WTF Friday, 8/28/2015

Hard to know what to even say about this week. Two journalists were murdered on air, an innocent baby panda died, and against all reason, Donald Trump continues to be a thing.

So let’s go with a happier “WTF” today:

This is a Tumblr post written by 13 year old Disney actress Rowan Blanchard that does better on intersectionality than most fully grown white feminists. She’s responding to a fan question about “white feminism”, and explains the need for inclusivity simply:

“The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women. … To only acknowledge feminism from a one sided view when the literal DEFINITION is the equality of the sexes is not feminism at all.”

She also quotes Kimberlé Crenshaw, because apparently that’s what the kids are reading these days.

So that’s good news: 1, bummers: a billion.

WTF Friday, 8/2/13

This week’s WTF Friday traveled to the blog via Metro-North from New Haven. Yale University has released its latest Sexual Misconduct Report, which manages to avoid using the terms “rape” or “sexual assault” one single time, even when discussing, well, rape.

You see, when such things happen in the rarified gardens of Yale, they’re not crimes, just “nonconsensual sex.” Observe:

“A YC student brought a formal complaint charging that a male YC student had nonconsensual sex with her.

Update: The UWC found sufficient evidence that the respondent engaged in certain conduct of a sexual nature that was nonconsensual. In addition, the UWC found that the respondent violated the Yale College Code of General Conduct. The respondent was given a two semester suspension, was placed on probation for the remainder of his time at the University, was restricted from contacting the complainant, and was encouraged to continue counseling for alcohol abuse, appropriate sexual behavior and the respectful treatment of others.”

Let’s break that statement down, shall we? The quoted text refers to a complaint by a female Yale student against a male Yale student. The “update” sets forth the resolution of the complaint.

Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, or UWC (there’s something amazing about the fact that Yale didn’t even keep the “sexual misconduct” part when choosing an acronym for its committee on sexual misconduct) investigated the allegations, and found that the perpetrator had, in fact, assaulted the victim.

That sexual assault was a crime, and most likely a felony, but there’s no mention of that in the report. (It does, however, make a point of noting that the perpetrator violated the College Code of Conduct, which I think we can all agree is the real problem here.)

Isn’t the term “nonconsensual sex” amazing? The way that it somehow implies a gulf between a situation in which someone has sex with another person without consent, and a totally different situation in which that person commits a rape or sexual assault? Yale apparently thinks there’s a distinction between the two, because the most severe punishment it meted out to any of the perpetrators described in the report was a suspension.

What’s a person got to do to get expelled from Yale? Non-consensual cannibalism?

I don’t know if that counseling for “appropriate sexual behavior and the respectful treatment of others” is available to universities. But it sure seems like Yale could use it.

h/t Texasinafrica.

The Senate Should Confirm Nina Pillard Already

I wholeheartedly support Cornelia “Nina” Pillard’s nomination for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, because she is awesome. Professor Pillard taught two of my classes at Georgetown, so I can say from personal experience that she is a smart, diligent, judicious thinker. She is also a triathlete with practically-bionic strength. (That is less relevant to her judicial nomination, but still cool. Her exploits in the law school’s gym were legendary amongst my classmates.) The Senate should confirm her already.

I am not the only one who thinks that Pillard would be an asset to the federal bench. Here is Professor Viet Dinh, former deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, and probably Georgetown’s most famously conservative faculty member, on Pillard’s qualifications:

“She is a fair-minded thinker with enormous respect for the law and for the limited, and essential, role of the federal appellate judge– qualities that make her well prepared to taken on the work of a D.C. Circuit judge. I am confident that she would approach the judicial task of applying law to facts in a fair and meticulous manner.”

And here is a statement from a group of 40 prominent attorneys who practice before the Supreme Court, including several who served in senior roles in the Reagan and Bush justice departments:

“We believe that Professor Pillard would bring to the D.C. Circuit unquestioned professional integrity and intellect, a breadth of experience, and dedication to fairness and the rule of law. We urge her confirmation.”

And yet, if you listen to the Republican members of the judiciary committee and the denizens of the National Review echo chamber, Pillard is some sort of crazed radical who probably shouldn’t be trusted with young minds, let alone federal cases. Never mind that she has assisted dozens of litigants, from all points on the political spectrum, pro bono as part of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute. Never mind that she collaborated with Dinh and the Bush Administration to litigate (and win) Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs before the Supreme Court. No, apparently Pillard is “out of the mainstream,” and would be “the most left-wing judge in the history of the republic.”

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WTF Friday, Princeton Edition

This advice, from a Princeton alumna to the young women who are studying there today, is pretty much the worst:

“Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.”

You see, “[m]en regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated.  It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty.”  Women’s possession of erudition, on the other hand, is apparently unforgivable to the dudelier sex:

“Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

One wonders if Patton believes that there’s a sliding scale for women who are super-duper-exceptionally pretty.  What if a girl looks like Natalie Portman?  Would that be enough to make men “forgive” the fact that she’s also able to think like Natalie Portman – herself a Westinghouse semifinalist, Harvard graduate, and Oscar winner?  Or should we just conclude that Nat landed Benjamin Millepied by laughing at all his jokes and complaining that math is sooo hard?

Lest any of you think that I’m being too harsh, and Patton is really delivering a message about the benefits of creating a lifelong partnership with an intellectual equal, she then gets down to brass tacks, telling the young women of Princeton that they’d better be “nicer” to the men around them before they get too old to be appealing.  And by old, she means “22”:

“Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?
If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.”

Snark aside, this is tremendously sad. I don’t have any daughters, but I do have younger sisters, cousins, and nieces, and it pains me to think that any of them would judge their lives and successes by how palatable they had made themselves to “worthy” men. And it seems like there was also a time when it would have pained Patton herself. In this earlier letter to the Princetonian from 2006, Patton paints a very different picture of her values. She describes the courage and independence it took for her to get a Princeton education in the first place:

“It was a spring day in 1973 when I received my acceptance letter to Princeton’s Class of 1977. It was the affirmative answer to a prayer I could only whisper. It was the promise of a life beyond the Bronx. There should have been great joy and hearty celebration at home. I had forgotten until this week that my admission to Princeton was joyous only to me. It was upsetting and shameful to my parents.

I would be the first woman in my family to attend college. The necessity of my continued education eluded my mother and father. My leaving their home before marriage was an utter disgrace to them. Princeton was unknown to my parents. They saw no honor in my admission to such a prestigious institution, and they were confident that I should be investing myself in other things. It wouldn’t have mattered where I wanted to go away to school. They were adamant that a young girl’s place is in her parents’ home, until she is in her husband’s home. European immigrants and concentration camp survivors, my parents couldn’t understand why at 18 years old, I didn’t direct my efforts towards finding a mate.

As a very young child, I understood that my parents were different. The memories of Auschwitz for my mother and Bergen-Belsen for my father would haunt them all their lives, and often render me feeling more than one generation removed from them. The explanation of how I would benefit from a Princeton education fell on their deaf ears and paled in comparison to their fear of the horrors that could befall me if, as an unmarried daughter, I lived other than under their roof. They wanted nothing to do with my college application and refused to sign the required financial documentation. For many years, filing my application to Princeton as an emancipated minor made me feel strong and independent.

Thirty-two years later, I feel sad that my parents couldn’t accept the pleasure and pride of having a daughter at Princeton. Through loans, grants, and working multiple jobs on campus and during summers, I paid my own way through school. The cost of a Princeton education today is more than 10 times what it was in 1973. I have long dreamed that someday I might be the proud parent of a Princetonian. It will be a (very expensive) pleasure to pay my son’s University bill.

All freshmen begin their undergraduate experience hoping that they will fit in, make friends, and succeed academically. I remember that the support and encouragement from family was often the thing that carried my classmates over their early adjustment hurdles. I was fortunate to find a sympathetic roommate (the granddaughter of an Orthodox rabbi), a caring Schools Committee alumnus (who has remained a lifelong mentor), and happiness singing and dancing with the Triangle Club.”

That is not the life story of a woman who only cared about getting an MRS degree.

What happened to the Patton of 1973, who was willing to sacrifice so much to achieve her dreams of education, instead of “direct[ing] her efforts towards finding a mate”? The Patton of 1977, who became president of her graduating class? The Patton of 2006, who wrote about her own accomplishments, and her son’s, with such obvious and well-earned pride?

If only one of them could have attended that Women in Leadership conference.

(H/T Jezebel.)

WTF Friday, Hashtag Edition

Stay classy, conservatives: the hashtag #LiberalTipsToAvoidRape spent much of this week trending on Twitter.

Some choice excerpts:

And a special WTF for Fox News’s Dana Perino, who apparently couldn’t come up with a better #ff than the creator of the hashtag, @SooperMexican:

(Mother Jones has a good description of the hashtag’s origins here.)

On That New “Half the Sky” Game

The New York Times reports that Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half The Sky Foundation is coming out with a Facebook game:

The central character, an Indian woman named Radhika, faces various challenges with the assistance of players, who can help out with donations of virtual goods, for example. The players can then make equivalent real-world donations to seven nonprofit organizations woven into the game.

Ten dollars, for example, will help buy a goat for Heifer International; $20 will help support United Nations Foundation immunization efforts.

To further engage players, those who reach predesignated levels unlock donations from Johnson & Johnson and Pearson, which have each contributed $250,000 to buy real-world operations from the Fistula Foundation and books for Room to Read, respectively.


Asi Burak, also co-president of Games for Change, said the hope is to draw two million to five million players, persuading 5 percent or more to donate. Players can play at no charge, but they will make faster progress through donations.”

I will hold off of judging this specific game until I have a chance to play it. (It doesn’t come out until March 4th, so it’s not really clear to me why the PR push is beginning now, approximately 179 internet-years in advance of that date).

However, is it just me, or does it seem like using the game for both awareness-raising and fund-raising is a strategy that is kind of at war with itself?

To encourage people to donate, the slow, no-donation path through the game needs to be annoying enough to prompt people to pay for the quicker progression – except that will probably also mean that a substantial number of gamers will neither donate nor complete the game. They will just stop playing, and go back to a non-educational game that’s designed purely to maximize addictiveness and fun. (And which may also offer charitable donations, via the various efforts.)

Basically, charities who use these educational change-making games remind me of parents who sneak vegetables into their kids’ food. Is a brownie that contains spinach more delicious than spinach alone? Probably. Is it, therefore, a decent spinach-delivery device if your end goal is to increase total spinach consumption? Sure. But it’s still less delicious than a regular spinach-free brownie.

If the spinach brownie is free, and the regular brownie isn’t, there is probably some constituency of spinach-hating children who will be like “fuck it, still a brownie, I’ll take five of them please.”  (The imaginary children I know may swear like sailors when speaking to adults, but they never forget to say please.)

But if your theory is that kids can be convinced not only to eat the spinach brownies, but to first buy the spinach brownies from a bake sale that also offers delicious, non-spinach-smuggling regular brownies – then you’ve lost me.  What kid who has to be tricked into eating spinach in the first place is going to take you up on that?

That’s roughly where I stand on this game.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find myself a spinach-free brownie.

Nigeria’s Queen Hajiya: A Curse On Men Puts One Fierce Lady On the Throne

Melinda sent me this interesting story:

“The palace, under a rusted corrugated roof, looks mostly like a shed. Only one delicate pair of feet in its single room is shod, and they are in black rubber flip-flops.

This is the genteel court of Queen Hajiya Haidzatu Ahmed.”

According to the article, Queen Hajiya is a traditional chief in Kumbwada Kingdom, in Northern Nigeria. (Google searching suggests that it’s more often spelled Kumbada.) It’s unusual for women to ascend to power in that conservative Muslim region. The queen’s secret weapon?

“Here, an ancient curse keeps males off the throne, according to locals. Male pretenders who dare to try will be buried within a week.”

That sound you hear is Hillary Clinton smacking her forehead and saying “a curse! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”

In all seriousness, though, it turns out that being a woman in a region where men are cursed off of the throne has some excellent fringe benefits:

[I]n the community Hajiya has ruled for 12 years, women get a sympathetic hearing in cases of wife beating or divorce.

“When domestic issues come to me, the way I treat them will be quite different to other traditional chiefs,” she says. “I’m a woman and I’m a mother and I have so much concern and experience when it comes to the issue of marriage and what it means for the maintenance of the home and what it means for two people to live together.” […]

Most traditional African rulers reflexively side with the male head of the household in a family dispute. So a girl resisting marriage to a much older man she doesn’t love is likely to be ordered to obey her father. A woman who complains she is being beaten is likely to be told to obey her husband.

Hajiya had one wife-beating case early in her reign.

“I told him if he ever beat his wife again, I’d dissolve the marriage and put him in prison,” she remembers. “Marriage is not a joke, and women are not slaves.”

Since that case, she has made a point of campaigning against domestic violence whenever she holds court in local communities. She says she’s never had another beating case. People know where she stands.

Not to mention that she’s a firm supporter of Take Your Daughters to Work Day:

“She keeps her grown daughter, Idris, by her side whenever she holds court, grooming her to be queen.”

UN Just Wants to Do Something Special for All the Ladies in the World

According to the Guardian, the United Nations General Assembly will vote this fall on the creation of a new UN “super-agency” for women.

The new body, which women’s rights advocates hope will have a budget of $1 billion, was originally raised as part of former secretary-general Kofi Annan’s UN reform efforts. However, some stuff went down and he didn’t really get the chance to push it through.

But now, just three years later (which is like, a nanosecond in UN time), it will come up for a vote when the GA meets for its 64th session. Here’s hoping they will also vote to make Flight of the Conchords’ “Ladies of the World” the official theme song.

And because we’ve just figured out how to make polls, I’d like to know what you think:

Adopt a Clitoris!

Check it out: West Africa’s first clitoral reconstruction hospital is going live in a few months!

The free clinic, a.k.a. the “Pleasure Hospital” (seriously), will be located in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso and is being funded by weird UFO-cult-affiliated NGO Clitoraid (more on that later). Volunteer surgeons will perform reconstructive surgery on victims of female genital mutilation from across West Africa.

Demand is already far outpacing supply. Local NGO partner Voices of Women reports to IRIN Africa that its offices receive daily calls from women (and their husbands) interested in the surgery. They’ve had to cap the waitlist for the procedure at 100 patients.

If you’re thinking to yourself “I bet there are a lot more than 100 women in West Africa who might be interested in one day experiencing sexual pleasure,” you would be right. And Clitoraid offers you the opportunity to help via their “Adopt a Clitoris” campaign. (Sadly, the website does not appear to include a “Feed the Children” style photo gallery of clitorises in need of a sponsor. But we can hope that they will send you drawings and correspondence from your adopted clitoris, as well as regular progress reports on its well being.)

But back to the UFO thing: Clitoraid was founded by Claude Vorilhon, also known as Raël, founder of a wacky religious sect (called Raëlism, oddly enough) that believes that enlightened extra-terrestrials created life on earth. As the Clitoraid website explains, the organization was founded when Raël “decided to help as many women as possible to regain their sense of pleasure.” This tracks with Raëlism’s more general message of “our alien overlords gave us sex, so sex we shall have!”

So, you can send them money, and it’ll go to a good cause, but you’ll probably be facilitating an 80,000-member strong “save the clitoris, save the world” delusion. Your call…

Special thanks to Karisa Cloward who does Very Important Work on how we can stop bad things from happening to good vaginas and has enabled me to talk about UFOS and clitorises in the same post!

I Feel So UnGagged

Today President Obama will sign an executive order lifting the global gag rule.

For those readers who are just tuning in, or who have never tried to get funding from the U.S. government for family planning-related aid projects overseas, a little background may be in order. The global gag rule, (also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” after the location of the conference where the first President Bush initially announced the rule), prohibits U.S. funds from going to any organization that promotes or performs abortions overseas. The ban applies even in cases where the U.S. funds are designated for completely separate activities. So if, for instance, you run a free clinic in a rural area, and the French government has funded a program through which you offer advice to women about how to obtain safe, surgical abortions, then you cannot obtain U.S. funding for any of your programming.

President Clinton rescinded the rule when he took office, and then Second Bush reinstated it. During the campaign, Obama promised to lift the gag rule when he became president. I guess he meant it -the Friday morning after the Tuesday inauguration ain’t a bad turnaround.

(Of course, he could have done it yesterday, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He probably just forgot, right? What with all the hullaballoo about closing Guantanamo, and everything.)