Open Thread and Link Farm, Buildings In The Middle Of The Street Edition


Top image is from Mattias Inks. Click on the image to see it bigger.

  1. Black Widow, Scarce Resources And High-Stakes Stories Linda Holmes argues – and I agree – that the biggest problem with sexism in the new Avengers movie is that Black Widow is the only female lead character, which makes whatever they do with her character feel like a statement about women in general.
  2. The Unit of Caring on misandry and structural power: “I tag ‘misandry cw’ for hatred/contempt of men expressed specifically in a way that exploits systemic power dynamics. So a woman abusing a man isn’t misandry, but dismissal of men who have been violently abused because ‘men are always the abuser’ or ‘women can’t be violent’ or ‘what are you, weak and pathetic?’ reflects harmful attitudes toward men that are a consequence of structural power.”
  3. Study finds fat acceptance blogs can improve health outcomes (From 2012, and not proof positive of anything, but might be a useful link next time someone tells you fat acceptance is about people wanting an excuse to lie on the sofa eating McDonalds take-out all day, not that there’s anything wrong with that).
  4. The Myth of Wealthy Men and Beautiful Women – The Atlantic
  5. The conclusive, expert guide to saving Twitter from its trolls – The Washington Post
  6. debate about free expression on campus, between lefty professor Angus Johnston and Reason magazine writer Robby Soave. Although some of Johnston’s points seemed questionable to me, on the whole it seems to me he had by far the stronger case. But then again, I’m biased.
  7. A Response to Christina Hoff Sommers | (Speaking of Angus Johnston.)
  8. This idea for how to create more housing in cities with enormously high demand, like San Francisco – basically, open up what are now streets for development into residential or multi-use buildings, turn the sidewalks into European style avenues, and let the free market sort out parking – seems wonderful to me.
  9. Basic parenting gets fathers a gold star, and other things I learned on paternity leave – Vox
  10. Enough With the Holocaust Books for Children! – Tablet Magazine
  11. Restorative Justice: The Evidence — Report Draws Attention to RJ in the UK. “Restorative Justice” is an alternative approach to adversarial trials and to punitive responses to crime. I don’t think it’s right for every case, but it should in of our society’s toolbox, because there are loads of cases where it makes sense.
  12. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution Really interesting interview with an Egyptian feminist activist and writer.
  13. Rape Culture? What Rape Culture?
  14. How We Justify Shaming, Harassment, and Abuse
  15. A List of Ways I Have Used Trigger Warnings
  16. Quinnspiracy Blog – Risky Business Zoe Quinn talks about how anti-feminists have successfully perpetuated a blacklist.
  17. The Debate Link: Inexplicable Sentiments A North Carolina prosecutor says that for immigration purposes, violence doesn’t count if it’s Latino-on-Latino.
  18. The health benefits of breastfeeding have been VASTLY exaggerated. Think of how much completely needed trouble, trauma and guilt among mothers has been caused.
  19. Racism Is Destroying the Right to Vote | Demos
  20. Stop Comparing The Black Widow SNL Sketch And The Supergirl Trailer | The Mary Sue What would be funny and out of character for Black Widow is fine for Supergirl.
  21. Veronica Straszheim — “Half of the captions had been written by men, and half by women. When not told who wrote what, the participants judged them almost equally funny….”
  22. Stop all that reckless breathing! A local Republican legislator worries that people on bikes are destroying the Earth with their exhaling and stuff.
  23. ‘We must be careful about what we pretend to be’: How tribal cheerleading creates new tribal dogma and changes the tribe to conform to it. Also about what ridiculous poll results really indicate.
  24. 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Civil Rights Heroine Diane Nash
  25. Racial segregation was not the unintended effect of benign policies.
  26. ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: First Convict the Perpetrator. On True And False Rape Accusations
  27. Think Twice Before Calling the Cops on the Mentally Ill – The Atlantic
  28. “You mentioned neurodiversity in your blog description – what does the term mean to you?” in The Unit of Caring
  29. Why you should never, ever play the lottery – The Washington Post What I found most interesting about this was the proposal for “a lottery with no losers” – Prize-Linked Savings. “It’s a system where instead of each person earning interest on their savings, all the interest is pooled together and then raffled off. So in the worst case, people have saved money that they otherwise would have lost on lottery tickets, and in the best they won a nice little cash prize on top of their little nest egg.”
  30. The nail salon crisis is not about your middle class guilt
  31. The Debate Link: Neither Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are “affirmative action picks.” Sheesh!
  32. One-liner that cracked me up: “My milkshakes bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
  33. Sentencing Law and Policy: “Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail” “In addition to being unjust and unnecessary, pretrial incarceration can have harmful consequences. Not only do those who are in jail before trial suffer the trauma of confinement, but in comparison with their bailed-­out counterparts, they are also more likely to be convicted at trial.”
  34. Obama Is Not The Foe Of Wall Street He Claims To Be
  35. Why I Don’t Read The News Anymore | Thing of Things
  36. Why white kids in Baltimore get more second chances than black kids – Vox I really need to do a cartoon on this topic, because it’s essential.
  37. Woman Held Hostage Uses Online Pizza Hut Order To Send Messages Asking For Help – Consumerist


Posted in Link farms | 79 Comments  

Cartooning process: Sweet, Sweet Denial

Here’s an image showing my process on a political cartoon I did years ago about the chocolate industry. I really like seeing process posts from other cartoonists, so I hope people enjoy seeing this.

I’m doing this partly to support my new Patreon. If the Patreon does well enough, then I’ll be adding a fourth stage to this cartoon after all these years – color! Fingers crossed…


Hope y’all enjoyed that!

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Maternity Leave vs Profit

This seems like a good time to announce that I’m starting a Patreon to support my political cartoons. Please check it out (and tell me if you spot any typos!).


This cartoon was a collaboration with my friend Becky Hawkins. I did the writing and lettering with Becky’s help, Becky did the drawing with me helping on layouts, and I did the gray tones.


Panel 1
A woman in a collared shirt and black pants is talking to a businessman in a fancy suit.
WOMAN: Businesses oppose paid maternity leave because you put money above women’s health!
BUSINESSMAN: We care deeply about women! We’re against paid leave because it’s bad for women!

Panel 2
The businessman has pulled a mother, holding a crying newborn, into the panel.
WOMAN: Women need time off to recover after giving birth.
BUSINESSMAN: Nonsense! Just look at Tiana here… She can’t wait to get back to work. It’s patronizing of you to say otherwise!
TIANA: So tired….

Panel 3
BUSINESSMAN: Paid maternity leave makes hiring women more expensive – and that means companies will discriminate against hiring them! Have a heart!

Panel 4
The businessman violently shoves Tiana off-panel.
WOMAN: So we’ll give paid leave to new mothers AND new fathers!
BUSINESSMAN: But that would cost MONEY!

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like, Feminism, sexism, etc, Gender and the Economy, Health Care and Related Issues | 15 Comments  

Enough with the torture scenes, please

A scene from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” in which Captain America and Black Widow are trying to get information from a bad guy:

Jasper Sitwell: Is this little display meant to insinuate that you’re gonna throw me off the roof? Because it’s really not your style, Rogers.

Steve Rogers: You’re right. It’s not. It’s hers.

[Natasha kicks Sitwell off the roof]

In context, it’s a really funny scene. Don’t worry, they didn’t really kill Sitwell.1 Cap’s pal The Falcon was below, waiting to fly up and catch Sitwell and throw him back down onto the roof. Then Sitwell talks, because in the superhero genre torture always works (at least, it does when the good guys torture).2

Colin Smith, in an excellent post about a torture scene in a Spider-Man comic, describes the elements of a typical superhero torture scene:

6.) A situation in which the torture’s been designed to be gruesomely compelling for the reader, because torture is, as [the writer] amongst many others obviously believes, an entertainment in itself.

7.) The clear suggestion that the heroic torturers are never sadists, incompetent or misguided, let alone evil.

8.) Information gained from the torture leads to decisive action which saves the day, because the torture, of course, always works and always works in an entirely productive fashion which allows the sins involved to be entirely eclipsed by the thought of all the children and puppies who’ve been protected.

9.) An outcome which either ignores any suggestion that the victim of the torture will suffer any lasting ill-effects or which actively implies that they won’t.

10.) The sense that the hero or heroes who sanction and commit the torture will themselves suffer no lasting, dehumanising effects from their behaviour beyond a noble air of angst earned through the suffering which they – and not their victims – underwent as a result of the cutting and poking and burning and so on.

11.) The clear sense that torture is something which real heroes rise to, and which marks the truly super-heroic superhero as a figure willing and able to do anything in order to save the world once again.

Torture has been routinely used by “dark” superhero characters like Batman and Daredevil for so long – I’m really enjoying the Netflix Daredevil series, but I think this show uses torture even more than “24” did – it’s become normalized. By now, “light” superhero characters like Spider-Man and Captain America both use torture, and it’s seldom questioned. (Although it’s odd that in both those examples, the actual physical torturing was done by a “dark” female friend of the male hero, rather than by the male hero himself.)

I accept that in some genres, heroic characters do things that would be horrible in real life (like, you know, being a vigilante), and often that’s part of the fun. But the routine, fruitful use of torture by good guys in pop media – and not only in superhero films – worries me, because the typical American voter mainly learns about torture from pop culture, and the view of torture pop culture pushes is horrifying. If pop culture wasn’t so relentlessly pro-torture, would the American public be so quick to accept it when our government tortures?


  1. Later on Sitwell does get murdered by a villain – but the villain in question is VERY good-looking and on a redemption narrative arc, so that’s okay too, I guess. []
  2. Honorable exception: The Dark Knight, a movie in which Batman tortures two bad guys, and it doesn’t work either time. Unlike Frank Miller’s Dark Knight graphic novel, in which torture works. []
Posted in Popular (and unpopular) culture | 29 Comments  

A Quick Primer For Those Who Wonder What The Issue With Slate Voting And The Hugo Awards Is


This post is for those who have heard about the controversy over slate voting and the Hugo Awards, but don’t know exactly what that means in the context of the Hugos. I’m going to simplify for the sake of (relative) brevity. 1 .2


For any readers who don’t know, the Hugo Awards are an annual award given out for science fiction and fantasy works. The Hugos Awards are voted on in two rounds. The voters are members of Worldcon (anyone with $40 to spare can be a voting member).

In the first round, voters can write up to five works within each category on their voting ballot (categories include “best novel,” “best short story,” “best graphic story,” and so on).

Hundreds of works and creators are written in during the first round by over a thousand voters (iirc), but only five in each category – the five most popular among all voters, using a “first past the post” vote-counting method – get to be “nominees.” This is what people are referring to when they say a work or creator is “Hugo-nominated.”

In the second round, Hugo voters choose from among the five nominees per category, and one winner per category is chosen, using Instant Runoff Voting. (Voters can also vote “no award,” and if no award “wins” a category, then no award is given in that category that year.)


The current controversy over slate voting is specifically related to the first round of voting. Because the majority of Hugo voters spread their first-round votes among hundreds of different works per category, it takes a relatively small number of votes (40-60, iirc) for a work to be nominated for a Hugo.

Therefore, if a minority of 100 or so voters organizes as a bloc and votes in unison (or near-unison) for the same five works in each category, they alone will determine who gets nominated for a Hugo, while the majority of voters will have no effect on who gets nominated. This form of collective organizing is called “slate voting” or “bloc voting.”

There were two known slates this year, the Rabid Puppy slate and the Sad Puppy slate. The two slates overlapped significantly, and I will refer to them collectively as “Puppies.” In multiple Hugo categories, the Puppies controlled which five works were nominated, locking out the majority of Hugo voters from having an effect on the outcome. In other categories, the Puppies did not control all five nomination slots, but they still had a much greater effect than they would have if they had voted as individuals rather than collectively organizing.


(This section is less factual and more about my personal opinions.)

Slate voting is antidemocratic, since it is a way for a minority of Hugo voters to control the outcome of the Hugo nomination process.

Slate voting also breaks the longstanding understanding that Hugo voters are supposed to vote based on quality – that is, they’re supposed to vote for the works they as an individual consider the most outstanding work of the year.3 That hundreds of Puppy voters all individually decided to choose almost exactly the same 27 or so works as the most outstanding works of the year, and by a massive coincidence their individual favorite choices matched the works listed on the slates chosen by their leaders, is not a credible claim.

Finally, although the pre-Puppy status quo was not perfect, the Puppy’s slate tactics are exceptionally prone to nepotism and corruption, because the final decisions of which works went on Puppy slates were made by just a few leaders, who operated without any transparency.

As a result, some Hugo nominees this year seem to have been nominated for being pals with Brad Torgensen, who ran the Sad Puppies slate, rather than for producing work that is outstanding either in quality or popularity. And the Rabid Puppy slate strongly favored a previously-obscure Finnish publisher, a company owned by… the organizer of the Rabid Puppy slate.

Slate voting leads to political parties. “What institutional slate voting gets you, no matter how well-intentioned or how much it is aligned with your own views, is political parties. Nothing can get onto the ballot unless it’s part of a slate, so the people who run the slates become the kingmakers; any author who wants any chance at an award has to get in with one of them.”


Many have suggested that all that’s needed to reduce the influence of Slate voting is more voters, that is, for a larger number of people to vote in both rounds of Hugo voting. However, since Slate Voting is a strategy that mathematically allows a collectively organized minority to overcome the preferences of a disorganized majority, I don’t have much confidence in this proposal. (Although it is a nice idea for other reasons.)

Another proposal is the 4/6 proposal, in which individual Hugo voters can only nominate four works per category, and there will be six nominees per category. In this case, rather than a successful slate controlling 100% of nominees in each category, it will only control 66% of nominees in each category. If there are two slates, then the most successful slate will control 66% of nominees, while the next most successful slate will control the remaining 33% of slots. This seems like an insufficient solution, to me.

The proposal I favor is “Least Popular Elimination,” in which voters could still nominate up to five works per category, but the votes are counted in a way that mathematically favors works that appear on the broadest number of voters’ ballots while diluting (but not completely eliminating) the power of slate voting. A detailed explanation of “Least Popular Elimination” voting is available here. While LPE voting is not as intuitive as the other two proposals, I believe it would be more effective.4

  1. Disclosure: Although I’ve tried to be accurate, I am not neutral or objective, and I generally disagree with the Puppies on most things. []
  2. For a more detailed summary of events, see Freeping the Hugo Awards. []
  3. “Doing anything except nominating the works you personally liked best is cheating in my book.” — science fiction author Connie Willis. []
  4. This post began life as a comment on Feminist Critics. []
Posted in Elections and politics | 8 Comments  

In Which Amp Realizes That Two Arguments That Frustrate Me Are Actually The Same

As regular readers know (and by “know,” I mean, “are probably sick of hearing”), I’m against it when folks organize to economically punish others for their political views.

Very frequently, when I write or talk about this, I’ll run into some fellow lefty1 who doesn’t see any substantive difference between an organized boycott or blacklist against (say) hiring Orson Scott Card, and an individual reader choosing not to buy Card’s books.

Then I realized that one of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy arguments about the Hugo awards that I find most frustrating, is really the exact same argument. One side is saying that collective organization – be it an anti-OSC petition or slate voting – is substantively different than individuals making individual decisions. The other side is denying that there’s any meaningful difference.

I’m not saying the folks who disagree with me about petitions (who are usually people I like and respect) are Just Like The Puppies or anything like that. I’m not making any larger point at all, actually, so please don’t read a larger point into this; I just find the parallel striking.

  1. Some right-wingers have also supported firing people for their views; but most of the people I personally chat with about this are fellow lefties. []
Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 11 Comments  

Sandra Bem, 1944-2014


Although Sandra Bem died a year ago, I didn’t hear about her death until this week, when I read The Last Day of Her Life, an interesting account of Bem’s death; Bem committed suicide in order to avoid the final ravages of dementia.

But as interesting as Bem’s choice to commit suicide was (and feel free to discuss that in the comments here, if you want), for me her significance is in her work, which was very influential on my thought (and many other people’s thoughts) in the 1990s, although she is less known today. Her book The Lenses of Gender is available very cheaply used on Amazon (and probably elsewhere).

I’m reproducing an essay about Ben’s significance in feminism, written by Anya Moon. This essay has disappeared from where I first read it, but can still be viewed on wayback.

Sandra Bem and the Sex Role Identity Debate
Anya Moon ’02

With the publication of the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) in 1971, Sandra Bem revolutionized the way in which psychology viewed gender. Further breaking down “male” and “female” categories, Bem introduced the labels of androgyny, displaying both high male and female characteristics, and undifferentiated, displaying both low female and male characteristics. Bem has continued to further examine sex roles and gender labels and what they contribute to society and culture. In her ground-breaking book Lenses of Gender in 1993, Sandra Bem outlined her newest theories of gender roles, and how androcentrism has led to a male-dominated culture in which females are still at the disadvantage.

The BSRI lists sixty adjectives, twenty socially desirable female traits, twenty socially desirable male traits, and twenty that are considered to be neutral. Examples of male traits include forceful, analytical and self-sufficient. Examples of female traits include sympathetic, loyal and compassionate, and examples of neutral items include truthful, sincere and friendly. Participants are asked to rate each item from a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 indicating almost always or always untrue, 4 meaning half true or half untrue and 7 indicating always or almost always true (Bem, 1974).

Because they are scored separately, an individual may receive high marks for both female and male traits, a phenomenon Bem called androgyny. The first psychologist to view masculinity and femininity as two separate aspects of a person, Bem believed that androgynous people were the most effective and well functioning individuals in society. Since the creation of the BSRI, it has been used countless times in psychological gender research.

In her book Lenses of Gender, Bem delves further into the implications of gender roles and definitions. The book’s title is indicative of the approach Bem takes to gender within the society of the United States. Bem contends that hidden assumptions about gender remain imbedded in culture, despite efforts to the contrary. These assumptions are referred to as lenses, which Bem works to render visible “to enable us to look at the culture’s gender lenses rather than through them” (Bem 1993, p. 2). The first lens is identified as androcentrism, or male-centeredness, the second lens is gender polarization, and the third is biological essentialism. After discussion of these lenses, Bem then discusses why the culture of the United States has inherently disadvantaged women through androcentric policies. Bem explains that the entire cultural debate of gender must be reconstructed to reflect the needs of females that have been overlooked for centuries or veiled in so-called “equal” measures. Cultural debates must be redefined, not in terms of male-female differences, but rather through reexamining how adrocentrism has created a male-advantaged-female-disadvantaged culture.

The second chapter of Lenses of Gender, “Biological Essentialism”, deals with the idea that biology has consistently been used as a weapon for the theory that inherent biological differences between men and women indicate inherent inequalities. Bem contends that while this may be true, of course men and women are biologically different, advocates of this view look at biological data out of context, drawing incorrect conclusions and furthering wild speculation about such things as brain differences between the sexes. Bem offers instead an interactionist theory. She contends that if biological differences were really examined in context, the overlap in the two sexes would be so great as to render the differences inconsequential. Also, no matter how slight or large the biological differences in the sexes, this does not account for centuries of sexual inequality inherent in society.

Chapter 3, “Androcentrism”, attacks the idea that the push toward equality, including feminism, has done nothing to attack the core sexual inadequacy of the United States culture. Superficially “equal” policies have been implemented, but these policies are still products of the androcentered male-dominated society from which they were born. Bem cites examples of insurance cases that are centered around the male body, for example, allowing leave time for prostate operations, while ignoring pregnancy. Bem contends that these “equal” rights policies so further magnify the differences between the sexes that they are further promoting adroncentrism and continuing to place women at a disadvantage.

“Gender Polarization”, Bem’s fourth chapter, introduces the idea that even if biological differences and adrocentrism were eliminated, society would still divide along the gender lines of male and female. Herein lies the foundation for the BSRI, or the idea that sexes do not have to be dichotomously organized. Bem asserts that not all societies separate their members into only two genders, but that in the United States anything other than male or female is problematic. Although these definitions of masculinity and femininity are continually examined and redefined (especially in new-wave feminism), as Bem states, “these homogenized visions are but the flip side of the polarized, gender caricatures of androcentrism” (Bem 1993, 131). In other words, sexual differences, sexual similarities, and cultural constructs must all be considered in order to form a dialogue which views gender as not either androcentric or homogenous.

Bem’s final chapter, “Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality”, outlines a new vision of the sex role debate, one that “requires a radical restructuring of social institutions” (Bem 1993, p. 176). Bem suggests that in order to get past gender polarization and androcentrism, we must reshape our culture without dividing individuals into cultural categories based on their gender, such as different clothes, different social roles, or different personalities. In other words, culture would not be organized around gender and what each gender can or cannot do. Bem draws the parallel between a society not structured around sexes just as today’s society is not structured around eye color. The danger of supporting gender polarized values lies in the fact that cultural roles and norms remain dictated by males and highly polarized male values.

Gender depolarization would require not only cultural restructuring, but also psychological restructuring. Bem ends her book with the theory that gender depolarization would result in the redefinition of core traits. Instead of seeing ourselves as male or female, we would view “the biological fact of being male or female in much the same way that we now view the biological fact of being human” (Bem 1993, p. 196). We would no longer feel the need to justify or elaborate on our sex, because we would instead view our sex as given by nature, capable of exerting its influence naturally and automatically and not requiring further examination.

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc | Leave a comment  

Police Racism Isn’t Disproven By Black Cops


In the National Review/Oberlin thread, RonF wrote:1

The anti-racist-policing movement hasn’t had much to say in Freddie Gray’s case given that of the 6 cops going on trial, 3 are black – including the only one who was charged with murder. Maybe this will get people to see that the primary issue here isn’t necessarily racism.

Brian Anderson of Downtrend writes:

Not only are half of the officers involved in this black, the black officers are the ones facing the most serious charges. Does the race of the officers matter? It shouldn’t, but rioters, pundits, and activists have turned Gray’s death into an extreme case of racism, so their race matters now.

The story that Freddie Gray was killed by racist police officers just because he’s black has completely fallen apart.[…] Never before have a group of people worked so hard to make something innocuous into a racial crisis.2

Similar arguments have been made by Right Wing News (“This kinda erases the whole “it’s all about racism” talking point”), Bizpac Review, Ben Shapiro, and many other conservatives.

Conservatives often wave around black and hispanic cops, who are part of a racist system, acting in racist ways, as proof that there isn’t racism.

And, to be fair, there are too many examples of anti-police racism activists putting too much emphasis on the race of individual abusive cops, when that’s not really the issue.

White supremacy is a matter of systematic power and bias, not just individual racists. Police racism can still be an important factor even if a particular police officer isn’t white, because officers typically act, not in isolation, but as part of a larger culture, and police abuse and raicsm is a pattern, not just a bunch of unconnected incidents.

Jamille Boule wrote:

The culture of policing evolved in a context of racial discrimination and racial control, where departments were charged with containing blacks, not protecting them. The demographics of policing have changed since the middle of the 20th century, but the culture has moved more slowly. And while we have minority officers, they—like their white counterparts—operate in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between communities and law enforcement.

“Regardless of who is carrying out the police function,” writes [academic researcher] Brad Smith, explaining his results, “police will always be seen as representatives of the larger establishment. As such, tensions between police and citizens may be a function of the police role.”

Keith Brekhus:

In a follow up interview on CNN, Blow argued that the race of the officer was not as important as the fact that police culture encourages officers to profile black men. Academic studies support Blow’s argument. […]

Conservatives seem incapable of comprehending the complex dynamics of modern American racism. In their simplistic understanding, all that is required to remove race from the equation is a minority police officer. If a black person is victimized by a black cop, conservatives reason that race must not have been a factor. To suggest racial assumptions could still be relevant is to “play the race card”. Yet, this shallow point of view fundamentally misinterprets how racism in police policy works. Police culture reflects some of the underlying biases held by the larger society. Racial profiling and police brutality are not typically the individual excesses of openly racist officers, hell bent on ethnic cleansing. Rather they are symptomatic of a covertly racist society that has yet to acknowledge the persistence of its own latent, but enduring prejudices.

German Lopez:

In the case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, for example, three of the six police officers charged for Gray’s death are black. This has led to some questions about whether racial bias is really at play — can a black cop be racist against his own racial group?
Related Understanding the racial bias you didn’t know you had Why do police so often see unarmed black men as threats?

But social psychologists and criminal justice experts say this question fundamentally misunderstands how institutional racism affects everyone, regardless of race. Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race, particularly in different roles throughout his everyday life. And systemic racism, which has been part of the US since its founding, can corrupt anyone’s view of minorities in America.

In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black. And these policing tactics can actually create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans. Combined, this means the system as a whole as well as individual officers, even black ones, by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed.

ETA: See also Jarvis DeBerry’s article.

Police racism is not a matter of “a few bad apple white cops are trigger-happy.” That is not the issue. The issue is a larger culture of white supremacy, and how that creates a pattern of bias and unfair treatment.

  1. In comments, Ron objected that I was responding to an argument he hadn’t actually made, hence the cross-out. []
  2. Anderson also claims that “there is very little evidence to support that the officers, of any race, caused Gray’s death,” but that part of his argument is beyond the scope of this post. []
Posted in police brutality, Prisons and Justice and Police, Race, racism and related issues | 17 Comments  

If you want to take the first step towards a kinder, gentler, more tolerant discourse, start by putting down the “SJW” label.

I really don't know what this picture means, but it made me giggle.

(A guest post by Alexandra Erin, quoted from her comment on another person’s blog. Thanks to Alexandra for her permission, and visit her blog Blue Author Is About To Write.)

Joshua, I appreciate both where this post is coming from and where it may lead, but may I suggest a slightly more radical move?

Rather than figuring out where the dividing line between SJWs and others are, why don’t you stop dividing the world into SJWs and others? I’m not saying not to judge people’s actions, and not to speak up when you see someone who seems to have an axe to grind or whatever, but the thing is, “SJW” is mostly an externally applied label. Oh, sure, there are people on Twitter and Tumblr who now take it as an ironic badge of honor, but the label started off as a pejorative. I’m not saying you consciously use it this way personally, but for a lot of people, once they’ve applied the label to someone, they stop trying to understand where they’re coming from and even paying attention to what they’re saying. It’s like labeling a sentiment “Political Correctness” — the main effect is that it lets you write someone off.

If I tell you that trans rights are important to me, I’m telling you a thing about myself. If you care enough to, you can listen to what I’m saying or ask me questions or just try to imagine the world as I see it. Empathy is possible.

As soon as you decide I’m an “SJW”, though, you can no longer try to understand my perspective because I no longer have my own perspective in your head. I’m one of those wacky “SJWs”. I think whatever SJWs think. One time someone you called an SJW said all men should be strangled at birth, so I must think that. Some people who are SJWs don’t believe anything but are just trolling for attention or PC Cred Points or revenge on society. Once I’m labeled an SJW, that’s me, too.

And the thing is, an incredibly large and diverse amount of people and belief and attitudes all get swept up together as “SJWs” and then treated as a monolith. I’ve seen people on Tumblr talk about us supposed “SJWs” as a group that includes vegans, radical feminists, and trans women like myself. I’m not vegan, and most vegan extremists who know who I am hate me. Radical feminists actively work to subvert trans rights, and so we have no love lost for them. But I can go to any number of posts on a Puppy blog like Brad Torgersen’s, and know that I will find someone stating with perfect confidence that radical feminism informs the tenets of everything I do and believe, because Ess Jay Double You.

And once I am established as an SJW… well, believing is seeing.

Imagine that you saw me talking about how I think that racism and sexism are Continue reading

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Criticism Isn’t Censorship, National Review.


A National Review article, How to Censor Speakers on College Campuses, is subtitled “Oberlin students trying to censor Christina Hoff Sommers conflate speech and violence.”1 The writer, Charles Cooke, is talking about a speech Christina Hoff Sommers gave at Oberlin, which some Oberlin students protested.

Cooke writes:

By way of example, take a look at this farcical missive from the Oberlin Review, in which around 150 students at the college claim repeatedly that Sommers was coming to campus to present not a viewpoint with which many of the students vehemently disagree but rather an actual threat to student safety. Sommers, the signatories contend, is not an academic sharing her work, but a participant “in violent movements” and an accessory to “threats of death and rape.” The decision to allow her to speak, they conclude, “has real life consequences on the well-being of people.”

Why did they claim this? Well, largely because they know that it works. As Ace of Spades noted acidly yesterday evening, the “game” is rather simple: “If you claim someone is making you feel ‘unsafe,’” Ace noted “that sets in motion Title IX protections,” and, in consequence, “administrators are under legal peril if they do not act.” He is correct. Indeed, as progressives across the world have come to realize, the most successful way of getting speech banned or condemned is to propose that there is something inherently different about it — something that is so sinister and so mysterious that it is likely to cause both psychic and physical harm. Or rather, as one trumped little agitator named Lydia Smith put it, Sommers’s views are “super f[***]ing oppressive,” and they need to be suppressed.


1) This sort of pathetic bleating from conservatives who scream “censorship” any time a right-winger is protested or disagreed with is impossible to respect. (In comments, RonF posted a link to this funny YouTube video, making fun of Obies for whining pitiously when they encounter opposing opinions – but the criticism would be better applied to the National Review, if Cooke’s article is typical.)

2) Oberlin College – which I feel sure has more competent legal counsel than Charles Cooke or his friend “Ace of Spades” – gave no appearance of feeling itself to be “under legal peril.” At the very least, Oberlin administrators did nothing to prevent Sommers from speaking (Oberlin did distribute copies of their “general policies for dissent/protest,” but those policies – which seemed to have been followed by the protestors at CHS’s speech – protect Sommers’ speech, as well as the protestors’ speech). There’s no evidence that anyone at Oberlin did anything to prevent Sommers from speaking or being heard.

3) A lot of Cooke’s critique comes down to his magical mind-reading powers. According to Cooke, “they claim this” – that CHS is a rape apologist, that she contributes to a culture that has negative consequences, etc – because it serves progressives’ goal “of getting speech banned or condemned” and such claims are “the most successful way” of banning speech.

How does Cooke know the hidden evil motives of Oberlin progressives? Maybe they said what they said because they believe it to be true.

4) Let’s see what those students actually wrote in the Oberlin Review:

A rape denialist is someone who denies the prevalence of rape and denies known causes of it. Christina Hoff Sommers believes that rape occurs less often than statistics (those which actually leave out a plethora of unreported rapes) suggest. She also believes that false rape accusations are a rampant issue and that intoxication and coercion cannot rightly be considered barriers to consent. OCRL additionally failed to mention that she participates in violent movements such as GamerGate, a campaign that threatened feminists advocating against sexism in video games via threats of death and rape. […]

By denying rape culture, she’s creating exactly the cycle of victim/survivor blame, where victims are responsible for the violence that was forced upon them and the subsequent shame that occurs when survivors share their stories, whose existence she denies. This is how rape culture flourishes. By bringing her to a college campus laden with trauma and sexualized violence and full of victims/survivors, OCRL is choosing to reinforce this climate of denial/blame/shame that ultimately has real life consequences on the well-being of people who have experienced sexualized violence.

Cooke quoted out-of-context bits of that letter in a way that makes it seem like Oberlin students had actually accused CHS of being a violent threat to Oberlin students. But in context, the letter makes no such claim. For example, when they say that CHS’s speech has “real life consequences,” they are explicitly referring to a “climate of denial/blame/shame,” not to direct physical violence.

5) Cooke claims that Lydia Smith, who was also one of the signatories of the Oberlin Review letter, said that “Sommers’s views are ‘super f[***]ing oppressive,’ and they need to be suppressed.” This is a fucking2 lie. Here’s a fuller version of Smith’s quote, apparently speaking in character as a parody of CHS:

I have an opinion. My opinion is different from yours (read: ‘general Oberlin consensus’). PS my opinion is actually super fucking oppressive. My view silences people’s lived experiences. My view silences people’s realities. My view silences people’s trauma. But it’s different. In the name of free speech, you better give me the platform to speak.

Smith is making fun of the idea that CHS is owed a platform to speak. But Smith doesn’t advocate censoring CHS, or say that CHS’s views “need to be suppressed.” Cooke simply made that up.

6) The Oberlin protestors showed up; they posted signs outside the hall where CHS was speaking; they organized a counter-event; fifteen or so protestors sat in the front row with tape over their mouths; reports vary, but there may have been a few hecklers who shouted brief comments, but nothing that prevented Sommers from speaking or being heard.

None of that amounts to censorship. At all. In fact, that’s how free speech is supposed to work. Conservatives, contrary to what some of them apparently believe, do not have a free speech right to speak without opposition or criticism.

There’s a real problem – among lefties, among feminists, and among conservatives – of some people being so merciless and unforgiving of political disagreement that it creates a chilling effect on debate and free expression. But that doesn’t seem to have happened here. Oberlin college Republicans brought in Sommers to speak (presumably paying her $5000 fee out of their share of Oberlin’s student activity fund); she spoke; other students objected and held counter-events; according to Sommers, afterwards she went out for drinks with some Oberlin students, including some protestors, and had a spirited but civil disagreement.

Nothing here justifies whining about censorship.

  1. It’s possible that someone else at the NR, rather than Cooke, was responsible for the title and subtitle of Cooke’s piece. But I think it’s in keeping with Cooke’s piece, and in any case, it’s evident that someone at The National Review – either Cooke himself or his editor – believes that what happened at Oberlin was attempted censorship. []
  2. Or “f[***]ing” if Cooke prefers. []
Posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Christina Hoff Sommers, Civility, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 53 Comments