Compared to other democracies, the U.S. has a strange penchant for passing laws that suppress voting instead of encourage it. We are one of the few democracies, for example, that requires people to register to vote. Most elsewhere, writes Eric Black for the Minnesota Post:
[G]overnments know the names, ages and addresses of most of its citizens and… provide the appropriate polling place with a list of those qualified to vote. The voter just has to show up.
We also hold elections on just one day instead of several and that day is an otherwise normal Tuesday instead of a weekend or a holiday.
Those are just two examples of rules and practices that reduce voting. There are many. It’s called voter suppression and it’s totally a thing. The ACLU has collected voter suppression efforts just since 2013, listing 15 states that have passed such measures.
A majority of these efforts to reduce voting are initiated by the political right, as a generic search for such stories quickly reveals. They are aimed specifically at likely democratic voters, like racial minorities and students, adding up to what political scientist David Schultz argues is the Second Great Disenfranchisement in U.S. history after Jim Crow.
Many of these measures are overtly discriminatory and even illegal, but others are more subtle. Making voting more costly in terms of time might be one subtle way of discouraging voting by some types of people. Data collected by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in 2012 suggests that this is, indeed, part of voter suppression, by incompetence or design.
Here is some of their data.
Nationwide, the average wait time to vote was longer for all non-white groups, especially blacks:
Florida had the longest delays in 2012 and these delays disproportionately affected Latinos:
In South Carolina, the 10 precincts with the longest wait times were all in one disproportionately African American county:
Wait times are partly the result of the number of voting machines divided by the number of registered voters. The long wait times in South Carolina, in other words, were not random. Those 10 precincts in the highly African American county had about half as many voting machines per person as the statewide average:
They also had significantly fewer poll workers available to help out:
There are more graphs and more details at Mother Jones.
Voter suppression seriously harms our right to call ourselves a democracy. Notably, it’s significantly worse today. When the Supreme Court struck down the part of the Voting Rights Act that required oversight of states with a history of voting discrimination, the ability of the federal government to ensure equal voting rights was seriously damaged. Previously monitored states immediately began passing legislation designed to suppress voting. As I wrote previously:
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
This is bad. It will be much more difficult to undo discriminatory laws than it was to prevent them from being implemented and, even if they are challenged and overturned, they will do damage in the meantime.
I’ve been thinking about feminism a lot lately. I mean, who hasn’t? Time Magazine nominated the term itself as a word that should be abolished from the English language. Then, when that nomination was retracted, media blamed pushy feminists. Who is a feminist? What is a feminist? What does the term even mean?
I went to college in the 1990s. Those were heady days of second-to-third wave feminism. Women dominated the airways – we listened to Alanis and Jewel and Lisa Loeb. Time Magazine declared 1992 The Year of the Woman (and in 2014 declare feminism an annoying term). I went to college with the expectation that I would marry and I would have a career. No one I knew, and I was raised in a conservative Baptist area of the South, had a problem with birth control. Sex before marriage was frowned upon, but birth control within marriage generally got a thumbs up. In class, I read texts by men and women, and had meaningful discussions about the societal forces that contributed to Sylvia Plath’s suicide. I dived into the wreck and emerged sadder but wiser.
I attended grad school for my MA in 1998 and for my PhD in 2000. One of my concentrations for PhD was in feminist theory. My incredible professor, Penny Ingram, introduced us to the female phallus, cyborgs, and the most monstrous thought of all, the mother. She guided us through Irigaray and Spivak and Lacan and Foucault. In class we often debated about theory and praxis. We’d discuss Irigaray’s challenge of patriarchal structure then want to storm the doors and start a revolution. We’d read the theory then someone would always ask, “How does this work in praxis?” (Because we were in grad school, no one could say “in practice” or “in real life.”) And I or someone would say, “But it can’t, not until the whole system is destroyed. It can’t under current conditions.”
And so my 90s ideals of Lillith Faire and having it all clashed with my millennial ideas of theory and praxis, of systemic patriarchal structures and the inability to shatter that structure. These ideas still clash for me. And now, when saying you are a feminist is likely to attract rape and death threats online, it is even more difficult.
After I began teaching, I added to my definition of feminism by practicing intersectionality. Because many of our marginalized students are ignored or silenced by the climate of a conservative religious institution, I’ve learned the importance of spaces and voices for those with disabilities, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. As an ally, I often have to straddle the difficult line between speaking for those who have been silenced and unintentionally appropriating those voices. Black Twitter has taught me much about that distinction.
So you can see how difficult the definition of “feminist” is. In academia, we talk about “feminisms” – the multiplicity of meanings and identities and intersections of marginalized peoples. What that means in practice/praxis is that different people have definitions. My favorite basic definition of feminism is Susan Gubar’s – Do you believe men and women should have equal opportunities for happiness and fulfillment in life? Then congrats, you are a feminist.
Until recently, I was convinced that the vast majority of the first world population believed that statement. I felt that most people were feminists when it got down to the nitty-gritty of equality. I even believed that most people applied that statement to other marginalized peoples, that most people believed that ALL humans are equal and deserve equal opportunities for health, education, careers, and personal fulfillment.
But now I don’t.
Neither my naïve 90s self nor my smugly enlightened grad school self would have envisioned a 2014 in which women are systematically harassed for expressing opinions online. Neither self could have even conceived of a 2014 in which birth control was labeled not as fundamental women’s health care, but as optional and for “sluts.” I couldn’t have imagined a world in which voters decide the basic human rights of a group of people. I could not foresee a world in which protesting as a person of color constitutes a state emergency. I couldn’t have foreseen that only 60% of people in 2014 identify as feminist (in spite of Beyonce’s proclamation).
I would not have imagined just one routine grocery trip to Walmart in which I was questioned by a cashier over my 6-year-old son’s choice of a Hello Kitty Happy Meal. (Never mind the questioning over allowing him to have a Happy Meal in the first place.) As he played with his Hello Kitty, we saw a display of educational toys. We talked about the cool toys then looked on the other side to see if more were displayed there. Instead we found a pink side full of craft kits. It was the embodiment of the binary. Until we saw the pink side, we assumed the educational kits were for kids. Seeing the flip side made us realize the educational kits were for boys.
I went home sick at heart. I’m so tired.
I’m tired of women and POC expressing ideas online and getting harassed and threatened. I’m tired of LGBTQ people who are just asking for their rights as humans being degraded and called abominations. I’m tired of explaining to my son that it’s okay if he wants to polish his nails or play with Hello Kitty. I’m also tired of asking him if any girls make the Minecraft tutorial videos that obsess him. I’m tired of being labeled as “pushy” if I speak too much in a meeting. I’m tired of making less than my male colleagues. I’m tired of my husband having to answer questions which imply sexual impropriety as a man in middle-grades education. I’m sick to death of pink and blue and the incredibly stifling binary enforced by limiting our children to two choices.
Today in my British lit survey we talked about “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. He describes the infuriating futility of not wanting to shoot the elephant and knowing he has to shoot the elephant, of being stuck in a system that he hates yet cannot change. He despised a system in which he was forced to participate. Damn that elephant.
How do we step outside that system, that elephant in the room, that Foucauldian web of power, and change it all? That’s always been the question. Now that question for me takes on more urgency. As I try to live in this world as a woman, as I try to raise a son who embraces and celebrates multiplicities and identities, as my friends of color and my LGBTQ friends STILL work for human rights, as I try to help my students see the web of power and never unsee it, I am more convinced that we have to break the system. Smash it. Like Irigaray, I and many people know the system is rotten. I can’t answer the question about what we do to change it, demolish it, of exactly how we smack it with a giant hammer. I don’t know how we allow those smashed systemic fragments to multiply into diversities and identities. But it must be done. We create systems. Let’s destroy this one before it destroys us.
Make it look like a fish is swimming in your cuppa. Read the rest
HT: Clayton Cubitt
Meet Zeus, a blind Western Screech Owl with eyes that look like a celestial scene captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Behold the incredible cuteness of this newborn pangolin (aka scaly anteater) at the Taipei Zoo. Video below. (more…)
Surely you've heard about this. A Texas court — full of old men, reeking of misogyny — has ruled that taking upskirt photos of unwilling women is free speech protected by the First Amendment!
How ridiculous! How despicable!
I mean, at least — that's what I think happened, based on how the story has been reported and talked about.
Consider, say — the Mary Sue, a really very good blog that deals with how pop culture treats women. Here's how they headlined and wrote about it:
Kansas City, Missouri May Soon Outlaw Catcalling; Texas Lifts Proposed Ban on Upskirt Photos
. . .
Just this week, Texas’ highest criminal court threw out a state law banning “improper photography” like upskirts and other invasive images taken without consent —in a decision ostensibly meant to protect “free speech” that will just protect perpetrators instead.
You think a blog is a bad example? OK, take The Guardian:
Texas court upholds right to take 'upskirt' pictures
A court has upheld the constitutional right of Texans to photograph strangers as an essential component of freedom of speech – even if those images should happen to be surreptitious “upskirt” pictures of women taken for the purposes of sexual gratification.
It's not all progressives. Look at Breitbart:
Texas Court: Ban on 'Upskirt' Photos Violates First Amendment Rights
HOUSTON, Texas — Texas' highest criminal court threw out a law on Wednesday banning "improper photography in public." Banning such photography, which includes "upskirting" or "downblousing" for the purpose of sexual gratification, would be considered a violation of free speech.
Or, on the other side, Salon:
Texas court throws out “upskirt” photo law, because banning creepshots is “paternalistic”
Texas’ highest criminal court struck down part of a law banning “upskirt” photos on Wednesday, arguing that photos taken without permission in public are entitled to First Amendment protections. Outlawing “improper photography or visual recording,” the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals panel ruled, would be a violation of federal free-speech rights and a “paternalistic” effort to regulate the photographers’ thoughts.
If you read those articles — if you read most of the coverage of this decision — you would conclude that (1) Texas had a law banning upskirt photos, and (2) a Texas court struck down the law because upskirt photos are protected by the First Amendment and can't be banned.
Or, you could, you know, read the actual court decision to see what the court said. Mike Masnick at Techdirt did so, and found that the decision didn't much resemble its coverage.
First, take the statute that was at issue. It's Texas Penal Code section 21.15(b)(1).
(b) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another at a location that is not a bathroom or private dressing room:
(A) without the other person's consent; and
(B) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
That odd "not a bathroom" clause, by the way, is there because there's a separate part of the statute that deals with filming in bathrooms and dressing rooms — which the Texas court did not strike down.
So. Let's consider this a minute. Taking a picture of someone in public with the intent to gratify anyone sexually is a felony under this statute.
Is this picture a felony?
That depends on whether a jury thinks that the photographer took it for anyone's sexual gratification. Could you get arrested for taking the picture? That would depend on whether a cop thinks that you are taking the picture for sexual gratification. The picture is iconic; it depends upon apparent juxtaposition of a heavily-policed riot and a passionate embrace. I'm sure the cops will have a nuanced view of it when you're standing there taking pictures. No doubt someone finds the picture sexually stimulating. If you take the picture, with the intent to put it on the internet, and you know what the internet is like, are you committing a felony? Does it depend on whether you intended that people would be stimulated by it, or merely knew that they would?
How about this picture?
Various people find Jake and/or Maggie Gyllenhaal to be sexually stimulating. Many of these people probably read the papers and magazines that print pictures of them at the beach. The photographers know this, which is why they take the pictures, so they can sell them to the papers and magazines. Has the photographer committed a felony? Does it depend on how "hot" the picture is? Does whether it is a felony depend on whether Jake is wearing a rash guard?
Perhaps you think that's a ridiculous question, that I'm making up stupid slippery slopes. The Texas court doesn't think so.
This statute could easily be applied to an entertainment reporter who takes a photograph of an attractive celebrity on a public street.
How do we know it won't? We don't. We're supposed to rely on the discretion of cops and prosecutors. We're supposed to believe that when a statute allows the government to arrest and prosecute you for a wide range of conduct based on its subjective evaluation of your mental state, that they won't abuse it to go after people they don't like. But experience teaches that cops will, in fact, harass photographers given a chance.
But wait, you say. The Texas court didn't just say that! They said that upskirts are protected by the First Amendment!
No. They didn't. In fact, they explicitly said they weren't saying that.
Here's what the court did. Faced with a challenge to the statute, it first addressed whether photography in general is protected by the First Amendment. The answer — which I hope you will be happy to hear — is yes.
The second question is a bit trickier. Is photography an inherently expressive act that triggers the First Amendment, or does it depend on whether any given photograph has a "particularized message?" The Texas court weighed the precedents — parades are inherently expressive, flag-burning may or may not be expressive depending on the circumstances — and decided that photography is inherently expressive. The court quoted Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, which pointed out that demanding an individualized show of "particularized message" tends to chill and suppress speech:
As some of these examples show, a narrow, succinctly articulable message is not a condition of constitutional protection, which if confined to expressions conveying a "particularized message," cf. Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 411 (1974) (per curiam), would never reach the unquestionably shielded painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schönberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll.
The third question is also tricky. Even if photography is generally protected, is this statute limited at only specifically unprotected types of photography? That's what the state argued — that because the statute only applied to photography intended to cause sexual gratification, it only applied to unprotected photography. Not so, said the court. Not everything designed for sexual gratification is unprotected. In fact, a large amount of sexual expression is protected. Here, the law bans both protected expression — say, taking a photograph of an attractive celebrity on the street — and unprotected expression, like child pornography or obscenity. The fact that something is designed to cause sexual arousal doesn't take it outside the protections of the First Amendment:
Banning otherwise protected expression on the basis that it produces sexual arousal or gratification is the regulation of protected thought, and such a regulation is outside the government’s power . . . .
But what about the "without consent" clause? Can the government ban non-consensual photographs? The state thought so — they argued that the lack of consent makes the ban constitutional, even though it would still apply to the hypothetical celebrity on the street. But, as the Texas court points out, the state is vague on the details. The state conceded in this case that we all effectively consent to being photographed when we go out in public to some extent, but argues there are some circumstances — which it can't define — in which that consent is no longer implied. But the First Amendment doesn't permit such ambiguity. Here the Texas court found that the state's definition of consent was so vague that it wasn't clear whether or not the defendant's conduct (taking pictures of women and children in bathing suits at a water park) would be illegal or not.
So, does that resolve the issue? No, it does not. That merely means that the statute bans some protected conduct. The next question is whether the state has a sufficiently compelling reason to ban that conduct. Here's where the coverage was the most woefully misleading. The court explicitly suggests that a law banning upskirts may survive First Amendment analysis:
We agree with the State that substantial privacy interests are invaded in an intolerable manner when a person is photographed without consent in a private place, such as the home, or with respect to an area of the person that is not exposed to the general public, such as up a skirt.
But this statute doesn't do that. This statute bans non-consensual photography (with a definition of consent that is not clear even to the state prosecuting under the statute) if someone has sexual intent. As the court points out, the state is perfectly capable of drafting a narrower statute, and does so in the next subsection by banning nonconsensual photography in bathrooms and private dressing rooms.
So — shouldn't the court just uphold convictions when they are for clearly unprotected conduct (say, a photo of a child that qualifies as child pornography, or a picture that qualifies as obscenity, or an unquestionable invasion of privacy like an upskirt), and strike down the ones that are for protected conduct? That's not how First Amendment analysis works. Under the overbreadth doctrine, if a statute poses a "realistic" risk of banning a "substantial" amount of protected speech, the whole thing fails. Here, the court found that the statute's reach was "breathtaking." Therefore, even though there might be some constitutional applications, the statute is unconstitutional.
But wait. What about that extremely douchey part where the Texas court said that banning non-consensual pervy photography was "paternalistic" to the women it sought to protect? What assholes!
Well, actually, that's not what they said at all.
Protecting someone who appears in public from being the object of sexual thoughts seems to be the sort of “paternalistic interest in regulating the defendant’s mind” that the First Amendment was designed to guard against. [emphasis added by irritable blogger]
The court was talking about being paternalistic to defendants by regulating sexual thoughts, not paternalistic to victims of creepshots.
So, to sum up, allow me to mainsplain:
Sometimes the rule of law — due process, application of established rules, procedures, and rights — result in nasty people getting away with bad things. That makes us angry. But it's not about how we feel.
The Texas court didn't say upskirts are protected by the First Amendment. Texas could probably ban upskirts, if it did a halfway-competent job of drafting a sufficiently narrow statute.
But who's going to get outraged about that?
If you're wondering why I give a shit, consider this: our freedoms are recognized or denied based on court rulings. Our understanding of those court rulings often derives from media coverage of them. When we do a lousy job of covering law, or when we put up with journalists doing so, we're doing a lousy job as citizens.
Texas Court Makes Upskirts Mandatory, Outlaws Kittens, Hates Your Mother © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.
As ferocious as this dinosaur may seem, he is most often consumed by human children. (more…)
Since I can’t log into Tumblr at work, I just use my phone to share this comment at Kotaku regarding Anita Sarkeesian’s appearance on the Colbert Report.
Who knew the Bennet sisters could look so badass? The very first picture from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies looks fairly ridiculous, which is the entire point. Call me insane, but I'm kind of excited about this silly movie.
Legendary writer and actor John Cleese is known more for his sense of humor than almost any other attribute. But as he demonstrates brilliantly in the above video, he also has an inspirational outlook and deep interest in the subject of creativity.
In the half hour speech, Cleese talks about creativity and how it relates to both ‘open’ and ‘closed’ modes of thinking, each of which come with their own benefits and results. The open mode allows us to be curious, ‘playful’ and toy with ideas until we latch on to one… the closed mode allows us to be deliberate and followthrough with that idea once we’ve got it.
Creativity, it seems, requires the ability to switch between these modes quickly and easily — to alternate from playful creative thinking to deliberate directed action and back again at will… something the most creative among us are very skilled at.
Of course, this is only part of what Cleese is getting at. To try and summarize or give an adequate overview of the full 30-minute speech would be as difficult as talking about creativity is in the first place.
And so, instead, we’ll leave you with a worthwhile quote about what creativity isn’t, and just let Cleese take it from there.
Creativity is not a talent, it is a way of operating. [It] is not an ability you either have or do not have.
Communication agency Aptitude created uncropped versions of iconic album covers.
Reader @Stringerplz shared these great pictures of her carved dodo pumpkin!
— Paul Bunyip (@Stringerplz) October 27, 2014
In her tweet above, Stringerplz mentions “Halloween Keith.” Some of you older readers will no doubt remember Halloween Keith from your childhood.
I'll never understand how it came to pass that everyone's happy to play along with "Santa Claus" but Halloween Keith never really caught on.
— MALKenstein ! (@malki) October 26, 2014
Halloween Keith was the best! Dressed as a mummy, eyes two dripping eggs, bag of candy on his face like an oatbag, footprints always wet.
— MALKenstein ! (@malki) October 26, 2014
I remember going to the cornbake and offering Halloween Keith a ceremonial cob. Of course now I realize it was just a man in a costume.
— MALKenstein ! (@malki) October 26, 2014
The only thing we still have of the Halloween Keith mythos in culture today is the game Truth or Dare
— MALKenstein ! (@malki) October 26, 2014
I have written some more about Halloween Keith.
Some say Halloween Keith was a corn farmer who died in a drought year, through laziness or ill-management of his crop; others say he was born from the cornfields themselves, a new form of smut who took legs in an attempt to become a man. Inside his wrappings are either bony limbs hung with rotted flesh, or bulbous, fungal lumps of corn. Perhaps both, working in concert…
Once a year, on the eve of All Saints’ Day, children from the local parish used to go door-to-door collecting food donations to help the less fortunate. Because charity is most virtuous when done anonymously, the children would wear masks, or dress up in costume — sometimes as adults, but other times as monsters and evil things, as a reminder that even the demons may repent and do good works.
This presented the perfect opportunity for Halloween Keith to also disguise himself and collect food from unsuspecting families, enough to feed him for another year…
Shaenon: Yeah, I’m drawing baby comics now. Deal with it.
Channing: I love how adorably surly Robin looks.
Shaenon: Since I drew this Robin has graduated from casts to braces, so I have to make up a whole new set of lies.
And hey, Jeff’s birthday was this past week! Kay Gilbert threw a webcomics mascot party in his honor. Check it out:
Writes Kay: Artie and Helen felt that Jeff deserved some serious props for helming Skin Horse in Shaenon’s absence, and thought they’d throw a combo birthday and congratulations party in his honor. To that end, they consulted party planner extraordinaire Pinkie Pie, who put together this blow-out.
Here’s a picture of the crowd, captured in the process of singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” (which nobody can deny): Wanda the Wasp Eater (Girl Genius), Pintsize (Questionable Content), Pinkie Pie herself, Liz the Lizard of Guilt (Oglaf), Helen, Winslow (QC) and Artie. Oh, and of course, Artie’s BFF Albert Einstein, who seems to show up whenever there’s an open bar.
The one downside: Pinkie Pie accepted Helen’s offer to provide the punch. I leave to your imagination what the group looked like an hour later! (Hint: Picture lemurs with wings and fangs.)
Thank you so much! I’m just sorry we don’t have any Skin Horse plushes to round out the party.
Okay, these write-ups are taking up WAY more time than I'd intended them to, so this one's short! Which is a shame, 'cause these are two favorite topics of mine: feminism and booze.
In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was passed, which means UTERUS-HAVERS COULD FINALLY VOTE, good fucking LORD why did this happen less than a hundred years ago.
BUT! a few months before that, prohibition was put into effect so that none of those power-lusting pink glittery baby-making sandwich-birthing girly girls could raise a glass in celebration of their newfound Permission to Have A Fucking Opinion. Coincidence? Of course not! What assholes.
Luckily the next year women everywhere voted in the election and wrote in "INFINITE WINE O'CLOCK" for their president and it won, so now it is acceptable to drink wine all the time, thank you voting ladies of the 1920s.
“Man is an exception, whatever he is. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.” — G.K. Chesterton