WTF Friday, 10/14/2016

So this election’s October Surprise turns out to be that the Republican candidate for president is a sloppily-drawn allegorical embodiment of rape culture. In other misogyny news from around the internet:

Iran will execute a child bride (now 22 years old) for the murder of her husband in 2012. She was convicted after a trial that Amnesty International calls “grossly unfair“, and alleges that she was beaten by the police and coerced into confessing to the crime. Oh, and having just given birth to a stillborn baby in prison, she’s being denied postnatal care prior to her execution.

After rejecting all seven of the qualified female candidates for Secretary General, the UN has chosen Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. Because the UN is the literal worst.

And since I started writing this blog post, two more women have come forward to accuse of Trump of assault.

What a week.

WTF Friday, 10/7/2016

…And, we’re back.

Just in time, too, because everything is totally batshit f-ing crazy. If it’s not perennial WTF Friday star Rodrigo Duterte proclaiming Hitler as his own personal role model, it’s his bright orange demagogue doppelgänger insisting that all that breathtaking misogyny is simply an entertaining shtick he’s been refining over the last several decades.

Oh, and in Misogyny News, Global Edition, an Egyptian MP has called for mandatory virginity testing for any woman hoping to attend college. (Egypt’s female parliamentarians are NOT amused.)

But at least we should have plenty of “Hillary Clinton, Defender of Baby Bunnies” memes to look forward to. Could someone get started on that, please?

WTF Friday, 4/22/2016

Another week, another crop of politicians being absolute dicks. Specifically:

Our old pal, and candidate for president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte is at it again. This time, announcing his regret at missing the opportunity to rape Jacqueline Hamill, an Australian lay minister who was sexually assaulted and murdered during a prison riot in Davao City during Duterte’s tenure as mayor. He later doubled down on his remarks, insisting: “This is how men talk.” Again, this man is running for president of a whole entire country.

In Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff is facing ejection from office, another contender for Actual Worst Man Alive dedicated his impeachment vote to the army colonel responsible for torturing her in the 1970s. You may remember the slimeball in question, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, from that time he celebrated Human Rights Day by informing Brazil’s Human Rights Secretary that she was “not worth raping”.

And lest you think American politicians took the week off from indefensible asshattery, the U.S.’s Most Inexplicable Governor, Paul LePage of Maine, is back in the news. This time, he has vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone without a prescription. Naloxone, more commonly known by the brandname Narcan, is a life-saving medication that blocks the effects of opioids. It works nearly instantaneously and can reverse acute overdoses. It’s even on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. And Maine, a.k.a. that state LePage is the governor of, is in the grips of a terrible heroin epidemic. But rather than helping his constituents suffering from opiate addiction, Governor LePage would apparently prefer that they just die. Because he’s the worst.

WTF Friday, 4/15/2016

Happy Tax Day, fellow Americans. In honor of the occasion, let’s talk about one of the other certainties in life. Nope, not death. Overt, inveterate misogyny.

Item the first: At a town hall meeting today, a young woman asked Republican presidential candidate John Kasich what he would do to fight the campus rape epidemic if elected. After some mumbling about rape kits that focused entirely on response rather than prevention, he concluded with some advice for America’s “co-eds” (!). To wit: “Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.” Thanks, dude who wants to be in charge of us, I definitely feel like you take my safety seriously.

Here’s the video:

Item the second: Harvard’s secretive Porcellian Club made a rare public statement on Tuesday, objecting to the university administration’s call for finals clubs to admit female members. Harvard’s sexual assault task force identified the male-only clubs as hotspots for “sexual entitlement” and “gender inequality” on campus. The Porcellian’s response: “Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct.”

Because, obviously, ladies can’t be raped in locations they’re not allowed into.

The statement’s author, Harvard alum Charles Storey, later apologized for his “poor choice of words”, but seriously, WHY are so many men so willing to embrace a view of their sex as incapable of not raping any women who happen to be near them?

Item the third: Pro-life legislators in Missouri have decided to make a list of all the state’s women who’ve had abortions. They swear they’re not going to do anything creepy with it, but Planned Parenthood of St. Louis’s president, Mary Kogut, isn’t so sure. She’s currently facing a contempt of court charge for refusing to turn over patients’ confidential, HIPAA-protected medical information to this gang of crusading lunatics. Stay strong, Mary.

So that’s this week’s dose of Lady Bummers. Let’s close on some better news from the Animal Kingdom, where an awesome octopus escaped from a New Zealand aquarium and headed out to sea, and sometimes lions are gay.

WTF Friday, 12/18/2015

I can’t even with this thing about Denmark trying to seize asylum seekers’ valuables. So instead, let’s talk about the patriarchy.

This week:

Japan’s highest court ruled that spouses must have the same last name, effectively requiring women to either give up their maiden names, or forgo the legal benefits of marriage.

The UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice paid a visit to the U.S. and did NOT like what they found here. In what may or may not be news to anyone, they concluded that the U.S. is failing to uphold the human rights of women, and that the situation is particularly dire for poor women, ethnic minorities, migrants, LBTQ women, women with disabilities, and the elderly.

And 46 year old millionaire Ehsan Abdulaziz was acquitted of rape charges by a London jury, which apparently accepted his story that he tripped and landed with his penis inside of a sleeping teenage girl. (Seriously, I am not exaggerating this one AT ALL.)

So things are looking pretty good for the ladies.

‘Tis the Season

Who else felt super bummed last night watching the Republican candidates compete over who could be the biggest dick to refugees and war-affected civilians?

A number of people have asked me what they can do to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem (and again, the problem is opportunistic and ill-informed bigotry). If, like them, you’re looking to direct your end-of-year charitable giving towards the refugee crisis, consider the following organizations:

Syrian American Medical Society – SAMS is on the ground delivering medical services to people displaced by the conflict, both within Syria and throughout the region. They also report on the situation and lobby for humanitarian aid. Donate here.

Civilians in Conflict – CIVIC operates in conflict zones around the world, talking to civilians in order to tailor their advocacy to what those affected by war actually want and need. (Weirdly, this is kind of an unusual approach.) They’ve been working in Syria since 2012. Donate here.

International Rescue Committee – The IRC are first responders and advocates for civilians affected by conflict and natural disasters. In the U.S., they play a large role in the refugee resettlement process, and, in fact, were recently sued over it by Texas. Donate here.

If you’re interested in working directly with refugees (from Syria and elsewhere), the IRC has offices all over the country where you can pitch in. Or check out Refugee Council USA’s list of other ways to help.

Finally, if you’re looking to get a bit more meta with your donations, check out AidGrade’s new funding call.  (Note: I am on their board.) AidGrade’s mission is figuring out when development aid actually works by performing rigorous meta-analyses of aid interventions. Your tax deductible donation will go towards integrating machine learning into the process, making it faster, more precise, and more futuristic than ever before.

WTF Friday, 12/11/2015

Remember that time we lived in a “post-racial” America?

Me neither.

Because this week a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice suggested that black students belong at “less advanced” schools where the classes won’t be “too fast for them”. (!)

Justice Scalia’s comment was directed to counsel for the University of Texas during oral arguments about the school’s affirmative action policy. The lawyer, more than earning his paycheck by refraining from lighting the Justice on fire, pointed out that (1) the students granted diversity spots in fact outperform minority students admitted through the normal, race-blind procedures, and (2) it might not be such a great idea to “set up a system in which not only are minorities going to separate schools, they’re going to inferior schools”.

Also this week, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination proposed that we hang a big “No Muslims Allowed” sign on America’s front door. A shocking number of Americans appear to be on board with this plan. And, predictably, some have decided to show their support with hate crimes.

It’s all basically the worst, so let’s just sit quietly and watch this gif of Trump getting pecked by a bald eagle.

via GIPHY

Syrian Refugees Are Not Coming to Live in Your Craft Room

Look, America, I get it. Terrorism is scary. We all love Paris. An attack on the home of existentialism, the Musée d’Orsay, and perfect flaky croissants is hard to process.

But your reaction is a little… unhinged. Despite the fact that all the attackers who’ve been identified are European citizens, we’ve seen a shameful rush by U.S. governors to bar Syrian refugees from being resettled in their states. Talking heads are screeching about the threat these desperate people pose to our safety. And a candidate for this country’s highest office just proposed a federal Muslim-banning bill.

Which makes me wonder: Do you not know what a refugee is, America?

It’s okay if you don’t, but maybe tone down the rhetoric until you’re up to speed. Here are the basics:

Refugees are not blood-sucking monsters from outer space. Under U.S. law, a refugee is anyone who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country “because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. The word “persecution” in this context doesn’t just mean harassment or general unpleasantness. It means serious harm or suffering inflicted on the basis of identity. These are not people leaving their country because they can’t find a job or think they might like the weather better somewhere else. They are victims of serious human rights abuses running for their lives.

Refugees don’t come here on a whim. Nobody wants to leave their family and livelihood behind, fleeing to dubious safety abroad. I represented asylum seekers (people who satisfied the legal requirements for refugee status but were already physically present in the U.S.) for several years and never met one who was happy to be a refugee. They were relieved to be safe, and profoundly grateful to America for taking them in, but heartbroken at being unable to go home. They wouldn’t have left if they’d had any choice about it.

Refugees can’t just walk into the U.S. It’s not easy to get refugee status here. The federal government doesn’t just take your word for it that you’re the target of the kind of actual or threatened persecution required to qualify as a refugee. You have to prove it. For many, this means providing doctor’s assessments attesting to torture, witness statements, and media or NGO reports of the abuses they’ve suffered. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers comb through this evidence and screen applicants in person. For those in refugee camps abroad, who have been registered with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and referred to the U.S. government for vetting, the process can take years. Then, they undergo multiple background checks and a medical screening before they are approved to come to the U.S. for resettlement.

Refugees aren’t housed in American homes. This should go without saying, but two days of tweets asking me how many Syrians I’ll be hosting suggest that it doesn’t: Refugees who are admitted to the U.S. from overseas get their own homes. They’re not quartered in citizens’ houses like unwelcome troops. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services work together with a variety of non-governmental organizations to coordinate the placement of refugees. They place new arrivals in one of 190 local U.S. communities, provide short-term financial assistance, and help them to navigate the transition to a self-sufficient life in America.

Refugees need our help. Only a very small fraction of refugees (less than 1%) are ever resettled in a new country. But half of those who are come to the U.S., which has resettled more than three million refugees since 1975. Together, the U.S. refugee agencies and the private citizens who donate their time and money provide a safe haven and a welcome mat to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and the violence of ISIS are exactly who this program was intended to help. But now Congress is considering blocking them entirely from resettlement in the U.S.

If you want to help, tell your representatives not to abandon the Syrian refugees. If you’re not sure what to say, Oxfam’s got your back:

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For more ways to help, check out Refugee Council USA’s “How You Can Help Syrian Refugees“.

 

 

 

On Being the Absolute Worst, Revisited

Picture, if you will, an alternate reality where you are the governor of a U.S. state. Not one of those fancy states where a lot of celebrities live. Maybe one of the ones with an absurdly high maternal mortality rate, or a ton of meth labs.

You watched the news coming out of Paris this weekend with horror, feeling genuine empathy for the distraught victims of Friday’s terrible attacks. But then you wondered, how can I exploit this for my own tawdry political ends?

You didn’t have to wait long. Initial, still unconfirmed, reports suggested that one of the attackers might have come to Europe as a refugee from Syria. Never mind that the only definitively-identified attackers are French and Belgian nationals. And never mind that the vast majority of the refugees are fleeing exactly the sort of violence that Paris experienced on Friday. And especially never mind that refugees entering the United States undergo a far more rigorous screening process than those entering through Greece’s overwhelmed ports.

“Aha,” you thought. “I’ve never gone wrong betting on my constituents’ worse natures before.” And so, instead of exhibiting a single iota of leadership capability or moral fortitude, you chose to exploit your voters’ most racist, anti-immigrant, and misinformed tendencies.

You announced that your state absolutely, categorically would not accept any more Syrian refugees for resettlement. You didn’t mention that, far from the unstoppable tide conjured by your histrionic rhetoric, your state has so far only resettled a handful of Syrians. (Say, 14.) You also didn’t mention that really, this isn’t your call. Immigration policy is explicitly a matter of federal authority, and refusing to process refugees will put you on the wrong side of the law. And you certainly didn’t mention that instituting anti-Muslim policies is exactly what the terrorists want.

So, congratulations, governors of the states highlighted below. You have displaced Australia as the absolute worst.

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As of 11/16/15, 3:00pm PST 11/17.15, 8:00am PST: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. (Nevada not included, as the governor has so far only requested “a review” of the refugee resettlement process.)

Betrayers of Women, Parliamentary Edition

There are so many tried and true ways to discredit and disempower rape survivors – call them sluts or liars, question their wardrobe choices, ask why they didn’t fight back harder. But I believe ejecting them from Parliament is a truly novel approach.

Earlier today in New Zealand, two female MPs were thrown out after identifying themselves as survivors of sexual assault. Several others were told to sit down and be quiet.

The context was a debate over Australian detention and deportation of New Zealanders with criminal records. In response to opposition MPs’ concerns about this policy, NZ Prime Minister John Key melted down and accused them of “backing the rapists”. Several women in the room rose to demand an apology, some of them identifying themselves publicly as victims of sexual violence for the very first time.

Instead, Speaker David Carter, who later stated that he hadn’t heard what Key said, told them they were “flouting the rules”. He ejected two of them, leading to a walkout by several other MPs, including four men.

So: Even an elected office won’t get your rape allegations taken seriously, ladies. (But on the bright side, New Zealand has some kickass female MPs pushing for change.)

 

H/T: Golriz Ghahraman, my source for all things Antipodean.