Friday, October 30, 2009

More Important Things Than Rape: Health Insurance Edition

Yesterday, we saw how money is one of they many things that are More Important than rape. Today, let's continue that theme.

Via the Huffington Post, we have learned that health insurance companies are refusing to insure women (and presumably men, although none have come forward in this particular article) whom men have sexually assaulted. For some background, those who have been sexually assaulted will sometimes take HIV medications for a month in order to prevent HIV infection. Sometimes, they will seek counseling for post traumatic stress disorder as a result of sexual assault.

In an ideal world, we would have a health care system whose primary purpose was to keep people healthy. Of course, we do not live in that world. In the US, we have a health care system, but as many experience everyday, it is a system for doing something else. It is a system in which health insurance companies, seeking to minimize risk rather than maximize public health, have been denying coverage to those whose medical records show that they have used HIV medications and/or mental health treatment in the past, even if those people are not actually infected with HIV. While these companies may intend no discrimination targeted at sexual assault victims or, say, healthcare workers who have been pricked with needles, their policies certainly have a discriminatory impact on such people.

From the Huffington Post, we read one woman's account:

"Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free....

Some women have contacted the Investigative Fund to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted."

Now, I understand that health insurance companies are running a business and, as such, they seek to minimize risk. Yet, in addition to the basic unfairness of denying coverage to someone who obtained a "pre-existing condition" via rape, the chances of someone contracting HIV after sexual assault has been estimated to be about 0.46%. The chances are even lower if a person takes HIV antiretroviral medication (called "Post-Exposure Prophylaxis") within 36 hours of the assault.

I further understand that, if people are denied coverage, they are "free" to purchase their own medical care. Yet, I also understand that that's not a realistic option for many (most?) people.

Acknowledging these realities, I was genuinely infuriated reading through some of the others accounts in the article juxtaposed with statements from insurance representatives who smugly declared that discrimination wasn't going on and that that people denied coverage could just buy the care they needed on their own. That sort of out-of-touch covering of a company's ass, makes one imagine, in vivid detail, that special place in Tartarus reserved for health insurance bureaucrats.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have insurance, isn't it strange to know that our insurers are happiest and most successful when we aren't utilizing services and when they can deny our claims? I wonder, in a society where money is More Important than helping people deal with trauma and preventing HIV, is anyone truly surprised that some rape victims must weight the benefits of taking HIV medications against the cost of possibly becoming "too risky" to insure?

When will we decide that the health of human beings is a More Important Thing than the health of insurance companies?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Franken Amendment and More Important Things Than Rape, Again

(Trigger warning- this post contains descriptions of sexual assault)

Many things, we learn all the time, are more important than a man raping a woman, girl, man, or boy. Just a few of these things are sports careers, movies, and the Catholic Church's literal patriarchy. A man putting his dick in whomever he wishes, apparently just isn't that big of deal compared to things that are, actually, Big Deals.

Perhaps the biggest of these Big Deals that is definitely more important than rape is money. Specifically, a non-human corporation's gathering of it. Let's explore that today and tomorrow.

Previously, I wrote about Al Franken's no-brainer amendment that would prevent federal defense contracts from going to companies that require their employees to sign away their right to sue with respect to employment discrimination claims "or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."

This amendment stems from a case in which a group of defense contractors allegedly gang-raped a fellow employee, who was then locked in a cell and prohibited from contacting anyone (the account and more background information can be read here). Because of the fine print in her employment contract, which mandated that any disputes be settled by private arbitration, KBR (her employer) argued that she was not able to bring a civil lawsuit. Consequently, a little over a month ago, and after three years of litigation, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has held that she can bring a civil lawsuit since the alleged gang rape was not related to her employment and thus outside the scope of the contract's arbitration clause.

The Department of Justice has not pursued criminal charges against the men or KBR. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), who assisted with the State Department's rescue of Jones, has said:

"We have asked soon after this event occurred, to find out what became of the six or seven perpetrators, who they were, and what the investigation was. And we haven‘t received any response at all."

Now, many people have expressed disgust with respect to the fact that 30 Republican men voted against Franken's amendment (the 4 Republican ladies voted for it), noing that it takes a really messed up set of priorities to side with non-human defense contracting companies over rape victims. Nonetheless, despite Republican opposition, the Senate passed the amendment.

However, Senator Dan Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, is considering removing or altering the amendment after having been lobbied by defense contractors. According to a source speaking to the Huffington Post:

"Inouye either will get the amendment taken out altogether, or water it down significantly. If they water it down, they will take out the Title VII claims. This means that in discrimination cases, they will still force you into a secret forced arbitration on KBR's (or other contractors') own terms -- with your chances of prevailing practically zero. The House seems to be very supportive of the original Franken amendment and all in line, but their hands are tied since it originated in the Senate. And since Inouye runs the show on this bill, he can easily take it out to get Republicans and the defense contractors off his back, which looks increasingly likely."

Understandably, the defense contractors expressed fear that the "Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and at constant risk of having contracts dry up." Yes, that certainly may be true. Yet I wonder if these corporations forget that the federal government puts restrictions on the money it doles out all the time. A corporation can freely contract with its employees to its non-beating heart's extent. However, if it wants federal money, it has to adhere to certain conditions. That is, it has to play by the rules and not demand that its employees give up their legal rights.

So yep, I am okay with the risk that this amendment poses to companies. They aren't real people, after all, even though we sometimes pretend they are in the legal world. In fact, I'd say that the ability to bring rapists to justice is infinitely More Important than leaving a company "overly exposed" to lawsuits.

Isn't the point to give everyone their day in court? What are these companies really afraid of?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review- Y: The Last Man, Volume 2: Cycles

For those of you who read my review of Y: The Last Man, Volume 1, you may remember that I was quite critical. I found that Volume 1 of the series, which is about life on Earth after a mystery plague has killed every living thing with a Y chromosome with the exception of one man and his boy monkey, depicted women in problematic ways.

Volume 2, however, gets a bit better. In it, the protagonist Yorick comes across an apparent utopian society of ladies in the middle of Ohio. I immediately liked these ladies as they come in stark contrast to many of the other ones who seem to fall into the categories of (a) cartoonish man-hating extremists or (b) women who have lost all sense of self-worth in a man-less world.

Not only do these Ohio ladies get to wear normal person clothes like how men get to (this can be rare in comic books), they come in all different shapes, ages, races, sizes, and sexual orientations! Rather than putting pistols to their heads and running amok in utter panic because all the men have died, these women have created a small self-sufficient society of their own. One of my particular favorites is a character called Lydia, a crotchety, gray-haired woman who snidely responds to Yorick's utter surprise to have stumbled upon a functioning little city full of women thusly:

"Hard to believe that helpless little women can get by without your kind, eh?" (page 44).

Lydia then explains how, during World War II, women were the workforce while men were overseas. Demonstrating the artifice of gender roles, women during this time showed that they were quite capable of competently working in male-dominated fields whereas, before the war, a woman's "natural" occupation was considered to be homemaker. Once men returned from war, however, these Rosie the Riveters were expected to go back into the home or back into traditional lady jobs like clerical work.

What Lydia doesn't explain, but what Yorick later finds out, is that the ladies in this idyllic Ohio town have a little secret that explains their success. Namely, they have all escaped from a nearby women's prison, which (supposedly) explains how this relatively well-functioning community exists. While I have my doubts as to the adequacy of that explanation, I do think the metaphor is apt.

In a world in which both men and women exist, but in which men are defined as the default human, women are often defined in relation to men. Whatever men are, women are sometimes thought of as "not that" or "opposite of that." Because of the inherent nature and capacities of men and women, each sex has its own sphere of operation in life. This is what many feminists mean when referring to the "prison" of gender roles.

In a world with no men, however, women become the human norm. Being defined on their own terms, as opposed to in relation to men, they have "escaped" woman-hood and the pre-ordained gender role that being a woman demands. Thus, we find the escaped "convicts" in Ohio existing, as people. And, they're doing it better than the women who continue to define themselves in relation to the loss of men- the Amazons and those who find no inherent value in themselves without men around.

That is my interpretation of the convict town and, in my opinion, somewhat redeems the travesty that is Volume 1.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Italian Prime Minister Objectifies His Vagina-Human Rival

Italian women are not at all happy about remarks Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made to a female rival, Rosy Bindi. Specifically:

"Berlusconi told the matronly, bespectacled leftist Rosy Bindi that she was 'more beautiful than intelligent' in a swipe at both her looks and brains."

Now, I am going to precede my comments below by noting that nothing is "wrong" about being unattractive or overweight. Unfortunately, those who value women primarily for their looks put us in the position of having to make it explicit that these characteristics say nothing about a person's intelligence or character. And, that they certainly aren't relevant to a political debate. I know it is some sort of "self-evident truth" among anti-feminist men that only ugly women would be feminists, but really, I think such men just don't know how not to conceive of a world in which they are not in the center. Such men are, sadly, incapable of understanding that women become feminists, not because it has to with being able or unable to snag a man, but because they value their own lives, bodies, and autonomy in the same way that men value their lives, bodies, and autonomy.

So, that being said, it should be noted that, as another Senator said, Berlusconi himself is "no George Clooney." His case of a pot calling the kettle black is relevant as, whenever a particularly not-good-looking man criticizes a woman's looks within a political conversation, it suggests that the critic has that fun male-centric worldview in which women are objects and men are subjects in the world. Whereas, in a world in which the heterosexual male is in the center, a woman is to be judged on her appeal to his gaze; meanwhile, a man is to be judged on more substantive factors like his intelligence, competence, and wit. Whereas he, a man, would not expect his own looks to be mentioned in a political debate, he nonetheless finds it relevant to bring up a woman's looks and offer his own qualitative, unsolicited opinion of them.

Indeed, he has a history of "womanizing and sex scandals," of referring "to women in aesthetic terms," and of saying that women are "God's most beautiful gift to men."

In other words (Jimmy Dugan's specifically), "Girls are what you sleep with after the game, not what you coach during the game."

Women are not to be taken seriously in the public sphere because what is most important about ladies is whether or not a man considers them attractive.

We see this attitude often, especially among the likes of, himself-no-George-Clooney, Rush Limbaugh and his mental masturbators who cite his oh so hilarious "feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream" quote. Rather than addressing the arguments of a woman who does not happen to agree with them, these men instead dismiss her based on her looks, whether she's "ugly" or not.

These jabs are an attempt to keep women in their rightful place as objects for the male gaze rather than as Important Actors in the world like how men are. It suggests a threatened sense of masculinity where if women succeed, then men necessarily fail and where if women are truly equal, then masculinity doesn't mean as much as it used to back in the good old days.

My quibble with the article I linked to above? Note the title:

"Berlusconi sparks feminist backlash in Italy"

Why is this framed as a "feminist" issue? For that matter, why is virtually every issue that pertains to the status of women framed as a "feminist" one?

Aren't some issues ones that all decent people can rally around?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time Magazine Proves That Sexism Has Been Solved!

It was with much glee that I opened the October 26, 2009 issue of Time magazine. It promised to deliver a Special Report on "The State of the American Woman." Prime blogging fodder, right?

It did not disappoint. Upon opening the magazine, Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel straight away informs us that their "Time/Rockefeller Foundation poll shows that women have become dominant in our society" (page 6). (All subsequent quotes and statistics from Time article, unless otherwise noted).

As a Vagina-American myself, I was quite eager to see this quantitative proof that sexism is over and that we now live in a matriarchy. Turning to the Special Lady Report, complete with pink charts and graphs of course, I was treated to the results of the alluded to poll of 3,413 American adults. Indeed, I saw, women have come a long way baby since Time last reported on the status of women back in 1972.

Back then, for instance, women only made 58 cents for every dollar a man earned whereas now we earn 77 cents for every dollar a dude earns. Now, 57% of college students are women, while in 1972 43% were. Now, 38% of TV news correspondents are women compared to 5% back in '72. And, now we have 2 female Supreme Court justices, 6 female governors, and 7 female Cabinet members compared to 0 in 1972.

The statistics continued on like that. And, well, unless my lady brain was missing something, most of the statistics didn't actually demonstrate that ladies are now "dominant" in society. While it is undeniable that women have made measurable progress in society since 1972, it is absolutely bizarre that Time and Mr. Stengel would frame the progress that women have made as though the "battle of sexes" is over, feminism is irrelevant, and that full equality has been achieved.

While it is true that 57% of college students are now women, many of the statistics that Time presents as well as the fact that so few women are in leadership positions in the public sphere, underscores how erroneous Mr. Stengel's conclusion is regarding the "dominance" of women in society today. Let's remember that women comprise roughly half of the American population and, therefore, statistics showing that they comprise less than half of any given profession utterly fail to prove women's "dominance." In fact, they sort of prove the opposite of that.

For instance, even though women comprise about half of law school classrooms, women comprise 22% of the Supreme Court. In its history, only 3 out of 101 justices on that court have been women. 17 out of 100 US Senators are women and 74 out of 435 US Representatives are women. 6 US governors out of 50, as Time mentions, are women. Still, while one woman has come close, no woman has ever been President of the US. While many women are responsible for purchasing decisions in their own private homes, only 12 Fortune 500 companies are run by women.

Time's Managing Editor doesn't give his readers very much credit by concluding that women are now "dominant" in society as anyone who actually looks at the statistics would be hardpressed to draw the same conclusion. That's why I wonder if Mr. Stengel's comments speak more about the State of the American Man and, specifically, his possible angst with respect to women's progress. Although women have not actually achieved full political equality, does Joe Everyman instead misinterpret the progress that women have made as Woman's Dominance of Society? Are people just sick of listening to feminists complain about shit and so they hope that if they tell people over and over again that women are now equal (or dominant) that feminism will end?

It always makes me chuckle a little when men tell women that we are already equal in society. As men, they may believe themselves to be neutral and objective, but they really don't have the lived experience to be able to make that call, do they? I always wonder why, in light of the objective evidence that says otherwise, some men nonetheless insist that Sexism Has Been Solved and Society Has Been Feminized! Are they so scared of equality that they try to convince women that their battles are over?

Articles such as Time's, relegating women's concerns to "special" issues as though every other issue is devoted to men and More Important Things, are not often done well by mainstream magazines. Rarely do they go beyond a surface level and sometimes, as we have seen here, they even make claims that counter the statistical evidence they themselves present.

For instance, upon reading this article, I'm sure I wasn't the only one left wondering, if women are going to college in greater numbers than men, then why do they lag behind men in leadership positions in the public arena? Are they opting out of careers to raise children, is sexism at play, and/or is something else going on? And, while Time ominously claims that women are "more powerful- but less happy," they fail to explore that in any detail, letting readers assume that women's increased power has led to their greater unhappiness.

The two biggest failings I see in Time's "Special Report" are that (a) its conclusions contradict its own evidence, and (b) it emanates a subtext that tries to convince women they are already equal and will become even more unhappy if they become any more "equal."

For another take on things, I recommend checking out Barbara Ehrenreich's recent smackdown of the jubiliant anti-feminist "I told you so" in response to studies "showing" that women are more unhappy with their improved status in society.

To end, it would have been interesting had Time chosen to include American women with same-sex partners in their report on American women. As two ladies live in my household, I don't find the "battle of the sexes" and the resulting "constant negotiation" of role expectations to be all that relevant to my experience at home. (Two ladies in the house means lots of housework gets done, total bonus!) It could have been telling to see how women in same-sex couples fared with respect to happiness, success, and division of labor compared to women who lived with male partners. The failure to even consider or include women in same-sex relationships left me wondering the answer to the question that Time raises but fails to answer.

What, if any, is the state of the American woman as defined on her own terms, and not by her relation to men?

Friday, October 23, 2009

WWII Vet on Same-Sex Marriage

Maybe I'm a sap, but this video of an 86-year-old World War II vet who supports same-sex marriage brought tears to my eyes.

We already know that many of those who oppose same-sex marriage, and even those who are neutral on the topic, are not persuaded by images of LGBT families pleading for equal rights. To many, we are too different. Believing us to be caricatures rather than human beings like themselves, we are seen as too different to garner sympathy. Accordingly, I would not discount the value a self-identified Republican, white, male veteran who happens to have a gay son and who also embodies the extreme Right's ideal of the Real American standing up for us.

To him, I say thank you sir, for using your authoritative voice for the benefit of people like me.

In an America where haters and intolerants have co-opted what it means to be a Real American, it is not often that LGBT citizens are made to feel that we too are part of the America that is worth fighting for. So thank you, also, for that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Historical Revisionist Fun With "Marriage Defenders"- Women's Suffrage Edition

Previously, we've seen internet "marriage defender" On Lawn claim that same-sex marriage is just like racial segregation because both are, apparently, a "pollution of equality." Here and here, I demonstrated that, actually, same-sex marriage is nothing at all like racial segregation and, in fact, it is On Lawn's "defense of marriage" that is the perpetrator of inequality.

Instead of responding to my arguments or addressing the noted flaws in his own, On Lawn has chosen to extend the absurdity further by making even more unsupported conclusions that supposedly prove that sex/gender integration in marriage "brings equality." (Don't be confused, even though he titles his post "Marriage brings equality," within the article he changes his mind, saying "My premise is not that marriage itself brings equality.")

Now, On Lawn, being a Man Who Knows Things, does not always feel compelled to support his claims with evidence, research, or links. Perhaps he expects folks to just take his word on stuff, relying on the weight of his Authoritative Male Voice. True to form, he has created his own version of history and is now claiming that, in the case of women's suffrage, it was the magical integration of the man-woman marriage that acted as the main "conduit to gain" the power to vote.

In his own words:

"For woman's suffrage, it was a bloodless revolution. I do not know of another case in history where power was shared so voluntarily as the husbands shared voting power with women. If women had a better conduit to gain that power then [sic] their marriage, you tell me what that was.

My premise is not that marriage itself brings equality. Its not just a name or title or the fact there are two people heading a household. My premise is that integration brings equality, in this case the integration of two distinctly different types of people -- men and women. However superficial and deep the distinctions are between them, they are obvious." (emphasis added)

Seneca Falls, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, marches and parades that sometimes turned violent when angry male mobs "jeered, tripped, grabbed, and shoved" the marching women? All relatively meaningless. What women really needed to do to get the right to vote was marry men. (Oh, erm, let's just set aside the fact that many leaders of the women's suffrage movement were lesbians). It wasn't the tireless efforts of female and male suffragists that led to voting equality, it was marriage. Why? Because On Lawn says so, that's why.

Now, before addressing On Lawn's claim about the history of women's suffrage, let's notice that highlighted last sentence of his second paragraph where he claims that the distinctions between men and women are "obvious." While the anatomical and physiological differences between men and women are (often, but not always) "obvious," the psychological, temperamental, and spiritual distinctions are hardly so. In On Lawn's statement, we see a clear argumentum ad gastrum- an argument from the gut. Perhaps because the "superficial and deep" distinctions between men and women are "obvious" to On Lawn, he claims that these distinctions are "obvious" as though that is some sort of universal truth observable in reality.

However, like most gender complementarists, he doesn't actually describe these distinctions. And really, I wonder why he doesn't. If these distinctions are so very "obvious," one would have no trouble actually listing them out, would one? Therein, you see, lies the greatest failing of On Lawn's entire ideology. He, and other adherents of gender complementarity, take it as some sort of commonsensical self-evident truth that Men And Women Are Very Very Different From One Another. And thus these folks rarely, if ever, feel the need to actually iterate these differences.

Meanwhile, the rest of us sit here, unconvinced, shaking our heads as to why people believe shit that they can't even explain.

So, moving along to On Lawn's main contention, those having a familiarity with the history of women's suffrage will find it highly ironic that a gender complementarist is claiming that women won the vote because of marriage. See, back in the Good 'Ole Days when women couldn't vote, the "antis" used to say things about ladies that sound quite similar to what gender complementarists sometimes say about ladies. In fact, the overarching anti theme was that Men and Women Were Very Very Different From One Another and specifically, women- unlike men- just weren't cut out for haaaard things like voting.

Observe, the antis in action:

"[Women's] delicate emotional equilibrium could easily upset by a strain-like voting."

"Once a woman arrived [at the poll] she would have to mingle, among the crowds of men who gather around the polls...and to press her way through them to the ballot box. Assuming she reached the polling place, she might get caught in a brawl and given women's natural fragility, she would be the one to get hurt."

"Women in politics would mean corruption and irrationality."

"The question to be simply this: Is it desirable to have women become masculine, instead of retaining the characteristics of her own sex?"

In these arguments we see two familiar sentiments. One, granting equal rights to a certain group of people would utterly destroy society and two, women were inherently much different and less-than men. That the "marriage defense" movement, consequently, echoes both of these sentiments underscores the absurdity of On Lawn's historical revisionism.

It is notable that our internet "marriage defense" friend presents no evidence that it was the integration of the sexes within marriage that led to women's suffrage. It is further notable that he merely notes a phenomenon, that marriage existed, and then notes an "effect," that women's suffrage "then" occurred. If my delicate lady brain wanted to show off, and I find that it does, it would note that On Lawn has committed a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: Integration of the sexes existed in marriage, then women won the right to vote; therefore integration of the sexes in marriage caused women to win the right to vote.

Which, of course, begs a very important question.

If it is a given that the oh-so-valuable integration of the sexes within marriage has existed throughout pretty much all of human history (as "marriage defenders" so often tell us), isn't the fact that it took thousands of years for women to achieve equal rights with men indeed an incredibly sorry testament to the institution's capacity to cause sex equality in the larger society?

Which then leads to more questions, like...

Given that integration of the sexes within marriage exists in, say, Saudia Arabia, why don't women there have the right to vote if marriage is the single greatest catalyst of women's equality? If the sex integration that is inherent in man-woman marriage indeed fosters so much "love and tolerance" between men and women, as On Lawn claims, why have women required multiple activist movements in order to convince men that they deserve equal rights? If sex integration in marriage led to equality, why did this magical property only affect some men and not the many other husbands who opposed (and still oppose) women's suffrage? Why did so many men historically use marriage, not to advance the status of women in society, but to keep them subordinated?

These are some more ginormous elephants shitting in marriage's room, aren't they?

Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging the crappy smell, On Lawn has conjured up a fantastical version of history in which the mere fact of men and women uniting together in a sacred marital bond magically convinced loving husbands to cede power and allow their ladies to vote.

One wonders why On Lawn doesn't more seriously question whether it was some other factor(s), rather than marriage, that was the real impetus for social change. My guess is that to contemplate other factors that led to women's suffrage would force him to re-think a host of other issues, and that could be very scary.

Interestingly, however, this article purports the exact opposite of On Lawn's claim that sex integration caused women's suffrage. As a brief overview, before the 19th Amendment, women won the right to vote in a state-by-state pattern (somewhat similar to how marriage equality is being won today). Before World War I, women's suffrage was mainly confined to Western states like Wyoming and Utah. Specifically, the economists who authored this article noted that "high sex ratio jurisdictions" where women were scarce compared to men, enfranchised women much earlier than in "jurisdictions in which the sex ratio was more balanced." That is, to use On Lawn-speak, women were more likely to have equal voting rights in jurisdictions that had less sex/gender integration than in jurisdictions where the ratio of men and women was more even.

The explanation for this? Acknowledging that it "was always men, that is male electorates and male state legislators, that granted women access to the ballot," the authors noted that any explanation as to why men did so must necessarily consider the incentives and risks to men in doing so. Whereas On Lawn claims (without providing evidence) that the integration of the sexes led to women's suffrage, the authors of the study concluded:

"[W]ith women being a scarcity, the net benefit of adopting woman suffrage carried lower potential costs to men in terms of risks and devaluation of their political influence; and for legislators in the West, woman suffrage had the added benefit of potentially attracting female settlers."

That is, in states where fewer women existed, men were less politically threatened by the prospect of female voters than in other states. Thus, men were more likely to support women's suffrage when fewer women were around.

Shorter me: Integration FAIL.

All this being said, I do think that marriage could have made some (or even many) men sympathetic to the cause of women's suffrage. If a husband wasn't an asswipe, he would accept the person he vowed to share his life with as his equal. Yet, in the same vein, the importance of other, non-marital, familial relationships between men and women cannot be denied. Men, in addition to sometimes having wives, also have sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, and other loved ones whom they have important relationships with. So, rather than it being some sort of speshul marriage-induced integration of the sexes which caused women's suffrage, we cannot discount the role that these other relationships played in making men sympathetic to the cause. In fact, the legislator who cast the deciding vote for the 19th Amendment was said to have done so at his mother's urging.

So, it is too bad that On Lawn chose not to provide evidence supporting his claim. In the absence of evidence, his argument that it was the marital relationship that was the single most important factor that led to women's suffrage is entirely unconvincing. Indeed, the antis often cited marriage as one of their many reasons as to why women did not require the vote, arguing that it was unnecessary because women would either duplicate or annul the votes of their (more politically important) husbands (PDF). In that way, marriage actually hindered equality.

To end here, addressing On Lawn's claim is of import only because he demonstrates a tendency "marriage defenders" have of creating these fictional narratives that present marriage as some sort of magical, fantastical entity that births nothing but rainbows, unicorns, and perfect happiness (oh yes, and children too). The undertone is always that marriage is something that same-sex couples absolutely cannot tamper with for some reason or another (the ripping apart the Fabric of Society is often mentioned). Yet, when faux-feminist "marriage defense" doods revise the history of a very important women's rights struggle to support an anti-gay agenda, they take their usual boring run-of-the-mill argumentation to an even more abhorrent level.

Interestingly, lurking in On Lawn's argument, I see a malignant, perhaps unintended, message he is making about men. Namely, that men are incapable of recognizing and supporting the equality of women unless they are married to one.

I wonder if that says more about one man than it does about all of them, as a class.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Required Reading For Public Transportation Patrons?

I found this post, a handy-dandy "guy's guide for approaching strange women without getting maced" to be informative, true, and amusing. To her gentleman readers, Phaedra Starling writes:

"Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

'But wait! I don’t want that, either!'

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?"

It's worth a read, even though perhaps those most in need of reading it will never see it.

2. Roman Polanski Update

A Swiss court has refused to release Roman Polanski on bail, deeming him to be a "high" flight risk. Hmm, ya think?

3. Tradition is Tradition (for the most part, anyway)

Seizing on a golden opportunity to recruit, the Vatican has announced that it will be making it easier for Anglicans to convert, "reaching out to those who are disaffected by the election of female and gay bishops." From the Wall Street Journal:

"The new canonical structure is a response to the many requests that have come to the Vatican over the years from Anglicans who want to come back, increasingly disillusioned with the progressive bent of the Anglican Communion. Many have already left and consider themselves Catholic but have not found an official home in the 1.1-billion strong Catholic Church.

By welcoming them possibly at the expense of good relations with the Anglican Communion, Pope Benedict has confirmed the increasingly conservative bent of his church. The decision follows his recent move to rehabilitate four excommunicated ultra-conservative bishops, including one who denied the full extent of the Holocaust, in a bid to bring their faithful back under the Vatican's wing."

The Vatican will also allow married (male, of course) Anglican priests to become ordained Catholic priests.

Isn't it fun that the Vatican can bend or create special rules for some groups of people but adamantly refuse to reconsider rules with respect to others?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review- Y: The Last Man, Vol 1: Unmanned

I first came across the graphic novel series Y: The Last Man when I was searching for the latest Buffy Season 7 comic.

Yep, I read comics.

I first started reading them when I was much younger. Even back then, I had this vague uneasiness about it all, as most of the comics I read, and even knew of, were about male heroes, female victims, and were obviously targeted toward boys. Eventually, I grew out of my comic book phase during high school, when I was Obviously Much Too Cool for such things. Only recently have I gotten back into the habit a couple of years ago after watching the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. After the end of Season 6, the canon continued via comic book.

And alas, here I am, reviewing a comic book, oh- excuse me- a graphic novel, on my blog. While I have already read most of the volumes of Y: The Last Man, I will review them one by one without including spoilers contained within subsequent volumes.

The premise of Y: The Last Man is simple. In 2002, a plague destroyed every living thing containing a Y chromosome with the exception of of one guy and his monkey. So, Volume 1 finds us observing, 29 minutes before the big plague, the life of the one dude who's going to be left on Earth. And when you think about it, isn't it, like, so very revolutionary for a comic book to be about a man, even if he's the only man in the entire world?!

Oh, I should probably mention that some people might find this review Not Fun, especially in light of the "critical acclaim" this graphic novel has received and the buttloads of amazing reviews that doods have given the series on

Moving on then, to summarize, this mysterious man-killing plague-thingy instantaneously kills every male thing on the planet. Airplanes literally fall from the sky, cars stop on the highway, and females watch on in horror as their male friends and loved ones die right in front of them.

Now, putting aside the fact that watching masses of humans die would be incredibly traumatic, can we go back to the cars-stopping-on-the-highway bit for a moment? You see, the cars that had ostensibly been driven by men remained sitting on the highway a month later, effectively blocking ladies from being able to drive on highways! Why, it is as though, when all the men died, women completely forgot how to drive those mechanical vehicular contraptions that stubbornly blocked their paths. Women simply could not figure out how to move all of those cars!

A bit later, however, we learn that this problematic highway cloggage served an important purpose: the necessity for the protagonist to find a bitchin' motorcycle to weave through the chaos. Cowabunga!

I know it's silly, the idea that women would just let cars sit on the highway for months on end and not think to move them or anything. But that, in a nutshell, is Volume 1. Not only is the protagonist male; it is clear that the author of Y is also a male (Brian Vaughan, is his name). It is not (yet anyway) a serious exploration of a world without men. It is one man's exploration of what he thinks the world would look like without men. Which is fine. But, I think Volume 1's greatest failings lie in the stereotypes and ego porn that it feeds its male audience which, for me personally, don't quite let me forget that a dood wrote it.

The knobjectivity continues on page 41. There, we meet a woman who is collecting dead male bodies to take to a crematorium. She, driving a big dump truck, has apparently figured out how to drive (but just barely, as she complains about how haaaard it is to steer a big ol' truck). The male protagonist, who is named Yorick by the way, encounters this woman. He listens as she complains about how she used to have a modeling contract and that she paid loads of money for a boob job. But, now that all the men are gone, her "tits" are pretty much useless and she is nothing but a "goddamn garbage girl."

Is that what men imagine women think of themselves? That women find no inherent value in their bodies or selves if no men are around to appreciate them? Is that like the ultimate male fantasy- for women to feel completely worthless in a world with no men? Indeed, one of the very first images Y gives us is a woman holding a revolver to her head saying "All of the men are dead" (4), as though her life has no purpose, no meaning, in a world without men.

Or, to be more pessimisstic, is Ms. Whatshernam Tit Model a projection of what men (or one man, anyway) thinks of women? That, if a woman doesn't have big tits and a pretty face to please men with, she's nothing more than a "goddamn garbage girl"?

In any event, the woman tells Yorick that she used to have a "tranny" boyfriend who was murdered. Aside from wondering why someone would flippantly refer to one's deceased boyfriend as a "tranny," I realized that this was the smooth segue into talking about.... ThE AmAzOnS! Many possible villains in this particular graphic novel exist, yet the most cartoonish and mustache-twirly are the anti-male extremists oh-so-creatively titled the Daughters of the Amazons.

Wait...wait just a minute... say, is "Amazon" a code word for something that starts with an "f."

Now, I don't know if Vaughan intended for the Amazons to represent feminists, but these extremists certainly fit the caricature that many people think of when they think of feminists. Many people learn about feminism, not by actually reading feminist works, but by (a) reading the SCUM Manifesto under the belief that it is some sort of feminist agenda, (b) listening to what Rush Limbaugh says about feminists, and/or (c) reading what "Men's Rights Advocates" say feminism is. So, whether or not it was Vaughan's intent, the Amazons undoubtedly represent, to some readers anyway, Feminist Archetype. True to their medium, cartoon, they embody virtually every negative stereotype about feminists that exist.

Our protagonist Yorick eventually encounters real live Amazons near the end of Volume 1, when he finds them defacing the Washington Monument. In an eye-roll-inducing indulgence in the ultimate hetero male fantasy, this monument has oh-so-subtly been turned into a memorial to The Men. Upon this great white prick in the sky, a few suspiciously-dykey looking women are spray-painting "Good Riddence" [sic] (95). Get it? They hate the menz, and on top of that they can't spell. The Amazons are stoopid. With that gimmick, I wondered if Vaughan took a page from the Ayn Rand Manual on Villain Creation, imbuing his villains with unflattering, unattractive, and mock-worthy traits so the readers will relate to the author's beloved hero rather than the idiot villains. In Rand's case, of course, her villains were pasty, unattractive socialist types; in Y, the villains are, so far, moronic man-hating feminazis who spray-paint the memorial that honors a horrific tragedy.

Prior to this incident, we see the remaining members of the US government, all ladies of course, trying to figure out how the government is going to function without the menz. A secret service agent taps the Secretary of Agriculture to become President because, after all of the men died, it is she who happens to be next in the chain of command. Actually, to give credit to Vaughan, I appreciated this scene. Because of the sex composition of the US government, it wasn't until we got to the position of the relatively-lowly Secretary of Agriculture that the survivors were able to find their next Commander-in-Chief. And that was the result of the previous world, where women comprised a whopping half of the human population.

Unfortunately, this lady Secretary also suffers from Lack of Self-Worth Without Male Approval Syndrome. Insisting that she is not qualified for the office of presidency, she laments that she is just a "stupid farm girl who misses her worthless ex-husband" (45). Not only is she herself nothing, her husband is nothing and thus she is, like, doubly nothing without him.

This woman later, however, has some sort of transformation once she accepts her role of President. Later on, we find her facing down some gun-wielding ladies who have gotten themselves into a Republicans vs. Democrats fight and she intervenes. Apparently, the ladies were bickering about succession and questioning how it should be done- in accordance with the existing legal framework, or by new standards? Madame President declares that the rules of the Founding Fathers were sort of null, given the extreme circumstances. However, Yorick- appearing from nowhere- jumps in and says oh hell to the no is he going to sit back and watch "this great nation, which millions of [his] brothers shed their blood to forge, [be] completely undone by--" (77).

Hint: Yorick doesn't finish his sentence, but I bet he was going to say women, ladies, bitches, or cunts. Choose your own adventure, kids.

In his statement, we see the last man on Earth desperately trying to keep men relevant in a world full of women. In reading Yorick stand up to those women, ladies, cunts, or bitches who audaciously want to craft a government that works for them, we reads more ego porn for the modern man's soul. Even though our Founding Fathers often acted as though men were the only relevant beings on the planet despite the abundance of women, Yorick voices the great fear of Today's Everyman. Namely, that as women become more and more relevant to the public sphere, men will become less so.

The dystopian future presented by Y, combined with the enormous success it has amongst male readers, perhaps gives us some insight into their psyches. Undoubtedly, as women have made great headway in the public arena, some dudes already feel as though women are Taking Over the World. As we advance toward equality of the sexes, some men instead interpret equality as the Mass Feminization of Everything in Society.

In reality, men are only becoming de-centered as the human norm. It will be interesting to see how Yorick negotiates that. It will also be interesting to see how one dude envisions another dude coping with the fact that, by definition, females are the new Default Human- a condition that men have had the privilege of experiencing for much of history, despite comprising only half the human population.

To end, I know this review is a bit harsh. I don't actually think Y is all bad. In Yorick's bodyguard, for instance, Vaughn gives us a smart, strong, competent woman of color who kind of plays "straight man" to Yorick, who has a quirky sense of humor and who struggles to keep his strong emotions in check.

And, the premise of the series is an interesting thought experiment, even though I question whether a man can adequately envision a world comprised almost entirely of women. I had high hopes for the series. It could have been done in a really thoughtful way, or it could be done really badly- relying on caricatures and stereotypes, rather than nuance and subtlety.

So, for now, I still like Ursula La Guin's version better.

Related Links:

My review of Volume 2: Cycles

Monday, October 19, 2009

DNA Bloggers Call the Kettle Black

In a strange non-substantive complaint against marriage equality advocates, members of the alleged "grassroots" anti-gay group Digital Network Army (DNA) have been ridiculing marriage equality advocates and organizations for contributing to the marriage battle in Maine. Breathlessly titling her post "Equality Maine- Epic Grass Roots FAIL!" DNA-er Beetle Blogger "exposes" Top Secret and Very Elusive information about LGBT advocates that she scooped from the Twitter and the World Wide Web.

After first highlighting how someone in California tweeted about running a phone bank for marriage equality in Maine, Beetle then cited an article from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that encouraged out-of-state volunteers to head to Maine to support marriage equality. Beetle's blogging buddy Pearl has also written a breathless post of her own boasting of Beetle's sleuthery with respect to Equality Maine's "Grass Roots Fail Fail Fail!" (I think if you repeat something enough times, it makes it true).

Alluding to, but failing to cite, "promises made in the beginning of the campaign that this would be a local deal," the overarching point of Beetle's faux-expose is apparently to demonstrate that equality advocates are a bunch of lying liars. Alluding to, but failing to cite, the outrage that some LGBT advocates felt with respect to anti-gay organizations' utilization of out-of-state volunteers during California's Proposition 8 battle, the overarching point of Pearl's post is apparently to demonstrate that equality advocates are "pretty darn hypocritical."

None of this, of course, has a lick to do with the substantive marriage debate. It does, however, serve the all-important purpose of fitting into an overarching message that frames LGBT people and equality advocates as Very Bad People Who Are Engaged in Unfair Shenanigans.

Yet, like those who claim to be tolerant while also comparing homosexuality to sticking bananas in one's ears, a bizarre cognitive dissonance can be observed.

Neither Beetle nor Pearl, you see, live in Maine.

Nonetheless, on her own site, Beetle sports a bright yellow "Stand for Marriage Maine" button, has devoted a rather long post to encouraging other bloggers to "Go yellow" themselves, and has posted (with sketchy attribution) anti-equality organization Stand For Marriage Maine's talking points regarding the Maine marriage battle.

Pearl, on her site, has posted a cut-n-paste message from the Digital Network Army (whatever that actually is) encouraging defenders of marriage to contribute to Stand For Marriage Maine. That post followed one in which Pearl complains:

"Equality CALIFORNIA waging a culture war in MAINE. CALIFORNIA – MAINE. Wow. EQCA has a loooooooong arm."

Consequently, whereas the majority of the No on 1 (Maine's pro-equality group) contributions have come from a multitude of small donations, the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage has contributed $425,000 to Stand for Marriage Maine- accounting for almost half of the Maine anti-equality group's budget.

You know, I often wonder if it is physically painful for one person's brain to hold two logically inconsistent positions. To Pearl, it is wow-able that an equality organization is "waging a culture war" in another state, but not at all notable for herself, her like-minded bloggers, or the most prominent anti-equality organization in the nation to use their looooooong arms to do the exact. same. thing.

Enhancing the irony, Beetle also alludes to astroturfing. I wonder if her Great and Powerful DNA Team Captain fed her that term. What's interesting about the "grassroots" DNA group is that a Team Captain regularly feeds DNA bloggers topics to write about. DNA bloggers then sometimes regurgitate these talking points, which read like statements from professional anti-gay organizations, almost verbatim. It makes one wonder, how "grass roots" is the DNA, really? Who and/or what entity is really behind it?

I ask these questions only because, with respect to the DNA, astroturfing does come to mind. It is fine for professional organizations to mobilize those who share their ideologies and goals. That's not the issue. The issue is that the public deserves to know whether the mobilization of a group of people has been orchestrated by those whose livelihoods depend on a certain issue remaining relevant. I may be mistaken, but I have my doubts about both the size and "grassroots" nature of the DNA. Anyone from the DNA is welcome to clarify, elaborate, or object to my opinion here. Inquiring minds certainly want to know the answer to these questions. In fact, with respect to this truth-finding mission, DNA responses are highly encouraged!



Friday, October 16, 2009

Fucked Up Priorities of 30 Republican Doods

Earlier this year, Senator Al Franken proposed an amendment that would prohibit defense contracts going to companies that required employees to sign away their right to sue. The amendment stems from the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, who a group of men allegedly gang-raped in Iraq and then locked in a crate to prevent her from reporting the crime. The fine print in her employment contract prevented her from suing her employer (a former Halliburton subsidiary). Her alleged assailants will never face a judge or jury because of this loophole.

Now, to most civil, compassionate people, banning such a clause would be a slam-dunk. The right to sue in the case of a sexual assault should never be allowed to be "contracted away" from a person.

Yet, 30 Republicans voted against this amendment.


Consequently, none of the 4 lady Republicans in the Senate were part of the "nays." Women, wise ones or not, sometimes vote differently than men when it comes to certain issues. I know, it's very difficult for some Republican doods to sympathize with rape victims, especially when More Important Things like business and freedom of contract are at stake. But, well, I think Jon Stewart sums it up nicely in this video:

"If to protect Halliburton, you have to side against rape victims, you might want to rethink your allegiances"

Keep on stumbling toward irrelevancy, boys.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Girl Effect

I will be out of town for the next few days and may or may not access the internets during that time.

In the meantime, behave yourselves here. And also, this:

No word on the extent that Heresiarch, critic of all things Western Feminist, is involved with this important project. He's probably, like, the CEO or something though.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breakable Literal Bible Rule of the Week: Non-Virgin Ladies

Christian organization Focus on the Family informs us about many moral issues, one of their large focuses being homosexuality. For instance, they observe: "Scriptures against homosexual behavior – including Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10 – are so clear and specific that they defy reinterpretation."

So you see, when anti-gay individuals and organizations cite these verses, they aren't doing so because they hate gay people or anything. They are just relaying what God says about all this stuff. As Focus on the Family continues:

"It is intellectually dishonest to say that conservative individuals and leaders 'interpret' such clear verses as 'Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman' out of prejudice against homosexuals and use them for selfish gain."

Some verses, after all, are very clear. And that's what this series on Breakable Literal Bible Rules is about. Assuming for the sake of argument that English translations of YHWH's messages to we mortals are correct, it can be fun to explore what it means to take verses from the Old Testament literally. Christians do this all the time. With respect to some verses, that is.

Today's verse, plucked from Deuteronomy, is about damsels and what happens when they're unlikable and whore-y. Specifically, if a man takes a wife and decides he doesn't like her, he can claim that the woman wasn't a virgin when they married. If the vagina-human's father cannot produce the bloody cloths evidencing her virginity:

"Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you."

The men in a city must stone a non-virgin married lady with stones (and really, what else would one stone a person with, if not stones?). Now, obviously in this day and age, especially in large metropolitan areas, I suspect that part of the reason these stonings no longer occur is because it is difficult for half a million or so men to coordinate their schedules with one another. So with respect to this rule, I am wondering how one should logistically go about gathering all of the men of a city together to perform these stonings.

I mean, let's be real here, lots of women these days are definitely not virgins when they marry, and furthermore, given the high rates of divorce, thousands upon thousands of men just aren't that into their wives.

So, for the sake of these fellas who, let's face it are seriously slacking in the Deuteronomy department, is it permissible for men to use the world wide webs and/or social networking sites to connect with other men seeking to fulfill their biblical duties? Can they create some sort of application for their mobile devices that informs them of the time and location of stoning events? Should we create a National Wifewhore Stoning Day, specifically excusing all men from work so they may participate in stonings? (Although, that last one may have some separation of church/state issues, so perhaps not).

And most importantly, if there are not enough stones in a city for every single man, is it permissible for him to use other objects to kill the woman?

Ugh! The Bible is so hard.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pew Survey on Homosexuality

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released results from a survey on Americans' opinions on homosexuality, marriage, and civil unions. 57% of Americans now support allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions "that would give them many of the same rights as married couples." In 2003, this percentage was at 45%. 39% of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Disturbingly, 49% of Americans still believe that homosexuality is "morally wrong." 64% of Americans believe that gays and lesbians face "a lot" of discrimination.

Demographically, among those most opposed to same-sex marriage are men (59%), blacks (66%), those 65 and older (67%), those with a high school diploma or less (59%), conservative Republicans (81%), white Evangelicals attending church weekly (77%), and those living in the South (60%). Those who are more likely to support same-sex marriage are women (43%), Hispanics (45%), 18-29 year-olds (58%), college graduates (49%), liberal Democrats (72%), those unaffiliated with religious groups (60%), and those living in the West (47%).

For the most part, these statistics are not surprising. Support for marriage equality and civil unions has been increasing over the years and levels of tolerance differ largely among political, sex, racial, age, and religious lines. For instance, it is not surprising that men are more opposed to marriage equality than are women, given that "marriage defense" and "gender complementarity" rests on an ideology of male supremacy. And also, many doods are just icked out by the thought of two guys getting it on. Further, given that conservative Republicanism combined with Christian ideology is pretty much the unexaggerated real-life embodiment of The Patriarchy, there's a reason that the archetype of Mr. Average Marriage Defender is an old, white, conservative Christian dood.

However, I was a bit surprised by the percentage of Hispanics who reported favoring same-sex marriage, given that this population also tends to be Catholic. Although, Catholics reported being most supportive of LGBT rights over white protestant mainline, white protestant evangelical, and black protestant respondents. Are some Catholics, unlike Protestants who tend to take things so literally, just so used to rejecting what the Pope says when it comes to matters of morality that they take his condemnations of homosexuality with a grain of salt? In any event, I do find it encouraging that the fastest-growing minority group in the US is relatively supportive of LGBT rights.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Banana Sex

An interesting cognitive dissonance exists within some anti-gay circles. Having caught on that it's not cool to be a bigot these days, some anti-gay people are more concerned that they might appear to be a bigot than they are with actually being one. Some of them say really shitty, offensive, and hurtful things and then back up with their hands in the air as if to say "Whoa, I'm not a bigot or anything though." It's sort of like those friends we all have who will mock our new haircut and then say "Don't get mad, I was just joking."

In the same way, some anti-gays retreat from their more bold, yet honest(?), statements and re-frame their message as one, not of hatred or dislike, but of love and respect.

Let's explore this theme today.

Generally, heterosupremacy is the belief that heterosexuality is the default, superior sexual identity. To the extreme anti-gay, two circles represent human sexuality. Inside the circle representing "normal" sexuality, is heterosexuality. Inside the circle marked "Other," are homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, incest, polyamory, and every other sexual identity or behavior that is Not Heterosexual. Heterosexual sex within the bounds of marriage is centered and any sexual behavior or attraction that is Not That is marginalized. Extending this idea further, and demonstrating no capacity or willingness to make distinctions, sexualities and behavior that are not heterosexual are lumped together as equivalent.

As a demonstration, we only need to look at our reliably anti-gay friend the Playful Walrus. In a post questioning why Harvey Milk should get a day of honor in California, Walrus equates a consensual sexual relationship between two people of the same sex with, well, sticking inanimate objects in one's ear:

"So because he was attracted to men and/or because he engaged in homosexual behavior, he should be honored with a special day? What if someone who announced that he likes to stick peeled bananas into his ear gets elected - should he get a special day, too? What's the difference?"

He has to genuinely ask what the difference is between banana-ear-poking and two guys having sex? I waver between helping Walrus out and even dignifying his asininity with a response. For, even a cursory examination of the two practices reveals a multitude of differences, the most important being that "homosexual behavior" generally occurs between two human beings and has been marked by society as a variation significant enough from the "heterosexual norm" to justify discrimination, violence, and oppression.

And, well, banana-ear-poking (he he, banana, get it, guys? Get. It?!), that has what to do with what, again? Maybe I missed this somewhere in my edjumacation, but has society had a strong historical contempt for and aversion against people who stick bananas in their ears? Have people who stick bananas in their ears faced widespread intolerance, stigmatization, discrimination, witch hunts, violence, and murder throughout history? And, despite that historical oppression, has an open banana-lovin' politician been elected in a banana-tolerant jurisdiction anyway?

The point of Harvey Milk Day is not to celebrate the fact that he fucked other men. The point is to acknowledge the reality that LGBT were, and are still, oppressed in some ways and thus, to recognize "the social contributions Harvey Milk made to our nation as a civil rights leader." The only person incapable of seeing Harvey Milk Day about anything other than his sex life is Playful Walrus, and other anti-gays, who apparently cannot think of homosexuality without becoming fixated on what two bananas dudes do together in bed.

So Walrus' "analogy," in short, is heterosupremacy in action. By equating the non-heterosexual orientation of homosexuality with sticking fruit in ears, he effectively centers heterosexuality and collapses all other behaviors and sexualities into one equivalent, aberrant blob.

Yet, one when combines Walrus' hetero supremacy with some of his other hetero supremacist statements like "We have somehow allowed a tiny minority to enshrine in law that a 'sexual'* act that does nothing tangible except spread disease and injure the participants is the equivalent to a sexual act that has perpetuated society for all of human existence and created almost every single one of us" with his statement that "there are even those of us who see nothing wrong with homosexual behavior....We are tolerant," we see a truly bizarre cognitive dissonance.

Walrus clearly does see many things "wrong" with "homosexual behavior," not the least of which that it "does nothing tangible except spread disease." Yet, perhaps fearing being called out as a homobigot, he backs up with his hands up and insists that he sees "nothing wrong with homosexual behavior" and that, incredibly, he is "tolerant."

I don't generally find it useful to suggest that anti-gays are bigots. I like to think that people mean well and approach the debate with an open-mind and a modicum of sincerity. Although, when people flippantly suggest that there is no difference between "homosexual" behavior and sticking a banana in one's ear while claiming to be tolerant, I think it is worth pointing out that maybe one's definition of "tolerance" deserves re-examining. I think that, oftentimes, homo-bigotry is an observable fact in reality no matter how much anti-gays insist that they love us, they really really love us.

Unfortunately, I also know that the quickest way to get our substantive arguments dismissed is to call out bigotry when we see it. Anti-gay individuals and organizations have a lot invested in believing that They Are Doing The Right thing. So, they re-frame reality and perpetuate the message that when other people call them bigots, they are being persecuted. And so, when some anti-gays read my above discussion of how gay sex is, actually, nothing at all like sticking a banana in one's ear, I suspect that all they see is "Bor, beven a bigoted bexamination of the two bigots beveals a bigittude of bifferences..." and so forth. Once the b-word is suggested, panic ensues!

So, I can only offer a suggestion. Those opposed to LGBT rights and who devote their online and/or professional presences to doing so, think about what you are saying. Chances are, if you're comparing a sexual relationship between two adults to sticking inanimate pieces of fruit in one's ear, maybe it's time to re-think your overall opinion of what homosexuality is. Think really really hard about why that could be considered asinine and construed as bigoted. And remember, being called a "bigot" isn't the point. The point is that your words, on top of being absurd, can also be hurtful. And that's something a decent, and logical, person would care about.

*I'm not sure why Walrus put scare-tastic quotes around "sexual" in reference to gay sex. If the implication is that gay sex is not Real Sex, my response is (a) then why does he spend so much time writing about something that is not real and (b) who died and made Walrus the Decider of what constitutes Real Sex.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Men Unknowingly Attack Cage Fighters Dressed as Women

Well, isn't this just instant karma:

"Two thugs who attacked what they thought were a pair of transvestites picked on the wrong men - when their intended victims turned out to be cage fighters on a night out in fancy dress.

Dean Gardener, 19, and Jason Fender, 22, singled out the two men walking along a street in wigs, short skirts and high heels....Gardener and Fender were left dazed and seen staggering to their feet after their failed attack."

As a note, it's unclear from the article as to how the two cage fighters identify, gender-wise. I would also be curious to know whether the attackers picked out their victims believing them to fit the defenseless-woman mold or because they had clocked the two as being "men dressed as women."

While I am generally opposed to violence, I have to admit there is a certain satisfaction in seeing would-be victims successfully defend themselves from an attack.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) Lebanese Feminist Conference

This week, a "groundbreaking" conference, which took 3 years to produce and brought in "46 leading academics and researchers," on Arab feminisms was held in Beirut. This article demonstrates that the challenges facing women in the Arab and Muslim world are much more complex than Western Feminists Aren't Doing Enough.

For one, within some segments of Arab feminism, the domination of Western feminism is not particularly welcome. As one organizer said:

"It was important that many of the non-Arab speakers and participants come from other countries in the South in an effort to move away from the dominance of Western feminist thought."

It's sort of ironical that some people think we're doing too much, while others think we're not doing enough.

Two, the reaction against Western feminists is amplified by the message that advocacy for women's rights is a Western notion that should not be copied. While concerns of cultural imperialism are legitimate, when this message is spread by anti-feminists who truly have no concern for improving the status of women, it acts as a tool to keep women and feminists complicit in their own subordination. Organizer Jean Said Makdisi speaks of efforts to silence feminist movements in the Arab world:

"'We are often told to wait for the right moment and that now is not our time,' Makdisi told a crowd over around 300 people. 'We are told to be patient and that our moment will come when ‘this’ or ‘that’ crisis ends. We are also constantly told to stop copying the ‘West.’ We are accused of complicity with cultural imperialism or of undermining the family and its warmth. They – and sadly sometimes ‘they’ includes other women – address us feminists as if we were children with no mind of our own, no history or culture of our own.'"

No word on the role that critic-of-Western-feminists Heresiarch played in this conference.

2) The Cost of Gay Couplehood

The New York Times recently ran a piece, called "The High Price of Being a Gay Couple," examining how a same-sex couples' inability to legally marry increases their health, legal, and other costs. The journalists created a hypothetical lesbian couple and compared them to a similarly-situated hypothetical heterosexual couple and concluded that the couple's lifetime cost of being was $41,196 in a best case scenario and $467,562 in a worst case scenario.

The article explores some of the issues I have explored in previous blog posts regarding the tangible benefits and protections of marriage.

Also of note, the authors have interacted with commenters in the comment section and have, I believe, done a pretty responding to opposing arguments and countering some of the stereotypes of gay people. One sentiment that repeatedly came up was that same-sex couples do not have children at the rate that heterosexual couples do and, therefore, the extra benefits of marriage were to compensate heterosexual for childrearing. The journalists responded by acknowledging the statistics regarding same-sex parenthood but then suggested that the numbers of same-sex parents could increase if marriage, and its associated legal and financial benefits, were available to them.

To add to that, if one of the key purposes of marriage is to provide benefits to those who are raising children, then current law is not narrowly-tailored for that purpose. Heterosexual couples can marry and receive benefits even if they do not raise children, while same-sex couples who do raise children are entirely excluded from receiving those benefits. As it stands, those who advocate the Marriage Is To Provide Benefits To Those Who Raise Children should begin advocating for a more adequate law. Namely, one that prohibits married couples from receiving any of the legal and financial benefits of marriage until they have children.

3) US Lands Games!

The Gay Games that is. They will be held in Cleveland in 2014.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Men Who Know Things

Last week, I wrote about the authority society gives to the white male voice. Many men, I have found, believe that because people Pay Attention to Them When They Say Things it means that they automatically know more about stuff than women and people of color. Sometimes, it doesn't cross their minds that women and people of color are intelligent beings who know things too.

This is commonly referred to as Men-Who-Know-Things Syndrome. And, it's aptly described here:

"...[T]he out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered.

Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.

....[E]xplaining men still assume that I am, in some sort of obscene impregnation metaphor, an empty vessel to be filled with their wisdom and knowledge."

I have had these moments. Related to the world wide webs, a couple of times I have had the bizarre experience of having a group of virulently anti-gay blogger doods inform me that I just needed them to walk me through my "misconceptions about marriage and family" and then I would understand the errors of my thinking. Even though these men are barely literate, possessive of marginal reasoning skills, and lack a degree in any subject relevant to the marriage debate, they essentially instructed me to shut up and take notes on what they were saying.

I've seen this over and over again on the world wide web. In addition to the "commonsensical" rantings of self-anointed political pundit doods throughout the blogosphere, we also see this unsupported overconfidence rear its ignorant head in folksy folks like Joe the Plumber. In this white conservative anti-gay guy we see the arrogance of those who claim to be a "metaphor" for Real Americana, as though there is any such thing as a default American. In Joe, we see how White-Dood-as-Default Syndrome often works hand in hand with Men-Who-Know-Things Syndrome to produce mass delusions of grandeur.

I think the phenomenon can best be expressed in a mathematical equation:

Unearned Authority of the Male Voice + Man's Status as Default Human Being = Unsupported Male Overconfidence.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: "The Efficacy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'"

For those interested in the debate about gays and lesbians serving in the military, Colonel Om Prakash, USAF, wrote a thoughtful, exemplary piece published in Joint Force Quarterly called "The Efficacy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'" [PDF]. (All citations taken from this article, unless otherwise noted).

What I appreciated about this article was that it generally eschewed emotional arguments, acknowledged relevant scientific research, and treated both sides fairly while coming to a reasonable conclusion. Further, while Prakash ultimately concludes that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed, in doing so he honestly conceded shortcomings on the "pro-gay" side. Reading it, I didn't get the impression that I was reading the writing of someone who's mind was set in stone on the issue long ago. I mean, some people are just so heavy-handed in letting their "ick-factor" shine that it's clear that the person will never be persuaded by reason and logic. Rather, reading Prakash's article was like being a fly on the wall and watching a logical, open-minded person's thought process unfold.

After first relaying the history, origins, and rationale of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the associated financial and personnel losses to our nation because of it, Prakash examines the primary premise of the law- "that open homosexuality will lead to a disruption of unit cohesion and impact combat effectiveness." Addressing this issue, Prakash cited the Rand Research Brief, whose research review team concluded that, with respect to unit cohesion, "it is not necessary to like someone to work with him or her, so long as members share a commitment to the group's objectives." Furthermore, while the presence of open gays and lesbians may affect social cohesion (the "emotional bonds within a group"), it would not affect task cohesion ("a shared commitment and motivation of the group to a goal requiring a collective effort").

Prakash then addresses the issue of whether homosexuality is immutable, only because courts traditionally offer a higher level of protection based on characteristics that are innate and immutable. Honestly conceding that research has yet to offer a definite conclusion on this issue, he acknowledges that sexual orientation is probably a "complex interaction of multiple factors" and that the issue is "further complicated by individual identification of sexual orientation." As such, I find Prakash's conclusion, that the issue of whether homosexuality is immutable could be treated as irrelevant, to be a practical way to move forward and decide the debate based on what we do know. Namely, that homosexuality does not affect task cohesion no matter how icky people think homosexuality is.

Statistics of note that undermine the argument that homosexuality affects unit cohesion are that, currently, it is estimated that 65,000 gays and lesbians are serving in the military with 23% of servicemembers reporting that they are "certain that they are serving with a homosexual in their unit." Furthermore, statistics from countries that lifted bans demonstrated that lifting the ban "had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops."

Acknowledging that guaranteeing privacy with respect to living conditions could become "complicated," Prakash argues that given the relatively small numbers of homosexuals in the military this would not lead to "a collapse of morale and discipline." I know that some, like the ridiculous Elaine Donnelly who warns of 'transgenders in the military' and gangs of lesbians roaming the showers for prey, have convinced themselves and others that Homasexuls Cannot Possibly Live With Straight People Without Assaulting Them.

Yet, I have more confidence in our military (and in LGBT people!) than that. There may prove to complications, perhaps mostly related to some servicemembers' discomfort with bunking next to a known gay, but I don't think such complications are insurmountable. Rather, they could be overcome by, as Prakash suggests, upgrades in forms and facilities and updating sexual harassment and sensitivity trainings. Tangible solutions exist for tangible issues. If the burdens of overcoming logistical challenges are too much, well, goddess save our country if all that stands between civilization and chaos is the Traumatic Experience of having to shower next to a gay person. (Sidebar: Sometimes, straight people are so self-flattering if they think we all are just pining away to get to shower with them and stare at their naked bodies).

Anyway, to end, Prakash concludes: "Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to re-examine the issue; rather, it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban."

Mr. Obama, Fierce Advocate, it is your move.

Monday, October 5, 2009

On Poor Roman Polanski

Well, I was going to write a post about Roman Polanski, but since others have already done it quite well, I've mostly compiled quotations and links here.

For some background, in 1977 Roman Polanski pled guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" for, according to the then-13-year-old victim, drugging her and raping her in an LA home. Polanski fled to France before he could be sentenced and has been avoiding the US and other countries with extradition laws ever since. Recently, he was arrested in Switzerland on an international arrest warrant.

Regarding his arrest, Historiann laments that, in media accounts of this situation, the word "rape" has seemingly been disappeared from the English language. She writes:

"I keep hearing about how he was arrested in Switzerland this weekend on a 32-year old charge of 'having sex with' a then-13 year old girl. (This New York Times story will stand as representative of the chicken$hit coverage.) Funny–he was actually charged with rape in 1977 (aggravated with the use of drugs and alcohol to incapacitate the girl), but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of statutory rape."

Legally, an adult cannot "have sex with" a minor. Legally, a 13-year-old is a minor (even under California law in 1977). Legally then, Roman Polanski could not have "had sex with" a 13-year-old girl. There is a word for that and that word is rape. (If you still aren't convinced, read the girl's grand jury testimony re: Polanski drugging her with Champagne and a Quaalude).

We shouldn't not say the word rape just because it might tarnish the image of some dude who admitted to it. A little advice? If you don't want your image tarnished, then don't rape somebody.

Related links

France's minister of culture said that Polanski's arrest demonstrates "a certain kind of America which is frightening." Melissa McEwan nails it in her response:

"We have long prioritised men's art over women's safety, because there is a belief that a talented man, an auteur with a vision, might change the world, and to truncate that grand possibility with something as bourgeois as justice would be devastating."

Jeff Fecke, "Rape Apologists: Roman Polanski's Rape of a Child Not That Bad"

Dorothy Snarker on the disappointment that so many in Hollywood have come to Polanski's defense:

"[T]he silence from the rest of Hollywood is almost as perplexing. This, people, is what makes liberals look bad – their refusal to condemn one of their own. The thing is, lots of progressive men and women abhor Polanski’s actions and applaud his arrest. So many brilliant, eloquent women have spoken out against the Free Polanski nonsense like Eve Ensler, Allison Anders, Carrie Brownstein, Kate Harding, Melissa Silverstein. But we need more and more powerful allies."

Me on "Superstars and Sexual Assault"

Some other actor dude says that There Are More Important Things To Worry About than the arrest of Polanski. That sounds familiar. Apparently, until Osama bin Laden is caught and Muslim dudes stop mistreating women, no one is allowed to put their energies, resources, or concern toward any other issue.

Many more have written about this, feel free to include links to yourself and others in the comment section below.