March 22, 2014

Know What's Funny?

You've probably seen them: the shirts in banner ads reading

Dads Against Daughters Dating
Shoot the first one, and word will spread!"

It gets a bit less humourous when you see someone who did just that.  Heck, it's not like it hasn't happened before, plus who knows how many times in fiction!  More disappointing than the shooting are the people - almost exclusively men - who leap to defend the choice those two men made.  Heat of the moment, arguments preceeded the shootings, the girls were to young, etc.  The guys who are jumping into the argument aren't intimately involved with either case, and they have some emotional distance.  So what about the arguments are they making?

The first is obvious; the second I would certainly hope was the case; the third is the most telling.  In the latest case, she was 16 and her boyfriend 17.  Depends on who you are, of course: some think so, others don't.  But more importantly is the idea that her dad is 'protecting' her.

Protecting her from what?

North America as a whole has a wee bit of a problem with the issue of sexuality: a big chunk of that is going to have come from how the nations were founded.  Roman Catholic stricture or Protestant Puritan censure is hardly going to lead to the hedonistic freedoms you might think.  There was some leavening in the mix provided by the folks who were here at the time, but the indigenous tribes were pretty much culturally steamrolled within a century (though echoes remain).

"What was she wearing" is still a common question in the public forums even after it had been expressly banned in rape cases.  Think that's not all about controlling women's sexuality?  Fair enough, it could  indeed be about something else, but it'll be kind of difficult to explain how priorities can be screwed up enough that hundreds of thousands of rape kits can go untested.

If they are there, why do they go untested?  The kits were used - the incredibly invasive prodecure was done, and samples were collected.  But a decision somewhere along the way was made to put the budgets into other fields, leaving a massive backlog of the best tools we have to catch rapists - a crime that has one of the highest levels of mulitples (same perpetrator repeats the same crime) of any violent criminal activity.


There are excuses, but there is a reason why those excuses are thought to be acceptable, and it isn't often mentioned.  Or mentioned at all that I've ever seen.


The idea - the myth - is that men are responsible for women's sexuality.  Men have cast themselves in the role of the Protectors of Innocence and Virtue (or at least of Nookie).  That a woman could  be raped is seen as a failure to somehow guard them and it leads to two responses: either foot/budget shuffling and looking anywhere else, or sudden hyper-vigilantism.  Both are highly visible, and neither is the response of someone willing to accept responsibility.

That the foot shuffling is being pointed out now is a good thing: blaming the woman for getting raped has finally gotten some pushback in recent years with laws limiting past history being used in court cases, and "she was there, so she must have wanted it" becoming less and less acceptable, making you wonder why it ever was...

But there has been less condemnation of the hyper-vigilantism than there should be.  Some of the most extreme variants have been mocked, and deservedly so: seriously, if "Purity Balls" where the father pledges to take responsibilty for his daughter's virginity doesn't creep you the hell out, I don't want to know what does.

Outside the obvious, though, there are other sides to these defenders-o'-the-gates that isn't as explicitly stated.  On March 25th, the Supreme Court is going to hear from widespread tchotchke specialists Hobby Lobby.  You've heard about that case, I'm sure: they are owned by religious fundamentalists who don't want to be forced to pay for employees abortions, right?


They actually don't want any of their female employees to get any birth control or women's specialist clinic visits at all.  Not "we don't want to pay for it"; they're saying "we don't want them to have it".  There are four specific types of birth control the owners of Hobby Lobby want no part of because of their belief they athey are actually causing abortions by stopping fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, which seems straightforward enough.  After all, if the US government can reach a comprimise with Catholic owned and run institutions then a business shouldn't be a problem: just have the female employees sign the same piece of paper saying that those will be paid for by the insurance company rather than the employer.

Except, no.

The clauses Hobby Lobby (and co-plaintiff Conestoga Wood Specialties) wants to be exempted from include clinic visits, education, and counseling.  They do not want those methods of birth control even mentioned during any doctor visits because then they would be 'morally liable' for the woman's decisions.

To be clear: penis pumps, implants, and boner pills are covered in many medical plans (including federal ones like Medicare and the Affordable Care Act) without background checks, marital status conditions, or employer's say-so.  The ONLY reason for that discrepancy and obvious hypocracy is that men are men and women aren't.

Women who want sex are evil.  Wanton.  Reckless.  And clearly, they have to be forced into 'good' (celibate) behaviour for their own protection.  The same line of reasoning is repeatedly applied to sex education in schools or sex on in movies: Save the Children (and Women)!

Again, save them from what?

What's being protested against isn't promiscuity; though some few of the more honest complainers will say so, they simply don't know any better.  What is being protested is the possibility that women can be responsible for their own sexuality without men's help.  That women may not need a bodyguard for their bodies, and would frankly rather be left to make their decisions about who's doing what to them (and when) all on their own.

Oh, and the case of the dad who killed Johran McCormick because his daughter snuck him into her room that night?  There's religious precedent for the father's act... but he killed the wrong person:

Deuteronomy 22: 20-21 - If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

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posted by Erin Butler at 3:23 pm 2 comments

February 26, 2014

Good Guys With Guns

Mass shootings are clearly good for the NRA and the gun manufacturers they are beholden to.  The more that happen, in fact, the better they do.  Why else do you think they deliberately choose to have gun shows in towns with mass shootings, sometimes scheduled for the very anniversary?  Because they've long ago given up on any shred of decency or humanity in exchange for the increased sales such a controversial date might bring in?

Well, yes.

There are gun advocate rallies that target (so to speak) any assemblies or anniversaries that might promote the idea that some modicum of control should be put in place, counting on repeated cries of "FREEDOOOMMMM!!!11!!" drowning out all other conversation that might be happening at the time.  Though granted some times, on extra special occasions, even their stone ears will hear outrage enough to bump special occasions forward one day.

But why it works for them is the more interesting point: by causing controversy, they can control some of the message.  How it works is simple:

Someone in the media notices the event happening - often through a helpful email from the group itself - and the media asks the quite reasonable question "What are you assholes doing?"  Instant forum!  And that lets them spread their favourite talking point over the past couple years:

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

This coming from Wayne LaPierre, chief bottle washer of the NRA (in case you couldn't tell).  He's the same person who opposes even the most basic safeguards (background checks) being put in place, despite the NRA membership - and gun owners in general - tending to be in favour of them.

Though to be fair, there was a group of pro-gun lobbyists who were in favour of background checks, saying this:

"We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone."

That would be the NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre, 25 years ago.

Between then and now, the NRA has spent more time with, and gotten more money from, gun manufacturers than its total US membership, so you can guess who's calling the shots.  Which brings us back to the NRA's new tactic, "Sloganeer until they go deaf".  Still, I suppose that is better than "Stalk our opponents with high-powered weaponry".

You'll occasionally see a pro-gun lobby group bragging about over 2,100 people being "saved by guns" every day, which is a badly stretched truth latched onto from criminologist Dr. Gary Kleck, who in turn got his information from a 1981 poll that asked 1,228 Americans if they had used a handgun for protection of themselves or their property. The Kleck report was looked at in Time back in 2001, and even Kleck himself thought the extrapolation was unsound, the biggest problem being a classic for anyone trying to track statistics: proving a negative.  Surveys about crime prevention are relying on respondents for the simple reason that if a crime is prevented, then there is little likelihood of there being a paper trail - it is far more likely to go unreported, so the proof isn't there.  Unfortunately, it also means that anyone who decided to flash a gun could be under the impression that they "prevented a crime".

And so to "good guys with guns".

My principal problem with this statement is that it implies the speaker is fine with a few deaths.  They're okay with "bad guys" getting guns, so long as "good guys" get to kill them.  After all, it's not like someone's going to kill these gunmen until they show themselves to be gunmen, right?  Of course, there's the idea of making fake guns brightly coloured or otherwise as unrealistic as possible (which again the NRA opposes because they wouldn't sell as well).  A good idea, if only gun manufacturers hadn't done the same thing in the name of fashion.

In the movies of their minds, said Bad Guy bursts into a cinema/school/local brothel and starts killing off women and children with malicious glee, ogling a nearby starlet/cheerleader/prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold while salivating copious amounts of drool running off an unshaved chin.  But, BEHOLD!  Buckeye Boomstick appears, striding confidently into the room with his manly piece in hand (named Agnes, after his dear departed mother).  He gazes coolly at the snarling mendicant (who is outraged that the swooning starlet/cheerleader/prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold suddenly has eyes for no one but the newly arrived Adonis) and slowly brings his gun level with the fiend's eyes.  Bullets spray around him as the panicked madman fires wildly, but one shot with clean precision from Our Hero empties his foe's skull of strangely odourless brains.

What they are not interested in is preventing the "bad guy" from getting a gun in the first place: after all, why would the starlet/cheerleader/prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold fall in love with them if they didn't kill the Bad Guy, and why would they kill the Bad Guy if he wasn't shooting people?

Why indeed.

You could ask Michael Dunn, the man who held a gun to the temples of two seperate 'mail order' brides while threatening them with exrtadition, who fired into an SUV because the kids in there were playing music too loudly, and continued to fire as it drove away.  Is he a "good guy with a gun" or a "bad guy with a gun"?

There's the (currently) most famous shooter, of course.  You know, the one who saw a hoodie and decided to do something about it, then drew his gun and fired when he got scared.  Is he a "good guy with a gun" or a "bad guy with a gun"?

Or Curtis Reeves, shooting a fellow movie goer because he threw popcorn at him?  Is he a "good guy with a gun" or a "bad guy with a gun"?

Willie Noble, the dad who decided his property was being attacked, so defended it by shooting at the kids who were pranking his son?   Good or bad?

How about Brian Cloninger, who opened fire on an eight year old boy playing tag? Is he a "good guy with a gun" or a "bad guy with a gun"?

Hey, what about Issac Alveres, shot with his own rifle by a four year old?  Is the four year old a "good guy with a gun"?  Or is Alveres a "bad guy with a gun"?

Or the other extreme - a 107 year old man who decided to shoot through his door when police knocked?  No reason for him not to be armed, so he must be a "good guy with a gun", right?

Or you could just type in "Child shot sibling" into Google and see what happens.  Those kids good or bad?

These are deaths the NRA is fine with.  Impulse control - exacerbated by the insanity of the "Stand Your Ground" laws, which, as is pointed out, takes the Castle Doctrine (defending your home with lethal force) and lets you take your castle with you wherever you go.  In the cases of Dunn, Zimmerman, and Reeves (and who knows how many more) the shooter instigated the confrontation that led to the shooting.  They undoubtedly was themselves asthe "good guys", Dunn going so far as comparing himself with a rape victim.

But it's not just these deaths the NRA can live with.  The odds of a suicide happening in a home increase by 500% if that home has a gun in it.  As with the impulse killings, a gun allows lethal force to be applied instantaneously.  Wanting to kill for five minutes - yourself or someone else - is simply less likely to be acted on if the means aren't at hand, removing if not the temptation then at least the ability to apply a premanent solution to what is most likely a temporary problem.

None of these actually help the NRA out, so they stay pretty much in the background: there aren't enough opportunities for their fanatics to fantasize about saving the day; which is why the next time you hear from the NRA and Wayne LaPierre it will mean there's been another good, wholesome massacre.

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posted by Erin Butler at 4:32 pm 0 comments

February 14, 2014

Three Songs

The Significant Other and I have a marvelous relationship, a hearty mix of reality, mild sarcasm, and unapologetic schmaltz.  These three songs are what I picked to exemplify our relationship.  You?

Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris, "I Don't Love You Much, Do I?"

Tim Minchin, "If I Didn't Have You"

Tom Waits, "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work"


posted by Erin Butler at 4:10 pm 0 comments