Category: Gender

When contextualizing its report on transphobic death threats received by an Armenian activist, The Guardian somehow forgets to mention religion

Lilit Martirosyan’s speech in the Armenian parliament has gone viral.

Addressing a panel on human rights, Martirosyan described the plight of the trans community in Armenia. She explained how her own experience of threats and violence reflect the challenges that she and other trans people face in the country:

I encompass in myself — tortured, raped, kidnapped, subjected to physical violence, burned, immolated, knifed, subjected to murder attempt, killed, emigrated, robbed, subjected to stigma and discrimination in social, medical, legal, economic areas and in every aspect of a dignified life, unemployed, poor, and morally abandoned — the Armenian Transgender’s image.

While Armenia has passed legislation to decriminalize homosexuality, there are no laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBT persons. The government disqualifies LGBT people from joining the military. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, or to adopt.

ILGA, a globally renowned NGO, ranks Armenia 48th out of 49 European countries for LGBT rights. In the ‘Hate Crime & Hate Speech’ category, Armenia finishes (joint) bottom of the pile, with a score of zero percent. The past year has seen a surge in violent anti-LGBT attacks in the country.

Therefore, perhaps it was no surprise when Martirosyan’s truly historic and brave speech sparked an immediate backlash from Armenian conservatives. It started even before she left the podium. Panel chair, Naira Zohrabyan, decried Martirosyan’s speech for having (allegedly) deviated from the official debate schedule and ordered her to leave the chamber, shouting “You have violated the agenda!” at her as she walked away. Some of the MPs applauded this verdict, shouting “Bravo, Ms Zohrabyan!

Pic: YouTube

The Guardian reported on the death threats today:

The speech, two weeks ago, has since sparked a backlash in Armenia, where homosexuality has been decriminalised but discrimination against LGBTI people is rife. There have been anti-LGBTI protests in front of the national assembly and verbal attacks made by some parliamentarians have included calls for her to be burned alive…

Martirosyan said the home addresses of several people who work for Right Side, the transgender rights organisation she created in 2016, have been leaked and that her own home address has been spread across the internet by extremist groups who have threatened to “kill them if we find them”. Nationalists, she said, have gathered outside her house, raising Armenian flags…

And so on, and so on.

Pic: Aysor.am

Strangely, across its 760-word report, The Guardian entirely avoids pointing out why these Armenian protesters want LGBT persons to be “burned alive” so much that there are pickets outside parliament and — more disturbingly — attempted lynchings in rural Armenian villages.

They fail to even refer to the fact that the protests are spearheaded by Armenian church figures and clerics, and that much of the inflammatory language used in the protests is infused with religious diatribes.

The leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, Gagik Tsarukyan, invoked “Armenian traditions and faith” to declare Martirosyan’s address a “vice,” adding that “we must hide the vice as it was before.”

Protesters were led to parliament by religious groups and individual clerics, who called for a “ban on sexual minorities” at the legislative level. The clerics included Ghazar Petrosyan, a priest who once berated the Armenian president for being a “friend” of Elton John, on the basis that “nothing can alleviate the sin of being gay.

One of their schticks was to declare that Martirosyan’s speech had “desecrated” the parliamentary podium, and that the chamber needed now to be cleansed. They brought incense, which they said was needed in order to “sanctify” the podium at which Martirosyan had stood. The protesters were told that this would set off the fire alarm in parliament, so they offered to bless the podium with holy water instead. Some of the religious groups even brought a new podium to replace the one that Martirosyan had tainted.

In Armenia, religious attacks on the LGBT community go right to the top. Last year, the supreme leader of the Armenian Church decried “the phenomenon of homosexuality” as “unacceptable to the way of human nature” and, literally, “a threat to our nation’s survival.”

The fact that The Guardian can report on these protests without even mentioning their religious underpinnings — in a country such as Armenia, where church-led conservatism has long been a source of concern — is, frankly, nothing less than bizarre.

The obvious question to raise is: would The Guardian have mentioned religion had these protests taken place in a Muslim country?

Well, when The Guardian reports on transphobia and homophobia in places like Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Iran, for example, it seems to me that they are quite quick to refer to sharia law, clerics, and other religious frames of reference by way of context. The fact they avoid doing so when describing Christian protests in Armenia certainly stands out.

I note that the Guardian’s Armenia report is “supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

I wonder does this mean that certain terms and conditions apply?

Maybe not, but it’s worth remembering all the same that, even in The Guardian, paid-for content is exactly what it says it is.

Paid for.

Those oh-so-convincing anti-repeal arguments re-capped (Greatest Hits version)

In the Irish abortion referendum, the ‘No’ side — those campaigning against the repeal of Ireland’s archaic Constitutional abortion ban — certainly had their work cut out.

The way the Constitution was worded meant they had to persuade the Irish electorate to defend all of the following: (a) forcing raped pubescent teens to carry unwanted pregnancies to term; (b) compelling incest victims to give birth to consanguineous offspring; (c) allowing critically ill pregnant women to bleed to death by making doctors too afraid to treat them; (d) trafficking parents whose unborn children have fatal foetal abnormalities to foreign countries in search of appropriate medical care, and then making them smuggle their cremated babies back to Ireland in hand luggage; and (e) threatening women who induce miscarriages in their own homes, or anyone who assists them in doing so, with a 14-year prison sentence for murder.

Ireland’s abortion ban had repeatedly been condemned. After several negative findings, the United Nations formally denounced Ireland in 2017 for adopting an approach that was “cruel, inhumane, and degrading.”

In other words, considering all the issues, the ‘No’ side had a difficult argument to sell.

So how exactly did they go about crafting the subtleties required to assuage voters’ concerns? How did they pitch their philosophical and ethical arguments to an increasingly sophisticated, critically aware, and well-read electorate?

Well, sit back and enjoy some hand-picked highlights from the ‘No’ side’s quite memorable campaign…

* * *

1. That time someone installed a giant ‘NO’ on Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben is a protected geological site in County Sligo. A mountain. Supposedly, a huge ‘NO’ installed on the side of a mountain was intended to persuade Ireland to put aside their reservations and vote to keep its internationally controversial abortion ban.

Sure, the ban produces terrible outcomes for women, their families, and wider society. Sure, the United Nations have condemned it. But a huge ‘NO’ installed on the side of a mountain? That really puts the whole issue into perspective, doesn’t it?

A ‘NO’ on Ben Bulben just makes you think.

Of course (spoiler alert), it turned out the Irish people are generally unswayed by moral argumentation conveyed on the sides of mountains. Seemingly they choose to prioritize women’s lives ahead of typographic masonry.

* * *

2. That time the Iona Institute started putting quotation marks around ‘mental health’ because, you know, mental health shmental health

This became something of a running theme.

The Iona Institute is a right-wing conservative Catholic think tank. They specialize in promoting awareness of research findings that happen to coincide with their preferred moral worldview, as if to imply they adopt an evidence-based approach when deciding whether or not to love Jesus.

Prominent anti-abortion campaigner Rónán Mullen went so far as to say this type of thing — repeatedly — on national television:

In other words, mental health is all in the mind (you see what I did there?).

As Fionnuala MacLiam pointed out on Twitter, such a claim runs counter to the pro-lifers’ usual trope that abortion itself damages mental health, by inducing something they call post-abortion syndrome.

Too bad that post-abortion syndrome is a myth.

In summary, the argument here is that (a) real mental health conditions are fake, whereas (b) fake mental health conditions are real.

This angle amounted to little more than mental health denial.

* * *

3. That time the Bishop of Ossory told us that having an abortion after being raped is actually far worse an experience than the rape itself

According to his interview on national radio, he knows this because he heard it from some women he spoke to.

Screenshot 2018-05-11 at 23.33.44

Coincidentally, this was the same day the Psychological Society of Ireland published a report stating that decades of research shows abortion does not hurt a woman’s mental health.

Presumably, however, rape does.

* * *

4. Or that time a pro-life parliamentarian suggested that mental health *was* important, and that women who have abortions could be considered de facto INSANE in order to receive reductions on their murder sentences

Er, yes. After spending weeks denying that mental health even exists, the ‘No’ side tried to switch the argument to imply that having an abortion was itself a sign of mental derangement.

As a psychologist I admit this strategy particularly irked me.

Its contorted logic — presented to parliament by the grandson of our republic’s first President — epitomized entirely the systematic inter-generational stigmatization of Irish women that the Eighth Amendment issue had come to symbolize.

It also revealed the panic that gripped the pro-life movement when public opinion began to overwhelm them in the campaign’s final days.

In some ways the idea represents a kind of cognitive dissonance. These people think their own position is so compelling that anyone who holds a different view to them must be mentally unstable. They think that no right-minded person would ever have an abortion. They just don’t get it.

The fact these people’s own grasp of reality is so poor will remain a one of life’s pathetic ironies.

They will never get it.

* * *

5. That time a Life Institute spokesperson argued that abortion statistics were inflated because they included Irish women who were not white

Here she is again in all her glory:

Obviously black women don’t count as Irish.

Or, indeed perhaps, as people.

* * *

6. That time the director of the Iona Institute mysteriously claimed there were 18,000 GPs in Ireland…

…when there are actually just 2,500. He had wanted to play down the proportion who supported a ‘Yes’ vote.

What gives? Well it’s a bit of a mystery. But as Aoife Barry pointed out on Twitter, 18,000 GPS locations were mapped on an Irish website a decade ago…

Maybe that’s what he was referring to?

It is a fundamental tenet of the scientific method that correlational reasoning is parlous.

The fact that 1,300 GPs supported repeal AND 18,000 points of interest were added to global positioning-system maps in 2008 seems, in retrospect, a particularly unconvincing correlation on which to base an argument against constitutional change.

* * *

7. Or that time he seemed to describe female bodies as “our property”, warning that providing women with bodily autonomy was akin to “nationalising half the housing stock”

Here he is again:

Cool the jets, snowflakes! David didn’t state that women’s bodies were men’s property. He merely implied that they were analogous to men’s property, because it was an analogy and that’s how analogies work.

David deleted this tweet, so even he might have seen the problem with this one.

* * *

8. That time the anti-abortion ‘Save the 8th’ campaign wheeled out a ‘psychiatric nurse’ who claimed to have assisted with abortions in an English clinic for five years but turned out actually to have worked just as a porter for 8 months…

…and who then — allegedly — misrepresented his qualifications by falsifying his certificates.

I think he was a member of the ‘Circulation Nurses with Fire Safety Training For ‘NO” group.

* * *

9. Or that time Save the 8th unlawfully used photographs of the Irish Defence Forces in press advertising, contrary to the Defence Act of 1954…

…in order to imply that while men can be trusted to protect children, women can’t.

The illegal use of our nation’s defence forces to support subliminally misogynistic messages about female child-killers was intended to convince the electorate to jail women for 14 years on murder charges for taking abortifacient pills in their own homes.

I guess it wasn’t effective.

* * *

10. Or that time Save the 8th used photographs of an apparently incompetent firefighter…

…to further imply that babies need to be protected from, not just fire, but also women.

It was perhaps a tad unfortunate that the firefighter they used seemed to know little or nothing about firefighting. Contrary to even basic practice standards, he was carrying the child in one arm, wearing no oxygen mask, and had his visor up.

I guess if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you just don’t know what you’re doing.

* * *

11. That time this guy…well, that time this guy produced this:

A sample lyric will capture the spirit of this haunting ditty for you: “Live and let live/In a land with Mammy and Daddy!

The ‘No’ side didn’t just have this guy though, they also had Crystal Swing. And Jim Corr.

The ‘Yes’ side had U2, Christy Moore, Hozier, Niall Horan, Pink, Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Boy George, Mark Hamill, Courteney Cox, Saoirse Ronan, Russell Crowe, Amy Huberman, Emma Watson, Cillian Murphy, Katherine Ryan, Sam Neil, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and many others.

If the referendum had been a sing-off/dance-off/act-off, I know which side my money would have been on.

* * *

12. That time an anti-abortion campaigner told the Drogheda Independent that allowing abortion would eventually reduce the pool of available Gaelic Football players

Yes. He really said it:

But at the end of the day, football is just a load of men kicking a bit of leather around a field, so I guess we’ll just have to get used to it.

* * *

And finally…

13. That time a public representative declared on radio that repealing Ireland’s abortion ban would lead to:
(a) the normalization of sex slavery;
(b) euthanasia;
(c) 14-year-olds being forced to have sex on demand;
and
(d) political assassinations.
Oh, and (e): it would make Hitler “very” happy

That is certainly quite a lot of consequences.

 

As a rider (if you will), he also offered this nugget of advice:

Mr Guckian also said Ireland should turn to a “culture of life” and to a “proper use of sex”.

This was the archetypal ‘slippery slope’ argument: Sure, the guy could be exaggerating. But could you really afford to take that chance? DO YOU WANT HITLER TO BE HAPPY? No, of course you don’t. Therefore, you must vote ‘No’.

Unless, of course, those various slippery slopes turn out to be illusory.

I suppose only time will tell now.

* * *

In the end, for some unbelievable reason, the Irish electorate were simply not swayed by all these powerful arguments…

 

Hmmm. I guess the Irish people have had enough of ‘experts’.

Democracy, folks. It’s out of control…

Why is reminding everyone of Trump’s “Grab ’em” comments suddenly risqué?

Michelle Wolf has exercised her right to free speech and the acolytes of America’s telling-it-like-it-is President can’t handle it:

Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, told the Guardian he thought the performance was “absolutely disgusting”

In an interview with the Guardian, Spicer, who quit as press secretary last summer, was visibly angry as he said: “It was absolutely disgusting. The idea that people clapped at that. It’s one thing to celebrate the first amendment but that, tonight, was one of the most disgusting and deplorable things I’ve ever heard in my life. The language, the references were way over the line.

Much is being made of Wolf’s comments about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who she described as

Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women

Here’s a screenshot of Sanders’ reaction. Tell me she isn’t suppressing a giggle:

Screenshot 2018-04-29 at 15.48.18

Picture: YouTube

Okay, well, maybe. But for an unambiguous reaction, here’s Mercedes Schlapp, White House Director of Strategic Communications, strategically communicating via Twitter:

Completely appalled by the so called and twisted comedian at the
#WHCA dinner who attacked @SarahHuckabee

Twisted?” Er, these folks need to get out a bit more.

Fox News have been going ballistic at the temerity of this, er, woman, to be so critical of those, er, other women:

Db9JXZCUwAAnY4M

Pic: twitter.com/johnnydollar01

Of course, Wolf’s misogyny just flies in the face of the values of the current White House, what with Trump himself being such a feminist and all:

Screenshot 2018-04-29 at 16.02.38

Pic: telegraph.co.uk

Alluding to such matters, Wolf referred to Trump’s absence from the event:

Of course Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself.

But it turns out that the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab… 

Ker-tish! And that zinger right there’s a pussy pun. Cue hesitant audience laughter with much audible gasping.

But why were they gasping? What is shocking about that comment?

In what universe can it be considered offensive for a comedian to quote the president’s own words in public? Where’s the risk in this? If anything, Wolf’s use of the term pussy — to refer to Trump as a coward — is far less crude than Trump’s original — where he used it to refer to a woman’s vagina.

For some perspective, let’s never forget Trump’s other Pussygate gems:

I moved on her, actually…I did try and fuck her. She was married…I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything…Look at you, you are a pussy…[sees a woman approaching] I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them.

It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Oh, it looks good. Ooh, nice legs, huh?

That is the standard of crudeness that Michelle Wolf should be judged by. That is what Sean Spicer, Mercedes Schlapp, Fox & Friends, and everyone else should have in mind when they try to judge what constitutes “twisted” or “deplorable” or “way-over-the-line” humour.

If the Trump crew feel that Wolf’s teasing was hurtful, appalling, or — per Spicer  — “absolutely disgusting“, then they really need to recalibrate.

It isn’t Michelle Wolf’s comedy that’s “twisted” here.

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