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feminism

Why I’m an Anarcha-Feminist: A Moral System Explained

I’m not, in any way, a Noam Chomsky fan. However, I couldn’t help be struck by his description of anarchism in a recent interview.

Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy. It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.

First of all, yes, exactly, brilliant.

But second, “patriarchal families” is something I’d generally skip over. The pithiness of the entire statement, plus me going through and deciding where and when to cut off the part I wanted to quote, had me pass over it again, and notice it.

Anarchy asks whether patriarchal families are justified.

The answer I’ve come to, after years of thought, beginning while I was still embroiled in Evangelical Christianity, on through self-identifying as a non-practicing deist Christian anarcho-capitalist, is, essentially, sometimes.

First we’ve got to decide what we mean by justified. I don’t know Chomsky’s moral system, but from the fact that he’s an anarcho-syndicalist I’d guess that maximizing human prosperity isn’t the aim of his ethics.

It is mine.

And what I have decided, after looking at the evidence, is that patriarchal families are not conducive to maximizing human prosperity. So to me, they are not justified.

Part of why I broke up with the Evangelical church is that I lost faith in its moral system. I overgeneralize and hyperbolize here, I realize, but, for the sake of clarity, I’ll summarize the Evangelical moral philosophy as:

We think Jesus or Paul said this activity is right or wrong, so that makes it right or wrong.

The idea that it is morally wrong for women to teach men, or that premarital sex is wrong, is justified on the exact same grounds that one could use to justify requiring that women must cover their heads in church in order to be right with God. That they don’t cover their heads is clearly a matter of practicality, but pointing that out made my fellow churchgoers hella uncomfortable.

Similarly, I overgeneralize and hyperbolize when I describe the moral system of social conservatism to be,

This activity is different than the activity I’m comfortable with and that has a long track record so it’s wrong.

Though my social conservatism was inextricably linked with Evangelical Christianity, and fell away as I dumped it, I similarly reject its premise. Accepting or rejecting an activity as moral requires more, for me, than approval by a person or persons or a long track record. Cab companies have a long track record. Uber is better.

I get, intellectually, the idea that humans are incomplete and fallible in our intellect, information and understanding. The idea is that because we are not omniscient, we need a supernatural power to tell us how to act. How interesting that faith in the supernatural (but not church membership or attendance) negatively correlates with education and intelligence. It’s almost like the more faith one has in one’s own intellect, information and understanding, the less able one is to buy into this particular moral system.

Because when you look at it, the Evangelical moral system is actually opposed to intellect, information and understanding. God loves us, right? So surely he’d set up a moral system which would maximize our self-interest. Surely being a devout Christian would make us wealthier, happier, more fulfilled and living longer, healthier lives. But, no, it says in the New Testament pretty clearly that following Jesus will lead to alienation, persecution and suffering.

I don’t know, man. I’m just not sure I’m into that. I really mean that. I don’t know. Maybe I should be proclaiming the Gospel and being shunned and sacrificing my worldly happiness for eternal glory. But I do know that the moral code I preached when I was Evangelical, a path to heaven which consisted of renouncing homosexuality and saving yourself for marriage and eschewing drugs, was wrong. And worse, incredibly alienating and hurtful. So since following that moral code brought me to a place I shudder to remember, hurting people and making their lives more difficult, I’ve rejected and replaced it.

As well, I intellectually understand the socially conservative idea that because institutions like marriage and monogamy have “worked” over millennia, they should be protected and enshrined, and that deviation from them threatens the entire working system, and should be punished accordingly. But worked for whom? Yes, marriage and monogamy and insisting women maintain modesty and sexual purity has in the past helped establish and maintain stable, two-parent households in which children could grow up relatively unscathed. However, at what cost to the women involved? And, are we mistaking cause and effect here? Stable marriages, marriage at all, really, has always been most easily and readily available to the wealthiest, the most educated, the most intelligent and the most emotionally strong among us. Is it possible that it’s all those factors which make for the best parenting among the married, and not the marriage itself?

Furthermore, is it possible that what we’re actually seeing is a vicious cycle, in which our ideas about a woman’s proper place help keep her from being able to be economically independent, which then makes her solo parenting marred by grinding poverty, which helps bolster support for the idea that she should be parenting within a marriage?

And even beyond that, is it possible that a man as head of the household, which is what I believe Chomsky was referring to when he said “patriarchal families” only makes sense when women are poorly educated? Now that women are earning more degrees than are men, why relegate decision making to the less-informed of the two?

Another data point which challenges the justification for “patriarchal families” is whether it makes sense for men to head households when their wives outearn them. Since single, childless women in cities outearn their male counterparts, insisting that a family be headed by a man will lead to women eschewing marriage entirely, for lack of a suitable partner.

No, I find both moral systems irredeemably flawed. That’s not to say either get everything wrong. It’s to say that I reject the foundations upon which they are built. No, it’s not enough for me to accept something as moral that Jesus or Paul reportedly said it is. I’ll wear my head fully uncovered should I go to church, thankyouverymuch. And no, that people have always done it and it’s worked okay is not reason enough for me to accept that in the here and now, it’s something worth doing. You can take your admonition for me to submit to my husband and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

My moral system is essentially this: Something is moral if the empirical evidence indicates it makes people happier, more connected or wealthier. Is this arbitrary? Arbitrary as hell. I could have as easily said that something is moral if it increases equality. And I do enjoy equality, but I justify it by the evidence that equality of opportunity, and equality before the law is generally conducive to happiness, connectedness and prosperity.

So, basically, all that is part of why I’m an anarcha-feminist.

This post originally appeared in C4SS.org.

Aaron-Swartz

How the US is Using Money Laundering Laws to Imprison Political Dissidents

Political prisoners, in common parlance, are people imprisoned as a result of their political activity. Places such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and North Korea come to mind when we think about the practice. But more and more, the US is imprisoning people, as well as silencing speech, and telling companies who they can and can’t do business with for political purposes.

Probably the best recent example of US political imprisonment is also the most tragic. When internet activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide, he faced up to 25 years in prison for what appears to be a politically motivated crime. When Swartz downloaded files from online database JSTOR, there’s no indication the multi-millionaire intended to sell the files. In fact, JSTOR had little interest in pressing charges against him. But they ultimately complied with the prosecutor’s wish to make an example out of Swartz for his disregard for copyright legislation. It’s an open question whether the fact that Swartz led a successful crusade against additional, sweeping copyright legislation played any role in the prosecutor seeking unprecedentedly harsh sentence for the man not yet in his 30’s.

Besides imprisoning political dissidents who actually break laws, the Department of Justice has also begun punishing people its bureaucrats just don’t like. Take, for example, guns and pornography — two legal entities which are part of a DOJ list of “bad” businesses. Instead of outlawing these activities clearly and transparently, the DOJ is threatening banks with money laundering investigations in order to coerce them into cutting off services to disfavored customers. It’s called Operation Choke Point and the results have been exactly what you’d expect. Thousands of gun businesses and porn stars have lost their bank accounts, caught in the crosshairs of a political war.

When they’re not cutting off services, the government is suppressing disfavored speech by seizing web sites. Most recently, the FBI seized sex-worker support site My Redbook. The FBI regularly takes over websites, essentially taking property from citizens, before convicting them of any crimes. And like many instances, the charges include money laundering. Why, it isn’t clear, since the site mainly operated as a place for sex workers to share health and safety information and to find clients in a safe environment.

Money laundering itself is the victimless crime of sending or receiving money without telling government bureaucrats much about it. Laws against it were sold initially as add-on charges for prosecutions of mob bosses and crime ring participants. However, they’ve increasingly been used as primary charges for, essentially, earning or spending money in ways government doesn’t like.

Examples of this include alleged Silk Road head honcho Ross Ulrich and bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem. Both are in custody awaiting trial, Ulrich in jail and Shrem under house arrest, for no other crimes except money laundering. It appears the murder-for-hire charges were invented to conceal the political motivation behind Ulrich’s arrest, as they’ve since been dropped.

Again, both men appear to have been engaging in legal, but unfavored activity, at the time of their arrests. And both men are outspoken libertarians. Ulrich is accused now of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and engaging in a criminal enterprise for his alleged involvement in Silk Road.

Silk Road is a website which removed the violence from the drug trade. It replaced broken kneecaps for bad user reviews, and in doing so helped reveal the futility of the drug war. But its shutdown revealed something even worse. In order to continue the rights-violating drug war which has created the world’s largest prison population, alienated communities from police, and created urban zones so violent they produce people with worse PTSD than is seen in people who serve in Afghanistan, the DEA shut down the safest way for people to buy and sell drugs.

The charges against Ulrich don’t even pass the common-sense test. He’s accused of running Silk Road, on which crimes might have been committed by other people. Running a website where narcotics are sold, computers are hacked, money is laundered isn’t selling narcotics, hacking computers or laundering money. So far the government has produced zero evidence Ulrich actually engaged in any of these activities.

There is nothing illegal about operating an online marketplace, nor should these marketplaces have to take on responsibility for the legality of each of the millions of transactions which occur on their sites.

Charlie Shrem is in custody for trading bitcoin for US dollars without the proper paperwork. Though he’s accused of laundering one million dollars, he’s unable to move freely. By contrast, megabank HSBC was convicted of laundering millions of dollars for known violent criminal gangs and terrorist organizations. They received a small fine.

Money laundering laws are not and never have been necessary, and are built on the troubling premise that we owe the government information about our money. Until recently, they were always used to help prosecute people for breaking other laws, mostly non-violent and victimless crimes such as illegal gambling and buying and selling drugs. That they’re now being used to punish dissidents for legal but unliked activity is evidence that they are not worth their cost in terms of enforcement or the erosion of our right to dissent.

The FBI, DEA, and DOJ must be reined in before we create more political prisoners and deprive more citizens of their right to free speech.

This post originally appeared at Libertychat.com.

millennial

Self-described “Liberal” Millennials are Actually Libertarian

This week another Reason/Rupe poll came out, this one on the political leanings of my generation, the Millennials. One interesting thing to note for people concerned with how we vote is that a plurality of Millennials surveyed who described themselves as “liberal” express support for downright libertarian positions.

Liberal, to many Millennials (33 percent), just means belief in “social tolerance, openness, and personal freedom.” And far from preferring a leviathan state, many Millennials said they were liberal because people should have freedom to do what they want in their personal lives without government interference.

So how does that impact our voting? More liberal millennials than conservative ones indicated support for a classically “libertarian-leaning candidate,” by a margin of 60 to 27 percent. But nearly half of conservative millennials oppose a “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” candidate.

Here’s the deal. Conservative Millennials won’t vote for a Democrat. They especially won’t vote for any of the Democrats being floated. But what this poll is showing is that liberal Millennials are fed up with a Democratic party which has been anything but liberal. Consider that 60 percent of Hillary Clinton voters and 56 percent of those who approve of President Obama say they would support a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate. They’re open to free markets, as long as they get their personal freedoms.

In total, a majority—53 percent—of millennials say they would support a candidate who described him or herself as socially liberal and economically conservative.

So what does that mean?

Young people were key to Obama’s election and re-election. Ignoring their wishes not only harms the GOP now, but also going forward.

Traditionally, the GOP has had an all-too-testy relationship with its libertarian wing. Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell:

To wit: There’s the GOP’s historically poor convention treatment of Paul supporters; the incessant scapegoating of Libertarian candidates for GOP losses, even despite mathematical impossibility; the perpetual misunderstanding of what libertarians believe in; the conservative belittling of libertarian causes; the penchant for selecting terrible candidates and then getting pissy when libertarians hesitate to get behind the false choice; and plenty of embarrassing moves that make libertarians want to crawl under a rock.

The personal freedoms we Millennials want in no way violate small-government principles. In fact, they are full expressions of that idea that that government which governs least, governs best. Ending the War on Drugs, fixing our broken immigration system, no longer allowing the state to discriminate against gays in marriage, reining in domestic spying, and protecting whistleblowers are all, fundamentally, small-government positions which would all result in a net decrease in the state.

Nominating truly small-government politicians, who want the government out of the bedroom and the boardroom, isn’t just the only principled path forward for the GOP. It’s also the best way to attract my generation to the party. It’s the GOP, not the Democrats, who Millennials should associate with “social tolerance, openness, and personal freedom.”

This post originally appeared at Townhall.com.

poly

Why Facebook Should Embrace Polyamory

Facebook raised eyebrows earlier this year by unveiling 49 new gender options for users. Hopefully that’s just the start of the ubiquitous social network’s social boundary-pushing ways.

The next frontier? Unconventional relationship options. Instead of multiple options for relationships with just one other user, Facebook should allow users to be in relationships with multiple users. There’s even a Change.org petition demanding as much — though it’s only won a couple hundred signatures so far.

“We appreciate and thank Facebook for their recent change in allowing all people to put their own gender identities,” reads the petition. “We ask that they have the same respect for people of all relationship types. They deserve the basic right to be honest about who they care about. Please sign this petition to allow those in open relationships to name their partners truthfully as everybody else does.”

Now let’s face it: Facebook is unlikely to make this change anytime soon. But it should.

American social mores are changing. Support for gay marriage is rocketing upwards. Also increasing is our acceptance of trans-identified individuals.

But society’s approval of multi-partner relationships is still low. Polling done by Gallup last year revealed that while 59 percent of Americans considered homosexual relations morally acceptable, just 14 percent approved of polygamy. (It should be noted that polyamory differs from polygamy in that it allows for multiple male partners as well as female, and so is generally considered more egalitarian.)

A large degree of stigma around any non-monogamous relationship persists. For the vast majority or Americans, there are two options: monogamy, or cheating.

But many people are living out a third option, such as polyamorous writer Lauren Rumpler: ethical non-monogamy. “People assume that to be faithful, you have to be monogamous,” Rumpler explained in a recent interview with me. “To be faithful, you have to be honest. Faithfulness is measured in degree based on the couple. The faithfulness is not to the individual. It’s to the contract that you’ve made to that individual.” The idea is that as long as you’re open and honest with your partners, and they’re comfortable with the terms of the arrangement, you are faithful, no matter how many people you sleep with.

And that’s where the “ethical” portion of ethical non-monogamy comes in, referring to adherence to clearly laid out rules around the extra-relationship relationships. So instead of promising yourself to your partner, you’re promising to obey the rules you’ve decided on with your partner.

Polyamory, a subset of ethical non-monogamy, refers to multiple concurrent sexual relationships, and is generally differentiated from open relationships by long-term, emotionally involved, and/or committed “secondary” relationships. Some poly relationships involve hierarchy, with primary, secondary, (and so on) relationships. And some are non-hierarchical, with no partner being more important than the other. In some poly relationships, “metamours,” as partners of partners call each other, have romantic relationships. In others, partners either don’t know about each other (Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell) or remain friendly but not romantically involved.

The site Polyamory in the News documents the growing coverage this “alternative lifestyle” has received in recent years. There’s even a reality show about poly couples, called, appropriately, Polyamory: Married and Dating.

The main arguments against polyamory center around whether multi-partner relationships are good for children. “Marriage is the institution that provides social stability because it attempts to ensure, insofar as possible, that the mother and father who create a new life commit to caring for that child until adulthood,” writes conservative author Mona Charen. “No other adult arrangement has ever been shown to benefit children as much.”

There aren’t many studies available regarding the impact of non-monogamy on children. Two studies by Elisabeth Sheff indicate some benefits: the children had more individualized time with adults, they “could spend less time in daycare because of the flexibility of having multiple parental figures involved in their lives,” and “the greater diversity of interests available from adult figures helped children foster a wider variety of hobbies and skills.”

However the studies also revealed some drawbacks, particularly “the discomfort of having partnerships between adults dissolve and the resulting emotional trauma for children who may have been very attached to a departing partner.” But the research is also clear that family stability is more important for healthy child development than family makeup.

Conservative columnist Jonathan Rauch makes an interesting case against polyamory when he points out that multiple wives are far more common than multiple husbands, and that this kind of plural marriage is likely to result in a surplus of single men, which is bad for society. However, it’s probably no coincidence that while this particular kind of plural relationship thrived throughout history, women were also terrifically oppressed, and wealth disparities meant that survival was more likely as the third wife of a rich man than the only wife of a dirt-poor one.

In the end, the main benefit of ethical non-monogamy is that it helps people who feel unsuited to monogamy enjoy their relationships. It also accepts that no one person is capable of meeting all of your needs. Acceptance of and education around ethical non-monogamy is important because too many people end up in monogamous relationships not because they enjoy monogamy, but because it’s the default position, and they never consider other options.

This is where Facebook comes in. Of course, Facebook doesn’t exactly grant rights or set policy. But can you imagine how many more people would consider and accept polyamory as a viable and ethical life choice if Facebook gave polyamory its imprimatur?

This post originally appeared on The Week.

priv

Libertarians Who Fret About Libertarians Who Fret About Privilege

About a year later, LewRockwell.com has realized there’s a conversation in liberty-land happening about “privilege.” And writer Bretigne Shaffer is none-too-pleased.

Now, C4SS just held an excellent Mutual Exchange debate to which I contributed one essay, and many other far-more-brilliant minds submitted several pieces. But for whatever reason Shaffer only cites me and my FEE debate mate Julie Borowski on the topic.

When looking at my work on the subject, the first mistake Shaffer makes is to claim I failed to address criticisms to my “shaming is coercion” article that I actually did address. In the follow-up article. Which is linked to from the original.

Shaffer:

What gets left out of this discussion are the implications of declaring something to be “coercive.” From a libertarian viewpoint, coercion implies force or the threat of force. And force is justified as a response to force. So when Reisenwitz asserts that “shaming” is a form of coercion, and doesn’t distinguish it from other forms of coercion (say, for example, actual coercion), then it should follow that some form of force is justified as a response to the “coercion” of shaming. It’s funny how these things get left out.

Also funny: When writers don’t do their due diligence. In fact I clarified that although I do acknowledge that shaming can be a form of coercion (something I’m not the only writer to assert) that fact doesn’t justify using even more coercion to punish it.

Shaffer claims I’m “confused” on the force distinction, and then offers no actual rebuttal to my definition of coercion than that coercion is “force.” Tautological much? No, in fact I’m not confused. I just disagree with you. Or might, if I understood what you were saying.

Moving on, Shaffer calls my claim that looking at the bigoted roots of bigoted laws and policies “complete nonsense.” “It is not a ‘lack of empathy’ that is at the root of these bad laws – it is the institution of the state itself,” she writes.

This is a statement so asinine it’s difficult for me to formulate a response. First, yes, sure, if there were no state there would be no laws. Unfortunately for all of us, there is one, so fighting specific laws is necessary.

Now, where, I’d ask Shaffer, does the will and drive to create and tolerate sodomy laws, redlining, vagrancy laws, laws against women owning property, and so on originate? The “state itself” isn’t a good enough, or actually helpful in any way, answer. States make laws to placate people and businesses. So if those people are businesses are bigoted enough to create and/or tolerate bigoted laws, then that’s what you get. That, among other reasons, is why bigotry matters.

Shaffer is claiming she’s taking “a principled stance against coercion,” by ignoring bigotry, and it’s result: privilege. In reality, she’s decided, arbitrarily, that the only thing that matters is that physical violence is threatened against an individual. Questions like why that violence is threatened, who it’s used on, why physical violence is coercion but character assassination or blackmail isn’t, are all unanswered.

It’s fine to be, for whatever reason, personally disinterested in identity-based oppression. But to pretend that disinterest somehow constitutes principle, or that there is nothing to be gained, regarding freedom, by examining the origins of laws which oppress unevenly based on gender, race, orientation or whatever arbitrary basis you want to pick is intellectually (and, I’d argue, morally) bankrupt.

This post originally appeared at Libertychat.com.

working-moms

Why Obama’s Plan for Working Moms Just Won’t Work

President Obama has been pushing the idea that “family-friendly” workplace policies—such as paid family leave, flexible hours, low-cost or free child care and a higher minimum wage—are “basic needs.” He recently lauded states that “give” workers paid family leave and are “offering” paid sick days.

But in reality, states don’t give or offer. They force businesses to give and offer. And like all well-intended legislation, this kind of micromanagement of business-employee relationships comes with unintended consequences.

Take paid family leave, which is funded by the payroll tax, the nation’s most regressive tax. No matter how little you earn, you pay the same percentage, beginning with your first dollar. This means that the teen girl and single mother working at McDonald’s are paying into the system so a CEO can take a few weeks off to care for her sick mother.

Then there’s the fact that, as conservative author Kay Hymowitz recently pointed out, even with a paycheck coming in, taking time off work still has negative consequences over the long term.

She looked at the data from Nordic countries, where parents are guaranteed up to 12 months leave after the birth of a child, and found that women who availed themselves of the time off were generally “mommy-tracked.” They came back to their jobs, but their pay was lower, and they had less power than women who took less, or no, time off.

The unintended consequences of forcing businesses to pay a higher minimum wage are likewise well documented, most recently by conservative writer Carrie Lukas. In her response to President Obama for Forbes, she explains that the poverty problem disproportionately facing women and single mothers is less about low wages and more about under- and unemployment.

In fact, insufficient employment is a bigger cause of poverty than low wages. When you look at who’s living in poverty, only 1 in 10 have full-time, year-round work. Two-thirds of people in poverty don’t work at all, according to the U.S. Census. How does raising the minimum wage help them, especially when it may make it even harder to find work?

President Obama is right to point how the exorbitant cost of child care can be devastating for families. What he leaves unacknowledged, however, are the reasons that care for an infant is more expensive than yearly public college tuition (PDF) in 31 states, or roughly $15,000 a year on average. Ineffective, burdensome day-care regulations, such as the requirement for supervised training of child-care providers, jack up the price of something that illegal immigrants with minimal training and language skills can do with little difficulty.

What is Obama’s position on the fact that poor women either pay out the nose for poor-quality care or stay home, while rich women exploit our broken immigration system to get high-quality, low-cost in-home care?

President Obama is absolutely correct that ensuring work is compatible with motherhood is essential. Making mothering and working an either/or robs us all of the powerful contributions mothers make to our economy.

However, trying to force that outcome by fiat not only has and will continue to have unintended consequences, it also fundamentally ignores the root of the problem with working motherhood: We, as a culture, demand more from women when they’re at home.

Interestingly, while studying who took time off when it was offered to both mothers and fathers, Hymowitz found that the wife would nearly always take the time and the husband would nearly always work. The only way dads would take time off was when the time couldn’t be transferred.

Similarly, studies on the gender pay gap have found that when mothers have the choice between higher pay and a more flexible schedule, flex time nearly always wins out. The opposite is true for fathers.

The reason motherhood, and not fatherhood, is so difficult to mesh with full-time, high-paying work results not from bad policy, but from our cultural ideas about what motherhood and fatherhood should look like.

No amount of policy will change these fundamental facts. Mothers, and not fathers, are expected to want to take time off after the birth of the child. Mothers, not fathers, are expected to be the ones to leave work for the doctor’s appointment and dance recitals.

Paid family leave, flexible hours, low-cost child care and a higher minimum wage are wonderful things when government regulations get out of the way so businesses can offer them voluntarily. Google, for example, offers better family leave than California mandates, as well as on-site day care, flex time, and a high average wage. It does so because competition for the kind of high-skill workers it needs to innovate is high. Workplaces improve when employers have to compete for workers, and not the other way around. The only way to get there is through a growing economy.

So let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that a few policy changes will achieve workplace equality. The truth is that mothers will never be fully utilized in the workforce until fathers are fully utilized in the home.

That’s a hard truth for policymakers and culture warriors alike, but it’s the only “family-friendly” policy that truly helps the whole family.

This post originally appeared at The Daily Beast.

marwa

Unveiled: A Support Group For Ex-Hijabis

Marwa was eight-years-old when her parents began covering her head. She was 23 years-old when she stopped, soon after arriving in the United States. She recently began the Ex-Hijabi Photo Fashion Journal to tell the stories of women who have also uncovered. The self-described “ex-Muslim Atheist” runs the site, along with her blog Between a Veil and a Dark Place.

I spoke to Marwa about what gave her the idea, what she hopes to accomplish, and the themes the submissions share.


Marwa got the idea for the Photo Fashion Journal while talking about her first summer without the hijab. She and a fellow ex-Muslim and asylum seeker discussed the beauty of being “able to be out and feel the sun and the sand and the wind all over your body.” Yet that bliss was also marked by new pains. She found “easing into” displaying her body for the first time difficult, as well as dealing with the self-consciousness of bikini season.

But, eventually she grew more comfortable with her newfound freedom. “We started taking selfies of ourselves in our bikinis,” Marwa said. Which led her to an idea.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were a space for everyone to do this? A space to celebrate?” And so the fashion journal was born.

Marwa clearly tries to be fair when discussing the hijab. When discussing some of the cultural baggage, issues surrounding it include modesty requirements, objectification, female agency, she is careful to note there’s more to the story. “A lot of the modesty doctrines and the limitations on interactions, I do believe that these things are evolving,” she states. “I actually know a lot of people who wear the hijab that they consciously claim has nothing to do with the male gaze and has nothing to do with modesty.”

“I do believe that more and more women who choose to wear the veil or even were socialized to wear the veil, it’s acceptable for them to interact and to get an education and to have jobs and to be public speakers and doctors and authority figures,” she says. “And so they’re moving away from the traditional understanding of what modesty ought to be. But unfortunately, in many places in the world, it’s still a big thing. You can’t have lunch with your male colleagues because that’s considered sinful. You can’t have friendships with men. You can’t go to places where there will be a lot of mixing and gender segregation is still a radically enforced norm.”

For her, being uncovered wasn’t really a choice. She grew up in Lebanon, which she describes as “arguable the most liberal Arab country.”

“When people think of Beirut, my hometown, they often think of sex and booze and nightclubs,” she says. “And that’s one subsection of it. But I grew up in Hezbollah culture. And over there it was just as unthinkable. Even though there was no legal apparatus, it was just as unthinkable to try to do that as if I had been in Saudi Arabia. And I was, I grew up there, before moving back to Lebanon.”

People often say, ‘It’s not like you live in Saudi Arabia. There are very few countries that actually enforce the veil by law.’ That tends to be a cop-out because in so many Muslim-majority countries and societies, even insular communities within the West, you face a lot of stigma and ostracization, you’ll become poor if you try to defy these norms. It’s not as simple and as clear cut as it might seem.”

The thing about a choice is, you look at, even people who say, ‘I choose to wear the veil,’ you have to ask, “Well what would happen if you chose otherwise?’

And there are implications of covering eight year old girls beyond just the choice argument which disturb her. “What are you saying about their bodies?” with the veil, she asks. “You’re saying their bodies are sexual objects. And sexual objects of discord that need to be covered up. That’s really where a lot of the stigma and shame set in for me. Before I even knew what sex was, I knew that it was dangerous and harmful for people to look at certain part of my body.”

What bothers her in addition is that “attempts to avoid objectification end up reinforcing it,” she says. “Like, we see all the rhetoric surrounding the hijab often couches it in terms of protecting, and then there are all these dehumanizing analogies used. Like a woman is a pearl that’s protected by her oyster. Or, a piece of candy. Would you prefer a piece of candy that was unwrapped and passed around or one that was wrapped? And they are literally comparing women to objects! And objects that you own and consume!”

“Fundamentally what that is it’s viewing women and their bodies as for other people rather than for themselves. It’s considered that you as a woman are even oppressing men by exposing them to your body. There are arguments along these lines. And all of them are dehumanizing. And speaking of trying to prevent sexual objectification in particular, they end up tending to hypersexualize the body instead. If the cloth would slip from my wrist there would be moral outrage.“

Having come through this, Marwa sees the journal as a place for people with a common experience to find healing. Where, “not only are their words welcome, but they’re understood.”

She describes the journal as “a space of healing,” the focus is on inclusivity. Marwa wants the project to be a welcoming place for people of all sizes, genders, and backgrounds. The project doesn’t even require that participants wore the hijab. Anyone who’s thrown off “modesty requirements” is welcome to participate. She welcomes women who have been “shamed and stigmatized” for showing their arms or legs. “It’s really about acceptance.”

Survivors speak about how their oppression and restriction affected them. How their families reacted. They describe shame and denigration. “I don’t think that focusing on that is a bad thing,” she says. “I think it helps dealing with it.”

Throughout this project, however, Marwa is concerned that none of her work feed into anti-Muslim bigotry. The focus, she says, is on bodily autonomy.

“Even if we believe that the veil plays into patriarchal values, people are allowed to make bad choices with their bodies,” she says. “By talking about the very real detriment that forced hijab poses, and how it happens to real people, real people who you know and whose stories you can become intimate with, real people you aren’t othering as some foreign culture that’s stuck in the Middle Ages as if we don’t have Enlightenment and modernities, as if the Middle East is stuck in a marsh of backwards values, and you give voice to the women who actually have experience with these things, I think that serves to humanize it. And once it’s humanized, it’s very hard for it to be misused in bigoted ways.”

“Because it’s personal, because it happened to us, we have the right to talk about it,” she says. “Because it’s our bodies and our bodily history.”

Interestingly for a project seemingly about the hijab, with “hijab” in the name even, that’s not actually the point for Marwa. It doesn’t matter if you choose to wear the hijab or not,” she says. “The focus is on bodily autonomy.” And a beautiful focus it is.

This post originally appeared at Townhall.com.

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Redmond Weissenberger, Director at Mises Canada, On Slut-Shaming, Privilege, Racism & Libertarianism

On today’s show I spoke with Redmond Weissenberger, Director at Mises Canada. We discussed an article his site put out, and then retracted, calling for slut-shaming by echoing segregationist George Wallace. We also discussed shaming generally, along with privilege, racism and how to appeal to people outside the libertarian “circle jerk.”

Finally we talked a little about his new project, Rothbard University, the Mises publication, http://pricesandmarkets.org/, and the upcoming conference with the same name.

boobs

To the Wife Worried About the Boobs Her Husband Sees

I expected a rage-inducing, PTSD-triggering, high-and-mighty, moralizing, judgmental mess from a headline like MY HUSBAND DOESN’T NEED TO SEE YOUR BOOBS. Instead I got a humble, self-effacing cry for help from a woman I can relate to almost on a molecular level. She is what I intended to become. Her worries were the worries I had when I was active in my Evangelical churches. The author, Lauren, is apparently in Asia on a mission trip with her family. Between that fact and what I read, it appears she’s received teachings similar to those I grew up with.

She frets over the fact that her husband sees so many perfect bodies on display in social media. She assumes that he compares them to her stretch-marked and cellulite-dimpled body, and that he is just that much less satisfied as a result. And, kudos to her, instead of getting angry at or judging the women who happily “show off” their beautiful bodies, she begs them for mercy for the sake of her marriage.

As a teen, I was heavily involved in Evangelical Christianity. The way the church talks about sex and marriage is often called “purity culture.” Part of purity culture is a set of assumptions which I have realized as I’ve grown up and seen more of the world are both wrong and pernicious.

There’s not time to go through everything that purity culture teaches young men and women, or even everything it gets wrong. But I do want to address some of the assumptions that seem to be giving Lauren some unnecessary anxiety.

You see, Lauren is afraid that her husband is less capable than she is of controlling what he looks at, for how long, and what he thinks about afterwards. That’s because Evangelical churches teach that men are fairly helpless when it comes to anything related to sex. It teaches that women are the holders of all things related to sex, which is true up to a point.

Society has taught women to hold sex captive, while men are told to pursue it. So if each gender meets their expectations, women keep the sex, while men try to take it from them. This cultural programming screws up the causal relationship. New science suggests that, actually, women are just as “sexual” as men are. They just have learned to pretend not to be in order to operate without significant social stigma.

But purity culture teaches that this societal construct of male aggressiveness and female passivity is actually biological. And not only that, but that fighting it is doomed to fail. So women are told to fight off advances from men, and men are absolved of their responsibility for maintaining even their own thoughts. Men aren’t capable of controlling what goes on even in their own brains, but women are made responsible for men’s thoughts about them.

Not only does purity culture paint men as victims of slutty women, but it also paints them as incredibly shallow. Not only will seeing beautiful, barely dressed women take over a man’s primitive, sex-obsessed brain. But it will make him not be able to be happy with the way his wife looks as well.

That’s because men don’t get aroused by intelligence or charisma. They don’t get turned on by watching the mother of their children raise God-fearing disciples of Christ. They don’t lust after their wives owning their careers for volunteer positions.

Tits and ass. That’s what turns a man on. Nothing compares to young, fresh, bouncy tits, so the only way to compete is to cover them up.

This is horseshit.

The problem with the purity culture narrative isn’t that it gets everything wrong. Men are more openly sexually aggressive than women currently in our culture. Men do enjoy young tits and ass.

The problem is that it’s an incredible overgeneralization and oversimplification of some very complex issues. And that it paints a picture of marriage and sex that is sad and small and narrow and easily threatened by what really turn out to be non-issues.

Sure, you can find men who believe they can’t control their own thoughts, who will blame their dissatisfaction with their wives on seeing too much of other women’s bodies. But in those cases, the women’s bodies aren’t the problem. The problem is that those men are children. Those men fucking suck, and are to be avoided, not married.

Ladies, you can also find men who take responsibility for what goes on in their brains. You can find men who could give a shit about your cellulite, and find your intellect irresistible.

Lauren, I’m sure your husband finds you beautiful. Not because your body is perfect, but because you’re humble and self-effacing. Because you’re a wonderful writer. Because I bet you’re a hell of a teacher. And if he doesn’t, it’s not because other women are posting pictures of their bikini bods on Instagram. It’s because he’s a fool, and you can do better.

We can all do better than purity culture. Many people think that I talk about slut-shaming and rag on purity culture because I don’t want to feel guilty about slutting it up. The truth is that I don’t feel guilty, anymore, about consensual sexual activity. And I don’t suffer any noticeable stigma for my sexual activity.

I go on about these topics because I don’t want another girl to grow up fighting conflicting stories about her body that put her in a double bind and make her afraid for the future. If you dress dowdy boys won’t look at you because all they care about is tits and ass. But if you dress slutty boys won’t be able to respect you and will just think about sex and you’ll be responsible for tripping them up in their walk with God. Make sure your husband isn’t looking at other women because then he’ll be unsatisfied with you. God help you when you get old and your husband still has porn to look at.

This is all horseshit, and I’m tired of smart, well-educated women getting caught up in it. And I’m tired of smart, well-educated men taking every opportunity to shirk responsibility for their thoughts and actions.

So, while you’re right that your husband doesn’t need to see my boobs (great as they are), seeing them probably won’t kill him either. Far more damaging than boobs are the messed-up messages you and I have gotten about them. That’s really what no one needs.

This post originally appeared at LibertyChat.com.