groin.”

“She has a fine, fine ass. And I’m going to make it pink… like the champagne.”

“Her sharp intake of breath is music to my dick.”

“In my closet I strip off all my clothes and from a drawer pull out my favorite jeans. My DJs. Dom jeans.”

“That girl provokes me like no one has before. And she’s pissed at me; maybe she has PMS.”

Posted in Domestic Violence, Literature | Tagged , | 6 Comments