Trayvon Martin and the Fugitive Slave Law

An excellent article by philosopher Robert Gooding-Williams:

On Delany’s account, the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, at least as Judge McClean interprets it, is to subject all unowned black persons to the domination of all white persons. For by requiring that the self-proclaimed slave catcher be taken at his word, the law leaves unconstrained the ability of any white person to arrest and seize any black person. In effect, it renders all titularly free blacks vulnerable to the power available to all whites in exactly the way that, according to Frederick Douglass, a black slave is vulnerable to the power exercised by his or her white master.

The affinity to the Trayvon Martin incident is perhaps obvious. Chief Lee’s statement that Zimmerman was not arrested for lack of evidence sufficient to challenge his claim that he had not acted in self-defense (“We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense”) appears to imply that, absent such evidence, a white or otherwise non-black man (there is some controversy as to whether Zimmerman should be identified as white, or Hispanic, or both, although no one seems to be claiming he is black) claiming self-defense after killing a black man is simply to be taken at his word. It is hard to resist the thought that race matters here, for who believes that, had an adult African American male killed a white teenager under similar circumstances, the police would have taken him at his word and so declined to arrest him?

…In short, it appears that whites (or other non-blacks) may hunt down blacks with immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not acting to defend themselves; or, to echo Martin Delany, that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law threatens to render some citizens subject to the arbitrary wills of others.

(Via New Apps.)

When did Cracked become so feminist?

I remember Cracked magazine from my childhood, and it wasn’t like this.

This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think “sexism” is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries — we don’t think of it as frenzied “burn the witch!” hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it’s always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.
Why? Well, you see …

The article then goes on to outline ways that men and boys are trained to “hate women”.

The article is not without flaws, by any means. But it’s a far cry from the Cracked Magazine of my childhood. (Unless I’m misremembering. In which case I’m sure J-Bro will set me straight.) And it’s really surprising to find this in a humour magazine.

Thanks, T!

Famous Five Kicked Off New Canadian Fifty Dollar Bill

Canada’s newest bank notes — $50 bills made from a plastic polymer — started circulating Monday. Sadly the Famous Five aren’t on them.

The front of the new note features a portrait of Sir William Lyon Mackenzie King, while the back depicts the Arctic research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen. Missing are the Famous Five, the women who are responsible for women being considered “persons under the law” in Canada.

“It may seem like an innocuous change, but it is a symbol of a pattern of assault on women’s issues by the Harper government,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees President Carol Furlong. “The battle that these women fought to have women recognized under the law as people is a crucial part of our country’s history. The decision to remove a reference to these women, their struggle and their historic accomplishment from the new 50 dollar bill should be reversed.”


Read more:

CBC, New plastic $50 bills go into circulation,

The Famous Five Clearly Not Important:

NAPPE News Release,

Health care cost skyrocket, recommendations for screening women reduced

From the NY Times:

For nearly three generations, women have been taught that annual Pap smears, mammograms and visits with their doctor were essential to good health.

Now all that is changing. National guidelines are urging less frequent screening for breast and cervical cancer. The declining use of menopause hormones means that older women no longer need to check in with their doctors to obtain annual refills. Women are delaying childbirth, and some birth control methods are effective for five years, giving women even less incentive to schedule a regular appointment.

I have very mised feelings about this.  I’d love to know what others think.

I do think that the early introduction to the gynocologist that so many young women experience can easily become part of the pathologizing of the female body.  There are so many bits, and they need constand vigilance because they can turn against you at any monent.  And that’s just day to day life; if you become pregnant, little choices you make can ruin two lives, or indeed more.

On the other hand, I do not really understand the argument that the yearly screening is bad because there are a number of false positives that cause a lot of stress.  Doesn’t a human life typically involve facing the possibility of really bad news?

For example, at the age of 16 children’s brains are  not yet developed enough to give their owners the self control that adults more typically have.  And that’s when they can get control of a car to drive around.  Now there’s stress.  Or how about the stress of having a mean boss or getting demoted, turned down or even ridiculed in a social context.  What’s worse:  getting a really nasty review or having to go back to have the mammo redone just in case?  Or even having a biopsy because there is a lump.

And then there’s the suspicion that the reductions are occurring just when health care costs are receiving so much attention.

So what do you think?  I’m really interested in hearing what people think about the early pathologization of the female body.  It would also be great to hear from people not from the medically self-conscious USA.

I do remember Michael Dummett claiming that American concerns with, e.g., smoking argued a national narcissism about perfecting the individual.

Please let us know your views.

Racist tweets lead to jail

A biology student at Swansea University has been jailed for 56 days after posting racist comments on Twitter about Fabrice Muamba – the football player who is seriously ill after having a heart attack. He has been jailed on the grounds of inciting racial hatred, following a number of complaints from other Twitter users.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I’m very pleased to see racism being taken seriously. On the other hand, I’m wondering why the staff of the Daily Mail aren’t in prison on similar grounds. It’s also a bit unclear to me whether things one says on Twitter, and other such social networking sites, should be treated in this sort of way. On the one hand, using Twitter feels very informal. One can have conversations on Twitter, rant about things that have upset one, have a bit of a moan, and do all the sort of things one might do in a verbal conversation. On the other hand, one’s tweets are broadcast far wider than one’s conversations, and are in the world as public items long after one first writes them, there waiting for other folks to stumble across them in a way that one’s conversations are not. Thus they shouldn’t be treated exactly like casual conversations, but neither should they be treated exactly like pamphlets, newspapers, political manifestos, books, and so on.

I might also note that my opinion on this matter will no doubt be swayed by the content of the tweets, which the judge called ‘vile and abhorrent’. The BBC has had the good sense not to republish them. But I can imagine if they called for violence against blacks, or something along those lines, I might very well feel there’s no ambiguity about what should have been done in this case.

What do you think?

You can read more about the case here.


MaMSIE is an interdisciplinary research network based in the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London. It aims to focus attention on the maternal in current cultural, political, aesthetic, psychosocial and theoretical configurations.

MaMSIE creates spaces for interdisciplinary conversations about the maternal across different knowledge and practice communities including feminism, psychoanalysis, the social sciences, philosophy, visual and performance art, literature, and creative writing. MaMSIE aims to open up and sustain critical debates about the maternal, and explore the unique site the maternal occupies at the potent intersection between scientific possibilities, psychosocial practices and cultural representations. As an interdisciplinary network of scholars, artists and practitioners, MaMSIE is promoting a re-consideration of the maternal in contemporary culture, and is one of a number of emerging networks in the European context, with an expanding international membership.

For more, go here.

Some sex work laws overturned in Ontario

Selling sex isn’t illegal in Canada. Instead, laws have been enacted which make certain aspects of the activity of selling sex illegal. And now the Supreme Court has ruled that two of these provisions are unacceptable because they endanger sex workers.

In its decision the court said that prostitution is extremely dangerous work where inherent risks are multiplied by laws preventing prostitutes from working together under one roof or hiring security staff.

The decision didn’t strike down the communication law which makes it illegal for sex workers to negotiate with clients.

“The vast majority of all prostitution arrests are under the communication law. The failure to strike down the communication law means that the most vulnerable sex workers will continue to face arrest, police harassment, prosecution and violence.” –Emily van der Muelen, Assistant Professor, in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ryerson University.

Read “Ontario Court leaves most vulnerable sex workers unprotected”–the response from the Maggies, the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project–here.

I was struck by the contrast in headlines between Canada’s national newspaper which tells the story from the point of the view of the women who challenged the law and MSNBC’s focus. MSNBC headlines the story, “Brothels and pimping legalized in Ontario, Canada” and Canada’s national newspaper puts it this way, “Sex-trade workers hail legalization of brothels as major victory.”

Do college professors work hard enough?

If I had any energy left in my after my rather exhausting job, I would lift my arm just high enough to take a swing at the eye of the author of this faux-respectful  WaPo op-ed piece, who concludes that not only do we not work hard, we don’t even work full-time:

But we all should object when they receive these salaries for working less than half the time of their non-academic peers.

Now, professors have heard this saw before, and although it makes me want to give up all my efforts every time I hear it, this time it’s written by a former chancellor of the New School.  So, what the expletive?!  How does someone preside over a university without ever learning that the professors work?  In my anger, at least I’ve got company from this rather excellent response on the ginandtacos blog:

The best part about being a professor in this country [USA]  – I can’t speak for any other – is that no one really understands what we do but everyone knows that we’re doing it wrong.

I highly recommend reading both, the op-ed so that academics know the details of the cultural conversation about just how lazy, how very, very lazy we are, and the ginandtacos rant responding to it so that you don’t feel quick so heartsick.  But I do.  I feel heartsick. Or at least, post-burrito sick.

Thanks to Barrett Emerick for the link to the rant, I guess (although the op-ed really isn’t sitting well after my burrito, Barrett).