Why Harper is cracking the whip — and why he has to | iPolitics

Why Harper is cracking the whip — and why he has to | iPolitics.

A too-clever-by-half commentary from former Conservative communications director Geoff Norquay, who characterizes Stephen Harper’s control-freakery as something in which he has no choice because the “extremists on both sides” of the abortion debate prevent Canadians from “having a rational discussion.”

Unfortunately, his argument rests on a flawed premise. The abortion “debate” isn’t a choice between two extremes. He’s using a false equivalence. If there’s a “debate” here at all, it’s between those who refuse to discuss curtailing the freedoms of their fellow citizens on the one hand, and those who want to use sophistry and misdirection to re-assert patriarchal control over women’s bodies and reproductive choices on the other. There’s really no “debate” here at all.

The *real* sad commentary is that we have to keep going through this at all.

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This is my body

No comment necessary.

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Misogyny, sexism and violence in popular culture: what @jm_mcgrath and @amirightfolks said

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Right away, I’ll make it clear: I’m not a gamer. 

Stephanie got things rolling by calling out some loser for setting up an online device aimed at Anita Sarkeesian — a woman he disagreed with. His response to the disagreement and her inexplicable failure to engage in conversation with him: punch her in the face. Virtually. Ha ha. So clever. So mature.

Really, there isn’t much to say about this that hasn’t already been said, although I was particularly impressed by Emma Woolley’s essay: among other things, she argues that nobody is entitled to an audience, to engagement, to conversation, or even to attention. You can say whatever you like, no matter how ridiculous, but that doesn’t impose a corresponding obligation on anyone else to listen to you or answer you. (That resonated with me particularly because of another loser’s smear job on another friend; the said loser tried to rationalize it by arguing that he sent my friend a bunch of questions and my friend chose not to answer.)

John picks up on this in another thoughtful essay on his own site (and John, let me know when that malware thing gets straightened out so I can link to it … ). In it, he goes into some detail about the implicit assumptions surrounding whiteness and heteronormativity, and the almost instinctive resort to violence and hatred when someone’s world view or sense of entitlement is challenged. I won’t try to summarize it here, but do go and read it ASAP. 

John’s post focuses at length on the significance of online games as storytelling devices, and it’s a worthwhile look at a subculture not everyone may know about. It’s particularly instructive for its acknowledgement of privilege:

“… for many, many games there’s an unnecessary barrier between the gamer and the game … I’m a straight, white dude. And there’s almost no game I can pick up, turn on and be alienated from.”

So while I’m not a gamer, I can’t see any reason why that’s not a valid observation, and why it isn’t fodder for a worthwhile conversation. And to my knowledge, that’s the very subject Anita Sarkeesian’s trying to address. And for that, she’s been subject to a disgusting campaign of online harassment, namecalling, violent imagery, and rape threats. And god knows, she’s not the only one … 

To which I can only respond: these guys are walking proof of what Bill Maher says about right-wingers, 14-year-old boys, and being dicks.

The only other observation I’d make, and it may be a trite one, is that this kind of thing isn’t limited to gaming. At one of the first WiTOpoli panel discussions, Kristyn Wong-Tam talked about getting hateful phone calls in which she was called a cunt; while I haven’t researched this comprehensively, I’d bet money that white guys in politics or journalism or whatever aren’t targeted with similar derogatory sexualized or racialized terms. At another WiTOpoli event, another friend talked about this kind of hatred, and how it affected her reluctance to reveal herself as a woman online. 

That’s why it’s important to confront it and call it out. It’s also good to acknowledge one’s own implicit and built-in advantages, whether they’re based in gender, class, or skin colour.

Creating room for other people in the conversation demands no less.

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Refusing to debate abortion rights isn’t censorship | #cdnpoli

There’s a lot of sound and fury, understandably, about Stephen Woodworth’s attempt to reignite the abortion debate. 

It’s hard not to be struck, right off the bat, by the disingenuous bullshit surrounding it. Woodworth likes to characterize his initiative as an honest inquiry about when life begins. The Harper machine insists that Woodworth is acting on his own, and that this isn’t official government policy. 

Yeah, right. This from an operation so obsessed with message control that backbenchers dare not even fart without clearing it with the the PMO. 

And let’s be clear about what this is: it’s not a simple intellectual exercise or an attempt to update the state of scientific knowledge. It’s an assault on reproductive autonomy — a transparent and disingenuous attempt to reassert patriarchal control over women’s bodies and take away the freedom of choice that took decades to achieve.

To suggest that this “debate” isn’t welcome is not, as some misguided voices would argue, the same as advocating censorship. It’s an assertion that some debates are simply not worthy of consideration in public discourse. 

It’s inconceivable that in 2012, we would even discuss whether women have the right to control their own bodies. That question was settled by the Supreme Court of Canada more than two decades ago. Do we really have to go through all that again? Are we really prepared to put the basic human rights of our fellow citizens in issue? Seriously?

Framing it as a matter of free inquiry and intellectual exchange allows its proponents to posture as reasonable people and dismiss their opponents as angry, irrational and hysterical. Condescending? Ya think? What next? Are we going to have calm, reasonable, mature debates about whether black people should have the same rights as white people, or whether LGBT people should have the same rights as straight folk?

No. And saying “we’re not going to debate about it” isn’t censorship. Woodworth and his hangers-on — so-cons, misogynists, fundies and assorted intellectual wankers — are welcome to have as many of their little debates as they like. Fill yer boots, boys. 

Just not in the Parliament of Canada, let alone any forum that bills itself as “progressive.”

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