Tag Archives: WTF

I’m sorry what have YOU been smoking?

The US Navy has finally decided to ban smoking on their submarines because the risks of second hand smoke are “severe”.

The US Navy is banning its crews from smoking aboard submarines, after a study found the risks of second-hand smoke were severe.

Submarine Forces Commander Vice-Admiral John Donnelly ordered the ban aboard 73 US subs, citing health concerns.

”Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine,” he said. (The Age)

Seriously?  What year do they think it is?  The dangers of second-hand smoke have been known for quite a long time, and surely the Navy would be far more interested in having their soldiers at peak physical fitness instead of craving nicotine or suffering the effects of second hand smoke.

The US appears to be a much different beast when it comes to smoking than Australia, which started banning workplace smoking in the mid 1980s.  According to Wikipedia:

Although Congress has not attempted to enact a general nationwide federal smoking ban in workplaces, several federal regulations do concern indoor smoking. Effective April 1998, smoking is banned by the United States Department of Transportation on all commercial passenger flights in the United States, and/or by American air carriers.  On August 9, 1997, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13058, banning smoking in all interior spaces owned, rented, or leased by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, as well as in any outdoor areas under executive branch control near air intake ducts.

Which I thought would have included spaces used by the Navy, which is part of the Executive Branch of the US Federal Government.  Remind me not to take my smoke-free workplaces for granted or to travel in a submarine any time soon.  I value my lungs, throat and mouth… and love not stinking of cigarette smoke after a night out on the town these days.  I’m a happy non-smoker and user of smoke free places.

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An encounter – the racist thug

I moved to Fawkner (in Melbourne) about a year ago, and I love my neighbourhood.  I love it’s diversity, multi-faith options (including the option of none at all), the shops, the parks, the friendliness.  I love all of this, and I have especially love living in the area with the least crowded train line, which is also the least violent and racist train line that I have lived on for a while.

Until last night.

A thug, his friend and his friend’s girlfriend got on the train near Coburg.  As he walked through the carriage he commented loudly that the train “smelt like immigrants” (whatever that means).  He stopped and stood in the door way with his friends and continued talking loudly.  He again proclaimed that he never knew that something could smell like immigrants until now, while his friend mimed violent acts to his girlfriend.  The third time he opened his mouth to proclaim how everything smelt of immigrants, I said, “Hey!  Shut the fuck up”.  He did, and the girl turned and looked at me.  The thug dropped his voice and got off at the next station with his friends.

Initially I was shocked that someone would say such a thing, especially on this train line, where (up until now) everything has been cool, calm and collected.  The second time I was outraged and wondering if I should actually say anything to him to get him to shut up.  The third time, I acted… and then immediately went into “Oh fuck!!!!” territory on the inside.  Thankfully I can rely on two things, I’m female and less likely to attract violence (though my partner with me may have), and I can look really scary when I’m annoyed.

I acted because I want the train line I’m on to be safe for me (not a migrant) and everyone else (migrant or not).  I acted because uneducated bigots who think that they have the right to spew hatred really annoy me.  I acted because no one else was (a failing of mine).

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Seriously?

*Trigger warning – this post discusses  language misuse detrimental to women*

I rarely encounter direct sexism (that I notice – different story) in my day to day life.  I read about sexism, I comment on sexism in the media, but rarely do I end up calling-out sexism from someone in my day-to-day life.  If that makes sense.  I’m very, incredibly and wonderfully lucky in that my partners, their partners, my family and my friends are all non-sexist.  We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there is little in the way of direct sexism in my life.

Enter Michael Barnett, a blogger and commentator, and a member of the National LBGTIQ Rights list (Australia) that I’m on.  He has a blog, and is currently upset with a female member of the (Melbourne?) Jewish community who has been posting homophobic comments in various forums.  He announced his latest blog post on the National LBGTIQ Rights list with:

More deluded rantings from this homophobic Jewish bitch.  She really needs to see a vet.

I told Michael that I was upset with the language he’d used to describe the woman he was upset with, and told him that there were plenty of other ways to refer to someone without equating them to an animal or belonging.

Michael, to my surprise (I really don’t know him) refused to apologise stating:

No apologies.  Please channel your offence at the viles (sic) homophobes.

I informed Michael that I can be offended at both homophobic behaviour (and individuals) AND people who are sexist and that I would indeed like an apology from him as well as an undertaking to modify his language use. At this point another member of the mailing list pointed out that homophobia and sexism were as vile as each other.

Michael decided at this point to deflect responsibility for his language use onto the individual he was upset with and also to tell me that I was not offended.

I won’t tolerate homophobic rants from vile bitches like [name redacted]*.  If you are offended by what I write, I suggest you have a tete-a-tete with [name redacted] and politely ask her to stop writing the offensive material that I don’t like that drives me to write the material you find offensive.

Please don’t get all high and mighty on me.  You are not offended.  You are being precious.  [name redacted] is the problem, not my writings.

So I should redirect my offence to the individual that has upset him, even though Michael’s choice of words, something he is responsible for, was the cause of my offence.  I was flabbergasted that someone could even dare to suggest such a thing, and on a relatively public forum at that.  I pointed out to Michael that he was responsible for his language use regardless of the actions of another person, and no matter how much that other person upset him – especially as he was reporting on it later.

I also told him that he could not tell me that I was not offended and that he was mansplaining my offence away and that did not make me suddenly not offended.  I reminded Michael that sexism was as bad as homophobia and that his refusal to apologise or to agree to modify his language was increasing my offence.  I asked him to be a better person than the person who had upset him and to apologise.

Michael’s response:

Hi Rebecca,

[name redacted] fits the definition of bitch “A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing.”

I am not sexist.

I call homophobic rabbis cunts.  They fit the definition “Used as a disparaging term for a person one dislikes or finds extremely disagreeable.”

This is not about you.

And that’s where he got it it incredible wrong, and I walked away (because I could not be arsed spending the energy and time it would take to educate this individual).  Michael’s language use is sexist and his refusal to acknowledge that his language was inappropriate and harmful makes him sexist in my opinion.

I am incredibly grateful to those on the mailing lists (some of my comments were cross-posted – or replies were cross posted) that stood up and agreed with me.  Many of them were more eloquent than I was able to be at that time, pointing out that language is an important tool and using appropriate language is essential in fighting for human rights.  Thank you to those who stood up against sexism.

Some of the best comments (names withheld) were:

One would have to query why one should be so apparently determined to repeatedly to show such little respect and put off-side, those who share the battle and grief the result of these homophobic individuals?

Bayne Macgregor said:

It is every politically active persons responsibility to be aware of some of the basic ways language is part of politics and emotion. You don’t need a degree in linguistics to see that conservatives have made one of their main tools the control of language and the emotional meaning-association. Why the heck do you think people started using the word Gay instead of terms like Homosexual, Faggot, Poofta, Fairy, Fairy-Maggot or Pus-Person?

Now if you want to insult this person go ahead! But do so with terms that are not enforcing any other discrimination.So it would be in your interest and everyone elses if you explore the great cultural heritage of cretive insults and find some that do not reinforce any sexism, ablism, racism, transphobia or any other such problem which we as human-rights activists specialising in the GLBTIQ area need to be aware of and supportive of the fight against.

Michael, you’ve failed to grasp the meaning of the word “offended”.

Offence is in the eye of the beholder, not defined by the offender. Consequently, when someone tells you that they are offended by your language or your behaviour, they are right. You as the offender are in no position to claim that, “You are not offended.  You are being precious.”

Further, when someone tells you that they are offended by your behaviour and you refuse to change it, you are indicating that you hold their views and their feelings in complete contempt.

*  I’m not naming the individual that Michael is offended with, even though I have read some of her comments on a blog and found them homophobic, because right now she is not the issue.

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Sometimes it is just about sex

I participated yesterday in the comments section of an article on The Age about infidelity and again whether or not monogamy is the answer to everything (it is, but not for everyone).

The comments, on the whole, were quite positive, very little slut shaming going on and some people opening up about how infidelity has hurt them.  Quite a few members of Australia’s poly community (myself included) spoke about being ethically non-monogamous, how expecting that one person can fill all your needs is unrealistic and that with trust and honesty, insecurity and jealousy can be reduced.

One commenter agreed that one person could not meet all your needs, but that was what friends and family were for and asked why it always had to be about sex.  I suggested, in response, that because sometimes it was.  I gave two examples, of which they responded to only one.  The first (the one that wasn’t responded to) was about non-monogamous bisexuals who wanted/needed the sexual contact of the gender of partner they weren’t seeing right now or felt more balanced when they had partners with different genders.

The second, which was responded to, was about BDSM and what did you do if your partner wasn’t into BDSM and you wanted that outlet.  I was told by the commenter that they were a BDSM practitioner and BDSM is all about freedom and not sex.  And that’s where I stopped playing and went and did something else.  Because, you see, it can be all about sex.

Prescriptive responses like that tend to annoy me.  It leaves no room for someone who wants their sex rough, if we stick with the example above, and for whom BDSM does not cease on penetration (as I’ve read it is “supposed to” in some books).  Clearly there are multiple groups in the BDSM community who practice their flavour of BDSM in different ways.  There is, apart from safe, sane and consensual, no right way to practice BDSM.  There are things that work for some people and things that work for others.  Telling me what BDSM is, as if it applies to EVERYONE else on the planet who is interested, dismisses my beliefs and experience with BDSM as not being correct or right or pure… basically that I did something else that wasn’t BDSM even if I call it that.

There is no one way for most things that people do.  There is no one way to be gay, there is no one way to orgasm, there is no one way to be trans*, there is no one way to be disabled, there is no one way to be white, there is no one way to be a person of colour, etc.  Each of these things are customised by me, my thoughts, experiences and feelings.  The people I tend to associate with get this, thankfully, so I do not have to constantly fight to identify certain ways or to use language that fits me best.  I am privileged in that way and grateful for it.

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Who gets to decide these things anyway?

Most of the internet will be rightly outraged at Dr New of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University and her “treatment” of pregnant women using “safe” (read dangerous with terrible side-effects) hormones in order to cure teh gay…  PZ Myers and Dan Savage have blogged about the pure evil that this whole thing is in relation to lying about the drug’s safety, ethics approval, experimenting on humans, etc.  I don’t want to go over that other than to say that if my mother had been convinced to take this drug when she was pregnant with me, I wouldn’t exist as I do now.  No more bisexual woman out to herd geek cats with the best of them.

What I want to consider here is the fact that someone came up with the idea that to be a “proper female” you shouldn’t “display an “abnormal” disinterest in babies, [not] want to play with girls’ toys or become mothers, and [not choose a] “career preferences” [which is] deemed too “masculine.”” (Quote taken from Dan’s blog and then amended)

Who gets to say which career paths are too “masculine”?  I thought, now that we’re in 2010 and have attempted as much as possible to win the whole equal pay in relation to employment that all career choices were open to women and none could really be defined as “too masculine”.  I know that there are career paths which are dominated by one gender with rare incursions (for want of a better word) by the opposite gender, such as childcare and nursing for women and truck driving and construction work for men.  Though I wouldn’t say that those career paths are actually gendered other than by history and the current status quo.

I do wonder what Dr New and her researchers deemed to be a masculine career preferences and why, in the age of enlightenment that we’re supposed to be in (as far as women’s alleged ability to access any job she’s qualified for) choosing a non-traditional job for women is a bad thing.  My biggest concern is that Dr New and her team are attempting to impose patriarchal ideals of womanhood and what is means to be a proper/successful woman without looking at the benefits that women have gained over the past century.  Without sitting down and asking themselves if the meaning of “man” and “woman” have changed in a positive way that benefits everyone, including any children they may choose to have. How much do they want women to regress?

Erasing diversity and introducing conformity in our population to fit some weird hetero-normative ideal of what it is to be a proper woman or a proper man lessens us all.  As a diverse population of straight, gay, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, intersex, queer and questioning individuals we all have strengths that compliment each other’s weaknesses.  As a diverse population with interests in different career paths, we keep the economy moving and bring different strengths to the workplace.

I want to see Dr New, and anyone else who thinks that using this drug to treat non-CAH female foetuses, disbarred from practising medicine and forced to attend diversity education before they can re-register.   Oh and the ethics departments who have allowed this human experimentation… same deal.

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