Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Of sheiks and attorney generals

by Jordan Bubin

You know what Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh and Wayne Anthony Ross, Palin’s almost-Attorney General, have in common? They’re both fucknuts.

Al-Sheikh is the shmuck—grand mufti or not—who declared that girls “aged 10 or 12 can be married,” and that to say they “too young” is unfair to the girls themselves. This, of course, was in response to the international debate over the judge who refused to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man, one which occurred because the girl’s father was in debt to the other man—who promised to reduce the girl’s father’s debt by $8,000 if he sold him her hand in marriage. Even by al-Sheikh’s twisted logic, eight is less than ten, and so he ought not be defending the marriage…but that’s fine, I suppose if you’re in the underage meat market eight is great, and justifications be damned.

Ross, on the other hand, is all-inbred American brand of jackass. Sporting a thirty-year record of newspaper editorials and public comments such as “If a woman would keep her mouth shut, there wouldn’t be an issue with domestic violence,” and denunciations of gays as “degenerates,” he drives a Hummer which sports his own initials on the vanity plates—because WAR is awesome, lolz!

I admit, this came out last week, but I move slow in the post-thesis period; when I read this last week, in conjunction with the story about the 8-year-old girl, my response was a bit of “Is this satire? Or is this guy for fucking real?”, followed immediately by—“How do you deal with the problems in other countries if you have members of the Elite Grand Order of Douchebags in our own land?”

At the time, I thought that the best thing to do—or at least the most immediately gratifying—would be to punt Ross in his underused scrotum. Like many middle-school bullies, Ross seems to rely on the threat of violence as a response to criticism; he reportedly responded to reporters’ questions about public criticisms of him with the eloquent “if anybody said that to me, we'd have a little confrontation because that's a bunch of crap.” And like many middle school bullies who never seem to graduate from that emotional level, Ross looks the part of a fat emphysema-stricken man who is hopefully nearing a heart attack. So why not take him up on his seventh-grade bluster, stoop to his level for three seconds, and see if his ticker goes?

Then Alaska made history, voting down for the first time ever on an appointed attorney general, 35-23. Go Alaska (except for the whole electing-insane-governors thing)! Ross’s failure aside, though, the question is still in my head—how do you act in order to have the most effect? Rail against injustices in foreign countries, or start at home? Before you remove the misogyny from the neighbor’s eye, cleanse the problems from your own, right? And to not be so simplistic, I’m sure you can push on both fronts at once—but what balance do you give to your efforts?


At April 21, 2009 at 8:15 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


"A little confrontation" does not necessarily imply a violent confrontation.

You, on the other hand, don't seem too shy about advocating the murder of someone with whom you disagree. Even if you intended it in jest, it's in very poor taste. I'm surprised and disappointed that the editors allowed it on their blog. You've descended well below the level which you attribute to Ross.

At April 21, 2009 at 9:52 PM , Anonymous Ridiculous said...

I disagree, Dan. Anti-feminism should never be tolerated, and I would applaud if someone went ahead and strung up this idiot, and threw in Palin for good measure.

At April 21, 2009 at 11:44 PM , Blogger Christina said...

OK, misogyny shouldn't be tolerated. I think we all get that, but now it's out there for the record. Dan's point is not that we should accommodate or help spread Ross and al-Sheikh's views (though we must respect that they have the freedom of speech/expression to say such things just as we have the freedom of speech/expression to disagree), but rather that we should find a better way of expressing our deep disapproval, disagreement, and even anger.

Clearly, al-Sheikh's priorities are screwed up. Clearly, we can't allow child marriages. Also clearly, no one with a Western mindset is going to listen to him on this one. Also clearly, he's not the only one with that opinion in his part of the world. So clearly, we're going to have to change a lot of hearts and minds to resolve that issue, not engage in petty name-calling and obscenity-hurling. In fact, name-calling and obscenity-hurling would probably only bias the people whose opinions we're trying to change against us. That seems like a pretty bad call to me, since we're already fighting an uphill battle.

With regard to Ross, I don't know any more about him than what I've read here and in the link in the post. Still, clearly, he's got some screwed up priorities and has apparently said some pretty awful things. Clearly, based on what I've read about him and based on the fact that his nomination was voted down, he's not the kind of person we want in a position of power. Also clearly, not many people are listening to him and taking him seriously, if this is the first time Alaska has not approved an appointee. Also, though perhaps less clearly, I feel like we would scarcely have heard about this if he weren't tied up with Sarah Palin. (Even if you don't agree with her, she hasn't, to my knowledge, said anything nearly as offensive as Ross; but in both their cases, stringing them up isn't going to do any good and would only damage the credibility of the position against them, because the people holding that position would be shown to not have respect for the law, due process, rights to bodily integrity and security, etc. Incidentally, those are some of the same things we're asking of Ross and al-Sheikh with regard to women.)

Jordan's final questions are perfectly legitimate. That last paragraph, I'm fine with. Clearly, we don't want to tolerate misogyny, and we do need to find the proper balance between cleaning up our own backyard and cleaning up the world. However, Dan also has a very good point: the name-calling and violent tone of the first five paragraphs of this post is appalling. They are counter-productive and reduce the writer to the level of those whom he writes about: he's letting emotions and ideology get in the way of having a rational, intellectual discourse about a topic that merits serious discussion. Yes, it's sometimes very hard to separate emotion from issues like this, and emotions can't help but color the way you express yourself; however, unbridled emotion is not going to change minds, and it's going to keep you from being taken seriously. Incidentally, part of the reason I can't take Ross seriously is the emotional tone of the quotes referenced here and the clear lack of forethought (or perhaps any thought) in what he's quoted as saying. The use of the word "crap" in a serious setting (not to mention obscenities) also tends to detract from the authority or solemnity of tone that would be appropriate to the situation.

Refraining from calling your opponents f***nuts, refraining from expressing one's wish to beat up one's opponent, refraining from hoping that one's opponent dies of a heart-attack--refraining from all of that doesn't mean you're tolerating misogyny. It means you're engaging in a civil discourse appropriate for all ears that won't simply offend people into not listening. You can very distinctly not tolerate misogyny while maintaining a civil tongue.

To consider Jordan's useful question, I think that the proper balance would entail a few things: 1) not allowing the state of women's freedom to deteriorate at home, and 2) advocating for the further improvement of equality at home, but 3) focusing our greatest efforts where the need is greatest. Since I think ending child marriages is more important than redundantly censuring (I do mean censuring, not censoring) a politician who very briefly appears in the national spotlight, our greater efforts would need to be focused on the former and situations like it.

At April 22, 2009 at 11:08 AM , Blogger Jordan Bubin '09 said...

Um, no.
Christina, and Dan, it's called sarcasm. I can choose to write a post in an effete intellectual tone if I so choose. I did not choose to do so here. To do so every time I sit down to write a post is, in my mind, boring--both for the writer and for the reader.

Hence, the first *appalling* five paragraphs, and the tone of the piece. Also, murder was never mentioned. I believe my exact words were "punt Ross in his underused scrotum."

Anyway, if you prefer politically correct pieces, don't read mine. PC bores the shit out of me, and I feel that it is frequently counterproductive and a self-aggrandizing usage of one's time.

At April 22, 2009 at 12:05 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


No, your exact words were:
"So why not take him up on his seventh-grade bluster, stoop to his level for three seconds, and see if his ticker goes?"

You didn't use the word "murder" but you certainly expressed the intent.

At April 22, 2009 at 12:07 PM , Anonymous Dan said...

Ridiculous: we don't kill to solve our problems. Didn't your parents ever teach you that?

Christina: eloquent, as always. Thanks.

At April 22, 2009 at 1:04 PM , Blogger LSG said...

I did think the killing fantasy was over the line, although I thought the anger is entirely justified.

At the same time, it's now been said twice that Jordan's swearing and raging as lowered him to (or below!) the level of the men he's criticizing. That, to me, is ridiculous -- on the one hand we have men in positions of political/religious/public power (men who can potentially "change people's hearts", which as Christina points out is extremely important), who have real influence and a lot of exposure, one advocating child "marriage" which will directly result in emotional and physical agony for little girls and and the other attempting to justify domestic violence, marital rape, and homophobia. On the other hand we have Jordan, furious at these despicable acts, writing a post an an obscure college feminism blog, asking good questions and expressing justifiable fury and also including an inappropriately violent fantasy about causing these guys suffering. Those levels are completely different. I think Ross and al-Sheikh are on different levels, too, but Jordan hasn't made it to either.

Answering Jordan's questions, I do think prioritizing has to happen to some extent. I agree with Christina that the immediate, more serious problem is child marriage -- it's also a more complicated situation, and one with fewer opportunities in which we can directly influence the outcome. The best plan I've come up with is supporting international humanitarian and/or women's groups who are fighting this. My other immediate thoughts, like asking our government to apply pressure or supporting Muslim teachers who interpret Islam differently, could be useful (see the Karzai episode) or could completely backfire. We need people who really understand all the facets of the situation in there working, and right now it seems like those people are probably going to have to come from humanitarian groups.

On the domestic front, I do think denouncing Ross is important, not so much because it'll do anything to him, but because it makes it clear to perpetrators of domestic violence, marital rape, and homophobia that we are not on their side. It also sends a message to other public figures that speaking up in favor of dv, rape, and homophobia is unacceptable.

Besides, a quick denouncing doesn't take long, even if it's to a governor's office.

At April 22, 2009 at 11:50 PM , Blogger Jordan Bubin '09 said...

I think the murderous intent is in the eye of the beholder. Check yourself, and ask what you see in things when you read them. I wrote that thinking--honestly--of woshambo, from South Park. If you haven't heard of it, here's Urban Dictionary.

I put the part about his ticker because it amuses me when fat aging men act as if physical violence is something they're greatly capable of.

If a dark joke constitutes a murder fantasy to you, McCosh does offer mental health appointments. And I do not mean that in a sarcastic or un-pc way, but in a genuine manner.

LSG, thank you for pointing out a difference between myself and WAR (and al-sheikh), and your suggestions.

Internationally, I wonder about the efficacy of pushing for more progressive teachers of Islam...in terms of America's image in the eyes of Islamic countries, I wonder how such a potentially pushy tactic would appear; child marriage is a problem, but so is Iranian nuclear weapons programs. How do you prioritize, and how many buttons do you push (is what I'm trying to say)?


At April 23, 2009 at 1:20 AM , Anonymous Chloe said...

"effete intellectual tone "?

At April 23, 2009 at 9:41 AM , Blogger LSG said...

I wonder about the efficacy of American/European governments and American/European aid organizations explicitly pushing for progressive Muslim teachers and scholars as well, Jordan, but it's almost entirely because I think there would be a giant backlash if it appeared that non-Muslim Americans and Europeans were trying to meddle in or manipulate Islam for their own ends. It could very well hurt the credibility of teachers who are advocating for more liberal policies.

From the purely religious angle, I think pressure will have to come from inside Islam. There are tons of American Muslims (and Canadian Muslims, and European Muslims, and Middle Eastern Muslims, and Muslims from all over the globe) who believe Islam doesn't allow misogyny, and certainly that it doesn't promote the marriage of eight-year-olds. They as private citizens and practicing members of Islam might be able to support more progressive teachers in ways that are not open to Christian, Jewish, or secular Americans. It seems like an overwhelming message from the moderate (and even fairly conservative!) Muslim world community that eight-year-olds aren't fit to marry and that Islam does not support misogyny would have exponentially more positive effects than pressure from, say, Secretary Clinton.

That being said, I think our government and other liberal states can lean on governments of Muslim countries to liberalize their policies. There's still the risk of being too pushy, and the problems of prioritizing, but I think there's an understanding that governments are supposed to pressure, negotiate, and push against each other -- so I don't think it would cause the same backlash as the U.S. government pressuring a religious teacher would.

Priorities are, as ever, incredibly difficult -- I'm still thinking.

At April 23, 2009 at 1:24 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


How was I supposed to guess that you were thinking of South Park? I don't know you at all except through what you write here, in this public space. You would do well to remember that this *is* a public space, and not just some place to banter among your friends who can guess the unwritten aspects of your intent.

Have you ever considered that your "dark joke" may actually be illegal in New Jersey?

And just where do you get the idea that you can question my mental health? That's nothing more than an ad hominem attack on me.

Your style of writing and your responses to me both hurt your credibility, and distract from the valid points you are trying to make.


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