Fuck cursive, give me justice: class, race, and gender on trial

Fuck cursive, give me justice: class, race, and gender on trial




We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

Trayvon Martin is dead, and George Zimmerman walked free two weeks ago. Is this justice? Is this racism? These questions may, ultimately, be unanswerable. Zimmerman might not be a racist, but his actions leading up to Martin’s death—Zimmerman with weapon in hand, stalking Martin through the streets, afraid of some phantom criminal who just turned out to be a black boy in a black hoody—aren’t sparklingly innocent. Admittedly, this crime wasn’t committed in a vacuum. Zimmerman operated within a larger cultural framework which views anyone black or poor as “threatening” and “dangerous” if they don’t or can’t assimilate into white, middle-class cultural norms. This is almost self-evident, given the way that the trial of George Zimmerman quickly degenerated into the trial of Trayvon Martin and his girlfriend, Rachel Jeantel, who found herself in the exasperating position of explaining black/white, rich/poor cultural differences to the defense. Only the radical left, it seems, grasped the injustice here, while libertarians remained typically silent. Those who profess to “love libery” often ignore the subtler forms of domination perpetrated by one culture over another, believing this kind of oppression to be “non-coercive” and therefore harmless in the long run. But Jeantel’s mistreatment, and the culture which permitted and even encouraged it, deserves repudiation—particularly by anyone laying claim to the title of “libertarian.” And no amount of strict propriety—of sticking to the letter of the law and ignoring the influence of culture—will suffice.

Victims on trial

This mistreatment is maybe best exemplified by the Great Cursive Revelation: Rachel Jeantel admitted to the court that she’s unable to read cursive, making her just like almost anyone else under the age of 40. However, this fact provoked the defense and from the (white, middle-class) general public into shock and outrage. To boot, Jeantel also initially refrained from mentioning that Martin had called Zimmerman (scandal of scandals) a “crazy-ass cracker” during their last phone call. She’s also been criticized for posting shots on Facebook of her “court nails,” and other such “ghetto” behavior.

All of this has been hashed and rehashed, by feminists and leftists of all stripes. But the only noise coming out of major libertarian mouths is in defense of Zimmerman. And even left-libertarian organizations have tended to be peculiarly silent on the subject of Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. Two of the only libertarian articles which went beyond this case’s immediate verdict were posted by Thoughts on Liberty—a notably feminist website, and one of the few feminist libertarian publications out there. Why haven’t the supposed defenders of liberty, on the right and the left, been all over the Martin case and its implications for American race relations—and, therefore, for American liberty?

I don’t claim to have a better understanding of the specific facts of the case than the jury, the prosecution, the defense, or the defendant (not to mention the victim). But a court system, media, and popular culture which put a young woman on the stand only to mock her for her lack of formal learning, are in dire need of reevaluation and, possibly, restructuring. Why did Martin go “ground-and-pound, MMA-style” on Zimmerman, as Sean Hannity put it, when all Zimmerman did was follow him? Maybe because Martin grew up in a country where he knew that killing a black man tends to elicit little government investigation or adjudication, or even an arrest, as his own case would illustrate. Why did Jeantel not immediately call the police when she had at least an inkling of what was about to go down with her boyfriend? Maybe because she was aware, as many people of color have to be, of the dangers of getting the cops involved at all. As Rachel Samara put it, these are some issues and experiences that white people have a harder time grasping than do the people of color and of lower economic class who live them. In and out of court, Jeantel refused to apologize for her culture, her mannerisms, and her adversarial relationship with the State. She can’t read cursive, and she doesn’t seem to give a shit what you think. And maybe that’s what libertarians should be looking for in converts to the cause.

No more cursive, no more niceties

Rachel Jeantel’s vivacious refusal to conform to white, middle-class standards of education and propriety, framed defiantly against Trayvon Martin’s posthumous dissolution into just the image of his hoody and his skin, dominated much of the cultural dialogue over the case. But it was for all the wrong reasons. Articles on the tragic death of cursive proliferated, as if a young man hadn’t been shot to death, and his killer set free, for right or wrong. Why does Jeantel’s formal schooling matter on the stand? More importantly, what does it have to do with her worth as a person?

And why didn’t libertarian writers rush to criticize the way racist, classist, and sizeist (see also: thisthis, and this) voices shaped the way Jeantel was treated, in and out of court? It may be an exercise of First Amendment rights to be a bigot, but it’s definitely not healthy for a society when language like the above goes unchallenged. Part of the First Amendment is its capacity for reflexivity: we need to criticize those who criticize without reason. We need to tear down injustices where and when we see them, whether or not their victims can read cursive.

In fact, fuck cursive. No more whining about cursive—no more politely sticking to whether “the Law” has been “adhered to”—no more limiting ourselves to discussions of the initiation of force, as if culture cannot influence and create the prerequisites for coercion. Rachel Jeantel’s “aggressiveness” and refusal to assimilate are assets, and nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, her attitude gives me hope that people outside the white, male, middle-class standard of libertarianism continue to develop their own strategies of resistance to power. The lesson of this case is not that black people are collectivists, or that the current administration has a grudge against George Zimmerman, or even that Zimmerman’s acquittal was a miscarriage of justice. More reflectively, it shows us that libertarians need to return to our roots: fighting classism and prejudice in every institution, public and private, working to create a culture more inclined to accept and even demand liberty.

Brendan Moore is a current undergraduate at Coe College, studying feminism, zen deconstructionism, poetry, Amanda Palmer, and Tori Amos. He currently lives in Las Vegas, and would like to help you smash the patriarchy.


LRC Article Demonstrates Why the Liberty Movement Has a Women Problem

LRC Article Demonstrates Why the Liberty Movement Has a Women Problem




One Thing Bonnie Kristian, Julie Borowski, and Cathy Reisenwitz All Agree Upon

On Tuesday, July 23, LewRockwell.com published a piece headlined on the site’s primary article list for the day as “Sexual Integration Is a Bad idea.” Penned by one Fred Reed, the article was remarkable for only two reasons:

Its wildly misogynist and collectivist perspective, which plays out in arguments that should make any self-described libertarian cringe; and

2) Its amazing ability to demonstrate in fewer than 1,200 words exactly what should never be published on major libertarian websites if we want the liberty movement to succeed.

A response seemed appropriate, and so here we are. It should be noted that the authors of this joint reply — JulieCathy, and Bonnie — are perhaps best known as a group for where we disagree on the subject of women and libertarianismOur perspectives on differences between the sexes, sexual mores, and how to attract more women to the liberty movement run the gamut. When it comes to Reed’s commentary, however, we have no disagreement.

The diatribe begins with what are evidently intended to be amusing anecdotes — one of which informs the reader that the inclusion of women absolutely ruined the National Press Club, an establishment in which women should apparently be rendered silent and nude in oil paint and hung above the bar.

When a living, breathing, thinking women who was very much not displayed above the bar invited Reed to an event planned by some of the new female members of the club, he responded by tendering his resignation, because evidently the event in question “just wasn’t what men did.” The revealing implication: Men should never do what women do, as this would be shameful. Women should be quiet (and possibly naked) and should stay out of the way when the men are having grown-up conversations.

Next, Reed moves on to a discussion of the well-known question of why girls seem to be more successful in the American school system. Now, there are many, many critiques to be made of the way school is organized in the United States, and — perhaps more seriously — the way our government puts that organization into practice. Research shows that our schools are “average” by world standards when it comes to language and science, and below average in math. And, yes, girls have pulled ahead academically.

There are many possible causes for this. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it’s instructional fads which do more harm than good. Maybe it’s biased grading. Maybe it’s a combination of any number of reasons — most phenomena in real life are — but you know what is unquestionably the #1 factor? The government runs our schools. And it runs them on a one-size-fits-all, test-focused, nationally-administrated model which will never and can never serve diverse students and learning styles well. Period.

And whatever the problem(s) for boys may be, we already know how to fix it: Take your boys out of the government’s schools.

One would suppose that an article printed on a site which bills itself “anti-state” and “pro-market” would recognize this fact, but Reed makes not a single mention of the state’s deleterious involvement in education. Instead, he blames everything on women: Women don’t like to study matters of substance. Women focus too much on polite behavior. Women “don’t want boys in the schools anyway.” (Yes, that really is a direct quote.) Women can’t teach boys. Women put all our boys on psych drugs.

Rather than going after the root causes of trouble in our education system, Reed hacks away at his least favorite branch. His arguments are not only grossly unreasonable, but they’re strongly anti-individualist. We don’t need remove women from our schools; we need to remove the government — or, failing that, our children.

Next, our author claims that resegregation is desirable at the level of the university as well as in primary education. But for whom? At what point has separate but equal ever actually worked in practice? And how can separation from the other sex for the majority of men’s lives possibly make them better prepared for success in and after school?

Reed places blame for men’s dropping out, barely getting through, or failing to go to college in the first place on the fact that women are there. How weird it is that the presence of women hasn’t kept college-age men out of bars and clubs! — quite the opposite, in fact. But Reed refuses to countenance the possibility that men aren’t going to college because they’re unprepared. Or that they’re unprepared because our monopolistic, sclerotic public education system has utterly failed them. Or that it failed them because it is monopolistic and sclerotic. No, Reed, concludes, men definitely aren’t going to college (or failing to thrive if they do attend) because there are — gasp! — ladies there. This is preposterous, and diverts attention from the real problems in our schools.

Our author likewise wants us to believe men who go to college find themselves in a sea of “hostile feminism.” Meanwhile, everyone from theNew York Times to the Washington Post has written about how feminism has brought to college the “hookup culture,” a.k.a. easy sex. We can debate the merits of easy drunken hookups, but I think we can agree that they really cannot be counted as hostility to men.

Furthermore, Reed dismisses “silly Take Back the Night nonsense by hysterical adolescent females.” When one in four American females is sexually assaulted before she graduates college, it’s pretty disgusting for anyone to speak of attempts to deal with rape (and an environment which doesn’t always take it seriously) so flippantly. Sexual assault may not be a concern for Reed, but that does not justify his arguments against a voluntary, peaceful movement against violence — a libertarian cause if there ever was one.

Reed also demonstrates a collectivist mindset when discussing women in the military. He argues that “the physical weakness of women is only the beginning” of the problems with integrating women into front line units, a statement which seems to be intentionally provocative because it is absurd to generalize all women as physically weak. No one would dare call tennis star Serena Williams or MMA fighter Ronda Rousey “weak” to their faces.

Certainly, the front lines of combat aren’t for everyone. Not all women are qualified to be combat soldiers. And frankly, not all men are either. The front lines require a high level of physical and mental capability that not many people have.

Reed, however, is more focused on the gender of soldiers rather than their physical skills (let alone the bigger issue of the foreign policy our soldiers of any gender are used to effect). Gender shouldn’t be a qualifying factor for military service.  A strong man or woman is needed to move injured soldiers, carry heavy equipment for long distances, and do other physically demanding tasks that the job entails.

Reed’s main concern is separating combat units for men and women. If sexual assault is such a problem, perhaps the military needs stronger background checks if some soldiers cannot be in the presence of a woman without sexually assaulting her.  This is a morality problem, not a gender problem.

A better goal would be ensuring that the military’s rigorous physical standards are equally applied to men and women. Everyone must pass the same arduous physical fitness tests at boot camp to prove their strength and ability. For national security reasons, the military shouldn’t allow physically weak people to serve in combat roles. Their gender is irrelevant.

Calling women weak is no way to spread the message of liberty. And, more broadly, reinforcing negative stereotypes and making sweeping statements about groups as big as gender is the antithesis of individualism. Yet, this is the sum of Reed’s arguments throughout his essay.

If ever there was an article which distracted from the true problems in our primary and secondary educational systems and military — problems of government involvement and aggressive foreign policy — this is it.

So is LewRockwell.com “anti-state, anti-war, and pro-market,” or does it support the misdirecting collectivism of Fred Reed? Because it can’t be both.


Julie Borowski
Cathy Reisenwitz
Bonnie Kristian

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Find Out Why I’m Going Weekly (It’s a Good Thing)

Find Out Why I’m Going Weekly (It’s a Good Thing)




Saturday was a huge traffic day because the Libertarian Party Facebook page shared my Ken Cuccinelli post! Yay!

I was at the Students for Liberty Campus Coordinator Retreat (pictured above) at the time because… I am now working with SFL on a new project. I have to keep the deets close to my chest, but a full launch is coming very soon.

I’m telling you now, because I’m going to be working very hard to get ready, meaning I won’t be able to blog daily anymore :( But Sex and the State isn’t going anywhere. I’ll probably be updating weekly, and sometimes more often as I get guest posts and news breaks that I simply must comment upon :).

Blogging full-time has been incredible. Thousands of pageviews on many of my posts, 160 email subscribers and hundreds of comments have definitely confirmed my hunch that there exists a genuine hunger for a libertarian, sex-positive feminist perspective on sex, gender, markets and coercion. So this train ain’t stopping.

Think about subscribing via email so you don’t miss any posts.

Thank you so much for reading, subbing, commenting, sharing.

On to the next great adventure for liberty!

Why Ken Cuccinelli’s Oral Sex Law Means No Libertarian Should Ever Vote for Him

Why Ken Cuccinelli’s Oral Sex Law Means No Libertarian Should Ever Vote for Him




Oh Virginia gubernatorial candidate and state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli. You are so damn cray. You just launched a website whose sole purpose is to promote the enforcement of Virginia’s unconstitutional ban on oral and anal sex. Double down, indeed.

“It’s for the children!” You say. Well, technically you say ”Keep Virginia Children Safe!” But all the law has done is keep 90 people on the sex offender registry, which is pretty useless in terms of safety and extremely problematic in terms of who gets included and residency restrictions. So good job.

Some libertarians want us to look beyond Cuccinelli’s backwards and unconstitutional legislative maneuverings because his intentions there are good and because he says he’ll lower taxes. But that’s kind of the difference between a libertarian and a Republican, isn’t it?

A Republican says it’s okay to grow government when a Republican is president. It’s okay to grant vast new powers of surveillance and detainment if it’s for national security. It’s okay to start wars in foreign countries if it’s to spread democracy. It’s okay to violate individual liberty and discard the principles of limited government if you’ve got a good reason.

But the libertarian says, “Well, no, not really.” The libertarian points out that the point of limited government is that government can’t be trusted do just do what you want it to with the powers you give it. The libertarian points out that as soon as you give government vast surveillance powers, it will use it to spy on enemies not of the people, but of government itself.

Laws are serious violations of liberty. It’s beyond ridiculous to sit back and trust government, as some even “libertarians” have done, to only use sodomy laws to punish child molesters. We KNOW FOR A FACT that sex offender laws are currently being used by racist parents to punish 18-year-old black boys who date their white high school daughters, or homophobic parents to punish their kids’ queer girlfriends.

So no, it does not matter to me that Cuccinelli might have good intentions. Which terrible, terrible laws aren’t justified that way? This law is wrong. A judge has already ruled it unconstitutional. It will not survive further judicial scrutiny. It’s a clear violation of individual liberty. All such laws end up being used to screw vulnerable people.

Every time Republicans and libertarians sit back and say it’s just fine, you still have my vote, when our politicians do stuff like that, we’re wrong.

Besides, as soon as you make blowjobs illegal, only criminals will give blowjobs. Or something.

What Cory Monteith’s Overdose Tells Us About Legalization

What Cory Monteith’s Overdose Tells Us About Legalization

Monday, Reason magazine released a video of neuroscientist Carl Hart explaining what neuroscience has to say about the harms of methamphetamine. His contention is that the effects on the brain, and chemical makeup, of meth are nearly indistinguishable from the active ingredient in Adderall, and that the harms have been greatly exaggerated. Then yesterday it came out that a star in the hit television show Glee, Cory Monteith, died from a heroin overdose which was complicated by alcohol.

This brings up a sort of tension. It’s important to get our science straight and separated from our media-embellished anxieties. But as long as people continue to see young promising lives lost and addictions rage, the contention that drugs are harmless will remain neither accurate nor convincing.

I like drugs, personally. I think there’s a lot of potential for gain in taking them. Studies have shown that taking so-called magic mushrooms, or psilocybin can create permanent positive changes in users’ personalities. Other studies have shown promising results in treating PTSD with MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy. And marijuana has been shown in study after study to do everything from keep your weight down to help cancer patients beat nausea and chronic pain to actually curing cancer. But beyond all that, there is something good about experiencing a greater range of cognition than can be achieved without mind-altering substances.

However, like getting into a car, all that benefit isn’t without its risks. And that’s where the pro-legalization lobby sometimes leaves people. Yes, we should focus on the tremendous benefits drugs that are currently illegal have to offer. And we should be more realistic and less hyperbolic about their potential harms.

But there are many people who have seen the absolutely devastating effects of drug use up close and personal who will never be convinced that drugs are not harmful in the extreme. I was once one of them. Growing up in the Southern Baptist church, I never really experimented with drugs, save for one night when I took GHB, which is a date rape drug. One reason I believe in a Creator is that I willingly took a date rape drug and did not, in fact, get raped. But beyond that, my only real exposure to drugs was watching one of my classmates get expelled instead of graduating for selling cannabis at our high school, having an ex-boyfriend die of a drug overdose when he ate his bag of cocaine when he was pulled over, and seeing lots of kids sit around and get high instead of going to college.

What I didn’t see were armed no-knock raids in the middle of the night for possession. I didn’t see anyone, ever, go to jail for drugs. I didn’t see communities unable to trust the police. I didn’t see police profiling my friends and neighbors based on the color of their skin, tricking them into showing their drugs and then hauling them off. I didn’t see dogs shot. I saw the harmful effects of drugs, but never saw the harmful effects of the drug war.

So I don’t think the key to convincing middle-class white people, like old me, that drugs should be legalized will be convincing them that they’re harmless, or worth the benefits. What led me to change my mind was knowing how the horrors of the drug war were far worse than the effects of the drugs themselves.

Instead of talking about how benign drugs are, we need to be telling the stories of the victims of the War on Drugs. This is what it’s going to take for people exposed to the dangers of drugs but insulated from the damage of the drug war to come around to legalization.

This post originally appeared at Thoughts on Liberty.