Thursday, June 10, 2004

Because the Principle Does Matter, That's Why

I stumbled over an interesting conversation thread this morning (courtesy of M) wherein either a grad student or low-caste faculty member described being in a lot of male-only meetings recently and finding it disturbing, particularly another (much higher-caste faculty [-- think tenure, kids]) member's consistent use of the male pronoun to denote a generic faculty member or person.

One of the responses to this was one that women hear all the time when we notice these little inadvertant sexisms: why does this bother you?

Because the principle does matter, that's why. Because the affects of sexism are present in that ratio of men to women in those meetings, and because sexism is institutionalized not just in that room, but in the very language used there.

And, most human beings think in words. Autistics sometimes notwithstanding.

And, since most human beings think in words, words matter. "He or she" matters.

I am beginning the study of law, and I've already been warned that the insistence on 'he' as the pronoun for default person is prevalent in what I will be reading for the next three years. I'm going through some 'recommended reading' right now. And you know what? It grates. It grates on the nerves, because "he" is not gender-neutral. It has always grated on the nerves, because it is exclusionary.

I want to hear "he or she", or "he" 50% of the time* and "she" 50% of the time*, because I want to feel fully included. And as long as my language excludes me, I won't.

Simply put, wouldn't it bother you if all faculty in the room where female and all admin assistants were male and the allegedly gender neutral pronoun was "she"? (Which, biologically, one could argue it should be...)

For no other reason than that no matter how hard you tried, you as a 'he' would still be excluded from normalcy by the very language you speak?

For more on this particular subject, read Gender Roles: A Thought Experiment, over at The 3rd WWWave.

[*] 50% -- don't be an idiot and claim I insist on counting pronoun use to introduce equitable division. If I were going to do that, I'd insist on "she", exclusively, for the next two millenia.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Pot, meet kettle

Rich Choices in November

The Bush-Cheney campaign this week stepped up its assault on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for being a rich guy. No, make that for being a really, really rich guy.

It is unclear whether the campaign of George Walker Bush (son of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush and grandson of Connecticut Senator Prescott Sheldon Bush) and Dick Cheney (worth between $24 million - $107 million; former Chairman and CEO of Halliburton who received a $20 million retirement package to run for vice president) has endorsed this line of attack.

*Laughs hysterically*.

Oh, well, if it protects us from *Terror*


The International Convention Against Torture (ratified by the US in 1994) says

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

I don't see how you could get more black and white with that statement. It (said convention against torture) also says
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Not to mention a couple followup remarks:
Each State Party [and that does include the US -- sid] shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

And, hey, current US law? Also with the very black and white motif.

Sec. 2340A of the US Code. - Torture
(a) Offense. -
Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction. -
There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if -
the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy. -
A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

And let's not forget the Geneva Conventions (I, II, III, IV).

Unfortunately, my government Just. Doesn't. Care.

In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority.

Well, yippee.