I haven’t been blogging much in the last couple of years, but I’ve been meaning to get some thoughts out on the Presidential election for a while that can’t quite be captured on twitter, so this is just intended to put together some rough ideas that have been in my head recently, not only about the election but also touching on currents in left politics.

A post appeared on Jill Stein’s facebook page recently from her social media director (Jillian), in which she implies that Trump is the better choice for President between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because Clinton represents ‘the establishment’ while Trump’s racist hatred is not the ‘root cause’ of inequality in our society, but rather a product of it.  This statement further riffed on an idea that I have seen circulating among some on the left: the claim is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will inevitably lead to aggressive confrontation abroad or even World War III; meanwhile Donald Trump’s might lead to blood on the streets in the U.S., but would supposedly lead to peace abroad.

While I do agree that Clinton’s foreign policy will probably be a bit worse than Obama’s (and Jillian is right to criticize Clinton’s policies towards Israel and the Palestinians in her statement), I don’t understand what the larger claim regarding the election is based on.  Why do some on the left seem to believe Trump is a ‘man of peace’?  What personal traits of his is this based on?

As I mentioned above, in one variation of this idea, the ‘even-handed’ criticism of the two candidates is presented that Clinton will supposedly lead to WWIII, while Trump will lead to civil war in the U.S., because of his reliance on white supremacist politics and his attempts to impose violent racist policies. But why would we expect someone that leads to so much divisiveness and aggression within our own borders would lead to anything other than aggression abroad?  Is this really a natural assumption to make about Trump?

Clinton_Trump_WAR.jpg

From my perspective, I think that a better assumption is that Trump will simply follow whatever path feeds his vanity and his instincts to bully.  Further, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a short-sighted instinct to lash out at others over minor perceived slights, which often results in almost immediate negative consequences for himself personally and his campaign.  And particularly with regards to Russia, it seems very possible that Trump’s foreign policy would be informed by his own personal business interests.

In addition, if he were to become President, Trump would be the titular head of the Republican party, which means he will be pressured to choose policies that conform to GOP instincts.  I don’t understand why a narcissistic, short-sighted bully, especially under those conditions, would be trusted on foreign policy by some on the left.

With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that if Al Gore had been sworn in as President in 2000 (and not had the election be close enough to be stolen), then the Iraq War and many of its terrible consequences would almost certainly not have happened.  Sometimes it may feel frustrating that the difference between the two parties seems so small, but with regards to more than a few policies, that difference matters very much.

This is also very much true with regards to climate change, on which the Democrats are willing to be pressured to act, while Republicans will always attempt to tear up any progress the left makes on the issue whatsoever.  It is almost impossible to understate the immediate importance of this, and it’s very frustrating that the Green Party are the ones essentially saying the issue can be resolved later, after we enable a third party takeover of the Presidency and Congress.

On the contrary, I think a much more realistic view of the issue is that electing Donald Trump may result in putting the human species on a path towards extinction.

As a more general comment on the progressive movement at large, it seems that there are some nominally on the left who are increasingly comfortable with political ideas and expressions that originate from conservative movements and particularly the alt-right.  Reactionary groups like Deep Green Resistance have been on that path for a while, but now it seems like Wikileaks and many of its supporters are increasingly comfortable with alt-right politics.  Some who were formerly Bernie Sanders supporters (whom I myself supported in the primaries) have now turned to supporting Trump as an expression of ‘anti-establishment’ politics.  And of course, Jill Stein herself has expressed support for the Brexit campaign that was driven by far right nativist currents in the UK.

Personally, I will choose a Democratic party that can at least be pressured to make some gradual progress on issues like climate change over knee-jerk politics that increasingly seems to ignore implementing substantive progressive policy in favor of directionless kicks against ‘the establishment.’

6359159776768268921601161488_black-lives-matter

In response to racist police practices and ongoing police violence against Black folks in the United States, a group of physicists have come together to petition the American Physical Society (APS) to release a statement in support of Black lives and to acknowledge the impact on Black physicists by these issues. You can read and sign the petition here:

Letter to APS: http://bit.ly/2dgr3WL

As APS members, we recognize that racist police practices ranging from profiling to violence represent psychological and physical harm to physicists from communities of color, and particularly Black physicists. Furthermore, we recognize that such practices could very well impact Black physicists, for example, when traveling to an APS meeting. Given the particular context of numerous recent high-profile police killings of Black people, we consider with fear the possibility that this violence may impact our Black students, colleagues, or supervisors.

With these concerns in mind, we call on all physicists to co-sign our letter to APS requesting immediate engagement with the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. People who are APS members are especially encouraged to sign, though signatures from allies who are not members of APS are also welcome.

We further wish to acknowledge that this letter was written by a group of white queer and/or genderqueer physicists, most of whom are women, in solidarity with Black physicists and others who experience racial oppression in the physics community. We ask that you read and sign the petition today.

Read and sign the letter to APS here
View the letter here

Sincerely,

Nicole Ackerman (Assistant Professor, Agnes Scott College)

Dimitri Dounas-Frazer (Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Colorado Boulder)

Michael L. Falk (Professor, Johns Hopkins University)

Savannah Garmon (Assistant Professor, Osaka Prefecture University)

Renée Hložek (Assistant Professor, Dunlap Institute and Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto)

Elena Long (Post Doctoral Research Associate, University of New Hampshire)

MacKenzie Warren (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Michigan State University)

 

Note: This statement is cross-posted at the following links

http://blog.lgbtphysicists.org/2016/09/letter-to-aps-in-regards-to-systemic.html

View story at Medium.com

HB2PROTEST-0324-JFK-01

Source: CharlotteFive.com

As most of us are probably aware, the conservative movement’s attacks on trans people and trans rights have gotten particularly ugly in recent months. Most prominent in the spotlight has been North Carolina, where Republican governor Pat McCrory recently signed HB2 into law, which, among other things, requires everyone in North Carolina to use gender-segregated bathrooms in public institutions according to the gender appearing on their birth certificate.

The radical law is part of a wider political wave aimed at creating obstacles in the lives of ordinary trans people (among other communities) that has taken hold across parts of the U.S., including the underhanded campaign that last November resulted in the overturning of Houston’s anti-discrimination ordinance HERO as well as the recent passing of a “Religious Freedom” bill in Mississippi that, like HB2, unambiguously codifies discrimination into law.

As a native North Carolinian, it’s difficult to express my disappointment; while the conservative movement has often had influence, I’ve always thought of my home state as having a more complex balance of political forces and ideas. Unfortunately, supposedly moderate Governor McCrory has played into the reactionary forces within his party, likely as part of a cynical re-election ploy.

While it is not yet entirely clear exactly how these kinds of laws will ultimately impact people’s lives in day-to-day circumstances, there are already indications what may be on the horizon. It’s rather obvious that the bathroom aspect of HB2 cannot possibly be enforced in any consistent manner; however there have already been signs that it may enable targeted harassment of trans people by law enforcement and civilians alike.

It should also be kept in mind that trans people, especially trans women, can face harassment and discrimination with regard to bathroom usage even in the absence of such laws. A recent story from neighboring South Carolina illustrates the point in an unfortunate way: at White Knoll High School in Lexington, a young trans girl named Anna is facing expulsion simply for using the ladies washroom.

Anna had been told she could not use the gendered bathrooms of either sex, but instead must use a single bathroom in the nurse’s room. Obviously this places a special burden on her since she must travel further throughout the grounds to use the bathroom than anyone else at the school, which places her at risk of being tardy for classes, for example. Teachers have also asked Anna inappropriate questions about her gender, even in front of other students.

Finally the bathroom issue has come to a head, as Anna is now facing expulsion from her high school for nothing more than harmlessly using the women’s bathroom between classes. What’s more, this comes a mere four weeks before her planned graduation.

It’s very difficult to understand why school officials would ever escalate this issue to the point of kicking a young girl out of high school, and I can’t help but think this is a sad result of the hyper-sensationalizing of trans bodies and trans lives that has been pushed in recent years by so-called ‘radical feminists’ and conservative extremists alike. In any case, Anna’s supporters have raised a petition to push back against her expulsion; please sign the petition in Anna’s defense here.

Meanwhile, it will probably take years before the full fallout of HB2 and similar hate bills is clear. Much of it will likely depend on how it is enforced on the ground; if the history of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” provides any example, it’s very possible that some agencies will choose to implement these laws in the most anti-LGBT manner possible. And although the date of the incident is not clear, a recently widely shared video of a butch cis woman being kicked out of a public bathroom by police illustrates the point that these laws will likely also impact on gender non-conforming cis women, among others.

Laverne_Cox_allure

Laverne Cox in Allure Magazine

Laverne Cox, along with several other women, recently appeared in a nude photo shoot for Allure Magazine, which was perhaps the first time that a woman who is openly trans had been included in such a feature in a women’s magazine and was widely hailed for this in progressive media, especially given the context in which trans women of color like Cox are forced to negotiate the complex intersections of racism and misogyny in the patriarchal world we inhabit.

On Feminist Current, Meghan Murphy, who has been criticized for transphobia in the past [1], took a very different view: that Laverne Cox’s body naked body in a women’s magazine represents nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the male gaze. Why the other women in the photoshoot were not subjected to similar criticism is not stated.

Murphy writes

If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.

Murphy hypocritically refers to Cox as a ‘cartoon’ while decrying the objectification of women.  Also one will notice the dogwhistle trans-misogyny throughout the article such as putting “women” in quotes, which is successful in that the article attracts even more blatant hateful transphobes in the comments section who misgender Cox and gleefully trash her further.  (And notice that while Murphy challenges many other comments, she never responds to these blatantly hateful comments, which are heavily upvoted on her site).

I argued with Murphy in the comments section myself, where she makes the utterly silly defensive claim that her comment about “cartoonish” bodies didn’t refer to Cox at all.  Nobody would believe her in this claim, including her own transphobic supporters in all likelihood.

Here I created I relatively brief storify documenting some of the awesome responses to this hateful trash from feminist twitter.  I’m sure I’ve overlooked a lot of awesome responses, but hopefully this gives an overall idea.

[1]  Regarding Meghan Murphy’s history with transphobia, see this uncritical interview with Sheila Jeffreys focusing on her elaborate transphobic conspiracy theories.

Science July 11 issue cover

Science July 11 issue cover

Note: this is an updated version of my recent article at Autostraddle.

Update 2: I noticed that Science Careers editor Jim Austin has quietly deleted the most egregious of his tweets.  I take that much as a small, positive development.

One of the best known and most respected publications in science and technology chose to run a sexualized, trans-misogynistic photo for its cover this week, and when the editor was challenged on twitter for pandering to the male gaze, he responded that he thought it would be interesting what would happen when those males “find out” the women in question are transgender.

While the focus of Science magazine’s July 11 issue on combating HIV and AIDS worldwide is laudable, the editors unfortunately chose the route of crude sensationalism to present that story to the public. The magazine cover features a dehumanizing image of trans women sex workers in Jakarta that focuses on their bodies, crops out their faces and primarily centers on their exposed thighs. The text accompanying that picture says, “Staying a step ahead of HIV/AIDS,” as if trans sex workers are somehow an image that is naturally synonymous with this disease.

And while, yes, trans women globally, on average, do face significantly elevated risks, could you imagine how out of place it would be for Science to run the same cover text accompanied by an image of two men in a sexual embrace, and further only showed them from the neck down? It has also been pointed out that apparently Science has never previously run any similar cover image that crops human bodies in a sexualizing manner.

However, when one of the Science editors was challenged on twitter over this image, the situation worsened quickly. Read the rest of this entry »

Loretta Saunders

Loretta Saunders

Note: the following is a (rather belated and slightly edited) archival post of my piece lost month at Autostraddle.

Communities across Canada gather every year on October 4th for “Sisters in Spirit” vigil, an event to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women of Canada and to demand justice in the face of stubborn indifference from both government and police. This indifference appears despite a very clear pattern of racist-misogynist violence under which Indigenous women in Canada are five to seven times more vulnerable than non-Indigenous women according to the government’s own statistics; however, Amnesty International speculates that even this may be understating the problem as a result of deficiencies in state reporting.

Loretta Saunders, a 26-year old Inuk woman who was studying Criminology at St. Mary’s University, turned in her 28-page thesis proposal in late January of this year in which she intended to detail the cruel violence faced by Canada’s Indigenous women. Yesterday, her body was found in a wooded median along a New Brunswick highway. She was pregnant before her murder.

Her roommates, 25-year old Blake Leggette and 28-year old Victoria Henneberry, had already been arrested by police on charges related to her Feb. 13 disappearance. On Feb. 18 the pair were arrested on charges of fraud and possession of stolen goods — Loretta’s car.

Police have stated that they have identified suspects in the homicide case and that they are not presently seeking any further suspects.

Her thesis advisor Darryl Leroux had given her glowing remarks in response to her thesis proposal (detailed in his own words here), which sadly she will never be able to complete.

At a press conference held within hours of the discovery of Loretta’s body, Cheryl Maloney, President of the Nova Scotia Women’s Association, stated

“I’m never going to let Stephen Harper or Canadians forget about Loretta and all the other missing or murdered aboriginal people.”

and further,

“She wasn’t what society expected for a missing aboriginal girl. Canadian society, and especially our prime minister, has been able to ignore the reality of the statistics that are against aboriginal girls… This is not what everyone expects, but she is at risk. Every aboriginal girl in this country is vulnerable. For Canada to be ignoring it for so long, it’s disheartening. How many more families does this have to happen to before they take seriously the problem?”

Loretta joins a staggering number of other Indigenous women whose families are left grieving and wondering if they’ll ever see change or accountability. We can only hope that her tragic death will serve as a wake-up call to the Canadian government and police forces to take the issue seriously and to empower local communities to prevent violence against vulnerable women in Canada.

Jewelyes Gutierrez

Jewelyes Gutierrez

Note: the following is an archival post of my recent piece at Autostraddle.

Most people would hope that when extreme bullying occurs and is brought to the attention of authorities, the bullies in question will be punished. The opposite happened to Jewelyes Gutierrez; when she was “tormented and harassed” by other students because of her trans status, she was charged with misdemeanor battery for defending herself.

Given that the incident arose in response to intense, ongoing bullying, observers had already widely questioned the decision by Contra Costa County District Attorney Dan Cabral to charge a 16-year old transgender high school student with a misdemeanor count of battery following a schoolyard altercation between her and three other students. However, it now appears that trans teen Jewelyes Gutierrez may be able to avoid charges after all, as she enters restorative justice, a court-ordered conflict resolution program.

Jewelyes, a Hercules High School student and a young trans woman of color, had been facing ongoing harassment and bullying at school from a group of cisgender girls; when she went to the school administration to report the situation was becoming intolerable, nothing happened. Finally, one day one of these girls assaulted Jewelyes by throwing used chewing gum in her face; Jewelyes had had it, she fought back, although she ended up being ganged up on by three other girls in the fight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Note: the following is an archival post of my recent blog piece at Huffington Post.

Janet Mock

Janet Mock – photo by Aaron Tredwell (source: http://janetmock.com/janet-mock-bio/photos/)

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan interviewed transgender advocate Janet Mock for his CNN show, focusing on her new book, Redefining Realness.  The interview quickly set off a critical response on social media as Morgan focused his questions on Mock’s transition history and the moment she came out to her partner as transgender.  The captioning on the program (and Piers Morgan’s tweet to promote the interview) referred to her as formerly being a “boy,” and Morgan himself used similar language throughout the interview.  He also referred to Mock’s male-typical birth name several times.

When I watched the interview, it felt like the questions towards the beginning of the interview, focusing on Mock’s gender expression through adolescence, were leading specifically towards one of the media’s favorite tropes regarding trans women: surgical status.  When Morgan actually asked the question, it came out about as awkwardly as one could imagine: Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this week, the anti-LGBT, anti-family organization Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) brought it’s campaign against a young trans girl in Colorado to an all new low. Readers will recall that PJI had previously made false accusations in the media that a trans girl (we’ll refer to her as Jane Doe) at a Colorado high school had supposedly committed harassment against cis girls in her school’s bathroom. When confronted with the facts that this never happened, PJI simply changed it’s story to claim that the young trans girl was committing harassment simply by being in the bathroom at all.

The campaign of public abuse has been so intense that it was recently reported that Jane Doe is now on suicide watch.

However, a couple days ago the organization upped the ante on its public campaign against a trans child by releasing a sensationalistic video interviewing the other schoolgirls that Jane Doe had supposedly harassed. Of course, no actual incident of harassment is described any where in the video because none ever occurred. Instead the video sensationalizes in an attempt to manipulate the emotions of the viewer, complete with foreboding background music (seriously?!) in their attempt to portray a teenage girl as a monster.

Please click here and report the video for what it is: abuse.

And of course, in their endless cynicism, PJI actually goes so far as to include a fundraising link on their video bullying a teenager:

Harassing a teenager is just another way to make money for the Pacific Justice Institute

Publicly bullying a teenager is just another way to make money for the Pacific Justice Institute

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