Appropriated identities

I was having coffee with a woman yesterday when the topic of what we might call appropriated identities came up. This is an issue I’ve struggled with in the past, particularly with regard to the cases of Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal.[1] I hadn’t expected to talk about this and, in fact, it was pretty far from my mind when it came up, but after citing experiences where whites venture into American Indian communities and try to adopt an Indian identity, she mentioned the cases of Jenner and Dolezal. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Jenner, Dolezal, and the reality behind social constructions,” Not Housebroken, June 14, 2015,; David Benfell, “More on transgenderism and transracialism,” June 15, 2015,

‘Academic freedom’ now apparently includes threatening to beat the shit out of someone

When last I wrote about the case of Melissa Click, I supported the University of Missouri’s decision to fire her because “the principle of academic freedom does not cover misdemeanor assault.”[1] Click had “called for ‘muscle’ to remove a student journalist” who was taking photographs for ESPN as Concerned Student 1950 “protesters form[ed] a giant circle around the encampment, arms interlocked, chanting, at one point, ‘Ho ho, reporters have got to go.'” A video recording of the incident recorded an unidentified voice saying, “Back off our personal space,” despite the fact that the protest occurred on the university quad—a very public space.[2] Suffice it to say, I was not impressed.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On the firing of Melissa Click,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016,
  2. [2]Josh Logue, “Journalists as the Enemy,” Inside Higher Ed, November 11, 2015,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Squatting on the University of Missouri quad,” Not Housebroken, November 11, 2015,

Turning human survival into a partisan contest

I wound up tagging along with my mother and a couple of her friends to a concert benefiting the Occidental Center for the Arts tonight. We got dinner at the Union Hotel, where I was fortunate our server was vegetarian and well-prepared to help me through to getting a vegan meal at a decidedly non-vegan place when it turned out the menu I had downloaded that made me think I could eat there was out of date.

The first thing I want to say about these performers is that they are wonderful musicians. Holly Near is an amazing vocalist, Barbara Higbie is supremely talented on multiple instruments, and Jan Martinelli could have been given a bit more volume on bass—she also occasionally played an acoustic guitar. Read more

Obamacare, the neoliberal consensus, and a kid fighting cancer

Let me just begin by admitting that my way into thinking about the topic of this post is, well, circuitous.

I was sitting down to email, as I do every day shortly after getting up. I’d made coffee but hadn’t taken my first sip.

And here was an email from GoFundMe, a crowd-funding site, featuring an apparently successful campaign on behalf of a kid fighting cancer.[1] Of course this is good news, but the first thought in my head was, why wasn’t Obamacare covering whatever is going on here? Read more

  1. [1]Ron Desautels, “Victory for Vinny,” GoFundMe, May 11, 2016,

In accommodating disabled passengers, Uber drivers may be next to pay

It’s an innocent and well-intended letter to the editor appearing in today’s (May 5, 2016) San Francisco Chronicle:

Uber should accommodate all riders

Regarding “Uber allows guide dogs to ride after suit by blind passengers” (May 2): Now that Uber has agreed to pick up blind passengers with guide dogs, my hope is that they will step up efforts to accommodate all passengers with disabilities. Uber’s headquarters is two blocks from the Arc San Francisco, a resource for over 700 clients with developmental disabilities, many of whom use power chairs and mobility supports to get to and from work, classes and home. From tech workers to seniors to young adults, the disability community wants equal access to ride-sharing services. In San Francisco, recent tests consistently show zero UberWAV cars available for riders with power wheelchairs. There are slightly more UberASSIST cars on the road to serve riders with walkers and folding wheelchairs, but wait times are too long. One in five Americans has a disability, with over $220 billion in discretionary spending power. San Francisco is ground zero for disability advocacy. I’d like to suggest that Uber planners meet with the disability community and hear firsthand how services can be improved. With our disability transit experience combined with Uber’s innovation, we can be the first city in the world to fully accommodate all riders with the push of a button.

Kristen Pedersen, San Francisco[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Kristen Pedersen, letter to the editor, San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 2016,