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Naked in Egypt

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy is an Egyptian student who posted nude pictures of herself on the internet in the name of women’s rights. Here’s an article about it, and here’s Elmahdy’s blog, which now has many pictures of naked people. It’s caused a surprising amount of backlash: surprising to me, at least.

The comments on her blog are in many languages, so I’m stuck with using Google Translate to get the gist of most of the discussion. And most of them are from outside Egypt, outside the Mid-East, even, and are overwhelmingly supportive.

That gives me some hope, maybe the hardline Muslims will look at that and have a moment of introspection. Maybe they’ll think “If the rest of the world sees our policies as oppressive and archaic, relics of a dark age, could we be mistaken?” I know that’s pretty unlikely, not only because religious fundamentalism leaves little room for introspection but because these movements to expand religious power and take rights and freedoms away from people are expanding. Read the rest of this entry

To See or Not to See

Today during a discussion it was suggested that a scientific study of a subculture should not be performed because any negative aspects or perceived negative aspects such a study found would be used as weapons by those who stigmatize it. As so often happens in idle conversation the subject moved on fairly quickly, but I found myself thinking about it again and again during the evening. So, since I haven’t written anything in ages, I figure I may as well muse over this a bit.

Interestingly, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what subculture this is, so I’ve taken pains not to say it for both anonymity and for what I will call purity of purpose. If you’re reading this and thinking you agree with me unless it’s one specific subculture that you dislike, what does that say about you?

Anyways, the premise that I’m responding to is that a study should not be performed if the results could be used against the subjects. The short version is: I disagree on both philosophical and practical grounds, and will address them in that order. Read the rest of this entry

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