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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


Privilege Is a Plastic Spork

Mutual Exchange is the Center’s goal in two senses — we favor a society rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and we seek to foster understanding through ongoing dialogue. Mutual Exchange will provide opportunities for conversation about issues that matter to the Center’s audience.

A lead essay, deliberately provocative, will be followed by responses from inside and outside of C4SS. Contributions and comments from readers are enthusiastically encouraged. The following Mutual Exchange will begin as a feature by Casey Given’s, “What’s the Point of Checking Your Privilege?”. Nathan Goodman, Kevin Carson, Casey Given and Cathy Reisenwitz have prepared a series of articles challenging, exploring and responding to the themes presented in Given’s original article. Over the next week, C4SS will publish all of their responses. The final series can be followed under the categories: Mutual Exchange or The Point of Privilege.

* * *
The critiques of privilege theory, here and elsewhere, mostly boil down to the responses it often elicits from the very people it’s meant to educate. And I’ll agree that one, especially if she’s a libertarian, must look at the actual effects of any proposal, and not just its intentions. Indeed, it’s hard to find a theory as poorly understood, and as thoroughly and pervasively straw-manned, as privilege theory.

So one might take Casey Given’s route and discard the theory as on-net unhelpful. But I believe there are entrenched biases which make people predisposed to seek to ignore oppression and resent any framework, phrase, or person who brings it up. And to blame the clumsy, and clumsily applied, phrase or framework behind “check your privilege” – for the existence and continuation of this problem seems shortsighted at best. We’re shoveling mountains of snow with a plastic spork, it’s true. But it’s the best tool we’ve got.

The problems with privilege theory are real. It makes white folks feel guilty. It collectivizes and categorizes people. It, alone, isn’t enough to create change. But, actually, those are all problems with any acknowledgement of the continued existence of bigotry, regardless of how we frame it or the vocabulary we use. There simply isn’t a way to point out oppression on arbitrary bases without making people feel guilty (at least some of them, some of the time), or collectivizing or categorizing people (otherwise known as recognizing the identities bigots use as a basis for oppression). And no, whether you call it privilege or oppression or whatever, calling it out alone won’t end it.

Oppression is fucking uncomfortable. Realizing that you began the race a few steps ahead of the guy on the corner begging for change is really unpleasant. Anything which threatens the certainty that “everything you have, you earned,” isn’t something most people lean into or enjoy. Everyone is most intimately familiar with their own oppression, and is naturally most sympathetic to it.

That privilege checking would be violently misunderstood and maligned isn’t evidence that it’s not useful. But it is evidence that it’s really hard work.

The question is, then, do the benefits of acknowledging bigotry justify the discomfort it creates?

Well, it obviously depends on what you value. If recognizing truth is your thing, then it has utility there. As Kevin Carson eloquently put it:

Privilege is an important concept to understand because it has a useful explanatory function, and correctly perceiving the world we operate in is necessary for operating effectively. Those who say “I don’t see race” and “I’m color-blind” have just as dysfunctional a perception of the world as literally color-blind people who can’t tell a red traffic light from a green one.

So privilege helps us correctly identify and acknowledge identity-based oppression. And like most problems, bigotry isn’t fixed by being ignored. Ignoring bigotry has never worked in the past, and it’s not likely to work in the future. For better or worse, fixing problems usually requires some work. And the first step is generally admitting that you have a problem.

So, I’ll admit that the privilege framework is the spork to the flurries of institutional, personal, and governmental asshattery we find ourselves constantly enveloped by, whether we admit or acknowledge or not. But before we throw the spork away and just pretend it’s all just niceness, I’d ask, do you have a better way?

This post originally appeared at


No Time to Fact Check, the NY Times Has Moral Panic to Cover

Another day, another sex trafficking victim story falls apart.

What’s sexier than a young girl forced into prostitution, after all? But perhaps the New York Times could take a second away from ginning up moral panic to fact check its stories on the issue.

First Nicholas Kristof was caught with his pants down when it came out that his human trafficking poster girl Somaly Mam was pretty much making it all up. Instead of being violently abducted into sex slavery and later watching the Cambodian army kill eight girls, she was actually a happy, pig-tailed schoolgirl who’s never seen anyone killed.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Kristof wrote story after story about Mam’s brave fight against sex trafficking in Cambodia. In one, he asked “If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?” Well, the millions of people trafficked into this country to do domestic and agricultural work are enslaved, and they dwarf the number of people brought in to do sex work. But that just doesn’t get the same number of clicks.

And now we have another deluded trafficking “victim” — this one named Chong Kim. She was the “true story” behind Eden, a tale of “underage women conscripted into sexual slavery by a criminal enterprise from which there is seemingly no escape,” as described by the New York Times book review.

Her journey to the United States supposedly involved handcuffs, gunpoint, passport confiscation, and forced sex work. But as it turns out, the story may not be true. An organization which worked with her, called Breaking Out, has indicated that their investigation into her story has yielded some major inconsistencies, and has made a public statement to that effect.

It looks likely that Kim made up her story and used it to defraud donors out of money, and it took a non-profit aid organization, and not the national news media who covered her, to do actual reporting to find out the truth.

This is par for the course for the media, however. The white slavery moral panic has been around for at least a hundred years, starting with 1910’s White-Slave Traffic Act, also known as the Mann Act. What it refers to is prostitution, under the supposition that no one enters it willingly.

The Mann Act clamped down on prostitution by making it illegal to help women cross state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” Campaigners boosted support for the act by peddling lurid tales of innocent girls drugged and kidnapped right off of city streets and sold into sexual servitude. This sounds exactly like the reporting on “sex trafficking” seen today. Kristof isn’t even original.

And like today, authorities looking for sex slaves found them pretty difficult to locate. Nationwide, the Department of Justice only convicted 138 human traffickers of any kind in 2012. And I’ve never seen a US case where it was clear that the women were held against their will.

The vast majority of humans trafficked are sold into domestic and agricultural work. For those that are in the sex trade, the best way to help find and rescue them is to legalize sex work, according to both Amnesty International and the United Nations. Not only does the moral panic around sex work blind reporters to errors in women’s stories, but it is also aimed at further pushing sex work underground through law enforcement and further criminalization. Punishing sex workers, who are already far more likely to be abused by police than by clients, just alienates aid workers from the men and women on the front lines who can help identify the slaves who need help.

The white slavery moral panic has been cropping up regularly for the last hundred years. And in that time, nothing has changed. Panic is still opposed to critical thinking. Reporters need to stop buying exaggerated stories wholesale without investigating them, so we don’t end up with more pernicious legislation with no hope of solving the problem.

This post originally appeared at Mediaite.


Why Legislating Consent Won’t Prevent Rape

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

I’ve been mulling over a new bill in California, SB967, that would mandate colleges and universities receiving state funds use the following definition of “affirmative consent” for evaluating sexual assault and rape in the campus justice system:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

I myself have appealed to affirmative consent as a step for reducing sexual assault and rape, particularly among collegiate populations, where casual hookups are prevalent. Yet while I’m a staunch believer in teaching affirmative consent — what it is, how to get it, why it matters — I fear this bill would could be interpreted by our “justice” system in very dangerous ways.

Like most/many bills, this one has good intentions, but I fear the unintended consequences could make a mockery of consent for sexual activity, something feminists like myself have fought very hard to legitimize.

On the one hand, enshrining the definition of affirmative consent in law and mandating that colleges abide by it would provide a framework for prosecuting rapists, too many of which walk free. However, a law like this could make criminals out of those who are not, and it would not change the culture that’s at the root of sexual assault.

Hands up if you’ve had voluntary sex with someone without verbally agreeing to it. I have!

The problem with SB967 is that many partners rely on nonverbal cues to initiate sexual activity. I’ll concede that verbal consent is particularly important if you’re with a new partner, but I’ll be the first to admit my boyfriend and I very rarely obtain verbal consent before engaging in sexual activity. This law could make our actions worthy of prosecution.

The intricacies of intimacy (try saying that three times fast) make it such that we must be very, very careful when defining consent in law.

For what it’s worth, the bill has positive aspects – including the creation of “prevention and outreach programs addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.” I’d love to see this implemented on campuses across the U.S. of their own accord, without the state forcing them to do so (provided those programs focus more on what consent is and how to obtain it, rather than advice for avoiding rape, i.e. watch your drink, don’t walk home alone, etc, which often paves the way for victim-blaming).

In short, education is key, not forceful legislation. I disagree with this bill’s means for dealing with sexual assault (the force of the state), not its ends. If we want to truly end sexual assault at its roots, we have to start by changing culture first.

Julie Mastrine is a writer and feminist. She is the Activism Marketing and Social Media Manager at Care2 and is a social media volunteer for Stop Street Harassment. Follow Julie on Twitter and check out her e-book.



Chicago’s Gun Violence Victims Deserve Better

Six people were shot in Chicagoland Monday night where an unconstitutional handgun ban has somehow failed to stop gun violence. In April of this year, 36 people were shot in the city in 36 hours. It’s hard to find a day when the Chicago Tribune doesn’t have a shooting to report on.

What if we tried something new? Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, guns or the word “bossy,” somehow when we ban things people keep buying, drinking, using and saying them anyway.

Perhaps Chicago could think about getting its gun laws in line with the Constitution. District of Columbia v. Heller established that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for “traditionally lawful purposes,” such as self-defense within the home. It also established that handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment. While the decision did not address the question of whether the Second Amendment extends beyond federal enclaves to the states, McDonald v. Chicago did.

It’s certain that Chicago residents cannot trust the police to protect them from gun violence. And it’s not because there aren’t enough of them. Chicago has more police officers per capita than New York or Los Angeles.

Instead, it appears that, especially if they’re non-white, they can expect violence from the police. Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek has video footage from her tanning salon showing Chicago police striking her while handcuffed and kneeling while another officer shouted racial slurs and threatening to have her and her family killed. Then in a cover-up attempt, police falsified information in investigation reports to charge her with a crime for which a judge found no probable cause, and dismissed.

That’s when they’re not busy citing women for Facebook comments. Apparently Will County forest preserve police thought the woman had admitted to violating park rules in her Facebook post and fined her for illegal use of a park.

In a stunning show of missing the point, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is blaming illegal guns for the shootings. Which is like blaming the roads for car accidents.

“This report shows the extent to which illegal guns are the leading factor in driving violence,” Emanuel said in a statement to the press about a new report showing that most of the guns connected with shooting in the city were obtained illegally. Maybe that’s because you cannot legally have a handgun in the city, so every handgun the police find out about is, gasp, illegal. The stupid, it burns.

He suggested taking “simple, reasonable steps to curb the flow of illegal guns onto our streets.” Well, you’ve already banned them, contra the Constitution. So I’m not sure what exactly your plan is.

“Every family, every child, every person in Chicago deserves to enjoy the same sense of freedom and safety,” he said. Well ya damn right about that. But gun laws don’t get us there. Instead, research indicates that whether it’s Chicago or New York or Los Angeles violent crime results from poverty and police resources.

Violence happens when police are violent, racist thugs. Violence happens when people operate in black markets without property rights protection. Violence happens when public schools are worthless dropout factories. Violence happens when unemployment and prison are facts of life. Blaming guns for violence is asinine. And it’s an insult to the victims of violence to be so intellectually dishonest as to try to pass that idea off as plausible.

This post originally appeared at

Gordon Gekko back for the global recession

Eat the Rich? Au Contraire. Here’s Why We Need Them

Inside a recent analysis of Jill Abramson’s firing from the New York Times, Jacob Bacharach reveals a serious misunderstanding of how economies work. There are certainly lots of good reasons to care about income inequality. However, failing to understand the utility of high incomes leads to uninformed, knee-jerk “eat the rich” policies. In practice, these laws and regulations have the unintended consequences of actually hurting the poor more than income inequality ever could, by stalling economic growth.

The piece is interesting in full, but one false assertion may help elucidate the source of much left-wing handwringing over income inequality.

Here’s the portion:

A few brief thoughts on the New York Times-Sulzberger-Abramson affair.

It’s awfully difficult to feel badly for income discrepancies where people are making hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars. Beyond a certain income level, which I would set at significantly less than $100,000 per year, it’s all just surplus value; its only purpose—if that word applies—is luxury purchasing for purposes of status signaling. This is not to say that women executives should be paid less than their immediate male counterparts; rather, no one should be paid so much money to be a general manager.

Mr. Bacharach here may be right that it’s harder to feel bad for Ms. Abramson than it is to feel bad for Lupita the housecleaner. But that’s really neither here nor there regarding his next claim, which is that the only purpose of salaries over $100,00 per year is “luxury purchasing for purposes of status signaling.” And that this proves his claim after that, which is that “no one should be paid so much money to be a general manager.”

The claim that high incomes are only good for luxury purchasing completely ignores some fundamental truths about economic growth. Namely, believing it requires being wrong about what high incomes are used for.

If we want a living wage for Lupita, we need to be down with economic growth. That means higher wages and lower costs of living for everyone, at all income levels. And how do we get economic growth? Wikipedia says that “the primary driving force of economic growth is the growth of productivity, which is the ratio of economic output to inputs (capital, labor, energy, materials and business services (KLEMS).”

In English, that means innovation. Innovation is getting more from what you already have. Economies grow when entrepreneurs discover how to get more work done in fewer hours and how to get better products made with fewer materials. Innovation saves time, money, and energy, resulting in a better standard of living across all incomes.

What most people, especially those who aren’t rich, often don’t think about is how innovation itself costs money. There are two primary sources for innovation: startups and capital investment. Startups need capital to enter the marketplace with their innovative technologies. Think Shark Tank. Entrepreneurs need money to build, advertise and deliver their disruptive ideas. Capital investment is how we describe the process establish businesses go through to introduce their innovations to the market. For instance, every time Intel comes up with a faster, cheaper processor, they have to spend money buying or adapting machines to build it.

Here’s where the rich come in, if we don’t eat them first. After a certain threshold, the vast majority of earnings end up in savings and investments. In short, the rich save more than the poor. As a percentage of income, the poor spend way more on “luxury purchasing for purposes of status signaling” than the rich. While this has been demonstrated empirically, it also just makes sense. The poor must spend nearly all they take in just to survive. The rich, on the other hand, can and do save and invest their “surplus” income. That’s part of why they’re rich.

It’s those savings and investments which make up the bulk of the money for startups and capital investment. The rich aren’t just buying bigger and bigger yachts, they’re lending money to Mark Zuckerberg to build Facebook.

Whether or not to care about income inequality is ultimately a value judgment. However, we should all want higher standards of living for the poor. Easily falsified claims about how the rich use their incomes don’t just fail to further the conversation on how to get there. They also, I suspect, form the backbone of calls for heavily punitive taxation schemes. These schemes may be justified on the basis of eliminating income inequality. But they come at the cost of economic growth. The truth is that incomes high enough to produce surplus income are necessary for economic growth. And so, if we truly care about improving the lot of the poor, and not just punishing the rich, we must accept them.

This post originally appeared at


Stop Worrying About Girls Versus Boys, Public Education Sucks for Everyone

New research suggests that the supposed boys crisis in education isn’t actually a trend, but rather that the gap between male and female scholastic achievement has persisted over the last 100 years. This of course casts doubt on the contention of writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers who claim public educators have begun waging a “war against boys” on behalf of girls. Instead, it seems that girls have always been socialized to be easier to educate.

Of course what everyone seems to be missing is that arguing over which gender the public education system screws worst kind of ignores the fact is that the public education system screws every child. When 60% of high school seniors can’t read at a “proficient” level, does it really matter that a few more boys than girls are functionally illiterate?

By inventing a war on boys, conservatives and teachers unions both win. Conservatives get to blame something on their favorite boogeyman: feminism. In this case it’s a war on boys which doesn’t even exist. What conservatives rightly point to is that the way we teach boys to act, rebellious, loud, fidgety, is fundamentally incompatible with the way we teach students in public schools. Conservatives could look at the way teachers unions have fought education reform which might lead to competition, and resulting greater diversity in teaching styles and environments. But instead they blame feminism, which is at best tangentially related to public education’s problems.

The subtitle of Sommers’ book is “How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.” But evidence that feminism had any impact on public education until the 1970’s is scarce. The research suggests that the “trend” of boys trailing girls in educational achievement is far older than feminist policies in the classroom. The authors of the new research found that girls exhibit superior average social and behavioral skills than boys beginning as early as kindergarten. This is correlated with higher average grades at each stage of school, leading to a higher likelihood of earning a degree for girls.

In fact, research indicates that sexism, not feminism, is behind lower male achievement. Thomas DiPrete, a sociology professor at Columbia University, has published work showing that:

Boys have historically been trained to think that they needn’t obey rules or work hard because men used to be able to drop out of high school and still earn wages comparable to better-educated women, thanks to jobs in fields like manufacturing, construction and travel. That’s not the case anymore.

In addition, a 2010 journal paper found that many boys did not know that they were likely to need a college degree. Gender stereotypes, peer pressure to conform to them, and lack of information may be limiting boys’ likelihood of attending college.

The fact that girls are socialized to sit down, be quiet and pay attention, while boys are not makes all the difference in their performance in school, which impacts their likelihood of attending and graduating from college. This isn’t a feminist conspiracy. It’s how teaching works (or, fails to) right now.

Writer Soraya Chemaly read the study and what she wants to know is, so what?

Higher academic achievement has not made a substantive dent in the fact that fidgety boys grow up to be fidgety men who dominate every sector of the public sphere. Men continue to earn more, accrue more wealth within their peer groups, and be the vast majority of political leaders, religious leaders, and corporate executives in every industry. Instead of asking hard questions about socialization and why girls’ academic performance has not resulted in a shift in power, we are still talking about a “boy crisis” in education.

Rather than looking at feminism, those concerned with boys’ educational attainment might instead look at education itself, as well as a changing economic landscape.

Fighting over who’s to blame for boys’ failure in school totally misses the bigger, more important questions at play here. First, it must be acknowledged that, as Chemaly notes, performance in school isn’t positively associated with power, prestige, or income. Perhaps that’s because school doesn’t teach what’s necessary for earning them. Instead, education works more like box which must be checked on one’s way to becoming eligible for positions of leadership.

And while girls are checking the college-degree check box more and more, boys are falling behind. Educational attainment skyrocketed starting in the 1950’s, and rising on through the 1970’s. In 1950, half of young adults aged between 25 and 29 were high school graduates. In 1960, a quarter of students dropped out of high school. Today, 90% of 25 to 29-year-olds hold a high school diploma.

While now pretty much everyone graduates high school, the same still isn’t true of college. For people born after 1950, the rate at which men graduate college has stagnated, while women’s college completion rates have grown and grown.

The last time men graduated from college more than women is 1970, when the rates were 20 percent for men and 14 percent for women. Now, women’s college enrollment exceeds men’s by a ratio of 1.4 to 1. For every two men who earned a college degree in 2010, three women did the same.

There was a time when a college degree wasn’t a requirement for a middle-class living. That time has passed. The first-world has moved from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, where the need for raw strength and low- to mid-level skills has been replaced with the need for high-skill individuals with the ability to focus.

The men who do get college degrees have the opportunity to attain positions of power, and are more likely to do so than the women who get degrees. The men who don’t are likely to end up in prison or unemployed. Between 2007 and 2009, men disproportionately lost their jobs, to the point some called the period a “man-cession.” Those men with no college degree were far harder hit by job losses as construction and manufacturing contracted further.

It’s not feminism’s fault that someone who sits down, shuts up and pays attention is easier to educate than someone who won’t. Nor is it feminism’s fault that those are exactly the skills necessary to earn a bachelor’s degree. Nor is it feminism’s fault that in today’s economy, a bachelor’s degree is required to earn a decent living. Instead of blaming feminism, thinkers like Sommers would be better off thinking of ways to socialize boys more like girls, so they can be equally prepared for the rigors of education and the requirements of the modern world.

This post originally appeared at


LibertyFest! My Panel with Julie Borowski and More

What an amazing time at LibertyFest! It was an all-woman libertarian line up and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Before I go into it, here’s my panel with Julie Borowski. Bruce Majors was kind enough to record it for us. It was moderated by the lovely Darcy Van Orden. I think it’s worth watching to see the pretty stark contrast between our viewpoints and approaches to liberty. Also, Evan Issac tries to troll me in the middle of the Q & A and I troll him right back and it’s pretty funny.

I got to meet, and catcch up with, some amazing people, including writer Michael Labeit and his beautiful wife Crisy Campbell.


It was great meeting Immanuel GiuleaCarla GerickeTracy Diaz, Tony Stiles, and J Buzz Webb. You should check out Katy Chaos’ YouTube channel, who I got to meet there. I want to thank Ian Alexander for inviting me and Julie Eva for paneling with me.

More pix, for funzies:





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How Belle Knox Reveals Our Bipartisan Sexual Authoritarianism

On matters of sex and feminism, you wouldn’t expect National Review‘s A.J. Delgado and The Nation‘s Katha Pollit to find much common ground. But their mutual hyperventilation over Duke University’s notorious frosh porn actress, Belle Knox, reminds us that in America, authoritarianism in sexual politics is bipartisan.

The sad truth is that both writers share an idealized, fairy-tale conception sex — though, of course, the details differ — along with a ruthless impulse to shame and stigmatize the men and women who deviate from their scripts.

In a jeremiad for the conservative site, Delgado whines that that liberals aren’t heaping enough shame on the unabashedly feminist and libertarian Knox. She was thrust into the collective consciousness when a fellow student at Duke ran across her work and decided to out her as a porn actress to the school, unleashing a torrent of harassment and intimidation. However, in the aftermath, Knox has refused to be shamed, and comes across as intelligent and unafraid in the many interviews she’s done and pieces she’s written since then.


“It turns out that, in the rock-paper-scissors game of liberalism, ‘not judging’ beats out ‘true female equality.’” But just what is “true female equality?” We never learn. Because Delgado isn’t interested in that. Instead, she wants to bemoan a new wave of feminism that seeks to embrace and broaden women’s diverse choices, where the old guard still sought to police them.

It irks Delgado that Belle Knox and Katy Perry dare walk around unashamed of their sexuality while calling themselves feminists. She condescends to pop star Perry, calling her “poor,” and “confused,” because she “parades around in dresses three sizes too small and she obsesses over boyfriends.”


While Delgado recoils in horror about a 27-year-old American medical student auctioning off her virginity, Pollit is upset about all sex work. She worries that it enables men to enjoy sex without “attracting a partner.” Of course, a john does attract a partner, with dollars — in which they’re hardly unique, even if uniquely explicit. Pollit is grossed out by the idea that a woman might have an interest in a penis separate from a personality — something I hear occasionally happens even without money changing hands.

“Maybe men would be better partners, in bed and out of it, if they couldn’t purchase that fantasy, if sex for them, as for women, meant finding someone who likes them enough to exchange pleasure for pleasure, intimacy for intimacy,” writes Pollit. Maybe Pollit is right, and sex work and porn are bad. It’s an interesting question to ponder, but ultimately a totally useless one. Because those who don’t live in a fantasy world realize that there will never be a time when men (and women) can’t view porn or purchase sex (or drugs, or guns) in one currency or another.

Delgado similarly yearns to see sex divorced from commerce. She sees porn as “a male-dominated nightmare that objectifies women and exploits even its willing participants.” Both insist that women behaving in ways that they would not must be “exploited” — as when Delgado declares that porn “exploits even its willing participants.” Like all paternalists, they condescendingly claim to restrict women’s choices for their own good — granting themselves the power to judge that good better than their presumptive wards.

It’s certainly understandable that sex work isn’t something Pollit or Delgado would choose – -and they’re entitled to wish it would go away. But the assumption that all sex work is exploitative — and all workers as exploited — ultimately serves as a rationalization for foisting that fantasy on others, an unseemly habit whatever your fetish. The easiest way to justify robbing someone of agency, after all, is to convince yourself they never had it in the first place.

Delgado and Pollit are welcome to their idealized — and, indeed, widely shared — views of what healthy sexual relationships ought to look like. But they’re wrong to attempt to use shame, stigma and even physical violence (by uniformed proxy, of course) to browbeat women into conforming to their sexual visions. Instead of looking aghast at women like Belle Knox and Katy Perry, Delgado, Pollit and their ilk would be better off listening to and learning from them. The most important lesson is this: Everyone is entitled to their sexual fantasies, but however mainstream your fetish, it’s always ugly to try to foist it on others.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.