Back to previous post: Bush patently in denial over Gonzales

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: David Honigsberg, 1958-2007

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

March 23, 2007

Fuzzy internet porn law struck down
Posted by Teresa at 07:17 AM *

Senior Judge Lowell Reed Jr. of the Federal District Court has struck down the 1998 Child Protection Act, under which “commercial Web publishers” would have been required to procure proof of age from their viewers (like, getting credit card information from them, not just having them push a button that says “yes, I am 17 or older”) before allowing them to access material deemed “harmful to minors” by “contemporary community standards.” Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

Judge Reed ruled that the law was ineffective, overly broad, and at odds with free speech rights. The line of his that everyone’s quoting is “Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”

The various purity-of-essence lobbies are grumbling about it, of course. Most prominently featured so far is Donna Rice Hughes (yes, that Donna Rice), who’s made a career out of Protecting Our Children from Internet Smut. Her line, quoted yesterday in the NYTimes, is “It’s a very frustrating decision. We have an epidemic problem of kids accessing pornographic material online.”

I suppose that depends on your definitions of epidemic, kids, and pornographic material. What I mostly hear kids are accessing are online comics (including manga) and fanfic. Both genres have their startlingly steamy moments, but they’re not the eee-vile predatory commercial smut the law supposedly targeted.

I used to have a dismissive attitude toward reductio ad absurdum interpretations of the possibly consequences of this or that law. Watching the nonstop misuse of the Patriot Acts has cured me of that.

I’m happy this law has been struck down. Too many of us have advertisements on our websites for me to feel comfortable with laws that target “commercial web publishers.” “Contemporary community standards” can mean anything a political pressure group wants it to mean. Same goes for “harmful to minors.” And the legal definition of “publish” is broader than most people imagine.

Comments on Fuzzy internet porn law struck down:
#1 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You wouldn't think that would be ambiguous.

#3 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 10:35 AM:

While I am hardly a disinterested party, all I can say right now is Hooray!

Now maybe we could concentrate on all the other things facing our kids: insane foreign policy, failing schools, chronic hunger, danger in their homes, and some slightly more pressing issues.

#4 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:00 AM:

It is, apparently, a foreign notion to some people that parents ought to be involved enough in their children's lives to know something about the books they're reading, the TV shows they're watching, and the Internet porn sites they're visiting.*

What laws like the one mentioned do, in effect, is to make the whole of society responsible for enforcing the values of a certain subculture with regard to the moral upbringing of children. Hey, folks, you don't get to dump that on me. If you want to bring your kids up to believe that sex is filthy, that queers and Jews and people who believe in evolution are going to Hell, and that is's okay to ban books from libraries because you don't like magic and flying broomsticks and you don't think anybody should read about them, you'll have to do it without my participation. If you want me to participate in the moral upbringing of your kids, I get a say in what morals I'm going to model.

*Or maybe it's just the idea that other parents or other adults might not have the same issues they do with those media when they so clearly ought to that gets them upset.

#5 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Damn! Something needs to be done about Fuzzy Internet Porn! I demand that my porn be in focus, and in high resolution.

Wait...what? Oh.

#6 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Teresa, you had me pretty confused. I knew the internet went back a long ways, but I was pretty sure that we didn't actually have "commercial Web publishers" to write laws about in 1988.

Then I clicked the link and read that the Act in question dates from 1998. You'll probably want to change the tens digit in your post accordingly.

OTOH, the typo did get me to click the link....

#7 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Bravo, Teresa!

#8 ::: sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Heather Corinna, the founder of the teen sex-ed site Scarleteen was involved in this court case and has done a write-up of the result on her blog: http://www.femmerotic.com/journal/2007/03/22/music-and-passion-were-always-the-fashion-at-the-copa/


"Know what that is, my friends? That is myself, my fellow plaintiffs — and specifically, myself, Salon and Nerve; stated to have standing and a credible fear of prosecution — and our fantastic ACLU lawyers and support staff soundly kicking government ARSE."

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:35 AM:

If your kids are watching Internet porn, fuzzy or not, that's your bizness, Mom and Dad. Fix it in your own house first. The folks who passed this law are the same ones who wouldn't pass the Violence Against Women Act.

You know who owns the most profitable adult porn distribution business in the country? A T & T. Just sayin'.

#10 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:38 AM:

You know, personally I like protect children by not having casual hookup sex with their married fathers and then selling parlaying it into jobs that keep me in the public eye. I don't actually expect anyone to pay me for it.

#11 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Is the public going to find out what politicians and lobbyist that madam in the DC area was servicing?

#12 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 12:05 PM:

The social conservatives will just counter with their trump card, the "Stop Doing That or You'll Go Blind Act of 2008."

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Aconite #4: Or maybe it's just the idea that other parents or other adults might not have the same issues they do with those media when they so clearly ought to that gets them upset.

I suspect that that is a lot of it. I've been waiting for legislation that declares that parents who bring up their children to be atheists are committing child abuse -- it would, after all, be consisent with everything else the American Hizballah has been promoting.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 12:57 PM:

So that's what they mean by "Blind Justice."

#15 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Had a thinko for a second there. I read it as:

Furry internet porn law struck down

#16 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 01:53 PM:

So if we just make Internet porn unavailable, teenagers will stop thiking about sex? And acting on those thoughts? How dumb do they think we are?

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 02:02 PM:

I am so glad that I had no access to naughty stuff in the pre-internet days of the 19th Century.

#18 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Having two in-house children, I'm constantly underwhelmed by all the fear-mongering about children accessing porn on the net. Twice my kids' accounts have been sent porn-related spam (which they deleted with cries of "Eew!"). Both times I sent replies noting that the material had been sent to the underage, and to delete the kid's address at once. And two occurrences does not an epidemic make.

Kimiko #15: I read the headline that way too, at first. Not enough coffee yet, I guess.

#19 ::: Helen ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 02:11 PM:

It's ridiculous to blame parents for their children accessing internet porn. The vast majority of teenagers with internet access will have done so - if yours claim otherwise then they're almost certainly lying! Of course, it probably won't do most of them any real harm, but I can't see it can do them much good, either. The view of women showcased in the vast majority of porn is hardly progressive and, at the very least, call me old-fashioned, but I don't want my daughter growing up thinking it's compulsory to rip out her pubic hair at the roots!

#20 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 02:33 PM:

There is a definite connection between the GOP's pornography obsession and the AG firings. Part of the cooked up "performance reasons" for 2 of the fired AGs were that they would not take obscenity prosecutions that Gonzales' DOJ wanted them to.

There's a brief mention here in the L.A. Times and I'm looking for a longer article I saw.

It also mentioned that the DOJ in Utah or Nevada was trying to prosecute a video store for renting some adult videos which were also being rented and sold in a video chain owned and operated by the US DOJ due to receivership. The defendant's lawyers were arguing for estoppel in that case.

#21 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 02:54 PM:

You're right, Helen. It's ridiculous to think that the average parent in the United States will take any responsibility for teaching their children what's okay and what's not. I mean, clearly that stopped happening sometime in the '80s.

(</sarcasm>)

There's always one, isn't there? Sure, of course a lot of teens are going to sneak a peek at boobies online, just like a lot of teens steal their dad's Playboy or try to convince the guy at the 7-11 to sell them a Maxim. And if the supporters of such laws only said the word 'teens', that might be somewhat relevant (though still not enough reason for said laws), but laws like this -- while they no doubt include teens in their definition of 'kid' -- are actually supported mainly by the same sort of people who will tell you that every 9-year-old who uses Google is gonna see porn, because it's that gosh-darn pervasive.

But it's still not the providers' responsibility to do anything but clearly label their site as adults-only and maybe try to keep the search engines off the interior content and pointed to a relatively harmless front page, and I'm not even sure the latter is even so much a responsibility as a nice additional touch, though that's really besides my point here.

It is, however, a parent's responsibility to explain to their children what the parents think is acceptable and unacceptable. It is definitely the parents' responsibility to monitor their younger children's use of the internet, and to monitor or restrict older kids if the kid can't be trusted. The government is not responsible for it; I am not responsible for it; the web-porn industry is not responsible for it. Period.

If you -- this is the general 'you', here, not just Helen or anyone else, okay? -- object to your kids seeing adult images, that's fine; I agree there's a limit to what's okay for any given rough age group, though I think my definition of 'okay' is unlikely to be the same as any other given person's. But if you can't be bothered to try to instill those values into your kid, that's not my problem. And if your kid can't be trusted to obey your restrictions, well, that isn't my problem, either. Nor is it anyone else's but yours.

#22 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 03:11 PM:

There's a strange and frightening thing that's been happening in the States in the last 20 years or so. Larger and larger numbers of parents seem to have decided that it is not acceptable for them to refuse any demand from their children. If you look at advertising, for instance, you'll see many ads in which purchasing is pushed by telling the parent in effect, "Well, if they ask for it, you have to give it them." So some of this is coming from the indoctrination that advertising does, but I doubt that's the only source.

Of course this results in some monumental discipline and behavior problems, but set that aside for this discussion. What it means is that if the parents want the children protected from something, or not allowed to get to it, then some agency outside the family must take that responsibility, since the parents aren't allowed to refuse the children access themselves.

Crazy, isn't it?

#23 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 03:14 PM:

It's ridiculous to blame parents for their children accessing internet porn.

It's equally ridiculous to blame the content providers, or to think that if parents can't keep their kids from finding porn that the Law will somehow be able to do it.

Of course, requiring a credit card as proof of age is pretty ridiculous too.

#24 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 03:27 PM:

I have some sympathy for what Helen is saying, though I'm gleeful that this pig-ignorant law has been struck down. I'd even go so far as to say that we have a culture that makes it difficult for parents to cope, much less be as involved in their kids' lives as everyone seems to want and expect.

Of course, about the point that the social conservatives are reaching to welcome me into the fold, I like to cheerily point out that the root of this problem is that we expect people to be at work too much and we shortchange their families for that time, and what we really need to do is cut the full-time work week to between 20 and 30 hours (while ensuring that anyone who works this full-time week is paid a living wage), remove one of the major obstacles to entrepreneurship/strains on the family (take your pick) by expanding Medicare to cover everyone, and overhaul the structure and funding of public education--moving to a schedule that is more accommodating (ooh, thank you for the spelling reference! My brain shut down on that one) of working parents and providing a more uniform base quality of education by removing funding dependence on local property values.

By that point, they usually look a little greenish, like they found half a worm in their apple. I'm not sure why--it all seems perfectly reasonable to me.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 04:14 PM:

asalfi @24
All of those changes you suggest would address the root cause of the problem, not its consequences.

Along with the free market ethos comes, I think, a legislative philosophy that is more reactive than proactive. Think about drugs policies that focus on punishing dealers and users rather than tackling the reasons people end up addicted.

On the one hand, it displays a touching faith in the idea that people will, if given the freedom to act unconstrained, do good and interesting things often enough that it's worth the human cost when they do stupid things.

On the other hand, it seems to ignore the reality that prevention is cheaper, easier, and generally less damaging than cure.

I still recall my first discussion with an NHS doctor in Britain, when I found out that birth control pills are free there. "It's cheaper than doing abortions*," he said, "And much less controversial."

-----
* this is not an invitation to discuss abortion on this thread.

#26 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 04:26 PM:

You know, as a parent, it might be nice to have some effing support once in a while rather than be told "it's your problem, you go out and fix it (and heaven forbid your kid ever does anything wrong because it will be because you were such a crappy parent)". I -- and every parent I know -- am trying to raise decent human beings in a society that gives lip service to how wonderful parenthood is but when the rubber hits the road treats it like raising championship springer spaniels.

And as far as accessing internet porn? For most parents it probably is difficult to keep a determined kid from finding it. Two of my three kids are more computer-savvy than I am (the other is ony ten) and there are times they are alone in the house. Any intelligent kid (and mine are no slouches) will wipe his browser history if he's been doing anything at all suspect. And I'm at home, so I am able to keep a close eye on what my kids are involved in; not every family can afford that.

Do I think this law was the answer? No. It's too vague. I think creating shorter work weeks and workplace situations where parents can spend more time at home with their kids is a better answer, but then pigs haven't grown wings yet.

And Bruce? Yeah, "parents are unable to refuse their kids's demands"? Of all the parents I know, only one fits that description. Her friends are really worried about her kids. Most of the parents I see like that I see on television -- MTV is a goldmine of parental stereotypes.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 05:04 PM:

This is great news, but not unexpected.

I have mixed feelings about filtering software. Most of it blocks alternative religion sites as well as porn. The completely porn-free COG website is on the block lists, for example.

I happen to think there are limits even on parents' right to decide what their kids see. How to decide exactly what those limits should be is a conundrum I don't have a good answer for, but I do think kids (however young they are) should have the right to find out about religions other than the one their parents practice.

Kids want to do everything (including cross the street by themselves when they're two). Parents want to protect their kids from everything (including some things the kids are more than capable of handling). I try hard to keep my mouth shut when I think the line is being drawn in the wrong place; I'm not that kid's parent, I don't know if what they want to do is really an excuse to do something more dangerous, and I've heard plausible arguments suggesting that unreasonable limits are essential to kids' healthy maturation.

I think our whole society has an extremely unhealthy attitude toward sex, and that it might be better to pretend to be more matter-of-fact about it than we really are, so the kids can grow up with that attitude for real. I know lots of people who were raised non-racist by internally-racist-but-against-racism parents in that way. But I won't tell any specific parent what they ought to do in that regard, and not just for my personal safety!

Teresa, I think there's a typo in the penultimate paragraph. Isn't it reductio ad absurdum?

#28 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 05:22 PM:

I get the willies when I see adult women in the local supermarkets from cultures that have cultural dress codes that cover women from their heads to their toes, leaving only their faces and their hands below the wrists unshrouded by voluminous amounts of cloth going otherwise from the top of their heads down to nearly hiding their feet. Their young daughters aren't similarly shrouded, but adult women.... I do NOT like it. I tell myself that they have the right to coverup, but nonetheless it horrifies me and squicks me. And it's out there in public, spreading memes and showing approval for what rightly or wrongly signals/implies to me status for women of sequestered possession with self-determination outside of the equation.

I see the annual Sports Illustrated softcorn porn issue and blow internal fuses, porn as porn is one thing, the Sports Illustrated gratuitous objectification is about as honest and decent as Libby Scooter's testimony that landed him conviction for lying under oath and obstruction of justice. The Sports Illustrated approach pretends it it not porn and claims privilege and doesn't get treated as porn--it to me in infinitely more objectionable and offensive and dangerous, because socially it has approval and gets treated as socially acceptable and proper--unlike porn which doesn't get relabelled as "sports." What models with no muscle mass have to do with sports as other than certain soft of sex fantasies by people attracted to models, I don't comprehend...

#29 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Another example of absurdly reductionist consequencesis the Digital COpywrong Act -- you know, the one where it seems the RIAA and MPAA can trump long established copyright law (nope, you *cannot* make that copy of that DVD so you can have the content after the original is scratched past usability) or simple market forces (Well, we don't *have* to actually protect our trade secrets, because we'll just sue when someone comes up with a way to use *their* independently-manufactured ink cartridges in he printers we sell) (oh, and using the digital copywrong Act we can also do an end-run around those pesky anti-trust laws, too)_

Feh.

But I'm glad this silly "child protection" law is gone.

And the cons should have given this the heave-ho long ago, if they were honest -- because the damn thing *didn't work!*

#30 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 05:55 PM:

pat greene @ 26: You know, as a parent, it might be nice to have some effing support once in a while rather than be told "it's your problem, you go out and fix it (and heaven forbid your kid ever does anything wrong because it will be because you were such a crappy parent)".

You know, I didn't say that. What I said was, "You don't get to tell me that I have to back up your values with your kids even if they aren't my values."

Parenthood is hard. It's damned hard. We don't talk nearly enough about the realities of parenting to our young people so they can make intelligent, informed decisions about it before they decide whether or not to become parents, and parents get screwed over in a hundred thousand ways by a society that, as you say, gives lip service to how great parenthood is while not supporting actual family-friendly policies.

None of that changes the fact that your choice to have kids shouldn't mean that my rights are restricted in order for you to raise your kids the way you want to. You don't get to have it both ways: That I have to help you enforce your decisions, but get no say in those decisions. Your children are not my children, and my life does not revolve around what is best for your kids.

I firmly believe that one of the hallmarks of adulthood is that one takes responsibility, to a greater or lesser degree, for the children in one's society. That does not mean giving up things that are entirely appropriate for adults simply because kids might come across them, intentionally or not. Your child's rights do not trump mine simply because your child is a child, and I refuse to live in a world designed according to what you feel is appropriate for your kid.

If your kid is determined to shoplift lipstick, the solution isn't to keep lipstick behind the counter and sell it only to people with age-appropriate ID. If your kid is determined to go behind your back and view porn, you're just going to have to figure out a way to deal with whatever the underlying issue is. I'm not sitting in the corner because your kid won't behave.

#31 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Helen, thank you for calling me a liar. Even though I had net access, I did not look at porn on the net until I was well into my twenties.

#32 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 06:01 PM:

pat greene @ #26:

I -- and every parent I know -- am trying to raise decent human beings in a society that gives lip service to how wonderful parenthood is but when the rubber hits the road treats it like raising championship springer spaniels.

Actually, there are pretty fierce guidelines for raising champion dogs.

Whereas, it sometimes seems to me, this most important of jobs, ie parenthood, is engaged with wildly conflicting information and less training than a sane employer would give truckdrivers.

True, results of child-raising are not guaranteed, and mistakes will be made, but neither Full-time Custodial Parents Sealing Child Into Bubble Until Age 18 nor Expecting Mass Innocence Maintenance By The World make viable child-rearing strategies. I do grant that the curriculum for Parenthood 101 would be deeply problematic.

I speak as a non-parent who, however, found her father's stash of Playboy just before puberty. (I never asked whether he noticed, and can't now.)

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 06:41 PM:

pat greene @ 26

You know, as a parent, it might be nice to have some effing support once in a while

I was definitely not trying to point fingers here. I was talking about a how the societal norms for raising children seem to be changing: that it's considered OK for parents to do this.

As for "some effing support", yeah, I know how that goes. My wife and I had to raise a boy who had ADHD and ODD back in the 70's and 80's when most counselors and psychiatrists did not believe there were such things. Hell, it took almost 12 years to get a diagnosis, and then we were told "that's what he is, and we're not going to help you at all; deal with it." Well, we did, but it was touch and go for a while. One counselor gave him odds of 1 in 6 of staying out of juvie. He stayed out, he went to school, he eventually worked his way through college, got a PhD and is now teaching at LSU. But the only way that happened was that just about everything else in our family got put on hold for 20 years. The fact that we're still happily married constantly amazes me.


Of all the parents I know, only one fits that description. Her friends are really worried about her kids.

I assure you such parents exist. I don't know many such, because they're not generally the kind of people I'd be likely to socialize with (and besides, most people with kids at home are a lot younger than me). I do see such people a lot out in public, especially in stores.


#34 ::: LeslieB ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I really don't see that this will make all that much difference. Porn sites aren't going to stop asking for a credit card number because that's what they are there for - to make money.

#35 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 07:21 PM:

pat@26:

You know, I'm actually sympathetic to the idea that it's hard to raise a kid. There's a reason why I don't have kids, and it's because I don't have the patience to deal with them 24/7. I babysit periodically or spend time with friends' kids, and that's about my limit.

Kids definitely take a fair amount of time and energy to cope with. And yes, give them rules, and they will test those rules to the breaking point... and yes, we're living in a time where kids frequently know more about computers than their parents, though that's changing. All of this is true.

But none of that changes the fact that, ultimately, it is your responsibility what you teach your kids and how you handle their transgressions.

This isn't about kids who grow up badly and pointing fingers about it, and nowhere will you find me saying that every bad or inappropriate thing a kid does is definitely their parents' fault. It happens. Kids misbehave, and sometimes even the best parenting can't keep them from doing something boneheaded or mean or misguided or illegal or immoral. But it is about where responsibility for certain things lay, and on that point, I'm inflexible: parents are responsible for teaching their kids what they feel is appropriate and what isn't, and parents are responsible for checking up on what their kids are doing with their time.

If a parent feels they cannot trust their child to abide by their computing restrictions, the answer is not to make a law that says everyone else has to be restricted so the kid can't be exposed to whatever it is the parent objects to. The answer is, in fact, nothing involving making completely uninvolved people change their behavior. The answer is to take away the privilege of the computer. It's simple. It's straightforward. And it will work: your kids aren't viewing porn online if they aren't online.

And that is why I'm so annoyed by laws like these and why my reaction is to be annoyed at the parents (and non-parents!) who support them. I understand that you don't, but that's the topic, so it's what I'm discussing.

When I was a kid, that's what happened if I didn't do what I was supposed to or did what I wasn't: I lost privileges. My friends? Yeah, them, too. I bet it's true of a lot of people here, in fact.

A computer is a privilege. Being online is a privilege.

If you want to know why I nodded when I read Bruce's post@22, it's the very fact that I see too few people for whom this is straightforward, and too many people for whom the answer to their problems is to support laws to make other people change how they act so they don't have to put their foot down with their kids.

I think it's good that you and the people you know are sufficiently good parents that you don't believe the behavior is widespread, but unfortunately, it's not just a phenomenon on TV. There are certainly plenty of good parents out there still, thankfully, but I see more and more often examples of overly permissive ones, unfortunately.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 07:42 PM:

I see comments like these, and my hackles rise.

I do see such people [parents who don't say no to their kids as much as Bruce would like them to] a lot out in public, especially in stores.

There are certainly plenty of good parents out there still, thankfully, but I see more and more often examples of overly permissive ones, unfortunately.

Can we cut back on the parenting drive-bys, by any chance?

Among the things this society is intolerant of is the tendency of children to be rowdy (like children so often are) in public. How many parents feel pressured into bribing their children into silence when they throw tin-plated tantrums in shops? I may not give in to the impulse myself, but I certainly feel the glares.

But unless you know the family personally, you don't know how representative of their parenting the slice of behaviour you've seen is. Don't make assumptions, or generalities, without better evidence.

#37 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 08:11 PM:

That line about `contemporary community standards' is the killer, isn't it? That's a grey area, depending on who you talk to...

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 08:20 PM:

Aconite 30: Hear, hear.

#39 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 08:32 PM:

The economics of porn sites aren't as obvious as some might think. There are free sites out there, with no apparent effort to check on ages, and very little obvious advertising.

I saw a recent report that suggests such sites are effectively advertising-funded, but the advertisers are the porn sites that provide the material. The whole porn business is a web of referrals, where if you send somebody to a paysite you get a share of the payment, and the paysites will happily refer viewers to other sites.

What turns you on is not necessarily the same as what turns me on, and better to get a share of a referral than all of nothing.

And the site that are doing this free-access thing don't seem to be paying much attention to the general laws, such as proof-of-age for viewers and for the people in the pictures.

They're probably relying on something similar to the reasoning behind this notice:

"The owners and operators of this website are not the primary or secondary producer (as those terms are defined in 28 C.F.R. 75.1(c)(2)) of any of the visual content contained in this web site. The operators of this web site rely on the plain language of the statute and on the well-reasoned decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Sundance Associates, Inc. v. Reno, 139 F.3d 804, 808 (10th Cir 1998). This case held, inter alia, that entities having no role in the "hiring, contracting for, managing, or otherwise arranging for the participation" of the models or performers, are exempt from the record-keeping requirements of 18 U.S.C. 2257."

(That's on a site where I've posted furry porn.)

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 09:00 PM:

abi @ 36

If I put anybody's teeth on edge, I'm sorry. I was specifically not blaming any parents, but saying that it seems to me more and more acceptable in the consensus culture to treat children in this way. When the norms change it becomes very hard for parents to buck the flow. A large part of a child's growing up is entirely outside of the parents' control, and the expectations are something a child is usually eager to hold over the parents' head. Sometimes it's a completely no-win situation for a parent. As I said in my last post I know where that's at.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Therese, Helen said "the vast majority," not "all".

Pat Greene, I'd happy to give you some support, effing or otherwise. This bill wasn't something you wanted, was it?

Kids have moral agency. That means they can screw up. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. I assume from your reaction that you've run into people who've told you that you are.

I hear that happens a lot. What I find weird is how often it's reportedly done by parents who aren't following the guidelines they're implicitly laying down in their criticisms. I've started to wonder whether the meaning of parent-vs.-parent critical drive-bys isn't "These are the principles I follow in rearing my own children," but rather, "This is how I'd like to think of myself."

Somehow this connects for me to a recent datum I heard, which is that the great majority of parents who say they support prayer in schools don't pray with their children in the morning, on school days or otherwise.

#42 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 12:20 AM:

abi, I'm sorry if you were offended by my comments. But on the other hand, could you do me the favor of not assuming I'm only talking about random parents I don't know?

My actual friends may mainly make good parents, but I do actually have experience with roommates, acquaintances, neighbors, and yes, even former friends who meet my definition of "overly permissive". Believe me, I came to the decision about not having kids due to experience with lots of kids and their parents.

And, as I said, I do know that no matter how good the parent, the kids don't always behave. That's really not my issue, here.

#43 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 12:38 AM:

Xopher, #27: The completely porn-free COG website is on the block lists, for example.

Do you mean http://www.cog.org/ or some other site? I'd like to double-check the filter I helped build and, if necessary, see if I have any strings left to pull to get it fixed.

Dave Bell, #39: The economics of porn sites aren't as obvious as some might think.

Yeah, what he said. Besides the definitely-affiliated portal sites, there are, just off the top of my head:
1. extortion sites: find a domain that's close to a school or church's domain, or that used to be a school or church's, and put up a porn site. Wait for them to offer you money to take it down.
2. hobby sites: amateur photographers, wanna-be models, exhibitionists
3. weblogs by people who like smut
4. personal smut caches never intended to be discovered, but found nevertheless

#44 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 12:49 AM:

paula @ 28

Did you read about this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? The publisher decided, without notifying them, that the 21,000 paid subscribers identified as libraries or classrooms would not receive that issue this year. (More info at Library Journal and NYT.)

#45 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 02:02 AM:

At the moment the main reason I want to keep pornography away from my daughter is that I'm afraid she'd run around the house waving it in the air and shouting "book! book!" and then she'd rip out the pages and eat them. But trying to imagine what it'll be like in a decade or so...

A law like this certainly isn't the answer, nor any law along these lines. I'm not sure there is much of an answer, other than accepting the fact that teens who want to find pornography will manage to.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 06:02 AM:

Tina @42
I'm sorry for overly conflating your comments with Bruce's. They both hit me on a sensitive area, though it's not like I don't know about indiscipline first-hand.

When I was a kid, we had some family friends who - as a policy - never said no to their kids. The dad used to follow his toddler son into the street and stop traffic rather than tell him no. The kids were savages, of course, who trashed our toys and wrote on the walls in crayon. The fact that they are both very good human beings now is due to other adults in their lives, and (to a very great part) their own hard work.

This has certainly had an influence on my parenting style.

#47 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 08:06 AM:

What's the problem with kids and porn? I think it's the definition of "kid" being switched on us, so that it means "someone seventeen and three quarters" one minute and "a seven year old" the next.

Little kids aren't going to be interested. I remember my son getting porn spam when he was about eight and being squicked by the headers. (He couldn't understand why the spammers thought he was going to be interested. Neither can any of us, actually.) He certainly wasn't going looking for the stuff. I could reliably get him to lose interest in reading something by telling him it had kissy bits.

Once they're teenagers, well, I thought these days the general feeling was that masturbation was healthy and normal -- and so is finding out what you're into?

My reaction, when my sixteen year old son tells me in a half-horrified half-laughing way about the "tub girl" link someone sent him and how icky it is, is not "OMG he's looking at pron!" but for both of us to roll our eyes at how weird some people are. At sixteen it would be legal for him to have sex, or get married with my permission.

The problem is the transition period, the age where they're starting to be interested but likely to be bothered by the fractal weirdness of what's available, and not sufficiently net-savvy to cope with online weirdos and viruses. I dealt with that by having the only net-capable machine be in shared space for that couple of years -- I wasn't watching over his shoulder, but I could have been walking in at any moment. His main problem with this was that he couldn't download big game-demos to his machine. By the time he was old enough to claim that high speed internet access in his bedroom was a civil right, I reckoned he was old enough to cope with it.

The only thing that ever really worried me with this sort of thing was the issue of John Barnes Princess of the Aerie, which was a sequel to a book utterly appropriate for an 11 year old, but which turned out to be full of really icky sex mixed up with even ickier conditioning and control. I ended up saying : "This book is full of gross icky sex and I'd really prefer it if you didn't read it until you're older."

#48 ::: LeslieB ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 08:09 AM:

Re #39 & 43 - Both of you are perfectly right. I sometimes forget that because of my work (computer crime) I automatically filter 'porn' as meaning the hardest of hardcore and most far out kink. Those sites tend to charge rather expensive membership fees.

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 08:31 AM:

abi @ 46

Again, my apologies. My posts were poorly worded, and my meaning not clear, which tends to happen when I talk about something that bothers me in present time and resonates with bad past experience. I can't think of anything more personal and full of potential emotional turmoil than child-raising, seen from either the child or the parent's perspective; it's an area where it's easy for a clumsy foot to tread on a sensitive spot, and I regret doing that.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 08:38 AM:

Being a parent... This reminds me of the last times I saw my dad alive. I was visiting from California in 1990 or 1991 and he and I talked about personal things. Note that this is someone born in 1925, from a generation where people just didn't talk about that personal stuff. He told me how, when I was born, he was so scared because he had never done this, and he was afraid he wouldn't do a good job of raising me. It's weird to realize that all this was going on in his head.

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Todd 43: Yes, that's the site I meant. I've heard that it was being blocked, and that many other Pagan and alternative sites were blocked as well. I don't have any filtering software installed, so I can't check if it's still true.

Jo 47: What's the problem with kids and porn? I think it's the definition of "kid" being switched on us, so that it means "someone seventeen and three quarters" one minute and "a seven year old" the next.

You've put your finger on the problem. Our society has only two categories, "adult," and "child." Adolescents are neither. They tend to be treated as children or as adults, whichever is more to their disadvantage. "Act like an adult!" "Shut up, you're just a kid!"

Among the worst, in my opinion, is that they're expected to go to bed like children but get up as adults, when in fact they switch to adult melatonin timing (unable to sleep before about 11PM) while still needing 10 hours sleep (because they're still growing). This means they're perpetually sleep-deprived (as are we all, as Patrick has pointed out elsewhere, but not nearly as badly).

This false dichotomy is used as a bait-and-switch tactic by people who fundamentally oppose anyone having rights of any kind. "We have to protect the children!" they cry, telling horror stories of 4-year-olds being raped on live webcam, and then drafting legislation that makes it impossible for 17-year-old gay boys to look at any site that doesn't say they're evil and sick and should be killed. (Is tbqungrfsntf.pbz (I don't want to add to its Google rating) on the filtering lists?)

Then, of course, they also want to make the check a credit card, which is the same kind of "OK for me because I'm the ruling class, but not for hoi polloi" oligarchism that Congressman Foley was engaged in. Do they really believe there aren't any adults with internet access but without a credit card? Of course they don't.

I hate these people. They're the very worst our society has to offer. They're exploiting the suffering of real victims of child pornography for abhorrent political aims, and they're examples of why I sometimes wish I believed in Hell.

#52 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Jo has definitely hit the Big Lie bait-and-switch of the anti-sex business.

It comes out most with child porn laws. They upped the age limit to 18 in the UK, a few years ago, while any number of 16-year-olds are bonking their brains out, quite lawfully, every day of the year.

This is silly. And the people who perpetrate such stupidities want us to trust them with the sexual health of our children?

#53 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 10:52 AM:

#48: Not entirely your fault. Nudity and porn are often deliberately and dishonestly conflated. Besides the obfuscatory equivocation about what kind of "child" we're talking about, there's equally bad equivocation about what kind of "porn" we're talking about.

So if a couple of 17-year-olds go skinny dipping and one of them pulls out a digital camera, they're in the same legal category as people who film the rape of 7-year-olds. (Assuming for the sake of argument that the latter even exist; I strongly suspect that if they do they are far rarer even than terrorists.)

This is why it's difficult to make any sweeping statement about "children" and "porn", unless you are an idiot, or dishonest.

#54 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 10:59 AM:

chris @ 53

So if a couple of 17-year-olds go skinny dipping and one of them pulls out a digital camera, they're in the same legal category as people who film the rape of 7-year-olds.

In Florida, yes. A 16- and a 17-year old were convicted of producing and possessing kiddie porn because they took pictures of themselves naked. [Details]

#55 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 12:28 PM:

Xopher #51: "We have to protect the children!" they cry, telling horror stories of 4-year-olds being raped on live webcam, and then drafting legislation that makes it impossible for 17-year-old gay boys to look at any site that doesn't say they're evil and sick and should be killed.

I had been going to mention something like that. My parents got internet access when I was fifteen, shortly after a friend of mine had introduced me to internet porn at his house. I, of course, started looking Ignoring the Dire Legal Warnings and clicking on the "Over 18" buttons was a big help in figuring out early on that being gay wasn't bad. If there was this much of it on the internet, surely it couldn't be all bad, right? It wasn't the only thing, but it was a big positive reinforcement. It's different for everyone, of course, but I'm glad I wasn't required to give a credit card.

Not to mention the fact that not all adults have credit cards, while some children do, and still other children aren't too stupid to take their parents'.

#56 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Then, of course, there are the two kids who were tried as adults on child pornography charges for e-mailing explicit pictures of themselves to each other.

How one can be a child when posing and adult when mailing the pictures is one of the mysteries of jurisprudence.

#57 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Scorpio #56: Isn't it obvious? They mailed the pictures after taking them; clearly, at some point between the two acts, they grew up.

(I don't know if this disclaimer is necessary, but I am not serious.)

#58 ::: LeslieB ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Re #53 - People who film the rape of 7yos - or any other age, right down to newborn - being rarer than terrorists? I wish. Oh, how I wish.

Roughly half of my cases involve child porn. I've seen computers with up to 40 Gigs of it, neatly categorized by sex act and participants. Photos, movies... I've read the email of predators swapping tips on how to get parents to trust them with their kids. I've read the careful negotiations to trade a pregnant 'slave' for a used pickup truck. Part of the deal included sex rights to the unborn child. I've seen the logs of a molest-on-demand webcam show.

So no, it's not rare. It's so not-rare it's frightening.

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Scorpio 56: Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. Of course, I object to trying adolescents as adults for any reason—and if it IS allowed, the MRIs showing abnormal adult brain development should be admissible as evidence of diminished responsibility. It would be, if a 30-year-old had that brain development, so by disallowing it our system penalizes adolescents even versus an adult who did the same crime (or "crime" as in the case you cite).

#60 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Paula, #28: You're squicked by nuns in traditional habits?

#61 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 04:56 AM:

I have Dreadful Skin sitting in my TBR stack, I suppose that's a nun with untraditional habits*.

*It's almost 1 AM, I can't think of any clothing jokes.

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 06:12 AM:

Don't wimple out - you're doing fine.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 06:18 AM:

Tania @ 61... At the risk of recycling some of my own old jokes, how about a religious comic-book about The Force of Habit, which fights all kind of supernatural menaces, including the Creatures of Habit?

#64 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:11 AM:

Speaking of wimples...

From the "Buffy" episode "Triangle".

XANDER: (to Buffy) So, how goes the slaying?

BUFFY: I killed something in a convent last night.

XANDER: In any other room, a frightening declaration. Here, a welcome distraction. (Anya and Willow both look at him) Tell us all about the killing, Buff.

BUFFY: Pretty standard. Vampire staking. Ooh! But I met a nun, and she let me try on her wimple.

XANDER: Okay, now we're back to frightening.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:56 AM:

Michael I @ 64... Maybe it was the nun from The Blues Brothers, who seemed to have a talent for telekinesis, besides being quite handy with the rod.

#66 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Sylvia@60--I am--I know people who were beaten by nuns. Or think about the Magdalen laundries.

#67 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 01:13 PM:

Tania at #61: I just wrote a review of Dreadful Skin (for the May Locus, so you won't see it any time soon), and it *is* worth reading -- a dark, eccentric, interesting book.

#68 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 02:28 PM:

I've never raised a child (or reared a hog), but as for myself, early on I resolved not to look at pornography until I'd had some experience actual sex-with-apartner. I knew that Playboy models weren't like women I should expect to meet, and didn't want to be imprinted on them.


So, I'm against the legal attempts that have been made to keep the children "safe", but I still have the strong bias that pornography is a capitalist "plot" (no conspirators, just confluences of interest) to induce a set of predictable, easily-marketable-to, preversions in our young people. They should be left to develop their own, more idiosyncratic, preversions, influenced only by religious art, Hercules movies, MSTied '50s educational films, Chick pamphlets, and the like.

#69 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Muriel Spark's The Abbess of Crewe is about a whole bunch of nuns with nontraditional habits. And even more relevant in today's era of wiretapping than it was during the Nixon era when she wrote it.

Michael Turyn #68: I've got a friend who says she can directly trace almost all of her sexual tastes to watching the 1980 Flash Gordon incessantly when she was little.

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 03:56 PM:

ethan @ 69... 1980's Flash Gordon? I dare not ask you to elaborate.

#71 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 04:34 PM:

I dared not ask her, so I think you're safe.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:14 PM:

ethan @ 71... Your comment got me thinking about what your friend might have meant. Let's see. Ming the Merciless turns one of his Rings onto Dale Arden, who starts acting all naughty, which has Klytus comment to Ming that he has never seen anybody react so strongly, not even Aura, his own daughter, who likes to keep a dwarf named Fellini on a leash.

#73 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:36 PM:

On #69-#72, am I the only one here who has heard of the movie Flesh Gordon? I don't remember much about it, and I doubt I saw it, but it seems related.

#74 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:47 PM:

I've seen it. It was one of those semi-serious cases of farcial porn; and made the late-night showings at cons for awhile.

It had it moments.

TK

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Dan Hoey... Oh, I saw Flesh Gordon. Very silly. So was Flash Gordon, which had better actors although its SFXs weren't much better.

#76 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Dan - I've not only heard of Flesh Gordon, I've seen it. Oh, and to really tie it into this thread, I think I was about 15, so I may have been exposing myself* to questionable content. I just remember that it was silly. Penisaurii??

*exposing myself. heh.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Yes, Tania, it had penisaurii. And Flexi Jerkoff who ignited his rocket's engine with a VolksWagen's keys... And John Hoyt... And Star Trek fan Bjo Trimble... And a poster by Ken Barr...

#78 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 06:23 PM:

abi: Okay, we're all good then? Good. :) I understand hot buttons, so it's cool from my end, certainly. (After all, this -- the original topic, at least -- is one of mine.)

Dan@73: I've never seen it, but I, too, have heard of it. Scary notion to me, since, ahem, 'pornographic remakes' are generally more poorly acted than the original (what with it being porn and all), and let's face it, rollicking good fun or not, the original was not precisely an example of the world's finest acting. Or writing. Though I still like it.

Those of you who have seen it: I'm sorry. Or possibly not, if it gave you amusement.

And, just as a final thought: I love Making Light threads and where they wander. Especially coming back into one where I was last feeling a bit gripy (it's a word NOW) and finding one of my favorite Buffy quotes. ^_^

#79 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 07:06 PM:

My abiding memory of Flesh Gordon (silly, but enjoyable) is the Moronosphere. A concept that could be expanded <pause for predictable reaction>, and probably has been.

Akchewally, I think we discussed Flesh/Flash Gordon last year too. Hmmmm.

#80 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 07:13 PM:

How one can be a child when posing and adult when mailing the pictures is one of the mysteries of jurisprudence.

Hardly. It's not a matter of being a child for one purpose and an adult for another. Anti-child-porn laws don't have exceptions saying "Unless you're the child in the picture." Was that demystifying enough for you?

As a parent, I'd prefer that the bluenosed idiots like Donna Rice actually attempt to help the LeslieBs of the world, instead of using child porn as an excuse to write "unless it mentions sex" into the Free Speech Clause.

#81 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 07:19 PM:

mythago 80: Some of us think trying adolescents as adults is just plain wrong no matter what. We're not saying they should have been given a pass on the kid-porn; just that they should have been tried as juveniles.

And also, two kids sending naked pictures to each other isn't the same as a kid running a whole website where people pay money for naked pictures of hir. Our legal system is bad at making those distinctions, and I think they're real and important.

#82 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 07:32 PM:

ethan #69 wrote: I've got a friend who says she can directly trace almost all of her sexual tastes to watching the 1980 Flash Gordon incessantly when she was little.

Not the Bore Worms!

#83 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 07:53 PM:

#77: Surely you mean George Barr.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Patrick @ 83... You're absolutely right. As soon as I posted that earlier comment, I started thinking that I had the wrong Barr.

#85 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Some of us think trying adolescents as adults is just plain wrong no matter what.

Some of us don't think "I don't agree with what this law just did" is a synonym for "the jurisprudence doesn't make sense". It does. Our legal system isn't bad at making those distinctions; it's just that people and the lawmakers they elect tend not to sweat the fine details of laws on hot-button issues. "Hang on, let's make sure that we've covered everything adequately and don't have any gaping loopholes" is not a popular response to, say, a bill having to do with child pornography. And, people being people, it's not always easy to anticipate every situation so that the results come out the way we'd like them to.

The more useful question is "why did somebody decide to prosecute a teenager for sending 'child porn' of him/herself, and why would any jury convict?"

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:43 PM:

It doesn't make sense to treat adolescents both as children and as adults in the same trial. I understand how such things occur, but I think it's a manifestation of the grotesquely hypocritical way our society treats adolescents.

#87 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Actually I'll go further. A legal system that allows someone to be tried as an adult for doing something that wouldn't be a crime if s/he were, in fact, an adult, is FUBAR. Not to mention rotten and corrupt.

#88 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Or, it could simply be that the laws are awfully complicated, most people don't know or care enough to insist that they be well-crafted, and things fall through the cracks as a result of that and everyday stupidity. Not as fun as outrage, I know, but there you are.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 09:34 PM:

That may be the reason the legal system (which includes all our laws as well as the so-called "justice" system) is fucked up...but it's still fucked up.

#90 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 09:56 PM:

#88:Or, it could simply be that the laws are awfully complicated, most people don't know or care enough to insist that they be well-crafted, and things fall through the cracks as a result of that and everyday stupidity. Not as fun as outrage, I know, but there you are.

Surely you're not saying that people ought not be outraged that laws are not well-crafted and as a result we end up with cases where justice is not served by the application of law? I ask because that's what I infer from the last quoted sentence.

#91 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 10:42 PM:

We had an Attorney General in Kansas that wanted to prosecute all teen-on-teen sex, so much so that he demanded all health records from clinics performing abortions on anyone under 18. He got his ass voted out of office, then his buddies in Johnson County appointed him the JoCo attorney general. He's trying to continue his vendetta against teen sex.

I don't think a 16 or 17-year-old needs to be turned into a "sex offender' for life because of sex with a 16 or 17-year-old girl. But that's what Phil Kline appeared to want to do.

It's abhorrent.

#92 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2007, 11:59 PM:

You infer wrongly, JC. I'm saying that people don't pay much attention to the laws they vote on or what they do, which is why politicians get mad props for supporting things like the 1998 Child Protection Act. Or, you know, the Patriot Act. So we get laws that do things we dislike, or that don't work quite the way we thought when we wrote that impassioned letter to the editor. It's not a matter of an evil and corrupt system; it's one that doesn't work very well because, most of the time, only lawyers give it a second thought.

Paula, my impression of Kline was that he doesn't really give a rip if anyone is raping teenage girls, but it's a useful excuse to shut down abortion clinics.

#93 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 01:43 AM:

I wish we'd switch to a single topic law system. That would prevent legislators from attaching local pork corruption amendments and Stop Video Games From Aborting Baby Jebus amendments to Medicare funding bills, for example.

#94 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 02:04 AM:

Mythago, it seems from here like your answers are missing Xopher's point. It's as if he were to say "Wow, I'm sick. I messed around with some eggs that had gone bad." and you were to answer, "No, what happened is that you got a case of salmonella poisoning from those eggs." Nothing you're saying about how and why bad laws come into effect - including laws that are easily used for bad ends by bad people - contradicts what he's saying, which is that it's bad to treat juveniles as adults. The mechanics of food poisoning don't wouldn't make him more (or less) sick, either.

It doesn't matter, as I understand Xopher's concern (or at least as I see it with a similar concern), whether a particular law was deliberately crafted for ill intent or simply carelessly drafted under improper pressure, if it leads to the same damn place in the end. The differences matter in trying to craft an effective judicial and legislative response, but don't (I think, and suspect Xopher does too) much change the moral weight of the failing. We tell children adn subordinates that they have a responsibility to stand up to wrong pressures; the same is true of authorities.

#95 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:31 AM:

leslie b. @34: Places like adultfanfiction.net do not request a credit card number, yet they are sufficiently pancked to have wrapped themselves in layers of legalese that say that if you don't give them your real, true personal data, you'll be sent to Gitmo first time you try to set foot in the US. Or something like that. It's annoying.

This law pretty much targets only amatuers who do not want your credit card number, but find them selves "commercial" due to an advert or a link to a .com site.

#96 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 05:37 AM:

#92:You infer wrongly, JC.

I figured that. But I still don't understand, then, why Xopher's (or anyone's) outrage is an issue to you at all? If you think being outraged because the law doesn't work as we want it to work, regardless of why it is that way, is a reasonable reaction, I don't understand the point of saying "Not as fun as outrage, I know, but there you are." I don't see how else I'm supposed to interpret that as anything besides, "Ha, I bet you thought you found something nefarious here, but it's just the way the system works, so there's no point in getting excited about it." It seems to me that if outrage is a reasonable reaction, then there is a point to getting excited about it.

I agree with Bruce @94. As near as I can tell, no one, except you, has said anything about an evil or corrupt system, just a system which sometimes has undesired outcomes, like treating a person simultaneously as a child and an adult. I don't think it matters if it is because of evil, apathy, or the unexpected ramifications of well-meaning acts. It's still something that needs to be fixed.

#97 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 05:59 AM:

#92: I think I've worked out what you meant. To take Bruce's analogy, you're basically saying "It doesn't do any good to be angry at salmonella." (Cue Greg London's post about frames here.) This would have made more sense to me if that was why I had thought Xopher was upset. It seemed to me he was reacting to the symptoms regardless of whether the cause was salmonella, or deliberate poisoning.

#98 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 07:46 AM:

Mythago, #85, from some reports it looks as though the girl's parents were hunting down the bastard who contaminated their daughter's precious bodily fluids.

The case got mentioned on The Sideshow a few weeks back, and following some of the links leads to news reports that suggest that they started things off, and were shocked to find their daughter being prosecuted and convicted.

BTW, whatever happened to that gay teenager who got bundled off to some sort of reigious "boot camp" for a cure? It was all over the net for a while, along with reports of other little Gitmos for kids who didn't conform, and even

The porn industry will, of course, sell you any number of pictures of teenagers--an 18-year-old is still a "teenager". (Though UK law will get you if the person appears underage.)

One thing which doesn't seem to get much prominence in all this is the age distribution. The images are all "child porn", and while it's possible to make some distinction with pictures from the visible effects of puberty, it's incredibly rare that we get information on the ages that's as clear as in the Florida case.

I don't think this is an American thing, though the endemic religious enthusiasm makes it more obvious there. There seems to be a highly conflicted attitude to teenagers in both out countries, showing up in a lot more than sex laws.

And what the Internet does is give people access to information that isn't available locally. Not censorship, perhaps, but there's a tendency for any community to filter information. Those barriers started to fail with radio and TV, but if the religious enthusiasts own the TV station they can still slow things down.

And lest anyone think I'm against the religious motive, let them consider Chad Varah as an example.

(And "Astronautical Consultant to Dan Dare"--Chad Varah sounds like one of our tribe.)

#99 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 08:01 AM:

There was a time in the US when prosecutors and judges had wide authority to interpret law, on the assumption that the legal system couldn't possibly get all the details right ahead of time, and that informed common sense and a desire to be just would correct for the law's inflexibility.

As you might expect, this latitude gave rise to excesses and abuses of power. At some point, enough political groups and voters got upset enough at some subset of these abuses that they passed new laws to limit the flexibilty of officials, judges primarily.

As you might expect, this didn't work so well either. Sure enough, the law isn't consistent or fair in fine detail (or in gross, in the case of insufficiently-considered legislation like the laws we've talked about), and when the people with the responsibility on the spot don't have the authority to correct for the deficiencies, injustice ensues. Kafka would recognize this situation.

Legal systems can't operate on the assumption that the law is perfect in every detail, nor can they operate on the assumption that all of its functionaries are always correct and incorruptible. I'd say this is another classic case of the imbalance of responsibility and authority.

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 08:53 AM:

Bruce 94: You're right about what I'm saying.

JC 96: I did actually say it was corrupt. I meant it was rotting from the inside, not that graft and bribery were the cause of such asinine prosecutions. An ill-chosen term in retrospect.

I don't think our legal system is a force of nature. I think it's something our society is responsible for. And if it's wrong, it's our job to fix it. It sounds to me that mythago is saying that there's no point in being outraged about it, that it's like the weather. It's NOT the weather. It's a function of our society that is no longer working in a way that benefits society (at least in these cases) and it needs to be fixed.

#101 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 08:54 AM:

I'd like to add a hearty hurray to Heather Corinna and the other folks who got up and testified, despite the certain knowledge that in so doing they made themselves into even bigger targets than they were before.

Favorite line from her post: "Such a pity legal decisions like this one never end with the nice “Neener neener,” you’d really like them to."

#102 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Last night, the Ion channel showed 1972 film The Cowboys, which I'd never seen before. (John Wayne was a no-no in Berkeley back then). But this cattle-drive-with-kids-as-hands tale was pretty interesting. It's sort of relevant to this discussion because of one scene where the kids encounter a traveling whorehouse run by Colleen Dewhurst, who eventually decides they really *are* too young and says "Maybe next year."

#103 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Mythago #92

Clinics which perform abortions.

There is a huge difference between "an abortion mill" and a clinic where abortion is one of the medical services available....

There is an herd of elephants in the gymnasium involved--"abortion mill" carries baggage of back alley illegal filthy butchering of girls' bodies, by greedy not-even-quacks without competent medical training with unsanitized tools in unsanitary conditions working for a quick buck in something illegal and immoral and unethical and completely sordid and vile. "Abortion clinic" replaces the term "mill" with "clinic" but focuses in on the mindimage of, "this facility exists solely to abort babies and has no decent excuse for existing, it aborts babies and abortion is murder! Getting rid of an "abortion clinic" is a Moral Act!"

Most of the people I've heard of or known who got abortions did not casually get abortions... there are exceptions, they tend to be rare, yes, they do exist, but so do mob killers, Whitey Bulger, sociopaths, psychopaths, criminals who are criminals because their stupidity level is breathtaking, people who kill their kids from incompetence/stupidity/neglect/self-centered behavior, etc.

But the term "abortion clinic" is one of those terms which gives credence and support to those who seek to make it unavailable and condemn any and all involved in not eradicating its availability based on personal choice/creed/ conscience/medical condition.

It's like calling people on disability or other social welfare aid social parasites or social cheats or greedy opportunistic scum or professional beggars....

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 103

And isn't it telling that the backalley sort of abortionist only exists when it's illegal or impossible to get an abortion any other way? In other words, under exactly the conditions those condemning abortion want to impose.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Faren @ 102... TCM showed Harold and Maude this weekend, and this thread got me wondering if 'they' would consider it to be pornography. After all, Harold is a minor.

#106 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Xopher at 100: I don't think our legal system is a force of nature. I think it's something our society is responsible for. And if it's wrong, it's our job to fix it. It sounds to me that mythago is saying that there's no point in being outraged about it, that it's like the weather. It's NOT the weather. It's a function of our society that is no longer working in a way that benefits society (at least in these cases) and it needs to be fixed.

YES!!!

#107 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:29 AM:

Xopher: Glad to know I understood; I realized as I was writing that I didn't want to be too sure to claim any authority on your behalf, just my own sense of probably-similar disgust.

You hit on something that's become really important to me in recent years: not accepting current practice as somehow natural or inevitable. It's certainly true that institutions evolve in response to un-obvious accumulations, and that what people don't think about matters, and all, but nonetheless, we can choose to look at how they're acting and change them. We don't have to accept either Burke's selective reverence for the past or Hayek's secular revival of it. We can say "yes, all kinds of deliberate effort, including a lot of good will, plus all kinds of incidents and accidents, hints and allegations, went into this...and the result still sucks, and I want to work some serious changes on it to fix that."

#108 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 12:02 PM:

#60 Sylvia Li:

Paula, #28: You're squicked by nuns in traditional habits?

Hmm. I don't see them out in the supermarket... my very-young-childhood memories of nuns were positive ones--I didn't go to Catholic school and didn't have the 1950ss/1960s experiences of rulers assaulting hands, etc., and other abusive treatments I heard of. My father's father had a large vehicle which he used for hauling furniture to customers, and used to chauffer the nuns of St Charles in Woburn around in it--the convent was up the street from my grandparents' house and down hill from where my parents and sister and I lived, and the nuns were friendly to -me-.

Since then I had little interaction with nuns in traditional clothing, however, and after Vatican II most nuns who went out, were in more modern dress, not wearing middle ages and earlier attire if not cloistered.

I don't have an objective view of the situations, I think--someone who's chosen to be a bride of Jesus often isn't partaking on the world outside cloister walls, and most of those who do, dress in a way to blend in in the past four decades. Moreover, they aren't reproducing giving an example to their children, the symbolism of being covered over and hidden in public and held as worth less than males.

That is, nuns are acting as women removed from society who are in ritual roles in their religion, and are role models for a religiously devoted life to cloistered contemplation and/or devoting themselves to the general welfare of their society through good works. They are not examples of "grow up to be wife submissive to husband authority and covered because women aren't to be forward and prominent and partaking of society as full citizens with full rights and emanicipation."

I suspect that what I'm trying to communicate isn't coming across--that nuns have a certain religious authority standing, that the women I see who are swaddled up with their children of pre-sexual maturity who're not in "
traditional" dress of societies which hold women in status that often seems little more than chattel, don't have. Also, the nuns are not serving as role models in public for "ordinary" life path for women...

Ah! the habit shows a setting apart of a nun from secular society, while the head-to-toe swathing of a wife/mother separates her out from society in general even though her -family- is in it and her husband or future husband is out in public... I don't see Jesus out in the office in a cubicle trying to get though the life of a wage-slave, but the husband, the sons, the brothers of the woman in -secular- society who's nonetheless covered head to toe except for face and hands, -are- out in the same offices with women who aren't given sequestered treatment... and often the men who expect their wives and sisters and entering adulthood daughters to wear "traditional" clothing, treat women who aren't, as if we are no better than free prostitutes for them to use for not following -their- social restrictions on women... there are LOTS of stories about male grad students and various levels of professors, from such cultures, mistreating female students.

#109 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 12:24 PM:

I hereby second Lizzie L's YES!!! at #106 to Xopher's #100.

Well said, Xopher.

#110 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 12:43 PM:

I remember as a teen looking for my cousin's playboys and hustlers to "read the articles". I don't see this as much different really. And in the end how are they harmed by seeing some ppl do the deed in a usually, comical, fashion.

This law was so broad that Michealangelo's David could have been tagged by it. Insane really, but everyone needs to remember this law was passed in 1998, so it's not really a "Bush" law. And of course CNN posts a nice scare article about "Online Predators" in response.

Paula @103: When my ex was pregnant with our son, her doc was in a building where abortions were a provided service. We had to deal with going through a number of protestors. Those people were some of the most vile human beings I have ever had the displeasure to meet.

#111 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 01:09 PM:

I've been ruminating recently over the concept of "a just abortion", on analogy with "a just war."

It seems to me that in American culture, war is much more acceptable than abortion. The notion of "a just war" exists; very often we have to admit that our wars turn out not to be just after all. But the burden of proof seems to be much higher for abortion than it is for war. The attitude seems to be, "Yes, wars are nasty, but you gotta have 'em."

"If I don't get this abortion, all of Southeast Asia will fall to the Communists!"

I hope this hasn't offended anyone. If abortion is a topic discouraged on this blog, then please ignore my post.

#112 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 01:13 PM:

Paula #108: I understand what you're saying. The thing is, how do those women themselves feel about their clothing? Do they feel they're victims of male oppression? Some, I suppose. But many, probably most, of the women you see in a North American supermarket, could choose to dress in jeans and a T-shirt if they really wanted to. (If they're living with an abusive man who would beat them up if they wore something he didn't like, well... that's a separate problem -- one that plenty of non-Moslem women have, too.)

So. When it's voluntary, I think it's important to understand what it actually means to the women who do it. Be careful about projecting your own meanings, or notions you've picked up from media reports that are often, these days, subtly or overtly anti-Moslem.

Clothing styles, and the various treatments of hair (covered, veiled, long, short, shaved, spiked, dreadlocked...!), are frequently loaded with symbolic messages. This happens in any society. However, the message is always complex. What is perceived by outsiders is often not at all the message that is intended or felt by the wearer... for instance, consider "hippies."

Traditional nun's garb is a holdover from a virulently sexist past, which is why I mentioned it. But women who wear it today do so as an expression of religious piety.

I am old enough to remember a time when girls and women always had to wear hats and white gloves to church on Sunday. Not because of male oppression, I assure you; it was what we did. Times changed; we don't do that any more. That wasn't progress, it was just change.

At least some Moslem women say that covering up is a positive assertion of their religious and cultural identity. It isn't in the least an expression of meek submission to male authority, and I imagine they'd feel insulted by your assumption that it is.

#113 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Lizzy 106, ethan 109: *blush*

#114 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 01:56 PM:

As near as I can tell, no one, except you, has said anything about an evil or corrupt system

Please see post #87.

JC, I was referring way back to the notion that the laws just don't make sense. They do make sense. The underlying presumptions may be ones we don't like--that's what Xopher's talking about, namely the juvenile/adult split--but the fact that a builder screwed up the house's foundations doesn't mean the roofer did a bad job, if you follow.

It sounds to me that mythago is saying that there's no point in being outraged about it, that it's like the weather.

I'm actually saying the exact opposite.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 02:20 PM:

mythago, when you say this:

Or, it could simply be that the laws are awfully complicated, most people don't know or care enough to insist that they be well-crafted, and things fall through the cracks as a result of that and everyday stupidity. Not as fun as outrage, I know, but there you are.
It seems to imply that outrage is inappropriate. Of course, you said that before I clarified that by "our legal system" I mean not only the courts/lawyers setup, but the laws as well.

I think the fact that things fall through the cracks because of poorly crafted laws is worth getting outraged about.

I think "everyday stupidity" in the functioning of the law is worth getting outraged about.

I don't find this outrage fun. In fact it's tinged with despair, because I can't think of a damned thing I can do about it. Not even a little thing, like recycling. File an amicus brief? How will I hear about the cases in time?

It's not that I don't care enough to insist that laws be well-crafted. It's that I feel powerless to effect that outcome, or to affect the process of crafting laws in any way. IANAL, so I might not even notice some of the most ridiculous outcomes. All I can do is vote for the least repellent of the politicians who get to craft the laws, and just hope they're careful...but I know they won't be.

The post quoted above has a shrugging kind of tone to it. And "not as fun as outrage" sounds downright sneering. It seems now you didn't intend those implications, and that actually we agree at the most fundamental level that the system (as I've defined it) needs fixing.

But I have this question: can you think of anything a concerned individual without legal training can do about this enormous problem? Or about that particular case? (Actually, if you or anyone here can identify that case, I could look into it, see if there are appeals pending, a legal defense fund etc.)

Here's an example of the kind of "little thing" I mean: I intend (as soon as I get around to it, you know) to consult a lawyer about having some kind of document drawn up that would be filed in a trial (IANAL and I don't know how this would work) in the event that I am murdered. This document would express my reasons, personal and political, for absolutely opposing the application of the death penalty in the case of my killer. I think of it as a "Don't make me a murderer posthumously" document.

That won't eliminate the death penalty. It will do my small part against it. Gods know I hope it would never, ever be used; but I could spread the concept, and perhaps eventually the pols would take notice.

Any ideas for a similar kind of grass-roots oppositional technique for these stupid laws?

#116 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 02:38 PM:

It seems to imply that outrage is inappropriate.

Only when it's misdirected, or when it's after the fact. And I'm certainly not implying that nobody here has ever done a thing to protest, or stop, stupid laws or corrupt applications of the law.

But even in the non-idealistic "we the people" sense, the laws come from us. The 1998 Child Protection Act didn't get passed because a lot of people carefully looked over the law, thought about the pros and cons, and decided it would be a good thing; it got passed because it sounds good, and no politician wants to see his or her opponent's attack ads say "Senator Arbuckle voted AGAINST a law that would protect our children from Internet predators!"

To go back to JC's analogy, not too many people think about where their eggs come from until Aunt Marabelle gets salmonella from a bad egg.

IAAL, so my perspective is obviously biased; but I would encourage people to find out more about the laws that affect them (Nolo Press is an excellent source for sound, written-for-normal-people information about the law), and to get involved in organizations that work for changes in the laws that are most important to them. Pay attention to what's in those 'voter guides', and read the actual text of what you (or your representative) are supposed to vote on. Ask questions. If a law does something outrageous, find out why, so that you can fix the problem and not something like the problem.

Sorry, I know this sounds like a speech, but I truly don't believe that the game is fair when only the lawyers read the rules that come in the box.

#117 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 02:48 PM:

There's another point getting missed with regard to the discussion of this case, and that has a direct bearing on Xopher's comments. In most jurisdictions in the US, minors are automatically treated as juveniles in the court system - no matter what the crime - with a fairly different legal system and different set of courts handling them, aimed in part at avoiding these sorts of wilfully punitive consequences. It usually takes a deliberate decision by the prosecutorial side to prosecute a minor as an adult. I did not see any discussion of it in this case, but I strongly suspect that's what happened here.

#118 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:06 PM:

It usually takes a deliberate decision by the prosecutorial side to prosecute a minor as an adult.

Quite true, and there's usually a procedure where the prosecution has the job of proving that the minor ought to be tried as an adult. Hence my earlier comment about why, even if the result is legally plausible, a prosecutor would try it and a jury would buy into it.

#119 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:10 PM:

#116:To go back to JC's analogy, not too many people think about where their eggs come from until Aunt Marabelle gets salmonella from a bad egg.

To give credit where it's due, it's Bruce Baugh's analogy. I just found it really useful.

I have to admit, I interpreted your statement of #88 in the same way that Xopher did.

#120 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Xopher @ 115

I take the gist of this discussion to support me when I say that we, private citizens and voters, are in general operating in reaction to bad laws passed without our knowledge or comprehension. For those of us who live in states that have an initiative system, things are a little better. I live in Oregon where all voting is by mail, which is even better, because I have the time to examine the issues in detail as I'm filling in the ballot.

But, and it's a huge but, most legislation is passed by state or federal legislatures who don't have to answer to the voters on specific issues of a bill unless somone spots a problem before it's enacted. And as the bills have gotten larger and the language gnarlier, the time to review the language seems to have gotten shorter, even for the legislators.

This has resulted in a situation similar to what the Administration has tried to do to stifle investigation of alleged corruption: document-bombing, where the investigators are overwhelmed by the quantity of documentation.

All things being equal (and I've just shown they're not) it's easier and better to stop a proposed bill than to have it rescinded after enactment. Given the timing and size of bills, it's almost impossible to stop them beforehand unless some major political bloc knows about and objects to something in the bill. And rescinding legislation is even harder because the normal attitude of legislators is, "we've dealt with that, we don't have time to deal with it again."

Can someone suggest a (practical and acheivable!) way to get out of this reactive cycle and allow citizens to take some proactive control of the legislative process?

#121 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:55 PM:

Xopher #115: "I intend (as soon as I get around to it, you know) to consult a lawyer about having some kind of document drawn up that would be filed in a trial (IANAL and I don't know how this would work) in the event that I am murdered. This document would express my reasons, personal and political, for absolutely opposing the application of the death penalty in the case of my killer. I think of it as a "Don't make me a murderer posthumously" document."

Xopher, there are too many jurisdictions, competing legal rules, capricious or idiosyncratic judges, diverse sets of rules of procedure, et cetera for me to predict how likely it is for your posthumous testimony to ever be seen by the death penalty jury. But I'm pretty sure that your angle of approach is to have your lawyer take a short video deposition of you in which you express your death penalty views as compellingly as you can. And then simply amend your will to include specific instructions to your executor, namely, that in the event of anyone's trial for your murder, the executor shall provide judge, prosecution, and (especially) defense counsel with the video deposition and a transcript thereof.

Defense counsel ought to be highly motivated to get your deposition in front of the jury, and will be in the best position to know how to do that, if it's even possible in that place and time.

Upon second thought, your executor should also provide copies of the video deposition to the media. It will make good copy on the local evening news, and (unless the jury is *very* thoroughly sequestered, which happens only rarely) they'll be likely to see it or hear about it despite the usual (and usually ignored) judicial instructions not to watch news about the case while they are sitting.

Disclaimer: Although I have lots of opinions about legal stuff, I'm not wearing a lawyer hat while I type this. (If I were, somebody would be paying me a hundred and forty bucks an hour, and I'm pretty sure that's not happening.) So, to misquote "The Shooter", "I'm just some peckerwood living on a mountain with too many opinions."

#122 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 03:57 PM:

#118 etc.

The girl (A.H.), at least, was charged as a juvenile, and pled nolo contendre (with constitutional reservations) rather than go to jury.

I believe the same is true for the boy (J.G.W.), but I'm not able to verify that right now.

http://opinions.1dca.org/written/opinions2007/1-19-07/06-0162.pdf is the appelate decision in AH's case.

#123 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 04:03 PM:

mythago @ 118: I do not agree that the jury has to "buy into it." That is only true in theory as removed from reality.

Typically IME the jury is instructed quite the reverse, that they are not allowed to consider whether the law is appropriately or justly applied or is a just law, but that they must only consider whether the facts indicate the defendant violated the law. Some judges will either dismiss or threaten with "contempt of court" jurors who indicate that they may discuss whether the law is fair. This is based both on my personal experience sitting on a jury and on my reading.

You need a bunch of very hard-headed and well-informed jurors to decide "this is unfair and we will not convict", in the face of instructions from the judge that they should not and must not think that way. (If this was a jury trial - again, I don't see indication in the news stories whether it was.)

Prosecutors' motives can vary substantially, and the cases they begin may often be influenced by their personal beliefs, or by their desire to make a political splash, or by political pressure within the local government level.

#124 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 04:23 PM:

the executor shall provide judge, prosecution, and (especially) defense counsel with the video deposition and a transcript thereof

You're not going to be able to have that "deposition" considered by the finder of fact (judge or jury, probably jury) in such a case; it's not a deposition, it wasn't conducted where Xopher could have been cross-examined, and it's not legally relevant. The thing about criminal trials is that they're not Victim v. Accused; they're The People v. Accused. Such a statement by Xopher would be a good thing for his family members to be aware of, and may influence a prosecutor's decision; but it's not something that has any legal effect.

By the way, suggesting it be broadcast in the hopes of influencing the jury is vile and reprehensible. We call that "poisoning the well" in lawyerspeak. If you think that's A-OK, imagine if a defense attorney decided to broadcast carefully edited snippets of Xopher's posts, to convince potential jurors that Xopher was just a jerk who needed killin' and therefore the defendant really should just get probation.

Clifton, you don't, in fact, need a bunch of hard-headed jurors to ignore the law at all. It's the whole reason we have things like rape-shield laws and limits on what evidence can be introduced. I know you're talking about FIJA, but "you won't get a FIJA instruction" is hardly the same as "juries never ignore the law".

#125 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Todd @ 122: Thanks for your follow-up. I should not be surprised to find out that the journos and the Internets got it wrong. Convicted for "delinquency" as a juvenile via a nolo contendere plea is a lot closer to a reasonable outcome than the "convicted as adults" that had been circulating. (Not just here, I'd read it elsewhere too.)

#126 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 04:29 PM:

I'd also highly recommend that y'all look over the opinion to which Todd kindly provided a link. The facts and the legal arguments are a bit different than what we've been assuming.

#127 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 05:11 PM:

#112 ::: Sylvia Li @112: At least some Moslem women say that covering up is a positive assertion of their religious and cultural identity. It isn't in the least an expression of meek submission to male authority, and I imagine they'd feel insulted by your assumption that it is.

Women who choose to cover themselves often say that it's a relief to have their bodies not on display for constant, unwanted attention. They say that, without a body on display to be judged on, they are more valued for their skills, thoughts, and characters. I imagine they would be as uncomfortable with showing their legs in a pair of shorts as most North American women would be walking around bare-breasted.

Symbols mean what you make them mean. While I choose not to fully cover myself, I envy them their body-privacy, and I can see the choice as a positive act of power.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 07:29 PM:

mythago 124: Might it be admitted in jurisdictions where victim-impact testimony is permitted?

#129 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Xopher: documents of the sort you refer to have been drawn up by anti-death-penalty organizations for a while now. It is usually called a "Declaration of Life", and you would sign it and have it notarized, and file it along with your will.

Google finds several versions, including declarations by the Quakers, UUs, Pax Christi, etc. You could take one of those as your starting point.

To be honest, I have no idea if one has ever been introduced at trial or if it has made a difference.

#130 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 09:26 PM:

Xopher #128, you're on the right track. Mythago is making assumptions about the jurisdictions in which your murder (may such gods as might be forbid it) might be tried -- and about the legal systems that might obtain in that place and hopefully distant time -- that we none of us have the data to support. In many current U.S. jurisdictions, he's likely to be correct, but not in all of them, and we don't know how the rules will change in the future, as that's impossible to predict. There's no reason for you to shrink from your plan because it might fail in Mythago's jurisdiction. It might not, too. Decisions about legal relevance are made individually, by judges, and although they can be predicted fairly often, as Mythago does so confidently, such predictions are prone to fail in individual cases.

Mythago, you wrote "By the way, suggesting it be broadcast in the hopes of influencing the jury is vile and reprehensible. We call that "poisoning the well" in lawyerspeak."

I am laughing out loud here at your quick conflation of attorney ethical rules and such judgemental conclusions as "vile and reprehensible." It may be ethically questionable, yes. But when you're defending a man who is on trial for his life, and doing so in honesty and in furtherance of the wishes of the victim, I think "vile and reprehensible" makes you sound like someone who has spent too much time in a prosecutor's chair.

"If you think that's A-OK, imagine if a defense attorney decided to broadcast carefully edited snippets of Xopher's posts, to convince potential jurors that Xopher was just a jerk who needed killin' and therefore the defendant really should just get probation."

It's pretty easy to rail against "poisoning the well" if you get to brew the hypothetical poison that supports your argument. But, of course, there was nothing poisonous about Xopher's original document. You aren't poisoning the well if you're showing the jury the unvarnished, unedited truth. Especially if that's the only way they are going to see it.

Remember, we're not talking about the guilt-or-innocence phase of a trial here. There are some stronger reasons for strict rules of evidence there. But when we're talking penalty phase, it's hard to argue with a straight face that Xopher's document could be irrelevant, or that there's anything wrong with letting the jury see it. Unless you think his wishes are irrelevant, in which case I'd say your conception of justice is clearly broken.

#131 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 10:41 PM:

Um...I thought mythago was a she.

And I have to say, I think trying to taint the jury pool is not the right thing to do.

#132 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2007, 11:20 PM:

My rss must have broken down or something, or I'd have been all over this thread days ago. I have to say this: no child was ever harmed by viewing pornography. I am very sure of this, having taught children and teenagers, having raised children to adulthood.

Pornography may or may not be involved in the lives of children who are harmed, but it's always the context that does the harming. -- that is, what else is happening when the child views this or reads that? A 15 year old surfing for squicky slash fiction is not going to be hurt, really.

And, no, I don't "take responsibility for what my children view." Like Jo, I have commented (with passion, sometimes) about some things. And that is enough. We talk.


I also think that parents need more effing support. Access to health care. Libraries with updated collections and decent opening hours. Affordable public transportation so my kids could get to wholesome activities like game night and coffee houses. Reasonable sex education in the schools. And freedom of speech so if they decide to explore their sexuality, their affinities, their esthetics, by writing silly sexy stories, they have a place to publish among their peers.

(it's very funny to see amateur online fiction with the age disclaimer on it and then discover that the author is fifteen!)


#133 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 12:55 AM:

Women who choose to cover themselves often say that it's a relief to have their bodies not on display for constant, unwanted attention.

Just by being -present- and -female- one can get constant, unwanted attention, however. There is pressure/isolation from being e.g. the ONLY woman in a room of 120 people at it, when the speaker (male) says, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I assume there are some ladies in the audience?" and -you- are -it-. It didn't matter WHAT I could have been wearing, I was Noticeable as not being -male-.

Having to go to covering up to -avoid- attention, to me is not a positive affirmation of anything. It's a coping mechanism, against a hostile society that puts additional undue pressure and negative attention on women unless they comply with "Cover up lest you Arouse Some Male's Sexual Interest/Attention."

(It doesn't stop rapists, actually, they aren't necessarily all that picky about who they victimize.)

Whatever happened to the concept of adults taking responsibility for their own actions and men taking responsibility for behaving, instead of the attitude of such things as "Women own sex because they can withhold it from men," or "Women are civilizing influences on men, men don't behave unless there are women who force them to."

The whole idea of things like "Take Back the Night" is that women shouldn't have to be in a state of psychological siege about being outside without eunuch bodyguards and without being covered head to toe in a bag or equivalent thereof (something that massively annoyed female American aircrew in Saudi Arabia), shouldn't have to be held responsible to not arouse men, should be emancipated and not be subjected to social controls of intimidation for being female in a world where women who don't comply with being meek and submissive and invisible, get abused and considered deserving of abuse for failing to be submissive and invisible and covered head to toe and in a permanent state of non-adulthood/chattel.

And once again, being the meekly submissive doormat does not prevent being abuse, in some ways, it promotes abuse--what's going to happen to the bullying abuser, the meekly submissive woman's been indoctrinated in placation and submissiveness and smiling and never putting the blame on/deeming the abuser to be at fault, nope, it's her fault for not being submissive/meek/placating/etc. enough, it's her fault for having stepped outside beyond the allowed boundaries, etc.

Protective coloration... a couple decades ago I got to the point where I bought a gold band wedding ring and put it on, because I'd had with with being hit on by jackasses. The only person who -consciously- noticed the ring, was Jerry Pournelle, but it did cut down on the general hit-on pressure.

#134 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 01:50 AM:

Mythago is making assumptions about the jurisdictions in which your murder (may such gods as might be forbid it) might be tried

Mythago is quite sure that there is no jurisdiction anywhere in which a person's own statement giving their ethical will (so to speak) is called a "deposition", for starters. Mythago is also aware that "relevance" is a legal term with a specific meaning, and that every jurisdiction has rules of evidence and rules of criminal procedure.

It may be ethically questionable, yes.

...but the ends justify the means. I see.

I know you didn't put IANAL on your post, Daniel, because you didn't need to; it's patently obvious you don't know what you're talking about, and you're throwing in legal jargon that sounds authoritative but really isn't.

#135 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 03:37 AM:

Bruce, #22: I haven't seen much of what you're talking about. What I do see, far more than I like, are parents who either (1) are so determined to "protect" their children from all evil influences that they smother them, or (2) ensure that their children never learn to exercise judgment by trailing around after them, cleaning up their messes and throwing tantrums at anyone who dares try to enforce actual consequences for bad behavior and/or poor decisions.

A classic example of the first category was someone my partner & I encountered at a con room party a few years back. She had a daughter who was about 15; her daughter was allowed to be on her own at the con only with the requirement that she check in with Mommy, via cellphone, every half hour -- and if she was 5 minutes late, Mommy went ballistic. When my partner mentioned that his daughter had been allowed significant autonomy at cons from about the age of 10, we got the Horrified Stare and an exclamation of, "Tell me, WHAT do you have running in your VEINS?", plus all the standard boilerplate about how it ONLY takes a FEW SECONDS for someone to SNATCH a CHILD... (yes, with all the emphases in a tone of shrill horror).

Now mind you, his daughter wasn't just cut free to run whenever and wherever she liked; she had to say which panel or activity she was going to, and check back in between times (easy to do; when Dad's a dealer, you know where he's going to be!), and she knew a significant number of the adults at the cons, so if she got into something over her head, she could yell for help. But more importantly, as he put it: "I'm not raising a child, I'm raising someone who eventually will be an adult, and will need to be able to function as one."

My thoughts were far less charitable, though I didn't say anything; they ran along the lines of, "That kid is going to hit age 18 and RUN FLAT WILD, and may well get into far worse trouble then than you fear for her now, because she won't have any idea how to tell when she needs to get out of (or not get into) a situation."

For examples of the second category, ask any teacher.

#136 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 04:10 AM:

...but the ends justify the means. I see.

Or, alternatively, the life of a human is of such a paramount importance that actions wrong in the context, of, say, a burglary trial (not correct terminology, but I'm not arguing in legal terms) could be justified in the context of a trial with the death penalty at the end of it.

I don't like the idea of mucking around the legal system. However, I dislike the idea of strapping a man down and pumping him full of chemicals you couldn't kill a dog with a sight worse.

Furthermore, even if you think that the absolute inviolability of human life isn't worth going against the strictures of the US justice system, dismissing it as ``ends justify the means'' is about as useful to any conversation about the ethics of such a position as it is to a conversation about the morality of lying to, say, a mass murderer about the presence of one of his victims in your house.

I mean, lying is wrong; you're just saying that ``the ends justify the means''!

There are perfectly feasible positions all around the `lying to murderers is wrong' statement. Simplistic slogans about ends justifying the means and ``ooh, you're just a filthy utilitarian'' don't illuminate the situation at all.

#137 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 04:55 AM:

I don't like the idea of mucking around the legal system. However, I dislike the idea of strapping a man down and pumping him full of chemicals you couldn't kill a dog with a sight worse.

So, again: The ends justify the means. It's okay to play foul, as long as you, yourself, have decided that it's for the right reasons.

If a defendant were facing the possibility of the death penalty for a murder committed during a brutal rape, would you give a hearty cheer to a defense attorney who put out sordid, ugly stories about what a worthless tramp the victim was, in the hopes that it would tip the jury pool away from death? I mean, a man's on trial for his life here, right? The important thing is that we not shoot him full of chemicals we wouldn't give a dog, correct?

There's a reason we have laws instead of just doing "the right thing". Jury nullification sounds very noble when we're talking about John Peter Zenger; not so noble when we talk about racist juries acquitting white murderers, or rapists walking free because a jury decided the victim was a slut who asked for it. The ethical response to the death penalty is "Abolish it," not "Try and fuck up the jury pool and who cares if it's ethical."

(Speaking of ethical, Xopher, I didn't mean to sound as if I were discouraging you from leaving an ethical will. "Evidentiary" is not the only measure of value.)

#138 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:20 AM:

Thinking that the sonnets are referencing "O Captain! My Captain!" as well as Star Trek in this thread leads to mild-to-moderate cognitive slagging.

#139 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:22 AM:

Okay, I have no idea why that comment of mine posted here instead of the Bush thread. Sorry.

#140 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:26 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 133: You're running far, far afield from what I actually said. By all means, riff on the topic, but don't imply I said things I didn't, please.

#141 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:33 AM:

Lucy Kemnitzer @ 132: And, no, I don't "take responsibility for what my children view." Like Jo, I have commented (with passion, sometimes) about some things. And that is enough. We talk.

In my book, that is taking responsibility.

(Sorry for the string of posts, everyone.)

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 09:36 AM:

Mythago (I notice you capitalize your name at the beginning of sentences, so I'm following suit), I didn't think you were telling me not to make an ethical will. Remember, my main purpose (since I think I'm unlikely to be murdered) is to spread the concept enough that the politicians have to take notice. Whether it's legally relevant is secondary to me.

But I'd like your answer, if you know the answer, to my earlier question. Is it possible that my antemortem statement might be admitted as victim-impact testimony, where that's allowed? (I know you may not be in such a jurisdiction, and therefore may not know these details; I mean no discourtesy by my "if" above.)

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 09:39 AM:

To clarify: my purpose is to work for the abolition of the death penalty. I also don't want my death by murder to result in something I find far worse: a state-sponsored murder. But since that's unlikely to occur, I'm not as concerned with the legal admissibility of such a document or video.

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Argh. I STILL forgot to say that undermining the fairness of the legal system is the worst possible approach. The jury should not be exposed to things that make it harder for them to make findings of fact in a fair and impartial manner.

I've been a petit juror in a criminal case (a vehicular homicide). I did not appreciate the defense attorney using his own relative likeability (compared to the distinctly ophidian prosecutor) to influence us, or his employment of some very HOT young male lawyers to smile at the jury (they didn't know I would be there, but there were a bunch of women).

The prosecutor got swatted down several times for trying to play on our sympathy for the victim's family; the judge sent us out in the middle of the prosecutor's closing and told him that one more such attempt would result in a mistrial with prejudice. (We found out later; at the time we just wondered why he concluded his argument so suddenly.)

As it turned out, the prosecution's case was total crap. ("Was this case total crap?" I asked the judge. "Absolutely," he replied.) But I was very glad that it wasn't until after the acquittal that I found out that the defendant had bullied a friend of mine throughout high school. I'm sure I would have been able to judge objectively anyway, but I would have had to tell the judge about it. As it turned out I was an alternate, to my regret (and the defense team's—a poker face I do not have).

So I've had some experience as part of the jury pool. I wouldn't appreciate being tainted!

#145 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Xopher #131: "Um...I thought mythago was a she."

I dunno, I have no data. I chose a male pronoun because of the confrontational, "no you're 100% wrong, and what's more, you're vile" approach to a question that's full of nuance and uncertainty. I associate that argument style with men, having met many more men than women who use it.

"And I have to say, I think trying to taint the jury pool is not the right thing to do."

I can agree with that, but I think there's a legitimate conversation to be had over whether the proposal before the house amounts to a "taint".

Mythago #134: "Mythago is quite sure that there is no jurisdiction anywhere in which a person's own statement giving their ethical will (so to speak) is called a "deposition", for starters."

Ah, so in addition to being able to predict the decisions of judges not yet born, now Mythago is a verbal prescriptivist? I'm aware of many situations where somebody sits down in front of a court reporter, gives a video statement, and it's referred to (casually, for convenience, because of the context and the conference room and because nobody has a better word) as a "video deposition." Mythago is therefore (and not for the first time) quite sure ... and quite wrong.

"Mythago is also aware that "relevance" is a legal term with a specific meaning, and that every jurisdiction has rules of evidence and rules of criminal procedure."

Ah, but those rules are not the same in each jurisdiction, and they change, and they are enforced by human and variable judges. On top of which, "relevance" is one of the slipperiest and most-argued-about concepts in any courtroom. It's rare for two opposing lawyers to agree on whether a thing is relevant, in part because they are opposing but mostly because relevance (of anything interesting) is almost never a clear-cut question.

What I most object to about Mythago's "it's not something that has any legal effect" is that, as a statement about an unknown future, it is impossible for Mythago (boy, a pronoun would be handy here) to be as certain as Mythago claims to be. To throw Mythago's own words back at Mythago (despite a level of incivility in them that I didn't bring to this conversation): "it's patently obvious you don't know what you're talking about, and you're throwing in legal jargon that sounds authoritative but really isn't."

Although, to be fair, I think Mythago does know some of what Mythago is talking about, and is giving a pretty accurate prediction about what would happen with one of these "video depositions" if it appeared on an exhibit list in a typical U.S. Courtroom in 2007. It's the presentation of that prediction as something else (a certainty, inevitability, foregone conclusion, valid across all possible futures in any imaginable jurisdiction) that got my hackles up, especially when combined with Mythago's seeming inability to recognize that in estate planning, one must sometimes (a) plan for an unknowable future and (b) take one's best shot at effecting a client's legal wishes even when current legal thinking makes it seem unlikely that those wishes will be carried out. And I remain confident that putting such a video document in the hands of defense attorneys is the best way to try and do that.

I also need to respond to the bogus "ends justify the means" accusation that Mythago threw my way. To throw it convincingly, one first must establish that the means in question are evil, because that accusation is verbal shorthand from a philosophical conversation about the nature of evil. Mythago tried to establish evil by bare assertion ("vile and reprehensible") and by straw man argument ("poisoning the well" with carefully chosen poison). But that's not how it works.

We can't get to "evil" from my concession Mythago quoted: "may be ethically questionable". Systems of legal ethics, or to be more precise, rules of professional conduct that falsely claim the status of ethical rules, contain (like the rest of the law) both "malum in se" and "malum prohibitum" prohibitions. When we are discussing a prohibition from that mixed canon, there's a burden to establish that the prohibition is malum in se before throwing around words like "vile and reprehensible" with any credibility. And Mythago hasn't done that.

#146 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Aconite #141:

(I had said: And, no, I don't "take responsibility for what my children view." Like Jo, I have commented (with passion, sometimes) about some things. And that is enough. We talk.)

In my book, that is taking responsibility.

Well, I consider it sufficiently responsible, in the context of raising my children. But when you see what parents are expected to do nowadays -- to minutely monitor everything that reaches their eyes and minds, to shield them from the world in every way -- I look positively neglectful. You're not even syupposed to let your kid wander through their own neighborhood alone, even in daylight hours, let alone let them wander through the cultural landscape without hovering over them every minute. But it's just excruciating to think of living through a childhood and especially an adolescence like that. When I think of the small adventures that I, a very mild and timid child, had on my own, and how valuable they were to me -- there's no way I'd have denied that to my children (complex verb tense required because my youngest is about to turn 20 next month).

We're supposed to be so concerned about online predators -- there are three good weapons against that problem, two available to parents and one strictly not providable by parents.. (1) decent homelives that don't leave teenagers desperate for connection, affection and adventure that (2) training in critical thinking so that kids are not easily drawn in to dicey situations (3) -- and this, I'm afraid, parents can only interfere with, not enhance -- mutually supportive communities of online participants which look out for their younger members.

An excellent example of this is Gay Authors, which begins as a repository for stories and is now a rich, complex, supportive place. It's even protective. There are age warnings in place for some stories, but since a lot of them are written by very young authors, I don't know how that can be enforced (not that I care about that fact). The action is in the forums and blogs, and by action I mean discussion, peer and elder advice, including "don't go there," and "stay alive." Along with discussions of reading and writing.

And this arises, ultimately, from a desire to share "dirty stories".

I'd much, much rather a gay kid hung out there than in the kind of church-sponsored youth group that's supposed to prevent them doing it.

#147 ::: Nona ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Lucy, that #3 is exactly right, and I think sometimes the most important one of all. I've often thought that I was safer, as a 12-year-old, on salon.com's boards than I would have been on a more age-appropriate forum.

A kids' forum would have been full of other kids and the kinds of adults who seek out kids to talk to; by comparison, Table Talk was full of responsible adults who happened to have a 12-year-old in their midst. And I was certainly the kind of lonely, awkward 12-year-old who could benefit a great deal from having smart adults to talk to.

The downside, unfortunately, is that most of my posts from back then are still archived somewhere. Really, no one deserves to have their pre-teen self haunting them across the Internet.

#148 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Lee @ 135

Yes, I've seen what you're talking about too. But here's a mild example of what I'm talking about. It's mild because it's not recent, this comes from the late 80's when my older son was in high school. I believe the problem is worse now.

I went to the Parent/Teacher meeting at the high school one evening (I think in the fall of my son's junior year). One of the teachers (Economics) was asked how he assigned homework. He stated flatly that he never assigned homework to any of his students because "they wouldn't do it."

The only good thing about this situation was that my son had been in a much less permissive school before this high school, and we didn't let him completely unlearn good habits. He came out OK, but I don't know how other kids in his class fared.

#149 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Bruce, #148:

Not every teacher even thinks homework is even good for students in every subject. And the scientific studies on what works don't give a clear picture that homework is helpful either.

And if every high school teacher in a schedule of five to seven classes is assigning half an hour to an hour of work every night, you've got two and a half to seven hours of homework assigned every night (depending on the school's schedule and policies). It's not reasonable.
It's especially not reasonable to expect all classes to assign the same "rigorous" schedule of homework. Some classes should have no homework at all. Some should have fifteen to twenty minutes of practice or memorization every day or so. Some classes have big projects and maybe shouldn't have other homework to go with them.

I'm not going to second-guess the teacher from this distance, though.

Nona, #147: I'm a person who likes to hang out with kids. But I know what you mean: I also know that there's a definite place for the more structured and kid-oriented places. I'm not willing to be too prescriptive on an a-priori basis, though I think I can recognize a helpful or not helpful environment by looking at it.

#150 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 03:55 PM:

Remember, my main purpose (since I think I'm unlikely to be murdered) is to spread the concept enough that the politicians have to take notice. Whether it's legally relevant is secondary to me.

No quarrel here. Just, you know, IAAL, and a lot of people have misconceptions about what is and isn't "legal", and whether writing something down makes it enforceable. So when it sounds as though somebody is making the error of assuming they're doing something that is legally binding, Legal Caution Lass leaps into action.

I can't tell you that such a statement wouldn't possibly be admissible as a 'victim impact statement' ever (for one thing, the laws could change), but I'd say it probably wouldn't be. In the case of a murder, the impact on the victim is obvious--he or she is dead--and so the statements are those of the victim's family and how they have been affected by the crime. If someone from the criminal-defense bar has a different opinion, I'm all ears, but I doubt they would want to permit such statements; after all, you'd then have to include the ethical will of someone whose comment on the subject was "If I am murdered, I want the bastard to fry."

Daniel: again, you're throwing around legal jargon without understanding what it means, and without understanding that there are legal principles that are pretty much common to the entire American legal system. And yes, I do think that attempting to subvert the fairness of a trial by tainting a jury pool is vile and reprehensible.

#151 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Lucy @ 149

Yes, you're absolutely right: whether to assign homework is certainly a question best left to the teacher under most circumstances. The point I was making was that the reason the teacher gave for not assigning homework was IMHO utterly bogus, and symptomatic of a worldview that is (again IMO) damaging to the educational system.

#152 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Bruce, #151: My immediate response was, "They'll do it if they know the alternative is flunking the class." But then I realized that you've just provided a stellar example of my category #2; if the teacher assigns homework and then flunks the kids for not doing it, the parents will come in and throw a temper tantrum until the principal overrides the teacher! IOW, making sure that the kid never suffers any negative consequences as the result of bad behavior or poor choices.

#153 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Lee @151: My immediate response was, "They'll do it if they know the alternative is flunking the class." But then I realized that you've just provided a stellar example of my category #2; if the teacher assigns homework and then flunks the kids for not doing it, the parents will come in and throw a temper tantrum until the principal overrides the teacher!

I had a teacher in art college that thought perspective was an important enough principle, that he announced at the beginning of some year that he would test on it, and if you passed the test you passed the year. He did, the entire class failed, he flunked the entire class. The administration said "you can't fail an entire class"; passed the class, and put the teacher on probation.

By the time I had him, he was still teaching perspective (although it was no longer part of the curriculum at this art college), but announced at the beginning of the year, that all you needed to do to pass his class was show up.

And even then... he told a story (he was a fan of jazz) that a student recommended a trombone player named Manglesdorf. He wrote the name down, promptly forgot about it. At the end of the year, someone from the administrative office calls, asks "Who's Manglesdorf?" He says, I don't know, why are you asking me? The response: "You having him passing your class, and we don't have records for him anywhere".

#154 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 05:55 PM:

Lee @ 152

I think we're in heated agreement here. In fact I think the behaviors we're talking about are 2 sides of the same coin: an unwillingness to let children suffer any negative consequences, often including the consequences of refusal to grant some wish or whim. They're neither of them absolutes, of course; there are all sorts of exceptions for "unacceptable" requests or "unsafe" behaviors.

#155 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Lucy #132:

I'm trying to figure out what your comment about the impact of pornography on kids means. If you're saying "this can impact a child or not, depending on what else is going on in his life," that sounds plausible. But this doesn't make porn (or whatever else) harmless, just not harmful to everyone.

If you believe exposure to art and literature can change you, it's hard for me to see why it can only change you for the better. Indeed, most of us would expect a steady diet of white supremacist/race war literature and art to have a bad effect on a child. So the line that says "porn can't harm a kid" seems like it needs some strong justification, not just assertion.

Now, that doesn't say whether we can agree on which art is likely to improve or harm kids, or that we can agree on laws to enforce this.

#156 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 07:29 PM:

I'm not going to second-guess the teacher from this distance, though.

It would be nice if other posters applied the same judiciousness to parents. I've never understood the hazing mentality that the quality of an education can be measured in how stressed and sleep-deprived the students are; but then, not everybody is in education because they like kids.

albatross, I don't speak for Lucy, but I suspect the point is that mere awareness that people have sex, or seeking what a human being looks like naked or making love, is not inherently harmful to children.

#157 ::: Nike ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:13 PM:

And if every high school teacher in a schedule of five to seven classes is assigning half an hour to an hour of work every night, you've got two and a half to seven hours of homework assigned every night (depending on the school's schedule and policies). It's not reasonable.

Are you speaking from personal experience? I went one of the better high schools in my city and was in the Internationl Baccalaureate Programme and did not have two and half hours of homework every night.

Also, if a teacher has five classes with 30 students each, I find it hard to believe that they would be assigning homework to every student, every night. The thing about homework is that teachers have to grade it and it's not exactly the most favorite part of the job.

Some classes should have no homework at all. Some should have fifteen to twenty minutes of practice or memorization every day or so. Some classes have big projects and maybe shouldn't have other homework to go with them.

And this is what happens, IME.

#158 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 08:21 PM:

When I was in high school (end of the 90s) the school policy was that every class give at least an hour of homework every night, no matter what. Many teachers thought this was ridiculous, but many others assigned ridiculous amounts of busy work to fill up that hour, and a few of the more sadistic ones would assign extra because, they said, they knew the other teachers weren't giving as much homework as they were "supposed to."

Me, I mostly just didn't do it because it was stupid.

#159 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 10:15 PM:

I went one of the better high schools in my city and was in the Internationl Baccalaureate Programme and did not have two and half hours of homework every night.

I have a FOURTH GRADER who had two and a half hours of homework every night. Oh, okay, I exaggerate; sometimes it was only an hour or so, because she would have a big project that required extra work on weekends. This is at a regular old public school, where she just happened to get a drill sargeant teacher (and not the good kind) who believes in the value of busywork, even if it's something the student mastered weeks ago.

I'm sure that after we pulled our daughter out of school for the remainder of the year, Mrs. Martinet was clucking about Those Parents who come in and want special favors for their kids.

#160 ::: Nike ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Mythago, ethan:

My mom was a teacher for about 30 years. Her friends are teachers. My sister is a teacher. None of them give out a half hour or an hour of homework every night. So, based on my completely anecdotal evidence, I find it hard to believe that a significant majority of public school students receive hours and hours of homework every night. I'm sure that it happens here and there. But as an overall general policy for most public school systems - I doubt it.

#161 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 12:11 AM:

Nike #160: I wasn't saying anything about a general pattern; just relating my experience. I have no idea what the norm is. I know my school wasn't the norm at all; its accreditation was on probation from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, one of the buildings grew mold in the walls that made people pass out, the faculty gave the principal a vote of no confidence and he was replaced with someone worse, most of the good teachers left after a few years, there were no electives outside of shop and languages, and the building itself was so poorly-lit that the sunlight was blinding when you left. So maybe the homework policies were just as piss-poor.

A little quick googling leads me to believe two to three hours is normal, but not from any really reliable sources.

#162 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 03:43 AM:

#112 Sylvia Li: "At least some Moslem women say that covering up is a positive assertion of their religious and cultural identity. It isn't in the least an expression of meek submission to male authority, and I imagine they'd feel insulted by your assumption that it is."

It's worth keeping in mind that it could be a both positive assertion of cultural identity and a submission to male authority at the same time. In fact, I'd say it almost certainly has aspects of both.

#145 Daniel Boone: "'Um...I thought mythago was a she.' I dunno, I have no data. I chose a male pronoun because of the confrontational, "no you're 100% wrong, and what's more, you're vile" approach to a question that's full of nuance and uncertainty. I associate that argument style with men, having met many more men than women who use it."

That's a fascinatingly naive approach to gender identification on the internet, and, incidentally, rather offensive.

#132 Lucy Kemnitzer: "I have to say this: no child was ever harmed by viewing pornography. I am very sure of this, having taught children and teenagers, having raised children to adulthood."

I'm with albatross: given the misogynistic, racist, and well, just plain sadistic elements undeniably present in a great deal of porn, I'm not sure what you mean by this. I can think of a lot of porn that could be harmful for a child. I can think of a lot of porn that could be harmful for me.

#163 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 04:43 AM:

Well, the difference could be that none of those sadistic, misogynistic, etc., elements are integral to porn. (So, to take an extreme example, Mein Kampf is all of the above mentioned bad things, but not a good argument against books-as-bound-objects, because the bad bits are orthogonal to the book-as-bound-object bits.)

Of course, if I were to say that no child was ever harmed by reading, then I can imagine a Jewish child reading Mein Kampf'd fall under the good counterargument category.

But, yeah, to say that no child was hurt by porn sounds unbelievable to me owing to the aforementioned intersection of screwed-up-thinking and porn. I am agnostic on the assertion that porn in and of itself isn't harmful to children. (At least until I see some sort of evidence either way.)

On the death-penalty thing: to start with, as far as I can tell, on the what-should-be done-in-Xopher's-case, mythago is pretty well on the money. (But, you know, I'm neither American, nor a lawyer, so my opinion on this is really neither here nor there.)

However:
So, again: The ends justify the means. It's okay to play foul, as long as you, yourself, have decided that it's for the right reasons.

What if you're on a jury in Iran, two gay teenagers come up on charges of sodomy, are clearly gay and engaged in a loving relationship, and face the death penalty for this? What if the defense is relying on you to perjure yourself to get these two guys off?

Your method of dealing with this situation would seem to resort to voting guilty on the count of sodomy (or telling the truth on the stand), and letting the executions rest on the conscience of the justice system.

(Note, I really don't like this hypothetical, because it is one of those things that has actually happened, and I don't much like using it as an hypothetical on ML. And if anyone finds it too uncomfortable or whatever, please say so, and I'll stop discussing it.)

If a defendant were facing the possibility of the death penalty for a murder committed during a brutal rape, would you give a hearty cheer to a defense attorney who put out sordid, ugly stories about what a worthless tramp the victim was, in the hopes that it would tip the jury pool away from death?

I'm not sure. Really, I don't know with any rock hard certainty what I'd think, though I doubt I'd be cheering anyone on. However, if the choice was death for the man, or filthy stories about a dead women, I think I'd have to say it's the ``right'' thing to do. And, you know, ``right'' merely means least wrong. (This is because I don't think there is a justification for the death penalty. Not because I want murdering rapists to get off.)

#164 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 10:33 AM:

"Pornography" doesn't entirely work as a blanket term. There's hardcore, S&M, softcore, and the ultra-soft but innuendo-laden stuff found in mainstream entertainment. A lot of the latter might pass a pre-adolescent right by -- or would have, in earlier times.

Last night my husband and I were watching a DVD with a bunch of old "Cheyenne" episodes, and I couldn't believe the number of times ultra-hunk Clint Walker was shown topless. The promo for the last episode even featured a villain uttering the immortal line: "Take his shirt off, and chain his hands behind his back." Bored housewives and members of various sexual ghettos of the Fifties and Early Sixties must have really gotten off on that, but when I was a pre-teen all I noticed about Walker was his nice, deep voice and general air of kindness.

PS: The night before (my husband's birthday), we watched my gift to him, the Russian silent film --Expressionist/pro-Soviet extravaganza -- Aelita: Queen of Mars. Such weirdness!!!

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Faren... Didn't the narration of Blazing Saddles have the following line?

"When men were men, so were the women, and the sheep were very afraid."

#166 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Heresiarch @ 162: It would be overly simplistic to assume that all decisions women make are made, at heart, because of what men think about them. I'm not sure that's what you're saying, but there seems to be an element of it in what you've said. This may tie into an earlier discussion about power and what power is. For you, it's a differential--what people can make other people do. In my worldview, it's entirely possible that choosing to cover oneself is an act of personal power--an expression that one's body is profoundly private. This by no means implies the body is dirty.

Men aren't the only people who judge women on appearance. Women do it to, and not only in a sexual context. Even a fully covered woman is going to be judged on many things--how she wears her clothes, her way of walking and moving, her voice--but for some people, removing oneself from the intrusive casual gaze and appraisal of others may be a powerful choice. Not the one I'd make, but powerful nonetheless.

#167 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 11:37 AM:

I'm a parent of two small children, and I definitely dislike a lot of the sewage that comes through the TV. I'm not so concerned with porn at this point (modulo creepy/violent stuff that will give the kids nightmares), but I really wish I could get away from the casual violence. We're really restricted in the TV shows we will watch with the kids in the room because of this, and our cable company helps out by cutting into harmless shows to do ads for scary, violent crap.

I, too, would like some support from the surrounding society in this. My problem is that I don't see any reason to expect a political process to lead to a good solution. The squeaky wheels here are concerned with sex, religion, and homosexualtiy far more than with violence or the more general trashiness of the characters and storylines. The entertainment industry buys congressmen the way I buy Lattes at Starbucks, and they *will* retain a right to pipe profitable sewage into your house, albeit maybe with an exemption for the Moral Majority types or with some kind of code that lets you torture people to death on TV, but not to show them naked.

Private solutions are probably the best answer to this. For TV watching, DVDs are nice. For the internet, filtering services seem like a reasonable idea, though they'll never be as subtle as a human's judgement, and they'll never be quite in allignment to a parent's judgement.

I can see the argument for making some information available over the objection of the parents, but this seems like it's very hard to do within the realm of government and law, without also doing more harm than good. And given political realities, we're far more likely to see that mean that Wiccan parents have to expose their kids to fire-and-brimstone prostheletizing than that Christian kids have to be exposed to Wiccan ideas, say. My feeling is that we're better off letting parents have as much power there as we can manage, subject to limits on technology and the fact that adults get to read/view whatever they like.

All IMO.

#168 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 12:25 PM:

I am agnostic on the assertion that porn in and of itself isn't harmful to children.

I don't see how there is an answer that question one way or another without knowing what we mean by "porn" and "harmful". Or, for that matter, "children", given that means everyone-under-18.

Nike, you expressed doubt that anyone had that kind of homework load, and counterexamples were given. I don't know about your sister's situation, but I'd note that No Child Left Behind wasn't an issue in your mom's day.

#169 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 12:50 PM:

#166 Aconite: Yes, it would be overly simplistic to think that. My point was just that people's motivations aren't strictly either/or: a single action can have multiple and contradictory reasons behind it.

I don't know where you got the idea that I think that choosing to cover one's body can't be an empowering act. I think it quite clearly can be, especially in a culture like ours where women's bodies are considered (semi-)public property. (It's worth noting that choosing the opposite can be equally empowering; the empowerment comes from the choosing, not the choice.)

Nonetheless, wearing concealing clothing is powerfully associated with the submission of women to masculine authority, and I think it highly unlikely that anyone can make the decision to do so without being aware of and influenced by that aspect. Whether that's a negative or a positive influence would of course depend on the woman in question.

#170 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Nike #157: Also, if a teacher has five classes with 30 students each, I find it hard to believe that they would be assigning homework to every student, every night. The thing about homework is that teachers have to grade it and it's not exactly the most favorite part of the job.

One solution common in my high school math classes was for the more repetitive homework to be graded by an adjacent student; we'd all trade papers, the teacher would announce the answers, and we'd mark down the grades. This also worked well for short quizzes.

#171 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Avedon today on porn and harm:

It's just a bit dishonest to say that the search for evidence that this material causes harm is "inconclusive"; the evidence is that people have tried for decades to establish any link between pornography and harm, and have been unable to find support for it. There is a point at which the consistent failure to find that link is pretty strong evidence that this line of enquiry is a waste of time that deflects resources from more fruitful and promising courses.
Seeing as how she is a regular reader of ML, and that she wrote the book on pornography and censorship, maybe she'll swing by and join the discussion.

#172 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 02:45 PM:

albatross #167: I agree that you should be able to control the amount of violence your kids take in to a greater extent than you can, but any attempt to actually do so would walk (and has walked) a dangerous line of censorship and video-games-caused-Columbine nonsense. I don't know what a good solution would be.

#173 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 02:52 PM:

I think making TV commercials put V-chip stuff (I don't know the technology) in would be a good start.

I'm 47 years old. Watching the commercial for Saw gave me the horrors. I think I'm going to watch SciFi exclusively on tape from now on. That way I can FF through that crap.

#174 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 02:55 PM:

What I mean by saying that no child was ever harmed by porn is exactly that.

albatross #155:Indeed, most of us would expect a steady diet of . . .

"a steady diet" implies not exposure to, but near-exclusive exposure to (think about what "diet" means). This isn't being harmed by seeing a thing, it's being harmed by a lack of alternatives and a lack of critical discussion. Which is what I talked about before. You save your children not by keeping them from what you disapprove of but by giving them persuasive and beautiful exposure to what you approve of, and by engaging in critical discussion. In general. (there are children whose natural empathy and ethical comprehension are fragile. They need somewhat more directive education combined with critical discussion and more carefully directed training in empathy).

The homework thing: Nike #157: high school teachers in California are presently in fact under pressure to do exactly that -- to assign on average an amount of homework every night equal to the amount of time spent in the classroom, at minimum, and exclusive of large projects and studying for tests, except finals week. Most don't. But they're all supposed to under the educational "reform" regime imported from Texas.

#175 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 03:19 PM:

albatross @167 and ethan @172 --

(Disclaimer: I don't have kids myself.)

I agree with there being more technology solutions for filtering what one's own children can see. Some parents will use them to censor the world in ways I strongly disagree with, but those parents are doing that now. I can't stop them. Having technology that allows each individual parent to make his or her own choices about what a child can handle is better than a blunt-instrument law.

Macs seem to be pretty good about this -- for example, you can set up limited email accounts with whitelists. Emails sent to or received from someone not on the whitelist are forwarded to the parent's account for approval before the child can see or send them. Likewise you can set up a whitelist of webpages, and if the child wants to go elsewhere, an approval request is sent to the parent. That lets you change and update the whitelist, without necessarily having to stand over the kid's shoulder the whole time.

For other media -- the parents I know will usually preview movies at the theater before bringing their kids; it's the only way for them to know whether their child can handle the specific things in that movie. TV could be done the same way, either on DVD or using DVR (like Tivo).

So yeah, I'm agreeing with albatross -- private solutions seem to be the way to go.

#176 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 03:43 PM:


Shudder.

The stock behavior for the villain is to monitor and censor a child's mail.

Really, the way to keep a child from going with a predator is not to attempt to chain them up! Give them tools for recognizing reasonable and unreasonable behavior, and give them models for what reasonable behavior is, and help them develop the self-confidence to tell the sexy guy, "You're full of shit."

And make sure they have other safe adults and peers to confide in besides yourself. Isolation is dangerous for children. And others.

The public component is: schools can teach critical thinking and they can encourage frank and free discussion. They can implant a little skepticism so teenagers encountering the world are not completely Candide at the mercy of Pangloss.

#177 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 03:50 PM:

[various, stealing time at the moment...]

1. The clothing changes of women in Iraq since the Gulf War, but especially since Schmuck not-quite-nuked the apple cart there, have NOT been "empowering." The women in Iraq have assumed Islamic Modesty Dress because they're in a state of seige and under attack.... pre-invasion, women in Iraq did not generally go about in hijabs and covered head to toe swathed in cloth/black cloth. Today, though... going outside even dressed in all-enveloping black is dangerous, going on in what they would have work six years ago, literally can be the death of them.

It's a free choice only in the sense of, "If you don't, you INVITE kidnapping, rape, and being murdered."

That is NOT what I call "empowering."

2. Para-quantitative crackpotism. Assigning homework for the goal of X number of hours of homework a year, is a sign of replacing concept with rote inane idiocy.... the supposed goal is an informed educated citizen. The actuality, is that the "homework for the sake of homework" and the "test for the sake of testing" moron mentality can't tell the difference between a goal and implementing something without comprehension of what the goal is supposed to be.... they don't seem to comprehend/care that homework is SUPPOSED to be a TOOL, not a goal... that the goal, again, is "educated citizenry" and homework is supposed to be a means for education.... MORONS....

#178 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Paula Lieberman #177.2: Exactly. Unfortunately, there's another component you've left out, which is control. I really believe that the deeper goal of high school is to quash any growing sense of identity, agency, and creativity that a teenager might be feeling. You want to do something of your own? Too bad, you have to wake up hours before you're ready to, go to school until three, do that afterschool activity you supposedly have to do if you want to get into a college until five, go home, do your homework until eight, and then maybe have two hours of exhausted delerium until you have to go to bed and start it all over again.

#179 ::: Jimmm ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 05:05 PM:

I think the term you were reaching for in the headline was "furry," not "fuzzy." And I, too, wish SCOTUS would leave the Yiffies alone!

-Jamey

#180 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer @ 176

Yes! It is absolutely the responsibility of the parent to do ser damndest to teach a discipline of critical thinking to ser children. It's the only way they're going to survive in the world.

Of course it's a long and hard and incremental job; it's not the case that there comes a day before which there was an uncritical child, and after which there is a critical adult. So the amount of supervision / control has to be determined by the parent for the child's current abilities and situation.

But it's not rocket science; it's like any other practical education: you give the student a task (read responsibility) at the level of ser abilities and experience, so it's hard enough to provide some pride and sense of accomplishment when it's completed, but easy enough so the child can be successful at it with the given level of experience. Note: there's no universal, standardized scale of what a child of a given age can do: it requires judgement on the part of the parent / teacher. The current revealed wisdom in education and child-rearing doesn't have much room for that.

#181 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 07:06 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 177: For gods' sakes, of course under the circumstances you've outlined covering up is not a powerful choice. But you're ignoring the multitude of instances that exist outside of such circumstances, and furthermore, you're assuming that your interpretation of what it means to cover oneself trumps the beliefs of the individual women who choose to do so. That's pretty arrogant.

#182 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 09:48 PM:

#177 Paula Lieberman: "It's a free choice only in the sense of, "If you don't, you INVITE kidnapping, rape, and being murdered." That is NOT what I call "empowering." "

Well, yeah. No one is saying it is. IIRC, this conversation started about you being squicked by modesty wear in your grocery store, not in Iraq. Why on earth would you assume that we were suddenly talking about Iraq?

#183 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2007, 10:21 PM:

Lucy #174:

Okay, I think I see what you're saying. Probably there isn't anything in the broad porn genre I could expose a kid to once, for fifteen seconds, that would have a major bad impact on most kids. Maybe it would induce nightmares, but probably wouldn't turn the kids into axe murderers or chop ten points off their IQs or some such thing.

I think the goal with the filtering of internet, TV, etc., is to control the diet more than the single exposures. There's no way to control everything your child is exposed to, but if you are leaving your kids home unattended from 3 to 6, you might still want to exert some control over what they watch every day.

It would be easier to do this if there weren't rich, powerful people who wanted the right to shove sewage down the pipe to your home, so they could sell stuff to your kids using sex and violence as the hook. But in our political system, those guys are likely to beat me in any disagreement about legislation, since they buy congressmen and I merely cast one vote for or against them.

#184 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2007, 11:55 AM:

#169 ::: Heresiarch @ 169:

I just now finally had time for a thoughtful response; sorry if you thought you were being ignored.

My point was just that people's motivations aren't strictly either/or: a single action can have multiple and contradictory reasons behind it.

I'd say not only "can," but almost invariably "do." The problem comes when we try to determine what's going on in anyone else's head, especially in the heads of people whose lives are based on very different principles.

Nonetheless, wearing concealing clothing is powerfully associated with the submission of women to masculine authority, and I think it highly unlikely that anyone can make the decision to do so without being aware of and influenced by that aspect.

Again, I think that depends very much on how the people within that culture or subculture perceive it. Framing of the situation determines how we talk about it and how we perceive it.

For example, for many years, scientists and animal behavioralists said that horse herds were stallion-dominated, because there was typically one stallion and several mares, and the stallion had breeding access to all mares. This viewpoint was so unquestioned that the mares were often referred to as his "harem." Guess what? We now know that the lead mare, not the stallion, has the most status in a herd, and makes the decisions about when the herd will stay or move and so on. The stallions are, as far as the mares are concerned, pretty interchangable. They don't run the show.

#185 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2007, 04:00 PM:

@164:

Regarding Aelita, I remember reading that the film was banned in several West European countries not (just) because it was a Soviet movie, but also because the title actress Yulia Solntseva had bare shoulders and threw (what was seen as) suggestive glances...

#186 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2007, 09:43 PM:

#184 Aconite: I usually give it a little longer than this before I figure I'm being ignored =)

"I'd say not only "can," but almost invariably "do." The problem comes when we try to determine what's going on in anyone else's head, especially in the heads of people whose lives are based on very different principles."

Agreed. It's a tricky situation, and it's always worth hedging your bets.

"I think that depends very much on how the people within that culture or subculture perceive it. Framing of the situation determines how we talk about it and how we perceive it."

Well, agreed, but I'm trying to come up with any culture I've heard of that doesn't associate strict dress codes with submission and I'm drawing a blank. Let's see...C.J. Cherryh's The Faded Sun trilogy, maybe, but I can't quite remember. Maybe that's more indicative of my limited cultural knowledge than anything else, but it seems to be a more or less universal assumption. Certainly, within the U.S., I'd say it's pretty universal.

#187 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2007, 02:56 AM:

Heresiarch @ 186

I suspect the truth of that statement stems from the fact that imposing a dress code is an exhibition of power, i.e., dominance. It's not the content of the code, it's enforcement that maintains the submission.

#188 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2007, 04:25 PM:

#186 Heresiarch: Dress code = submission?

"No shirt, no shoes, no service"?

Restaurants that require men to wear suit and tie, but have no specific regulations about what women must wear?

Black tie events?

There's something coded there about power relationships, but I'm pretty sure it's not anything as simple as dominance/submission.

#189 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2007, 02:57 AM:

#187 Bruce Cohen: "I suspect the truth of that statement stems from the fact that imposing a dress code is an exhibition of power, i.e., dominance. It's not the content of the code, it's enforcement that maintains the submission."

I think you are exactly right. Enforced nudity would convey the exact same message. (Shades of Vashti and that whole incident...)

#188 Sylvia Li: "There's something coded there about power relationships, but I'm pretty sure it's not anything as simple as dominance/submission."

I'd say the message encoded there is: In the patriarchy, women must submit to men, but everyone must submit to The Man. "No shirt, no shoes, no service" is putting it to the poor and the non-conformist--and when you think about how shirtlessness is regarded when women do it, it's hard to say men are being picked on here. And I'd like to see what would happen to a woman who showed up at a suit-and-tie restaurant in sweatpants. They don't need to mention it because strict dress codes for women are the rule, not the exception.

#190 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2007, 08:05 AM:

Re: Dress codes. Wish I could remember a little more of this story (like, where I got it from), but it involved a four-year old who had been learning how to dress himself. When he managed this task, his parents praised him, but he started crying. When they asked him what upset him, he said it was because he was going to have to do this every day for the rest of his life.

#191 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2007, 02:09 PM:

De facto dress codes exist in most situations, and they seem more like a way of signaling that you're willing to submit to group mores than that you're being oppressed. Police in uniform are submitting to a dress code, and hopefully to a pretty demanding standard of conduct. But it's hard to see that they're being oppressed, exactly. Similarly, investment bankers dress a certain way, and that doesn't seem to be because they're a beaten-down, oppressed lot. For some people, dressing in a certain way, according to a required or de facto dress code, is a source of power and importance in the world, and that's as true of women as of men.

#192 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2007, 02:24 PM:

"No shirt, no shoes, no service" is putting it to the poor and the non-conformist

Well, maybe - but you'll surely have noticed that it's part of the health department regs in a lot of places.

#193 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Various:

The squick for me about women in Islamic fundamentalist modesty clothing [1] in NECTA [2] USA, is that the women are dressed in clothing which is a denotation of culture which demeans and oppresses women on a class basis.

That is, their husbands and adults sons are not wearing "traditional" Islamic attire, the husbands and sons are wearing what their Christian or Jewish or Wiccan etc. born in the USA male coworkers and contemporaries are wearing, be it a Suit if in various parts of the financial services industry, or "business casual" if doing engineering or programming (outside of -some- financial services industries jobs) which can be anything from aerated shirts and pants to just-shy-suit clothing.

It's the adult women who are wrapped up at least as much as Traditional Italian Widowed Grandmothers--and some of THOSE cultural values, are in that noxious film Saturday Night Fever, from the 1950s/1960s stinking hypocrite era in which there were three categories of females -- virgin/mothers ("good girls" who are virgin until marriage and sexually exclusive to their husbands--chattel in certain ways....), "whores" who are -almost- every female who isn't a virgin/sainted mother, and then there is the exception for The Woman the Lead Male Is In Love with... sleeping with the object of one's obsession one isn't having sex with a "whore," it's enlightenment, it's self-actualization, it's supernal, it's sacred...blah, blah, blah....

The rife and complete hypocrisy regarding the 50s/start of the 1960s involves things such as, nobody castigated the males sleeping with "the whores" as being the slightest bit in the wrong or as deserving to be regarded in the slight of slime the way they regards females who weren't virgins/mothers. Virgins/mothers were socially-legally Sacred Objects--except that no female was born virgin-non-intacto.. some male had to have turned the (not treated as Sacred, obviously...) Virgin into a non-virgin to create the "whore."

Getting back to women in Islamic modesty dress in the USA, it is NOT a sign of empowerment of women in this culture and generally not a sign of empowerment in their originating culture. It's a manifestation of subscribe to a set of values which generally locks women in purdah and powerlessness which at the extreme sells girls as young as eight years old!! into marriage with men who could be forty or fifty or even older and treating them as slaves despite a legal status of wife (Taliban Afghanistan girls were sold into marrage at the age of 12 or so... post-Taliban under the Schmuck's aegis (that is, the warlords who are "friends" of the USA who as regards civil rights especially for women, are no better, and sometimes even WORSE, than Taliban!) the age dropped down to EIGHT YEARS OLD!!! (Sources--NPR broadcasts, and I think there's a URL for a website of women from Afghanistan of www.rawa.org )) The Islamic modesty attire is symbolic of oppression/restriction of women: the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia--locked in purdah, no licensing to drive, no allowing to be out in public without a guardian, second class citizenship.... as soon as the planes cross out of Saudi airspace, off comes the outer swaddling and the women are in western clothing underneath.

The women of Iraq seven years ago weren't in Islamic modesty attire, today if they don't wear it, once again, it could be fatal.

In the USA, it's a sign of compliance with sociocultural views that are NOT part of -this- society... to me, it carries connotations of e.g. the British versus suttee. "-Here in India it is the custom for wives throw themselves on their husbands pyres to burn to death." "-In Great Britain we hang people who force other people to commit suicide.-"

Yes, I realize that theoretically is the free choice of the women here in the USA to go about dressed as they would be under Taliban rules or in Saudi Arabia--but funny thing, the women I'd met who'd graduated from MIT who were from Saudi Arabia, DO NOT dress that way.... the woman I worked with who was from Pakistan started wearing traditional women's skirts and dresses but NOT outer modesty head to toe covering when she was pregnant, because the traditional clothing was more comfortable for her in pregnancy to wear than western clothing. The woman I worked with who was originally from Iran stayed in western clothing.

Islamic and Christian fundamentalistic modesty clothing -scares- me... it scares me because there to me is an implication of acceptance of what's BEHIND the damned covering up--that use of "don't get harassed" as damned EXCUSE for ACCEPTING oppression, and giving in to the oppressors.. that the oppressors have all the rights and privileges to limit women's sphere to being covered up and disenfranchised, locked in purdah/the-kitchen-barefoor-and-pregnant-and-intentionally-kept-ignorant-and-illiterate, and locked out of society except as essentially scut slave labor and baby machines, with no self-determination, no freedom, no control, and no options...

#194 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2007, 03:18 PM:

#191 Albatross:

There is a difference between dressing for economic class identification at work/during the business day/wearing the Professional Attire (bankers, police, firefighters, airline employees, doctors, nurses, military, etc.) and what one wears in public at leisure... I doubt if most bankers go to e.g. football games dressed in three piece business suits. Seth didn't STAY in Wall Street Investment Banker Suit at conventions, he might have been wearing it when arriving, but somehow that FCC-deplored shirt of his he sometimes has worn at conventions, is NOT something he wore to the office I expect...

Islamic modesty attire though, women wear in the supermarket here, and it is not "business/office costume."

#195 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 193: Yes, of course, now I see the light. Your personal squick at how some women choose to dress is, of course, the only moral, rational reaction there can be, and your reasoning and interpretations regarding it are the only ones that can possibly apply. I don't know how I could have thought otherwise. It was patently absurd to think different women might make choices for different reasons, or that the symbolism of such choices might vary from person to person.

/sarcasm

There are a host of very real problems concerning the human rights of women. These are not solved by pretending they don't exist, but neither do we do women any favors by declaring there is Only One Right Way to be empowered--and it's ours--and women who don't follow it are victims whether they say so or not.

#196 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2007, 11:37 PM:

To add to what Aconite was saying, there are many different axes along which people can be oppressed, and sometimes what is empowerment along one axis is unfortunately also oppression along another. Sometimes showing your cultural solidarity by wearing certain clothing is also showing your submission to patriarchal oppression.

I don't really think that you or I are in a position to decide which axis is more important to any given person in any given situation.

#197 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Heresiarch, Aconite, Paula Lieberman

I agree with Heresiarch and Aconite that it's just not possible to know for sure what motives another person has for doing something, that there might be more than one motive, and the motives could even be conflicting. However, I can sympathize with Paula's reaction: it's gut-level and damn hard to reason around, not so? "Squicked" doesn't mean "mildly bothered", to an arachnophobe for instance, it means "OH SHIT! Spiders!"

Apropos line from an episode of "The Closer" I just saw: "What is it about you white people and whips?" Some things hit so close to home that it's hard to understand the reaction of someone who doesn't have the same context to perceive it in.

#198 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Bruce Cohen: "...it's gut-level and damn hard to reason around, not so?"

Gut-level and hard: no doubt. Nonetheless, "reason around" it is exactly what you have to do, not come up with justification after justification why feeling that way is right and just and natural.

I don't think that either Aconite or myself has questioned the validity of Paula's reaction. Rather, we've been questioning the validity of the motivations that Paula has been projecting onto these women. Just because Paula interprets their clothing a certain way doesn't mean that they must interpret it that way too. Her squick is her reaction, not theirs. To assume that her squick is the only reaction or the correct reaction is a tad bit narcissistic.

#199 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Cultural solidarity with an organically inherently oppressive culture seems to me like Marching Morons....

Anita Bryant is out of the headlines--the last time she was in them, she was headed out of the spotlight. She had had been [and yes, that IS the tense I want there] in the spotlight as a speaker for denial of rights and choice to women and homosexuals--a speaker for legal prohibition and enforcement and imposition of "traditional family values" (not those of Spartans or ancient Athenians as regards homosexuality, or Pythagoreans as regards women...) upon all, regardless of personal values and interests and ability and talents.

She was an ardent promoter.. and then her husband served her with divorce papers, and she started questioning the views she had been so ardently promoting. She admitted that she had taken to pushing those causes as a way to try to hold the marriage together and have something for herself to hold onto emotionally. When the marriage disintegrated past trying to glue herself to her husband's views and promote them to try to keep the marriage in existence, that was when she stopped doing the dogma of what she was told to hold to, and look at other people's realities and lives and their values and perspectives and needs and interests and attitudes, without wearing rightwing mindtorquer filters.

Note, I am not equating Islamic modesty attire with Islam. There are hundreds of millions of Moslem women who are not locked in purdah and not draped head to toe in black or wearing hijabs/chadores/headscarves/veils/etc. The locking in purdah and the swaddling head to toe are not part of the Koran I've heard, and some of Mohammed's female relatives were even warriors--not something facilitated by being locked in purdah and draped considerably more than that former Attorney General covered that statue in DC...

The strongest enforcers of oppressive status quos can be people who were the most oppressed by it--Anita Bryant is a mild example. Other examples include Japanese mothers-in-law who treat their son's wives as the equivalent of slaves because the mothers-in-law are finally at the level that their abusive mothers-in-law were, and they want the same level of control and power that was held over them by their mothers-in-law. They're repeating and enforcing the extremely abusive cultural misogyny that was in effect on them, their reward for survival. Another example is wife-burning in India, with the mothers-in-law who didn't get murdered by such things and survived to an age of familial power and standing, being prime agents for murdering brides....

Those involve cultural memes, and to me, Islamic modesty attire is symptomatic of abusive culture towards women--thatthe women don't have a place in public or identity other than Anonymous beseiged female.

Yes, I realize that individual cases can vary a great deal--but one point is that institutionally, the cultural and social protections and rights don't exist. A "good" husband, a "good" father, a "good" brother, a "good" son, etc. may ALLOW the women in the family more pseudo-freedom, but the -culture- doesn't include in the law and customs that women have the standing to challenge successfully and sustain challenges to the whim of their male custodial relatives. The women exercise control and pseudo-self-determination only so far as their male relatives and other men allow them on whim.

One point that Aconite etc. seem to be bound and determined to make, is that I keep saying things like "it squicks me" because that is MY personnel reaction, as someone who still vividly remembers girls being told to stay home and ENJOY doing the effing dishes and diapers and washing and cleaning and babymaking and minding and BOYS go out being astronauts and pilots and engineers and professors and firefighters and industrialist and girls stay home focused on the fucking shitty diapers and mewling babies or go teach grade school for low pay and no prestige or are clerk-typists at lousy wages and working conditions etc.--no power, no control, no excitement for women except vicariously.... what a complete load of utter vile contemptuous SHIT. Women were BANNED from the astronaut corps, BANNED from military academies, BANNED from Dartmouth and Caltech and Princeon and Harvard except for the affiliated Radcliffe women's college, belittled for wanting to be an elected politician other than on the school committee, etc. etc. It was NOT that long ago...

30 years ago Afghanistan had women who were professors, lawyers, judges... women who walked the street without Islamic modesty coverings and without fearing attack for daring to be outside of purdah, women who were educated and expected their daughters would be literate too, women who had self-determination and their own income and married for reasons other than being -sold- as an eight year old into it. Then came the Islamic extremists, and civil war, and the Soviet invasion, and more civil war, and the Islamic extremists taking control and banning girls from literacy, removing women from the courts and the medical clinics and being anywhere but locked in purdah, and forcing them to be covered head to toe and accompanied by a male guardian if setting a toe outside purdah....

The clothing of a culture say a LOT about that culture. In 1973 in ROTC summer camp, there was an F-106 parked on the tarmac on static display SPECIFICALLY there for the ROTC flight (20 people, 7 women, 13 men) I was in to go walk around, climb up the metal ladder/platform to the cockpit to get into the cockpit and look around and sit in... the men were in male cadet clothing of pants and shirt, the women in skirts and blouses.

I climbed up to look around the cockpit, and the reactions of the male cadets who were nearly all from the Deep South and mostly stereotypical rednecks majoring in physical education (unfortunately I am NOT exaggerating there) or business (there was one cadet from Florida State majoring in engineering and maybe one from Georgia Tech whom I accord the status of "intelligent lifeforms to" --the phys. ed. majors and most of the business majors were misogynistic and southern supremacist bigots never missing an opportunity to make nasty "Yankee dollar" and "Yankee dime" comments) was one of shock and outrage at my lack of decorum and proper demeanor and modesty. I climbed a ladder in a skirt. They were outraged on behalf of my modesty, or lack thereof. The fact that the plane was there on static display for the cadets to poke around and climb into, was completely irrelevant to that--they were majoring in ROTC and minoring in getting through college because almost all of them wanted to be pilots, and pilots were all male...

"Women are women. They shouldn't be pilots," said one of the bigots implacably. His mind was sealed shut....

The plane was there for the cadets to view, not for malel-only cadets to view... but because of the damned skirts (which were at or above knee-length, it wasn't even Islamic modesty attire...) I was the only non-male to climb that ladder and take the supposedly allowed and officially approved of look around in the cockpit... all the other women accepted the LIMITS and RESTRICTIONS of the damned skirts and the modesty taboo about "do not climb a ladder in a skirt"--they were BOUND by the social customs and values and strictures involved with the clothing--the clothing LIMITED psychically and psychologically and culturally, that sphere of movement and access of the women.

"You are NOT ALLOWED to climb a ladder in a skirt," was a social rule/custom, the breaking of would be a major solecism and cultural taboo and source of consternation and ostracism etc.

However, that the women--except for that unnatural northern freak whose freakdom included being a major in math/science/technology which was NOT acceptable to Steretyped Southern Male Bigots--did not take the opportunity afforded to get the close look at the F-106 that the men took. Obviously [sarcasm] the women weren't interested in aircraft and being pilots, because (other than the freak...) none of them climbed up to take a close look...

The fact that to have done so would have violated a major social/cultural custom-with-the-standing-of-ex-officio-law, was left out of the analysis completely. The women weren't interested in clambering around the F-106. WHY they didn't was of no relevant to those running things....

Yeah, THEORETICALLY the women were "free" to examine the F-106, but the reality was that any doing so, was inviting extremely abusive treatment for having been so immodest and uncivilized and unfeminine and outrageous and offensive as to have a)climbed a ladder in a skirt, and b) exhihited unladylike unfeminine interest in something that was de facto for MEN only and not an area that culturally and socially women were ALLOWED to be involved in or interested in or competent at....

And all the corollary crap is there, too... the clothing deliberately restrictive to prevent women from doing things and to interfere--all=enveloping clothing around machinery literally can be fatal, the Isadora Duncan way of death, applies generally though less spectacularly, to all that cloth used for head to toe modesty dress.
===========

The women from my perspective can wear what they choose to wear--I do NOT say ban modesty dress. But when I see it on someone, I get squicked, because to me that is both symbol and identification of someone who is complying or complicit or forced to compliance with a mindset restricting and stultifying women to permanent indenture and non-self=determination, and locked out from self-determination and self-actualization, walled off from achievement other than domesticity and vicarious living...

And all that incenses me... the waste of talent, of insight, of ability, forcing someone into a role that the person isn't necessarily suited for or happy with, denying them the opportunity to CHOOSE their own life and way. And the attire is the symbol to me, of a LACK of choice and lack of self-determination.

#200 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Correction to above...

One point that Aconite etc. seem to be bound and determined to make, is that I keep saying things like "it squicks me" because that is MY personnel reaction, as someone who still vividly remembers girls being told to stay home and ENJOY doing the effing dishes

should be

One point that Aconite etc. seem to be bound and determined to miss, is that I keep saying things like "it squicks me" because that is MY personnel reaction, as someone who still vividly remembers girls being told to stay home and ENJOY doing the effing dishes....

=======

I am NOT saying, again, that there should be a ban on women wearing modesty dress... the point, again, again, again, is that that sort of clothing is emblematic of submission to what I see as abuse and subjugation and lack of self-determination, that one or more applies of the person has had no choice about wearing the attire, is wearing it because they publically want to show how submissive they are to that culture, is wearing it out of fear/to submit lest worse things happen, or has chosen to wear it as identity... but identifying with cultural values that require subjugation and submission and no emancipation of women, causes revulsion in me because I fear that happening here on the macroscopic level. Who 40 years ago would have seriously predicted, other than the extremists, that the women of Afghanistan would be disenfranchised and disempowered and subjugated and locked in uneducated illiterate essentially slavery-conditions purdah before the end of the 20th century? But it happened anyway....

And I remember being that three year old wishing desperately I were a boy, because boys weren't BANNED from the Astronaut Corps, weren't required to stay home living vicarious lives happily wiping the shit off baby bottoms and doing the laundry singing the joys of Clorox with their achievements being their SONS and/or HUSBANDS becoming famous/astronauts/inventing/being judges/pilots etc.

#201 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Oh, I never gave the NECTA footnote:

New England City And Town Area -- it's term used by the US Census, denoting that New England demographics don't fit the standard Census geographical designations.

The other footnote I neglect to put in, about Islamic modesty attire--there are corresponding dress rules in lots of other fascist cultures than Islamic extremist--there are the Christian Dominionists, for example, and extremist Judaism (however, there used to be a tradition in extreme pious Judaism, the the WOMEN were the ones who worked/earned income and the men spent all day being religious... "if I were rich I'd have the time that I lack to sit in the synagogue and pray...." !!!! The women were in odd state of affairs in that....]

#202 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 02:28 AM:

#200 Paula Lieberman: "... the point, again, again, again, is that that sort of clothing is emblematic of submission to what I see as abuse and subjugation and lack of self-determination,"

And my point, again and again, is that your reading is yours. You see it as emblematic of submission, not her. I do as well, to tell the truth, but our opinions don't matter--the only opinions that matter are those of the woman wearing the clothes. Ans she may have a very, very different read on it than we do.

Criticizing Islamic modesty wear is an especially fraught issue for feminists. Feminism has the unenviable position of being an empowering ideology that has been used historically to justify very oppressive policies, especially European involvement in the Middle East. This is especially vividly illustrated by the debate over head-scarves. This controversy recently flared up again in France and England. The issue of contention seemed to be that the women saw the head-scarf as a mark of cultural solidarity--a position that they hardly invented on the spot: the wearing of head-scarves has been a symbol of anti-imperialist sentiment and Islamic solidarity since Napoleon invaded Egypt. In fact, it was because modesty wear was particularly targeted as an example of Islamic inferiority that it became such a symbol of resistance.

Which is to say that the issue really isn't as simple as "these clothes mean submission to patriarchy," and I feel uncomfortable passing judgment on people I've never met.

#203 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 11:00 AM:

You keep missing that it is in supermarkets in the United States of America that I am seeing the modesty dress and being squicked by it--they are NOT "part of the melting pot."

They are wearing attire that to ME is screaming, "I am from a different culture and I am not going to make any attempt to modify my worldview and lifestyle to accede to anything valued by emancipated women in the culture I am in immigrant/resident alien to, to show them I have anything but scorn/disregard/contempt/ignoring/distaste of them."

And by the way, I do not have a positive attitude about e.g. Hasidic men in the USA walking around in the attire of someone in 19th century Poland, this is NOT 19th century Poland, and I don't like their attitudes towards women, either. (For that matter, my father regarded them as "pious hypocrites," and mentioned things about brothels they patronized despite being married etc.)

#204 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 06:30 PM:

Paula Lieberman, the problem I have with what you're saying is not that you're squicked, but that you keep insisiting that being squicked is the only appropriate reaction for everyone. I simply don't believe you have the right to make that determination.

And since this discussion has reached the point where nothing new is being said and it's just going in circles, I'm bowing out now.

#205 ::: pericat sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2010, 11:08 PM:

Just above. It was kind of a given, really.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.