Tag Archives: Jill

Who Knew “Pull A Larry Summers” Was A Phrase?

Kashmir Hill at Above The Law:

Here is the full email from CRIMSON DNA:

… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to “explain” away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me,
CRIMSON DNA

We’re a legal blog, not a science blog. But personally, when it comes to intelligence, I’m in the nurture rather than nature camp.

One tipster who passed it along said, “It’s unfortunate that this person appears to be on paper a highly educated individual, yet her viewpoints prove otherwise, and is likely to be put in positions of influence.”

(Is it so surprising? As the Broadway musical Avenue Q hilariously noted, everyone’s a little bit racist.)

Another tipster said there would be repercussions:

The firestorm that has resulted has been EPIC. [A member or members of] Harvard’s BLSA sent the email, along with CRIMSON DNA’s name and information, to the BLSAs at other Top 14 schools. The BLSAs are meeting to discuss what should be done about this and judging from the craziness on the listservs and at meetings, this is going to get ugly. They want to go after her clerkship offer, so this one might make the news.

UPDATE: The leaders of Harvard BLSA deny that BLSA is trying to have DNA’s clerkship offer rescinded, and they also emphasize that the email did not go out over an “official” BLSA list-serv. See here.

Anna N. at Jezebel:

Above the Law wouldn’t reveal the name of the Harvard Law School student who made waves with her racist email. But people talk, and they name names. Turns out, Stephanie Grace has a history of interest in race.

The email in question contained such comments as “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” But when it went viral, Above the Law’s Kashmir Hill found the inclusion of the sender’s name “troubling.” Apparently not troubled was blogger Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, who posted the sender’s name: Stephanie Grace. Why he thinks she’s “kind of a hero” is a question only he can answer, but a number of Twitter users also name Grace as the sender. User berrygraham, who seems to be a law student in the DC area, writes:

Meet Harvard's Racist Email Antagonist, Stephanie Grace

Crzy_Sxy_Cool, who tweeted before the Above the Law or Pitts-Wiley posts went up, added a helpful hashtag:

Meet Harvard's Racist Email Antagonist, Stephanie Grace

Harvard sources we spoke to also identify Grace as the emailer. While her name was relatively easy to find, Grace’s online footprint is pretty small. She’s an editor at the Harvard Law Review, graduated from Princeton in 2007, but doesn’t appear to have any publications online (at least in obviously searchable form).

Eugene Volokh:

Here’s my thinking on the e-mail itself; I’ll have a few more posts shortly about some of the reaction to the e-mail.

1. Whether there are genetic differences among racial and ethnic groups in intelligence is a question of scientific fact. Either there are, or there aren’t (or, more precisely, either there are such differences under some plausible definitions of the relevant groups and of intelligence, or there aren’t). The question is not the moral question about what we should do about those differences, if they exist. It’s not a question about what we would like the facts to be. The facts are what they are, whether we like them or not.

Given this, it seems to me that the proper approach to this question is precisely the same as the proper approach to other questions of scientific fact. One absolutely should not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. Likewise, to give examples involving three groups I myself belong to, one absolutely should not rule out the possibility that Jews are (say), on average, genetically predisposed to be more acquisitive, or more loyal to their narrow ethnic group than to broader groups, or that whites are genetically predisposed to be more hostile to other racial groups, or that being nonreligious is genetically linked, and that people who have those genes are genetically predisposed to be more likely to commit crime or cheat on their spouses or what have you. One should also obviously be willing to be convinced by evidence that shows that, by controlling for the right variables, we would see that those groups are, in fact, identical to other groups under the same circumstances.

One should not rule out possibilities in the absence of conclusive evidence, for the simple reason that one then has no factual basis to rule out those possibilities. And since on many things the evidence will rarely be conclusive, one shouldn’t rule out those possibilities categorically at all. And one should also be open to the evidence that exists, and to being convinced by it in one or the other direction (to the degree of conviction that is warranted by the evidence).

Now some claims may be so contrary to our current understanding of the world that we might say something like this: We shouldn’t rule out the possibility in principle, but in practice the probability is so vanishingly small that we should exclude it from our analysis. That, for instance, might be one’s view about claims that werewolves exist. First, it’s just hard to imagine, given current science, what possible mechanism there might be that would turn humans into wolves every full moon. Second, one would think that if werewolves existed, we’d have good evidence of them, since proving their existence would be pretty easy.

But we still know very little about which genes produce intelligence, how exactly those genes operate, and even how intelligence can be defined. We obviously have vastly more left to learn about this. And there is certainly reason to believe that intelligence is heritable in some measure among individuals (though there is hot debate about the degree to which this is so). Such heritability, coupled with the possibility of differing selection pressures in different environments, provides a potential mechanism through which there conceivably could be intelligence differences among racial or ethnic groups.

So at this point it seems to me that the only scientifically sensible conclusion about this question, which I stress again is a question of what the facts really are, is that we can’t be sure that there are no such differences: Again, we cannot rule out either the possibility that there are racial differences in intelligence, or that there aren’t.

Or at least we cannot rule them out as a scientific judgment. (Perhaps there’s some expert somewhere out there who is so knowledgeable and brilliant that he feels he can accurately predict all that we will ever know about this field, and therefore can rule out one or the other possibility; I doubt it, but in any case I’m pretty sure that no-one is this discussion is that expert.) Obviously, each of us has the perfect right to rule any factual possibility out as a matter of faith, moral, religious, or whatever else. We can say “I don’t care what the evidence might say, I rule out this possibility because of my moral beliefs.” Or we can say “My moral beliefs are actually capable of indicating to me not just what I should do, but what the scientific facts about the world actually are, and therefore I am completely confident about what those facts are, based on my confidently held moral beliefs.”

But surely there ought to be no obligation on other people to adopt this sort of faith-based view on scientific questions. That’s why it seems to me that the author’s statement that “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent” — or a similar statement, as I suggested, about Jews, or whites, or the irreligious — is perfectly proper, and in fact is the way that people should approach scientific questions of all sort.

2. Of course, I take it that some people were inferring from the e-mail that the author doesn’t actually mean just that she doesn’t rule out this possibility, but rather that she actually thinks the possibility is likely true. If so, then to critique the e-mail one would have to further discuss whether in fact the possibility is likely true under the current, highly limited state of scientific knowledge.

But there is no need to do that here. This e-mail was a follow-up to an earlier conversation, which apparently was not recorded. It was intended to be a private e-mail to other students who were parts of that conversation. One can’t tell whether the e-mail was (a) actually a means of implicitly asserting that there probably are intelligence differences, or (b) a rebuttal to an allegation that the author wasn’t scientifically minded enough in the discussion over dinner and was wrongly foreclosing scientific possibilities, or (c) part of a discussion about the nature of scientific evidence, or anything else. Sometimes, one might legitimately draw inferences about a person’s views based on a statement that was meant to be self-contained, to the point of justifying public criticism of the inferred views and not just the literally stated ones. But one can’t infer from this snippet of the broader conversation that the author means anything other than what she says: that she does not rule out a certain possibility, a possibility that I think cannot scientifically be ruled out.

I considered whether some of the language of the e-mail, such as (emphasis added) “In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true” suggests that the student believes that there is no existing data strongly suggesting the absence of genetic differences. If that were the right interpretation, then we’d have to discuss whether there is indeed such data.

But my reading of this, given both this sentence and the rest of the e-mail, is that the author is saying that there has been no success in (to go further down the paragraph) “prov[ing] once and for all that we are all equal” in intelligence, and in providing evidence that would make one “100% convinced that this is the case.” That’s a restatement of the first sentence in the e-mail, and again it strikes me as being quite scientifically accurate: There can’t be, at this stage of our knowledge (and possibly at any stage), proof “once and for all” that there are no such racial differences in intelligence.

3. On then to just a brief response to what I imagine would be some likely reactions.

a. Some might argue that belief in racial differences in intelligence could cause all sorts of immoral and harmful social and legal reactions. That might be so. But it’s different from the question that the student was writing about, which is what is actually true. Lots of other facts that are actually true can yield, and have yielded, harmful social and legal reactions. That doesn’t make those facts any less true — nor does it make it somehow improper for people to even be open to the possibility that certain facts might, in fact, be true.

b. Some might point to the history of unsound claims about racial differences in intelligence. And the history of errors in a field should indeed teach people to avoid those particular errors. But there’s no “three strikes and you’re out” for scientific theories: That some people in the past have posited various unsound theories with some general thesis doesn’t mean that all theories with a related thesis are guaranteed to be false. One still cannot rule out the possibility that some other theory in that genre will in fact be correct. Again, that’s just the way facts are: If something is true, people’s having thought a bunch of similar-sounding things that are nonetheless false doesn’t affect that truth.

c. Some might point out that intelligence and race are “socially constructed,” which is certainly true in the sense that different societies may draw racial lines in different places, and may define what constitutes intelligence — or how it should be tested — differently. But while we can’t just assume that there are some obviously correct definitions of either term, science often operates with terms that don’t have an inherently correct definition. What usually happens is that people come up with possible definitions, there’s debate about those definitions, there are studies done using different definitions, some results emerge that are common over a wide range of definitions and others that are highly sensitive to the definitions, and so on. Yet the right approach throughout this process is, again, precisely to “not rule out the possibility” that under some set of plausible definitions some result might be true, and to be willing to “be convinced” that under some set of plausible definitions some other result might be true.

It’s also possible that over time it will turn out that the definitional question is so difficult (or the required measurements are so difficult) that no real pattern emerges in the results. Say, for instance, that under some definitions of intelligence one sees one result and under others one sees the opposite result, and there seems to be no good basis to choose any particular definition over another. That might mean that we have to reformulate the question, and that the original question might be abandoned as not accurately answerable in its original form. We can’t rule out that possibility, either. But neither can we just assume that this is sure to happen.

d. Finally some might just argue that even the openness to the possibility that there may be racial differences in intelligence will offend people, and that the author should have recognized that the e-mail she sent to a couple of people might be forwarded to others who might be offended.

But this presupposes that it’s somehow wrong for people in a free country to discuss scientific questions because of the possibility that some people might learn about that and be offended. That can’t be right.

It especially can’t be right for students at a research university. But I think that it can’t be right for anyone anywhere. I realize that in the real world there might be bad consequences to speakers who offend others, however legitimate the speaker’s position — which, I stress again, is a position of openness to scientific evidence — might be. But we should work against that phenomenon, and its tendency to suppress honest discussion about scientific questions. We should not just give in to it as inevitable and, worse still, somehow right.

More Volokh, responding to his commenters

Ann Althouse:

Grace has apologized. Of course, she’s sorry now. “I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.” Note the passive voice: “the harm that ensued.” A  new way to say I’m sorry you were offended. She also says “I understand why my words expressing even a doubt [that African-Americans are genetically inferior] were and are offensive.” She’s learned something: This is a subject where you can’t play with ideas and speculate. People get very angry, and the speaker had better be ready to deal with it.

Did Dean Minow handle this the right way? One question is: Why does the dean even get involved with something one student said in private email? If the answer is because the Black Law Students Association came to her and demanded a response, then maybe the question should be why did the  Black Law Students Association go to the dean for help? Why didn’t the students all just argue and debate and express themselves to each other? These are Harvard students. Law students. Why not dig in and have it out and show your stuff? Why go to the nearest, biggest authority figure? Stephanie hurt me!

Here‘s the full text of Minow’s message. (By the way, Martha Minow’s father was FCC chairman Newton Minow, the man who called television “a vast wasteland.”)

This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice….Law school is a community with shared ideals. One of the ideals could be: When a student makes a point that contains what you think is an outrageous statement, unless she’s been actively insulting to you, you should engage her in debate and not not expose her to a public trashing. And don’t bring the dean into the fray as your champion. More from Minow:

As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community. For BLSA, repercussions of the email have been compounded by false reports that BLSA made the email public and pressed the student’s future employer to rescind a job offer.I was going to say that “the hurt” to Grace and her reputation was much greater than the hurt to those students who only read the email. It’s not as if she shouted ugly words in their face. But now I see that the BLSA students had reason to worry that they were the ones who would look bad because they were believed to have overreacted and taken some nasty revenge. Minow may have been activated by the need to clear their reputation.

A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding.Minow tries to be even-handed and control the fallout. She frames it as a teaching moment. But what has everyone learned?

Jill at Feministe:

Stephanie Grace sent out an email suggesting that black people are genetically intellectually inferior to white people. That is not a new point; it is not a point that should have to be rationally debated anymore, any more than we would rationally debate whether or not the Earth is flat. If a PhD candidate in a science program suggested that the sun revolved around the Earth, I can just about guarantee that there would be no calls for rational debate on the issue — whoever she said it to would roll their eyes and label her a complete jackass. If she sent out an email screed about it, it would probably be forwarded for laughs and for shared outrage at how a person this ridiculous could have gotten into this academic program and institution. It would not be defended under the pretense of free speech or academic freedom or “Isn’t this program all about rational scientific discourse, you guys?”

But I want to go back to this line: “Rational debate. Isn’t that what free speech and academic discourse — and, incidentally, the practice of law — are all about?” Well, yes and no — free speech is, unfortunately, not all about rational debate, not hardly. But that aside, free speech is not a shield from criticism and consequence. Yes, it is a shield against government persecution for your speech, but it does not mean that other people are not permitted to speak out against you; it doesn’t mean that other people should have to accept what you say without attaching words like “racist” or “sexist” or “bigoted” to what you say. The right to speak and to control how other people feel and respond to your speech is not a right that any of us hold. And it is not a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are, yes, racist, any more than it’s a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are ad hominem or illogical or red herrings or anecdotal.

I’m obviously troubled and disgusted by Stephanie Grace’s email and her arguments. But I’m even more disgusted by many of the responses — the ones that say the email wasn’t really racist, that it’s somehow irrational to use terms like “racist” or “sexist,” and that any idea, no matter how horrific, should not only be introduced but also should not be met with any level of offense. I wonder if the people making those arguments — and David Lat is only one of them — have for even a minute put themselves in the shoes of individuals whose family members were enslaved or gassed or rounded up for their perceived genetic inferiorities. I wonder if they’ve put themselves in the shoes of people who hear all the time that they don’t deserve to be where they are; that they’re lazier, stupider, just not as naturally intelligent or adept.

Some comments and beliefs do not merit a rational response. The fact that we are not only debating the merits of Stephanie Grace’s argument that black people may be genetically inferior, but also suggesting that the people who are offended are the ones with the problem, is more demonstrative of a profession-wide and society-wide race problem than any single email or racist tome.

Silvana Naguib at Tapped:

Young, privileged students interpret the principle of “academic freedom” to mean “I can say whatever I want and you can’t criticize me.” This atmosphere of polite disagreement, no matter how odious the position offered, was stifling to me as a law student. It was based on the notion that we law students were all in this together, and therefore should “play nice,” even when there were other students whose stated political aim was to deny rights to women and people of color, rights whose denial cut to the very core of my being. Meanwhile, no one seemed to consider the impact on academic freedom caused by allowing discourse that was overtly hostile to minority groups.

The hyper-intellectual, logic-focused law school environment denigrates feelings. Even when the issues were deeply personal, we were supposed to regard classroom and extracurricular discourse as purely academic. This mentality goes beyond the confines of the university. I am reminded of the ridicule heaped upon Obama when he suggested a Supreme Court justice should have empathy, rhetoric he’s backed away from the second time around.

But empathy has a place in the law, and it needs a more prominent home in law schools.The legal system is built to try to address unfairness and injustice, to make sure everyone gets their due process and fair share. If we didn’t care about the well-being of our fellow citizens, we wouldn’t need justice at all.

It matters how people feel. It matters whether racist arguments are tolerated, and whether other voices rise to their aid. When lawyers go on to serve as judges, senators, policy-makers, prosecutors, and presidents, an e-mail isn’t just an e-mail. The e-mail and the ambivalent response to the odious attitudes expressed in it exemplify the serious empathy deficit in our law schools.

When I look at the product of these law schools — a legal system where if you are poor, black, or both, you simply cannot get a fair shake — I think, is it any wonder? An academic structure that glorifies logic and consistency, and denigrates empathy, will never produce justice.

Thoreau:

I am not going to defend the content  in the Harvard law student’s email on race and intelligence.  I find the content quite disturbing.  I am, however, going to argue for a bit of benefit of the doubt on the person who sent the email, as opposed to the contents of the email.  The email starts off indicating that it is picking up where a longer conversation left off from earlier in the evening.  And while it starts off pretty bad, it contains statements like “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility…”  It’s not that long ago that I was a student who liked to argue and didn’t have much of a clue.  (As opposed to my current status:  Professor who likes to argue and doesn’t have much of a clue.)  When I see a statement like “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility…” from what is likely a smart, argumentative, but clueless student, I suspect that we’ve got some late night bull session philosophizing (of the non-philosophy major sort) going on.  Some pretty bad stuff gets said in those sessions, not because the people necessarily believe all of it, but because they’re too full of shit to realize that they should be more critical of their musings rather than throwing them out and arguing passionately while not getting why the argument is (rightly!) falling completely flat.

This hunch of mine, that we’re seeing late night bull session mode rather than statement of sincere conviction mode, is further strengthened by paragraph two, in which she actually makes a sort of decent case (by the standards of late night bull sessions) for the opposite of what she was musing on in the first paragraph.  And the third paragraph talks about a seriously hypothetical experiment.  More proof of late night bull session mode.

Now, “late night bull session” is not an excuse for spewing bullshit.  Although a lot actually gets  learned in those sessions, a lot also gets learned in the fallout.  Usually the fallout means that your roommate chews you out and his girlfriend won’t talk to you and an angry mob is waiting to confront you in the dorm lounge.  (Aka “spring of my sophomore  year.”  And no, my transgression had  nothing to do with race or gender.)  She deserves fallout, but it is unfortunate that the fallout happened in the national spotlight.  I guarantee you that all sorts of bull sessions, some with conversations even more repugnant than that email, are going on right now in Harvard dorms.  (Or the dorms at my school, for that matter.)  It was a dick move to forward the email, rather than confronting her in person and making the fallout more contained (but still intense).

So, what I’m trying to say is that the email doesn’t really reflect a sincere or strongly-held opinion on her part.  It reflects a lot of stupidity and some serious gaps in her understanding of the world (and I’m not just saying this because she got caught), and those things should not just be waved off as no big deal.  However, it is a mistake to take her email at face value.

Ann Althouse and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Education, Race

Strip Clubs Are Always In The News

Julie Bindel at The Guardian:

Iceland is fast becoming a world-leader in feminism. A country with a tiny population of 320,000, it is on the brink of achieving what many considered to be impossible: closing down its sex industry.

While activists in Britain battle on in an attempt to regulate lapdance clubs – the number of which has been growing at an alarming rate during the last decade – Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.

Even more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first proposed the ban, firmly told the national press on Wednesday: “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.” When I asked her if she thinks Iceland has become the greatest feminist country in the world, she replied: “It is certainly up there. Mainly as a result of the feminist groups putting pressure on parliamentarians. These women work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with their campaigns and it eventually filters down to all of society.”

The news is a real boost to feminists around the world, showing us that when an entire country unites behind an idea anything can happen. And it is bound to give a shot in the arm to the feminist campaign in the UK against an industry that is both a cause and a consequence of gaping inequality between men and women.

Jill at Feministe:

While I like the idea of sending the message that women’s bodies aren’t for sale, I’m not sure this is the greatest way to do it. It seems less immediately problematic than outlawing paying for sex, primarily because prostitution bans drive sex work underground and put sex workers at risk. I don’t think there’s going to be an epidemic of underground strip clubs (although I’m sure there will be a few underground strip clubs), and I’m not sure that strippers will now face the kinds of immediate dangers that sex workers who sell sexual services negotiate every day.

But: Stripping, for better or worse, is one of the better-paid jobs that low-skilled (and hey, sometimes high-skilled) female workers can get. And no, it’s not a sustainable career, and it’s a job that traffics in discrimination — it’s primarily for the young, the thin, the able-bodied, etc, and once you don’t fit into that framework it’s no longer an option. But it does offer paid work that can be significantly less unpleasant than a lot of other jobs. With so many female workers relegated to a pink-collar work force that revolves around physically and emotionally intensive care work — being an elder care-taker or a nurse’s aid or a childcare worker — I can see how for some women, stripping seems a lot easier and a lot less messy and a lot less difficult and a lot more convenient. Which isn’t to say that stipping is all glitter and fun and empowerful — I’m sure for some women it is, and for most women it isn’t. Like a lot of other jobs. I’d be willing to bet that most strippers strip because it pays pretty well. Removing that option, even if it does send A Message, doesn’t seem like a great victory to me. Because, sure, dudes will be sad that they don’t get to male bond over seeing naked ladies anymore. But the ladies will be the ones who are dead broke because of it.

Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon:

Just last year, Iceland outlawed prostitution, and now it’s squelching “adult entertainment” entirely. (Apparently the near-bankrupt country isn’t buying the pop wisdom that the sex industry is recession-proof.) The politician behind the bill, Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, explained: “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.” Johanna Sigurðardottir, Iceland’s prime minister — an openly gay politician, which is a first for a head of government — added: “The Nordic countries are leading the way on women’s equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.”

What most impresses the Guardian’s Julie Bindel is that “the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons.” There is no question that Iceland has impressive feminist cred — nearly half of its lawmakers are ladies — but, forgive me, I’m hesitant to announce it the world’s most “feminist” and “female-friendly” country in response to a law prohibiting women from voluntarily taking off their clothes for money. It may not be a religiously motivated move, but it sure is a dogmatic one.

Andrew Sullivan

Matthew Yglesias:

Ultimately, considering Iceland’s small size and the foreign-born labor force this strikes me as almost more akin to a zoning issue in the United States. There’s no substantial political movement in this country to ban strip clubs, but there are many, many, many tony residential communities in which you’d never be allowed to open one. The general view is that this is a very undesirable business function that should be legal, but “somewhere else.” In a small country like Iceland, that means “in another country.” Bindel posits a sharp dichotomy between feminist-inspired opposition to strip clubs and religious-inspired opposition to strip clubs, but I live across the street from a strip club in a gentrifying neighborhood and the overwhelming sentiment on the condo listserve about it is just a kind of generalized and pre-political bourgeois belief that it would be better if the place became a yoga studio.

KarenM at Firedoglake:

Clearly, if we want to live in a more progressive country, we should be electing more and more women. Granted, some one would probably be Republicans. Yet, I believe Halldórsdóttir when she says that having one third or more of female politicians changes things… and feminist energy begins to take over. Given a critical mass of women in both chambers of congress, would women from either party feel much need for approval from the men in their respective parties? I doubt it. It might take a generation or two, but I think they would be more likely to find some common ground. Women in the GOP mostly do not want to be baby factories, either. Nor, I suspect do GOP women approve of the sex trade in this country… especially considering how many of their husbands make use of it, to such a politically embarrassing effect. Just imagine the relief of so many GOP-influenced women, if they were given a respite from male dominance in nearly every area of their lives.

Miriam at Feministing:

A feminist victory, in my opinion, would be a highly regulated industry that made sure dancer’s rights were protected. One where workers were paid good wages, were able to unionize, had full benefits, were able to set boundaries with customers and have those boundaries protected. One that ensured that these immigrant women were not being brought to Iceland against their will.

A feminist victory would mean access to jobs and economic opportunity that meant women had options other than strip clubs and sex work if they so chose. We know that our current economic situation does not allow all people to have access to economic opportunity, meaning that sex work is not always a “choice.”

But once again, driving the industry underground serves no one, and often harms the workers more than anyone.

So sorry Iceland, I commend you for elevating women to elected office, but this piece of your work is not a victory for my vision of feminism.

UPDATE: Via Sullivan, Rachel Aimee and Katrin Redfern in the Reykjavik Grapevine 

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Filed under Families, Feminism, Foreign Affairs

R.I.P. Jon Swift/Al Weisel

Jon Swift’s blog

mlfcyw at Swift’s last blog post:

I don’t know how else to tell you all who love this blog. I am Jon Swift’s Mom and I guess I’m going to OUT him. He was Al Weisel, my beloved son. Al was on his way to his father’s funeral in VA when he suffered 2 aortic aneurysms, a leaky aortic valve and an aortic artery dissection from his heart to his pelvis. He had 3 major surgeries within 24 hours and sometime during those surgeries also suffered a severe stroke. We, his 2 sisters, his brother, his partner and his best friend since he was 9 years old were with him as he took his last breath. We have all lost a shining start who warmed our hearts, tormented us and made us laugh as he giggled at our pulling something over on us. He passed away on February 27, 2010. My beloved child will live on in so many hearts. I miss him more than I can say. If you are on Facebook, go to organizations and join “Friends of Al Weisel, Unite!” It will give you just a taste of how special he was. Farewell, Jon (Al)

Tom Watson:

The great Jon Swift has died. That’s the “blogging” angle to a personal tragedy. In reality, the voice of Jon Swift – the hilarious faux conservative blogger whose talent and passion were evident in every post – belonged to Al Weisel, a sweet and good-natured journalist who happened to be the college roommate of my once-and-future collaborator Jason Chervokas.

I didn’t know him well, but Al graciously agreed to be part of my little newcritics experiment of a couple of years back and his presence at some of our New York gatherings was generous, friendly, and low key – though the humor could sometimes be appropriately biting.

[…]

Al Weisel was the political poser’s worst enemy as Jon Swift, but he was also a good guy to hang around the pub with and commiserate over New York’s shrinking freelance rates. Gone all too soon, he’ll be truly missed by many.

UPDATE: There’s a Facebook group.

Jill at Feministe:

Jon was one of the first bloggers to link to my writing, and was always very supportive of feminist bloggers. His writing was consistently incisive, intelligent and hilarious.

He was a good one, and he will be missed.

Steve Hynd at Newshoggers:

Al was a good blog-buddy to all of the Newshoggers crew and our condolences go out to his family. He will be sorely missed.

Al, you’ll always be an A-Lister to us.

Oliver Willis

UPDATE: Ann Althouse

James Joyner

James Wolcott

Ed Morrissey

Instapundit

Tbogg

Sadly, No

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville

Jason Chervokas

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Filed under New Media

Yes, Virginia, There’s Been An Uptick

Belinda Luscombe at Time:

Pregnancy rates among U.S. teenagers, which had been dropping since 1990, took an upturn in 2006, according to newly released data. The figures, obtained from government sources and abortion providers by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health think tank, echo previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that births among teens had risen. But the new Guttmacher report rounds out the picture: in 2006, there were 71.5 pregnancies for every 1,000 women under the age of 20. That’s 3% more than in 2005. The increase was concentrated among 18- and 19-year-olds — pregnancies among those 17 or younger rose only marginally — and occurred in a year when the number of abortions among teens rose 1%.

These upticks will no doubt be scrutinized by the schools, churches and governments that had been achieving some success in lowering the teen pregnancy rate. After rising steadily with the sexual revolution of the ’70s and ’80s, the rate dropped sharply in the ’90s — and then more slowly from 2000 until 2005 — before turning upward. But even in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, the rate was 39% lower than 1990’s peak of 117 pregnancies for every 1,000 teen girls.

The Guttmacher Institute released a study today that shows that the rates of both teen pregnancy and abortion were on the rise for the first time in over a decade in 2006. In a press release, Guttmacher senior public policy associate Heather Boonstra says that the increase “coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration.” While all the research shows that abstinence-only education doesn’t really keep kids from having sex, if you look at the state-by-state data, there isn’t a strong correlation between abstinence-only ed and the rise in teen pregnancy.

As the new data from Guttmacher show [pdf], North Dakota has one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the country—and teens are more likely to use condoms in North Dakota than in many other states. And yet, they have a state-funded abstinence-only education program. By contrast, Arizona, which has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, rejected federal funding for abstinence-only education.

E.G. at DiA at The Economist:

Whenever studies show a rise in teenage pregnancy rates people start hammering on the table and talking about George Bush’s funding support for abstinence-only sex education. But as fun as it is to bash the religious right with this, the causal web is obviously somewhat more complicated. As DoubleX points out, the lowest teen pregnancy rate is in North Dakota, which has a state-funded abstinence only programme; one of the highest rates is in Arizona, which doesn’t.

Also consider that girls from different ethnic groups have different rates of pregnancy, even within the same states (with Hispanic teenagers having the highest rates, and the rate among blacks having dropped dramatically since the 1990s). I’ve heard researchers cite half a dozen factors, ranging from health-care access (particularly among the Hispanic teenagers) to “prevention fatigue” after the safe-sex zeal of the 1990s. In the next few years, considering the country’s staggering high-school dropout numbers, and the high rate of teenage unemployment, I would expect the pregnancy and birth rate to keep rising. The knee-jerk tendency to turn it into a culture-war issue means that we’re circumscribing our ability to address it.

David Sessions at Politics Daily:

The teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. rose 3 percent in 2006, reversing a downward trend that began in the 1990s, USA Today reports. According to new data released Tuesday, pregnancy and abortion rates were higher across all demographics; the falling rates that preceded the change had also occurred across the board.

About 7 percent of girls aged 15-19 became pregnant in 2006. When the numbers peaked in 1990, about 12 percent were pregnant. The data showed a 1 percent rise in the abortion rate among teens.

// <![CDATA[// The Guttmacher Institute, which analyzed federal statistics in compiling its report, suggested that the rise was a corollary to the Bush administration’s emphasis on abstinence-only sex education. Funding for abstinence education, to which the Institute is outspokenly opposed, doubled from 2000 to 2003, and reached an all-time high of $176 million by 2008.

“To me, it appears to be another opportunity to throw a barb at abstinence education,” says Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association. She said that only a quarter of federal funding for teen sexuality programs went to abstinence in 2008.

Jill at Feministe

When the teen pregnancy rate dropped in the 1990s, it was largely because of increased contraception use. With the Bush administration in power, though, Congress directed a whole lot of money towards abstinence-only education — telling kids just to keep it in their pants until marriage (because we all know how well that works as a life-long “don’t get pregnant” plan). The result? A four percent rise in teen births, and a one percent rise in abortion.

The United States also has the highest rate of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion of any industrialized, Western nation. Seven percent of all teenage girls here get pregnant.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in The New York Times

Amanda Marcotte on Douthat

UPDATE #2: Hanna Rosin at Double X

Douthat responds

UPDATE #3: Reihan Salam

UPDATE #4: Maggie Gallagher at The Corner

More Douthat

UPDATE #5: M LeBlanc

Jamelle at Postbourgie

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Filed under Abortion, Families

A Court-Martial For Diaper Duty

Teri Weaver at Stars and Stripes:

The Army general commanding U.S. forces in northern Iraq has added pregnancy to the list of prohibitions for personnel under his command.

The policy, which went into effect Nov. 4, makes it possible to face punishment, including a court-martial and jail time, for becoming pregnant or impregnating a servicemember, according to the wording of the policy and confirmations from Army officials.

The rule governs all those serving under Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, who commands Multi-National Division-North, including Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra. According to the order, it is “applicable to all United States military personnel, and to all civilians, serving with, employed by, or accompanying” the military in northern Iraq, with few exceptions.

Someone would violate the policy by “becoming pregnant, or impregnating a soldier, while assigned to the Task Force Marne (Area of Operations), resulting in the redeployment of the pregnant soldier,” according to the order.

The policy also applies to married couples who are at war together, Army spokesman Maj. Lee Peters told Stars and Stripes in an e-mail message. Both the husband and wife could face punishment under the policy.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas at Feministing:

The pregnant servicewoman is really the canary in the mine here: Inevitably her pregnancy will be revealed and she will be punished. However, the man who impregnated her will only be punished if she turns him in. Already, according to news reports, one woman who has been punished and sent home under the policy has refused to reveal who her partner was. It is reasonable to think that many more servicewomen will refuse to turn in their fellow soldiers, thereby making this an equal opportunity policy in name only.

Moreover, this policy will eviscerate existing Department of Defense policy that protects the anonymity of sexual assault victims while ensuring that they can get the services they need. Of course, Maj. Gen. Cucolo has stated he won’t punish anyone who becomes pregnant as a result of an assault, but under his policy pregnant assault victims will have to publicly come forward in order to avoid punishment.

If we really want to help servicewomen avoid unplanned pregnancies and maintain military readiness, why don’t we ensure that birth control and emergency contraception are readily available to all servicewomen, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan? Currently, Department of Defense policy does not require that emergency contraception be available (it’s optional); and a recent report by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America suggests that, “due to space,” other common forms of birth control are not always available either.

Jill at Feministe:

I understand not wanting soldiers to get pregnant while in combat zones. I don’t understand court martialing them.

Cassy Fiano at Hot Air:

Well, like most liberals, Jill can’t understand because she has no clue about how the military operates. Men and women who get deployed hump like bunnies when they’re overseas together. Not all of them do, but many of them do. (Heck, they even do it here at Lejeune.) It’s not in any way uncommon for soldiers to be having sex while they’re deployed, which is the entire reason this ban had to be made. And just the act of having sex is fraternization, which is not allowed in the military. It’s not often punished because it doesn’t harm the mission, but if a female soldier has sex with another soldier and gets pregnant, then she is potentially harming the mission. She then has to be sent home, which leaves the unit one man short, and that can be a problem for the unit.

Elise Cooper at FrumForum:

On Nov. 4, Major General Anthony Cuculo issued a general order making pregnancy or fathering a child a court martial offense in his command in northern Iraq. The general’s order has triggered controversy, despite its seeming even application to men and women.

For insight, FrumForum interviewed retired Major Merideth A. Bucher, author of the much cited paper, The Impact of Pregnancy on U.S. Army Readiness.

Bucher explains that a woman who becomes pregnant ceases to be available for combat service. She will be returned home; her unit is left missing a body, a soldier.

She passionately told of her own experience:  Two days before Desert Storm was to begin the female intelligence officer in the Major’s battalion became aware she was pregnant.  Because she could not deploy and was sent home the battalion was left vulnerable by having to fight without an intelligence officer present. By losing one person everyone else has to work that much harder to get the mission accomplished. And when a woman soldier in particular gets pregnant, Bucher argues, “it weakens every female soldier standing as a member of that unit.  If one woman does that it taints the water for everybody.”

New York Times:

The top United States commander in Iraq intends to rescind a policy that had placed pregnant soldiers at risk of discipline.

The commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, has drafted a broad new policy for American forces in Iraq that will take effect Jan. 1 and will not include a pregnancy provision that one of his subordinate commanders enacted last month, the United States military command in Iraq said Thursday.

The news of General Odierno’s order comes about a week after the pregnancy policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo set off widespread criticism. General Cucolo had issued a policy that would permit the punishment of soldiers who become pregnant and their sexual partners.

The pregnancy provision was one of a variety of offenses for which General Cucolo said punishments could range from minor discipline to a court-martial.

In a conference call with reporters earlier this week, he said he would never actually seek to jail someone over a pregnancy. General Cucolo said the policy had been intended to emphasize the problems created when pregnant soldiers go home and leave behind a weaker unit.

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Filed under Families, Feminism, Military Issues

This Has Nothing To Do With Stereo Equipment

Playboy made a list of conservative women that’d like to… well, this is a somewhat family blog. Politico has the list.

Ed Morrissey:

Playboy likes to claim that it prints pictures of naked women as a means to empower them.  Uh-huh. It seems that Playboy and Hugh Hefner only like to empower women to the extent that they’ll take off their clothes, but when they open their mouths and have an opinion … well, then it’s time to roll out the demonization.  They have a new feature on the website that features — and I’m not making this up — conservative women they’d like to “hate-f**k” (link NSFW)

Dan Riehl

Megan McArdle:

My ex-boyfriend and I had a collection of vintage Playboys picked up at a garage sale, which we used to, yes, read for the articles.  (The centerfolds had long since been scissored out, presumably by the chap who sold them to us.)  Those were good articles, written by good writers, about interesting topics–Bill Cosby on race, William F. Buckley on religion and society, Gore Vidal on . . . Gore Vidal.    Now we have Guy Cimbalo and his Frantabulous Late-Nite Borscht Belt Shockeroos.

Srsly?

Conor Friedersdorf taps Feministing on the shoulder.

UPDATE: Gabriel Winant in Salon

UPDATE #2: Jesse Taylor:

Playboy put up a truly awful piece on conservative women they’d like to “hate fuck”, conservatives realize that misogyny exists.  Although I’m happy they’re on the side of the angels on this one, maybe they might want to step up this sensitivity to the hateful rhetoric that often surrounds the terrible transgression of being female more often.

UPDATE #3: Julian Sanchez:”How is it that there are so many soi-disant liberal guys who think that the rule against being a sexist asshole are somehow suspended so long as you’re attacking a conservative woman?”

UPDATE #4: Ed Morrissey, responding to Susannah Breslin at Double X

UPDATE #5: Sadly No

UPDATE #6: Bonnie Erbe

Malkin on Erbe

Allah Pundit on Erbe

UPDATE #7: Michelle Malkin

UPDATE #8: Jill at Feministe

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Culture War, Feminism, Mainstream, Media