Israel & Gaza

Avi Shlaim at The Guardian:

… Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion’s share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

Read the whole thing here

Since the US has never challenged Israel on its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, it wasn’ t hard to predict that they wouldn’t support Gaza now.  And so, they focus on Hamas’ pathetic rocket strikes on Sderot in Israel as the reason for Israel’s aggression.  The “long view” requires considerably more moral courage.

Great News for Canada

Three cheers for Canadian content:

A Canadian pay-television pornography channel — which is pledging to show least 50 per cent domestic content at night — has been approved by federal regulators this week, but it must now try to convince cable and satellite companies to carry the service.

The digital channel, which is to be called Northern Peaks, was approved Wednesday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, after Alberta-based Real Productions first applied for the licence in October, 2007.

In its application, the company said the proposed service would be “Canada’s first adult video channel offering significant Canadian adult content.” Northern Peaks [charming!] will produce its own movies, in addition to events and series from Canada, the company told the regulator.

“During each broadcast year, the licensee shall devote not less than 50 per cent of the evening broadcast period to Canadian programming,” say CRTC documents outlining the decision.

Before Northern Peaks will be given its licence, though, it must show the CRTC that at least one cable or satellite carrier has agreed to pick up the service. The channel has three years to find an agreement or risk losing the licence.

The channel is a Category 2 pay television service, meaning cable and satellite carriers are not required to pick up the channel and the company must negotiate with each carrier.

The CRTC said it did not receive any interventions at hearings held in May, meaning there were no other broadcasters or interest groups who registered their opposition to the bid.

According to the licence, Northern Peaks is restricted to certain genres, including: drama and comedy, long-form documentary, mini-series, theatrical feature films, game shows and human interest programming. It will not carry any high-definition programming, according to company documents.

Based in Sherwood Park, Alta, Real Productions produces adult content for Starz, Playboy TV and HBO. “Northern Peaks’ broadcast day will start at 6 a.m. and run a full 24-hours,” the company told the CRTC in its application.

If it launches, Northern Peaks will be required to spend a minimum of 25 per cent of its subscriber revenues on Canadian programming, including at least $1-million in its first broadcast year. All programs must be closed captioned, as per CRTC rules.

In approving the licence, the CRTC also issued a reminder to cable and satellite companies that “due to the adult nature of the programming, this service shall only be distributed at the specific request of the subscriber.”

For various reasons that I consider good, I’m not a pro-censorship feminist.  But neither am I pro-porn, as if it isn’t one giant, creepy slur on the bodies of women and girls.  Home grown porn ain’t nothin’ to crow about.  If men weren’t addictive consumers of this misogynist crap there would be no buyers or subscribers.  The fact that so many men can’t or won’t see past their own self-indulgence is. just. so. sad.  But it also makes me angry.  If there are any Canadian men out there who give a shit they might at least take this opportunity to organize a boycott of this slime and take it upon themselves to educate their brothers, our sons, about the harm they do to their sisters and our daughters (and themselves, of course) when they insist on keeping porn in its secure position as a billions of dollars a year profit industry in this country, of which cable porn is actually just a small part:

The pornification of culture is something that we encounter at every turn: it’s in Snoop Dogg and Pussycat Dolls videos; it keeps the Girls Gone Wild franchise going strong; it guides the fashion trends of females six to 60; and it’s behind prime-time reality shows, like the E! Network’s The Girls Next Door chronicling the life of Hugh Hefner. But when it comes to explicit materials, nothing compares to the Wild West of cyberporn. There’s been an explosion of pornographic websites in the last decade, with tens of millions of sites literally a click away, according to Frederick S. Lane, author of Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age. Lane estimates the North American cyperporn industry brings in about $2 billion dollars a year.

It’s not quite as difficult for parents to regulate the exposure of their children to porn via cable networks, if they’re so inclined.  The same can’t be said for internet porn.  But if we’re not prudes, why should we care?  Or, since many women already do, why should men care:

“Pornography in all its permutations affects developing sexuality,” writes Paul in Pornified. “The younger the age of exposure and the more hard-core the material, the more intense the effects.” These effects can include everything from a skewed sense of sexual norms to difficulty maintaining a healthy, loving relationship; an unrealistic view of women; and potentially, pornography addiction, which can interfere with school work, friendships and family relationships.

Many people scoff at the notion that pornography is harmful and resist with the notion that people who object are Victorian-age prudes.  There are enough of those around to lend this view some credibility.  But surely it strains that same credibility to cling to the belief that the objectification of women and the often violent misogynist characteristics of the overwhelming majority of porn images isn’t harmful to us, grown men and women as well as girls and boys:

Sex therapists, like Toronto-based Robert Burgoyne, have a term for what these young men are up to: cybersexual auto-eroticism. In itself, says Burgoyne, it’s not a problem. The danger with pornography in general is that it encourages users to isolate sexuality from emotional intimacy. “It becomes problematic if it interferes with other aspects of life such as school, work and relationships or if these young men are getting harmful information or locked into objectifying women sexually,” he said.

We are ripping ourselves off and poisoning our children with these severely limited and limiting images of human sexuality and relationships:

David Marcus, a psychologist at the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center in California, who treats men of all ages struggling with pornography addiction, says one of biggest problems with Internet porn in particular is that people’s tolerance to it becomes accelerated. “What people really, really don’t get is that what was enough yesterday — and exciting yesterday — is not enough today,” he says. In other words, very soon a naked woman is old news, and users are seeking out different, increasingly graphic, and in extreme cases criminal, content — things that will continue to shock and arouse. “They have to keep getting more and more, so it becomes this insatiable thirst for it.”

Marcus says that when the men he sees look back on their own childhoods, there are often two common indicators of future trouble. The first is early exposure to particularly graphic or disturbing sexual images. “As an analogy, it’s like trauma in that people can only tolerate a certain degree of intensity,” says Marcus. Especially for very young or immature children. “Their central nervous system can only take in so much. And so if the experience is so intense or so mind-altering, what happens is it really affects their sense of social norms — what they can expect from a partner and what their own desires are get so flooded that they can’t really make contact with what would be a more ‘normal’ progression of sexual desire.”

The rigidity of male and female gender roles can be seen even in the explanations for what appears to be the acceptance of pornography in the lives of young males:

For Burgoyne, this is all part of growing up male in the digital age: they’re unlikely to talk “love” with each other. “If teenage boys admit to having romantic fantasies it could be social suicide,” he says, “like saying you’re passionate about your stamp collection.”

We haven’t come a long way, baby:

 He does not think parents who discover that their sons are accessing pornographic websites should necessarily panic. “We shouldn’t assume that a teen boy who self-pleasures while looking at erotica on the Internet isn’t, at heart, just a hopeless romantic,” he said.

Holy crap, then it’s okay with us that our young men are forced to translate their longing for self-pleasure and their romantic feelings for others (men or women) into a need to view women being exploited?  Sounds real healthy to me.

Women’s Inequality

From the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Armine Yalnizyan on economic inequality and women’s inequality:

Let me be clear. The women’s agenda is the equality agenda, in all its aspects.

It is the fight for good jobs, enough income, and affordable basics like housing, child care, health and education. It is the struggle for freedom from violence. It is the quest for the freedom to participate. It is the fight against exploitation, domination, isolation and silencing. It is the desire to become the fullest person we can be; to join, without barriers, in all aspects of human enterprise – social, economic, political and cultural. Growing inequality works its way into all these dimensions of human experience. Closing the gap means dealing with all these dimensions of inequality. 

Because it’s official – inequality is not going away. In fact it’s getting worse, and precisely at a time when it should be getting better. 

Download here [pdf]

Feminist Theory Then & Now

Silvia Federici and a feminist view of “precarious labour”:

[…]

How do you struggle over/against reproductive work? It is not the same as struggling in the traditional factory setting, against for instance the speed of an assembly line, because at the other end of your struggle there are people not things. Once we say that reproductive work is a terrain of struggle, we have to first immediately confront the question of how we struggle on this terrain without destroying the people you care for. This is a problem mothers as well as teachers and nurses, know very well.

This is why it is crucial to be able to make a separation between the creation of human beings and our reproduction of them as labor-power, as future workers, who therefore have to be trained, not necessarily according to their needs and desires, to be disciplined and regimented in a particular fashion.

It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.

Once we saw that rather than reproducing life we were expanding capitalist accumulation and began to define reproductive labor as work for capital, we also opened the possibility of a process of re-composition among women.

Think for example of the prostitute movement, which we now call the “sex workers” movement. In Europe the origins of this movement must be traced back to 1975 when a number of sex workers in Paris occupied a church, in protest against a new zoning regulation which they saw as an attack on their safety. There was a clear connection between that struggle, which soon spread throughout Europe and the United States, and the feminist movement’s re-thinking and challenging of housework. The ability to say that sexuality for women has been work has lead to a whole new way of thinking about sexual relationships, including gay relations. Because of the feminist movement and the gay movement we have begun to think about the ways in which capitalism has exploited our sexuality, and made it “productive.”

In conclusion, it was a major breakthrough that women would begin to understand unpaid labor and the production that goes on in the home as well as outside of the home as the reproduction of the work force. This has allowed a re-thinking of every aspect of everyday life – child-raising, relationships between men and women, homosexual relationships, sexuality in general- in relation to capitalist exploitation and accumulation.

Creating Self-Reproducing Movements

As every aspect of everyday life was re-understood in its potential for liberation and exploitation, we saw the many ways in which women and women’s struggles are connected. We realized the possibility of “alliances” we had not imagined and by the same token the possibility of bridging the divisions that have been created among women, also on the basis of age, race, sexual preference.

We can not build a movement that is sustainable without an understanding of these power relations. We also need to learn from the feminist analysis of reproductive work because no movement can survive unless it is concerned with the reproduction of its members. This is one of the weaknesses of the social justice movement in the US.

We go to demonstrations, we build events, and this becomes the peak of our struggle. The analysis of how we reproduce these movements, how we reproduce ourselves is not at the center of movement organizing. It has to be. We need to go to back to the historical tradition of working class organizing “mutual aid” and rethink that experience, not necessarily because we want to reproduce it, but to draw inspiration from it for the present.

We need to build a movement that puts on its agenda its own reproduction. The anti-capitalist struggle has to create forms of support and has to have the ability to collectively build forms of reproduction.

We have to ensure that we do not only confront capital at the time of the demonstration, but that we confront it collectively at every moment of our lives. What is happening internationally proves that only when you have these forms of collective reproduction, when you have communities that reproduce themselves collectively, you have struggles that are moving in a very radical way against the established order, as for example the struggle of indigenous people in Bolivia against water privatization or in Ecuador against the oil companies’ destruction of indigenous land.

I want to close by saying if we look at the example of the struggles in Oaxaca, Bolivia, and Ecuador, we see that the most radical confrontations are not created by the intellectual or cognitive workers or by virtue of the internet’s common. What gave strength to the people of Oaxaca was the profound solidarity that tied them with each other-a solidarity for instance that made indigenous people from every part of the state to come to the support of the “maestros,” whom they saw as members of their communities. In Bolivia too, the people who reversed the privatization of water had a long tradition of communal struggle. Building this solidarity, understanding how we can overcome the divisions between us, is a task that must be placed on the agenda. In conclusion then, the main problem of precarious labor theory is that it does not give us the tools to overcome the way we are being divided. But these divisions, which are continuously recreated, are our fundamental weakness with regard to our capacity to resist exploitation and create an equitable society.   more

via wood s lot

Aid Agency Workers Exploit Children

From BBC/UK:

Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the very people drafted into such zones to help look after them, says Save the Children. 

After research in Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, the charity proposed an international watchdog be set up. 

Save the Children said it had sacked three workers for breaching its codes, and called on others to do the same. 

The three men were all dismissed in the past year for having had sex with girls aged 17 – which the charity said was a sackable offence even though not illegal. The UN has said it welcomes the charity’s report, which it will study closely. 

Save the Children says the most shocking aspect of child sex abuse is that most of it goes unreported and unpunished, with children too scared to speak out. 

No support

A 13-year-old girl, “Elizabeth” described to the BBC how 10 UN peacekeepers gang-raped her in a field near her Ivory Coast home. 

‘Elizabeth’ tells the BBC about her abuse 

“They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me… I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing,” she said.

“I was terrified. Then they just left me there bleeding.” 

No action has been taken against the soldiers. The report also found that aid workers have been sexually abusing boys and girls.

“In recent years, some important commitments have been made by the UN, the wider international community and by humanitarian and aid agencies to act on this problem,” said Save the Children UK chief executive Jasmine Whitbread. 

“However, all humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations, including Save the Children UK, must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on.” 

   

After research involving hundreds of children from Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, the charity said better reporting mechanisms needed to be introduced to deal with what it called “endemic failures” in responding to reported cases of abuse. 

It also said efforts should be made to strengthen worldwide child protection systems.

Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s Ivory Coast country director, says little is being done to support the victims. 

“It’s a minority of people but they are using their power to sexually exploit children and children that don’t have the voice to report about this. “They are suffering sexual exploitation and abuse in silence.” 

Save the Children says the international community has promised a policy of zero-tolerance to child sexual abuse, but that this is not being followed up by action on the ground.   more here

Madonnas and Whores

Sex trade and trafficking in Australia:

IT WAS probably one of the more mixed audiences that Australia’s seven High Court judges have had. Up the back sat a quiet Filipino nun in a habit and veil, interested to see what this nation’s highest court made of issues surrounding the people she works with in her homeland: women trafficked for sex.

In the front row, taking meticulous notes of the complex proceedings, sat sex-worker representative Elena Jeffreys. Her hair was dyed lime-green and coin-gold; she wore a leopard-print coat and fake-croc platform shoes over blue ankle socks; and her top had purple words running down the sleeves – rentboy, slag, slut, harlot, hooker

Welcome to the landmark legal case of the Queen against Wei Tang. This case will decide how Australia legally defines slavery and “possession” of one person by another. It will decide how Australian anti-slavery laws in the 21st century should respond to the nimble evolution of human wickedness into new forms of human exploitation.

Jeffreys, president of the Scarlet Alliance (the Australian Sex Workers Association), says that whatever the outcome, this case will not be the whole answer: “Migrant sex workers deserve labor rights in Australia so that trafficking doesn’t occur.”

It all began in a brothel in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, where the licensed owner, a Chinese immigrant named Wei Tang, had five Thai women working for her as prostitutes. They arrived in 2002 and 2003 on visas that were fraudulently obtained and worked for her under conditions that prosecutors would later allege amounted to slavery. The women had all worked in the Thai sex industry and knew they were to work as prostitutes here. Four of the women were “purchased” from Thai recruiters for about $20,000 each (one woman was bought from a “Sydney owner”).

Upon arrival in Australia, they had little if any money or English and knew no one. They were told they were “contract girls” who owed a “debt” of between $40,000 and $45,000 that they had to work off (a figure much higher than they had been led to expect). This would involve providing sexual services for no payment for up to 900 men. They were housed in bedrooms in which they slept up to four at a time on mattresses on the floor. Their passports and return tickets were taken from them and locked away and their freedom of movement was restricted. They worked 10-to-12-hour shifts six nights a week.

This is a four page article and well worth a look.  But I note that journalist Karen Kassin falls prey to the classic madonna/whore dichotomy when writing of women and sex – nuns and prostitutes, as she mentions.  The article is   here

Germaine Greer on Miley Cyrus

Germaine Greer wrote a fine piece on the Miley Cyrus uproar in The Guardian:

[…]

We train female children to be manipulative and to exploit their sex. From the time she is tiny, a girl in our society is taught to flirt. She is usually dressed like a mini-whore in pink and tinsel, short skirt, matching knickers, baby-doll pyjamas, long hair falling over her face. She learns to court attention and, when successful, to hide her face. If she’s lucky enough to get to be a big sister she might get over this sleazy conditioning, but very few daughters these days get to grow out of being “daddy’s girl”. When the time comes she is likely to reject approaching womanhood, desperate to keep her thighs skinny, and nearly as desperate to acquire hard, high breasts. The idea of growing into her own body is charmless, frightening. One thing we know about the Leibovitz photograph is that Cyrus saw nothing amiss in clutching a satin sheet to her apparently naked bosom, and looking at the camera over her shoulder. Girls are taught to look at the world in that sidelong fashion from the time they come to consciousness.

For her photograph of the teenage celebrity, Leibovitz chose a palette strongly redolent of the dirty postcards of yesteryear, sepia embittered with black, a suggestion of eye-blue and lip-red, as if retouched by hand, with never – thank our stars – a hint of pink. The light is centred on the child’s sallow, unformed cheek. Her eyes are shadowed and puffy, her lips slightly set, as if she is waiting out the slow shutter-click of an obsolete camera. Nobody has run a comb through her disordered mass of dark hair, which seems greasy and damp, as if with sweat. As one of her now ex-fans shrieked in his blog, “She looked like she is freshly f**ked in these photos!” The subject of Leibovitz’s photo could be a child prostitute from Casablanca, vintage 1900, the camera in the hands of a sex tourist who is about to toss a few coins to the doorkeeper. It is Disney, after all, that is merchandising this child, and the suggestion of pimping will cling to it. Leibovitz may be cynical, is obviously cynical. She is also, as usual, justified.

Now Disney accuses Vanity Fair of drumming up controversy and deliberately manipulating a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines, as if its own motives were not identical. The photo shoot for Vanity Fair was probably carried out weeks ago but the brouhaha has been timed for the very day the magazine appeared on the newsstands. Disney could have refused to make its star available for a shoot with Vanity Fair, or, if what it wanted was to protect its brand image, it could have demanded the right to vet the pictures. Cyrus was not undefended in the clutches of Leibovitz; her parents and minders were present and apparently saw nothing amiss in the offending photograph, which, in its original state, probably looked less like a dirty postcard than it does on the pages of Vanity Fair.   more here