Burkas and the return of Boaty McBoatface

Not only is it the day of the long-awaited Netherlands parliamentary elections, it’s also the Ides of March … which is not really a holiday, but rather a historical classification for March 15 in the Roman calendar.

Yeah, I’m a nerd.

Today I’d like to present two stories that, while covering the same topic, are extremely divergent from one another and, by virtue of that, perfectly represents the current global sentiment towards the group of people that the stories center on: Muslims.

You’re well versed on the anti-Muslim rhetoric that’s come from Donald Trump, as well as from Geert Wilders, the even more right-wing agitator who may come out on top of today’s Netherlands elections.

The strong support that’s emerged for Muslims from the political left in response to this hate speech isn’t necessarily borne out of sympathy for their religious beliefs — in fact, the Islamic doctrine and their repression towards women and homosexuals almost directly opposes liberal ideologies. But rather, Muslims have officially become a symbol for diversity and acceptance in an increasingly globalized world.

In the last two years, embracing Muslims has become akin to embracing diversity and rejecting bigotry.

And this month, Nike followed suit by introducing a Pro Hijab designed specifically for female Muslim athletes.

Nike Hijab

The increased presence of female Muslim athletes at the highest stage of international competition was highly evident at this year’s Olympics. Egypt alone sent 37 women to the Games, the most in the country’s 104-year participation in the Olympics.

And that also includes fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal last year after becoming the first hijab-wearing American to compete at the Olympics for the United States.

So it’s nice to see a major corporation like Nike open their arms and accommodate a faction of people who have not been treated too fairly lately.

Unfortunately, that segues well into the next story, which took place on Tuesday, when the European Union’s highest court ruled that companies are within their right to ban the hijab from the workplace.

On the surface this sounds extremely bigoted and discriminatory, and people are surely sharing headlines of this story by the thousands on Facebook voicing their disgust as we speak, but it’s not as bad when you read the full ruling.

The court justified its decision as a blanket ruling for all political and religious symbols, meaning that employers have legal basis to ban the hijab, as long as they’re also banning other religious attire like a Sikh turban or a Jewish kippah.

Nonetheless, it sounds like a ruling that would have been made in 1970, not 2017. And it’s not the most ominous sign on the eve of these damn Netherlands elections.

But let’s end with something a little happier.

Boaty McBoatface

Remember Boaty McBoatface? The name that voters chose for an exploration vessel that ultimately got rejected?

Well, it’s back, and it’s about to make its maiden voyage. Only, it’s not a boat but a yellow submarine *insert Beatles joke*.

Boaty McBoatface will begin its mission in Antarctica this week to collect data to help scientists understand how global warming affects oceans.

So not only does Boaty McBoatface exist, but it’s helping us to save the world.

So amid all the doom and gloom in this world, remember there’s a yellow beacon of hope out there for us to rely on. Literally. It’s in the form of a yellow torpedo, zipping through the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

And its name is Boaty McBoatface.

Don’t forget it.

Go home, North Carolina, you’re drunk

Up until about two months ago, whenever the state of North Carolina was mentioned, the first thought that popped into people’s heads was, well … nothing.

Absolutely nothing. There’s really not many more unmemorable states than North Carolina. Sure, you’ve got a couple good college basketball teams there, and it’s along the route when people want to travel southward to Myrtle Beach or Florida.

And that’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with being under the radar. It means you’re doing you’re own thing, and more importantly, you haven’t done anything stupid to bring negative attention to yourself.

Well that all changed in late March, when the state’s legislature and governor passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which has been described as the most anti-LGBT legislation in the United States.

Since then, the backlash against North Carolina has been well documented.

Loretta Lynch.jpg

But it looked like this whole situation would finally come to a head when the U.S. Justice Department gave North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory a deadline to assure them that he will not enforce this law, stating that it is in direct violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So that ended it, right? When the DOJ comes down hard on you, there’s really not much else you can do. North Carolina tried to pass a law, failed, and we move on to the next story. What else is happening in the news?

Wait, hold on a second. North Carolina did what?

Seriously? Ugh. Alright, let’s keep going.

On Monday, McCrory responded to that deadline by filing a lawsuit against the United States government, calling the Justice Department’s position a “radical interpretation” of the Voting Rights Act.

This prompted a counter suit by the DOJ, coupled with a dramatic press conference by newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch — a North Carolina native — as she voiced her assurance that the Obama administration will do everything in its power to protect transgender rights.

At this point, it’s shocking how invested North Carolina is to go out of their way to inconvenience the lives of transgenders.

So what can us common folk do to stick it to North Carolina? (Other than blog about it). Well, we can go to their college basketball games and heckle their teams … when the college basketball season begins in November. Or we can drive around the state when traveling along the eastern coast, adding several hours to our commute.

Yeah, there’s not really much we can do. Boaty McBoatface2.jpg

Unless …. maybe I do have an idea.

Remember when I told you about the social media campaign to name a polar research vessel Boaty McBoatface?

Well, unfortunately it failed. Popular consensus did not prevail, and the environmental group that organized the contest will instead name the boat RRS Sir David Attenborough, all but guaranteeing that no one will ever care about this boat ever again.

How about we kill two birds with one stone?

Somebody design a massive boat (I’m talking Titanic 2.0 here), and let’s turn it into not a gay cruise ship, but a transgender cruise ship, and call it Boaty McBoatface. And where will it traverse?

The entire coast of North Carolina.

If that’s not the ultimate way to grandstand against discrimination, then I don’t know what is.

Who’s joining me for a cruise on Boaty McBoatface?

Asking someone what they would name their hypothetical boat is probably the second dumbest question in the world.

The only one more more mind-numbing and pointless is asking someone what they would do if they owned a time machine.

Like, seriously man? You’re really asking me that?

Hypothetical questions in general are annoying to begin with. You’re asking me, on the spot, to suddenly think of how I would react to a scenario that’s never happened, and in all likelihood, will never happen.

Why even waste the time? It’s more productive to think about practically anything else. Like what time it is. Or what I am going to eat for dinner later.

At least the answer to those questions actually have an impact on my life. A small impact, but an impact nonetheless.

It won’t give me any satisfaction to pretend for a minute that I am rich and own a boat. Because it’s not true. If anything, it reminds me how unlikely I am to ever be wealthy enough to own a boat, which will then make me sad.

Boaty McBoatface.png

So how can we go about making the question more fun? After all, it would be kinda cool to actually be able to name a real-life boat, right?

Well guess what! A research agency in the United Kingdom has given the public that very opportunity, and it’s gone exactly how you hoped it might. 

What we’ve seen in recent years is that when you open something up for the Internet to decide, the result will likely be hilarious. Ask anyone who has ever hosted a Twitter Q&A. Or look at the most recent NHL ALL-Star game, when fans elected journeyman John Scott, who in his career has scored a measly five goals, as a captain.

In this instance, the National Environment Research Council asked the Internet to select the name of a polar research vessel that is targeted to set sail in 2019.

Although a press release for the initiative recommended such names as Falcon, Shackleton and Endeavour, Internet users had a very different idea — RRS Boaty McBoatface.

Imagine one day this boat is involved in a major news story. Say it sinks. A newscaster will have to deliver a straight-faced account of what happened to Boaty McBoatface.

But if the idea for NERC was to gain public acknowledgement and attention surrounding their polar voyage, then they hit the jackpot — and all in the name of fun.

Unfortunately, the agency said they will have the final say. But something tells me that if Boaty McBoatface wins — which it will — and doesn’t get chosen, there will be public outrage. Internet users are very powerful people. Yes, their attention spans rarely last more than a day or two, but I predict you will see a full revolt if you deny them of this name.

I haven’t been on many boats in my life. The occasional motorboat, rowboat and canoe. And I love a good kayak ride every now and then.

But never a big boat. And now I think it’s time to change that.

Because it would be an honor and privilege to voyage into the polar darkness on RRS Boaty McBoatface.

Who’s coming with me?!