Would You Believe I’m a Woman from Iran?

From Women in the World:

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Help me pick out my new glasses!

Let me know which one or ones you think look best!

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The Mint Garden- a place to discuss trans people’s gender

Have you ever planted mint in a well-watered garden?  Probably not more than once.  The stuff takes over, doesn’t it?  Pretty soon you have more mint than you could use in a candy factory, and you’re hacking it back, treating it like a weed.  Most people don’t mind a bit of mint,1 but most of us like other flavors, too — dill, basil, thyme, and others — and we’d like those to have places to grow without getting choked out by mint.  Also, we’d maybe like to spend our time encouraging other things to grow, and not uprooting the mint.

Sometimes, when a trans person posts something, commenters ask questions which don’t seem to come up when a cis person posts something.  The questioners are often well-intentioned.  They’re often seeking genuinely to understand.  And, when a trans person posts from an explicitly trans perspective, naturally the topic is often gender-related.  So, gender comes up in these conversations, and fair enough.  What is “a woman”? What is “a man”?  When someone is apparently, in every way, one gender, but says they’re a different gender, what does that even mean?  Is that real?  Are there caveats?

But those questioners have just planted mint in the garden.  And there’s a place for mint.  Just not where you’d like to grow the thyme and the basil.  Not in every garden.

When this happens, when a questioner wants to interrogate an aspect of gender, the trans poster can easily start to feel that it is their gender which is being interrogated, and not just the abstract concept of gender.  There are many reasons why.  Among them:

1.  Gender as an abstract notion requires an act of will, for a trans person. Gender is very specific, for us.  It has consequences, and some of them hurt.2  This disparity in life experience between cis and trans is just about the definition of the difference between a cis person and a trans person.  One excellent definition of “trans person” is “a person whose gender is not universally considered valid.”3

2.  People4 often do question the gender of trans people, and challenge it, and deride it, and try to define it.  So this is a repeating, reiterating, recapituling, recurring, life experience for trans people which happens frequently, a lot, over and over, again and again.5  If the questioner were the first, it would not be an issue.  But the questioner is the 10,000th, even though this is the particular questioner’s first visit to this garden.  That ground has been pounded flat.  It’s hard for a green shoot to gain purchase, and the people who live there are pretty tired of the dust kicked up as visitors walk around and ask Important Questions.6

3.  Some people, with every good intention, try to spin the question artfully, to ask the question about gender in general (not your specific gender, no!) in an effort not to attack a trans person, to depersonalize the interrogation.  They want to spare the trans person the pain, and so they talk about hypotheticals. But there’s no bright line, and pretty soon the trans person is aware that they are at the focus of the questioner’s attention, and the question “What is this?” is really a stand-in for “What are you?” — which is a really dicey question to ask, especially when the questioner knows what the trans person has already said on the topic.  So, well-intentioned gender-in-general conversations also become poisoned.

4.  Some people, with no good intentions at all,7 ask questions about gender in general as a rhetorical device, so that they can attack a specific person’s gender while retaining a semblance of plausible deniability.  This further poisons discussions about gender generally.

5.  These definitional questions recur again and again on trans people’s posts about all kinds of topics, but they almost never appear on cis people’s posts, unless the cis person has actually raised the topic themself. This is not a coincidence; it is a reflection of that fact that the gender of cis people is unquestioned. Individual commenters aren’t wholly to blame for this–we’re all stewing in cissexism here–but when they can’t acknowledge the pattern, trans people tend to shut down and lose interest in talking further. This is a rational, self-protective response.

So, trans people get tired of these questions.  They can be good questions.  Tasty, even.  But they have their place, and often it’s not in the comment thread below a different topic, or a more specific topic.

Sometimes you don’t want mint.

But what about the people who want mint?  Shouldn’t there be a place to enjoy the mint?

This is that place.  Welcome to the mint garden!  Rimonim and I have decided to tend this garden, and since “gender” is an enormous topic, it’s a big garden.  We can’t take credit for the underlying landscape; there are interesting sight lines and repeated themes and grand vistas and little meditative hollows.

All we’re going to try to do is keep the mint hacked down to where the view is clear.

Rimonim and I wrote what’s above a few months ago, intending to get back to it, and he was busy, and I was busy, and we hadn’t pushed it forward… and then Caitlyn Jenner transitioned and suddenly everyone is critiquing her and talking about what makes a woman and spinning off conversations.

One of those conversations is in the the recent open thread, where Christopher and dragon_snap and Phil are having what strikes me as a very careful and caring conversation on this very topic. I reproduce it here, with some formatting fixes. I’ll comment as I have time.

Christopher wrote:

I hope this isn’t somehow over the line, but I found that Vox FAQ to be, well, confusing.

I still don’t quite understand what gender identity is.

So, I actually have tried similar thought experiments to the one described at the beginning of the article; gender and sex are a minefield of complicated ideas, so I decided to imagine something fairly simple. I switched out the terms “man” and “woman” for height terms.

“Okay, I’m [six feet tall], but imagine my mind was telling me that I was [five feet tall], I might wish that I weren’t [six feet tall]…”

And I had to stop there because I was already engaging in anti-trans language. Look at what happens when I switch it back:

“Okay, I’m [a man], but imagine my mind was telling me I’m [a woman], I might wish that I weren’t [a man]…”

If I were to describe a trans woman as “a man who wishes to be a woman”, that would be considered extremely transphobic in most trans-friendly circles.

The more acceptable description seems to be that a trans man is “[A man] who was assigned [a female gender] at birth. A trans man has always been [a man] for their whole lives.”. It’s very common to hear that a trans man has always been a man, and a trans woman has always been a woman.

But if I try to turn it back around I get “I am [a five foot tall person] who was assigned [the height of six feet] at my last checkup. But I’ve always been [five feet tall]”

That’s harder for me to wrap my head around. I’m clearly using the term “five foot tall person” to refer to something other than a measurement on a ruler, but I’m not sure what that something is.

Especially when we get to this part of the article:

Keisling and Ziegler explained that not all trans people undergo medical treatments to change their physical traits, perhaps because they are comfortable with their bodies,

So a trans man may well be okay with having a (for lack of a better term) “female” body, which means that when he calls himself a man he’s not talking in terms of what his body is, or what it should be. In fact, it seems entirely possible that he may wear “women’s” clothes; I think we can all agree that a man can wear a dress and it doesn’t magically make him stop being a man.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

I’m not saying “Rargh, he’s not really a man” because in order to do that I’d first have to have a definition of what it meant to “really” be a man. And I don’t. I’d really like to know what the definition is.

dragon_snap wrote:

@ Christopher

I’m not trans, but I do have a gender identity, and as a woman, a queer person, and a trans* ally (to the best of my ability), I’ve thought about all this quite a bit.

1) You might find Julia Serano’s description of her experiences with ‘gender sadness’ illuminating. This is taken from a page on her old blog, but I highly recommend her book “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” if you are interested in transgender issues, sexism/feminism, or intersectionality.

i doubt i could adequately describe what “gender sadness” feels like to someone who is not transgendered. i suppose that in some ways it is similar to other kinds of sadness. for instance, you know that feeling you get when someone you love more than anything breaks up with you? and it’s about a month or two after the big break-up and you are trying to get on with your life. but no matter how busy you keep yourself, thoughts about that person just keep popping into your head about 100 times a day, and everytime they do you feel a bit of sadness. well that’s kind of what gender sadness felt like for me during most of my life. while i was always struggling with it, i could still go out and have a few laughs or go about my business and be relatively productive and happy for the most part. but unlike most types of sadness or grief, which tend to get a little less intense with every day that passes, gender sadness just keeps getting more and more intense. and by the year 2000, i had reached the point where the sadness felt more like what one feels on the actual day of the big break-up, when you can’t concentrate at all and you are totally consumed with thoughts of the person you loved. that’s how i felt almost every day: consumed with gender sadness. literally every other thought i had was about gender, about my pain. i could not get around it. it sucked all of the life out of me. i stopped calling friends, stopped writing songs and listening to music, i would go into work and just stare at the computer screen without really doing anything. it hurt as much as any other pain (physical or emotional) that i had ever felt before. and i knew there was only one way to ease that pain: transitioning.

2) It might be helpful to consider that different aspects of a person’s identity are of varying importance to different people. For instance, to some people, their nationality might be an important part of their self-concept, self-image, and their sense of who they are (i.e. their identity). For some others, their nationality may be only a very small portion of of what they consider to be their core self. The same can be said of pretty much any other trait or attribute – religious background, sexuality, profession, ethnicity, (dis)ability, family role, etc. And of course, it likewise applies to gender idenity. For instance, though I have a fairly specific and narrow range of gender expressions within which I am comfortable, I don’t have a strong innate gender identity (though I identify ‘politically’ – for lack of a better term – as a woman, and with womanhood, due to the historical and current myriad issues with sexism, strict gender roles, etc). I sometime describe my gender identity as ‘shy’, because if I ‘put it in the spotlight’ by thinking about it too hard or too long, I end up feeling uncomfortable and upset. It’s pretty neutral or androgynous though I think, and somewhat fluid. (Sometimes I feel like ‘one of the boys’, and sometimes like ‘one of the girls’.) It’s also worth noting though that I feel very much at home in AFAB (assigned female at birth) body, and I identify strongly as cissexual.

3) There are many aspects of a person’s biological sex. Some of the main facets:

– hormones: estrogen and progesterone vs. testosterone
– hormone cycles: approximately monthly vs. daily
– chromosomes: there are two sex chromosomes, X and Y, and many configurations of one or more copies of the X chromosome and zero or more copies of the Y chromosome in humans. Chromosomal testing is very rare, so we don’t really have good data at all about how common the various arrangements are in general, or how they correlate – if at all – with being cisgender, transgender, and/or intersex.
– secondary sexual characteristics, eg: breasts vs. facial hair and deepened voice
– primary sexual characteristics: genitalia
– gametes: egg cells vs. sperm cells

Now if a trans woman, for instance, has the hormones, hormonal cycle, secondary sexual characteristics, and genitals commonly associated with being female, unknown chromosomes, and no male gametes in her body, there is a very strong case to be made for her to be considered ‘biologically female’, and it certainly would be very difficult to assert that she was ‘biologically male’. Moreover, many cisgender people lack one or more of the listed factors (eg, post-menopausal women, men who have received radiation therapy, women who have had a mastectomy, etc.), yet we would not consider them to be less ‘qualified’ to be considered ‘biologically’ female or male, as applicable, nor would we doubt their experience of their subjective gender.

Many trans people have spoken or written about their experiences with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in similar terms to the following memorable passage (emphasis in the original):

I’ve been on estrogen for nearly eleven weeks, and I still count down the hours (seven) until I can take my next dose. […] It’s hard to describe, but everything just feels more natural now that my mind and body are no longer flooded with testosterone. It’s as though after 23 years, I have finally stopped trying to fill up a diesel car with unleaded gas. My brain was made to run on estrogen.

As well, I think it’s worth noting as well that many trans people experience body dysphoria and social dysphoria as distinct but related phenomena, which they they may experience at different levels of severity. Additionally, there are a great many physical changes that can be effected via HRT, electrolysis, and various non-genital surgeries. And of course there’s really no way to tell what genitalia someone has without looking at them naked from the waist down — which really never comes up an interactions with someone who isn’t an in-person intimate partner, and sometimes not even then!

Sorry my comment was so long; I hope there was some stuff in there that was helpful or interesting.

Phil wrote:

I want to write a comment here that discusses a question that Christopher raised and also some of my own mental stumbling blocks when it comes to trans issues and gender issues. I do not intend to be impolite, but it is possible my comment here may be triggering for people who are struggling with these issues in a more personal way.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

This is a question that I’m honestly trying to find a meaningful answer for.

I understand, as a writer and a progressive and a person who generally doesn’t want to cause people harm, that it is polite to refer to a trans woman as a woman, to use the pronouns that she prefers, and to use the name that she requests. I have no problem with that, and I understand that this use of language might be more than just politeness but might contribute to a space where someone feels safer.

In other words, I don’t want to sound transphobic or to do things that are transphobic. But, on another level, I don’t want to be transphobic. I can say that Janet Mock (for example) is a woman, but it feels like I’m being dishonest unless I also believe that Janet Mock is a woman.

Now, I don’t hold the belief that Janet Mock is a man, or that she is not a woman, or that being trans is a third sex. But if I’m going to hold the belief that she is a woman, then I feel like I need to understand what a woman is such that Janet Mock fits the criteria.

This might sound like a transphobic thing to say, and if it does, I’m sorry, but for me, finding out the answer to that question is the key to not being transphobic.

At the moment, the best I can glean is that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman (and a man is a person who identifies as a man). That’s functional from a rhetorical perspective, but it does render some common narratives illogical. (How can you, as a child, feel like “a person who identifies as a woman” — there must be something more, beyond simple identification, such that a person can reasonably say, “I have always known I was a woman” or “I have always known I was a man.” Or, “I did not change from being a man to being a woman, I changed what I identified as,” etc.)

The Guardian essay says this about Rachel Dolezal:

Dolezal might feel an enormous affinity to blackness – so much that she decided to identify as black – but her decision to occupy that identity is one that was forged through her exposure to black culture, not a fundamental attribute of her existence.

I feel like the Guardian essay engages in the logical fallacy of question-begging: Rachel Dolezal is not black because she is only choosing to identify as black, but trans people are the gender they identify as because they actually are that gender.


So. At least two trans people (Rimonim and I) will be participating in this thread. Other trans people are welcome, too. However, since this is a thread for people to ask questions which may be shredding, fellow trans people, please participate only if you’re feeling sufficiently callused. Please look after your own resources and do not use up spoons you need for something essential.

Cis people are welcome, too (indeed, essential to the effort, since your questions are explicitly centered). We would appreciate it if you would make an effort not to be cruel, but we do want this to be a thread where people can interrogate matters like those I mentioned at the top. So, please do the best you can, and if you say something awkward, or poorly-phrased, or weirdly-conceived, we trans people will do our best to engage with it anyway.

All people, please remember that each of us only actually has one perspective. No single person has all the answers, and no single person can embody all of whatever it means to be “trans” or “cis” or “male” or “female” or “bi-gender”, or what-have-you.

Lived experience counts for a lot. If someone says that something happened to them and you don’t understand it, ask for clarification. DO NOT declare it to be impossible. Example: in a recent online discussion, Dana Beyer, who is an out trans woman who was assigned male at birth, casually referenced a traumatic incident in her life: her first period. Commenters scoffed and declared that it was patently impossible for a trans woman to have a period, and therefore everything she had said was suspect. Had they bothered to try to understand, they could have asked her. Or they could have googled her name and a few keywords, and discovered the key to understanding her comment: that Beyer is Intersex, and when she hit puberty, the unseen and unguessed-at uterine tissue in her abdomen started doing what uterine tissue does, and sloughed tissue… through the only aperture structurally available to it, her penis.

So, please, ALL people: when someone reports a life experience which you don’t understand, strap on your best humility and try, before you render judgement. Thanks.

I really hope we can have a good discussion. Again, welcome.


  1. I love mint. []
  2. So we’re clear:  not just hurt like “that hurt my feelings” (though heaven knows that’s corrosive enough as an hourly diet) but hurt like “those broken bones are going to cost a lot of money and keep me out of work.” []
  3. Hat tip to http://nodesignation.wordpress.com/definitions/ []
  4. and not always cis people []
  5. It is, so that you cannot mistake my meaning, something which trans people experience a very great deal. []
  6. Sometimes that ground is pounded and salted so hard that even well-watered mint won’t take hold; Jan Morris, upon being asked for an interview, is reported to have replied with one sentence: “When I hear the word ‘gender’ I reach for my pistol.” []
  7. at least, not toward the trans person []
Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 115 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Gerrymandered Edition


  1. “Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.”
  2. How to make sense of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP official accused of passing for black – Vox
  3. There is no comparison between transgender people and Rachel Dolezal | Meredith Talusan | Comment is free | The Guardian
  4. I pretty much never get tired of the cerulean sweater scene from The Devil Wears Prada. What scenes can you watch over and over? Provide a link, if you can.
  5. Decoded | Are Fried Chicken & Watermelon Racist? | MTV News – YouTube
  6. An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts | Whatever
  7. Stop Trying to Make Conservative Feminism Happen – Amanda Marcotte
  8. Some people say that Hitler is never funny, but this cartoon totally cracked me up.
  9. Terminal Lance – Terminal Lance “Offended II” A cartoon by a vet responding to the “Caitlyn Jenner isn’t brave, soldiers are brave” meme. The essay following the cartoon is great.
  10. Comics Pro John Byrne Compares Transgender People to Pedophiles In Conversation With Fans On His Online Forum | The Mary Sue Byrne’s approach is as pure an example of JAQing off as I’ve ever seen.
  11. DC Comics’ Batgirl writers are rewriting one of their issues to remove transphobic art. I hope they did a good job of it.
  12. Speaking of transgender characters in comics, one of my favorite webcomics right now is the wonderful As The Crow Flies, by Melanie Gillman. Melanie has a Patreon to support this comic.
  13. 9 questions about gender identity and being transgender you were too embarrassed to ask – Vox“> This seems like a good basic FAQ to me, but of course, I’m cis, so there may be things I’m missing.
  14. How a new generation of activists is trying to make abortion normal – The Washington Post
  15. White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement -
  16. I’m in an Age-Gap Marriage, and Yes, Pairing Younger Actresses with Older Male Leads IS a Problem | The Mary Sue
  17. Should the dragons on ‘Game of Thrones’ have feathers?
  18. Caitlyn Jenner: transgender community has mixed reactions to Vanity Fair reveal
  19. Anti-Gay Pastor Rick Scarborough Says 40,000 People Will Go To Jail To Defy SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling| Gay News | Towleroad I think I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand how they think this will work – that is, how on earth does one get arrested in defiance of a pro-gay marriage ruling? Are they planning to trespass on same-sex wedding ceremonies until the cops drag them off the alter?
  20. Time for a New Suitcase: Airlines Want to Make Your Carry-On Bag Even Smaller
  21. On The Incident In McKinney, Texas, And The Black Girls Who Survive
  22. Military’s transgender ban based on bad medical science, say medical scientists
  23. Republican senator criticizes Obamacare on the grounds that Obamacare subsidies are awesome
  24. Voluntary Intoxication and Responsibility
  25. A Debate on Online Political Discourse — Medium This exchange between Freddie deBoer and the excelent Jay Caspian Kang was excellent. It’s refreshing to see deBoer disagreeing with someone without holding them in contempt. Via Veronica.
  26. New Evidence That Voter ID Laws are Racially Biased. The more white people in a state believe in racial stereotypes, the more likely that state is to have strict voter ID laws.
  27. How Automatic Voter Registration Would Change America The problem with this argument is that, even if people are automatically registered to vote, that doesn’t mean many of them will actually vote. I’m in favor of AVR, but I don’t think it’ll have large effects.
  28. Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over It — Medium “The attacks on Jenner’s femininity represent transmisogyny and femmephobia because there is a glaring double standard here. You won’t hear a famous cisgender female movie actress accused of being too feminine or a stereotype for wearing a dress.”
  29. Ban Noncompete Agreements. Do It Now. Noncompete agreements being used to bully low-paid cashiers and the like – and that these agreements are in effect legal because no one expects them to be enforced with a lawsuit – is pretty disgusting.
  30. Arizona mosque invites armed anti-Muslim protestors, including a dude in a “Fuck Islam,” shirt, to join them in prayer.
  31. It’s Time To Bring Back Baby Cages: Gothamist (Link Via.)


Posted in Link farms | 190 Comments  

I Stand By Irene Gallo

“Nielsen-Haydens, your fellow travelers, and media goombahs . . . I MOCK YOU! I MOCK YOUR ASININE INCESTUOUS CLUSTERFUCKED LITTLE CULTURE OF DOCTRINAIRE PROGRESSOSEXUAL MEDIOCRITY MASKED AS SUPERIORITY! You are all dolts. You are moral and physical cowards. You are without ethics, without scruples, and if you weren’t so patently pathetic, I’d say you might be dangerous.

Fuck you. Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.”

So that was Brad Torgersen, talking about two editors at the science fiction publisher Tor. Torgersen is the leader of the “Sad Puppies,” the public face of a bunch of right-wing science fiction writers whose proudest achievement is gaming the Hugo award nominations this year.

(Note also the homophobic “pink and poofy” comment. Not Torgersen’s first homophobic comment, either.)

So that’s the kind of rhetoric Puppies engage in.

Well, okay, it happens. I’m not bothered by Torgersen losing his temper – almost everyone does, in these situations. (I am icked, but not at all surprised, by Torgersen’s homophobic comments.)

So, anyway, Irene Gallo, who (I think) is in charge of cover design at the science fiction publisher Tor (which has published more than one Puppy author), was asked on her personal Facebook page “what are the Sad Puppies?” Gallo replied:

There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

This is impolite, and hyperbolic, and you could argue it’s inaccurate as well. For instance, one could argue that Rabid Puppy leader Vox Day is not literally a neo-nazi, but merely a vicious fascistic racist misogynistic trans-and-gay-hating anti-semite.  I think that’s a specious distinction, because many English speakers use “neo-nazi” to refer to racist anti-semitic fascists in general, whether or not the person in question has actually joined the Nazi party; but it’s a distinction that reasonable people might make.

And, in my opinion, the primary goal of the Puppies isn’t to end social justice in sf/f, but merely to find a way to win a prestigious writing award without having to earn it through merit. (That’s certainly what the history suggests). But reasonable people might disagree.

A lot of Puppies have been arguing that it’s unfair to refer to Sad Puppies like Torgersen as “neo-nazi.” But Gallo straight-out didn’t do that; she called the Rabid Puppies neo-nazi, not the Sad Puppies.

It’s true that she refers to the puppies collectively as “unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.” Although probably this isn’t true of every single Puppy, it’s no more unfair to characterize the Puppies by their leaders’ statements than it is unfair to characterize  Republicans by the positions of George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.  And multiple Puppy leaders have said things that can be fairly interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic, or all three.

And certainly, that all the Puppy nominated works were terrible is a reasonable opinion to hold.

I don’t think the way Gallo wrote would be a good way to open a respectful dialog with a Puppy supporter. But that’s fine, because Gallo was writing on her personal Facebook page. She’s not obligated to pitch her words to Brad Torgersen’s or Vox Day’s oh-so-delicate ears.

That was back on May 11. Vox Day screencaped it immediately, but didn’t publicize it until he could use it to create a distraction from the Nebula Awards. So he tweeted it, and his loyal followers exploded in the predictable way, many of them (including Day himself) demanding Gallo’s “resignation.”

Tor’s founder, Tom Doherty, responded with a blog post that sucked up to the Puppy narrative and apologized:

We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views.  Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.

Okay, enough summary. (A fuller summary can be found on BlackGate). A few thoughts:

1) As many people have pointed out, Doherty seems to have a notable – and sexist – double-standard. Harry Connolly writes:

For years, Tor editor Jim Frenkel was widely known as a serial sexual harasser at conventions. What was done about it? Not much, for a very long time. Eventually, he was encouraged to resign after the public outcry became too much, which was announced with typical corporate blandness.

Last year, Tor contracts manager Sean Fodera publicly attacked one of Tor’s authors, Mary Robinette Kowal, in a typically gross and sexist way. […]

Did Tor CEO Tom Doherty release a letter apologizing publicly for Frenkel’s or Fodera’s behavior, while insisting that they should have been smarter about separating the personal from the professional? Of course not. For one thing, Frenkel’s shitty behavior happened while he was representing Tor Books at public events. For another, they were dudes and their victims were women.

However, it took Doherty less than 24 hours to issue a letter of apology for Gallo’s comment on her personal Facebook…

2) Trying to get someone fired because of their political opinions is terrible.

We can have a country in which people can feel safe and secure while stating political opinions. Or we can have a country where people live in fear and are subject to losing their livelihoods if they ever say anything that gets people angry. Everyone who is now trying to get Irene Gallo fired for what she said on Facebook has shown they favor the second option.

3) Prominent Puppy Dave Freer once wrote:

We should look rather harshly on anyone who takes their grudge – whatever it is, and says ‘gee I don’t like Joe Writer. I can’t get at him any other way, but let’s hurt his ability to make a living. That’ll teach him.’  […]

So far, to best of my knowledge, the Puppies, both sad and rabid, and their followers have avoided attacking things which make people a living.

Freer has changed his tune now that so many Puppies are calling for a boycott against Tor until Irene Gallo resigns or is fired. Freer doesn’t explicitly advocate the boycott, to be sure; but he weasels out of opposing it, and adds “I will hold off on buying any books from them in the meanwhile.”

Hopefully Freer will return to the principles he once claimed to believe in.

4) Happily, I’ve seen many people in the sf/f community stand by Gallo. A chorus I’m pleased to join.

5) I’m going to end by quoting Chuck Wendig at length; his entire post is excellent.

I find it no small irony that both the Sad and Rabid Puppies — who so strongly espouse freedom of speech, would then endeavor to rob that from Irene Gallo unless, gasp, we’re talking about another double-standard in play? It’s almost like women get treated differently in the world and held to different standards… hmm. *strokes beard thoughtfully*

Regardless of whether or not you agree with what she said, the fact remains: her publisher publicly rubbed her nose in the mess, then threw her under a bus, then threw her body to a pack of wolves. Again: publicly. Not privately. Perhaps this was all part of some legal stratagem or even a legal necessity — but what it feels like is an entreaty by the publisher to appease folks who believe and opine about really horrible things. And any time you want to make sure that your “inclusiveness” includes the most awful amongst us, please understand you’re not creating a safe space for anybody but the abusers. It’s like putting up a sign in your flowerbed: POISON IVY WELCOME.

I stand by Irene Gallo because she is a person who has the right to air her personal sentiments, regardless of whether or not we find them disagreeable. She has that right without being smacked across the nose by her employer in a sanctioned public shaming. I do not agree with Tor’s posturing on this point because it represents a double-standard of sexism and favoritism. I do not agree with Tor because they are opening the tent flap to the worst among us.

Posted in Civility & norms of discourse, Feminism, sexism, etc, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., norms of discourse | 77 Comments  

Cartoon: Gay Bullies

I got paid to make this cartoon because of my Patreon supporters. Thanks, patrons!


Transcript of cartoon

Panel 1
There are two women talking. One has streaks dyed in her hair; the other has black hair.
STREAKS: We can’t talk about gay rights without talking about the history of homophobia which–

Panel 2
STREAKS: Pardon me?
BLACK: Anyone who disagrees with the queer agenda gets called a “homophobic,” “intolerant” “bigot!” That’s BULLYING!

Panel 3
STREAKS: Look, I’m not talking about you. It’s not personal. But can I talk about the general social context?
BLACK: Of course!

Panel 4
STREAKS: Great! Like I was saying, in a context of bigotry and homopho–


Posted in Cartooning & comics, Civility & norms of discourse, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues | 17 Comments  

Cartoon: Police Shootings, or Oh The Tragedy!

Transcript of cartoon

Each panel of this cartoon shows the same white dude in an armchair, from the same angle, watching the news on TV. Small details change throughout the cartoon – his hairline recedes, his drink changes, he switches from watching an old-fashioned thick TV to watching on a laptop to watching on a flatscreen – but the essential scene never changes. The man doesn’t seem very interested in the news, and in one panel he even dozes off.

Panel 1
TV: In today’s news, Prince Jones, an unarmed Black man, was shot to death when police mistook him for another man.

Panel 2
TV: Alberta Sprull, an unarmed Black woman, was killed by a concussion grenade thrown during a police raid.

Panel 3
TV: …almost ten percent of young black men are in prison, most often for non-violent drug offenses.

Panel 4
TV: …police say that Stansbury, age 19, was shot “by accident.” The officer was suspended for 30 days.

Panel 5
TV: …judge acquitted three officers who fired fifty shots into the car of Sean Bell, the night before Bell’s wedding.

Panel 6
TV: …despite economic growth, Black unemployment remains nearly twice as high as unemployment for whites…

Panel 7
TV: Deaunta Farrow, age 12, was shot when… Tarika Wilson, age 26…

Panel 8
This panel is divided into 17 sub-panels, getting smaller and smaller as they go on, implying a potentially endless number of panels. In each panel, the TV is speaking.
TV: …Oscar Grant was handcuffed face-down when police… Shem Walker… Kiwane Carrington… Manuel Loggins Jr…. Rekia Boyd… Reynaldo Cuevas… Kimani Gray… Eric Garner… Freddie Gray….

Panel 9
Suddenly the white dude looks engaged and outraged, leaping up from the armchair and pointing furiously at the TV.
TV: Private Property was damaged today when a protest turned into a riot…

* * *

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Posted in Cartooning & comics, police brutality, Prisons and Justice and Police, Race, racism and related issues | 46 Comments  

Hugo 2014 Graphic Story Nominees

hugo-nominees-graphic-storyThe Graphic Story Nominees are a nearly puppy-free category; four of the five nominees didn’t come from puppies. The five nominated works are (in order of my ranking):

  1. Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  2. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
  3. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  4. Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  5. The remaining nominee, The Zombie Nation by Carter Reid, I’m going to regretfully rank below “no award.”

Although – as you’ll see – I have criticisms of all these works, I also think this is one of the best Hugo lists I’ve seen in this category. All four non-puppy nominees are standout mainstream comics, entertaining and well crafted.

Of the sf/f comics I’ve read that came out in 2014, my favorite – combining wonderful craftsmanship, idiosyncratic and enjoyable drawings, and a strange writing style that takes a ton of science fiction and superhero tropes and smashes them in a blender to come up with something new – was The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple.

wrenchies010-11Look at those faces! Simultaneously grotesque and looking just like ordinary boys we’ve all seen. All of this is very distinctively Dalrymple: The painterly but (mostly) desaturated colors, the crows, the characters who look as if they might be ill, the gorgeously rendered world. He’s pretty and ugly at the same time, and that’s a neat trick to pull off.

“Idiosyncratic” is the word for this whole graphic novel – there’s just no one out there like Dalrymple. If I could, I’d vote for it for a Hugo. (I did vote for it for a couple of comics industry awards.)1

(The rest of this post is below the fold, because ridiculously long.)

Continue reading

  1. There were a few 2014 comics I liked better than The Wrenchies, especially This One Summer, but they were not sf/f . []
Posted in Cartooning & comics | 2 Comments  

Open Thread And Link Farm: Don’t Hurt The Ducks Edition

  1. The Pencilsword: On a plate – The Wireless Excellent cartoon by Aussie cartoonist Toby Morris, about how our birth (or, rather, who we’re born to) determines our life chances.
  2. Lawsplainer: What the Supreme Court Didn’t Decide About True Threats in Elonis | Popehat
  3. What would a reasonable religious freedom law look like? | Kelly Thinks Too Much
  4. I’ve been gently arguing with some Sad Puppies about Ms Marvel (the hugo-nominated superhero graphic novel about a Mulsim teen who gains superpowers) on TL Knighton’s blog.
  5. My daughter dressed like Elsa from “Frozen” for 23 days — and it was amazing – Salon.com
  6. The Columbia rape denialists are straight up conspiracy theorists And, a related link: I Am Not a ‘Pretty Little Liar’
  7. Sorry, evolutionary psychology buffs. A new paper suggests that our caveman ancestors were egalitarian. The title is an exaggeration, but there’s still stuff of interest here.
  8. Tim Minchin – If I Didn’t Have You – Full Uncut Version – YouTube I wish I were married to Sarah Minchin.
  9. The Bristol Board : Photo I love this Pogo strip from 1959. I pretty much love it anytime a great cartoonist plays with word balloons.
  10. My Cartoons At A May Day Festival In Israel!
  11. Against Being Against Manspreading The mostly feminist campaign against “manspreading” has led to fat-shaming and to giving police another excuse to harass minority men.
  12. “States with the highest number of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes and least supportive policies for women and children….” | Center for Reproductive Rights
  13. Birth Control That Works Too Well | The Nation “A Colorado program to give low-income teens long-acting contraception dropped the teen abortion rate dramatically. But conservatives refuse to fund it.”
  14. Families don’t balance their budgets, and neither should the federal government – Vox
  15. Snowden and the NSA – The Atlantic
  16. All (hopefully) of the bad arguments about rape on Game of Thrones debunked, and Another major character is raped on Game of Thrones. This time, it works for the story., both written by Amanda Marcotte. I’m sort of late on posting this, because I only just watched it, but I agree with most of Amanda’s take.
  17. The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking” – Vox
  18. I will have fedoras and never apologise to anyone | anthropolatry From the title, I was expecting this post to be a defense of wearing fedoras – and yes, I realize that the hats people call fedoras are often actually trilbys – and a pushback against the practice of fashion-sneering at people who wear fedoras/trilbys, and I clicked on it for that reason, because I loath fashion-sneering. But it’s actually about something else – arguing that people on all sides should be willing to give other people a break when they say something terrible in an angry rant – but I thought that was interesting, too.
  19. Study: Each new immigrant creates 1.2 new jobs – Vox
  20. Paid Leave Goes from Progressive Pipe Dream to Political Reality | The New Republic
  21. Hook-up culture vs. rape culture: The conversation we’re not having
  22. 4 Reasons Why Feminism Is for Men — Medium


Posted in Link farms | Comments Off  

Effective Altruism


Effective altruism reading material for busy people is a useful link-list for people who’d like a quick guide to the Effective Altruism (also called EA) movement.

Here’s a quote from an EA primer by Scott Siskind, which is included in the link-list:

But they are decidedly not natural when facing a decision about charitable giving. Most donors say they want to “help people”. If that’s true, they should try to distribute their resources to help people as much as possible. Most people don’t. In the “Buy A Brushstroke” campaign, eleven thousand British donors gave a total of ÂŁ550,000 to keep the famous painting “Blue Rigi” in a UK museum. If they had given that ÂŁ550,000 to buy better sanitation systems in African villages instead, the latest statistics suggest it would have saved the lives of about one thousand two hundred people from disease. Each individual $50 donation could have given a year of normal life back to a Third Worlder afflicted with a disabling condition like blindness or limb deformity..

Most of those 11,000 donors genuinely wanted to help people by preserving access to the original canvas of a beautiful painting. And most of those 11,000 donors, if you asked, would say that a thousand people’s lives are more important than a beautiful painting, original or no. But these people didn’t have the proper mental habits to realize that was the choice before them, and so a beautiful painting remains in a British museum and somewhere in the Third World a thousand people are dead.

If you are to “love your neighbor as yourself”, then you should be as careful in maximizing the benefit to others when donating to charity as you would be in maximizing the benefit to yourself when choosing purchases for a polar trek.

This is the sort of thing I find tremendously alienating, because it sets up supporting the arts, or supporting historic artifacts, as a bad thing. This is pretty common among EA rhetoric, I suspect because many EA people genuinely don’t care about art – especially “high” art – and think that people who do care are just preening for attention.

It’s true, of course, that money is fungible and therefore ten bucks donated to preserve a painting could instead have been used to protect three to six people from malaria for six years. But the same could also be said about the money spent on a video game, or on internet access, or on taking a trip, or eating out with friends, or on going to a movie, or anything else that EA folks might like doing. There isn’t an either-or choice between giving to help the needy and supporting the arts, any more than there’s an either-or choice between giving to help the needy and occasionally going out to a movie. Most people in a position to give to charity, can do both.

Unless the expectation is that 100% of every person’s money beyond the bare minimum needed for survival must be spent on saving lives, it seems weird that EA people often pick on the arts in particular. To be honest, this is the sort of thing that made me go “fuck EA!” when I first heard about it.

Nonetheless, I do like giving money to help people in need. And, given that this is one of my goals, I definitely want to give that money in a way that will be the most helpful possible. I think EA’s evidence-based approach is great, and I’m glad sites like The Life You Can Save and Givewell exist and can help me make decisions.

I don’t think I’d like it if EA guided everyone’s donations to charity. I don’t feel certain that the metrics they use are necessarily correct. Evidence-based is good, but sometimes evidence-based thinking is vulnerable to the streetlight effect. A scattershot approach, in which people use a zillion different approaches to deciding what charities to give to, is less vulnerable to the streetlight effect than a focused approach.

But in the real world, not everyone uses EA’s approach, and it’s not realistic to worry that everyone will. And so I find EA a useful and positive movement. And I do think that it’s a good idea for a large number of people (but short of everyone) to give to charity based on where their money can do the most good for the greatest number of people.

Anyway, as it happens, I’ve been put in charge of giving away $5000 to the charities of my choice. I was thinking of using The Life You Can Save’s Best Charities to Donate to page as a guide, probably giving the largest amounts to Against Malaria and to The Fistula Foundation, and smaller amounts to some other charities there. But I’d be interested in anyone’s else’s thoughts or suggestions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off