I Write Letters (and You Can, Too!)

Dear Seal Press,

There’s nothing “groundbreaking” (nor *cough* “subversive” or “ironic”) about undeniably racist imagery. What the bloody blue hell were you thinking?

Warmest regards,


P.S. You might want to think about amending your tagline. I suggest going with a classic truth-in-advertising motif. How about: “Superficial pablum. By white women. For white women”?

Related: You can write letters too!

General Inquiries:

Seal Press
<!–1400 65th Street, Suite 250
Emeryville, CA 94608
1700 4th Street
Berkeley, California 94710
(510) 595-3664

Perseus Books Group (Headquarters)
387 Park Avenue South
12th Floor
New York, NY 10016
(212) 340-8100


Seal Press Publicity Department

International – General Inquiries


Toronto 559 College Street, Unit 402
Toronto, Ontario
M6G 1A9 Canada
800-747-8147 (Canada only)
Fax: 416-934-1410

Graham Fidler
Executive Vice President
voice mail: ext. 203

Suzanne Wice
Sales and Marketing Manager
voice mail: ext. 207

Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Provinces

Martin and Associates:
Michael Martin and Margot Stokreef
Phone: 416-769-3947
Fax: 416-769-5967

Susan Rogers
Phone: 416-762-1230
Fax: 416-769-5967

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba

Michael Reynolds and Associates:
Michael Reynolds and Kim Herter (Vancouver)
Phone: 604-688-6918
Fax: 604-687-4624

Heather Parsons (Calgary)
Phone: 403-233-8771
Fax: 403-233-8772

Trent Olson (Manitoba and Saskatchewan)
Phone: (204) 292-1631
Fax: (888) 821-8569

Rest of World Perseus Books Group
International Sales
Eleven Cambridge Center
Cambridge, MA 02142
Phone: (617) 252-5211
Fax: (617) 525-5265

Update 04/25: Holly hits it out of the park once again:

Seal Press recently caught a lot of flak after two of their representatives made themselves look very, very bad by thoroughly failing to engage in any kind of productive dialogue with women of color who vocally criticized the lack of racial representation in their catalog. And now this. The publishing world is a hard place these days for a feminist press — it’s hard to figure out how to be an ally to disenfranchised voices and still make ends meet. Yes. But those excuses don’t even make sense this time around. If you’ve gotta put retro cartoons on your covers to sell books, fine. But how many retro cartoon images are there in the world that don’t have hoary old racist, colonialist tropes splattered all over them? Believe me, there are plenty. Not every one is as problematic as these.


Although Amanda has long been one of my favorite bloggers, any enjoyment I once got out of reading her snappy takedowns of misogyny is rapidly turning to ashes in my mouth. And that’s why I can’t sleep, why I feel like throwing up. Like a lot of bloggers these days, I’m no longer even sure if I feel comfortable calling myself a feminist, since it seems like the popular definition of that word in so many circles has come to mean “feminism first, every other issue second.” And that’s a formula that inevitably leads to a feminism for the few. A feminism for the small numbers of women who don’t deal with intersections of one, two or ten other kinds of shit getting heaped on us every day, too many to calculate “which is most important.” It’s not a kind of feminism that works for most of the women on this planet. But you know, brownfemipower already said all this in her sign-off, I don’t need to repeat her thoughts. Just add my name to the list of those who are no longer sure if we can simply “take feminism back.” Or even if it’s worth it.

Also see Lauredhel @ Hoyden About Town, Maia @ Alas, a Blog, Ilyka, The Rotund, Galling Galla, Burning Words and Natalia. Oh, and I join Mandolin and Amp in endorsing Sylvia’s sound advice:

If you really like the quality and style of Amanda’s writing but question the use of the imagery, don’t buy the book, go to the publisher (Seal Press hurr) and tell them why you’re not buying the book, and see if you can get a reprint with just as much irony without any racism. And buy it then. I think that’s possible, especially since there’s no longer King Kong on the cover.

Personally, I wouldn’t read, buy nor endorse the book even without the images (for similar reasons as Oh outlined here, along with the previous conduct towards/marginalization of WOC by Seal Press), but YMMV.

Finally, contra Hugo, this isn’t merely a matter of “perception”. The images gratuitously featured as chapter headings in It’s a Jungle Out There are racist. Full fucking stop.

And what Angry Black Woman said.

Update 2: More science courtesy karnythia @ ABW’s pad:

Frankly we’re at a point where it’s time for feminism to either get it together, or for us to leave it where it is and continue on with our own progressive movements. There’s been some talk for years about how feminism is comprised of multiple movements and until now that’s been enough for me. But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist. And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.

Read the whole damn thing.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Riding Off Into the Sunset

by matttbastard

Uncle Steve on his lame-duck BFF:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush for never promising anything he could not deliver as the two began a 48-hour North American leaders’ summit.

But it was unclear Monday whether anything will be promised, much less delivered, during the fourth annual Security and Prosperty[sic] Partnership meeting among Harper, Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.


“What I appreciate most, what I’ve appreciated in our relationship over the past couple of years, is the fact that whether we agree or disagree, we’re always able to talk very frankly, very upfront,” Harper said at a photo opportunity Monday after an hour-long meeting with Bush.

“The president has never promised me anything he couldn’t deliver and that’s always appreciated.”

Ok.  I’m certainly not privy to what has gone on over the years during Dubya and Dear Leader’s “frank” and “upfront” conversations, so take my BDS-addled opinion with a healthy chunk of rock salt. Still, I’m not holding my breath while I await the arrival of that pony named “Democracy in the Middle East” (along with its dapple-grey sidekick, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”) that was supposed to have been delivered sometime after the fall of Baghdad.

h/t Lulu

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Guest Post: “Privilege limits imagination”

by Kay Olson

[edit 04.23: originally posted as a comment in response to this post – mb]

With everything that has happened recently in the feminist blogworld (Seal Press, discussions of intellectual appropriation, BFP quitting her blog), and Angry Black Woman’s proposal for a Carnival of Allies, I’ve been thinking a lot on “empathy”, what exactly it is and how far it can get us in understanding each other.

In being effective allies, I don’t believe empathy can get us where we want to go. It’s a good place to start. Probably the best and only place to begin, but even with a generous definition of empathy as something that encompasses all manner of attempt to put oneself in another’s shoes, it still relies on the limits of an individual’s imagination. One has to be able to think of whose shoes to stand in and have some inkling of how they might feel. And privilege limits imagination.

Privilege is the ability to look around a room and not notice who is missing, because they weren’t invited, couldn’t take time off work, didn’t have the means to get there, or weren’t allowed in the building because of, oh, dress code or lack of ramps. CripChick notes in comments to her own post that she doesn’t feel able to participate in a discussion like the one over at Feministe that questions her own right to parent, and she’s not alone in that sentiment. Why show up for a debate where your personhood is in question? Why keep blogging when you (and the people you write about) are not given equal footing in discussions about your own lives? Why keep trying to bulldoze your way into parties where your absence/silence is apparently unnoticed?

What I’m saying is that the misplaced empathy and the silencing: they’re related, you know.

Writer/activist Kay Olson blogs at The Gimp Parade and Alas, a Blog.

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Misplaced Empathy

by matttbastard

Via Daisy: Brand-spankin’ new Feministe contributer Cara highlights a story that FRIDA has followed in detail (h/t cripchick), all about “KEJ”, a disabled Illinois woman whose legal guardian was petitioning to have KEJ sterilized against her will (for KEJ’s own good, of course *cough*). Thankfully, a state appellate court recently ruled in KEJ’s favour, affirming her right to bodily autonomy. Score one for the good guys, right?


Well, hold on, tiger. According to some oh-so-enlightened commenters, maybe we’re being too hasty in championing the reproductive liberty of a disabled woman. Cripchick selects the following gems (and deserves some kind of an award for not justifiably engulfing the original thread in an inferno of righteous magma):

“…Who exactly IS supposed to raise a child born to a woman who is truly incapable of doing so on her own? I realize that abuses have been and may still be rampant, and many disabilities do not affect a person’s ability to parent, but honestly, if this woman gets pregnant, who’s on the hook for raising that child? The aunt, who is already caring for KEJ?”

– Comment 4, by Ruth

Who in the world is going to raise that child? Our tax dollars? Relatives dragooned into service through state power or shame? What if the disability is congenital and the child needs as much or more care than the parent? I agree with your basic point, that forced sterilization is something to be avoided. But people who are emotionally, or physically, or financially incapable of providing a decent quality of life for their children shouldn’t reproduce.”

– Comment 8, by felagund

“…I do think it would be unfair to push that child on someone else (the mother’s parents or private caretakers). It’s unfair to the others, and it’s unfair to the child. It’s like giving a puppy to your friend, but your friend doesn’t have the time/patience/love/etc. to take care of it and pushes it off on her roommate, who grudgingly obliges because her roommate doesn’t want the puppy to be unhappy and starve to death. That’s not how children should be brought up!”

– Comment 14 by danakitty

cripchick nails it:

Many commenters on the Feministe thread have rightfully pointed out how close the argument that disabled women should not be mothers is to the long history of policies and policing based on the idea that poor women should not be mothers. By talking about who will raise or pay for the child we are already talking about class— class and disability, like race, are very much tied together. I believe there are certain aspects of disability (poverty, housing, employment) that can somewhat be canceled out by class and white privilege (look at Christopher Reeve) but recognizing this does not give people the right to determine who are “good” parents and “bad” parents. Though the discussion is on disability, it is very much about criminalizing a perceived poor woman for wanting to have children.


The ableism in these threads always scare me. Partially because it’s on feminist blogs, partially because the internet allows people to say what they really feel. KEJ’s case is a victory but I’m still left to question whether we’re making any progress.

I’m sure many people reading this remember the disturbing-yet-perversely-enlightening trainwreck that occurred at Alas, a Blog a while back over The Ashley Treatment. The ablism being expressed by many commenters who I normally have respect for was utterly disheartening. One couldn’t help but note the cruel irony of watching people who would in any other case unequivocally stand up for a woman’s bodily sovereignty suddenly balk at the notion–all because the person in scenarios such as these who many able-bodied individuals automatically relate to is the able-bodied caretaker, rather than the disabled woman.

And, once again, the empathy has unfortunately (but not surprisingly) been entirely misplaced. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the “I’m not for forced sterilization but…” peeps have chosen to let their privilege (and, I would contend, ablist squick) blind them to the basic principles of bodily autonomy that are so obviously at stake here.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

On Jack Bauer and US Interrogation Policy

by matttbastard

I know this has already been revealed by Philippe Sands in the April May issue of Vanity Fair. However, after reading this excerpt from Sands’ upcoming book, Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty And The Compromise Of Law, I still can’t fathom the callous indifference of the sick fucking bastards who drew up the blueprints for US torture policy:

[Major General Michael E Dunlavey, former head of military interrogations at Guantánamo] told me that at the end of September a group of the most senior Washington lawyers visited Guantánamo, including David Addington, the vice president’s lawyer, Gonzales and Haynes. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in DC.” When the new techniques were more or less finalised, Dunlavey needed them to be approved by Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, his staff judge advocate in Guantánamo. “We had talked and talked, brainstormed, then we drew up a list,” he said. The list was passed on to Diane Beaver.”


Beaver told me she arrived in Guantánamo in June 2002. In September that year there was a series of brainstorming meetings, some of which were led by Beaver, to gather possible new interrogation techniques. Ideas came from all over the place, she said. Discussion was wide-ranging. Beaver mentioned one source that I didn’t immediately follow up with her: “24 – Jack Bauer.”

It was only when I got home that I realised she was referring to the main character in Fox’s hugely popular TV series, 24. Bauer is a fictitious member of the Counter Terrorism Unit in LA who helped to prevent many terror attacks on the US; for him, torture and even killing are justifiable means to achieve the desired result. Just about every episode had a torture scene in which aggressive techniques of interrogations were used to obtain information.

Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, “he gave people lots of ideas.” She believed the series contributed to an environment in which those at Guantánamo were encouraged to see themselves as being on the frontline – and to go further than they otherwise might.

Under Beaver’s guidance, a list of ideas slowly emerged. Potential techniques included taking the detainees out of their usual environment, so they didn’t know where they were or where they were going; the use of hoods and goggles; the use of sexual tension, which was “culturally taboo, disrespectful, humiliating and potentially unexpected”; creating psychological drama. Beaver recalled that smothering was thought to be particularly effective, and that Dunlavey, who’d been in Vietnam, was in favour because he knew it worked.

The younger men would get particularly agitated, excited even: “You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.” A wan smile crossed Beaver’s face. “And I said to myself, you know what, I don’t have a dick to get hard. I can stay detached.”

Beaver confirmed what Dunlavey had told me, that a delegation of senior lawyers came down to Guantánamo well before the list of techniques was sent up to Washington. They talked to the intelligence people, they even watched some interrogations. The message from the visitors was that they should do “whatever needed to be done”, meaning a green light from the very top – from the lawyers for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the CIA.

“Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, “he gave people lots of ideas. “”

“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.”

“[W]hatever needed to be done”.

International law and years of precedent, casually tossed under the post-9/11 bus by junior sadists (after being given the “green light from the very top”) obsessed with a fictional fucking TV show; words fail me.

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