Morning Ed: Society {2018.02.26.M}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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175 Responses

  1. j r says:

    “[So7] From Rufus: I’ve been fascinated with the art world’s decision to make Chuck Close a signal case on harassment.”

    Sulkowicz also hit the MoMA, pausing at Pablo Picasso‘s celebrated painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. “Picasso’s main conceit are these lines that chop up women’s body,” Sulkowicz told artnet News. “It’s kind of dismembering bodies to rearrange them as more visually appealing.”

    … Earlier in the week, Sheena Wagstaff, the Met’s chairman for modern and contemporary art, had cautioned against museums placing too much emphasis on sexual misconduct. “By taking action in the form of canceling an exhibition or removing art from the walls, a museum is creating an understanding of an artist’s work only through the prism of reprehensible behavior,” she told the Times. “If we only see abuse when looking at a work of art, then we have created a reductive situation in which art is stripped of its intrinsic worth—and which in turn provokes the fundamental question of what the museum’s role in the world should be.”

    I am eternally fascinated how so few people in the art world can express themselves in plain English (or any other language for that matter). I am tempted to offer an opinion counter to Sulkowicz’ but I’m not convinced that she’s actually saying anything.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    s07 – is it ‘the art world’ or is it just Mattress Girl?Report

  3. Murali says:

    So5: What I find irritating about all this is the attempt to recruit all trans people for something that is only obliquely a trans issue. Lots of trans people are perfectly fine with gendered pronouns and toilets. They just wish it was correctly applied to them.There certainly are people for whom we must apply gender neutral pronouns. But its silly and probably more than a little insulting to suppose that that group is all trans folk.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Murali says:

      There certainly are people for whom we must apply gender neutral pronouns.

      Are there? Certainly there are people who might like it, but I don’t see how that desire gives rise to an obligation on the part of the rest of us.

      When we’re all speaking Mandarin, I’ll refer to everyone as , but until then I’m sticking with he and she.Report

      • Murali in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I think some gender queer people are not merely flexible about which gender they identify as, but genuinely don’t identify as either male or female. If we are generally obliged to refer to both cis and transwomen as she (and correspondingly for cis and trans men) then we are obliged to respect the gender identity of those.

        My point basically is that this is not a T issue, it is a Q issue.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Murali says:

          I dunno. To me it seems a small thing, if someone asks me to “refer to me as “they/them” for me to do it. It’s a tiny way of extending grace to another person.

          We had a big issue on my campus a couple years back where someone underwent gender-reassignment surgery (male to female) and there were people who persisted in misgendering her after the surgery and it was ugly and it just….it seemed so graceless to me, to do that to her. And of course these people were highly-placed, so they didn’t really see repercussions of their actions, though we all had to go to a seminar on “how not to do that” after the court case ended.Report

          • Murali in reply to fillyjonk says:

            I’m not arguing against referring to persons in the way that they want. What I am is against referring to trans-people without any regard as to whether they would want to be de-gendered in that way.

            I know I’m speculating wildly here, but it must be nearly as unpleasant to be mis-gendered as it must be to be de-gendered just because you are not cis.Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Murali says:

              yeah, I get that. I was agreeing with you, and also noting that it seems a bit churlish to me, the people who are “they were born a man so they’re still a man” or “why should I call that person ‘they’ when they have a gender already?”

              I dunno. I was raised so much to “consider the other person’s feelings” that it seems odd to me to say “My feelings against calling someone “they/them” should take precedence.”

              It’s entirely possible I did not express myself well which is why you thought I was arguing. It seems I’m losing my ability to express myself well of late 🙁Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to fillyjonk says:

                A conservative, one who desires to tend the flame of tradition, might call that “etiquette”, the practice of making other people feel comfortable in our presence.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                True. And it is how I was raised, by fairly conservative parents.

                But out in the world, I’ve also run into people who call themselves “conservative” but who only seemed to want to have “etiquette” towards members of a specific in-group. So maybe I said “extending grace,” because my religious upbringing also taught me to see everyone as a child of God, even if I might not like that particular person very much or if they themselves don’t see themselves that way.

                I dunno. I often feel like the world is becoming a harder and ruder place, and I reflexively try harder not to be so. It doesn’t always help much….Report

            • Lyle in reply to Murali says:

              Perhaps adopt they and them as a formal third person singular in english. Which is the epicene form suggested by this wikipedia article. where epicene is defined as having one form to indicate either gender.
              Which is essentially to follow in one sense the long evolution of english where gender affects languages less and less as gender first fell off nouns in english, but still exists in german etc.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Murali says:

          @murali There are trans genderqueer people. There are nonbinary trans people. It’s disrespectful to anyone to misgender them (including gender-neutral pronouns wrongly), but it’s also disrespectful to declare *for* a community how they should approach something. Most trans people who are binary in their gender willingly accept nonbinary and genderqueer people who identify as trans as also trans. Why should you be the one to declare what letter they should use?

          Also, all-gender bathrooms are really important to MANY binary trans people who don’t so-called “pass” as the gender they actually are… because it’s how they can pee in peace. They shouldn’t HAVE to use ’em, but given the realities of life, they are often relieved to have them as an option. Trans folks who are NOT genderqueer were some of the people insisting most strongly that we needed all-gender bathrooms on our campus – not just out of solidarity, but because they felt safer having them available, as well.Report

        • j r in reply to Murali says:

          My thoughts on this follow from @murali’s comments. This largely seems like a generational thing and I’m a bit removed from dealing with “the kids these days,” so it’s not something with which I deal. The closest thing that we had when I was that age was the whole LUG/GUG thing, meaning lesbian/gay until graduation. And my feelings about that were/are you can do whatever you want and it’s fine for young people to try on identities, but that is something very different than being that thing.

          Likewise, refusing to call a transgender person by his or her self-identified pronoun is something different from refusing to honor someone’s declaration that gender simply doesn’t apply to them. That is not to say that I wouldn’t honor that person’s wishes out of simple courtesy. It’s just that I view these as two categorically different things.Report

          • Maribou in reply to j r says:

            @j-r Your position is an honorable one, but it’s out of date with science, not just with “the kids these days”. Again, I cannot recommend Cordelia Fine or Julia Serano strongly enough for someone who wants the scientifically literate overview.

            I wrote an epically long comment about my own experiences as someone who is genderfluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, androgynous, and yes, transgender. And who was suicidally, physically, gender dysphoric and came within a hairsbreadth of physical transition during a long period of being mostly male my sophomore year of college (which is pretty different from “trying on” an identity –
            this was part of an identity I’d had my whole life that I was, back then, swinging between embracing (finally having a chance to act as) and trying to escape from).

            And how I’m someone who “passes” as male without even trying, all the time, and who, when I’ve been leaning male for more than a week or so, regularly gets yelled at by ladies in the ladies’ bathroom, even if I’m trying *really* hard to pass as feminine (some of them are kind and think I made a mistake even as they are yelling at me, some of them call me names, some of them demand “proof”, and I’ve even been physically shoved and grabbed a few times – never actually beaten up, probably because I still get white privilege, even when being attacked in a bathroom). I’m someone who has known who I was, both gender and romance wise, since I was three years old, though I only realized it was a *problem* and I was supposed to *not be that* around age 5 or so.

            So yeah, I wrote a really good comment about all that and then my laptop ate the comment and rather than take it as a sign I started over. This one isn’t as good, but what can you do?

            Not every person who is genderqueer is being a special snowflake, a lot of us are doing our best to find a way to be ourselves in a world that really really really wants us to pick a side. And we are every bit as endangered and as mistreated as our binary trans counterparts, which is to say it’s scary for me but not nearly as scary as it is for genderqueer people of color.

            I also get less of that than most since I do *mostly* pass to people as one thing or the other *most* of the time, so I don’t make them upset at my not fitting into the binary they want me to fit into (though I’ve been in some dangerous, utterly nonsexual situations when I’ve fallen out of that binary and into their gender panic).

            That’s all non-binary means by the way – that a person is not straightforwardly “male” or “female” in an uncomplicated way – and if you don’t know anyone except kids who identifies that way, it’s mostly because most of us over 30 are *deeply deeply stealth*. But trust me, there’s plenty of us around. It’s just not worth the rejection, condescencion, flat denial, and/or harassment to say so most of the time. A nonbinary person might also be agender (which is what I think you meant by “gender doesn’t apply to me” – they don’t experience themselves as having any gender at all), but agender people are actually pretty damn rare. And the few I’ve met really DO seem to not have a gender “vibe”, so I’m perfectly happy to believe them, not just to treat them respectfully anyway. Particularly the ones that have been that way for 40 years…

            Nonbinary just means, “if there are two options for gender, I can’t pick a side. That whole frame is not my experience, even though I know it is most people’s.” In my personal experience, I’d say gender applies to me MORE than average, both in the sense that I’m more aware of my gendered experiences than average *and* that me not being easily sortable means that people consciously and subconsciously PUSH at my gender (declared or expressed) more than average. (Not as much as a young binary trans person whose family doesn’t want them to be trans of course, or no, actually, it’s JUST like that and I *literally got gender-policed to within an inch of my life in my home growing up*, before I learned to hide, more than once. *frustrated sigh*)

            Speaking of picking a side, the community is significantly less biphobic than it used to be, so 20 year olds aren’t told so often that they MUST be one or the other any more. Unsurprisingly, “LUGS/GUGS” are ever so much rarer now as well. I haven’t even *heard* that term from someone under the age of 30. The kids these days are mostly fine with bisexuality so they mostly don’t try to make people decide which they are, and it’s kinda caught on with their lesbian and gay elders.

            Sorry this is messy and probably a bit ranty, but I get so tired of people talking about genderqueers as if it’s a thing the children do. You know more genderqueer people than you know you know, it’s just that almost all of us who are grown are also stealth. I only came out (in my late 30s) as genderfluid to help the newly-out-as-trans (binary or not) and other gender-nonconforming students and young people I knew – they assumed, same as you do, that they had virtually no elders. They have them. We just never felt safe until now showing our faces. As the kids come out, more and more “boring” genderfluid, nonbinary, agender, trigender, two-spirit, blah blah blah people over the age of thirty are coming out too. Not because it’s contagious, but because we’re learning from them not to be ashamed.

            I’m happy to answer (respectful) questions, but I’m not happy to be told it’s silly for me to claim to be trans and to want all-gender bathrooms, or categorically different that I want them vs how binary trans people often just want to use the gendered bathroom of their actual gender. I *just want to go to the bathroom* without a risk of being verbally or physically attacked. I know lots of people don’t have that, but that doesn’t make it any less of a reasonable thing to want.
            I honestly suspect the odds of me not getting physically or verbally attacked would be better in the men’s room in strange situations… but I worry that falling out of someone’s gender binary in that position would make me exceptionally vulnerable in a way that I am not if attacked by a woman. Plus, like, sometimes I have 90-percent-ish-female days and I just feel *wrong* in the men’s bathroom on those days, even if I’m generally being read as male. (Those two things don’t always match up, in either direction.) And if you use different bathrooms in contexts where people know you, people notice and then you get social opprobrium, still, more of it because you’re actively violating a norm head-on instead of going around it, and it’s a giant mess. All-gender bathrooms are declaring “don’t pick on people if they’re using this damn bathroom, no matter what you think their gender is.” It’s a respite. Trans people of *all* types can come together around the idea of a bathroom respite, for damn sure.

            Also there are intersex folks, you know? And not all of them lean to one pole or the other. Why the hell should they have to pick a side? I know three intersex people my age personally, I’ve known them all since college, and only one of them is at all public about being intersex. So I would suggest that there are probably more of them out there than you know, too.

            Ugh, sorry, just ranting at this point.

            It’s a lot. And there’s *nothing* wrong with your comment, from a moderator or a personal perspective, and nothing wrong with any of Murali’s. But I still hope y’all’s perception of reality ends up edging closer to mine, over time.Report

            • j r in reply to Maribou says:


              Just for clarity I want to note that my comment about trying on identities was specifically about the people that I’ve known or known of who adopted conspicuously LGBT identities for a period of time and then went on to date and be in long-term relationships with members of the opposite sex and live completely heteronormative lives. The existence of those folks doesn’t negate the experience of people who live these identities from birth and will continue to until death, but those folks do exist.

              One of the problems with having these kinds of conversations on the internet is that lots of people make the assumption that how someone talks about these issues in the abstract links directly to how they are going to treat real life individual human beings in meat space. I don’t buy that. People don’t always walk the walk the way that they talk the talk. Lots of folks know how to say all the right politically correct things but end up being sh*tbirds in real life. Likewise, I’m going to say all sorts of “problematic” things in an online discussion, but I’m more than happy to mostly treat people the way that they want to be treated in meat space.

              As for the science, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think that we know nearly as much as any of the folks making claims on any side of these conversations claim that we know. And I think that we aren’t even close to scratching the surface on understanding the fullest meaning of sex and gender in relation to human development, psychology, I’m not even sure that we currently posses the language or the mindset to enable that fuller understanding. I am sure that, in the meantime, the folks on either side of the arguments are going to insist that the science supports their position.

              Me, I’m just going to admit that I don’t know and I’m going to act accordingly.Report

              • Maribou in reply to j r says:

                Well, firstly, I don’t think that the things you say online in the abstract indicate to me that you are somehow more “problematic” than people that know the right lines to mouth. There’s a reason I said that your stance is honorable and that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your or Murali’s comments personally, not just moderator-ily. They’re not harmful, not an indication that you would treat people poorly in actual day to day life, they just seemed uninformed on a few things.

                Like when you say people you know of who went on to live completely heteronormative lives, what I hear is
                “and live completely heteronormative lives *as far as I know*”
                Because I know so many bi people, same-sex coupled *and* opposite-sex coupled, our age and older who are still in the closet to most people in their lives about the extent to which they still identify and are active socially as bi people. They may even be *sexually active polyamorous bi people* who have the full support of their partners, and no one except the people they are romantically involved with plus trusted friends has any idea, because they don’t feel that they’re safe (and I can’t say I always disagree with them about their safety even though I’ve chosen differently – I don’t hide anything about who I am – and I am often frustrated by how terrified the whole community over the age of 30 seems to be about being honest…).

                It’s particularly notable to me that my own mother in law had no idea I was bi until I accidentally outed myself to her through a Facebook share *even though I had said as much to her face in so many words* several times over the decades, and talked about past experiences and finding women attractive and etc. Somehow none of that sank in until she saw my FB post a couple years ago and then she had a sex panic. (All props to Jay for refusing to pretend I’m a LUG in order to reassure her. All props to my evangelical Christian mother-in-law for working really hard and learning to understand infinitely more about bisexuality in order to be a better relative, instead of quietly and politely pulling away from me once it sank in … speaking of the difference between honorable people and people who say what they know they should…)

                It’s not that I was offended by what you or Murali said, so much as that it sort of sounds like… well, you know when someone here talks about how embassies work? or how stock markets work? and you’re like “uh, dude, no, that’s not how those things work, you’re not wrong in your principles but you’re not *even* wrong about how these things actually function”. When Murali was asserting that it wasn’t fair for trans people to get dragged into the fight on behalf of nonbinary / genderqueer people and that genderqueer is about queer identity, not gender identity, that’s what it was like for me. He was talking about my community, and a sphere in which I have a ton of experience, and what he was saying just… wasn’t lining up with reality. As I’ve experienced it as a member of that community for decades now.

                For example, while I 100 percent agree – can I 500 percent agree? – with you that most gender science is just scratching the surface of something incredibly complex, … wait, let’s not make that a while. I 500 percent agree with you that we don’t really know, scientifically speaking, much of anything. We don’t understand human biology very well, and anything the brain is involved in, we understand even less well. They are only just NOW having the move in neurology to recognize that every f’in neuron is its own damn computer, rather than the brain being a simple computer with neuron-number of circuits, for Pete’s sake. I’m sure if we’re not all in the dark ages in 2000 years, they will look back at us as shockingly primitive on these topics (“but it’s amazing how well they did with what little they understood though!!” just like we treat ancient greek science now.) And as for hormones they blame everything on freaking testosterone or lack thereof (lefties and righties!), which is really unscientific, not because it isn’t scientifically interesting (it is!!!!!! extremely) or because it doesn’t make us (all genders of us) do dumb stuff… but because it’s the only hormone they have even a *scintilla* of a full understanding of what it does…

                That said, within the vast vast swamp of we don’t know jack shit, there are a few things we didn’t used to know, that we do *know* now. Remember my training is as a bio critic. I will happily throw 99 percent of so called science on any “side” of this issue under the bus. But there are a few things that are less stupid than that. Not perfect, but pretty solid. Stuff about how kids seem to develop in pragmatic/ethnographic (rather than neurological) terms, about the broad range of human phenotypes, and about what sorts of interventions help people survive body dysphoria, for example. But within a solid doesn’t-contradict-what-little-we-do-know-already scientific framework, which puts it way ahead of … everything else coming out of both sides, in terms of intellectual honesty (except for the stuff that doesn’t make any science claims of course).

                That’s why I mentioned Serano and Fine specifically – they’re both active members of the scientific community. (Serano is a biological researcher and Fine is a full professor of History and Philosophy of Science at a major Australian university). They’re both hugely skeptical and not afraid to call out anyone they think is being an idiot regardless of ideological affiliation, in detail, with logical and evidentiary proofs.
                They’re not political writers with an axe to grind.

                Science certainly doesn’t know even a quarter of the things I experience as true and I would hate for you to think I think that, mostly because I would hope I don’t come across as that stupid.

                Hell, there’s a lot I’m far from sure about myself, even allowing for other ways of knowing than science. It’s entirely possible, scientifically, that everything about my gender identity AND sexual identity is a result of the sexual abuse I suffered my whole childhood, and I am fairly agnostic on whether that might be true or not. (That’s an elephant in the room for bisexuality, especially, if there ever was one. It’s finally starting to be ok to talk about it but for years you couldn’t even frigging admit you were abused without being told you were letting down the side of all non-straight people everywhere.) I know *personally*, not scientifically, that if so, if that’s why it happened, those things were gifts, marvelous coping mechanisms, rather than harms, and that by the time I hit puberty, they were too ingrained for me to be able to get rid of (I tried!!), but I wouldn’t ask anyone to think there’s scientific truth there. It’s not the sort of truth that science is anywhere near being able to weigh in on. “Conversion therapy is harmful in these ways and statistically doesn’t work.” is about as far as I’m willing to insist there’s science for in that direction. I’m not nearly as gung ho about the general state of the science as you seem to think I am. (I swear, my FIRST evaporated comment was so much clearer!)

                But it’s vexing when people approach actual science vs bullshit grandstanding (which *absolutely* happens on both sides of the aisle on this issue, for sure, and sometimes creeps into the assertions of folks who do perfectly good science elsewhere), and lump in the actual science with the grandstanding just because it happens to agree more with one side than the other.

                That’s why I constantly advocate for people to read Serano and Fine. I’d be happy if they read them and don’t even agree with them! But at least if they would *read* their books, they’d get a lot of the bs dispelled, instead of just seeing the whole field as a giant haze of bs…

                And there really is, IMO, some there there to learn from, when they’re finished blowing away all the stupid non-science being done.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

                ” no one except the people they are romantically involved with plus trusted friends has any idea”

                sorry – that was unclear

                ” no one outside their bi community / support network, except people they are romantically involved with regardless of sexuality, plus trusted friends, has any idea”

                the added bit I take as obvious/implied but obviously I should remember that it isn’t obvious/implied if I’m not in one of those communities when I’m saying so.

                And of course there are also far less healthy manifestations of people living “apparently” heteronormative lives…. but my point was that a lot of people are closeted but otherwise pretty healthy. So I know a lot of people that their friends-who-might-judge-them and/or old acquaintances are firmly convinced are straight. Who really, really, really aren’t. But who also are living healthy, happy, stable lives that just happen to be less heteronormative than they appear.

                And that, overall, it seems to me from the inside that the prevalence of those people is far lower in younger people than in people our age or older.

                Literally none of the kids I work with would know what a LUG is, although a good quarter of them identify as not-straight. Contrariwise, when I was in college we ALL knew what that meant and we ALL snarked about certain people being one.
                (Us out bi kids … all … 4 of us? would snark about the most biphobic lesbian or gay kids protesting too much, everybody else would snark about us and about any woman too femme or man too butch… man, remembering that, I’m SO glad I wandered off from the college groups and found ACT UP, even if it did break my heart to keep having people die on me.)

                Regardless of whether I’m right about the mechanism, LUG/GUG seems to be passe, as a thing.Report

              • j r in reply to Maribou says:


                Then maybe we don’t have to agree to disagree on the science. Any recommendations on what I can read from either of those two women?Report

              • Murali in reply to j r says:

                I’ve attended a talk by Fine. She’s got some interesting work on the effects of testosterone and how it relates to masculinity and one’s place in a social hierarchy.

                Its called testosterone rexReport

              • Maribou in reply to Murali says:

                @murali @j-r Testosterone Rex is Fine’s book that’s on my shelf to read right now, so I agree with Murali that it’s a good thing to read :D. Delusions of Gender is her classic text, but it’s a few years out of date – not that the science she talks about is not-science, but I’d always recommend whatever her newest work is, in Fine’s case.

                @veronica-d is right about Serano, what to read – also it’s not that she doesn’t have a point of view, it’s that she doesn’t make non-scientific claims about science as part of her point of view, if that makes sense? (Also also, it appears that Serano has recently stopped doing science for a living, but that’s really recent, as in the last time I checked before this she was still employed as a scientist.)
                I prefer Whipping Girl as a place to start, even though it’s started to date, because it’s also more science-focused – the shift toward being more activist and less scientist is totally understandable – I’m 100 percent sure I’d do the same in her position, and she’s maintained intellectual honesty throughout – but it means that her earlier writings are tonally quite different from the later ones. The earlier ones are equally intense, but more fact-oriented, less politics-oriented. (Just as experience-oriented, though, and more power to her for that.)Report

              • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou — Serano is important for her intellectual honesty and her clear writing. Basically, she’s great precisely in the way she is not Judith Butler.Report

              • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica-d Ha, yes indeedy!Report

              • veronica d in reply to j r says:

                @j-r — Serano has a decent blog. Her two books are Whipping Girl and Excluded. If you are primarily interested in trans stuff, start with Whipping Girl.

                Note it is intended a feminist text, not a science text. That said, Serano is a professional scientists. As a result, the text has a kind of clarity that is absent in my “critical theory” approaches to the topic. In other words, her nouns and verbs refer to obvious things. It’s really nice.

                Yes the science of sex/gender is vague and uncertain, but that cuts both ways. Our critics also try to deploy “science” against us, often quite badly. The question is, in a state of ignorance, what do we do? We’ll unlikely learn the whole picture during our lifetimes, but we do know that gender dysphoria is a real thing, in the same way we know that clinical depression is a real thing. (And both conditions are deadly in the same way.) We also know that gender variance has existed in many cultures throughout history. Honestly, it has almost certainly existed in every culture. (The difference is, how cruel that culture was to gender variant people, and thus how much they had to hide it.)

                We know that transition works, not perfectly, but we suffer less depression, less anxiety, commit suicide less, lead better lives, thrive, when we can express our gender identity in a safe and nurturing environment. Social support matters. These things are obvious and measurable.

                On gender identity, there is something in the brain that is gender. There is plenty of evidence for that. If you want to play super-smarty-pants skeptic guy, sure, no one can point to this-or-that neuron and say, “Look! Gender!” It doesn’t work that way. But still, the existence of gender identity is the most parsimonious explanation of what we observe. There is something in my brain such that “Man” didn’t work for me. I was miserable. “Women” does — to a degree. (Like @maribou, I am non-binary, although probably a different kind of non-binary from them.)

                In any case, I hope you’ll read Serano. Whipping Girl is over ten years old now. It doesn’t address many of the current controversies. But still, it is a good start. Her writings offer more current insight. If there is an ongoing “trans controversy,” particularly someone spouting anti-trans science, check what she is saying.Report

              • veronica d in reply to j r says:

                @maribou @j-r @murali

                I would add to this debate one question: what more are we expecting science to do here? We already know a great deal about what transgender people experience. Even without perfect knowledge of the brain and how that brain manifests gender within a culture, we certainly know that something happens. Even if we cannot account for every neuron, as it responds to hormones or the sight of a Barbie doll, we do know that some people grow quite certain their gender is not what the doctors said it was. One thing to note: we are not delusional, which is to say, I (and most contemporary trans people) are quite aware of the material reality of our lives. I know about chromosomes and genitals and human reproduction and sexual desire and all of that.

                So imagine we learn more. We understand more about neurology, along with the social framework in which the brain develops. Say we learn almost everything. How does that help us answer the question: “Is Veronica really a woman?” How does that tell us what “non-binary” is?

                Even though we don’t know everything, we know a lot. I think we have enough information to meaningfully address those questions.

                (I suspect that the Mary the color scientist thought experiments can shed light on this topic. Do we really need to understand each neuron in our visual cortex to understand that some things appear red?)Report

              • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica-d I personally have no interest in the question “Is Veronica *really* a woman?” because to me the answer is transparently, “I don’t care, except insofar as society gives her crap because they think she isn’t and I want to have ways to counteract that in the same register, and also of course, I believe her that she is and that she’s also non-binary.” I take people as the most reliable sources of information about their gender – far more reliable than any scientific measurement could be -and I’m not *socially* interested in delving into it further. My interest in *that* question is pretty much only because there are so many stupid people out there promulgating misinformation.

                Similarly, I can say “well it’s entirely possible I am the way I am because I was violently abused starting before I can remember” and also think that that’s not really *important*. Like, I still have been this way and happy-in-myself to be this way (except when punished by society for it) since I was three. I still am vastly unhappy and miserable if I try to fit into some other pattern. So who cares where it came from? It’s what works. But I am as resistant to people insisting it CANNOT be related to my experiences of abuse as to people insisting that it can, because either way I feel like they’re trying to wield science they don’t have as a weapon against my understanding of my experiences.

                (And as a side note, Fine isn’t in any way whatsoever suggesting that gender is itself a delusion, with that tongue-in-cheek title, purely that the way society discusses gender is full of delusions. The subtitles that different countries have for “Testosterone Rex” all boil down to “and other myths about gender and society”, if that gives you an idea.)

                What I’m expecting science to do is not to make social rules for us, but just – “merely” except WOW – to uncover lots and lots of things we currently don’t understand at all that will make life for everybody a lot more interesting and valuable once we know them. That will give kids a lot more space to be themselves, if society is willing to listen to the complexity of the science. That may, for some people, make things that are experienced as miserable less miserable. (For eg, as a genderfluid person whose dysphoria would persist regardless of physical interventions, I *trained* myself mentally over two decades to counteract 99 percent of my physical dysphoria. If that’s reproducible and can be narrowed down to a more efficient process, it might be of use to other genderfluid people. Or if people’s understanding of gender shifts, people might feel less social dysphoria – and I know that my own physical dysphoria, not necessarily other people’s, is tied to social dysphoria. Science might help figure that part out, some far off day.)

                People are a lot more complicated than our understanding of people is. I’m interested in that complexity as someone who was trained scientifically, mostly because it’s interesting but also because I believe in the value of basic science to uncover interesting new things that may turn out to be useful.

                Right now we *don’t* know plenty. We really don’t. When it comes to human biology in any scientific sense, we’re in a two-master on a very vast undiscovered ocean, going “WOW can you believe this amazing ship we’re on?!?!? Can you believe this archipelago of wonder we just discovered!?!??!” There can be enough in that archipelago to fully occupy several human lifetimes, but it’s still just one archipelago in a vast undiscovered ocean. Traditional-subversive cultural knowledge seems to be wiser than that, but science wise we’re still just starting to figure stuff out. It’s 5 percent knowledge at best, 95 percent gaps. (Hey, 200 years ago it was maybe 2 percent knowledge, 98 percent gaps. We’ve learned a ton since then!) That isn’t a downer to me.

                To me, that’s super-exciting, promising, hopeful, interesting, etc. for much the same reasons that space exploration is. And it needs to be preserved in our awareness – that we are on the edge of vast unknowing – to *protect* us from just settling into a new orthodoxy that isn’t interested in exploring more.

                I also think that if we had perfect science about brains, people would be hella less prescriptive to each other about very many things, not just gender, but I realize that’s my utopic fantasy and not in itself a science-based belief. I do believe in it though, and it does drive me to want more science. But real science.

                I suspect the tl;dr of all this would be “I’m interested in the science of gender for reasons like why you’re interested in math – because it’s beautiful and fascinating and a lot of people are stupid about it but *none of that is really enough to explain why I care so much*. I just do.”Report

              • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou — To give some context, a friend of mine committed suicide a couple weeks back. She had, among other issues, severe clinical depression, for which she sought mental health care in an impatient program. She was denied care.

                That is, of course, against the law here in Massachusetts. But it happened. Specifically what happened was, because she is trans, she was required to have a private bed. However, there were no private beds available. There were non-private beds, but those are explicitly gendered.

                In other words, if she were a cis person in an uncomplicated way, she would have received mental health care. She was not. She did not. She was “put out.” Within a month she was dead.

                I’m a bit upset about this.

                Of course there is so much to learn in terms of science. However, right now “science” is being used to justify killing my friends — and yes I define these preventable suicides as killing. Leelah Alcorn, for example, was killed. I’ve lost three friends in the past year. I perhaps lost another, an ex girlfriend, this week. She might be dead right now. I don’t know. She threatened and then disappeared. No one has heard from her.

                It’s getting worse. The social environment of “Trumpism” is killing us.

                Right now “trans skeptics” are using every tool they have to justify excluding us from social support networks. Among the tools they use is some rather sketchy science. The fact is, the science we do have is pretty strongly in our favor. Gender identity is real. Our experiences are real. But I promise you, in the coming months, major media outlets will publish dozens of articles featuring non-accepted, non-widespread, “fringe” science that serves to justify excluding my friends from mental health care and support networks.

                This is not abstract for me, nor do I share you “curiosity” in an uncomplicated way. Indeed I am pro-science and I share your broad view, but I have to live my life now. I operate according to the “fierce urgency of now.”

                We know a lot. On the key point: should my friends have to live in a hostile environment that substantially elevates their odds of suicide (not to mention outright violence) — on that point, we fucking know enough.Report

              • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

                “This is not abstract for me”

                If it wasn’t clear, it’s not abstract for me either. Every person I’ve lost to suicide in the last 2 years was not uncomplicatedly cis and straight. And there’s a lot of them. So in the sense that 5 people I cared for is a lot, yes, I agree we do also know a lot. But in a scientific sense – which is *just one way of knowing that I don’t think is a priority now or ever* – we don’t know a lot. And claiming that in *that* sense I know a lot, when I don’t, when no one does, is hardly likely to win hearts and minds, IMO. And I am desperate to win them.

                But if it wasn’t clear before, let me make it clear now:

                I absolutely agree that we know *enough* for the changes that need to happen. We know WAY MORE than enough for that.

                One thing I started to write about but didn’t, but probably should have been more explicit about before, is that I really *do* think that the current scientific understanding of gender is flawed and narrow – HOWEVER

                (and the however is the important part)

                Until everyone who is currently being driven to suicide or otherwise killed is, instead, safe and welcome, it’s good enough.

                You’ve elaborated on that far more eloquently than I can, so I won’t write the rest of what I was going to write and didn’t. But that’s an important counter narrative to my gender utopianism, for sure. As in, MORE important, to me as well as to society.

                and I apologize for not addressing it in the first place. tbh, because i’m dissociative (diagnosed, being treated), part of how I grieve for those personal losses is to avoid explicitly addressing them. I realize that can come off as callous or deliberately perverse, but it’s not really. it’s just how I deal.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

                @veronica-d Also, I’m sorry for your loss. As fucking futile as that is.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou @murali and @j-r — I think a lot can be summed up by the realization science about people, in particular about vulnerable people, is rather different than science about things. It is not that our notion of truth should change, nor should we set aside the basic impulse toward curiosity and learning. Instead, we should acknowledge that, as we stumble through ignorance, we can actually do much harm.

                To give an example, if I research and publish on a topic such as the cosmic background radiation — well that sure is an interesting topic. There is so much we can learn. The point is, what I publish might be correct. It might be incorrect. Over the decades, we will (I hope) come closer to truth.

                Let’s say I publish something wrong. Well, so what? It happens. Science is not a straight line.

                Things change when my subject is people, particularly vulnerable people, particularly when the research touches on their fundamental dignity. The fact is, transgender people are broadly misunderstood. But more, we are broadly hated, and much of the hatred centers on people’s preoccupations with sexual shame. Science produced in this context just works differently, inasmuch as researchers will be too often be unaware with their own sexual hangups, which in turn affects which topics they chose to explore, what evidence they give weight to, which studies they select, what gets funded, by whom, for whom, and then finally what the mainstream “science press” decides to harp on.

                This matters a lot. The effects are measurable.

                (Obviously the dichotomy I present above is too simplistic, in that it ignores topics such as climate change, which are critical to “get right,” but clearly are not “about people.” I have confidence that the reader can still see how “science about vulnerable people” is particularly fraught.)Report

              • DavidTC in reply to veronica d says:

                Things change when my subject is people, particularly vulnerable people, particularly when the research touches on their fundamental dignity.


                As I’ve vaguely alluded to here before, and discussed at least once, I actually think a lot of the scientific claims generally used to ‘justify’ the rights of gay people are…somewhat dubious. Just looking at history and how other cultures worked with regard to sexual attraction, it’s hard to image some of these things we all ‘know’ about sexual orientation, the things presented as arguments over and over, being correct. (Our ideas about gender identity, OTOH, seem mostly correct to me, although admittedly I have not look at it so much.)

                I generally keep those ideas to myself, though, because literally none of the science matters WRT how we should treat each other. No one needs to ‘justify’ anything.

                And in the real world, these claims are being presented, often with literally life or death consequences, to get people to accept other people’s fundamental right to live and be happy.Report

              • Dave in reply to Maribou says:

                What’s a bio critic?Report

              • Maribou in reply to Dave says:

                @dave Someone who is better trained to dissect and analyze biology than to do much of it. I was literally taught mostly by pulling stuff apart to see what was broken with it, whether that stuff was lab experiments or published papers. (I don’t blame my profs for this, it was my own inclination as much as anything. And I often wish more working scientists had more aptitude in that direction so they could see their own ridiculous errors.)Report

              • Dave in reply to Maribou says:

                That definition can pretty much fall on anyone although in my case, I don’t necessarily go after the studies as much as I go after people that try to draw sweeping conclusions from such studies. I tore a Vox article citing research showing the futility of exercise to weight loss. I may or may not do the same to the myriad of individuals that cite “the research” when discussing dieting, lifestyle changes, etc. etc. I haven’t had the time to write it and I’d have to be very careful if I did because if my last post was any indication, I’m not particularly patient towards the PubMed Ninjas in the social justice world.

                I haven’t decided if what I’m reading above is truly skepticism towards science that’s fundamentally flawed (which is NOT the same as having an absence of evidence) or taking an approach against a body of science points the evidence elsewhere. I partially can’t tell because I don’t know all of the issues, but this kind of threw me off:

                And as for hormones they blame everything on freaking testosterone or lack thereof (lefties and righties!), which is really unscientific, not because it isn’t scientifically interesting (it is!!!!!! extremely) or because it doesn’t make us (all genders of us) do dumb stuff… but because it’s the only hormone they have even a *scintilla* of a full understanding of what it does…

                Are you really suggesting that we point to testosterone because it’s the only hormone we remotely understand?

                You’re going to need to provide some evidence to support this. I’m definitely not in the “blame testosterone” for everything, but our understanding of that, estrogen as well as the impacts they can have on the body are well-understood (yes, links to testosterone, especially DHT, and aggression, for example, are well-studied as well as the androgenic effects long-term steroid abuse have on women – as examples).

                Whether or not they have any impact on the debate here I have no idea since I haven’t gotten up to speed on the issues, but that statement, from my perspective, a dude that’s learned a thing or two about this stuff and understand how heavily this has been studied, feels a bit off to me.

                This is why I wish everyone would treat each other with compassion and respect and then everyone wouldn’t have to hijack science to weaponize it to their cause.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Dave says:

                I think this comment comes off as heated and that heat isn’t directed at you, it’s directed at the understanding that even diligent researchers who aren’t scientists have about the state of biology. So apologies if I come off as salty, I’m not especially. I get intense.

                I’m saying, as someone with an (undergraduate) biology degree who has been paying attention to how scientists *study* hormones, not just the studies themselves, for more than 2 decades, that “we” as a society (not actual science researchers, but plenty of pundits and “science” media) blame testosterone acting in cisgendered males for everything social. To the exclusion of other factors. Whenever it’s socially convenient. (And yes, that was somewhat hyperbolic and meant to be taken in context, and yes, there is solid scientific work to the contrary.)

                I see this happen all the time, to the point where, no, I don’t *have* to provide evidence for something I said offhandedly while ranting about being denied peaceful use of bathrooms, and I wasn’t complaining about exercise scientists, who tend to focus on pragmatic goals and not go making grand pronouncements about how much they do and don’t understand about something, overall.

                The impacts that we understand about hormones and about how hormones *act in the body on an instant by instant, full-picture, feedbacks and controls, molecular interaction level*, which is far more complex and systematic than any of the studies that have been managed to date, are NOT well understood. They are tip of the iceberg understood. We’ve mapped that tip pretty darn thoroughly, but the intensity of that mapping doesn’t make the rest of the iceberg, that’s still underwater, any smaller.

                There’s also a widespread systematic bias toward studying the impact of hormones on cisgendered men and/or hormones produced by cisgendered men in far greater detail than any of the rest. Not *exclusively*, but in a very heavily weighted way.)

                Any pregnancy researcher (not just a regular ob/gyn) worth their salt will tell you how much of the detailed role of hormones in pregnancy is understood vs still kind of a bloomin’ miracle for all we can describe it. The fact that we have REAMS of information about the parts we do understand, and that we can use that information to do things like make drugs that can control due dates in a hamhanded and sub-optimal to the mother way, doesn’t make them magically comprehensive of the whole. It just means that the overall picture is really really really complicated. We’re still learning how much more complicated than we used to think it was, reiterating that over and over.

                And we’re still *discovering* new hormones (let alone less loud and obvious things) every few years, things that people used to think didn’t do anything and therefore weren’t relevant. You can’t tell me we “understand” a biomedical field where we’re still saying “whoa, what does this button do?” on the regular.

                And when it comes to gender, even if we perfectly understood hormones, they’d still only be the tip of the iceberg as long as neurology remains in its toddlerhood as a discipline.

                I agree that it’s been heavily studied, btw. As has neurology. Heck, biology and medicine in general has been heavily studied for the last 100 years and lots of cool things have been learned. That is why I said we’ve gone from (handwavy) 2 percent scientific understanding to (handwavy) 5 percent scientific understanding. If my handwaves are anywhere near accurate, they would mean that we’ve more than doubled what we know! And maybe we’ve actually gone from 1 percent understanding to 5 percent understanding, and quintupled it! There are metrics in which that does seem like a lot. Particularly the ones that Veronica mentions in her most recent comments. People are dying, that’s an (infinitely) higher priority than getting all the way under the hood.

                I’m just maintaining that having a 5 percent understanding – no matter how sufficient to make social improvements over the models from the 2 percent understanding, especially when guided by non-purely-scientific knowledge that is actually meaningful nonetheless – still isn’t much, in the absolute/abstract realm.. No matter how much of an advance over 2 percent it is. No matter how much the abstract pales in comparison to the current public health crisis.

                As a metaphor, not an exact parallel, that may clarify my position – I remember the state of knowledge about AIDS in the early 90s vs now. We had MORE than enough information to help people and that the government (or private industry or whomever you want to call out) SHOULD have been helping people. The stuff we knew back then was, largely, accurate. It would have been inhumane and stupid to wait (and insofar as people with power did wait, those people were both inhumane and stupid). I mean, that’s what ACT UP was *for*, to get past that dithery “but we can’t decide if we don’t KNOW…” stance.

                But we also know about a jillion more things about it now, things that have vastly improved the state of our understanding, and what we can do to help people, to the point where it’s fair to say that even the cutting edge of 90s research was pretty uninformed now that we have a new standard to compare it to. And I would guess that in 2000 years (the timeframe I originally gave), they’ll be looking back at us like we look back at AIDS researchers from the early 1980s, only more so.

                That said, I totally agree that it should go a) compassion and respect for everyone, get people the help that we *already know will help them* and avoid harms we can avoid; b) everything else. Those should be the priorities.

                But anyone who is telling you that all the science is mostly figured out in this area (NOT what V was saying, of course) is pretty much pulling an Ernest Rutherford saying that physics was over and done with and no one would come up with anything else of great import in the 1890s. Not. Even. Close. Not even five percent.

                Does that make more sense than how you were reading me before?

                If not, I don’t think there’s much more I can do to address your questions.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

                “not actual science researchers”
                *cough* when they’re doing the science, if they aren’t fundamentally flawed actors, anyway. sapolsky, for eg, is basically and consistently reliable, and will attack his own oversteps when they occur. if only all scientists who feel qualified to pontificate about the social impacts of testosterone were similarly self-critical.Report

          • j r in reply to j r says:


      • LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        What I find kind of amusing about the proposed gender neutral pronouns is that they seem designed to make people sound like people with a bad Hollywood German accent. “Zee handed me the monkey wrench when I asked for it” and “We have ways of making zee talk.”Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to LeeEsq says:

          The only proposed gender neutral pronoun that’s likely to get much use in the near future is singular “they,” which we all use all the time already.Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to dragonfrog says:

            If this process turns “they” into an acceptable genderless singular pronoun for writing in general, I’ll consider it a win for trans people and a win for writers all around.Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to dragonfrog says:

            “They” makes so much sense as a genderless pronoun, instead of trying to invent something from scratch. Or at least that’s what I think. I already know people who prefer to be referred to as “they” rather than gendered.Report

            • I agree it makes much more sense than inventing another pronoun. Pronouns are resistant to change in a way some other types words aren’t. It’s not that they never change, but it’s hard to do. “They” for that reason seems a good-ish compromise.

              I’ll say that personally, I don’t like the singular “they.” I really do associate “they” with plurals and it grates on my ears when I hear it used that way. I also–and I know this is strange–prefer not to use plurals when I can avoid them. I find them inelegant and too much work. I use them all the time, of course, but my aesthetic sense is not to like them.

              I won’t apologize for having my preference. But despite it, I recognize something like at least an etiquette-driven duty to override my preference if others prefer it. (As I say that, I’m reminded of JR’s comment above about people being able to say the right thing online and yet not do it in practice. I confess that in practice I don’t always do that.)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        It’s not like language evolves. I mean, my mobile telephone coupled with a computer designed for accessing remote information via magic tells me as much.Report

      • Maribou, Moderator in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @brandon-berg On this website, you’ll refer to people using whatever pronoun they use for themselves, though.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Certainly there are people who might like it, but I don’t see how that desire gives rise to an obligation on the part of the rest of us.

        I’ll take you at your word that you “don’t see” it. Why you’d want to admit such a thing is another matter.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    So1: How is this even supposed to work?Report

  5. fillyjonk says:

    So6: I can’t stand wearing socks in bed regardless of what else I have on. If it’s a cold night, I heat up a buckwheat bag or fill a hot water bottle and put it at the foot of the bed to warm my feet up.

    So1 seems like one of those “Hey, let’s engineer the society we think we want by going against human nature.” Granted, I have not said I had a “best friend” since I was 13 (and my then-best-friend got invited to sit at the popular-girls table and dropped me like a hot rock, and I wondered if she ever really HAD BEEN my friend). Part of it, I confess, is that I’m afraid if I declared someone my “best friend,” they would look uncomfortable and go “Well, that’s nice, but really…..this OTHER person is MY best friend” and then I’d feel terrible. (Which is what I suppose those schools are aiming to avoid).

    Maybe adults don’t have best friends? I don’t know. Some of the people I know do seem to have best friends but then they were their best friends from school days and because I’ve moved all over the country instead of staying in one town all my life, I’ve lost track of almost everyone I knew from before I was 20 or so.

    I dunno. Human interaction has been hard for me for pretty much all my life.Report

    • Murali in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I’ve decided to stop wearing socks in the plane. Because my feet swell up when I fly and the socks just bite into it and I get sweat rashes. If you didn’t keep your feet in socks all the time they wouldn’t stink so much.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    So6: As I have gotten older, I find that wearing socks to bed is the difference between sleeping through the night, and waking up at 4:00 in the morning because my feet are cold. Somewhat surprisingly, the problem started in the summer — by 4:00 the whole-house fan is pulling in 60 °F air. One of those good/bad things about living in a high-elevation semi-arid climate.Report

  7. Michael Cain says:

    So4: So long as there are places like this, where people drop five-paragraph comments to argue their point, there is hope.Report

  8. Oscar Gordon says:

    So1: Admittedly I didn’t read the whole article, because the stupid made my brain hurt, but…

    Bug seems to have figured out the problem of best friends by declaring a whole bunch of kids his best friends (mostly the ones he’s known since they were infants), and all the rest good friends, or just friends. And us parents, well, we just don’t bother imposing upon him the idea that best means one.Report

  9. Damon says:

    [So6] I only wear socks in bed when it’s seriously cold outside.

    [So7] Emma just will NOT go away. Does she thinks this makes her relevant?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Damon says:

      What are you talking about? Why should she go away just because you dislike her and her message? Do you control all?Report

      • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        No, because her “notoriety and victim status” is fake.

        • dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

          Is there any particular part of the linked wikipedia article that you believe supports your assertion?Report

          • Damon in reply to dragonfrog says:

            Yeah, he was found “not guilty” under standards WAY more lenient than a court of law–at COLUMBIA.

            I think that’s support enough.Report

            • dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

              Ah, he-said-she-said. No conclusive evidence one way or the other.

              So you’re going with “she made a false accusation of rape for some reason.”

              Got it.Report

              • InMD in reply to dragonfrog says:

                No one knows for sure what really happened but I think the hypothetical ‘for some reason’ is pretty obvious in her case. She’s become an activist-celebrity profiled in well-respected publications, got her foot in the door in the alternative/performance art world, and got to hobnob with Kirsten Gillibrand at the 2015 state of the union address. Columbia ended up settling with the accused.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to InMD says:

                Good thing she knew in advance how all that would turn out. She’s probably great at picking stocks too.Report

              • InMD in reply to dragonfrog says:

                Like I said, no one knows what happened. She used the accusation to support her master thesis in performance art which included several publicity stunts. The fame (or notoriety depending on your perspective) didn’t just happen on its own/by chance. She actively sought it out and there’s been related litigation.

                Reasonable people can disagree about what to make of her. It’s not like there hasn’t been plenty of reporting. If you haven’t followed the story (which, correct me if I’m wrong but as best I can tell you haven’t) I’m going to bow out.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to InMD says:

                She has a Bachelors, not a Masters. And an art major using something in their lives to make art is not the most unheard of thing in the world. She was part of a movement that was going on at the time.Report

              • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Noted on the degree in question. And I agree, art inspired by experience isn’t unheard of, but then neither is artistic license. I’ve never said she should be silenced.Report

              • Damon in reply to dragonfrog says:

                I don’t know exactly what happened. No one does outside the two individuals involved. But given that it’s very easy under college admin rules to “convict” someone for these types of actions, them finding for him says something. It’s not like the school we’re talking about is Liberty University or such.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

      I have no idea who this Emma is, so to me, she is not relevant.

      Does that help. @damon ?Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    So7: I suspect he might be picked because he and Picasso are some of the only artists that a large segment of the public knows about. Close being alive also helps. Though I didn’t know about this until you posted it.

    So9: I didn’t think a self-described “classical liberal” would be for Brexit. Wouldn’t bring for Brexit be anti-free trade? Anyway this complaint is old and boring. Artists tend to lean left because art has always be considered a disruptable profession. This means it tends to attract people on the margins and who were excluded from “respectable” employment. Artists are also people interested in creating new things and not repeating the old. All this leads to a left-leaning bunch that hates censorship. There have been right-wing artists: Celine, Borge, The Futurists, Wybdham-Lewis, T.S. Elliot, Ezra Pound, Rimbaud (Mr. Shock the Middle Classes himself) were all right-wing.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think its more accurate to say that artists are extreme in their politics rather than they are left-leaning. Several artists and writers have like Salvador Dali and D.H. Lawrence had some very far right leaning politics. During the turn of the 20th century, the French art and literature worlds were just as divided between Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards as the rest of France. In countries where patronage is a more important source of income for artists than the market, many artists tend to have the same opinions of their patrons. Look at the artists and writers that stuck around in various totalitarian regimes. Not only did the adopt the beliefs of fascism or communism, they adopted their aesthetic principles to.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

        That’s an interesting way of phrasing it and probably more correct but there are plenty of working artists who are just bog-standard liberal Democrats or bog-standard Labour voters. Perhaps this counts as left-wing radicalism in North Dakota but no where else.Report

    • You probably know more about Rimbaud than I do, but someone who participated in the Paris Commune and wrote Le Dormeur du Val doesn’t strike me as “right wing.” Again, though, I don’t know enough about him other than he likes paper boats and coloring vowels.Report

  11. Aaron David says:

    So9 – Interesting piece, but doesn’t change my mind (and indeed, confirms it) that there should be zero public funding for art. No NEA, no NPR, no KQED, etc. And I am saying this as the son of an NPR DJ!

    So7 – Just goes to show that “conceptual art” is a joke.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

      So does art in the public square become something that must be donated, and can’t be commissioned?Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I would say it can be commissioned (bought, donated), but no artists can be on the gov’t payroll. In other words, each piece of art bought by the gov’t is a one time deal. They can go back to the well, but the artist needs to be aware that it is solely for the piece of art, which can be removed by another admin (see Civil War statuary in the south.)Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    So1: Making the whole friend thing more difficult for people relatively new to the whole “making friends” thing seems to be a recipe for disaster 12-15 years down the road. We want them to be good at it by then. It’s not like they have 4-5 siblings anymore.

    And that’s without even getting into the whole issue of how easy is it for adults to make friends. I know that the only time I get new friends anymore is when I change jobs. (And if I haven’t changed jobs for a while, that means that the only time I get new friends is when we hire new people.)

    And, yeah, having best friends is good practice for eventually being married. Why in the world do we want to limit practice for *THAT*?

    I’m all well and good with changing things that humans have been doing for millennia but shouldn’t you be changing the bad things?Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

      But best friends are exclusionary (says so in the article!), and that is just all kinds of bad!

      I mean, god forbid we teach kids how to deal with such things instead.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Like kids won’t find some OTHER way to exclude the little weird kids (like I was)

        Human beings tend towards awfulness and we can’t social-engineer that out of people. Better to teach people how to cope with the awfulness/find “their tribe” in this world.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    So7: I’m not sure that this is about Chuck Close as much as the desire to do *SOMETHING* and if the only medium you have to do something with is Chuck Close then Chuck Close it is.

    Would that we had a modern day Rodin within driving distance but you protest the artists you have, not the artists you wish you had.Report

  14. LeeEsq says:

    So7- What is the end point? That is the question I always ask myself when I get confronted with these articles. Are they going for an entire ban on anything considered problematic? Who gets to decide?Report

  15. Saul Degraw says:

    Deadspin takes Yahoo and the NCAA to task:

    What, exactly, is the purpose of this except naming and shaming then-high schoolers for maybe having a nice lunch?

    What is the purpose of any straight college-scandal reporting, other than shaming players for trying to earn a tiny fraction of the money they’re earning for their schools and the NCAA? (I actually have an answer for this! The only reason fans and readers really care about recruiting scandals is because they’re hoping to see their rivals punished, and to be able to hold it over their heads for all eternity. Everything is fandom.)


  16. Saul Degraw says:

    Re: Artists and also Corporations dropping NRA-endorsements/deals:

    This also relates to #metoo. We are living in a very strange moment and one that no one really knows what to make of it. On the one hand, the GOP controls all three branches of the Federal Government and many/most state governments. However, liberals seem to be winning in the private sector/corporate environment.

    This probably doesn’t make sense to anyone. Though I also think the GOP is worried about a shock-wave defeat in November because (almost) everyone hates Trump but they also can’t change.Report

  17. Rufus F. says:

    So7. Okay, to elaborate a bit, what I found strange about it is the disproportion between what Chuck Close did- he made vulgar comments to women who came with the interest of modeling for him and then paid them when they were offended and left– and galleries deciding that this is the artist they have to come to a decision about. The National Gallery cancelled an exhibit, Seattle University removed a self-portrait, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts is keeping his exhibition but running a sort of counter-exhibition in response. Certainly, he’s a boor and a bit of a creep, but it’s hard to believe the art world couldn’t find any artist who’d done worse to judge in the court of public opinion.

    I think part of what’s going on is that Chuck Close is a superstar, which compounds his offenses. And part of it is certainly the need to do something given the shitty history of the art world in general. But I also wonder if there’s not some sort of unconscious disgust at the fact that Close sexually harassed able-bodied women going on here. This suspicion was not helped by one of his critics who commented publicly that he always thought there was something nefarious about Close because a “man in his condition” was frequently seen in public with beautiful women- as if that’s an offense in itself.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I think your last paragraph hits the nail and the head. Chuck Close is being targeted because he is well-known and has brand name recognition. That means even if his behavior isn’t that bad, he is the biggest living target possible. That will make his behavior a lesson to others.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Rufus F. says:

      This is the firsr I’m hearing of this… but does it matter at all that Close’s sins were committed as a part of his artistic process. This isn’t someone who created beautiful paintings and was a jerk elsewhere. His artwork — at least as I understand the matter — arose as a result of his jerkiness. It may be harder to separate the art from the artist in this case.Report

  18. Alan Scott says:

    [So1] At first, the proposal seemed ridiculous. And then I remember that I spent those four years of my life being ostracized and bullied by my fellow students, not because they were particularly mean people, but just because they were being given cultural cues about how they were supposed to treat nerds and didn’t have the social maturity to act otherwise.

    Figuring out ways to make children treat each other more kindly is something schools should be doing. If this winds up working, more power to ’em.

    [So6] Do people not have hair on their calves, or something? I can’t wear socks to bed without the bits-of-my-leg-covered-in-sock becoming very uncomfortable by the next morning. Also, your feet aren’t cold because your feet are uncovered, they’re cold because your whole body is cold and it responds by restricting blood flow to your feet. You can keep your feet warmer by wearing thicker PJs and keeping feet bare than you could by wearing thick socks.

    [So8] Four year old me wanted nothing more than a knit sweater with a zipper like Mr. Rogers had. My mother searched for ages to find one in a child’s size, and eventually we had to settle for a windbreaker. If only we’d asked Mr. Rogers’ Mom.

    [So9] Isn’t it kind of a mistake to use the Brexit vote as a proxy for partisan affiliation, though? 4% is “scientists-who-think-global-warming-is-a-myth” numbers. There’s gonna be something else going on there, something that the article is intentionally or unintentionally ignoring.

    My guess: [I]Everyone[/I], even most leavers, recognized that Brexit is going to be bad for the economy overall–people voting leave did so because they thought that they weren’t the ones that would be taking the hit, or that non-economic reasons justified the economic sacrifice. The arts and entertainment community knew that when families tighten their belts, it means fewer concert tickets, cheaper cable packages, not so many trips to the bookstore–And even if you think the Brussles bureaucracy is choking the life out of your beloved island home, you’re gonna look for a better solution that Brexit when your livelyhood is at risk.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Alan Scott says:

      So1: I was lucky enough to be a very nerdy kid you grew up in a public school district filled with nerds. It saved me from a large amount of bullying. In other public school districts, not very far away I’d be meat. At the same time, I’m somewhat to very doubtful that schools can do much to combat whatever negative social behavior parents and the rest of society are teaching their kids. Anti-nerd prejudice is a big part of American life. Its part of our anti-intellectual heritage.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I mean, yes and no. There certainly is a strain of anti-intellectualism that encourages mistreatment of nerds (and equivalent social forces that work to isolate other middle-school pariahs like the poor kids, kids of color, etc.)

        But the real problem is that children at that age haven’t developed a good understanding of social interaction. Maybe it wasn’t the nerds at your school, but there were certainly people who were at the bottom of the social ladder, and there was certainly unintentionally cruel social behavior that reinforced the social ladder.

        They weren’t being mean to me because they were mean people. They were being mean because they hadn’t realized that it’s okay to be nice to someone who isn’t popular or that you aren’t friends with. Once everyone got a little bit older, they switched form a hierarchical understanding of social interaction to a clique based (node-based) understanding and the people who had been mercilessly teasing me a few years back were perfectly kind to me.

        If we can find ways to guide students through tough social situations that they don’t have the tools or understanding to deal with in a healthy manner, and do so in ways that reduce the fallout on their peers, that’s a good thing. Because those peers who bullied me quickly developed social skills and became better people. It took me much longer to develop those same skills, partly because of how traumatizing middle school was for me.Report

        • j r in reply to Alan Scott says:

          I mean, yes and no. There certainly is a strain of anti-intellectualism that encourages mistreatment of nerds (and equivalent social forces that work to isolate other middle-school pariahs like the poor kids, kids of color, etc.)

          I am skeptical of this interpretation. For one thing, claims of anti-intellectualism always strike me as complaints that the great unwashed masses don’t appreciate my genius. More importantly in this case, I think kids are much more socially tuned in than we give them credit for being. Kids know who is cool and who is not, even if that sometimes gets filtered through some weird dynamics.

          I was a nerdy kid and I got picked on a bit for it (this was limited by the fact that I went to Catholic school my whole life and to a high school built especially for nerds). I didn’t get picked on for being smart. I got picked on for being a know-it-all who raised his hand at every question and like to show off in regards to things that came naturally to me but that other kids struggled with. I deserved the shade that I got.

          I tend to think that the narrative of I got picked on for (insert random demographic reason) is overblown and largely a function of revisionist personal histories. It probably also has to do with how these things are portrayed in movies and TV and books.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to j r says:

            Heh, I got picked on because my older sister was an insufferable know it all who was also utterly unafraid to slug anyone who tried to make an issue of it. So her classmates took out their frustrations on her little brother when she wasn’t around.Report

          • gabriel conroy in reply to j r says:

            I mostly agree with you, JR. One side effect to the “it’s anti-intellectualism” explanation is that if someone isn’t particularly academically gifted or whatever, then they deserve being picked on more than the “nerds” do.

            That’s a side effect, not intended. I’m not suggesting anyone here really is an apologist for bullying. I’m saying only that some of the explanations for bullying, if taken to a certain extreme, would lead to that conclusion. (I know I’ve linked to this before, but Noah Berlatsky has a thoughtful piece on bullying that touches on what I mean.)Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Alan Scott says:

          Or they were afraid to be nice, because then the mean/popular kids would likewise brand them as outcasts. I think I experienced a little bit of that – people who were friendly to me outside of school but shunned me within.

          What kills me as an adult? I accepted it and assumed that that was how the world was, that some people (me) were just doomed to be unpopular-in-at-least-some-settings. I think now how much I could have spoken up as a kid and maybe made stuff better for me….but I was both afraid to, figured it wouldn’t work, and also figured maybe my fate was just not to have friends. That’s not a good place to be at 13.

          Kids bully “different” kids because humans are tribal, and tribalism can turn us into monsters – it’s cutting the one that doesn’t fit with the herd from it, in the hopes that the Ice Weasels will eat that one and not the ones in the clique.

          I can understand why I was treated as I was: I was a little egghead who was inclined to be pedantic (I don’t test on the autism spectrum, but honestly some days I WONDER) and who cried easily. Combination of slightly-advanced intellectual and delayed emotional development, which essentially is a giant neon sign saying “THIS ONE IS FUN TO TEASE.” And no amount of “they’re just jealous of you” and “Just ignore them and they’ll stop” from my parents and teachers helped.Report

  19. Saul Degraw says:

    Here is an interesting interview with a Yale psychologist on human cruelty:

    We see other people as blameworthy, as morally responsible, as themselves cruel, as not giving us what we deserve, as taking more than they deserve. And so we treat them horribly precisely because we see them as moral human beings.


  20. Pinky says:

    So4 was a lot of walking in no particular destination. That’s not a good thing for an article about writing. No one’s made it through grade school without noticing the tension between grammar rules and organic communication.

    I don’t think the internet is changing grammar. Rather, it seems to me like a giant experiment. The people who follow grammar rules can be a little annoying when they complain about others, but the people who don’t follow grammar rules can be incoherent, which is far worse. Who could have imagined that the winning combination would be clarity and politeness?Report

  21. CJColucci says:

    Would someone please explain to me why someone should even have, let alone publish, an opinion about whether other people ought to wear socks in bed?Report

    • Aaron David in reply to CJColucci says:

      It is one of the horrors of Freedom of Speech.Report

    • Pinky in reply to CJColucci says:

      I don’t know why anyone would have an opinion on it, but I can understand publishing it.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Pinky says:

        “He wore socks to bed – and you won’t believe what happened next!”
        “Try this one old weird trick to prevent your feet from being cold at night.”

        THAT’S why stuff like that gets published, at least now.

        Freedom of speech means it gets published but freedom of assembly means we don’t have to read it.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to CJColucci says:

      Serious answer: It is one of those extremely silly subjects that people have surprisingly strong opinions about.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

      My personal opinions and experiences are universalizable.

      I assume that everyone else’s are as well.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to CJColucci says:

      Would someone please explain to me why someone should even have, let alone publish, an opinion about whether other people ought to wear socks in bed?

      What, you don’t believe in free markets?Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Stillwater says:

        What, you don’t believe in free markets?

        Believe in them? Hell, I’ve seen them. And one predictable feature of them is that they are — at least in the short run — full of crappy products no sane person should bother creating and no sane person should buy. In theory, they eventually get weeded out by competition, but sometimes there is an enduring market for a crappy product.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to CJColucci says:

          …sometimes there is an enduring market for a crappy product.

          Maybe, if that is the case, there are people who don’t think they are crappy, at least at the price.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Aaron David says:

            Obviously, they don’t think so, but nothing in free-market theory requires us to accept that what customers believe and are willing to pay for is actually in their best interests, even as the paying customers understand them. There may be good reasons for letting them make their own mistakes, but that’s a different questionReport

          • Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:

            Maybe, if that is the case, there are people who don’t think they are crappy, at least at the price.

            One perverse dynamic created (???) by the internet: someone writes a deliberately stupid article to get clicks; people link to it as an example of how stupid the internet is; people click on the link to observe for themselves internet stupidity in action; the deliberately stupid article achieved its goal of getting clicks.Report

  22. Oscar Gordon says:

    Linked on FB by Jason K (I think…, maybe it was Hanley).

    Given that the better part of the human race is crazy, stupid, or both, there’s nary a thought in the world whose airing won’t offend somebody. Doesn’t Darwin offend creationists? Furthermore, in granting so much power to woundedness, we incentivise hypersensitivity. If we reward umbrage, we will get more of it. We do reward umbrage, and we’re buried in it by the truckload.

    I’d add that this is an issue that is inflated by social media to something far beyond what it’s surface tension should be able to contain.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      If performatively taking offense grants some amount of moral authority, we’re going to see people performatively taking offense.

      And, of course, people performatively being offensive.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I think this article is more projecting than anything else. I’ve not seen a great clampdown on fiction and I’m largely not into the hottest trends in reading right now.*

      *Mainly the overboard craze for YA fiction that just won’t end.Report

  23. Alan Scott says:

    I’m mostly baffled as to why either James or Jason, two folks whose ideas I deeply respect even when I disagree with them and who helped shape my political thinking, would link to that article.

    There are good arguments against the idea of cultural appropriation or especially the idea that creators should be policed in regards to what they write about characters from other cultures. This was… not one of them. It reminded me of my teenaged self protesting that my essay shouldn’t have to have a bibliography, but with the flourishes of a professional author.

    Consider the most revealing passage, where the author addresses cultural appropriation in her own work:

    Overcoming my anxiety, in late 2016 I permitted myself to create another black character in a short story. Jaconda is the alluring girlfriend of a young white layabout. Her willingness to cross the racial divide for this waster helps push the reader to puzzle: what on earth does she see in the guy? Counter to cliché, Jocanda’s background is upper middle class, so to the degree that she speaks as if she’s from the ’hood—“He don’t need to become nothing”—it’s an affectation. I constrained the Black English to light touches. Jocanda is lively, smart, savvy and appealing.

    Yet despite the positive portrayal, the cutting across class stereotype, and the restrained rendition of her speech, my agent warned me about the story’s poor prospects at a magazine that had published me in the past. In the touchy climate following my speech in Brisbane that September, she said “we’ll never know” whether it would be rejected because I had the gall to craft a black character. She invited me to revise the story using a white girlfriend. I held my ground. The story was indeed declined. Why? Maybe the editor just thought it was crummy. We’ll never know

    Sorry Lionel, but Jaconda the alluring upper-middle class black girlfriend who sometimes talks like she’s from the ‘hood as an affectation sounds like an argument for caring about cultural appropriation, not an argument against it.

    Sometimes, people who are faced with criticism take that criticism to heart and allow it to change their behavior. Sometimes they simply ignore it. And sometimes they give fiery speeches and write passionate essays about how the very framework by which they are being criticized is wrong and terrible and should be forgotten by polite society.

    And, sometimes those fiery speeches are right and the framework deserves to collapse and be forgotten.

    But at the end of the day, if you strip away the lense of cultural appropriation, the underlying problem doesn’t go away. Your character still comes off as a flat-racist counter-reaction to a flat-racist stereotype. The model of cultural appropriation was a polite and politically correct way to point out your racism, a model that gives you tools to identify and eliminate that racism from your work. Strip that away, and all that’s left is an author with a race problem.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Alan Scott says:

      I think that the underlying assumption is that it’s better to create a problematic piece than to create nothing at all.

      I suppose the other option is risking a piece that gets complaints about having no minority representation instead of making nothing at all… but, anyway, I think that that is the underlying assumption.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        My guess is most artists will have a lot of trouble telling the difference between something being problematic because they are brilliantly ahead of their time or exposing hidden truths or they failed. Given, you know, people most will assume it wasn’t their failure to develop a good character or blundering all over a sore nerve but others peoples problem.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          If I create art that you dislike, is that my problem or is that your problem?

          Followup question: If you refuse to patronize art that you dislike, is that my problem or is that your problem?Report

          • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            Can’t you pretty well guess the answers? Neither are my problem.

            People can make whatever art they want as far as i’m concerned. Artists can, and many are good at, pushing boundaries and being transgressive in an interesting way. Corollary: If you are pushing boundaries don’t whine about people criticizing your transgressions. You went there. Also remember Stergeon’s Law. Push all the boundaries you want, the chances are you are not good at it though.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              Oh, I totally agree with all of that.

              But the original bafflement was at why Jason or James would link to such a piece.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well there is a nugget of a good argument in the link which the writer then fails at expanding. He writes “I write to be mischievous, subversive and perverse.” He then whines about people reacting to his needling, insulting and tweaking. I agree with the quote Oscar snipped but the rest of it is weak sauce from a guy whose ego is wounded from the world not appreciating him the way he wants. If you want to be mischievous and subversive you are explicitly trying to antagonize people to some degree.Report

              • Maribou in reply to greginak says:

                @greginak Permit me to complain about a personal pet peeve here:

                SHE. She writes. Lionel Shriver is a pretty well known author, and a woman. She won the Orange Prize for Pete’s sake. She ought to be about as recognizable as, say, Michael Chabon, based on sales figures. (I realize you may not know who he is. But if you do, that’s about how well known she is.)

                It can be really useful, if you don’t know who someone is, to do a quick 3-or-less-second search before you assume their gender.

                (I don’t even disagree that the article is weak sauce, I just really really hate it when people go on about how some guy is whatever … when the person isn’t a guy. It happens so very often, and often with names far less confusing than Lionel.)Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

                At least one of her books was turned into a major motion picture.Report

              • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @lee-esquire Yup, that’d be the one that won the Orange Prize.

                (This may be inside baseball enough that I’m not being clear – the Orange Prize, specifically, only ever went to female-identified authors. It’s called the Baileys Prize now, or I guess they changed it to be more obvious – The Women’s Prize for Fiction? Whatever. I generally will read almost any Orange Prize winner, this particular author had to be pretty annoying for a pretty long time to get me to tune her out.)Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

                I’ve never heard of the Orange Prize. Is it some type of literary award for Irish Protestants? ;). And you made your edit before I could make my joke.Report

              • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq LOL. That’s some kinda meta-jinx.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I don’t know if I would call We Need To Talk About Kevin a major motion picture. A motion picture sure…Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

                Like Maribou said, Lionel Shriver is a woman. This isn’t the first time she got into trouble with the social justice forces. She also protested against the idea of cultural appropriation. Her belief is that authors should mainly be allowed to write what they want. What they want should be criticized on the merits of the work but criticisms like cultural appropriation are not substantial in her opinion.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Gary Larson had a cartoon where a coded-male mosquito comes home and hangs his hat on a hat rack and says to what is apparently his coded-female spouse “I must have spread malaria across half the country!”

                You probably remember it.

                He said that he got a ton of letters explaining that it was the females who spread malaria.

                His take was something like “they didn’t complain about the mosquitos wearing clothes, having furniture, speaking English…”

                All that to say, she said that she wrote to be mischievous, subversive and perverse and I’m reading that as her saying that she would have been delighted with people being irritated with her work.

                But they were irritated at the wrong things. She wanted them to be challenged by her subversive take on relationships or some crap like that rather than by the fact that she was being culturally appropriative in a particularly racist way.

                Now, of course, people in Hell want ice water. You don’t get to pick what people are irritated by.

                She wanted to be mischievous and subversive against the virtues that everybody agreed aren’t virtues anymore decades ago. That’s worth rolling your eyes at.

                That said, while I would love to have the argument over whether no art is better than bad art, it does strike me as bad to have artists say that they don’t even want to try to create something. That seems bad.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                I messed up there. Change “But they were irritated at the wrong things” to “But from her point of view, they were irritated at the wrong things”.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Ahh the Golden Years of Art: when the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County were all going.

                The mosquito anecdote could just as easily be read as the nerd force being strong among FS readers and not anything to do with gender.

                I’m all for art. Sadly some artists aren’t’ appreciated in their time. But artists make art because they have to. It’s who they are. I agree there are woeful over the top incidents involving the woke left and regarding cultural appropriation. A great artist may be able to create something that will break the worst of that fever. That would be great. But any artists worth their salt knows there is no guarantee anyone will care what they do. Lionel strikes me more as pretentious, he likes to create “abominations” how adorable, and self righteous then the genius we could use. Whining that the kids these days think wrong and don’t appreciate his wonderful art is not a good look.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Lionel strikes me more as pretentious, he likes to create “abominations” how adorable, and self righteous then the genius we could use.

                Dude. Lionel is a “she”.

                Which doesn’t make her infallible, of course. Heaven forbid!

                But it does make her a “she”.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well smack my gob. She is a she and i missed that. Everything else i said i’m fine with.Report

              • Maribou in reply to greginak says:

                @greginak It really took THREE people insisting on it at length before it sunk in that she’s a she?


                This is why people believe in subconscious bias.

                (Not picking on you in particular, we all do stuff like this – just, for anyone out there who doesn’t already know what it’s like to be placed in a marked category by society… this is what it’s like. Literal invisibility of the marked category, that society has labeled you as, because the default category is THAT STRONG that everyone must be assumed to be in it unless it’s incredibly clear that they aren’t.)Report

              • greginak in reply to Maribou says:

                Subconscious bias is completely real. No doubt about it.

                I had it in my mind that it was a guy who was really whiny and making a poor argument because , well, guys.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

                Slightly off topic, but did you read about the trans boy who won a HS girls wrestling title this year in Texas? He won the title last year as well, also on the girls team, but identified as a “she” back then. This year he was transitioning by taking male hormones – she became a he – which created a bunch of issues regarding cheating and so on, and because of those things (the hormones and the self-identification) he wanted to wrestle as a boy on the boys team. The school said “nah”. In Texas sex-at-birth determines which team you play on in HS sports. So he was a she again. They required him to wrestle on the girls team. And he won the title. Pretty interesting story. Max Beggs is his name. Walking on the wild side of Texas HS wrestling.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

                @stillwater I hadn’t read about that and it sounds interesting – Thanks for mentioning it.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott says:

      Your objection strikes me as a claim that a character like Jaconda couldn’t possibly exist as a real person?

      That aside, the criticism is that hyperbolic reactions to fiction out of a sense of offense is a hecklers veto.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I mean, there are 7 billion people. There might be a few named Jaconda.

        But it really sounds like the name a White lady who didn’t know any Black people would come up with because she thought it sounded like a Black name and didn’t have a particularly good grasp on modern naming traditions of African Americans.

        Like 95% of cultural appropriation critique is “it’s fine if you right about other cultures, just take time to get it right and then ideally run it by someone from that culture when you’re done.” My instinct is that the author did more or less the opposite of that.

        I just spent three minutes researching what the inside of a wheelchair accessible van looks like for a tabletop RPG that only me and five other people will ever experience. If I put more thought and care into my tabletop hobby than Lionel Shriver does into work she expects to be paid for, that’s an issue. Should that be an excuse for the government or society to censor her work? Of course not. Should that be an excuse for a reviewer to critique, an agent to suggest corrections, or an editor to reject? Seems like that’s why we have reviewers, agents, and editors.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Alan Scott says:

          Jaconda sounds like a great name for, a Hungarian aristocrat from a romance novel set in the years before World War I.

          :”Baron Jaconda was drinking his coffee at an elegant cafe in Budapest and trying desperately hard not to get any milk on his mustache when the elegant American heiress walked in.”Report

          • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

            @leeesq I was all “hey, she named her character after the Mona Lisa? I guess?”


            • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

              That would be spelled with a Gia and not a Ja if it were the Mona Lisa but I guess it could be a spelling variation. And yes, I’d realize that no romance author worth his or her salt would give the male lead a mustache even if it was probable at the time that every male would have one.Report

              • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq There are many spelling variations. I mean, in France they call her La Joconde.

                And mustaches are hot again (at least in some subgenres), you’re not keeping up ;).

                Ooh, also I bet your Baron is clever enough to use a mustache cup.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

                I suppose some Harlequin readers really into historical accuracy might want their late Victorian fantasies to have period appropriate facial hair. And yes, humans would invent something like a mustache cup.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Alan Scott says:

          @alan-scott Speaking of putting care into her work, she spells the character’s name Jaconda and Jocanda within the same paragraph of the essay… sigh.

          Also, I wouldn’t be too taken aback by Jason K linking to it, he puts stuff up all the time that he doesn’t necessarily agree with or that he has strong conflicted feelings about, to see what people will have to say about it.

          (Lionel Shriver’s been convincing me not to read her work by the stuff she says that makes me annoyed – not at her ideas but at how poorly she expresses them – since the publicity for We Need to Talk About Kevin more than a decade ago. The character description in this article is Not Helping with that.)Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Maribou says:

            Speaking of putting care into her work, she spells the character’s name Jaconda and Jocanda within the same paragraph of the essay…

            I found myself assuming, for a second, that the latter of those was obviously just a misspelling of the first…which made me realize I was, for some inexplicable reason, assuming that Jaconda seemed like a more plausible name than Jocanda.

            I think it’s because ‘conda’ sounds more like a name part than ‘cando’. Of course, I’m also assuming that it would be pronounced ja-konda, and not jas-onda. Despite the latter possibly making more sense.

            Fun fact: Jaconda was apparently a planet on Doctor Who. I do not know how they pronounced it.

            A more obvious less-fun fact: I don’t know anything about modern naming traditions for African-American, and thus if I were to write something and needed a character name, I would just google a list of ‘the 100 most common African-American baby names’, and pick one(1), like I did when I needed a Korean name in a story a while back. (A story that, of course, has never seen the light of day.)

            I did that, and I picked Lim Iseul. (Lim is the surname, because that is first in Korean names.)

            For all I know, her name is improbable. Maybe those two words mean something horrible and no one would ever name a kid that. I also know that many real Korean names, in the Chinese characters picked to represent them generally do mean something, but I’m never going to write the name in Chinese characters so I don’t really care what Chinese characters it would hypothetically be written in. (I’m not even sure I understand exactly how it is possible to ‘pick’ characters for that.)

            And this is an extremely minor character. Like ‘one of a dozen background people’ I need wandering around. If had actually finished the story, there’d probably been two scenes she was in. As it is, she literally doesn’t appear on the page except someone reading her name.

            But even so, I did spend ten minutes reading up on how the names worked and another ten looking at a list of those names. Because I knew enough to know I had no idea how to make up a Korean name, so did some trivial amount of actual research.

            Unlike, apparently, Lionel Shriver.

            …holy crap. I just, out of curiosity, googled ‘Lim Iseul’, and not only is it a real Korean name, it is apparently someone who has written a paper on ‘highly efficient PbS quantum dot -sensitized solar cells’. Heh.

            1) Or, you know, just give them one of the common wider-American names, which are still pretty common among African-Americans. No one is going to freak out if a black woman is named Melissa.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        @oscar-gordon Most of the reactions in question are only hyperbolic in the hypersensitive-to-being-offended eyes of the essay’s author, IMO. And in the rare cases where she uses non-hyperbolic examples, I can’t even take them seriously because she’s been complaining about being mistreated by anyone who doesn’t like her work pretty much since five seconds after she won the Orange Prize. (Oh, no, I used hyperbole therefore I am heckler-vetoing her work, except, no, I’m not, she has about 1000X more of a platform than I do.)Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:


          That’s where I know the name from! Clearly you and Alan are more familiar with her work, I am not, so I have no basis by which to judge how she develops characters.

          But that is kind of my point to @alan-scott . I have no clue how this character (Jaconda, Jacanda, Giaconda, whatever…) is written. I have no clue what the purpose of the character is in the story. I quite literally have zero basis for determining anything about the character, or the setting, or anything. It all depends on how skillful or clumsy the author is.

          But the lack of full context doesn’t stop a lot of people from being critical of a work they haven’t read. We had that discussion a bit in my Altered Carbon post, regarding people being critical of settings and characters in a work they have admittedly not fully experienced.

          Normally, I would tell authors and publishers to grow a spine and deal with some criticism. Not everyone is going to like your work, boo hoo. But in the same breath, I’ll tell consumers, if you didn’t buy it and read/watch/listen to it, perhaps your opinion is worth crap and you should keep it to yourself until you can forma fully informed one.

          And that is really what I saw in the article, that claims of cultural appropriation and bad characters enjoy the Twitter mob without any thought to the authority making the claim. Hence my original comment.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            @oscar-gordon I get that, it’s just that in this case, she’s the one bringing Mona Lisa into the picture, and asserting that it’s a true story that she isn’t allowed to write black characters no matter how great they supposedly are, asserting in a weaselly way that she made this wonderful beautiful fully fleshed out character that doesn’t stand a chance of being published. No one attacked that character except (in her own telling) her agent. She’s basically giving a positive review to her own work and insisting that people are punishing her for reasons she ascribes to them, without nearly enough evidence to do so (insincere disclaimers to the side).

            Since no one is actually attacking that character, and since the alt-ctrl-left mostly only twitter mobs her *when she whines like this* rather than about her works themselves, I only have two ways of judging what she says:

            1) her past actions and writings
            2) her writing in this piece, which is utterly unconvincing to me on its face

            If she’d stop complaining, they literally wouldn’t even be interested in her. (When she does stop complaining, no one is interested in her, twitter-wise, though she still sells books. I’ve also noticed she complains more if she’s about to have a book coming out, so I’m deeply skeptical of her timing.) And she’s personally benefited HUGELY from identity politics, by winning the Orange Prize, so she seems even less plausible when she complains about being stifled by them. (It’s not “hypocrisy” – it’s that she’s literally complaining about the *very same forces* that make her platform bigger, that they shrink it. it’s not logically possible.)

            I see this as basically the polar opposite, plausibility wise, to (for example) the situation we previously discussed on this board where the hounds of YA alt-ctrl-left twitter went baying after a Muslim reviewer for positively reviewing a book from a white POV about a future dystopia where Muslims were in camps. That reviewer was *very justifiably* pissed off because people were running around talking about how terrible she was without knowing their asses from a hole in the ground.

            In this case, Lionel Shriver seems to enjoy the attention she gets from complaining that people are paying the wrong kind of attention to her. I find it embarrassing as a feminist, as much as anything else, honestly. If she brings in actual valid cases and valid points, that just irritates me more – because she’s conflating her own lack of valid case with real problems that actually are worth worrying about.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

              Given all that context, I can see why you find her complaint to fall flat.

              But to echo others, there is a nugget there. I’d rather have art that is likely to offend someone, than art that is sterile with regard to whatever group happens to be the noisiest*. I think most creators would be fine with people being offended by their works, but publishers seem to be rather thin skinned about it, which I find unfortunate.

              On the plus side, things like Amazon self-publishing exist, so it’s not like creators are being silenced just because publishers are unable to handle controversy. And there are publishing firms that are content to ignore, or leverage, the outrage.

              No, my complaint rests more on the trend of people putting forth opinions of material they haven’t consumed fully, or at all, and others taking that opinion as veritable fact. I read Br. Erik’s review of Alt. C in Forbes, and that is what encouraged me to watch the show, but I would never have written a single word about it before I finished all 10 episodes. And I’d be livid if I found out someone had taken my review of Alt. C and was using that as the basis to declare the show the ‘best ever’, without actually having watched it.

              And with authors, a lot of times such uninformed opinions are less about the work, and more a proxy fight over personal politics. Which is something I find personally distasteful.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Interesting. I have some thoughts but not really “argument” thoughts so much as “this is how my brain works about this” thoughts.

                For me, I think that irritation lies on “people taking that opinion as veritable fact,” not on the people with opinions. I don’t run my mouth on Lionel Shriver’s books themselves because I haven’t read them (I’ve avoided mentioning my ghost-formed opinions of the actual books, even though I do have some, you’ll notice), but I’ll speak up on why I won’t read them (this obviously ties into gabriel’s post about unreviews as well) when it seems relevant. Obviously :D.

                I might also change my mind and read them anyway, and I tend to assume that people know the opinions I have about cultural artifacts are changeable. (Another example of that changeability: if Orson Scott Card stopped being homophobic in ways that make his books painful for me to read, I would probably happily go back to reading them and see the painful period as part of his development as a writer and as a person and it would stop bothering me. I mean, I liked his books about ancient biblical figures, for Pete’s sake! I miss being able to enjoy his stuff…)

                Either way I don’t think anyone is going to put more weight on what I say, if they’re interested in reading her books, than on the fact that she’s won a major award, her books get sold to Hollywood, she can publish non-fiction on this topic pretty much whenever she wants, etc. I don’t expect them to.

                If somehow this became a cult on the internet of No One Should Read Lionel Shriver (or Orson Scott Card – whom I have read – or Billy Graham – whom I also have read) or whomever, because Maribou Said So, I would think those people were dumb and it would be super-discomfiting. But I would find it equally discomfiting whether I’d read her novel-length work or not. Because my comments are based on what I have done / have read / etc and they’re not meant to tell other people what they Must Do. And I would think the fault lay on those people for reacting that way, not on me for expressing my half-baked opinions.

                I also think if someone wants to write a “Hey, I only watched one episode and it sucked and here’s why” review, that’s perfectly legit (and I will discount their opinion accordingly but I don’t mind them having it) – but if they’re burying/hiding that they did that, then yeah, they’re being jerks.

                I also differentiate between “random people expressing opinions” and “people getting paid to review things and offer opinions”. Only in the latter case do I think there’s an obligation to watch/read/whatever the whole thing. In the former case, I just want people to be honest about their actual experiences.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                Agree with all of that. Every word. I don’t care if people have opinions, just please have informed ones.Report

  24. Saul Degraw says:

    So there is a new book out about Thiel’s takedown of Gawker. According to an interview I read this is how the Hogan tape got out:

    1. Hogan was distraught about his divorce.

    2. A shock jock friend offers to cheer Hogan up by offering his wife for sex. He also tapes it even though promising not to.

    3. The tapes were probably stolen by a rival shock jock who wants the recorder’s time slot.

    Maybe I am too bourgeois and/or naive but who the hell does any of this?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Lots of people apparently. Based on the number of times these stories come up, lots of people seem really untroubled by ethics or morals regardless of what they are taught or profess to believe. If they feel it will be to their advantage, they will do it with out pause or thought. They might feel bad it latter, especially if they don’t get the expected reward or get punished instead, but that doesn’t stop them from acting in the first place.

      To many people Hillel’s Rule of not doing unto others what you yourself would find hurtful is something that really only applies to people that they are close to like themselves. For the wrong sort of person, its at best a polite suggestion. You can fully explain to these people that they wouldn’t like it if somebody did this to them. These people would acknowledge that is correct but say that when they do this to others, its different.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I would suggest that for many people, outside the tribe is outside the tribe, thus ethics don’t enter into it.

      Just a theory though.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Aaron David says:

        Who is outside the tribe here? I have friends who went through divorce or breakups. I will get them a beer and let them rant but who says “I see you are upset. Wanna sleep with my wife?”Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Open marriages and polyamory are real phenomenon or so I’m told. There are apparently even Evangelical Christian swingers despite the entire you shall not commit adultery thing in the Bible. Perhaps, Hogan and the wife swept together before in such an arrangement and Hogan’s friend and his wife thought this would cheer him up.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Maybe I am too bourgeois and/or naive but who the hell does any of this?

      I know the answer to this. Hogan, his shock jock buddy, that dude’s wife, and the rival jock.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Two things I don’t get about the Gawker suit:

      Who in the world gets awarded $140 million for damage to their reputation? Survivors generally get less than that for deaths.

      How could Thiel anticipate such an outrageous award?Report

      • Murali in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Maybe the juror’s watched Runaway Jury? The whole Gawker thing runs like a JOhn Grisham novel anyway. Who the hell says in a deposition that the only time they would ever not publish a sex tape is if it involved someone 4 years and under?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Thiel probably didn’t expect the award to be so big but took a bit of a gamble. It worked. The basic goal was to drive Gawker out of business either through high legal fees, the award, or both.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Right. I’m sure Thiel just planned to grind them out of business with whatever lawsuits he could fling at them that seemed likely to cost them. Winning a giant award was just a lucky haymaker.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:


        The answer is complicated but a large part of it is that Gawker was sued in a Florida county where Hogan resides. This is not the kind of county that is likely to be sympathetic to young and brash New Yorkers. So there was a slight bit of “forum shopping.”

        Thiel couldn’t anticipate this, he just got very lucky. Another part of the story is a mysterious Thiel lackey named “Mr. A.” who allegedly told Thiel to set up this fund and predicted it would take 10 million dollars and about 5 years to take down Gawker.Report

        • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          The answer is complicated but a large part of it is that Gawker was sued in a Florida county where Hogan resides. This is not the kind of county that is likely to be sympathetic to young and brash New Yorkers.

          Hulk Hogan lives in Pinellas County, which is were Clearwater and St. Petersburg are. That ain’t exactly like that town in Porky’s.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

            It’s still unclear to me what Gawker did that justified the verdict against them.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

              I can’t really be certain, but my impression was, they were egregiously smug in court.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:


              Oscar gets it right more or less. The invasion of privacy suit was valid but not necessarily deserving of such a large verdict. The big issue is that Gawker couldn’t help themselves from being smug in court or in depositions when answering questions.Report

          • Damon in reply to j r says:

            Other than a few cities in the south, I can’t think of many places that would be “sympathetic to young and brash New Yorkers.” Especially the ones that have significant influxes of New Yorkers. This is only for the East Coast though….on the West costs just replace “New Yorkers” with “Californians”. 🙂Report