Author: Kelly Vee

Instead of Boycotting North Carolina, Try Actually Helping LGBT People

Imagine if, instead of canceling plans to build a new center in North Carolina, which would have created 400+ new jobs in the state, Paypal had created the center with entirely gender-neutral bathrooms and done what it could to hire and support LGBT employees.

Imagine if, instead of banning government employees from non-essential travel to North Carolina, Andrew Cuomo had encouraged interested employees to visit North Carolina and assist LGBT citizens on the ground.

Imagine if, instead of canceling his North Carolina concert, Bruce Springsteen had found a venue with gender-neutral bathrooms willing to take him in, and donated his concert proceeds to pro-LGBT charities working to help North Carolinians fight against draconian anti-LGBT laws.

Imagine if, instead of stopping service to North Carolina, Xhamster.com started providing more LGBT-focused porn to the state, and offered assistance to LGBT folks in need.

Do North Carolinian LGBT citizens, you know – the people who are actually affected by the bill – want to be boycotted? Did anyone ever ask them?

Perhaps, in addition to drafting a letter asking North Carolina to repeal its anti-LGBT law, 100+ companies could convert their bathrooms to be gender-neutral (or at least provide gender neutral options), rendering the bathroom law ineffective, and offer financial and legal support to LGBT citizens in the State.

Working within the legal framework is slow and inefficient. If we can make a law ineffective right now, why wait until the law can be repealed? Certainly, it should be repealed. But standing back and letting LGBT citizens try to survive under these conditions while we deny them jobs, concerts, and even porn is hardly helpful to anyone in a meaningful way today.

Maybe instead of taking self-glorifying grandiose stands that make vulnerable minorities even more vulnerable and leave LGBT citizens to fend for themselves, we could turn our attention toward the state and do everything we can to help out LGBT people. It’s just a thought.

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Open Borders: The Only Feminist Immigration Position

Open Borders: The Only Feminist Immigration Position

An intersectional feminism is one that stands for women of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, and economic backgrounds, not just the middle class white American woman. Feminism involves critiquing existing power structures and empowering ourselves and others to rise above the restraints placed on us by those power structures. If we are serious about gender equality, we must apply our feminist outlook to every position we hold. Nationalism is a power structure as toxic as racism and sexism: it is based in the idea that certain groups of people are different from and better than others because of something as arbitrary as where they were born.

I spend a lot of time critiquing gender norms in the United States. One reason is that I know more about gender in the U.S. than I do about gender in other countries, mostly due to personal experience. For me (and most, if not all, Americans), fighting the gender norms in my own country is easier than running from them. By being outspoken, I can push for change and try to make my world a better place. But for many of my sisters abroad, gender resistance is not a viable option. The fight bears so many risks—violence, death, ostracism, etc.—that speaking out just is not worth it.

Another option, besides vocal resistance and doing nothing, exists: immigration. Rather than be subject to human degradation, women may try to escape. But where can they go? Most first world countries have high barriers to entry, insurmountable for those with little access to important resources, such as money, connections, and education. By breaking down those barriers and opening borders, immigration can become a viable option.

We must open our borders to refugees. Syria was ranked 139th in the world for gender equality in 2014, higher than only Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen. ISIS rapes, kidnaps, and murders women, subjecting many women to sexual slavery. Some Syrian women have taken on the fight for their gender: 10,000 volunteer troops make up the Women’s Protection Units, fighting against ISIS’s reign in the region. The life of a warrior is not for everyone. The UNHCR estimates that 50.7% of the 4,812,204 registered Syrian refugees are women. Rape and sexual assault run rampant in refugee camps, even in those run by charities. As of October 2015, there were more than 27,000 female refugee sexual assault victims in Syria alone. Most women in these camps will not admit to having been raped due to the associated cultural stigma, but will say they have seen other women being raped. By keeping our borders closed, we subject Syrian women to horrific violations of their bodily autonomy.

We must open our borders to Latin American immigrants. Women in Latin America earn 68 percent of what men earn. These women face wage discrimination in all sectors of the workforce, but most women are relegated to low-paying, menial jobs. Mexico was ranked 80th in the world for gender equality in 2014. El Salvador, the second most common source of undocumented immigrants to the United States, was ranked 84th. Women in Latin America were the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to say that women were treated with respect and dignity in their culture. Coming to the United States presents opportunities that women do not have in their native countries. Women who try to get to the United States face a broken immigration system where they have no chance of being legally approved to immigrate. They are left with no choice but to break the law. Barriers to immigration leave women particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Women and children who try to cross the border illegally are often kidnapped, raped, or killed because they have to rely on gangs and cartels to assist in their crossing. By not opening our borders, we leave Latin American women subjected to far more unequal conditions than those in the United States, and put their freedom, dignity, and lives at risk.

We must open our borders to all of the developing world. In the developing world, 6 million women go missing every year due to infanticide, unequal treatment during childhood, sex-selective abortion, and the risks of childbirth. Gender gaps in education, healthcare, and autonomy affect women disproportionately in developing countries compared to their first world counterparts. The proportion of women to men in higher education increases as GDP increases. Tolerance for gender-based violence increases in poorer countries. In poorer countries, women have less influence over household spending than men and their first world counterparts. Women in developing countries report having less control over their lived than women in the developed world. Female genital mutilation, leading to lifelong pain, premature death, and other complications, is concentrated in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. By refusing to open our borders, we leave women in these countries are left vulnerable to violence and domination.

Cultural change takes time. American feminists know this because at times our work feels futile. We put in countless hours and it feels like all we take are baby steps. How can we expect women around the world to wait for their culture to change while their lives are under imminent and constant threat? Open borders would be a concrete, meaningful step toward giving women around the world a better option. When you cannot fight, you must be able to flee.

 

Yes and No: Women’s Sexual Liberation is a Package Deal

Women are caught in a constant war between the pressure to have sex and the pressure not to. “Slut.” “Prude.” “I bought you dinner—why did you lead me on if you didn’t want to have sex?” Even within feminist circles, we face pressure from those who claim to care about our choices. “Sexual purity is a creation of the patriarchy.” “Sex is one of the ways men exert power over women.” “Liberated women have sex like men.” Feminism becomes divided into sex-positive and sex-negative. Sex is not positive or negative. It can be either, sure, but there is nothing inherently positive or negative about having sex. We should be framing our feminism as choice-positive or agency-positive.

A woman who has sex with a different person every weekend is no more or less liberated than a woman who waits to have sex until she has found someone she loves. Liberation is not measured in the number of sexual partners a woman has or doesn’t have. Liberation comes from agency.

In a conversation about rape culture and feminism, my conservative mom acknowledged that rape culture as I described it existed today. But when she was young, things were different, she said. Only certain “types” of women slept with men they had just met. Only those women were “fair game” for men’s unwanted sexual advances. The modern omnipresence of rape culture, then, could be tied to women’s sexual liberation. As more women have become sexually liberated, men have not abandoned the assumption that a certain type of girl is always down to fuck. The difference is that, now, we are all that type of girl.

As feminist author bell hooks wrote, “Men who were ready for female sexual liberation if it meant free pussy, no strings attached, were rarely ready for feminist female sexual agency. This agency gave us the right to say yes to sex, but it also empowered us to say no.”

Men who claim to support women’s sexual liberation if it means more blowjobs for them do not care about women’s agency. What has changed for them is not our role in the decision-making process, but their own ease of access. By equating sexual liberation with indiscriminate promiscuity, they can now pressure women to have sex with them in the name of feminism— because women who say no are puritans, held back by the patriarchy. Ding ding ding: rape culture.

Consent is positive. Choice is positive. Agency is positive. Sex itself is neutral. It can be positive or negative depending on the circumstances and the choice of the people involved. Both camps of feminists — sex-positive and sex-negative — offer valuable analysis of the way patriarchy controls women’s bodies and sexuality. But by valuing sex as positive or negative, feminists extend the limitations on agency created by patriarchy. The right to say yes and the ability to say no are a package deal. Any feminist would agree. So why does our language imply otherwise?

 

The Remaining Presidential Candidates Rated in Poop Emojis

I do not advocate voting. Ever. Electoral politics is a spectator sport for me, in which I wish every candidate could lose (because every time someone wins everyone else loses). Politics doesn’t reward decency. With that in mind, here is a ranking of all of the remaining relevant candidates for POTUS, from terrible to the absolute worst. Note: The list of everything wrong with each candidate is far from exhaustive. I need to make this snappy enough for mass consumption, mmkay?

6. Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is definitely one of the more earnest, genuine politicians I have ever seen. He is also terrible.

The Good: He voted no on the Patriot Act. He has a good record on racial justice issues and feminist issues, including a lifetime pro-choice record. He thinks marijuana should be legal to reduce incarceration rates. He supports limited immigration reform and his foreign policy is much less hawkish than his opponents. He’s always been against the death penalty.

The Bad: For a candidate who is supposedly anti-corporation, he has voted for a lot of corporate bailouts under the guise of economic stimulus. His free education plan would seriously devalue higher education, meaning more Americans will be overeducated for the jobs they can actually get. Bernie would continue the drone program, which continues to take countless innocent lives abroad. His anti-corporate sentiment often comes in the form of increased regulation to diminish competition, leading to more corporate oligarchy, not less. He opposes privatizing social security, an unsustainable system destined for bankruptcy.

The Ugly: Bernie’s protectionism is not only economically disastrous, it’s downright xenophobic. In the same vein, he does not support open borders because he believes it brings down American wages (more xenophobia and economic illiteracy). He voted for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, leading to the resignation of one of his staffers. He called the police on Code Pink and Occupy protestors at his office, which makes his past protesting arrest significantly less endearing.

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

 

5. John Kasich

My partner told me that people would complain if I didn’t include Kasich in this list. I don’t think he’s relevant, but he’s definitely terrible.

The Good: Compared to most Republicans, he’s pretty decent about gay people. He thinks government officials should respect the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, saying it’s time to move on. He supports a balanced budget. Against ethanol subsidies. Supports school choice.

The Bad: He thinks the federal government should have a Department of Judeo-Christian Values and thinks that bible stories are historical facts. He’s bad enough on abortion to be a Republican. He supports the death penalty. He opposes drug legalization.

The Ugly: He wants mentally ill people to “register” to make it harder for them to access guns. Wants to bar all Syrian refugees from the U.S. He proposed creating a Department of Propaganda.

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

 

4. Ted Cruz

To his supporters, Ted Cruz is not just a Republican. He’s a conservative. He’s also the biggest threat to Trump’s nomination.

The Good: Against bank bailouts. Wants to end sugar subsidies and corporate welfare. Not opposed to marijuana legalization. Supports localized education. Wants to eliminate the IRS, HUD, and Departments of Commerce & Energy.

The Bad: Supports the death penalty. Wants to undo the Iran nuclear deal. Opposes amnesty, as a son of an immigrant.

The Ugly: He thinks Planned Parenthood sells the parts of unborn babies, which is factually untrue. He said the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage “undermined” the Constitution, and led prayers against the ruling beforehand. Wants to defend Judeo-Christian values against “liberal fascism.” Wants to bomb the Middle East until the sand glows in the dark.

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

3. Marco Rubio

The Republican establishment’s golden boy is falling behind in this race, but if he can win Florida, he may have a chance.

The Good: Opposes economic stimulus packages. Recognizes that regulations help big banks because smaller banks can’t afford to comply with them. Acknowledges corporate influence in government.

The Bad: Opposes gay marriage but accepts it’s the “law of the land.” Opposes amnesty, as a second-generation American. Replace all property taxes with a 2.5% increase in regressive sales taxes.

The Ugly: Rubio has referred to abortion providers as barbarians. Wants to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad. Thinks being the world’s largest military power makes America safer. Thinks defense spending is the most important federal obligation, and would increase defense spending as president. Thinks we need a coherent, classified interrogation strategy (torture). Supports the NSA’s collection of data to fight terrorism. In America’s fight against ISIL, brushed off civilian casualties as “unfortunate but inevitable.” Led a chant: “Boots on the ground! Boots on the ground!” (okay he didn’t actually do that).

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

2. Donald Trump

I remember seeing Trump speak in person last July at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. I don’t know why the hell he was there, but at the time I thought of his speech, and his presidential campaign, as one big joke. He now dominates the Republican primary race, and I’m not laughing anymore.

The Good: He slammed Cheney for starting the Iraq War, and has mocked every other politician in this race as well as made a mockery of the political process in general, which I’ll count as a win for liberty.

The Bad: “Evolved” on abortion, for the worse. He wants to restrict free trade for the same reason as Bernie, and thinks free trade is losing a “competition” between nations. Blames mass shootings on mental health issues.

The Ugly: Thinks police are the most mistreated people in America. Touts racist rhetoric about immigrants raping and killing American citizens to justify the Great Wall of Trump. Makes jokes about women being on their periods when they challenge him (Megan Kelly). When I saw him speak at Freedom Fest, a Mexican-American challenged him on his stance on immigration, and Trump asked if the Mexican government had sent him.

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

1. Claire Underwood Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton will say whatever it takes to get elected. She has changed her mind on gay marriage, gun control, immigration, mass incarceration, the Iraq War, and the keystone pipeline. Some of these changes have been improvements, some have not, but regardless, we can tell she pays close attention to the polls. Why is she worse than Trump? She has a voting record.

The Good: Pro-choice. Supportive of gay marriage (now). Supports immigration reform (now). Against mass incarceration (now). Against the Iraq War (too late).

The Bad: As First Lady, she supported DOMA. As a Senator, she voted for the Iraq War. She voted to loosen restrictions on cell phone wire-tapping. She voted to authorize and reauthorize the Patriot Act. She co-sponsored a bill to criminalize flag burning. I mean, come on. She supported massive bank bail-outs, claiming that Lehman Brothers and AIG weren’t big banks. She supports the death penalty.

The Ugly: She referred to young black men as “super predators.”She also supported three-strikes laws and the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack powder to cocaine, targeting poor, black communities. She voted to build a fence on the Mexican border to keep out “illegal immigrants” and then bragged about it even after “flip flopping” to support immigration reform. She happily models her foreign policy off of that of her close friend Henry Kissinger. She is the candidate for the military-industrial complex.

Rating: 8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c8c65e5de808ec301754508366480250c

 

You Don’t Need a PhD in International Development to Know that Protectionism is Xenophobic

You Don’t Need a PhD in International Development to Know that Protectionism is Xenophobic

“You [do]n’t need a Ph.D. in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour.” –Bernie Sanders

I am not exactly sure why Bernie Sanders thinks that Americans deserve to earn more money than Mexicans for the same amount of work. 25 cents an hour is certainly not a desirable wage, not for me and not for a Mexican factory worker, but when the other option is starving, the Mexican factory worker’s decision to work for 25 cents an hour makes a lot more sense. Trade protectionism, the opposite of free trade and what Sanders is advocating, does nothing to help the Mexican factory worker. Rather, it takes away the factory worker’s only source of income.

Most arguments for protectionism are based on nationalistic prejudices about “protecting American jobs.” By forcing American companies to do business in America, we secure jobs for Americans at the expense of Mexicans (or any other foreigner). The implication of Bernie’s comments is, of course, that Americans deserve those jobs more than Mexicans. Not only do Americans deserve those jobs, but they deserve to do them for 29 times the pay (using Bernie’s 25 cent figure and a minimum wage of $7.25). They deserve to do the same jobs for 60 times the pay, when taking into account Bernie’s fight to make the minimum wage $15/hour. Why is work done by Americans worth 60 times the work done by Mexicans? Because the Americans were lucky enough to be born here.

Such sentiment can be summarized in one word: xenophobia.

So what would a world with free trade look like? Probably a lot like the United States. The United States itself is a free trade zone. We do not tax imports from state to state. As a result, we have affordable access to cheese from Wisconsin, oranges from Florida, and oil from Texas. We do not need to impose tariffs or restrictions from country to country any more than we need them from state to state.

The benefits of free trade are numerous: increased economic growth, access to high-quality low-cost goods from around the world, efficiency and innovation, competitiveness, and fairness. The United States is in a position to lead the rest of the world to free trade, by ending its trade restrictions (tariffs, embargoes, immigration restrictions, etc.). When the U.S. imposes tariffs on other countries, they impose tariffs on Americans to even the scales.

Free trade is beneficial to Americans, not just people in the developing world. The only people who benefit from restricted trade are the special interests that benefit from decreased competition (ex. the very corporations Sanders claims to despise). The Mercatus Center points out that these restrictions usually hurt many more people than they help:

Despite receiving protection from foreign competition for many decades, large firms have steadily left the US steel industry due to high fixed costs and competition from smaller firms. Tariffs on steel increase costs in steel-consuming industries, which employ 12 million Americans, compared to the 190,000 Americans employed in the steel-making industry.

Free trade has the ability to reallocate jobs based on efficiency, rather than holding Americans back in jobs where we have no comparative advantage. The reallocation of jobs based on comparative advantage leads to increased productivity and market efficiency. Unfortunately, many “free trade” agreements we see pass through congress are not free trade agreements at all, but corporate welfare in disguise. If that were Sanders’ complaint, I could get on board. Free trade is not about signing a treaty with select countries to promote corporate interests; it is about opening up the global market to improve the quality of life for everyone.

By insulating and protecting American workers, we bar underprivileged workers in other countries from competing on a global scale. Opponents of globalization have argued that that’s actually a good thing, but that just does not make sense economically. By shutting developing countries out of global trade, we stagnate their chances of economic growth, reinforcing global wealth disparities, and we greatly limit our own access to high quality and affordable goods from around the world.

Being fortunate enough to have been born in the United States does not make you more deserving or more valuable than anyone else in the world. The implication of driving foreign actors out of American markets is fundamentally xenophobic and based in nativist prejudices and tendencies.

Emma Goldman: Woman Suffrage and Feminist Idols (Revisited)

Emma Goldman: Woman Suffrage and Feminist Idols (Revisited)

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” I decided to celebrate by honoring one of my favorite women, Emma Goldman. As I have before with Voltairine de Cleyre, I will revisit one of her classic essays from a modern perspective.

As an anarchist, Emma Goldman had no patience for the women’s suffrage movement of her era. In her 1910 essay, “Woman Suffrage,” she called suffrage a fetish and an idol. In her own words, “In her blind devotion woman does not see what people of intellect perceived fifty years ago: that suffrage is an evil, that it has only helped to enslave people, that it has but closed their eyes that they may not see how craftily they were made to submit.” Goldman thought that activists should be focused on radical revolutionary goals, not asking for greater privileges within an inherently unjust system. She viewed suffrage as a distraction, not an end goal.

More than one hundred years later, and 94 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, was Goldman right?

In short, yes. Legislative changes are lagging indicators of cultural change. Asking an oppressor to grant the oppressed more privileges has never been the most effective strategy to achieve social change. The eventual success of woman suffrage, the great golden idol of the early women’s movement, effectively quashed the women’s movement for fifty years.

By focusing an entire movement on one specific legislative change, we lose sight of our end goal. The right to vote is not an end goal, but a means to further the end goal of equal socio-economic and cultural status for women as for men. By forgetting their end goal and focusing on voting, the early women’s movement set women back immeasurably.

Another, more recent example of a movement losing sight of the end goal is the gay rights movement’s focus on gay marriage. By avidly pursuing legislative changes to marriage laws and forgetting the end goal of equal socio-economic and cultural status, much of the movement subsided when equal marriage was achieved. An activist wrote that the gay rights battle was over for libertarians, as though strides could or should not be made outside of the government. At the altar of marriage equality, we forget to look beyond and take into account the full LGBT+ spectrum, as well as our overarching goals.

Emma wrote of woman suffrage in other countries and its effect on the long-term goal:

The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the laws.  Are the labor conditions better there than they are in England, where the suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle? Does there exist a greater motherhood, happier and freer children than in England?  Is woman there no longer considered a mere sex commodity?  Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double standard of morality for men and women?

Emma’s observations that her society had a deeply problematic view of women, which voting could not change, did not catch on again until much later, with the rise of second wave feminism. Second wave feminism came and went in a flurry of revolutionary, powerful rhetoric and seemingly lofty, but inspiring goals. Decidedly white-centric and trans and sex-worker exclusionary, second wave feminism was far from perfect, but it was about more than a vote, more than a piece of legislation, it was about rocking the foundations on which society thought of gender.

In the third wave, we can bring forward the end goals and broad focus of second wave feminism, but uplift all women. We should remember that feminism is not all about electing a war criminal woman as president, or passing the Equal Pay Act. Our feminism is about challenging what it means to be a woman or a man and knocking down the idol “gender” that society holds so near and dear. We have the potential to change the world, so let’s take a clue from Emma and leave the idols behind.

Some Public Moral Goods are Not Optional, A Reply to Roderick Long

In Roderick Long’s essay, “On Making Small Contributions to Evil,” Long attempts to tackle tough moral questions such as veganism, environmentalism, and tax evasion. In each case, participation in the cause comes at great personal expense with very little marginal societal benefit. Long argues that we do not have an obligation to participate in all of these causes, but to pick a number of them to focus on, and disregard the rest. After all, not everyone can do everything, and we can only account for our own morality, not the morality of society as a whole.

Long is right that we should not sacrifice ourselves for the sake of society as a whole. We must pick and choose between those public moral goods because we cannot do it all. I do not disagree that public moral goods exist. However, we can find reasons to fight for these types of causes beyond our own marginal benefit to society, and there are some public moral goods that are not morally optional.

One of the reasons we may participate in a cause is the joy we get from doing what we think is right. Altruism is not pure self-sacrifice when doing good and helping others feels good. Virtuous people derive happiness from virtuous acts, so by cultivating virtue within ourselves, we can more confidently decide which social causes are worth the “sacrifice.” The “sacrifice” is the cost associated with acting on a public moral good, including the opportunity cost of not choosing something else.

Recycling has very little social impact on an individual level, and can be a pain in the ass. Is it virtuous to recycle? That depends on facts about the particularized eudaimonia of the person making the decision. The cost associated with recycling for a person that is already devoting time and resources to many other social causes is much higher than the cost of recycling for a person who is sitting at home doing nothing all day. A person who is especially passionate about the environment will derive much more joy from recycling than someone who could not care less. By taking into account facts about our particularized eudaimonia, such as our individual interests, talents, and commitments, we can best decide which public moral goods to focus on.

Sometimes, however, looking at our particular circumstances is not enough. Take an extreme example: child pornography. Producing child pornography is obviously immoral as a violation of autonomy and consent. But following Long’s analysis, is consumption of child pornography not immoral? One person’s decision not to purchase it will not affect its production. For a pedophile, not buying child pornography may come at a loss of psychological pleasure. However, consuming child pornography for free seems to be no less immoral. Therefore, there must be a reason not to consume child pornography beyond its societal effect. What does it say about a person’s compassion and empathy that they can watch the violation of a child without feeling distraught? An empathetic, compassionate, virtuous person could not consume child pornography without guilt, regardless of the marginal societal benefit of them refraining from doing so.

 

Long discusses veganism as a public moral good we may consider. Veganism, unlike participation in many other public moral goods, is not time-consuming, so we do not have to choose between being vegan and doing something else. One individual person going vegan does not affect meat production. However, what does it say about someone as a person if they can eat an animal knowingly without feeling any guilt or aversion? If one is an empathetic, compassionate, virtuous individual, eating meat should make them feel bad. Going vegan would have very little societal impact on the status of animals, but one may choose not to eat meat because doing so causes them, as a compassionate, empathetic person, distress. However, if one lives in a food desert or has very little access to vegan food or lacks support from family, the personal costs of veganism may be too high for even the most virtuous individual.

With veganism, just as in the child porn example*, production may be worse than consumption. However, one step of removal from production is far from morally agreeable. Our moral obligations with regard to either do not depend on the social benefit of doing so or our duty to the public good, but on what our actions in either circumstance say about us as people. When weighing public moral goods, we should not forget to account for the relative importance of different social goods or what our actions with regard to public moral goods say about us as people.

Every virtuous decision is the result of reasoning and personal judgment, while taking into account the specific circumstances of the given situation. We cannot prescribe the correct action for every person in every situation, because the correct action depends on facts about the person in question that we do not have access to. When we weigh the benefits of taking on a social cause with the personal costs of doing so, we can determine which causes are worth our individual time and energy.

*I do not think eating meat and consuming child pornography are morally equivalent, but they are similar in that they are morally wrong regardless of the public moral evil associated with them.

This post was originally published on March 7, 2016 on thecirclemolinari.com.

Bernie Sanders, Mental Illness Is Not a Joke

Bernie Sanders, Mental Illness Is Not a Joke

On Sunday night in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders thought it would be cute to hint that the Republican presidential candidates were mentally ill.

“When I’m elected president, we’re going to invest a lot of money into mental health and when you watch these Republican debates you know why we need to invest in mental health,” the Vermont senator joked at the last Democratic debate before the Michigan primary.

Bernie Sanders, mental illness is not a joke. Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are not funny buzzwords to hurl at opponents. “Mentally ill” does not mean stupid or incompetent. Feeding into harmful cultural stereotypes about people who think differently to knock other people down is neither progressive nor amusing; it is regressive and cruel.

Sanders claims to care about supporting the mentally ill, as he brags about the money he will spend on mental health as president, but he still thinks mental illness is an appropriate insult.

As I have previously written, “Much of mental illness is socially constructed. By using medical diagnoses to condemn patterns of thinking, we stigmatize and alienate anyone who thinks differently from what the capitalist, patriarchal state will accept.”

To those who are stigmatized and marginalized by harmful characterizations of mental illness, Sanders’ remarks are nothing new. We hear comments just like them every day in the news, from our families and friends, from strangers. Every time we are lumped in with a demagogical presidential hopeful or a mass shooter under the pretense of helping us, we fall further to the margins.

Bernie Sanders, and all those who tote us around to further their political careers: mental illness is not a joke, and joking at the expense of those you claim to care about is the opposite of being an ally.

March 2016 – Blog Update

As you, dear reader, may have noticed, I just uploaded all of my articles from the past year that were published on other websites so you can view all my content in one place. I apologize for the bombardment of articles over the course of an hour, but I decided I wanted to catch this blog up to speed and make better use of my domain name.

From now on, I plan to be much more active with this blog, writing down my thoughts more frequently, and posting many of them here first, rather than posting them elsewhere and then reposting here. Stay tuned.

Hillary Clinton’s War On Women

“Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, and more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children.” ~ Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton leads race for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016. Liberal feminists such as Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, and Lena Dunham continue to tout Clinton as the candidate for women. Planned Parenthood has officially endorsed the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, calling her a champion for women’s rights. Clinton may have the best shot at being the first woman POTUS, but she is no feminist hero.

In Clinton’s own words, women have always been the primary victims of war, but Clinton is the most pro-war candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Democrat or Republican. Furthermore, she has the record to back it up.

In November, Clinton gave a speech describing her vision for the United States’ role in the Middle East:

“No other country can rally the world to defeat ISIS and win the generational struggle against radical jihadism. Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale, and that’s exactly what we need. The entire world must be part of this fight, but we must lead it.”

Hawkish rhetoric is nothing new for Clinton. Take, for example, her 2002 statementson the American invasion of Iraq:

“…If left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

As a Senator, Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War, and in 2008, defended her vote, saying, “I believe in coercive diplomacy.” She also voted against the Levin Amendment in 2002, an amendment that would have given the UN veto power over United States military action. In 2004, she voted in favor of allocating $86 billion of the U.S. budget to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. She voted against withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2007.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s record is horrific. Clinton aggressively pursuedregime changes in Libya and Syria, leading to the creation of ISIS, war in Mali, and the strengthening of terrorist group Boko Haram. Regime change has historically beenterrible for national security, leading to blowback and the creation of newer, bigger, more oppressive threats to both citizens of the United States and citizens of the Middle East.

In a recent Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton bragged that she sought the support and counsel of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger himself has described Clinton’s run at the State Department “the most effective…[he’s] ever seen.”

Hillary Clinton was right about one thing: women are disproportionately affected by war. In 2003, the UN released a statement saying that women suffer disproportionately during and after war. War magnifies gender inequality and breaks down the social networks that women need to survive. ISIS has filled the vacuum Hillary created in Syria, executing, raping, and trafficking the region’s women along the way.

Gender inequality during and after conflict is not limited to sexual and gender-based violence; it touches every aspect of women’s lives. Clinton’s Syrian disaster led to the Syrian refugee crisis, and while men bear the bulk of mortality during war, women make up the majority of refugees. War also puts widows at a higher risk of poverty, especially in countries where social norms dictate that men make up the workforce and women stay at home. The notion that the United States as an external force can somehow change these cultural norms is part of the same democracy-spreading farceGeorge W. Bush touted during his hawkish presidency.

Violence and imperialism do not liberate women. External force and rampant destruction do not liberate women. Hillary Clinton’s incessant war mongering and disregard for the basic human rights of non-Americans do not liberate women. Women liberate themselves when they take control over their lives and their futures against all odds. Kurdish women defending their families from ISIS and US airstrikes are feminist heroes. Hillary Clinton is a violent oppressor. Know the difference.

This was originally published on February 25, 2016 at Antiwar.com.