No more funding for Sex Reassignment in Alberta

$700,000 per year, or $.19 per Albertan is going to be saved by delisting this procedure in Alberta.  Also note that Ontario de-listed the procedure for ten years, and was forced to reinstate it on grounds of human rights. Ultimately, I imagine the government will be spending at least as much as they intend to save by cutting the funds in the cost of litigation. I think the worst possible interpretation of this move is that this is just a senseless act of hate, feeding off of ignorance and the general sense of economic uncertainty to gain popular appeal. I’m having trouble coming up with a more charitable view though. SRS is a complicated issue that’s not cut-and-dry, even if you’re pro-trans, but tough issues aside I can’t even see the practical benefit to making this move.

Read more here

And check out the facebook group too. The info for the media discussion is particularly interesting.

Blind review

A movie review site lets you know how easy reviewed films are to watch by the visually impaired. In my home town (Toronto) the Edge radio station had a blind movie reviewer who was featured on the morning show. I think it was supposed to be tongue in cheek but the reviewer was really intelligent and witty, and he did report back on how easy it was to figure out what was going on.

Rape victims at fault?

Of the 15% of women who actually report their rape, 80% of cases are dropped by police- why? Insufficient evidence 21%, victim withdrawal 17%, victim denied to complete the initial process 17%, offender not identified 13%, false allegation 12%, insufficient evidence 5%, no prospect of conviction 2%, not in public interest 1%, other %12 (Stats from 2001/2)

Feminist philosophers reported, a little while ago, that in the UK victims of rape have been considered 25% culpable for the crimes committed against them if they were drinking- at least for the past year, anyway. Now, the claim is that this was never the policy of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. But it took the successful appeal of one victim to bring them to the conclusion that this in fact is what the policy states- and hers wasn’t the first appeal.

Interestingly, on the audio interview with the victim’s solicitor she says that the policy was that drinking would be taken into consideration, and in fact a prior appeal had been put for full compensation for a rape victim who had been drinking but her appeal had been denied. Now, however, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice says that it was a matter of misapplication of the policy in these prior cases. What seems to be the case is that there was a policy that drinking would be considered in compensating victims, but that the unwritten intention of this policy referred to cases where victims clearly bring things on themselves, such as when someone drinks too much and starts fights. But it also seems to be the case that for any number of crimes such as mugging or robbery, alcohol consumption by the victim may still be considered (the justice minister admits as much). So, in some cases victims may be responsible for crimes committed against them, except in cases of rape. Seems unlikely to me. I support the extra protection offered to victims of sexual assault provided by the justice system, but I do think that clarifying their policies for themselves if no one else, is essential to providing a sense that justice is served and maintaining public trust. There is clearly a sense in the UK that rape can be a victim’s fault, otherwise the 15 cases of victims being told as much would not have happened (check out the appalling discussion below this article– man after man saying women falsely accuse, protect the accused, etc. etc “Part of the problem is the fact that so many women are falsely accusing men of rape nowadays. A woman gets drunk and gives consent, yet in the morning can accuse the male of rape”). In order to change public thinking about the issue, it seems that Continue reading

More 10 Goodness!

I was thinking that it would be nice if we had a widget so that you could create your own ten lists at a whim. As it turns out, we do! Sort of… ok, so it’s just a search bar. But  I thought I’d draw your attention to it, it’s a great way to search for posts that focus on a similar topic.

Anyway, here’s ten posts that reflect what you’ve found interesting over the last month. Apparently some of you folks like reading old entries. A lot. However, the Olympics hype really shines though in your viewing patterns. Enjoy!

The Tasty Top Ten

  1. Can we ditch the fatty anorexics but save our own stupid selves?
  2. John Mark Stallings
  3. Natalie du Toit
  4. Ableist language alternatives
  5. Natalie du Toit carries South African flag at Olympics
  6. African American swimmer wins gold medal
  7. Body Worlds
  8. Tropic Thunder: from insult to injury
  9. Tropic Thunder box office expectations
  10. New Coke commercial features Special Olympics athletes

Dani, a feral child

The idea of a child who has grown largely without human contact or care is of interest to academics for a variety of reasons, whether the interest stems from questions about child development, or the nature/nurture problem. But I agree with jj in this post from Feminist Philosophers that the reality of “the feral child” is far from being the distant object of theoretical curiosity that it is often speculated as in classroom discussion.

Dani with her new family

Dani with her new family

This journalistic report on the story on Dani, a child who went largely without human contact until she was seven, does a remarkably good job of treating her as a person, rather than an object of medical intrigue. Dani was diagnosed with a kind of environmental autism due to this neglect. Included is an audio version of the story and a slide show, as well as links to other stories on Dani and a place for feedback.

The Olympian

Rebecca Solnit offers another look at the bodies of the Olympics, what they mean, and what they hide.

“On August 8, the Beijing Olympic Games will begin, and television will bring us weeks of the human body at the height of health, beauty, discipline, power, and grace. It will be a thousand-hour advertisement, in some sense, for the participating nations as represented by athletes with amazing abilities. In reality, the athletes will be something of a mask for what each nation really stands for, and this year the Olympics as a whole will be as much a coverup as, say, the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, which came hot on the heels of the Tlaltelolco Plaza massacre of students, or the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which gave the Nazis legitimacy as they turned Germany into an efficient totalitarian death factory. Ironically, the 2008 summer Olympics begin on the twentieth anniversary of the 8888 (for 8/8/1988 ) Burma uprising against the brutal military dictatorship that has controlled that country, with crucial backing from China, for more than four decades now. The Chinese government is also busy terrorizing Tibetans protesting for religious freedom and liberation of their colonized country; it is also the main protector of the Sudanese government carrying out a holocaust in Darfur. Continue reading


A still shot from the movie with one seeing woman leading a train of blind people behind her

A still shot from the movie with one blond, seeing woman leading a train of about 7 blind people behind her through cars parked haphazardly on a street. The people she leads seem to be walking with a hand on each others shoulder, or else by holding hands. One child has his eyes shut but the others have open, unfocused eyes. The image is overexposed, making colours look pale and washed out.

What happens when an epidemic makes people turn blind suddenly in the middle of their everyday lives? Well, you lock them up in an abandoned mental institution, tell them to distribute rations as they see fit, and a “Lord of the Flies” situation ensues (because blindness makes you lose your sense of humanity, perhaps) until, of course, the one person who can see infiltrates the blind exiles and saves them!

The promo page has a video and written synopsis. The video is audio-visual, no captions, but the synopsis below it roughly explicates what happens in the images. The official website (called Blindness- this fall, our vision of the world will change forever) is rife with bad jokes- you can choose to “see more” to go on to other pages, or “spread blindness”(!) to email it to your friends. The images are harsh and white, fogging in and out with overexposed photographs. The Guardian offers some more written review. I get that it’s supposed to be a horror movie, and no doubt widespread, sudden blindness would be horrible. But I wonder about how people feel about the fact that they require a seeing person to save them.

Race: CFP

The Monist copy cover

The Monist copy cover; with a black background and blue font, it doesn't show up very well. Hopefully the inside is easier to read.

The Monist is currently looking for submissions on race, see behind the cut for full details.

Topic: This issue of The Monist will explore race both the concept and the category from a philosophical point of view. The focus will be not only on the metaphysical and epistemological issues related to racial classification, but also on the social and psychological aspects of race. What is race? What sort of category is it, ontologically speaking? Is it an empty category? If not, is it a biological kind, a social kind, or perhaps both? How is race conceptualized both scientifically and in everyday discourse? Continue reading

Identity and Polarization

Chumir Ethics Foundation logo

Chumir Ethics Foundation logo

The Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership is hosting a Symposium this fall in Calgary on identity and public policy. The Foundation, formed by a bequest of Mr. Chumir, who firmly believed that ethical values are fundamental to a healthy society. He wished the Foundation to foster ethical actions in the practical world of government, business and on a variety of issues. As of early 2008, the Foundation’s two primary priorities are (1) the reform of Alberta’s human rights (anti-discrimination) law and (2) issues connected with diversity. The work on diversity touches on topics such as free speech in a multicultural society, the appropriate role of religion in Canadian public life and the impact of greater diversity on gender equality in Canada. The Symposium is one effort towards this end, and below is a summary of the event, including a list of speakers and registration information. I have contacted the foundations for information on accessibility, if anyone has any particular requests i would be happy to forward them on your behalf, just send me an email at

Identity and Polarization:

Implications for our ability to live well together

A symposium on diversity

October 3 – 4, 2008; Calgary, AB

Canada is often pointed to as a model of how a highly diverse population can live together peacefully. But our diversity can present challenges.

For example, the debate in Ontario a few years ago about giving the force of law to religiously-based arbitration revealed tensions between promoting gender equality and accommodating religious difference.

The Chumir Foundation is launching a multi-year project on diversity by looking at a few basic issues: How do we identify ourselves? Why is identity of ethical importance? And what does this all mean for public policy and good governance?

Invited speakers include Daniel Weinstock from University of Montreal, Janice Stein from the University of Toronto and Carl James of York University – all of whom are known for their writing and speaking on diversity issues. The keynote speaker Friday evening is Kwame Anthony Appiah from Princeton. Professor Appiah is often said to be one of the leading public intellectuals in the US. His writing on identity and diversity issues includes the books Cosmopolitanism and The Ethics of Identity.

Continue reading

Ableist language alternatives

Iris: A Gaming Network is a discussion board that seeks to subvert the status quo in gaming in attempt to find ways to rid the gaming industry of it’s strong racist/homophobic/sexist/ableist biases with a particular focus on feminist concerns. In my travels there, I noticed this discussion. It offers some alternatives to ableist or otherwise bigoted language, with some interesting discussion on regional variation following. I’ve appended the list of alternative slurs for your reference.

For more on Ableist language, check out this recent post from Feminist Philosophers. In both places, the discussion around language seems to get people quite excited. I’m not sure what it is- it is as if asking someone to avoid being an ass is somehow like putting a barrier on their freedoms which is offensive in it’s own right. Although they may believe in principle that being an ass ought to be avoided, they also believe in principle that restricting one’s freedom to be an ass is ethically indefensible. I’m not sure how to help people to get out of this particular bind in reasoning. Any suggestions?

General Non-bigoted Slurs
Waste of space
Asswipe Continue reading

Here be dragons

If you could make a one hour video explaining science vs. pseudoscience to the masses, what would you say? What examples would you call on, and what tools would you want to give people to carry on into the rest of their lives? Here Be Dragons is a short introduction to critical thinking for the uninitiated by someone who hoped to offer just this. The problem, he says isn’t wacky products and services, it’s all the wacky reasons we buy into them. Closes off with a recommended reading list. There’s some questionable progress rhetoric happening here, and it’s certainly not how I would write my skeptic’s handbook, but it’s interesting to think of what you might want to do differently. Check out the website for more details. I’ve put in a request for a closed captioned version, I’ll keep you posted if I find one, but for now this is audio only.

Beauty through the eye of a camera

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

In April, Paris drafted a voluntary charter encouraging advertisers to promote a wider range of body types in an effort to curb the spread of eating disorders among teenagers. Soon, Quebec may be following suit. Although some countries have made weight ranges mandatory, such as Spain, this voluntary measure is a first step that does not preclude the possibility of legislation passing in the future. See the full story here.

Here in Canada we’ve already seen some advertisers looking to promote a wider range body types. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a conspicuous one that has received much attention. Largely, I think, this is due to the shock value that half-naked non-models on billboards will inevitably provide in a culture where images of bodies in public are edited beyond recognition. Continue reading

What’s Hot at What Sorts? Ten Videos

Here at What Sort’s, we like flashy things that involve fun pictures or sounds or interactive bits. Some of us like them more than others. Here’s some of the fun stuff that you can catch at What Sorts- keep it coming! [Apologies in advance for not having figured out yet how to go back and caption or subtitle these videos … we’ll get there.]

Fun Stuff:

  1. New Richard Dawkins Vid Reveals Intelligent Design! Spirit of the Time
  2. “Britain’s Missing Top Model” a Media Hit D. Sobsey
  3. Coming Out by See Hear Spirit of the Time
  4. Podcast of Talks on Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta Spirit of the Time
  5. Oscar Pistorius: Liberite, Fraternite, Egalite Spirit of the Time
  6. Jack McCann Mika Bodet
  7. Canadian Prim Minister’s apology on residential schools VirtualJess
  8. Farlow Lecture: 11 June 2008 D. Sobsey
  9. The Best of Ideas Mark Workman
  10. Advertising Autism Spirit of the Time

Ever wondered how you can make a video accessible for the deaf or hard of hearing? has a great synopsis about how to closed caption using various readily available resources, with videos to explain how it’s done in nice and simple terms. These earlier posts have not been closed captioned, but it is our hope that whenever possible in future posts be chosen and edited with accessibility in mind.

What’s Hot at What Sorts: take three!

What is What Sorts about? Here’s a smattering of posts from the archives for your viewing pleasure. Ten posts you might want to peruse, in no particular order. Happy reading!

What’s Hot?

  1. Kristina: Excluded: Sorry, it’s not your right!
  2. Biella: Drugging the Elderly
  3. Dick Sobsey: Paratransit Crime
  4. Spirit of the Time: Citizendium
  5. VirtualJess: Censoring Joy
  6. Wolbring: What Sorts of Paralympics?
  7. Biella: Pride in Madness: the new Visibility
  8. Joanne Faulkner: A BBC Look at Plastic Surgery
  9. Wolbring: Double Amputee Sprinter Can Pursue Olympic Dream
  10. Spirit of the Time: Disability, Ethics, Philosophy, Race

Wii Fit: what videogames can teach us

Feminist Philosophers today features a post on Wii Fit, a game that incorporates weight loss goals in the family-friendly format of a Nintendo game. It uses a BMI to tell you how far away from normal you are, an then has you set goals to get back in to the normal range. This game is marketed to the whole family, including children. See, for example, the game demo website, where we see a man, woman, girl and boy who each demonstrate for us what different types of activities we can perform with Wii Fit. Note the correlation between the  exercise being modeled and the person used to model it. Mom does yoga, dad does strength training, boy does balance games, ten year old girl does aerobics. Yes, aerobics. Why does a little girl need to do aerobics? Click on her and she tells you (big smile on her face)  “If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is running a little high,  you may want to go for a session of Aerobics… to help tone your body.”  Of course, BMI’s don’t work on children, and although there’s a very faint disclaimer to this effect, the game producers clearly expect little girls to track and strive to change their BMI- this is, after all, the point of the game. Even better, the game lets you chart your progress against your friends and family, so it turns into a veritable weight loss competition!

<insert face-palm here>

What’s Hot at What Sorts: Second Take

Back by popular demand, here’s a sampling of ten articles from the What Sorts folks that represent the kind of stuff we have found interesting over the past few months.

What’s HOT:

  1. Mika Bodet: Natalie du Toit
  2. Spirit of the Time: Prisons, incarceration, philosophy and Canada
  3. Marc Workman: The Best of Ideas
  4. Ed Stein: What Sorts of Marriages
  5. Gregor Wolbring: What sorts of athletes should there be?
  6. Biella: The New Autism Rights Movement
  7. Joanne Faulkner: What Sorts of People in the Casino?
  8. Dick Sobsey: Eugenic Cleansing in a Pandemic
  9. Gregor Wolbring: Disabilities among Refugees and Conflict-affected Populations
  10. John Simpson: Body Worlds- A Visitor’s Tale

Normalizing Mothers

The Shape of a Mother is a  newly renovated blog (still somewhat under construction, so search via the search engine, not tags) that recently made it on to the blog roll (thanks to Jackie!) and  I thought I’d give you all a formal introduction. This blog takes a look at women’s bodies during and after pregnancy to try and dispel the sense that such forms are abnormal, unhealthy, and shameful. It includes contributions from many people looking to post pictures of their post-baby tummies in an effort to foster pride in the many shapes that motherhood can bring. Continue reading

What’s Hot at What Sorts

Here in the belly of the What Sorts beast we have access to tricksy tools that let us see what posts people read, link to, and comment on. Being the liberal-minded people we are, we thought we’d let you in on some. Here’s a list of ten of our earlier posts from ten different authors. Whether you’re new to the blog and want to know what we’re about, or if you’re just and old-timer who’s as curious as we are about what sorts of things people like to read, we thought you’d find this interesting. Continue reading

Censoring Joy

the lesbian prototype?Celebrations last week for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California were joyous indeed. It was marked as a great triumph for couples like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been together since 1953, and who were first to be married in California under the new law. In any situation where the press meets sexuality, however, the question of choice arises: why Martin and Lyon? What does a ‘normal’ gay marriage look like, anyway? We might optimistically think that the choices surrounding the publication of images of potentially controversial material are not spelled out in such explicit terms, but in this case, at least, we might be surprised. Interestingly, it has been from proponents of gay marriage that the most blatant censorship has come. Presumably out of fear that images of “guys in gowns” might scare off even more liberally-minded Americans, yet unsure of what gay marriage might spell for the norms and values of the state, leaders of the California gay/ lesbian community have been underscoring the importance of self-censorship at same-sex marriages. Jack, from Feministe, explains why she isn’t celebrating:

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community….. Continue reading

Catching My Breath (catch it tonight!)

Catching My Breath is a documentary that traces the story of Ken Thomas, and Edmonton-based wheelchair athlete, while looking more broadly at the situation for people with cerebral palsy in the 60’s and 70’s when the World Master’s Games were held here. It is showing TONIGHT at the Metro Cinema at the Citadel in downtown Edmonton, and will be followed by a documentary that creatively combines live footage and digital editing techniques to tell the story of an artist living with A.D.D.. For all the details, check behind the cut.

Continue reading