Sociologist Amy Cooter joins This Is Hell! to discuss her new book from Routledge, Nostalgia, Nationalism, and the US Militia Movement. After the interview, we announce this week's best answer to the Question from Hell!
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The bartender at the Surly Goat used to walk his dog after his shift at around 2:30 am. It was a good time to walk his dog because no one else was out walking a dog. The bartender’s dog, whose name was Governator, did not get along with other dogs. Worse yet, when he spotted another dog on a walk, Governator would lie down and pretend to be submissive and eager to play. Other dogs would be fooled by this ploy and come near enough for Governator to leap to his feet and bark angrily in the other dog’s face, sometimes even biting them. As a dog, Governator was a dick.
Usually during these walks the off-duty bartender would take Governator strolling down an unpaved alley. It was a sandy road with a high wall on one side behind which were a Tudor house that was the home of an aged ingenue and a grove of magnolia and sycamore trees. On the other side were two big estates with gated driveways letting out onto the alley. The gates were sliding walls that opened electrically.
Each gate had about four inches of clearance at the bottom. When the backyard lights were on, that light would come through the clearance space at the bottom, and whenever Governator would walk past these gates his paws would be illuminated. The surrounding night was often dark enough that one could almost imagine those paws were disembodied animal feet strutting along by themselves in the shadows.
Sometimes the bartender would stop and look up through a rear window of the Tudor home of the aged ingenue. There was only one window visible to him. It appeared to look in on a small room. When the light in the room was on he could only see only the ceiling of the room, as he was looking into the window from at least fifteen feet below. It was a vaulted ceiling symmetrically divided into four teardrop-shaped vaults, very medieval in appearance. This went along with his feeling that the aged ingenue was some sort of witch.
She was extremely pale. She had been just as pale when she was younger, when she had been the romantic partner of an actor who began his career playing an old west gunfighter in many Italian westerns and an extremely violent cop in slightly later films. She was so pale her skin verged on transparency, like that of a fetus. It was an especially frightening look for an elderly woman. Her age, transparency, reclusiveness in the Tudor house, and the vaulted ceiling together contributed to a ghastly,... read more
Are you feeling yourself today? Lucky you.
There’s a small part of the population that’s feeling sick today. There’s also a small part that’s feeling down or alienated or grumpy. There’s also a small part of the population that feels like they’re not in the right body today.
Gender dysphoria is a real thing. It’s been described to me by those who’ve had to deal with it, as have the feelings of affirmation on discovering the source of the problem and doing something about it. We counterpose gender, as in gender roles imposed by society, as a quality separate from sex, which we have been taught is biologically determined at birth and inherent in an individual’s genetics. We’re taught there are two sexes, male and female, the infamous “sexual binary.”
Certain political movements, standup comics, evolutionary biologist atheists, and authors of whimsical childhood wizardry adventures seem to believe that transsexuality is the act of using the costume of gender to disguise oneself as a member of the opposite sex. They also seem to believe things even more wrong, but delving into that morass is a topic for another day.
Biological sex is more flexible than its common definition: xx chromosomes equals woman, xy chromosomes equals man. To quote from an article by Claire Ainsworth published in Nature magazine eight years ago and reprinted in Scientific American:
“Gene mutations affecting gonad development can result in a person with XY chromosomes developing typically female characteristics, whereas alterations in hormone signaling can cause XX individuals to develop along male lines.”
She goes on to describe many different instances where hormonal signals governed by varying activity or occurrences of some genes, or the sensitivity or insensitivity of some cells to certain hormones, can blur the lines between the two sexes we generally talk about as having solid boundaries between them. Changes can occur from as early as a few weeks into an embryo’s gestation to a decade or two or more of living in the world.
The conclusion of biology is that sex, not just socially-constructed gender, is a spectrum, that the rigid dichotomy probably doesn’t apply to most people, and demonstrably not to at least one person in a hundred. And those are just the people doctors define as having... read more
Revisiting Willy Wonka’s Racism
Hi, in the background you might hear the sounds of the the ongoing “power tool and mariachi polka on the radio” festival. That’s live radio!
It’s quite a coincidence that, right on the heels of my Moment of Truth about world leaders dissolving in bathtubs, a kerfuffle has arisen about making the language in Roald Dahl less offensive to today’s children. Or their legal guardians. I’m not big on censoring the past. Atrocities of yore should be preserved in museums for study, like the flag of the Confederacy or Robespierre’s final lobster bib. But in this case I agree with making Dahl sanitary for today’s little baby liberal snowflakes. Hear me out.
Parents are raising their children to frown on bullying. No one ever liked bullies, and we had plenty of bullies when I was growing up. Had there been the weight of common moral discourse on the victims’ sides our lives might have been a little less horrible. Some of us might even have enjoyed athletics instead of being bullied out of participating in them. I myself might have been less of a bully about the things I’m a bully about. Then again, I might not be as attracted to women who resemble Irish bullies in the Little Rascals, which would be a minor tragedy.
Aside from the tight controls imposed on a child’s time and location – and of course the mass shootings, especially in schools – almost everything I perceive of how children are being raised seems better today than when Roald Dahl was writing endearingly about transporting pygmies in crates with holes in them – I’ll explain in a second. Progressive values seem to have made it a better time to grow up than when I did. Yes I resent it, because I was raised to resent first and feel empathetic joy only after a period of forcing myself to swallow my gigantic, jagged pride.
Roald Dahl has been criticized for his old-school social attitudes since his writing was first published, and his already published work was edited for unpleasant content – by his own hand, no less – back in the seventies, so this is not new. When the NAACP first called out the racism in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he said he felt they were acting like Nazis. He had to be convinced by a concerned literary friend to make a big change. It’s a good thing she prevailed on him to realize... read more