A Cosmopolitan Morality

I posted a piece over on RAW / ROAR, a new website of feminist writing from Australian women from the Left, on the stoush between Melinda Tankard Reist (MTR) and blogger Jennifer Wilson (No Place for Sheep). It’s not about MTR’s threats to sue for defamation, which I abhor. It’s about the ethics of dismissing an argument because of somebody’s religion.

You can read it here.

End the detention of asylum seekers in Australia

This is the letter I sent today to my Federal Labor MP, Catherine King.

Dear Catherine,

I have been and remain horrified at Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, and so I write to you as a constituent to ask that you press your Government for humane treatment of these desperate people.

What if it was your mother, father, children or friends who had no other option than to flee their country, leaving behind a lifetime of memories and in many cases the opportunity to earn a living for some time. Would you want them denied succour in a new land? Imprisoned for indefinite periods? I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country that locks people up under these conditions.

Not only do we know onshore processing works, it’s the only humane option. Leaving asylum seekers in limbo in places more palatable to our politicians is a national disgrace, and poorly represents a country I know to be full of kind and generous people. The Government is not reflecting community sentiment, even if it claims to be.

The puerile ‘debates’ over so-called ‘boat people’ are even further evidence of how impoverished political discourse is in Australia. It is clear that people fleeing war, famine or persecution will leave by whatever means they can, including the life-threatening voyages some take by boat. You can help re-focus the debate on what’s important – how can Australia help people who seek asylum on our shores to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges we take for granted?

We need leadership, not pandering to the most base sentiments of our society.

It’s time Australia stops destroying people’s lives (and in the worst cases, committing murder when people take their own lives rather than suffer in detention centres any longer) by locking them up with no hope for months and years on end.

Distrust and incarceration are not the answers, compassion and hospitality are.


Tammi Jonas

Using my privilege to interrogate yours

This is not a piece about Ben Pobjie. Nor is it about Justin Shaw, nor Gail Dines nor porn culture. This is a piece about what happens when feminists challenge those who would describe a feminist academic’s work as ‘hysterical screeching’. It is also a recap of a discussion on Twitter two nights ago where this actually happened.

Two nights ago on Twitter, Mike Brull (@mikeb476) challenged Justin Shaw (@juzzytribune) for referring to academic and anti-porn activist Gail Dines’ ‘hysterical screeching’ in an article Shaw wrote for the Kings Tribune. As I watched, the two squared off into what appeared to be pretty aggressive corners. I agreed with Brull’s critique, but admittedly, not with his debating technique, which I thought was a bit inflammatory, and so potentially unproductive.

This is not the beginning, but it’s a good place to start this very long post. These are between Brull and Shaw, with a very helpful interjection from @theriverfed:

@mikeb476: @juzzytribune Calling a woman “hysterical” b/c she’s too angry for you is like calling a woman “slut” b/c you think she’s too promiscuous

Continue reading Using my privilege to interrogate yours

On Dissent and Intellectual Honesty

You say a thing. I disagree with the thing you said and I tell you so. You say:

  1. Everybody is entitled to their opinion.
  2. Why are you so difficult?
  3. nothing, and look surly or distraught.

The first example is a ‘non-answer’, designed to stifle discussion and debate. I may have information you don’t have about the topic. Telling me ‘it’s just my opinion’ rather than engaging with the opinion or assertion of ‘fact’ achieves nothing except to silence me. Your original statement remains unchallenged and unchallengeable, because anything anyone might say is ‘just opinion’. This isn’t true. Not everything is opinion.

Academics are trained to research a topic until they know it inside and out. That doesn’t mean there can’t be new data at any time, that may shift the scholar’s position once uncovered. It does, however, mean the scholar is considered ‘an expert’ who has authority to speak on the topic. This authority has come with years of work and constantly challenging assertions and so-called common sense beliefs. It has not come from reading an article in the newspaper and then citing that article for the next year as authoritative.

Newspapers are not authoritative. Research is, as carried out by academics and other knowledge workers across many sectors who read widely, ask questions, observe, and engage in constant discussion and debate on a topic.

What you read in The Australian about climate change is not authoritative. What you read from the Union of Concerned Scientists is.

The second response (that I am being difficult) is also a non-answer, but a more aggressive one in which I am positioned as an unreasonable person who won’t let a person speak freely. This answer, while serving the same purpose as the first (to silence me), is, I would argue, pernicious. It allows statements that commit symbolic violence to go forth and prosper.

You’re not racist/sexist/nationalist – I’m just difficult.

Continue reading On Dissent and Intellectual Honesty