Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: Who Cooked the Last Supper? The Women's History of the World

Previously, I wrote about a men's rights activist who boasted that "almost everything good" in our lives "has been invented, discovered, created, or built by men." Appropriately, I happened to have been reading Rosalind Miles' Who Cooked the Last Supper? The Women's History of the World at the time that I read his statement. Miles' important book helped inform my argument that this MRA's claim grossly ignores the historical context that enabled men to dominate the creation of Everything Good (and Bad). Namely, as I wrote, "in order for men to monopolize the field of Human Endeavor, it was necessary for them to restrict women to the home and erect No Girls Allowed signs on every door that mattered in the public sphere."

History, Miles' writes in her introduction, has long belonged only to men. Or so it is written. According to predominant accounts of history, "'Man,' it seemed, had single-handedly climbed down the tree of evolution on behalf of the rest of us. No one ever suggested that women might have had anything to do with it" (1). As such, Miles found the challenge of writing women back into history "irrestistible;" for, "[i]n history, there were women too" (Ibid.). Not that one would know it by reading mainstream accounts of history. (All quotations from Who Cooked the Last Supper? unless otherwise stated).

1. The Fall of the Goddess and the Rise of the Phallus

I have previously explored Merlin Stone's book When God Was Woman, and, like Stone, Miles delves into the "prominence and prevalence of the Great Mother Goddess" that later advocate of male-centric religions suppressed (35). While monotheistic male-worshiping religions dominate today, Miles considers evidence showing that "the sacred status of womanhood lasted for at least 25,000 years" (36). The root of Goddess worship and the relatively high status of women, as Stone also noted, rested in the ability of women to produce new life. Men were believed to play no part in procreation and "[s]o arose the belief that woman was divine... and so was born the worship of the Great Mother" (37).

Unlike Freud's belief that all women harbored envy about man's penis, Miles suggests that, due to what they believed to be their insignificant role in procreation, men developed uterus envy. So, "[r]esentful of he women's monopoly of all nature's rhythms, men were driven to invent their own" through their own religious traditions (56). In inventing their own "natural rhythms," men did nothing more than "mimic the biological actions of women's bodies" (Ibid.). Even today, for instance, we see this mimicry in the male appropriate of procreation in the concept of being "re-born" through Christ.

Then, once the role of men in reproduction was understood, women were knocked off their divine pedestal to make way for the Power of the Phallus. Miles writes, "[w]ith its rise to sacred status, the phallus increased in significance.... From this epoch onward, male superiority becomes vested in and expressed through this one organ, as an ever-present reminder of masculine power" (60). Roughly coinciding with the veneration of the phallus was the shift from women's horticulture to men's agriculture, the purposeful taming and domination of nature "to make it deliver what they determined" (62). Like the field, women were now conceptualized as "the passive field, only fertile if ploughed, while man, drunk with the power of his newfound phallocentricity, was plough, seed, grain chute, and ovipositor all in one" (Ibid.).

In short, with the discovery of the role that men play in reproduction, new creation myths killed the Goddess Mother, thereby shifting power to the male. Men began to be thought of as inherently "active," and women inherently "passive." Most importantly, men created new gods of power unlike prior monotheistic gods, "each one insist[ing] that he alone was God- he was the One God, the only God, and no one else could play" (80). And, "as a power-relation, then, monotheism inevitably creates a hierarchy- of one god over others, of stronger over weaker, of believer over unbeliever" (91). So, while it is true that some men persecuted other men, being a woman by virtue of their womanhood was "a life sentence of second-order existence.... If God was male and woman was not male, then whatever God was, woman was not.... As man stands beneath God in the heirarchy, so the woman, as further removed, comes below him" (Ibid.). Furthermore, as we all know, not only is woman not man, and therefore, not like God or Jesus, all women must pay for Eve's mistake in the Garden of Eden by remaining subservient to their husbands. In all, I'd say it's a pretty sweet deal for men.

Perhaps the largest achievement of monotheist male-centric religions is the concept of gender complementarity:

"All monotheisms are built on the idea of men and women as two complementarity opposites, forming two sides of one coin. In this lies the very root of women's inequality- for if males embody one set of characteristics, and if with characteristic modesty they arrogate to themselves all the strengths and virtues, then women are necessarily opposite and lesser creatures: weak where men are strong, fearful where men are brave, and stupid where men are intelligent" (98)."

We still see this attitude today. Conservatives, especially Christians and "marriage defenders," insist on gender complementarity via their endless "Marriage requires a man and a woman" campaigns. These so-called male and female characteristics are really nothing more than ancient stereotypes that have been used to perpetuate male superiority for thousands of years. Isn't it time we think a little more critically about these things?

2. Family Structure, Work, and the Control of Women

Unlike the popular myth (especially among conservatives), the mother-father-child nuclear family has not always been the nucleus of society. Rather, Miles presents evidence that "tribal hunting societies were centered on and organized through the mother.... In the woman-centered family, males were casual and peripheral.... The germ of social organization was always the woman and her children and her children's children" (23). Yet, after the so-called Rise of the Phallus, women were denoted as inferior via a bombardment of "religious, social, biological, and more recently psychological ideology to explain, insist, that women are secondary to men" (103).

Believed to be nothing more than mothers and sperm depositories, women became "defined and confined by their sex" and sexuality (111). Because of their wombs, "passivity," and general overall frailty, women were told that they had innate mental inferiority and were restricted from education and "denied the right to public space" (133, 141). Their lack of education led to lower wages (when they were allowed entry into the public sphere). Their lack of education, in a Catch-22, also "gave men a reason for refusing women political rights; and the lack of political rights made it impossible for women to legislate for any reforms, or to obtain the right to education, wage parity or equality before law (182). In the this context of deprivation, men today, as I alluded to above, sometimes boast that "everything good in [our lives] was invented, discovered, created or built by men." Upon hearing such statements, with the history of women informing me, I can only shrug and say, Well, I would certainly hope they have been able to, given the ginormous affirmative action program they afforded themselves.

Most provocatively, the development of feminism arose when women began looking around and noticing that "they lived in a society that was no more than 'a system of sex-slavery for women'" (252). Men granted themselves "free right" to women's sexuality and insisted that a woman's reproductive capacity was her most defining feature (Ibid.). In theory, without the right or access to use birth control, a woman could live nearly her entire reproductive life bearing children. While motherhood is surely admirable in its own right, women- being as unique creatures as men- should have more than this one option in life.

Constantly being pregnant and having children is sure to put a damper on one's career. Thus, "the struggle by women to break or even lessen men's power over female bodies, came to a head in the fight for contraception.... Modern 'birth control'... became the symbol and center of the campaign for physical emancipation" (257). By 1970, millions of women were using birth control that they could control and women were given the ability to control their bodies and reproduction. "For the first time in history, Western societies found themselves grappling with a situation that would have seemed an unthinkable blasphemy to earlier ages, the prospect that a woman could use and take sex in exactly the way that men had always been able to do, casually, at will, without premeditation and- perhaps worst of all- without consequences.

Sometimes, I think that last bit is what really rankles some of those who oppose birth control. Why would a woman, who was naturally "designed" to "complement" a man, ever want anything other than (perpetual) motherhood? When I am reminded of the history of patriarchy and ancient notions of gender complementarity, I am reminded that the battle for LGBT rights and marriage equality is much larger than the gay rights movement. I am reminded that in, eradicating the notion that marriage is for one man and one woman only, we are getting rid of pathological notions of women's natural inferiority as well. I am reminded that it is part of the larger struggle to acknowledge the full humanity of all men and women by allowing us all to be more than a "complementary" half to someone else's yin (or yang).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SuPeR ScArY AnD UnHeLpFuL HeAlTh NeWs: Swine Flu Edition

I'm sure by now you've heard via multiple sources about the Oh Dear God It's the Swine Flu SWINE FLU SWINE FLU! I found out about this new ScArY ThInG when I turned on the news a couple of days ago and heard the newscaster pretty much say that "a public health emergency has been declared," Obama had said that "the outbreak was reason for concern," and paradoxically that we should all relax because there is no "cause for alarm."

Yet. Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

In all seriousness, I am highly annoyed by scary and unhelpful news reports. Perhaps eager to report on anything other than the economy, torture, and bank bailouts (come on, the war in Iraq is so 2005), the media is now breathlessly bombarding us with a barrage of Critical Swine Flu Updates. Yesterday, a few days into the Swine Flu Story, Google News alone turned up almost 70,000 news stories on the emerging issue. Many of the articles can be summed as follows:

Swine flu is spreading all over the world and 149 people have died in Mexico! US border officials are screening travelers, even though such screening is "basically pointless in public health terms" since people can be contagious without being symptomatic! The only ways to lessen your chances of getting this deadly thing is to do things you should already be doing anyway, like washing your hands a lot. Good luck everyone.

I understand the importance of reporting on possible emerging contagious diseases, but doesn't it all make you feel so helpless? Like, there is pretty much nothing I can do to prevent this thing than to keep on doing what I already do anyway and it essentially all boils down to luck. (Although, I am counting down the minutes until someone finds a way to blame the swine flu on gays, atheists, and/or feminists.) Furthermore, hearing about this disease every time I turn on my computer, radio, iPod, and television makes our situation seem so very dire when, in reality, nobody knows much of anything. For instance, the "2009 swine flu outbreak" Wikipedia page (yes, it already has its own entry) includes tallies of confirmed and possible cases, as well as attributed and confirmed deaths. Within this entry, citizen journalists have been busily updating maps and charts showing the spread of the virus, even though the numbers of confirmed cases are much lower than the numbers of "possible cases."

So, on behalf of our collective sanity, I think we all need to take a deep breath and just calm. down. Little in life annoys me more than sensationalism in the media. I remember SARS, West Nile Virus, avian flu, anthrax attacks, and every other over-hyped ScAry NeWs EvEnT that did little more than whip the masses into paranoid anxious frenzies.

Anyway, to give you a calmer dose of perspective, via Stayin' Alive, a public health blog:

"Okay, so what's going on right now? Probably absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. We're at the tail end of the flu season right now, and it happens to be that at this time a new strain of flu has been detected. The Mexican authorities seem to think it can cause unusually severe disease, but that has not been observed elsewhere and it is not clear whether that is really true in Mexico City either. When a small number of young men in Mexico City suddenly die of pneumonia, my first thought is HIV, not pandemic flu. (And it is a small number. The Mexican authorities have attributed 100 deaths to this virus, of which only 18 have been confirmed as actual swine flu infections. 20 million people live in Mexico City.) Influenza normally cannot survive in warm temperatures, which is why flu season ends in the spring. Unless this virus has some as yet completely unknown properties for which there is no evidence whatsoever, this outbreak is almost certainly going to die out on its own in no more than a couple of weeks. Even if it does not, there is no particular reason to think it will ever be much more than an annoyance."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Anti-Gays Undermining Our Form of Government (Again)

From the Chicago Tribune, the Iowa Family Policy Center has been circulating a petition to urge Iowa county recorders to defy the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling which struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. Iowa lawmaker Merlin Bartz, who took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state Iowa and of the US, also had a complaint filed against him for urging recorders not to comply with the Court's ruling.

Isn't it fun how so many conservatives are all about democracy, patriotism, and our form of government until these things result in outcomes they do not like? Of course, they usually blame their loss on some sort of Unfair Tyranny, which in reality is nothing more the democratic process in action. Once people stop confusing tyranny with losing I think political rhetoric would be a lot more interesting to read. As it stands now, every time anti-gays lose, you can pretty much predict their arguments before they're even spewed forth.

2. Animal Adoption

Reporting live from the Animal Family Research Council, today I hope to shed some light on the depravity of inter-animal adoption. Jasmine, an abandoned unmarried greyhound canine, has nonetheless seen fit to "mother" abandoned animals of the following species: fox, badgers, chicks, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

To add insult to injury, she has chosen to undertake her parenting role without a male parent.

As self-appointed president of the AFRC, I am here to say that all animals deserve a mother and a father, as well as a parent of the same species. Animals shelters and hospitals should have a primary preference for placing animal babies with a married mother and father as opposed to with renegade canines who selfishly create non-intact single-parent "families" of their own.


3. Because Every Other Course is a Men's Studies Course

Previously, I wrote about Roy Den Hollander's suit against Columbia University for offering a Women's Studies program but not a Men's Studies one. Not surprisingly, a magistrate judge has recommended dismissing the suit. If it is dismissed, Hollander has stated that he will waste more time and money appeal.

To refresh your memory, Hollander had argued that Columbia offered no courses from the male perspective. Columbia countered this statement with an argument from the reality-based world:

"Indeed, even the claim that Columbia offers no courses with 'male sensitive views'–let alone that it ‘banishes’ the male perspective–is simply rhetoric," the memorandum said. "Plaintiffs do not explain how a philosophy course on Kant and Nietzsche; an art history course on the male nude in western art; a history course on the American presidency since 1945; a classics course on Plato; an American Studies course on the Supreme Court; a music course on Beethoven; or an English course on Milton (or Shakespeare, or Beckett and Nabokov, or Pinter, or O’Neill, or Williams and Miller) fails to be male sensitive."

In other words, practically every other course outside of the Women's Studies department is offered from the male perspective. Amusingly, Columbia's response to Hollander's complaint stated that it was incoherent and read like a "parody." A sampling of Hollander's thoughts:

"'Women’s studies [programs] aid and abet murder,' he said. 'Where do you think all those lunatic female syndromes come from for excusing murdering incipient human beings, boiling babies, drowning their children, and killing their boyfriends or husbands?'"

Dood. Sorry for your crappy divorce. But please. Get. Help.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Orson Scott Card on Board of National Organization for Marriage?

Thanks to Chino Blanco for the heads-up on this. A while back, I became aware of some vehemently anti-gay writings by science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card. To jog your memory, Card:

"Writes op-ed pieces in The Mormon Times, using his 'expertise' as a science fiction writer, to say that that oh no he's not a 'homophobe' it's just that gays and lesbians suffer from 'sex role dysfunction' and they don't have real relationships but 'homosexual liaisons and friendships.'"

One of the more striking statements that Card has made was when he threatened:

"Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down...." (emphasis added)

Card has also advocated for criminalizing homosexuality because gay men and lesbians "cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society."

While the National Organization for Marriage's website does not list Card as one of its Directors, on April 20, 2009 NOM Chairman Robert George claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is "represented on its board by represented on the board by author and Mormon Times columnist Orson Scott Card."

NOM's leadership deliberately makes a point of trying to convince others that they are not bigots, they don't hate gay men and lesbians, and that their positions are grounded in a benign belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Card's membership on NOM's governing body sends a message that is pretty opposite of all of those things. By electing Card to their Board of Directors, one is left to wonder if NOM's comparatively polite anti-equality argumentation is "something else in disguise."

As one of the largest national organizations opposing equality for same-sex couples, I am very interested in a clarification coming from NOM regarding specific points of agreement and disagreement with Orson Scott Card's beliefs about homosexuality, treason, and the the imprisonment of LGBT persons.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Perez Hilton Does Not Speak For the LGBT Community

Previously, we saw how "radicals" sometimes discount the concerns of women and use sexist language to make their points. Unfortunately, such disappointing behavior is sometimes used by others who are supposedly the natural allies of feminists and women.

Before I begin, I suppose I should disclose the fact that celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is not exactly my personal fave. I think he's basically a man who exemplifies every shallow queen* stereotype that is attached to gay men by making a pretty rich living appealing to the basest, snarkiest, superficial, and most juvenile sense of humor in people. You mean all I had to do to get rich and famous was draw ejaculating dongs over the faces of celebrities? Why didn't someone tell me this secret to success before I invested in a pricey education?

Anyway, perhaps by now you've already heard that Perez Hilton, while judging the Miss USA pageant, asked Miss California (Carrie Prejean) a question about same-sex marriage. Miss California gave a somewhat rambly answer suggesting that she opposes same-sex marriage. Now, my first thought upon hearing about this incident was pageants still exist? Oh, I should probably also mention that pageants are also pretty high up there on my list of things that are not my favorites. As a feminist, I dislike contests that promote the objectification and commodification of women's bodies and it just plain old gives me the heebie-jeebies when parents put make-up on babies. So, I suppose that when one combines Perez Hilton with Beauty Pageantry, the additive effect of Things That Annoy Me is almost too much for me to handle. Add Simon Cowell to the mix and it would be, like, the holy trinity of shallow, judgmental, snarky Annoyance.

But I digress. The point here is that Miss California opposes same-sex marriage. Yawn, right? Big deal. Lots of people oppose it. I disagree with them, but they're entitled to their opinions. I just don't think it's a national scandal for someone to casually mention her semi-articulate opposition to same-sex marriage in between changing into her evening gown and swimwear. I only say that because Miss California, who attends a biblical creationism college and is studying special education, has about as little authority on the issue as does gossip blogger and internet artiste Perez Hilton.

However, Miss California's answer angered Perez Hilton and he's turned his anger into quite the public display. While I can completely understand his anger, I strongly condemn his subsequent statements. In a totally unproductive and unfortunate move, Hilton called Miss California a "dumb bitch," apologized, later retracted his apology, and then added that he was really thinking that Miss California was the "c word." Klassy.

Liberal men, especially gay men, should know better than to call women bitches and cunts. *And speaking of which, why is it that when gay men are mean, they're likened to women (eg- "bitchy queen"). Misogynistic weapons have no place in the public discourse whether they're aimed at men, women, or those who oppose Very Important Liberal Causes like LGBT Rights. Advocacy for LGBT equality is important but to many people, Vagina-Americans especially, it's not the most important issue. Not only are many people fighting oppression on multiple fronts but gay men would do better to remember that sexism is the root of much of the homophobia they themselves face. After all, a big reason it's "bad" for gay guys to be "fags" is because to be a fag is to be like a woman and, in our society that overvalues masculinity, to be woman-like is a bad thing.

Like everyone, Perez Hilton is entitled to think whatever he wants about anyone. Sure, privately go on and think that women are bitches and cunts because they disagree with you. But deal with that anger, reflect on it, and come back and speak into the microphone when you have something more productive to say. Because frankly, when Perez Hilton speaks he needs to realize he has a national platform whether the likes it or not. Unfortunately, in our society, those who say the most outrageous, inflammatory, and divisive statements are often given the largest bullhorns. And, perhaps because millions of Americans themselves are angry and hurting, much like problem eaters raiding the fridge in the middle of the night, they delight in feeding off the poison that such personalities spew on a daily basis.

I think that Perez Hilton probably does feel the pain that many of us feel in being denied equal rights. However, our own pain is never an excuse to inflict pain or violence on others. It's human nature to want to lash out and punish those who have hurt us, and I do say that with full acknowledgment of my own human errors in this regard, but ultimately it comes full circle. Not only does he set back the cause, as does everyone on any side of an issue who lets their anger get the better of themselves, we can all be confident that the cycle of violence will return to us when anti-gays use him as an example of how the Angry Gay Mobs Are So Mean and Therefore Don't Deserve Equal Rights Anyway.

I find it all very sad. So say it loud, everyone. Perez Hilton does not speak for me. He does not speak for you. And neither does Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fred Phelps, or [insert any one of a number of highly-rewarded anti-socials].

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breaking: Justice in Zapata Case

From The New York Times:

"A jury took just two hours Wednesday to find a Colorado man guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of an 18-year-old transgender woman, and determined that the act was a hate crime."

The murderer conceded that he killed the woman, Angie Zapata, but he attempted to use the "trans panic" defense to lessen the charge from first-degree to second-degree murder. Instead, the jury found Allan Andrade guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of a hate crime, and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Since the mandatory penalty in Colorado for first-degree murder is life in prison, the hate crime charge has "no immediate practical effect."

Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend has been covering this story since the beginning.

Odds 'N Ends

1. An Inspirational Protest

Previously, I wrote about a proposed law in Afghanistan that would give men the right to rape their wives, restrict women to the home, and marry children (57% of brides in Afghanistan are under the age of 16). The UK's Times Online has reported that a group of about 200 women took to the streets to protest this law:

"The rally, staged by mostly young women with their faces exposed, was a highly inflammatory act of defiance in a country as conservative as Afghanistan. It provoked a furious reaction from local men and a rapidly expanding mob threatened to swamp the demonstrators as they tried to approach the Afghan parliament....The baying mob tore down banners, spat on demonstrators and hurled stones."

I think this is the perfect illustration of the dangers and contradictions inherent in patriarchal cultures that over-value masculinity. Those in favor of "traditional sex roles" often claim that they are doing nothing more than putting women on their deserved pedestals, yet the instant women begin making demands and standing up for their individual rights, they are treated like animals. In short, neither the proposed law nor the dominant male class's reaction to divergent ideas speak very highly of the "masculinity" that festers in extremist societies.

2. Oogedy-Boogedy!

Same-sex parenting isn't the theoretical abstraction that opponents turn it into. It's real. Gay men and lesbians do it every day. Many do it very well. Mary Liz Thomson at the Huffington Post reflects:

"My 8th grade nephew won a 'Metropolitan Mayor's Top 20 Outstanding Students Award' a couple weeks ago in Denver, CO. He's now going into a prestigious High School program for gifted college bound students. I'm very proud of him, and he is exceptional, but this wouldn't be big news were it not for the fact that he never would have accomplished this if my gay brother and his partner had not adopted him."

That's not so scary now, is it?

3. Gays Don't Like Karoake?

I read this story in a Chicago paper, but one of my friends downstate also text messaged me a photo of a sign when she saw it:

"In bright yellow capital letters, the sign on the karaoke bar in downtown Peoria was clear: "WE ARE NOT A GAY BAR!! [WE ARE A KAROAKE BAR!!! 7 Nights Per Week. Diesel is down the street.]"

Diesel is Peoria's gay dance club, just so you know. While I personally take the opinion that LGBT people shouldn't spend their money at anti-gay venues and businesses anyway, I do think it's important to make a point that anti-gay discrimination and bigotry is not acceptable. So, kudos to the brave gays in Peoria:

"In a flurry of forwarded Facebook, MySpace and text messages, a coalition quickly mobilized and dozens of gay rights supporters lined up last weekend outside The Elbo Room to express their outrage. The sign, they said, might as well have read, 'Gays are not welcome here'....The group held three protests last weekend, one of which drew the attention of paintballers, who fired on the crowd. Police had no suspects in that attack" [emphasis added].

Downstate Illinois is the more conservative, more Republican, and more, um, white part of Illinois. It's not easy to be openly LGBT down there. So, while your average-but-outnumbered bigots might not have the courage to shoot paintballs at a protest in Chicago, it's not at all surprising that people would do so in Peoria. Let's hope anti-gay activists come out quickly in publicly denouncing such violence.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Child Victims of Gay Agenda "Torn From" Grandparents: People Lose All Sense of Healthy Skepticism

For the past couple months, a story has been quietly raging through the web about an infamous adoption case in Scotland. In this case, as reported by the UK's Daily Mail, two children ages 4 and 5 were being raised by their grandparents, because their mother was addicted to heroin. Social workers declared the grandparents to be unfit, due to age and health, to care for the children. Subsequently, the children were placed for adoption in the home of a gay male couple. The grandparents are aged 46 and 59; one suffers from diabetes and the other suffers from angina.

I am skeptical of the generalized case that the media and bloggers are presenting here. Simply put, I doubt that the Daily Mail is giving us, or even has access to, all the facts in this case. I'm not an expert in UK family law, but I doubt that being 46 and 59 and suffering from the above conditions, in and of themselves, are sufficient to render the removal of children from the home of biological relatives. Unfortunately, with respect to stories about children, especially children in sad circumstances, reason takes a backseat to emotion and pathos. In this case, anti-gays have jumped on this case, have perpetuated it with their usual paranoia and lack of any skepticism, and are using it as further proof that the Gay Agenda and Political Correctness Have Gone Too Far (tm).

For instance, in his headline regarding this case, one anti-gay blogger recently ejaculated "We Can't Have Children!! So well [sic] Just Take Yours!! {By Force of Law}" as though, due to their incapacity to procreate with their partners, gay men are masterminding a Raising Arizona-like plot to steal the children of heterosexuals. In his bizarre and marginally-literate piece of writing, this "marriage defender" opines that, for gay couples, "Local adoption is even more difficult and arduous (do [sic] too [sic] abortion) young healthy children are an increased rarity…who’s [sic] mothers often want the children to go to good homes with a Mother & Father" (ellipses in original). If I can attempt a translation here, I think this fellow is trying to say that abortion has depleted the stock of adoptable children and so it has become quite difficult for gay couples to adopt healthy kids. He continues that this case shows how the gays have strong-armed adoption agencies into implementing a "pro-gay, anti-Christian bias."

Other bloggers and writers have breathlessly lamented that the children were "ripped" from their grandparents and given to a "homosexual couple," that the children were going to be raised in "an atmosphere of depravity," and of the children "torn from" their home to be raised by the two gay men. Presenting the case in this simple way is a very appealing, not to mention manipulative, play on the audience's emotions and pity. First you mix a wronged grandma and grandpa who just want to raise their grandchildren, add a dose of children from a broken home, stir the plot with gay villains, and you've got a recipe for mass outrage.

But, is this case really as simplistic as the media and breathless bloggers present? Wouldn't the real travesty be, assuming we know all the relevant facts here, not that the children were placed with a gay couple, but rather that they were removed from the only home they knew for somewhat wishy-washy reasons? Most importantly, do we really know all of the facts in this particular adoption case? No, we don't. Is it likely that more ingredients are at work here? Yes. After all, "Social services are legally unable to comment on the details of the case" [emphasis added].

The entirety of facts in this case, and especially more specifics as to why the grandparents were deemed unfit, are not available. There are a number of deeper possible explanations, going beyond the grandparents' age and health status, as to why these children were removed from their grandparents' home. It's likely much more complicated than anyone knows and does not fit neatly into an OMG The Gay Agenda Is Ruining Everything box. For instance, how severe are the grandparents' medical issues? Is the biological mother, and her drug habit, also residing with the grandparents? Do the grandparents have mental health issues? Do they have prior criminal offenses that would preclude them from legal adoption? Did social workers, for whatever reason, determine that the grandparents would not be able to meet the emotional, identity, health and development needs of the children? We simply don't know, and the social workers involved are not able to divulge this sort of information. Any competent attorney or journalist, knowing (a) that cases exist in shades of gray rather than black and white and (b) that details of these sorts of cases often remain confidential, would be hesitant to look at this case and make huge sweeping generalizations about any alleged trend in adoption law.

Thus, I see three tragedies in this case. The first is that the biological parents of these children have failed them. Two, the public in general, and anti-gay bloggers and writers in particular, are severely lacking a healthy dose of skepticism. The bulk of the writing surrounding this case indicates that people truly think they know all of the facts here when they do clearly do not. These assumptions have led to paranoia, anti-gay hysterics, and the expected vilification of LGBT people.

Lastly, the gay men in this case are being vilified here when, in reality, they should be applauded for stepping up to the plate when the biological parents of these children have so utterly failed them. Not only is the mother an alleged "recovering heroin addict" who has been unable or unwilling to care for her children, but "the boy's father was a schizophrenic who killed himself two months before his son was born. The girl's father is still alive but has had nothing to do with his daughter."

It's a sad situation and, if they haven't done so already, I'm sure that the anti-gay forces are busy figuring out how all of that, too, is somehow the fault of The Gays.

In their obsessive defense of traditional gender roles, I think the real sin is that so many people conflate the ability to procreate with the ability to parent.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In What Alternate Reality is the National Organization for Marriage Living?

The anti-equality National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM) recently put out a ridiculous "Storm is Gathering" ad portending a frightening homofantastic future of marriage equality. Unfortunately for NOM, their over-the-top ad has not exactly had the desired effect and instead, as Frank Rich from the The New York Times writes, it "has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic."

While NOM's Maggie Gallagher has recently bragged about the "success" of this ad, she has failed to mention that the vast majority of its reviews on Youtube and Facebook have been negative (it's currently running at 1-star out of over 10,000 reviews!) and that countless parodies of it have been made. I'm sort of reminded of a director who would brag about how many people have seen her B-film whilst not mentioning that the majority of people rent it because, like Showgirls, it's so bad it's good. In what alternate reality is the number of views the only measure of "success" that counts? Anyway, Jeremy over at G-A-Y has been documenting some of the hilarious parodies of the ad.

It really does make me a little embarrassed for NOM and Gallagher, really. I don't think that the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage knows that it's basically a national joke. First, NOM was caught using actors to present first-person testimonial-ish scenarios in its "Storm" ad and then the Human Rights Campaign rebutted, on a case-by-case basis, the broad distortions that comprised the substance of the ad. In her rebuttal to HRC, Gallagher continues her surreal theme by accusing the HRC of calling NOM "liars with no substantiation on particular facts." In the reality-based world, as we saw, one can quickly ascertain that HRC did actually offer a point-by-point substantiation of the NOM ad's precise inaccuracies.

When such statements can be so easily verified, NOM and Gallagher would do better to cut the dramatics and focus on substance. But hey, maybe at this point, dramatics are all these folks have. It all makes me wonder why NOM goes to such lengths to be so over-the-top? Perhaps deep down they know they cannot win on the merits of their substantive arguments alone. Or maybe there's more to it. At least one conservative writer who is distancing himself from the anti-gay crowd has wondered whether NOM's arguments, tidily devoid of Phelpsian hate rhetoric, are "something else in disguise."

What are we to make of those whose attempts to keep gay and lesbian couples from marrying have become so desperate that they don't even realize they discredit themselves with each new campaign? One might think that when someone with as large an audience as Stephen Colbert parodies your ad, it might make you re-consider your theatrics. But nope, not NOM. While NOM has chuckled off the parody and thanked Colbert for publicizing their ad, I have a special note to NOM: People are not laughing with you, they are laughing at you:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

That NOM has tried to laugh this parody off reminds me of the ugly kid who makes fun of himself first, thereby depriving other kids of the ability to do so. It sometimes works, but in the end it's really only self-defeating and pathetic. NOM desperately tries to keep "marriage defense" relevant while other conservatives continue jumping off the sinking ship. It's understandable. These professional "marriage defenders'" livelihoods depend on keeping the issue relevant. Meanwhile, other conservatives are realizing, as Frank Rich writes, that "It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid."


Monday, April 20, 2009

Worst Supreme Court Cases For Women You've Never Heard About #1: Bradwell v. Illinois

I got the idea to make a top ten list from KipEsquire. At first, I was tempted to compose my very own list of some of the worst US Supreme Court cases ever. Among these would be notorious cases like Plessy v. Ferguson which upheld the constitutionality of the "separate but equal" doctrine, Bush v. Gore (which the Court should have never agreed to hear), and Bowers v. Hardwick (which upheld laws that made private sex between consenting adults of the same-sex illegal).

As I kept going, I realized that there are way more than 10 "bad" cases and that the criteria for even determining what's a bad case is incredibly subjective. For instance, is a "bad" case one with a poor outcome even if it has "good" reasoning? Or, must a "bad" case have a poor outcome as well as poor reasoning? Generally, I tend to agree with the line of legal thought that says judges are incapable of eschewing their personal policy preferences and leanings when making decisions. Call me a cynic (I prefer realist), but I simply do not believe that judges are neutral arbiters who merely discover and apply "objective law" to the case at hand.

As historian Leonard Levy has written, the Supreme Court has a long history of having Justices, of all political persuasions, who seem to "...first choose what the outcome should be and then reason backward to supply a rationalization, replete with the appropriate rules and precedents, of which there are enough on any side of an issue to make any argument seem to respect tradition and professional expertise." Judges are human beings and, as such, are as much of a product of their times, upbringings, and cultures as the rest of us. While I do believe that many individual justices have been able to transcend the popular biases of their time in order to render opinions that are consistent with the protection of individual rights, it has also been apparent that many were not capable of doing so.

And that's what this list is about. Most of us have heard about the big and important cases like the ones above. Few, even those who have attended law school, have heard about the smaller, yet just as insidious, ones that I'm about to mention that involve equality for women. That's what this series is about.

Just because this one hits close to home, our first winner is:

Bradwell v. Illinois (1872)

Bradwell is sort of a two-for-one in that, in addition to rendering an unfortunate result for women, it also illustrates how deameaning "traditional marriage" used to be for women. Essentially, marriage rendered women publicly invisible by subsuming women into the legal identity of their husbands and isolating them within the private sphere of home.

In Bradwell, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to issue a woman, Myra Bradwell, a law license because she was a married woman. In 1872, under the law of coverture, a married woman had neither her own separate legal identity nor the right to enter into legal agreements (or own her own property or keep her own earnings if she did have a job). The Illinois Supreme Court denied Bradwell's application for a law license because, as a married woman, she would have been unable to create a legal attorney-client agreement. As an item of note, she met every other state requirement for a law license other than the implicit one that required a penis and testes. For, "When Myra Bradwell sought a license to practice law, she already had extensive legal experience. She had studied law with her husband, James B. Bradwell, and was the founder and publisher of the leading midwestern legal publication, the Chicago Legal News." (Back then, Illinois law required only that applicants to the state bar be adults of "good character" and have "sufficient training." Attorneys didn't have to go to law school, as many people learned through apprenticeships).

On appeal to the US Supreme Court, Myra Bradwell argued that the denial of a law license violated her constitutional rights as a US citizen under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the US Constitution. In rejecting Bradwell's argument, without elaboration or analysis, the US Supreme Court declared that the SlaughterHouse Cases "renders elaborate argument in the present case unnecessary" because "[i]t is sufficient to say they are conclusive of the present case." By "conclusive" the Court meant that, under Slaughterhouse precedent, Illinois could pass whatever licensing laws it wanted, even if these laws were discriminatory to women. For some historical context, the Slaughterhouse Cases notoriously weakened the US Constitution's power to protect civil rights by holding that certain protections in the US Constitution did not apply to states. Generally, this meant that while the federal government could not pass discriminatory laws, states were free to do so.

So that was all settled then. In Bradwell, we see an all-white male Supreme Court desperately seeking to maintain legal and economic privileges for people like themselves. Perhaps that's why they felt no need to render any sort of analysis as to how the Slaughterhouse Cases were similar/dissimilar to the present case, or even to question whether the Slaughterhouse precedent was worth re-examining.

In other words, Bradwell v. Illinois wasn't even a real opinion. The Supreme Court didn't give Bradwell the courtesy of a simple little IRAC analysis that every diligent 1L is capable of doing. If I were grading an exam and a student merely stated a conclusion without argument, claiming that the argument was "unnecessary" because the answer was so obvious, the student would score no points. Not only because of arrogance and laziness but because it's never the conclusion that's the meat of an opinion, it's the analysis. The analysis is what makes it possible for future judges to decide cases that have similar-but-slightly-different fact patterns, it's what enables attorneys to craft arguments as to why some cases are controlling and others are not, and it offers everyone else a semblance of predictability with respect to how future cases will or should turn out.

Instead, the Supreme Court wiped its hands of legal analysis before moving on to its real agenda- using its status as the highest court in the land to opine upon the Way More Important Issue of Woman's Role In The Public Sphere (hint: she doesn't have one). Doing nothing more than arguing from their guts, the men on the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that women shouldn't be lawyers anyway because it is woman's destiny to not have a job outside of the job of wife and/or mother (preferably both).

First, the Court observed that when the (also male) doods who drafted Illinois' law regarding who gets to be a lawyer, they did not intend for it to apply to women. Nor could these men even envision such a creature as a female attorney (hence the gratuitous use of the "gender neutral" male pronoun in the statute). And furthermore, back then everyone just knew:

"That God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action, and that it belonged to men to make, apply, and execute the laws, was regarded as an almost axiomatic truth."

In his separate concurrence, Mister Justice Bradley chimed in to note that even though Myra Bradwell had the audacity to think that women were capable of occupying "any and every profession, occupation, or employment in civil life," he countered by observing that oh ho ho "[i]t certainly cannot be affirmed, as an historical fact, that this has ever been established as one of the fundamental privileges and immunities of the [women]." For, "[o]n the contrary, the civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman....The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it ["it"? WTF?!] for many of the occupations of civil life."

So, there you have it. The Supreme Court of the United States of America, in 1872, decided that it was in accordance with our Constitution to prohibit women from being lawyers and they also thought it was valid to make a circular appeal to tradition in their Very Important Manly Man Court Decision. Ah yes, women cannot be lawyers because they have never been lawyers and only men are lawyers. Deep thoughts.

I hope, if anything, this post has shed some light on how a court, especially the Supreme Court, can use its aura of authority to crank out any sort of decision that accords with tradition, their already-held political beliefs, and their "professional expertise."

Oh, that reminds me. If I'm not mistaken, this case is part of what I like to call America's Official Affirmative Action Program for Men in general, and male lawyers and judges in particular. Stay tuned for more fun cases mandating women's natural, divined, and legally-ordained inequality!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Day of Silence, Headlines, and "Truth"

Today, April 17, is the National Day of Silence. Its purpose is to bring "attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools."

April 14, 2009:

"Angie Zapata was a tall woman with striking black hair and eyes who would attract the attention of men, even those who knew she was biologically male.

But prosecutors say when Allen Andrade found out, he beat her to death with a fire extinguisher....Andrade allegedly told his girlfriend that he 'snapped' and that 'gay things need to die'"

April 14, 2009:

"Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11-- hardly old enough to know his sexuality and yet distraught enough to hang himself last week after school bullies repeatedly called him 'gay.'"

April 7, 2009, from the "I Support the Unanimous Iowa Marriage Decision" Facebook page:


April 14, 2009:

"DES MOINES, Iowa - An openly gay state senator has received a death threat.

Public safety officials say Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, received the threat by telephone on Monday."

April 14, 2009:

"Two Gloucester brothers were arrested yesterday in the beating of [Justin Goodwin] outside a Gloucester bar Saturday morning, an attack that family and friends are calling a hate crime....

Shortly after arriving at the bar with his sister, Kalem, and her boyfriend, Goodwin was approached by a group of about five men yelling homosexual slurs, Vaters said. She said that Goodwin wrote out the details of the encounter for her."

August 18, 2008, my comment section:

"The Holy Bible is very clear: death to homosexuals. Leviticus"

The anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund has established a counter protest in response to the National Day of Silence, scheduled to occur on April 20, 2009 saying:

"The Day of Truth was established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective. (It is a direct response to the Day of Silence)."

It is often said that those who are not part of the solution are part of the problem. With that in mind, I have a question to individuals and groups who oppose the Day of Silence and who seek to counter anti-violence measures that members of the LGBT community engage in. What are you tangibly doing in this world to prevent anti-LGBT violence, harassment, and homicide?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maggie Gallagher and the Incredible Power of the Gay, Again

We've seen professional "marriage defender" Maggie Gallagher opine upon the Incredible Power of the Gay here, when she blamed the rise in illegitimate child-births on the mere advocacy for same-sex marriage.

In one of her more recent articles, she "explains" Rick Warren's recent distancing of himself from the anti-gay movement. For some background, Warren went on Larry King Live and claimed that he was not, and never had been, an anti-gay activist and that he never publicly supported Proposition 8 (despite accounts of him supporting Proposition 8). Maggie Gallagher recently continued her Gays Are Incredibly Powerful meme by suggesting that Rick Warren, one of the most well-known and influential beacons of contemporary Christian thought, was really just kowtowing to The Powerful Gays when he made his issue reversal:

"Many religious people and groups will bow to, if not exactly endorse, the power of gay activists. Witness Rev. Rick Warren, who on Larry King Live this week came very close to recanting his opposition to Prop 8. What he did is what many good people will do in the face of the massive campaign of intimidation and harassment designed to silence Christians and others of goodwill who support marriage: He dodged. Rick said, more or less: I am not now and never have been an anti-gay-marriage 'activist.'

Let me be clear: I have enormous respect for Rick Warren. What has happened to Rick, who did nothing more than speak from his pulpit to the members of his own church on Prop 8, is what lies in store for many good men and women. The deal they will be offered by the government and the culture dominated by same-sex marriage is: Mute your views on marriage so you may continue your other good works. Many good and brave people, to preserve their ability to save lives in Africa or protect the poor in this country, will take that deal.

I’m not here to criticize him or them, merely to point out the underlying power of the movement than can get a Baptist minister to recant about marriage on national television."

You see, because of the powerful, intimidating, and harassing gays, when Warren says that he has not ever been an anti-gay marriage activist, what he really means is that the gays have scared him from admitting that he's an anti-gay marriage activist. Now, maybe Maggie really is imbued with the power to hear coded dog whistle messaging in Warren's Larry King talk, but I think it's important to note the flip-side of her argument. She's accusing one of the most popular American Christian leaders of being publicly disingenuous. That's quite an insult to the profit-driven purpose-driven pastor, is it not? I mean, if Maggie's claims were true, how much of a leader would "America's Pastor" really be if he were scared to say what he really feels about gay issues? Little people speak truth to power all the time, but for special lucky reasons, when it comes to The All-Mighty Gays, Rick Warren cannot? What is a "Christian Nation" to make of a Christian leader who is insincere in his statements?

You know, this whole Gays Are Incredibly Powerful meme always strikes me as ironic and untrue. The movement that has, and has always had, real power is the anti-gay movement. It is people like Maggie Gallagher and her various organizations that oppose marriage equality. As Jeremy Hooper at Good As You writes:

"The reality, however, is that our movement pales in comparison to the anti-gay forces in most every area. They are bigger, more connected, more well-financed (Focus on the Family alone has more means than all of our groups combined), have a much easier ability to rally through their churches, and have always held public opinion regarding marriage on their side. So it's illogical to assume that our gains are due to our ability to outpace their considerable front. In truth, we have made all of our GAINS despite their muscle."

Presenting gays as an elitist, powerful minority group is important to people like Maggie Gallagher because most Americans don't want to think that the people they are hurting, via supporting anti-gay laws, are normal people like themselves just trying to make it in the world. This time, though, did Maggie go too far in critiquing a beloved pastor? Is she on the verge of alienating her natural allies? For, by presenting LGBT people as an elite powerful minority, Maggie Gallagher does more than insult us. She insults Rick Warren and all of those who believe in him by accusing him of succumbing to powerful immoral heathens.

Maggie ends her article by suggesting that Some Day the Gays Might Have the Power to Keep Christians From Being Christians (whatever that means, oogedy boogedy!). Yet, I think that in her zeal to to keep the gays from getting married at all costs, she only makes herself more irrelevant with every passing day. The mainstream, her former "marriage defense" allies, and even those who strongly value marriage and fathers know that, as Glenn Sacks has said, "however one feels about gay marriage, it has nothing to do with the decline of the American family."

Yes Maggie, time certainly will tell. And I'll be willing to bet that many people, perhaps even yourself one day, will look back and be ashamed of their anti-gay activism (or whatever you choose to call it).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taxy Teabaggers

Happy Tax Day everyone. In case you haven't heard, a "revolution is brewing."

Today, a bunch of so-called "fiscal conservatives" are engaging in "grassroots" Tea Parties protesting what they call "out of control government spending," the "bankrupt liberal agenda of the White House Administration and Congress," and the "Stimulus Bill and pork filled budget."

Neat-o, huh?

It's my personal opinion that many of these folks are still reeling from the shit taco they've been chewing on since November 2008 and are essentially using these protests to air more of their stinky Barack Hussein Nobama Socialism breath, but that's a tangential point. Oh, and some of them seriously advocate tea bagging, but that's just a small point that I find amusing. I do have three real things to say about this.

One, I know that there are issues with the stimulus bill. It's not perfect and, aside from the specifics, I think many people of all political persuasions would at least agree on that. But for the love of all that is holy can these so-called fiscal conservative teabaggers give us a little intellectual consistency here? Let's talk about government spending, shall we? Where were these "fiscal conservatives" when George W. Bush increased defense and non-defense federal spending at its fastest rate in decades thereby causing the largest budget deficits in US history and passed his, albeit smaller, stimulus bill? Was Bush's spending lucky, magical, thrifty unicorn spending? Why no nationwide protests?

Secondly, as much as some present these Tea Parties as some sort of Spontaneous Grassroots Uprising of the People, corporate lobbyists have actually been helping to orchestrate them. As Think Progress reports, two lobbyist-run think-tanks called Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for "Average Joes" to plan coast-to-coast protests including coordinating conference calls, giving them sign ideas, feeding them sample press releases, and providing guides for delivering messaging. This is similar to how members of the anti-gay "grassroots" Digital Network Army blogs are fed, from mysterious "Team Captains," stories to blog about. In both instances of orchestration, Average Joes and Janes are pretty heavily involved, but at least some of it is being coordinated from above by "professionals" whose livelihoods are dependent upon keeping certain issues relevant.

Third, some of the biggest conservative promoters of these protests are, like Michelle Malkin, those who endlessly criticized the LGBT community for protesting Proposition 8, exaggerated every instance of aggression in what were by and large peaceful uneventful protests, and accused the LGBT community of crimes that have yet to actually be linked to LGBT people. Again, I have to point out the double-standard. Why are conservatives so special and lucky that when they are unhappy with democracy in action their protests are legitimate, but when LGBT people are unhappy with democracy in action, we're just being fascist "Angry Gay Mobs" who should just accept things the way they are?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stuff "Radicals" Do : Use Misogynist Weapons to Make Their Deep and Very Important Points

Exhibit A) Via Professor What If, we see a blogger named Visible referring to the corporate media in the following way:

"The Hydra-Headed, Blood-Sucking Bitch Media"

Exhibit B) Via Fetch Me My Axe, we see a radical queer group calling itself "Bash Back" writing:

"With a Fist Raised high in the cunt of oppression we second the motion for an anti war blac blok."

To begin, I am fairly confident that this criticism, like many feminist critiques, will be chalked up to either (a) Political Correctness Gone Too Far (tm) or (b) Another Example of How Feminists Have No Sense of Humor (tm). That's how misogynists, liberal/conservative doods, and anti-feminists dismiss feminist critiques without actually substantively addressing them. It's an easy way for them to essentially say "It's not us who are wrong for being rude or insensitive, it's feminists who are no fun for being overly-sensitive and humorless!" and then move along to Real and More "Universal" Issues like the bitch media and cunts of oppression.

Because some men view their experience as men as at the center of complete and total objectivity, they often dismiss criticisms of misogyny as unimportant, untrue, and unworthy of consideration. Movie critics do this when they passively mention that "some have called a [insert misogynist's work] misogynist" before moving on to the More Important Business of "objectively" critiquing the movie. Athletic departments and universities do this when they slap star male athletes on the wrist for assaulting women, because winning sports championships is Very Important Real World Stuff especially compared to the safety and well-being of women. And, radical, progressive, liberal, and other men who one would think would be the natural allies of feminists, do this when they use terms like "bitch" and "cunt" to describe and denounce bad things because these bad things are Way More Important than misogyny.

Renee over at Womanist Musings recently wrote an excellent piece which I think is pretty apt here:

"Many so called liberal sites practice a fauxgressive form of activism as a way to soothe white guilt about the continual benefits that they receive on the backs of bodies of colours. Statements are earnestly made, self flagellation begins but real and true constructive conversation is stunted because people are determined to speak rather than listen to others....

If you are a privileged body most of what you will see, read, and hear is already dedicated to you. From mainstream media to every other agent of socialization the message is clear; unless you are necessarily white, cisgender, male, and heterosexual your life is inconsequential.... The what about the mehnz groups continually highjack comment threads once again refocusing conversation on the least marginalized group of all time – white males.

Somehow despite all of the purposeful disruption we are told to stay calm, not whine, or that we are all experiencing some form of mass delusion. To be a social justice blogger is to come face to face on a daily basis with those who wield privilege like a weapon."

Not only do many male so-called radicals, liberals, and progressives embody this entitlement, we have a handy example of it in the comment section of Professor's blog post. (No direct link to comments available). A male anti-feminist commenter by the name of "David" stepped in and became just one of a long line of male anti-feminist commenters in the world whose privileged body "entitles" him to enter feminist blog space, completely dismiss the concerns of women, and attempt to instead refocus the space back onto men and their Very Important concerns. Yielding his invisible-to-him male privilege like a weapon, he concluded without argument that Visible's bitch-hydra metaphor wasn't "meant to symbolize women" and that Professor "mostly just ma[de] [her]self look ignorant and reactionary when [she] tr[ied] to associate it." He then told her to get over herself and tried to focus the conversation onto The Men as though the dominant discourse in society is not already dedicated to them.

The message is clear, as a woman, Professor's concerns were inconsequential. In taking issue with, or even wanting to have a conversation about, the "bitch" terminology, she was being subjective, egocentric, reactionary, and silly. She was detracting from the Way More Important Concern of criticizing the media.

Yet, I share Professor's belief that it is strange for Visible, the author of the "bitch" metaphor, to have gendered the Really Bad Thing he's fighting as female. Simply put, women do not control the media. Men do. And, likewise, in Bash Back's case, the use of the word "cunt" to symbolize the oppression of LGBT people is a complete non-sequitur. It is not at all clear how this "oppression" is like a vagina, or even why it would be a bad thing if it were.

Secondly, I am open to having a conversation in which the authors of these metaphors explain how and why their metaphors were not intended to be offensive to women. Words often have multiple meanings and connotations. So, I will give people the benefit of the doubt when they (a) acknowledge that they can at least see how the word usage might offend women/feminists/gay people/etc. and (b) explain that they were using a different meaning of the word. When a word usage is, at best, ambiguous or open to multiple interpretations, it is not incumbent upon those who find it offensive to just not be offended.

"Bitch" is a loaded word that people use in a gendered way to denigrate women in our culture. Unfortunately, when Professor questioned Visible's gendered "bitch" word choice, he chose not to clarify his usage and, instead, dismissed Professor's criticism in accordance with Method A, above, declaring his blog to be a "PC-free" zone. I do think that political correctness can go too far at times. Often, however, I find that those who invoke special "PC-free" rules for themselves are usually doing nothing more than giving themselves free reign to be offensive. For, by leveling the charge of "political correctness," the offender attempts to contain criticism within certain acceptable bounds, preferably within ones that do not threaten his own male-privilege and the entitlement this gives him to denigrate groups that he is not a part of.

All this being said, I do get the gist of these simplistic misogynistic metaphors. "Bitches" and "cunts" are "bad," and hey guess what, the corporate media and oppression are also bad. This all brings me to my final point, these metaphors just aren't all that creative. They're gimmicks. Their "value" comes mostly from the shock that comes with saying things like cunt cunt cunt bitch bitch cunt cunt bitch. If building alliances with women and feminists mattered to this crowd, they would have used one of the zillion other "bad" things, more apt things, to make the comparison.

Words and language are important. So, as much as I agree that the media perpetuates disinformation, I cannot get behind an author when he simultaneously denigrates women by comparing this Really Bad Thing to the female aspect of humanity. The "Bash Back" group, well, that's not really something I can or would support anyway. So no big loss there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

All My Anti-Gays

Who says men don't like drama?

An entertaining tiff has been going on between Peter LaBarbera (of Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality) and popular men's rights blogger Glenn Sacks.

I sometimes read Sacks and, occasionally, I even agree with him. Personally, I think he's much more reasonable than his often rabidly-anti-feminist commenters, but I digress. In his article, Sacks took issue with Christian Newswire promoting "Peter LaBarbera's Anti-Gay Bigotry." Of Christian Newswire, a media source that has run many of LaBarbera's past statements, he writes "It reflects very poor judgment on their part to peddle LaBarbera's trash."

Now, it has long been my opinion that those who quote LaBarbera as though he is in any way a credible, loving, compassionate Christian sort of automatically discredit themselves as being ignorant, bigoted, or imbued with a wonky sense of what it means to be a Christian. LaBarbera isn't really taken seriously by anyone who advocates for marriage equality or LGBT rights. His antics are more often documented for their entertainment value than anything. I mean, is it really all that honest to attend events like San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, an annual SM/leather subculture street fair, and pretend that it's indicative of the Gay Agenda or of the entire LGBT community? Of course not. Most people know that, but apparently LaBarbera's logical competence is.... special. Quite simply, his bigotry often speaks for itself. As the Box Turtle Bulletin, who has named an "award" after him writes, "LaBarbera has spent a lifetime coming up with some of the most bizarre, of-the-wall and off-the-rails anti-gay screeds anywhere."

Yet, while LGBT bloggers sometimes critique his judgmental and outrageous statements, he rarely comments on such critiques. But when Glenn Sacks dared to criticize Peter LaBarbera, it was different. The criticism was coming, not from a pervert, but from an outsider, a fellow Family Man who is really into Fatherhood. Sacks' criticism threatened Peter's status as a Christian who opposes homosexuality but who likes to think of himself as something other than an anti-gay bigot. So, LaBarbera responded to Glenn Sacks in a letter cc'd to "dozens of Christian groups." In the letter, LaBarbera accused Sacks of, among other things, "anti-Christian 'bigotry,'" intolerance, homosexuality(!), and Political Correctness Gone Too Far. In his desperate non-arguments, I think Peter was throwing a bunch of poopy diapers at the wall hoping that something would stick.

The saga continued when, to Sacks' surprise (but not to mine), "Major Christian Leaders" wrote in to back Peter LaBarbera. But, lest anyone think that there's a huge united "Christian" front standing hand-in-hand with The Peter, in reality, the backers are really the same ol' usual suspects who would perhaps more accurately be called Major Anti-Gay Leaders. The following people rushed to Peter's side: Janet LaRue (of Concerned Women for America, where Peter used to work), Janet Folger Porter (the always-entertaining writer of paranoid homofantastic fascist futures), Matt Barber (formerly of Concerned Women for America, now with Liberty Counsel), Robert Knight ( writer), Maggie Gallagher (of National Organization for Marriage and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy), Alan Chambers (of ex-gay organization Exodus International), and others.

One "standing with Peter" associate deserves special mention for his participation in a recent anti-gay hate conference in Uganda: Scott Lively, whose previous claims to fame include writing a Holocaust revision book blaming the rise of Nazi Germany on Powerful Gay Men and founding the international anti-gay organization Watchmen on the Walls (just one of his two identified anti-gay hate groups.) At the Uganda conference, Lively talked a parliamentarian into proposing a law forcing people convicted of homosexuality into conversion therapy, accused the gay movement of wanting to turn the whole world gay, and endorsed the criminalization of gay people. An Exodus International board member also spoke at and attended this conference.

Essentially, the list of Peter Supporters reads like a Who's Who of the professional "marriage defense" and anti-gay set that many LGBT bloggers correct, critique, and cover every single day. Sacks asks "Is Peter LaBarbera really representative of modern Christian thought?" Maybe, maybe not. If anything, I think of these loud and proud supporters of Peter LaBarbera as being, first and foremost, opposed to LGBT rights. I think of them as people who many Christian leaders (the ones who aren't paid to be "marriage defenders" anyway) would try to distance themselves from. So while it's true that many Americans agree with some of Peter and company's sometimes-extreme views, that's not necessarily representative of what it means to really be a Christian.

If we could strip away the divisive, polarizing, intolerant dogma that many Christians cling to, I think it would be far better to be left with real compassion, love, and tolerance of our fellow human beings. For, when I think of those who embody the concept of the living Christ, it is not these names that come to my mind no matter how much they yank each other's Christian Family Man chain. The members of this insular group of LaBarbera supporters rely on each other to keep themselves relevant and respected. Perhaps most importantly of all, they need each other to convince themselves that they are Real Christians Who Aren't At All Bigots (they just care about real families a whole bunch).

Good for Glenn Sacks, an outsider, for questioning why Christians would support the harmful, bigoted, and anti-gay speech of Peter LaBarbera. It's people like Glenn Sacks who will help make these "marriage defenders" irrelevant by reminding Americans that "however one feels about gay marriage, it has nothing to do with the decline of the American family." While it's relatively easy for a heterosexual majority to pass pointless laws and amendments "defending marriage" that, in reality, do not address the so-called "decline of the American family," it's much harder to criticize the behavior of the majority. In his confessional response to Sacks, historian Clayton Cramer acknowledged that advocacy against same-sex marriage has come at the expense of advocacy against divorce, but "Unfortunately, Christian pastors who speak strongly against divorce are unlikely to have a congregation for long, since this has become the norm."

Because it's easy to vilify a minority group that many already view as icky, "marriage defenders" and anti-gays have made themselves irrelevant to real marriage defense. That's why, to me, LaBarbera and his supporting cast will always be "marriage defenders." They're stuck fighting a "fly," as Sacks says, while largely ignoring the a "rampaging elephant in the room."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today's "Deep" Thoughts

There are three things I'd like to waste your time on share with you today.

First, the thing about having dogs is that sometimes you walk into what can best be described as a crime scene:


It's been any years since I've lived with cats, but I'm pretty sure I've never had one demolish a toy like that.

Two, I took the following photo while on vacation:


You will notice, if you look closely, that this animal has hands. Like, it actually has fingers and knuckles like a person.

Three, it is a pet peeve of mine when people mis-use the phrase "literally." I don't think it means what some people think it means. Observe, Robert Pattinson:

"I just say the first thing that comes into my head, out of nervousness. During interviews I’m literally shitting my pants. I don’t want there to be a silence, because I’ll start crying."

Really? You, like, really truly literally poop your pants, fella?


That's all. As you can see, this blog space is reserved for the day's most pressing issues.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Recognizing Privilege

I write a lot about the idea of privilege here. Because I do so, often in the context of criticizing male and heterosexual privilege, I think it's important for me to recognize my own privileges. Most people are privileged in some way. One of the ways that I am privileged is that I am a cisgender female. While I don't really buy into gender roles and do not consider myself all that traditionally "feminine" or "masculine," there is a unity between my gender identity and the sex that was assigned to me at birth. Because of that, I have privileges that I am often unaware of until transgender people bring them to my attention.

I recently read a post by Autumn Sandeen over at Pam's House Blend that reminded me of this privilege in the health care setting. As a lesbian, I know that it can be difficult and frightening to come out (sexual orientation-wise) to a health care provider. This is especially true when it comes to coming out to a gynecologist, who must necessarily ask detailed questions about a patient's sex life sometimes while you're in the vulnerable position of being spread eagle on an examination table wearing an ugly gown made of tissue paper.

Walking into most ob-gyn offices, there is certainly an assumption that a patient is a heterosexual cisgender female. One of the first questions asked is usually "What form of birth control are you using?" (Which I have actually answered in the past with "lesbianism"). But in all seriousness, it's awkward. It is sometimes scary to be assertive and remind people in positions of power that their heterocentric assumptions exclude some of their patients. You don't know how a provider will react, and many lesbian and bisexual women have been met with hostility and prejudice that has deterred them from seeking treatment and preventive care in the future. As a non-pregnant lesbian woman in the waiting room, I sometimes feel like an intruder, like someone who isn't there to do "real" ob/gyn things like getting a birth control prescription or talking about how my fetus is gestating or something.

I can imagine that a transgender woman would feel even less welcome in this space even though she, too, has needs that have to be met at the ob/gyn. The forms that one must fill out sends the message loud and clear beginning with those binary sex boxes "male" and "female" and culminating in the, as Autumn writes, sometimes "horrible experiences in medical settings [that] are common for trans people." Slights like these degrade the dignity of transpeople and prevent some from even seeking needed care in the first place. Making medical forms reflect the reality of people's lived experiences would be a small concession that providers could make at little or no cost to themselves to help all patients feel welcome. Treating people with basic respect and decency should be a given.

Having certain privileges isn't about being a "bad" person. It's about being aware that your experience in life is largely seen as a norm, as the standard, even though other people have equally-valid experiences in life. It's about being aware of how some people are the statistical norm, other people are made to feel pathological, wrong, immoral, and unwelcome in certain places because there are fewer of them. We aren't part of the problem just because we're privileged. We become part of the problem only when deny our privilege while promoting the idea that there is only one correct, non-pathological way to live and be in the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1. Vandals Descecrate Gay Memorial

I wonder if all those who have been diligently documenting each and every instance of alleged misbehavior of gay people, will report on this? In West Hollywood, vandals destroyed two trees at the Matthew Shepard Human Rights Triangle. The trees honored LGBT activists Morris Kight and Ivy Bottini.

2. Victory in Vermont!

As you may know, Vermont lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage on April 7, 2009. As promised, Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the law. However, the legislature voted to override the veto with a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 4 US states.

3. Equal Rights for Vagina-Humans

Afghanistan's government has been pondering a controversial law. According to the UK's Times Online, the law stipulates that a woman "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires." And furthermore:

"As long as the husband is not travelling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night. Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

I like that they put in that "unless the wife is ill" part. It's very considerate. But seriously, you will notice that under this law a man has a near-absolute right to his wife's body and sexuality. It does not matter if the woman consents, because by law every woman has already consented when she married her husband. The law effectively takes away the woman's right to consent, because the Man's Right to Sex trumps all that.

Wait, I think there's a word for that. Oh yeah, it's called rape.

The law also restricts women to the home, saying "A wife cannot leave the house without the permission of the husband." Supposedly, after an "outcry" from the West, Afghanistan's Justice Ministry has been "reviewing the law to make sure it is in line with the Afghan Government’s commitment to human rights and women rights conventions." I think that if they have to "review" the law to make such a determination, they have kind of a funky sense of human and women's rights. Assuming that the humanity of women is equal to the humanity of men, it should really be self-evident that marital rape is not okay.

One final thing. Conservative Christians often accuse liberals and progressives of Never Criticizing Islam Because of Political Correctness. That's just not true. Many liberals and progressives, especially of the feminist variety, are equal opportunity critics when it comes to male-centric religions that promote sexism. When it comes to human rights violations, I don't consider any religion to be off-limits to criticism. So, while I object to some of the post-9/11 demonization of all Muslims, I have and will most certainly criticize the treatment of women and gays/lesbians in certain Muslim societies and sects.

4. Removing Women From the Public Sphere

Needless to say, my equal opportunity criticism also extends to Judaism. Specifically, ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The Associated press reported last week that two women joined the new Israeli government and yet, Israeli newspapers "aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jewish readers" digitally removed the women from a photo of the new government and replaced them with men.

Don't worry, though. The decision wasn't about sexism or anything. It's just "immodest to print images of women." When men are accomplished they're just manly man men fulfilling their role as men. When women are accomplished, they should hide their accomplishments lest they appear boastful and immodest.

5. Quote of the Week

"I’m basically a 'man' trapped in a woman’s body. What I mean is that, like a person with a penis, I act like a human being and expect other people to treat me like one even though I have a vagina."

Yeah, me too. I guess that technically makes me trans or something.