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Member since: Mon Aug 23, 2004, 10:18 PM
Number of posts: 38,987

About Me

Whiteness is a scourge on humanity. Voting for Obama that one time is not a get out of being a racist card

Journal Archives

Don’t apologize to me for your rape joke

I was at a relative’s birthday party not long ago with a lot of people I didn’t know. All of the guests were already close friends, and for the most part they, like me, were in their 20s. Some of them were a good deal older, though, and one man—who seemed to be about my parents’ age—appeared to be the leader of the bunch. He was raucous and inappropriate and had a penchant for finding chops to bust; what he did not have, it soon became clear, was any sense of decorum.

At one point, while the whole group was outside on the deck and engaged in fragmented conversations, the man loudly interrupted his wife while she was talking to another woman. He wanted to tell a joke. He did. Or, I guess, he thought he did, because when he was finished most of the group started laughing. But the “joke” he told turned rape into a punch line. It was something he said in hopes other people would find it funny, and it sucked.

I wasn’t the only guest who didn’t respond with laughter, but I think I was the only one who didn’t even crack a smile. Everyone quickly turned back to their conversations, but I leaned over to another relative and whispered, “Glad rape jokes are still in vogue.” I pulled out my phone and fired off some similar snark for Twitter, then went inside to eat some more salami.

About 10 minutes later, when everyone was back in the kitchen filling their plates with food, the rape joke-teller stopped me as I passed him on my way to the dining room. “Hey,” he said, “someone pulled me aside to say that you’re a big feminist, so you probably didn’t appreciate my joke. I want to apologize.” He went on to say that rape is never funny, and that he knows people who have been sexually assaulted and that he would never want to make fun of their trauma. All in all, the jokester said some pretty enlightened things. But then he finished his remarks by saying something about how he was just joking, but he really hoped he didn’t offend me too much. He asked for a hug to let him know I had truly accepted his apology, to show that I knew he wasn’t a bad guy. I relented.

In case you’re wondering, he did not apologize to anyone else (especially not to the women whose conversation he interrupted).


We Need to Stop Talking About Iggy Azalea (Article posted on FB by a friend, feedback welcome)

We need to stop talking about Iggy Azalea. Not forever, but for right now. We don’t need to stop talking about her because she’s a poseur—though she is and there should always, always be conversations about poseurs in the public sphere. We don’t need to stop talking about her because she’s white. But we need to stop talking about her because her whiteness has granted her a privileged position in a conversation about race that we've been having all year, and in all that talking, we’ve learned nothing and changed nothing. And now, as the year closes, we are still talking about her when she shouldn’t be the story at all; when talking about her comes at the expense of Azealia Banks, and what Azealia Banks has to say about the music industry and the world we live in is way more important that anything Iggy Azalea has ever said.

That Macklemore album wasn’t better than the Drake record. That Iggy Azalea shit is not better than any fucking black girl that’s rapping today. And when they give those awards out—’cause the Grammys are supposed to be accolades for artistic excellence—Iggy Azalea is not excellent. —Azealia Banks

Despite releasing her long-delayed debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, to significant critical acclaim, Azealia Banks is likely better known for her caustic and combative social media presence, which has seen her exercise no amount of chill. She lashes out at her perceived peers and frenemies, her collaborators and producers, her icons and respected rap figures, the varied and many machinations of the music game. Unfortunately, the social media beefs have overshadowed the larger narrative formulating for the past three years, obscuring the journey of a woman who completed an arc from having her nose pressed up against the window of the mainstream music industry, to getting a major label deal, to growing disenchanted and striking out on her own. It’s a journey that usually takes an artist much longer, with many detours, false starts and regrouping. Told 140 characters at a time, Banks came off as often problematic, sometimes misguided and, quite frankly, wholly stank.

More insightful than inciteful, she was all over the place, touching on industry politics and revenue streams (she’s happy to be independent and deal with her fans directly via the Internet forevermore), media conspiracy theories and race (“We have Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin, and y’all fucking talking about Bill Cosby, like, what the fuck?”), the classification of hip-hop and the swagger-jacking of black culture—even bringing up reparations. “There are huge corporations that are still caking off that slave money,” she said. At this point, she broke down. Her voice cracked. She choked. There were tears, and she could barely finish her next thought: “At the very fucking least, y’all owe me the right to my fucking identity and to not exploit that shit,” Banks demanded. “That’s all that we’re holding on to—hip-hop and rap.”


Camille Paglia thinks rape is intrinsic to men’s nature and a lot of men are like, “This is awesome"

(A Salon piece from September)

“The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will,” Paglia explains. “The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.”

So I am having a hard time engaging with this as a serious idea, so instead let’s casually discuss it as something that is very weird. And then let’s talk about the positive response to the piece from men who are usually like #NotAllMen any time a woman tries to write about violence. And then let’s all take a nap or maybe watch a movie.

Paglia does not think rape culture is real, but she thinks “evil” is very super-real. Apparently “evil” is a more useful lens through which we can view male violence than existing critiques of institutional and cultural norms that condone violence against women.

According to Paglia, “The sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures, is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.”

After establishing that she thinks that rape is intrinsic to men’s nature, a nature that can’t be changed, Paglia advises women to try to understand “evil” and then stop wearing short skirts because those short skirts activate men’s intrinsic primitive violence boners or something. “[Women] assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic,” according to Paglia. “They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.”


How to keep smoking as Feminine as possible (Looks like part of an old magazine article)

A gynecologist sums up 2014

(I don't remember reading this blogger before, but I remeber her ' open letter')

Another year of blogging has passed, 87 posts to be exact bringing my archive to 376 since inception.

It’s really interesting looking back to see what resonated with people and what didn’t. I am (like most years) amazed at what I’ve learned along the way as I read an average of 3 articles for each post. I wouldn’t have read many of the articles if I wasn’t planning on writing about the subject and I probably wouldn’t have pulled many of the references or dissenting articles to cross check so each post helps me grow as a physician. In addition, many people leave amazing info in comments and wonderful links so the learning continues often months (and sometimes years) after the post was written. Yeah for knowledge!

My most popular post was about the emergency room visit at St. Thomas’s hospital in London with my son Victor. I was surprised it went viral, but later on heard that there has been so much slagging on the NHS that many in the U.K. were desperate for a positive story. On August 14th the post was viewed over 130,000 times and as of today it has been viewed over 397,000 times. The comments truly amaze me and if you want to read some NHS love check them out (last count there were 799). In the U.S. 13.4% of people have no health insurance, and so something as simple as going to the emergency department for a small foreign body in the eye could cost $1000 easily and many people could end up collections or worse, they could go without care. To me the post was very important because in the United States many politicians try and scare us with horror stories about the NHS when in reality it’s one of the best systems in the world.

Another post that resonated with regular readers as well as the general public was my open letter to George Will about his douchey (BTW henceforth douchey should be defined as someone or something that is harmful to reproductive health, because douches are harmful to reproductive health) column on the fake epidemic of campus rape. I neverGW thought I would share with anyone that I had been raped in medical school, but, it just seemed wrong to sit back and not speak out. In the end it wasn’t just read by the 1,500 or so people who follow my blog… over 90,000 people read about it on my site and as Talking Points Memo picked it up as well as the Tampa Bay Times and many other bloggers I ended up sharing that experience with a lot of people. At the time I was really just too pissed to care what anyone thought about it (and anyway, no one should get to have an opinion on it but me), however, in the end the reaction from people was incredibly positive and many thanked me for giving a voice to something that they just couldn’t speak about. I even received e-mails from patients, former patients, and random people thanking me for “sticking it to Mr. Will.” So in the end I guess I have to thank old GW for helping me speak out and in turn helping others.

Speaking of mansplaining (something old George Will loooves to do and anyone who wants to have the two of us on a show, well, just tell me when and where), I wrote about #shirtgate or #shirtstorm or whatever you want to call it – basically, the lead scientist for European Space Agency’s Rosetta Project wore a shirt with semi nude pin-up girls while speaking to the public and the viscous reaction to the few women who pointed that might not exactly be welcoming to women in STEM. I received more vile comments and personal attacks on my blog and on twitter writing about that topic that I have ever received writing about abortion or birth control or rape. Really. I blocked more twitter trolls and IP addresses over #shirtgate than any other topic. It boggles the mind and proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the reaction to every article written about feminism simply demonstrates why we still need it. I will really try to write more about this in 2015


Things Can Only Get Better: How Feminists Rocked 2014

As the year wraps up and our social media news feeds become filled with lists ranging from the year's highlights to the coming year's resolutions, my favorites are ones that catalogue just how hard 2014 rocked for feminists.

"It's clear 2014 was a historic one for feminism," says Mic.com's Elizabeth Plank. "Women stood up for their rights, challenged stereotypes, fought for recognition and took control of the dialogue."

And we also took control of the word feminist. In 2014, we saw more and more high-profile women not only defend feminism, but define what it means: The simple belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Young women, from Taylor Swift to Lena Dunham, openly embraced the label often thrown at women as an insult.

But there can be no discussion of feminism's big year without a major hat tip to Beyonce. The living legend sent the message to her audience that feminism is cool by performing in front of a giant, glowing "Feminist" sign at the MTV Awards. There was no turning back. Feminism was turning up everywhere from this year from hit TV shows like Scandal to news programs like Krystal Ball's Krystal Clear on MSNBC.


Rebel Girls: Our “False Rape” Hysteria is Bullsh*t

("freshly purchased fedoras". Heh.)
As soon as the Rolling Stone piece on a University of Virginia gang rape began to unravel, I knew what was coming. The air smelled vaguely of freshly-purchased fedoras. The Internet felt defensive. And so it began. Suddenly, we were all stuck in a conversation on the falsely accused instead of the eternally silenced, a conversation about perpetrators and their struggles instead of rape victims and their trauma, a conversation about whether or not rape is something that even happens instead of a conversation about how to finally make it stop.

I am derailing that conversation, and I come bearing every ounce of truth I could muster about “false rape accusations” and the pitiful rape culture the myth of them exemplifies.

So, what’s a “false rape accusation,” anyway?

Honestly, the definition of a “false rape” will vary depending on who is talking about it. Anti-feminist folks often use the term, and the statistics available around it, to discuss scenarios in which a typically female person lies or otherwise fabricates a sexual assault or rape in order to target someone unfairly or seek attention, although – SURPRISE! – that’s not specifically what the term means in the eyes of the law, and that’s not what a “false rape” is when you see numbers about them on the books.

Let’s start with the basics: a “false” rape and an “unfounded” rape, in the language of the law, are the same thing. And for a whole lot of reasons, the data on how prevalent unfounded rapes are is skewed and altogether unreliable.

A lot of our crime statistics come from FBI reports, which would typically be great places to look for information about crime. But when it comes to sexual violence, that isn’t so. The FBI definition of rape, which was updated in 2012 after extensive advocacy by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, excluded pretty much everyone who had been raped from fitting into their statistical boxes for over four decades:


Interview: Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, Who Brought Women Abortions By Sea

If you read Emily Bazelon's remarkable feature "The Dawn of the Post-Clinic Abortion" in the New York Times Magazine, you'll remember Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, the physician and activist who became internationally famous after sailing an "abortion ship" to countries where abortion remains illegal, providing (because the ship fell under the jurisdiction of its home country, the Netherlands) the miscarriage-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol to women who were within the first trimester of their pregnancies, and thus circumventing the superficial regulations that contribute to 47,000 women dying of unsafe abortion each year.

A new documentary called VESSEL (to be released January 9 at IFC in NYC and January 13 on demand; watch the trailer here) chronicles Gomperts' work through the first years of her Women on Waves campaign as well as its evolution into Women on Web, an organization that provides abortion drugs to women by mail. Gomperts and I spoke on the phone last week.

Your work has spanned a lot more than the Women on Waves ship, but that's what people mostly know you for, right?

Yes. It was a very high-profile, media-intense campaign. It's the signature.

Does it feel strange to have that be your calling card, so to speak?

Of course, our work was and is much bigger than the ship. But all the work I've ever done, that my organization has ever done, has been in response to a need—and if this need can be addressed and represented by a symbol, I'm fine with it.

Symbols and images are very powerful ways to get a message through. The ship is about mythology as well: women taking power over the male domain of the sea. It's about defying laws without breaking them, and how that makes people so upset. The ship and the sea give a physical translation of the world we're working in.

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