Monday, May 27, 2013

Why You Should Listen To EverydaySexism (TW)

Largest words are student, feminist, writer
(Trigger warning for discussion of trivialising of violence against women including one image.)

Regular readers of this blog are perhaps unduly familiar with word clouds, but as EverydaySexism and the #FBRape campaign are fresh topics to me I feel it best to recap for any potentially new readers. I've been following @EverydaySexism on Twitter for some time now and when I'm interested in finding out more about a Twitter account I like to look at the people who follow it. Working in IT lets me look a little closer than most and one thing I like to do is pull the Twitter biographies of all an account's followers and put them in a word cloud.

That's the image above. Words followers of @EverydaySexism use to describe themselves most frequently are the larger, words used infrequently are either small or absent. Click the image to see a bigger copy. It's fair to say that as well as attracting students and feminists the account has a significant number of writers and journalists invested in their efforts. Simon Pegg is a fan, as is Amanda Palmer. Caitlin Moran also follows. From the BBC alone you may recognise Rick Edwards, Jeremy Vine, Samira Ahmed, Mary Ann Sieghart, Sue Llewellyn, Jane Hill and Rhianna Dhillon as followers, and fans of the Guardian will recognise Laurie Penny, Spencer Ackerman, Emily Bell, Vicky Beeching, Lyn Gardner, Tim Dowling, Chris Roper, Sana Saleem, GrrlScientist, Claire Phipps and  Jane Martinson when they examine the list. I shan't bore you by listing every media outlet: suffice it to say the trend continues.

We should also not be too quick to dismiss the non journalist followers of EverydaySexism. Each of their 49,967 (and counting) followers averages 1,030 of their own followers, giving them an enviable social media reach. They seem almost uniquely poised to rapidly deliver their message to hundreds of thousands.

What do they want?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Free Ticket to Empowering Women Through Secularism

Women's Rights are Human Rights - International Conference - Empowering Women Through Secularism
I've bought two tickets to Empowering Women Through Secularism.  I'm excited at the prospect of seeing Máirín de Burca speak, for without her efforts we might not have had access to contraception.

I've already had the pleasure of seeing Maryam Namazie, PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson, and my infrequent attendance at always fun Atheists in the Pub events means I've been able to enjoy informal chats with both Jane Donnelly and Michael Nugent. But there are many other speakers I've yet to experience, and I'm excited to see what happens when two days are devoted to this important topic. I can't wait to listen in on the discussions.

Which brings me to the reason for the second ticket.

I'm going to enjoy the weekend but I know that there are others who could get more than I from the event. Many have more to contribute than I in terms of intelligent, well researched questions based on more reading and life experience than I've accumulated on the topic. I'm still a bit clueless.

So, if you're a student*, can be in Dublin on the 29th and 30th of June and would like to attend but don't have the cash right now, let me know in the comments below. I have a panel of militant, aggressive misandrists friends who'll put it to a vote and let me know who gets it.

Feel free to write a little about yourself and what you'd get from the experience if you'd like to, but it's by no means obligatory. If you're not short of a few quid a full price ticket is 100 Euro and a student ticket is 50. If you're in a position to sponsor another student do get in touch - I'd be delighted to help facilitate.

Update: Atheist Ireland have very kindly given me a second ticket. So there are now two spots available. Further update - a generous sponsor has given me a stash of full price tickets. Everyone who entered before 2:25pm on June 3rd gets one. There are more! If you want one, enter! You don't have to be a student.

*This bit's important - it's a student ticket.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

White (irrelevant), British (irrelevant) And EX-Muslim

I've never really asked for feedback on my guest post policy. I like finding interesting folk with different views to me that are willing to share their perspectives with readers here. It was for this reason that I was happy to host Rayyan's first guest post here. At the time he'd been a Muslim for four months, and he shared a little of his experiences, answered some common questions, and managed to squeeze in some humour. I enjoyed rereading it in preparation for this post.

Rayyan's no longer a Muslim, and I found myself as interested reading how he left the faith as I was reading how he entered it. His positive impression of most Muslims he's met remains, as does his opposition to groups like the EDL, but he has a newfound concern for his safety and additional reading on Islam has changed his mind on the validity of some arguments that initially led him to Islam.

I hope you find his experiences and intellectual curiosity as interesting as I did. If you're interested in learning more about the issues affecting ex Muslims I highly recommend the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain

I write this today because I have found two places willing to display my opinions and thoughts, Geoff’s Shorts blog and CEMB Forum, thanks to both of the site admins. I also intend to help others overcome the fear a lot of religious people have, fear, which held me back from my inevitable apostatising; burning in the hellfire. I did not become a Muslim because I didn’t want to go to hell, I had regular contact with people who were Muslims and I saw how they were grateful for the good things in life and were very friendly people who happened to be Muslims and for me this communication set me on a path of research eventually leading me to Scholars on YouTube and I found it satisfied my need to find the meaning of life. I looked past the lunatics like Anjem Choudary and his crew. Even today I reject the stereotype of Muslims being evil it is total nonsense. There is a popular way of thinking here in the UK, people put Islam and Muslims in one category when it comes to acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam, Muslims are people and Islam a religion. I based my decisions on real life interaction with Muslims some of whom appear to have somewhat limited knowledge on Islam and then further on my discovery of the faith itself.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sexist, homophobic, anti science group would like to share their views on X legislation

Fellow fans of the Irish Times' Letters to the Editor page may have noticed a recent offering from Aontas, a grouping of Evangelical Christian churches operating in Ireland. They used the space to announce their opposition to legislation on X and finished with a list of representatives as signatories.

I checked the list to find the most detailed website and found Billy Hamilton of Covenant Fellowship Galway. Reading through his site I found that they consider the earth to have formed in six calendar days, that "[h]omosexuality is a grave perversion", and that "[t]he wife is to be submissive to her husband".

They are of course entitled to express their views, no matter how ridiculous.

Addendum: although it is clear that all members of Aontas feel comfortable associating with Covenant Fellowship Galway, we cannot immediately be certain that all members share their views. Should any member wish to repudiate Covenant Fellowship Galway's position, I'll be happy to host their comments.

Monday, May 13, 2013

They're Coming For Your Condoms

It has been four decades since contraceptives obtained a semblance of legality in Ireland, our supreme court ruling that the constitutional right to marital privacy allowed their use but not their sale. It was not until 1978 that legislation was finally introduced to allow their purchase, the transaction hampered somewhat by a requirement to produce a valid prescription. I'm thankful to the IFPA and Richard Branson for taking the expedient step back in 1990 of openly selling condoms in Virgin Megastores. This forced the government's hand somewhat and in a relatively expedient three years it became possible for citizens of this fine state to buy condoms without an approving doctor's note. I was thirteen at the time.

I choose to celebrate this milestone of two score years with a quick jaunt through some notable anti abortion rights campaigners to see if they view access to contraceptives as a positive step or if they yearn for the days before Durex.

Human Life International Ireland

Patrick McCrystal, looks healthy but pulls faces like a meth connoisseur."I do believe contraception is one of the most potent ideological tools that those who are seeking to destroy the Catholic family are using to dismantle that institution... Ultimately when it's all stripped away it's a battle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. Ultimately Satan and the Lord almighty, and both armies, both commanders have armies in their control, diametrically opposed, the culture of life and the culture of death."Patrick McCrystal, supernatural battle strategist, liar who pretends vaccines cause autism, chair of Human Life International Ireland

"If we the Catholic community repent of our contraception and pornography and sex education in our schools and promiscuity and we repent of our silence as we allow these things to happen then perhaps God in His mercy might avert the abortion scourge...

We're based in Knock Ireland where the Lamb of God appeared and He has a message for the world and when the world turns back to him everything changes and He has the final say." - Patrick McCrystal again, sounding more than a mite batty.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the Risk of Coerced Abortion

Coerced abortion

The argument

In a recent discussion I heard a novel argument: legislating for abortion may increase the risk of women being coerced or forced to have abortions.

This is an interesting approach and one that bears unpacking. When we discuss legal access to abortion we are faced with a choice between allowing women to be the ultimate controllers of their wombs or taking that authority from them and giving it to society. The argument recognises that pro choice favours the first approach and posits that legislation may in cases remove choice from women by providing a legal framework that could facilitate coerced abortions. It culminates by proposing that prohibition on abortion will prevent this denial of choice.

A response

The premises as I see them are as follows:
  1. To be pro choice is to support a woman's autonomy on reproductive choices
  2. To coerce someone towards abortion denies them a choice
  3. Prohibition of abortion is an effective deterrent against coerced abortions
This leads to the conclusion:
  • Legislation for abortion rights will result in denying some women reproductive choices
The immediate responses are unsatisfying. To crunch numbers and calculate if there is a net gain or loss in choices exercised will undoubtedly favour legislating for abortion, but it seems somewhat callous to treat this as an accounting problem. One could also wash one's hands of the problem and say that the blame lies with those who coerce, not those who seek legislation, but that too seems unsatisfying.

Is there a deterrent?

Instead I'd like to start by examining premise three. Does our current legal situation provide an effective deterrent against coerced abortion? It's always important to remember that thousands of Irish women have abortions every year. So long as one is financially comfortable, physically capable of travel, or, alternatively, willing to risk abortifacients purchased online the option of abortion is open to you. We should also factor in the stigma attached, the necessity to be secretive, and the absence of support when far from home. How much of this applies when, say, a parent or partner pressures a woman into abortion?

I argue very little.

Holding such power over another person strongly implies holding financial control too, and financial dependence is too often what prevents escape from such abusive relationships. The total cost of an abortion to an Irish person is in the region of 1,500 Euro - prohibitive to a student or low earner, generally manageable for a parent or a partner who controls two incomes. The stigma, absence of support and requirement for secrecy are unlikely to trouble someone who would deny a woman choice in continuing her pregnancy. And to me an abusive partner or unfit parent seems more likely to risk the health of a woman through online abortifacients than a woman herself.

Does the argument hold for adoption?

There have undoubtedly been cases of coerced adoption in Ireland. We have been criticised by International Social Services as recently as January of this year on the matter. Thousands of children born to victims of the Magdalene Laundries were adopted through coercion. This is unquestionably an act of violence against mothers and few defend coerced adoptions. Yet we do not hear of those who wish a blanket ban on adoption to prevent abuses. And yet the argument's premises seem in this instance stronger, as premise three now holds:
  1. To be pro choice is to support a woman's autonomy on reproductive choices
  2. To coerce someone towards adoption denies them a choice
  3. Prohibition of adoption is an effective deterrent against coerced adoptions
Ultimately this is an interesting and novel argument, but one I feel fails on close examination.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sean Brady - Of Heads And Hats

Sean Brady, buffoon
Travel may broaden the mind, but it also makes it somewhat tricky to keep up with Irish current affairs. I've been trying to take a daily jaunt through the Irish papers to keep abreast of developments and have recently come across Sean Brady, pictured in the oversized ornate hat to the left of this text, who considers himself an authority on matters of morality. He's recently been featured in the Independent (here and here) and is perhaps most famous for his part in bullying teen rape survivors into decades long silence. I've assembled some of his quotes from the past week below to better understand his thinking. Perhaps you can help me see the flow of his thought?

"We know what the law is about excommunication, about abortion, that's a fact." said Brady. He has a doctorate in something called Canon law - a system of in-house rules peculiar to his institution that has no standing in the Irish state - yet he delivers his promulgations on abortion and excommunication 'law' without trace of irony.

“We  pray for courage - the kind of courage that is needed to look the truth in the eye and to call it as it is, without yielding to self-deception or bowing to convenient compromise, scrupulously avoiding ambiguous language which cloaks the true horror of the situation and reduces its seriousness in public.” Brady said, the snivelling excuse of a human being speaking not of his organisation's widespread practice of providing succour and support to those who rape children, but rather seeing the words best focused on the government's decision to bring to an end its decades long delay on legislating for the X case as demanded by any rudimentary understanding of a democratic republic.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guest Post: I Had An Abortion

I've made a lot of great new friends since starting this blog, and I've had the opportunity to interact with folk who I wouldn't normally expect to spend time with. It's been an interesting journey. What I've also found is that having some involvement in pro choice activism has changed my relationship with those I already knew.

I recently learnt that, years ago, a friend had had an abortion.

It's something she'd rather keep anonymous, but I felt glad that in some small way I could help give her a way to talk openly about her experience.

I take two things from this. First, I'm glad that being openly pro choice means my friends feel comfortable talking to me about their experiences. Second, I regret she worried people might judge her. If you're pro choice, please let your friends know. They might need someone to talk to. But enough of me. Here was my friend's experience:

Like a lot of young, Irish people I set off after college seeking excitement abroad. And I got it – in abundance. I lived a fantastic few years working and travelling. I met a lovely guy; we were young and really fell for each other.
Then disaster struck. I confided in a friend that I didn’t feel myself and she suggested that I might be pregnant. That and a sick day from work worried me enough to buy a test. It was positive. I was 25, and this wasn’t part of the plan for my boyfriend, or for me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Secret Weapons of the Pro Life Elite

It's often useful to take stock of the resources at one's disposal. Of even greater benefit is the ability to examine the tools one's opposition can call on in times of need. True, those seeking legislation for X have popular support, two referendum results, the European Court of Human Rights, the master of the country's largest maternity hospital and the principles of a Democratic Republic to call upon. But what of the other side?

It's only fair to acknowledge recent news that much loved political party Fianna Fáil has passed a number of resolutions affirming their stance as a 'pro life party'. And it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the considerable support opposition to X case legislation enjoys in the US Bible Belt, not to mention the enthusiastic fundraising efforts across the pond. They enjoy an almost supernatural ability to complain of media bias and yet have an Iona Institute representative in print, on radio and on screen every other day.

But is there more?

Worryingly, I've identified an area of strength to which we have no answer.

Pro Life Pastels
We start with Precious Life, described by Youth Defence as their sister organisation. They, along with fellow vaccine opponents Family and Life, seem to have acquired a replica of a painting with supernatural powers:

A magic painting
I read with interest that " “Copy” does not really do it justice", the author's reasoning supported by the knowledge that it was "copied faithfully in every detail." Furthermore, it seems it has absorbed some ability to influence the material world through physical contact with the original paranormal picture under the skilled hand of Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak. Details of the precise procedure to impart such powers are, rightly, shrouded in mystery.

Powers: from what I can tell, veneration of this painting enables one to influence agents in an otherworldly realm. One does not request that these agents interfere in the material world, rather one asks them to communicate desired outcomes to God. I'm no expert in the area, but veneration seems similar to requesting a celebrity retweet. This painting is specifically designed as a portal to Saint Mary. +17 for summon backup.

Known weaknesses: None. Details of a failed attack reveal that in addition to otherworldly protection, it is shielded by a more material layer of bulletproof invisible glass. A further ritual called 'expiation' returned it to full strength.