WTF Friday, 2/5/2016

This was the week we were all forced to contend with the term “pro-rape rally”.

In case you were fortunate enough to miss this, I’m here to ruin your day: A noted internet asshole organized men’s rights events in 43 countries for this Saturday evening. Following widespread outrage (prompted by the aforementioned asshole’s public position that legalizing rape would be a good way to stop it), he announced that he was canceling the event because “I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend”. Honestly, gross as this is, it’s not 100% clear that this was ever a real thing, and efforts to get more information have only yielded additional nonsense. To wit:

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Meanwhile, the competition to be the biggest dick to refugees continues unabated. The EU plans to criminalize offering assistance to migrants arriving on the Greek Islands. And Australia’s high court just ruled that the country’s abhorrent practice of imprisoning asylum seekers in offshore camps is totally legal.

And also, for some reason, the Dutch are pressing bald eagles into service as an anti-drone patrol.

What Would LM Montgomery Do?

Militant pro-choice Anne of Green Gables, you guys:

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These posters are appearing all over Prince Edward Island, home of the beloved fictional character, and her creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The work of anonymous activists tweeting under the handle @iamkarats, the posters call on Premier Wade MacLauchlan to ensure the reproductive rights of the island’s residents. Currently, PEI women seeking an abortion must travel to one of Canada’s other provinces, an option that is not economically feasible for everyone. A group called Abortion Access Now is seeking a court order to compel the provincial government to make safe and legal (and government-funded!) abortions available to everyone. But in the meantime, Anne Shirley is ON IT.

H/T: Vocativ

Stuff to Check Out

(1) The return of Mass Atrocity Mondays, now live at Justice in Conflict. This month’s atrocity is the 2005 Andijan Massacre, and I’m taking requests for future posts.

(2) Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski is giving a talk here at Stanford on Wednesday (details below). Word on the street(s of Palo Alto) is that this will be a major human rights policy speech. If you’re in the Bay Area, come join the excitement.

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WTF Friday, 1/29/2016

There’s been a lot of ludicrously implausible stuff going on lately. So quick quiz:

Speaking Out of School

I’ve spent a lot of time these last few days talking with other academics about this NYT article by philosopher Carol Hay. Titled “Girlfriend, Mother, Professor?”, it decries the extra emotional work female faculty do as a consequence of students’ difficulty figuring out how to process women as professors and authority figures.

Many of these conversations went something like “Man, she’s strangely approving of the ancient Greek sex-with-boys approach to pedagogy, huh?” But the others suggested that Hay’s argument rings broadly true. There’s the YikYak problem. There’s the teaching evaluation disparity. And then there’s the Kleenex box Hay mentions, which many female academics keep on hand for the inevitable midterm tears.

Hay is correct that female faculty often bear the burden of providing emotional support to students. And that it’s a no-win situation. Falling behind on your research agenda due to time spent performing emotional labor results in penalties at tenure time. Declining to play the role of nurturer leads to punishment in your course evaluations.

But that’s not the whole story.

This isn’t simply a gender issue. Minority faculty members perform tremendous amounts of emotional work. For any student whose natural life cycle is not likely to include a phase as an middle-aged white man with elbow patches, seeing someone who looks like you in the professoriate is valuable. Developing a relationship with them is even more valuable. Faculty who come from under-represented communities know this. And even though they also know that being a role model and a support system for students will eat into their research productivity and may hurt their chances for tenure, many of them do it anyway. Because it’s important to them.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s ostensibly important to the schools, too. Almost every university and college in the U.S. has a publicly stated goal of increasing diversity in their student body. The emotional labor that female and minority (and particularly female minority) faculty perform is critical to this mission. It’s a rare 19 year old who doesn’t occasionally need a sympathetic adult ear. But for college kids who are the first of their family to go to college, who are working two jobs to stay there, or who are facing racism, sexism, or homophobia from fellow students, this need is even greater.

Emotional support from faculty can make the difference of keeping these students in school and ensuring that they succeed. But universities don’t seem to value this work, compounding the already higher rate of tenure denials among women and minorities. Which again, only makes the academy a whiter, more male place.

So maybe these schools aren’t that serious about being a welcoming environment for everyone, after all. If they were truly committed to diversity, they wouldn’t have policies that penalize labor that is disproportionately performed by female and minority faculty, and which disproportionately benefits female and minority students.

 

PSA: The Return of Mass Atrocity Monday

Big(ish) news: I’ve joined Justice in Conflict as a regular contributor and I’m bringing Mass Atrocity Monday back. (The 2014 run is compiled here.) So stay tuned for brand new lesser-known atrocities the first Monday of every month.

If you can’t wait until next week for your fix, check out this Nature article reporting on archaeological evidence of a (technically pre-)historical atrocity near Lake Turkana in Kenya. The findings suggest that humans were already massacring each other 10,000 years ago, and critically, that warfare may predate the transition to settled agriculture.

WTF Friday, 1/22/2016

We have a lot to get through today, guys.

In addition to all their other great inventions/discoveries, North Korea announced that it has developed hangover-free alcohol. I’ll say this for them, they’ve got their research priorities right.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli believes, for some reason, that a nation-wide ban on miniskirts will be an effective means of combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.  (Update: The Tanzanian government has said that although “H.E. President Magufuli and his government are strong proponents of decent dressing”, reports of a mini-skirt ban were false. H/T: Felix Reimer.)

El Salvador’s government has asked its female citizens to please refrain from reproducing for the next two years to avoid birth defects caused by the Zika virus. (Note that there is no implication that El Salvador’s men might have a role to play in achieving a national pregnancy rate of zero.)

Oh, and apparently Sri Lanka has decided that a good use of police resources, and reasonable thing for a democracy to do, is to embark upon a nation-wide “crackdown on suspected lesbians“. Ugh.

And finally, if you missed this yesterday: discriminatory rules on blood and bone marrow donations from gay men are making it harder to save lives, for absolutely no good reason.

A Matter of Life and Death

Chances are, you recently saw this plea for a bone marrow match for a young woman named Lara Casalotti.

Lara is only 24 years old and has acute myeloid leukemia. She desperately needs a stem cell transplant. But because she is of mixed ethnic background (Thai-Chinese and Italian), it’s hard to find a match.

Her family has launched a concerted push to find a donor for Lara, and to improve the diversity of bone marrow registries worldwide. It’s gone viral, even earning a tweet from the Reigning Queen of the Internet, J.K. Rowling.

People all over the world have signed up for their national registries in the hopes of saving Lara’s life. But some of them have been turned away.

Gay men are still restricted in their ability to donate blood products and bone marrow. In both Australia and New Zealand, any man who has had sex with another man in the previous 12 months may not donate blood or bone marrow. In the U.S.the U.K., and Canada gay men can donate bone marrow, but are still prohibited from giving blood if they are sexually active. The U.S. recently (last month, in fact) shifted from a lifetime ban to a 12 month deferment, a change the U.K. made in 2011. Canada, which currently requires 5 years of abstinence (!), will likely follow suit soon.

These regulations are discriminatory and unnecessary. They categorize all sex between men as inherently risky, on par with intravenous drug use. And they don’t just harm the dignity of gay men. Earlier this week, a friend of a friend tried, and failed, to register as a bone marrow donor in Australia. He’s a gay man, of mixed Chinese and Italian heritage, who thought he might be a match for Lara.

So please, if you can, register to be a donor. And if you live in Australia or New Zealand, tell your government to revise its bone marrow donation rules. The fate of someone like Lara, a young person who should have her whole life ahead of her, may hang in the balance.

WTF Friday, 1/15/2016

OMG, you guys, Zimbabwe’s president-for-life Robert Mugabe is dead, or dying, or maybe just on vacation with his family. (Seriously, that’s the entirety of that story.)

In more actually newsy news, Kampala’s police chief has fired all of his intelligence officers for “failure to prevent crime, alleged connivance with criminal gangs, drunkenness and negligence“. Seems like reasonable grounds, but I can’t help wondering what kind of mischief hundreds of drunk, out-of-work, well-connected-to-the-criminal-element cops are going to get up to.

And meanwhile, why isn’t it a bigger deal that sharks can reproduce asexually?

WTF Friday, 1/8/2016

Welcome to 2016, everyone. Here’s how the first week of the new year has gone:

North Korea says that it tested a hydrogen bomb, a technology that it totally, definitely, absolutely has. Other things North Korea claims to have include: a cure for Ebola, unicorns, and a functioning economy.

Ben Carson, who is somehow still a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, despite his militant ignorance of policy, politics, and interior design, humiliated a small child at a campaign event yesterday. If you don’t know that when you ask a roomful of 5th graders who the dumbest kid in the class is, they’re all going to point to the same kid, you’re probably not equipped to govern.

And in Gambia, perennial spouter-of-ridiculous-nonsense (and president) Yahya Jammeh has ordered all female civil servants to cover up their hair. The directive is presumably pursuant to his unilateral announcement last month that Gambia is now an Islamic republic. Because I guess that’s a thing the president can do.