Lena Klimova, the founder of Children-404, an online support network for LGBT teens in Russia similar to the It Gets Better campaign in the United States, has launched a new project meant to shame the Internet users who send her death threats.
On April 20, Klimova unveiled a photo album, titled “Beautiful People and What They Say to Me,” where she posted publicly available pictures of individuals in their everyday lives, overlaid with the threatening messages they’ve sent her on VKontakte, Russia’s largest social network.
The photos show the individuals in situations that are casual and intimate: a man poses with a goat, a woman hugs a bouquet of roses, and so on. The text, however, is vicious and obscene, creating a violent juxtaposition between these people’s identities as private individuals and public homophobes.
The TransAdvocate interviews Catharine MacKinnon April 10, 2015
Really interesting interview with Catharine MacKinnon here. I’ll only quote a few bits (I really am leaving out interesting things though, so do take a look yourself):
MacKinnon on who is a woman:
I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman.
And on ‘bathroom panic':
Many transwomen just go around being women, who knew, and suddenly, we are supposed to care that they are using the women’s bathroom. There they are in the next stall with the door shut, and we’re supposed to feel threatened. I don’t. I don’t care. By now, I aggressively don’t care.
On misrepresentations of her views:
Williams: I know that you were falsely accused of claiming that “all sex is rape” (along with similar variants). What do you think people misrepresent most about your theories and why?
MacKinnon: It having taken about 20 years of litigation to establish that that statement is libel, I learned that people — in this case, originally Rush Limbaugh and Playboy at almost exactly the same time — create defamatory lies so that audiences will not take seriously work that threatens them (their power, ie their sexuality). Because of my analysis of male dominant sexuality as a practice of sex inequality, especially as deployed in the multi-billion dollar industry of pornography, they saw me as the enemy and set out to destroy me by whatever means were at their disposal. Once the New York Times Book Review voluntarily published its longest correction in history in 2006, saying I not only never said this, and my work did not mean this, but I didn’t THINK this (!), it pretty much stopped. Many academics, however, who largely don’t read, I am sorry to say, have not kept up. As you recognize, this is only one such misrepresentation.
Clarifying Indiana’s RFRA: No, It’s Not the Same as Others March 31, 2015
There have been some articles floating around about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that are highly misleading (as well as misleading comments on the matter from Governor Pence)—e.g., there’s an article in the Washington Post which points out that several other states have their own RFRA statutes, and there’s a federal RFRA as well. This is true, but it does not follow from the fact that two laws have the same name, or even that they share some language in common, that they are in fact similar. Indiana’s law is staggeringly different.
First, some background; In 1990, SCOTUS issued a landmark decision in Employment Division v. Smith, determining that the free-exercise provision of the first amendment does not provide religious exemption from laws of general applicability. Smith and Black were members of the Native American Church and had been fired from their jobs for having ingested peyote during a religious ceremony—they argued that they should be entitled to unemployment benefits as their having ingested peyote during a religious ceremony should be protected under the First Amendment, but the court determined it was not (effectively, nearly eliminating the Sherbert Test in the process). In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in order to reinstitute protections from religious discrimination which result from such (apparently) religiously-neutral laws (that is, prohibitions on drug-use may be religiously neutral, and yet have discriminatory differential effects nonetheless, as was apparent in Smith).
In 1997, SCOTUS decided City of Boerne v. Flores determining that Congress had exceeded its power in extending RFRA beyond the federal government to states, and so, many states began passing their own RFRA legislation in response to bridge that gap once more. Indiana’s law is the latest, but, again, that does not mean it’s the same as others by the same name. There are extremely important—and disconcerting— differences.
One significant difference is how the Indiana RFRA defines religious exercise. Section five reads, “As used in this chapter, ‘exercise of religion’ includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” This is in stark contrast to how religious exercise is understood under federal law, where the exercise in question must be the result of a belief which is religious in nature (general understood as part of comprehensive doctrine dealing with issues of ‘ultimate concern’ or something similar) and sincerely held. Though sincerity is (sometimes, but) rarely questioned in religious freedom claims (by the court or by other litigating parties), the more narrow understanding of religious exercise prevents abuse of the law and pre-textual claims to religious belief.
Another significant difference is that in Indiana, unlike e.g., Illinois, there are no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under state law. Some individual cities in Indiana do have such protections by way of city ordinances, but state law pre-empts local law when the two conflict. Since the law has not gone into effect yet, and consequently has not yet been tested, it is unclear whether the state courts would determine that protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes a “compelling interest” of the government (or, depending on the case, what the ‘least restrictive means’ of achieving it would be), but, the lack of protection in state law means at the very least that it will be unclear to those who would claim such discrimination is religious exercise whether or not the law allows it (and some folks have already interpreted it to mean that it does). Potentially, the lack of such protections — and Pence’s refusal to institute them — could mean that it will be more difficult to demonstrate that preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a compelling state interest.
Further, Indiana’s RFRA explicitly extends the notion of personhood for the purposes of religious exercise very broadly—perhaps unsurprising in the wake of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, but, still troubling, especially when we consider the context of its definition of ‘religious exercise’: “As used in this chapter, ‘person’ includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.”
There are other differences between Indiana’s recently passed RFRA and those that are in place elsewhere, but you get the point. This is not your ordinary RFRA, and the difference is dreadful.
UPDATE: I didn’t see this until after I hit post, but one Indiana lawmaker certainly appears to think that preventing discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation is not a compelling interest (but he also seems confused about the law in other ways).
CFP: Essays on Technology March 29, 2015
Contrivers’ Review Call for Essays on Technology
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” an essay that blurred the boundaries between the organic human being and the human being as a machine, a set of social practices, and cultural modes of communication and representation. Since then the postmodern turn represented in texts like Haraway’s “Manifesto” has been itself superceded. We see a resurgence of Enlightenment thought–and all the baggage it brings–in initiatives like the re:enlightenment project and The History Manifesto. However, we undoubtedly live in a world inundated with technology so that Haraway’s claim that “We are all chimera” remains accurate even if the ground of technology, politics, and gender have dramatically shifted since 1985.
As part of our long term investigation of technology and the humanities, politics, and arts, Contrivers’ Review invites submissions on any subject relating to gendered and LGBT cultures and their intersection with technology broadly defined. Some issues that might be covered include:
Social media, violence, and harassment
Gender, Feminism, and gaming culture
Discrimination in the Tech Industry/Silicon Valley/Gamer Culture
Feminist and Queer history/historiography of new media
Technologies of bodies
Gender, professionalism, and online identities
Feminist Digital Humanities
Contrivers’ Review is an intellectual journal not a scholarly, refereed publication. As such, we publish essays and reviews that bridge academic audiences and the wider public. Submissions and pitch letters should be addressed to a broad audience, not fellow specialists in the academy. Essays should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Please send us a query letter at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please refer to our masthead.
Lasting change in view from 20 minute conversation with gay person January 31, 2015
WE REGRET TO SAY THAT THE RESEARCH REPORTED HERE APPEARS TO BE FRAUDULENT (AJJ.5.23.15):
For the study, Michael LaCour of UCLA and Donald Green of Columbia surveyed a bunch of registered voters in Southern California to get their views on gay marriage (and a bunch of other issues, to hide the true purpose of the study), and offered them financial incentives to get friends and family members to participate as well. Then, trained canvassers were dispatched to the homes of the people who had taken the survey, where they delivered a script about either gay marriage or recycling (to create a placebo group) and asked the voters to express their opinions on the subject. Halfway through the conversations about gay marriage, the gay canvassers revealed they were gay and wanted to get married but couldn’t because of California’s then-ban on gay marriage, while the straight ones “instead described how their child, friend, or relative” was dealing with the same conundrum. The conversations lasted, on average, 22 minutes… In the short term, the 20-minute conversations about gay marriage had a clear and large effect: Before the conversation, the residents had held beliefs on gay marriage in line with the average resident of Nebraska or Ohio; a few days after, their beliefs were in line with the average residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts (an increase of 0.48 points on a 5-point scale), and whether the canvasser was gay or straight didn’t have much impact on the size of the effect. But it was the longer-term effect that was more surprising: While “90% of the initial treatment effect dissipated a month after the conversation with canvassers” among voters who spoke with a straight canvasser, among those who conversed with a gay canvasser, the size of the effect increased over time — “ only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups.” By the end of the study, among voters who spoke with a gay canvasser, the gap between where they were and where they ended up on the issue of gay marriage was equivalent to the difference in opinion on the subject between the average resident of Georgia and the average resident of Massachusetts.
For more, go here.
Irreverent: a Celebration of Censorship January 21, 2015
Readers may be interested to hear of this exhibition, which is opening next month at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. All of the pieces on display are LGBTQ art works that have been censored in various ways by major museums and/or art galleries. You can read more about the exhibition and see photos of some of the works here.
‘Somewhere in America’ January 10, 2015
Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:
“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff, ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “
Fantastic new directory of philosophers from underrepresented groups! December 18, 2014
Ruth Chang writes:
It is fully searchable and really neat. If you’re a conference organizer looking for philosophers in your city who work on X, you can search the directory and come up with a list of such philosophers from underrepresented groups that fit the bill. If you’re on a hiring committee, and the usual suspects keep coming to mind but you’d like to do a more thorough search, you can pull up the directory and find all philosophers in the directory who work in a general AOS or even on a specific research topic. If you’re an editor looking for a list of possible candidates to invite to contribute to a volume or to referee a paper, the UPDirectory can help you.
This sounds like a really wonderful tool. Go check it out!
Further updates on the Marquette situation November 21, 2014
Daily Nous posted a further update to the story on the political targeting of philosophy graduate student Cheryl Abbate of Marquette University:
Fox News has picked up on the story. The article, posted today, starts with a lying headline and is clearly meant to rally the troops. Ms. Abbate has written to tell me that she has already received hate mail as a result of the Fox News article. As of now, Marquette has yet to make any public statement supporting Ms. Abbate. I have been informed that the decision to release any such statement will have to come from the university level, and so I urge concerned parties to write to Marquette University President Michael Lovell at email@example.com asking him to step up and publicly support Ms. Abbate.
John Protevi posted a letter of support for Cheryl a few days ago (for which he is accepting additional signatures in the comments), but he has followed up on this update with another letter that may be of interest to our readers:
The harassment Ms Abbate is receiving in inimical to the values not only of American universities in general, but of the Jesuit tradition in particular (speaking as a Loyola University of Chicago graduate), and I ask you to take immediate action in the form of a public statement deploring this harassment and affirming Marquette’s commitment to the welfare of its graduate students. . .
If I may, I would direct your attention to these comments on an Open Letter I authored on the situation, which has garnered over 200 signatures in a few short days: http://proteviblog.typepad.com/protevi/2014/11/open-letter-in-support-of-cheryl-abbate.html
“Please add my name to this. Even if everything printed were true and the grad student said and did everything attributed to her ( which I do not grant) this response — public calling out, exposure to public condemnation, political labeling,– by a faculty member violates every expectation of graduate training and collegiality. It is a betrayal of the trust invested in faculty to mentor and guide students, not to make of them casualties in larger battles whether inside or outside their institutions. Bonnie Honig, Professor of Political Science, Brown University.”
F*** Safe Space September 7, 2014
On Canadian university campuses, Frosh Week (orientation week for freshmen) has just ended. Frosh Week typically involves a mixture of official and unofficial activities, and the donning of various types of matching apparel. Alas, the apparel at Carleton University in Ottawa included t-shirts reading “Fuck Safe Space.” According to this story from Carleton’s student newspaper, The Charlatan, a handful of people were wearing the shirts, in apparent defiance of Carleton’s safe space program, which seeks to “reduce the impact of homophobia and heterosexism on campus.” Apparently, the t-shirts, which were not official Frosh Week garb, were donned by upper year students at the close of Frosh Week to protest aspects of the Frosh Week contract to which Frosh leaders were signatory.
ED: As anonymous and Rachel rightly point out, the Charlatan story I linked here describes a handful, not hundreds, of frosh leaders wearing the offending shirts. I misread the sentence in the original and have now corrected the post above.