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April 25, 2013

On Wikipedia, "American Novelists" No Longer Includes Any Women

On Wikipedia, Men Who Write Books Are Just Novelists, While Women Who Do Are "Women Novelists" | ThinkProgress
In my favorite new illustration of the persistent belief that, when it comes to gender, male experience is considered general and unbiased while female experience is particular and annotated, novelist Amanda Filipacchi browsed through Wikipedia and found out that someone has been recategorizing entries on female American fiction writers so that they’re weeded out of the “American Novelists” category and ghettoized off in an “American Women Novelists” category—the “American Man Novelists” contains rather fewer entries. She writes in the New York Times: I looked up a few female novelists. You can see the categories they’re in at the bottom of their pages. It appears that many female novelists, like Harper Lee, Anne Rice, Amy Tan, Donna Tartt and some 300 others, have been relegated to the ranks of “American Women Novelists” only, and no longer appear in the category “American Novelists.” If you look back in the “history” of these women’s pages, you can see that they used to appear in the category “American Novelists,” but that they were recently bumped down. Male novelists on Wikipedia, however — no matter how small or obscure they are — all get to be in the category “American Novelists.” It seems as though no one noticed. I did more investigating and found other familiar names that had been switched from the “American Novelists” to the “American Women Novelists” category: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ayn Rand, Ann Beattie, Djuna Barnes, Emily Barton, Jennifer Belle, Aimee Bender, Amy Bloom, Judy Blume, Alice Adams, Louisa May Alcott, V. C. Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark — and, upsetting to me: myself. I can see a world where it makes sense to categorize novels, though not novelists, by their subject matter. Some days, I want to read about male experiences and read through the eyes of a male main character, somedays I want to live in a woman’s world, and others I want to hang out with, I don’t know, a genetically-engineered fifteen-year-old girl. There’s a service to readers in a project like that. But sorting out authors by gender, and sorting out only female authors by gender, is an attempt to create a differing assessment of male and female writers. Novel-writing is not an inherently male activity.

April 09, 2013

The animal slaughter industry wants to ban people from talking about the animal slaughter industry

Much like how Obama's Justice department reacts to whistleblowers by attacking whistleblowers, the recent spate of undercover exposes on horrific animal abuse in slaughterhouses isn't being responded to with better slaughterhouse procedures, but with the criminalization of journalism. Open the Slaughterhouses - NYTimes.com
Today, under legislation being pushed by business interests, that bit of journalistic adventure could earn me a criminal conviction and land me on a registry of “animal and ecological terrorists.” So-called ag-gag laws, proposed or enacted in about a dozen states, make, or would make, criminals of animal-rights activists who take covert pictures and videos of conditions on industrial farms and slaughterhouses. Some would even classify the activists as terrorists. The agriculture industry says the images are unfair. They seem to show cruelty and brutality, but the eye can be deceiving. The most humane way of slaughtering an animal, or dealing with a sick one, may look pretty horrible. But so does open-heart surgery. The problem with making moral arguments by appealing to revulsion is that some beneficial and indispensable acts can also be revolting. With gruesome shots of cadavers, a skilled amateur could make a strong emotional case against using them to teach anatomy in medical school. Moreover, the industry says, the activists are trespassers, or, when they’re employees working undercover for an animal-rights group or news organization, they’re going beyond the terms of their employment. Slaughterhouses and confined-feeding operations can be dangerous places. Although the industry surely exaggerates the risk, guerrilla actions are not the safest or best way to spur reflection on how we treat animals. Fairness and safety are real issues. So is transparency, and that is why we should require confined-feeding operations and slaughterhouses to install webcams at key stages of their operations. List the URL’s to the video on the packaging. There would be no need for human intrusion into dangerous sites. No tricky angles or scary edits by activists. Just the visual facts. If the operators felt their work misrepresented, they could add cameras to give an even fuller picture.