Friday, March 13, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Christian Patriarchy Movement

Well, with respect to adherents of the Quiverfull Movement, I suppose it's nice that at least some people are completely up-front about their patriarchal motives. This conservative Christian movement, which is thought to be a backlash from feminism and its attendant era of relative sexual and reproductive freedom, advocates against using birth control and for restricting women to the roles of mother and wife.

Check out this interview with Kathryn Joyce, a journalist who wrote about this movement in Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. In the interview, Joyce explains the movement as follows:

"[A] growing number of American Christian fundamentalists also have rejected feminism and egalitarianism, embracing instead male dominance and what they call the 'Quiverfull' belief system.... The women in such communities live within a stringently enforced doctrine of wifely submission and male 'headship,' including a selfless acceptance of possibly constant pregnancies and as many children under foot as God might bring. They reject not only 'reproductive rights' of any kind, but also higher education and workforce participation for women."

I will probably be reading Joyce's book at some point. In the interview Joyce alludes that this movement is closely related to the anti-choice movement. Attacking women's rights and effectually saying that women's highest (and only) purpose in life is to be a wife and mother is a key component of taking away the right that women have to control their bodies and fertility.

The appeal of a literal Patriarchy Movement to men is obvious. I have less trouble understanding how it appeals to women. Sure, I see how there could be a certain security in having one's role in life already ascertained and a real comfort in not having to hold a job in the public sphere. In a way, perhaps some of these women are trading ambition and options for security.

2. Gay Marriage Won't Hurt Kids

Opponents of marriage equality like to argue that, due to the so very speshul "complementarity" of men and women, all Kids Need a Mommy and a Daddy. The Vermont Psychological Association, the Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Association of Mental Health Counselors, and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers disagree and are supporting Vermont's pending marriage equality bill:

"Opponents have argued that gay marriage is detrimental to children. But mental health experts say studies show that's not true and that opponents are instead misrepresenting studies about divorced parents."

I have written about this problem before. When "marriage defenders" actually cite studies, you will notice that the studies they cite are usually comparing the children of married heterosexual parent to those of unmarried heterosexual parents or to single mothers. And furthermore:

"On the specific questions of (a) whether the children of gay parents are less well adjusted than the children of heterosexuals, and (b) whether their parents are less fit, we actually know quite a lot, especially about families headed by lesbians. The research to date has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents, and their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents."

One of the key hindrances in discussing this issue is that "marriage defenders" hold "common sense" beliefs about what the world is like. In their minds, of course all children need a mother and a father in order to grow up healthily and of course children raised by perverted sexual deviants would turn out worse than those raised in Real Families. They then mistake their common-sense beliefs for universal truth. In the reality-based world, though, there is a key distinction between "common sense beliefs" versus observable phenomena.

3. Arbitrary Gender Rules

I was wondering the other day... what is it about clothes, in and of themselves, that make them "feminine" and "masculine." Why are dresses, for instance, Woman Things? And why are things like tuxedos and ties, Man Things? Deep thoughts, I know. But it just seems so arbitrary, especially when some people get really upset when others break these codes. Why do some people insist that we must clearly, at all times, distinguish between Male and Female?

Check out this article, which I first saw over at G-A-Y, in which a school principle has refused to allow a girl to wear pants to her prom. Apparently, the school has "a special dress code for prom that requires female students to wear a formal dress."

Another item of note, the girl is a lesbian. It sort of makes one wonder if the dress code is a pretext for ensuring that only the "right sorts of kids" attend prom. In any event, the girl claims that wearing pants is part of her "sexual identity." I think it's more accurate to say it's an issue of gender identity. Many lesbians, after all, like to wear dresses. The issue is that the school won't let her wear a dress because she's a girl, not because she's a lesbian. I wish the journalist would have pointed out that inaccuracy in the article. Had this newspaper noted the inaccuracy, and the irrelevancy of the girl's sexual orientation to this case, perhaps they would have chosen a less sensational headline.

In any event, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the girl. I think one of the strongest argument is based in an equal protection analysis. The school clearly prohibits girls from doing that which they allow boys, and it does so for no good reason.

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