Who is to blame for Clementi’s suicide?

You almost certainly have heard about the case. Here’s a brief summary from the NY Times:

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A former Rutgers University student was convicted on Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.

“It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.

The student, Dharun Ravi, had sent out Twitter and text messages encouraging others to watch. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge three days after the webcam viewing, three weeks into their freshman year in September 2010.

Ravi now faces up to 10 years in prison and/or deportation.

A lot of activists – in a addition to lbgt advocates – are praising the verdict. So I have been surprised at seeing a number of dissenting words, some of which seem cogent.

One, from the Chronicle of High Education, argues for a complex thesis: we do not know what the link, if any, there was between Ravi’s actions and Clementi’s suicide, while at the same time we are mistaken about the more significant cause. Bullies, one person argues, are symptoms, in this case of a society with lots of homophobia casually present in many different contexts. The verdict lets us wrap the guilt up and stick it on Ravi, not us.

The Guardian** makes a related point, but it points more directly to the political promulgation off homophobia:

Which of the following homophobic actions and statements do you find more despicable and more deserving of the most severe punishment possible: an 18-year-old in his first term at university spying with a webcam on his gay roommate and sending out tweets such as: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Or: a 53-year-old man on a high-profile political stage saying that gay marriage will cause America to “fail”; that homosexuals do not perform activities “that are healthy for society” and therefore do not deserve certain “rights” such as raising children; that gay “sexual activity” is not “equal” to heterosexual “activity”; that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is “playing social experimentation with our military … And that’s tragic”; that gay marriage is analogous to polygamy and, most infamously, bestiality.

Both of these examples are utterly horrible and it is a decidedly depressing state of affairs that they happened at all. So to compare them is not to say that one is, relatively speaking, forgivable. Yet when one results in a now 20-year-old man facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment and possible deportation, and the other leads to this particular politician doing unexpectedly well in the Republican presidential primaries, one does have to question, shall we say, the consistency of national attitude, and what, really, is condemned and condoned.

Turning from this utterly tragic case involving what Ravi’s lawyer memorably and doubtless rightly described as “a jerky kid” in a dorm room whose actions resulted in a conviction, we turn to the national political stage, involving grown men whose statements result in balloons falling from the ceiling. Being against gay marriage, gay adoption and gay soldiers serving openly in the military is pretty much de rigueur for a Republican presidential candidate these days, as is inferring – obliquely or very openly – that being gay is a perversion and therefore not deserving of full rights. Rick Santorum has been the most vocal about this although, to be fair, sex in all of its forms appears to repulse him judging from his beliefs regarding contraception and pornography. Yet his statements about homosexuality have been especially disgusting, hardline and toxic.

Should we give air time to Santorum, while jailing and deporting Ravi? Or are these apples and oranges? What do you think?

**the article has lots of links that didn’t get copied. If you want the source for a particular homophobic expression, you should follow the link to the article

More on the Sexual Politics of Meat

There has been some great follow-up discussion in the blogosphere today that pick up on some of the same issues raised earlier in this FP post and this FP post about the NY Times “Calling All Carnivores” contest.  Our Hen House has an alternative contest: “Calling All Herbivores” that asks vegans to tell us why it’s unethical to eat meat. And Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meatposted on One Green Planet today about “The Sexual Politics of Ethics,” addressing directly the choice to have a panel of white male judges for the NY Times contest.  The ethics of eating meat: still a feminist issue.

Trayvon Martin

I imagine you’ve heard by now of the horrendous case of Trayvon Martin, killed for the “suspicious” behaviour of walking down the street while black and male. There’s an awesome post on the topic over at NewAPPS:

There is no doubt in my mind that, if Trayvon had pulled the trigger, he would have been arrested immediately, and the full force of the law would have been brought down upon him. And I agree that Zimmerman should be arrested, and the whole situation should be investigated. But at the same time, I keep thinking: What would justice look like for Trayvon? Would a murder charge for Zimmerman amount to justice?

A lot more would have to happen, and some of it is starting to happen. We would need a nation-wide recognition of the degree to which young black men are perceived as predators and as “out of place,” even in their own neighborhoods. We would need to wake up to the fact that black men are so often victims of violence and not just perpetrators of violence. We would need to recognize all the work that black men do to set the rest of us at ease in social situations, in order to convince us that we have nothing to fear from them. We would need to confront our complicity as a nation with the over-incarceration of black and Latino men — and with the over-incarceration of Americans more generally. We would need to repeal laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and others that enshrine the right to self-defense, even to the point of using lethal force, if you feel like your life or the life of others are threatened. We would need to pass laws restricting the use and availability of handguns. We would need to recognize structural racism at work, whether or not any “racist slurs” are uttered.

What else would we have to do to find justice for Trayvon Martin?

Head over to NewAPPS for all the links and to join in the discussion.

Meat is for men

Writing this post prompted some reflection on how strongly we gender stereotype food and eating. (It also, for the record, still prompts giggles: I can be reflective and ridiculous at the same time.)

So here, for your enjoyment, is a collection of gender nonsense to remind you that meat is for men:


The stereotypes even cross cultural boundaries!


Real men eat meat. Meat is for men.

Whereas, as discussed previously, women laugh alone while eating salad.


Men defend meat

The NY Times is running an ethics essay contest they’ve styled “Calling All Carnivores: Tell us Why it’s Ethical to Eat Meat”. Submitted essays will all be judged by a panel of experts. All the experts are, you guessed it, dudes. (Thanks for the tip, E!)

Get it? Men are the meat experts! Men are experts on meat! Try to be mature enough not to explode into a fit of giggles over this.

[Disclaimer: magicalersatz is definitely not mature enough not to explode into said fit of giggles]

Now go re-read The Sexual Politics of Meat and roll your eyes a little.

Meat experts. . .

[post descends into uncontrollable laughter]

A Doctor on Transvaginal Ultrasounds

From here.

I do not feel that it is reactionary or even inaccurate to describe an unwanted, non-indicated transvaginal ultrasound as “rape”. If I insert ANY object into ANY orifice without informed consent, it is rape. And coercion of any kind negates consent, informed or otherwise.
In all of the discussion and all of the outrage and all of the Doonesbury comics, I find it interesting that we physicians are relatively silent.
After all, it’s our hands that will supposedly be used to insert medical equipment (tools of HEALING, for the sake of all that is good and holy) into the vaginas of coerced women.
Fellow physicians, once again we are being used as tools to screw people over. This time, it’s the politicians who want to use us to implement their morally reprehensible legislation. They want to use our ultrasound machines to invade women’s bodies, and they want our hands to be at the controls. Coerced and invaded women, you have a problem with that? Blame us evil doctors. We are such deliciously silent scapegoats.

And then there’s a call for non-compliance.

Thanks, A!