Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obligatory Economic Blog

I've decided that since our economy is catastrophically teetering on the edge of apocalypse not seen since the Great Depression, I'd take a little break from writing about gay stuff and feminism. I'm not an economist so I'm not going to offer any new convoluted theories about this economic meltdown. From what I've read, this domino-like collapse was caused by clusterfuck of people buying houses they couldn't afford, banks approving mortgages that should not have been approved, and people chopping the "risks" of these mortgages up into bits and pieces and selling them to other people for massive amounts of profit.

While this is economic collapse is very frightening, what is interesting is how crises bring out all kinds of theories- theories not motivated to actually get to the bottom of this, but theories obviously motivated to opportunistically use a crisis to promote certain political worldviews. Some people, it seems, obsessively view social catastrophes only through the lens of their political agenda. Thus, as is the case of any other social crisis, the economic meltdown brought another certainty: The knee-jerk blaming of the catastrophe on various social "ills."

For instance:

1. One theory says that our economy is collapsing because political correctness has gone too far! In a nutshell, this theory says that banks were forced to give people of color risky mortgages that they couldn't pay back at the risk of being called "racist." And that caused our crisis.

2. Similarly, according to Ann Coulter, we are in a fiscal crisis because of liberal affirmative action policies. In a nutshell, these policies demanded that lenders give "your" (white people's, I suppose) mortgages to "less qualified minorities." What, other than a crisis, could we expect when Teh Liberals forced banks to give "deadbeat borrowers" mortgages? See, when white people lose their homes it's unfortunate. When people of color lose their homes it's because they're deadbeats. You know, for special, lucky reasons.

3. On that note, have you also heard that Illegal Immigrants have caused this meltdown?! Uh-oh, we better build that fence!

4. More scarily, God has caused the financial crisis because America has sinned! Therefore, we must make God like us again by banning same-sex marriage, banning abortion, funding "family values" groups, and privatizing energy.

Now, I can grant that theories #1 and #2 might have teeny-tiny kernels of truth in them. Those who have defaulted on their mortgages are, disproportionately, low-income people who are also, disproportionately, people of color. But where many of us differ from those with Convervative Goggles is that we won't look at this crisis and think "golly, we better not support programs that encourage home ownership among low-income people" under the belief that doing so would prevent future economic meltdowns. While Ann Coulter uses the situation to spread the message that "Political correctness had already ruined education, sports, science and entertainment... [and now] the financial industry," others look at it through a lens that is not obsessed with demonizing people.

What is lacking from these wack-a-loon theories are other relevant facts. For instance, mortgage companies offered these disproportionately low-income buyers adjustable rate mortgages under the reasoning that after the initial low-interest period, their homes would have increased in value and they could then re-finance if necessary to afford these homes. Meanwhile, if the increase in value never actually happened, it was no skin off the mortgage brokers' backs. It's not their money they're lending. And, by the time a homeowner defaulted on his or her mortgage, the broker had already collected the mortgage fees and was long gone. To the broker, a defaulted mortgage is someone else's problem.

Also adding to the crisis are factors like the decline in housing value and homeowner net worth [PDF] and alleged illegal influence of the mortgage industry to prevent oversight and regulation.

Again, I'm not an expert in economics. But even I know that anyone who is sincerely looking for real solutions will do better than blaming crises on vague concepts like Political Correctness Gone Too Far or God Is Mad At Us or Illegals Are Ruining Everything!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Mysterious Case of the Invisible Homo-Bigotry

Back in July, Jennifer Roback Morse wrote a column about the gay rights advocates who dared to boycott companies who support Proposition 8. While I take issue with much of her letter, which includes calling people seeking equality "gay rights radicals" and sarcastically calling a pro-Proposition 8 company a "big meanie," I especially take issue with this statement:

"For many of us, gay marriage isn't a referendum on gay people. It is about the meaning of marriage. Advocates of marriage as a union of a man and a woman do not hate gay people." (emphasis added)

See that last bit there, the highlighted sentence? It says that advocates of "man-woman marriage" do not hate gay people. Some such advocates may not. But some clearly do. That's why such a statement is audacious to those of us on the receiving side of homo-hatred.

I don't know whether Morse has intentionally blinded herself, whether she's just plain ignorant, or if she's just trying to whitewash a movement she's a part of, but it is clear that many marriage defenders do hate gay people and do use the movement as a blatant referendum on us. Morse herself may not hate gay people and may see the movement as something that transcends hate. And, kudos to her if she wants the movement to be comprised of mostly moral people operating within the normal bounds of love, honesty, and truth-telling. But the fact is, whether Morse knows it or not, the movement remains steeped in homo-bigotry, misinformation, lies, and vilification of gay people.

For instance, perhaps Morse is unaware that the Family Research Council's (FRC) various "fact" sheets about marriage and gay people are littered with falsehoods and mis-used research studies about gay people (mostly gay men). As but one example, the FRC cited the often mis-used "Dutch study" in order to claim that gay people [sic] are way more promiscuous than heterosexuals. In reality, the "Dutch Study" was conducted only among non-monogamous gay men, most of whom had HIV, in order to study the spread of HIV infection! Anyone who knows anything about research studies wouldn't be shocked to find out that a study which examines the sexual behavior of non-monogamous men would reveal that non-monogamous men have multiple sex partners. Yet, that little detail never stops marriage defenders from, in bad faith or ignorance, pretending that it applies to the general population of gay men (and those invisibly benign creatures known as lesbians.) Anyone acting in good faith, without a hateful agenda to demonize gay men and lesbians, would not mis-use the study in such a way.

This example is not just an isolated event, either. Many of the major supporters of California's Proposition 8 similarly mis-use the "Dutch Study" on their various fact sheets, websites, and articles. And not only do they mis-use this study, these groups mis-use multiple studies. Recently, for instance, marriage defense machines LifeSite news and OneNewsNow posted an article written by Kathleen Gilbert that was actually denounced by the researcher Gilbert cited in her article. The researcher took issue with the politically-motivated distortions and misrepresentations that Gilbert made from his research. Mis-using research to defame gay people? That's not very loving.

But not so fast! Maybe Morse and the other marriage defense whitewashers believe all this mis-use of research is accidental. Alright. I can grant that "advocacy" groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, and the Traditional Values Coalition might not know how to read research studies. Fine. Then maybe these groups should think long and hard before presenting research it knows little about. It is just plain irresponsible to ignorantly spread mis-information about entire groups of people. But, when it comes to so-called "research" organizations, one would think that organizations like the Family Research Institute, Family Research Council, National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals would know how to accurately interpret and use research studies. But nope. Am I the only one reading this who cannot possibly believe that legitimate research institutes act in good faith when they mis-use research studies?

In fact, such mis-use of research for political purposes does feel sort of like a "referendum on gay people." In fact, it makes me a feel little bit hated. I suppose if my feelings mattered, that would be a problem.

Yet, not only do many marriage defense groups mis-understand and/or mis-use science, they create caricatures out of gay people. As one example, marriage defense groups particularly like to scare people into thinking that all gay people want to "re-define" marriage into a promiscuous sex-fueled free-for-all, as opposed to an institution of relative monogamy. The Family Research Council, for instance, cites Michelangelo Signorile saying that he wants "a relationship in which the partners have sex on the outside often ... and discuss their outside sex with each other, or share sex partners." Gosh, it sure is scary what those radical homosexualists want to do to marriage! But seriously, I'm sure reasonable people like Morse know that the gay rights movement is not a monolithic one in which all gay people think exactly the same thing and seek the same goals. I wish I could say that most marriage defenders get this concept. Unfortunately, whether due to ignorance or blatant mis-representation, they do not.

Then, of course, we have the "youth-friendly" iProtectMarriage website which includes "facts" (and I do use the word loosely here) like how our very "way of life" hinges on keeping gay people from marrying even though, at this juncture, no one could possibly know any such thing! That's okay, though, it's best to rile everyone up with ginormous predictions of future harm. Homosexuals are dangerous! Or, maybe she sees no problem with the iProtect site's recitation of HIV/AIDS statistics, and the clear implication that gay men (oh yeah and women) do not deserve marriage because gay men have higher rates of the disease than any other group. Wait, I know. When the iProtect website goes on to cite all of the wonderful positive benefits of marriage, she also fails to see the glaring question that is begged: If marriage is so good for people then why aren't gay men and lesbians entitled to these wonderful benefits as well?

And do the asinine comments from Prop 8 supporters like the ones advocating for the gassing of all "sub-human perverts" count as hatred? Maybe when they say we should die, they mean it in a nice way.

But sure, Morse, let's just keep on telling people that marriage defenders don't hate gay people. Let's pretend at least some members of the "man-woman marriage" movement do not hate gay people. Maybe then no one will notice that former Proposition 8 advocate David Benkof quit the movement after being disgusted by the offensive words and actions of some of its leaders. Writing in the Black Hills-Pioneer, Benkof wrote that marriage defenders tend to use arguments that are offensive to the human dignity of gay men and lesbians. Specifically, they have a tendency to refer to families headed by same-sex partners as homosexual "families." Note the quotes. Those indicate that gay and lesbian families aren't real families.

Many of us consider such public and frequent ridicule of our families to be hateful and mean-spirited. If Morse is incapable of understanding why, then I would urge her to put herself in our shoes. How would she feel if so-called loving, righteous religious organizations said that her "family" is not legitimate? Would she feel "loved"? Would she feel as though this movement that de-legitimizes herself and her family is a referendum on her? Or am I just being silly? Maybe this is some sick, warped version of Christian "tough love" that is really just an excuse to hate people and not feel guilty about it.

See, I've listed but a few examples of marriage defender "love." I could go on. You all, dear readers, know I could. But those of us who are gay, allied, or in the least bit familiar with this movement, already know that the marriage-defense and anti-gay movements often use immoral, hateful, and dishonest tactics to promote their political agenda. What is amazing to me is that one who is as intimately familiar with this movement as Jennifer Roback Morse is actually said with a straight face that the marriage defense movement is not a referendum on gay people and that advocates of man-woman marriage do not hate gay people.

Hatred, as an emotion, is difficult to prove. Yet the marriage defender who is able to make arguments against same-sex marriage without simultaneously being dishonest and/or mean-spirited is rare. As I said before, Morse herself may not hate gay people. For a marriage defender, she is actually one of the classier ones. But why else do so many in the movement that she is a part of lie and spread propaganda about gay people if they do not hate us? Under what set of moral standards is such vilification acceptable?

Homobigotry is not some figment of our overly-delicate gay sensibilities, Dr. Morse. Some of the people you are in cahoots with really are "big meanies." So just keep on mocking all you want. But part of respecting people includes taking their claims of being vilified by a movement you are a part of seriously. Legitimate reasons exist for why so many of us feel hated by marriage defenders and a lot of those reasons are not too difficult to find.

I can see how some marriage defenders might not hate gay people, rather they just genuinely believe that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will harm marriage. But if you can't see how hate-fueled lies and misinformation are are a major part of the marriage defense movement, you are simply blind.

Seek out this "invisible" hatred, and you will find it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Fun!

1. Carnival of Feminists

Leftist Gender Warrior is pleased to announce that the latest Carnival of Feminists is up at Green Gabbro for your reading pleasure! My article on feminism and the draft was included.


2. A Gay Extravaganza

I understand why rightwingers and conservatives lambast the Hollywood Elite (tm).

In the last week alone: Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, and Kate Capshaw have donated large sums of money to the anti-Proposition 8 cause, Lindsey Lohan has confirmed that Samantha Ronson is indeed her lezzzzzzzzbian lover, and Clay Aiken shockingly (shockingly I tell you!) came out as gay.

Hollywood "Elitism" isn't the real sin, of course. It's not so much that conservatives dislike Hollywood, it's more that they dislike it when rich and famous people disagree with them. For, you never hear the Ann Coulter's of the world decry the Hollywood Elitism of conservatives Mel Gibson, Stephen Baldwin, and Chuck Norris (okay, it may be a stretch to call Chuck Norris a Hollywood Elite, but still, you get the point).

Anyway, you have to give props to Hollywood Elites for doing their part to Erode the Fabric of Society.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feminism and the Draft, Take Two

The other day, I noticed some unusual hits coming to Fannie's Room from a forum called Antimisandry. I took a peek over there and saw that a self-identified Men's Rights Activist (MRA) calling himself "frostyboy" copied and pasted my entire article "The Draft Doesn't Prove Feminism Wrong" for other MRAs to read.

First off, I found it odd that this fellow would lift my article from the context of a feminist blog only to place it within the safe confines of a feminist-free private MRA forum. Don't get me wrong. The prospect of having "nuanced" debates with MRAs on issues like how feminism doesn't really say all men are evil doesn't particularly thrill me. But still, as long as MRAs are able to comment respectfully and not post irrelevant anti-feminist novella-length comments on my blog, they have always been free to comment here. Unfortunately, many MRAs who comment on feminist blogs are unable to meet these requirements. And, even when they're venting in their own forums dedicated to demolishing feminism, they fail to do better.

On the anti-misandry site, for instance, the various comments left by MRAs in response to my article were, not surprisingly, angry, predictable, and failed to respond to what I actually wrote. Rather than conceding any point I made, or acknowledging that MRAs and feminists share some of the same goals, these angry "oppressed" males chalked up my article to an irrelevant screed dedicated to perpetuating female privilege and Keeping the Man Down.

I have to admit that my expectations for serious discourse weren't high as the site misguidedly claims to be "The Cure for Feminist Indoctrination." Yet, when I read one man's pontification on the difference between Man and Woman I was quite astounded at how wrong he got it. He writes:

"Men are rugged, individualistic, and self-reliant (often to the point of rescuing women from this drudgery). Women demand to be lifted into equality with men (notice the use of the passive, feminine voice). It's this expectation to be carried and pampered that precludes the possibility of equality ever being reached."

So. Very. Wrong.

I don't think this guy read my article very closely.

See, it's not so much that we womenfolk demand to be "lifted into equality with men" it's that we are pushing (note: active voice) the patriarchy's "rugged, individualistic, and self-reliant" boots off our throats so we can be equal. It's quite simple, really. And actually, that was sorta the point of my article, which Mr. MRA would have known had he cared to give it more than cursory read and knee-jerk response.

We don't want to be treated like "goddesses" and told that we are too fragile, precious, and weak to engage in the serious business of living non-domestic lives. We are quite willing and able to be soldiers, presidents, CEOs, writers, and intellectuals. What we want is for people to stop perpetuating the lie that we, as women, must live within the claustrophobic confines of the feminine gender role and that men must live within the confines of the (superior) male gender role. What we want is for you to recognize that while significant gains have been made, the last few decades of progress have not completely erased the fact that for thousands of years men have excluded women from the public sphere.

In short, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. And if you're not part of the problem, feminism isn't fucking talking about you. But MRAs, with their knee-jerk self-indulgent defensive posturing and their blind refusal to concede that "hey maybe women are oppressed in (at least) some ways," are part of the problem. In their minds, it is simply not fair for women to make any gains at all because if they do it will mean they have unfair advantages over men. But let me tell ya, we all know that men suffer too and that some things are unfair to men. But that doesn't mean that men and women are currently equal. Nor does it mean that women have it better than men. Now, can MRAs at least concede that men have certain privileges over women as a class? And, if any MRAs meander over here, they can begin by telling me their thoughts on this post which addresses the fact that our nation's laws and constitutions speak only to men.

Oh yeah, and stop reproducing my entire articles on other forums without my permission. Copyright violation much?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Amendment That Matters

Upon opening this month's edition of the Chicago Bar Association Record, I was surprised and delighted to read Judge Michael B. Hyman's thoughts in his brief article "A His and Hers Constitution." (Sorry, no internet link is available).

Noticing the Constitution's abundant use of the male pronoun to the exclusion of the female one, Hyman laments:

"Women are non-existent in the Constitution. Written in the manner of the day, the Constitution is decidedly masculine based, with only male pronouns and not a single reference to women."

If you're a man, you may have never noticed that the Constitution does not once mention women. Most of us, in fact, just take it for granted that most of our laws, including our nation's charter, refer only to men. And, I know what some of you are thinking. "But, we all know that the Constitution really refers to men and women. So it doesn't really matter that it only speaks of men." Such thinking, of course, begs a question: Since the Constitution and our laws apply to women as well as men, then what's the big deal with going ahead and changing the Constitution and our laws to explicitly include women too?

Besides, the funny thing is that when the Framers wrote the Constitution, they didn't really mean both men and women. When they used male pronouns, they meant men. As Hyman writes, "The Framers never envisioned women voting, sitting on juries or holding elective office." Now, of course, society is a bit different. Women vote, sit on juries, and hold elective office. So now, there is no good reason for holding on to this outdated relic of our nation's sexist past. Our Constitution and laws should reflect reality.

Hyman, in fact, proposes amending the Constitution to correct this gender inequity for two reasons. One, the outdated use of the "double-duty" masculine pronoun renders the Constitution inaccurate. In today's "common style and usage" male pronouns refer only to male beings, unlike past usage in which male pronouns were sometimes used to refer to men and women. Writers take note.

Personally, I cringe every time I hear someone using only male pronouns to refer to all human beings. "Mankind" this and "mankind" that. Get with the program, people. Males are no longer the measure of all things that matter. Usually, these people don't even realize they are being offensive. Or, they don't care. On more than one occasion, I have called someone out for using the inaccurate generic "man"-voice only to be mocked in return. And, I specifically remember that it wasn't until my first year of law school that I encountered (a couple) textbooks that specifically included female pronouns in addition to male ones. Unfortunately, I overheard some of my male classmates ridiculing this usage and referring to the inclusion of female pronouns as "too distracting." Yes, really. It was as though the representation of females in legal textbooks was a hindrance to the legal education of some men. To which I could only say "Well, how do you think women feel when these books and laws do not mention them at all? Do you think that at all hinders their educations or careers?"

What is surprising to me is how opposed some men are to gender-inclusive language. I mean, is it really so audacious to them that women want to be represented in the language of our legal system too?

The usage of the generic "he" and "man" to refer to both men and women has lost favor because it is apparent that, throughout history, this "generic" male pronoun really did only refer to men. Men, traditionally, have been thought of as the default human being. Women, on the other hand, are the deviation from the norm. Thus:

"Despite its masterful design, enduring vitality, and historic elegance, the birth certificate of America is ultimately flawed as long as it includes only the masculine form of pronouns...."

It is a flaw. But, unfortunately, it is not one that has ever been taken seriously. People don't think it's a big deal. But I, for one, think it is a big deal. I know I'm not alone on this either. Such language keeps men at the center of our society and women looking in from the periphery.

Hyman's second reason for amending the Constitution is that:

"The freest people on earth should not live under a gender-insensitive charter.... As the 'law of the land,' a constitution should refer to all its citizens in appropriate language.... Our Constitution, to remain potent must be unbiased, fair, evenhanded, and accommodating to the sensibilities of 'We the People.'"


Considering that an amendment correcting this gender inequity would in no way change the meaning of the Constitution, it is unfathomable that anyone would oppose it for non-sexist reasons. This is a symbolic change, but if you're part of the 50% of our nation's population whose equal rights are implied, as opposed to explicitly stated, it's an important change.

I commend Mr. Hyman for raising this issue.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Party A and Party B Kerfuffle

Those sensitive marriage defenders are in an uproar over the fact that California now issues marriage licenses that, reflecting the state's legalization of marriage equality, say "Party A" and "Party B" rather than "groom" and "bride." Of course, as PZ Myers states, this is perfectly legitimate since a state-issued marriage license is "a state-mandated contract." Contracts, of course, are agreements between parties. In my opinion, acknowledging this basic fact is a step in the right direction in getting the uninformed public to realize that civil marriage is distinct from religious marriage.

Yet, marriage defenders are acting as though these new labels mean that they, their families, and their places of worship are not still free to call the parties getting married "bride" and "groom." It's weird. Perhaps they believe they will be hauled off to torture camps if they utter the words "bride" and "groom." It's all a slippery slope, you know.

I think they're confused.

See, recently a pair of heterosexuals have refused to get married because this linguistic change so offends their sensitive sensibilities. They are voluntarily giving up the privilege of marriage because it hurts their feelings that their marriage license will say "Party A" and "Party B" rather than "bride" and "groom."

Perhaps this is that never-pinned-down "proof" that same-sex marriage harms heterosexual marriage? One guy thinks so:

"Those who support (same-sex marriage) say it has no impact on heterosexuals," said Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute. "This debunks that argument."

Whoa whoa whoa. Let's just back up the gravy train. For those operating in the normal world of logic, it is just not legitimate to blame same-sex marriage for harming heterosexuals just because some heterosexuals are now voluntarily refusing to get married because they don't like what's on their marriage license. As PZ puts it, these two people have "voluntarily slap[ed] themselves with a penalty so they can claim genuine damages." That's like a bratty child refusing to go to school because he doesn't like his strict teacher, and then blaming the teacher for "harming" his education. It's not the fault of same-sex marriage that these two crazy kids are choosing not to marry, it's their own fault for choosing not to marry!

Secondly, having to endure the small indignity, if it is even a real one, of having your marriage license refer to you as "Party A" rather than "groom" in no way outweighs the indignity of denying equal rights to a group of people.

One pastor is actually encouraging masses of heterosexuals to refuse to sign the marriage license because it is so offensive. His reasoning? Uttering the hyperbole of the week, he says:

"If ever there was a time for the people of the United States to stand up and let their voices be heard - this is that time."

Don'tcha think that's going a little too far? I can think of many things in the world that are more worthy of "standing up for" than keeping "bride" and "groom" on a piece of paper.

Get a grip, people.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rightwing Roundup: Wiccans, Meanies, and Ex-Heteros

1. Another Reason to Love Buffy

Because the cult tv classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer holds a special place in my heart, the following news makes me so very happy. Apparently, Buffy, which included characters who were witches has caused thousands of women to leave "the church" to become "Wiccan"- at least, so says a headline from the UK's Daily Mail. The money quote:

"[Dr. Kristin Aune] also said television icons such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who promote female empowerment, discourage women from attending services."

I'm pretty sure she just said that once women are strong and empowered, they no longer attend patriarchal male-centric Christian churches.

Well done, Joss. Well done.

2. So, What Are You Saying?

I have become emotionally numb to many things that homobigots say about us. Yet, this next bit of rightwing news just outright shocked me. It is amazing to me how insensitive and distasteful people who consider themselves "loving" and "Christian" can be.

I'm sure many of you heard of the tragic commuter train accident in California that left dozens of people dead. Unfortunately, marriage defenders have stooped so low that they are using this accident for political purposes. Observe, a headline highlighted in yellow and placed at the top of the Campaign for Children and Families' website:

"LA train engineer was unstable homosexual"

(I am linking to the screen-shot of this headline captured by Good-As-You (G-A-Y) I refuse to provide a link and, consequently, revenue to this mean-spirited organization.)

Obviously, to normal people, the sexual orientation of a train engineer is simply not relevant to any article about the tragic crash. It would only be relevant to those who are desperate to promote their anti-gay agendas by vilifying gay people. See, in general, when those seen as "the other" are involved in tragedies, notice is made of their "otherness." Implicit in this notice is the message that their "otherness" somehow explains something about the tragedy that occurred. As though, maybe if the train engineer had not been an "unstable homsexual" he wouldn't have gone and wrecked that train. Clearly, therefore, being "homosexual" is bad and explains everything. Yet, when those whose identities are seen as "the norm," and consequently whose identities are largely invisible, are involved in tragedies, it's just an unfortunate tragedy that doesn't reflect upon that person's entire race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.

This sort of political opportunism is just plain mean. I don't care what religious or spiritual code you live by, I think reasonable and sane people can agree that it's morally wrong to opportunistically invoke tragedies for political purposes. Jeremy Hooper of G-A-Y writes,

"But of course this means that we can put up a big, bold-texted exploitative headline the next time an evangelical "pro-family" Christian and 25 others tragically lose their lives in a accident. Except, wait -- oh yea, that's right: WE WOULD NEVER, EVER CONSIDERING DOING SOMETHING LIKE THAT! And why? BECAUSE HUMAN LIVES AND DECENCY ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT TO US THAN OUR POLITICAL ENDEAVORS!"

"Pro-family" organizations like this one are the soul of the marriage defense movement. Take a good look everyone, because it's not pretty. This hateful, opportunistic, judgmental movement is utterly without redeeming social value. Perhaps it knows that its goal is so worthless that the only way it can win is through lies, vilification, and propaganda.

3. Gay People Should Not "Just Marry" People of the Opposite Sex

In news that's been circulating throughout Christian communities, gospel singer Ray Boltz has come out as a gay man. The Washington Blade reports:

"His 33-year marriage to ex-wife Carol was, he says, largely a happy one. It produced four children — three daughters and a son who are now between 22 and 32 — but family life and going through the motions of being straight had grown so wearying to Boltz, he was in a serious depression, had been in therapy for years, was on Prozac and other anti-depressants and had been, for a time, suicidal.

'I thought I hid it really well,' he says. 'I didn't know people could see what I was going through, the darkness and the struggle. After I came out to my family, one of my daughters said she was afraid to walk in my bedroom because she was afraid she'd find me — that I'd done something to myself. And I didn't even know they'd picked it up.'"

Boltz's account is honest, touching, and heart-breaking. He reports that his way of dealing with being gay was to become a Christian. He believed the anti-gay message that Christianity and prayer could change who he was.

It saddens me to read stories of heterosexually-married people who come out late in life after struggling to conceal who they really are for many years. It saddens me because those who flippantly tell gay people that they already are free to get married (to people of the opposite sex) and therefore, do not require the "special" right to marry people of the same sex, perpetuate these situations.

Ray Boltz exercised his right to get married to a woman and, due to the depression caused by living a lie, he almost lost his life because of it. I just don't think some people understand or care about what being gay is. That lack of compassion and understanding are good for no one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Politicians and Privacy, Take Two

Previously, I criticized the excessive attention paid to the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter. As with every blog I write, I reserve the right to change my mind in light of new evidence. I won't hold onto a belief, willingly blinding myself to other ideas, just for the sake of remaining "correct."

While I still believe that focusing on Palin's daughter is intrusive and politically unwise, new ideas have convinced me that pro-choice advocates are justified in talking about this. I still believe, however, that if the purpose of invoking the pregnant teen is to drag Palin, or her family, through the mud, it is unacceptable.

1. She Brought Her Family Onto the Stage

When it was announced that Sarah Palin was to be McCain's running mate, she immediately paraded her family across the public stage. Part of her personal narrative is that she's a Family Gal, committed to good ol' American Family Values. Yet, in opportunistically using her family to write this narrative for the American people, it is dishonest to omit the bad stuff.

Family matters cannot be "private affairs" only when they are harmful to a political campaign and "public affairs" only when they benefit a campaign. While I think most family affairs, in general, are none of our business, if a candidate's the one who makes an issue of her family then she can't really complain when the media makes an issue of her family.

2. "The Personal Is Political"

Secondly, as ProfessorWhatIf reminded me in a recent blog post, a common feminist slogan back in the day was "the personal is political" meaning "...that the personal issues facing women were linked to the wider societal systems and institutions - that, what you do in your own house, your own daily life, is linked to (and defined by) the politics of the society in which you live." The gist of the slogan is that the personal issues a woman faces are, often, the result of the political oppression of women. For instance, in a society in which abortion is illegal, a combination of political and personal factors cause a low-income woman to struggle to raise a child on her own. The political choices that others made have effectively made this woman's life more difficult.

In the specific case of abortion rights, those who oppose abortion take the profoundly personal issue of pregnancy and interject it into the public sphere for regulation. Of the Palin pregnancy, ProfessorWhatIf writes:

"Claiming that this is a ‘personal matter’ is utter hypocrisy. So it’s personal when Palin’s daughter gets pregnant, but when anyone else does, it should be a matter of the state??? Or, as Gary Younge puts it in his piece on Palin, 'The woman who would like us to keep her daughter’s pregnancy a private matter is running for office so that she can make the pregnancies of other people’s daughters an affair of the state.'"

After parading her family across the stage of the Republican convention, Sarah Palin has declared certain aspects of her family life to be "personal" matters and, therefore, off limits for public discussion. Yet she believes that the very personal right to be or not to be pregnant is a matter of public affairs. The message we get from her is that "public discussion of a woman's pregnancy is off-limits because it's personal, but public regulation of other women's pregnancies is A-OK because pregnancy itself is not personal." What a profoundly hypocritical, privileged, and absurd message.

3. The Spin Machine

While I think that the Republicans have created a double-standard in that they expect the media to only discuss the "good" parts of Palin's family and that it is hypocritical for Palin's daughter's pregnancy to be "private" and other women's pregnancies to be "public," we still have to tread carefully.

The Republicans are experts at twisting rhetoric for their own political purposes. When news broke about The Pregnancy, the message from the right became The Left Hates Families and Babies! In reality, much of the commentary, at least from pro-choice advocates centered on Palin's ironic use of the word "choice" in reference to her daughter's decision to have the baby.

As a similar case in point let's remember back when, in 2004, John Kerry criticized the Bush Administration for its anti-gay policies by saying:

"And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as."

The Republican/Dick Cheney outcry was hypocritical, absurd, and unwarranted. Of John Kerry, Cheney said:

"You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected, and I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father."

The right completely twisted the rhetoric around with a "how dare you bring family into this!?" attitude even though Kerry’s point was, precisely, "how could you take your own daughter’s rights away?" It was a big clusterfuck of a non sequitur. The big sin, in the eyes of the Right, was not with the fact that the Bush Administration was against gay rights but with the fact that John Kerry publicly reminded everyone that Dick Cheney had a lesbian daughter. Because, you know, having a lesbian daughter is a gravely embarrassing private matter. Whereas, the homosexuality of millions of other Americans is a public affair that requires state regulation and repression.

Like 2004, the key to this election will come down to which party can create the best personal narrative. Unfortunately, I think the Republicans are winning. With Palin on their side they are now able to decry any criticism of her to be off-limits, elitist, and/or sexist. I suppose the upside is that at least the Republicans are taking such a keen interest in sexism these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not What Jesus Would Do

Remember David Benkof, the gay man opposed to same-sex marriage who marriage defenders lurved to reference before he unexpectedly called it quits? In his own words, Benkof claimed to have learned "quite a bit of disturbing information" about the Proposition 8 movement that led him to drop out of the movement. Back in July, however, he refused to divulge specific information. This led to lots of speculation (some of it comically delusional and paranoid).

I wondered aloud if Benkof, who is Jewish, was repelled by the religious intolerance of the Christian Right-fueled marriage defense movement. While I didn't know specifics, it seems I was right. Generally, it boiled down to the alleged religious discrimination of those who lead this predominately Christian Rightist movement.

Writing an op-ed piece for The Black Hills Pioneer, Benkof reveals:

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, so I supported the man-woman marriage Proposition 8 in California - until I discovered the Proposition 8 campaign tolerates discrimination against Jews. ProtectMarriage.com's legal counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, has in effect a 'No Jews Need Apply' policy for legal and even secretarial positions."

Discrimination? From a law firm that busies itself with enshrining discrimination into the Constitution? Wouldn't surprise me.

But seriously, that's a serious charge. Is it true? Does the Alliance Defense Fund, which claims to defend religious freedom, really discriminate on the basis of religion? Benkof alleges:

"They say they're not a law firm, they're a 'ministry' and thus have a right to discriminate against Jews and other non-Christians."

Yummy. If true, I wonder how the supporters of Proposition 8 would feel about this news. Would they even care? I mean, it's no surprise to many of us that the Fundamentalist Christian movement has no use for non-Christian humans. But do the rank and file members of the Prop 8 movement agree?

The only upside to this is that at least the ADF (allegedly) sort of admits that it's not a legitimate law firm. It's a tool of the Christian right. And, judging from its Guiding Principles, I don't think it would claim to be anything else. In my opinion, it's a frightening ministry that seeks to inject its extreme version of Christianity into our legal system and make the rest of us live by its oppressive moral code.

On a related note, from a legal standpoint the structure of nonprofit law is such that it's possible for the Alliance Defense Fund to maintain its tax-exempt status while simultaneously discriminating. No, it doesn't seem fair. With a few exceptions, however, an organization that claims to be a "Church" or a related "auxiliary" of one is legally permitted to discriminate under the Internal Revenue Code and Supreme Court doctrine.

Benkof continues that not only is the Proposition 8 movement discriminatory, many people are just plain old mean-spirited:

"[T]he people defending man-woman marriage in California and elsewhere tend to use really dumb and sometimes offensive arguments. For example, the ProtectMarriage.com Web site, used to refer to a same-sex 'family' (their quotes). Reasonable people can differ as to whether two men can form a 'marriage,' but only a jerk would claim two lesbians and their baby are not a family. And do they really have to emphasize this attitude as part of their basic argument to fair-minded undecided voters?"

I applaud the fact that Benkof, who still opposes marriage equality, can still point out how the marriage defense movement often offends the humanity of gay and lesbian families. Various marriage defense groups vilify gay men and lesbians by enclosing our families in those de-humanizing scare quotes. We aren't Real American Families like they, good Americans, are. We are just-pretend families. Less than human. Mocking and de-humanizing our families makes it easier, after all, for people to deny us equal rights.

How is promoting the idea that some families aren't "real" even remotely Christian, loving, or compassionate? If your god tells you to discriminate against people who don't share your religion and to mock other people's families, is it any wonder that so many people do not want your god dictating social policies for the rest of us? It should surprise no one that so many heathen "secular humanists" (among others) reject this profoundly un-loving, judgmental, and intolerant religion.

The Proposition 8 Movement represents a dangerous path for our nation. All citizens, especially those who support Proposition 8, should realize what this movement is about and ask themselves if it is something they can, in good conscience, support. The more I learn about this movement the more I am convinced that once we peel away the distracting layers of lies, misinformation, intolerance, and lack of compassion the movement is without redeeming social value.

[Update: Good-As-You makes a good point. We don't know the whole story. While this sort of behavior wouldn't surprise me, we just have "vague accusations" from one side. I am definitely curious as to how Mr. Benkof got his information. He is welcome to email me for more specifics.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Proposition 8 Propaganda Watch

Proposition 8, if you remember, is the initiative in California to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry. I remain amazed that so many people still seem to genuinely believe that "defending" marriage from gay people is a valiant mission. Despite the failing economy, the mortgage crisis, the unaffordability of health care, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and other major issues that actually matter to the world, they say "you know what, there is entirely too much love in the world that if we sanction any more of it our society will definitely collapse."

1. Worst Tagline Ever

Recently, I came across a Vote Yes on Prop 8 blog. This single-issue blog has, perhaps, the longest and most "interesting" tagline ever:

"If prop.8 does not pass, then every church organization that does not perform/believe [sic] Gay marriages will have to stop performing all marriages or be prepared to be sued for discrimination. I know that the approach is that they (Gay community), just wants [sic] to be treated equally but when is it fair to make somebody who's [sic] belief is opposed to homosexuality, be forced to go against their [sic] beliefs or be sued.[sic]"

As you can see, that's really just a long-winded and poorly-structured way of saying:

It hurts my religion's feelings that other people want equal rights. Therefore, other people shouldn't have equal rights.

Prop 8 blog, if you're reading this, feel free to use it.

In the meantime, the rest of us busy ourselves with understanding that in a democracy (note, not a theocracy) in which equal rights are guaranteed to all citizens, you're going to have to do better than that. Namely, it is just a complete and utter bullcrap invented myth that churches will somehow be "forced" into performing same-sex marriages under threat of a lawsuit. What we are seeking is the right to civil marriage along with all of the legal benefits that that entails. We are not seeking the equal right to have a religious marriage in any church we want. There's a difference. Familiarize yourself with it. Preferably prior to devoting an entire blog to that dishonest "argument."

And just in case the tagline didn't automatically discredit the site for you, the very first article I read was entitled "Newt Gingrich does a stellar job in laying out the tormentingly puzzling nature of what 'four Lawyers' did in over turning [sic] the will of the people..[sic]"

Alright. First off, I can't take any marriage defender seriously who appeals to the marriage defense "authority" of a multiple-time adulterer who was married three times. Secondly, Gingrich's "stellar" statement was factually incorrect. For, in his hypocritical piece of anti-gay-marriage propaganda, he said:

"Our courts have an important role to play in our government, but it is not their role to define American values. That right belongs with the people. As you know in 2000 California voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly in favor of legally protecting marriage. Earlier this year four judges overruled the will of the people and declared the law that protected marriage unconstitutional.

Think about that. Four appointed lawyers – that's all judges are – overruled more than four million California voters."

In actuality, judges in California are elected. They are not appointed.

Misinformation, lies, and ignorance: 1. Truth, fact, and knowledge: 0.

2. Obsessed Much?

Proponent of "man woman marriage" Jennifer Roback Morse, whose followers affectionately refer to her as "Dr. J," has created a blog for other advocates of "man woman marriage" to publish letters that Teh Mainstream Media refuses to publish. The only things worth nothing about this project is that (a) thus far, only two people have contributed to it and (b) well, just.... read what one of them writes:

"I am a long-time letter-writer to the San Jose Mercury News. Over the years, I have averaged about 1 letter published for every 8 submitted. Since May 15, I have sent 25 letters opposing same-sex marriage and have had only 1 published."

Oh. Oh. Dear God. It simply must be a conspiracy of the vast gay agenda and the liberal mainstream media.

But seriously, how strange. Does it even cross these people's minds that the San Jose Mercury News might possibly have other people's letters it would like to print? Could it maybe just maybe be that Mr. 25-letter-writer isn't the owner of his very own op-ed column in the San Jose Mercury News and is therefore not automatically entitled to have each and every one of his anti-gay letters published? And does it even cross his mind that other people might not be as obsessed with same-sex marriage and/or be convinced that it poses any particular Threat to the Very Foundations of Society as he is and that, therefore, maybe people don't want to read a letter about how same-sex marriage is Teh Big Bad every single flippin' day?

Ya know, sometimes you have to earn your audience, not just demand one like an arrogant crybaby with a warped sense of entitlement. And what the heck kind of a person writes 25 anti-gay letters to a newspaper in a span of few months, anyway? Get a hobby.

Being obsessed with gay people: 1. Working together to address actual problems: 0.

3. iPropoganda

Marriage defenders have also created a hip and tech-savvy "marriage defense" website aimed at youth called iProtect. The home page of this site contains revolving photos of a diverse mix of youth with fear-inducing slogans like "If you redefine marriage what's next?" and "No society has ever lasted with an 'anything goes' attitude." Maybe it's just me but I find it odd that family values folks are intentionally scaring young children into thinking that society is on the verge of imminent collapse and the only adhesive holding it together is the institution of man-woman marriage.

What, perhaps, is most telling about the i-Protect site is its "Facts" [sic] section. This "fact" sheet of sorts contains evidence not for how society will collapse if gays and lesbians marry, but rather, "evidence" that anti-gays have supossedly been censored and that gay (men) have relatively high rates of HIV/AIDS (because.... people with HIV/AIDS don't deserve marriage? Someone explain that one to me please.) See, I don't think Prop 8 supporters understand the concept of evidence and arguments and how the former are typically used to support the latter. Seriously, you don't just make a ginormous whopping claim like society might die out and then "support" it with a rag-tag collection of non-relevant bits of evidence (from WorldNetDaily and Lifesite News, nonetheless)!

Not only is the entire project a giant non sequitur but it's just outright dishonest. For instance, in the "Kids" section, the site engages in the typical anti-gay trick of referencing studies showing that children have better outcomes when raised by two parents than they do when raised by single parents to imply that children of gay and lesbian parents will have outcomes similar to those raised in single parent "broken" homes. That's one of the oldest "marriage defense" tricks in the books. Someday, maybe marriage defenders will stop pretending that their cited studies are comparing heterosexually-headed families to gay- and lesbian-headed families.

Interestingly, the "Public Health" section, citing no studies whatsoever, references various benefits of marriage such as "Unmarried men have a 250% higher mortality rate" and "The latest data show that 40% of married people say they are very happy with their life in general, compared with less than 25% of single or cohabitating individuals." Great. Marriage has benefits. No shit Shirlock. The question begged, of course, is a very important one: If marriage is so wonderful, has a multitude of health benefits, and makes people so happy, why is this website devoted to ensuring that gay people can't have these benefits as well?

And if you answer that by telling me that gay people already can get married (to persons of the opposite sex, of course) I would quickly respond that the associated benefits of marriage would sort of be erased if I "just" married a man for the sake of being married.

The purpose of this website is important, you see. It passes along a key message to our youth: Gay people don't matter. (Except when they matter enough to be able to destroy society). So, well done iProtect, for giving us the same old tactics- fear-mongering, propaganda, and AIDS-baiting- on a shiny new "youth-friendly" forum.

You know what they say. You can put lipstick on a pig. But we all know it's still a pig.

Grooming the next generation of anti-gays via fear, misinformation, and propaganda, 1. Grooming the next generation of responsible and informed citizens via truth, fact, and knowledge, 0.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rightwing Roundup: End of the World Edition

1. The Original Version is Better

Rightwing churches across the nation are not happy that Katy Perry's catchy tune "I Kissed a Girl" has become such a hit. Previously, I highlighted one bright rightwinger who suggested that this song has lesbian "undertones." On perhaps the most humorous church sign ever, one pastor decided that the implications for this song were even more sinister. The loving bold-faced Christian message displayed on his sign:


While it's not quite as catchy as Perry's tune, I'm sure with a little effort the church thespians can work it into the next church musical.

2. They Were Right?

In a previous Rightwing Roundup, I discussed the rightwinger's remarkable propensity for believing that various social phenomena signify that the world is on the verge of imminent collapse. It turns out, however, that the world may very well be on the verge of imminent collapse after all.

European scientists have created a massive particular accelerator to study the Big Bang. One scientist is concerned that this accelerator could produce tiny "black holes that could suck up anything around them -- including the whole Earth"! Eeep!

We should definitely make a sign for this.


3. So, It's Not Gay Marriage Then?

In other alarming-yet-unhelpful news, a bipartisan Weapons of Mass Destruction group has released a report calling the threat of a nuclear, chemical or biological terrorist attack "the single greatest threat to our nation."

Sally Kern and other anti-gays take note. Your gay-baiting past-time might soon become outdated. Maybe just maybe you'll advocate for us all to come together as a nation to actually address actual threats to our nation rather than threats invented for political purposes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Words and Phrases, Part II

Previously, I have written about words and phrases that inexplicably grate on my nerves. I've decided that so many words and phrases annoy me that this just might be a recurring feature in Fannie's Room. Feel free to make additions.

1. "Lesbian Lover"

First off, the phrase "lesbian lover" is so 1990's. And yet, people- reporters even!- continue to use it. The Telegraph, for instance, recently reported that "Television presenter Ellen DeGeneres marries lesbian lover Portia de Rossi." Ellen and Portia, you see, were not just girlfriends or fiancees or partners. They were lezzzzzzzzbian lovers (who have lezzzzzzzbian sex!)

See, what's also annoying about this phrase is that it takes a multi-faceted romantic relationship and makes it all about teh gay sex. Two lesbos aren't "partners" or "girlfriends" they're "lezzzzzzbian lovers (who have lezzzzzbian sex)."

Thirdly, it's redundant. If two women are "lovers," it is pretty likely that they are lesbians. So, just calling them "lovers" would have sufficed. But no, you have to emphasize that these two women are not only "lovers" they are "lezzzzzzzzbian lovers (who have lezzzzzzzzbian sex)."

On a related note, I also object to people calling the people they are in relationships with their "lover." How 1985.

2. "Neutered Marriage"

Now, this one actually brings a smile to my face. Some of our more lingo-y inclined anti-gay friends like to call same-sex marriage "neutered marriage." I think they think they are being clever. I think they're actually confused.

I googled the term "neutered marriage, definition of" and quickly came across an explanation. One marriage defender "explains" that same-sex marriage advocates wish to "remove the gender from the marriage definition — hence neutered marriage."

How strange.

Neuter, you see, generally means "neither masculine nor feminine." It seems that some marriage defenders think that if same-sex marriage is legal then marriage as an institution would be "neither masculine nor feminine" or "asexual." While a definition of marriage as something other than "between a man and a woman" would not specifically mention both men and women, the institution itself would clearly be comprised of persons who have a gender. I mean, gay people have a gender too. Just because there is only one gender in a same-sex union it doesn't mean that the union itself is genderless, "neither masculine nor feminine."

Gosh. I simply don't know why the odd phrase hasn't caught on.

So, while this phrase makes me laugh because it generally brings to mind animal shelters, it also annoys me because it's simply inaccurate. It's propaganda intended to make same-sex marriage sound way more sinister and genital-snippy than it actually is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Draft Doesn't Prove Feminism Wrong

For as much as "men's rights activists" (MRAS) like to say otherwise, the existence of a male-only draft/male-only combat positions do not "prove" anything about feminism. Some common arguments among MRAs include arguments of the following type:

A) Male privilege is a "myth" because women have privileges too, like not having to register for the draft. Therefore, feminism is unnecessary and wrong.

B) Men are the ones who are truly oppressed in society because of things like the draft, where men have to register and women don't. Therefore, feminism is unnecessary and wrong.

The gist of these arguments, as you can see, is that women are no more oppressed than men because women have certain privileges too. The fear is that feminism will someday completely eradicate male privilege while maintaining female privilege, thus making women superior.

First, the main problem I see with most MRA arguments, like the trusty old "men get drafted and women don't" standby, is that it is often intended as a but-women-have-privileges-too "gotcha." It denies the undeniable fact that women really are oppressed in countless ways and brings men back to the center of all that matters. What's that you say? Women are oppres- Oh that's nice but Oh Dear God What. About. the. Men?! As a feminist, I will not deny that men are oppressed in certain ways. A male-only draft is, on its face, unfair. Yet the existence of a male-only draft is not the fault of feminism and nor does it prove that women are not oppressed.

Let's look around. It is usually not Teh Feminists who are the ones advocating a male-only draft. When it comes to such discrimination, it is more likely that feminists and MRAs are fighting a common opponent: Those who insist that men and women have "proper" gender roles and, therefore, women are biologically and naturally "unsuitable" for military combat. Where feminism can be valuable to the MRA argument is that it recognizes that the concept of "proper gender roles" is largely a social construct and, therefore, denying women the right to serve in combat on that basis is illogical.

A related problem with the draft/combat "gotcha" is that feminists, of course, did not create the draft. Men did. And those who promote the "traditional gender roles" mythology perpetuate it. Yet MRAs often argue as though it were women, feminists especially, who created a draft and combat positions that exclude women. I don't know where the MRAs have been over the years, but many feminists have been actively trying to get the military to allow women into combat positions in the military. The National Organization for Women, for instance, passed a resolution in 1980 opposing the male-only draft as unfair sex discrimination. Like I said before, if the MRAs were to actively push for a policy in which women were drafted into combat positions, they would find that they would come up against many of the same adversaries that feminists face: Anti-feminist men and women who promote the Woman as Fragile mythology. Good luck, boys. Glad to have you as part of the "team."

Third, not only is a male-only draft unfair to men, it is also unfair and harmful to women. The policy is "rooted in benevolent sexism (ie. the idea that women are too precious/fragile to participate)." On the flip side of the female privilege "gotcha" coin there is almost always some sort of "benevolent sexist" claim. In the case of the draft, it's "yeah women don't have to join the military" because "women are inherently weak/not brave/not tough like men" argument.

To be seen as weak, cowardly, and uncourageous is not a privilege, my friends. I don't know many feminists who would argue that it is "Woman's" inherent nature to possess these qualities.

Fourth, military duty comes with benefits. Many people view serving your country as one of the highest honors in life. For the many men who returned home from war after having been drafted, they were given benefits for education, preferences for federal jobs, home loan assistance, and other benefits that women necessarily were excluded from because they were excluded from the draft. "The truth is, when looked at more carefully the idea of women being restricted in their participation in the military is not an advantage, but rather a disadvantage. It hinders women’s ability to protect their country and their families, as well as hurts their chances of advancing because they have fewer venues than men to show off their skills."

Lastly, rarely can MRAs be found doing anything other than gathering on various internet forums, trolling feminist blogs, and bemoaning feminism. In short, I don't seem them trying to productively advance their cause. I would take many of their claims more seriously if I wasn't convinced that their real, ultimate goal is to see feminism fade away. See, unlike feminists, MRAs rarely organize and even less rarely do they try to actively change their circumstances of "oppression" via the legal/political process. Roy Den Hollander is the first MRA I've seen actually do anything "productive" about the plight of the alleged downtrodden straight white male. In all likelihood, he will get laughed out of court for it too. As he well should.

See, in light of this relative lack of MRA ambition, I have to wonder how seriously these issues affect men if MRAs have not already, by necessity, organized into a serious political movement that actually pushes for pro-male legislation. Could it maybe possibly be that men are already so privileged that most of them don't really feel a need to do this on any large scale? I mean, the idea of a Straight White Male March on Washington or the promotion of White Male History Month is just laughable since, of course, Washington is already full of straight white males and every general history class is the history of the straight white man. This is all why MRA arguments appear to so many of us to be more about trying to win debates against feminists and to somehow prove that feminism is wrong, unfair, and unnecessary than anything else.

As one blogger writes:

"Feminists didn't wait for men to back them up before they fought for their rights. They couldn't afford to. The fact that so many of these men use these issues as a way of trying to score points against feminists hurts their cause. It makes it seem like their interest in men's rights is less about the actual problems that men face, and more about winning arguments with feminists."

Indeed. Oppressed groups don't just sit around and complain about how hard they have it. They organize their communities. They form groups. They get laws passed. Yet, MRAs, by virtue of their unrecognized male privilege, have the luxury of all this being an online rhetorical debating session, a "gotcha," a but-men-have-it-hard-sometimes-too pissing contest. And rarely, so very rarely, do they ever admit that hey maybe some things really are unfair to women. Or maybe just maybe men have been oppressing women in certain ways for many years. Nope. To them, it's all about keeping men at the center. If there is any social phenomenon that is unfair to men, then that one thing negates every single facet of oppression that women face. It means that, in the grand scheme of things, it all works out in the end as some sort of wash.

I think Roy Den Hollander sums the attitude up the best in an interview with an internet forum that has the lovely name (that'll make a lesbian out of any woman) American Women Suck. His lawsuits aren't about overcoming oppression. It's about beating the feminists at their own game of equality:

"But with my legal cases, I’m saying is, if feminists want a quota-ocracy, then along with the 51% of the best of society, they should be getting 51% of the worst of society, too."

Oooh, Gotcha!

Okay. It's not fair to men that women don't have to register for the draft. Neat. But most of us already know all about the Male Experience in the World. Now can you even pretend to care about the experience of women in the world? Or shall we all step aside while you continue making everything in the history of ever about "man"?

Leftist Gender Warrior says "Argghhh" to that.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Deep" Thought #22: Adulterers Needed to Help Defend Marriage!

Newt Gingrich has joined the misguided crusade to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. This thrice-married and twice-divorced adulterer who is totally into the sanctity of marriage and all that it represents has urged Californians to support Proposition 8 in order to "defend and protect marriage." Not from people like him, of course, but from loving gay and lesbians couples! How logical.

But don't get your knickers in a bunch, dear readers. I'm sure Gingrich's next move will be to "defend and protect marriage" by supporting amendments to make it illegal for adulterers to re-marry, to ban divorce, and/or to impose criminal penalties on adulterers. Marriage, you see, definitely needs protection against such immoral, depraved, and confused persons. And, since there are way more potential heterosexual adulterers than there are gay people, surely a proposed constitutional amendment affecting heterosexuals, rather than a vilified minority group, is imminent, right?

But seriously, that a man who has personally made a mockery of marriage is now deemed a worthy spokesperson to urge people to strip away the right of loving, innocent, and law-abiding citizens to marry is simply unbelievable and arrogant. Essentially, Newt is saying that marriage is good enough for him- a man who committed adultery numerous times- but not good enough for the millions of gay and lesbian couples who are undoubtedly more capable of commitment than he is.

Gingrich's little foray into this debate is demonstrative of what many of us in the LGBT community already know: This debate isn't about preserving, defending, or protecting anything. Politicians don't really care about the so-called Sanctity of Marriage. What they care about is how they can use the issue of homosexuality as a political football to garner votes. All you common folk marriage defenders out there take note. You are being used. Once you wise up and realize that gay people aren't at the root of any of your problems, these elite rightwingers who have made careers out of demonizing people like me will discard you and find a new base to rally.

The Proposition 8 Movement has just shown its true ridiculous hypocritical colors. Any more famous adulterers out there? Sign up now! The Proposition 8 movement needs you to defend marriage!

"Deep" thoughts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review: Original Intent and the Framer's Constitution, Part II

In Part I of my analysis of Leonard Levy's Original Intent and the Framer's Constitution, I ended by discussing how historical evidence demonstrates that judges of all political stripes engage in judicial "activism." What follows from that truth, is this question: What then, if judges engage in activism and decide cases according to their personal political preferences, legitimates judicial review?

3. Judicial Review

The question of the Supreme Court's role in a democracy is controversial. When the Supreme Court hands down opinions that some of "the people" do not like you can pretty much cue the knee-jerk name-calling that starts with "judicial" and ends with "tyranny." These same critics, of course, are usually silent when the Supreme Court writes opinions that are agreeable even if these opinions are no less "activist," no less "tyrannical," or no less demonstrative of "legislation from the bench."

Levy asks, however, whether judicial review- the authority of the judicial branch to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional- was intended and answers the question by saying "history has not settled whether judicial review was originally intended" (100). Historical evidence indicates that the framers and ratifiers probably intended for the Supreme Court to be able to exercise review over state acts. Yet, the intent and authority for the US Supreme Court's power to review acts of the US Congress, is more questionable. There is scarce evidence either way as to whether such review was intended.

If there was no universal framer/ratifier intent, then, what legitimates the Supreme Court's power of judicial review over acts of Congress? As Levy writes, "long acquiescence by the people and their representatives has legitimated judicial review" (122). That is, the Supreme Court's power and authority exists because the people and the other branches let it exist. "Judicial review would have never flourished had the people been opposed to it. They had opposed only its exercise in particularly cases, but not the power itself. The people have the sovereign power to abolish it outright or hamstring it with constitutional amendments" (emphasis added, 123). Indeed.

For as much belly-aching about "judicial tyranny" that those in California have done with respect to that state's high court declaring anti-gay marriage laws unconstitutional, the entire marriage amendment process shows precisely how "the people" are capable, under our political system, of hamstringing a court. Constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman have passed in many states throughout our nation. That these people have circumvented the judicial branch shows how the people truly are, no matter how misguided, sovereign. As I have written before, those who moan that "judicial tyrants" take away the voice of "the people" don't fully understand that it is precisely us, the people, who legitimate the court and who are capable of overturning judicial opinions through the constitutional amendment process. And rarely do these people see that it is not judicial review itself they are taking issue with, only its exercise in certain cases. Namely, the ones with outcomes that they do not like.

4. Final Thoughts

I'd like to end by re-iterating Levy's doubts about original intent as a theory of jurisprudence. For one, the Framers were not a monolithic, like-minded entity possessing the exact same opinions about different issues. That fact alone should make us leery of (BorkThomasScalia) those who base their legal arguments on "what the framers intended" as though they, magically perhaps, possess knowledge of some Universal Framer Intent that eludes the rest of us.

Secondly, while I do believe that the Constitution is valuable as a framework for making legal decisions, I also believe that trying to predict what the framers would have intended for our modern-day world is unpredictable and unsound. As Levy writes, "we live in a world of supersonic aircraft, recombinant DNA, robots, computers, microwaves, a global village economy, interplanetary exploration, and an interdependent world economy" (298-299). I don't care how conservative you are, it's nothing other than black magic to pretend that white elite powdered-wig-wearing men are capable of offering wisdom and insight, or even intended to do so, from their graves about today's concerns. "The text [of the Constitution]," Levy writes, "is what counts" but there is no evidence that the Framers "meant, wanted, or expected future generations to construe the Constitution as they, the Framers, had" (331).

The Constitution is vague on purpose. It was not meant to answer every conceivable social issue, but instead, develop gradually like the common law system. "The Constitution contains not one word about these or most of the subjects of considerable import with which the court must deal. That the Constitution is vague on purpose is another reason why we should be wary of constitutional amendments that take specific rights away from groups of people. Vagueness is a great strength of the Constitution, accounting in part for its longevity and vitality, because it allows for evolutionary adaptation to new needs" (353). I think, in fact, that it is quite arrogant that "marriage defenders" believe that their pet issue is an exception to this standard- as if it is so important that it necessitates its own explicit provision in our shared, yet abstract, Constitution.

I think these people have forgotten that the Constitution exists to protect individual rights. They misguidedly believe that they must save society by denying gay and lesbian individuals from marrying. Yet, as Levy writes:

"Those who measure individual rights against the rights of society forget that society has a profound stake in the rights of the individual; we possess rights as individuals not only because they inhere in us and serve to fulfill as individuals but because we function as a free society and maintain its openness by respecting personal differences.... Ours is so secure a system, precisely because it is free and dedicated to principles of justice, that it can afford to prefer the individual over the state" (392, 395).

In other words, the rights of "society" do not trump the rights of individuals. Perhaps these marriage defenders would better understand this concept if they were on the receiving end of an amendment specifically singling them out and excluding them from full participation in our legal system.

Lastly (admit it you knew I would bring this up) I was disappointed with this historian's refusal to explore the implications of systematically excluding women from the drafting, ratification, and ultimate acceptance of the Constitution. There were several openings for Levy to at least mention the exclusion of women from the political process, particularly in his discussions of individual rights and equality, yet he did not. Like so many historians undoubtedly do, perhaps Levy believes that the exclusion of women was inconsequential to the founding of our nation and, therefore, does not require questioning, mentioning, or analysis. Surely I am not the only person disappointed by those privileged assumptions.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Book Review: Original Intent and the Framer's Constitution, Part I

For those interested in American constitutional history, law, and original intent debates, I would recommend Leonard Levy's Original Intent and the Framer's Constitution. This 400-page history book is daunting, I'll admit. Yet, unless one has a particularly strong interest in the detailed history of our Bill of Rights, one could easily skim over some of the very detailed chapters on the history of specific constitutional amendments and still get a good overview of constitutional history.

As the name implies, Levy's book is about the original intent of the US Constitution. The thesis, in short, is that the ideas that the framers had a universal "original intent" and that this "original intent" is capable of being discerned by later generations is a myth. What is commonly called "judicial activism," thus, is inevitable. (All citations and quotes are from the book).

1. No Such Thing As a Unified "Framer" or Ratifier Intent Existed

To begin, Levy notes that James Madison's (the "Father of the Constitution") record of the Constitutional Convention was first published 53 years after the Convention had met (1). "Thus, throughout the formative period of our national history, the High Court, presidents, and Congress construed the Constitution without benefit of a record of the Convention's deliberations" (Id.). And further, the framer's didn't even keep or publish an official record of the proceedings of the Convention. This suggested that the framers did not want this new nation and future generations "to construe the Constitution in light of their deliberations" (2).

Generally, when it came to interpreting text, the framers agreed that the text should be interpreted "according the established rules of construction" (10). These rules, of course, are as vague as they sound and capable of producing opposing results. But what is noteworthy is that, in the early years of the Constitution, those who had framed the Constitution did not appeal to their "original intent" in solving Constitutional questions. Rather, they agreed on the general text of the Constitution but were at odds with how that text applied to various real-life scenarios.

While many scholars debate over the "intent of the framers," what is often overlooked is the intent of those who actually ratified- or "passed"- the Constitution. The intent of those who ratified the Constitution, rather than those who framed it matters because, as James Madison wrote, the Constitution "was nothing more than a dead letter, until life and validity were breathed into it by the voice of the people, speaking through [the state ratifiers]" (14). Thus, the intent of the ratifiers matters more than the intent of the framers (Id.). This is a salient point as, of course, it reflects the "American" idea that the government exists by the consent of those it governs. Accordingly, the intent of those who agreed to the government should matter more than the intent of those who framed it.

Yet, the idea of a single, unified "ratifier intent" Levy argues, is also a myth. Like the intentions of the framers, "the terms of the [Constitution] may have differently impressed different people. Some drew conclusions that others repudiated.... Some may have understood its terms to strictly, others too broadly....'Nothing but the text itself was adopted by the whole people'" (15). In other words, the text of the Constitution meant different things to different ratifiers and "the entity we call 'the Framers' did not have a collective mind, think in one groove, or possess the same convictions" (294).

And, even if there were a single, unified framer or ratifier intent, it is unascertainable to us now. Drawing from available historical documents, Levy first makes the case that the proceedings of the various state conventions to ratify the Constitution "were so incompletely and poorly reported" that it makes "discerning original intent from only the state ratifying records...nearly impossible" (14-15). What accounts we do have are often "partial and mutilated" (15). Without accurate and whole accounts of what occurred at state ratifying conventions, the intent of those who ratified the Constitution cannot be determined.

2. Judicial Review and "Activist" Judges

The idea that there is no single, unifying "original intent"- and certainly not one that we could ascertain anyway- is not difficult for me to believe. People bring their own preconceptions, interpretations, and life experiences to every word and every sentence that they read. As the Constitution and, particularly, the Bill of Rights are written in often vague and abstract language it should surprise no one that the Constitution meant different things to different framers and ratifiers. Often, it can be found that those who promote the "original intent" myth do so in a manner to suggest that judges who go against a (nowadays, conservative) "original intent" analysis are "activist" judges.

Levy makes a strong case, backed up with historical evidence, that a popular legal fiction is that "conservative jurists have eschewed judicial activism" (54). Conservatives often revise history and paint Supreme Courts of old as those who admirably "suppressed their own policy preferences and impersonally decided as the law told them to.... They did not legislate; they merely discovered and applied the appropriate law to the case at hand.... They respected and enforced original intent...." (Id.). Yet, the truth is, "judicial activism has characterized the Supreme Court from its early history" beginning with the very first constitutional case decided by the Court in 1793, Chisolm v. Georgia (56).

In this case, a citizen of one state sued the state of Georgia in federal court claiming that this was allowed under the Constitution. Although the text appears to allow for this, it was generally understood by the framers and ratifiers that a state could only be sued if it had given its consent or had initiated the suit. The "activist" court, however, allowed the private citizen to sue the state of Georgia anyway. I know this case sounds boring, and it sort of is. But Georgian authorities were so outraged by this "judicial activism" that they urged death by hanging for those who executed the Supreme Court's order in Chisolm (59).

Levy goes into considerable depth with recounting examples of early judicial activism, on liberal, libertarian, and conservative issues. I encourage anyone interested in more detail to check out the book for yourself. For our purposes here, it is enough to note that because there was no single "original intent," judicial activism is inherent and inevitable in our legal system- no matter the political affiliation of the judge.

The Supreme Court has a long history of having Justices, of all political stripes, who seem to "...first choose what the outcome should be and then reason backward to supply a rationalization, replete with the appropriate rules and precedents, of which there are enough on any side of an issue to make any argument seem to respect tradition and professional expertise" (314). This fact, to me, was one of the most frustratingly obvious aspects of Constitutional Law courses in law school. Even as a 1L it was apparent that justices were capable of cloaking their pre-determined outcomes in the appropriate legalese. Looking in on the process I often wondered why and how constitutional law scholars were able to go along with the whole charade. That judges so rarely make decisions that are in discord with their "private policy preferences" only reinforces this distrust.

I think that the general public has a sense of this too. Tomorrow's continuation will elaborate on this concept and raise the question of what it is that legitimates judicial review in light of the partisan nature of most courts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oh Yeah

This article, "McCain Accepts Nomination, Touts POW Experience," reminded me that John McCain gave a speech recently, too.


Wait..... John McCain was a POW?