The Door Arm-y

Jul. 30th, 2016 06:44 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I'm not sure what it is about the bump that makes it one that is really difficult for me to negotiate. To be sure, I get over these kinds of things in other places, in other doors. But the one here, in the entrance to my own apartment building, it's just brutal. I've been lifting weights since February 1st, I can push myself uphill, I can get myself up and over the small bumps that accompany almost every curb, but the threshold of that front door simply doesn't want to let me in.

I've developed the only technique that works, because that's what people with disabilities do, we encounter barriers and figure out how to manage them. That technique is to hold the handrails on both of the front doors, tilt my chair to a 45 degree angle, then act all Olympic bobsled rider at the top of the run. Back and forth a couple of time then a huge push through, the chair careens towards the threshold and pops over. Works almost every time, when it doesn't I almost throw myself out of the chair. Because of that Joe watches me do this with a mixture of humour and horror. Humour because he finds everything funny, horror at the idea of getting me off the floor and back into the chair.

We manage, that's the message here. But we manage when I do this the way I need to do this. I've written before about the problem I have when people want to hold the door for me and the difficulty I have in getting the door back so I can use it. When they hold the door open, I quite literally, can't get in. For the most part people in the building have learned to listen to me when I request something, rarely, or ask them, politely, to not help.

But couple days ago I found myself in the middle of a kindness fight between two men and one woman all determine to hold the door open for me. One fellow came out, saw me rushed to get the door, before I could stop him another guy came by saying to the first guy, 'I've got it.' The both held on a second later a young woman was coming in and reached from behind and said to the two guys, 'you guys go ahead, I'm on my way in.' For a second they all just held the door in silence. A kindness competition was going on, and me, sitting under all these arms.

In that silence I found opportunity, 'I need the door so I can use the handrail to get in.' A choir, 'No, it's OK.' I looked to Joe who also saw the absurdity of the situation and had started laughing. They glanced at him, and though his laughter he explained how I got through the door, unable to speak most words he mimed them while ha ha ha-ing through the explanation. I looked up at them they looked down at me. Then we all just laughed. They let go of the door, I grabbed the bar, I already had the other one in my hand and I pushed back and forth a couple times and then shot into the lobby to their applause.

The oddest entry into my building I've had yet.

Life in a wheelchair - expect the unexpected.

Life in a wheelchair - develop a sense of humour.

Life in a wheelchair - there are moments when taking a bow is appropriate. 
[syndicated profile] omgcheckplease_feed

“'Chyeah. Hah. There’s your crew, Whisk,” said Chad R. He nodded to the Founder’s side of Lake Quad where the hockey team was approaching like a cartoon dust cloud.

“The fucking hockey team,” said Chad S. “No offense, but every single time I look over from the lax house, like, those guys are listening to shit music and eating a bajillion cakes and prancing around like–I used to hang with hockey guys back in high school! But here, brah? Fuckin’ Samwell…”

“Pies,” said Whiskey. Chad and also Chad looked at him. “It’s weird.”

Chad R. shook his head. “'Chyeah.”

(Quick sketch from AX!)

Rekindled with fire from above

Jul. 29th, 2016 11:11 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?"
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Posted by Wendy Christensen PhD

7On Tuesday the first female presidential candidate was officially nominated by a major party. Newspaper headlines across the country referenced the historic event with headlines like “Historic First!” and “Clinton Makes History!” but a surprising number featured photographs of Bill instead of Hillary Clinton. I coded the pictures of each of the 266 newspapers that ran the story on the front page on July 27th (cataloged at Newseum). Here’s the breakdown:


Somehow more than three-quarters of newspapers used photos of someone other than the nominee. Nearly the same number of newspapers showed pictures of the crowd at the DNC as the number that showed Hillary Clinton. A non-trivial number of newspapers only showed pictures of Senator Bernie Sanders and a few featured pictures of Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine.

So, why? Why did nearly half of the U.S. newspaper front pages Wednesday morning show only pictures of Bill Clinton?

Let’s consider some explanations.

(1) Journalistic norms. Journalism is governed by a set of norms. One requires that any photo that illustrates an event should be taken from the event itself. Some have suggested that since Hillary Clinton wasn’t physically in attendance at the convention Tuesday evening, reporters couldn’t use a photograph of her. That fact that 21% of newspapers did use an image of Hillary Clinton, though, suggests that this can’t fully explain the numbers. Of the 55 images of Hillary Clinton, 21 used photographs of her video appearance at the convention; the rest used file photos. She may not have physically been there, but front pages like that of The Boston Globe and Newsday (below) show that journalistic norms can’t explain her overwhelming absence.
9(2) Hostile sexism. Sexism that’s hostile is aggressively and proactively anti-woman. Is it possible that some journalists are so uncomfortable with or opposed to a female presidential nominee that they just couldn’t stomach putting Hillary Clinton’s face on the front page? Maybe. There might be a few overtly sexist journalists who just refused to put Hillary on the cover, but that probably doesn’t explain such a high percentage of newspapers with no picture of the nominee.

(3) Supportive sexism. Perhaps journalists (unconsciously) felt that an important thing about her nomination was that she was endorsed by men. Political authority – the authority to speak in the public about political issues — is a masculine authority usually held by men. As a male politician and former president, Bill Clinton’s image lends authority to Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination. His words about her (his “nod”) have weight, giving legitimacy to her candidacy for an office that has always been held by a man. Headlines read “He’s With Her!” and another said “Bill makes his case!” She earned “Bills praise” and got a “boost.”  Maybe some journalists intuited that that was the real story.


(4) Bill Clinton’s own gender barrier. Former President Bill Clinton also gave a historic speech Tuesday evening as the first male spouse of the first female presidential candidate. As Rebecca Traister wrote for New York Magazine, “for the first time, the spouse wasn’t a wife. It was a husband, who was … [performing] submission.” Perhaps men’s gender bending is more inherently interesting since masculinity is more limiting for men than femininity is for women. Or maybe this is a more subtle form of sexism: finding things men do inherently more interesting just because men are doing them.

(5) A (gendered) failure of imagination. Maybe Bill Clinton appeared on so many covers because there was no one in the newsroom to notice that putting him on the front page was weird. Or no one with the authority and gall to speak up and say, “Uh, shouldn’t we use a picture of Hillary instead of Bill?” This may reflect the gender gap in journalism. Three out of five print journalists are male. It’s probably even more skewed at the top. With so many male journalists working on front pages across the country, it is plausible that they just didn’t think about gender or those that did were afraid to speak up.

All these explanations together, and likely ones I haven’t thought of, help explain why Hillary Clinton’s face was so absent from the story about her historic moment. The consequences are significant. Politics is still largely a man’s world, and conceptualized in terms of masculinity. U.S. politicians are overwhelmingly male. Only 6 state governors are female, and only 19.3% of U.S. representative seats are filled by women. Only 20 women serve in the U.S. senate. Showing images of a male politician, Bill Clinton, when a female politician has earned an historic victory, only continues this gendered order of politics.

Wendy M. Christensen is a professor of sociology at William Paterson University. Her research interests center on gender, the media, political mobilization, and the U.S. Armed Forces. You can follow her on twitter at @wendyphd.

(View original at

Honest Brew: Liquid Picnic by Bike

Jul. 29th, 2016 12:36 pm
[syndicated profile] lovelybike_feed

Posted by Velouria

So, I do not normally review food and drinks items. But when it came to this product from London-based Honest Brew it seemed a pity to deprive you, dear readers ...especially as they allowed me to give the stuff away!

And on that TGIF note, I introduce you to the Howler: a portable tube of craft beers, delivered to your door on request and designed to fit in your bicycle's bottle cage. Is this in jest, you ask? Not at all. This product exists. And you can read about the enthusiastic maker's philosophy here, including their thoughts on the virtues of canning craft beer.

When the sizable parcel arrived and I imagined it as a portion to be consumed on a single bike ride, I was reminded of the awful joke that kids of Irish descent at my 1990s New England school used to tell, not without some measure of pride:

"What's an Irish seven course meal?"
"A six pack and a potato."

Har har.

Well, by those standards, you don't quite get a full meal out of a Honest Brew Howler. But you won't be left starving either. For most, I should think the 3-pack will suffice for a liquid picnic by bike.

If you reside in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, you can order samplers of various hand-picked craft beers from local micro-breweries, and the bicycle-ready Howler shall arrive at your door lickety-split. You can order as many samplers as you like, according to various themes, at the cost of £6.60-£8.50 per pack, and a one-time shipping charge of £3.49. It's not cheap. But it's not expensive either, considering the cost of craft beers. And if you enjoy this sort of thing, it can allow you to sample beers from micro-breweries that may not be otherwise accessible. All in all, I would say it's a fun project.

Now as far as limitations, the main one I can see is fit:  While the container seems compatible with most metal bottle cages, it won't clear small bicycle frames. The husband's 53x54cm machine is basically at the limit of what will accommodate the mighty Howler. Whether that means this beer-transport method is not for you, or that you need to rethink your bicycle frame sizing, is of course up to yourself to decide.

As for evaluating the quality of the beer itself: Well, I have no cause to question its excellence, considering it looks like it comes from some cool micro-breweries. However, I am not a craft beer expert. And in addition, I am off the drink these days, completely. So I will leave it to you, fellow islanders, to take this fine product off me and determine its merit.

This give-away is open to readers from (all-island) Ireland only. If you fit this description and would like the Howler to be sent your way, please leave a comment, briefly outlining your thoughts on one of the following topics (song/poem/grunt form acceptable):

   a. Drinking whilst cycling: does it give you "strengh" or a headache?
   b. The craft beer situation in Ireland, North and South: Discuss

Please do this before the end of this coming Sunday. And make sure I have a way of contacting you.

Looking forward to sending this beer to a good home, and wishing you all a happy weekend!

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Posted by Fred Clark

Laurie Penny on Milo and nihilists and ... a lot (just read it). Patrick Blanchfield on America's Gun. Michelle Obama gives a speech for the ages. Prof. Patricia Leary seizes a teaching opportunity. And Binyavanga Wainaina teaches us "How to Write About Africa."
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Wherein both the authors and their heroes grow so bored with the London conspiracy subplot that they all decide to just kind of drop it, without ever explaining or apparently even wondering what it is that this conspiracy was conspiring to do. Also too, we learn more about nefarious polyglot Nicolae Carpathia, but it's still not clear whether he looks more like Bill McKay or The Electric Horseman.

The Situation Ain't Me

Jul. 29th, 2016 08:22 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

"I'd curious, do you blame God, or genetics or your own poor health habits for your present situation?"

I was reading an article on the stabbings of disabled people in Japan, an act of domestic terrorism, and a hate crime targeting those of us with disabilities. The article was written by a person with a disability, you could tell that simply because the terms 'hate crime' and 'domestic terrorism' were used. I still have not seen those terms used in mainstream media written by a non-disabled person. I DID see an article in the Japan times using the term 'mercy killings.' So there we have the great divide, those of us in the disability community and those who simply see us, to greater and lesser degrees, as burdens of one kind or another.

I read comments here on my blog and on my Facebook page with great interest and curiosity, I like seeing how this community of readers and those with whom we have agreed to call ourselves 'friends' on Facebook react. In both places, there are wonderful people who discuss, disagree and sometimes debate issues and topics that I raise. But, reading comments in other forums is a very different thing.

For example, I posted a video of one of the mother's who's son died in the Orlando massacre at the Pulse nightclub as she spoke at the Democratic National Convention. I went to the comments and was shocked at the hate and the vitriol aimed at her. People even claimed that the massacre never actually happened but was staged by the anti-gun people. Mostly the called her the 'B' word, mostly they accused her of simply being a bad actress paid for the performance. Mostly they assaulted her in any way, using any argument they could. I get very cold when I read these kinds of remarks.

The same was true when I read the remarks of a disabled writer writing about a disabled issue and bringing in a disability lens. I was shocked. The attack on the writer was astonishing. Oddly they'd attack him, verbally victimize him and then challenge him on playing the victim card. Wow. But one of the comments that struck me was the one I opened with.

"I'd curious, do you blame God, or genetics or your own poor health habits for your present situation?"


 The reader simply didn't get the situation. The situation, as in the case of the murders in Japan, which was the topic discussed, isn't disability. The situation is the atmosphere of prejudice, ableism and disphobia in which people live. The situation is the lack of access not only to buildings, to justice and to simple respect, not the disability at all. The 'situation' that transgender people find themselves in, when confronted by a gang of bigots with weapons on a street, isn't the fact that the person is transgendered, it's the fact that there are people with weapons on the street.

The present situation is something that we as disabled people experience is something that I'd dearly like to discuss. But how can that conversation be had with people who think that we, ourselves, are the situation? How can we speak with people who filter our words through pity and hatred? How can we be heard above the white noise that our difference and our disability create in the minds of those who believe that the noise is cause by our discordant lives rather than their disgust at our bodies?




Health Habits?

No, buddy, you ... you are the situation.

Friday Links

Jul. 29th, 2016 07:30 am
[syndicated profile] muslimahmedia_feed

Posted by samya

Amid all the violence happening in Iraq, a workshop at a Californian University aims at building a working group consisting of women within the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education to increase the number of women in leadership roles in Iraqi universities.

Egypt’s National Council for Women launched last month a media campaign under the slogan “The Taa’ Marbouta is your strength,” which aims to encourage women to break all barriers standing in their way and not to accept society’s narrow perceptions

A leading Muslim group in Nigeria has welcomed a court ruling lifting the ban on girls wearing the headscarf in government schools in Lagos state, describing it as a victory for the rule of law.

Ice skater Zahra Lari hopes to take her blades to glory. She is on the path to becoming the first Emirati athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics.

Women’s rights activists condemned Liberia’s parliament this week for removing a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) from a new domestic violence law in a country where half of women have been cut.

New Art Exhibition Explores Muslim Women’s Experiences Living in Toronto. Exhibition at the Gardiner Museum helps Muslim women find their voice against oppression.

A female-run clinic in Afghanistan is providing free, life-changing surgery to women suffering from fistula.

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will make history as the first U.S. woman to compete wearing a hijab at the summer Games in Rio.

‘Therefore, we are saved by hope’

Jul. 29th, 2016 12:09 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love."
[syndicated profile] muslimahmedia_feed

Posted by eren

Over the past few years MMW has often covered issues of sexuality and women’s pleasure, particularly because the ways in which Muslim female sexuality and pleasure are framed not only in the media, but also among Muslims themselves, tend to be quite problematic. Muslim women’s sexuality has made it to the headlines on a number of occasions. Coverage of the topic is reductive, judgemental and, plain and simple, orientalist. Not to mention that Muslim sex is said to only be “valid” if it is hetero-sex. The erasure of LGTBIQ Muslims and the different kinds of pleasure that couples and plural sexual partners can experience is totally beyond people with “authority” who discuss these topics.

In addition, discussions around sexuality remain highly hymen-centric and patriarchal in nature… Halal sex shops, for example, focus on the “proper” ways of achieving pleasure, while making available a number of products seeking to “enhance” women’s bodies (including the firmness of their breasts and the color of their vaginas) as per the opinions of a bunch of male scholars who have neither breasts, nor vaginas and hymens. With all these attitudes surrounding topics of Muslim sexuality, pleasure, halal vs. haram and such, it is no surprise that Sex Ed in countries like Canada is so controversial among Muslims, and among liberal non-Muslims wondering what is the big deal for Muslims who do not want it.

But in between all this focus on Muslim women’s bodies, enhancements and stuff, there is a whole, very discrete market, targeting Muslim men. A few weeks ago a friend of mine found an interesting ad that read, “Be Good to your Wives…” The company’s business cards and postcard ads are being distributed throughout Toronto to advertise the domestically located company that provides “male enhancements.” claims to deliver “effective results for increased sexual energy, higher stamina, and increased erection size and duration.” The site also offers a free PDF book, which can be ordered through their site, which centers male sexual experiences on narrations of Prophet Muhammad’s virility and sexual relations with his multiple wives. Further, the book offers a variety of legal opinions (mostly Sunni and Orthodox) in regards to sexual positions, oral sex and the “proper” ways to arouse a woman.



I will not lie, my friend and I giggled for a while, particularly because we wondered, what makes “male enhancement” halal or not? How is this different from your average blue pill better known as Viagra?

If one conducts a search regarding Viagra, one will notice that in most forums, both commenters and scholars agree that Viagra is considered to be halal (here, here and here); that is because Viagra is characterized as a “necessary medicinal product” rather than a “recreational drug.” Similarly, it is said to neither affect the consumer’s health nor alter his mental state. Those are props to the ultimate purpose: to satisfy one’s own sexual needs and please one’s wife (ugh heteronormativity).

The bulk of Viagra-like products that are labeled “halal” are said to be “natural,” including Halalhard; hence, using the issue of permissibility (which does not necessarily refer to “natural” ingredients) to target a market concerned with pork and alcohol by-products, generally speaking. In addition, these products also appeal to consumers who think that natural equals safer, even when that is not necessarily the case, and regulation of products labelled “natural” is pretty sketchy in both Canada and the US.

Whereas a discussion on why someone might use or not use Viagra is beyond the scope of this post, I think the framing of Viagra and similar drugs as “necessary” speaks to cissexual and heteronormative male privilege. On the one hand, yes, there is an acknowledgement that Viagra helps satisfy one’s wife. On the other, however, the focus remains on male satisfaction through penetrative sex, making a case for women’s satisfaction to be achieved through the same means, even when that may not be the case.

Further, if as a woman I wanted to make a case for my own satisfaction in penetrative terms, for instance, I would be largely told that toys that entail vaginal penetration are “haram,” even in the context of marriage. It seems that nothing can ever substitute a man’s penis (even the now “halal dildos”). I would also likely be told that masturbation and the use of toys, even with a husband, is “haram” or, at the very least, not encouraged. But not only that, those scholars who agree with accommodating sex toys within sex would likely tell me that non-penetrative sex toys are permissible only in the context of “enhancing” a couple’s pleasure… If it does not help my husband reach orgasm, what is the point, right?

Interestingly, halal male enhancements are one of those areas where Muslim and Western patriarchies interact in relation to men, a phenomenon that is not always visible. Halal enhancements play with Muslim men’s psyche when it comes to permissibility. These are products that are said to be “preferred” over Viagra just by virtue of being “halal,” while helping men express their manhood through penis enhancement and penetrative sex. Also, they are sold as products that help a man fulfill women’s marital rights, therefore, the “Be good to your wives…” At the same time, in the narrative, a woman’s marital and sexual rights are constrained to her husband’s penis and his willingness to acquire said halal product.

HalalHard also plays with the polygamy discourse in their narrative. Upon reading their motto, I was not sure if the “wives” referred to a man’s multiple wives or to the wives of several men (a.k.a. their audience). Elsewhere, the site often talks about “wife,” assuming monogamy, but presents images (including on Twitter) of men in bed accompanied by two women. The ambiguity is important because it sends a subtle message towards the acceptance of plural relationships as “halal” only in the context of polygyny.

What is more, these products create a universal manhood in their discourse. “All men” (mostly heterosexual), regardless of religion or background, suffer from erectile dysfunction and such, just as “all men” have found some instances in which they cannot please their partners. The solution is in a bottle, which is available to anyone with a few dollars, a laptop, mailing service and an address. In the narrative, women demand satisfaction and these companies make it possible. But again, the discourse also provides a universal answer to women’s needs… they need a penis that can function “properly” during penetrative sex. Never mind women who may find other activities more pleasurable, who do not care for penetrative sex, or who find that penetrative sex is better with a dildo or other objects. At the end, in this narrative, it is the men’s call how to properly pleasure you, and your “right” is restricted to them knowing how to do that better. Apparently, these companies have not gotten the memo about how unappealing these assumptions are…


Heads Image Source 


Running Out To Do A Chore: Dialogue

Jul. 28th, 2016 06:49 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Really, I'm fine.

No, I don't need someone to be with me.

No, you don't need to call anyone.

Please, could you move out of the way of my wheelchair?

Seriously, I an fully independent.

OK, yes I need help with some things, but not with being out on my own.

I'd like you to move so I can get by you.

Really, you don't need to call the police.

No, I don't have a minder.

Really, I don't need a minder.

I don't have a staff at home, I have a husband there.

Yes, I'm allowed to be gay.

No, he doesn't have to be with me when I go out.

Please get out of the way of my wheelchair.

I'm not answering that question.

If you don't move, I'm going to call the police.

There's a security guard, 'over here, over here.'

This woman has me trapped here and won't let me move because she thinks I need a minder.

No, I don't need a staff.

Yes, I have ID but why do I have to show you ID? I just need your help to get out of here.

No, I don't have a certificate that says I'm allowed to be out on my own.

I'm done, I'm calling the police, and you sir are in real trouble. Your job is to help me from a woman who has clearly trapped me, a wheelchair user, in a corner and is blocking my free access.


(Everyone leaves)

I go on, alone without assistance.


This Is MY Fish, Bird

Jul. 28th, 2016 10:15 am
[syndicated profile] daily_otter_feed

Posted by Daily Otter

This Is MY Fish, Bird 1

This Is MY Fish, Bird 2

Thanks, Robin! Robin writes, “Sea otter in Seward, AK boat harbor. First he was eating a huge chunk of halibut and was being chased by gulls.  He left for 10 minutes  and came back with a hunk of salmon. He had to keep diving to avoid the gulls, but managed to eat both the halibut and the salmon without sharing.”

[Seward, AK]

Coloring Pages on Etsy!

Jul. 28th, 2016 03:32 am
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed

Aaaaaah! People asked for coloring book pages, so I gave it a try! You can get them on Etsy and download them. I have no idea if I'm doing this right! AAAAAHHH!


With these hands, with these hands

Jul. 27th, 2016 10:18 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Walter Hagen said great athletes “Make the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look hard.” You will never live long enough to read all the criticism written about Hillary Clinton’s capacity for sometimes making the easy ones look hard, but take a moment this week to acknowledge that she has just accomplished something historic, unprecedented, and incredibly hard — and she made it look so easy that we take it for granted.

Of Mind and Gap

Jul. 27th, 2016 01:51 pm
[syndicated profile] lovelybike_feed

Posted by Velouria

As a teenager, I once saw a black and white photograph of a magnificent landscape in a friend’s father’s study. I didn’t know quite what I was looking at. But, transfixed by the silvery squiggles strewn over the jagged mountain, I knew that it was stunning.

“The Stelvio Pass,” said my friend’s father. And I nodded, the exotic image forever fixed in my mind's eye.

It was not until I was a cyclist, nearly two decades later, that I understood what a mountain pass actually was. A route over a mountain range, it aims to facilitate crossing by snaking through a gap between two peaks. It would be a mistake, however, to infer that a route of this sort is flat, or easy. No matter how you spin it, you are still crossing a mountain range after all. And so I soon learned to expect climbing when anything with the words Pass or Gap in the name was involved.

Still, in those parts of the world where I've lived, the passes and gaps have tended to be rather tame, straightforward affairs: some miles up, then down, with a few sweeping bends. That iconic image of dense bundles of switchbacks was something I'd only seen in photos.

I should have known that this was about to change, when I told a friend about our upcoming trip to Kerry. When I mentioned our plans to cycle over the Connor Pass and asked whether he'd done it himself, he responded with: "Ah yes, the Connor Pass is a must! It's a very ...European climb."

I did not know what he meant by that at the time, imagining vaguely a mountainside strewn with outdoor cafes and art galleries. But apparently, "European climb" means hairpins. Plenty of switchbacks and hairpins! But I'll get to that later.

Located in one of the most scenic regions of Ireland, the Connor Pass slices lengthwise through the Dingle Peninsula at the south-western tip of the country, offering sweeping views of surrounding valleys and waterways. It is known as one of the highest paved mountain passes in Ireland and is a Category 2 climb. That said, it does not actually look too bad on paper: a not-quite-4 mile ascent, at 7-7.5% grade average. We headed toward it on the first day of our cycling tour, fresh and innocent. And as we pedaled into a moderate headwind from our starting point near Tralee, it almost felt like we needed the climb to burn off our excess of nervous energy. Had we packed enough things? Had we packed the right things? Would we find places to stay every night? Would it rain on us the whole time? Our minds needed to be quieted.

The usual route toward the Connor Pass is along a fairly flat coastal road that stretches for about 20 miles from Tralee through countryside that is attractive, but not overly dramatic - not counting the distant view of a mountain range that resembles a jagged knife's edge. The road starts out wide and fairly heavy with traffic. But at some point there is a fork, and a sign diverting lorries, buses, and other large vehicles onto a different road (thankfully, they are not allowed on the pass). The road toward the Pass itself grows narrower and quieter then, attaining a slight gradient. Then, after a sweeping bend, the view of the Connor Pass opens up.

I did not notice it at first. That is, I saw the steep face of the mountain when we rounded the bend, but did not see any road going up it. Then my husband shouted excitedly: "Look! There it is right there, you can see the road!"

"What! Where?"

The mountainside was crumply gray rock. My long distance vision is not great, and the hazy light was not helping. But finally I saw it: A narrow, almost path-like road appeared to zigzag straight up the steep face of the mountain. Gray on gray, it lay camouflaged amidst the stone, like some giant malicious snake. I could just make out the tiny specs of several cars slowly rounding one of the hairpin bends, at a seemingly impossible height.

Next thing I knew, a pool of black began to spread over my field of vision - in that slow-motion way that happens just before you faint. I had the good sense to jump off my bike just then. And soon I was sitting at the side of the road, head below knees, my heart pounding, sweat pouring down my face. It took me a moment to gain my composure and understand what was happening. Was I having a heart attack? No, a panic attack. A panic attack at the sight of that road full of switchbacks!

Well, this was an interesting predicament. My mind began to race with solutions that would not ruin our trip, but really there weren't any other than my proceeding with the climb. I had wanted to do it. I had looked forward to it. But now every time I as much as glanced up the road, tears projectile-sprayed from my eyes and my legs trembled. At the same time, I was somehow managing to laugh at myself hysterically. "This is ridiculous! I don't know why I'm acting like this, I'm so sorry!"

"You need blinkers, like for a nervous horse," suggested my husband pragmatically.

We toyed with the idea of tucking leaves into the sides of my cycling cap. But at length, we decided instead that I would simply try and keep my gaze down on the road and take it one bend at a time, without looking up at the landscape that spread out in front of me. And with this plan, and my legs still atremble, we set off to do the climb.

I don't want to downplay the physicality of a Category 2 climb. But if you are bicycle-fit, not in a hurry, and have reasonable gearing, the Connor Pass is not a difficult ascent. Climbing it from the so-called "steep side" as we did, the gradient was nearly always a very steady 7.5% - dipping occasionally to below 4% and spiking up to 11% a couple of times. Never anything worse than that. Now, the road is narrow, and there were occasional cars that required some steady nerves to steer around, especially if you happen to overlap at a bend. But if you can handle that, and can sustain the described gradient over <4 miles, you should have no problems with the physical part of this climb. With my gearing of 50/34t front and 11-29t rear, I flicked back and forth between cogs, just to vary the pace, and felt pretty good ...just as long as I kept my eyes on the road directly in front of me and did not attempt to look around. Because no sooner would I look at the many switchbacks ahead, then my heart would start to pound again, my breathing to get out of control, my hands and knees to shake. "Don't look; take it one bend at a time," became my little chant.

For the final few bends of the climb, the road tightened and competing with cars became quite precarious. Not wanting to hang about in this section too long, I switched into "let's get this over with" mode, quickened my pace and was at the top before I knew it. Well, that wasn't too bad after all! The first thing I did of course, was get out my camera and photograph the husband climbing the final stretch.

Dismounting his bike with a tired smile, he complimented my climbing skillz, then put his arm around me and gestured toward the Romantic View of the climb we'd just conquered.


My knees gave out straight away.

"Oh jayzus. Okay, don't look. Don't look!"

Normally cyclists celebrate at the top of a mountain pass. Me, I had to be propped up, dragged to the nearest secluded patch of grass, smacked and pinched till the blood returned to my face. An elderly couple stared and whispered suspiciously. A crow began to circle me eagerly. It was out of hand.

I was trying to understand what exactly was daunting me. Clearly it wasn't fear of doing the climb that was causing the panic, since the climb was now done and dusted. It was the sheer appearance of the hairpins that was having this effect on me. The view was't so much scary, as overwhelming; there was a "too muchness" about it. The reaction was not unlike a form of agoraphobia.

Seeing as I did have to descend the mountain eventually, I decided to try some DIY exposure therapy. I would look at the view of the hairpin road a little bit at a time. I tried to see it abstractly - to enjoy it as a work of art, as I did all those years ago with the photo of Stelvio. After a while (quite a while!) it seemed to work. Or at least I was calm enough to get back on my bike.

Thankfully, the other side of the Connor Pass was not nearly as twisty. The fairly easy descent did little to tax my handling skills and actually relaxed me. As we floated down to Dingle Town all seemed funny again.

"What is wrong with me?!"

Two days later, we cycled over the Gap of Dunloe (pictured in the first and second photos) and Moll's Gap. Each of these magnificent gaps was a bundle of hairpins so tight, so steep, so narrow, so overall "European" - that the Connor Pass, in retrospect, began to seem like mere practice for the real deal! And somehow in the two days that had passed, I had come to terms with the landscape and no longer had the same reaction to seeing the hairpin roads spread out ahead of me.

The Stelvio Pass? Perhaps not just yet. But my mind is learning to step aside and let the body do its magic.

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Jay Livingston, PhD

FBI director, James Comey, didn’t call it the “Ferguson Effect.” Instead, he called the recent rise in homicide rates a “viral video effect” – a more accurately descriptive term for the same idea: that murder rates increased because the police were withdrawing from proactive policing. The full sequence goes something like this:  Police kill unarmed Black person. Video goes viral. Groups like Black Lives Matter organize protests. Politicians fail to defend the police. Police decrease their presence in high-crime areas. More people in those areas commit murder.

Baltimore is a good example, as Peter Moskos has strongly argued on his blog Cop in the Hood. But many cities, even those with all the Ferguson elements, have not seen large increases in homicide. New York, for example, the city where I live, had all of the Ferguson-effect elements. Yet the number of murders in New York did not rise, nor did rates of other crimes. Other factors – gang conflict, drugs, and the availability of guns – make a big difference, and these vary among cities. Chicago is not New York. Las Vegas is not Houston. All homicide is local.

There is another flaw with the viral-video theory: It assumes that the crime is a game of cops and robbers (or cops and murderers), where the only important players are the bad guys and the cops. If the cops ease up, the bad guys start pulling the trigger more often. Or as Director Comey put it,

There’s a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime — the getting out of your car at 2 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, “Hey, what are you doing here?”

This model of crime leaves out the other people in those high-crime neighborhoods. It sees them as spectators or bystanders or occasionally victims. But those people, the ones who are neither cops nor shooters, can play a crucial role in crime control. In some places, it is the residents of the neighborhood who can get the troublesome kids to move off the corner. But even when residents cannot exert any direct force on the bad guys, they can provide information or in other ways help the police. Or not.

This suggests a different kind of Ferguson Effect. In the standard version, the community vents its anger at the cops, the cops then withdraw, and crime goes up. But the arrows of cause and effect can point in both directions. Those viral videos of police killing unarmed Black people reduce the general level of trust. More important, those killings are often the unusually lethal tip of an iceberg of daily unpleasant interactions between police and civilians. That was certainly the case with the Ferguson police department with its massive use of traffic citations and other fines as a major source of revenue. Little wonder that a possibly justifiable shooting by a cop elicited a huge protest.

It’s not clear exactly how the Full Ferguson works. Criminologist Rich Rosenfeld speculates that where people don’t trust the police, they are more likely to settle scores themselves. That may be true, but I wonder if it accounts for increases in killings between gang members or drug dealers. They weren’t going to call the cops anyway. Nor were people who have been drinking and get into an argument, and someone has a gun.

But maybe where that trust is absent, people don’t do what most of us would do when there’s trouble we cannot handle ourselves  –  dial 911. As in Director Comey’s version, the police are less a presence in those neighborhoods but not because they are afraid of being prosecuted for being too aggressive and not because they are being petulant about what some politician said, but because people there are not calling the cops.

Originally posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

(View original at

That's What Matters

Jul. 27th, 2016 08:55 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

"That's where I had my accident," she said, pointing to a bus stop, " I got off the bus, took a couple steps and fell straight back." We, the driver and I, were a little surprised to hear her voice as she had sat quietly while he and I gabbed about disability politics and ableism - he's really into all that stuff. We then listened to her tell her story of the day she became disabled.

She didn't know that what happened would lead to her using a power wheelchair right off. It took a couple of weeks before the damage that had happened during the fall to become fully evident. She spoke of having to adapt her apartment, make sure that she could shower and do all the bathroom stuff that people do, get used to a new way of getting around. Learning the ropes of navigating the world in a wheelchair.

Clearly she had been listening to our conversation because she started talking about her experiences with prejudice as a woman, as a visible minority, and as a wheelchair user. About how people treated her when trying to access the subway, how they yelled at her and cussed her out using her gender, her race and her disability equally in their verbal attack on her.

Then quietly, she spoke of how she resisted pressures to give up her home, to move in with relatives, to be taken care of ... she would not be anyone other than who she was. Some would see her and see fragility and they would be wrong. She had a will of iron and a determination to live her life on her own terms. That's who she was before, that's who she was now.

It's odd, she reflected, to be able to point exactly at a place and exactly state a time when life changed, but she said, "my life changed, I didn't. That's what matters.

And it is, isn't it?

No Swimming Lessons: No Passport!

Jul. 27th, 2016 06:00 am
[syndicated profile] muslimahmedia_feed

Posted by nicole

Four years ago, I wrote about some school girls who refused to take communal swimming lessons in the Swiss city of Basel.  As a recap, from my previous article:

In Basel, the families of five Muslim girls in elementary school were fined upon appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court for refusing that their daughters take part in mixed swimming lessons.  At the base of these fines is a law, rarely enforced, meant to sanction parents who do not “maintain a favourable learning atmosphere” for their children.   The original sanctions under this law…were against these Muslim families as well as a sixth family who took their child on summer vacation before school ended.

These girls were recently refused citizenship by Swiss authorities.  I am heartbroken for them. The crux of the matter for me is that for children this age to be candidates for naturalization, this very likely means these young ladies were either born here or arrived as babies or toddlers.  This is the part that breaks my heart- if Switzerland is not home, where is home?

Image of a Swiss passport. [Source].

Image of a Swiss passport. [Source].

For those of you unfamiliar with Swiss naturalization law, Switzerland has one of the lowest naturalization rates in Europe due to a few factors- First and foremost, being born here does not confer nationality.  It takes 12 years (which can be shortened to five via marriage but then you must remain married 12 years total) but generally, years spent in Switzerland before age 18 count as double. Given that the girls in the swimming scandal are in their early teens, this probably means they were born here or came here as small children. The relatively generous legal rights given to EU citizens also make most of the EU immigrants fail to find the necessity in naturalization, then some balk at the mandatory military service for male citizens. Basically to become Swiss you have to want it (be willing to wait) and need it (have a passport that isn’t as “good” as an EU one).  

Another twist of Swiss citizenship is that it is triple tiered: you are first a citizen of a commune, then of your canton, then of the Swiss confederation. While your “place of origin” is little more than trivia for people who have “always” been Swiss as you do not need to be living there or born there to be “from” there, candidates for naturalization apply for citizenship from their place of residence, which becomes their place of origin. As a candidate for naturalization later in the year, I can only apply in the commune where i currently reside. And if they reject me, I need to wait 3–5 years to apply somewhere else.

For these young ladies from Basel, Switzerland is their home as much as it is anyone else’s.  Muslim “Handshakegate” was only a few months ago as well, and the family in this case also had their naturalization applications stopped.  And it isn’t just Muslims who come under fire for “lack of integration.” in the canton of Aargau, Nancy Holten was denied naturalization (although this process is currently under appeal), despite speaking perfect German and living here for over twenty years and having Swiss children, because she is a vegetarian who is against circuses, church bells, and cow bells, with her opposition to cow bells being that for which she is the most famous. Apparently not liking cow bells or church bells is also a sign of lack of integration.  

I guess i can be happy because at least it isn’t “just” Muslims, but i am not. I wonder too: will they think i am too Muslim or too vegetarian to be Swiss?  I wasn’t even born in my commune, like these girls likely were, and the thought of being rejected is scary to me when this place has been my home for over a decade.

distributed proofreading

Jul. 26th, 2016 07:12 pm
[syndicated profile] lois_mcmaster_bujold_feed
I had two sets of galleys drop on me today -- one for the upcoming trade paperback edition of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and one for The Vor Game.

The GJ&RQ TPB is set from the same file as the February hardcover, which I have already proofread, but I am sure something slipped through, because something always does. If anyone noticed any typos or other errata in the hardcover edition, please report them below!

Similarly, the The Vor Game is set from the same file as my 2015 e-book update of that title. If anyone spotted any errata in that edition of the self-pubbed e book, please shout out also!

(This one:

not any of the several other iterations.)

Ta, L.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on July, 26
[syndicated profile] lois_mcmaster_bujold_feed
The official announcement of the upcoming Subterranean Press quality hardcover edition of the novella Penric and the Shaman is up:

For anyone who wants to be sure of securing a copy, pre-ordering early from Subterranean is recommended, as the print run will again be limited.

Ta, L.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on July, 26
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Want to make some easy money? A bit of creatively implausible exegesis and some conveniently elastic numerology can give us a new-and-improved End Times countdown that starts next year. There's a fortune waiting to be made for anyone who doesn't mind that this would entail becoming a soul-less, blasphemous, predatory monster.
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
So there I was at the coffee shop, editing my latest book, when two women in their thirties came in, sat down at the main table, and proceeded to make out at great length.

Which, y'know, fine. No skin off my teeth.

They ordered. Then they ordered Ducky the barista around. Then they started talking. Loudly.

After about five minutes, I realized that Ducky and I were bearing witness to possibly the most red-flag filled polyamory negotiation it has ever been my dubious privilege to experience. (I noted most of this on Twitter live, but now I can organize my notes a little better.)

One of them burst into tears. The other one was a real estate agent. For lack of distinguishing characteristics, they will now be Red Flag and Real Estate Lady.

RED FLAG: That's...that's why I love you...
REL: ...We've known each other for twenty-four hours.
RED FLAG: Do you love me?
REL: you?

Run, I urged Real Estate Lady silently. Run and leave no tracks behind you.

RED FLAG: Can I tell you what a mess I am?
REL: Sure!
RED FLAG: I got emancipated twice...I had three dogs and four jobs...I need to...*mumble mumble*
*making out intensifies*
REL.: Well, you need to get your business situation under control, or else throw the dog in your truck and leave him.
RED FLAG: The truck's in his name.
REL: That's a problem...
RED FLAG: She's such a pretty dog. *bursts into tears again*
REL: I'm sure she is.
RED FLAG: I'm also a dog groomer.
REL: Well, that's good...that gives you another job to improve your financial--
RED FLAG: What do you do?
REL: I own rental properties. People pay me to live there.
RED FLAG: God, I'm so horny.
REL: I can tell.

*more making out*

BARISTA & I: *stare at phones intently, do not look*

REL: So we probably need to look at your business income and see how--
RED FLAG: Oh, well, they're all in his name.
REL: ...uh, hmm.
RED FLAG: ...well, a few months ago I got charged with possession of drug paraphenalia. But only paraphenalia!

Call in an airstrike, I urged her companion in my head. Escape. Escape while you can.

RED FLAG: *sobbing mumbling*
REL: Aww, you're a beautiful woman with so much to offer. I think you're just going through a rough patch right now...

This is the breakup speech, I thought hopefully. Do it! Run! Run!

REL: So I can be your girlfriend...

I facepalmed, but tried to make it look like I was adjusting my forehead.

*more discussion, of which I only make out the words "surgery," "implant removed," and more about her dogs*

REL: ...I have a horse.
RED FLAG: You have a horse?--Where's my phone?!
REL: your purse?
REL: ...we'll find your phone. Um. Maybe it's in the car.

*they leave*

BARISTA: Jaysus, Mary and Joseph! I'm trying to figure out what god I offended this week!

*they return*

BARISTA: *blank look indicating internal screaming*
RED FLAG: Let's take a photo!

*they take a selfie*

REL: Oooh...spongey!

don't look don't look it doesn't matter what they're doing that's never good

RED FLAG: So you have a horse.
REL: Yes. I've spent a lot of money on saddles. Dressage, jumping...
RED FLAG: I do cool sculpting!
REL: What's that?
RED FLAG: *grabs underarm* This! This just melts away! I thought it was bullshit, but it's not! I used to weigh 300 pounds, but I did cool sculpting!

(It is in no way my place to question other people's stories, so I will simply say that I strongly suspect this claim was not approved by the FDA.)

With absolutely no segue between the cool sculpting and this:

RED FLAG: I can't be controlled! I do what I want! Only God can control me!
REL: *drinks coffee*
REL: So about (name redacted)
RED FLAG: He's so good to me... *sob*
RED FLAG: He just wants to see me make out with my girlfriend and then get some about six hours later.

ME: *loud internal screaming*

RED FLAG: I'm not complicated! I love who I want!
REL: Yeah!
RED FLAG: What do you want to do?
REL: Let's have fun. You can meet my partner. We could have dinner--
RED FLAG: Let's go to a strip club!
REL: Yeah! We can go to a strip club and pretend we're strippers too!

MY SYMPATHY: Welp, I'm out.

REL: Your lipstick's a mess. *begins apply lipstick to RED FLAG*
ME: Help I can't leave my barista alone with this I'm afraid he'll die

RED FLAG: *apparently begins attempting to break up with REL*
RED FLAG: I don't want to be a burden! You'll find someone better!
REL: you know you're running a fever?
RED FLAG: I don't want to be a burden! I'm a strong independant woman!
REL: Isn't that what girlfriends do? Bear each other's burdens?

Oh, honey, no, run away, the stripper thing was not cool, but you can't fix this one, they do not make flags in this shade of red--

RED FLAG: I know I'm a beautiful...everything. I know. I'm beautiful. But my life is complicated. I had three dogs and four jobs....
REL: I have five dogs and a horse.

...this is the weirdest game of oneupsmanship ever.

REL: You'd look sexy in equestrian gear.

*making out AGAIN*

ME: I no longer wish to.

*woman comes in for chai latte*

RED FLAG: Can I come stay with you?
REL: Well, this is a first date, but you should come visit!
RED FLAG: Nobody's offered to take me in before!

ME: *turns into living Admiral Ackbar gif*

REL: Well, I'd have to talk to (name redacted)...
RED FLAG: So (name redacted)...
REL: He's a man's man! Well, he's Australian.
RED FLAG: Would I have to have sex with him?
REL: Well, we have an agreement about intercourse...
CHAI LATTE WOMAN: *grips latte, carefully sprinkes nutmeg*
REL: Just playing around is okay, though. I mean we don't have intercourse--
CHAI LATTE WOMAN: *walks toward door with absolute expressionless face*
REL: blah blah intercourse intercourse intercourse
BARISTA: *begins singing loudly to himself, drumming on counter*
MY LIBIDO: So, we're going away for awhile. Maybe a month.
MY LIBIDO: Or forever. Forever's good.
ME: ...take me with you.
MY LIBIDO: Nope, you gotta edit that book.

RED FLAG: I'm crazy.
REL: I don't think you're crazy! I'm a little crazy!
RED FLAG: Name one thing you've done that's crazy...
REL: *suddenly realizes that she's in a coffee shop with two stone faced bystanders*
REL: *whispers in RED FLAG's ear*
RED FLAG: Oh, I've done that.

*more making out, followed by discussion, followed by forgetting there's other people around again*

RED FLAG: But every time he throws me out, he makes sure I have a room and food to eat!
ME: *sits bolt upright*

wait what? Should I call Social Services or something?

REL: Well, he won't be able to do that at the hospital.
RED FLAG: ...can I sleep in your bed?
REL: As long as I'm in it, sure.
RED FLAG: Now, about (name redacted)...

ME: *no longer even trying to work*
RED FLAG: *answers phone* No, I'm at dinner. *hangs up*

(It is currently 1:30 in the afternoon)

REL: You're obviously under a lot of stress right now, and with the surgery and all and you're gonna get an ulcer.
RED FLAG: I have to recuperate from the surgery.
REL: I'll take care of you.
BARISTA: *drums on counter loudly*

*a completely different woman comes in, oddly enough for another chai latte*

RED FLAG: So how did you two meet?
REL: On Plenty of Fish. He was...
RED FLAG: So will I have to have sex with him?
CHAI LATTE TWO: *blinks*
ME: Hey look, an Oddish!
RED FLAG: So about the sex...!
REL: How about we go to dinner? And just have fun?

REL: *eventually becomes aware of awkwardness or possibly the time since they have been awkward proof thus far*
RED FLAG & REL stand up. They embrace for some minutes.

RE: Thank you for the coffee.

They leave.

*dead silence*
BARISTA: I have had teeth pulled that were less painful.
ME: What...just...what...I...what...
BARISTA: *addresses ceiling* I wanted to ask them to leave, but...
ME: Miss Manners did NOT cover that one.
BARISTA: *in furious Scottish brogue* Quit rammin' yer tongue doon her throat, we get yer in love, hoor you tryin' t' prove it to?

ME: *some minutes later* She threw the toilet paper roll on the bathroom floor, too!

*curtain falls*

(The real horror? I have condensed a LOT. This lasted over an hour. I am still not entirely sure if I should have intervened somehow, but...yeah. It veered between hilarious and awkward and sad and mortifying and I am still weirded out.)

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2016 08:57 pm
[syndicated profile] missmanners_feed

Posted by Judith Martin

It has been Miss Manners’s experience that professionals who spend time around children understand their desire to be treated like adults, but your pediatrician seems instead to have modeled his own m...

Japan, Hate and 12 Days

Jul. 26th, 2016 07:48 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Purposely planned.

Specifically targeted.

Openly avowed.

The hate killing of disabled people in Japan is a chilling story. Let's go over a few facts, all of which are reported in the Guardian in clear detail.

1) the man turned himself in stating that 'it's better that disabled people disappear.'

2) he wrote a letter to a politician wherein he outlined the need to kill disabled people, the Guardian reported that:  "In the letter, Uematsu argued that the government should permit euthanasia for disabled people, said he would be willing to carry out such killings himself, and detailed how he would do it."

3) a direct quote from the letter:  “I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities.”

4) he planned to kill 470 disabled people, though he also said he'd turn himself in after killing 260 disabled individuals.

5) all this was known when he was hospitalized, involuntarily.

6) a man with clearly stated goals of mass murdering people with disabilities, a man who had planned it out, who made it abundantly evident that he had a desire to eradicate disabilities from society, spent 12 days in hospital before being released. (12 days! Less than 2 weeks. I guess mass murder of people with disabilities, clearly stated and planned, isn't that much of a mental health concern. 12 days!)

The discussion of and public endorsement of the concept of mercy killing of people with disabilities had taken root in this man with alarming ferocity. No doubt he will be spoken of as someone who has mental health issues, and maybe he does, but when you read what he says, what he says isn't far from what most people have come to believe. His statement to the police upon turning himself in that 'it's better that disabled people disappear' isn't a deranged rant by someone out of control, it's a calm statement of fact that echos the sentiment of many in society. People with disabilities know this sentiment, we hear it, we experience it and we have come to fear what it will do. Our lives are devalued, are needs seen as special and therefore burdensome, our rights are declared to be gifts rather than guarantees.

But there's more.

A specific, targeted attack aimed at eradicating a group - a mass murder of a group of people because of who they are, and no where does anyone speak of hate. No mention of this as a hate crime against people with disabilities. No. Where. I have not read every paper of course, but in my searches on the Internet the only time that 'hate crime' has been used to describe this event it's by a disabled writer on a disability blog or on a Facebook post.

Why isn't it a hate crime?

I think the answer goes deeper than 'they don't get it.' I think it's because, maybe a little, people see the logic of what he's done.

And that scares the hell out of me. 

On Qandeel Baloch, the Feminist

Jul. 26th, 2016 06:00 am
[syndicated profile] muslimahmedia_feed

Posted by sobia

As many of you know by now, tragically, Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was recently murdered by her brother. Inna lillahi wa inna illaihi rajaioon (to God we belong and to God we return). I hadn’t followed her but I had known of her. Even without following her I knew she was a big deal in Pakistan when I heard her name being dropped in Pakistani political shows. Seen as a feminist hero, she was followed by almost a million people on Facebook (her account, along with her Instagram account have now been deleted), where she posted sexually provocative pictures of herself, but also messages of support for women. She was unapologetic for her views and confident in her own expressions. In Pakistan she was loved by many and hated by many. She was such a popular and polarizing figure in Pakistan that the Pakistani band Bumbu Sauce wrote a song in her honour. It was a shock when I heard of her murder.

Qandeel Baloch. [Source].

Qandeel Baloch. [Source].

So much has been written about Qandeel Baloch, her murder, and what it all means since her death last week. It has been reported that Baloch was strangled to death by her brother in, what is being called, an “honour killing.” Her brother has said that he drugged her and then strangled her, his reasoning being the dishonour he felt due to her very sexual online persona. In addition to drugging her, he had also drugged their parents so they would be unable to save her. Her parents, as would be expected, are devastated, as is clear in this heartbreaking interview. They want justice for their daughter. Qandeel, whose real name was Fawzia Azeem, had been supporting her parents and her brothers, including the one who killed her.

As vigils were held for her in Karachi and Lahore, others were busy being happy about her death. She’s being judged and shamed in death as she was in life. But much has also been written in the media, including in  Pakistan (where there is also a lot of anger over her death), critically highlighting the circumstances which lead to her murder and the context in which (Muslim) women live, in general, and in which Qandeel Baloch lived. Qandeel Baloch self-identified as a feminist and from the pieces written about her since her death, there seems to be a lot of evidence to support her feminism.   

Qandeel Taught Owning Sexuality and Importance of Consent

In the Pakistani paper Dawn, Reem Wasay explains the role Baloch played in bringing to light the issue of Pakistani women’s sexual autonomy and independence in a country not used to talking about such things as openly as Qandeel expressed them, nor used to the concepts themselves. Although I am uncomfortable with the way Wasay dismisses Qandeel’s feminism, the links Wasay makes between Baloch’s messages and women’s sexual autonomy seem spot on. About Baloch, Wasay writes:

“She manned her own mission and cast off her detractors with the disdain of the damned. Yes, she could be crass, loudmouthed and overtly sexual, yes she could literally be the ‘woman on top’ and she did it by ‘manning up’ in our putrid practices of patriarchy.

She had questionable taste and she openly mocked our outrage but she made a lot of us root for her because she was so unbelievable we almost thought she was invincible.

She de-sensitised a lot of us by riling up our sensitivities, she preached in the language of a more liberal outlook towards sex, the female body and how to use it but we hung on to her every move because we have become so tired of this assembly line of misplaced morality, exhausted by the controlled coitus between sanctity and shame, piety and perversity.

However she did it, she made it alright for women to have a sexual voice in this country and for us, that really is a first.”

Wasay also explains how Baloch gave Pakistani women “ideas” about their own sexual expression and challenged men and their patriarchal desires to control women’s bodies. Baloch, Wasay argues, presented many lessons on sexuality and consent, having learned from her own experiences.

“The very first step is dismissing the dregs of traditions past and cultures best left forgotten. Women need to own their own sexuality and regulate their own bodies in their own homes before they can go out into the big bad world of men.

They need to know when to say ‘no’, believe that consent is an integral part of when they say ‘yes’ and express who they are, whilst shrugging off the residue of a suffocating patriarchy bent on preventing women from doing all of the above.

Qandeel was married off at 17 in a marriage she did not want. Like many before and after her, she was made to spread a welcome mat between her legs for a man she did not want, she had a child she wasn’t ready for, desperate economic inevitabilities and a future ready to be spent in pathological frustration because of the path cemented for her by the men in her family.

What made her different was the fact that she said ‘sod off’ and told the whole country just as much.

What she did was give other women ‘ideas’.”

Supporting this idea, Amal Zaman writes:

“The life Qandeel lived was brave and dangerous because she made us feel, for the most fleeting of moments, that there was a space for us in our own homes. That we didn’t have to be virginal and silent to exist in our own culture. I cannot emphasize enough the radical nature of her public performance of her sexuality and what that meant to so many girls who could never openly acknowledge the existence of such a thing. Her murder may not be a novel occurrence, but her life most certainly was.”

Unapologetic Self-Expression

Also in Dawn, Hamna Zubair argues that Baloch was killed for being a woman who did not conform to Pakistani society’s expectations of women. Zubair writes:

“From the comments that appeared under her posts, young men wanted to be with her; they also wanted to snuff her out. Young women were horrified by her ‘immodesty’; they also lauded her for doing exactly as she pleased.

By the end of 2015, via frequent Facebook and Instagram posts, Qandeel had firmly established her place in Pakistan’s burgeoning celebrity landscape. Of course, she wasn’t the first young woman to be crowned the nation’s ‘boldest’ entertainer. Before her, we’ve had Meera, Veena, Mathira and more.

But while they coyly tiptoe around questions of their sexuality, their motivations and their attachments — Qandeel set herself apart by being unabashed about her desire to be a screen siren, somebody who provokes. On a TV show, she proclaimed Sunny Leone was one of her role models. On Instagram, she had no qualms about saying she was sexy.

Though she wasn’t exactly an open book, she was honest about her ambitions.

And as has been proved today, if you’re a woman in Pakistan, ambition can get you killed.”

What is clear from this piece, and the many others written about her, Baloch’s self-confidence came shining through. Although she was not the only woman in Pakistan openly expressing herself or openly declaring herself to be a feminist, the fact that she so confidently used her sexuality to do so, despite the backlash she faced, made her unique. Zubair explains:

“As her posts began to be viewed by more people and as she began to be covered by mainstream newspapers, I believe she became aware of her power to deliver certain messages about being female in Pakistan. Around this time, I began to see Qandeel as a burgeoning advocate for increasing women’s visibility in Pakistan.

And so, we ran pieces questioning why Pakistanis harboured so much hate for Qandeel. And I got a lot of flak for giving her so much coverage. A few days ago, one commentator asked me something along the lines of: ‘You’re covering Qandeel so much, what’s next, reporting from a brothel?’”

Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity

Women owning their own sexuality and being unapologetic in their sexual self-expression are all so dangerous because we live in a patriarchal world that has created very rigid rules to control women’s bodies. And Qandeel Baloch challenged that very patriarchy, which told her, as it does with all women around the world, that her sexuality was not hers to own or express as she pleased.

Qandeel Baloch not only challenged patriarchy and patriarchal rules for women, she mocked them. In her piece in The Massachusetts Review, Amal Zaman says of Baloch:

“Her behavior was beyond bold, it was subversive. She employed her provocations to toy with and expose patriarchal authority. The panicked scramble following images she shared with Mufti Qavi made clear the farcical nature of the religious establishment. Her offering strip teases to the Indian cricket team highlighted the confused masculinity embedded in competitive sports culture and rivalry in South Asia. She parodied men – threw them into confusion because they simultaneously desired and felt threatened by her.”

In a petition titled No Country for Bold Women written by a Pakistani feminist collective to condemn Qandeel’s murder and demand justice, petition writers state:

“Qandeel was not Kim Kardashian, as some media accounts have erroneously noted. She was our Qandeel: a working class woman, a Third World feminist, a disrupter, and firebrand who dared to do as she pleased, despite threats to her life.

Qandeel was not killed for “honor.” She was killed because an inordinately fragile, male ego couldn’t handle her flame. She was killed because a pervasive misogynistic culture cultivates and protects a toxic masculinity. She was killed because patriarchal structures sustain unequal gender relations with both men and women believing that violence against women is unremarkable, ordinary, and even deserved.

In that context, women can be killed for economic gain, for ego or for any number of reasons, and all of it is justified because, in the final calculation, the female body count does not seem to matter.”

And this is true not only of Pakistan, but the entire world. Qandeel’s murder was not a reflection of Pakistani society. It was an ugly reflection of patriarchy. The same patriarchy found all over the world as women all over the world die at the hands of toxic masculinity.

When Imaan Sheikh claims that “We All Killed Qandeel” at Buzzfeed she is talking about about the patriarchal rules in place to control the lives, and sexualities, of women.  

“Qandeel’s brother may have killed her to protect his honour, which has been polished to brilliance by the blood on his hands now, but we are complicit as a country.

Her brother may have strangled her, but the viewers who declared her worthy of a humiliating death every single day were his might. The scholars who incited violence against her on TV were his might. The internally misogynistic women who said she deserved to go to hell for destroying the image of Muslim women were his might.

All of us, tacit participants in the relentless policing of Pakistani women, were his might.

The laughing “moderately religious” person here is no less than a violent extremist. The silent moderate who won’t speak up about how she isn’t a national shame or a blow to Islam also shares the blame.

There, I said it. Fuck you.”

Thoughts of an Angry Hijabi mirrors Sheikh’s piece:

“We all killed Qandeel.

Every time we looked at a woman and judged her on her outfit,

Every time we told our daughters to cover up,

Every time we passed laws policing women’s attire,

Every time we disrespected women who owned their sexuality,

Every time we shamed women for their sexuality,

Every time we blamed a woman for getting raped because of what they were wearing,

we killed Qandeel.

Change will never come if we don’t start challenging and fighting the toxic belief that “sexy” women don’t deserve respect. Now, more than ever, Pakistan desperately needs a sexual revolution.”

Final Thoughts

Qandeel Baloch was a feminist who did not play by the rules set out by the men in society. Patriarchal societies everywhere seek to control women’s bodies and their sexualities; Pakistan is no exception. The sexual autonomy and self-determination of sexual expression that Qandeel Baloch represented disrupted the traditional narrative of the society in which she lived. Pakistani responses to her were by no means unanimous – she was both loved and hated. I have no doubt that Qandeel Baloch will go down in Pakistan feminist herstory as an icon and shero. As Amal Zaman writes:

“She was becoming more focused and vocal about her feminism. The work of mourning her includes refusal to let her voice and actions be forgotten with her. I have learnt the importance of visibility and how desperately women need to know there are others like them who fight the same battles every day; that our sexuality, our domestic abuse, our fight for independence is shared. Nearly every woman I know is a quiet revolution. Qandeel was a loud one – a siren calling out to the rest of us to join her.”

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Tim LaHaye has died at the age of 90. The death of any long-lived End-Times "prophet" is always an inherently awkward thing. Each, in turn, is disproved by their own longevity, just as each, in turn, is exposed by their own well-planned retirement and well-structured estate.
[syndicated profile] muslimahmedia_feed

Posted by Shereen Malherbe

Swimwear is often a contentious is­sue with women around the world and with summer upon us in the northern hemisphere, this year is no exception. From body consciousness to practicality, what swimwear you buy for the summer season can often be a difficult decision. But at least what to buy and wear remains your choice. Well, for some. This season may be even harder for women who choose to wear Muslim or so-called modest swimwear in Europe. As The Express has reported, Austria has now banned burkinis in a swimming pool, and the precedent of niqab bans suggest there may be more such measures taken in other countries.

Modest swimwear isn’t just the choice of Islamic women who want to cover. Surfers have long worn rash vests and leggings, marketed by cool surf brands such as Billabong & O’Neill. Many who are concerned about skin damage and sun exposure wear long-sleeved, long-legged swimwear made from the same fabric as burkinis with most having an inbuilt sun protection factor of fifty plus. All this leads me to ask: are men and children banned from covering up in surf wear or is it just women? And if the issue with the burkini is not the covered skin, is it just the extended swim cap that covers the hair that is causing offence because this identifies the women as Muslim? Describing the ban as a ‘health issue’ is a disguise at what this really is; Islamophobia. There is no reason a burkini, made from the same materials as surf swimwear, poses a health risk. Instead, the ban further isolates Muslim women in Europe and beyond for being made to feel that their dress sense is not compatible with society.

I myself made the shift from a two piece to an all in one burkini. It is my choice to try and cover whilst poolside so I can feel comfortable and make the most out of my love for swimming, and my faith, as well as being involved in family activities and with our visitors who in the summer heat spend most of their time in the pool.


My burkini has received mixed opinions; from my teenage sisters looking shocked to nods of approval for those who want to wear more modest clothes around the pool. Mostly from those running after young children and being forced into flume rides, slides and other embarrassing activities that kids make you take part in. Recently, I have been enjoying these activities without the swimsuit mishaps that often occur when in smaller pieces.

If you fight for women’s rights for equality to wear what they want, then it has to work both ways. Those outside of the Muslim community have often joined in the debate about whether or not burkinis should be banned without asking for opinions of women who wear them. Articles such as those in The Telegraph commented on how a woman wearing a burkini looks like a ‘pregnant elephant seal’ further reinforcing the idea that women are supposed to look a certain way. The article itself is full of assumptions and incorrect misconceptions that I could write an entire separate post on, but for now I will leave it at this: a woman should be able to choose how much skin to reveal and how much to cover in public places as she deems fit, whether that is for religious purposes or not.

Recently, a campaign over ‘Are You Beach Body Ready’ in Britain invited an angry backlash. The ads were discussed as objectifying women. I agree. Women are too often judged for their bodies, and the campaign furthered the idea that you have to look a certain way to go to the beach. Although the debate about the “beach body” campaign was about body consciousness, the discussion over whether or not the campaign was appropriate is relevant to the banning of burkini swimwear. Revealing and covering are both associated with how society thinks women should look and how women are judged. Neither should have anything to do with anyone else, except the woman’s choice of what she feels comfortable to wear.

I am based in Dubai, so this hasn’t been an issue for me as modest swimwear and swimsuits usually coexist quite happily side by side over here. But I have to wonder, when did it become acceptable to force women to wear something they might see as akin to underwear or if they refuse to do so, be legally excluded from a public swimming bath? Accepting these kind of bans just reinforces racism and isolation from society.

It is about time that Islamophobia is taken for what it is. In this instance, it is being used to further limit woman’s rights and to make women feel pressured into revealing more skin in order to ‘fit in’ with society. There are arguments that so-called modesty wear reinforces an oppressive rhetoric, but I believe this comes from those who haven’t ever made the decision to wear something that isn’t readily available and accepted from mainstream society. Denying women who want to wear what they believe to be modest clothes that choice clearly does nothing for the argument about oppression, it just adds a different form of oppression.

Integration into society should not be about what women wear. Women are constantly attacked, criticised and judged on their bodies and clothing. If you truly want to fight for women’s rights to wear what they want and not to be treated as objects, then this has to work both ways. Whether we are talking about how much to reveal or cover, this should remain a women’s choice.


Header image source 

The Blue Mutiny

Jul. 25th, 2016 02:22 pm
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by PamelaToler

By Pamela Toler (Regular Contributor)

William Simpson.  Indigo Factory in Bengal. 1867

William Simpson. Indigo Factory in Bengal. 1867


In the fall of 1859, two years after the violent uprisings in Northern Indian known as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Rebellion, thousands of peasant-farmers (ryots) in the Indian province of Bengal refused to accept cash advances to plant indigo crops in the spring, an act of resistance that became known as the Blue Mutiny.

An Industry Built on Oppression

Property laws in Bengal had put European indigo planters in conflict with ryots ever since commercial indigo growing was introduced to Bengal at the end of the eighteenth century. Europeans were not allowed to own land, so planters had to contract with ryots to grow indigo for them in the ryots‘ fields.

From the first, ryots were reluctant to grow indigo, which was sown and harvested at the same time as rice, their primary food crop. Planters used both trickery and violence to force unwilling ryots to plant indigo. Some forged contracts. Others resorted to beatings, looting, arson, kidnapping, and even murder to force ryots to accept cash advances.

Once a ryot had accepted an indigo contract, willingly or not, he received a cash advance in the fall to plant indigo the following spring–a system similar to sharecropping in the American South after the Civil War, with many of the same inherent pitfalls for the farmer. In theory, the ryot would repay his advance and make a small profit after harvesting his indigo. In bad years, expenses exceeded advances and ryots went in debt to planters. Even in good years, planters often did not pay ryots what they were owed at the end of the growing season. Many used the threat of unpaid debts to force ryots to continue planting indigo year after year.

Ryots had little recourse against the planters, who were supported, both officially and unofficially, by British officials. Isolated outbreaks of violence against planters and indigo factories occurred as early as 1809, but were quickly suppressed by the police. On the rare occasions when ryots took the expensive and difficult step of going to court, magistrates generally supported the planters.

The Ryots Push Back

The system was inherently unstable: profits depended on both prices on the world indigo market and good crop yields. In the 1830s and 1840s, crops were good and “Bengal blue” dominated the world indigo markets. From 1847 through 1858, bad weather reduced the average annual indigo crop yield by 23% compared to the previous decade. While indigo profits dropped, market prices for jute, linseed, and rice rose, making indigo contracts even less appealing to ryots.

At the same time, the relationship between government official and planters was disrupted. In 1858, in response to the Indian Mutiny, the British Crown replaced the East India Company as India’s ruler. Crown rule brought administrative changes at every level of the government. Smaller district divisions made it easier for ryots to bring their complaints to court. More importantly, young magistrates, hired under a system of competitive examinations, occasionally ruled in favor of ryots in disputes between ryot and planter. Word spread that the government would not force ryots to grow indigo.

When ryots refused to accept indigo advances in 1859, planters reacted the way they had in the past, leading armed bands to force ryots to accept the advances. This time, some villages fought back.

Over the course of the next two years, violent responses to planter oppression spread throughout Bengal. Both planters and ryots appealed to the government for aid. Ryots flooded officials with petitions for relief from specific planters’ abuses. Planters called for laws that would make breaking an indigo contract a criminal offense. The courts overflowed with indigo cases.

In 1860, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal appointed a commission to investigate conditions in the indigo industry. For four months, members of the Indigo Commission heard testimony from every group with an interest in indigo. The Commission’s final report described an industry built on violence, coercion, and oppression, but the Commissioners were not able to agree on solutions and the government took no action.

A Temporary Peace

By the middle of 1863, uneasy peace had been restored to the indigo districts, largely as a result of the resolution of hundreds of indigo cases in the courts that exposed planter abuses and clarified ryots’ rights. Pressured by public opinion, some planters re-negotiated their relationships with ryots; others gave up indigo entirely.

Improved relations between planters and ryots were not permanent. When aniline dyes threatened to destroy the indigo industry, planters put new pressures on their workers. In 1916, Indian indigo workers once again protested the conditions under which they lived and worked, led by a young activist named Mohandas Gandhi.

Why is Nationalism Dangerous?

Jul. 25th, 2016 02:37 pm
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

In his speech last week accepting the Republican nomination for President, Donald Trump said (my emphasis):

…our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.

Donald Trump’s insistence that we put “America First” hardly sounds harmful or irrational on its face. To be proud and protective of one’s country sounds like something good, even inevitable.  Americans are, after all, Americans. Who else would we put first?

But nationalism — a passionate investment in one’s country over and above others — is neither good nor neutral. Here are some reasons why it’s dangerous:

  • Nationalism is a form of in-group/out-group thinking. It encourages the kind of “us” vs. “them” attitude that drives sports fandom, making people irrationally committed to one team. When the team wins, they feel victorious (even though they just watched), and they feel pleasure in others’ defeat. As George Orwell put it:

A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige… his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations.

  • Committed to winning at all costs, with power-seeking and superiority as the only real goal, nationalists feel justified in hurting the people of other countries. Selfishness and a will to power — instead of morality, mutual benefit, or long-term stability — becomes the driving force of foreign policy. Broken agreements, violence, indifference to suffering, and other harms to countries and their peoples destabilize global politics. As the Washington Post said yesterday in its unprecedented editorial board opinion on Donald Trump, “The consequences to global security could be disastrous.”
  • Nationalism also contributes to internal fragmentation and instability. It requires that we decide who is and isn’t truly part of the nation, encouraging exclusionary, prejudiced attitudes and policies towards anyone within our borders who is identified as part of “them.” Trump has been clearly marking the boundaries of the real America for his entire campaign, excluding Mexican Americans, Muslims, African Americans, immigrants, and possibly even women. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted on the night of Trump’s acceptance speech:

  • A nationalist leader will have to lie and distort history in order to maintain the illusion of superiority. A nationalist regime requires a post-truth politics, one that makes facts irrelevant in favor of emotional appeals. As Dr. Ali Mohammed Naqvi explained:

To glorify itself, nationalism generally resorts to suppositions, exaggerations, fallacious reasonings, scorn and inadmissible self-praise, and worst of all, it engages in the distortion of history, model-making and fable-writing. Historical facts are twisted to imaginary myths as it fears historical and social realism.

  • Thoughtful and responsive governance interferes with self-glorification, so all internal reflection and external criticism must be squashed. Nationalist leaders attack and disempower anyone who questions the nationalist program and aim to destroy social movements. After Trump’s acceptance speech, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullers responded: “He… threaten[ed] the vast majority of this country with imprisonment, deportation and a culture of abject fear.” Anyone who isn’t on board, especially if they are designated as a “them,” must be silenced.

When Americans say “America is the greatest country on earth,” that’s nationalism. When other countries are framed as competitors instead of allies and potential allies, that’s nationalism. When people say “America first,” expressing a willfulness to cause pain and suffering to citizens of other countries if it is good for America, that’s nationalism. And that’s dangerous. It’s committing to one’s country’s preeminence and doing whatever it takes, however immoral, unlawful, or destructive, to further that goal.


Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and Gender, a textbook. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

(View original at


Jul. 25th, 2016 08:15 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

The line up for the light was long, we knew it would change over several times before we could make our turn. There was a man, hat out, walking the line of cars, asking for money. I had no change at all and was out of Tims cards, which I usually give out to people who ask for cash, as I made a mental list to pick up some more, Joe was digging in his pockets to find what change he had. When the fellow arrived at our car, Joe said, "This is all the change I've got, sorry it isn't more."He took the change and said, "Listen, man, you don't owe me anything, I'm grateful for anything you give."

Joe laughed, as he does, and wished the man a good day. He didn't leave. He smiled and said, pointing to the line up of cars behind us. "These people in these cars, they don't owe me anything either,' then he paused, 'but you know what I wish they understood?" He paused again, "I wish they understood that anyone of them could end up where I am today, I wish they understood that even if they don't want to give me money, they could still give me respect. I hate it when people act as if I'm not there, or as if just looking at me would make them dirty, if they don't want to give me money, say no, I'm good with that. Just don't make it like I don't exist."

I spoke next, "I use a wheelchair and it's the same, people either stare at me or they pretend I don't exist. It's one of the other. I get just wanting respect. I really do."

He thanked us again, "For the change and for a moment's break from being just a beggar.'

I understood what he meant.

Everyone who lives with difference does.

Of Things Illuminated

Jul. 25th, 2016 08:27 am
[syndicated profile] lovelybike_feed

Posted by Velouria

Over the weekend I attended a rather wonderful show that a friend was involved with. It's kind of difficult to categorise, but essentially it was a public art installation - an "illuminated sculpture trail," where a series of enormous, imaginatively-shaped lanterns, constructed of willow and papier-mâché, were placed throughout indoor and outdoor spaces, for visitors to wander amidst in the night.

The main part of the show was in a space about a mile out of town, and attendees were encouraged to walk from the town centre to get the full experience. So leaving our bikes behind, we strolled along a completely unlit series of backroads, along with dozens of others.

A few things struck me about this. First, how utterly dark it actually was without the benefit of my bicycle's headlight, or any other source of illumination. It is not often I wander about like this! Considering that, I also found it interesting and somewhat surprising that none of the public were carrying torches (flashlights) or sporting hi-viz attire.

The latter is becoming increasingly common here, not just for cyclists, but also for pedestrians. There are people walking their dogs in luminous vests, runners in reflective gear even in the daytime, schoolchildren wrapped in hi-viz sashes to cross the road. Yet on this occasion, everyone must have decided collectively that to wear reflective garments of any kind would compete with the experience we were about to share. And so we walked, a procession of disembodies voices, until the path in front of us turned aglow with a garden of fanciful shapes. It was truly a beautiful show.

Coming from a background of writing about cycling, it is hard for me to perceive luminosity in a way that is not politicised. Even now I could not help but notice that the sculpture trail was effective precisely because it stood out in contrast to the darkness around it. Had everything else been illuminated as well, the sculptures would not in fact have been highly visible. It is an argument often applied to the role of hi-viz in urban cycling and walking. Not to mention, of course, the countless debates about the choice to wear hi-viz versus the expectation for persons to do so, tied to the larger question of where the focus on road safety should be directed.

While I never much worried about being seen when I lived in cities, the past three years of rural nocturnal commutes have been very different. In the countryside, I never quite feel lit up enough, no matter how brightly I might adorn myself or my bike. Despite being given every indication that drivers who pass me can see me (I am probably given more space at night than in daytime) I still don't feel altogether comfortable on the twisty, pitch black country roads, and tend to avoid travel at night if I can. It is a subjective perception of un-safety rather than one based on facts. But subjective perception is what colours our experiences and overall quality of life. And mine drives me to feel anxious about my visibility on the dark rural roads.

Despite all of this, I am still not fully convinced that it's "good" to be highly visible - at least in the manner that current hi-viz trends encourage us to. Which is to say, in a way that cannot be switched on and off at will.

Walking back from the sculpture trail later that night I saw something quite funny... a luminous teenage couple making out in an alleyway. Unbeknownst to them, their vigorous hand movements over each others' bodies were brilliantly lit up under the headlights of each passing car. They were wearing sporty tops with reflective cuffs, poor things. I had to force myself not to watch this intriguing light show.

There are other scenarios that are not conducive to luminous wear (being pursued by an attacker comes to mind). But at any rate, one problem with reflective stuff is that it does not give us a choice - essentially forcing us to be noticeable at all times. And while this isn't a problem when it comes to items such as vests and sashes, which can be donned and removed easily, perhaps it explains while attempts to integrate hi-viz into more integral pieces of clothing are less popular. Ventures to offer reflective paint for bicycles and bicycle parts tend to get mixed receptions also.

There are instances when we want to be visible. And there are instances when stealth presents an advantage. Being able to flip back and forth according to not just personal, but situational, preference, is key. And an interesting problem for designers of luminous objects to tackle.


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