Update

17Jul11

I’ve hidden a number of old posts that I now find deeply wrong, sometimes offensively so. That’s not so say that there aren’t wrong or offensive things in the posts that remain. But some of them seem to me to have worth regardless.

As the desire to write nonfiction pseudonymously has returned to me, I may be posting some more legit things here in the future.


Update: Adams has removed his post.

As soon as I saw that Dilbert creator Scott Adams was tackling the subject of men’s rights activism, I knew that, one way or the other, the result was going to be horrifying. While he has a decent understanding of many important aspects of the real world on the macro level, Adams also has a strong tendency to
fuck up all his good ideas with unnecessary engineering bloat, much as google.org was accused of. He also writes a ton of boring traditional sexist stuff, which tends to make his blog more distressing to read than it should be.

While Scott’s Men’s Rights post doesn’t contain any good or original ideas, it does rely on his aforementioned decent understanding of the real world, which surpasses that of most MRAs. Scott, as a rich white man, understands — though he doesn’t use that word — that he is privileged. He understands that most of the MRA people complaining are doing pretty well too. So, he argues, concede certain putative advantages to women in the social and legal realms, as this is the “path of least resistance” and a proven way to get what you want. So his advice to “get over it” makes perfect sense to those people. He doesn’t say this, but it follows: if you’re at the top of the heap, you don’t want to destabilize the social or legal system; that just provides more opportunity for insurrection. Just keep it low-key and carry on. Probably this is why “men’s rights” has not gone mainstream in the conservative male-dominated realm of American politics.

Of course, the MRAs wouldn’t listen if he confined himself to strategy, so there is plenty of good old fashioned sexism to be had. Any time an essay contains the phrase “I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group,” well, you know what you are in for. Adams also suggests that women’s greater life expectancy doesn’t matter because older people’s lives are not worth living. Those are probably the most stupid and horrifying bits; I suppose I should also note that “pussies” is a sexist insult, although when it’s applied to a group that habitually calls dissenting men “manginas” my sympathy is greatly diminished.


Since the end of the 2010 elections, Nate Silver’s blog (unlike mine) has been flowering with thoughtful posts on a wide variety of topics. At the moment, the latest is this post on gun control, showing that fewer Americans support a ban on handguns than did in 1980. Silver considers and rejects the proposition that this support could be tracking to the violent crime rate, noting that said rate has been in decline since the Clinton years. Silver ultimately concludes that the Democrats “surrendered” on the issue of gun control, but cannot come up with a good reason why; as of this post, neither have any of his first 23 commenters.

Thanks to this DougJ post from a couple weeks ago at Balloon Juice, I have an alternate hypothesis. The actual crime rate doesn’t matter; what matters is people’s perceptions of the crime rate. And in every year since Gallup started polling the question in 1989, a plurality of people have believed the crime rate was going up, even when it wasn’t. Most of the time, it’s been by quite crushing margins. In 2010, only 17% of Americans realized that the crime rate was still falling.

I believe this explains, at least in part, why Americans don’t want to ban handguns.


In an article just published at the British Daily Mail site, David Rose claims that new statistics show “global warming has halted.” Rose asserts that “with the exception of 1998 – a ‘blip’ year when temperatures spiked because of a strong ‘El Nino’ effect […] global temperatures have been flat, not for ten, but for the past 15 years.”

Since much of the rest of the article discusses the fact that 2010 is very close to being the warmest year on record, this cannot possibly be true. And, indeed, it isn’t. According to GISS at NASA, Two seasons have been warmer than any season in history since 1998, including the spring of 2010. If you exclude 1998, the average global temperature has climbed about .3 C (.5 F) from the mid-1990s to today. And even the CRU, Rose’s data source — which has a much higher measurement for 1998 than GISS measured, and still maintains that 1998 was the warming year on record — states that “The period 2001-2009 […] is 0.19°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade.”

Contrary to what Rose claims, he isn’t merely including 1998; he seems to be using the date as a starting point to make comparisons to the present day — despite the fact, noted in his own article, that 1998 was an anomalous year with the strongest El Nino in recent memory. 2005 and 2010, which lacked comparatively strong El Ninos, may have only been incrementally warmer than 1998, but that doesn’t mean global warming has flattened out. The fact that (per GISS) every single year of the 2000s has been warmer than every single year of the 1990s except 1998 is a more important stat.

(By the way, even if global air temperature warming had stopped — miraculously, given that this would vitiate the lagging correlation between CO2 forcing and temperature known for hundreds of thousands of years — we would still be in plenty of trouble. Melting glaciers have decreased Earth’s albedo, causing more heat absorption and accelerating glacier loss and concomitant sea temperature rise.)


As you may know, at an increasing number of airports, the TSA will take naked pictures of you before you’re allowed to fly on a commercial plane. If you refuse, they will molest you. And if you turn around and try to leave without flying, you will be investigated and threatened with a lawsuit.

This is obviously a violative experience for just about everyone. But it is particularly troubling to those of us whose genitals are likely to be seen by transportation officials as incorrect, deceitful, or dangerous. Commenter GallingGalla at Sungold’s blog articulates some of the concern and fear I felt when I heard this story:

Apparently, TSA considers us to be terrorists simply by our existence, as they have issued directives indicating that people dressing in what they, the TSA, perceives to be the “wrong” clothing are more likely to be terrorists. I guess, since they think that trans women are “really men”, we must be hiding bad things in our lady clothes.

Along with that, I shudder to think about the harassment and sexual assault that is *sure* to follow the discovery of “non-standard” genitals.

It is because of back-scatter machines and pat-downs that I do not fly. I don’t have the privilege to “opt-out”; I simply *cannot* fly, as my very person will be in danger.

In the near future, I hope, I will be read as female. But I can’t afford to do anything to my genitals, nor do I want to. And whether or not I move to go to grad school in the Midwest, I’ll likely be moving somewhere, if only to flee my state’s retrograde laws and lack of community. When I do so, what will happen? Will I be unable to visit my family? If I try, will I be able to endure it?

Not for nothing are many of the TSA’s scanners manufactured by Rapiscan Systems. For all their faults, they couldn’t have picked a more informative name.


(This is even longer than my average post. I wish I could be conciser, but I want to do the whole arc of this thing justice.)

I swear with all my heart, there was a time when Feminist Critics was my favorite website in existence. And that time wasn’t very long ago. I was a college student, sympathetic to feminism but trying to figure out why the feminists I read often didn’t make any sense, and often resorted to what seemed like weirdly broad-based attacks. And — I won’t pretend this wasn’t a factor — most used language about “male privilege” that implied it was something that all males had, but a lot of the items they listed didn’t seem like things I experienced, nor like advantages. (At the time, I had become uncomfortable referring to myself as male, but I didn’t realize it was possible my gender had been wrongly assigned. I felt trapped by the inevitability of my supposed gender, and being made to feel guilty made it hurt more.)

So I went to FC, where they spent all their time criticizing things feminists did — how they sometimes used generalizations that were too broad, or claimed facts that weren’t true, or ignored the experiences of men. Which they sometimes did, that was clear. And since they seemed to be pointing to famous exemplars of online feminism in their posts, I began to think that what FC was criticizing was more or less all of feminism — especially when I read works by Hoff Sommers and Koertge/Patai that seemed to indict brick-and-mortar academic feminism of the same crimes. So, the comments regulars left bemoaning how terrible feminism was seemed like a reasonable description of the reality that FC had created for me.

After a while, I began to read more widely. Some of this was a factor of beginning transition — I found some good trans issues sites, and all the ones that described my experience were closely linked to feminism. Bloggers like Lisa Harney (I link her in every other post, but it’s never enough) talked about feminism in a grounded way that made sense to me. Some of it, ironically, was a factor of reading the short list of “reasonable” feminists trotted out from time to time at FC — the amazingly easygoing style of Sungold explained a number of feminist concepts that I had grotesquely misunderstood, in ways that didn’t conflict with reason.

So I gradually became a feminist — but I was still reading FC, and I had actually decided to post. Because I still thought that, sometimes, feminists said crazy shit; and now that I was actually a feminist I thought, those people aren’t helping the cause. After all, feminism is basically right, so why confuse people by saying the occasional wrong or overstated thing and attaching it to feminism? And I didn’t know any other place where I could just sort of drop by and moan about that and be taken seriously, but that seemed to be the case at FC. Some people there were clearly strident antifeminists who never put a good word in about all but a few polite friends, but some did claim to be feminists who simply did not like some aspects of the movement. Which is an accurate description of me, too.

But I hadn’t gotten into a broad-based argument about feminism there. In fact, I hadn’t really seen one break out; the place doesn’t get very many regular mainstream feminist commenters. In fact, when I did get into one, it was pretty much by accident. I criticized the terminology in a post by ballgame, essentially saying that “gynocentric feminist” was a very poor way to describe a feminist who never takes men’s experiences into account, as the term merely means they center women’s experiences — which, I suggested, was not always a bad thing. That last suggestion ultimately became the grounds for an extended discussion about whether it was legitimate for women to discuss men in an academic setting, and about a laundry list of sins that feminists had allegedly committed. The original terminology quibble got left in the dust, except by a couple of posters who didn’t seem to understand my objection, and I never got an answer from ballgame (although one was promised.)

That discussion, at one point, involved Jim — who, to be honest, is an extremely clever fellow with a history of excellent exchanges with me on subjects other than feminism — suggesting that women are “predators” who “colonize” men; and when I asked him what in the world he meant by that, he responded that “absolute control of [men] for the first 20 or so years of a person’s life might qualify as colonization.” No one criticized this comment. After a series of increasingly baffled attempts to come to terms with how an entire commentariat — some of whom identified themselves as feminist — could think that sort of thing was reasonable discourse as opposed to batshit crazy alternate-reality misogyny, and after being called upon to defend a whole bunch of aspects of feminism that I just hadn’t found to be all that prevalent, I decided to take a break from the place to sort out whether there was any point.

As I mentioned earlier, FC doesn’t have a whole lot of regulars defending the mainstream feminist position; many will pop in, decide they’re getting nowhere, and quickly leave. The closest regular to mainstream feminism is probably DaisyDeadhead; she says some strange stuff sometimes, though, and I can’t always follow her train of thought. Still, I thought it was sort of incredible that she got put on extremely strict moderation (the details of which are a bit confusing if you’re not a regular; but suffice it to say, it would be an uphill battle for her to get heard there.) The initial stated reason was for making a post that really was just confusing, but which ballgame somehow transmogrified into not being “here in good faith.” Daran later stated that this was not, in fact, the main reason, but that she was being banned for “inflammatory language, evasions, distortions, goalpost-shifting and victim-playing.” Which, to be honest, people on blogs use all the time. Hell, I had accused people of at least three of those things in the thread I had just participated in — in particular, the inflammatory language. Calling women as a class predators, besides being crazy, just isn’t very nice. Distortion was also a common theme, not to mention outright lies about things that had happened in the thread. And I had accused typhonblue of shifting the goalposts. Nobody really acknowledged any of those accusations.

And I was thinking about getting into the double standard in great detail, but I didn’t want to be perceived as backseat modding or as making attacks on people. So I tried to pull my punches, and just posted that I thought the way DDH was treated seemed strange to me, and that having a mainstream feminist on the moderating team, if it were possible, might make it easier to be even-handed. In short, I was actually trying to be charitable. The immediate responses I got were from regulars saying I should go into specifics about who else should be moderated out if Daisy was. But at that point I was really leaning towards not coming back anyway, and that was a lot of effort for me to put into a project that no longer had my support. And I didn’t want to be perceived as dictating to the mods how they should do their job — I was just trying to say, look, you’re doing this thing to a feminist that doesn’t make sense to me, and because of that I, one of your few feminist semi-regulars, am probably going away; and if you’re actually trying to reach feminists, shouldn’t you be concerned about that? (Another feminist had previously posted hir concerns upthread, but had done a somewhat confusing job of it.)

Eventually I heard from ballgame. Not about the terminology thing that hadn’t been addressed, nor about the ridiculous stuff I put up with upthread, or about my Daisy-related concerns. No, ballgame was concerned — I should rather say furious, and with full mod-gear on — about the fact that I had accused FC regulars of being “antifeminists.” For this was a most vile and profound slur:

The term “anti-feminist” is a prejudicial (and inaccurate) slur against feminist critics, Skyborne. While some people may embrace the term, to me it’s an unacceptable form of ad hom. Was Ned Lamont an “anti-Democrat”? Unless you know that a specific individual you’re referring to is comfortable with the label, “anti-feminist,” you should avoid using it. “Dissident feminist,” “feminist critic,” “egalitarian feminist,” “MRA” may be acceptable alternatives, depending on who you’re referring to. If you’re referring broadly to anyone who is critical of mainstream feminism, use “critics of feminism” or “feminist critics,” please.

Prejudicial! No, it’s an assertion about someone’s political position, one that may or may not be true. Ideally, it’s one that should be substantiated; and if I was still interested in commenting I would have done so there. Basically, the situation is that ballgame and Daran (the mods who were posting in that thread) both consider the vast majority of feminists to be not helping, and accuse them of various offenses. Ampersand elaborates in the thread in which ballgame originally propounded those accusations, and puts it much better than I could:

That said, I do think that anti-feminism refers to a real spectrum of views which should be named and criticized. As an anti-feminist, I can see why you’d prefer that your views not be named and criticized for what they are, but it’s not my obligation to assist you in that desire. The term is no more an insult than “Republican” or “conservative” is an insult. It just describes a particular constellation of political views; in your case, it describes someone who strongly dislikes mainstream feminism, devotes most of his (or her) energy regarding feminism to attacking and opposing mainstream feminism, and whose political position towards virtually all forms of feminism can be accurately summed up as “opposition.”

You really remind me of anti-gay activists who insist that the word “homophobia” should never be used because it’s an “insult,” or conservatives who think it’s unfair to use the word “racist” in debate, because the word poisons the well. By trying to make the word unacceptable in conversation, they are attempting to forclose reasonable consideration of whether or not their views are, in fact, homophobic or racist. Similarly, you’re trying to forclose discussion of whether or not your views amount to anti-feminism. I don’t think that’s reasonable of you, and not discussing anti-feminism so that anti-feminists can feel more comfortable or avoid criticism of their views, isn’t what I want to do.

ETA: Finally, by your own terms, isn’t using the term “feminist” on “Feminist Critics” comments — where the overwhelming majority of comment-writers have only contempt and disdain for feminism — a form of “poisoning the well”?

“(And once again, FTR, I’m no more “anti-feminist” than the folks who pushed for Ned Lamont were “anti-Democrat” … and your strawman reinterpretation of my terminology can hardly be called ‘respectful.’)”

The leaders of the Lamont movement were longtime Democrats who had real records of supporting and defending the views of the Democratic party, even though they were opposing then-Democrat Lieberman. And when the real election came about, they were actively supporting the Democrat (who was by that time Lamont).

In other words, they had earned respect as Democrats by working as, with, and for Democrats. You, in contrast, are overwhelmingly against mainstream feminism in your posts (although you’re usually polite about it, which I admire), while you link to an anti-feminist (Robert at Glennsacks.com) with praise (you did critique some stats he got wrong, but you avoided criticizing his anti-feminism in any way). This is behavior that more describes a smart, respectful anti-feminist than it describes a feminist.

Nor do I think my reinterpretation of your terminology has been a strawman. You’ve gone again and again away from any usual definition of “egalitarian” to mean someone who sees the sexes as equal and deserving equal treatment, and have instead argued that it means that I’ve “vilified” someone — I think in context it’s clear you meant you and/or Daran — personally, and that makes me not egalitarian. I don’t think that criticizing what you actually wrote qualifies as attacking a strawman.

So, basically, Feminist Critics is to feminism what the Connecticut for Lieberman party is to the Democratic party. I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked that, stumbling out of that faction, I now find myself in a much larger tent.


Yesterday afternoon I hit the polls, amped up, energized. And maybe that’s surprising. After all, I vote, for the time being, in South Carolina, where liberal votes haven’t meant a whole lot in recent elections. And unlike in 2008 — when I got to vote for a lesbian running for the House who only lost by 4 points — no candidates I really liked had a shot at winning. The Democratic candidates for the House and Senate didn’t merely have no shot — they had both upset the best candidates under highly suspicious circumstances. One, Alvin Greene, was a national laughingstock who initially couldn’t talk to the press without a prompter literally lurking in the shadows; the other, Ben Frasier, a longtime absentee candidate from Maryland. Neither bothered campaigning. So maybe I should have been dispirited, as the media tells me liberal voters were supposed to be this cycle.

But that wasn’t the case. Soon after the baffling primaries, via Facebook, I’d caught wind of a movement for avuncular Green Party candidate Tom Clements. His positions on the issues agreed with mine more than those of typical South Carolina Democrats, but it seemed that he would come off as reasonable and electable. He hammered Jim DeMint on the issues, but also on the fact that he wouldn’t debate Clements or campaign in the state. And while he pulled his punches slightly about Alvin Greene — perhaps reflecting a suspicion, shared by me, that the airman and newly-minted superhero had been put up to his run by more powerful forces — he made it clear that having an unqualified, embarrassing candidate in the Senate wouldn’t help.

For anyone who didn’t agree with DeMint’s extremism, misogyny and homophobia, and who expect their chosen candidate not to be — in Karl Fornes’ phrase — “a total moron,” it seemed that Clements was more or less the only reasonable choice. The average South Carolinian and I may not have agreed on much, but I thought they’d push the button for Clements too, if they knew who he was. For the longest time, they didn’t; as the weeks dragged on, I constantly searched Google News for mentions of Clements, and found few substantive mentions outside of roundup blogs like Green Party Watch and Independent Political Report. But, increasingly, there was optimistic news. Clements began raising money, eventually nabbing a few statewide radio and TV spots. The major Rock Hill Herald even endorsed him (although the equally desperate Charleston City Paper bizarrely went with write-in candidate and cook Nathalie Dupree, whose campaign strategy tolkienista summarized as “they will want to vote for me because food.”) I thought we could get double digits. I dared to hope we could get Clements ahead of Greene. But most of all, I expected that such a huge movement behind a third-party candidate — something rarely seen in South Carolina except in the context of explicit racism — would get enormous attention, at least, in the aftermath of the election. What was about to happen was interesting, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what drove press coverage?

Press stories on Election Day were soporific and insipid.The one whose title I riffed on consists merely of a list of who’s going to be on the ballot — hardly helpful, given that the ballot has everyone’s name and party on it — and a goddamn weather report. And even as the results rolled in, they remained soporific and insipid. While Clements struggled in a few rural edge counties where his campaign hadn’t penetrated, he piled up impressive numbers all over the place. 10.5% in rural Fairfield County. 10.3% in semi-rural Kershaw County. 11.8% in Beaufort, 11.9% in Lexington, 13.4% in Charleston, 19.0% in Richland. From people who had hardly ever voted for anything besides a Republican or a Democrat, and despite the exclusion of fellow Green Party candidate Morgan Reeves from a high-profile governors’ debate in which both major-party candidates performed horribly. Clements still got over 9% of the votes statewide.

An incredible phenomenon took place — a thoroughgoing rejection of fishy machine politics and contempt for voters, and an endorsement of this fellow who dared to actually campaign. In some of the counties where information about him was highest, he challenged for second. And yet the local press, the day after, still doesn’t grant Clements more than a token mention. Many articles don’t even mention how well he polled, erasing the messages sent by over 120,000 voters.

But maybe that’s what I should have expected. Maybe the media really is so attached to the two-party system, and even to the corrupt farce that passes for politics in the state, that the only response it can tolerate is to ignore a challenge to it. They want to treat this as a fluke, and in one way it was. This was a year when the major-party candidates really were so horrible that people began casting about for alternatives. But in another way it wasn’t — not in a year when several write-in and independent candidates won major races on the basis of previous major-party name recognition, and Eliot Cutler — a candidate with similar environmentalist emphasis to Clements* — nearly pulled out a last-second win in Maine. The fact that a third-party candidate got 9% of the vote in a traditionalist state, with almost all media actively freezing him out, makes one wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been. Or if he decides — and please let him have the energy — to become a perennial candidate.

*In many places, green has become the default color for independents on political maps. In many cases, I think that’s appropriate. Sometimes not.