On Hugos and the No-Award Option

The rules don't explicitly forbid it!

The rules don’t explicitly forbid it!

Winning the Hugo requires winning a two-stage process of voting. First a work is one of five winners of the nomination stage, and then one of those five wins the final stage.

The Puppy-nominated works did not legitimately win the first round of voting; therefore it is impossible for them to legitimately win the Hugos. Therefore, I intend to vote “no award” over any slate-nominated work, including works I personally enjoyed.

Imagine a race that’s in two stages. In stage one, the athletes run an obstacle course, each in their own lane, leaping over hurdles. The athletes who make it through the obstacle course fastest then compete in a footrace to determine the winner.

The Puppies noticed that there’s no rule explicitly forbidding spectators knocking down hurdles, and so they knocked down the hurdles in their favorite athlete’s lanes. And of course, those athletes ran the obstacle course the fastest.

Now we’re at the start line of the second stage. And now the puppies are telling me that how these athletes ended up reaching the second stage of the race doesn’t matter.

With all due respect, ARE YOU FRAKKING KIDDING ME?

Posted in In the news | 17 Comments  

The Follies of Gin in “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”

gin-and-other-options

So, I have been thinking about my story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” for obvious reasons. I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about that story than probably anything else I’ve ever written, which is amusing, given how short it is. On the plus side, that makes textual analysis relatively simple.

There are a lot of legitimate critiques of “Dinosaur” and I’m cool with people disliking it. I’m not cool with some other stuff that’s going on, but I don’t have a problem with people disliking it. (Which, for the record, is not limited to the puppies – the story actually has a mixed track record with “SJWs”. It was initially rejected by a market specializing in “diverse” fiction, as being too much like other queer fiction that’s been done before, and therefore not really surprising. Nick Mamatas dislikes it on aesthetic grounds, although I’m not sure if he counts as an SJW or not. Etcetera.)

Anyway, I have thinky thoughts about a lot of the story, and maybe I’ll write those down at some point. But maybe not, because internet arguments, meh.

What I wanted to address in this post is the criticism of my use of the word “gin.” The assailants in the story are described as gin-soaked.

This has been interpreted as a class marker. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to this, as some of the framing of the way it was brought up was irritating. However, that doesn’t really matter. If it’s a problem, it’s a problem.

I will say that I did not intend “gin” to be a class marker. My primary association with gin is hipsters. I have friends who make their own. (I pictured a college bar when I was writing the story, although I didn’t want that image—or any distinct markers–to be in the story itself.) My secondary association with gin is bathtub gin as discussed in musicals about the 1920s. My third is the inappropriate anecdote that Eliza tells about gin in My Fair Lady–which, I suppose, should have clued me into the class association.

I did not want the assailants to be marked at all, except that they were into beating people up with flimsy excuses, an activity of which I disapprove.

So: what can I do? My intent to not be classist isn’t significant. Some of my previous trespasses have been totally unintentional, such as the fact that the dwarf in “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” is easily read as an evil stereotype. (My intention was that, since the main character is evil, her judgment is unreliable.) Readers of Alas, a Blog brought that to my attention after the story had been published. I apologized but didn’t revise–it would have required substantial change, and I feel like the best way I can actually address that problem is to do a follow-up story from his perspective sometime. (Though my writing ambitions, alas, outstrip my productivity.)

However, this is where the brevity of “Dinosaur” is helpful. The change would be tiny. The story is online, which is a medium that allows for revision. People are still reading it, apparently, so revision is also potentially useful. I can’t do anything about printed copies, but I can ask the editor of Apex Magazine to switch out the word. (And leave a note in comments about having done so, which would allow people to easily trace the history.) He might decline, but I doubt he will.

So: what alcohol is unmarked? Pabst is definitely too distinct. Is Vodka too dourly Russian? Tequila too college party? Rum too, I dunno, piratey? Whisky too hardcore masculine? Wine sounds sort of melancholy poet, and beer seems Homer Simpsony. (From this list, rum seems like the most likely candidate to me.)

I don’t drink a whole lot, and when I do, I drink girly fru fru drinks because I’m a wimp. So, I don’t really know what the subcultures of alcohol are. Help me out. Sad Puppies welcome to contribute, especially since you’re the ones who spotted it.

(I assume it’s a given, but I’ll note anyway: please stay on topic and civil. That means everyone.)

Posted in Mandolin's fiction & poems | 70 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, 18 Levels Deep Edition

17-layers-deep

  1. Comedy Duo Create An Extremely Detailed Portrait In A Portrait 18 Levels Deep – DesignTAXI.com
  2. Women of Reddit, when did you first notice that men were looking at you in a sexual way? How old were you and how did it make you feel? : AskReddit Content warning for many, many stories of adult men sexualizing girls when they are 11 or even younger.
  3. Experiment Shows Teachers View ‘Deshawns’ More Harshly Than ‘Gregs’ | Colorlines “…teachers reported higher levels of being personally troubled by the report when the student had a name like “Darnell” or “Deshawn” than when the student had a name like “Greg” or “Jake.” They were also more likely to call for harsher punishment…”
  4. Written testimony to Congress by Nancy Chi Cantalupo: “It is downright dangerous to conflate civil rights and criminal justice approaches to sexual violence and allow criminal justice responses to dominate our collective imagination regarding how to address this violence. If we did so, we would eliminate sexual violence victims’ civil rights to equality, specifically student victims’ rights to equal educational opportunity.” (PDF link.)
  5. Republicans Like Class Warfare—So Long As It’s Against Hillary Clinton | Mother Jones
  6. Appomattox: How did Ulysses S. Grant become an embarrassment of history and Robert E. Lee a role model?
  7. Man Camp I wish this were a joke, but I don’t think it is.
  8. Americans’ Spending on Dining Out Just Overtook Grocery Sales for the First Time Ever – Bloomberg Business
  9. Why We Let Prison Rape Go On – NYTimes.com
  10. New Type of Boredom Discovered, and It’s Rampant The headline sounds like a parody, but it’s not.
  11. i want to remind people that if there had been no video of michael slager executing walter scott, he would have just been another cop who got away with murder. he knew the exact story to tell, the exact evidence to plant, and delivered the exact easy bake bullshit that you hear every time they slaughter a black person. and yet you wonder why we question every death— why we never believe them when they say someone tried to take a gun. wake the fuck up! #farfromover
  12. I Posed As A Man On Twitter And Nobody Called Me Fat or Threatened To Rape Me For Once – xoJane.
  13. “Rape is good fodder for comedy”: Amy Schumer makes a case for the feminist rape joke – Salon.com
  14. Fannie’s Room: Researchers Study Online Antisocial Behavior
  15. Will Hillary Clinton be too weak on climate change?
  16. Democratic voters love marijuana legalization. Hillary Clinton doesn’t.
  17. A Miscarrying Woman Was Denied Medication Because of “Conscience”
  18. Corporations now spend more lobbying Congress than taxpayers spend funding Congress
  19. Academic Freedom versus Academic Legitimacy: The UNC Case. Amp’s comment: David has it right here. Criticism of a choice of speaker is not censorship.
  20. New York A.G. to Investigate Employers Who Keep Low-Wage Workers “On Call”
  21. As Cities Raise Their Minimum Wage, Where’s the Economic Collapse the Right Predicted?
  22. California Bill Would Require Crisis Pregnancy Centers to Discuss Abortion Options. Heh. I’m of course against this idea writ large, because free speech; however, I don’t necessarily object to this law, because it limits itself to government-licensed facilities which provide pregnancy-related services.
  23. What If MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Had Been a Facebook Post? This is a post about the ways that prisons forbid prisoners from using social media – and punish them when they do. Alarmingly, Facebook is cooperating with the prisons on this.
  24. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations.

On The Murder Of Rekia Boyd

  1. A Judge Just Let A Cop Walk After A Deadly Shooting. Legal Experts Say The Reasoning Is ‘Incredible.’ | ThinkProgress
  2. Rekia Boyd Fact Sheet
  3. RIP Rekia Boyd: November 5, 1989 – March 21, 2012 | Gradient Lair
  4. On Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray and the Cost of Police Impunity
  5. America’s big criminal justice lie: What one cop’s acquittal reveals about police violence & Rekia Boyd’s death – Salon.com
  6. We Do This for Rekia | Transformative Spaces

Puppies, puppies everywhere!

  1. “In other words, of the 16 written fiction nominees on Torgerson’s slate, 11 – more than two-thirds – had not actually been nominated by anyone in the crowd-sourced discussion from which, we are told, the slate emerged.” Amp: How very democratic and non-elitist!
  2. On screaming “We’re not VD!” while ignoring your relationship with VD — Jason Sanford
  3. Some Sad Puppy Data Analysis. The blogger, a puppy supporter (the most civil one I’ve encountered), attempts to use data to support the Sad Puppies; I debate him in the comments.
  4. Philip Sandifer: Writer: Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and his Supporters “Ultimately, that’s all Beale is doing: he’s hiding what he actually means behind a paper-thin veil so that it is communicated with deniability. (Fittingly, the usual name for this rhetorical technique, a favorite of political campaigns of all leanings, is “dogwhistling.”)” Warning: this one is very long.
  5. Why I Won’t Be A Presenter At The Hugo Awards This Year | Connie Willis. (Willis, for those who don’t know, has won 11 Hugos for her fiction, and been nominated 24 times.)
  6. Back To The Future – Of The Hugos | Barno’s Stables Another blog post where I’m debating the author in the comments.
  7. ETA: (3) Captain Christian White, supreme commander of… This parody of Puppies, written by Adam-Troy Castro, totally cracked me up. Thanks for the link, Myca!

whiteness-fairy

Posted in Link farms | 269 Comments  

Malta Just Showed Us What Our Gender Identity Laws Should Be

Babies have a reason to celebrate!

Celebration time for babies!!

Malta has just become the world’s leader in intersex rights, and perhaps in trans rights as well. From Feminist Newswire:

Malta’s parliament just passed new legislation that allows self-determination of gender (with a simple process to legally change gender), and outlaws unnecessary surgery on intersex babies. This bill makes Malta the first country to ban unnecessary surgery on intersex infants. […]

“To say that this Act is a groundbreaking human rights milestone is almost an understatement,” said Paulo Corte-Real, co-chair of the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “It provides an inspirational benchmark for other European countries that need to improve their own LGBTI equality standards.”[…]

Maltese officials and medical professionals are now working to come up with guidelines to make sure all surgeries done on infants are medically necessary and not “driven by social factors without the consent of the minor.”

The law also legally mandates a vastly simplified process for legally changing one’s gender:

The new law also allows people to change their gender identity on documents by simply filing an affidavit with a notary, which ends the requirement for surgery in order to legally identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth. The process of changing one’s gender in the system, under the new bill, won’t take more than 30 days.

The devil is in the details – for instance, would non-government entities, like banks, be legally required to acknowledge this change? – but this sounds like a big step forward.

Hida Viloria, chairperson of Intersex International, is obviously pleased about this legislation, but still has some criticism:

I’ve read the policy several times, and honestly the only shortcoming with the legislation itself that the OII-USA has is that the terminology still puts the impetus on the intersex child to refuse these surgeries. It’s worded that they must be postponed until the child is old enough to consent.

I tell people: Imagine if we wrote about reparative therapies for homosexuals in that way. The similar phrase would be: Reparative electroshock therapies for homosexual youth must be postponed until those individuals are old enough to give consent. It’s easier to notice, when you think about it with a different population group that’s less stigmatized today, that the statement implies that these procedures will happen. In that way, it doesn’t entirely refute prejudiced perspectives against intersex traits and intersex people needing to be fixed in some way.

That is the one general limit of the Malta legislation. […] It says, until the child is old enough to give consent. You could have cases where the parents are pressuring the child. I would prefer something that says, unless the child requests such procedures. However, even that, how easy would it be to lie in court that, yes, the child requested this, but changed their mind later, for example.

So legislation can only do so much. But [Malta] is a fantastic victory for the community.

The entire interview is interesting, and includes Viloria discussing how Intersex politics can advance in the USA (she says the US Intersex community needs to form a closer alliance with LGBT communities).

UPDATE: Grace just pointed out this (sadly very relevant) news from Colorado this week: Transgender birth certificate bill crashes against anti-gay lobby | The Colorado Independent.

Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 2 Comments  

Men Should Call Themselves Feminists, But They Shouldn’t Start Fights About It In Other Feminists’ Spaces

cool-Patrick-Stewart-Amnesty-International-women-rights

In my opinion it’s okay for men to call themselves feminists. More than okay, I think it’s beneficial. And I call myself a feminist. Feminist men on “Alas” are welcome to call themselves feminists. In my (anecdotal) experience, most feminists welcome men calling ourselves “feminist,” as long as we’re being sincere.

BUT… There are some spaces, mostly radfem spaces, where it’s largely agreed that only women should call themselves “feminist” while men should call themselves “pro-feminist.”

For men to enter such spaces and start arguments about “can’t men be feminists” is harmful. It’s distracting from more important issues, and it confirms the stereotype among some radical feminists that men in feminist spaces insist on being the center of conversation.

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Men and masculinity | 49 Comments  

Thinking about Barbara Walters’ Interview with Vili and Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau

Heidi Gutman—ABC/Getty Images

I’m giving two readings over the next few weeks, one on April 21st at the Risk of Discovery Reading Series, and the other on May 2nd as part of the New Masculinities Festival 2015. The details are below, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what these events mean to me and I’d like to share some of that with you. April is both National Poetry Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a convergence that—as you know if you’ve been reading my posts—fits well with the grant I received from the Queens Council on the Arts to complete my second book of poems, Words for What Those Men Have Done. At the April 21st reading, I will preview some of the poems from this manuscript, and the reading itself will serve as a preview of the larger, more interactive presentation that I will give on a date to be scheduled in September or October. One of my goals with this project is for there to be a conversation in my community about what it means to be a male survivor of sexual violence, and since poetry is one way for people to feel what it’s like to feel something they themselves have not experienced firsthand, I hope this reading helps to make that conversation possible.

The importance of having this conversation was brought home to me yet again by the interview Barbara Walters did this past Friday with Vili and Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau. In 1997, when she was 34 and Vili was her 13-year-old student, Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested and convicted of child rape, ultimately serving seven-and-a-half years in prison, where she gave birth to the couple’s two, now-teenaged daughters. I did not see the interview itself, but when I read the coverage it received, especially, but not only, in the pieces that appeared in the lead-up to the broadcast, I was very disturbed. Simply put, much of it seemed to use the couple’s marriage and children to normalize the rape for which Mary Kay was rightfully convicted and to present their story as an against-all-odds tale of happily-ever-after in which the only villain was the society that tried to keep them apart. To be clear, it’s not that the coverage fails to mention Mary Kay’s prison term or that she is a registered sex offender. Those are historical facts it is impossible to deny. Rather, those facts seem to be presented more as obstacles the couple had to overcome than as the legal consequences of a sexual violation, a rhetorical move that almost makes the violation itself disappear.

In Time, for example, K. C. Blumm phrases it this way:

The 53-year-old [Mary Kay] – who spent 89 months in prison for child rape as a result of her relationship with her then-student Vili Fualaau in 1996 – is looking forward to celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary with Fualaau next month and admitted that as the date approaches she’s been looking back on the events that shaped her life. (Emphasis mine.)

I cannot think of another instance in which the words rape (much less child rape) and relationship would be used almost as synonyms, as if, when Letourneau, then in her early to mid-thirties “embarked on a sexual relationship” with her barely pubescent twelve-year-old middle school student—again, that’s Blumm’s phrasing—the problem was a matter of legal definitions, not the abuse of authority and trust. The language Blumm uses, however, fits very neatly our traditional narratives of manhood and masculinity, in which a boy who is initiated into sex by an older woman is considered “lucky” to have met her. More to the point, in popular perception anyway, that “luck” precludes any claim he might make not to have wanted the experience or that he was in any way harmed by it. To be a man, in this narrative, is to embrace that kind of “luck;” to suggest it wasn’t “luck” to begin with is to suggest that its recipient is not really a man.

Vili Fualaau, of course, was not a man when the woman who is now his wife violated him; he was a child, which is why we undertstand her to have raped him by definition. I get it, though. The fact that he is no longer a child, that he chose to marry the woman who violated him, that they have been married for ten years, and that they are raising two children to boot makes it hard to know just how to talk about not only who he was when Mary Kay victimized him, but also what the consequences for him actually were. After all, in spite of whatever may have been true back then, they have made a life together now, and—in the absence of any evidence to the contrary—it really isn’t anyone’s place to suggest that this life is somehow tainted or “less than” because of their history. Nonetheless, it is telling that Vili’s struggle with alcoholism and depression—“I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” he says. “I went through a really dark time”—is also implicitly presented as an obstacle he had to overcome, not as a possible consequence of the way she violated him; and since overcoming obstacles is traditionally what men do to prove themselves, this way of presenting what he says about himself also fits the traditional narrative.

I think it’s instructive to imagine how differently the media might have covered this interview if, leaving all other details of the story the same, instead of Mary Kay and Vili, we were talking about “Martin” and “Vivian.” Would the narrative have been framed the same way? I doubt it. Even for myself, when I do this thought experiment in my own head, I am struck by how much more readily available to me are the language and patterns of thought that foreground the abusive nature of my hypothetical “Martin’s” sexual contact with “Vivian.” Looked at through the lens of the traditional masculinity and manhood narrative, this makes sense. Men in that narrative are supposed to be the actors when it comes to sex, the ones who are always trying to get it, for whom “getting it” is a requirement of being who we are, and of whom my hypothetical Martin, therefore—again, within this narrative—is an example of a guy who needs to learn some self-control. The narrative, in other words, makes it easy to peg him as a perpetrator, since he’s doing what men are “supposed to be doing.” He’s just overstepping the bounds within which he’s supposed to be doing it.

Culturally, and despite what the law says, our investment in this narrative makes it hard for us to understand female perpetrators like Mary Kay Letourneau as perpetrators, perhaps especially when they abuse boys and men, which in turn can make it difficult to keep in focus the idea that what Mary Kay did to Vili when he was 12 or 13 is essentially no different from incidents of the sexual abuse of boys that everyone agrees is abuse, i.e., when there is violence or overt coercion or when, as in my case, the person trying to “initiate” me was a man. (You can read a partial telling of my story here.) Indeed, it’s worth taking a look at the website Female Sex Offenders if you’re interested in exploring this idea further. It’s crucal to remember, however, that no matter what the law says, this skewed perception of female perpetrators is not going to change until our fundamental understanding of what it means to be a man changes, until we have a narrative of manhood and masculinity that recognizes not just men’s vulnerability and uncertainty, sexual and otherwise, but also our variability—the idea that there is no single correct way to be a man.

That’s why I am very excited about participating in the New Masculinities Festival, one purpose of which is to produce new narratives masculinity and manhood. The festival will take place on May 2nd at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in Manhattan. I don’t yet have full information for the event, but here’s the promotional video for last year’s festival:

Cross-posted.

Here’s the information for the two events:

April 21st

  • Venue: QED Astoria
  • When:  6:30 – 8:30 PM (Facebook event page)
  • Where: 27-16 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105
  • Details: A writing workshop and open mic will presede my reading.

May 2nd

  • Venue: New Masculinities Festival 2015
  • When:  TBA
  • Where: Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, New York NY 10002
  • Details: More details to be announced soon.
Posted in Gender and the Body, Men and masculinity, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues | 23 Comments  

Lurid Yet Statistically Rare Stories, and, Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac Welfare Queen

Ozy writes:

“can we just all collectively rise above our animal natures and be better people and not signal boost lurid yet statistically rare stories that fuck with everyone’s availability heuristics, particularly when these stories are about the evil of the Hated Enemy”

I very, very much agree with this.

I’m not saying I’ve been perfect in this regard. Far from it. But I think Ozy is right.

This isn’t either adding to or disagreeing with what Ozy said, just an anecdote. When I was a kid, there was a lot of argument about a woman who – Ronald Reagan, then running for the Presidency, claimed – was collecting so much welfare (using 80 different fake names) that she wore furs and owned a brand-new Cadillac. Liberals, including my family, believed that Reagan made this woman up, or at most was vastly exaggerating a more mundane story.

So I was surprised to find out, a few days ago, that Reagan was understating the truth all those decades ago. (The link leads to a very long but also fascinating story.) The woman he was talking about, Linda Taylor,1 really existed, and in fact had around 150 aliases, and was not only a welfare cheat on an enormous scale but also a serial kidnapper of small children (!) and almost certainly a serial murderer (! ! !).

Which goes to support Ozy’s point, I think: This woman, while real, was an extraordinary and perhaps unique villain, and to use her in stump speeches as representative of flaws in the welfare system doesn’t truly advance anyone’s understanding of what’s wrong with welfare or how to improve it.

  1. One of her many, many names. []
Posted in Civility & norms of discourse, etc. | 44 Comments  

“Our Man in Tehran” – A Really Interesting Series from The New York Times

The New York Times is running a really interesting series on its website called Our Man in Tehran (the link will take you to episode one). Thomas Erdbrink, the paper’s bureau chief in Tehran has made seven brief videos meant to capture aspects of ordinary people’s live in Iran that we have not usually been able to see in the media here. This video is from the second episode, “The Martyr’s Daughter.” I’ve pasted in her “character dossier” below the video.

Character Dossier: Najiyeh Allahdad

Date of birth: July 26, 1976

Hometown: Tehran

Education: B.A. in graphics from Alzahra University, 1999

Employment: Freelance designer, creating logos for companies

Life experience: I got married when I was 20. I have two sons. I have been fortunate in my life to have found a circle of friends and relatives who share my deep passion for helping others. We have formed a small charity group that finds people who need help, and we use our connections to gather help for them.

How do you describe yourself? I’m an Iranian Muslim who uses any opportunity to improve her country and who protects her country’s reputation in the world. I love life, and I love peace. I feel that what people have lost in this world is spirituality. I’ve devoted my life to trying to find this spirituality for myself first and then to help others enjoy it.

Are you active on the Internet? I am on Instagram. I also have WhatsApp and Viber. I am in touch with my friends through these social networks and speak my mind. Also, I get information and news through these networks.

What do you hope for the future? I am very hopeful and I believe that religion will play a more important role in people’s lives in the future, and the world will be saved by religion.

What are your hobbies? I’m active in charity efforts. Like Superman, I jump to find people who need help.

Have you traveled outside of Iran? Where? What did you think? I have traveled to India, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, the United States and Syria. I found some Eastern countries like India and China to be very civilized, but they have not used their civilization to improve their daily lives. On the other hand, I found the Western countries to be detached from their histories and stepping into a new world that has an unclear future. Some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. seemed too dependent on Western countries and would be nothing without help from the U.S. And a country like Iraq has always been hampered by circumstances throughout its history.

Posted in Iran, Islam | 1 Comment  

A letter from Robert. Which I received yesterday. Yesterday. I’m just sayin’.

dreams_in_prison__giacomo_cardelli

(Or was it three days ago? Whatever.

As usual, I’ll wait a few days, and then I’ll forward comments from this thread to Robert.

Anyhow:)

March 23, 2015

Dear Barry:

Heyo. Thought I’d drop you a line using my spiffy new typewriter. America’s prisons, providing access to hundred-year old technology at only mildly criminal markup! My Facebook friends colluded to buy me this antique but valuable writing tool. It makes writing letters about a thousand times easier; wish I’d had it when I was working on the book.
Here, for the edification and updating of your readership at Alas!, is an update of my life status. (Well, it’s an update for you. By the time you get around to posting it, I presume it will be months out of date, he said, snippily.)

Dear Alas friends –

Greetings from Four Mile Correctional Center, which is soon to be no longer my home! I have been officially accepted into community corrections in Colorado Springs. Community corrections is essentially a transition program from prison to parole. I will reside in a jail-like facility (though less locked-down) but am free to leave the facility each day for work. I can also get passes from the facility so that I can (for example) go to the movies with friends or other wholesome activities.

After a few months at community corrections, I can transition to non-residential status, meaning that I still have to account for my whereabouts and activities, but can live independently and without immediate supervision. It is effectively parole, though with more rules and structure. (Which, let’s face it, I do need.)

I’m presently still at Four Mile, waiting for a bed to open up at the facility in the Springs. This could happen soon, but is more likely to be a couple of months. I am really hoping to be out before my birthday, which is in late June.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me while I’ve been in here, with financial assistance, with personal letters, and with good and worthwhile counsel. Being in prison is hardly something to be grateful for, but I am grateful for the life lessons that I’ve been forced to learn, and especially grateful for the kindness that you have all shown me. I look forward to reintegrating into society and trying in some small way to make amends for the harms I’ve caused with my selfish actions. Parole isn’t trivial but it’s a whole lot better than prison and I can’t wait.

Thank you all again.

Love,
Rob

PS – If Amp takes six weeks to post this, then tell him he’s a lazy dirty hippie. But I love him anyway.


To send Robert a letter through the mail, use this address:

Robert Luty Hayes, Jr. 165970
FMCC Unit E – Four Mile Correctional Center
P.O. Box 300
Cańon City CO, 81215-0300

If you’d rather send him an email, you can go to Jpay.com and enter Robert’s state (Colorado) and his DOC Number – 165970 – into the search fields. (Sometimes I’ve had to do this twice before it worked). Then you can use your debit card to send him an “email” (he’ll actually get it in the form of a print-out) or to send him money, or both. The cost of sending email is not expensive, it’s actually similar to the cost of postage. If you contact Robert via Jpay, be sure to give him your mailing address – he can’t use Jpay, so the only means he has for writing back to you is to send you mail through the post office.

Posted in Bob Behind Bars, Prisons and Justice and Police | 10 Comments  

#SavingChase: Judge Orders Mom Arrested For Violating Agreement To Have Her 4-Year-Old Son Circumcised

judgeandgavel

From the Florida Sun Sentinel (if that link is paywall blocked, try this indirect link).

Despite the threat of being jailed Tuesday, a West Boynton mother hid with her 4-year-old son in a domestic violence shelter, the latest twist in a widely reported court fight to stop the boy’s planned circumcision.

But Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen still signed a warrant for Heather Hironimus’ arrest, refusing requests from her lawyers to first consider a mental health exam of the boy and appointing an independent guardian to speak on the child’s behalf in court. […]

On Friday, Gillen declared the mom in contempt of court for violating an order enforcing a 2012 parenting plan, which makes the dad responsible for arranging the circumcision. The mom and dad did not marry either before or after the boy’s birth on Oct. 31, 2010.[…]

“I will allow her to avoid incarceration or get out of jail if she signs the consent to the procedure,” [Judge] Gillen said Friday.

The judge found the mom had willfully violated the plan she signed when the boy was 1. The judge also said Hironimus had committed a “direct, contemptuous violation” of court orders by continuing to team with circumcision opposition groups — called “intactivists” — that have “plastered” the child’s photos and name “all over the Internet.” […]

The father says the boy has a condition called phimosis, which prevents retraction of the foreskin, but the mother has said there is no such diagnosis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of newborn male circumcision are lower risks of urinary tract infections; getting penile cancer; and acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Judge Gillen mentioned these benefits in court last week, and called the procedure “very, very safe.”

My goodness – so much to unpack here.

1) In essence, what the court is doing is enforcing a shared child custody agreement. From the Judge’s perspective, ordering the mom to comply with an agreement to go along with the circumcision of her son is no different from ordering the mom to comply with an agreement to give up custody on alternate weekends. If someone continuously refuses to comply with a court-enforced agreement, being thrown in jail is a widely-accepted last-ditch method for courts to force compliance.

2) This story is news because it involves involuntary circumcision. But really, this sort of thing is bound to come up in a society in which involuntary circumcision of boys is a legal and normal thing. In other words, the problem isn’t this judge or this court case; it’s that circumcision of underage boys is considered normal parenting in our society.1

3) Nonetheless, I think Judge Gillen has made the wrong decision. A four year old is not a one year old, and forcing a four year old to have an unwanted circumcision is taking a big, and needless, chance of creating long-term trauma.2

4) Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing about this case in Salon several months ago, made a good point:

Ultimately, though, it seems pretty obvious that what we have here is a mother who feels strongly that her son should not be circumcised, and a father whose commitment to having his son undergo the procedure was so casual he put it off until the kid was almost four years old. Yes, a contract was signed. But were it a true priority the circumcision would have been done a long time ago. And at a certain point, it’s fair to reassess and understand that a preschooler is not a baby, and that compassionate parenting means erring on the side of being as minimally invasive as possible.

5) James Smith, in the comments at Reason, argues (I think persuasively, but of course I’m no lawyer) that this is technically not a matter of contract law, but of Family Court law. So if that sort of technicality interests you, go over to Reason and search for Smith’s comments.

6) The father’s argument that the circumcision is medically necessary doesn’t seem persuasive to me (there are alternative treatments for phimosis), and I suspect didn’t matter much to the Court. (That is, I think the Judge would have made the same decision, based on enforcing the parenting plan, regardless of the claim of medical necessity.)

7) I don’t like the judge ordering the parties not to speak about the case publicly, because that goes against free speech. (So good on the mother for refusing to comply with that order). There are cases where gag orders are necessary (for instance, in a case involving the identity of informants whose lives could be endangered), but I don’t see why this case is one. UPDATE: As Mythago points out in the comments, I misunderstood what was going on.

8) Some parents have protested Judge Gillen’s decision by posting photos of their small kids holding up protest signs: “The irony — of people arguing that boys shouldn’t be circumcised until they can consent yet using their own toddlers to make points in social media campaigns — was not lost on some commenters.” But I agree with Ophelia Benson, who says that the equivalence doesn’t hold water.

9) I’m skeptical that it will do any good, but there’s a petition to sign here.

  1. I say “of children” because I have no objection to a grown-up choosing to have a circumcision for themselves. []
  2. Some anti-circumcision activists would argue that all circumcision is a kind of long-term trauma, but – even though I oppose child circumcision – I can’t say I find my own infant circumcision to have been lastingly traumatic. []
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