Fractured Feminism: Is Identity Politics Failing?

identity politicsCBC is carrying an opinion piece by feminist Meghan Murphy titled Why a women-only spa in Toronto should not change its policy to accept trans women. While I would expect to see conservative women apposing trans women’s rights, a self proclaimed feminist doing so goes against one of the very movements that pushed for these rights in the first place: third wave feminism. Let’s see what Murphy has to say:

In an ideal world, perhaps women wouldn’t need women-only spaces. But unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Body Blitz, a popular Toronto spa, offers a space where women are free to relax among other women — to strip off their clothes, go for a swim and have a spa treatment without having to worry about men showing up to ruin the party.

This pretty much sums up Murphy’s opinion of men, I’d say: they ruin things.

Body Blitz came under fire recently after being accused of refusing service to a self-identified trans woman. On Twitter, Toronto resident Jia Qing Wilson-Yang posted: “My wife tried to book me a surprise appt @bodyblitzspa but they won’t allow ‘male genitalia’ at the spa and told us not to come.” The news quickly spread among trans activists online, and Body Blitz was accused of “transphobia” and “transmisogyny.” People swarmed the spa’s Facebook page, leaving negative reviews and comments.

Which is exactly what Murphy would do if there were a male only facility that wouldn’t allow women.

While the spa does not have a policy against trans people, it is a “single-sex facility” that allows full nudity. As such, it would be fair for women who visit the spa to assume they won’t see male genitalia.

Ah, but now, under bill C-16, discriminating against a person who identifies as female but has male genitals is a violation of her charter rights.

Trans activists would argue the distinction between women and trans women is an unimportant one — that people who identify as trans women are women like all other women. But the reality is that internal feelings don’t change outward impressions.

And one can make exactly the same argument about men and women, but if they did, Murphy would call them a misogynist.

To some women and girls, the presence of a male body can leave them feeling uncomfortable, uneasy and even threatened.

Presumably making them transphobic.

The controversy around Body Blitz is particularly poignant now since the Canadian Senate just passed Bill C-16, which amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to prohibit discrimination based on gender expression and identity. (Full disclosure: I testified against Bill C-16 in the Senate back in May.)

And here we see the fracture. Should a feminist support trans rights over woman’s rights (supporting bill C-16), or women’s rights over trans rights (against bill C-16)?

Trans people absolutely deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. But as many feminist and women’s groups have argued, Bill C-16 has the capacity to actually undermine women’s rights.

Just as feminism undermines men’s rights.

The Canadian Human Rights Act protects women because as a society, we understand that women face discrimination based on their biological sex. But our ability to organize on behalf of women’s liberation and to maintain women-only space is threatened by legislation that protects people based on “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

Just as men’s rights and male-only spaces are threatened and legally prohibited. This is fairly ironic.

How can we argue for women’s rights, based on the understanding that women are oppressed specifically due to their biological sex, if we simultaneously say that sex doesn’t matter, but that “gender identity” and “gender expression” do?

You can’t. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You have to choose: is a person who is genetically male but identifies as a woman an oppressed person who is in need of protection, or not? Currently, Canada says she is, and that if you discriminate against her, you can be charged with violating her rights.

On average, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner every six days. One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. It is for these reasons that women should have the right to certain spaces — such as gyms, change rooms, transition houses — in which they feel safe. The concerns of women who have experienced trauma because of male violence should not be dismissed.

76.8% of murder victims are men. According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in a 12 month period, more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence. And yet men are not given a right to certain spaces in which to feel safe. The concerns of men who have experienced trauma because of female violence should not be dismissed.

True, Body Blitz’s policy might inconvenience a few trans individuals who have to choose a different spa. But as an oppressed class of people, females as a whole deserve the right to maintain women-only spaces. And for women who have been sexually assaulted — those for whom seeing a penis could have a triggering effect, especially in what they perceive as a safe space — the experience goes way beyond “inconvenience.”

Paraphrasing: “Violating Trans people’s rights is a mere inconvenience. Women have a right to exclude you.” If a man were to say women’s rights were an inconvenience and that men as a whole deserve the right to maintain male-only spaces, what would Murphy say?

Considering the extent to which male violence and fear of male violence shapes women’s lives, it should not be unreasonable to keep certain spaces free from male bodies — even if the people in those bodies identify as women.

So women are transphobic, and it is not unreasonable for them to discriminate against trans women, violating their human rights under the charter.

I hope it is clear why I see this as a failure of identity politics. You can’t tell a judge that you are an oppressed class who deserves special protections, and then expect to be allowed to violate another even more oppressed class’s rights. By doing so, you’re removing the nails that hold up the platform you’re standing on.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something Nice to Say About Justin Trudeau

canada-cannabisI didn’t vote Liberal in the last election, and I have not been a fan of their free spending ways. The one promise Justin Trudeau made that I really liked was the promise to legalize marijuana. This promise was made before his election last November, giving all stake holders plenty of time to prepare for the implementation by July 2018. That’s why, when naysayers started calling for the change to be delayed, I was happy to see the CBC headline Ottawa sticks with July 2018 deadline to legalize pot despite provincial worries.

Manitoba’s finance minister Cameron Friesen said he felt rushed by Ottawa’s tight timeline and asked for an extension. He said the provinces are bearing the bulk of the work involved, as well as the “very real” costs needed to create a regulated cannabis market.

Typical. The government can’t start a new business with more than a year and a half notice. And they are worried about costs. Do they think it’s hard to make money selling pot?

“This is a very significant shift in how we’ll operate, and we need to have that adequate time to develop the tools that we will need as a province to be able to implement this the correct way.”

If you can’t figure this out, given that you have had four months if you waited for the legislation in April (and why didn’t you get started in November if you were worried about not having enough time?) and will have another entire year, you should probably resign, because you are incompetent.

Friesen raised the idea of an extension with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Later in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself snuffed out the idea. “We gave everybody lots of time,” Trudeau said. “We’ve been working for a long time with all the provinces, with the municipalities… It’s time for us to move forward on this.”

Yes! I hope you stick to this, Justin.

For provinces that aren’t ready in time for the fixed date, Morneau said, Ottawa will oversee a mail-order sales program. Consumers would be able to buy pot through a federally licensed producer and receive home delivery.

Sweet. Maybe get Amazon involved. Drone deliveries?

Morneau said the ministers agreed to the principle that pot taxation should stay low to ensure the regulated market squeezes out the illegal activity. The challenge will be identifying the sweet spot — where pot prices are high enough to cover government costs, but cheap enough to beat out the black market.

Seems straightforward. Just discount the current price in Vancouver by 25%. If the criminals drop their prices to compete, consider lowering taxes further. Be agile.

Morneau added that they have yet to determine how tax revenues would be shared between provinces and the federal government.

Should be 100% provincial, in my opinion. All the feds are doing is changing the law to make it legal. Though if they are selling in provinces too incompetent to get ready within the next year, the federal government should get all the tax revenue.

“We’re going to be asking for fairness and flexibility, so that when there are some possible revenues that come from this that it’s properly shared,” Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said.

“When there are some possible revenues”? You have got to be kidding. You aren’t certain that there is money to be made selling pot?

His Quebec counterpart, Carlos Leitao, said the provinces should receive most of the tax revenue from legalized pot because they will “have to shoulder most of the costs of putting in place regulations.”

How can the cost of “putting in place regulations” be close to even a small slice of the profits from selling the pot?

The federal government argued that marijuana prohibition is very expensive and that legalization could significantly cut down on costs.

And once more, some sanity from the federal government. Keep up the good work on legalization!

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conservative Hypocrisy on Legalizing Pot

marijuana-plantsThe CBC’s article ‘It’s not our legislation’: Charlottetown mayor says feds should help pay for pot enforcement perfectly points out the hypocrisy of the right when it comes to legalizing pot. This call for federal money goes against the conservative principle of minimal government. Ottawa is removing regulation and devolving responsibility to the provinces. This is what Conservatives always claim to want. Let’s see what the mayor has to say for himself.

“This year it’s marijuana, next year it’s another drug, next year it’s another drug, and I think it’s a sad reflection on Canada today,” said [Mayor] Lee, who doesn’t think marijuana should be legalized.

Ah, so since he doesn’t agree with their admittedly liberal social policy, he is demanding a liberal fiscal policy.

“That we have people dying on the streets of this country from drug overdoses and our reaction to the issue of drugs in our community is let’s legalize one of them, it just doesn’t make any sense, quite frankly, to me.”

This is such a ridiculous argument. No one is dying on the streets from marijuana overdoses. Also, legalizing heroin would likely prevent the 2 in 3 overdoses that are caused by unpredictable amounts of Fentanyl found in the illegal drugs.

One big concern for Lee is how municipalities will be expected to pay for extra enforcement, especially around impaired driving. From his research, Lee is estimating it could cost around $750,000 to get the Charlottetown force trained as Drug Recognition Evaluator/Experts (DRE).

But presumably, budget will be freed up as the need to enforce drug laws is decreased. After all, when there are fewer criminals, due to their market being taken, there will be less crime. Also, police surely must have some ability to detect stoned drivers, since marijuana use is already common. Don’t tell me that people don’t smoke pot in Charlottetown.

The RCMP currently has three active DREs, and confirmed the training costs approximately $15,000 for one member.

How much does this training cost per day, and how long does it take? It seems like a simple roadside process shouldn’t take more than a week to learn. So this course costs $3000 a day? Are they flying their members to Hawaii for the week?

Spokesperson Sgt Kevin Baille said currently the training isn’t offered in Canada, but if it was, that would bring the cost down.

So do that, then tell us how much it will actually cost.

Baille said RCMP on P.E.I. will be undergoing further training called Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST).

Why haven’t they already had this training?

The legislation says that everyone can grow up to four plants in their home. Lee says one concern he has is how police will enforce the number of plants individuals will be allowed to grow.

This is simple. Don’t police it. Just make sure that no one is dealing illegally, which you’re already doing, right?

“July 1st of next year is the magic date when this legislation is going to be proclaimed.”
Actually, it’s by that date. Hopefully, it will be legalized sooner.

 

“Working in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities and local communities, the government of Canada will make appropriate investments to train and equip law enforcement so that Canada’s roads and highways are safe for all Canadians,” said a statement from Public Safety Canada.

So sounds like the feds will be spending on this anyway.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review of “Headshot”

headshot* * C

This Indonesian film (much of it in Indonesian, with English subtitles) is an incredibly violent and gory crime drama. It begins with a ruthless crime lord, Lee (Sunny Pang), escaping from prison. The story switches to the protagonist, Ishmael (Iko Uwais), who washes up on a beach with a near fatal head injury, and the young doctor, Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who nurses him back to health. When Lee begins to search for Ishmael, mayhem ensues.

The film is incredibly violent. The romance between Ishmael and Ailin is the only let up from the near constant fighting. The fights are gritty. The choreography is unobtrusive, the sound effects not overstated. The amount of punishment Ishmael takes over the course of the film is a little unbelievable, considering that he has just woken from a two month coma, but there is a reasonable explanation for his abilities.

This was a good watch, but had little to make it memorable. If you like martial arts and don’t mind blood and gore and reading a few subtitles, you’ll probably enjoy it as a guilty pleasure.

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Social Justice Turning on Itself?

The social justice movement seems to more and more be attacking its own, or at least those it purports to represent. I’m going to comment on three recent articles to justify this claim.

bill-c-16The first is the CBC opinion piece Banning trans women from women-only facilities punishes them for the sins of others, which discusses an women only spa that barred a trans woman from entering. With the passage of bill C-16 in Canada, this is now illegal. The author asserts:

Some observers are of the opinion that that “satisfactory resolution” should be to continue to deny access to trans women. They note that some cis women — that is, women who were assigned female at birth, who identify as female — can be triggered by the sight of male genitalia; that the presence of trans women will compromise their safe spaces.

For those unfamiliar with the jargon, “assigned female at birth” means “having no Y chromosome”. The safe spaces in question are change rooms and showers. Sorry ladies, but you will now be forced to allow genetically male women in to your public spaces, much as men were forced to allow you into historically male only spaces.

Next up, the HuffPost article On Laci Green And White Women’s Betrayal. Here, feminist YouTuber Laci Green is chastised for deigning to talk to people whose opinions differ from her own. While this is interesting, the author’s critique of white women is telling:

This sort of behavior is not uncommon for white women, even those who hold progressive political views. Over the course of history we have always chosen our race over our gender in order to advance our social standing and gain the respect of our male counterparts, even if that means leaving women of color in the dust; as long as we get ours, what happens to everyone else doesn’t matter.

The mere act of talking to someone whose opinion differs from your own makes you “racist, homophobic, and transphobic”. Welcome to the basket of deplorables.

Finally, CNN reports Redesigned pride flag recognizes LGBT people of color, in reference to a new flag that adds black and brown stripes to the top of the rainbow flag, the banner of the gay rights movement. Whether the movement will accept this is another question. According to the article:

But with the nationwide support came pushback and criticism… The “vast majority” of critics are gay white men, a sector of the LGBT community that doesn’t necessarily understand the issues that LGBT people of color might face.

Or more likely, aren’t happy that the focus of their movement is being altered without their consent.

The social justice movement continues to use legal and shaming tactics to push its agenda. In doing so, it long ago alienated the majority of men. Now, it is turning on women, particularly white women, and gay white men, groups that have historically been its allies. These are dangerous tactics that threaten to drive people away in the same way Clinton’s rhetoric helped drive voters labeled “deplorable” by her into the waiting arms of president Trump.

 

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The End of Gasoline/Diesel Powered Cars?

The current crop of electrics won’t be killing off the gas station any time soon. There is a potential battery technology, Lithium-air, that has the same energy density as gasoline. If scientists can work out the kinks, these could make electric vehicles that go as far a gas powered ones a reality. Unfortunately, we can’t predict when that will happen. Until the range problem is truly solved–and by that I mean the ability to charge at home and then drive at a minimum all day without recharging–I can’t see electrics replacing gasoline powered cars, though they could well take over some niches.

Electric cars need to compete on an even keel with gasoline powered cars, having similar costs and ranges, especially since the environmental benefits are minimal when their electricity is being generated by burning coal. According to The ‘electric cars aren’t green’ myth debunked , “using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.”

In BC, we generate most of our electricity with hydro-electric dams, so there are environmental benefits to be had. Unfortunately, we also have cold winters. By controlling battery temperatures, car makers have solved performance problems in cold weather. But electric cars can take twice as long to charge in cold conditions. Leaving an electric car out all day in sub-zero temperatures can also halve its range. Finally, using the car’s heating system, which is essential in Canadian winter, can radically decrease range. (Source: Electric cars during winter)

fuel-cellAnother possible replacement for gasoline powered vehicles are hydrogen powered vehicles. Hydrogen is actually very low energy when burnt, but it can be used to generate electricity using a complex device called a fuel cell. Unfortunately, HFC powered vehicles suffer from range limitations similar to electric vehicles, though they can be refueled in less time (in about 5 minutes). Hydrogen fuel cells are relatively expensive to produce, as their designs require rare substances such as platinum. Then there is the fact that 95% of hydrogen is made from natural gas, generating large amounts of CO2. Producing hydrogen cleanly via electrolysis is not currently cost effective.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Whats Up with Marvel? Dueling Headlines

miles-morales
I love the hilarious juxtaposition of the following three headlines.

March 15: Marvel Comic Sales In Freefall In February 2017 — What’s Going On?

People aren’t wanting more politics; in the aftermath of the most divisive election in US history, they’re wanting comics to be how they escape from politics.

April 7: Marvel Comics May Have Slumping Sales, but Don’t Blame Its Diverse Heroes

Marvel has recently been experiencing a “massive sales slump” because of more basic factors: the frequent restarting of series with new No. 1 issues; fan fatigue over story lines that promise changes but fail to deliver; and the introduction of a deluge of new series.

May 26: Marvel Exec: Diversity to Blame for Comic Book Sales Slump

(Note that the above is the original heading, which was later redacted.)

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told iCv2 after being asked what contributed to changes in customer tastes that led to a drop in sales in October-November. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

Posted in books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment