Human Rights Badasses

I found this article via Pharyngula about a Sudanese woman who is sentenced to 40 lashes and an unlimited fine for wearing pants, which is against the Sudanese interpretation of Sharia law.  This woman is a journalist for the UN, and could have used her job to get out of the punishment, but she instead quit her job so that she would have to go to trial in an effort to be the test case that causes the overturning of this law.  That is exactly what badassery is all about.  I’ve been trying to make pants lately, and now I just love them even more.  She wore the same pants she was condemned for to her first court appearance, and she has been publicizing her case.  I mean, what can I say besides rock the fuck on.

I also applaud PZ Myers of Pharyngula for being straight-up about feminism and patriarchy.  He easily could have just said that this is what happens when people follow crazy religions, as he is a staunch atheist.  But he clearly stated that this is about patriarchy and that patriarchy is about more than religious nuts and that it is wrong.  This is heartening, because in the past I have seen a lot of (accepted) sexism among atheists and other people who are liberal but not specifically feminist.  He did kinda miss the point of being a test trial, but anyway.

So, about the law itself.  I’m for the separation of church (religion) and state, so Shariah law doesn’t fly with me unless people have the option of whether to submit themselves to it or something like that.  I also think laws that treat men differently from women are, in general, sexist and wrong.  I say in general because I recognize that there may be bizarre cases where it’s actually more appropriate to treat the sexes differently, but I think those are very rare.  I think it is sexist and immoral to blame the victims of sexual assault, and I believe that this law is based on the idea that women in pants will provoke men to sexually assault them, or at least lust after them.  That is completely backwards, not supported by any evidence, and a way of doubly punishing women.  I also think lashing is a terrible punishment for breaking a law.

With that said, I do not think all of this is proof that Sudan sux and the US rulez.  Or the same of Muslims and Christians, or whatever.  We have problems in the US with the separation of church and state (hello, we call it church instead of religion, that should be a hint), with sexist laws (still haven’t passed the Equal Rights Amendment, and we are the only industrialized nation that has not ratified CEDAW, which puts us in the same camp as Sudan on that one), with victim blaming (don’t even get me started), and with inhumane punishments (the death penalty).  That’s all of the issues I raised.  Our problems may not be as acute as those in some other places, but that is probably due to a mix of historical forces rather than anyone’s inherent rationality or whatever.  After all, this badass woman is Sudanese.

Funny story about the death penalty (since I definitely won’t get a laugh from anyone in my hometown about it): a friend of mine has a bumper sticker that says “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”  It’s supposed to be a conservative point against high taxes and that kind of thing.  Now, the person who has this bumper sticker is not blindly Republican, so she may be against the death penalty, but if she isn’t, tell me that isn’t ironic.  How many conservatives do you think there are out there warning that the government can take away your money and supporting a government that can take away your life?  And how many of them do you think would denounce Sudan as barbaric?

{November 3, 2008}   Choice Avengers

I am so jealous of this girl, lil_fem, that she will have this awesomeness to look back on when she gets older and I am so embarrassed of what I used to be like, choice-wise.  She dressed up as a pro-choice superhero, the Choice Avenger, for Halloween.  It’s really impressive to me to see a girl of 14, right smack in the middle of that period where most kids feel the need to fit in no matter what, being so proudly feminist.  Rock on.  And thank you for returning a little bit of my faith in the people of this country, and in younger people, which has taken several severe blows lately thanks to the ever-tasteful McCain campaign and some amazingly idiotic freshmen I attempted to discuss Iraq with.

Also, I want to create a superhero called Captain Contraception.  She’s a she, of course, and she uses contraception to help save the world.  Capt. Contraception would love to team up with the Choice Avenger, since of course, both sides of choice are important and Capt. C can’t save the world alone – only those people who don’t want to get pregnant.  If they already are, or want to get pregnant/have a baby and people are trying to stop them, the Choice Avenger is needed.  But I think contraception could help a lot without abortion being nearly as necessary as it is now, with so much opposition to birth control leading to preventable unwanted pregnancies.  Capt. C has super educational abilities, and she’s sort of like Santa Claus in her ability to distribute condoms to a large number of people in a small amount of time.  She’s not married, but she does wear a Nuva ring.

It would be fun to teach kids about feminism through superheroes.

From the LA Times via feministing:

Nujood Ali was pulled out of school and forced to marry a man 3 times her age, even though she is well below the age of consent in Yemen.  He beat and sexually abused her.  She went to court and got a divorce!  Now she’s back in school.

“When I left school, I learned how to count from one to 100,” she said. “Now, I am going to learn how to count until a million.”

Sometimes people say that feminism is bad because it made divorce rates go up.  Looking at this story, I can just say, “Fuck yeah.”

Sorry I’m not as eloquent as Nujood (she’s just outperforming me all over the place). from
Arab News

These are the leaders of a movement in Saudi Arabia to overturn the ban on women driving. They’re turning in petitions and petitions and more petitions until it works. They’ve been hacked several times. I’m impressed with them. These are the people you can refer to when someone says, “Well some women like to wear veils and so on.” Then you can say, yay for those women who like to wear veils, they can keep right on wearing them after these women who don’t like the veils win the right to remove them, and likewise with other currently limited rights, driving in this case. “We won’t force it on those who don’t want it,” al-Oyouni says.

We do tend to get into that culture issue with stuff like this, though, don’t we? Catherine Bennett of the Guardian talked about that a little bit with regard to King Abdullah’s visit to the UK. I don’t think she’s entirely right that Britain has no male supremacy, and normally I would go so far as to say it was hypocritical, because I think people have a tendency to think that the types of oppression they’re used to are not as bad than types that they’re unfamiliar with, but when you’re talking about Saudi Arabia, ok, I’ll grant that from what I know, it is worse there. But anyway, it’s an interesting read. The comment that sexism gets written off as a cultural thing more often than some other types of oppression are worth considering. I hate the Oppression Olympics, but sometimes analogies are helpful to sort through the issues of respecting all genders and respecting all peoples, at the same time. At least this no-driving thing is said not to be a religious requirement.

So I completely abandoned the blog during the semester, as anyone who happens by can see. I think there was like one non-spam comment in that time that I didn’t approve for a while, sorry about that.

The obvious badasses that I would’ve mentioned had I been here were Aung San Suu Kyi, who was democratically elected Prime Minister of Burma but was put under house arrest by the military, which is now beating and killing the peaceful pro-democracy protesters; and Benazir Bhutto, who, well, if you’re not living under a rock, you know who she is and why she came to mind. Bhutto may have been corrupt. Not perfect. And not quite as cool as Suu Kyi, who, no joke, won a Nobel Prize while under house arrest. But you have to be a badass to go back into a country where people have already tried to kill you. And it’s pretty cool that she was the first female prime minister of an Islamic country. Hear that, islamophobes? Pakistan beat the US to a female head of state. Somebody wrote into my local paper in response to the assassination and ensuing chaos saying, I kid you not, “What do you expect? It’s Pakistan.” I just bet you that person turned around and said that Hillary Clinton isn’t fit to lead this country because she has cankles or something. I mean, yeah, Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists suck, like all fundamentalists and terrorists – in fact, like Christian fundamentalists and anti-abortion terrorists. But it’s funny how people can ignore their own problems AND ignore Pakistan’s strong points so easily. Anyway. So far all this information is from Wikipedia and my memory of Guardian articles on Bhutto, but I’d like to read up more on Suu Kyi, so maybe I’ll give some real information. It’s definitely time to start focusing on badasses again; I’ve started getting depressed with US politics and I need to force myself to think about some good news.

{August 21, 2007}   by the way…

I’ve been trying to set my comments so that once you’ve commented once and I’ve approved it, your comments won’t have to be moderated anymore, but it’s not working.  So it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I’m technologically challenged : ).  Hopefully I’ll get it fixed soon.

People like to dub strict or scary people Nazis of different sorts. We had a teacher in high school who liked to catch people who were in the hall at the wrong times – the “Hall Nazi.” Normally this is kinda funny but really not accurate in any way. She’ll get you in trouble, the Gestapo got people in trouble, and the comparison ends there. I wonder how Holocaust survivors feel about it.

There are two kinds of fake Nazis that I want to examine. The first are Feminazis. I assert that this name is absolutely ridiculous.

  • Feminists are in favor of human rights; Nazis violated them daily, besides actually believing that some people, the lebensunwertes Leben, didn’t deserve them.
  • Nazis were against plurality and wanted homogeneity; many feminists (can’t generalize too much of course) are in favor of giving individuals free choices, which leads to plurality, which these feminists say will actually not rush in the apocalypse.
  • Nazis forcefully sterilized some people in the name of eugenics; feminists believe in reproductive rights and are against forced sterilization.
  • Third-wave feminists are often allied with homosexuals; Nazis killed homosexuals. (Oh, yeah, remember that footnote in your history book?)
  • Nazis enforced their will through violence; feminists generally rely on non-violent means. I’ve heard of anti-feminists trying to kill people in the name of being “pro-life,” but I haven’t heard of feminists trying to kill anti-feminists…not that it’s never happened, but honestly, never heard of it. I just googled “feminist kills” to see if I could get some headlines, but all I found were people claiming feminism killed abstract concepts (chivalry, femininity) and stories written by feminists about women who were killed. Under feminist violence I found something about female violence, but not feminist violence per se.
  • Rush Limbaugh apparently said feminists are waging a holocaust against the unborn. Um, no. It is true that most feminists are pro-choice, but regardless of where you stand on abortion, it’s simply inaccurate to say that pro-choice = pro-abortion. In the Holocaust, Jews and others were deliberately sought out and systematically exterminated. In pro-choice law, women get to decide whether to abort or not, and many decide not to, and feminists do not hunt them down and force them to abort fetuses. Nazis hated Jews; feminists do not hate fetuses. Plenty of feminists have kids. To say pro-choice = pro-abortion is like saying pro-separation of church and state = atheist or anti-Prohibition = pro-drunkenness.

I suspect that the real reason for the Feminazi label is that feminists get angry over sexism and people aren’t good at handling female anger. They tend to either make fun of it (“you’re cute when you’re angry,” “somebody’s panties are in a twist!”) or act like it’s so intense and scary that angry women can’t even be dealt with (“what a bitch”, “whoa, must be that time of the month! Everybody WATCH OUT!”). This is a case of the latter – she’s not just angry, she’s a Nazi! People can play it down or play it up but actually listening to it is often out of the question. They tend to focus on the anger itself, as a problem with the woman, rather than considering the reason for the anger and the possibility that it is legitimate (and, ahem, not merely PMS-induced).

Feminazis got that name from anti-feminists, but Grammar Nazis, the second kind of fake Nazi I want to look at, name themselves that. They even join Facebook groups to flaunt their Grammar Nazihood. They don’t consider it a bad thing because it’s said jokingly; they don’t actually think they’re naziesque (haha I put a French suffix on Nazi). They’re just strict, like the Hall Nazi.

So the term Feminazi is supposed to be a real Nazi comparison, and the term Grammar Nazi is not. I think the opposite is true. I think Grammar Nazism is in fact a little like real Nazism – not a lot, but a little. Before I make my case, here’s the disclaimer. The way I define Grammar Nazism may not be the way you define it. If you are simply against spelling and punctuation errors, you’re clear. But I think of Grammar Nazis as the people who police the usage of who/whom, the singular they, double negatives, split infinitives, sentence-final prepositions, etc., and who consider nonstandard accents and dialects of English inferior (“you’re pronouncing it wrong,” “those [black] kids are too lazy to speak properly”). And they might even overlap with the people who are offended to have to press 1 for English and to have to overhear a conversation held in America in a foreign language.

Now for the comparison.

  • Nazism was based on xenophobia. The Nazis wanted to eradicate that which was different. Grammar Nazis (I’m talking about American ones) want to eradicate different varieties of English so that everyone will speak Standard American English (SAE). None of this Ebonics (AAVE) stuff, none of this heavily accented stuff, none of the dialects spoken in certain regions and certain socioeconomic classes, and not even the English that we’ve always spoken (eg, singular they, split infinitives) but that the Language Mavens decided was wrong based on woefully inadequate and sometimes completely irrelevant information.
  • The Nazis based their agenda on a false claim of the superiority of the Aryan race. Grammar Nazis base their agenda on a false claim of the superiority of SAE. Races are different (well, we consider them different anyway), but one is not better than another – the people of one are more powerful than the people of another, and so have the ability to pretend to be better, but that doesn’t make it true. The same can be said of language. Do you think SAE is more logical, more developed, or more complex than AAVE? Guess again. Do you think the singular they is a newfangled invention brought on by political correctness? Tell that to the people who used it in the late 1300s (I have seen this fact in more scholarly articles as well, by the way, but this website is pretty cool). Do you think that double negatives are just obviously illogical and therefore wrong? Funny, the French and the Anglo-Saxons use(d) them without much problem. Maybe it’s only when black people use them that it gets illogical.
  • Nazis were racist, and yeah, some (I said some, not all) Grammar Nazis are too. Which should be apparent from the last line in the previous point.
  • Nazis were über-nationalistic, and the type of people, whether or not you call them Grammar Nazis, who are anti-any languages in America besides English, yeah, a little nationalistic as well, I’d say. They just call it patriotism instead. You know where the word patriotism comes from? The word for fatherland. Just sayin.

I think a lot of Grammar Nazis, especially the people who police the usages I listed above and who consider AAVE and other non-standard varieties inferior to SAE, are actually very well-educated people who (through little fault of their own, thanks to our educational system) happen to be uninformed on the scholarly study of language. I think if they knew more, a lot of them would change their minds, because, ironically, I think their views come out of intellectualism more than hatred. Like the guy who told me that AAVE isn’t a language because you can put “izzle” into any word, so it isn’t systematic, which languages must be – not realizing that there are, more or less, rules for the use of “izzle,” and more obviously, that Snoop Dogg does not define AAVE and that the language exists outside of rap lyrics. He sounded smart, but he obviously knew jack shit about language. That’s the story with language, though – you don’t see all the rules behind it unless you study it scientifically, because our brains are built to sift through them for us.

So learn how language works and stop judging people : ).

{August 17, 2007}   Taslima Nasrin

Feministing alerted me to Taslima Nasrin, and I’m so glad, because she’s freaking awesome.

She’s Bangladeshi, but she’s currently living in exile in India. There’s a price on her head and she has received several death threats because of her criticism of Islam. She was raised Muslim but is now an atheist, a secular humanist. About a week ago she was attacked at a book launch for her “anti-Muslim” statements. She has spoken out against the atrocities that Muslims have committed against Hindus, a minority religion there. She wants civil laws that are separate from religion and give women equal rights. For this people want her killed. Few people defended her rights while she was in Bangladesh, even though the majority are not fundamentalists. This is what I mean by badass. If I were her I probably would have just shut up a long time ago.

This is how badass she is, y’all. Her official website has a section for “Banned Books”. You can also check out her poetry there. Not only is she a writer, she’s also a physician. And Feminist of the Year in 2004 for the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Can I just say that I really love how she tackles the issue of religion being used to oppress women? I can name sexist things about all five of the world’s major religions. Hinduism is the hardest because it’s so…decentralized in its authority, from what I gather, but look up “devadasi” if you think there’s nothing anti-woman about it. Not to say that all of religion is horrible and everyone who belongs to a religion is horrible and all the ways people like to exaggerate these statements so they can get mad at me and turn this around into me being the oppressive one, but…I see sexism. And I don’t like it. And I’m glad she’s saying so, so much more eloquently than I could. I also don’t like religious fundamentalism. I think I’m going to stop even differentiating between different types of religious fundamentalists. I think when you go that far you stop worshiping your god and you start worshiping your religion. And at that point, it’s all the same, just with different names and different rules (somewhat), but the hatred, the inflexibility, the disrespect, the irrationality, that’s all the same. Plus I think it’s hilarious to group fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims because they hate each other so much. I love seeing hateful people have the basis of their hate undermined.

This is just really cool. Not like nose-thumbing-badass, but really cool. A prison in the Philippines started teaching dances to the 1500 prisoners, and it reduced the number of fights they’re having, plus it’s pretty entertaining. Several of the inmates are openly gay.  Look up the videos on youtube – my favorites are Thriller and Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act.

Prisons need a lot of work, I think. I get pissed when rapists and sex traffickers and johns don’t get enough prison time, but maybe I’m looking at it wrong to begin with. Maybe the amount of prison time shouldn’t be proportional only to the degree of shittiness of the crime, but to something more practical and more directly related to what will keep the crime from happening again. Because I don’t think prison actually works as a deterrent as much as it’s supposed to. I don’t think deterrents work very well in general. They work on people like me (not that I’m so great, just that I’m not into getting punished), but there are a lot of people out there who think they can get away with it and who want to do illegal stuff that badly, and they’re kinda right, you can get away with a lot of stuff.

Look at pedophiles, for instance. Their recidivism rates are pretty high, not like every one of them repeats, but like half do, I think. There’s a debate over whether it’s a disease, something they can’t help. Kinda looks like it is to me, at least partially. I don’t want to treat child abuse lightly at all, but I think we need to revisit our system and figure out stuff that WORKS.

I still get angry, though, when judges give rapists and child abusers short sentences because they don’t consider the crime very bad.

Another problem is prison rape. I think it’s disgraceful that prisons don’t do whatever is necessary to keep that from happening, and according to feministing, they don’t even watch out for trans prisoners, who are targeted more.

So anyway, there’s some good news coming from a prison, and something is working, or at least keeping them from beating each other up. : ) I’d like to see a trend like that.

Eric Stoller just wrote a post about Raed Jarrar, who was given a lot of crap and humiliation at an airport because he committed two very serious crimes:

1) Being Arab-looking while in an airport.

2) Wearing a shirt with Arabic script while in an airport.

The thing is, I’m not even kidding. They even said that was the reason, comparing this to telling a bank you’re a robber. Because Arab=terrorist, so letting people know you’re Arab is like telling them you’re a terrorist. I mean, I guess you can be Arab, but don’t go around making it known at an airport. Especially not one in the United States, where we have both terrorist attacks and an amendment to the constitution protecting freedom of speech. And I know people make a lot of noise about freedom of speech when it doesn’t even apply, like “oh my gosh you deleted my comments don’t I have freedom of speech!!1!” but this is actually a freedom of speech case. What your T-shirt says can be considered speech under the law, and the airport is a public place (unlike a private blog, etc, and no that hasn’t happened to me but it does happen). Edit: JetBlue is a private company and they actually only bothered him when he tried to get on the plane, so that’s arguable, but racial profiling is still against the law.  And you also hear a lot of argument about what constitutes racial profiling and what’s fair and what’s not, but this is about as clear-cut as it gets. There is no reason to think this guy’s a terrorist unless you think Arabs must be terrorists. (Michael Savage thinks all South Asians are terrorists, isn’t that lovely?)

Since I’m totally stealing this from Eric Stoller’s blog, take a moment to follow the link at the beginning and read about it there, and then come back and I’ll tell you what to do.

Welcome back.

So, Jarrar and the ACLU are fighting this, and you can do something pretty badass too. You can get your very own Arabic and English “We will not be silent” t-shirt from this website that looks pretty cool (I got a warning about its certificate but it seemed fine to me). I will award bonus Official Badass Points to anyone who wears it to the airport.


picture from the ACLU

et cetera