Body Cams

danah boyd and Alex Rosenblat write about why police body cams may not do any good and could do a lot of harm the communities we hope they’d protect. A summarizing quote:

We turn to technology because it’s new and fancy, because we hope that it can do things that people cannot do. But technology is a tool. And it is primarily used to reinforce existing structures of power, even when we hope that these same tools can be used to challenge the status quo.


Smith (finally) accepts trans women

the new policy

Smith will consider the application of anyone who self identifies as “female” on their admission materials.

Smith will not consider the application of anyone who self identifies as “male” or any other gender on their admissions materials, even if they were assigned female at birth.

If someone who identifies as female at the time of their admission to Smith later comes to identify as another gender, they will be welcome to stay at Smith.

This is a slightly different policy than those of Mount Holyoke or Scripps.  Under those policies, anyone who either self-identifies as female or was assigned female at birth is eligible for admission (even if they do not consider themselves female at the time of application.)

In essence, this is a more fair, truthful adhesion to Smith’s longstanding unofficial admissions policy of “Smith admits women and graduates people.”

Two interesting interviews about sex work.

both of these are audio interviews from the npr show on the media.  some of the links below are to written articles covering the same ground.

1. An interview with Rachel Aimee and Eliyanna Kaiser, two editors of $pread magazine, a publication by and for sex workers that existed from 2005-2011.  They have a new anthology coming out.

2. An interview with Alana Massey, a writer/activist who recently wrote about the reality show 8 minutes for the new republic.

8 minutes is a tv show where a former cop turned pastor supposedly solicits sex workers through their ads, pretending to be a john, then tries to rescue them by talking them out of sex work and (again supposedly) offering them resources to get out.  (One sex worker who was on the show has come forward saying the show is scripted, her appearance on the show led to her arrest, and when she contacted producers of the show asking for their promised help, the host just offered to pray for her.)

A quote from the Massey interview:

“It makes it about sadistic traffickers and not about inhospitable economies, inhospitable law enforcement situations. […] I can’t fist-bump myself into having an income. I can’t ‘girl power’ into it.”


So this is a thing that’s happening.

It reminds me of previous discussions we’ve had about people in service jobs being expected to do emotional labor, not just their actual physical jobs.  I think we had those discussions around the time of the Starbucks #cometogether, but this seems way worse, especially for employees of color, often serving a predominantly white clientele.

It also reminds me of previous discussions we’ve had about corporate pinkwashing (e.g. the rainbow oreo cookie) and the potential analogues for other causes.  is this an example of racewashing, or whatever word you’d use instead?  or is it something different?

I guess first of all, I think racewashing does happen.  My example would be that cheerios ad with the interracial couple. It was a corporate attempt to win some easy good will among liberal, wealthy consumers.  It’s pretty freaking sad that the ad was a conscious political statement, because it should be unremarkable for people of color and interracial couples to see themselves reflected in popular media, but nevertheless, it did read as political.  It also read as insincere given that the ad was made solely to make more money for general mills, but it was also heartwarming and cute, and ultimately, everything else held constant, a world where that ad exists is nicer than one where it doesn’t.

My guess is that Starbucks is trying to hit a similar sweet spot with this campaign.

If so, they are pretty far off the mark.  I’m still gathering my thoughts on why, and I would love to talk about it, but to start with:

I think this ad is a response to increased media attention to police brutality and systemic racial injustice in our country.  Like, some white ad exec who hadn’t really thought about racial injustice before has decided that race is having its “moment” and he should capitalize on it.  It’s trivializing a movement that’s fighting for something as fundamental and important as not being murdered for the color of your skin.

Furthermore, the campaign suggests that the way to solve racial injustice in the country is to start talking about it.  Given that there have been people (mostly people of color) talking about racial injustice in this country for a long long time, suggesting we need to start a conversation just highlights the fact that most white people simply have not been listening.  Also, putting the burden on oppressed people to “explain your oppression to me” is classic derailing and a shitty thing to do.  I guess this ad campaign seems very clearly just aimed at white people.

Additionally, a non-trivial segment of the population who would agree to the statement “as a country, we need to be more comfortable talking about race,” actually just have bigoted beliefs that they currently feel uncomfortable expressing.  I don’t want them to feel more comfortable.  Presumably (hopefully) neither do the creators of this ad campaign, but I worry they’ll see it as an invitation.

Nothing is wrong with your sex drive

Emily Nagoski, a sex/health educator at Smith College writes in the NYT about the FDA non-approval of a drug for treating low sex drive in women.

A pharmaceutical company has come up with a drug they say treats low sex drive in women.
It’s been up for approval to the FDA twice, and they rejected it both times. It’s now up for approval again.

On the one hand, it’s messed up that cis men not being able to have the sex they want to have is treated as a medical problem worth lots of $$ in research/pharamceutical investment (e.g. viagra and other e.d. drugs), but the analogous problem for cis women is not.

So the fact that a company is trying to create a sex drive pill for women seems like progress, and the fact that the FDA keeps rejecting it can be seen as stymieing that progress.

Nagoski’s issue with that interpretation:

She argues that the drug is trying to solve a “problem” based on an outdated model of how sexual desire works.

She explains that any individual’s sexual desire falls somewhere on a spectrum between “spontaneous” and “responsive,” that we only equate a “healthy” sex drive with spontaneous desire, when in truth, responsive desire is equally healthy and normal. She implies that we do this because cis men are more likely to fall on the spontaneous end of the spectrum, while cis women are more likely to fall on the responsive end, and medicine has a long history of assuming male = normal.

She says that most women who’d be considered candidates for this drug really just fall on the responsive end of the spectrum. For many responsive-desire people, being in a low-stress mental state is a prerequisite for being interested in sex, and having their perfectly normal brain/body functioning treated as a medical disorder actually just contributes to the problem this drug purports to solve.

anyway, Emily Nagoski is interesting and I like reading what she has to say. 🙂  Here is her blog: The Dirty Normal.