People hate and fear what they don't understand. There is no more vivid illustration of this truism than the pronouncements of the religious right on sex and reproduction.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) set the gold standard for medical inaccuracy when he dragged the "legitimate rape" canard onto the national stage during his senate race, leaving a perplexed nation wondering what the hell he meant. "If it's legitimate rape," Akin opined, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The notion that rape never results in conception was used to unfairly discredit rape allegations for hundreds of years before science discredited the idea, but the modern anti-choice movement revived this dud in a disingenuous bid to convince the public that abortion bans don't need rape exemptions. One paper in particular, contained in a 1972 volume funded by Americans United for Life, has been, uh, seminal in reviving the myth in anti-choice circles. The author's evidence for this claim ranges from a pseudoscientific "experiment" from a Nazi concentration camp to his assertion that rapists masturbate too much to get their victims pregnant. The backlash against Akin's "legitimate rape" probably cost him the senate race. Akin's claim became the best known of a series of ignorant and condescending remarks about women's health by Republican candidates in 2012 that helped discredit Republicans in the eyes of women voters.
This month, as Texas debated an anti-abortion bill, anti-choice Republicans have been spouting misinformation so fast and so furiously that it's difficult to keep all the myths straight. For your reference, I offer this handy crib sheet of the latest Republican reproduction howlers.
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Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed titled, “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?” The author, Laurie Shrage, argued that, since a woman has the right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, men should have the right to unilaterally opt out of fatherhood (which some proponents call a "paper abortion.") Fair’s fair, right?
Not so fast. Since a woman is carrying the pregnancy in her body, she gets to decide whether or not it results in a child. Since men can only cause pregnancies in other people’s bodies, they cede control over whether sex will ultimately result in a baby. The only alternative would be to give biological fathers the right to force the women carrying their babies to have abortions or give birth, which is clearly unacceptable.
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Ah, the New York Times’ Ethicist, the advice columnist who exists to make Dear Prudence look rigorous. Last week, Ethicist Chuck Klosterman blithely gave a college student permission to hand in the same paper for two classes without getting the permission of either professor, even if his school’s honor code forbids it:
The more I think this over, the more I find myself agreeing with your position. I don’t think this is cheating. I wouldn’t say it qualifies as “genius,” and it might get you expelled from some universities. Yet I can’t isolate anything about this practice that harms other people, provides you with an unfair advantage or engenders an unjustified reward.
Of course a student who breaks the rules and hands in the same paper twice is getting an unjustified reward and harming others in the process. By writing one paper instead of two, he cuts his workload in half, which gives him an academic edge. A student who followed the rules might only be able to produce two B papers in the time allotted. Whereas, the dishonest student can devote all his time to writing one A paper, to be graded twice. It’s not fair that the honest student gets two B’s while the underhanded student gets two A’s for doing half the work. If the dishonest student’s inflated GPA gets him a spot in medical school, the honest student he beat out has been harmed.
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Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old Chechen immigrant with ties to the Boston bombing suspects, was shot and killed during an interrogation in Orlando, Fla. on May 22.
Todashev was being questioned in his home by an FBI agent and two other officers about a 2011 triple murder in Massachusetts. One of the victims was reportedly the best friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the late Boston bombing suspect. Tamerlan was rumored to have been involved in Massachusetts murders.
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Sarah Polley's new film, "Stories We Tell," is a documentary about unraveling a family secret. At the age of 28, Polley learned that her mother's husband, Michael, who had raised her from birth, was not her biological father. This was news to Michael, too. His wife, Diane, had gone to her grave without divulging the secret.
In an attempt to piece together her true origins, Polley interviews Michael, her older siblings and some of her mother's friends and relations. The interviews are interspersed with Super 8 home movies from Polley's childhood and recreations of pivotal moments in Diane's life, also shot on Super 8.
Polley appears in the film, but not as an interview subject. She is present as interrogator and auteur, constructing the story of her birth from the memories of others. It's refreshing to see a movie that depicts a young female director in cool creative control. Michael remarks that Sarah's going to take all this interview footage and edit it to be whatever she wants it to be. We know he's right.
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Natural News is a moral and intellectual cesspool, but founder Mike Adams may have hit a new low with his vitriolic attack on actress Angelina Jolie for undergoing a preventive double mastectomy and writing about her decision in the New York Times.
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Food writer Michael Pollan is an evangelist for home cooking as path to healthy eating and food justice. In some of his bestselling books, Pollan criticizes feminists for the decline of home cooking in America.
The interesting part of the lengthy excerpt can be compressed into a single sentence: Male industrialists drove the convenience food revolution and subverted home cooking before feminism ever got off the ground. The rest is verbiage that has almost nothing to do with Michael Pollan. If you want a blow-by-blow description of how male food barons and advertising executives undermined home cooking and sold Americans on convenience, check out Michael Moss's "Salt, Sugar, Fat."
Matchar defines “new domesticity,” as a social movement fascinated with “reviving ‘lost’ domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc.” The excerpt in Salon is from a chapter called “Cupcake Feminists, Hipster Jam Canners, and “Femivores”: The New DIY Food Culture.”
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Over 300 Bangladeshis were crushed to death in the ruins of their high-rise factory and Slate’s Matt Yglesias is annoyed. He’s not annoyed that 300 people were crushed to death, he’s annoyed that seemingly “the entire Internet” is complaining about a post he wrote while bodies were still being pulled from the rubble, arguing that the status quo is just fine because Bangladeshis are making a rational economic calculus:
Bangladesh is a lot poorer than the United States, and there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans. That's true whether you're talking about an individual calculus or a collective calculus. Safety rules that are appropriate for the United States would be unnecessarily immiserating in much poorer Bangladesh.
Yglesias summed up the gist of his argument in a tweet, “Foreign factories should be more dangerous than American factories.” In a follow-up post, Yglesias issued an apology of sorts, but only after spending several lines grousing about how annoyed he was that meanies of the Internet made him correct his mistake.
Yglesias’s argument was based on an implicit false premise and a bizarre hypothetical.
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When I heard that explosions had torn through the finish line at the Boston Marathon, my first thought was, “Is Dr. Cullen OK?” Dr. Cullen is my family doctor, a brilliant and compassionate physician who has cared for my family for three generations. She’s also an avid distance runner. When I heard the news about Boston, I dimly remembered that she and her husband were running the Boston Marathon this year. I messaged her on Facebook and found out that she’d crossed the finish line 5 minutes before the bomb went off.
I lived in Boston for three years, a few blocks from the finish line. I recognize the blood-smeared blocks in the news photos. I still have friends in the city. My boyfriend’s got a gig there next week. Like so many others, I’ve been feeling shock, rage and even a tinge of irrational guilt that my loved ones are okay while others lost their limbs and even their lives.
One thing I don’t feel is fear.
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“You don’t want a criminal lawyer. You want a criminal lawyer,” small-time hood Jesse Pinkman explained to his meth cooking partner Walter White in Season 2 of Breaking Bad. That’s where the delightfully shameless Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, steps into crime show history.
Saul Goodman may get his own spin-off show after Breaking Bad runs its final 8 episodes this summer. Deadline.com reports that creator Vince Gilligan and writer-producer Peter Gould are exploring the possibility of a Saul-centered comedy, in either an hour-long or half-hour format.