Victimhood Invoked, Victory Lap Indulged In

TIME spoke to Gender Queer author and illustrator Maia Kobabe about eir work, the efforts to restrict access to eir writing, and what ey make of the current cultural moment.

Captain, your signal’s breaking up. I’m getting a lot of static. Must be solar flares. That, or dangerously high levels of pretension caused by the proximity of Ms Kobabe, an activist and supposedly ungendered being, complete with boutique pronouns, and TIME’s Madeleine Carlisle. Given what follows, the words “restrict access” - and the subsequent claims of persecution - may seem a tad misleading. Ms Kobabe’s book, we learn, explores,

Questions around how to introduce nonbinary pronouns to people who might not be familiar them. And also how to be a role model as a nonbinary adult, especially in a setting like a classroom.

You see, our aspiring role model has produced a book combining hardcore self-involvement with dysmorphic cartoon pornography, with the results being made available to schoolchildren, including 11-year-olds. As one might imagine, there have been some, shall we say, reservations regarding whether a book of this kind should be circulated among children without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Readers may recall scenes in which parents attempted to read aloud passages from the book among fellow adults at school board meetings, typically resulting in reprimands, the shutting off of microphones, and threats of physical removal. Apparently, “vagina slime,” fellatio and “strap-on hotness” are inappropriate topics for adult discussion, even as an attempt to specify a problem, but totally fine for kids. Who apparently need to know about the joys of masturbating while driving.

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Can You Not Feel The Progress?

You know, I don’t recall my middle school’s library being quite this edgy:

A concerned middle school teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia couldn’t let the comments of fellow school employee Stefany Guido slide after reportedly hearing her say some students — the majority of which are 11-13 years old — could be considered “sex workers.” Guido, a librarian at Sterling Middle school, made the statement while defending a library book which said sex work is just like any other job, comparable to a store clerk, an architect, or a journalist. As sex workers, students could benefit from the book’s placement on library shelves, Guido said.

Apparently, eleven-year-olds need to know how to whore themselves - and to know that whoring is, like, totally valid and empowering - because they may be transgender and may have to pay for hormones and surgical mutilations. 

Oh shiny tomorrow.   

Update, via the comments: 

Lest you imagine the above must be an error or some one-off aberration:

Despite discussing sex work and other adult topics… the book is currently in the libraries of a number of schools in Virginia, including middle schools. In Loudoun County, the book is available at Mercer Middle School, Sterling Middle School and Stone Hill Middle School. It is also available at Dorothy Hamm Middle School in Arlington County.

Presumably, these other middle-school librarians didn’t find anything inapt about 11-year-olds learning about the glories of prostitution and its general awesomeness. Because “high-end escorts” can “pull in half a million dollars a year.” Though it seems to me that an 11-year-old “sex worker” would be an abused child, a child being trafficked. Not an ideal aspiration for the pre-pubescent. But maybe that’s just me and my uptight stuffiness.

Update 2:

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The Librarians Will Save Us

A group of 13 “abolitionist librarians” from Ivy League universities… is demanding that their colleagues “immediately begin the work of divesting from police and prisons.” […] The group wants Ivy League librarians to “explicitly name policing itself as the problem” and take actions that will lead to the “complete abolition of law enforcement.”

Something-something “white supremacy” something-something “privilege.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. But really, it’s the same doctrinaire horseshit we’ve seen a hundred times. And according to which, the world will be enormously improved by the “abolition of policing in all its forms.” If that isn’t sufficiently unambiguous, our Ivy League librarians insist that their “ultimate goal” is, and I quote, “the complete abolition of law enforcement… everywhere.” Because “a world without policing” will somehow, rather conveniently, be a world without crime. And because helping people find the books that they’d like to borrow is just too boring and insufficiently high-status for minds such as these.

More than 700 individuals and organisations have signed the petition.

By the way, and before you ask, that sickly-sweet odour is the ongoing decay of your civilisation. A society in which the children of the elite are immersed in such dogma - and are told that their civilisation shouldn’t defend itself against sociopathy and predation - isn’t, I’d suggest, in the best of health. And when these mouthings are deemed high-status, both sophisticated and aspirational, a marker of in-group belonging, then the words preening degeneracy seem entirely apt. 

Previously in the world of uppity librarians

The Life Of the Hive Mind

News from the world of publishing

“I feel it was deliberately hidden and dropped on us once it was too late to change course,” said the junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community. The employee said workers would have otherwise considered a walkout.

A walkout. One wonders what might cause such an outpouring of agitation and distress. Was it the looming publication of How to Punch Small Black Children and Get Away With It…?

“He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him,” a junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community… told VICE World News. Another employee… talked about how publishing the book will negatively affect their non-binary friend. 

Not imaginary, non-binary.

It turns out that the hooting and chest-puffing is being caused by - or rather, is given a longed-for excuse by - the forthcoming publication of a book by Dr Jordan Peterson, a sequel to his bestseller 12 Rules for Life.

people were crying 

According to the weeping employees at Penguin Random House Canada, Dr Peterson is not only “an icon of hate speech and transphobia,” and “an icon of white supremacy,” but also “denies the existence” of “people in the LGBTQ+ community.” Like many others, this baffling claim is not expanded upon and no evidence is forthcoming. However, the implication seems to be that if you choose not to pretend certain things and would rather not lie in public, or be coerced to lie in public, this somehow constitutes a denial of the existence of “people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

“The company since June has been doing all these anti-racist and allyship things and them publishing Peterson’s book completely goes against this. It just makes all of their previous efforts seem completely performative,” the employee added.

Almost brushed against realism there, matey. Careful now.

Dr Peterson – or more specifically, the hyperventilation of his critics - has of course been mentioned here before. And while the doctor is by no means an uninteresting chap, the reactions to him are often more interesting, and quite revealing.

Reheated (59)

For newcomers, more items from the archives:  

The Cupcake Menace

Tiny cakes are exploitative, demeaning and emotionally crippling. You didn’t know?   

After telling us at length just how terrible and mind-warping these tiny fancies are, at least among women, Mr Seaton adds, “I don’t want to ban cupcakes.” And yet he feels it necessary to say this, as if banning miniature sponges would be an obvious thing to consider, the kind of thing one does. And after banning them in his own office.

The Humble Among Us

Attention, world. Novelist Brigid Delaney wants a nicer flat. 

You see, creative people, that’s people like Ms Delaney, must live in locales befitting their importance, not their budget. You, taxpayer, come hither. And bring your wallet. Creative people, being so creative, deserve nothing less than special treatment. I mean, you can’t expect a creative person to write at any old desk in any old room in any old part of town. What’s needed is a lifestyle at some other sucker’s expense. 

Monbiot And The Morlocks

The Guardian’s George Monbiot encounters the underclass. Things go badly wrong.

George believes in sharing, by which of course he means taking other people’s stuff. Yet he’s remarkably unprepared for that favour being returned. Say, by two burly chaps with neck tattoos and ill-tempered dogs. And as these burly chaps were members of a “marginalised group,” and therefore righteous by default, George was expecting noble savages. Alas, ‘twas not to be.

There’s more, should you crave it, in the greatest hits. Also, open thread.

A Rich Seam Of Suckers

Matt Taibbi on Robin DiAngelo and her pernicious bestseller White Fragility:

DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

As we’ve seen many times. For instance, here. And here. And here. And if that doesn’t sound quite Maoist enough, there’s more

And Jonathan Church on the same: 

[According to DiAngelo,] the two “master discourses” of Whiteness are “individualism” and “universalism.” White people have been “socialized” from the moment they were born to see themselves as individuals rather than as members of racial groups, and to believe in a universal humanity or human nature. All of this obscures the nature of “systemic racism,” making white people incapable of seeing how they constantly reinstate and reinforce white supremacy with virtually every word they say, or do not say. That’s right. Even if you remain silent in inter-racial dialogue, maybe because you want to shut up and listen or because you are shy and prefer one-on-one interactions rather than the hurly-burly of groups, you are making a “move” of Whiteness which keeps you complicit in the preservation of white supremacy.

Readers who doubt the stupefying effects of Dr DiAngelo’s racial woo should note the number of replies to Mr Church in which his article is dismissed out of hand, triumphantly, by devotees of Dr DiAngelo, as the work of a white person displaying “white fragility,” and therefore invalid by default. As noted here recently, it seems we will purge the world of bigotry by embracing wholesale the mental habits of the bigot.

Don’t Oppress My People With Your Public Libraries

Further to recent rumblings in the comments, Captain Nemo steers us to the Twitter feed of Library Journal, a “global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators,” and which proudly directs its readers to the mental exertions of Ms Sofia Leung:

Our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks. Pause here and think about this.

Ms Leung, an academic librarian, is unhappy that public libraries in the US, a white-majority culture with a white-majority history, tend to have, among other things, lots of books by authors with pale skin. This, we’re told, is an “interesting mini-eureka moment” that our Queen of Intersectional Rumination feels compelled to share. When Ms Leung discovers that public libraries in China and South Korea have quite a few books by Chinese and Korean authors, I’m sure she’ll be equally aghast. Every bit as offended.

Ms Leung airs her distaste for “white men ideas” – as if they had been uniform across continents and throughout history - while reminiscing about attending a “white AF conference” two years earlier. I was unsure what the “AF” might refer to and searched for some literary or scholarly explanation. It then occurred to me that a “white AF conference” is, to borrow the woke vernacular, a white as fuck conference. Which is how not-at-all-racist academic librarians convey their thoughts, apparently.

If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from POC and then claimed as white property… When most of our collections filled with this so-called “knowledge,” it continues to validate only white voices and perspectives and erases the voices of people of colour. 

At which point, things get a little breathless and intermittently grammatical. However, readers may wish to ponder how synthesising insights from around the world, and from cultures long gone, and preserving those insights, in libraries, is somehow a bad thing. Readers may also wish to ponder the implications of a librarian and self-styled educator, schooled at the University of Washington and Barnard College, New York, and who is offended, something close to enraged, by the existence of “white ideas” and the “so-called ‘knowledge’” of “white dudes.”

As if sensing that her thoughts aren’t sufficiently lurid and unhinged, Ms Leung then shifts into higher gear:

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Damned If You Do

Being a “queer feminist poet” schooled in “critical race theory,” Ms Alison Whittaker is, of course, unhappy:

We’re in the midst of a renaissance in First Nations literature. I should be elated… So why do I feel this restlessness? 

Appearing as a headline guest at Australia’s recent Stella Prize longlist party, “a celebration of women’s writing,” Ms Whittaker felt a need to air her “itching discontent” and “confront” the “majority white audience” for the sin of pretentious enthusiasm – namely, their enthusiasm for works by people such as herself:

I talked about the “endless, patronising praise” I got from white audiences, and how I salve it with the frank reading of Indigenous women who “do you the dignity of taking you seriously.”

Fun night. We must do this again.

We’re told that being a “coloured” or “Indigenous” writer is fraught with “structural oppression,” on account of being “marginalised” – as when being invited to literary award parties and then swooned over by pretentious pale-skinned lefties. “Whiteness” and “white men” are particular burdens to Ms Whittaker and her peers, whose suffering – their “collective plight” - is seemingly endless and endlessly fascinating, at least among those for whom such woes are currency. As Ms Whittaker’s world is one of practised self-involvement, her point is at times unobvious. However, our unhappy poet appears to be annoyed both by “underwhelming responses” to her own writing and by insufficiently convincing displays of approval. All that “endless patronising praise.”

At which point, the words high maintenance spring to mind.

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Fantasy World

The Wizard of Oz is a grotesque predictor of Trump’s America.

It says so here, in the Guardian. Specifically,

Oz is first wondrous and revelatory, then sinister and suspect, a good trip that goes wrong… It’s this lurking inner wrongness, the darkness at its edges and the emptiness at its core, that speaks to me now. 

The author of the above is Bidisha, a mono-named entity who may be familiar to long-term readers, and who describes herself, unironically, as a “non-white angry political female.” One who seems determined to find yet another staple of Christmas both ghastly and problematic:

It’s impossible to watch the newly crowned ‘most influential film ever’ without seeing the parallels to the sickly US of today.

Oh, ye doubters. Madame Bidisha has her reasons.

We can read the catastrophic effects of climate change into the tornado that sets the narrative off,

I didn’t say they would be convincing.

see the opioid crisis in the characters’ drugged sleep in Oz’s Powell and Pressburger-esque poppy field, and empathise with the mangy Lion, rusty Tin Man and under-stuffed Scarecrow’s search for organ donors and reliable medical support in an Oz without a solid welfare state.

If you think our Guardian columnist is perhaps overreaching a tad, I feel I should point out nothing that follows is likely to disabuse you.

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A Reminder Of Things Lost

From Wesley Yang’s Esquire profile of Jordan Peterson

Peterson is an apologist for a set of beliefs that we once took for granted but now require an articulate defence, such as: Free speech is an essential value; perfect equality inevitably conflicts with individual freedom; one should be cautious before attempting to reengineer social institutions that appear to be working; men and women are, in certain quantifiable respects, different. His life advice concerns the necessity to defer gratification, face up to the trials of life with equanimity, take responsibility for one’s own choices, and struggle against the temptation to grow resentful. How such traditional values came to be portrayed as a danger adjacent to Nazism is one of the puzzles of our time.

Maybe it’s a measure of the left’s influence and dysfunction.

Via Samizdata

Elsewhere (248)

Jim Goad on rappers, shootings and bullet-hole cred: 

In late October 2005, a rapper named Cam’ron took three bullets in an attempted DC carjacking. When a reporter asked him for a quote as he was leaving Howard University Hospital, Cam’ron quipped, “I got shot three times and my album comes out November 22.” [...] Being shot is such a shot in the arm for the aspirant hip-hop mogul, a rapper named Gravy got shot in the buttocks outside a Brooklyn radio station in April 2006 before heading right into the studio for an interview. As it turns out, Gravy had one of his friends shoot him because he knew it would be good publicity.

Toni Airaksinen on more things you mustn’t think on campus: 

Angela Putman, who teaches public speaking at Penn State-Brandywine, designed a comprehensive three-day seminar on “white privilege” for her students, then interviewed 12 attendees on their belief in meritocracy and equal opportunity. To her dismay, Putman discovered that these “whiteness ideologies” were widely endorsed by students, many of whom agreed that “if I work hard, I can be successful.”

Believing in study, effort and diligence as positive things and broad prerequisites for success is, apparently, a harmful and racist ideology. Unlike cultivating resentment and then spending decades seething at how racist, sexist and hopelessly unfair everything is, which I’m sure is bound to pay off.

And Mark Steyn on the indignant librarian, The Cat In The Hat, and the great racist retcon: 

The piece argues that the Cat in the Hat’s bow tie is meant to be an evocation of 19th-century racist minstrel shows. Now, just off the top of my head, cartoon characters who wear bow ties: Porky Pig, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Huckleberry Hound. Yogi Bear doesn’t wear a bow, he wears a tie like me, but his boy sidekick Boo Boo the Bear wears a bow tie. Ambrosia, I think the name is, in ‘My Little Pony’ wears a bow tie. I’m not one of the many men in the western world who are obsessed with ‘My Little Pony’ and have ‘My Little Pony’ parties, but I happen to know this one character in ‘My Little Pony’ wears a bow tie. Cartoon characters wear bow ties. That has nothing to do the minstrel shows. We are making ourselves a society too stupid to survive.  

Readers are invited to speculate as to exactly when said books became so “steeped in racist propaganda,” as the librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro claims, and therefore corrupting of children. Presumably, it was at some point after Ms Phipps Soeiro was photographed proudly dressed as the aforementioned cat, at work, with children, while celebrating the birthday of one Theodor Seuss Geisel

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets on any subject, in the comments.

Elsewhere (219)

Via Jeff Wood, Robert Stacy McCain pokes through the feminist memoir of Jessica Valenti: 

The question raised by Sex Object, if read with a critical eye, is whether Jessica Valenti has ever been a victim of anything except her own bad judgment… What kind of fool would major in Women’s Studies? The kind of fool who loses her virginity at 14, goes off to Tulane, sleeps with her ex-boyfriend’s roommate, flunks out and then transfers to SUNY-Albany, that’s who. The only career possible for a Women’s Studies major is as a professional feminist, and there are only so many full-time gigs at non-profit “pro-choice” organisations to go around. However, the Feminist-Industrial Complex  —  the departments of Women’s Studies on some 700 college and university campuses across the United States  —  has a rent-seeking interest in promoting the metastatic growth of feminism, so the fact that many of their alumnae are quite nearly unemployable isn’t mentioned in the course catalogue.

See also this sorry but instructive tale. And Ms Valenti’s mental contortions have been noted here previously

Michael J Totten on the joys of feminist Shakespeare: 

The Globe Theatre’s new director, Emma Rice, detests the original Shakespeare. The Bard’s plays, she says, are “tedious” and “inaccessible.” Perhaps, with such a dim view of the source material and its creator, she should have taken a different job, but instead she chose to make Shakespeare more “relevant.” For instance, [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream] “Away, you Ethiope,” was changed to, “Get away from me, you ugly bitch.” Rice knew that plenty of Shakespeare purists would find her coarse edits appalling, so she had an actor walk on stage in a spacesuit and say, “Why this obsession with text?” She also placed identity politics front and centre. She mandated, for instance, that 50 percent of the cast be female regardless of the gender of the characters. “It’s the next step for feminism,” she said, “and it’s the next stage for society to smash down the last pillars that are against us.”

And David Kukoff on an alternative educational model of the 1970s that wasn’t altogether successful: 

Following a meeting with progressive-minded parents, [educator and drug counsellor Caldwell Williams] teamed up with English teacher Fred Holtby to create a curriculum that would channel the pop-psych teachings of the time. They wanted students to guide their own learning, focus on their feelings, and engage in raw dialogue about sex, drugs, and all the other topics that animated their lives. The teachings incorporated principles of the popular self-help movement known as est, then shifted to those of Scientology.

Shockingly, it turns out that hugging lessons, watching porn and choosing your own grades has its limitations.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.