Monday, August 26, 2013

Women's Equality Day

Mother Jones posted this on Facebook. The comments are interesting.

The split personality of the second March on Washington

On Saturday, 50 years after the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a commemorative march took place.
Ari Berman says this recent march marks the emergence of a new civil rights movement. Berman's colleague at The Nation,  Dave Zirin is not so sure.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation used Saturday's march as a an occasion for organizing. Meanwhile, over at Black Agenda Report,  editor-in-chief Glen Ford describes the inclusion of President Obama in this year's march as a betrayal of everything the original march stood for.

Meanwhile, another commemorative march is scheduled for the actual 50th anniversary of the first march on August 28.

Our war did not liberate them

Thanks to Feminist Peace Network for sharing a link to this CounterPunch post about the failure of the US-led war effort to free the women of Afghanistan.

As Mohadesa Najumi writes:
Ask a women in Wardak or Kandahar if she feels the “liberation” of the western intervention and she will look at you with bewilderment. This is because the bells of freedom do not reverberate through Afghanistan. 87% of women continue to be illiterate. As many as 80% have faced forced marriages and life expectancy is 44 years. Why dont Oxfam or ActionAid publish these statistics? Or are they too telling of the failed war on Afghanistan? These figures are ones that expose Afghan women as the biggest losers of the war.

Laura Bush said it was the duty of the humane world to alleviate of the plight of women and children. Yet alleviate they did not.. 18 billion dollars and an occupation later, 1 in 4 children before they turn five and Afghanistan is still the worst place in the world for a woman to give birth. It may not even be wrong to argue that the situation has since exasperated. All the money, time and “noble” rhetoric did not manifest into reality. And the western world is still scared today to admit they failed Afghan women.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The price of heroism

I am sorry and shocked, but not necessarily surprised, to learn that Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing information to Wikileaks that showed evidence of US war crimes. Manning released an eloquent statement in response to the sentence. The statement is reproduced in its entirety below. This text is a rush transcript posted by Common Dreams, and refers to Manning's decision to seek a pardon from President Obama:
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We've been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we've had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
The Bradley Manning Support Network has a link to a petition in support of a pardon for Manning.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oh, cool.

Really, this won't crack my cynicism about Facebook, but I just found this on Facebook, which led me to the annotated online version of Dyke, A Quarterly.


A complicated mess

I'm actually rather cynical about Facebook, and don't log on there much. But when I do, I often find some amazing stuff. For instance, Kathleen Barry and Feminist Peace Movement both linked to this extraordinary post. Here's a short sample:
We, the undersigned 1960s radical feminists and current activists, have been concerned for some time about the rise within the academy and mainstream media of “gender theory,” which avoids naming men and the system of male supremacy as the beneficiaries of women’s oppression. Our concern changed to alarm when we learned about threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender.

Recent developments: A U.S. environmental organization that also calls itself radical feminist is attacked for its political analysis of gender. Feminist conferences in the U.K., U.S. and Canada are driven from their contracted locations for asserting the right of women to organize for their liberation separately from men, including M>F (male to female) transgendered people.

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) reports1 that queer activists defaced its published materials and trans activists threatened individual DGR members with arson, rape and murder. Bookstores are pressured not to carry DGR’s work and its speaking events are cancelled after protests by queer/transgender activists. At “RadFem” conferences in London2, Portland3 and Toronto4, trans activists accuse scheduled speakers of hate speech and/or being transphobic because they dare to analyze gender from a feminist political perspective. Both M>F transgender people and “men’s rights” groups, operating separately but using similar language, demand to be included in the Rad Fem 2013 conference in London called to fight against women’s oppression and for liberation.
I'm too tired to do justice to this topic tonight. In some ways, I have a lot of empathy with trans activists. In my own life, the question "Are you a boy or a girl?" has been a life-or-death issue. I don't doubt that trans people face violence and threats. But ultimately, I think the idea of "transgender" reinforces gender instead of undermining it. And I believe that people born into female-sexed bodies have the right to organize female-only space as a matter of resistance to our oppression.

That's not hate. That's a political opinion that trans activists strongly disagree with.

My admiration for the radical feminist post is tempered by a peculiar circumstance. it seems that the current operators of may have scooped up a Web address that the original operators inadvertently allowed to expire. The original Pandagon now appears at

One of the original Pandagon folks, Amanda Marcotte, reacted with outrage to this. (Hat tip to Feminist Peace Network on Facebook for that link.) It's not clear exactly what connection the current operators of have to the authors of the radical feminist post, but it's a disquieting situation. I'm sad to see this difficult issue of gender politics blurred by this sort of confusion. It almost looks as if some radical feminists tried to get attention for their position (which I very much support and admire) by trying to make it appear that it came from people who are actually their political opponents.

I can't at all agree with Amanda Marcotte's characterization of radical feminists as "transphobic bigots," but I don't blame her for being pissed off that her url was swiped.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fighting back against online sexism

Hat tip to Spinifex Press for posting this commentary by social psychologist Brianne Hastie about the persistence of online woman-hating and the need to resist it:
Rather than sticking with the commonly advocated refrain of “don’t feed the trolls”, women (and other minority groups) are starting to bite back against this online abuse. Increasingly, bloggers are calling on women to sink to the level of misogynists and out their attackers.

An abusive email sent to Feministing from a university student email address – which just happened to belong to the public relations officer for the Republican club of Southern Illinois University College in the US – is just one example. He was outed and various faculty members were contacted by blog supporters. As a result, he was removed from the Republican club and made a public apology on the blog comments (although this was more of a “sorry to have been caught” than a “sorry I did it”).

Criado-Perez and Creasy’s treatment has resulted in the arrest of one man on harassment charges and forced Twitter to address the way abusive tweets are reported.

A recent campaign targeting Facebook resulted in a commitment from them to address gender hate as strictly as other forms on their site.

Hastie reports that Caroline Criado-Perez (mentioned in the block quote above) was brutally threatened with rape and murder on Twitter because of her campaign to put novelist Jane Austen on the 10 pound note.

This definitely belongs in the "stranger than fiction category." As Rebecca Mead writes for the New Yorker, "Who could object to the honoring of genteel, beloved Jane?" As Hastie and Mead both report, quite a few somebodies could. And in this case, resistance has proved both necessary and effective.