Old “flirting” tips still suck after all these years

anti-flirt-club

Where do I sign up?

Yes, the Anti-Flirt Club was a real thing…back in the 1920s, when cars were beginning to take over the roads from horses and buggies, and motorized mashers were routinely pushing their luck with young women to whom they “chivalrously” offered lifts. Alice Reighly and her anti-flirt gang set out to protect their younger sisters from stranger (and not-so-stranger) danger by warning them against any behavior that might encourage unwanted attentions.

But while this club (and the antiquated, victim-blamey social code it perpetuated, albeit with good intentions) is now a thing of the largely forgotten past, some “flirting” tips which must be from at least as long ago are still au courant, at least according to one German girls’ magazine, ridiculed by EMMA:

Yesterday, about 4 p.m., EMMA conference. On the table, a printed list of 100 flirting tips for women, from Bravo.de. Title: “How to make boys notice you: 100 tips for a knockout aura”.

For women over 30, it was an unexpected trip back in time. Take Flirting Tip #20, for example: “Stumble into your crush. Apologize profusely. He’ll find you totally cute, because you’re such a little klutz.”

Such, pardon me, bullshit has been in Bravo (and Bravo Girl) since forever. Even the tip about dreamily twirling a strand of one’s hair (“It’s girly and sweet!”) seems somehow familiar.

“I’ll write ten points on how Bravo has screwed up youth, in hindsight, for women like me”, proposes Colleague #1, born in 1980.

“Why all the fuss? Nobody reads Bravo anymore,” says Colleague #2, who still remembers the magazine from the 1970s.

Even our intern, who at 18 is closer in age to Bravo’s target group than any EMMA editor, shrugs her shoulders indifferently and says, “We used to read it” — in her case, an eternity of some four years ago. “Mostly it was boys buying Bravo, so they could look at the pictures of naked girls.”

Aha. Even there, it seems, nothing’s changed.

Briefly, for people under 25, who grew up with the Internet and smartphones: Way back, before the invention of the World Wide Web, and looooong before there was Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat, even before MySpace and StudiVZ, young people read a leaflet of crumply paper, in which many a, shall we say, imaginative article about stars and starlets appeared, which were popular among teenagers (along with autograph cards and life-sized posters). As well as pages and pages of kitchen-psychological life advice (“Psycho-test: How self-confident do you appear?”). And extensively illustrated sex tips. Voilà, Bravo.

Today, the magazine is fighting against a dwindling readership. Colleague #2 is right: Nobody really reads it anymore. The 100 flirting tips are actually yesterday’s news: They’ve been online since the beginning of July, unnoticed. Why, is clear: Young people today would rather run their own YouTube channel, and some are so successful at it that they can even interview the Chancellor herself, as a guy who calls himself LeFloid recently did.

But just a few hours after the conference, the Internet buzzed. The hashtag #flirtennachbravo (#FlirtingAccordingToBravo) trended on Twitter. Outrage over the 100 tips even made it to the homepage of the freemail service Gmx.de — in other words, even reaching people who don’t read news, but who will read e-mails. Above all, women made fun of the list: “Rules 1-99: Bend yourself out of shape to get boys to like you. Only then are you worth anything. Rule 100: Be yourself. YOLO”, tweeted one. “Essence of #flirtennachbravo tips: Submissiveness and conformity. The ’70s want their magazine back,” writes another. Or: “Steal your parents’ car and run it into that sweet boy. Then you can visit him the next day in the hospital.”

Bravo hasn’t gotten this much attention in years. Why all the fuss?

Two answers come to mind. First: Sooner or later, women realize, with a mixture of shame and rage, the amount of manipulation that lurks in such articles. But that won’t stop them from reading more of these articles. We can see that in the broad market for women’s magazines, online and print, that all do nothing but what Bravo has done with this list: train women to be creatures who want to please men, and must.

Of course, this message comes with the advice: Be natural and be yourself. Which is why even 12-year-olds start to optimize their bodies. Because, as the logic holds: A woman is only herself when she is as flexible and beautiful as the current beauty ideal — and she’ll get there with the lipstick from Page 12, the dress from Page 30, and the diet from Page 56. Or, as Bravo would say: “Wear an orange or peach-colored scarf around your neck. That makes your complexion glow and makes you look more attractive” (Flirting Tip #43).

Secondly: In the meantime, women are using the Internet very successfully to defend themselves against such sex-role clichés. And above all, to present counter-examples.

The current shitstorm also arises from a third cause: For days, the Net has been buzzing, not about the lovely Bravo list, but about hot, hot hotpants. Under the hashtag #hotpantsverbot, all of Germany is debating whether it’s prudish or appropriate for the director of a vocational school in Horb-Altheim to bring in a dress code for her school. The Bravo list is just a sideshow.

The main show is, no doubt about it, the female body in itself, which is being discussed over and over again, whether it’s about hotpants or flirting tips. And as is so often the case, here again there are only two poles in the discussion: Women should be modest and pleasing. Or: Women should be (but now reallytrulyfinallysupervoluntarily) sexy. Madonna and whore. What women are never allowed to do: Simply be.

Meanwhile, Bravo has taken down the 100 tips. The magazine writes: “Last week, we published an article on the subject ‘100 tips for a knockout aura’, which has been the cause for discussion by some of you, but in particular the media public. We were criticized for painting a backward picture of women. In fact, some of the tips are absolutely unfortunate, and on the whole, the report doesn’t meet the quality standards that we ourselves have set. For this, we would like to expressly apologize.”

It’s a small victory.

Translation mine. Links as in original.

A victory, indeed. And one that could only have happened with today’s communication technology and networks. How I wish the Internet had existed when I was a confused young thing. Oh, what fun I’d have had hashtagging all the idiocy that came my way. Here’s a small sampling:

I think I saw “tips” just like those on The Brady Bunch, once. Or was it The Partridge Family? It’s hard to remember. I was just a kid. It was like 40 years ago, and I’m an Old. But the show did demonstrate how silly such tips were, because they always backfired spectacularly on the poor girl who tried to implement them. The take-home message: This “advice” is outdated and dumb. And if you try to use it, you’ll look outdated and dumb, too.

And then, just when you’d think some progress had been made, I saw the exact same crap in the teen magazines I read in the 1980s…all the while shaking my little messy head (no doubt ratty from all that ditzy hair-twirling, which is a disgusting nervous habit, not “girly and sweet”), and wondering how on Earth this “advice” (which smelled of 1950s-vintage mothballs) was supposed to be practical. Because it was all so blatantly contradictory: Be yourself, guys like natural women! Here, go on this crash diet to fit into this hot outfit! No, wait: Boys like ’em curvy, so eat those two scoops of ice cream and don’t worry about it! But don’t overdo the burgers and fries. You are what you eat! You wouldn’t want to turn into a cow or a greasy potato, would you?

I swear, I read reams of that. Wish I still had those rags, if only so I could scan a few representative pages and show ’em to you. It was a mind-fuck, kiddies.

Also, I think I’ve actually tried Bravo Tip #20. Inadvertently, mind you, since I really AM a little klutz, and I used to get discombobulated (and still sometimes do) at the mere sight of L’Amour Du Jour. Unfortunately, I don’t recall him finding it cute at all. Most likely, he thought I was an idiot. As did I. (That may have been the only real thing he and I ever had in common. Damn!)

And while I really do look good in peach, and must confess I do own quite a few scarves that color, I’ve never worn it just to flirt. Mostly, I wore it because I liked it, and liked how I looked in it, and how it made me feel: warm, cozy, quietly confident, and for once, MYSELF. Yes, that’s right: I WORE IT FOR MYSELF, AND NOT SOME DAMN DUMB DUDE. (Sorry for the ALL FUCKING CAPS SHOUTING, but it had to be said out loud.)

Oh yeah: Speaking of damn dumb dudes, here’s something else from the ol’ Eighties memory bank: Thirteen-year-old me had the (cough) privilege of having one boy I had a minor crush on at the time tell me that he didn’t know why I bothered with makeup, because he didn’t like it. As though I was doing it for HIM. No, Jim, it wasn’t for YOU. It was for ME. Dabbing different colors on one’s face is a surprisingly introspective, meditative art for some of us. It’s our own private theatre, and we do it for the fun of seeing what new persona emerges in the mirror, not to rouse (or kill) your stupid boner.

(And, in case you’re wondering: No, I didn’t like Jim anymore after he gave me that little unsolicited bit of “advice”. Not even hardly. I felt nothing for him after that but a sickly mixture of pity and contempt. Sucks to be you, Jim.)

And this was just the first time. There were others. I kept running afoul of “Jim”, in one form or another, all through high school, university, journalism school, and so on. Maybe it’s just as well I had no tweeter back then; there were way too many guys to put on blast, and who has the time for that? I was too busy trying to unfuck my head every time they’d messed with it. I’ve given up all hope of finding out at what precise age they outgrow it. I suspect they never do, because no one ever tells them to. I certainly never could, because I could never rehinge my jaw in time; the sheer force of the gobsmack is too great. Always, always it amazes me how dim a technically very bright, adult guy can be when confronted with a female person who doesn’t live up to his petty expectations.

It’s like they all revert to the mental age of 13; probably because by that age, they’ve already been programmed by propaganda to think of us as Lesser Beings. It’s not their hormones talking; it’s their training. Little boys get taught early and often to think of females as lesser, if they think of them at all. And they get shitty advice on how to deal with us, too. Fathers pass it on to sons, men’s mags pass it on to readers (who are usually boys hitting puberty and looking for something to wank to), and on and on it goes in an endless vicious loop. And just at the age where they’re starting to think of girls as something other than cootie-ridden pink things, BLAMMO! — out comes all that ingrained sexism in one rude, cutting “opinion” that no one asked for. GIGO has never held more true.

Pity no one ever teaches boys that opening their big yaps and letting ‘er rip can instantly kill any liking or respect a girl might have for them. Maybe boys’ and men’s mags should carry articles on that sometime, instead of all the vapid fap-fodder they print that’s not fit to wipe one’s ass with.

And yeah, how about just letting women and girls simply BE? Not to do, be, wear things, etc. AT some male or other, but to do, be and wear things to please no one but our own fine selves?

Clearly, that all is too much to ask. Only boys are allowed to simply be (and boys will be boys, don’tcha know). Girls have to be…well, whatever boys want them to be. Which has no clear definition but, it seems, is anything but themselves. And has been since time out of mind…

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the old Anti-Flirt Club. This time with a new purpose: not to slut-shame or morally panic young women into acting more modestly in the vain hope that all those bounders and cads would stop getting the wrong idea (because they get those wrong ideas from other men, not women), but to teach the guys that the gals don’t exist just for their use and pleasure. That girls and women are people, and no matter what they look like, or do, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And that when you treat them right, good things happen. Things like true friendships, honest communication, and the sense that love and life are collaborative adventures, not a messy brawl in which there can only be one victor.

Think it would catch on?

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Of knockout drops and pudding pops: The “respectability” of Bill Cosby

bill-cosby-pudding-pops

Isn’t this old Bloom County ‘toon prescient? Because yes, there is finally a black man in the White House, and sure ‘nough, he’s a conservative — and fuck all those racist idiot ratbastards who claim he’s a socialist from Kenya. They know nothing about Kenya. Or socialism. (BTW, Bloom County is FINALLY coming back to the newspapers this year, presumably to make hay off Donald Trump’s toupée. Yay!)

Anyhow. Black conservatism, a.k.a. Respectability Politics, is what I came here to rant about this fine morning. And yes, Bill Cosby figures prominently in all that.

About ten years ago, you see, Bill Cosby said something about black kids needing to dress better and act more respectable, so all the totally-not-racist white people would finally start treating them as human beings, instead of the filthy animals they’ve long been made out to be — first under slavery, then Jim Crow, and most recently, drug policing. That latter, by the way, is what spawned the sloppy-pants trend in the first place.

It’s called “sagging” now, but originally it was called jailing, and it all began when black kids started being rounded up en masse and sent to jail for extended periods — often for the kind of simple, small-scale marijuana possession that would get a richer — ahem, more respectable — white kid let off with a warning. In the jails, you’re stripped of anything you might want to hang yourself with, be it belts, shoelaces, or what have you. So you have no choice but to slop around in baggy pants hanging off your skinny hips, and unlaced sneakers too big for your feet. The fashion became an ironic commentary on the futility and stupidity of trying to be “respectable” when nobody respected you, just on the basis of your color alone.

And then Bill Cosby came out with that whole “pull up your pants” shit. Like he hadn’t even been paying attention to what was going on while black kids were being decimated by crack cocaine (which the CIA, by the way, actively allowed to come in, because those cuddly Nicaraguan “Contras” who trafficked the stuff just needed some love!)

It was a stupid thing to say, and it was precisely the sort of thing one would expect of someone who couldn’t bring himself to say the R-word, because those same oh-so-conservative white folks who made the bad drug laws (and let the bad drugs into the ghettoes) had, after all, bankrolled him. And how could Bill denounce something that had basically made him who he is? Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima are fictional figures, based on the old plantation stereotypes of happy, respectable “house negroes”, but Bill Cosby was the real, present-day thing, and he made a lot of boodle pushing Jell-O Pudding Pops. Chocolate AND vanilla!

And now we know that the entire time he was preaching Respectability and shit, Bill Cosby was, in fact, pushing illegal drugs himself. Onto women. Black women, white women, didn’t make no nevermind to ol’ Bill. He liked both chocolate AND vanilla, and he preferred them all to be unconscious when he did…well, whatever it was he did to them that none of them can remember a thing of after he fed them alcohol laced with knockout drops.

When you get dozens of women all describing remarkably similar patterns of behavior, you know something is hinky in Huxtable Manor. You’d think that the word of at least 50 different women would be enough to send him up Shit Creek, but no. Nothing less than an admission of guilt — to buying Quaaludes under seven prescriptions! — was enough to finally convince respectable (cough) folks that yes, Bill Cosby DID rape all those women whom nobody believed.

What’s really shameful was how he got away with such blatant abuse for decades. Even now, Bill Cosby is still not in jail. Because, as Cee Lo Green said, it ain’t rape if you can’t remember shit. Right?

WRONG.

It IS rape when the victim can’t remember what happened between that funky-tasting drink he kept urging her to have (and which she didn’t actually want), and waking up sore between her legs the next morning while he hung around her naked self in his bathrobe, looking all weirdly smug. It is, by definition, rape — because she did not consent to being penetrated. The very fact that her assailant had to administer drugs to make her pliable ought to be a huge red flag.

But the proponents of Respectability are especially hard on women, be they chocolate or vanilla. You can’t prove anything! they say. She took that drink willingly! That means she consented to sex! Women don’t accept drinks from men unless they want to — and if they do, that makes them filthy sluts whom you should never believe!

Wrong again. Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong WRONG.

Taking a drink of alcohol — especially one that’s been drugged and urged upon you by a man with ulterior motives — is NOT consent. Only the word “yes”, freely and consciously given, is consent. Only if a man asks if you want to have sex, and you say you do, is it consent. There is nothing difficult or complicated or “grey” about this, people. Anything outside of that simple, clear band is coercion, and that makes these creepy encounters rape. By definition.

But even now, the proponents of Respectability are still trying to spin this to make their misogyny (and their misogynoir) look normal. You see some mighty strange things at the corner of Racist and Sexist, including old married ladies who, even knowing that their husbands have done wrong, still defend him as though their own lives depended on his innocence. Yes, Camille Cosby, I’m talking about YOU here. Being his business manager, as well as his wife, no doubt gives you a stake in his “respectable” image…and also makes you complicit in his crimes, when all’s said. After all, covering up a crime is a crime in itself.

Bill Cosby is no Trayvon Martin. He’s no Emmett Till, either. There is no need to defend him in the name of black kids who couldn’t defend themselves. He is perfectly capable of sticking up for himself if he so pleases. Nobody’s lynching him for crimes he did not commit. He’s still walking free, and still making money off his public appearances, where he routinely tells unfunny “jokes” about how to get women to “have sex with” you by drugging them. And it seems that he will go right on doing so until a warrant goes out for his arrest — or someone flings rotten tomatoes and makes them stick, whichever comes first. Money, and the appearance of respectability it confers, goes a long way toward excusing just about anything, you see. And he’s still making it by the bucketful. In his sleep, even.

Yes, I do believe it is finally okay to loathe Bill Cosby and his fucking pudding pops. And all the racism and sexism that he’s perpetuated in the name of Respectability, too.

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A few random thoughts on the Duggar scandal

duggars-persecution

Would you trust these people to teach YOU morality? If the answer is yes, you just might be a Pharisee.

So, this happened. Finally, after years of parading their nauseating Quiverfull sanctimony on the Internets and TV to the tune of big, BIG bucks, the Duggars are off the air. How come?

Well, it seems that their eldest son, Josh, was a very naughty boy. And a very hypocritical man, too, for years after the fact. And they themselves aided and abetted him by sweeping his abuse — much of it downright incestuous — under the rug. And by throwing his victims — their own daughters — under the bus.

So it’s kind of sweet to see them finally reaping a little bit of what they sowed. And no small relief to know that they’ve been denied at least one major media mouthpiece for their despicable views. I’m guessing that ol’ Jim Bob and Michelle might want to put off trying for Sprog #20 indefinitely now, seeing as their gravy train — or clown car, rather — has screeched to a sudden halt.

But hold your hosannas, folks, because there’s not much to cheer about here.

For starters: Josh Duggar never did any time for his crimes. The abuses in question all took place over a decade ago. For a dozen years or more, several girls have been carrying this heavy secret around, effectively covering for their abuser. They don’t dare speak out themselves, because that would call the entire Quiverfull movement (a cult, really) into question. Because its teachings are heavily to blame for both their molestation and its cover-up.

And then there’s the big question of how they were treated following the assaults. Did they get proper counselling and treatment for the traumas they endured? I don’t know, but somehow I doubt it. Did they get slut-shamed by the all-male cult “headship” for “tempting” him with their budding young bodies? I don’t know either, but I certainly wouldn’t doubt it. For a fertility cult, the Quiverfulls sure do rely a lot on female chastity. And they make sure it’s enforced through a strict, home-schooled “purity culture”, heavy on patriarchal dogma and light on useful knowledge. Their overall education is far from comprehensive (or accurate), so I’m guessing that their sexual education is at best sketchy. Knowledge is power, and the fact that the junior Duggars have been brought up on an unholy broth of ignorance and lies doesn’t bode well for their future autonomy. Unless, of course, they do what a growing number of the Phelps clan have done, and exit the family cult. (Run, Jinger, RUN!)

And then there’s the fact that Josh Duggar has actually done quite well for himself and his own Quiverfull brood in the interim, working for an infamous right-wing stink tank, the Family Research Council. He had to resign when this scandal finally grew beyond all hope of damage control, but the real damage he did while in their employ is still being felt by women and queerfolk. After all, those wingnuts he worked for helped keep Arkansas in the transphobic Dark Ages. And they did it by enlisting Josh’s mom, Michelle Duggar, to record a disgusting robocall about evil, wicked trans people out to rape everyone’s sweet, virginal daughters. It worked, too: Arkansas’s proposed anti-discrimination law didn’t pass.

Never mind that the biggest threat to women and girls is not the imaginary man-in-drag claiming to be a woman so he can break into bathrooms to sexually assault little girls, that “queer” variation on the hoary old theme of Stranger Danger. Never mind that actual cases of women or girls being assaulted by such individuals simply don’t exist. No, let’s all go on ignoring the real threat, that smirking dough-ball in a suit, who pushed crapaganda about phantom menaces while keeping his own very real sex crimes hidden in the old family closet.

Even some otherwise intelligent radical feminists have fallen for that lie, which is a testimony to the insidious power of the Duggars and their ilk. It’s also a testimony to the power of dogma and antiquated ideology. Here’s a pro tip, my rad-fem comrades: If you find your views on gender dovetailing inextricably with those of the Religious Reich, you’re not pushing for women’s liberation anymore. You’re pushing against it, and you don’t even know it.

And here’s another, just for good measure: Trans women are not “really men”, they are really WOMEN. And they’re being abused by the same people who are selling you those dirty lies about their gender. When a trans woman is forced to use the men’s room because she doesn’t “pass”, and she gets assaulted for it, that’s abuse. That’s on all of those who pushed to keep trans people’s rights unprotected. And if you joined in that push, congratulations: You’ve made common cause with the enemies of all women.

You want to liberate women from patriarchy? Great! Then recognize your trans sisters as women. Stop fretting over what’s between their legs. Learn their concerns; you’ll find that they mesh nicely with yours. Bigotries tend to cluster, so a unified front — that’s the real meaning of intersectionality — is needed to combat them. Don’t do the bigots’ work for them! Fight the patriarchy and its dogmas, not the trans women who are their victims.

And if you meet a trans woman in the public toilets, don’t panic. Remember, she’s there for the same reasons you are. You didn’t come to perpetrate a sexual assault? Good, because neither did she. Isn’t it a relief to know that she’s only there to relieve herself, same as you?

And if any man is lurking in the vicinity, waiting for victims, I doubt very much that he’d bother to dress in drag first. Unless, of course, his costume is that of the fine, upstanding family man who can do no wrong. That one fools the whole world, every single time.

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Ontario sex-ed fight gets ugly. What century is this, again?

sex-ed-daughter

Good lord. I would have thought that teaching kids the facts of life at public school was no longer even a little bit controversial, but apparently it’s become just that. AGAIN. And today, in the Ontario Legislature, the pot boiled over:

Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Essex), a leadership hopeful, attacked Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday for not doing enough to consult parents before implementing the new syllabus that takes effect in September.

McNaughton told the house that the premier should not be imposing views upon mothers and fathers concerned about the revised program designed to protect children by better informing them about sex.

Note that the oh-so-concerned-for-concerned-parents Mr. McNaughton is a Conservative “leadership hopeful”. Hence all his laudable, laudable concern for the unheard voices of parents who don’t want their kids learning anything about sex at school. His leadership hopes took a bit of a trouncing, though, at the hands of the woman whose job he’s eyeballing:

Wynne, Ontario’s first female premier and lone openly lesbian first minister, suggested the Tory MPP was being homophobic when he said Monday “it’s not the premier of Ontario’s job — especially Kathleen Wynne — to tell parents what’s age-appropriate for their children.”

“What is it that especially disqualifies me for the job that I’m doing? Is it that I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?” she told the house.

“What is it exactly that the member opposite thinks disqualifies me from doing the job that I’m doing? What is that?”

Yeah, Monte, go on going after her job. After all, she’s just a trained schoolteacher with a master’s degree, a former provincial education minister, AND a parent. What the hell would SHE know about age-appropriate sex ed?

Could the real reason he’s so squiffy toward her new curriculum be none other than the simple fact that she’s gay? Or is it something more sinister, namely the anti-intellectual bent that we’ve seen so much of in the Ontario SupposiTories since the bad old days of Mike Harris and his No-Sense Devolution, when he put a high-school drop-out in charge of the provincial education ministry and basically ordered ol’ Snowballs to ransack it and leave no textbook untorn? The same generation that grew up on a starved education system now takes such governmental neglect for not only normal, but a correct course of action. Twenty years of undoing the good work of William B. Davis, the Education Premier?

Yeah, let’s stay the course. That’s still an electable strategy, right? I mean, just look at the peanut gallery these guys are playing to:

McNaughton and one of his rival PC leadership candidates — MP Patrick Brown (Barrie) — met with the raucous protesters, many of whom brandished anti-abortion signs.

Yup, it’s the anti-intellectual brigade, out in full force against anything that might inform their kids more and better than they themselves would! To hear this crowd talk, you’d think that just not telling kids anything about sex at all, other than “don’t do it till you’re married, and only for procreation” would be an effective means of preventing unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and that deadliest of all sins, Teh Ghey. Meanwhile, the precious, protected children of people like these grow into the kind of harassers who stand outside women’s health clinics, baptizing imaginary “murdered” babies.

But what am I saying? Nobody knows better than a parent what’s really good for the kids, right? RIGHT???

“Parents should be the first educators on serious issues like sex education . . . Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are not respecting parents,” McNaughton told a rally of more than 200 people outside the legislature.

Oh, but of course. Parents are the bestest sex educators a kid could have. And the government has no right to “interfere”! That’s why schools that teach “abstinence only”, in accordance with religious parents’ wishes, have higher pregnancy rates and STD rates than schools that teach comprehensive sex ed. That’s why so many people whose parents “protected” them by withholding all sex information other than “Just Don’t Do It” are parents before their time, perpetuating the vicious cycle faster and faster than ever before. That’s why antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea and syphilis are wreaking havoc on kids whose folks told them condoms were the devil’s toys. That’s why AIDS is still incurable and there’s no vaccine on the market for it yet. The same people who think a few shots of Gardasil will turn their daughters into harlots when those girls haven’t even put down their Barbie dolls yet. The same whose kids are so desperate to learn anything at all about sex that they turn to porn for info. Yeah, those people are the greatest sexperts on Earth, and nothing they say could possibly be fallible.

And it could never fail their kids, either.

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Happy Human Rights Day!

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“We will impose sanctions on those who defend human rights!” Once more, a Venezuelan cartoonist — this time, it’s Uncas — hits the nail on the head.

And in honor of Human Rights Day, here’s another fine example of how the US doesn’t lead when it comes to human rights, it just crushes them underfoot, like Orwell’s boot stomping on a human face forever:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today released the executive summary of its long-awaited “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” describing in more than 500 pages a dysfunctional agency so unprepared to handle suspected terrorist detainees after 9/11, that the CIA bought into private contractors’ proposals for torture, and then lied to Congress, President Bush, the Justice Department, the public, and to itself about the purported effectiveness of the program.

The Senate release includes a 6-page foreword by committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a 19-page list of 20 specific Findings and Conclusions, and a 499-page Executive Summary which details the development of the torture program after 9/11. The longest single section of the Summary, from page 172 to page 400, eviscerates the CIA’s “eight primary CIA effectiveness representations” along with 12 “secondary” ones by showing either there was “no relationship” between the cited success and detainee information “during or after” the CIA’s use of torture, or that such information was otherwise available and even obtained prior to the use of torture.

Translation: TORTURE DOESN’T FUCKING WORK.

Also, THE CIA IS THE SAME EVIL BAND OF JACKALS AS IT WAS WHEN IT PLOTTED TO KILL JFK. IT HASN’T CHANGED ONE FUCKING IOTA.

And in addition to that, CAPITALISM + TORTURE = REALLY FUCKING EXPENSIVE MURDER MACHINE THAT DOESN’T EVEN FUCKING WORK.

Oh yeah, and on top of that, LIES, LIES AND MORE FUCKING LIES:

Including 2,725 footnotes to specific CIA documents, the Senate report shows a pattern of repeated factual inaccuracies by CIA in communications with the Justice Department (to get legal cover for the program), with the White House (including false information inserted in the President’s Daily Brief and one of President Bush’s major speeches), with the Congress (Appendix 3 starting on page 462 provides more than 30 pages of false statements in testimony by former CIA director Michael Hayden), and even inside the Agency itself.

THIRTY FUCKING PAGES OF BULLSHIT FROM MICHAEL FUCKING HAYDEN ALONE, PEOPLE. And it doesn’t end with him, either:

The report cites CIA documents showing CIA officers at the secret detention sites repeatedly protested the torture program — one interrogator called the program a “train wreak” [sic] and wrote “I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” But higher-ups, including CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Hayden, overruled objections and kept the program going until President Obama ended it in 2009. The head of CIA counterterrorism operations, Jose Rodriguez, even reprimanded CIA officers at one site for their protests, warning them to refrain from using “speculative language as to the legality of given activities” in CIA cables.

It’s not a question of who fucked up, at this point; the list of those who didn’t fuck up is infinitely shorter.

Of course, none of this comes as any great surprise to me; BushCo was a veritable fuck-up factory. It churned ’em out assembly-line style, from start to finish. There is nothing that Weak ‘n’ Stupid touched that didn’t turn to ca-ca. Appropriately, for someone descended from royalty, ol’ Dubya sure does have the reverse Midas touch.

And there is no doubt in my mind that every torturer-jack of them belongs in The Hague, and locked up shortly after. But don’t take MY word for it…

A U.N. human rights expert said a report that the U.S. Senate released on Tuesday revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration” and called for prosecution of U.S. officials who ordered crimes, including torture, against detainees.

Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture such as waterboarding.

“As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva. “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”

Unfortunately, THAT’s not going to happen. Practically the first thing His Barackness did upon setting foot in the Oval Office was to amnesty all these war criminals, torturers and murderers. Translation: NO HOPE OF A FUCKING PROSECUTION EVER. And, by the way, that’s illegal:

International law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture, he said.

“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability,” Emmerson said.

Torture is an international crime and perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country to which they might travel, he added.

Incidentally, that’s the very reason Henry Fucking Kissinger no longer sets foot outside of US soil. There’s an international warrant out for his arrest, for war crimes dating all the way back to the Vietnam War.

His Barackness would be well advised to reverse that amnesty now, if he doesn’t want to become complicit — and a war criminal, and suffer the same fate — himself. But — oops! — it’s already way too late for that.

Happy Human Rights Day, indeed, my US friends. How does it feel to live in a country where that phrase has become totally meaningless?

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The “most moral army in world” shits all over Gaza. Literally.

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Israeli troops may have (momentarily) withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, but they haven’t really left it. Traces of them still cling to everything they’ve occupied, and not in a good way:

When Ahmed Owedat returned to his home 18 days after Israeli soldiers took it over in the middle of the night, he was greeted with an overpowering stench.

He picked through the wreckage of his possessions thrown from upstairs windows to find that the departing troops had left a number of messages. One came from piles of faeces on his tiled floors and in wastepaper baskets, and a plastic bottle filled with urine.

If that was not clear enough, the words “Fuck Hamas” had been carved into a concrete wall in the staircase. “Burn Gaza down” and “Good Arab = dead Arab” were engraved on a coffee table. The star of David was drawn in blue in a bedroom.

[…]

A handful of plastic chairs had their seats ripped open, through which the occupying soldiers defecated, he said. Gaping holes had been blown in four ground-floor external walls, and there was damage from shelling to the top floor. There, in the living room, diagrams had been drawn on the walls, showing buildings and palm trees in the village, with figures that Owedat thought represented their distance from the border.

“I have no money to fix this,” he said, claiming that his life savings of $10,000 (£6,000) were missing from his apartment. But at least it could be repaired, he acknowledged, gesturing through the broken glass at a wasteland stretching towards the Israel-Gaza border 3km away. “Every house between here and there has been destroyed.”

Charming. Didn’t any of their mothers toilet-train these little terrorists? Couldn’t they at least find a bathroom to do their business in? Did they wash their hands afterwards, or just wipe them down on the curtains? And where were their superior officers when these bandits robbed Ahmed of his life savings? Sucking hummus made by settlers in the Occupied Territories off their thumbs, no doubt.

Yeah, these guys have all the maturity of a diaper-dragging two-year-old. It’s a wonder they can hold a rifle straight. Doesn’t give me much confidence in their ability to wage “surgical” strikes if they can’t even clean up after themselves. Or be trusted to leave a cash stash where they found it. Land is not the only thing these guys are in the business of stealing, it seems.

And how does this “most moral army in the world” treat the children of Gaza? Like this:

Half an hour’s drive north, a similar picture was found at Beit Hanoun girls’ school, taken over by the IDF following the ground operation. Broken glass and rubble littered the floors and stairs. Tables and desks were covered in the abandoned detritus of an occupying army: hardened bread rolls, empty tins of hummus, desiccated olives, cans of energy drinks, bullet casings. Flies buzzed around the rotting food.

Here too, said the school’s caretaker, Fayez, who didn’t want to give his full name, soldiers had defecated in bins and cardboard boxes, and urinated in water bottles. “You will be fucked here” and “Don’t forget it’s time for you to die” were chalked in English on blackboards.

The Guardian notes that the new school year is slated to begin in a little over two weeks. Not much time to repair the damage and clean up the mess, in other words. Assuming that Israel doesn’t start bombing all over again, and smash that school to rubble this time, those girls will be seeing that those “moral” Israeli soldiers are all slobbering for the chance to rape and kill them. And they’ll also be smelling the lingering stench of their ordure.

The Guardian also notes that “The Israel Defence Forces did not respond to a request for comment.” Could it because they haven’t yet made up a hasbaratic “explanation” for why their brave, brave boys felt compelled to shit all over innocent people’s homes and schools?

Golly, talk about leading by example. Yep, that squeaky-clean “only democracy in the Middle East” is sure adept at persuading those barbarous Arabs of its nobility and virtue!

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Posted in Do As I Say..., Fascism Without Swastikas, Fine Young Cannibals, Gazing on Gaza, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Illegal?, Isn't That Racist?. Comments Off on The “most moral army in world” shits all over Gaza. Literally. »

Manuel Zelaya speaks out: “The president of Honduras is John Kerry”

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This man is the last true democratically elected president Honduras has had. Five years ago, he was deposed in a violent military putsch, backed to the hilt by Washington. Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile, very much against his will, and even more so against the will of the Honduran people. Ever since then, there’s been a campaign to silence all critics of the US-imposed puppet régimes (there have been three so far) in the wake of the coup. Sham elections have not been enough to buy off the populace, and criticism has been growing. This year, things came to a head when child refugees from Central America, thousands of them, began arriving at the border with Mexico, unaccompanied by adults, but often in possession of their birth certificates and other documents identifying them and their countries of origin. Honduras is heavily represented among those lands, and if you wonder why, let the last real president of the land explain it all to you:

A short time after the fifth anniversary of the coup d’état that brought down his government, former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya spoke with Miradas al Sur about the current situation in Honduras and Latin America.


Manuel Zelaya only began to be affectionately called “Mel” by large parts of the population of Honduras in the second half of his mandate as president there. Until then, and for a good part of the peoples of Latin America, he had only been the progressive face of the Honduran Liberal Party, one of the traditional axes of power in the Central American country. But as of 2008, his way of wielding power began to turn toward the creation of a state closer to the humble folk, and more disposed toward solidarity with the popular sectors not only of his own land, but of all the Caribbean. Zelaya put conservative noses out of joint, and even those of his own comrades, upon confirming the leftward turn of his government, with a 60% minimum wage increase and an explicit turn toward 20th-century socialism. That same year, and hand in hand with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, Honduras formally entered into Petrocaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). “Petrocaribe is a commercial alliance. ALBA is an alliance of Latin American integration. I entered into both. Those countries who want to establish another system for a world which is still possible, must join ALBA. Not just Petrocaribe. That is more for business dealings,” Zelaya explained.

But while a good part of Latin America and the Caribbean was drawing closer to “Mel”, there were some in Honduras and the United States who grieved for politicians like Zelaya, and even more for those who preceded him. So it was that on June 28, 2009, the armed forces, backed by the supreme court of the nation, carried out a coup d’état which did away with the progressive profile of Honduras. “The result of the coup was that the security apparatus or the economic apparatus or the economic system began to be 99% directed by policies designed in Washington,” said the former president. “And, lamentably, they are policies of the most reactionary right-wing elements in the United States, very sectarian groups of the far right. After the coup, narcotrafficking and crime increased. The exploitation of the transnational mining firms is deepening, the privatization of all public services such as roadways, ports, telecommunications. They’ve even privatized things that belong to civil society and the state, such as collecting customs duties. And one of the most classic forms that the North American right has for controlling our countries is militarism. Now, here, soldiers have been substituted for the police. They’re substituting for the powers of the state in all matters and have given them extraordinary powers, as if we were living in a de facto dictatorial state. The separation of powers disappeared. There’s just one power of state, which the president wields over the military. If we review all the indicators of the land, we will find that everything has deteriorated from the coup to the present. The internal and external debt has quintupled. In five years, they’ve managed to indebt the country like it was in the 1960s, and it’s the largest debt in our history. The murder rate has converted us into the most violent country on the planet. We were a small and peaceful country. We are the poorest society in Latin America. We have always been at some level of poverty, but never like it is now. The president of Honduras is not Juan Orlando Hernández; he was imposed by way of a fraud. The presidnet of Honduras is named John Kerry, and his policies are those of the United States.”

Following his removal from office, and after several months in exile, Zelaya joined the National Front of Popular Resistance, which became the party of Freedom and Refoundation (LIBRE), over which he presides today. In November of 2013, LIBRE participated in the presidential elections with Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife, as candidate, reaching second place and breaking up the historic bipartisanism of the National Party and the Liberals.

A few weeks ago, Zelaya himself denounced that he had been repressed, along with all his party, at the doors of the National Congress.

“That incident is just one more proof of the militarization of the land, and its absorption in neoliberal politics,” Zelaya pointed out. And with respect to this point, he emphasized that “we have to get back to calling it neoliberalism. Because neoliberalism in itself was the monetary and fiscal control of a society, but now it has advanced in military politics, in looting and exploitation, in diseases, epidemics, pestilence, death. Now it’s a neoliberalism of disaster which is being applied here. We were expelled from the congress at bayonet-point, and with tear gas, because one of the characteristics of the governments of force is that they don’t accept the opposition. For them, the opposition has to disappear, and for that reason, they have to limit our access to the media. There is an exaggerated media blockade today in Honduras. We have no option to defend ourselves practically in any media outlet. Everything is against us. But we ourselves have grown stronger. We are much stronger than before, especially because the popular consciousness has grown in recognizing what affects us. We understand that the United States won’t go away; what we need is to have honest, respectful relations with them. Which is what we don’t have right now, because those currently governing [in Honduras] are those who duck their heads and bow down to serve Washington’s orders.”

In effect, as well as having an enormous weight in Honduran internal politics, the United STates are now the centre of a very deep international debate which affects Central American societies. In the last months, the phenomenon of child migration toward the northern country has taken on a worrisome importance, to the point where the affected countries are trying to begin joint actions to deal with it. In June alone, it is estimated that 2,000 Salvadoran, Honduran and Mexican children crossed the border into the United States every week.

“The problem is that the great powers were born of migration, but don’t want to recognize the migrants of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Zelaya. “They are products of migration, but they close themselves off in an anti-historical nationalism because emigrating is a right, not a crime. We all have that right because we were born in a world which is shared among all, in one human race. Those who managed to get to those nations are telling them to take their children. And now they’re hunting those children without pity. Now the powers are on display before the world. Because first they deny their parents the right to be legalized, and now they’re persecuting the children. Just as at the time when Jesus was born, they’re ordering them to kill all the children who were born then so that no messiah can emerge. Worse than the persecutions of the holocaust. They’re persecuting children, torturing them, denying them the right to reunite with their families. This is not a humanitarian crisis, it’s a humanitarian crime of the neoliberal model against the poor of Latin America and Africa.”

Translation mine.

I have to admit that Mel Zelaya didn’t really appear on my radar until he joined the ALBA, which is the late Chavecito’s baby and which has been going from strength to strength even now, after his death. At first Mel seemed like just another too-conservative-for-my-liking leader, but when he began to demonstrate that his heart was in the right place and his feet were headed in a good direction, I was sold. Not only was Mel the last real president of Honduras, he was also unequivocally the best. Under him, the socioeconomic profile of that poor little country was beginning to rise. Poor people were getting access to social services that had been denied them before: doctors, schools, hospitals. Literacy was going up; poverty rates were beginning to fall. And all that, which should have been terrific news, was greeted by Washington in the kind of doomsday-prophet tones you’d expect in the advent of a Category 5 hurricane about to make landfall along the eastern seaboard.

Which, of course, the ALBA was. A hurricane of promise, hope and rapid improvement. A hurricane of mutual aid and regional autonomy. Countries that used to rely abjectly on foreign “aid” from the US and elsewhere began to stand up on their own feet, and walk unassisted. That was bad news for those who used to turn obscene profits from the poverty and dependency of those little Latin American lands. They were used to taking advantage of those poor, ill-educated, highly dependent folks — as cheap labor, cannon fodder for proxy wars, and houseboys to the empire. The fact that those same people were now becoming aware that they could be so much more than that did not sit well with Washington. Hence, the coup.

It gives me no satisfaction to see blowback arriving in the form it has taken. Child refugees are the most helpless and vulnerable of them all. Along the way, who knows how many have been robbed, raped, beaten and killed? The ones we hear about arriving in Texas and Arizona are the lucky ones, the ones that made it through in one piece.

Honduras is embroiled in a civil war, although the US media won’t report that. And the death squads that we thought had died out with the evil 1980s? They’re back with a vengeance. That’s why so many desperate Central American parents are sending their kids to the country which, in a massive and humorless irony, is the author of their misfortunes.

When will it all end? When democracy is restored in Honduras, of course. But for that to happen, first the sham “democracy” installed by Washington must be trashed and kicked to the curb. The last real president of the land has not finished his mandate, and the three impostors who were tapped to “replace” him know this full well.

So do the people of Honduras, and they are absolutely furious that their will has been trampled under the boots of a fascism that everyone except the “freedom-loving”, “democratic” country behind it is willing to call by its right name. Little wonder that they are willing to give up even their own children to place the problem back at the door of its source!

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Oh, for the love of muff…

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Portrait of Ms. Ruby May, Standing, by Leena McCall. Medium: Oil on canvas.

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture? I can’t.

I hear that it was deemed “pornographic and disgusting”, which I’m sure would come as a laugh to anyone who’s actually seen disgusting pornography (and I have). I have to wonder at the delicate sensibilities of the fuddy-duddies who thought this was too much, while allowing another portrait — fully nude, but more conventionally posed — to pass. (And by “conventionally posed”, I mean with the woman model as passive object of the male gaze.)

Perhaps the problem with this is that Ms. Ruby May has what appear to be henna tattoos, draped like tendrils over her shoulders and collarbones. Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s half-dressed in turn-of-the-last-century drag. Heavens to Betsy, a woman in a vest and knickers! (And no, British readers, that’s not an undershirt and panties, that’s vest as in gentleman’s waistcoat, and knickers as in bockers.) Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s wearing a watch-chain, another masculine touch underscoring the drag sensibility of the whole. Or maybe it’s that pipe (an obvious prop, since there’s no perfumed smoke curling daintily from its bowl.)

No, no, that can’t be it. What is it, then?

Oh my gawd, her pants are undone. And what is that I see peeking out? Why, the lady has pubes! Oh noes!

As everybody knows by now, female pubes are a terrible scourge and a menace to society. They must be scraped away, torn out at the roots, and the roots killed with fire, lest they ever sprout again. As everybody knows, lady-pubes allowed to run rampant will molest little boys. And kill babies!

The only thing worse than the scourge of lady-pubes is the terrible curse of the Elderly Vagina. And if we allow women to proudly possess pubes, even if we don’t all go around showing them off as Ms. Ruby does here — why, what’s next? Will we also be proud of our nether hairs when they turn silver — or, in the case of us natural redheads, purest snowy white?

Oh, the horror. Female self-esteem! The HORROR.

No, no, we can’t have a woman proudly showing her pubes. Not even if she’s painted by Gustav Klimt himself.

Oh wait, that’s allowed. Klimt was a man! It’s quite all right for men to paint women in a sexual context. Those who did so a century ago to public outrage and opprobrium are now revered as Great Artists. But for another woman to do so, as Leena McCall has done? Dangerous! Why, just look at that thing. The woman isn’t passively subjecting herself (and her unshorn crotch) to the male gaze, but actively looking back out at us! And worse yet, she’s doing so with a challenging glint in her eye. A glint that is equal parts “hey, sailor” and “fuck you”. Or, if you want to get all stuffy about it, a look that says both come-hither and go-thither.

No, we can’t have a woman undressing us with her eyes, and perhaps contemptuously withering us with that same sexy gaze. It’s too much like she’s looking right through us, and finding us lacking. Lacking in courage for not being able to handle the sight of a set of female genitalia not artificially made to resemble those of a harmless, helpless newborn baby girl. Lacking in the wit to understand what we are seeing. Lacking in the visionary guts to realize that women can, and MUST, have sexual agency, the right to say yea or nay, I-want-you or I-want-you-not, as we will. Lacking, in short, the understanding that a woman is more than a body, and that she is not just some consumable object, but a person in her own right, and as much so as any man. She has will. She has desires. And why should she not have the explicit right to express all that?

Why doesn’t she, already?

Well, here’s why: We live in gormless times. We have never seen the virgin/whore dichotomy quite so polarized as it is today. Even the Victorian era has nothing on the present. On the one hand, we have every kind of porn, depicting every depraved thing people can do unto one another, with literally no holds barred (including the death-grip on the throat, usually of a woman). On the other, we have something ickier, creepier, more spiritually deadening, and more depraved still: purity balls, where fathers take on the role of surrogate husband to virginal girls, and pledge to “cover” them until they can pass them off, presumably while still virginal, to a suitable real husband. We have Rush Limbaugh slut-shaming Sandra Fluke because that shameless hussy dared to put in a good word for birth-control pills, between fistfuls of OxyContin and Viagra — and nary a word about himself jetting off to sex tours in the Dominican Republic, where child prostitutes are dirt cheap and nauseously easy to find. These guys are all running around with total impunity, ordering women to do as they say, not as they do. And, under protest, we let them. Be it in porn or in purity culture, women are both infantilized and objectified, passed around like bongs at a party, and above all, NEVER allowed to be sexual on their own terms. It is always at the whim of a man, whether a creepy photographer like Terry Richardson (and a creepy businessman like Dov Charney), or a porn director…or the “priesthood holder” of the house, dear ol’ dad himself.

That may be why Ms. Ruby is dressed in old-fashioned men’s clothing, but only halfway. And why the sight of her standing there with undone trousers and no perceptible shame is so “pornographic” and horrifying in this supposedly so much more open day and age — when all of us, if we are honest, will readily admit that we’ve seen a whole lot worse.

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Compare and Contrast: Peña Nieto vs. Maduro

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Left: “He stole the Mexican elections, privatized the state oil companies, and the people repudiate him. TV and the US call him the president who saved Mexico.”

Right: “The Venezuelan people elected him democratically and he didn’t privatize the oil. TV and the US call him a dictator.”

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Dear PETA: Fuck you.

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Dear PETA:

Thanks for another thoughtful reminder of why I can’t fucking stand you. Once again, you’ve wanked a major one all over women’s bodies.

Never mind that body weight is not a marker of obesity. Or that fat vegans most certainly do exist, and that refusing to consume animal products is no guarantee of weight loss. No, you just had to go clouding the serious health issue of Plan B’s too-low hormone dosage with a fraudulent “go vegan and get skinny!” message. In doing so, you joined all the other despicable fat-shamers who never miss an opportunity to push their agendas in inescapably sexist ways.

Of course, I expected nothing better from you. You have a well-established pattern of exploiting women at every turn. You can’t bear to see a glass of milk being poured or an egg being cracked into a pan, but you have no compunctions about caging women, carving them up like slabs of beef, wrapping them in plastic like supermarket chickens, or throwing them onto grills. And that’s when you’re not busy sexually abusing them to showcase what veganism will allegedly do for their male partners.

So I suppose I should not have been surprised that you would pounce on what is actually a story about corporate irresponsibility, and twist it to your own sadistic ends. It’s pretty obvious what your game is: “saving” the animals by throwing humans, and specifically FEMALE humans, under the bus.

And that’s when you’re not busy killing kitties and dogs to save money to put toward your outrageous ad campaigns instead. What the fuck is “ethical” about THAT?

So I guess you’ll just have to pardon me if all you’ll ever get from me is the back of both my middle fingers. Trust me, you’ve EARNED it.

Fuck you very much, PETA.

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