Friday, May 15, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. WoMeN BeHaViNg BaDlY!

In news of the obvious, The New York Times has recently reported that women, in fact, can be workplace bullies just like men. In less ExCiTiNg news, the study also found that men are, actually, more likely to be be bullies.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that bullying isn't about X type of people being inherently bad types of people. Rather, bullying is about power. People who are bullies also usually have some sort of power or advantage over the person being bullied. If bullies didn't have this power, the bullying would not be possible. Let's keep this in mind for the ShOcKiNg conclusions of the New York Times piece:

"And at least the male bullies take an egalitarian approach, mowing down men and women pretty much in equal measure. The women appear to prefer their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70 percent of the time."

I can't tell if the author is being sarcastic when applauding male bullies for being so "egalitarian," but I think this author is missing the obvious here: power dynamics in the workplace. The article goes on to note that:

"After five decades of striving for equality, women make up more than 50 percent of management, professional and related occupations, says Catalyst, the nonprofit research group. And yet, its 2008 census found, only 15.7 percent of Fortune 500 officers and 15.2 percent of directors were women."

Unfortunately, the author concludes that this female-on-female bullying is something that somehow "shakes the women’s movement to its core." (Isn't it funny how feminism "dies" practically every single day?!) In reality, it's apparent that women are more apt to bully other women in the workplace because there are more women than men working in positions subordinate to them. Men tend to be equal-opportunity bullies because men tend to be at the top more often than women and thus more likely to have both men and women underneath them.

2. Marriage Matters

Writing for, Ann Woolner expresses her thoughts on marriage:

"Now that I’m married, I see more clearly why so many people want into this thing so badly. Before last year, I thought my guy and I were just about as coupled as two people could get. We’d seen each other through hardships, taken part in each other’s family events and shared deep joys and pure fun.

Now I know that marriage is different from non-marriage. People who used to be puzzled by us understand our relationship and honor it. The state does, the law does, physicians do. I was surprised how joyfully friends and mere acquaintances reacted to the news of our marriage."

Woolner does a good job at getting to the core reason that so many same-sex couples seek the right to civilly marry their partners. While some of those who oppose marriage equality cruelly command same-sex couples to "Stop obsessing so much about what other people think of your relationships," Woolner compassionately observes that seeking acceptance and recognition is a fundamental human desire.

Love, after all, is a good thing. And, when any human being is able to find another person to deeply love, in the midst of so much hatred and suffering, it is something that we want our families, our society, and our legal system to recognize. The legal recognition of civil marriage is not about the ability to procreate, it is about recognizing the commitment that two people make to share resources and take responsibility for each other and for their children. It is about recognizing that that, when it comes to those aims, anatomy is irrelevant.

Woolner continues, of same-sex couples:

"I figure people dedicated to marriage with a certainty I only recently felt surely would elevate the institution, not diminish it. I say, come on in."

If anyone can make marriage sexy, relevant, and cool again, it's gay people, not the National Organization for [Opposite] Marriage and it's plethora of ridiculous anti-equality Ad Fails.

3. Raising the Discourse

For an interesting, adult, and civil discussion regarding same-sex marriage and religious liberty check out Dale Carpenter and Douglas Laycock's conversation over at legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy. Those who make their professional livings by "defending marriage" often argue that same-sex marriage will cause Great Harm to marriage, religious freedom, society, and/or children. In an interesting snippet, Carpenter observes:

"Like much of the rest of the debate over the effects of gay marriage, the question whether SSM threatens religious liberty – either by itself or in combination with various state antidiscrimination laws – is no longer a wholly theoretical one. We have now had full gay marriage in Massachusetts for five years. We have had gay marriage or the legal equivalent of it in Vermont since 2000, in California since 2005, in Connecticut since 2005, in New Jersey since 2006, in New Hampshire since early 2008, and in Oregon since early 2008. (Other states have formally recognized same-sex relationships, while granting a much more limited set of rights: Washington (2007), Maine (2004), Hawaii (1997), Maryland (2008), and D.C. (1992).) I leave out Iowa (2009) and Colorado (2009), where recognition is still fresh.

Just counting the pre-2009 SSM and civil-union states, covering about one-fifth of the U.S. population, that’s a combined 27 years’ worth of experience fully recognizing gay these seven states, tens of thousands of gay couples have been married, civilly unionized, or domestically partnered over the past decade....

The opportunity has certainly been there for massive legal conflict. Yet the legal conflicts between gay couples and religious objectors – all under pre-existing anti-discrimination laws – have been very few. I can find no reported decisions, for example, where a small landlord refused to rent to an unmarried gay couple, much less a married one.

And the number of these conflicts in which the state’s formal legal recognition of the gay couple determined the outcome is . . . zero. The number of cases in which the existence of a gay marriage or civil union defeated an otherwise meritorious religious-freedom claim is . . . zero. The number of cases in which the absence of a gay marriage (or civil union) relieved the religious objector of a non-discrimination obligation is . . . zero."

I can understand people having a general fear of the unknown. But I also think that people who hold genuine fears regarding how same-sex marriage might interfere with religious liberty should take note that these fears have been unfounded in states recognizing same-sex unions.

Anyway, however one feels about marriage, the two professors demonstrate what real conversations about LGBT rights should look like, as opposed to the manufactured "debates" about how homosexuality is just like having sex with amputated limbs.

I think it's valid to question whether we should continue taking groups and bloggers seriously who so frequently lower the level of discourse.

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