Baseket weaver in Cuba by Vic Briggs

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

About this image: An aged basket weaver in Trinidad, Cuba. A country on the threshold of a new age?

Trinidad is what I imagined Cuba to be before I crossed its border. Music and art, gorgeous architecture weathered by time and generous people. Yet there is something melancholy about Cuba. The past is ever present, while new generations are seeking change at an economic if not political level.

Whatever one’s politics, there are certain aspects of Cuban life that are deserving of being preserved, such as their universal access to a high standard of education and healthcare for example, as well as its flourishing art scene. There is too the matter of Cuba’s extremely low crime levels, especially when compared to the rest of its Caribbean neighbours. The old regime is unlikely to survive its leaders’ demise – or so at least has been reported in the media for a while now – yet I can’t help wonder what would “change” constitute?

PS: Apologies for the finger-invasion: they were a little too enthusiastic for their own good and I couldn’t keep them out of the frame.

Some are more equal than others


Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with The Poisoned Well

I had promised myself to give the issue of Feminism a rest for a while, and fully intended to keep to that promise, until I came across The Poisoned Well’s latest… I do not even know how best to label it. It beggars belief.

Oh well… Broken Promises all over again.

I have always approached the subject with humour, although the message is a serious one: If you are a democrat, you are a feminist, and I will endeavour to be equally moderate (?) in my reply to what I deem a rather immoderate attack on what the movement stands for.

The first poisoned chalice on offer in this well, is the claim that “From day one Feminism has been elevating women at the expense of men.”*

At the expense of men? Is this a superpower zero sum game? Is it truly so difficult to grasp that to consider women to be of equal worth to men is not to the latter’s detriment? Surely the opposite is true.

We live in democracies where all citizens are deemed to be of equal worth. We got to this point by endeavouring to ensure that such equality is not an equality in name alone, and that reality comes as close to our aspiration for mutual respect, equal rights and equal social standing as it is possible.

The kind of Manichean ontology to which my opponent subscribes – that any advance for women is a step back for men – is frankly as outmoded as it is damaging. It is this kind of attitude that hurts both women and men, and not Feminism, as The Poisoned Well would have you believe.

But wait a little. It gets better. Feminism in The Poisoned Well’s depiction comes close to the likeness of a savage werewolf “Tearing men down to elevate women”* apparently.

Careful, ladies! Make sure to get that muzzle on when the Full Moon’s a-calling. I chain myself up to the bedpost too, just in case. Never know when the blood thirst will strike, and that pulsating manly vein… Argh! The scent is too much to withstand. You know what they say: the best way to avoid temptation, is to give into it.

Just when I thought I’d taken all precautions, the poison dosage was upped. Listen carefully. Did you know that “Men are excluded from most victim services even though men are more often the victim of every single crime including rape”*?

Umm… Dearest, The Poisoned Well, you might want to look into some stats on this. You will find that women are overwhelmingly the victims of rape. I’m not sure what country you live in to have experienced this, but in most civilised places, men are not excluded from most victim services. They are not excluded full stop.

What next? Here’s a juicy one for you: “Harass a man, it’s Tuesday.  Harass a woman, it’s the end of the world.  Inequality and discrimination really have become part of our every day lives.”*

You are right that inequality and discrimination is part of our everyday lives. It has not “become” this, it’s always been the case, but implying that the Feminist movement is somehow responsible for this is beyond inaccurate. You clearly have an axe to grind – in waiting for that Feminist Werewolf lurking under your bed, I imagine – but you may want to take on socio-political, class and economic factors into consideration, rather than bandying all societal evils under the standard of Feminism.

But The Poisoned Well has plenty more in store for your pallet’s delight: “Men are murdered much more often than women, but women suffer from catcalls.  We must ignore mens lives and protect the women’s feelings.”*

Men are murdered by other men mostly, so… this is relevant to a discussion of Feminism… how?

And men’s lives are not ignored. It is not for Feminism as a movement to take on this particular issue. Perhaps you may want to call on Law and Order from the State instead. It is the failure of the state to protect its citizens that results in the type of crime you describe.

You seem to be under the erroneous impression that society should ignore sexual harassment because there are other “more important” things to resolve first. Perhaps you would like for children to continue being molested too until all murderers have been jailed?  Using your logic society ought to say that it’s only assault, after all, and punishing those guilty of causing death takes precedence, right?

How can it be useful or helpful in any way to make such arguments?

For another meaty offering, The Poisoned Well decides that an attack on Religion is in order next. “Women are baby factories and men are disposable meat shields. […]Religion oppresses everyone except for the Plutocrats that own the religion.”*

Now, I find myself – a declared atheist – the defender of religion. Oh the irony!

Whatever system of thought or belief you may subscribe to, reducing religion to the above formula hardly cuts the mustard. It is a parody at best, and it’s hardly the way to encourage equality, or even the most basic form of mutual respect in this context.

Breaking News! “Women make the same as men in the same jobs. The problem of “The wage Gap” isn’t unequal pay for equal work.”* 

Well, aren’t I lucky to have been disabused of this notion about the continued gender inequality when it comes to salaries? Clearly all those other studies undertaken by highly respected economists, all reports on the matter submitted after thorough investigations: researched, documented, and backed up with relevant statistics – all nonsense apparently. Thank you, The Poisoned Well for clearing it all up for us. Eternally grateful, I’m sure.

Now I could go on and tell you about some other of The Poisoned Well’s brilliant insights, such as the fact that Feminism has apparently abolished the heroic male lead in cinematography, and that there is no such thing as men’s professional sports – they are gender neutral – I say! Jolly good – and women simply can’t keep up, so now they’ve come up with their own sports that make tons of money and objectify men in the process.

Aha! You heard me right, ladies. Down, boy. Down! Let me take a look at ya simmering swim-suited bod. That’s all you’re worth to me. It’s all hot-hot bunga-bunga and no emotional involvement. Cry me a river!

Then men get objectified some more and are excluded from reproductive rights. Just as they thought they were safe, hop! they go down a dark alley and get mugged for flashing their wealth around – wealth that of course is no greater than women’s because the pay-gap is a myth obviously – and this is all because of Feminism. The horror! What kind of a world do we live in?

And the Feminist coup de grâce? Men are NOT represented in the White House!!! No. Apparently the politician’s desire to be re-elected puts them well and truly at mummy’s skirt and under women’s Jimmy Choos. Result!

Final Poisoned Well pearl for the grand finale: “There is nothing that turns my stomach more.  Don’t worry I won’t be reading Jesus Feminist any time, ever.  If I want to read a distopian horror I’ll just read 1984 or Animal Farm.”*

I hear you, sister. Don’t think I’ll be turning to dystopias any time soon either. I mean… just read your article. That’s quite enough dystopia for one day, thank you very much.

*All quotes in this article are from The Poisoned Well‘s How Feminism Hurts men.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Gulliver’s Democracy: Fragments of Democracy in a World in Fragments…

We do not want another Auschwitz.

"Work Makes You Free." "Umm..." quick glimpse and: "In that case... I'll take a holiday, danke."

“Work Makes You Free.”
“Umm…” quick glimpse and: “In that case… I’ll take a holiday, danke.”

To be human is to be rational, surely. Or… is it?

That human beings are first and foremost rational has informed the ‘common sense’ of Western thought from the Enlightenment onwards. This underlying assumption is rarely questioned. There are some who would disagree however…

The usual suspects? Trust the Germans to get there first.

Theodore Adorno and Max Horkeimer in their Dialectic of Enlightenment decried the transformation of the critical edge of reason into ‘instrumental reason’ or rationalization. They argued that it was this transformation that culminated in Auschwitz.

When we use our reason not to discuss, debate or make sense of the world together with others, but instead use it to rationalise actions that lack a moral compass and are aimed solely towards our benefitting materially at others’ expense – take this to an extreme – and what you get is genocide. Strong words? Maybe so… but their argument is persuasive.

Whereto go the Germans, the French are not far behind. He-he!

Contender for our third musketeer? Michel Foucault in Madness and Civilization argued that ‘reason’ is articulated through the systematic silencing of what is deemed ‘unreason’.

Children for example are not deemed to be fully rational, so often they are denied a voice. You think this is only theory? How many instances of abuse that has gone undiscovered or unpunished did you read about this year? This month? I bet you, if you google it now, you’ll find it in the today’s news too somewhere. Perhaps even somewhere near you.

What about women who were denied the vote for decades because men would not allow them this status as rational creatures? We have the vote now, but the myth persists. When was the last time you heard someone make a joke about women being crazy? You are crazy. You are not rational. Shut up then.

And as to madness… One in three people today suffer from mental illness. This is no minority. But to be mad is to be invisible. To be mad is to be silent. If no one can see you, hear you, do you still exist?

Yet, Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own reason”,  this motto of the Enlightenment remains compelling.

This assumption of the primacy of rationality continues to claim hold on the modern imaginary and lies at the heart of all politics that advocates consensual forms of democracy.

Do we have to agree to be good citizens?
During his visit to the Lagado academy, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver encounters a doctor who had discovered the optimum path to political consensus.
He recommended that, “when parties in a State are violent,” the brain of each opposing party be cut in half, and each half be mended together accordingly with one of the opposite party, so that “the two half brains being left to debate the matter between themselves within the space of one scull, would soon come to a good understanding, and produce that moderation as
well as regularity of thinking, so much to be wished for.”
Brain surgery? Some solution!
The doctor may have thought it ‘a trifle’ the difficulty entailing such an operation, but this colourful example simply exaggerates an already over-extended degree of ‘shared’ meaning, norms and values required so that rationally motivated consensus can be reached through discourse.

Dissensus, disagreement, and antagonism are an ever-present part of the political landscape. This is no bad thing.

Still, if discord makes you uncomfortable and you’d sooner get on the same page with whomever… Communicative action, or discourse, is one possible solution.

But do keep in mind that by focusing on communication you bypass the issue of agency. Action is might!

Political action cannot be fully incorporated into communicative action. Formal consent does not mean that all relations of domination and subordination have been eliminated.

The advances gained by feminist, civil and political movements have not been achieved by chit-chat alone, but through real struggles.

It may be desirable, but perhaps unlikely that similar advances in the future will be achieved by limiting democratic dissent to discourse.

Should the Balnibarbian doctor’s operation be successful, it is nonetheless uncertain that even the advantage of a ‘common skull’ could ensure the end to conflict that he so desired.


Join the debate on vicbriggs’s blog

Which do you think is more important for democracy:

Defending the right to protest or bringing everyone to a consensus?


This is Democracy Gulliver-style.

Are you a Yahoo? Lilliputian? Brobdingnagian or Houyhnhnm?

Have your say either way!


You have a voice too. Use it.

And if this debate is not to your taste, why not try and find one on Project O?

Make your opinion matter. Here is the link:

If you are a democrat, you are a feminist

     It appears that Tee and I have another axe to grind, so… here it goes.

You can read my reply below , and it’s the same link for her article, although you’ll have to scroll down to her reply to my commentary on race to follow the debate:

      Dear Tee,

Thank you for your comment. Always interesting to read someone else’s take on feminism.

I am a feminist, yes. A happily married feminist, and count as many men (if not more) as women amongst my closest friends. I also wear bras – great support and much needed, wax my leg hair, shave underarm and prefer a casual-smart look that more often than not leans towards smart (or so I’m told).

Oh yes, and high-heels – that invention by our male masters to torture us? – love them!

Fun fact: High heels were invented by men for men. It was fashionable in high society to be tall, so men opted for high heels and platforms to enhance their looks and ‘standing’. Women only later adopted the practice, having decided that they would rather like a better vantage point too.

I understand where you are coming from, but I would like to underline that what I understand by feminism can be simply put thus: men and women are human beings of equal worth.

     It is as simple as that.

     I am aware of differing positions within feminism… Yes there are as many strands as there are ideologies, and each with their own take of what feminism is supposed to be about.

For me, feminism is about equality, and that equality goes both ways. If women are equal in worth to men, then men too are equal in worth to women.

I do not think that women are victims of men (although sometimes of course they may be, given the individual case – I take it we are discussing this in general terms here).

But I do believe that both women and men are victims of patriarchal social arrangements. Yes, both.

In most societies, most of the time, women are under constant pressure to conform to some particular image of what a woman is supposed to be (womanly, motherly, caring, gentle etc.), and the same goes for men. I believe that men have just as great capacity as women for care-giving. I know that many men would love to be stay-at-home dads, or at least to get more time to spend with their families. But they still feel that they have to conform to what is expected of them to be as men, so often take the conservative route rather than risk ridicule.

This is mostly learnt behaviour.

In truth, the indoctrination of children of both sexes into certain patterns of behaviour starts so early that it would be difficult to prove one way or another to what extent it is nature, and to what extent it is nurture that plays a role.

     I disagree here with your claim that there is ‘hard’ biological evidence. Unfortunately the medical profession works more often than not on a trial-and-error basis. All science is the same. The ‘hard’ evidence of today is the failed theory of tomorrow. So I think it would be more useful to look at both biological and theoretical (or ideological) “evidence” as nothing more than differing models or frameworks – temporary ones at that – for making sense of the world in general, and of a difficult issue in this particular case of gender.

In the nature vs nurture debate, I think it is mostly nurture, but of course biology will always play a role (just not as great as I think many would like to believe).

I am not a feminist who vilifies men. I have many male friends who also subscribe to this view of feminism and happily refer to themselves as feminists. Perhaps a majority of feminists are in fact far more moderate, if perhaps less vocal than their extreme counterparts that you refer to in your comment.

I am also familiar with Freudian theory. In addition to undergrad courses, I’ve also attended the Institute of Psychoanalysis Introductory Lectures a few years back, and I have an affinity with many of Freud’s theories, although I am sceptical of the ‘penis envy’ one.

– I’ve always been happy with my ownership of a womb: less trouble by far than a penis, and doesn’t go tiny when it’s cold :)  –

Freud himself admitted that he did not understand women, and his theories about womankind are insufficiently developed. There is one particular view that I found fascinating and believe is a very useful one when it comes to making sense of gender issues: Freud’s claim that our psyche (both male and female) is inherently bisexual.

In simple terms, I take this to mean the following: we are equally capable of loving both men and women. Ultimately, it is about people, persons, human beings, mortals (I think I’ve exhausted gender-neutral terms here), and what they have in between their legs is immaterial to interpersonal relationships when societal norms and regulations do not come into play.

I am a man-loving-woman-loving-people-loving feminist and a democrat in equal measure. I’ve said this elsewhere, but perhaps I would do well to repeat it here:

If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.

     You cannot defend your democratic credentials whilst treating 51% of the population as second grade citizens.

It may not be the bra-burning variant that most people seem to associate feminism with, but it is feminism, and it is feminism at its best.

With warm regards,





Breaking the silence on Depression A letter to my mentor and to you. The first instalment of my coming out. I did not realise the size of my cupboard until I started writing. No, not the Cumberbatch cupboard. More like the Steven Fry cupboard. No. Not that one either. Ha! Although I get the confusion. The depressive cupboard. I am out. I add my number, make it count.

Breaking the silence on Depression now available @


Gulliver’s Democracy

An enquiry into conflict and consensus, and their importance for democracy, Gulliver-style.

To be human is to be rational, surely. Or… is it? And… Do we have to agree to be good citizens?

Are you a Yahoo? Lilliputian? Brobdingnagian or Houyhnhnm? Have your say either way!

Gulliver’s Democracy: Fragments of Democracy in a World in Fragments now available @

BenedictCumberbatchThe Cumberbatch saga continued:

“It is not stalking. It is simply intense research of one particular person,” reveals vicbriggs, “and I’m a professional. Have the certificate to prove it.”

The Batch on Sunday interviews vicbriggs on working with Cumberbatch and life after Sex with You Know Who. #BenedictCumberbatch now available @

Breaking Hot-Not-News! vicbriggs reveals all about meeting her not-so-secret fancy in Truth Stranger than Fiction now available @

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

Project O:

The month of September will be called Project O on Opinionated Man’s website: a temporary forum on the topic of “opinions.” He asks if and how the formation of opinions differs according to country, nationality, culture, gender etc.

Project O – Harsh Reality EXCLUSIVE: Interview with vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan now available @

You can see a preview of my contribution available @


Please note that Project Opinion ended on the 30th of September. All questions regarding the project are to be addressed to AOpinionatedMan. See links below.

AOpinionatedMan accepted submissions at Check this link and see if you would like to contribute at or directly at

Like mystery? Then why not try the Cumbervix!

Like mystery? Then why not try the Cumbervix!

Fun with automobiles! Showroom Extravaganza:

Vintage Vicmark doing its best to stave off new arrival Cumbervixter this summer. Whether you are looking for a reliable motorcar for your everyday needs, or  just a spiffy something for the weekend, don’t miss out on this one-off point by point breakdown of which wheel you’d best get behind and why.

Fun with automobiles! Showroom Extravaganza coming soon to a vicbriggs blog-screen near you!

All this and so much more only on… vicbriggs-blog.