Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Out of the Silent Planet

As a general note, I thought CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, was a pretty interesting read, as far as science fiction goes. I do have my criticisms of it, however.

Long story short, it is about a man, Dr. Ransom, who is abducted by two other men and taken to Mars in a spaceship. While there, Ransom runs away from his captors and encounters three different races of intelligent beings on the planet. The book jacket promised me "sophistication and piercing brilliance of its insights into the human condition." And, to be fair, I think it does offer insight into humanity's overinfatuation with itself with respect to other beings. Or, I should say, man's overinfatuation with himself, with respect to other beings. Especially female ones.

For upon venturing around Mars, it quickly dawned on me that, while Mars was quite diverse from a racial standpoint, Mars was inhabited entirely by male beings!

Okay, I say that in jest. Well, only half in jest. After finishing Lewis' book, I still ended up being unsure as to whether female beings existed on Mars as (a) Ransom was not seen actually talking to any and (b) they were alluded to but never actually "seen" by the reader. Maybe they were busy fixing supper or something while the male Martians did more important things.

I then began wondering if Lewis had created, a la Ursula Le Guin perhaps, some sort of sci-fi novel in which, by intentionally omitting references to female beings, he was making some sort of meta statement on sex and gender inequality. And then I thought, nah. Why give credit where it's not due? Lewis, in inventing yet another Piercingly Brilliant Novel About The Human Condition, probably just didn't think to actually talk all that much about female beings. Isn't it interesting how so many books that fall into the category of Universal Great are nearly devoid of half of humanity (or Martianity, as the case may be)!

One of the first beings on Mars that we see Dr. Ransom encountering is a hross being. The narrator describes the creature thusly:

"It had a coat of thick-black hair, lucid as seal skin, very short legs with webbed feat, a broad beaver-like or fish-like tail, strong forelimbs with webbed claws or fingers, and some complication halfway up its belly which Ransom took to be its genitals" (55).

Here we see that the narrator, upon first encountering the Martian hross, calls it an "it" and does not gender it. This is both because Ransom at first takes the hross to be some sort of animal or beast, devoid of humanity, and because the creature's "genitals" are of questionable sex. Once the creature began talking in its own hrossian language, however, Ransom realized that the creature was a rational being like how humans are rational. Once Ransom comes to this realization, he automatically begins gendering the hross as "he" and "him" even though the thing's sex is not actually known or apparent. Ransom choosing to gender this being as male goes unexplained and unnoted. Maybe we are to assume that the hross thingy is giving off dood vibes.

What we do learn is that, in this invisible way, Ransom has made male beings the default Martian beings, as males are on Earth.

We see this centering of males more overtly a short while later, when a hross explains to Ransom the mating rituals of "the hross." Now, first, many people believe that criticism of the so-called gender neutral masculine is a case of Political Correctness Gone Awry (tm). Perhaps, but I also believe that it is more than that. For one, the very phrase "gender neutral masculine" is an oxymoron and two, its usage can often be unclear.

For, some writers will use the "generic he" sometimes to refer only to males and then other time to refer to both men and women. Doing so is quite lazy and only leads to confusion and lack of clarity. Observe, on page 74:

"Is the begetting of young not a pleasure among the hrossa?" [asks Ransom.]

"A very great one, [human]. This is what we call love." [said the hross.]

In this exchange, it seems as though the term "the hrossa" signifies both male and female hrossa given that the two beings are discussing mating patterns among the race of "the hrossa." Yet, because Lewis has used "man" earlier to mean "men only" at times, and to mean "men and women" at other times, the reader does not know whether or not to assume that. A bit further down, it becomes clear that the hross is referring only to male hrossa, despite the fact that he claims to be making a statement about "the hrossa" in general:

"... This love, you say, comes only once while the hross lives?" [asked the human]

"But it takes his whole life. When he is young he has to look for his mate; and then he has to court her; then he begets young; and then he rears them; and then he remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom." [explained the hross, emphasis added]

Here, we learn that those who comprise the category of "the hrossa" are male. We learn all about the mating activities and lives of "the [male] hrossa," while learning that the female ones are objects to be acted upon by the real hrossa, that is, the males. The females themselves are not full hrossa as their experiences in life, love, and (ironically) the begetting of children is something Other Than the experience of "the hrossa." Clearly, the above male hross has collapsed the male experience into the general hross experience and views them as identical, completely discounting the experiences of (presumably?) half of the population of Mars.

Meanwhile, some of us are left wondering, what is the experience of female Martians in all of this Very Important Martian Stuff?

The status of women is mentioned in mere sentences. The pfifltrigg are a Martian race that allegedly holds "their" women in more account than the other races (115). Maybe this was Lewis throwing a crumb to Vagina-Earthlings who might read his books too. Yes, pfifltrigg treat women very well indeed despite the fact that (a) they are mentioned once in the whole book, (b) are spoken of in the possessive as though they are not agents, but objects of the males, and (c) Ransom never actually talks to any.

This invisibility of Lady Martians goes rather unremarked upon throughout the novel as the narrator and Ransom himself ponder More Important Issues about mankind (in the most literal sense of the word, of course).

Thus, Lewis has imbued his male Martians with the same unfortunate male-centric fauxbjective faults that many male Earthlings possess in the real world. What, if not for illuminating such errors, is science fiction for? And so, on second thought, I think Lewis' critics are correct in noting that Out of the Silent Planet is a "piercing[ly] brillian[t]" statement on the human condition. It just meets the criterion in a way that many critics do not realize and in a way that Lewis himself probably did not intend.

As a visitor to Lewis' Mars, I saw a dying planet that was almost entirely devoid of female beings. They either weren't considered important enough to remark upon or, it was a planet in which male Martians enslaved "their" female beings and then put Earthling visitors under some sort of bizarre hex so they would not notice or remark upon the utter absence of Lady Martians.

The alternative, that Lady Martians were completely absent from this book that has Piercingly Brilliant Insights About the Human [sic] Condition and neither Lewis nor any of his raving critics noticed, is too grim to take seriously.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gender Odds 'N Ends

1. My Right Self

Photographer Arthur Robinson Williams exhibit My Right Self was recently on display at a nearby university. The project features five participants who identify as trans or gender-variant. For those seeking to better understand the diversity within the trans community and the experiences of those within it:

"My Right Self includes text from the writings of the participants who have been given time to reflect upon and describe how their identities are related to their bodies, their sex, their gender, their sexuality, and further, how their relationships with others and society reflect back how they are perceived in the world and exist in the eyes of others. Some have also written with regard to their experiences with the healthcare system."

Whether intended or not, I think that many of these stories demonstrate the gray areas with respect to sex and gender. Like many transgender people, some of the participants in this project identify as male or female despite still having genitals that they do not identify with. And, for some who know their own bodies to be "enough," they seek surgery anyway, because "the world is not safe" for, say, a man who is not flat-chested and who does not have a deep voice.

Upon looking at this project, I was reminded that the reality of sex and gender is more complicated and variable than the binary that is offered to us. Much is assumed about each one of us because of how we present, gender-wise, in the world. Thus, the reasons for transitioning seem to be both internal and external.

2. India Recognizes Other Gender

Speaking of moving beyond the gender binary, India has "granted what they called an independent identity to intersex and transsexuals in the country's voter lists." The Intersex Society of North America opposes assigning individuals to a "third gender." Their opposition is based on the idea that assigning someone to a "third gender" would "unnecessarily traumatize" the person, not because they necessarily disagree with the idea that gender is a gradation, rather than two discrete categories.

Nonetheless, hijra activists in India seem pleased with this decision. Hijra is "a catch-all term for South Asia’s eunuch, transgender, transvestite and third gender communities."

Whilst many anti-LGBT folks like to claim that concepts like homosexuality and transgenderism are modern Western constructs, hijras are mentioned in the ancient kama sutra text, and it wasn't until British imperialism that they were strongly stigmatized via the criminal law system.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Anger and Non-Duality

Words of wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh:

"When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently toward you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget. We think that we are the only who suffers, and the other person is our oppressor. This is enough to make anger arise, and to strengthen our desire to punish. We want to punish the other person because we suffer. Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do." -From Anger (126-127)

In this quotation, aggression is defined as having a non-dual and cyclical nature. I accept this definition as truth. Human beings tend to construct evil, aggression, and violence as though they are endemic to Others and not of themselves. Many do not recognize the darkness they harbor in their own hearts and the acts of aggression they themselves put out into the world, or if they do, they tend to justify it.

In comments earlier this week, Seda mentioned always trying to eliminate anger in herself before communicating. That is also something I try to do, however imperfectly the end result. I know it's not "cool" to care about trying not to be mean on the internets. It's not edgy. It's dorky, perhaps. But really, I think it takes a lot of courage and strength to try to understand and be aware of one's own anger so as not to contribute to suffering in the world.

Anger is a natural human response. As such, we all have a responsibility to be mindful of it, first within ourselves, before pointing fingers at others. For me, it is a continual, and probably lifelong challenge to retain the sharp edges of angry energy while transforming it into compassionate rhetoric.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: "Does Gender Matter?"

Thanks to Seda for recently passing along to me Ben Barres' Nature article "Does gender matter?"

I believe you need a subscription to read this online. Nonetheless, I have tried to write a review that will be interesting even to those who have not read the article. Oh, also, like many of my "reviews" here, I suppose this post is more of an exploration of the article and less of a review. Details shmetails.

On the first page of the article, Barres provides a quote which underscores his entire article:

"Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within." - Stephen Jay Gould

Using this quote as a backdrop, Barres argues that women are not advancing in science because of discrimination, and not because of innate differences in ability between females and males. Of what he calls the "Larry Summers Hypothesis," Barres points out that "[d]espite powerful social factors that discourage women from studying maths and science from a very young age, there is little evidence that gender differences in maths abilities exist, are innate or are even relevant to the lack of advancement of women in science." In fact, he continues, it is "the societal assumption that women are innately less able than men" that is the "foremost factor" explaining women's slow advances in maths and science.

I know. This line of argumentation is not exactly a Startling Feminist Revelation to those of us living in Harpyville. Even before the issue of ladies in math and science was deemed important enough to ever be studied, the gentlemen in charge often opined that women lacked innate abilities to do much of anything important that did not involve their wombs. Then, based on their unstudied opinions, they excluded women from manly adventures in the public sphere for many many years. Given this historical exclusion of women, feminists have been pointing out for eons that it comes as no surprise that (a) many men suffer from a sense of illusory superiority and (b) men and women often lend the White Male Voice a heavy, yet undeserved, authority over the voices of others.

And so it is that, even though feminists say these things and take the likes of Larry Summers to task all the time, it matters that scientific men like Ben Barres publicly come to similar conclusions.

Furthermore, Barres has done more than read the studies, which he rightly suggests all people do before "suggesting that a whole group of people is innately wired to fail." He has had professional and academic experiences as both a man and a woman. As a transgender man, he is the perfect sample for a study on precisely the discrimination that women allege all that time but that many men do not acknowledge or take seriously. Within his article, he recounts his experiences in academia as a woman where, after having solved a difficult math problem his teacher refuse to give him credit because his "boyfriend" must have solved it. He, as a woman, lost a prestigious fellowship to a male contemporary despite having an application that the dean deemed "much stronger" than her competitor's.

I would be interested in learning about more such experiences of his. Given that, as Barres notes, "women are as likely as men to deny the existence of gender-based bias," I wonder what instances of bias occur in my own life that I do not notice. Many women, including feminists, are complicit in their own oppression, not always consciously but, rather, as a result of us living in a sexist society. Whether we're comparing our own professional advancement only to that of other women rather than to men, not realizing that our colleagues interrupt us but not our male peers, or laughing along at sexist jokes in order to be seen as "one of the guys," the range of this female complicity varies widely from the invisible to the overt.

There's a popular saying that Ginger Rogers did everything that "ultimate dancer" Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. Before I heard that phrase many years ago, that readily apparent fact was completely invisible to me. In light of the conditioning that girls receive telling us that we are not wired to do math and science like how boys are, I think of how incredibly talented the women who have succeeded and advanced in these fields must really be.

In what other ways are we putting girls backwards and in high heels and then, when they are as successful as men, patting ourselves on the back for having "equal opportunity" in the world?

I sometimes wonder what would it be like, for instance, to dress in drag for awhile just to see what it's like to have others perceive me as a man. What would I notice and learn about being a man by having others treat me like how they treat men? What would I learn about myself and my "innate" abilities? How have we, as men and women, stunted our own lives, hopes, and aspirations as a result of living in a world that deigns to tell us who we are before we even know who we are?

As a man, would I possess a sense of confidence, strength, and ability that I have not always known as a woman? Facing forward, would I look down and admire the flats on my feet and discover that those shoes had been in my closet all along?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From Buffy to Bella: A Review of New Moon

I treated myself to a guilty pleasure and saw the new Twilight movie that all the kids these days are raving about, New Moon. It was probably not a very feminist thing of me to do, I know, but what with all of the movies about serious men and men who stare at goats and so forth, what is a feminist lady to do, really?

Of course, just because New Moon was a book written by a lady and a script written by a lady, I was fully aware that the movie came with no guarantee that the film version would include two ladies who (a) talk to each other about (b) something other than a guy. However, I think movies should at least come with disclaimers when the female protagonist not only doesn't talk about anything other than dudes, but also doesn't even think about much of anything else.

(Oh, this post contains movie spoilers. And, I'm assuming readers have a general familiarity with the Twilight series.).

It genuinely breaks my feminist heart of stone that the female vampire genre protagonist has regressed from Buffy to Bella. In Buffy, we had a strong female lead who, although prone to canoodling with the undead, still maintained a strong sense of self and self-worth aside from her status as girlfriend to Hot Guy. Bella, however, is a weak, helpless girl whose Very Special Thing about her is that hot, strong men are attracted to her. Had Bella shown up in the Buffyverse, the Scoobies would have rescued, nurtured, and then eventually helped empower her. Well, that or a vampire would have quickly gobbled her up at the Bronze, the audience would have quickly forgotten her, and we would have all gone on to learn more important things like how beer is bad for you, sometimes demons aren't so demon-y, and getting a mustard stain out of one's jacket is cause to break into song and dance.

Ah, those were the days, weren't they?

Instead, in New Moon, we see our female protagonist at the lowest depths of despair throughout much of the movie. For months, she doesn't hang out with her friends, doesn't seem to eat, and doesn't seem to do much of anything outside of stare out her window being Very Sad about the Hot Guy who left her, thereby telling legions of adoring girls that life is not worth fully living when a guy leaves. Maybe I have forgotten what it is like to be a teenager and maybe the books go into greater detail, but through Bella, we also learn that teenagers (and centuries-old vampires) can have super-duper intense relationships despite not really ever talking about anything other than how super-duper intensely they love each other. And then, we find that the only thing that draws Bella out of her depression is, you guessed it, the attentions of a new Hot Guy. Then, despite the fact that Bella and New Hot Guy do things together that involve more than talking about how intensely in love they are with each other, we see Bella dump this New Hot Guy to go back to the Old Hot Guy who dumped her, because of course, their love is just that intense.

Anyway, despite the Bechdel Test Fail in New Moon, about the second time Taylor Lautner peeled his shirt off, I did notice that the movie seemed to be made for the Heterosexual Female Gaze rather than, for once, the Heterosexual Male Gaze. Whereas in many movies, "Men look at women[,] Women watch themselves being looked at," in New Moon, I think it is very evident that the audience is intended to look at the attractive men and, perhaps, identify with the female Bella.

Given the sexual objectification of men and boys in this film and the messages regarding the lack of self-worth it sends to girls and women, I wonder if this film is a "win" for anyone. Other than its makers, of course.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catholic Archdiocese Threatens To Take (Our) Toys and Go Home

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is threatening to stop doing business with the District if DC's same-sex marriage law passes. Via the Washington Post:

"Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city."

Rather than being outraged over a religious organization using poor people and "Little Johnny" as leverage in the Culture Wars, anti-gays are using this instance as Further Proof As To How Same-Sex Marriage Harms Society. Yet, per usual they distort and misunderstand the situation. Observe, our anti-equality friend Playful Walrus getting it wrong:

"The Catholic Archdiocese says it will not be able to continue providing social services on behalf of the local government if marriage neutering happens as planned."

He, like others who are having this knee-jerk response, misses an important distinction. Namely, the distinction between choice and ability. The Catholic Archdiocese will, quite literally, certainly have the ability to continue providing social services should same-sex marriage become legal. What it would not be able to do is to accept taxpayer-funded dollars for the provision of social services and also discriminate against same-sex families. Catholic Charities would be able to continue providing services, it would just choose not to do so if it didn't get its way about same-sex marriage. In making a threat that would impact our legal system, the Catholic Archdiocese is attempting to define marriage for all of society, including those who are not Catholic.

Now, let's explore that concept of public funding a little further, because many news articles and blog posts are missing something important. I certainly won't deny that Catholic Charities does good, important social services work. Yet, every single entity that is funded by the government knows that strings are always attached to government contracts. If entities do not want to play by the rules, they do not have to accept government money. If entities find that they are not "able" to comply with certain laws, government money is and should be channeled to entities that are able to do so. A contract that does not go to one social services agency will, instead, go to another.

As one councilmember aptly put it:

"If they find living under our laws so oppressive that they can no longer take city resources, the city will have to find an alternative partner to step in to fill the shoes," Catania said.

It is too bad that the Archdiocese is seeking the special right to take public resources without having to comply with discrimination laws. It is too bad that the phrase "religious freedom" has come to mean the freedom to discriminate against gay people and get paid for it.

To end here, while some libertarian-minded folks (who also, ironically, are sometimes anti-LGBT rights), rail against big government, this case perfectly illustrates the danger of leaving charity care to private entities. The Baltimore Sun rightly points out:

"Those who argue for government to play a smaller role in establishing the social safety net often note the ability of private charities to pick up the slack. But as this situation makes clear, organizations that choose to do so can also choose to stop."

The idea of the Catholic Anything being the ultimate decider of the distribution of social services sends shivers down my spine.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blogging, Marriage, and Monsters

From time to time, I like to take a step back and blog about blogging. I have mixed feelings about these meta posts as they usually mean that something not fun has "happened." But, I think it's important to address issues as they come up with respect to blogging and internet communication.

Previously, I took an article written by our anti-equality friend On Lawn to to task for asserting that same-sex marriage is a "pollution of equality" and that it was heterosexual marriage that caused women to win the right to vote in the US. Unfortunately, On Lawn's response is marred by wackiness, hostility, and incoherence. But more than that, I seriously wonder if he's on a one-man mission to tarnish my reputation and the reputation of nearly every "SSMer" he encounters on the internet.

I have been reading the blog that On Lawn is a part of for several years now. Despite its generic name, Opine Editorials, is a single-issue blog that serves as a convenient "marriage defense" news feed. Quite some time ago, however, I stopped actively engaging with the "marriage defenders" there, as it's my opinion that many of its contributors abuse internet engagement in what I believe to be a really toxic, unhealthy, and aggressive way that inhibits substantive conversation. Much of that could easily be prevented if the bloggers there stopped stating with certainty that which they cannot possibly know: the intentions and innermost thoughts of their pro-LGBT adversaries. They probably see things differently. But in part because of my interactions there, I've come to believe that many of those who are staunchly opposed to LGBT rights have a lot invested in constructing LGBT people and our allies as bad sorts of people who have incredibly sinister motivations. Whether intentional or not, turning LGBT people into caricatures does have an advantage of supposedly Saving Marriage And All Of Society whilst not harming people who actually matter.

I see that as a real blind spot for many anti-gays, many of whom are alleged loving Christians. If their Christ were alive today, I do not think he would recognize many "Christians" as followers of his teachings on love, kindness, and compassion.

In addition, turning LGBT people into villains serves another purpose. It enables anti-gay advocates to construct a narrative in which it is they who are victims rather than victimizers. They are, they claim, victims of LGBT people who selfishly want to ruin society, victims of political correctness gone too far, and victims of LGBT people who are Mean To Them For No Reason At All. As an example of this persecution complex, here On Lawn claims that he and his blogging cohorts are victims of "obsession" and "stalking" at my hands. Trying to tear down my self-worth, perhaps jealously, he labels my blog and my writing "trash talk" that discredits itself. By dismissing me in this manner, he gives himself an out for not actually addressing my arguments in any real way. His own schoolyard trash talk is one thing; his charges are another.

Like spouse abusers who claim that it is their victim who is the "real" abuser, I am aware that it is common for cyberstalkers to claim that it is their stalking victim who is, instead, "stalking" them. Ed Brayton, for instance, has recently encountered a man on the internet who threatened to call the cops on Ed for "stalking" because of a criticism Ed wrote of the man's article. This man then searched for Ed's home address, posted it on his blog (it turned out to be the address of a relative of Ed's), and encouraged his readers to pay Ed "a visit."

In a similar although less extreme vein, On Lawn has in the past tracked my IP address, analyzed the cookie information from my computer, and has made comments suggesting that he has tracked which sites I have visited both before and after his own. He has, in the past, tracked that information even for other visitors to his blog who also comment at my blog, having convinced himself that he was the victim of a sinister sock-puppeting operation. Further, he seems to keep some sort of record of my years-old comments and has, in the past, shown up at other people's blogs and pasted them into conversations I have been having with others. I think these actions are creepy and go far beyond how most bloggers monitor traffic on their sites and interact with visitors. Does it constitute stalking? I'm not sure. I do know that a term like "stalking" has legal meanings and implications that should not be thrown around lightly in fits of exasperated hyperbole. Further, as a general rule, I try not to accuse others of criminal behavior unless I am able and willing to defend my statements in a court of law.

In my encounters with On Lawn, however, he has shown an unfortunate tendency to vilify and defame. For someone who is adamant about protecting the word marriage, On Lawn seems not to understand or respect the power that words have. On his blog, among many other accusations, I have been called a pathological liar, have had my status as an attorney denied and mocked, have had my professional competence ridiculed, have been compared to Hitler, and perhaps most ironically been called a "malicious slanderer." That he used the word "slander" to refer to written communications only demonstrates the depth of his ignorance with respect to the fact that words have specific meanings and don't just mean whatever a person wants them to mean. And, despite the fact that he howls in protest anytime he deems anyone to be misrepresenting his own precious opinions, when I have confronted him and his blogging cohorts about their misbehavior and misrepresentations they have only ramped it up and more or less told me that I deserved such abuse, that it is self-centered to respond to such abuse, that I should stop making things about me, and that I should stop caring what people say about me. One thing those who are acting abusively are really good at is trying to make their victims feel guilty. Guilty for standing up for themselves and guilty for engaging in behavior that is not wrong.

Much of this unapologetic abuse, I do realize, is to be expected on the internet. I can and have let many things slide. It's not exactly some startling revelation that people behave poorly on the internets. Shit happens. What is unacceptable (not to mention illegal) is for this man to falsely accuse me of overt or implied criminal behavior. On Lawn first referred to me as his "lesbian stalker" here and because he has recently chosen to repeat this defamation, it is worth addressing. Openly. I have nothing to hide.

This accusation, like his many others over the years, is false. Yet, if he sincerely believes he is a stalking victim, then he may feel unsafe. Despite everything, I don't want to discount his possible suffering and fear. Everyone deserves to feel safe in discourse. Even those who make others feel unsafe. So to address his charges, I can only offer my sincere assurance that I intend no harm. I have never made a threat of harm against him, nor do I wish harm to come to him or any other "marriage defender." So, for those reasons and the reasons that follow, I am publicly requesting him to cease making untrue and defamatory statements about me "stalking" him, his blogging cohorts, or his blog:

1) It is true that I read his blog. In fact, like many readers of blogs, I have been operating under the assumption that On Lawn and his cohorts maintain a blog for the purpose of providing reading material for others. Sometimes, in fact, I read comments that others post on his blog and follow links that bloggers provide for, presumably, people to click on and follow. If On Lawn does not want me to read his blog, perhaps he needs to be reminded that he has the option of making an explicit request for me to not read it and/or to make his blog private.

2) Furthermore, when I first encountered his blog, I googled his pseudonym to see if he treated others as poorly as he treated me in conversations about marriage equality. Turns out, in addition to being banned from a multitude of other pro-LGBT blogs, the answer to that question was yes. While On Lawn has breathlessly interpreted this as "stalking" him, I searched his pseudonym to see if engaging him further was worth it and whether I thought it might be possible to touch that spark of humanity in him that resides in us all. Back then, I wondered if we could come to some sort of agreement to disagree about things. I learned a long time ago, and many accusations ago, that that was probably just an incredibly naive and idealistic wish of mine.

3) As for why I address his arguments and the arguments of his blogging cohorts on my blog. Well, frankly, I find it revolting that some people devote so much of their lives to opposing equal rights for their fellow Americans and do so in a manner that is, I believe, incredibly illogical and inarticulate. Not only do I want to counter their arguments, I want to better understand their motivations. I want to believe their "defense" of marriage is about more than a power trip and about more than, or something other than, not liking gay people.

This debate is not an abstraction to me. The denial of marital rights affects me in a very real way every single day of my life. It has implications with respect to the taxes I pay, for my health insurance coverage, for the way I have had to draw up "special" legal documents, and in countless other ways. When straight people write, dare I say, "obsessive" blogs dedicated solely to the issue of "marriage defense," I cannot help but think what is it to you, who can only predict the harm of same-sex marriage in vague, abstract terms, when it is so real and so much more to our lives? When they cannot articulate their reasons for "defending marriage" in an even halfway coherent manner, suggesting that their thought process isn't exactly clear, I inevitably think why are you really doing this?

See, "marriage defenders" often claim that they don't have anything against gay people, they just want to save marriage. They say that... and yet. Whether they're waxing on about the ickiness of anal sex, making homophobic and misogynistic "jokes" amongst themselves, or perpetuating outright lies and misinformation and failing to correct themselves when their errors are pointed out, their claims are incredibly difficult to take at face value.

I'm not implying that I have been perfect in the past. I haven't. I have called people names. I have let anger get the best of me sometimes, instead of walking away from provocative people and situations. I own that. Perhaps we would get somewhere if On Lawn chose to acknowledge and move forward from his own misbehavior and wanton accusations. Regardless of his choice, his accusations will not silence me. I will from time to time probably have something to say about the articles on his blog. It's part of this nifty concept called Debate.

Unlike more virulent anti-gays, On Lawn seems to support some benefits for same-sex couples. Given that, I find it somewhat silly and strange that he goes to the lengths he does to fail to concede even the tiniest of issues and to vilify his LGBT opponents on the internet. I read an article recently, in which a conservative commentator admitted that the opposition to same-sex marriage is "a losing argument," steeped as it is in intangible abstraction and vague prediction compared to the more tangible and specific argument of "I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him."

I wonder, do opponents of same-sex marriage realize this on some level? As long as they keep the issue on How Mean Gay People Are, it takes the focus off of the substantive issue of whether same-sex marriage is good for society. Conceptualizing us as a faceless monstrosity hell-bent on destroying everything that matters gives people something concrete to rally around, compared to the much more mundane, abstract, and unprovable "marriage exists to promote responsible procreation" message.

I wonder, what is the role that LGBT bloggers and allies can play in demonstrating the "realness" of this issue to us and in countering the anti-gay propaganda that is so prominent on the internet? Is it ever worth it to try reaching the "unreachable"? Reading some of the most popular LGBT blogs, how are we countering or, perhaps more importantly, reinforcing the message that we are monsters? How should we respond, if at all, to those who continually label our assertiveness as aggression?

And, for that matter, how are anti-gay blogs countering or reinforcing the message that they are hateful, anti-social bigots? Do they successfully do that at all?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sex Integration Fail: Take Two

Previously, I took an article written by our anti-equality friend On Lawn to to task for asserting that same-sex marriage is a "pollution of equality" and that it was heterosexual marriage that caused women to win the right to vote in the US. I raised a number of very clear questions in my piece, questions that any able "marriage defender" and "gender complementarist" should have had no trouble answering.

Unfortunately, I found On Lawn's response to be inarticulate, unresponsive, and a failure in answering the questions I raised with respect to his own argumentation. I find it very problematic when people are unable to coherently articulate the reasons behind their beliefs, especially when they are strongly-held beliefs affecting my rights.

For one, he couldn't seem to make up his mind whether he was responding to my article or to Seda's comments, who ventured to On Lawn's blog to engage him on the issue. Such a confused, muddled response to both Seda and me is bizarre and not indicative of clear thought. Two, throughout the post, On Lawn pumps his fists in victory without providing sentences or clauses clearly articulating his argumentation. He writes as though his conclusions speak for themselves as being self-evidently true and require no elaboration. While that sort of writing is "convincing" to those with ESP, it leaves the rest of us mere muggles unconvinced.

Third, once On Lawn began talking substance, he seemed to not even understand his own original argument. His original argument, if you will remember, was that the integration of the sexes within heterosexual marriage caused women to win the right to vote in the US. According to him, wives persuaded their husbands to give women the right to vote, and that marriage, therefore, was the biggest "conduit" to power for women. In my response, I had provided a study that demonstrated that On Lawn had the causal relationship wrong. Namely, it was single men in the West who granted women the right to vote, not because they were persuaded by their wives (which being single men they of course did not have), but because they (a) were not threatened by the relatively few numbers of female voters and (b) they wanted to attract potential wives.

This was a rather obvious, if not boring, point. Yet, finding something, although what is not entirely clear, oh so hilarious, On Lawn chortles:

"Even more funny is how Fannie provides the quote from this article to her readership. Given that I find marriage as a conduit for women to persuade men for equality,"

With that awkward transition, he then provides a quote from the study I presented:

"With 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."

Like I said. Male settlers granted women the right to vote before they were married to women, not after, as On Lawn had originally argued. The magical aspect of "sex integration" had not yet occurred when men decided to grant women the right to vote. Oddly, On Lawn interprets this paragraph as supporting his original argument. Ejaculating his undeserved victory, he ponders:

"I wonder if Fannie misses out on the power of male-female integration in marriage mentioned directly in that quote."

He fails to comprehend that the evidence demonstrates pretty much the exact opposite of his own argument. Yet, cackling away like a madman, he pretends that it perfectly supports it.

One wonders, why doesn't he just concede this? Why not acknowledge that he re-invented history to support his "marriage defense" agenda? Worse things have happened in the world than Being Wrong On the Internet. Is one's "defense" of marriage so precarious that one tiny concession would cause a host of other "self-evident truths" to come tumbling down?

Why am I still even talking about this non-point? Why, when I point out flaws such as this, does On Lawn resort to calling me an obsessive stalker? Tune in tomorrow, where we ponder the answers to those questions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Children of Same-Sex Parents "Just Fine"

I strongly believe that "marriage defense" is grounded in an ideology of male supremacy. The basic idea behind many people's "defense of traditional marriage" is the idea that men and women are complementary beings who, when they come together in a pair bond, naturally create the institution of marriage. Because men and women are different in this complementary way, they go on to argue that marriage cannot occur between two men or two women and that all children need both a mother and a father.

"Marriage defenders" rarely go into much, or even any, detail demonstrating how specifically all men are different from all women from a psychological standpoint, of course. However, the above summary is the basic gist of the argumentation.

Extending this ideology further, many ladies very quickly learn that being "complementary" to men means being less-than men. Whenever a human difference is exaggerated to the extent that the sex/gender one has been, you can pretty much guarantee that some sort of hierarchy is also involved. The "truth" about women, often deriving from Christian and other male supremacist religious traditions, is that we are some sort of inferior version of men. Unlike men, who are natural leaders created in the very image of god "himself," women are alleged natural born submissives created from that rather insubstantial part of man, his rib.

The truth threat of same-sex marriage is that it knocks this ideology right on its outdated, artificial ass. To recognize same-sex marriage as a legitimate institution recognizes that while sex and gender are different categories, they are not as important and hierarchical as "common sense" dictates.

When I read through this article in The New York Times regarding research on same-sex parenting, which I first saw at PF's place, I was reminded of this once more. For much of the history of LGBT advocacy, those opposed to LGBT rights relied on their "common sense" to warn that children of gay people would turn out gay, crazy, confused, molested, and generally just Really Bad Off. Appealing to pathos by using baby talk and images of cherubic children, they appeal to the "common sense" of like-minded Americans by repeating over and over again like wacky parrots that All Kids Need a Mommy and a Daddy.

What the accumulated research shows, as noted in the NYT article, is that "children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents." And, as journalist Lisa Belkin notes, the differences that are observed are quite interesting:

"There are data that show, for instance, that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to aspire to professions that are traditionally considered male, like doctors or lawyers — 52 percent in one study said that was their goal, compared with 21 percent of daughters of heterosexual mothers, who are still more likely to say they want to be nurses or teachers when they grow up. (The same study found that 95 percent of boys from both types of families choose the more masculine jobs.) Girls raised by lesbians are also more likely to engage in “roughhousing” and to play with “male-gendered-type toys” than girls raised by straight mothers. And adult children of gay parents appear more likely than the average adult to work in the fields of social justice and to have more gay friends in their social mix."

Not only does the legalization of same-sex marriage send the message that marriage can exist without the socially constructed sex/gender hierarchy, it also knicks away at the prison of sex/gender roles. It is perhaps the most obvious message society can send to women that they can be something other than subservient wife to a man, and to men, that they can be something other than head of household over a woman and children. Yes, not all heterosexuals experience marriage in so traditional of terms, but same-sex marriage legitimizes the message that marriage- and those within it- are and can be something else.

It makes sense that girls of same-sex parents would listen to that message. One researcher quoted at the end of the article notes that taking gender out of the equation offers more role fluidity to same-sex partnerships than heterosexual ones. Perhaps it does more than that. Perhaps it allows girl children of such partnerships to be more than pink little girls. It shows them how to be a little bit more human.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review: The Mercury 13- The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight

I knew going into Martha Ackmann's historical account The Mercury Thirteen: The true story of thirteen women and the dream of space flight that, due to the content, it would be difficult, frustrating, and infuriating at times to read. During a time when John Glenn and other male pilots and astronauts were national heroes, the physical and mental superiority of white men over women and people of color was simply a given when it came to the dream of space flight. This inherent superiority of white men was a "self-evident truth" to most Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s despite the fact that NASA had not actually conducted tests comparing how white men stacked up against other groups.

Ackmann presents an account of thirteen female pilots (sometimes referred to as "the Mercury 13") who, at a research foundation, underwent much of the same testing of the male Mercury astronauts and tried desperately to realize their dream of becoming astronauts. (All quotes from The Mercury 13, unless otherwise indicated. Also, much, much more detail about these events and specific people is included in Ackmann's book, so I highly recommend it to those who are interested).

1. Legacy of Exclusion

In 1958, during the beginnings of the US space race with the Soviet Union, President Eisenhower cleared "in five minutes" a NASA administrator's advice to restrict the pool of astronaut candidates to military jet test pilots (9). This decision effectively limited the pool of astronaut candidates to white men, as few minority men were in that field and women were not allowed in it at all. As Ackmann explains, it simply didn't occur to Eisenhower or NASA that anyone "other than white men might have the desire and the ability to fly in space" (Ibid.).

This wasn't to say that women were not pilots in the 1950s and '60s. Thousands of women were pilots in the US during this time. The US military just did not allow women to be military pilots. During World War II, however, pilots Nancy Love and Jackie Cochran organized and oversaw the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in order to ferry military aircraft, fly military personnel, and help in the war efforts (30-31). 25,000 female pilots applied for this program, and 2,000 were accepted (Ibid.). However, when the men began returning home, the military deactivated the WASPs and, later, refused to recognize them as veterans meaning that, unlike men who served in the war, the WASPs did not receive military benefits or the GI bill (Ibid.). When 38 female pilots were killed in the line of duty, the US refused to pay to ship their bodies home and did not allow American flags to be draped over their coffins (Ibid.).

When I read about this, which I recently did for the first time as none of this was ever covered in any of my Real History courses, I was reminded that we sort of have a collective image of what a Default American Hero looks like and that it's usually not a woman. (He's usually not a man of color, either). I wonder, how often have the efforts of Lady Heroes been made invisible throughout history in this way? How has this invisibility reinforced the idea that men are inherently heroic, courageous, and strong whereas women are inherently cowardly, weak, and feeble?

Stereotypes have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, trapping people as they do in "roles" and "expectations." We saw that women were highly capable of being pilots during WWII, for instance, yet when the men returned from war women were expected to just forget that and return to their "natural" roles of wife and mother. For beings who are supposed to possess superior intelligence, it doesn't follow for men to truly believe in their heart of hearts that women are incapable of doing Things That Men Do, in light of the fact that women have often done Things That Men Do throughout history.

I wonder, how much human talent, heroism, and genius has man-kind squandered throughout history by insisting on gender apartheid in the field of Human Endeavor?

2. Lady Astronauts

And that brings us to Randy Lovelace, and his independent tests on female pilots. In the late 1950s, NASA was not interested in testing female pilots for astronaut viability. For one, NASA claimed to know very little about how female bodies worked since all of their research to date had been done on men; thus, spending time researching women would divert time and energy away from their primary work on men (45). Despite NASA's concession that they lacked test results on women, one Colonel then stated as fact anyway that women lacked the physical and mental competence to travel to space (Ibid.).

And, given that menstruation-obsessed medical professional during this time believed that women just could not think clearly during their periods, it was believed that women would be more likely than men to crash planes (38). Isn't it bizarre how often men have used the phenomenon of female menstruation to deny women access to all of the many Things That Men Do? Sports. Education. Society. It's as though men used to think about periods more than any woman thought about periods, back then.

Not all men during this time lacked curiosity about women's actual abilities to be astronauts. Randy Lovelace opened his Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research to notable pilot Geraldyn "Jerrie" Cobb for testing (61). The Foundation performed a total of 75 tests on Cobb's body and, after her exceptional test scores, invited 25 other accomplished female pilots to take the tests. 19 enrolled in the testing and 13 of them passed the same tests that the male Mercury 7 pilots passed. (Statistically speaking, 68% of the female candidates passed the tests "with no medical reservations" compared to 57% of the male candidates).

Lovelace concluded that "women had no inherent, biological, or physical limitation that would prevent them from operating as well as men in the extreme conditions of spaceflight" (99). Several of the women who could take time off of work and their responsibilities at home completed additional phases of testing and were gearing up for more advanced phases, using military equipment and jets, at the Naval School of Aviation Medicine. However, before this testing could be done, NASA stopped it, effectively halting the women's testing program claiming that it did not at that time "'have a requirement for such a program'" (132). That is, the white men who ran the world's preeminent exploration agency saw no requirement for exploring whether anyone other than white men were capable of being astronauts.

Unfortunately, white male politicians were similarly untroubled by the astronauts' demographic composition. During a meeting with Mercury 13 members Jane Hart and Jerrie Cobb, Vice President Lyndon Johnson said that allowing women to be astronauts wasn't his call to make, it was NASA's, and refused to intervene on their behalf (148). Then, during infuriating Congressional Hearings, amidst Congressmen who had the privilege of seeing the debate in terms of lighthearted jokes about ladies in space, Jerrie Cobb and Jane Hart presented a clear and articulate case for continuing the women's testing program (158).

Astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, whom Congress lauded as heroes during the testimony, testified on the issue of women in space. Although neither man knew much about the testing that had already been done on the Mercury 13, Glenn expressed contentment with the current discriminatory status quo, saying:

"I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized, really. It is just a fact. The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them. The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order. It may be undesirable" (168).

He then added that he wouldn't oppose a women's testing program, but he also saw no requirement for it (Ibid.). NASA's George Low reassured Congress that NASA wasn't discriminating against women or anything, it was just that women weren't interested in scientific careers and test piloting (165). In spite of the fact that women were present who were actually interested in those things.

So, despite the fact that many women had been pilots in World War II, that many women were interested in serving their countries during war, did want to fly military jets, were interested in becoming astronauts, and were proven to be as physically and mentally competent as men in doing so, powerful and influential white men created their own convenient "facts of our social order" in order to justify denying women these opportunities. Congress ended up determining that NASA's judgment was "sound" with respect to the issue (171).

So, it wasn't until the 1970s and '80s that the various branches of the military began allowing women to be jet test pilots (183). In 1999, a gracious Eileen Collins became the first female pilot and commander of a space shuttle, thanking the Mercury 13 for giving female astronauts "a history" (189).

The bravery and ability of America's first astronauts, all of whom were male, cannot be denied. Yet, without diminishing what these men accomplished, I hope that Americans who value equality and fairness will look upon such accomplishments through a bittersweet lens. Like Judith, Woolf's unknown, unheralded woman who possesses Shakespeare's gifts, how many women throughout history have been denied opportunities of heroism, adventure, and success because of the many doors that were closed to women?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Police Officer Condones Murder of Gay Man in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico this past weekend, someone brutally murdered a 19-year-old gay man by decapitating, dismembering, and burning him.

In a world in which the life of a gay man mattered like how the lives of human beings matter, those charged with protecting society would would strongly condemn such a murder.

In our world, the police investigator responding to this case issued a statement saying "people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen."

No word of unconditional condemnation from US anti-gays including the National Organization for Marriage, Americans For Truth [sic] About Homosexuality, or Focus on the Family. No unconditional condemnation, either, from anti-gay blogging groups Digital Network Army or Opine Editorials. Maybe they are all too busy mourning the loads of Christians who are now being tortured, murdered, and all-around persecuted because of the passage of the new federal hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation as a protected category.

Rest in piece George Steven Mercado Lopez. I'm sorry I don't have more to say than that, dear boy. But what else is there to say that does not put more aggression into the world?

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Which Carrie Prejean Fails to Fit NOM's Story Arc

It's not often that I would use the descriptor "good" in the same sentence as the National Organization for [Hetersexual] Marriage. However, I will concede that one thing NOM is good at is writing narratives that resonate with people's fears.

For instance, after Proposition 8 took away the right for same-sex couples to marry in California and LGBT advocates took to the streets in protest, NOM hyperventilated, "McCarthyism is threatening our free speech and freedom of association—our most basic constitutional rights. Donors who exercised these rights in supporting proposition 8 are seeing their employers or companies being targeted for harassment and intimidation."

When Rick Warren distanced himself from the anti-gay movement, NOM's Maggie Gallagher claimed, without evidence, that Warren was just kowtowing to the powerful gay movement that forces people to "mute [their] views on marriage."

When Carrie Prejean notoriously gave an inarticulate, barely literate answer to the ever-asinine Perez Hilton's question on same-sex marriage, NOM was quick to fit the tale of the Persecution of Carrie Prejean into their story arc. After Prejean ended up not winning the Miss USA contest, NOM mustered up a bizarre amount of outrage and built Prejean up as the biggest victim of an unfair election outcome since Al Gore in 2000. After she was later fired by Miss USA for alleged "continued breach of contract," NOM ramped up the narrative, stating:

"Hollywood hates Carrie. First they abuse her, then they try to get her to recant, then they threw mud, and now they are doing what they wanted to do from day one: Get rid of Carrie.

This cover story about a contract dispute doesn’t pass the smell test. Americans aren’t fooled that easily. God knows, and we know, the truth about Carrie: She’s a young woman of great beauty who chose truth over the glittering tiara that Hollywood offers. Of course they will try to punish her, but we know she will be fine in the end, because her values are in the right place." (Emphasis added).

On its website, NOM continues to run a video ad against same-sex marriage called "No Offense," further nurturing this persecution complex. The narrative proceeded to take a literal turn when Prejean announced the signing of a book deal where the 22-year-old was to write a memoir of the marriage controversy that allegedly left her "tiara-less."

For seeing hope for the "marriage defense" movement in the Carrie Prejean narrative, one commentator on NOM's website boasts that it is merely "Maggie’s latest stroke of genius."

None of this, of course, has a lick to do with whether or not same-sex marriage is a good idea for society. As long as Americans remain scared of the small cabal of villainous and powerful LGBTs, the substantive debate doesn't have to happen. People don't have to think about how LGBT people are harmed by the lack of equal marital rights as long as they're focused on protecting and defending themselves and their way of life from the homosexualists.

Yet, is Carrie Prejean the symbol of victimhood and traditional values that aligns with NOM's narrative? NOM brags of Prejean's values, but since they've brought it up, what exactly are Prejean's values? They have vaguely said that Prejean's values "are in the right place," but is the only measure of Real Values these days whether one opposes same-sex marriage?

No offense, but I'm not so sure that we should, as a society, value condoning beauty contests that reinforce age-old notions that women are to be valued primarily for their physical beauty and that losing such a contest is The Worst Possible Thing To Happen To A Woman.

No offense, but I'm not sure that we should value pageants that pay for women to get breast implants- procedures that, when done for beauty contest purposes, serve to fetishize female body parts and reinforce the idea that one standard of beauty exists for all women.

No offense, but it would be refreshing if Maggie Gallagher, who is (unfairly) mocked all the time on the internets for her looks, would use some of her incredible power and influence to critique this beauty industry rather than condone it.

No offense, but is a woman who allegedly made a sex tape of herself that, um, supposedly included only herself really the best person to represent the values of Opposite Marriage America?

In fact, it does not seem as though "stroke of genius" is the best choice of words of words for the manufacturing of the Carrie Prejean Narrative after all.

Ultimately, I'm left wondering. Are there are any real winners in these ugly, endless marriage battles? The LGBT community is regularly vilified and dehumanized. NOM and its leaders are widely reviled. One woman is regularly mocked for being "fat" and "ugly." Another has been publicly humiliated after being turned into a false martyr. LGBT families are bitter, hurting, and left without equal rights. Aggression begets more aggression and no one on any side of this should be surprised when the wind catches ones vile breath and blows it back into one's face.

Lest anyone forget, beauty pageantry is, first and foremost, a facade. Everyone knows that surface appearances count more than substance. In its mission statement, NOM claims "to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it." As substance takes a backseat to storytelling, perhaps NOM has found an apt martyr in Carrie Prejean.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MassResistance Warns that Dystopian Pro-Homosexualist Future Is Here!

I first saw this MassResistance propaganda on anti-equality site Opine Editorials. Strangely, Opine Editorials has a history of promoting dishonest pieces by this Southern Poverty Law Center-identified hate group. For good reason, even professional anti-equality groups have been distancing themselves from the likes of MassResistance and Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality as of late.

The cited MassResistance piece is, coming before Maine's marriage election, one of the more pathetic cases against legalizing same-sex marriage.

Long story short: A Massachusetts man was fired from his retail job after allegedly telling a woman who was marrying her girlfriend that he found homosexuality immoral and after allegedly telling another woman that he hated gays. The facts are in dispute, but more on that in a minute. Citing this case, MassResistance hyperventilates, "This is a chilling example of the ultimate consequences of imposing the concept of same-sex 'marriage' through force of law."

I will limit my response to two items of note:

1. Although the facts are in dispute, MassResistance provides two pieces of evidence. One is a video of the man narrating his version of the story, which coincides with MassResistance's version of the story. Apparently, a female employee mentioned to the man that she was getting married and, when the man made a statement showing that he assumed that the woman was marrying a man, the woman corrected him and said that she was marrying a woman. Then, according to the man, the woman "continued bringing it up" all day, causing the man to remark that "his Christian beliefs did not support same-sex marriage." A few hours later, he claims to have been suspended and then, two days later, he was fired.

The second piece of evidence is the man's termination letter, written by a human resources employee, outlining another version of the story. According to the letter, the man claimed that he "felt compelled to tell [the woman] that her lifestyle was immoral" and "deviant" and that he disagreed strongly with homosexuality. The letter than cites another employee who provided a written statement claiming that the man had said that he "hate[s]" gay people.

Oddly, and insulting the intelligence of any literate, thinking person, someone has scrawled hand-written notes throughout this letter at various points of dispute just in case, I suppose, readers might have forgotten the man's side of the story that they read seconds before. For instance, regarding the claim that the man said he "hate[s]" gay people, someone wrote "This is strongly disputed." (Note: That fact isn't merely disputed, it's strongly disputed! It must therefore be untrue!)

But really, that's the thing about disputes, isn't it? Whether disputing parties are in court, out in the street, or on the internet, everybody knows there are multiple sides to a story. What is not in question is that the man expressed his opinion regarding the immorality of same-sex marriage. What is in question is the degree to which he did so. Was he a man who, fed up with a lesbian flaunting her upcoming nuptials to her deviant lezzzzbian lover, finally snapped and expressed his judgmental opinions? Or, upon first hearing that the woman was going to marry her female partner, did he offer his unsolicited beliefs that homosexuality is "deviant" and say that he "hate[s] people like that"?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Say, I wonder what Mr. Persecuted Christian's lesbian co-worker has to say about all this? Did MassResistance try to get her side of the story? I notice that, unlike the man's, her perspective and video testimony is not offered. That MassResistance did not present any statement of hers and perhaps marked up his termination letter in amateurish scrawl sort of signifies a teensy bias, to say the least. In fact, even though MassResistance wasn't there to ascertain what really happened that day with Mr. Persecuted Christian and Ms. Lezzzbian, we see that MassResistance certainly has a story it wants to tell and that it is using his case as some sort of "example."

Which brings me to two.

2. Ridiculously, MassResistance claims that this case is the result of the imposition of "the concept of same-sex 'marriage' [sic] through force of law." While the termination letter does cite the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, this man was not fired as a result of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Rather, the termination letter was very clear that the man's conduct, telling a fellow employee that she is "deviant and immoral," was "inappropriate and unprofessional" and constituted discrimination and harassment, which was especially heinous coming as it did from a manager.

The legal status of same-sex marriage is of no consequence as Massachusetts, like many states, is an employee-at-will state. This means that, with a few exceptions, an employer may fire an employee for pretty much any reason it wants. Coupled with that, and to keep this general, employers and managers have a legal duty to keep employees free from harassment and free from a hostile work environment. Because of these legal duties, employers often create personnel policies and procedures designed to respond to harassment and larger companies often send managers and employees to training on these issues. Oftentimes these policies, which every diligent employee reads, are explicitly clear about the employer's "zero tolerance" when it comes to harassment.

So, let's be very clear. What many anti-gay employees are actually seeking is the special right to be uncivil in the workplace and to have harassment policies and procedures then not apply to them. Audaciously, they are seeking this special right under their overused, frayed banner of so-called religious freedom.

Of the HoMoSeXuAl AgEnDa, MassResistance writes, "It's about making people accept what they normally would not accept and punishing those who resist." It's not surprising that MassResistance would write that particular narrative. However, in discounting other perspectives and including only those that would support such a story, they have it wrong.

People can accept or not accept whatever they want. Yet, while everyone is entitled to their beliefs, what they are not entitled to do is to make others feel unsafe. What anti-gays are slowly losing, thanks to the gay agenda, is the ability to consistently make others feel unsafe and do so with the approval of their own consciences. What they are losing, thanks to the gay agenda, is the power to decide what is and isn't offensive to All People. What they are losing, finally, is the power to dictate that the mere mention of a fact observable in reality- homosexuality- is more offensive and more harmful than treating those Others poorly.

Anti-gays have made up their minds long ago, way before quantifiable statistics were available, that same-sex marriage would cause all sorts of Great Harms to society. Now that same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, they have been desperate to document tangible proof of these "harms." If this case of a man fired for treating his co-worker poorly, and this, is the best they can offer, their "proof" is pretty damn pathetic. Where is the Earth-shattering, universe-destroying, family-unraveling destruction of society that has been so confidently predicted?

To concede a bit, this case does represent some "harm." Oh yes, it most definitely does. But where anti-gays have it wrong is in assuming it to be a harm for all of society. In reality, the success of the HoMo AgEnDa harms only the anti-gay's own power to narrate reality for everyone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stuff Progressive Anti-Racist White Guys Do: Erase Sex/Gender

We have seen before how white male anti-racist writers have a tendency to erase issues of sex and gender from their critiques of society. For as much insight as some progressives, liberals, and anti-racist folks have with respect to race, some people have remarkably little insight when it comes to their own blind spots with respect to sex, gender, and other privileges.

We all have our blind spots, to be sure. I certainly do. The trouble with blind spots is that, by definition, we can't see them. And so, I write this post with all due respect to macon d. and his stuff white people do blog. He's often spot on in his posts. Importantly, he's a white guy thinking about race in a thoughtful, non-hyper-defensive way.

Yet, generally, the biggest blind spot that some anti-racist (and liberal and progressive and leftist) white guys have is that they collapse the white female experience and the white male experience together as though the two are sufficiently similar enough to be presented as the experience of White Personhood. I know that all of the various "Stuff [insert group] Do/Like" blogs are not truly intended to represent the experiences of all those who belong to the relevant identity group. Yet, unless they are obviously cheeky and fun, there is a real danger in coming off as though one is deigning to represent the [Insert Identity] Experience.

So, while I generally appreciate macon d's stuff white people do blog, I was disappointed in the way that his post regarding how one of the things white people do is "recreate jesus in their own image" so blatantly ignored gender. I think we need to be very clear about in who's image white "people" have created Jesus because this supposed representative of god certainly was not created in the image of all of us white people.

Here, I should be clear about something. Assuming for the sake of argument that Jesus existed as a historical figure, I am not disputing that he was a man, as opposed to a woman. Where I take issue with Christianity, and one large reason as to why I am not a Christian, is that I do not believe that the historical Jesus was imbued with divinity (at least as Christianity conceives it). In fact, I think one of the greatest failing of Christianity is that it has gendered God Incarnate, as represented by Jesus, as a white male.

Given the degree to which male-centrism is built into Christianity (and Judaism and Islam), erasing gender from a critique of the creation of white Jesus does a real disservice to the alienation that so many women and girls experience because of god and "God Incarnate's" alleged white maleness. So, with respect to white people re-creating "jesus in their own image," I'm not sure that white women had all that much to do with the re-creation or that they benefit from it to the extent that white men do.

My criticism here is not a petty one and I don't write this to "let white women off the hook," as it were. Rather, the gendering of god/Jesus as male is, I believe, one of the greatest purveyors of male privilege and sexism in the world. Yes. In the world. What a sense of entitlement white men and boys must learn at such an early age to know that, not only the greatest being in the sky looks just like them, but so does his incarnate son. And, because men have gendered god and god incarnate as male, Christianity tells us that it was men who were created in god's image and that it was women who came from men, rather than what we know to be the biological truth. It is yet another way we learn that white men are the standard human being and everyone else is an aberration from that.

As the links within macon's post rightly note, we do most certainly learn from the white Jesus that white is good and non-white is not good. But to build on that, we also learn from white male Jesus that maleness is good and not maleness is not good. In fact, from various sects of Christianity, we learn that the maleness of Jesus was so integral to his identity that it precludes women from being priests.

In short, men and women do not- indeed cannot- experience Christianity in the same way. What has been to white men a great privilege- the white maleness of Jesus- is to women an oppressive force.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My "Marriage Defense" Referendum

I have decided to initiate a new "marriage defense" referendum that will piggyback off of California nad Maine's referenudms that de-legalized same-sex marriage. My referendum will be nationwide in scope and will prohibit reality television shows that center around two heterosexual parents and their children.

My reasons are simple:

1. First and foremost, the way that heterosexuals parade their sex lives in everyone's faces for fame and money is disgusting.

I don't care what people do in their private bedrooms, but I for one am sick of heterosexuals flaunting their sexualities in public. An innocent shopper can't even make it through a grocery store line without, on the cover of virtually every gossip rag, seeing those 8 little reminders of the fact that Jon humped Kate. Whilst flipping through the channel menu on the television, one cannot but be reminded of the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Jim Bob Duggar have had sex at least 18 times (and counting).

There is a concept called "too much information." Fame-seeking families and television producers should become familiar with it, instead of coming up with cutesy hyper-sexualized names for in-your-face television shows revolving around the sexualities of heterosexual couples and their litters.

2. When reality television parents break up, which they almost inevitably do, it severs the link between procreation and marriage. Americans everywhere learn that marriage is not about having and raising children, it's about how to best market one's family for purposes of reality television opportunities.

We must defend marriage, and indeed all of society, from the dangers posted to it by unscripted television programming.

Please, won't somebody think of the children?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Obama Signs Hate Crimes Act: Anti-gays Hyperventilate, Crimes Against Ladies Ignored

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that expands federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a person's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The previous law permitted prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or national origin. Effectively, this meant that Fred Phelps, his church of God Hates Fags, and every other anti-gay Persecuted Christian in the US was protected under federal hate crimes laws whilst the targets of their animus, LGBT people, were not.

Among other specifics, the new law also requires the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people. Prior to this law, the FBI tracked only statistics of hate crimes committed based on a persons's race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability.

You may remember this legislation as anti-gays notoriously warned that expanding hate crimes laws to include "sexual orientation" would protect pedophiles and other sexual deviants. Their various fear-mongering claims were ridiculous, of course. However, Ed Brayton, who is "no big fan" of the new law (for other reasons), has made a wager with Matt Barber, who has breathlessly reported that Christians are now on "high alert" because of the law. Writes Ed:

"I am willing to bet that not a single minister will be convicted in this country under the hate crimes legislation for preaching against homosexuality. And since we can't have such bet be open-ended, here are my proposed terms. We start with $100 for the first year. At the end of the first year, if someone has been convicted of such a 'crime' I'll pay up. If not, you can either up or go double or nothing on the second year.

Every year that goes by without such a conviction, the amount of the bet doubles. You can bail out at any time, admit that you were wrong and pay the accumulated money owed. And if, at any time, someone is convicted merely of speaking out against homosexuality in this country, I pay up whatever amount of money is currently on the line based on the above formula. At the end of ten years, the loser pays up and the bet is concluded."

The fun part about pro-LGBT laws going into effect is that we can measure what actually happens against what the anti-gay crowd said would happen. I suspect they are going to end up looking as foolish as all of those many other historical purveyors of Great Harm myths.

In addition, while I have my doubts about the effectiveness of hate crimes laws in actually preventing hate crimes, I think it is important that gender is included. We, meaning feminists, have been saying for many many years, and in various different ways, that we live in a culture that encourages violence against women as women. Or, as Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, "We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected." Violence and aggression against women motivated by the fact that they are women is so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. It would be revolutionary, yet appropriate, to frame many acts of violence against women as hate crimes.

Unfortunately, as the Reclusive Leftist has aptly noted, the mainstream media, LGBT groups, and anti-gay groups are almost completely overlooking the inclusion of gender in this hate crimes expansion.

I wonder, what is the intent of the US Department of Justice with respect to prosecuting gender-based hate crimes?


Hello dear and loyal readers! I will be posting articles this week. However, I am away and access to the intertubes for purposes of responding to comments and emails will be limited.

My alter-ego Leftist Gender Warrior will be in charge of things while I'm away and will hopefully frighten anyone from leaving spam and other obnoxious comments.


Have a great week! Arrrrrrrggghhhhhhhh!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Scary But Unhelpful Health Advice for Ladies: Ovarian Cancer Edition

I received this chain email the other day from a well-meaning friend. The email did not attribute it to any source, but I used the Google and I think it may have come from here (PDF). It's title is "Ovarian Cancer Whispers- So Listen!" and here is what it says:

"Watch for Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort; vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion; frequency and/or urgency of urination in the absence of an infection; unexplained weight gain or weight loss; pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness; ongoing unusual fatigue; or unexplained changes in bowel habits. Aching legs.

If symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, ask your doctor for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, CA-125 blood test, and transvaginal ultrasound. A Pap Test WILL NOT detect ovarian cancer."

Cyberchondriac that I am, I already knew all of this, actually, and during the course of my life have already convinced myself multiple times that I've had ovarian cancer even though I'm not in an age group that is considered "risky" for the disease. How do I know I'm not in a "risky" age group? Because I came across those statistics whilst looking up survival rates to see how long I had left to live.

Now, despite my own hypochondriac tendencies, I don't know that many women would not think they had ovarian cancer upon reading the above symptoms. What woman, or man for that matter, doesn't experience those symptoms from time to time? Look out for "vague but persistent" stomach upsets, upsets that are quite common and have innumerable causes? Gee, thanks.

I'm sure this screening tool was well-intentioned. But I have to wonder, how helpful is it really? And, most importantly, shouldn't psychological distress caused by ScArY CaNcEr ScReEnIng tools be factored into the equation at some point?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

11/3/09 Election News: LGBT Rights Edition

I want to take a moment today to acknowledge the LGBT items that voters decided on recently in Michigan, Maine, and Washington.

1. Michigan

In June 2009, in Kalamazoo, Michigan the city council unanimously approved an ordinance protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations. An anti-gay group then gathered enough signatures to put the issue up for decision by Kalamazoo voters. November 3, 2009, Kalamazoo 65% of voters approved the ordinance.

2. Maine

Last May, the Maine legislature passed a law that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. Before the law could take effect, opposition groups gathered enough signatures to put the issue up for decision by Maine voters. While most of the donations on the pro-LGBT side were from individual donors, contributions from the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage accounted for almost half of Stand for Marriage Maine's budget. November 3, 2009, approximately 53% percent of Maine voters rejected this law, effectively de-legalizing same-sex marriage.

Anti-gay activists are celebratory. Some are even gloating, because really, other than spread hatred and misinformation, that's sort of what they do best on the internet when they "win." Then, because these are little more than contests that have no real impact on their lives, they move on to more important things, like trying to defeat the next pro-LGBT measure. However, I'd like to look on the bright side. Given that only 5-10% of the population is LGBT, the margin of victory could have been much greater. Indeed, as little as 20 years ago, an election this close would have been unthinkable. Their ever-decreasing margins of victory underscores the fact that the anti-gay, anti-equality ideology is slowly, stubbornly dying.

3. Washington

Last but not least, in Washington, the state legislature passed an "everything but marriage" law that expanded the state's domestic partnership law that grants over 200 rights and benefits to domestic partners. A group called Protect Marriage Washington collected enough signatures to, you guessed it, put it on the ballot for a vote. November 3, 2009, voters affirmed the "everything but marriage" law. We won!

And, I certainly do see Washington as a large victory despite the omission of the word "marriage." Personally, I am in favor of "everything but marriage" laws and would accept this as a compromise only if DOMA were repealed and same-sex couples were given all of the federal rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage. For me, the main issue with respect to marriage equality is the issue of equal rights. As long as state governments have singled out this thing called "marriage" and, along with the federal government, is conferring special rights and benefits upon those withing it, those rights and benefits should be open to same-sex couples as well. If having those rights means calling it something else, that is okay with me, because I would call it a marriage anyway in my private life.

However, and this is somewhat of a tangent, the government has no business calling unions "marriage," as that decision should be up to the parties involved and/or religious institutions. Instead, the government should call all benefit-collecting unions "civil unions" and let the individuals within those unions decide what their relationship is called.

To end here, these cases represent an interesting trend with respect to LGBT rights. Historically, when LGBT rights have been won in the courts, opponents cried that the tyranny of Activist Judges (tm) had been imposed upon The People and, therefore, the rights were not legitimately won. Now that LGBT rights are also being won through legislative bodies, anti-gay groups have moved the goalposts further back and now claim that Activist Lawmakers (tm) are imposing upon the will of The People.

When it comes to LGBT rights, apparently only direct democracy in the most literal sense of the word will suffice to grant true legitimacy. That means we have a long road ahead of us and a lot of people to convince.

Bravo to Kalamazoo and Washington voters. Now that The People (tm) are granting rights to LGBT people, and anti-gays are becoming a minority, I wonder what the future cry will be. For, we already know that Tyranny of the Majority is not an injustice with which they are concerned.