Never underestimate the power of childhood abuse

From Rolling Stone’s archives:

In the year[s] since Michael Jackson made his first national television appearance with his brothers at age 11, he has evolved from a singing and dancing soul music prodigy to the self-proclaimed but widely acknowledged “King of Pop” to one of the most widely ridiculed of all public figures.

That is a literally tragic transition.  The so promising start:

And behind that:

From a young age Jackson was physically and mentally abused by his father, enduring incessant rehearsals, whippings and name-calling. Jackson’s abuse as a child affected him throughout his grown life. In one altercation — later recalled by Marlon Jackson — Joseph held Michael upside down by one leg and “pummeled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks”. Joseph would often trip up, or push the male children into walls. One night while Jackson was asleep, Joseph climbed into his room through the bedroom window. Wearing a fright mask, he entered the room screaming and shouting. Joseph said he wanted to teach his children not to leave the window open when they went to sleep. For years afterward, Jackson suffered nightmares about being kidnapped from his bedroom.

Jackson first spoke openly about his childhood abuse in a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey. He said that during his childhood he often cried from loneliness and would sometimes get sick or start to regurgitate upon seeing his father. In Jackson’s other high profile interview, Living with Michael Jackson (2003), the singer covered his face with his hand and began crying when talking about his childhood abuse. Jackson recalled that Joseph sat in a chair with a belt in his hand as he and his siblings rehearsed and that “if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you.”

(From Wikipedia, via Obsidian Wings.)

And  how should we see the later parts of his life?  An evil pedophile?  An obsessed person who had altered his body past reasonable boundaries?  Someone of immense talent about to undertake a wildly success tour?  I don’t know.   What do you think?


More on Iran’s Women

If you can tear yourselves away from the news of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, check out these links about the immense bravery of Iran’s women: Ms Magazine here and USA Today here. And remember when we referred you to Tehran Bureau for news? Well, it turns out to have been a key source for all the major news organisations, too, and it’s run by an Iranian woman as well. (Thanks, CR!)

TWEET! tweet! tweet…

Our Twitter Picture
Our Twitter Picture

Feminist Philosophers are now on Twitter.  Check it out

Twitter and the  linking plugin, tweetfeed, are imperfect.  We’re suppose to have an update on Twitter every hour.   Instread, yesterday a partial update took about 20 hours.  Still, twitter and we are working the issues.

FeministPhils (our user name) appears to have some followers in the porno industry.  I think we’ll just leave that for now, but if you have other suggestions, please let us know.  One can block people from being users.

(I hope none of you is shocked or dismayed.  Jender did approve it, so now any fault is jointly owned, I again hope.)

“Lady tennis players”

And here’s my other norms-of-appearance related gripe:

Hurrah – Wimbledon time! One of the few times of the year that women can be found on the sports pages, (almost) rivalling coverage of sportsmen. (Note that recently women cricketers in the UK also received some headlines. Hurrah again!).

But – boo! – once again, ridiculous attention is being paid to the appearance of the women on court.
And we get silly silly claims such as:

“lady tennis players” should not grunt because “it makes them unsexy, and sex appeal is the main selling point of women’s tennis”.  (Former tennis player Michael Stich)

Or maybe the tennis has something to do with it? Yawn….

A&F: Classic [i.e. non-disabled] American Style

First in a series of posts on ‘norms-of-appearance related grievances’:

The Guardian reports on this ongoing tribunal, in which a student with a prosthetic arm is suing Abercrombie & Fitch (the clothes retailers) for disability discrimination.

the firm agreed she could wear a white cardigan to cover the link between her prosthesis and her upper arm. But shortly afterwards, she was told she could not work on the shop floor unless she took off the cardigan as she was breaking the firm’s “look policy”. She told the tribunal that someone in the A&F head office suggested she stay in the stockroom “until the winter uniform arrives”.The “look policy” stipulates that all employees “represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company’s brand” and “look great while exhibiting individuality”. Workers must wear a “clean, natural, classic hairstyle” and have nails which extend “no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger”.

Dean said today in her evidence: “A female A&F manager used the ‘look policy’ and the wearing of the cardigan as an excuse to hide me away in the stockroom.

We’ve worried before about look policies – that they could be used to discriminate against people with disabilities is a further deeply probelmatic aspect of them.

Colorado Governor Signs Parent Time Off Bill Into Law…for some

The state of Colorado has a shiny new law stating that employees of companies with more than 50 employees may take up to 6 hours per month in leave to attend meetings & conferences with their children’s educators.  Pretty good, eh? …well, except if you’re a manager, an independent contractor, a domestic employee or an agricultural worker: they’re not eligible. (Maids don’t have children, do they? Or anyway if they do, they don’t go to school, right?) (Thanks, HEB!)

When Two Rights Make a Wrong

So, fully-grown adult woman having a tipple? fine, yes? Let’s stack the deck: fully-grown American woman having a tipple? I know it’s a tough question, so I’ll answer for you: It’s fine. It really is.

Mother breastfeeding her baby? Fine, of course. Excellent even. Right? Right.

And yet, combine the two and, without any medical or otherwise scientific say-so behind it, CHILD NEGLECT. That’s right, child neglect. At least, it is if tippy mummy lives in North Dakota:

A North Dakota woman accused of breast-feeding her 6-week-old baby while drunk has pleaded guilty to child neglect. Twenty-six-year-old Stacey Anvarinia could face up to five years in prison when she’s sentenced on the felony charge in August. Judge Sonja Clapp says Anvarinia will not have to register as an offender against children.

She doesn’t have to register as an offender against children…for brestfeeding her child! Wasn’t that nice of the judge?

Nearly 20 years ago, Mary Anne Warren warned against a shifting tide of sentiment towards the rights of the fetus that may someday see pregnant women prosecuted for child abuse on grounds of eating the wrong foods, getting too little sleep, consuming alcohol (Hypatia 4:3 Autumn 89); in other words, that may someday see pregnant women lose the rights that other adult persons have. Guess what, Mary Anne? Even postpartum women are catching it these days!

But surely, you say, this ruling is based on medical evidence. Surely they have consulted the relevant experts and expert research in order to come to the conclusion that breastfeeding while intoxicated constitutes child abuse. Maybe, for example, they have consulted the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs considers alcohol compatible with breastfeeding. It lists possible side effects if consumed in large amounts, including: drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and abnormal weight gain in the infant, and the possibility of decreased milk-ejection reflex in the mother. (La Leche League FAQ on Alcohol)

OOO OOO! Abnormal weight gain! Surely causing your child to gain weight abnormally is abuse! YES! So long as feeding sweets or other nutrient-poor foods to your children (once) is abuse!

Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D., member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says

Excess levels may lead to drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and decreased linear growth in the infant. Maternal blood alcohol levels must attain 300 mg/dl before significant side effects are reported in the infant. Reduction of letdown is apparently dose-dependent and requires alcohol consumption of 1.5 to 1.9 gm/kg body weight (6). Other studies have suggested psychomotor delay in infants of moderate drinkers (2+ drinks daily). Avoid breastfeeding during and for 2 – 3 hours after drinking alcohol.

Pyschomotor delays! Child Abuse! Hmm. Again, Only if feeding your kid a crap diet–not even a crap diet: a crap foodstuff, one time–is child abuse, too.

This (pardon my french) absolutely bullshit ruling has nothing whatever to do with medical science, and everything to do with placing restrictive social standards on mothers: it’s all about a distaste for seeing someone’s mommy get ripped. Go ahead and add a second count of abuse if she was swearing. Or wearing trousers. Or sitting with her knees apart. Or thinking for herself.

Out of solidarity for all that is right and good in this world, I encourage all of you who are on Facebook to join the group Moms Who Drink and Swear. Having children shouldn’t mean you have to become Donna Reed to escape a prison sentence.

(btw, let me give our lovely and beloved breastfeeding-zealot readers a head-start on what they should be thinking about this story: Nestle must love this ruling!)

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

“Did you even hear what I heard?”

Note: This post is about something said on radio.  Since I wasn’t watching the clock, I can’t be sure when I hear this or even on which station.  Short of reading/listening to hours of very conservative broadcasting, I can’t be sure I can find it.   I’ve worried about whether I should post this without more documentation, but let me instead leave it to you to decide how you’ll take it.


I wasn’t able to watch Obama’s press conference yesterday, but shortly afterwards I turned on the radio and started listening to a discussion of it.  The show’s host said how disappointing Obama’s statements about Iran at the conference had been.  Then he  said we should listen and played a passage with Obama saying that it would be counterproductive for the US to be seen as meddling in Iran’s political affairs.

So what’s wrong with that picture?  Though the host said he was talking about the June 23rd conference, the tape was of remarks Obama made on June 16, one week earlier.

Having heard the tape, even I was wondering when I saw the later headlines on the NYT and CNN that Obama had strongly condemned the Iranian gov’t actions.  No doubt some of the radio show’s listeners will dismiss them as fabrications of the liberal media.  In fact, it seems sometimes we do not even hear what supporters of the other side hear.

Gender Bias in Theater?

The NY Times reports on a year long study conducted by a Princeton economics student, Emily Glassberg Sands, whose work has been vetted by a number of excellent economists.  The study looked at the fact that many more plays produced are written by men than by women.  These are the conclusions reached:

1.  There are many more men than women playwrights and the men are more prolific.  Given that, men’s and women’s plays are produced at the same rate.

2.  A study, which sent a play to theater directors and literary managers around the country with the name variously a male or female one, indicated that men judge men and women equally, but women are more likely to favor the male writer.

3.  Women’s plays, when produced, are commercially significantly more successful, but they do not get any longer run time than the less successful men’s plays.  (A case of there being higher standards for woman to get treatment equal to a man.)

4.  “Plays that feature women — which are more commonly written by women — are also less likely to be produced”.  (One person’s quoted reaction said that the female characters were less likable; it was not possible to tell if this was supported by the research or an interpretation of it.)

Let me start off the comments.

I have heard the equivalent of 1 holds for the sciences; I am not sure about other fields, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is true in most or all male  dominated fields.  The data in this case was drawn from a directory that depends  on self-reporting, so part of the difference could start with what is reported.  One reader comments that women are still socialized to believe that they will be wives and mothers in a way that puts other things second.  I am inclined to think rate of productivity may be influenced by having a sense of being a part of the community, having expectations that what one writes will be taken seriously, and so on.

2 is certainly unwelcome, but a reminder that women are equally likely to have implicit biases; if we simply assume we  are more fair, we may well be less fair.

Now, please, do join in and tell us what you think!

Are you on Twitter?

So much about Iran seemed to be coming from Twitter, so I joined.  It seems to be a great way to send a message to a group, as the protestors in Iran have been doing.  And there are also messages you might want to get.  You can keep up with tweets from CNN, the Nation or Perez Hilton, if you wish. 

I think that if I had a young children and a scattered family, it might be fun to have a family page on which grandparents might find a cute tweet.  And there’s a cat who writes a  daily haiku, along with ones we noted earlier  whose to-ings and fro-ings are tracked on Twitter; that’s Penny and Gus.

But there don’t seem to be many academic philosophers or even academic things, though clearly it would be useful for getting a group together during a large conference or to track friends in a large museum.  E.g., “I’ve found the Picasso’s; they’re on the third floor, in …”

There’s a need for a more robust feminist presence, so this blog might get a page and update it.  I can’t see yet how to have automatic updates.

What are your experiences, if you’ve had any?  Any uses I haven’t figured out in my short time on it (she says  hopefully)?