Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Priorities and Reversals of the Godly Males

[Trigger warning: rape, child abuse]

From The New York Times:

"Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit."

Note, the article doesn't say that the bishops warned the Vatican out of a concern that the abusive priest might harm more boys in the future, but rather that the bishops did so out of a concern that a failure to remove the priest might embarrass the church. Indeed, the Vatican's first priority appears to be its own image, as it has now "gone on the defensive" in light of these new revelations, which the Pope unbelievably calls "petty gossip."

The more that comes to light about this insular institution whose leaders have endowed themselves with godly male authority, the more its actions continue to speak louder than its words about its reverence of life. The article continues:

"The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal....Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims....In 1993, with complaints about Father Murphy landing on his desk, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him. After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Father Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse."

In a world wherein the well-being of children is a significant concern, bringing these misdeeds to light is hardly a round of petty gossip. Indeed, I read many of the documents posted by the Times pertaining to this case and, not only did the priest confess, but after he died, the Archbishop of Milwaukee expressed hope that they could "avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the Church."

This same institution, which has been known to fail to defrock known pedophile men from its priesthood, opposes the ordination of all women. It opposes female ordination by claiming that Jesus' manhood was essential to him and that this manhood is something no woman can represent. Yet, I'm also somewhat certain that, although Jesus the historical figure was likely a man (assuming he existed), he also wasn't a pedophile. And so it goes. When it comes to ordination, this institution makes special exceptions for men. Images must be upheld, after all.

This same institution, you will remember, has this to say about gay adoption:

"Allowing children to be adopted by gay couples would do violence to these children. Their condition of dependency would stunt their full human development."

At this point, what is the appropriate response when confronted with such projection and hypocrisy?

The late critic of Catholicism Mary Daly, liked to note that patriarchs "always are the reverse of what they claim to be." Isn't that fun to think about when the godly males claim that it is they, and not women, who are closer to Jesus? And that it is gay couples, and not they, who do violence to children?

With these obvious reversals in mind, perhaps St. Epiphanius sums it up best:

"For the female sex is easily seduced, weak, and without much understanding. The devil seeks to vomit out his disorder through women.... We wish to apply masculine reasoning and destroy the folly of these women." St. Epiphanius, Adversus Collyridianos, in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 42, cols. 740f., third century CE.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Am I a Secret Homophobe?

I will preface this post by acknowledging that I'm not a mental health professional. Anyone out there who is, I'm particularly interested in what you think about the contents of this post.

Recently, I came across Project Implicit, a study that allows participants to study their own hidden biases. As the website explains:

"Psychologists understand that people may not say what's on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so."

Thus, even though many of us would not be comfortable expressing homophobic, racist, or any other -ist thoughts in the company of others, many of us nonetheless hold such beliefs. Sometimes, even we do not know we hold these beliefs. In order to measure these "hidden beliefs," participants in Project Implicit are asked to sort different words, such as "homosexual" and "heterosexual" into "good" and "bad" categories, as quickly as they can, as these words flash across the screen. The idea is that the more strongly we associate certain words with certain categories, the more quickly and easily we will be able to sort these words.

Intrigued, and somewhat (over)confident that I have become resistant to the effects of living in a homophobic society, I took the sexuality quiz. About halfway through my participation in the quiz, it became uncomfortably clear that it was significantly easier for me to associate "heterosexual" with "good" than it was to associate "homosexual" with "good." When I received my quiz results demonstrating that I have a "preference" for heterosexual, I was hardly surprised. What did surprise me was the magnitude of my preference for heterosexuality. Most people, as it turns out, do associate heterosexuality with "good," and homosexuality with "bad," even if they are not aware of explicitly doing so.

Now some, any by "some" I mean overtly anti-gay individuals, would undoubtedly interpret such results to mean that homosexuality is inherently bad, immoral, and/or worse than heterosexuality. They would totally disregard the sociocultural influences of pervasive homophobia and heterosexism.

To burst the anti-gay's bubble, however, the research regarding this issue suggests that these results would be different if done on a population within a society where homosexuality was accepted. For instance, some of the papers written about this research support the idea that a person's scores on these tests "reflect the associations a person has been exposed to in his or her environment rather than the extent to which the person endorses those evaluative associations." Thus, the test reveals the extent of exposure to anti-gay conditioning, rather than (a) the quality of heterosexuality or homosexuality, or (b) whether the tested person actually agrees with the social conditioning.

Indeed, the Project Implict site acknowledges that it allows participants "to experience the manner in which human minds display the effects of stereotypic and prejudicial associations acquired from their socio-cultural environment" as the level of bias existing in a person's immediate environment was found to modify people's levels of implicit bias.

Thus do I strongly believe that my strong implicit "bias" against homosexuality is due to my own frequent and deliberate exposure to anti-gay blogs, writings, and speech. Regularly reading the writes of those who describe gay people as wrong, bad, sick, selfish, disgusting, and immoral- and who devote significant time, energy, and resources into doing so- undoubtedly takes some sort of psychological toll on a person, especially a gay one. In fact, I believe that many LGBT bloggers, and readers of LGBT and anti-LGBT blogs, would likewise have results similar to my own.

As a blogger, I am not entirely comfortable with this. Intellectually, I know that homosexuality isn't "bad." Mentally, I know I've overcome a lot of the internalized homophobia that I dealt with in my younger days. If readers' comments and emails are an accurate indication, many of you- like myself- are resilient and somewhat resistant to harmful social conditioning. In no way do I think we should stop countering the anti-LGBT (and sexist, racist, and ableist) hostility, lies, and dehumanization that's obsessively put out into the world. Has complicity ever stopped oppression?

I am not sure how to resolve my discomfort with the social conditioning that oppressors enforce and that many of us, with good intentions, perpetuate. Perhaps it is a discomfort that does not need to be resolved, but one to be mindful of.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Pro-Prop 8 Pseudo-Monopoly on Truth

The defenders of California's ban on same-sex marriage, in reference to the pending judicial decision regarding the constitutionality of the ban, are now complaining that "there should not have been a trial."

That's an interesting claim, given the clear constitutional issue at stake. Perry v. Schwarzenegger Attorney David Boies thinks so too:

"It really is bizarre to complain about a trial. People usually complain when they weren’t given a trial. This is the way we get to the truth."

For as much as the "marriage defense" side postures to be the side of commonsensical folksy folk telling-it-like-it-is truth, it was very clear during this trial that "marriage defenders" were far more interested in emoting the trial than they were in substantively defending their staunchly-held position. Truth, something they believe they possess in ample quantities, is not something that is up for debate among many "marriage defenders." How could it possibly be, to those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman because marriage is between a man and a woman and that is that?

Logistically, many "marriage defenders" are not used to having such "commonsensical" and circular assertions challenged under oath wherein they are required to answer questions on cross-examination by a legal scholar directly and non-evasively. Thus, when we remember the pro-Prop 8 side's desperate battle to ban cameras from the courtroom out of an alleged fear of harassment on the part of their already-publicly-identified experts, one wonders if their fear was really about being publicly embarrassed on the substantive points. Perry attorney Ted Olson wondered that too:

"'They weren’t worried about the publicity,' Olson said. 'They were worried about David Boies cross-examining them.'

In other words, Prop 8 advocates were unwilling to have the American people hear the case debated under the strict rules of the courtroom, where they would have to defend their position in detail, rather than simply answer 'softball questions' (presumably, from the media)."

Indeed, the expertness of the pro-Prop 8 side's key expert witness, David Blankenhorn, was seriously questioned on cross exam. On cross, he then revealed an ignorance of legal doctrine regarding marriage, admitted that there is no universal definition of marriage, and admitted that he knew of but was not familiar with a key study showing that the children of gay men and lesbians fared just as well as the children of heterosexual couples.

Under the rules of the courtroom, unlike the non-rules of the blogosphere, he had to directly respond to the questions that prompted these answers and he had to do so honestly. Unlike with internet interactions, this time a "marriage defender" couldn't start obfuscating the substantive issues by whining about the Mean Gay Mobs, by talking about the ickiness of anal sex, or by conducting power trippy character trials of people just trying to have a genuine debate.

You know, in my utopian fantasy world, every bigot, every homophobe, and every amateur just-telling-it-like-it-is "marriage defender" who thinks s/he's a marriage expert would be cross-examined by David Boies on CourtTV on a daily basis. Only then, perhaps, would this whole marriage debate be out of our faces in no time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Odds 'n Ends

1) Counterproductive Traditionalism

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, law professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone note an interesting divide between "red" and "blue" families:

"A new 'blue' family paradigm has handsomely rewarded those who invest in women’s as well as men’s education and defer childbearing until the couple is better established. These families, concentrated in urban areas and the coasts, have seen their divorce rates fall back to the level of the 1960s, incomes rise, and nonmarital births remain rare. With later marriage has also come greater stability and less divorce....

Difficulties in the 'red' world, meanwhile, have grown worse. Traditionalists continue to advocate abstinence until marriage and bans on abortion. They’ve said an emphatic 'no' to the practices that have made the new 'blue' system workable.

Yet, paradoxically, as sociologist Brad Wilcox reports, evangelical Protestant teens have sex at slightly earlier ages on average than their nonevangelical peers (respectively, 16.38 years old versus 16.52 years old), evangelical Protestant couples are also slightly more likely to divorce than nonevangelical couples, and evangelical mothers are actually more likely to work full time outside the home than their nonevangelical peers."

Cahn and Carbone go on to note that, unfortunately, when times get tough traditionalists call for a return to tradition, even though these "traditional values" are not working and, in many countries, actually lock families (and women especially) in cycles of poverty.

2) The Real Sin of Sodom

Writing in the The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof acknowledges an alleged growing consensus among conservative Christians that "to be 'pro-life' must mean more than opposing abortion."

In doing this, he relays experience of Richard Stearns, founder of the largest US-based international relief and development (and also a Christian) organization. In visiting AIDS orphans in Uganda, Stearns was "sickened" by the failure of Christians, "so focused on sexual morality and a personal relationship with God," to bother responding to "perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time."

Indeed, in an interpretation of Sodom that re-directs god's judgment back at those who are so very quick to judge gays, Stearns "quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were 'arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.'(Ezekiel 16:49.)"

The part of Kristof's article I take issue with is his easy-breazy claim that it "is a liberal snobbishness toward faith-based organizations" that threatens the channeling of funds toward faith-based organizations. Aside from the constitutional issues raised, many "liberals" (does he mean atheists?) actually oppose faith-based organizations' proselytizing recipients of services and having discriminatory hiring practices. These are hardly "snobbish" concerns.

Nonetheless, the message is apt. Christians do their god, their faith, nor their institutions justice by obsessively focusing on their loud and proud opposition to homosexuality and abortion. It is easy to gnash your teeth about people and issues to be "against." I think what many of us are waiting for is a demonstration, in any real tangible way, showing us what so many of these Great Moralists are actually for. Being pro-life has to mean more than negating the lives and experiences of others.

3) What About You?

What are you all reading, watching, and/or listening to right now?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rape Culture: For Men Who Still Don't Get It

(Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault)

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about rape culture's Average Joe Response to women who dare to show anger at Rape Prevention Tips that place the onus for rape prevention on women, as opposed to perpetrators and the larger society.

A couple of men chimed into the conversation to instruct the women present to calm down and then proceeded to inform us womenfolk that such tips are Just Common Sense and well-intentioned. Recently, in response to the rape-murder of Chelsea King, another man wrote a column further mansplaining how women can keep themselves from Getting Raped, suggesting that women should limit their lives to an absurd degree by never venturing "out on trails alone."

I have little to add to how Melissa at shakesville responded to this man (She links to his original post, as well). For all that they "fail to see" despite woman after woman trying to break it down for them, may every Joe, Dan, and Patrick who still doesn't "get it" one day, finally, get it:

"Who is so thoroughly ignorant and impenetrably arrogant that he thinks writing a column admonishing women to stop getting themselves attacked, raped, and killed is fucking helpful.

Where is his advice for men who hurt women? Nowhere to be found, naturally, because Jenkins is just another passive recipient of rape culture narratives who lazily accepts that there will always be monsters in the world, oh well whaddaya gonna do?, and thus regards the only solution as exclusively tasking victims with rape prevention.

Look how helpful he is, lecturing women on keeping themselves safe.

I just positively adore how Jenkins gormlessly puts forth his ideas about how women should be more responsible for their own safety, as if no one's ever fucking said that before, as if no one has ever suggested that the burden of rape prevention should be on women. (And as if women aren't socialized from birth to be intimately familiar with rape prevention, from their behavior to their clothing choices to their attitude, etc. etc. etc.) Hardly a week goes by that I don't read an article saying the same goddamned thing, whether women are being admonished to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way" or whatfuckingever.

If Jenkins wants to make a serious contribution to a conversation about rape prevention, he could try writing something that answers this question: Why is it always more important to lecture women on what they should be doing to avoid rape than to talk to men about the fact that they do not have the right to women's bodies without express consent?"

Thoughts on that question?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Christian Message on the Importance of Fathers

It's my favorite when anti-gay, anti-feminist heterosexual men who worship a male god nonetheless insist that both men and women are very important to relationships- especially the marital one! Some folks are just okay with some genders being more important-er than others. Thus, as you can imagine, it's likewise my favorite when such dude-god lovin' men find it problematic when some people worship a dual-gender god, as opposed to a strictly male god.

Here, Playful Walrus, in criticizing a gay male couple's marriage ceremony, mocks the homo newlyweds' invocation of a "mother/father god" in their ceremony, writing:

"Wait... Why call God 'father-mother'? Looks to me like only fathers are important in this relationship."

His point is that it's inappropriate, and possibly hypocritical, for a gay male couple to acknowledge the value of both sexes in god whilst engaging in a marriage that contains only one sex. So here, it is most apt to wonder- does Walrus' rule regarding a god's gender composition pertain only to same-sex couples, or does Walrus also deem it fit to apply to dual-gender couples as well?

Given his apparent belief that the gender composition of one's marriage should correspond with the gender composition of one's god, it's fun to think about the implications of Walrus' own worship of his male father god via Christianity. Using his own logic, his Christian father-god demands and implies that it is only fathers- men- who are important in the Christian marital relationship.

Indeed, under the traditional view of marriage, marriage is not a relationship between two people, but is an arrangement between a man and his reproductive vessel(s). One who sits through some Christian wedding ceremonies- replete with copious praise to the father-god, fathers "giving away" their daughter to another man, and man-priests officiating over the whole transaction- might likewise be compelled to wonder why the Christian marriage deigns to require "one woman" at all when it is so very evident that it is the men, fathers, and sons who are truly important here. The most important role for women, the clearly less important gender within this holy male circle jerk, is to be submissive for gender-hierarchy purposes.

Yes, indeed, I do think Walrus is on to something here in observing how the "gender" of a supreme deity reflects the relative importance of we mortal gendered beings. Too bad that in clinging desperately to the male privilege his god-father bestows upon him, he is incapable of extrapolating his own Deep Thought to its logical conclusion.

In another hilarity-ensuing twist, Walrus then goes on to accuse the aforementioned married gay men of trying to co-opt motherhood, which he says is impossible given that "Men can't contribute eggs or carry children in a womb, after all."

The Christians, how they love to project!

Of course, that men do not generally have eggs or wombs has not stopped Christian "fathers" from creating a religion wherein humans are to be "born again" through the non-existent womb of their savior man/son/father/god (depending on sect).

Nor has the lack of eggs and wombs stopped men, "so resentful of women's monopoly of all nature's rhythms," from inventing pseudo-reproductive rhythms that mimic the biology of women's bodies, claiming them as their own, and lording them over all of humanity as the "savior" of mankind.

Nor has it stopped holy men from adorning themselves in dresses and exercising authority over women who actually have eggs and wombs, as though the wombs belong to them, society, and/or their male god but certainly not to the women themselves.

That men do not have eggs or womb does not preclude the Greatest Divine Male Of All from motherhood, so why would mere biological anatomy preclude male humans- who were supposedly created in this god's image- from motherhood?

In this way, Christianity sends quite the metaphorical message that biological sex and mere anatomy is of no limitation when it comes to motherhood and marriage. As long as incubators exist for impregnation and hatching purposes, men are clearly more than enough to fill all marital and parentage roles.

And yet.

Given the greater female investment and importance in gestation and reproduction, do you ever get the impression that the Godly Males are protesting a bit too much?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time Magazine's Latest Gender Fail: The Sinking of "The Sea Witch"

It's not often that Time magazine writes entire articles devoted to female military personnel. I've been subscribing to the magazine (thanks to a gift from a relative), for several years and I can't remember a single article about a female soldier or officer that comes anywhere close to the masturbatory articles written about male military leaders. I'm not surprised by this, given that this is the same magazine whose dude editor declared that women have now become "dominant" in society because..... we are still under-represented in positions of power and authority?

Needless to say, I was quite surprised to find that a recent issue highlights Captain Holly Graf, "the first woman to command a Navy cruiser." My surprise turned into that old familiar feeling of disappointment when I saw that the article was actually all about the "stunning fall" of a "verbally abusive" "Sea Witch."


Although the online version of the article is titled "Sexism and the Navy's Captain Bligh," the print version's title is "The Sea Witch."

First off, it's amazing to me that people act surprised that when women assimilate into hyper-masculine institutions they might also acquire and subsequently display hyper-masculine traits, even if they're women. Thus, behavior that goes unremarked-upon when done by men, suddenly calls for collective pearl-clutching when women do or say the exact same things.

Indeed, in rhetoric reminscent of the character assassination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor wherein anonymous comments like "she has an inflated opinion of herself" were considered totally legit reasons to oppose her nomination, writer Mark Thompson cites the accusations of anonymous Navy crew members. These transgressions included "Graf repeatedly dropp[ing] F bombs on [the crew]" and acting "particularly withering toward females." In one instance, a chaplain allegedly informed Graf that some of the junior officers were "concerned and upset" about her tone, and get this, "[the chaplain] said that [Graff] wouldn't talk to him for the rest of his stay." Can you believe it?! *Faint* What a bitch. Somebody get out the smelling salts!

But seriously. I don't think it's appropriate for those in positions of power and authority to be verbally abusive. I certainly wouldn't want to work with somebody like that on a daily basis, whether they're male or female. (Also, I thought it was sort of routine for military superiors to be somewhat verbally abusive to subordinates. Although, thanks to that pesky ban on gays in the military, I do admit my military "experience" is limited to media portrayals of the institution. Anyone who can clarify, feel free...).

Thus, my main issue with this Time article is not whether Graf was or was not sufficiently verbally abusive to result in her dismissal, but that Thompson tries really hard to create a narrative wherein Pesky Political Correctness Ruins Everything. He does this by arguing that the Navy's fear of appearing sexist was why the Navy couldn't dismiss this Sea Witch sooner that it did, writing:

"A better explanation [than Graf being removed for behavior that would go unnoticed in a man] is that the Navy failed to move on Graf earlier not in spite of her gender but because of it. Following the Tailhook scandal- in which Navy aviators assaulted dozens of women at a 1991 convention- the service rushed women to sea to show it was no longer locked in the Dark Ages."

Thus, the desire for diversity and politically correct appearances ruins everything by not allowing male-dominated institutions to get rid of bitchy sea witches. Thompson's article seems to yearn for the day wherein a person is promoted or kept around without regard to his or her gender which, yes, is also a feminist goal. Yet, this same article, starting right with the title "The Sea Witch," places primary importance on the female gender of this military leader, effectively suggesting that her gender is an explanation for her verbal abuse.

A story about a military leader behaving badly is hardly as exciting as one about a female military leader behaving badly. And that's why Graf's gender had to be front and center in this expose. Likewise, a story about the masses of male military personnel who behave badly by raping their fellow soldiers is even less exciting than that, as lady journalist Nancy Gibbs' mere one-page opinion piece devoted to that travesty in the previous Time magazine aptly demonstrated.

When men do bad things, their entire gender is not indicted and the fact that it is they, men, who do horrible things is hidden in passive-voiced statements like "a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire." Yet, when a woman does something bad, we get a multi-page spread whose entire undertone screams This Is What Happens When We Let Women Lead The Military!

That the mainstream media is incapable of reporting on an unfortunate instance of (alleged) abuse of power without simultaneously building a case against gender diversity in positions of power demonstrates how Not Over sexism against women actually is. That the mainstream media rarely highlights the positive accomplishments of female military leaders and personnel only exacerbates this illusion that women contribute nothing good to the military and are unfit for leadership. And, as always, I continue to question the appropriateness of male Time writers mansplaining that the opposite of sexism against women is happening.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Godly Males Mock Women Who Oppose Them On Issue Uniquely Affecting Women

Via shakesville, a group of Catholic nuns broke rank with the dudely bishops who, for anti-choice reasons, oppose the health care bill.

For some background, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the bill because it doesn't "do enough to block federal money from being used to fund abortions." Thus, they've ran an inflammatory ad opposing the bill because, as they put it, health care should not be about "destroying lives" via abortion (PDF). The nuns have countered this rhetoric, noting that the bill will actually do quite a bit for those who are already alive. Specifically, it "will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children... and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women."

The bishops' Deep Concern about the destruction of lives and human dignity, however, appears somewhat implausible, when coupled with the Catholic institution's historic subjugation of women, the perpetuation and cover-up of child abuse, and Vatican staffers' implication in an alleged gay prostitution ring.

By these actions, rather than its Concerned Words, this institution tells us that restricting abortion has less to do with protecting unborn human life and more to do with maintaining, abusing, and misappropriating power over others, but especially over women, via the co-option of the female role in reproduction.

Bart Stupack, known recently by his infamous anti-abortion amendment to the health care bill, sums up this pathologically male-dominant attitude quite nicely, admitting:

"'When I'm drafting right to life language, I don’t call up the nuns." He says he instead confers with other groups including 'leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee.'"

The entitlement that groups of powerful and exclusionary men have that tells them that they, rather than women, get to be the ultimate deciders about an issue that uniquely affects the rights of women is something that must be highlighted whenever it is exercised. It is in a world where man has made himself god, that men could and do get away with such inappropriate exploits.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today's Deep Thought

Today I present a recently-remembered conversation that occurred at a local independent comic book store where I purchased some of the Y: The Last Man volumes. In case you aren't a geek, this particular graphic novel is, as I've written before, a speculation on what the world would look like if all of the human beings who had a Y chromosome simultaneously died. Oh, except for one. A story has to have a protagonist after all, and wherever would one find a protagonist in a world full of only XX-chromosomed beings?!

Anyway, as I purchased these books, the employee dude first asked me if I was purchasing the books for myself or "for someone else." I'm not sure that's a question he asks male customers, but that's beside the point. The point is that when I said that I was indeed purchasing them for myself, this is what he said:

"Yeah, I read this comic book too and it really surprised me, how interesting it was. When I first heard of the premise, you're like, 'what could possibly be interesting about that?'"


As I paid, I was confronted once again with the unfortunate reality that even "creative" and "geeky" types remain entrapped within an uninspired worldview wherein they cannot, on their own, imagine being interested in a world inhabited by only 1 man and billions of women.

If ignorance is bliss, I submit that we've just discovered why Men Are So Much Happier Than Women Ever Since Feminism Happened!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: Gate To Women's Country

I recently finished the feminist science fiction/fantasy novel Gate to Women's Country, by Sheri S. Tepper. In general, it's an interesting take on the dominator and partnership models as articulated by Riane Eisler. (All quotes taken from Gate to Women's Country. This review contains spoilers).

The setting of the novel is 300 hundred years in the future, following some sort of cataclysmic war known as the convulsions. The US is now a matriarchy, wherein human settlements exist in small, low-tech communities known as Women's Country. Within the walls of Women's Country, live most women and a few men, known as servitors, all of whom have rejected participation in war.

At the age of 5, boys are taken out of Women's Country to live with the warrior men, who have settlements outside of Women's Country. When boys turn 15, they can choose to return to Women's Country, or they can continue living with the men in the warriors' society. Boys who choose to return to Women's Country are those who reject the violence of the warrior's life.

While it is not presented as a utopia, life in Women's Country does contrast with life in the warriors' garrisons. The people within Women's Country are educated, safe, and able to live stable, relatively well-rounded lives. Life in the garrisons is meaninglessly competitive, hierarchical, and dangerous. Whereas in Women's Country men and women live together in partnership, men in the warriors' garrisons live together in hierarchical relationships wherein everything feminine is devalued and ridiculed.

Thus, few boys return to live in Women's Country. In one of Tepper's great metaphors, boys choosing to return to live in Women's Country must pass through the Women's Gate, which the warriors consider to be incredibly shameful. When a boy chooses to walk through the Women's Gate, the warriors insult him, beat him, and throw rocks at him. In this way, we see how the dominator model of human relations exists and perpetuates itself in a society that devalues the traits that are considered feminine. Even if men would like to live in equal partnership with women and to display characteristics that are thought of as "feminine," they do not do so out of fear of the consequences of walking through the "Women's Gate."

Indeed, just as it is in our society, this form of gender policing is socially reinforced in boys immediately upon their entry into the warrior camps. When the son of the main character, Stavia, visits her shortly before he decides to remain with the warriors, the two have the following exchange:

"During my last homecoming"- he gave the word an aversive twist she had believed only a mature warrior could give it, "homecoming" as though it were something dirty; well, perhaps it was- "you made a suggestion to me which was unworthy of my honor."

"Did I, indeed?" The actor Stavia was properly puzzled. "I cannot remember any such."

"You said," his voice quavered. "You said I would be welcome to return to my mother's house through the Gate to Women's Country."

In this way, the warriors teach the boys that returning to the non-violent Women's Country is dishonorable, because it is womanly. In another portion of the book, Stavia's sister, who is infatuated with a warrior, explains that men who return to Women's Country are "cowards and tit-suckers and impotent, too." The garrison, indeed, is a metaphor for patriarchal society. Men and women are very, very different and to be a man, most importantly, is to be Not A Woman.

What makes Tepper's futuristic society different from our own is that Tepper's has, as a survival mechanism, adapted by effectively castrating the capacity that violent, nihilistic hyper-masculinity has to destroy the world. First, the sole occupation allowable to men who choose to remain in the warrior camps is that of warrior. They are not allowed to read and they are not allowed to pursue an education or any other endeavor. Using their degradation of femininity against warrior men, women have framed education and non-warrior life as "womanly" endeavors, one in which Real Warriors do not pursue.

As Stavia explains it, "A man who chose the warrior's lot chose to fight for his garrison and his city. A warrior needed all his powers of concentration. Having other, irrelevant thoughts in his head could be risky." If men wanted to have any other vocation, they could choose to reject violence, come back through the Gate to Women's Country, and live peaceful lives with the women.

Along these lines, one of the purposes of not allowing warriors to learn was so they could not build weapons. All fighting was done at arm's length, between equals, without imperiling others. As one of the servitors, Joshua, explains:

"...Warriors can't have doctors. And they must fight at close range, not at a distance. And they must see their own blood and the blood of their fellows, and they must care for their own dying and see their pain. It's part of the choice they have to make.... [T]hey choose battle. They have to live with consequences of battle."

Keeping warriors ignorant and unable to develop devastating weapons, was a reaction to "preconvulsion" times wherein most who died in war were women, children, and old people. Thus, in addition to limiting warriors' knowledge, the ordinances mandated that warriors were only allowed to kill other warriors. The warriors followed this ordinance because it was conditioned in them that it would have been dishonorable to kill anyone other than a warrior.

Third, and most interestingly, the Women's Country council was secretly breeding violent hyper-masculinity out of the human population. Twice a year, warriors entered Women's Country for the festivals for purposes of "reproducing" with the women. In exchange for the women bearing sons, the warriors "protected" Women's Country.

In reality, the women- possessing more knowledge and weapons than the warriors- did not require their protection. The wars that various warrior garrisons started with one another were often pointless and, sometimes, the leaders of Women's Country intentionally led the men into war with the aim of having the violent men kill each other off. This is incredibly harsh, but remembering the servitor Joshua's observation that violence was the path warriors chose for themselves, it nicely illustrates the nihilism of violent hyper-masculinity.

Whenever I hear MRA-types bemoan the fact that most combat deaths are men and how this is so very unfair to men, it's important to remember that- aside from a draft situation- men can opt out of "masculinity" if they are courageous enough to walk through that shameful women's gate.

Furthermore, in an interesting twist, unbeknownst to the warriors and most women of Women's Country, women were implanted with birth control devices before each festival so as to be rendered incapable of reproducing with the warriors. In reality, the male servitors fathered every child via artificial insemination so as to select for non-violence. Incidentally, the Women's Council also sterilized some women, indicating that it was not only men who possessed undesirable traits.

In addition to presenting an imagined society that has adapted to violent hyper-masculinity, Tepper presents an archaic patriarchal society that, actually, looks much like FLDS culture wherein men hold virtually all power, have multiple wives, and view women solely as reproductive vessels. The main character, Stavia, gets kidnapped by a group of these men, who live outside of Women's Country. She, having been raised as a human being, is appalled at their ignorance, the way they abuse women, and the way they treat women as a sort of non-human breeding animal. Where as a young girl she questioned some of the Women's Country ordinances, her experiences within this "archaic" patriarchal culture and the horrific institution of marriage as presented within it led her to better understand the reasons behind the ordinances.

This book, like many feminist science fiction novels, had an interesting way of highlighting how patriarchy maintains and perpetuates itself. Aside from presenting the capacity for violence as a gendered phenomenon- as opposed to a human one- my main criticism of the book was how it handled homosexuality, which Tepper erases from her society by calling it the "gay syndrome" that is detected and fixed while a fetus is in the womb. While part of the plot turns on showing how "sleeping with the enemy" can lead both men and women to betray their own patriarchal or matriachal societies, I think this effect could have been achieved without taking the drastic measure of completely erasing homosexuality.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Opressed Gay Male Oppressor

I used to think there weren't many monologues less appropriate than a bunch of heterosexual men writing manifestos against abortion and same-sex marriage, two issues that uniquely affect the rights of women and gay people.

I was wrong.

That honor would belong to groups of gay men, humans who are neither capable of pregnancy nor who regularly impregnate women, who demonstrate a willingness to throw the reproductive rights of women under the bus if in doing so, they can advance their own gay rights agenda.

This phenomenon is classic kyriarchy, or "the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid." In short, individuals are capable of being both oppressor and oppressed since privilege and power accrues to individuals on the basis of multiple identities such as sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, able-bodied-ness and religion.

Thus, it is the oppressed equality-seeking gay male who nonetheless possesses the male privilege of believing abortion rights to be a negotiable bargaining chip for obtaining gay rights.

Observe, Stephen Miller writing in the disproportionately-male-heavy Independent Gay Forum:

"...[G]oing back to Gerson's initial point about abortion, many leading gay political groups still maintain a pro-abortion-on-demand litmus test for candidates they'll endorse, including the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. This effectively eliminates many Republican gays—and gay-supportive but pro-life Republicans (and a few Democrats)—from ever being backed by these officially nonpartisan LGBT groups."

That is, that many LGBT rights groups oppose anti-choice candidates ensures that anti-choice, pro-gay candidates are not supported by the LGBT community which, in turn, could harm the overall LGBT rights movement. Wow. One sort of gets the impression that some gay men would sign the anti-abortion, anti-gay Manhattan Declaration if all that anti-gay stuff was omitted.

Oh, to be a gay man whose only axis of oppression is his homosexuality. Or, as commenter Bobby notes:

"Gay organizations need to focus on gay rights and nothing else."

Right, because didn't ya'll hear that racism and sexism are totally over, thus eliminating the need for social justice alliances?!

But seriously, I do wonder if Bobby is under the impression that no gay people are women or people of color or disabled or immigrants. For, only in a world in which all gay people were white, able-bodied gay dude citizens would all gay people be totes okay with the organizations supposedly representing them only focusing "on gay rights and nothing else." Only in that world would all gay people have no cognitive dissonance about supporting pro-gay candidates who were anti-choice (or anti-immigrant, or any other anti-).

Only in that world would gay rights be the only rights that mattered.

Most people in the world possess at least one marginalized identity. Many people are marginalized on the basis of multiple identities. Because of that, many gay people are not entirely comfortable choosing a candidate based solely on his or her (but probably his) position on gay rights, as that sometimes entails choosing a candidate who is anti- something else that is very important to those who do not have the privilege of "only" being oppressed on the basis of homosexuality.

So welcome, ladies and gentleman, to a large reason as to why the white male-dominated LGBT community does not have the support of some minority communities, as evidenced by Prop 8. Privileging their own oppression as gays, some gays support the oppression of other groups while nonetheless demanding the full-fledged support of the groups whose rights they are so ready and willing to sell out.

Although US statistics are lacking, the white gay male population constitutes perhaps 1% of the population. Perhaps they think they can win this "gay rights" battle on their own, selfishly demanding everyone else's support for their Most Important Civil Rights Cause Ever while offering no support in return. Lucky for them, many allies to the transgender, bisexual, lesbian, oh and gay community aren't so single-minded in their social justice activities.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Cancels Prom Rather Than Endure Lesbian Tux-Wearer

Quick, somebody call the gender police!

Perhaps you've heard of the Mississippi high school student who wanted to take her girlfriend to prom whilst wearing a tux. Since she doesn't have a penis, the school board decided to take its prom and go home.

In a way, it is fitting that the school would choose to cancel prom instead of allowing this gender crime. Same-sex couples are denied access into marriage and many similar rites of passage into dating, romance, and adult coupledom. By canceling prom for everybody, I'd like to think that at least some students, once they get over their initial self-centered bitterness, will come to have a better appreciation for the experiences of those of us who are regularly denied access to such reinforcers of romance.

Could the homophobic school board have just unintentionally done LGBT rights a favor?

Anyway, one of my fave commenters following the article was Dawn, who concernedly noted:

"The adult student in question is 18. The child she wishes to take to the prom is a minor."

A few items are of note about Dawn's Gays-As-Pedophiles tangent. One, the age of consent in Mississippi is 16; is Dawn privy to the actual age of the prom date? Two, Dawn seems to assume that the "adult student" is having sex with "the child." Is she privy to this info as well? Three, is Dawn similarly concerned about male-female couples wherein one is a senior and the other is a sophomore, or is it just the age difference when it comes to homasexuls she's so very concerned about?

Dawn continues, answering question numero 3:

"I call sexual exploitation of a minor and the minor's parents should be ashamed of themselves. It truly is a shame how the gays are ruining this country."

She demolishes her own "concern" about sexual exploitation of a minor by going into an asinine homophobic rant. But wait, don't worry you guys, she's not a homophobe after all. Dawn explains:

"I am allowed to feel this way and am far from homophobic. I am fully educated on how there is something medically wrong with the brains of gays....Nothing will ever change my opinion about it either."

Glad that's all cleared up.

But seriously, it's remarkably sad that some people still think the normality/abnormality of homosexuality is still a legitimate scientific debate or inquiry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Men Who Get It, Part II

[Trigger warning: Sexual Assault]

A couple of weeks ago we met homo-fem-tastic (yet hetero male) Hudson Taylor. I recognize male allies because, even though their arguments are similar to the arguments that many feminists, women, and/or LGBT people make, their words carry more weight by virtue of their hetero male privilege.

Hetero, male, and white identities are considered to be default, neutral human identities, to be contrasted with the identities of Others, whom the dominant narrative tells us possess biased and subjective worldviews. This means that when a person is hetero, white, and male, he is afforded a greater credibility than those who are not. Oftentimes, if a woman, for instance, says that something is sexist against a woman she is perceived as complaining and/or of hating men. Yet, if a man notes the exact same instance of sexism, he is perceived as making an observation from some sort of neutral vantage point. As though men do not have a stake in, or benefit from, sexism against women.

And thus, do we observe this post, by PalMD, ally, whose blog I sometimes read. For some background, Scienceblogger Dr. Isis wrote a candid post in response to a female grad student who expressed discomfort over a professor who complimented her appearance and feared that it might "escalate" into something more. In responding to this situation, Dr. Isis recounted her discomfort with men who violate her physical space, which stems from an earlier experience wherein a man who used to hit on her ended up raping her.

While most of the comments following this post were supportive, some male commenters chimed in to suggest that Dr. Isis' post was troubling because some women do like it when strange men tell them they're attractive, but given that some "females" have an "axe to grind" about stuff like this, it makes things so incredibly hard for those poor men who just want to exercise good "old-fashioned" politeness. In other words, just as they have a god-given right to ogle breasts, men are also entitled to compliment women, even though they know it makes some women feel unsafe. The thread then quickly digressed into accusations of "man-hating" once some men realize that their opinions neither automatically counted for more than a woman's opinion nor did their "authoritative" male statement automatically settle the matter.

Other than the pervasive lack, among even liberal men, of demonstrating an interest in trying to understand what living in a sexually hostile society is like for women, what is troubling about these conversations "between the sexes" about issues like sexual assault is that some men, so removed from the visceral fear that many women feel, have the privilege of treating such conversations like mere pedantic debating exercises. (When they're not dismissing them as man-bashing sessions, that is.)

So fixated on "winning" an argument and keeping the conversation centered around how complimenting women makes men men men feel, some men just really don't know how to even try to understand women's experiences. So fixated they are on informing women about the male experience in life, as though women don't already know that by virtue of the male experience having been collapsed into the Human Experience, they think they're informing us of some Startling Revelation by noting that "some men really are nice guys who only want to compliment women."

Naw, really? No shit, Sherlock.

And thus, we have PalMD's response, which is full Getting It:

"The point is, men need to man-up. We need to take responsibility for sexual violence. Women, who make up the majority of sexual assault victims/survivors, are not responsible for our behavior---we are. If you say and do things that make a woman uncomfortable, this is not the time for you to hone your debate skills. You don't get to decide if a woman feels threatened. You just need to stop, and do better next time."

So simple. Yet, when uttered by a man, scientific studies show that the degree of man-hatin' it emanates is reduced to almost zero femiwatts.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sports Ladies Behaving Badly- Winter Olympics Edition

I love the photos of the gold-medal Canadian hockey team celebrating after their win.

Although, apparently it was a Very Bad Thing for these lady athletes to have been drinking champagne and smoking cigars on the ice after fans had left the building, like how male athletes drink champagne and smoke cigars after they win big sporting events all the fucking time. Their lady revelry, in fact, drew "scrutiny" from the International Olympic Committee, which said that it would "investigate what happened."

Hmmm, I wonder if the IOC will find similar time and resources to make lady ski jumping "happen."

But I digress. Here, ladies and gentleman, we observe Truth A about articles involving female athletes:

"When female athletes are covered in the mainstream/sports media, at least one of three truths will come into play: (a) The coverage will consist of a gimmicky article about how a particular lady athlete has behaved badly, (b) If the coverage is a feature story, it will be of a Hot Lady Athlete even though she has peers who are similarly, if not more, talented, and/or (c) Following every online article featuring a female athlete or team, male commenters opine upon the general overall suckiness of lady sports."

Nothing like lady-shaming to get everyone to stop focusing on the athletic accomplishments of women.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Intersections of Feminism and LGBT Advocacy

[Cross-posted at A World of Progress and My Big Gayborhood]

For a couple of reasons, I tend to write quite a bit about both feminism and LGBT rights. One, as a woman and a lesbian, both movements have been incredibly important in helping me put words to my lived experiences in a patriarchal, heterosexist society.

Two, I see feminism and LGBT advocacy, neither of which is a monolithic movement of course, as linked. Much of the homophobia directed at gay and bisexual men is based in the stereotype that gay and bi men are effeminate and, of course, many consider effeminacy to be a status downgrade from masculinity, which is the superior gender identity.

Much of the homophobia directed at lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender folks involves similar gender policing. To be a woman, for instance, is "supposed" to mean certain things, one of the most important- according to some- is wife to a man and mother to his children. Lesbian and bisexual women upset this gender expectation and effectively demonstrate that multiple ways of being a real woman exist. And, while feminism- especially radical feminism- has a complicated history with transgenderism, feminism for me means supporting a person's right and choice to present as whatever gender one wishes.

Because of these intersections, I would like to see greater cooperation between feminists and the male-dominated LGBT movement. By framing some LGBT issues as the feminist issues they also are, lies the potential of reaching more sympathetic people. Women are, after all, half of the human population. And, I suspect that at least half of the human population might take issue with the prisons some of the "marriage defenders" are peddling in their defense of the sacred institution.

Indeed, at the very top of one of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage's documents "that lays out the social scientific reasons why marriage between one man and one woman is best for children and society" is the Genesis 2:18 quotation wherein god granted man, the first and default human being, his female "help mate."

Although I'd wager most Americans no longer hold such an archaic view of gender relations and proper roles within marriage, that the debate over same-sex marriage is framed as a gay rights issue obfuscates how the battle for same-sex marriage is also a significant gender rights issue. The idea that marriage requires one man and one woman is grounded in the biblical myth that males and females are "complementary" to one another. That is, what one gender lacks, the other fulfills and, together, the two become one whole in marriage.

It's all quite magical really. Yet, a tremendous amount of implications- implications that "marriage defenders" understandably rarely articulate these days- follow from the belief that men and women have a complementary relationship to one another. For instance, if one gender is inherently strong, the other is weak. If one gender is inherently dominant, the other is submissive. If one gender is active, the other is passive. I bet you can guess which gender, theoretically, fulfills each role here.

While some believe these gender roles to be commonsensically inherent to all people, many feminists, LGBT people, and other gender outlaws know that reality is much more nuanced than the cartoon characters that "marriage defenders" turn men and women into. By using feminism to advance LGBT rights, the ridiculousness of the "marriage defense" position just might be revealed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of a Review: Precious

I came across this... interesting review of the movie Precious.

I use the word interesting not because the reviewer, Josh Tyler, has a particularly interesting reason for disliking the movie. Indeed, he claims that the movie "isn't worth your time" essentially because it's not inspiring or uplifting. Fair enough. Whether Precious is or is not inspiring is a judgment call, but I can accept that some people watch movies to escape from the fact that sometimes bad things happen to people in real life.

But then he goes on to mistake his subjective experience of the film as some sort of objective truth. Like:

"Unless you're an industry insider looking for filmmaking tips, there's no reason to see it. Precious does all of those things right but it does one thing wrong: It exists without cause. Precious offers nothing of any real consequence to those who would see it....Buying a ticket for Precious means choosing to spend a couple of hours watching really mean, obese people beat up on a delusional, obese teenager in a roach motel."

First, there's his incredibly broad claim that no one in the entire world will get anything out of watching Precious. It's always bizarre when dudes deem themselves the arbiter of all that does and doesn't count as meaningful to other people.

See, given that Precious depicts a lesbian, who is also a woman of color, who is pretty much the sole positive influence in the life of a teenage girl whom heterosexual after heterosexual has abused in some manner, I strongly disagree that the movie "offers nothing of any real consequence to those who would see it." As a lesbian, it certainly offers something to me. Namely, it counters the stereotype that heterosexuality is an automatic safe haven from the dangers of homosexuality. In fact, this portrayal turned that assumption on its head, as the lesbian teacher offered a haven from dangerous and predatory heterosexuals.

Then, we have Tyler's suggestion that part of what makes Precious worthless is because it has fat people in it. Indeed, in his article he uses the word "obese" or "fat" 5 times and in an attempt at humor(?), jokes that the main character will die of diabetes, if AIDS doesn't get her first.

Oddly, he doesn't seem to pick up the fat-shaming within his own article as, a bit later, he notes that "everyone who abuses Precious is dangerously overweight, while everyone who helps Precious is thin." That, I could concede as a legitimate criticism regarding the conflation of fatness with immorality. However, if a critic's going to suggest that watching a movie that has fat people in it "isn't worth your time" in part because it has fat people in it, he should own that fat-shaming criticism as well. Instead, Tyler doesn't seem to recognize it.

Lastly, Tyler writes:

"Perhaps Precious is a cautionary tale? Planning to rape your kid any time soon? Then watch this to find out what might happen. For the other 99.999% of us, there's nothing we need to know here."

In actuality, incest is one of the most common forms of child abuse.

Yes, this is just some random dude's movie review. But in it, is an amazing clusterfuck of the male entitlement to dismiss the experiences of Others combined with superficial body shaming combined with the rape culture-tastic invisibilization of the prevalence of sexual violence.

To me, that's a big deal, even though it's not to those who are the deciders of all that does and doesn't count as a big deal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Performing Gender in Sports

Previously, I wrote this post about Lady Bowler Kelly Kulick's historic win over male bowling champs in the Tournament of Champions and then this post about male sports fans who commented that bowling wasn't a real sport anyway.

Patriarchy tells us that women, by nature, are weak and passive. Thus, when women demonstrate strength and competence, patriarchy has a ready-made answer.

Via shakesville, via Rick Reilly at ESPN, sportswriter David Whitley has summed up patriarchy's answer to women who are good at the things that men do:

"Rule No. 1 in determining whether an activity is a sport: If the best female in the world can beat the best male in the world, it doesn't qualify."

He was being serious.

In Whitley's world, the definition of sport is not a fixed category. Sports is gendered as male, and its nature is capable of changing whenever a woman beats the "best man" at a particular activity. In this way, by definition, no woman can ever be "the best" at a sport, no matter the activity or skill required to participate in it. If she is better than a man at something, it is an "activity," never a sport.

Here, in addition to a comical display of incredibly insecure masculinity, the arbitrary and farcical nature of "male" and "female" in a patriarchal system is revealed. Do you see how quickly and easily male can be redefined if a female demonstrates that she can do male better than the "best male"?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Evolutionary Psychologist Mansplains Feminism To Be Unnecessary For Women

Some folks use evolutionary psychology as though it's patriarchy's secular religion. Indeed, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa over at his aptly-titled The Scientific Fundamentalist blog has written a post entitled "Why modern feminism is illogical, unnecessary, and evil."

You won't be surprised upon reading this article that Kanazawa succeeds mostly in blowing down strawladies of his own creation, failing to respond to any specific feminist or feminist theory. In his sloppy article, "modern feminism" exists as a broad monolith wherein all feminists advance the exact same straw arguments and wherein he, of course, blows them down as though he has just single-handedly obliterated the entirety of feminist thought.

For instance, he argues first that "modern feminism" is illogical because it rests on the "vanilla assumption" that men and women are identical and only display differences because of gender socialization and patriarchy. As a tangential point, it is unclear as to why Kanazawa uses the term "vanilla" in reference to this "feminist" argument. Used as slang, the term "vanilla" generally means conventional or non-edgy. The idea that men and women are born identical is not exactly a conventional argument. Indeed, the converse of that argument would be "vanilla," given that it is a patriarchal self-evident truth that Men And Women Are Very Different.

But I digress.

More importantly, nothing in Kanazawa's article leaves me convinced that we're dealing with a person who is particularly informed with respect to the nuances within feminist argumentation, nor who is even aware of the fact that feminism has multiple theoretical schools.

Sure, Judith Butler for instance advanced a theory of gender performativity wherein gender was a cultured construct that individuals learn, but she is hardly representative of what every single "modern feminist" believes. If we were to generalize "modern feminism's" argument it would be more along the lines of sex differentiation exists but a patriarchal culture exaggerates these differences. (Yes, I totes just defined feminism without consulting the proper feminist authorities).

Instead of acknowledging the real-life nuance that feminism isn't a monolith, Kanazawa instead claims that feminism is illogical because it's based on an untrue premise- a premise that, in actuality, is not a premise at all for many feminists. He makes the classic fallacy of composition, noting that some individuals within the class of feminists believe gender differences are entirely socially constructed and then going on to argue that therefore all feminists believe that.

He goes on to conclude that feminism is unnecessary. Because really, is there anything that resonates more within the cockles of your heart than a dude informing us that feminism is unnecessary? Continuing on, he states:

"It is also not true that women are the 'weaker sex.'"

Now, to many feminists, this is not exactly a Startling Revelation. Men have on average greater physical strength than women, but as Kanazawa notes, boys and men are more susceptible to diseases throughout their lives and have shorter life-spans on average than women. Thus, in some ways, men on average are stronger than women, while in others, women on average are stronger than men. It all depends on how we're defining strength and weakness.

What makes feminism necessary is not so much that women are the "weaker sex," but rather that we live in a patriarchal culture that trains women to be the weaker, frail sex and trains men to be the strong, aggressive sex. In a nutshell.

Finally, true to fundamentalist form, Kanazawa tells us that feminism is evil. Why? Because, citing Stevenson and Wolfer's study on happiness, women used to be happier when they made less money than men. Now, anti-feminists all over the internet have been citing this study as "proof" that feminism and equal pay are bad for women.

Yet, as the study's authors themselves note, it is not clear whether the study reflects the impact of "the women's movement" on women's happiness and they suggest that it may be telling us something about "the (un)reliability of happiness data." In any event, if one actually reads the study, "rather than immediately inferring that the women's movement failed to improve the lot of women," it acknowledges that the study raises questions about this (as opposed to definitively answering that question) and proposes explanations for the paradox of improved conditions and declining happiness.

To conclude that this study somehow proves that higher pay causes women to be unhappy, as Kanazawa does, would be an incredibly poor summary of the study. To conclude that this study proves that feminism is "evil," as Kanazawa also does, is to drawn an absurdly extreme conclusion.

The combined illogic of Kanazawa's case, and I use that word lightly, against "modern feminism" makes one wonder, will men ever stop inventing religions that justify the subjugation of women?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Men Who Get It: Hudson Taylor

Let's end this week on a positive note, eh?

I first heard of feminist, pro-LGBT college wrestler Hudson Taylor via shakesville. Male athletics is known for being pervasively homophobic, which makes Taylor's admission to being pro-gay and feminist courageous. And yes, I do think it's courageous when men risk alienating themselves from other men in order to support people whom our culture teaches men not to support if they want to be Real Men. From his interview in OutSports:

"Taylor puts his money where his views are, donating each month to HRC, a leading gay rights organization. But his greatest impact is trying to counteract the aura of homophobia that pervades sports. He does this by bringing up gay rights in media interviews and discussing the issue with teammates, despite the discomfort it might bring....

'It's tough being a college athlete," Taylor says. "Guys like to bring each other down and use hurtful words. But I think you need to be conscious of your thoughts, words and actions.'"

Taylor and his girlfriend plan to marry and in a statement that my feminist sensibilities find particularly charming, he stated:

"Even if we decided to take our mother's maiden names, we'd still be operating in a patrilineal naming system. We find it pretty disturbing that male names have been 'labeling' people for hundreds of years. Matrilineal surnames and non-sex-based surnames don't really exist. So, we decided to just pick our own -- fresh, equal, ours. That way, we can share a name that does not perpetuate patrilineage. My parents were upset in the beginning. But, I asked them: 'Why is it that no one cares if my sisters abandon their surnames to adopt the names of their husbands, but everyone panics when I want to abandon my surname to adopt a new name with my spouse?' My parents understood, and as always, are very supportive."

It's always nice to be reminded that they make straight guys like this, too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Anti-Feminist Unwittingly Becomes Partial Feminist Ally!

Anti-equality, anti-feminist blogger Playful Walrus has discovered something that feminists have been saying for years. Namely, that media portrayals of men can also be negative. It's not just women that the media portrays poorly.

He doesn't give examples or flesh out the ways that media portrayals are harmful, but he does offer a list of what he views as negative media influences. On his list are items like romance novels, romantic comedies, soap operas, advice columns, horoscopes, and materialism. Now, granted, some of the items on his list are not "media influences," but that's just a technicality. What I found particularly interesting was his theory as to why media critics give porn so much more "attention" than the items on his list. Specifically, he opines that:

"porn receives this attention because consumption is seen as primarily a male issue, and it is safe to beat up on males (often literally), although perhaps some people are more concerned about males being better people than they are about women being better people."

Hiding the perpetrators of these sins against men in the passive voice and non-specific "some people," Walrus' accusations are empty speculations as to why "some" nameless folks pay more attention to porn than they do about these other issues. Nonetheless, his impotent statement approaches, but doesn't quite articulate, the feminist truth that the world isn't all it's cracked up to be for men either, while alluding to the trusty MRA tack of blaming feminism (or, excuse me, "some people") for this situation.

Yet, as male privilege is allergic to feminist thought, he demonstrates ignorance of what it is, "some people," are actually talking about with respect to media portrayals of women and men:

"Part of my point is that 'we' spend a lot of time on the harms of porn ('it gives an unrealistic and degrading view of women and sex'), but we don't note the harm of say, romance novels, or romatic comedies (which give an unrealistic and often denigrating view of men, romance, and sex)."

First and foremost, it's interesting that Walrus uses "we." He personally, of course, devotes exponentially more of his blog posts toward opposing same-sex marriage than he does toward talking about "the harms of porn," especially as they pertain to women. So much so that one is led to wonder if "some people" pay more attention to same-sex marriage because it's safe to beat up on LGBT people (often literally), although "some people" also might be more concerned about LGBT people being better people than they are about heterosexuals being better people.

Yet, if Walrus means "we" as in social conservatives, his statement is also false. The social conservative case against porn is less that it is degrading to women and more that it depicts human sexuality, especially that of women, in non-patriarchally-approved ways.

If Walrus means that "we" as in "other people," don't "note the harm of say, romance novels, or romatic comedies," then he is also clearly and demonstrably wrong on that point as well.

Feminists, for instance, often "note the harm" of romance novels, romantic comedies, and commercials, arguing that they portray both men and women in unflattering, negative stereotypes. I highly recommend Tiger Beatdown, for all romantic comedy deconstructive purposes, especially as they pertain to Judd Apatow movies.

It is not surprising that mocker-of-feminists Walrus would not recognize a potential alliance with respect to feminism. In his past commentary, he has demonstrated a buying-into of the Rush Limbaugh propaganda that induces him to "joke" that all feminists are ugly and have no sense of humor. But my my my how things change when he perceives men, husbands, and fathers as being on the receiving end of negative portrayals gone awry!

As he further explains:

"Now, I'm not saying that fairy tales, all romantic comedies, or all television shows, or all advice columns are bad, however, 1-10 frequently:

a) Present a negative or objectifying portrayal of men, especially husbands and even more so fathers.

b) Present unrealistic portrayals of relationships and marriage."

Here, while I do not agree that males are "frequently" objectified in the media, as they are often the main protagonists (that is, the subjects of media), I do agree that they are often presented in a negative light. If romantic comedies and the like were to be believed, men would be little more than sex-obsessed man-children always trying to have fun in spite of their strict and boring bonerkill mommy-wives. And so here, I feel compelled to note that if I were to react to this situation in the same spirit of Walrus' casual negative stereotyping of feminists, I would say something like "Have I mentioned that conservative Christian types have no sense of humor and totally ruin the fun of romantic comedies?"

But alas, I won't. I agree that the negative portrayal of men in the media is a legitimate concern. Whilst it would likewise be refreshing if Walrus and others who have strong reactions against feminism could concede that the objectification, pornification, and subjugation of women was a serious problem and a legitimate feminist complaint, Walrus instead suggests that "we" spend too much time talking about The Women, which detracts away from how "unhealthy media influences" also harm men. That he sees this as zero-sum game evidences a deep discomfort with anyone other than men being centered within a conversation.

Anti-feminists tend to agree with feminists right up until we start talking about male privilege and patriarchy. I suppose it's what makes them "anti-feminist." Indeed, in my conversations with MRAs in the past, I have patiently listened to and sympathized with many of the ways that patriarchy hurts men too. What I have found in these conversations is that that courtesy is rarely reciprocated when I try to steer the conversation toward women. "Some people" have little interest in conversations that are centered around women, and the ways that patriarchy harms us.

It is telling that these "some people" are sometimes the same folks who insist that women have a very important and vital role to play in marriage. This irony is a revelation of the real nature of the female role in "traditional marriage" and social conservatism.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mary Daly Quotes of the Week: On Female Complicity

From The Church and the Second Sex:

"The New York Times, in the context of an article concerning the pope's visit to the Netherlands in Belgium, featured an Associated Press photo of a middle-aged woman in Brussels kneeling at the feet of the pope, her gaze turned upward, her hand clutching the sleeve of his immaculate white robe.

Countless pornographic magazines feature stories and photographs of women kneeling before men to perform fellatio under explicit or implicit threat of violence. No present overt violence forces women to writhe and grovel and kneel before the holy father. The act appears voluntary. Hence, the spectacle elicits Nausea. Moreover, the Nausea is intensified if a feminist tries not to acknowledge her Disgust with this woman as her sister. She does not want to feel the Disgust she may be feeling."

Female complicity in patriarchal institutions appears voluntary much in the same way that female participation in "gang-bang porn" appears voluntary. Men reward women for "Self-destructive and woman-hating behavior," as Daly borrows from Andrea Dworkin's explanation for female anti-feminism, with money, praise, shelter, safety, and rules. In exchange for these "payments," all that is asked of women is the acceptance of their own subordinate status, an acknowledgement that men are full persons somehow closer to god than are women, and a demonstration of the utmost, as Daly calls it, "loyalty to the divine males."

"Yet, it is essential to realize that without the loyalty of women the church and its churchmen would shrivel and die."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reporter: Fundamentalist Mormon Culture Actually a Matriarchy

The February 2010 issue of National Geographic ran an article on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church), a fundamentalist Mormon denomination that continues to practice polygyny.

Polygyny is where one man takes multiple wives. For instance, among those highlighted in the article were FLDS elder Joe Jessop, who has "tried to fulfill his duty to build up his 'celestial family'" by taking 5 wives. Consequently, Jessop has 46 children and 239 grandchildren.

For some further background, the leader of the church, always a male and claiming to be a prophet acting out the will of god, assigns young women and girls of so-called marriagable age to specific men. This "prophet" also exercises a right to reassign women to different men, who they claim god tells them are more worthy than other men. In short, "...a woman's primary role in the FLDS is to bear and raise as many children as possible, to build up the 'celestial family' that will remain together for eternity. It is not uncommon to meet FLDS women who have given birth to 10, 12, 16 children."

Given this scenario, writer Scott Anderson, finds it "curious" that FLDS women defend such a system. Indeed, he proposes a unique explanation. More on that in a moment.

First, it is worth nothing that patriarchal cultures have never been able to perpetuate themselves without the complicity of women. A patriarchy would not be able to exist and repopulate otherwise. Indeed, the greatest real-world exaggeration of a patriarchy is perhaps a culture much like that seen in the FLDS. Men are the head of household, family, and society, with women existing within a subordinate reproductive class. While men are agents of power in such a system, women operate with the illusion of power.

Because women play a more significant role in reproduction than do men, women are imprisoned on a pedestal that serves as a substitute for full personhood. For, while every married man is the head of his household with authority over women and children, while all men worship a god who is male like them, and while no man is denied a leadership role in society merely on account of his sex, women exist as the class Woman- a homogeneous category of being, reduced to its reproductive capabilities.

It is a natural consequence of such an ideology that a man would be allowed to take multiple wives. Marriage in any patriarchal system is not a marriage between two persons, but between a person and his reproductive property.

At this point, it is fitting to return to National Geographic Anderson's inventive theory as to why women defend such a system:

"...[W]hat has all the trappings of a patriarchal culture, actually has many elements of a matriarchal one."

Understandably, Anderson doesn't tell us what these "many elements" are that make FLDS culture totes matriarchal. Instead he offers us this:

"It would seem there's another lure for women to stay: power. The FLDS women I spoke with tended to be far more articulate and confident than the men, most of whom seemed paralyzed by fear. It makes sense when one begins to grasp that women are coveted to 'multiply and replenish the earth,' while men are in extraordinary competition to be deemed worthy of marriage by the prophet."

Here, it is fair to note that it is not fair to young boys that they do not get to choose their own reproductive property for themselves, but that the "prophet" chooses it for them. Patriarchy hurts men too, after all. Yet, it is a bit disingenuous to suggest that, compared to boys, girls are so very lucky that men "covet" them, want to take them into their polygynous families, and make them bear children for much of their reproductive years of life. The absurdity is extended when Anderson suggests that this biological luckiness gives girls and women "power" in such a society.

Anderson mistakes Woman's place on the pedestal of reproductive non-personhood for actual power. Real power, defined how it's usually defined in terms of accomplishment, authority, and capability, would mean that girls possessed the survival skills that would allow them to choose the roles of wife/mother and to choose other roles if they wanted, instead of having those roles imposed on them by a man who deems himself "prophet."

See, I've thought often of what a matriarchal society might look like (It would involve uniforms, lots of uniforms!) and there are exactly zero "elements" from the FLDS culture that I would borrow in my matriarchal utopia. In fact, in a culture with "many elements" of a matriarchy, one would expect that it would be unusual for women, such as this former FLDS woman, to feel like leaving such a culture was like:

"stepping out onto another planet. I was completely unprepared, because I had absolutely no life skills. Most women in the FLDS don't even know how to balance a checkbook, let alone apply for a job, so contemplating how you're going to navigate that world is extremely daunting."

Why Anderson dismisses this explanation as to why women "defend" an exaggeratedly patriarchal culture is something I do not know. Women's complicity in their own oppression is hardly a Startling Revelation, so maybe it's not edgy or fun or newsworthy anymore.

But to mistake an illusion of power for actual power just to put a new twist on an old story is a dangerous step toward condoning and affirming an unequal status quo.

Monday, March 1, 2010

More False TEACHING GAY SEX Claims

Writing an opinion column for the Hamilton Mountain News, Mark Cripps plays devil's advocate for the local school board's adoption of a new equity policy that contains "a component on sexual orientation."

This component on sexual orientation is an "anti-homophobia curriculum" that is intended to foster an environment free of discrimination.

After stating that he has a gay brother and "doesn't support the view" that homosexuality is a sin, Cripps goes on to pose some Troubling Questions about the anti-homophobia curriculum:

"What happens when little Johnny learns one view at church and home, and then is told that view is unacceptable at school? It seems to me there are a lot of adults playing around with little Johnny’s brain. Who does little Johnny believe? His parents, his church or his teacher?"

Who knows?! His head would probably just right well explode off of his little neck if he learned multiple views from multiple sources! (The brains of little boys, you see, are incredibly delicate and fragile. Not particularly receptive to large amounts of information.)

But seriously, even more disturbing than the fact that people oppose anti-homophobia campaigns in schools, is that some are so quick to underestimate, and oppose the teaching of, critical thinking skills in children. That some people so fear exposing "little Johnny" to multiple opinions on homosexuality from multiple sources and allowing him to form his own opinion on the matter in light of the available evidence speaks to a real insecurity of anti-gay religious belief.

There is much talk of "parents' rights" when it comes to teaching about homosexuality and homophobia, and so I think it's important to clearly define the right in question. For, what people who oppose anti-homophobia campaigns are suggesting is that parents have a right to prevent these campaigns because these campaigns go against their religious beliefs. Here, it's also important to note that this so-called parents' right comes into direct opposition with the right that public school students- children- have to receive an education in a safe environment.

See, what anti-gay folks and unhelpful devil's advocates rarely mention is that when we coddle anti-gay religious beliefs in public schools as though they're legit "other sides" to treating people respectfully, that tangibly means censoring the other "other side." Homophobic bullying is the status quo for children. And so to not address homophobic bullying is to let homophobia and discrimination go unaddressed in an environment that includes LGBT children and that includes kids who live in a society in which gay people exist.

When put this way, it quickly becomes clear that those valiant defenders of The Children are actually, quite boorishly insisting that their own rights with respect to public schools outweigh the safety of children who must actually attend those schools.

Although devil's advocate Cripps says at the end of his piece that "rejecting the dogma of certain faiths doesn't seem very inclusive," what he "doesn't seem" to get is that it's not the job of public schools to include religious dogma at all. Anti-homophobia education isn't about religion, it's about teaching people with respect. It really is as simple as that. And it's amazing (but not really) how so many religious folks are opposed to that.

Yet, to end, watch how Cripps magically transforms an "anti-homophobia curriculum" into a curriculum that Teaches Children Gay Sex:

"Teaching children how to engage in safe homosexual intercourse might be uncomfortable for someone who has been taught since birth that the very act constitutes a sin according to their respective faith."


The LGBT community doesn't need faux-allies with gay brothers to play devil's advocate for our issues. There are enough people on the other side already doing that.