Showing posts with label Equality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Equality. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TBT - Show Some Respect, Damn You!

Respect. How does that work, anyway?
























“I have met some highly intelligent believers, but history has no record to say that [s]he knew or understood the mind of god. Yet this is precisely the qualification which the godly must claim—so modestly and so humbly—to possess. It is time to withdraw our 'respect' from such fantastic claims, all of them aimed at the exertion of power over other humans in the real and material world.”
― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever


Respect.  We hear a lot about it. But, how do we as individuals and as a society determine who is deserving of our respect? The Paige Sultzbach story got me thinking about this.

Most of us are taught that we must show respect for the essential humanity of all people. We are told in school, at work and at home that we must respect other people as our equals - fellow human beings. Beyond this baseline, though, people are usually expected to earn any higher, more deferential level of respect through their meritorious behavior. We are not usually expected to pay respect to people who behave immorally, who harm us or who harm other people. Usually, we are not compelled to respect ridiculous or destructive ideas, either. But there is one glaring exception to these sensible guidelines: religion.

We hear every single day that we owe special, unassailable, respect for the religious beliefs of others, simply because they are religious beliefs. There is no way to evaluate the relative merits of religious ideas because the very act of questioning, evaluating or criticizing religious beliefs is deemed disrespectful and being disrespectful of religion is taboo. This catch-22 situation means that even when religious ideas clearly cause harm to ourselves or others, the cultural taboo which demands unearned respect for religious dogma and practices also forbids questioning them.

More precisely, people are pressured every day of their lives to pay respect - and be subordinate - to the religious majority wherever they live. In Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (to name a few countries under explicit Islamic rule) that would be the Muslim majority. In the USA, Denmark, Hungary, Canada and Great Britain (to name a few countries with explicit or implicit Christian state religions) it is the Christian majority. Of all of these, the United States was the first to explicitly guarantee in its Constitution that no single religion would be established by the state, thus preventing the official empowerment of one religious group over all others. In this way, the framers of the Constitution hoped to provide the foundation for a truly revolutionary new kind of nation: a country where people could be as free as humanly possible; where the rights and welfare of the individual would be balanced as far as humanly possible with the rights and welfare of the rest of the people, preventing both tyranny of the majority and the rise of theocratic dictators.

Freedom of religion!* 
*For Christians only.
The founding fathers, who were educated in religious and political history, understood that religious sectarianism has always resulted in oppression of minorities and the rise of theocratic dynasties - usually, but not always monarchies. Whether they were monarchies or putative republics, the ruling elites always claimed to rule by divine right. The framers of the US Constitution - James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in particular - recognized that constant sectarian strife and vicious social inequities enabled by the power structures which churches prop up would destroy Americans' hopes for a better life in the fledgling new state as surely as the suffocation of those very hopes had driven them out of Europe. And the founders understood that it was state-sanctioned empowerment of favored groups (nearly always identified by religion) which was the reason why the common people in every country in the world lived in miserable poverty under the rule of religiously-privileged "noble" classes.

Demonstrating a wisdom beyond experience (because such a nation had never been tried before), they determined that, in order to form a more perfect union, the United States must be kept free of the appalling religious strife that had destroyed virtually every great civilization in history before them. They were convinced that freedom of religion in a nation that could not legally favor any one religion over the others would offer the best hope for the country to prosper, by enabling the people to prosper in peaceful coexistence as equals.

The freedom to practice their own religion has never been enough for some Christians; they have always sought special status and special power.

But there have always been ambitious groups who seek to restore the bad old days of feudal oppression for their own benefit. There have always been people who consider themselves the chosen ones - the nobility which is called to rule over the lesser classes. Before the ink was dry on the US Constitution, religious groups were attempting to circumvent the prohibition of establishment of state religions. The freedom to practice their own religion has never been enough for some Christians; they have always sought special status and special power. That battle over the separation of church and state has been waxing and waning constantly in the 225+ years since Independence, and while the Constitutional guarantee has held in theory, in practice the religious power-play has succeeded in carving so many inroads into the separation of church and state that the country has been reduced to a de facto Christian nation.

You want to build a mosque? Well, we have news for you.
Just guess whose country we think this is! 
In theory, the First Amendment still protects religious minorities and non-believers from unwanted Christian intrusion into their lives, but in practice this is not so. From public holidays honoring Christian holy days to public religious displays, to compelled silence for Christian prayers in legislatures, in schools and at events of huge public significance, from the casual assumption of Christian privilege and prominence to the very real favoritism via tax exemption and government funding which has enriched churches - secretly and without public oversight - at the public expense, the reality is that churches, especially Christian churches, are intimately entwined with the state. The battle to gain special status and the resulting economic and political power was on from the moment James Madison signed the First Amendment (actually even before) and for good reason from the point of view of the churches. They have benefited enormously from these unconstitutional arrangements.

The truth is that the Christian religion has been quietly empowered both financially and politically, and it aims to gain supreme power by replacing the current republic with a Bible-based state. Christian conservatives will never cede that power willingly. The truth is that when minority religions or the non-religious expect equal respect from the Christian majority, the Christian majority cries persecution and refuses to honor the Constitution that they claim to uphold, but which they are undermining because they hate it as a threat to their ambitions. When a minority's beliefs conflict with majority Christian beliefs, the majority will use every avenue available to force the minority to accept having Christian belief shoved down its throat, even when the Constitution has promised that this will not happen. For Christians, the First Amendment guarantees their religion; they believe that it guarantees that they have the right to strip away the freedom of others to enjoy public life free of Christian proselytizing and the presumption of Christian supremacy. Christians regard the insistence of others that the Constitution guarantees them the same freedoms and rights as Christians as a challenge to Christian rights.

...as long as it is Christianity
Merely requesting that the Constitutional guarantee for religious freedom for all be upheld results in public outcry from the majority, lawsuits, threats and ostracism of the individual(s) who dare to stand up for the right of the minority not to be oppressed by the Christian majority.  Respect for Christian beliefs is deemed of such paramount importance that we must disrespect the beliefs of others or we are accused of persecuting Christians and oppressing Christian belief. On the rare occasions when citizens (sometimes even Christian themselves) push back against the ubiquitousness of Christian belief  - for example  by objecting to its illegal injection into the publicly funded spheres of our society - the Christian majority shrieks that it is being oppressed or persecuted.

The very act of respecting the beliefs of non-Christians - or even of allowing them to be visible, free to simply exist in this society - is perceived by Christians as an attack upon them. In short, the Christian majority claims to be oppressed if they are prevented from oppressing others. It is an amazing fact of western life that the concept of religious persecution has been perverted by the Christian majority to such an extent that it is no longer recognizable as a meaningful description of the reality of what persecution actually means. It has been turned on its head. In the United States today, Christian religious belief is accorded such a level of public respect that it must be deferred to in every situation. In schools, in government offices, in supermarkets, hospitals and gas stations, non-Christians cannot escape the constant demand for public obeisance to Christianity.
Ah, religious respect 
for girls and women.

Last week, a young girl was made the scapegoat in a fundamentalist Catholic power-play. The fact that Christian misogyny is still so open and accepted in society is bad enough, but the repeated expressions of respect by everyone involved - including the victims of the discrimination itself - for this medieval, systemic marginalization of women and girls was little short of amazing. In a breathtaking show of oppositional apologia, the ultra-conservative Catholic school in question brazenly couched its policy of discrimination against girls as "teaching boys to respect ladies". Apparently, the only way to "respect ladies" is to bar them from sports they are qualified to play, deny them opportunities to compete with their ability peers and generally limit their horizons as far as possible within strictly segregated, narrowly traditional gender roles.

The gender roles that Our Lady of Sorrows and similar ultra-conservative Christian organizations advocate for boys and girls tend - as always when "religious tradition" is invoked - to mean these things: active, dynamic, leadership roles for boys;  passive, submissive, invisible roles for girls. In this religiously-fueled zeal to squeeze their female adherents into a suffocatingly circumscribed world of few joys and almost no choices, conservative Christians are exactly like their conservative brethren of other faiths - ultra-orthodox Jews and the Islamist Taliban, for instance - which enshrine repression of women into their orthodoxy under the same perniciously virtuous-sounding label of "respect for women".

A lifetime of shrouded invisibility.
Now, that's respect!
These religious extremists do not respect women. Their actions betray that their motives are the polar opposite of respectful; they intend not to respect the rights and autonomy - the humanity - of women and girls, but to deny them autonomy and rights - and their humanity. The purpose of this dogma is to control women for the use and service of men: to keep them subservient, less than men, silenced and invisible. The farce of conservative respect for women is nothing more than a cruelly ironic cover for the conservative campaign for the subjugation of women. There is real harm being done in the name of religion and it ought not to be allowed to continue without vigorous criticism.

I do not respect the beliefs of Our Lady of Sorrows school. I condemn their beliefs and their actions as the  immoral, repressive expression of deeply misogynistic theology. Attempts to establish medieval religious extremism should never go unchallenged in a civilized, egalitarian, free society. We would do well to remember that no society is impervious to the ever-present danger of right-wing authoritarianism. Domestic turmoil usually lays the conditions for the rise of oppressive theocracies, but war and failed government are not the only ways that authoritarian rule can gain a foothold in a contemporary society. Too often, authoritarian theocratic regimes take over when the people of a country have become complacently overconfident in their ability to detect and deflect such extremism. Tolerance of religious oppression is not respectful. It is foolhardy.

We would do well to remember that no society is impervious to the ever-present danger of right-wing authoritarianism.

It is time to stop paying undeserved respect to religious groups which marginalize and disrespect selected groups of human beings - usually female-bodied human beings. People who possess sincere respect for the essential humanity and dignity of others must refuse to offer "respect" for these oppressive ideologies. We must stand up and declare that this behavior is an affront to human dignity. It is immoral and people must have the courage to call it what it is. Religion is powerful. It is powerful enough to call for the elimination of its opponents in many parts of the world, and most religions do not hesitate to do so when they feel threatened. But, if people who value freedom of religion and who understand the threat which tyranny of the majority poses will not stand up, then we are - willingly? - participating in the destruction of our own democratic republic.

(This post was previously posted in 2012)


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday Tonic - Bernadette's Solution!



Sit back and enjoy a little nugget of awesome on a Tuesday morning.

Big Bang Theory:  Bernadette doesn't want to have a child. (Season 5, Episode 12)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Will Doctors Finally Stand Up For Good Medicine?

Will doctors finally refuse to play the "enforcer"?























Reposting this March 2012 essay because the (usually Republican) war on women's reproductive rights has actually accelerated since then. (quelle surprise!) That's the bad news. The good news is that, unlike when I wrote the article below, a few doctors are finally beginning to speak out publicly against being compelled by state legislatures into the role of enforcers of ideologically-driven, unconstitutional, medically unnecessary and unethical laws. Very few individuals are willing, yet, to bring down upon themselves the wrath of powerful religious and political elites, but there are notable exceptions. Usually it is a small group of doctors, rather than individuals, speaking up, probably because there is some sense of security in numbers.

The war on women is continuing apace. Nearly all of the hard-earned protections that women fought for and won in the latter half of the 20th century have been gutted:
How much more will doctors take?

Since the rise of the Tea Party movement, the Right has found stunning success in its attempts to turn back decades of gains in the rights and status of women. The efforts to turn back the clock on American women focus on reproductive rights but also attack the changing roles in the workplace, in the family and in government that reproductive rights have helped to allow women to assume.

Anti-woman proposals that have been percolating in the right-wing fringe for years – such as “personhood” measures – are suddenly supported by mainstream presidential candidates. Rights that women have come to take for granted – like the right to access birth control – have suddenly come under attack for the first time in decades. How the War on Women Became Mainstream: Turning Back the Clock in Tea Party America, People for the American Way, 2012.

There was a time when the very idea that a U.S. state legislature might pass laws compelling doctors to literally lie to patients because of a religious, ideological agenda would only have been imaginable within the realm of fiction. Today, the shocking reality is that states really do force doctors to lie to patients, telling them that safe, legal procedures can lead to cancer or other serious health complications in order to coerce them to acquiesce to the dictates of Christian authoritarianism.

People are being forced by government to lie to other people about potentially life-changing, even life-threatening medical care. It hardly seems possible, but this is our bizarre reality in a country where one group's religious beliefs are now being forced upon all citizens. It's going to take a united effort of millions of ethical individuals to push back against the well-organized, highly lucrative religious/political machine that has been riding roughshod over women's freedom and humanity for the past couple of decades.

Previously posted in March 2012:

Recently, a doctor stepped forward to call government intrusion into the private decisions of female citizens the outrage that it is. I think that doctor's statement bears reposting. Writing anonymously, the doctor made a case for principled medicine, and provided some tips on how doctors should practice civil disobedience in states where these ghastly laws are in effect. The essay was originally posted on the blog Whatever.  Also anonymously. I think that is disturbing.

Christian terrorism is rarely called
out by a cowed and cowardly media.
When citizens feel they can only speak out "anonymously", the chilling irony should not be lost on us - it should be ringing alarm bells. Loudly. People who still believe in the principles of equality and freedom, even if they do not agree that it might be a good idea to consult experts before writing terrible laws, ought to be worried when free speech is suppressed through intimidation. People who value a free society should be horrified that there are citizens among them who are too frightened to speak openly when they disagree with the government.

Some doctors are angry about being used by the government to intimidate a subset of its citizens. They are rightly aghast at being compelled to be the brutal enforcers of this Republican governmental violation of women's most basic human dignity - doctors being forced by law to commit state-mandated rape as a method of anti-abortion rights coercion - when there is no medical reason for compulsory testing of this kind prior to an abortion. Some have begun to realize that part of the anti-abortion strategy is to undermine both their authority as medical experts and their trusted position in society. But most of these doctors remain silent.  And the very few who do speak out, tend to do so anonymously. Why?

Christian jubilation after the
murder of Dr. Tiller sends a clearly
threatening message to doctors.
One reason is pressure from within the profession. Some doctors are perfectly happy to put religious ideology over the welfare of their female patients and may privately support laws that force their peers to bow to church authority.  Many other doctors are understandably alarmed by the violent rhetoric and physical harassment directed at pro-choice doctors by anti-choice groups, so they pressure their peers not to offer the full range of women's health services, not to speak out about the immorality of withholding appropriate medical care, not to make waves which could endanger them all. The few doctors who dare to protest unconstitutional laws based on religious ideology are intimidated into anonymity by threats to their livelihoods and reputations and even threats to their physical safety. They are presented with an ethical catch-22 situation: they know that invasive procedures - including vaginal penetration with an ultrasound wand against a patient's will and for no legitimate medical reason - goes against everything most doctors say they believe about doing no harm to a patient, but those who try to apply those ethics to women patients are threatened with prosecution if they disobey these draconian anti-woman laws.

Already wealthy, tax-exempt churches
lobbied for access to federal funds to
duplicate secular public services. The churches
can  supplement their grants with cash
from their own fat reserves and wait patiently
for the cash-strapped secular agencies
 to starve and shut down, leaving the field
clear for a total church takeover.
The intimidation of doctors is just the latest in a steady round of attacks on traditionally respected professions by an unholy alliance of religious and corporate elites and their political arm, the Republican party. Their long term strategy is to replace the current political system in the United States - democratic republicanism - with an authoritarian theocratic regime: a Bible-based government, led by godly men and answerable only to God (whose "commands" are, conveniently, communicated only through those same godly men). That strategy has relied heavily on the tactic of stirring up fear, suspicion and resentment to undermine public confidence in an array of once-trusted professions while simultaneously planting and building churches around the country. The targeted groups have long been hated by religious hardliners and wealthy, powerful elites because of their relative inability to control the information coming from these sources. The goal is to replace the secular resources that serve society with church-controlled resources.

Republican candidates like
Rick Santorum vied for the title
of "most devout Christian"
to the delight of the
religious elites.
Republican strategists capitalized on the natural (but usually milder) anti-intellectualism that is common in a population that believes it can point to its own physical strength, raw ingenuity and dogged determination for the country's success as much as, if not more than, the work of highly educated, high-falutin' "experts". When tough economic times hit the middle class hard in the late 70's and again in the early 90's, those smoldering resentments were all too easily fanned into the raging flames of a culture war. Government agencies (It's not Uncle Sam, it's big brother!), scientists (godless evilutionists!), teachers (lazy, freeloading glorified babysitters!) and journalists (It's not the free press, it's the commie, liberal media!) were the first casualties of the manufactured "populist" rejection of formerly respected experts and secular representatives of peoples' interests. Political operatives worked hard to sow doubt, distrust and contempt for the essential human resources upon which a civil society relies and they have succeeded to an alarming degree. Where once a public servant's religious views were a non-issue, today virtually any candidate for public office in the USA must pass a religious test - specifically must display Christian bona fides - to have any hope of winning a nomination.

The attack on medical doctors - probably the most trusted profession in the modern era - is a part of this series of attacks on the secular foundations of American society. It is not accidental that doctors have joined scientists, teachers and journalists in the crosshairs of Republican operatives. Like scientists and journalists before them, doctors as a group were once able to work fairly independent of ideological influences. Individual doctors brought their own beliefs to their practices, of course, but the profession as a whole was not under pressure to conform to a particular politicized religious ideology.

This state of affairs could not be permitted by the Republicans or their powerful backers. Authoritarian political systems demand ideological purity and social conformity, so doctors - like journalists and scientists before them - posed a threat to the political ambitions of the Republican party, especially in terms of their strategy to use abortion as the rallying "cause" which could impassion voters enough to vote blindly against their own interests. If left unthreatened, doctors might challenge the lying propaganda that the anti-abortion movement was spreading and puncture the bubble of misguided passion the religious right had so carefully blown up. If permitted to retain their respected and trusted position in society, doctors might undermine the attempts of religious political operatives to replace trusted public resources with private Christian agendas.

Prison for doctors?
Hence the push for legislation which targets doctors as well as women. When pressed to say what penalty abortion should bring to a "guilty party" should their dream of criminalizing abortion be realized, anti-abortion leaders usually shy away from suggesting a punishment for the women involved (probably sensing that it would be a loser at the polls), but nearly all declare that, as the "butchers" who "kill babies", doctors should be thrown into prison for murder. Sensing the target on their backs, doctors have fallen silent as wave after wave of unconstitutional and medically unsound legislation has been passed, heaping untold misery upon women.

Thus, the goals of the Republican party may soon be achieved. Doctors may be rightly disrespected for standing silently by as the medical ethics they claim to believe in are violated by these laws: as women are grossly mistreated, legal medical procedures are withheld - even in potentially life-threatening situations - and patients are harmed by bad medical practices. Furthermore, doctors may be rightly distrusted by women (and many men) for many of the same reasons, in addition to the betrayal of doctor-patient trust upon which competent health care must rest.

If principled doctors fail to act to stop this looming crisis of public confidence, the consequences for society extend far beyond the impact on doctors and women. The public confidence in the media, in teachers and in scientists has been successfully undermined with predictably terrible results. Religious conservatives may claim that their holy books can provide all of the answers to the needs of humankind, but even science's most vindictive critics turn to medical science for help when a health crisis occurs or - irony of ironies! when they need assisted reproduction using technology developed through evolutionary science - while they work tirelessly to deny that opportunity to others. Should they, and other hypocrites like them, succeed in convincing enough people that doctors, like teachers and scientists, are not respectable authorities who can be trusted, then to whom will the people be able to turn when they need real assistance?

Keeping a low profile and hoping that this madness is only a temporary cultural spasm fueled by a fringe group of religious fanatics will be a mistake. It did not work for scientists, teachers or journalists.  It did not work for the people who believed such radical theocrats could never seriously win elections and form governments. It has not been working - with frightening consequences - and the situation will only get worse as long as professionals shrink back fearfully from challenging the lies and disinformation that are being deliberately disseminated to undermine public confidence in them. I am encouraged by the letter I linked to at the top of this post, but it sure would be nice to see many more doctors stand up and say "Enough is enough!".

The manipulation of public trust in doctors, scientists, teachers, the media, and even their elected representatives is a dangerous power play by the conservative right wing. Destroying trust in the resources best-equipped to provide the public with the services it needs is a strategy which has had terrible consequences for millions of people, and ultimately could tear apart the very fabric of our civil society.  That is a game that should never have been played by anyone who loves this country and all it stands for. But the thing few people acknowledge is that the self-labelled Christian "patriots" deeply despise this country and all it stands for. They deny that the country was ever what it was, and they intend to - they are actively fighting to - destroy the American dream and replace it with a theocratic nightmare. It is a sectarian insurgency.

Are you going to stand by and let that happen?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thorsday Tonic - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

                                                                                                                               photo via feminist frequency



























Back in March, I wrote a blog post featuring the work of feminist - and enthusiastic gamer - Anita Sarkeesian in honor of International Women's Day. Ms. Sarkeesian has faced down a veritable army of haters who have attacked her viciously for the 'crime' of criticizing the prevalence of harmful sexist tropes in video games.

In 2012, Sarkeesian made the "mistake" of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of videos examining the prevalence of sexist gendered stereotypes in video games. While the project was hailed as a great idea by many feminist gamers (both men and women), it was met with outrage by a significant subset of gamers and misogynists on the internet. The resulting firestorm of misogynistic harassment ranged from expletive-laced comments on the website to threats of rape, torture and death. Her blog, Feminist Frequency, was hacked. Enraged gamers created "games" featuring Sarkeesian as a character who is raped, beaten or killed (or all three) - one was called "Beat up Anita Sarkeesian" and featured the *fun* of punching the animated Anita until the blood-spatter turns the screen red. Furious gamers sent videos of the violence being done to her "game character", perhaps meant as a warning and a threat, but undoubtedly meant to harass, intimidate and silence her.
Yeah, this really was a thing.

The first video in the series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games, Damsel in Distress Part 1 can be found here

Yesterday, Part 2 of Damsel in Distress was released to almost instant attack by the same sort of internet trolls who have been harrassing Ms Sarkeesian from the moment she decided to challenge the status quo in the video game industry. As Jason at Lousy Canuck reported, her video was false-flagged and pulled from YouTube within an hour of its posting. 

Think about that for a moment. People are so desperate to attack Sarkeesian and any attempt at injecting feminist commentary into video games, that they’re willing to silence her by marking it as objectionable. Not because the content is incorrect, or because the content is damning of the industry, but because how daaaaaare this mere woman criticize this immature art form that we love so much? Jason Thibeault, Lousy Canuck, May 28, 2013.

The video is back up now and it is as good as, if not better than, the first one. 

Gather the teenagers 'round and take a few minutes to view. Don't forget to discuss!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Pwned! (An International Women's Day Feature Presentation)



























In honor of International Women's Day, may I present a great story about a remarkable woman. This story has it all: a courageous heroine, vicious enemies, conflict, cultural relevance, tension and drama. And a very satisfying conclusion. It's like the best video game ever!

Anita Sarkeesian is a young feminist. She has also been an enthusiastic video gamer since childhood. As she grew from happily video-playing child to thoughtful teen and feminist adult, Sarkeesian became increasingly disturbed by the portrayal of female characters in video games. It seemed that the vast majority of female-identified characters were either victims, trophies or wily (lying) temptresses - always, always hyper-sexualized and all too often brutalized as some part of the storyline.

Sarkeesian talked about this portrayal of women in video games on her video blog as part of the overall discussion of the issue of the negative depictions of women in all aspects of popular culture. She discussed it with other gamers, too, and while she did receive encouraging feedback from many, she also received angry blowback from some. Recognizing that this sexist portrayal of women characters was not accidental, Sarkeesian decided to try to examine the issue a little more closely.

But, it's just a game!
Why can't these b****es lighten up?
In 2012, Sarkeesian made the "mistake" of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of videos examining the prevalence of sexist gendered stereotypes in video games. While the project was hailed as a great idea by many feminist gamers (both men and women), it was met with outrage by a significant subset of gamers and misogynists on the internet. The resulting firestorm of misogynistic harassment ranged from expletive-laced comments on the website to threats of rape, torture and death. Her blog, Feminist Frequency, was hacked. Enraged gamers created "games" featuring Sarkeesian as a character who is raped, beaten or killed (or all three) - one was called "Beat up Anita Sarkeesian" and featured the *fun* of punching the animated Anita until the blood-spatter turns the screen red. Furious gamers sent videos of the violence being done to her "game character", perhaps meant as a warning and a threat, but undoubtedly meant to harass, intimidate and silence her.

Fortunately for young women everywhere - and more directly for women gamers - Anita Sarkeesian did not let the harassment silence her. She persevered in her quest. Other feminist gamers supporting her effort spread the word about the Kickstarter and the rest, as they say, is history.  Here is Anita Sarkeesian speaking at TED+Women last fall telling the story in her succinct, engaging and calmly awesome way:



Online harassment - even harassment that reaches criminal levels - is almost never successfully prosecuted. The law has not caught up to the technology yet and in any case the anonymity and enormous size of the online population makes enforcement of any laws problematic.  The internet is the perfect home for enraged cowards who lob verbal and visual attacks at their targets before scuttling away into the shadows of the interweb. While it is likely that most of these lowlifes would never risk their own hides by coming out into the open and attacking the object of their wrath in real life, the sobering fact that no one can be certain about what rage-filled people might do is often enough to frighten a victim of online harassment into silence.

What? It's just a simple beach shot!
Why do those feminazis always get
their thongs in a twist, anyway?
The goal of the anti-feminists who perpetrated the campaign against her was to silence Anita Sarkeesian through online harassment so vicious and threatening that it is actually nauseating to read about.  Instead of achieving their goal, however, they inadvertently assisted her in her goal of funding the video series. With great courage and determination, Sarkeesian not only continued to promote her project but she actually used the online campaign of terror against her as a case in point supporting the need for exactly the series her kickstarter was attempting to fund.

The TED talk linked above occurred last fall and this week, Ms. Sarkeesian released the first video in the series, Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games.

Upcoming videos in the series will include:

The Fighting F#@k Toy - Video #2
The Sexy Sidekick - Video #3
The Sexy Villainess - Video #4
Background Decoration - Video #5
Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress - Video #6
Women as Reward - Video #7
Mrs. Male Character - Video #8
Unattractive Equals Evil - Video #9
Man with Boobs - Video #10
Positive Female Characters! - Video #11
Top 10 Most Common Defenses of Sexism in Games - Video #12

In addition to what looks to be a fantastic series of videos about this issue, Sarkeesian is developing materials for a classroom curriculum kit to help educate a future generation of gamers and internet media participants. As she pointed out in her TED+Women talk, "video games are the fastest growing form of mass media today". This is a huge communication tool, with enormous power to influence and shape our culture. As a society, we can sit back and allow it to more deeply entrench harmful tropes which dehumanize, objectify and exclude women or we can use it to help build a more just and equitable society.

Clearly, a significant, vocal and vicious subset of society wishes to enforce compliance with the first option. But feminists like Anita Sarkeesian and her supporters have fought for and achieved a small step toward ensuring that the second option has a chance to flower.

In short, Anita Sarkkeesian pwned the very people who wanted to force her to shut up and go away.

Well done, Anita Sarkeesian!

Take a few minutes to view the masterfully done video below. It is entertaining, quick-moving, and makes its points clearly and concisely. The video clips from some of my favorite games are fun, too!

Best quote:

"In the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team; they are the ball."

QFT.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ontario Wynnes!


Ontario's Premier-designate, Kathleen Wynne


Ontario's Liberal party made history today when it elected Kathleen Wynne to replace outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty.  McGuinty, the current provincial Premier, announced last fall that he intended to step down after the next Liberal leadership convention, which was held this weekend.

Ms. Wynne will not only be Ontario's first female Premier, but will also be the first openly gay Premier in Canadian history.

Kathleen Wynne has been active in politics for over twenty years, and has held four cabinet posts prior to her victory today. She has demonstrated her political chops, too. After winning her riding handily in the 2003 election, she was challenged in 2007 by the leader of the Progressive Conservative party himself, John Tory. She defeated Tory by 11% per cent of the popular vote that year and went on to an even greater margin of victory (18%) in the 2011 election.

Ms. Wynne lives in Toronto with her spouse, Jane Rounthwaite.

It is moments like this which give me great hope for humanity. Here's wishing Premier-designate Wynne the very best of luck. Congratulations, Ontario!



Monday, January 21, 2013

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr



















Today, we celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta Georgia on January 15, 1929, the son and grandson of Baptist ministers. In spite of school segregation, he was a good student, graduated from Morehouse College like his father and grandfather before him and went on to study for the ministry at Crozer Theological Seminary, where he distinguished himself as a leader (winning election as president of the predominantly white class). After receiving his Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer, he was awarded a fellowship and continued on to complete a doctoral program at Boston University, where he earned the title of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1955. In Boston, Dr. King met his wife, the accomplished and intelligent Coretta Scott King with whom he had a family of four children.

The Kings moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King became pastor of the Dexter Street Baptist Church and became active in the NAACP. When Rosa Parks defied the segregationist Jim Crow laws by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, Dr. King led the year-long bus boycott which led to the eventual Supreme Court ruling that the laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional. The Civil Rights Movement had arrived at its moment in history at last and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had emerged as its leader.

In spite of his determination to lead a peaceful revolution for civil rights, Dr. King was the target of unceasing attacks during his years in the public eye. He was arrested more than twenty times, was assaulted numerous times and was under constant threats of violence and verbal attacks. During the bus boycott, his house was bombed as those who resisted equal rights for people of color demonstrated their utter lack of respect for the lives of Dr. King and his wife and children. In spite of these terrible dangers, Dr. King persisted in the march toward justice, with the blessing and support of his wife and family.

Dr. King was the right leader for the right time as a movement that had been simmering - a yearning for the true liberty and dignity of full equality - finally came to a boil. Marrying his interpretation of Christian theology with the peaceful protest methods of Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. King's ideal truly represented a revolutionary new way of bringing about peaceful social change which he believed could strengthen, not unravel, the fabric of society. In 1964, at only age 35, he was recognized for his courageous and enlightened leadership with the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated the more than $50,000 prize award to the Civil Rights cause.

In early April, 1968, Dr. King was in Memphis to lend moral support to black workers who were striking to protest the egregious inequities of their treatment and compensation compared to white workers. King's arrival in Memphis had been delayed because of a bomb threat to his plane but he managed to get there, march with the sanitation workers and speak at rallies.  On the last night of his life, at a rally at the Mason Temple in Memphis, he referred to the intimidation and threats of violence that had dogged him for years. In what became known as his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, King had this to say to his listeners:

"And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally taken from this world on April 4, 1968, in Memphis Tennessee. He was shot to death by a white supremacist sniper as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.

You can find an excellent, brief (4 minutes) biography of Dr. King here.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'


I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.


I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.


I have a dream today. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963. (full text)

Recommended reading: Good and Evil in Birmingham, Diane McWhorter,The New York Times, January 20, 2013. McWhorter argues, rightly I think, that the battle of the Civil Rights movement was not between "good" and "evil", but between "good" and "normal".

Friday, October 26, 2012

Winners And Moochers

Here is a photo of no Monopoly game ever. Like the myth of the American Dream, it advertises a carefully staged image of equality that is impossible to achieve when actually playing the game by the current rules.




























"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." John Steinbeck

Do you remember playing the board game Monopoly back when we did not have awesome hand-held devices to play with? Do you remember how the "banker" carefully doled out an equal sum of money to every player so they all had equal "chances" before the first roll of the dice? Equal opportunity ended at this point, because the capricious odds of rolling the right number to land on the best spaces was entirely down to chance. As soon as one player had bought the best group of properties, his fortunes would steadily rise. Sure, the other players would remain hopeful for another 20-30 minutes - after all, they, too, had managed to land on and purchase a few properties and who knew? Their luck could change at any minute and they might land on Free Parking and claim the pot of cash in the middle of the board! Meanwhile, the luckiest player on the board - the one who had the luckiest rolls of the dice in the early minutes of the game - would steadily add houses and hotels, steadily increase his holdings, as other players sold out to him to stay alive in the game. Inexorably, the player with the earliest advantage wound up winning the game - not merely winning a game with other players still respectably turned out - but overwhelmingly and singularly winning: raking in total ownership of the properties, the utilities, and the contents of the bank while every other player sat bankrupted; wiped off the board.

Romney and Ryan: If you start out in poverty, with
the dice fixed in favor of the rich kids uptown 

- and you fail - 
you only have yourself to blame, 
you lazy, shiftless moocher!
It turns out that what your dad told you is true: in many ways life really is like a Monopoly game. (Except for that part about starting the game off with an equal share of the available resources). Wealth builds on wealth. As the wealth of an elite few increases, the wealth of everyone else tends to decrease because in a world of finite resources,  the continued growth of wealth for those at the top of the social ladder inevitably means that they control more and more resources and property, buying or forcing out those people with fewer resources and less capital - and "those people" are the vast majority of people.

Monopoly rules at least give every player a fighting chance to win against the fickle finger of fate by starting them off with equal wealth and a clear playing board. In real life, this is tragically never the case. Societies do not provide a level playing field for all children to start out with equal opportunities in life.  Poverty, social stratification, racial and gender discrimination and destruction of public education mean that most children in our country are born disadvantaged, sometimes grossly so. Economic and personal success in life is closely linked to the economic status of one's parents.  Children of the poor are likely to remain poor, while children of the rich are likely to remain rich regardless of the personal efforts of the children from either socio-economic group. The elites who intend to ensure that their own children can ascend to even loftier perches over everyone else's children have myriad strategies to keep the game of life in America rigged in that way, and they have the economic resources to buy the political power to make those strategies the law of the land.

So, when Bishop Romney or lyin' Paul Ryan claim that 47% of the people in the United States are mooching "takers", think of Monopoly. For most Americans, the dice are loaded against them and they don't even get to start the game with an equal share of the bank. Republican claims that the struggling middle class and the disenfranchised poor have had just as much opportunity as the children of the wealthiest Americans, but simply are too lazy to work for the American dream is an appeal to the worst part of human psychology; the part that tells us we deserve our blessings and other people deserve their hardships. It is a lie.

And it is a very convenient lie for the Romney and Ryan since so many people are willing to believe it.



Some Are More Unequal Than Others, Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York TImes, October 26, 2012.

That American inequality is at historic highs is undisputed. It’s not just that the top 1 percent takes in about a fifth of the income, and controls more than a third of the wealth. America also has become the country (among the advanced industrial countries) with the least equality of opportunity. Meanwhile, those in the middle are faring badly, in every dimension, in security, in income, and in wealth — the wealth of the typical household is back to where it was in the 1990s. While the recession has made all of this worse, even before the recession they weren’t faring well: in 2007, the income of the typical family was lower than it was at the end of the last century...
America is fast becoming a country marked not by justice for all, but by justice for those who can afford it. (Just one of many examples is that no banker has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for banks’ systematic lying to the court regarding the fraudulent practices that played so large a role in the 2008 crisis.) And with the increasing influence of money, especially notable in this election, the outcomes of our political process are becoming more like one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. It’s even worse, because political inequality leads to economic inequality, which leads in turn to more political inequality, in a vicious spiral undermining our economy and our democracy.

The one tax graph you really need to know, Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, September 19, 2012.

For most Americans, payroll and state and local taxes make up the majority of their tax bill. The federal income tax, by contrast, is our most progressive tax — it’s the tax we’ve designed to place the heaviest burden on the rich while bypassing the poor. And we’ve done that, again, because the working class is already paying a fairly high tax bill through payroll and state and local taxes.
But most people don’t know very much about the tax code. And the federal income tax is still our most famous tax. So when they hear that half of Americans aren’t paying federal income taxes, they’re outraged — even if they’re among the folks who have a net negative tax burden! After all, they know they’re paying taxes, and there’s no reason for normal human beings to assume that the taxes getting taken out of their paycheck every week and some of the taxes they pay at the end of the year aren’t classified as “federal income taxes.”

Romney in Fantasyland, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, September 20, 2012.

Describing his own path, Romney noted that he gave away the money his father left him. “I have inherited nothing,” he said. “Everything I earned I earned the old-fashioned way.”

There’s only one thing wrong with this cozy, self-satisfied worldview: It omits the enormous advantages accruing to those born on third base. It ignores the grim reality that those born to less-privileged families are far less likely than the Bushes or Romneys of the world to secure their place in the middle class or above.

It imagines an America where economic mobility is far more fluid than it is in reality. Being born in America is an advantage, to be sure, but some spoons are a lot more sterling than others.
(Ruth Marcus)

The Poor Do Have Jobs, Tami Luhby, CNNMoney, September 21, 2012.

Romney lashed out at people who believe they are victims and are entitled to health care, food and housing. However, many entitlement programs are not for the nation's poor, said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. Among the largest entitlements are Social Security and Medicare, and the beneficiaries of those programs are mainly retirees.

Many of the poor who receive income-based benefits do work, Tanner added.


Nearly half of households with children that received food stamps in 2010 also had a working family member, more than three times the number who relied solely on welfare, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To qualify for food stamps, families must generally have a total monthly income at or below 130% of the poverty line.
(Tami Luhby)

on Chairman Ryan's Budget Plan, Robert Greenstein, President - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 21, 2012.

The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids.  It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).  It also would stand a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s report on its head — that policymakers should reduce the deficit in a way that does not increase poverty or widen inequality. (Robert Greenstein)



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt Romney And His "Binders Full Of Women"

Within minutes of the infamous remarks being uttered, this Facebook page was launched. 

























“And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can't we—can't we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” Mitt Romney, October 16, 2012.

There are good reasons why the interweb was abuzz last night about Mitt Romney's "binders full of women", all of them pointing to a bad, though perfectly justified, debate outcome for the Republican candidate. While it was hardly the only misstep in Romney's testy, truth-challenged performance, it was the distillation of everything that he - and the Republican party - believes about the intrinsic inequality of women to men that makes him the worst possible candidate for women voters.

Before we take a closer look through the window into Mitt's attitude toward women, let's look at what he did not say in his remarks.

Katherine Fenton, a participant in the Town Hall audience, asked this question:

In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

In response, Governor Romney had this to say:

Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about (but not nearly enough, apparently), particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some — some women that are also qualified?".

"Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some
— some women that are also qualified?"
Gee, Governor, can we?
(Fact check: Governor Romney succeeded a woman governor, Jane Swift;  his lieutenant governor was a woman, Kerry Healey, and his opponent in that gubanatorial race was a woman, Democrat Shannon O'Brien - (fun fact!) whom Romney portrayed literally as a dog in his ads during that campaign. His claim of not being able to "find" qualified women rings particularly hollow in light of his equally false claim of bi-partisanship).

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.

(Fact check: 'What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected'. David S. Bernstein, The Phoenix, October 16, 2012.)

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

(Fact check: a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office. Bernstein)

Or, let's have pay equality and improved
access to decent child-care for families
so that parents (usually mothers)
are less burdened and can actually
focus on the careers they love without
being forced to "choose" work or family.
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce (like, if you really, really, must have women in the workforce and not, you know, at home with 5 or 6 children, right, Mitt?) that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

(For this nugget of horse hocky, Romney plumbed the depths of cultural gender discrimination by conflating two popular myths about the reasons for wage inequality: the myth that female employees are inherently less reliable and not "team players" like their male counterparts and the myth that unless an enlightened employer hands out special privileges and accommodations, women won't even try for demanding, highly-paid jobs, so they don't deserve them. This is a corollary to the ever-popular "women don't ask for equal pay" myth which studies have proven are false).

We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We're still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.

This is not a "women's issue". Bad Republican policies
hurt women, men and the families that both women and
men are trying to support. 
(Indeed. The Great Recession caused by the Bush administration and the financial policies - which both enriched Mitt Romney and continue to be the foundation of his financial vision for the country - have been hard on both men and women. Women, who typically have been relegated to the poorest-paying and least secure jobs (except, at least for now, those in the public sector) have always suffered greater job insecurity. In both single-parent families and in families where women and their partners are struggling together to make ends meet, this is a serious issue for both men and women, and for most American families. Legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act might have helped prevent thousands of women and their families from slipping further into poverty, but the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, does not support these efforts, and his party blocked them in Congress).

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.

(Got that, American women? The Guv promises that if you will just quit asking awkward questions about fair pay and reproductive security and let him get back to business, he will create such a great economy that all those employers out there will overlook your deficiencies and special needs and hire even you! Awesome.).


This is what I have done. It's what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy.

(Really? "I know what it takes to make an economy work" What is that, exactly? The question was "How are you going to address inequalities in the workplace?" and you have neither answered that question, nor explained how you expect to create your "new economy". Governor, you're a little too long on "just trust me, you don't need to know what I know",  and much too short on specifics).

Actually, Governor, women already know what they need
to succeed: affordable education, wage parity, reproductive
freedom and social support for American families.
Wait, we already have a president who understands that! 
I'm going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.

(You still haven't answered the question, Governor. How are you going to float this "stronger economy" within which, we presume, all boats (even those with flighty female skippers) will be lifted? And, again, what are your new ideas to address pay inequity?).

Mitt Romney may or may not actually "know" what needs to be done to fix the economy and to address the inequalities in the workplace, not just for women but also for millions of men who have also been denied a level playing field in the workplace. He may know, but he has no intention of doing what it will take.

Working toward economic equality for women - and for most men, too - is not Mitt Romney's goal. It never has been his goal, and it certainly is not the goal of his backers in the moneyed elites. This is a continuation of the 47 % narrative. Romney believes that like his 47% who will never "take personal responsibility and care for their lives", women are not getting good jobs because they don't try hard enough to get them. Romney thinks that like the 47% whom he says "believe they are victims...who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing", women want everything handed to them. He barely hid his opinion that women demand special treatment in the workplace - like the right to leave the office before 7 or 8 in the evening to care for small children; forcing employers to provide "flexibility" like fewer than 60 or 70 hours of time spent in the office each week. "See?" the Governor seemed to say, "I did everything for them, while they did nothing to help themselves."

Romney's blindness to the qualified women who surrounded him during the Gubanatorial race itself and then in the office when he was presented with the "binders" containing resumes of a long list of qualified women - gathered proactively by women's groups in Massachusetts and not by his own people at his request as he claimed - speaks to his apparent habit of neither seeing nor hearing women as peers in his professional life. His claim that his record of hiring female staff was due to his efforts to "recruit" women, not to the initiative and qualifications of the women themselves, and his whining that one of his female staffers asked for what he clearly considered to be special treatment (shockingly, she wanted a workday that ended before 7 or 8PM!) speaks to both Romney's disrespect for women's abilities and his dismissal of the workplace challenges of parents. Presumably no male staffer would have dared to talk about family obligations at all, of course. In the conservative Romney culture of rigid patriarchal roles for women and men, it is women who annoyingly demand special treatment to balance work and family, while men at work must behave as if they have no family obligations at all.

Mitt Romney did not misspeak at that private fund-raiser for his wealthy supporters. He really does believe that at least 47% of Americans are lazy takers who sit around waiting for their government to bail them out of their sloth. Last night, as he struggled to sugarcoat his disdain for women and his disinterest in the question Ms. Fenton asked, everything about Romney - his halting, careful remarks, his patronizing demeanor, his refusal to actually answer the question - pointed to a deeply contemptuous attitude not only toward women, but toward all Americans who are being crushed between the competing demands of scarcer job opportunities (thanks Mr. CEO of Bain, et al) and family responsibilities.

The final irony is that, in a bid to secure more women's votes, Romney threw out the bone of pointedly boasting that he "recruited" women for great jobs in his Massachusett's administration. Such affirmative action goes against not only the Governor's own professed views, but it flies in the face of the ideology and agenda of the conservative right wing that supports him. Mitt Romney has attempted to dodge the issue recently, in the latest of his notorious "flip-flops" - although to be fair, his silence on affirmative action (except when holding it out as a carrot to lure women voters) cannot really be called change.  In this case, it is more like concealment of his true intentions while hoping the issue will go away. Too bad that glib tongue ran away with you last night, Governor!

Why the Republican gender gap mirrors women's pay disparity, Moira Herbst, The Guardian, September 6, 2012.

Mind the Binder, David. Bernstein, The Phoenix, October 16, 2012.

Presidential debate transcript, questions, October 16, 2012. Politico staff, October 16, 2012.

Mitt Romney to Gubanatorial Staff: "Find some women that are qualified", Christina Wilkie, HuffPost Business, October 17, 2012.

Mitt Romney's "Binders Full of Women" Comment Sets Internet Ablaze, Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast, October 17, 2012.

ETA:

Mitt Romney's Binders Full of Women is a Trapper Keeper Full of Lies, Sarah Jones, PoliticusUsa, October 17, 2012.

In Debate, Romney Struggled on Substance, Ezra Klein, Washington Post, October 17, 2012.

Romney and the Women Who Still Don't Love Him, Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, October 17, 2012.

The frat boy bully Mitt Romney is coldly furious that he was schooled by that ... oops!  Is that a camera?