An OB/GYN writes to George Will about college rape

Originally posted on Dr. Jen Gunter:

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly…

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Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead”


Writing/producing anything to savage people you hate is usually a guaranteed way to make something that really sucks.

Originally posted on Movie Nation:

Image When you lose your temper, mother always taught you, “You’ve already lost the argument.”
That’s not good news for “God’s Not Dead.” This is the angriest faith-based film in memory.
Believers here are outnumbered, a persecuted, righteous and intellectually rigorous minority — “Duck Dynasty” stars, or viewers.
Non-believers run the gamut from fascist, bullying college professors to an abusive Muslim who would rather beat his child than let her study the Christian Bible, from Godless Chinese who fear government persecution to “ambush” journalists out to “get” those God-fearing “Duck Dynasty” millionaires.
It’s a movie where rare is the voice that is raised, but deep is the rage bubbling through its rabid anti-intellectualism. When a non-believer is better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.
Shane Harper plays Josh Wheaton, a freshman at Hadleigh University who ignores warnings and enrolls in Professor Radisson’s philosophy class. Radisson is a smug…

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If you want to try to convert me to your religion, quoting this isn’t the way.

Watching conservatives discuss the CPAC decision to ban atheists from setting up a booth at their conference. Their angry God is also apparently fragile. One of them quoted the Bible verses below. Their God is a threatening, vengeful God who rules by fear. This is what they choose to highlight, out of the many messages from the Christian Bible.

…Proverbs 1:24-33

English Standard Version (ESV)

24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.””…

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Keeping housemaids at a ‘close distance’



Originally posted on CNN Photos:

The two women sit in close proximity, but they remain worlds apart.

It’s a reflection of life in urban Bangladesh, where domestic maids are commonly employed but often hidden from view.

For her illuminating series, “Close Distance,” photographer Jannatul Mawa took portraits of maids and the women who employ them in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

With the simple act of putting the women side by side on the same couch, Mawa disrupted social rules. She found that sometimes, the maid would choose to sit on the floor rather than sit on the same couch as her employer.

“Every day, maidservants take care of the bed and sofa with their hands, but they are neither allowed to sit nor to sleep on them once,” Mawa said. “With their domestic roles, they are close to the middle-class women and distant at the same time.”

Mawa chose maids as a documentary subject after she…

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Prisons and Social Media

A reporter called me to talk about the phenomenon of people checking in on social media from prisons, becoming The Mayor on Foursquare, tagging themselves in their mugshots, checking in when visiting their relatives, etc.  I admit I hadn’t considered such a thing might be a thing.  But it is a thing. So I thought about it, and here’s what I said:

1. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world (even as violent crime has decreased). More people than ever know someone who is in prison. It is even kind of normal (her question was basically where is the shame).
2. Prison culture is romanticized and normalized in our media, and prisoners are presented to us as entertainment. LOCKDOWN, anyone?
3. Many corporations are profiting from the for-profit prisons and the media about the prisons.
4. So many people are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes (drug offenses) in this country that “prison” and “shame” and “danger” are no longer synonymous.

Social media are fun, and people are doing it everywhere.

I hope I didn’t forget anything.  If I’m quoted I’ll update with a link.

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The real class warfare problem? They tell us we suck and we believe them.

When I was a child, there was no such thing as a “payday loan.”  There were loan sharks, who were always the bad guys in the movies, taking advantage of destitute gamblers and fathers down on their luck. They were shady, immoral, harkening back to our oldest legends and laws making a crime of usury, the financial exploitation of the destitute and desperate.

For average people, up until the 80’s or so, if you had a payday, you didn’t need a payday loan.  You didn’t need a credit card.  The size of your paycheck determined how modestly or extravagantly you lived, but if you had one, you could live. And that was generally one paycheck per family.  You might save up for something like a vacation, or put something on layaway that you really wanted.

But as wages began to stagnate, and regulation of the financial industry was reduced to a mere shadow, “financial products” began to emerge.  Credit cards, payday loans, title loans, reverse mortgages — the gaps in household income left by rising prices and persistently low wages were seen as “opportunities” by the financial industry, demand for products that they will provide.  And because this demand was driven by desperation among the consumer, well, the profits speak for themselves.  It is treasure extorted from misery, blood squeezed from turnips.  It is Citibank as company store, with people using credit cards for food to eat, gas to get to work, medicine and visits to for-profit medical clinics.  The interest rates ensure that social mobility is next to impossible, and survival a constant struggle.  And that suits some people just fine.  People in the financial industry.

Why do we accept this?  I think Matt Taibbi said it very well on Bill Moyers.  We are demoralized, to be sure.  Along with the rise of financial products comes a narrative that paints people as “irresponsible” for amassing credit card debt, deserving of harassment and shame.  As Herman Cain said,

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself! … It is not a person’s fault if they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed.”

Success is not your fault! Well, that’s odd.  But more importantly, all you unfortunate souls out there, working for wages take note: if you haven’t gotten rich, it is through your own failure.  You could all be rich, rich as Herman Cain, if only you didn’t just really suck.  As Mitt Romney said, if you don’t make enough money to pay income taxes, you are irresponsible. This is class war.  The working people who make this country run, who educate our children, who generate the profits for the corporations, and who haven’t had a raise since forever are the irresponsible ones. Meanwhile the bankers who stole their pensions and blew themselves big housing bubbles that they popped in our faces slander us to our faces, call us scum, write us off.

In a world where a minimum wage employee only makes enough in an hour to buy their choice of a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk, it is hard to envision a way of fighting back.  But there is an important first step that we must take, and that is to refuse to see this as an individual problem and recognize that we are not the irresponsible ones.  And we didn’t start the class war, they did.  It is a slow, steady war of attrition and demoralization, sowing mistrust among us, and self doubt within us.

We have to stand up for each other, and reject their narrative of “it’s your own fault.”  They exploit and degrade the diligence and dignity of our work, and then profit from our misery.  Then they tell us they are heroes for it and we are losers.  We deserve better, but we’ll have to stand together to get it.

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How I play the pre-existing condition game

I am one of those people who “gamed” the whole pre-existing condition thing, as described by Mitt Romney on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  I waited until I got sick before I went on the insurance market, thinking I was immortal, laughing at the rubes who paid premiums.  And even though I worked a full year or more before my diagnosis, I spent every dime of my money on frivolous things like a record player and the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

I was 14 years old.

That was a few decades ago.  Like millions of people in this country, despite my chronic illness, I have been proud to work full time my entire life, and I have had to work full time, because I am uninsurable.  I have worked hard to establish myself in a profession that would provide insurance with as much security as possible.  The “free market” of health insurance is closed to me as an individual (as is the life insurance market).  Yes, I understand health care competition. Health care competition means insurance companies compete with each other not to insure people like me.

I remember being 16 years old, picking up my paycheck, having spent weeks of the preceding year in the hospital, while doing my best to maintain my after-school job working for minimum wage in a nursing home.  I looked at that paycheck, and I saw the Medicare deduction.  I hadn’t been told, but I’d found a book about my disease and I’d looked up my life expectancy (given the current state of treatment for my disease) and I stood there and did the math.  The statistics said I probably wouldn’t live long enough, but I remember thinking that if I did live long enough to get old, I would have health care.  I was happy to see that deduction and always have been (although I have wished I was paying into a single-payer system for everyone instead).  I am thankful that treatment for my illness has made great progress since then, and I do expect to live long enough to collect the Medicare benefits I have paid for all these years.  But I am in that 45-55 year old range that would be the generation most betrayed by the suggestions of Romney/Ryan.  That really pisses me off.

I have never felt like a victim, and whether I felt/feel entitled to health care or not, it wouldn’t matter.  I’ve worked for it.  And I’m okay with that.  But the characterization of people with pre-existing conditions as “irresponsible” is deeply offensive to me personally.  And accusing chronically ill people of “gaming the system” and feeling “entitled to healthcare” is as cruel and out of touch as anything and everything Mr. Romney has said so far in his campaign.

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