Saturday, July 09, 2011

Stop Your Whining! Dawkins on Western Women.

Stop whining! That's what the famous evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins told the women of America, pretty much. Here's the story:
It all started with a video blog from Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick, about her experience at an atheist conference last month in Dublin. She participated in a panel in which she talked about the problem of sexism among atheists, and the rape threats she had received from men in the community who don't agree with her. Importantly, Dawkins was on the panel and the guy who went on to hit on her was in the audience. Afterward, she went to the hotel bar with conference-goers until 4 a.m., when she told everyone that she was tired and wanted to go to bed. A male attendee followed her out of the bar and into the elevator, where he said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?" This is what she had to say about the encounter:

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don't do that. You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and -- don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

That's all. It took up just over a minute of an 8-minute-long video. She didn't call for the man to be castrated or claim to be a victim of great injustice; all she expressed was that his overture made her feel "incredibly uncomfortable," and that guys should generally avoid doing that. "That" being 1) hitting on a woman after she has gone to great lengths to explain why she doesn't want to be sexualized within the atheist community, and 2) ignoring her remark that she is tired and just wants to go to bed. PZ Myers, a biologist who pens the bookmark-worthy skeptics blog Pharyngula, wrote a post about it and then Dawkins himself -- the rock star of atheism -- waded into the comments thread with a satirical letter addressed to a Muslim woman:

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and ... yawn ... don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so...

This is quite lovely, for someone who wishes to learn more about persuasive writing. From now on I'm going to respond to anyone who whines: Stop your whining! Think about all those who died in the Rwandan genocide! You have nothing to complain about.

Which is to point out that Dawkins used that trick to respond to Watson.

But on another level it reads like something different: Look how nice men here are to you? We could be razor-blading your genitals and forcing you to obey our every word but instead we just ask you for coffee and let you refuse and even for that you yell at us!

Except that Watson did not yell. She pointed out the context: A discussion of sexism and rape threats was the topic of her panel, and then a man asked her for coffee at 4am in the elevator. A man who had attended the earlier discussion, on sexism and rape threats.

So yeah, that is creepy, in my view, and all she said was pretty much that it was creepy. No big deal, honest, until Dawkins made it into one.

Now let the gentle Echidne speak for a change:

All this is such good evidence of the different life experiences of many men and women. If someone invites Richard Dawkins for coffee in the elevator, he is most unlikely to think that the invitation might really mean anything more than coffee and a conversation. If his name were Richarda Dawkins, the interpretations of what is going on might be very different.

It still would not be a big deal, not like having your genitals razored, sure. But many women know how that little backpack of alertness and fear and checking out exit routes is seldom put down anywhere, how part of the brain blinks fast when those kinds of questions are presented (4am? we just talked about rape threats? locked elevator! can I get to the buttons past him? is he stronger than me? if I yell will anyone be awake to hear?), even when the rest of the brain just thinks the guy is totally self-centered asshole and doesn't understand how creepy this is.

And the difference is in the life experiences. (One day I will write a post about the boy at school who started stalking me or about the time when some stranger grabbed my friend's breasts in the middle of the day on a busy city street or about all those times when I felt someone's hand on my butt in the subway and so on. But I know many of already are familiar with that drill.)

It is those different life experiences which allow Dawkins to take the view he takes. He has only theoretical knowledge on the topic of sexual harassment, his emotions have not been primed and he indeed has the privilege of not having to learn much about the whole topic.

It is still not a big deal. But what upsets me about the discussion is the presumption that not having experienced continuous sexual harassment is not a handicap in understanding how someone who *has* experienced it would interpret the data.

An interesting aspect of this whole debacle is that it seems to have transformed Watson into a feminist! Or strengthened her transformation:
When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.
And then I would make a comment about how there could really be more women in the community, and the responses from my fellow skeptics and atheists ranged from “No, they’re not logical like us,” to “Yes, so we can fuck them!” That seemed weird.
Mmm. I think some probably responded more neutrally or positively. But yes, the othering of women is not dependent on being religious.

Betty Ford (1918-2011) (by res ipsa)

From Betty Ford's obituary:
But unlike many other wives of presidents, Mrs. Ford rarely hesitated to make public her views on touchy subjects. She held a White House news conference announcing her support of the Equal Rights Amendment; the mail response ran three to one against her. In 1975, appearing on “60 Minutes,” she said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if her daughter, Susan, had a premarital affair; the mail was four to one against her. Her husband jokingly told her later that the comment had cost him 20 million votes in the 1976 election, she said.
I remembered that Betty Ford supported the Equal Rights Amendment while her husband did not, but I didn't remember the news conference. Can you imagine the agita that must have caused Gerald Ford and his aides? She was also a vocal supporter of abortion rights and encouraged her then-president husband to appoint women to cabinet positions, ambassadorships, and the Supreme Court. (She was successful on the first two, but not on the Court appointment.)

To my mind, Betty Ford's greatest accomplishments were making the nation more aware of breast cancer and addiction. Breast cancer screening in this country got a lot more widespread after Betty Ford was diagnosed with the disease and underwent a mastectomy. I remember being taught how to perform a breast self-examination because of Betty Ford. And addiction? Simply not discussed. But then Betty Ford announced publicly that she was being treated for painkiller and alcohol addiction and later opened the Betty Ford Center. For all the jokes people make about celebrities cycling in and out of rehab and "therapy culture", I think the world is definitely a better place because at least some of us are able to think about and discuss addiction with less shame.

Here's a slide show of pictures from Betty Ford's life.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Casey Anthony & feminism (by Suzie)

Feminists are all rejoicing in the acquittal of Casey Anthony, according to a Google search of "Casey Anthony" and "feminist," which turned up various conservatives and Men's Rights Activists making that claim. There was no other evidence, but then again, a lack of proof has been a theme of this case.

Searching for feminist thinking on the topic, I found a post by Amanda Marcotte in which she says she knew little about the case before anti-feminists attacked her. My own ignorance ended much earlier, when I was hospitalized last month. (I got out this week.) Being too sick to do much else, I watched a lot of TV surveyed pop culture. I live in Tampa, and the trial dominated the local news, including a local cable station with continuous coverage. Then the case was everywhere.

It's easy to see why. A cute 2-year-old, Caylee, goes missing and her family pleads for her return. The story takes bizarre turns, and the mother is in and out of jail. Once considered a good mother, she becomes the "baby killer."

Casey Anthony's defense team asserted that her father and brother molested her as a child, and she learned to lie to preserve family secrets. No evidence was presented, and the claim was dropped. Of course, plenty of girls get molested with no way of proving it later, and the family seems dysfunctional, but who knows. Whatever the truth in this case, feminists wouldn't absolve an abused woman of all guilt if she killed her child.

As Amanda notes, the madonna/whore binary has played a great role in the Anthony case. Check out this news story today in which the reporter concludes:
In a case filled with mystery, lies and fantasy scenarios, the identity of Caylee's daddy could remain a secret forever.

The most likely reason may be the one Casey Anthony gave a neighbor: She doesn't know the truth herself.
Why is this "most likely"?

Last year, Anthony's defense brought up gender bias, saying she faced harsher penalties that a man would. CNN also reported:
Defense witness Elizabeth Rapaport, a University of New Mexico law professor and author, testified that the lifestyles of white middle-class mothers charged with killing their children receive much more media attention than those of defendants in other cases.
ABC quoted Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist at UCLA, as saying "she is not aware of one news story that questioned whether Anthony could be innocent." She thinks reasonable doubt exists. That's how I lean, but I don't want to argue all the evidence. As Lieberman said:
"Casey obviously has a lot of psychological problems. Whether she murdered her daughter or not is another thing."
Some people are comparing the not-guilty verdict in this case to the one in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But Simpson's fame made his case stand out from similar ones across the country. His trial raised awareness about the danger facing women who want to get away from their abusers. Anthony wasn't famous; her case got publicity as a murder mystery. Mothers of toddlers who commit premeditated murder are not a widespread social problem.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Penguins, Salmons or Criminals? Which Most Resemble Women?

Forced birthers do have weird ideas about women and their reproductive choices (which should not exist, naturally). Some of those ideas I wrote about in an earlier post. But Governor Bobby Jindal added "criminals" to the list of items which are like women:
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Louisiana's new anti-abortion law Wednesday, and linked women who seek abortions to criminals being Mirandized:
"When officers arrest criminals today, they are read their rights," he said. "Now if we're giving criminals their basic rights and they have to be informed of those rights, it seems to me only common sense we would have to do the same thing for women before they make the choice about whether to get an abortion."
Jindal is an American Talibani, by the way. Not by religion but by his views on women.

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies? Frum on Obama and Other Thoughts.

Did you ever expect to live in an era when a wingnut pundit blames the Democratic president for being too much of a wuss to offer the Republicans a good fight?

Well, you are living in that very era. David Frum (who worked in the George Bush administration and who also happens to be the husband of the very anti-feminist Danielle Crittenden) bemoans Obama's weakness:
The debt ceiling negotiations have amounted to a succession of retreats and concessions by President Obama.
At this point, the president confronts two possible outcomes in the coming weeks:
Outcome 1: The president and congressional Republicans reach agreement on a budget package weighted overwhelmingly in favor of the GOP. The president opened negotiations by offering $3 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases. His current offer tilts even further to the GOP: $6 of spending cuts to $1 of tax increases.
Better still (from a Republican point of view), the spending cuts come from programs Republicans dislike, like Medicaid, rather than programs they like, like the farm budget. The tax increases meanwhile are designed to be as acceptable as possible to the GOP: no increases in tax rates, but instead trimming some of the less defensible deductions in the tax code.
Outcome 1 represents a very big win for Republicans over the future shape of the federal government, and a correspondingly big defeat for the president.
Outcome 1 also represents the president's best-case scenario.


Through it all, Obama has played nice, again and again entreating his Republican opponents to emulate his example and play nice too. It's not what Lyndon Johnson would have done. It's not what Franklin Roosevelt would have done. I doubt it's what Hillary Clinton would have done.
Which brings me back to my starting question: Why don't the Democrats rebel? Presumably, they elected Obama to stand up for their shared principles. But he's not standing up. He's rolling over. Or being rolled.

Mmm. Things have gotten even weirder if the rumors are to be believed: This fire sale the administration has started, to get rid of what passes for the modern United States, appears to include bargain basement offers cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Hurry while the offers last! Everything must go because the country is being liquidated.

Or: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

In New Zealand Women Earn Less Because They Menstruate

In a bizarre way I love stories like this one:
The head of a business group has been fired after asserting that menstruation makes women less productive in the workplace than men.

Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of New Zealand's Employers and Manufacturers Association, made the comments during a radio debate.
The BBC reported that Thompson sparked controversy by suggesting that women earned less than men because "once a month they have sick problems." He added that when women become mothers "they have to take time off to go home" to look after their children.

And this sparked a debate? That is so very funny.

Here's the debate that should have been sparked: How can a man in such a very important role know shit-all about women? I'd accept what he says from an outer-space alien who has only spent a few weeks on this earth, but from a man who actually grew up here and obviously thrived?

What Mr. Thompson's statements reveal is that he has never spent one single minute (no, not even over a nice mug of beer at a bar) to think about what makes women tick (except perhaps in bed). He has some vague ideas about the biological differences between the sexes and trots them out like a ten-year old would.

I have never had the luxury not to understand how a whole human gender works! So yes, I think he deserved to be fired for incompetence.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Ringwraith Rule in Wisconsin

It would be fun to watch it from another planet:
While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) law dismantling collective bargaining rights has harmed teachers, nurses, and other civil servants, it’s helping a different group in Wisconsinites — inmates. Prisoners are now taking up jobs that used to be held by unionized workers in some parts of the state.
As the Madison Capital Times reports, “Besides losing their right to negotiate over the percentage of their paycheck that will go toward health care and retirement, unions also lost the ability to claim work as a ‘union-only’ job, opening the door for private workers and evidently even inmates to step in and take their place.” Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.
Unpaid labor is such a great idea! Why not expand that to teaching, nursing and so on? Taxpayers would save loads of money.

Of course there is that shadow side: Increasing unemployment for all those workers who are displaced by the no-wage inmates, and then the decreasing tax revenues because the unemployed can't afford to pay taxes. On the other hand, they could choose the avenue of crime and that way get their jobs back, though with just room and board.

Well, the Wisconsinites elected a Ringwraith administration, so I guess this is what they want. But I can't help noticing that suddenly people who work for the public sector have become the enemies of all. Teachers are pure evil! Nurses are greedy and lazy! This is an example of how American political slogans work on the hindbrain, and how divide et impera works for the Republicans.

It's always some other group of peasants who is at fault, never the feudal overlords and ladies.

Your Best Potato Salad Recipes, Please

I learned to make a perfect omelet by asking for advice here. Since it worked so well, let me know how to make a perfect potato salad. Something that is good to eat in the kind of heat we are having right now.

You are also welcome to offer other hot-weather recipes! (No chilled mice-with-mint, however, because I know that one already, what with the snakes.)

And yes, this is a filler post because the two I'm working on are the kinds which require a long and painful gestation period.

We Marvel.... Hilarious

From Ohio:
Last Tuesday, Ohio Rep. Robert Mecklenborg -- a self-described "Catholic boy from the west side of Cincinnati" -- stood on the House floor to champion the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country.
"We marvel, don't we?" he said, before voting for the "heartbeat" bill. "We marvel at the march of the penguins as they go to propagate their species under very, very difficult odds and conditions. We marvel at the leaping salmon as they return to their ancestral homes."
He also marveled over the mating habits of loggerhead turtles.
You're not alone if you don't quite see the parallel of wildlife to women's lives.
Read the linked article to find out what happened to Rep. Mecklenborg next.

I think Rep. Mecklenborg regards women's reproductive instincts as deficient. Women should crawl across skyscrapers to gain the breeding sites! They should corner Rep. Mecklenborg and demand his sperm, right now!

Marvelous stuff.

Hollaback's "I've Got Your Back Campaign"

Hollaback, the organization which fights street harassment, has a fund drive. You can contribute here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Do You Deserve Safe Food?

The Republican answer is unclear. It might be "NO" or it might be something like urging each consumer to buy their own home laboratories so that they can check for bacteria and melamine and other fun fillers. Or it might be that many of them believe the holy marketplace would never (nevah!) allow bad products to thrive.

That they do thrive for quite a while, as shown by various past crises, is not a bug but a feature, I guess. We need a few deaths before it's worthwhile to do something about the markets. Otherwise the God of Greed might drop rocks on us. If it kills you slowly enough that you remain a functional consumer for a while and if nobody knows about it, the markets are fine with it.

This story is what made me go on one of my rants:
Whatever the reason, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee has approved a spending bill that not only slashes the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission but also cuts off all funding for a recently launched database of product-safety complaints.
The online database is one of the most important consumer tools to emerge from Washington in years. It enables people to report potentially faulty or harmful products, as well as to research goods before making a purchase.
As usual, this is about following the money trail, sigh.

Thank You!

My sincere and divine thanks to all of you who helped with this year's fund drive. It's not too late to join, by the way.

I can now pay all the fees I need for blogging and perhaps even a conference trip! So sweet of you all.

Today's Funny

It's an interesting reversal. Reversals, in general, are informative.
Via Doug.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Seeing The Connections: From Culture To Fertility

While reading this post (which I recommend*) and its sources, I noticed something interesting: A discussion of the pressure for women to stay at home once they have children. From the Guardian on Italy, in the context of an engineering firms which decided to lay off only female workers, given that women should stay at home:
Italy has one of the EU's lowest female employment rates, partly because of pressure on women to give up their jobs when they become pregnant. One in five does not return to work after the birth of her first child.
And from the New York Times on Germany**, where similar expectations concerning stay-at-home mothering also prevail:

“There is a very traditional image of women and men that was taken to an extreme in the Third Reich: female mother cult and male fraternity. These mental stereotypes have not yet been culturally processed and purged.”

Alice Schwarzer, founder of the magazine Emma and perhaps Germany’s best-known feminist, likens this mindset to “a leaden blanket across all of German society.”

Despite a battery of government measures — some introduced in the past year or so — and ever more passionate debate about gender roles, only about 14 percent of German mothers with one child resume full-time work, and only 6 percent of those with two. All 30 DAX companies are run by men. Nationwide, a single woman presides on a supervisory board: Simone Bagel-Trah at Henkel.
Here's the connection: Note that Italy and Germany are also countries with some of the lowest fertility rates. Yet the usual way of writing about this doesn't mention culture or discrimination until deep in the body of the article, if at all. This article (from 2010) is fairly typical of the coverage of Germany. It begins with the usual scare-mongering:
Germany is shrinking — fast. New figures released on May 17 show the birth rate in Europe's biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low, dropping to a level not seen since 1946. As demographers warn of the consequences of not making enough babies to replace and support an aging population, the latest figures have triggered a bout of national soul-searching and cast a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel's family policies.
But it does a bit better than some of this stripe by at least spelling out the cultural and institutional discrimination:
To explain Germany's low reproduction rate, Steffen Kröhnert, a social scientist at the Berlin Institute for Population Development, points to a number of factors. Many German women decide not to have children because of poor state-run child-care facilities. Most schools in Germany finish earlier than in other parts of Europe — some as early as 1 p.m. — leaving parents struggling to find and afford sufficient day care. And often women who take up part-time jobs to try to juggle work and family life end up paying a high financial price. "Many German women have to stop work and end their careers if they want to have kids," says Kröhnert. It doesn't help that German mothers are still often branded Rabenmütter — "raven mothers" — a pejorative label that accuses them of being bad mothers if they decide to put their children in nurseries and continue working.
Raven mothers? I bet there is no pejorative label for the fathers who continue working. But then if a woman does not have children, she is responsible for the downfall of her country.

All this is a partial explanation for the low birth rates in Germany and Italy. Those countries have decided to make motherhood an expensive proposition, given what the society expects of its members now. As far as I can tell, fertility is viewed solely as the women's responsibility, but the society sets strict expectations of how they should perform it.
* The other items in that post are, in fact, more important than the ones I discuss here. I chose those because of the connection which is not made as often as it should be made.
**I could not link to the NYT article because I haven't paid them yet.

Added later: I'm pretty sure that the statistics on women returning to the labor force after the birth of a child in the above quote on Germany is somewhat misleading. I've looked at various sources of data, and none of them gives such low numbers. Perhaps the quote applies to immediate return to work, and not to whether the women will ultimately rejoin the labor force?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Six: The Twelfth Century to the Thirteenth Century

(Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and part 5.)

Akka Mahadevi was a Saint and prominent poet of the Siva worshipping
movement of the 12th century Karnataka (a state in Southwest India).
Her Vacanas, a form of didactic poetry, are considered her greatest
contribution. In all she wrote about 430 Vachanas, which is relatively
fewer than that compared to other saints of her time. Yet, as an
example of her prominence, the term 'Akka' (elder Sister) was given to
her as an honorific by great saints like Basavanna, Chenna Basavanna,
Kinnari Bommayya, Siddharama, Allamaprabhu and Dasimayya. She is often
considered an early feminist; she was forced to marry, but because she
was devoted only to Siva, she left her husband and all her possessions,
including her clothes, and wandered as a naked poet-saint covered only
by her long hair. Some of her poems are available in English in the
book "Songs for Siva: Vacanas of Akka Mahadevi", translated by Vinaya

Li Qingzhao (1084–c. 1151) was a Chinese writer and poet of the Song
Dynasty, regarded by many as the premier female poet in the Chinese
language. Her complete poems are available in English in the book
"Complete Poems", by Ching-Chao Li, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and
Ling Chung. Her poems were often at odds with the Confucian code of the

Mahsati Ganjavi (born circa 1089 — died after 1159) was a 12th century
Persian poet. No details about her life are documented except that she
was born in Ganja and was highly esteemed at the court of sultan Sanjar
of the Seljuk dynasty. She was persecuted for her courageous poetry
condemning religious obscurantism, fanaticism, and dogmas, but her only
works that have come down to us are philosophical and love quatrains
(rubaiyat), glorifying the joy of living and the fullness of love. A
monument to her was placed in Ganja in 1980. The most complete
collection of her quatrains, about 60 of them, are found in the Nozhat
al-Majales, but this anthology has never been fully translated into

Marie de France ("Mary of France") was a medieval poet, one of the few
female troubadour poets, who was probably born in France and lived in
England during the late 12th century. She would be the earliest known
French female poet if she was indeed born in France. She lived and
wrote at an undisclosed court, but was almost certainly at least known
about at the royal court of King Henry II of England. Virtually nothing
is known of her life; both her given name and its geographical
specification come from her manuscripts, though one contemporary
reference to her work and popularity remains. Her "Lais of Marie de
France" (a series of twelve short narrative poems) in particular were
and still are widely read, and influenced the subsequent development of
the romance genre. They are also notable for their celebration of love,
individuality of character, and vividness of description – hallmarks of
the emerging literature of the times. They are available in English in
the book "The Lais of Marie de France" (Penguin Classics), by Marie de
France, translated by Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby.

Princess Shikishi (died 1201) was a medieval Japanese poet who lived
during the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. She was the third
daughter of Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-1192, reigned 1155-1158). In
1159, Shikishi, went into service at the Kamo Shrine in Kyoto. She left
the shrine after some time, and in her later years became a Buddhist
nun. She never married.
Shikishi is credited with 49 poems in the Shin Kokin Shū, a collection
of some 2,000 popular works compiled in the early Kamakura period, and
many other poems included in the Senzai Wakashū, compiled in the late
Heian period to commemorate Emperor Go-Shirakawa's ascension, and later
compilations. Her complete poems are available in English in the book
"String of Beads: Complete Poems of Princess Shikishi", translated by
Hiroaki Sato.

Fujiwara Toshinari no Musume (1171-1252), commonly called Shunzei's
Daughter, was a Japanese poet; she was probably the greatest female
poet of her day. As for anthologies available in English which contain
some of her poems, 29 of her poems were selected for the Shinkokinshū
and nine were chosen for the Shin Chokusenshū. Some of her poems were
also available in the book "Seeds in the Heart", by Donald Keene.

Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth (1200-1268), in Dutch Beatrijs van
Nazareth, was a nun. She was the very first prose writer using the
Dutch language, a mystic, and the author of the notable Dutch prose
dissertation known as the "Seven Ways of Holy Love". She was also the
first prioress of the Abbey of Our Lady of Nazareth in Nazareth near
Lier in Brabant. The "Seven Ways of Holy Love" (Seven Manieren van
Heilige Minnen) is a work of early mystic literature that describes
seven stages of love, as it is purified and transformed, before it can
return to God.

Marguerite Porete (died 1310) was a French mystic and the author of
"The Mirror of Simple Souls", a work of Christian spirituality dealing
with the workings of Divine Love. She was burnt at the stake for heresy
in Paris in 1310 after a lengthy trial, after refusing to remove her
book from circulation or recant her views. The book is cited as one the
primary texts of the medieval Heresy of the Free Spirit, a heretical
belief that it was possible to reach perfection on earth through a life
of austerity and spiritualism, and that Christians could communicate
directly with God and did not need the Catholic Church for
intercession. "The Mirror of Simple Souls" taught that the soul must
pass through seven spiritual stages before it reached perfection; it
became renowned and well read throughout France even though the Church
condemned it as heresy. It is available in English as "The Mirror of Simple Souls", translated by Jack C. Marler.