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Monday, December 07, 2015

On Germaine Greer in Cardiff

What the row over banning Germaine Greer is really about - "The word “TERF” is sprayed around like confetti, with very little understanding of what it means. I’ve been called a TERF, even though I think trans women are women and absolutely have a place in feminism. I think it’s become a politer way of saying “witch”. It’s also about undergraduates rebelling against their parents’ generation and its liberal deification of free speech. After all, the last time students tried to have Greer disinvited from addressing a university crowd, one of those defending her right to speak was Rachael Padman, the trans academic whose appointment to the all-women’s college Newnham Greer tried to kibosh in 1996. Padman said she hoped the Cambridge Union would “give Germaine a fair hearing, but of course robustly interrogate her”. Here was someone directly affected by Greer’s beliefs, defending her right to express them. The fact that the trans rights struggle is the first progressive cause to come of age in the time of Twitter leaves anyone who wants to explore the thorny issue of gender and biological sex, and the meaning of both and the differences between them, in a difficult position... several guests also said things which have become unsayable on social media, even by trans people themselves: one referred to using the term “trans*” (the asterisk denotes that the term includes not just transgender people, but those who reject the gender binary, or are otherwise genderfluid) and was told, laughingly, by others that this was very two years ago. There are places on the internet where you will be told to “die in a fire” if you write “transwomen” instead of “trans women”. (Not pressing the spacebar is said to indicate that you don’t believe they are real women). After a while, you begin to wonder if the opacity of language isn’t accidental at all. Trans activists, tired of being treated as objects of curiousity, fear or pity by outsiders, have decided to seize control of the discourse and develop their own ways of talking about how they feel. This is understandable, but it also means that everyone is constantly making mistakes... Even trans people who do not have the “correct” opinions feel worried about broaching the subject; I know a group of “gender critical” trans women who are castigated regularly as “TERF tokens” and “Uncle Toms”... If you "listened to women" on abortion, you'd hear a much higher level of anti-abortion views than if you listened to men, for example. What people mean when they say that is "listen to mainstream feminist opinion". But that doesn't have quite the same snappy righteousness, though, does it? Although trans issues have benefited hugely from the speed and reach of online activism, in other ways they have been ill-served by being the first progressive cause to blossom fully in the social media age. Nuance is impossible. Dare to write anything other than a saccharine celebration of diversity, or solemn sermons about how brave trans people are, and your opinion is read as an attack on the very idea that they should be allowed to carry on living at all... Should a person with a penis and beard (no surgery or hormones are required to legally transition) be allowed into a women-only rape shelter?... It’s not – as many people on Twitter seem to believe – as simple as identifying the group you feel is most fashionably oppressed and sprinting to shout: “Solidarity!”... there is now a strange conflation of rhetorical with actual, physical violence. Such views are said to lead directly to the dehumanisation of trans people that puts them in danger of street attacks and death. It is a difficult point to argue when confronted with the facts: the only person convicted of murdering a trans woman in Britain this year is Joaquin Gomez-Hernandez, who killed his wife, Vanessa Santillan, after finding her in bed with a client. He had no job, and lived off her earnings as a sex worker; a familiar tale of a bruised male ego curdling into rage. Not an avid reader of Germaine Greer, I would guess... The current orthodoxy is that issues should be left to those directly affected by them to discuss, but consider this for more than a minute and the absurdity reveals itself. The rights of severely disabled people who cannot communicate would, under this logic, never get discussed. Plus: gender affects us all; free speech affects us all... The new no-platforming of feminists means that one duff opinion sees you bundled off the stage, whatever you planned to talk about. Germaine Greer could go to a university to talk about her LP collection and there would be students desperate to ban her"
Women are more flamed for their opinions? But they don't get told to check their male privilege...

Germaine Greer and the scourge of 'no-platforming' - "The "no-platforming" campaign against Germaine Greer reflects a deeper sickness afflicting Western universities. While the stated aim is to reduce harm, the end result is enforced ignorance... Students at Cardiff University have seemingly been deprived of their opportunity to hear one of the most significant female intellectuals of the last century... It is important to note that while Greer has answered questions on transgenderism during interviews and panel discussions, she has not published any comment about transgenderism for over 15 years... Meanwhile, there has been an alarming amount of vitriol and hatred expressed towards Greer on Twitter. In her Newsnight interview with Kirsty Wark, Greer said that while she did not think that post-operative male-to-female transsexuals were "women", this was not a prohibition. If people wanted to pursue sex reassignment surgery, they should "carry on". "It happens to be an opinion," she said, visibly exasperated... In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American scholar and anti-free speech advocate,coined the term "intersectional feminism". Intersectional feminism is about how people experience various forms of intersecting oppression, from racial oppression, to gender oppression, to other forms of marginalization. Intersectional feminism is vastly different from the kind of liberation feminism that Greer advocated in the seventies. It is the fashionable version of feminist activism that is present on university campuses today. Within intersectionality, free speech is dangerous. It is something to be overcome, not utilised for political effect. To protect vulnerable groups such as women, people of colour, sexual assault victims or transgender individuals, freedom of expression must be curtailed, lest someone's speech cause emotional harm."
There is a certain dramatic irony about feminists silencing and censoring other feminists

How Germaine Greer is having her voice snatched away by feminist students - "Since I read The Female Eunuch in 1970, when the feminist bestseller was published, I’ve been an irritated admirer of Germaine Greer. Irritated, because she has tiresome political views (a Marxist anarchist Liberal Democrat is hard to warm to), frequently changes her mind but is always sure she is right and can be guilty of sweeping unfairness to whole sections of society, especially men. But there is much more reason to admire Greer, for she has an original mind, challenges her followers with everything she writes and says, is never dull and has tremendous guts. She infuriated, inspired, energised and helped liberate generations of women and we all owe her a great debt of gratitude... Issues of sexual identity and orientation are very fashionable among the young at present. Being ‘cisgender’, is, in plain English, thinking you have the same gender identity you were given at birth, and straight is totally uncool. Non-binary or gender queer, i.e. being not exclusively male or female, is what’s currently trendy. But what is really exciting in today’s society is to be transgender, famously exemplified by Olympic gold medallist Bruce Jenner... As a young woman, I was happy to describe myself as a feminist, but it’s a label I have reluctantly come to reject. Like the majority of my female friends, young and old, I find those who now call themselves feminist a spineless, whingeing lot seemingly bent on claiming the very status of victims that Greer fought so hard to liberate us from. Most young men and women today take it for granted that they will have equal career opportunities and have better things to do than look for reasons to take offence. However, sadly, many of today’s self-declared feminists do not. Typical of their nonsense was the petition initiated by Rachael Melhuish, the Women’s Officer at Cardiff University Students’ Union... Greer, who has dedicated her academic life to opening doors and fighting for women to be heard in society, is having the door slammed and her voice snatched away by feminist students. An irony no doubt lost on the Women’s Officer... ‘check your privilege’, which you use to silence others. It operates a bit like a game of bridge: you can use your blackness, poverty, disability, homosexuality, discontent with your sexual organs or anything else that’s bugging you to trump those you perceive to be less oppressed and tell them to shut up... While people die under repressive regimes around much of the world for uttering criticisms of their rulers, ignorant and spoiled young people in the West declare themselves the judge of who can and cannot be heard on their campuses. There were always Left-wing students who tried to bar or shout down speakers from the Right, and they are still with us yelling about fascists and Zionists and climate-change deniers and Islamophobia. But contemporary feminists have taken such protests to a level of lunacy that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous to themselves and to society... Remember Nobel-prize winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt being hounded out of his job for making a crass joke? Or the barrister who was publicly humiliated for complimenting barrister Charlotte Proudman’s photo on a networking website? Ironically, they show the truth of Greer’s assertion in The Female Eunuch: ‘The fear of freedom is strong in us.’"

Germaine Greer gives university lecture despite campaign to silence her - "“I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock,” she said. “You can beat me over the head with a baseball bat. It still won’t make me change my mind.” Greer quoted the BBC Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, who said when judging an unconvincing rumba that just because someone told him his pencil was a hammer, it did not change the fact that it really was a pencil. She also referred to a Will Young pop video featuring a naked trans man walking down a street, claiming that if an elderly woman had done that she would have been thrown into a waste disposal unit... "I do agree that calling people names may add to their misery but it happens to old women every day"... Greer said five women had approached her as she travelled to Cardiff to back her stance on trans women. “They said: ‘I’m so glad that someone is saying what we think. We don’t think that post-operative male transexuals are women but we are not allowed to say so’. I will say so because I don’t believe they are women. That’s not tantamount to calling them names. I also happen to believe that the surgery is unethical.” When it was pointed out that trans people were being killed in the US because of their sexuality, Greer replied: “We have two women a week being murdered in England by their partners. They are not my fault and the transexuals in America aren’t my fault either ... If you want to turn me into a demon you have to have some evidence ... I don’t accept post-operative males as females.”"

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Links - 6th December 2015

Can Singapore be both the exception and the rule? - "at its core, Singaporean exceptionalism needs the sustenance of regular and noticeable successes to refresh belief in its relevance. It is this reliance that makes this brand of exceptionalism far more easily lost. Without the trappings of success, Singaporean exceptionalism would have little to show for its unorthodoxy. It then follows that the narrative of exceptionalism in Singapore is almost always merged with a seemingly contradictory concession that we are also in a constantly precarious state, with local and global threats lurking just around the corner. Over time it has been nuanced to speak of how we“took advantage of disadvantage” and “turned vulnerabilities into strengths”. Yet believing that we are special enough to defy the odds, but always vulnerable, effectively narrows the range of ideas that can be considered, let alone debated... the party’s rhetoric of pragmatism conflates Singaporean exceptionalism with PAP exceptionalism – making the party unassailable, since debating the PAP becomes tantamount to critiquing Singapore’s accomplishments and potential."

Smite the Unbelievers - "Just because a given percentage agree with the death penalty for apostasy does not entail that they’d automatically kill an apostate personally, but it probably indicates a level of tolerance and acceptance of intimidation and violence directed toward the act of apostasy... To me it is interesting that many liberals I see on the internet with whom I am on good terms otherwise with seem more focused on policing “Islamophobia” than in the genuine illiberalism which is so common among today’s 1.5 billion Muslims... Several years ago the financial journalist Heidi Moore decided to “whitesplain” Islam to me... The reality is that many liberals who are deeply worried about Islamophobia know as much about Islam as Ben Carson does. That’s a fact. I say this as someone who knows a fair amount about the religion, despite my obvious distaste for it. The arguments that American liberals and conservatives have about Islam are not about Islam, but about each other’s self-perceptions, and their cartoon of what Islam is."

“Yellow Fever” by Sally Wen Mao | The Poetry Project - "You are the kind of person who would frame a print of Hokusai’s
Dream of a Fisherman’s Wife and stroke the airplane
at night, imagining yourself as monster, tentacular
ladykiller. I am the eavesdropper sitting in your ear listening...
With the smugness of a man who has
just caught a trout, you say I do like those Asian women.
I will fuck you up with the spastic ember of a Puccini opera."

The Myth of Basic Science - WSJ - "When you examine the history of innovation, you find, again and again, that scientific breakthroughs are the effect, not the cause, of technological change... n the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. and Britain made huge contributions to science with negligible public funding, while Germany and France, with hefty public funding, achieved no greater results either in science or in economics... In 2003, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a paperon the “sources of economic growth in OECD countries” between 1971 and 1998 and found, to its surprise, that whereas privately funded research and development stimulated economic growth, publicly funded research had no economic impact whatsoever. None. This earthshaking result has never been challenged or debunked. It is so inconvenient to the argument that science needs public funding that it is ignored. In 2007, the economist Leo Sveikauskas of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that returns from many forms of publicly financed R&D are near zero and that “many elements of university and government research have very low returns, overwhelmingly contribute to economic growth only indirectly, if at all.” As the economist Walter Park of American University in Washington, D.C., concluded, the explanation for this discrepancy is that public funding of research almost certainly crowds out private funding"

Others may know us better than we know ourselves, study finds - "the individual is more accurate in assessing one's own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity, and even strangers are equally adept as our friends and ourselves at spotting the extrovert in us all, a psychology domain known as "extroversion"... The self has difficulty in accurately judging itself in areas that are desirable or undesirable, what she calls evaluative traits. Intelligence, attractiveness, creativity are hard for the self to judge objectively because "there is so much at stake, meaning your life is going to be so much different if you are intelligent or not intelligent, attractive or not. Everybody wants to be seen as intelligent and attractive, but these desirable traits we're not going to judge accurately in ourselves."

Tampons aren't the only product to get taxed at 5% - "Mobility aids for the elderly
Smoking cessation products
Maternity pads
Car seats for children
Solar panels
Energy supplies"
Too bad there're no feminists campaigning for those products

Eating vegetables can seriously damage your health - "Eating vegetables may be the cause of a cancer that kills 3,000 people a year in Britain. Research suggests that the increased use of nitrate fertilisers since the Second World War may be one of the main reasons for the dramatic rise in cancer of the gullet. The number of cases is escalating faster than any other form of cancer in Britain."

Have spare time before boarding? Dine in at Old Chang Kee’s first Changi Airport outlet - "She claims that Old Chang Kee has touched the hearts of all generations in Singapore and is a brand which Singapore is proud of and has graced many National Day events as the key caterer."

My trigger-warning disaster: “9 1/2 Weeks,” “The Wire” and how coddled young radicals got discomfort all wrong - "They argued that if someone is in an abusive relationship, they can never consent to sex because they are being manipulated. This triggered me. I was furious. Sexual assault survivor support is about empowerment. The model says, “Hey! It’s not for you to tell the survivor what happened to them; that’s their story, they know, don’t fucking label it.” What these students were essentially doing was stripping every person in an abusive relationship of all their agency. They were telling every survivor that they were raped, even when the survivor may have wanted to have sex with their abuser. They were claiming god like knowledge of every sexual encounter. And they were only 20. If that. Their frontal lobes haven’t even fully developed... Memory, emotional trauma, grief and healing are complicated and unique to an individual’s experience. Blanket trigger warnings treat them as impersonal predictable entities. The current movement of calling for trigger warnings prioritizes the shielding of students from the traumatic, whereas, ironically, so many other therapeutic models focus on talking through and confronting trauma as a mode of healing... Colleges are the new helicopter parents, places where the quest for emotional safety and psychic healing leads not to learning, but regression... if you promote trigger warnings in subjects that are supposed to make people feel uncomfortable, you’re basically promoting a culture of extreme privilege, cause I’m pretty sure that the trans women who are being murdered weekly, the black men who are victims of police brutality daily, and the neighborhoods in America that are plagued by everyday violence, aren’t given any trigger warnings. Let’s be honest: life is a trigger."

Why NFL Players Are So Likely to Declare Bankruptcy - "They get bad advice and make bad decisions. Ismail blew money on a wide range of sketchy investments, including a religious movie, a music label, and various high-risk restaurant and retail endeavors. Many players have sued their advisors after allegedly being scammed out of millions. In one suit filed in 2013, a group of 16 former and current NFL playersclaimed they were collectively bilked for more than $50 million based on the actions of an advisor who had allegedly invested the money in an illegal casino."

Westminster Abbey » Stamford Raffles - "he raised Java to happiness and prosperity unknown under former rulers"

Many ‘Syrian Refugees’ Are Neither Syrian nor Refugees - "The European Union’s official statistical agency, Eurostat, recorded 213,0000 arrived migrants in April, May, and June of this year; only 44,000 — 1 in five — were fleeing war in Syria. With new international attention turned to the problem over the last month, that proportion likely has changed. But even the International Organization for Migration reports that Syrians make up only 40 percent of the total migrant population. Another 11 percent are Afghans fleeing the Taliban; Eritreans fleeing their own oppressive government are 7 percent; and many thousands more hail from Iraq, Pakistan, and sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps the most telling statistic is the ratio of men to women and children in the overall migrant population: 72 percent to 13 percent and 15 percent, respectively, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Given the typical profile of economic migrants, this dramatic disproportion suggests that many men are seeking economic opportunity, not sanctuary from violence... The heart-rending photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach turned international attention to the migrant crisis. But Aylan and his family were entirely out of harm’s way. According to the Guardian, the Kurdi family had been living in Turkey for three years. Aylan’s father, Abdullah, was seeking to move the family to Sweden — to get dental care."
Keywords: not from Syria, not Syrian, most migrants

Europe's Welfare States Attract Refugees, Moslty Single Men - "The Swedish newspaper Local reported last week that “more than 30 asylum seekers refused to get off a bus that took them to temporary accommodation at a holiday park on Sunday night because they didn’t want to stay in such a rural location.” Other countries without an extensive welfare state don’t seem to have Sweden’s problem. Reuters reported that Lithuania “is throwing its doors open to refugees fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East, but is finding few takers.” Rimantas Vaitkus, deputy chancellor of the Lithuanian government, told the news agency: “We are prepared to accept refugees immediately, but there are no refugees in Italy or Greece who agreed to resettle in Lithuania. . . . It seems that refugees know about Sweden, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, which either have generous social security or have been actively attracting immigrants”... Merkel helped create Germany’s refugee crisis back in September when she announced that she would disregard European Union rules requiring refugees to seek asylum in the European country they first arrive in"

Unconventional Opinions: the Backlash against TTIP, TPP and Investment Arbitration - "There is a high degree of transparency about the working of investment arbitration proceedings before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID or Centre), which is the most popular destination for arbitration pursuant to ISDS. There is nothing secretive or improper about how tribunals are appointed. The usual procedure is that each party chooses one of the three arbitrators and the third is chosen either by the Centre or by the party-nominated arbitrators. In each case, the nominated arbitrators must confirm that they are independent and impartial. The parties have the right to challenge the appointment of anyone not meeting the necessary standards of integrity. Such challenges are rare, even though the prejudiced party would have every incentive to raise a challenge if it perceived bias on the part of the prospective tribunal. In general, while investors and states have free reign to appoint whomsoever they wish as arbitrator, there has emerged an elite of established arbitrators from a diverse range of backgrounds, the vast majority of whom are of the highest intellectual calibre and standard of probity... There is also little truth in the charge that ICSID proceedings alienate public interest groups. Hearings are frequently held in public, sometimes being webcast to a worldwide audience, for free. NGOs can and do participate in proceedings and submit amicus briefs, just as they can in many domestic court systems"

Some Chinese Grandparents Are Making Their Grandkids Fat - "children in China who are mainly cared for by grandparents are twice as likely to be overweight or obese"

Do Chimps Trade Food for Sex? - "Some studies report cases of male chimps trying to sweeten the deal: sharing game they killed, or crops they filched, with females that mated with them. In a 2007 West African chimp study, a female consorted more frequently with a male that gave her stolen papayas, leading researcher Kimberley Hockings, a postdoctoral student at Oxford Brookes University in the U.K., to suggest the male was trading "forbidden fruit" for "other currencies.""

The Latest Things You Can't Do in Iran: Go to Coffee Shops, Eat Chicken on TV - "If those sound absurd, it's because they are, but they do make some sense within the internal logic of Iranian oppression. And, perhaps just as importantly, they are signs of how drastically Iranian society is suffering in the country's confrontation with the West... People are furious that their economy is so bad that they often can't even buy chicken anymore, and seeing chicken on TV might remind them of this. Of course, while Moghadam is addressing this problem in one of the few ways he actually can, the real cause isn't culinary TV, it's the Iranian nuclear program and the crippling Western sanctions that it has drawn."


What Economists Think About Raising the Minimum Wage - NYTimes.com - "of those who responded, about a quarter said they were “uncertain” about the proposition. Exactly zero percent said they either agreed or disagreed “strongly”... Ask economists about whether raising the minimum wage is worth the potential risks to low-skilled workers, though, and the responses tend to be much more favorable to a minimum-wage increase"

Life and Death

Life asked Death, "Death, Why do people love me but hate you?"

Death responded, "Because you are a beautiful lie and I am the painful truth"
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