Thursday, December 31, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) Lilith Fair 2010

One event I'm excited about for 2010 is the return of the lady-music fest that is Lilith Fair. Yes. I'm that gay.

Funnily enough, I was involved in a conversation at another LGBT blog a while back where a gay guy bemoaned how unfair it was that women got to have their own special concerts that excluded male performers. (I wonder how he feels about the fairness of male-only bathhouses/sex clubs that exclude women?). Anyway, perhaps because the default Real Musician is still largely envisioned as a dude with a guitar, some people are blind to the extent to which "mainstream" music events are, actually, sausage fests.

The 2009 Lollapalooza lineup, for instance, had a tiny handful of female artists out of over 100 bands. In fact, if you took the Lilith Fair lineup and added like 6 male bands, it would sort of be the reverse of Lollapalooza.

2) Lady Vets

This article was interesting as it highlighted the struggles of female American vets who return from war. Once you get past the annoying first sentence that immediately minimizes these struggles ("Nobody wants to buy them a beer," really? That's their worst problem? I doubt it) the article does a decent job of highlighting how the public doesn't always understand the contributions of female soldiers on the battlefield.

I'm not sure what most Americans imagine when they think of modern warfare, but I sometimes wonder if people appreciate the extent to which women also put their lives on the line:

"The Defense Department bars women from serving in assignments where the primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat. But the nature of the recent conflicts, with no clear front lines, puts women in the middle of the action, in roles such as military police officers, pilots, drivers and gunners on convoys. In addition to the 120-plus deaths, more than 650 women have been wounded."

3) In Other Lady Warrior News

Sharon Lubinski has become the first openly-gay US Marshal. She will be serving the Minnesota District, and is the state's first female marshal. Hurray for lesbian visibility!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lady Warriors

I mostly appreciated this article about a female jet navigator serving in Afghanistan, as the experiences of female soldiers, vets, and pilots aren't often reflected in the media. I qualify my praise with "mostly" because of this unfortunate paragraph:

"Flying in itself has specific drawbacks for women. The effects of G-force on the female body is something that hasn’t been investigated. There is a possibility that it can damage the ovaries; and the weight of the helmet with night-vision goggles puts a huge strain on your neck. As Nikki points out, no girl wants a thick neck, it’s not a good look."

Will the frailty myth never die?

What greater strategy in the giant male-friendly affirmative action program that is Human Endeavor than to scare women away from doing Manly Things because they might harm those organs that separate (some) women from (some) men. I'm not saying that is the author's intention, but I wonder if she is aware that the powers that be have used the proverbial Threat To The Ovaries to deny women opportunities in education, sports, space flight, and the military throughout history.

I'm also not saying that in this case the threat is unreal. As the author notes, the threat of flight to a woman's ovaries isn't something that's even been deemed worthy of investigation. Rather, I'm noting that, in most other historical cases where this harm has been scarily alluded to, the proverbial threat of harm to the reproductive capabilities of women have proven to be false. The real "threat" turned out to be, actually, a projection of the male fear of the dwindling importance of what it means to be a man in society. And speaking of men, since it is a truth almost universally acknowledged that a woman's reproductive organs are public property, I wonder if the G-force's effects on a man's testicles has been a similar matter of deep concern.

With respect to the second half of the quoted paragraph regarding how Fat Necks Are Unbecoming On A Lady, it is unfortunate that women in male-dominated arenas still feel they must express that, despite their achievements, they are still Real Women who care about their looks. So, on top of enemy missiles, lady pilots must also worry about "helmet head" and getting too muscular so as to appear un-feminine? I don't note this to denigrate "femininity." But rather, given that these women are engaging in military piloting that used to be considered extremely and inherently masculine, their attempts to nonetheless continue performing "womanhood" are underscored as somewhat artificial.

Just as coverage of the WNBA invariable digresses away from basketball and onto a player's looks, hetero husband, and children, we are usually left with the message not that a woman can be anything that a man can be, but that her primary value rests in her looks and/or her relationship to a man.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not Under the Bus

I first saw the Not Under the Bus campaign at Feminist Law Professors. In a nutshell, the campaign serves as "an aggregator for the many campaigns that women’s groups have started to stop the Stupak-Pitts Amendment."

For some background, the Stupack-Pitts Amendment is an amendment to the US House's version of its recently-passed health care reform bill known as the Affordable Health Care For America Act. The amendment, as it is worded, would likely prevent a public option, or private plans that receive any amount of federal funding, from paying for any abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. This singling out of abortion is significant as currently, 87% of employer-based insurers cover abortion, meaning many women would lose coverage.

The Senate passed its version of the bill, albeit without such an amendment. The House and Senate bills are currently being compromised, which means that, if you care about this issue, there is still time to take action.

It is appalling that the (mostly) men in Congress are so casually tossing around the reproductive rights of women as though access to abortion is a political football and not a means of economic independence and basic control over one's body. Perhaps the lady members of Congress should get together and single out a man's "right" to sex by proposing an amendment banning insurers from covering Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications. I mean, anti-choicer folks argue that they don't want their tax dollars paying for abortions because they disagree with abortion and, well, if that's the game we're playing and we get to make little check boxes by what our tax dollars and do and do not support, I'd begin by substituting my male boner subsidy with benefits for same-sex couples.

Go here for information on how you can help.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Brief History of Sexism in Politics

While many feminists condemn the sexism thrown at Sarah Palin (when it is actually legitimate sexism and not just a criticism that any politician would face), Palin and her supporters unfortunately appear utterly unconcerned about the sexism that other- that is, liberal- female politicians face. When the McCain campaign breathlessly announced the choice of Palin as running mate, sexism suddenly became a Very Big Deal to those great allies to feminism otherwise known as Republicans and conservatives.

Perhaps because those who were crying sexism were Republicans, and not whiny liberal feminist types.

In light of these Palin Neo-Feminists (I just made that word up!), I found this New York Times opinion piece interesting. In it, biographer Sally Denton recaps Helen Gahagan Douglas's 1950 Senate loss to Richard Nixon.

I have written before of how one of the privileges of being male is being assumed, both by others and by oneself, to be competent and authoritative whilst Speaking About Things. Although I question the narrative that posits that it was only Republican men who were responsible for creating the sexist "dirty tricks" that are used against women, the article demonstrates how Serious and Important Men can easily denigrate women because of the weight of their authoritative male voices and because of the longstanding idea that femininity is lesser than masculinity. Denton writes:

"Believing that women universally and biologically functioned on an emotional rather than cerebral plane, [Nixon] held special enmity for Douglas and was affronted by the sheer audacity of her ambition. Her gifts threw him off balance, and he reacted with a vengeance, refusing to treat her as an equal.

'Not only was Nixon contemptuous of women's intellect generally, but he was also oblivious to women as individuals,' his biographer, Fawn Brodie, wrote. He expected women to be pleasant adornments who shored up their husbands, and he was notorious for his dismissal of his wife, Pat, if she dared to inject herself into 'the man's world of politics.' In that male sphere, according to Henry Kissinger, Nixon's alter ego, Pat, 'was a silent patriot ... a loyal and uninterfering female ... speaking only when spoken to and not sullying the cigar smoke with her personal opinions....'

For his part, Nixon injected gender into the dialogue at every opportunity. Referring to Douglas as his 'female opponent,' he made crass sexual remarks if he were in an all-male gathering, smirking and hinting that Douglas was sexually involved with President Truman. Years before the women's movement, the innuendo fostered little if any outrage. Even when Nixon made the most bizarre remark of all -- that Douglas was 'pink right down to her underwear,' a crude allusion to her liberalism -- he received no condemnation."

How much farther have we and have we not come from this?

And also, anyone else find it fitting that groups of powerful men who exclude women from Important Things sit around and smoke cigars whilst doing so? Real Men smoking phalluses cigars together with other Real Men, is like the perfect metaphor for stroking the power and significance of that one special piece of anatomy that they believe makes them more competent, more authoritative, and more intelligent than people who lack that apparatus.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Leftist Gender Warrior invites you to read one of her favorite all-time Christmas stories:

"A Portly True Christmas Story"

Rather than perceiving this as some sort of attack on Christianity, I see it as a reminder of something that is glaringly missing from most masculine-deity-worshipping Christian sects, especially on this particular day: The divine feminine.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gay Woman of the Year

In order to honor the "real-life lesbians and bisexual women who were visible at all costs," SheWired has launched an annual Gay Woman of the Year.

The competition is tough. My personal finalists were Wanda Sykes (whom I think is hilarious, but wish she would have come out before Prop 8 instead of after), Ellen DeGeneres (who I like for being a positive, funny comedian and being open lesbian whom many people nonetheless adore), Rachel Maddow, and former Top Chef contestant Jamie Lauren (she was a self-indulgent choice as she is my Top Chef crush).

Oh, and also, nominee Brandi Carlile is..... talented, and she came out earlier this year (not to my surprise, of course), and did so in a way that I thought was classy and gracious. She fully acknowledged that because of forerunners like Indigo Girls and Elton John, she hasn't had to suffer some the same travails with respect to her sexual orientation. Anyway.... *sigh*:

I ended up voting for Maddow. She is brilliant. She is quick. And, perhaps because for her it is personal, when she covers LGBT issues, she knows the material better than anyone else on television. Unlike others, she doesn't always allow an interviewee to present an asinine anti-gay position as though it's a legitimate "other side" to a debate just because it's another perspective. She is quite willing to call bullshit, but she does it an intelligent, non-angry way that is quite different than, say, Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck, who are prone to pontificating through spittle, rage, and tears.

Who gets your vote?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Charter for Compassion

I have been a fan of religious scholar and author Karen Armstrong for many years, ever since I first read her book A History of God.

One of her central messages, particularly apt for our times, is that the religious fundamentalism that is thriving in all three major monotheistic faiths is actually a retreat from God despite adherents' claims of having a white-knuckled grasp of "him." Yet, she further writes that, despite our many religious, spiritual, and ethical differences, many traditions at their core share a proclamation of the Golden Rule. And from the desire to build peace in a world in which fundamentalism and division thrives, the Charter for Compassion was born:

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves....

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion....

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."

It's simple, really. Cheesy, perhaps. Overly-general, maybe. But, unlike some declarations, this spiritual/ethical declaration attempts to bring the world together rather than tear us further apart as human beings.

I have no doubt that some religious leaders will ignore and/or not sign on to this charter despite the fact that its message is at the very foundation of their respective religions. Dogma has a tendency of getting in the way of what really matters.

In which case, I wonder, what are those who oppose this doing to promote peace in a violent world? What are they doing to be the change they want to see in the world? How are they using religion and belief systems, not to promote peace, but to divide the world into opposing camps? How are they using religion to promote human error, rather than to transcend it?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ken Hutcherson's Choice

In May 2005, virulent anti-gay Ken Hutcherson said the following:

"You tell me what I went through as an African-American, when they talk about discrimination, compared to what gays go through with discrimination - it's the difference between night and day, not even close. I even get upset when people say, 'Well, you got to understand what they go through.' Not when they've chosen to do what they do. They can stop choosing what to do what they do, and they can hide it anytime they want. They can hide their homosexuality. Could I take a 'don't ask don't tell' policy as an African-American? I could try even to pretend I was Puerto Rican, but I'm still going to get blasted for my skin color" (emphasis added).

In short, this man who believes same-sex marriage is "the greatest danger to America," is extremely offended at comparisons between the LGBT rights movement and the civil rights movement because, supposedly, gay people "choose" to be gay and gayness is not readily apparent.

In December 2009, in an article entitled "Christians are the new Negro," Ken Hutcherson said this:

"Many reading this may not understand where I came up with this concept of calling Christians 'the new Negro.'

The reason is because there are undeniable similarities. Jim Crow laws were passed to keep me from having my constitutional rights and my rights under the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though the Constitution gave me those freedoms, man was smart enough to be able to keep me from living those freedoms by saying I was 'separate but equal.'"

Perhaps Ken needs to be reminded that he can choose to stop believing in Christianity. He can hide it anytime he wants. He can hide his Christianity. He could even try to pretend he was an atheist.

Special Christian double-standards aside, it is clear that Ken's article serves another purpose other than feeding into that paranoid Christian persecution complex that convinces millions of people that they're oppressed if other people's winter holidays are also mentioned around ChRiStMaStImE!

Speaking as a black man to a mostly white, rightwing conservative audience that opposes LGBT equality and also likely opposes measures of racial progress, Hutcherson acts as Authoritative Expert On Black People. Using his racial identity as a weapon, he justifies the already-existing homobigotry in this audience by displaying rage, rage I tell you!, at the very notion that the LGBT rights struggle might be similar to the civil rights one.

Perhaps Ken and his cohorts require the assistance of an ex-Christian program to alleviate the suffering that their choices have caused them.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Manhattan Declaration: A Conflict Of Interest

A couple weeks ago was quite a Manhattan Declaration extravaganza here in Fannie's Room! It has been on my mind a bit because of something that happened to me in my real life.

You see, my girlfriend has a relative who recently got married. She and I attended this wedding, both of us spending quite a bit of time, money, and energy in helping this man have a beautiful wedding with his new wife. I was happy to do it because, hey, it's family (in a non-legal way of course) and it is nice to see others celebrate love and happiness. Much to my surprise, however, a couple of weeks after this man's wedding, he sent a message encouraging his friends and loved ones to sign on to the Manhattan Declaration- a statement by conservative Christians that opposes, among other things, same-sex marriage.

He knows that his very close relative is a lesbian and that she is, furthermore, in a relationship with me, unable to legally marry.

He sent this message out multiple times.

I put time and resources into supporting and celebrating the wedding of a man who so clearly fails to support my right to engage in a privilege that he took for granted on his own wedding day. I'm not going to go into how this makes me feel, because we all know that feeeeeeeeelings aren't important. What is objectively true is that this man not only doesn't support my equal rights, he actively encourages others to not support my equal rights.

He is also a member of a conservative Christian clergy that does not ordain women.

You can see how this would get one to thinking about people who use their power and privileges, not to confront injustice, but to perpetuate it in the world. See, after I read the Manhattan Declaration, I noticed a putrid smell oozing from it. Through my computer screen! When I took a deeper whiff, I realized it was that old familiar, musty aroma of authoritative heterosexual male privilege and entitlement.

You will notice that the Manhattan Declaration is a document written and signed by (mostly) heterosexual male conservative Christians proclaiming truths that supposedly emanate from a male God that looks remarkably and conveniently much like themselves, about issues that uniquely affect women and LGBT people. While expecting women and LGBT people to make certain sacrifices for the good of society, it asks nothing of heterosexual men other than that they affirm that women and same-sex couples ought to make said sacrifices.

Whilst Tiger Woods and countless other male superstars very publicly destroy what marriage means every single day, I found myself wondering why the heterosexual (mostly) male Christian signees did not produce a document that other male heterosexual Christians could sign on to that would actually require them to make sacrifices. Isn't time heterosexuals got serious about protecting marriage by creating consequences for their own misbehavior, as opposed to putting the blame for the failure of an institution they have always owned on everyone else?

See, as much as the authors of the document self-aggrandize about their own incredible awesomeness and bravery for insisting that the rights of women and same-sex couples ought to be restricted, it is not at all clear how it is particularly brave or awesome for heterosexual men to use their power and influence to restrict the rights of minorities whom are already largely considered to be Others in society.

In short, as Hugo Schwyzer notes, the declaration is cheap:

"It requires no particular personal sacrifice or reflection on the part of those who claim these are the top issues. Men who will never get pregnant; heterosexuals who have the privilege to marry those whom they love — they surrender nothing precious to them by fighting tooth and nail against reproductive and glbtq rights."

It's like if a bunch of gorillas got together and wrote a declaration about how dogs shouldn't be able to eat bacon because eating bacon is wrong. It requires no sacrifice on the part of the gorilla, as gorillas are vegetarians (termites aside, of course). One is left wondering, what are the gorillas tangibly doing to better society other than opposing rights for dogs?

Furthermore, even though the declaration opposes rights that uniquely affect women and gay people, it is very clear that the input of actual women and gay people was not deemed to be of importance in creating the document. The document, we are to understand, is just "god's" truth about these weighty matters. That, we are to believe, is just a given. Lucky for many of the signees, God The Dudeman has special jurisdiction when it comes to these issues that uniquely affect the rights of women and same-sex couples.

This circularity and self-serving nature of Christianity (and Islam and Judaism) is readily apparent to an outsider. It is less, if at all, so for one who accepts certain Biblical truths to be the Real Truths About Things. And so, for the sake of comparison, let's imagine that we live in an alternate dimension:

Let's imagine, instead, that we have found some ancient texts that speak of the Heavenly Mother, who the ancients called.... Starbuck. Starbuck, when she walked the Earth, was a tall woman. Kind of sporty too, if you know what I mean. She went around teaching certain truths. Like how female beings were created in her image and were, therefore, destined to be in charge of things. For one, women were to form pair bonds with other women. Two, most professions and the priesthood were to be restricted to women, owing to their cool demeanors relative to men, as it was taught that men were unable to control their testosterone-fueled rages.

In the Starbuck Texts, it was furthermore clearly stated that the role of men, who were created from a rather insubstantial part of woman (her pinky toe), was to be limited to two occupations. Men could (a) live in male communes serving as sperm depositors for female pair bonds, or (b) they could live alone in villages serving as garbagemen (because they're so strong). Furthermore, because men were wont to waste the miracle of life within themselves, the Starbuck Texts taught that all men had to wear special devices on their torsos to prevent them from masturbating. Starbuck was all about the sanctity of life like that.

Nowadays, whilst some in society currently teach that men should not have to wear such devices and some powerful, fashionable ideologies argue that pair-bonding should also be allowed between a man and a woman, followers of Starbuck have written a document reaffirming the One Real Truth about these matters. Like Starbuck, most of these religious leaders explaining this Truth are female and most are sporty, if you know what I mean. They explain that all of society must follow these rules or else Very Bad Things Will Happen. Certain truths, you see, are non-negotiable, especially the above-stated truths that uniquely affect male human beings. Followers of Starbuck, you see, love restricting the rights of Others, as opposed to the rights of women.

Because these are religious truths, followers of Starbuck have vowed to break any law that makes them acknowledge that men don't have to wear devices on their torsos or that pair-bonding can mean something other than two women in a lifelong commitment. Having to live in such a society would be a violation of the Religious Freedom of the followers of Starbuck. These two issues, you understand, are the Most Important Issues In The World and, as such, are outside of the state's jurisdiction. We must refuse to render to Caesar what is Starbuck's.

Can you imagine? How absurd this all sounds! To an outsider, it does not at all look brave or awesome for one group of people to restrict the rights of another group of people and to then declare that restriction to constitute morality or truth.

In fact, it looks rather entitled. How aggrandizing, hubristic, and insane it appears for a group of people to create a god in their own image and then try to convince the rest of the world that this lookalike god is the One True God Who Says The Things That Are Really True.

The phrase, "Who died and made you god?" comes to mind.

So that's why, instead of informing the world as to what does and does not constitute truth for issues that uniquely affect women, lesbians, and gays, what these mostly-male mostly-heterosexual Christians really need to be doing is pointing their long, hairy, authoritative fingers right back at themselves and pondering how their gender exclusivity might be contributing to the numerous social ills that their precious document mentions.

Until then, this document shall be named for what it is:

A conflict of interest.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) Lady Umpires in Man Sports

I have mixed thoughts about Slate's relatively new "double X" site for ladies. Whenever "women's issues" are ghetto-ized in this way, it lends the impression that issues affecting women are somehow separate from and less important than Real Concerns That Affect Everyone. Yet, because "everyone" has a funny way of really meaning "men," special lady forums are often necessary so that the experiences of women are even reflected at all in the media.

Nonetheless, an article posted there a while back was interesting. While men can often be found coaching and managing women's sports teams and umpiring and refereeing their games, it is quite rare for women to coach, manage, umpire, or ref male sports. Double X posted an interview with female umpire Perry Barber, where she speculates why this is so, at least with respect to baseball umpiring.

For one, she acknowledges, baseball is a game that boys are channeled into:

"They grow up in the baseball culture. Women are deliberately excluded from that. Even girls who want to play baseball are directed to softball, because baseball is a game that boys play."

That there was a separate-but-similar baseball-like game called softball, which was supposed to be for girls, never made sense to me growing up. What is intrinsically "female" about softball that would exclude males from it; and, likewise, what is intrinsically "male" about baseball that would exclude females from it?

Furthermore, although softball is considered a "female" game, which might suggest that men would be excluded from softball umpiring in the way that women are from baseball, Barber notes:

"I very seldom do softball because I’m baseball-trained, but I umpired a softball game a few weekends ago and two of the girls walked up to me and said, 'You’re the first woman umpire we’ve ever had.' I was shocked."

Anyway, it's an interesting read about a rarely-discussed aspect of our All-American (Boy) Game.

2) Lady Writer Writes As Man

I came across the following interesting anecdote from a writer who goes by the pen name James Chartrand. James Chartrand, in reality, is a formerly unemployed single mother, who first began writing from home under her real name. She recalls:

"I was treated like crap, too. Bossed around, degraded, condescended to, with jibes made about my having to work from home. I quickly learned not to mention I had kids. I quickly learned not to mention I worked from my kitchen table....

I really, really wanted to make this work.

But I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on.

My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .

It wasn’t my skills, it wasn’t my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn’t?"

She then decided to start writing under a pen name. One that would "command respect." She chose James Chartrand. She recounts:

"Instantly, jobs became easier to get.

There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.

Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate....

I landed clients and got work under both names. But it was much easier to do when I used my pen name.

Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I was applying in the same places. I was using the same methods. Even the work was the same.

In fact, everything was the same.

Except for the name."

Shit. Maybe I should try that.

To end, Chartrand acknowledges her hard work and says "No one handed me anything." On the first point, I will agree. She did work hard and she should be applauded for raising two kids as a single mother. Yet, with all due respect to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps narrative, people most certainly did hand her something. When she left her womanhood behind, she was given the gift of respect and assumed competence. That inconvenient fact of our still sexist society should not go unacknowledged. And I think, perhaps, James Chartrand would agree.

3) Victory in Houston

In other news, perhaps you've already heard by now, but the fourth-largest city in the US just elected its first lesbian mayor, despite the gay-baiting that some of her opponent's supporters engaged in.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dudes: Breast Ogling Not Problematic for Women

That liberal and progressive dudemen can be so utterly clueless and dismissive of feminism and the concerns of lady humans* is not exactly a startling revelation. For a while, I wanted to believe that left-leaning men "got it." Long ago, however, that dream shriveled, dried up, and blew away to that special fantasy dimension where all black people also automatically "get" the struggle for LGBT equality.

Nonetheless, perhaps due to residual hopey hopedream, I still find it disappointing to see those who are allied with progressive, human rights, and LGBT causes to so profoundly not get Lady Concerns.

In a failed attempt to keep things light as his blog, Ed Brayton posted a study (that was later revealed to be fake, although that fact wasn't readily apparent) about scientists who supposedly discovered that men who stare at women's breasts are healthier than those who do not. Har har har.

I had a hunch that the comment section would be quite demonstrative of Liberal Dood Cluelessness Syndrome. Indeed, when I checked it out, it didn't disappoint. Or rather, it did. By the fuckton.

After an array of manly liberal dudemen boasting about how "healthy" they must be in light of this boobalicious study, the first Lady Bonerkill (*not her real name) entered the fray:

"I am filled with a feminist rage at the idea that this study was
A) thought up by a group of probably intelligent people.
B) considered a good enough idea to be written up as a proposed study.
C) actually approved and given funding.

Unless of course it is a lie, created as yet another excuse for dirty old men to ogle jailbait. The alternative is that it is the truth, created as yet another excuse for dirty old men to ogle jailbait.

Creeps: making women feel unsafe since forever."

Before we examine some of the dudely reactions to this comment, let's take a moment to acknowledge the Lady Human Experience of life.

While ogling "fun bags" is certainly quite fun for many a hetero man of any political persuasion, creepy street harassment is a scary reality that women live with. Whilst fake studies "reveal" that ogling breasts is Good For Men, real studies show that the vast majority of women have experienced unwanted male stranger harassment "that has had a large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public." In New York City, 64% of female survey respondents reported being harassed on the subway, and 10% reported being sexually assaulted by a man on a subway or at a subway station. (PDF)

So, yes. While men are certainly free to ogle whomever and whatever they want to ogle and do so under the delusion that women should just lighten up and be flattered about it, the reality that many women live with is that we do not know whether any given male stranger who is staring at our "jugs" is friendly or whether he has some other, more malignant, intentions. While Nice Guys (tm) exist and many guys fall into that category, the creeps ruin everyone's fun. Ladies live in fear, and men who only want to stare at some juicy "melons" have to endure getting annoyed when a lady acts all scared and stuff about being ogled.

As Lady Bonerkill so aptly put it:

"Creeps: making women feel unsafe since forever"

And, whether or not a male stranger is a creep is not readily ascertainable and so, as a matter of survival, we learn that it's best to play it safe and, if in doubt, assume that he is one. With this background in mind, let's observe some of the dudely reactions to Lady Bonerkill and her allies who also jumped into the fray.

Vic Vanity, in his own special way, responded:

"if someone looking at you makes you feel unsafe. i suggest perhaps you have some serious issues. I stare at birds,flowers,females ,puppy dogs all these thinsg are visually appealing to me and none fo them are unsafe because of it."

Straightaway, the dudely mandude dismisses the female survival response as being indicative of a woman who has "some serious issues." You see, Vic here stares at other things all the time, he explains, things that like women and their "knockers," are.... things. And what's not fun about that?

Vic goes on to explain: "i wouldnt be creeped out at a gay bar with a bunch of people staring at me. i would probably be a bit flattered...."

In other words, because he, a presumably straight male, would not be "creeped out" if a bunch of gay dudes stared at him, then a woman shouldn't be scared if a bunch of strange men stare at her. In fact, he says, he would be flattered; therefore, women should likewise be flattered.

When men are confronted with the reality that many women are creeped out by strange men ogling them, this is a fairly common duderesponse. Many men do not understand that the experiences of women in the world, especially when it comes to matters of personal safety, are different than the experiences of men. This is not necessarily a matter of such men "hating" women or even disliking them, they just don't understand that women experience ogling differently than do men. And so, as many men do, Vic mistakes his experience (ie- he would be flattered) for objective truth about the matter. He writes as though the experiences of the millions of women (including several women in the comment thread) who feel unsafe because of unwanted ogling do not matter. All that matters is that Vic wouldn't be "creeped out" if dudes stared at him and so, therefore, ladies should get over it and just lighten up.

After Vic's knobjective commentary, dudeman Ryan offered his advice to the ladies:

"Being made uncomfortable is something that will happen in your lifetime; nobody is required to consider your feelings when staring at your boobies....Worry about the real creeps out there - by the way, they don't just come in the shape of ugly cusses who ogle a woman's cleavage - and stop getting bent out of shape over a freaking joke already."

Ryan's overconfident comment ironically underscores the exact reason why women get so "bent out of shape" over such "jokes." For one, they reveal the utter cluelessness of men, even men we sometimes consider to be our political allies. Even gay men, like Ryan claims to be. Two, since when are men experts enough at being a woman to offer oh so insightful advice on what it's like to live in the world as a woman?

Three, this joke is not all that "funny" to many precisely for the reason Ryan notes. Let's say it again, shall we? When it comes to strange men who stare at us, we cannot readily distinguish the good guys from the bad and, nonetheless, all men feel entitled to ogle women anyway. That is precisely why so many Lady Bonerkills are making such a big deal out of this jokey joke study and comment thread.

Unfortunately, when confronted with this criticism, male commenters and even Ed himself offered more oh-so helpful advice. In addition to declaring that ogling is not a problem for women, the general dude theme seems to be that women who are concerned about such ogling and don't find "jokes" about ogling to be funny are Humorless Feminists (tm).

One dude, for instance, jumped in to snipe: "I see Feminism hasn't grown a sense of humour yet. Maybe next year..." before Ed jumped in to "encourage" everyone to laugh at themselves "once in awhile."


I do respect Ed, but my take on his responses to the conversation (which he ended up shutting down) was that while something important and valid was being hashed out in his comment section, he didn't seem to deem it worthy enough to count as serious conversation, perhaps because he intended the original post to be a "joke." Yes, the comment thread turned ugly, but I question whether the best response is really to shut our eyes and cackle away like madmen as though nothing at all is the matter and then move on to More Important Issues.

Aside from the fact that non-feminists use the Feminists Are Humorless trope all the damn time to silence the concerns that women bring up, who the hell died and made men the arbiters of all that does and does not count as funny in the world? What?! Fake Study Finds That Looking At Boobies Is Good For Men?! What are we, 12? How is this hoax clever? It would only be clever if men already didn't feel entitled to look at any random woman's "tits" anyway.

If women aren't laughing at a joke, why is it that men so rarely care to find out, instead dismissing women's non-laughter as proof of our lack of humor? Does it ever cross their minds that the humor problem is them, and not us? I mean, it's sort of a fact that Fake Studies show that 76% of women laugh at men's jokes, not because they are funny, but because they want to massage that ever-so-frail male ego.

Oh my gods, I think I just came up with the real definition of feminist.

Feminist(n): A woman who fails to indulge the male fantasy that he's the funniest funnymaker in the whole entire world.

Now that's frakkin funny. I'm sure the male Masters of Comedy over at Ed's place would agree. Or, perhaps they won't find it quite so funny to be on the receiving end of "humor."

[*Edit: Lady humans are to be distinguished from default humans, whom are men. Some lady humans are vagina-humans and some are not. See also, comments]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dehumanizing Headline of the Week

I came across this headline last week, at 365Gay no less:

"Lesbian teen guilty of school murder"

The teenager was found guilty of shooting a friend after the friend rejected her advances. While this unfortunate case has a sense of Romance Gone Awry, this girl's sexual orientation is no more relevant than is the sexual orientation of a man who kills a woman (or women) for rejecting him, or a woman who kills a man for rejecting her advances. Indeed, the media often goes out of its way to hide a male murderer, gay basher, or rapist in the passive voice and frame him as an Otherwise Nice Guy Who Snapped That One Time.

Why is it that the sexual orientation of a gay person is always noted when a gay person is accused or found guilty of misbehavior? Sexual orientation is rarely, if ever, mentioned with respect to heterosexual criminals. To even bring it up implies that it is somehow relevant, perhaps as a causative factor, to the person's behavior. She's not a girl like how other (read, heterosexual) 16-year old girls are girls, she's a lezzzzzzbian.

Undoubtedly, anti-gay forces use Gays Behaving Badly stories as proof of the inherent pathology of LGBT people. Instead of focusing on mourning a tragedy, discussions of homosexuality ensue and more abuse is piled onto the LGBT community.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Men's Rights Activist Predicts Violent Demise of Feminism

A men's rights fellow by the name of Paul Elam has, perhaps with the help of psychic powers, recently opined that Men's Rights Activism is poised to overthrow the "feminist hegemony" that rules everything in the entire world.

How so?

He googled two phrases and came up with these results:

"Women’s rights: 48,300,000 hits

Men’s rights: 70,600,000 hits"

The argument he poses is that the internet "matters very much" given the incredibly powerful influence that feminism holds over the mainstream media. (?!) Opposite day argumentation aside, I have a dorky, but relevant point about this fellow's google results. See, I ran the numbers and it quickly became evident that this fellow failed to run the google with his search terms in quotations marks.

This is basic googling 101, I know, so bear with me. But, by putting a search phrase in quotation marks "you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change." Thus, a search of: "men's rights" would yield a more specific and exclusive than a search of: men's rights, without quotation marks.

A search of men's rights, without quotation marks, turns up results that include the word "men" and "rights," not necessarily in that order and not necessarily relevant to the phrase "men's rights." For instance, by searching men's rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns up, which is hardly an MRA manifesto, as does the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus. Furthermore, given that the word "man" and "men" is the (oxymoronic) gender neutral word for men and women, a search of the phrase men's rights undoubtedly turns up results regarding men's rights, meaning men only, and also men's rights, meaning the rights of both men and women.

A more specific search, however, of "men's rights," with the phrase in quotation marks turns up 186,000 hits. "Women's rights" turns up 1,290,000.

I hope this nuance isn't lost on MRAs, as it severely undercuts the argument being made. And indeed it is the only substantive argument the article makes.

For, it quickly becomes apparent that Elam's bizarre article is demonstrative of an unfortunate MRA argumentation tendency. It is, for the most part, a lazyman's argument. Without addressing any feminist argument in any semblance of a substantive manner, it sluggishly taunts that such an argument is unnecessary because feminism will irrelevance itself right out of existence. It will "sink its own ship," he claims. Switching his argument, he then offers us one uninspired, violent metaphor after another, arguing that MRA-ism is destined to overthrow feminism. I guess feminism won't "sink its own ship" after all, but will get a bit of help from MRA dudemen.

Contradictory internal arguments aside, trapped as it is in egocentrism, ignorance of feminism, and male privilege, many adherents or MRA-ism take the claim regarding the irrelevance and stupidity of feminism as being self-evidently true and a statement of objective fact. And that, perhaps is one of the their greatest errors.

I know, MRAs do this all the time.

They wish feminism to die, and so they state it as a fact that it is going to die. Literally. One MRA commenter violently boasted: "I want to murder feminism by the boatload." I wonder if he really meant, murder feminists by the boatload. No other commenters noted this violent language. The wet dreams continue, as the author writes, Men's Rights Activism "isn’t a revolutionary tsunami, but it is happening fast, like flood waters rising with deceptive speed and force," coming to "drown the feminist orthodoxy." And, "[M]en’s rights activism is on a steamroll and will soon be barreling like a locomotive right at the feminist power structure." Yes, despite lacking even basic competence in Google 101, these MRAs are already jigging their premature touchdown dance in anticipation of the fantastical MRA takeover of the universe.


This sort of verbal violence against feminism, uttered by MRAs who claim to be oppressed by feminism, is also quotidian. I know. For as much as they complain that The Feminazi Bitchez defame all men as being violent, many MRAs do a pretty damn good job of demonstrating their violent tendencies and homicidal desires of everything feminist all by themselves.

Yet, despite all of these fantasies of destroying feminism, one gets the impression that something else is what is truly important about the MRA movement. Feminists have long suspected that MRA-ism is less about breaking down rigid gender codes that harm both men and women and more about aggressively reacting to the de-centering of men from their position at the center of all that matters in the world. While some MRAs devote a fair amount of time discussing legitimate issues, many more seem to use their dude-forums mostly to angrily stew about the overall cuntiness of women, ex-wives, and feminists. To an outsider, MRA-ism looks to be the male-centric caricature of what it believes radical feminism to be: a woman-hating ideology that places men in the role of victim of the world.

In the same way that Christians in our mostly-Christian nation claim that they are oppressed, MRAs try to convince everyone that it is men who are really oppressed, especially the white heterosexual male. In both instances, whether intentional or not (for, many men and Christians genuinely do believe that they are being victimized), this faux-victimhood narrative is a desperate attempt to retain power and privilege. And so, like the dudes who wrote the Manhattan Declaration, many of their articles and posts are dedicated, not to addressing actual problems that men face, but to loud boasting about how awesome and brave they are for standing up to women, feminists, and minorities who, they claim, really rule the world.

See, when you read this Elam's article and then the comments that follow, something will hit you. No, not a giant wave. Or a locomotive, either. But... something else.

MRAs have minority envy.

Whether they understand it or not, they want to keep all of the privileges of being male, which is why they loathe the feminism that points out these privileges; but they also want to grab all of what they see as "perks" of being a minority. Because they are men in a male-dominated world, they do not understand what it is to not be a man. They do not even have to try to understand this. They think that being a woman is all about getting free drinks, having special women's studies courses, and being exempt from the draft (that no longer even exists). Because they are men, they don't have to understand the many ways that oppression flows from the one simple lie that society has convinced many men (and women) is true: Men Are The Default Human Being.

This lie is why practically every other course that is not specifically women's studies course is a men's studies course, despite lacking the appropriate moniker. This lie is why men have created "God" in their male image and insist that "he" has a pee-pee just like them and that women are a lesser rib-created version of males. This lie allows some men to claim that "almost everything good in your life was invented, discovered, created or built by men" as though that is (a) true, and (b) a testament to the innate superiority of men as opposed to the giant affirmative action plan they had afforded themselves throughout history by restricting women to the roles of wife and mother.

This lie, most damning of all to the MRA cause, is what enables these fellows to mistake their subjective opinions regarding the overall suckiness of feminism as objective truth.

So cocksure are they about this, so entirely certain that the male voice is the ultimate, authoritative arbiter of all that is true about life experience, they write incompetently overconfident articles informing the world that feminism is destined to "sink its own ship" because, they claim, of course it is men who are the real victims. Because he does not experience and cannot know what it is like to be a woman, Elam writes as though the experiences of millions of women in the world that feminism has, actually, helped do not count and are in no way relevant to the Truth About Feminism.

And so, dear readers, we come to MRA commenter Stu. I hope the Secret Society of Men's Rights Activists toiling away under the unbearable, oppressive weight of the gynocracy, will forgive Stu for revealing the MRA Master Plan. In the single greatest Jeopardy-style question to which Men's Rights Activism is the answer, he asks:

"how does a white hetro guy become part of a repressed minority with all the rights that go with it"

Ding ding ding!

We have a winner, Alex.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rick Warren Condems Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

In a surprising turn from his previous stance of neutrality, Rick Warren has come out forcefully against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would sentence those convicted of the "crime" of homosexuality to life in prison or death.

In his words:

"We are all familiar with Edmund Burke’s insight, 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' That is why I’m sharing my heart with you today. As an American pastor, it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it IS my role to speak out on moral issues. It is my role to shepherd other pastors who look to me for guidance, and it is my role to correct lies, errors and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, completely oppose and vigorously condemn. I am referring to the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill....

[T]he potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice....

If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation....

My wife, Kay, and I have devoted our lives and our ministry to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV positive. It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. We’re not just pro-life. We are whole life...."

Rick Warren "completely oppose[s] and vigorously condemn[s]" this law. I, of course, have profound theological differences with Warren. Nonetheless, by issuing a clear, unconditional statement of opposition and condemnation against Uganda's law, he did the right thing here. Regardless as to why he waited so long to condemn this bill, I am grateful that he did so.

He holds a lot of power and influence. Rather than his belated statement being evidence that he will only be morally courageous when he is criticized for not taking action, let's hope that this is the beginning of a more compassionate evangelical Christianity. One that uses its power to care for the sick and eradicate global poverty instead of its current pointless mission of Opposing Everything Gay.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Which the Manhattan Declaration Signees Tell Us "Truths" About Issues Uniquely Affecting Women and Gay People

(Hello readers, I am excited to announce that I will also be contributing to the group blog A World of Progress from time to time. A slightly shortened version of this blog post is my first contribution over there.)

A group of mostly male heterosexual, conservative Christians have recently created and signed on to their Manhattan Declaration in which they have informed us about certain "non-negotiable truths." These "truths," interestingly, pertain to issues that uniquely affect women and LGBT people and only tangentially affect the rights of heterosexual males. For, within the document the signees declare their strong opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage; audaciously, they declare this opposition to constitute Ultimate Truth.

(And also, they maybe mentioned a few times how awesome and courageous they are for taking a stand against "fashionable ideologies." Hint: I think "fashionable" is code for something.)

Today, I'm going to mostly restrict my comments to the Declaration's stance on marriage equality, although the document also makes its opposition to abortion quite clear. In fact, the authors conclude that global social ills like genocide, ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, and sex trafficking result "from the same loss of dignity" that drives the abortion movement. The authors of the document do not, of course, provide arguments that support such a conclusion. And so, if sound-bitey "answers" to complex social issues passes for ultimate truth nowadays, my comments with respect to these dudes' stance on abortion will be similarly simple:

No uterus? Abortion isn't your call to make. No matter how hard certain religious men have tried to co-opt the female birthing experience and build their man-made religions around it, mandating a woman's pregnancy against her will is outside of their jurisdiction. Period.

Moving on then.

With respect to the marriage issue, not surprisingly, the document couches its "truth" about marriage in the language of gender complementarity. Leading with one of their Bible quotes that claims it was women who came from a man's body, rather than what we know to be the biological truth and, of course, gendering God/Jesus as male throughout, the men who wrote this document suddenly remembered that ladies exist too, when it comes to marriage anyway:

"[Those who advocate same-sex marriage] fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit."

What do you know, despite being inherently submissive to men and created in man's image, women can still serve a purpose. In fact, because of the magical complementarity that exists between "man and woman," the authors go on to make the bizarre argument that marriage exists in nature as some sort of God-created "objective reality." Perhaps like a tree, or a beetle. Or something. Whatever it is, marriage is definitely not something that "man" invented. It was created by God the Fatherly Father DudeMan:

"Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual— on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh....Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife."

Aside from giving us a bit too much coital visualization, all this circular paragraph tells us, of course, is that two people of the same sex cannot get married because marriage can only exist between one man and one woman. Conveniently, knowing the One Real Truth about things has a way of preventing debate on an issue.

See, by insisting that marriage exists as some sort of "objective reality," this document has preemptively changed the debate from is same-sex marriage a good or bad idea for society to the truth is, marriage is only between a man and a lady, end of story. (As an aside, do these learned Christian men not know that Biblical marriage was far from some one-man, one-woman objective, universal truth?)

After shutting down the debate on abortion and same-sex marriage, the authors end with a lecture on religious freedom. It is as though these Christian men do not realize that they live in a nation where they just freely wrote a religious manifesto in a country that is 76% Christian, published it, spread it via social networking sites, and gotten thousands of people to sign on to it. Comparing themselves to the persecuted Martin Luther King, Jr writing from the Birmingham Jail, they further vow to "not comply" with any law "that purports to compel them to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act" or that forces them to "bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family."

The whole thing is a bit of an overkill, really, if not entirely ridiculous considering that Christianity is the dominant religion in American society and same-sex marriage has lost virtually every legal battle in every state in the US because of Christian opposition to it. Unlike Dr. King, these "men at the center of political, cultural, academic and ecclesiastical privilege" are "overlords posing as undergods." They're minority wannabes, grossly misinterpreting which party is on the end of oppression and which party is perpetuating it.

Substantively, the Manhattan Declaration is extremely sub-par from an argumentation standpoint. The authors keep stating over and over again, in various over-the-top ways, how they know the One Real Truth about things and how it's a good thing their own brave, awesome selves are here to inform us as to what that is.

Their parting, stubborn, histrionic threat:

"We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s."

[Lights Fade, Curtain]

It's a fitting quote, really, as one gets the impression from the document that we are supposed to adhere to these One Real Truths, not so much because of their inherent truthiness or goodness, but because God Our Fatherly Father will be upset with us if we don't. God, we are to understand, is a dictator. And, a dictator who is God is good, because he's God. Especially when he has jurisdiction over certain issues that, conveniently, uniquely affect the rights of women and gay people.

I am reminded of a quote about religious fundamentalism:

"It is not God that is worshipped but the group or authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not violation of integrity."

The Manhattan Declaration tries to pass itself off as a statement about universal truth, but in reality it is mere solipsism. In it, these privileged men who wouldn't recognize oppression if it crawled under their lady robes and tied their balls in a knot, attempt to convince everyone else that the biases of their own error-prone human minds are "God's" law. Signed as it is by Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christian leaders, it is a statement by some of the most literally patriarchal Christian sects that exist in the world. By gendering God/Jesus as male and restricting clergy and church leadership roles to males, many of these sects perpetuate incredible gender hierarchy in the world. Rather than trying to eradicate this hierarchy, they ignore it, pointing their fingers at how Others are misbehaving and accusing Others, always Others, of being hell-bent on destroying society.

But lest we forget, when society restricts female access to abortion and prohibits same-sex marriage it is heterosexual males, as a class, who benefit.

When you think about that, don't you start to wonder who the Manhattan Declaration signees are really asking us to worship?

Related Links:

1. Christian dudes comparing themselves to Declaration of Independence signees and debating whether or not to sign onto this "noble and godly" cause. That's right, it's a given that restricting abortion rights and same-sex marriage is "noble and godly"; apparently, the real debate is whether real Christians should unite with other, less authentic types of Christians on such an endeavor.

2. The Manhattan Declaration "strongly implies that those who disagree with their declaration sanction infanticide, euthanasia and Nazi death camps.... Those with consciences formed differently than those of the signers may well perceive that the purported call of conscience issued by the Manhattan Declaration is but another echo from the ever so gradually emptying chambers of the radical Christian right."

3. From the Box Turtle Bulletin- "This is not a war over civil marriage definition – nor, indeed, has that ever been the real motivation behind anti-gay marriage drives. Rather, this is a war over religious domination, a fight over who is 'really a Christian' and an effort on the part of a long-suffering religious subset to spite those who have long had what they coveted."

4. Hugo Schwyzer: "Here’s the thing: fighting against abortion and gay rights is, in the end, cheap. It requires no particular personal sacrifice or reflection on the part of those who claim these are the top issues. Men who will never get pregnant; heterosexuals who have the privilege to marry those whom they love — they surrender nothing precious to them by fighting tooth and nail against reproductive and glbtq rights."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Attacks on Black LGBT Youth

An organization serving primarily African-American LGBT youth in Chicago has reported seeing an increase in violent attacks on youth served. 17 youth have been attacked this year. According to the Youth Pride Center:

"The youth who are targeted tend to be more flamboyant or feminine. They aren’t attacked in Hyde Park, near the center, but in their own neighborhoods, such as Englewood and Roseland, on their way home from YPC."

Interestingly, I haven't seen reports of this violence in mainstream media sources, even in Chicago. I wonder, what would the outcry be if these were heterosexual, white youths who were attacked after leaving a Christian youth group?

The article continues:

"Youth are already working on plans to launch a new campaign that will address anti-gay violence in the African American community. The campaign, Walker said, will be about the price of being black and gay.

The problem of anti-gay hate and stigma against GLBT people in the African American community is large and has many consequences. For example, the majority of youth attacked, Walker said, do not file police reports. Many YPC youth are not out to their families and fear reporting an attack will out them. And of the youth who do report an attack, many are afraid to tell the police that they identify as GLBT."

I am glad to see members of the African-American community address homophobia in that community. Of note, within the article, smaller grassroots organizations in African-American communities expressed disappointment at North Side (read, white) LGBT organizations for "overlooking their issues." For several reasons, I think the situation is much more complex than white people simply "overlooking" the issue of violence and homophobia in the African-American community.

For one, the anti-gay industry, which is dominated by heterosexual white people, has long pitted the LGBT community (which is dominated by whites) against the black community (which is dominated by heterosexuals). White anti-gays, who are rarely allies to racial progress, nonetheless love showing how very concerned they are about the gay rights movement's "misappropriation" of black civil rights argumentation. They know that some blacks, like the virulent Ken Hutcherson, detest comparisons between LGBT people and racial minorities and so they feed right into that hatred. For instance, here, one white, conservative, anti-gay man calls comparisons between the two movements "pathetic" and a "smear" on what black people have gone through.

The anti-gay industry also presents a narrative in which equality and progress is a zero-sum game where if gays win, then blacks lose, and vice versa. For instance, here, a rightwing commentator argues that due to the pervasive homophobia in the black community, black men will stop marrying the mothers of their children if same-sex marriage is legalized. Why? Because black men will associate marriage with something fags do, and will stay away from it. Here, too, they state their common claim that if same-sex couples can marry, the "normative link between children and marriage will be severed" and this will lead to greater rates of black fatherlessness. The message is clear, if LGBT rights are won, the black community will suffer.

I wonder, how does this pitting of the black and gay communities against each other feed into mistrust between the two communities and further marginalize those who are both black and LGBT? How does it perpetuate the victimization and invisibilization of black LGBT people?

Two, perhaps because of or in addition to the anti-gay industry's creation of the black v. gay narrative, it is still somewhat taboo for white LGBT people to criticize or acknowledge the homophobia that exists within the black community. After Proposition 8, polls suggested that black voters voted against marriage equality in greater percentages than other groups. Unfortunately, some white LGBT people engaged in really despicable namecalling and scapegoating, blaming the loss on black voters, despite the many more white voters in California who voted against equality.

Yet, a fact remains. Polls show that blacks oppose LGBT rights more than any other racial group. I wonder, are well-intentioned white LGBT people wary of acknowledging homophobia within the black community for fears of being called "racist"? How effective would it be, for instance, to have white LGBT people inform black heterosexuals that they're homophobic and then "teach" them how to be less so?

And, while I would like to think that most white LGBT people care about the violence black LGBT people face, I also wonder if we are "overlooking" it. Just because we can. Just because those aren't "our" neighborhoods.

Finally, what is the best way to have honest conversations about these issues knowing that the anti-gay industry is perched, primed and ready to prey on any weaknesses within the LGBT and black communities that come to light as a result of these conversations?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Maggie Gallagher Calls the Kettle Black

Yesterday, we saw how a group of conservative Christians celebrated their own awesomeness by comparing themselves to Martin Luther King, Jr. and imbuing same-sex couples with the power to destroy society. They did this in a document called the Manhattan Declaration.

Maggie Gallagher, of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage, was one of the signees of this document. Last week, whilst celebrating New York's recent failure to pass marriage equality legislation, Gallagher complained:

"The debate was also lopsided: a remarkable display of self-indulgence, tone-deafness and hubris on the part of gay-marriage advocates. Many senators suggested people who see marriage as a male-female union are like slave owners or segregationists. They compared themselves to Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and even Nelson Mandela. Sen. Suzie Oppenheimer upped the ante by suggesting the hate and intolerance of those of us who think marriage is the union of husband and wife is akin to the Nazism that killed her husband's family.

This kind of disrespectful treatment of diverse views on gay marriage really needs to stop. Now. Today."

I have stood up for Gallagher before, as I believe she is sometimes the victim of unfair, sexist attacks regarding her looks and weight. I do this despite the fact that she works tirelessly to deny my family equal and me rights. I don't expect kudos or cookies for that. It's just the right damn thing to do.

Yet, as usual, Gallagher disappoints with her immature argumentation that creates one set of standards for her side and another set for ours. Bemoaning same-sex marriage advocates for supposedly comparing "marriage defenders" to Nazis and themselves to moral heroes, she has made a career out of creating a narrative that tells society that Very Bad Horrible No-Good Things will happen if same-sex marriage becomes legal. Most recently, she has signed onto a declaration in which "marriage defenders" compare themselves to moral heroes like Dr. King and that dismisses Extremely Dangerous marriage equality argumentation as a mere "fashionable ideology."

It takes a lot of gall and arrogance for Gallagher to demand our side to "stop. Now. Today."

You get what you put out into the world, Maggie. Maybe others will tone down their rhetoric once you do the same.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Which the Manhattan Declaration Signees Celebrate Their Own Incredible Bravery and Awesomeness

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience is a manifesto written and signed by Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christian leaders to reaffirm certain "truths" they have deemed to be "inviolable and non-negotiable."

During a time in which the US has waged multiple wars, nationwide unemployment rates are in the double digits, and food stamp usage among American families is at an all time high, these self-anointed Christian leaders have taken this moment in our nation's history to "speak out forcefully" against abortion and same-sex marriage.

When times are tough for the living, it's time to protect the lives of those who are not yet born. And to restrict gay rights of course.

But, departing for a moment from the substance, the real overarching theme here seems to be something else. Something much more important. Of the signees, the Slacktivist writes:

"Their own awesomeness is a topic the authors address with relentless relish. Everything else in the document is merely a foil for this central subject. The threat of The Gay is grave, ominous and potentially world-altering, they warn, repeatedly, before reassuring us that their heroic resolve and moral superiority will save the day....

The whole thing is like that -- like a bad parody of the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. Except of course that Henry was outnumbered. Here instead we have a group of powerful elites, men at the center of political, cultural, academic and ecclesiastical privilege bemoaning their oppression at the hands of the homosexuals and religious minorities they claim run the world. They are overlords posing as underdogs. (It's hard out there for a pope.)"

This dramatic pseudo-victimhood, of course, is Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown's forte. Not surprisingly, both National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) leaders are signees. Whether they're creating campy overly-dramatic "Gathering Storm" ads, inventing the Poor Carrie Prejean narrative, or breathlessly branding themselves victims of Homosexualist McCarthyism, NOM's running story arc is that those who believe marriage must include a mommy and a daddy are being persecuted by the Mean and Incredibly Powerful Homosexual Mob and that they are so very goshdarn brave for standing up to it!

Aside from the self-aggrandizement and over-infatuation with its own faux-martyrdom, the worst feature of the Manhattan Declaration is that it falls into that unfortunate fundamentalist tendency to use "god" to justify oppression, rather than to transcend it.

Shorter them:

1) We know what the "non-negotiable" truth is;

2) The truth is, abortion is wrong and marriage is only for one man and one woman; and

3) If our legal system recognizes other "truths," our own religious freedom is being trampled upon.

4) And p.s. have we mentioned how awesome and brave we are for publicly stating these truths?

Later on this week, we will look at the Manhattan Declaration in a little more detail. Today, I thought we needed to devote our full attentions to basking in the aura of the awesome Christian awesomeness that is emanating from this document.

Please, try to contain yourselves.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dude-Victim Experiences Lady Fear

I first saw this article at Twisty's place. Police in British Columbia believe that a woman is going around kicking random men in the balls for no reason at all. She kicked one man so hard that he lost a testicle.

While acknowledging that violence is wrong, I think it is also worthwhile to examine male reaction to this article, as men are not often on the receiving end of this sort of random, overt gender-based violence.

Let's observe.

The man who lost his testicle said:

"I just want to know what her problem is," victim Anthony Clark, 22, said this week. "People like her shouldn't be on the streets."

He just wants to know what her problem is.

That's interesting, isn't it?

When a man assaults a woman in the most gendered, personal way possible- rape- it is not often that the woman, or anyone really, wonders aloud what the dude's "problem" is. When men leer at us when we pass them on the sidewalk, we don't ask what their "problem" is. When men sit next to us on the train and open their legs because obviously their cocks are too large to do otherwise, we don't ask what their "problem" is. When men tell jokes that aren't funny and are, in fact, sexist or offensive, we don't ask what their "problem" is.

We don't. Often. Instead, it is they who ask us what our problem is when we fail to smile, giggle, or otherwise appropriately acquiesce.

That, I suspect, is what the woman's "problem" is with respect to her alleged serial groin-kickery. If we're speculating.

The reality that we live with is that we all, especially women, know that a dude might one day decide to assault or rape somebody. That reality is such a given that when it actually happens, which it often does, it is unnecessary to ask what the dude's "problem" is. Men, we have learned, are just aggressive, violent, and dangerous. It is something we learn to live with, especially women. If we don't adequately learn to deal with that reality, we are told that we accept whatever we have coming to us.

So, rather than framing male assaults on women as the gender-based hate crimes that they are, sexual assault is framed as something sort of "natural" about our social order. Yet, when a woman commits a random* act of violence against a man, this upsets the "natural" order of things and leads some to speculate that she obviously Hates Men. (*The assaulted man claims that he was kicked in the balls for no reason at all, but right now all we have is his word to go on). In fact, reading comments around the world wide web, many men view this serial nutkicking as a barrage of feminazi hate crimes against men.

In reality, by violating someone in this very intimate way, this woman is treating men like how men treat women all the damn time.

That, too, is interesting, isn't it?

When a man experiences gender-based violence, men construct it as a feminist conspiracy against men. When women experience pervasive gender-based violence in the form of sexual assault and gender-based homicide, it's just business as usual. No hate crime. Nothing to see. Moving along.

What would these men say, I wonder, if random acts of scrotum-kicking was a common, everyday occurrence in the world? Would they live in fear for their nuts? Would they wear cups? If a man didn't wear a cup and got kicked in the groin, would everyone tsk tsk and say that he was "asking for it"? I wonder, too, how many of these male commenters who are convinced that the random nut-kicker is a feminazi man-hater are the same dudes who opine that The Patriarchy is a figment of the paranoid feminist imagination?

Like the existence of the draft, "men's rights activists" will point to these attacks to "prove" that feminism is unnecessary, that life is actually incredibly hard for men compared to women, and that the Patriarchy is non-existent. They will do this all while, as usual, reducing women to objects and bragging that they personally would "kill a bitch" and "punch the tits" of a woman who dared to kick their family jewels. (I'm not linking to these fellas, but comments like these can be found after virtually any article regarding the "serial groin-kicker.")

Before I end, let's look at the other way the "serial groinkicker" has made this particular man feel like a lady:

"My doctors say I will still be able to have children," Mr. Clark said. "But at 22 that's not something I want a stranger, this woman, to decide."

Well look at that. Some stranger almost made this guy lose control over both his fertility and choice of whether or not to have his own biological children.

Like we've been saying for years. If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Very Important Study About Female Skin Revelation

Scientific experts have finally solved what is perhaps the single most pressing concern of ladies these days "by calculating the exact proportion of the body that should be exposed for optimum allure [to the male gaze]."

As the Telegraph notes:

"Striking the right balance between revealing too much and being too conservative in how much skin is on show has long been a dilemma for women when choosing the right outfit for a night out."

It's true! If a lady reveals too much skin, she runs the risk of accidentally asking for things that she does not intend. If she does not reveal enough skin, she will not be able to attract men and will thusly learn that she is not a valuable member of society.

Don't worry my fellow Vagina-American readers, scientific experts have "come to the rescue" by calculating the perfect skin-to-clothing ratio. Read on:

"For the purposes of the study, each arm accounted for 10 per cent of the body, each leg for 15 per cent and the torso for 50 per cent.

Women who revealed around 40 per cent of their skin attracted twice as many men as those who covered up.

However, those who exposed any more than this also fared worse. Experts believe that showing too much flesh puts men off because it suggests they might be unfaithful.

Psychologist Dr Colin Hendrie, who led the study, told the Daily Mail: 'Any more than 40 per cent and the signal changes from ‘allure’ to one indicating general availability and future infidelity.'

'Show some leg, show some arm, but not any more than that.'"

Now word on whether "asking for it" has been similarly quantified.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SpOrTs LaDiEs BeHaViNg BaDlY

The mainstream media and sports news outlets love covering ladies in sports. When they're getting into catfights that is!

Unfortunately, sports outlets and the media still don't deem female athletes to be all that worthy of coverage. When female athletes are covered in the mainstream/sports media, at least one of three truths will come into play: (a) The coverage will consist of a gimmicky article about how a particular lady athlete has behaved badly, (b) If the coverage is a feature story, it will be of a Hot Lady Athlete even though she has peers who are similarly, if not more, talented, and/or (c) Following every online article featuring a female athlete or team, male commenters opine upon the general overall suckiness of lady sports.

Today's article falls into the first category of truths. There are many ways that ladies can behave badly. One way is to behave like how men behave. Now, generally, males learn early on that it is not entirely acceptable for them to display a wide array of human emotion. The one exception to this, of course, is anger and aggression. Boys can't cry, but they can get really mad about stuff. Girls, on the other hand, learn that while it is okay for them to cry, it is not okay to express anger or to display any semblance of aggression.

This Female Anger Taboo holds true in sports. Whilst it is not at all uncommon for male athletes to trash talk, to get into bench-clearing brawls, and to throw 90-mph hour fastballs at each other's heads, such behavior is generally found to be especially unbecoming in lady athletes. Now, I do realize that dude athletes who behave badly are sometimes punished. My point here is that when a female athlete acts like how male athletes act all the time, sports reporters clutch their pearls in horror and wonder how on earth anything like hyper-aggression in lady sports could possibly happen.

Observe, the amplification and exaggeration of a SpOrTs LaDy BeHaViNg BaDlY:

For yanking an opposing player's ponytail, making "hard tackles, and engaging in other aggressive behavior during a soccer game, University of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert became "an Internet sensation for unsportsmanlike behavior." Now, I watched a video clip, on ESPN I believe, of her "aggressive behavior" and it was rather ugly. Yet, I also know that soccer can be pretty physical and aggressive; so, I found it strange that the video was edited to show only Lambert's actions as though she was not provoked in any way and as though no other lady on the entire field was even making contact with anyone else. Aside from the ponytail-pulling, I didn't see anything all that unusual. I have seen athletes, men and women alike, get away with similar behavior, or worse, many times.

What is bizarre, but not surprising, is that Lambert's behavior has turned her into an "Internet sensation." Had Lambert been a man, I seriously doubt that the behavior would have even been noted. I say this as someone who has been involved in various athletic endeavors for pretty much all of my life. Personally, I remember the frustration I felt many years ago as a high school basketball player after fouling out of a game once on really "iffy" calls. The next night, I watched a boys' game and, flabbergasted, observed Popular Dude Basketball Star elbowing and pushing guys on the other team while the home team and his coach cheered him on. No calls were made on him. Boys will boys, after all. That was perhaps my first conscious introduction as to how standards of aggression differ for males and females.

Lambert, for her part, has said that she regrets her behavior but also thinks that the responses her actions caused were exaggerated because she's a female:

"I definitely feel because I am a female it did bring about a lot more attention than if a male were to do it. It's more expected for men to go out there and be rough. The female, we're still looked at as, 'Oh, we kick the ball around and score a goal.' But it's not. We train very hard to reach the highest level we can get to. The physical aspect has maybe increased over the years. I'm not saying it's for the bad or it's been too overly aggressive. It's a game. Sports are physical."

Good for her. It takes maturity and strength for a person to publicly regret their actions and to also acknowledge sexist double standards in sports. Sadly, not enough influential female athletes do the latter. Oddly though, Foxsports titles its article about her thusly:

"Hair-pulling soccer player both sorry and defiant"

I found defiant to be an interesting choice of words as it generally means something along the lines of "resistant to authority." Lambert's words, one a statement of regret and the other a statement of fact, were not overt statements of defiance. Tellingly, from the negative attention she's already received from the incident, she has likely learned that her actions during the soccer game were gross acts of defiance of the Female Anger Taboo. Via this article, I wonder if someone is trying to teach her also that she is out of line to acknowledge that such a taboo and double-standard even exists.

While I would like sports to be a little more sportive and less aggressive, I do wonder if all of this attention is meant to keep lady athletes in line and to scare women into not questioning "truths" about females' capacity for anger and aggression. We are taught, even in sports, that the expression of male anger and aggression is a god-given entitlement that everyone else in society just has to learn to deal with. Likewise, we are taught that the expression of female anger and aggression is a Really Big Deal and Completely Unacceptable.

Interesting, isn't it?

Is it any surprise that so many women live in fear of what a man might do to them?